“separate cultures that couldn’t be criticized or understood by outsiders applying universal criteria. Nor, by extension, could any other culture, even if it was the culture of fascism, religious tyranny, wife burning or suicide bombing. Each separate cultural group was playing its own ‘language game’, to use the phrase the postmodernists took from Wittgenstein, and only players in the game, whether feminists or Holocaust deniers, could determine whether what was being said was right or wrong. As epistemic relativism infected leftish intellectual life, all the old universal criteria, including human rights, the search for truth and the scientific method, became suspect instruments of elite oppression and Western cultural imperialism.”
“– so that’s it. It’s not that the writing is bad, it’s that the readers who think it’s bad are 98-pound weaklings who turn pale and sick at unsettling projects. They are ‘frightened off’, the poor cowardly things, by the ‘difficulty’ of theory – not the ineptitude, mind you, or the slavish imitativeness, or the endless formulaic repetition of repetition – no, the difficulty. So as a result they ‘can dismiss’ theory – not laugh at, not hold up to scorn and derision, or set fire to or thrust firmly into the bin or take back to the shop and loudly demand a refund – no, dismiss. And dismiss ‘as an effort to cover up in an artificially difficult style the fact that it has nothing to say’. Well – yes, that’s right, as a matter of fact. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.”
“The British media loved the LM crowd because they were ‘contrarians’ who could be relied on to fill space and generate controversy by saying the opposite of what everyone else was saying – an affectation most people get over around puberty.”
“Almost every word in the paper followed the conservative line, and you wouldn’t have been surprised to read in the horoscope that ‘A full moon in July will mean that Geminis will be mugged by the feral children of a heroin-addled single mother.”
“their fellow citizens was to deny them free health care, cut the taxes of the wealthy, privatize what few public assets remained and oppose any regulation of a rampant free market that was benefiting the few, rather than the many.”
“The victories of the Enlightenment, the vote, welfare, bills of rights, the separation of church and state and the emancipation of women, homosexuals and blacks, which previous generations had fought and on occasion died to achieve, were all now treated as parts of ‘the hegemonic’ and included in condemnations of a monolithic world order that made no distinctions.”
“You have to judge people by the bulk of the evidence they present: the burden of the proof they offer by way of explanation. If they say, ‘Of course I oppose burning women/the “enormities” of communism/ Saddam Hussein/ Guantánamo Bay’, and then spend the rest of their time in passionate polemics against feminists, democracy, the American invasion of Iraq or the gullibility of critics of the US administration, you can reasonably doubt the strength of their opposition and convict them of rhetorical throat clearing.”
“I feel like a class traitor when I say it but the first lesson from the ‘heroic’ age of the Left in the Thirties is that it never works like that in a conflict in which your own society is involved. You can be a critical friend of one side or another, a very critical friend as often as not, but you have to choose which side you are on, and those who don’t usually end up as the biggest villains of all.”
“Outsiders don’t understand the enfeebling self-consciousness of political debate on the middle-class liberal-left: they can’t imagine the thoughts strangled and tongues bitten to avoid giving the smallest offence to audiences overanxious to find it.”
“Academics, students, readers of and writers for most leftish newspapers and all but the bravest Muslim and poor world intellectuals share this group’s defining unwillingness to condemn crimes that can’t be blamed on the West.”
“Boggan got him to translate and heard how hairdressers in Baghdad had to report subversive remarks made by women under the driers. What was a hairdresser to do if her sensibly wary customers steered clear of politics? For how long could she keep telling the secret police that she had nothing to report, without running the risk of the spies marking her down as uncooperative?”
“Anti-communism was never accepted as the moral equivalent of anti-fascism, not only by my parents but also by the overwhelming majority of liberal-minded people. The Left was still morally superior. Even when millions were murdered and tens of millions were enslaved and humiliated, the ‘root cause’ of crimes beyond the human imagination was the perversion of noble socialist ideals.”
“(Irigaray was my favourite. She denounced Einstein’s E = mc2 as a sexist equation which ‘privileges the speed of light’ over more feminine speeds ‘which are vitally necessary to us’. Presumably, light might have appeased her if it had shown its feminine side by slowing down to 30 m.p.h. in built-up areas.)”
“He heard of the generals Saddam had shot for lowering his prestige by losing battles and the generals Saddam had shot for rivalling his prestige by winning battles.”
“To generalize, the idea that a homosexual black woman should have the same rights as a heterosexual white man was replaced by a relativism which took the original and hopeful challenge of the early feminist, gay and anti-racist movements and flipped it over. Homosexuality, blackness and womanhood became separate cultures that couldn’t be criticized or understood by outsiders applying universal criteria. Nor, by extension, could any other culture, even if it was the culture of fascism, religious tyranny, wife burning or suicide bombing.”
