Friday, January 25, 2008
Of Capital NIghtmayors…
Having had a life spent in both the north and the south of England (and with a family in Scotland) and, latterly, living in East Anglia and Surrey but working in the north (Manchester, Sheffield etc) it has been borne home to me that there IS a divide in the country. When, finally, I come to spend most of my time in France, yet continue to do some work in the UK, then what was a feeling, an impressionistic surmise constructed out of the corners of my eyes, so to speak, suddenly becomes palpable.
The South, and London in particular, have an obsessive self-regard, a preoccupation with wealth and status, a presumption of high culture that sucks the energy from the rest of the country, while mocking, arrogantly, it’s parochialism. Its size and mores of disinterested anonymity, its Dysneyesque world of ancient buildings and a thousand ‘things to see and do’ makes it seductive, dream-like, unreal, a place where wraiths live; the natural location for 28 Weeks Later. Since Pepys, Defoe and Dickens documented a century or two of the subcultures of poverty, acquisitiveness and base human drives, among the vile effects of early capitalism, London has established a genealogy of extreme competition redolent of the murderous fight for survival in all arenas of nature.
Marx’s insights about capital and class may equally be applied to the constant war for supremacy at city-level; as if, as writers often portray them, cities are some kind of super-organism. Go north and settlements become less well-endowed, the artefacts of higher culture become sparser and the battles for resources constantly lose out to the capital city. People in the north often display a simmering anger and disgust at the concentration of wealth and obnoxious assumptions of superiority of ‘Londoners’ or ‘Southerners’ – those who live down there, regardless of their often forgotten origins.
And here in le sud sud of France, guess what? People feel the same way about Parisians.
It would take a mammoth act of faith and vision to help people become equal in more than the eyes of the law and the spouted hypocrisy of most politicians who have relocated to the Westminster Village. The hub and spoke economic mechanism of communal living spins too fast, constantly throwing uncompetitive humanity to the very rim of acceptable existence. And even in London, there are further internal hubs and spokes that produce the same centrifugal injustices, in fractals of finer and finer detail.
Best to know what the Mayoral elections are actually about!