Thursday, 3 June 2010

In which Innocent returns

There was a flood of one get well message from readers in my recent illness, so thanks for that ;-) I'm feeling a lot better, which is a relief for me at the very least, though I'm still awaiting some tests.

Meanwhile, what a week of astonishing events on the public stage. It's difficult to know where to start really. Probably my favourite story was about the Duchess of York flogging introductions to her husband to an undercover reporter from the News of the World. As Gilbert and Sullivan wrote:

The work is light, and, I may add,

It's most remunerative.

In The Gondoliers the Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro provide the essential comic turn; not so much mutton dressed as lamb, as wideboys dressed as nobility. In other words, aristos selling favours is hardly a recent innovation. It's just a while since we had it so magnificently unveiled (thank you, gutter press).

I rather like the line from the same song in the Gondoliers:

I present any lady,

Whose conduct is shady,

Or smacking of doubtful propriety;

When virtue would quash her,

I take and whitewash her,

And launch her in first-rate society.

Er, well, yes, thanks Fergie.

Bizarrely, when Fergie then appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to explain her conduct, she spoke about herself in the third person singular (she, her, etc). No airs and graces she, this appeared to be an attempt to portray herself as a victim of the situation and to elicit compassion.

The kudos of the victim has been one of the more unusual manifestations of our culture over the last few years. It was memorably the cloak under which Diana, Princess of Wales, operated in the latter part of her own tale. The assumption is that it is a sign of our sentimentality, or indeed a sort of dessicated compassion, akin to the 'charity' which drives Britons to raise money so Africans can have free condoms. There is undoubtedly something in that. I'm currently working on another explanation, namely, that only a society with our latent commitment to the pleasures of hatred could have the passion both to vilify and exonerate our chosen scapegoats. The point is though that scapegoats shouldn't do their own exoneration, which is why Fergie got it so badly wrong. Must be hard being a Duchess. Somebody give that woman a salary.


If you want genuine victims you only need turn to the other major story of the last few days. The victims of Derrick Bird will long live in the memory, like those of Thomas Hamilton and Michael Ryan. May they all rest in peace.

Why do such men do such things? We barely have an explanation in the pretexts of family feuds or what have you. Mass-killers on a shooting spree commit suicide without exception, putting what they might have revealed about their actions beyond the reach of analysis. Some people think this has something to do with our gun laws. That may be so, at least insofar as they create the opportunity. But the opportunity is available much more readily in the inner cities where, at least thus far, such massacres have not occurred.

What we can sensibly glean from only three cases is hardly compelling. Does it say something about lone lower-middle class men in contemporary Britain? Are these three killers as random as passing meteorites? Or are they like cracks in the hardened magma crust of a society in which charity has cooled and congealed over a lake of fallen passions? I sympathize greatly with the drive to ensure 'such things never happen again', but I think it is impossible. There is something wrong in the hardwiring of the human being.


Well, that's probably quite enough from me. The weekend beckons with promise of jolly weather and jollier company. In media mortis, summus in vitae. It's a lesson worth remembering at times like this.

1 comment:

  1. Your notation of the incidence of victim-hood is quite apropos, Innocent. That the Duchess could not ‘get by’ on 25,000 pounds per month is indicative of the ‘lifestyles of the rich and undeservedly famous’. We should all have such problems! It never ceases to amaze me that people with more than adequate means feel the necessity to live lives beyond adequacy.

    Supplemented by assorted prostitutions to the consumerist world, one would have thought that the Duchess’s income was more than adequate to her outgo. Apparently, not. Celebrities would appear to live in a different world than the hoi polloi and when no longer subsidized by the public trough, have difficulty adjusting to ‘straitened circumstances’.

    As the pecunious John Pierpont Morgan observed when questioned about the cost of his yacht: “If one needs to ask the price, one cannot afford it”. Some of the celebrity or erstwhile royal persuasion seem not only not to know price but have little appreciation of value.