peteg's blog

Fintan O'Toole: Heroic Failure: BREXIT and the politics of pain.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. I picked this up on the strength of O'Toole's short-form work at the New York Review of Books; in particular his excellent piece on the DUP telling May what was possible. I hoped he'd expand on this topic of non-English views of BREXIT, but instead he serves up a psychoanalysis of the English character. Roughly English self-pity in the period after World War II (they won but it cost the empire, and the bested nations seemed to do better afterwards) has left them looking for an oppressor to rail against. It's the coloniser trying to appropriate the attitudes of the colonised. It's the Sex Pistols in Westminster, and a desire by those who can to return to buccaneering capitalism. Yeah, well, maybe.

Unfortunately like David Runciman, O'Toole freed of a word limit and strict editor spills too many words on the obvious; he says it, then digs up a quote and reads it back to us. There's an undercurrent of dripping scorn that likely prevents this book from persuading anyone of anything much. I think he admits that the BREXIT campaign (he read all that dreck so we don't have to) diagnosed the anxieties of the day quite well, though like Trump their prescription is probably not going to solve much. As anyone from a British colony can attest, and the French have always known, the cognitive dissonance required to be English is forever bemusing. The deep mystery is why the working classes of everywhere don't vote in their own economic interests but instead focus on quaint social values or identity politics and end up making common cause with the twitty ruling classes; but you won't find much insight into that here.

O'Toole clearly loathes Boris Johnson. He repeatedly observes how juvenile English culture can be (football, pop music, empty-headed neo-imperial ambitions); it's not insapient, just having itself on. There's nothing here on the Irish backstop, or more broadly what it will take to preserve the peace or the possibility of reunification. It's a bust.

A range of views at Goodreads.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Mid-evening paddle between the flags at Coogee beach. Loads of people, some in the water, many frocked up for a night at the Beach Palace. A bit filthy with leaf matter and some seaweed. Some larger waves. Pleasant in. Read some more Fintan O'Toole on the headland afterwards.