Monday, 16 May 2016

The Routemaster, 1950’s Manliness and Being Out of the EU - You Can’t Go Back to Any of Them

Every decade there’s a year or so when someone decides to revive the styles of a couple of decade earlier. They did it for the Seventies – the decade that style forgot. Nobody actually revives the exact clothes and music: what they do is update some of the iconic styles and designs so that it contrasts with the current-decade stuff but doesn’t look anachronistic. It takes a lot of talent to do it, and nobody got it right for the Seventies revival.

We can’t go back. Not even to the Routemaster bus: why would we give up forty years of improvement in manufacturing and engine technology? The old ones broke down all the time, chucked out diesel fumes and needed big burly men to turn the non-power-assisted steering wheel and stomp on the non-power-assisted brakes. So we get updated Routemasters that are a darn sight more comfortable and can be driven by women (if you care about that sort of thing).

Same with social policy and roles. We can’t go back because the context, the rest of the world, isn’t going to go back with us. Marriage 1.0 was horrible, which is why as soon as they could get out of it (1st January 1971 in the UK when the Divorce Reform Act 1969 came into force), women ran for the legal door and haven’t stopped since. The alternative to easy divorce is not happy “we worked it out” marriages, but a lifetime of indifference, emotional and physical violence, and a long slow death of the soul. Anglosphere institutions support Marriage 2.0 and are not reversible.

Old-fashioned masculinity was not what contemporary writers think it was and whatever conception of being-a-man we make in and for the Anglosphere (as opposed to in and for, say, Nigeria) needs to be made in the context of post-modern Capitalism. Whatever it means in that context (and I’ve said my piece on that), “masculinity” can’t mean that fantasy of post WW2 Golden Age male behaviour promulgated in sites like The Art of Manliness.

It’s the same with the EU. We can’t go back to being Britain-Before-Joining-Europe because the rest of the world has changed and won’t support that anymore. We would be better-off staying in and working to change the EU, especially removing the ability of the Strasbourg Court to over-rule national governments. Europe is never going to be a Federal State, and its bureaucrats have to accept that. Only Britain is big enough to make them see that: the French and Germans still think that Federal Europe will be France (or Germany).

Papa Hegel’s crucial insight was that Nature, mankind and all its works, was a process in development, not a static, unchanging, cyclical bunch of events (though that was a good description of the mediaeval world). Thesis-antithesis-synthesis: Marriage, masculinity and femininity 1.0; Marriage, masculinity and femininity 2.0; Marriage, masculinity and femininity 3.0; and ever onwards. Same with the EU. EU 1.0 was a trade zone; EU 2.0 was an attempt at making a Federal State; EU 3.0 will be an association of co-ordinated national governments; and as the rest of the world changes, we will need EU 4.0.

This line of argument doesn’t apply to everything. Some things are part of the environment and other things just live there. The Internet started as an academic toy and became part of the environment, but Twitter is a loss-making parasite in it. Look carefully at the stuff that seems to survive environmental change and you’ll see that it’s not what exactly what it was, but has been tweaked to fit in with the new world.

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