Saturday, April 28, 2007

Jeremy Hardy

We went to see Jeremy Hardy at the Andover Lights on Thursday. It’s taken me a few days to figure out how I felt about his performance. Jeremy Hardy is a forty-something stand-up comedian and BBC Radio 4 personality. He’s known for his intelligence, atheism, left-wing views and I guess social commitment. Read his biography here and see that more than once he has put his money, his job (and his life) where his mouth is.

It takes a real skill to do two hours of monologue in front of a mike and keep an intelligent audience amused with wry asides and smart social commentary - jokes, too sometimes. So what was my problem? I think Jeremy was a bit on auto-pilot. Like, being here tonight is just a job. Yes, it was just a job, but prophets don’t do jobs, do they?

The second problem is that I mostly don’t agree with his positions (although respecting, of course, his right to have them). So the sense you get that he knows that his views are morally correct, whilst the people he attacks are bad (or doing bad things) irritates. As Marx said: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

This explains why certain institutions and behaviours exist, and wishing it were not so does not make it so. His deviation is ‘individualism’.

In the spirit of Jeremy Hardy, here are some rants of my own. You know that pretentious Keats poem:

“On first looking into Chapman’s Homer“

MUCH have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

I want to do a version about YouTube, comparing it to an infinite plain of cars, all with their boots open, offering rubbishy bric-a-brac. Yes, we have seen the future of user-generated content, without the elitist mediation of editors, and it’s rubbish.

Here’s my other rant. Too many people have got stuck on the Enlightenment as the pinnacle of human development. ‘Oh my God! We have to defend the E. from the Islamists!’

OMG no! The Enlightenment brought us a ‘blank slate’ identical-clone model of humanity, as if we were all off the same production line. I know it’s easier to fit things like equality and ‘human rights’ off such a model but, listen up, it’s wrong!

Here’s progress. Keep the deeply humanist model of treating each other as if we were human beings and worth something; recognise humans come in genders and races which are not identical. That people differ profoundly in personality and IQ, and that one size does not fit all. That it is profoundly wrong to lock up 90% of kids in the prison camps known as schools all day - no wonder they rebel. The other 10%, the smart, intellectual types, like it of course.

Phew, it will take another generation at least to get this right. Come on Jeremy, shake off that lethargy!