Thursday, August 20, 2009

From Bob's Archive: Galloway's hubris

This is the last of my scheduled re-posts before I return to blogging. In the last one, I focused on one of my regular heroes. Here, I focus on one of my regular villainsm in a post dating from August 2005. As with an irritatingly large number of my posts, it trails off to nowhere, promising a follow-up that never came. Oh well.

Today, I got George Galloway’s I’m Not the Only One out of my local public library (along with James Ellroy’s Destination: Morgue, which I expect to be infinitely better on any conceivable scale). I figured it’s my tax money and my overdue fines that have paid for this, so I might as well make the most of it.

And I’ve no regrets. The opening words:

“I decided to write this book because I had a little time on my hands. What with the war, the resistance, the anti-war movement, libel cases, looking after my constituency, suspension then expulsion from the Labour Party, launching a new political movement, fighting the European elections, holding my seat in the House of Commons and writing my weekly column in the Mail on Sunday, I might have become bored otherwise.”
And the end of the Foreword:
“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.”
If anyone was looking for a definition of the concept of hubris, the example of George would supply it. In his programme for capturing Britain back from the conventional politicians, “the boys in the bubble”, this call stands out: for MPs to be paid twice as much. Check this characteristically modest passage: “I have, as a Tunisian lawyer said between sobs after hearing me speak about the bleeding children of Iraq, ‘un Coeur oriental’ - an oriental heart.”


By page 2, I’d come across two political claims that make me angry. The first is the use of the word “resistance” in the passage I’ve quoted above. As he then names the anti-war movement, he can’t mean the resistance to war in Britain; he must mean the Islamofascist/Ba’athist insurrection/terrorism in Iraq. To call that the “resistance” is a moral outrage, as I’ve argued before on this blog.

The second is this line:
“There is no grimmer dictatorship than that of the prevailing orthodoxy.”
Er, yes there is George - the dictatorship of Pol Pot was pretty grim, as have been the dictatorships of your friends Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein…


I have to say, though, that Galloway has a ripping prose style. The style is marred, unfortunately, by a love of alliteration. And an overfondness of the word “mendacity”, which weighs in about every four pages. Here’s an example of both in one sentence: “nothing more than a mendacious, monochrome state of mediocrity” (although with that example I can’t work out from the rest of the sentence he is referring to).

Another stylistic tic he has is following up a morally heavyweight point with a silly pop culture reference. (If you want a definition of bathos as well as hubris, then, George would exemplify this too.) Here’s an example: “More people died of famine in British India in the last fifty years of the Raj than died on all of Chairman Mao’s ‘Great Leaps’ but, as Michael Caine might say, ‘Not a lot of people know that.”

He’s also not strong on consistency. On one page he describes the BBC as “the Bush and Blair chorus”; a couple later he’s praising it for standing up to Alistair Campbell.


Despite these flaws, the first chapter, “The Boys in the Bubble”, is a superb piece of writing, very enjoyably skewering everything that is wrong with New Labour, from their treatment of the firefighters, their lies, their corruption, their snobbery, their hypocrisy and their racism, to their insane privatisation policies.

Even in the second chapter, “New World Odour”, basically a version of Chomsky for the less literate, he does occassionally hit the mark, as in:
“the former Soviet satrapies of eastern and central Europe [are] often led by the same [C]ommunist party apparatchiks who failed their countries in their last guise.”


Well, that’s enough of gorgeous George for today. More to come…

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oi, Bob, don't you ever stop churning this stuff out ? Nasty case of logorrhea, I think.

Brigada Flores Magon said...

Reading his stuff brings to mind a number of guid Scots words, 'sleekit' and 'sook' pre-eminent among them.

bob said...

Sleekit: what a great word! Perfect.

raincoatoptimism said...

When 2 years back he was my local MP I dreamed of attending his Tuesday surgery and demanding work done on my boilers, only to be given a copy of Lenin's What is to be done? and a pair of scissors.

Dreamer? He's not the only one...