“IN OLD MOSCOW’ (Tune: Clementine) In old Moscow, in the Kremlin, In the fall of ’39, Sat a Russian and a Prussian Writing out the party line. Chorus: Oh, my darling, oh, my darling, Oh, my darling party line; Oh, I never will desert you, For I love this life of mine. Leon Trotsky was a Nazi; Oh we knew it for a fact. Pravda said it; we all read it, Before the Stalin – Hitler Pact. Now the Nazis and the Fuehrer Stand within the party line, All the Russians love the Prussians, Volga boatmen sail the Rhine. Walter Gourlay, 1941”
“Writers write badly when they have something to hide. Clarity makes their shaky assumptions plain to the readers – and to themselves. By keeping it foggy they save themselves the trouble of spelling out their beliefs and recommendations for the future. For academics, of all people, this is a disreputable way of going about business, but one that has many uses. Obscurantism spared the theorists who emerged from the grave of Marxism the pain of testing dearly held beliefs and prejudices,”
“The celebrity and the totalitarian share a desire to have their faces in every newspaper and on every television screen.”
“They didn’t think again when thousands of Iraqis were slaughtered by ‘insurgents’ from the Baath Party, which wanted to re-establish the dictatorship, and from al-Qaeda, which wanted a godly global empire to repress the rights of democrats, the independent-minded, women and homosexuals. They didn’t think again when Iraqis defied the death threats and went to vote on new constitutions and governments. Eventually, I grew tired of waiting for a change that was never going to come and resolved to find out what had happened to a Left whose benevolence I had taken for granted.”
“free-floating, gutless state of frantic evasiveness that preferred to twist and temporize rather than take a stand which required commitment to defend.”
“By the Eighties socialism was dying even in the poor world, and there was nothing left to do for those who hated the status quo but embrace the programme of the anti-democratic far right, as Foucault had done, or more usually, just refuse to come out against radical reactionary forces on the grounds that any movement that was against the West couldn’t be all bad.”
“But it is worth recalling the almost genocidal class hatreds of many leading liberal-left intellectuals, because they show that the motives of a part of the intelligentsia were anything but honourable. They did not want the welfare state to reward their fellow citizens for what they and their ancestors had suffered. They wanted the welfare state to transform them from brutes into men or women whose company Virginia Woolf could tolerate.”
“The politically committed are like football fans. They support their side come what may and refuse to see any good in the opposing team.”
“Their phobia was a fear of America and the West and modernity.”
“Foucault himself argued that liberal democracy was the worst form of tyranny. The Enlightenment that Westerners imagined had freed them had in fact enslaved them in insidious ways that Westerners were too stupid to see – with the exception of French philosophers.”
“Jargon-mongers certainly stuffed the business schools and used convoluted language to make banalities appear profound. However, no academics could come close to matching the obfuscation and murkiness of post-modern specialists in ‘theory’ – feminist theory, postcolonial theory, ‘other’ theory, critical race theory, queer theory, communicative action theory, structuration theory, neo-Marxian theory … any kind of theory, every kind of theory.”
“If people assume that everyone on the Left is good, if they can’t tear their eyes from abuses close to home to see the darker world beyond, if they pretend that they are not taking sides when they opt for neutrality and then compound the fault by believing that the irrational has rational causes, then disgrace inevitably follows.”
“There also needs to be a clean break with totalitarianism: both totalitarian regimes abroad and the totalitarian left – if it is still a left – at home. It is incredible that this point needs to be reiterated after the twentieth century; astonishing that we need to go through all that again.”
“You don't even know where I'm going."
"I don't care. I'd like to go anywhere.”
“It's the endlessly thinking about yourself that causes such heart shame.”
“I knew Denver was sincere when he told me that he would not want to trade places with me for even one day. His convictions became clear to me when I laid my key ring on the table between us at one of our earlier meetings for coffee.
Denver smiled a bit and sidled up to a cautious question. 'I know it ain't none of my business, but does you own somethin' that each one of those keys fits?'
I glanced at the keys; there were about ten of them. 'I suppose,' I replied, not really ever having thought about it.
'Are you sure you own them, or does they own you?'
That wisdom stuck to my brain like duct tape. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced we'd enjoy life a whole lot more if we owned a whole lot less.”
“Beware, Underlanders, time hangs by a thread.
The hunters are hunted, white water runs red.
The Gnawers will strike to extinguish the rest.
The hope of the hopeless resides in a quest.
An Overland warrior, a son of the sun,
May bring us back light, he may bring us back none.
But gather your neighbors and follow his call
Or rats will most surely devour us all.
Two over, two under, of royal descent,
Two flyers, two crawlers, two spinners assent.
One gnawer beside and one lost up ahead.
And eight will be left when we count up the dead.
The last who will die must decide where he stands.
The fate of the eight is contained in his hands.
So bid him take care, bid him look where he leaps,
As life may be death and death life again reaps.”
“Geniuses don’t go mad,” he said. “That’s what people don’t understand. They get out so far out that the water is like glass and they can see for miles and see so much, and in ways people have never seen before.”
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