You’ll hear it here first: I am narcissistic, pompous, arrogant, pretentious, condescending and stupid, or, at least, that is what some members of an IMDB message board would have the world believe. We have been batting insults back and forth for a few days now, but our feud is getting nowhere. My transgression was to post a new thread on the message board in response to seeing the latest Scorsese film Shutter Island, in which I suggested that at every level the film is purposely ambiguous and that Scorsese had eschewed a conventional resolution to the film where loose ends are tied up and ‘this is the explanation’ and had intended it to remain thoroughly ambiguous. Boy did that seem to irritate a lot of people. No, they said, you have got the wrong end of the stick entirely, there is no ambiguity and you really don’t know what you are talking about. It would be tedious to try to summarise the film. I just started trying, but after a few minutes decided I couldn’t be arsed, but I should tell you (he wrote in a way extremely similar to summarising) that the film turns on whether a US marshall who arrives at a bleak mental facility on an island off Boston to investigate an apparent mysterious disappearance is being stitched up because he believes he has discovered evidence of brain experiments being undertaken on prisoner or whether he is an inmate of the facility on whom doctors are trying an innovative treatment.
If I am right, and Scorsese did intend to leave everything completely ambiguous, then Shutter Island is a great film which pulls off a remarkable trick. If I am wrong – and my oppos on the message board are right and the whole film falls neatly into place at the end, it is merely quite an ordinary, not to say rather clichéd film, nicely filmed, well acted and so on, but, sorry, no cigar.
Well, both sides have been tooing and froing for several days arguing the toss. What I found so frustrating was the apparent inability of the other side (no one was on mine) to see my central point: I wasn’t arguing for one interpretation of the film over another, I was arguing that Scorsese had deliberately left everything unresolved, and not only that, but had constructed his film so that both interpretations held up completely at every point, although they are mutually exclusive. Well, they weren’t having any of that. And things got a little out of hand when I wrote, rather provocatively, that I wasn’t surprised they couldn’t quite cotton onto what I was trying to saying because – well, not to be overly delicate – subtlety was not a great American virtue. And I did add one or three more or less equally rude points along similar lines.
Well, none of this cut any ice at all, and my apparently gratuitous attack on the great U.S. aroused the other side to ever greater fury. That they expressed their anger in badly written, illiterate, badly spelled and often incomprehensible English should, of course, be neither here nor there, but I do find it pertinent. Years ago, I came across a dictum that ‘muddled writing betrays muddled thought’ and, mainly from my own attempts to write something, I find it to hold true almost every time.
All of us involved in this utterly pointless ‘debate’ are guys - or I am pretty certain we are guys - so this thing will run and run until one side or the other will fall off his horse utterly exhausted. Between you and me (and I hope to God none of the other side comes across this blog), were I to be totally honest, I think I am onto a loser, but I’m buggered if I’m going to give up quite yet without a fight. It’s just that I find I loathe anyone these days who uses that non word ‘awesome’, and although, to be fair, none of the other side has done so yet, they strike me as being exactly the kind who would and it can only be a matter of time.
. . .
Here in Britain we have a coalition government, unsurprisingly referred to as the Coalition Government (not the capital letters), which is made up of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. It seemed to go well for a while, although one of the Lib Dem stars who landed a job in Cabinet, a guy called David Laws, and was hailed as being ‘brilliant’ - our newspapers are apt to do that kind of thing - came cropper within days after it was discovered that the man he was paying rent to (rent can be claimed on expenses) was his boyfriend. He resigned, although I suspect he was also rather glad his secret was out as it appeared he still hadn’t come out to his elderly parents.
Next came a scandal with Christopher Huhne who was discovered by the papers to be cheating on his wife with a bisexual feminist. Nothing much could be made of that, because Huhne came clean, left his wife immediately and, I think, moved in with the lady of his dreams.
Most recently, and in some ways most entertaining of the three although there is no sex involved, is the humiliation by the Daily Telegraph of Vince Cable. While still in Opposition - the Lib Dems never had a snowball’s chance in Hell of forming the government after Labour was ousted, but strictly, they, too were the Opposition - Cable was something of a darling of the Press. He was a former chief economist for BP and so could be said to know something about both economics and business, and was regarded as a safe pair of hands. That last virtue should be understood in the way that it is laudable that I have not once yet crashed a plane and have have a completely clean record in aviation. Oh, but I have also never flown a plane.
Just how ‘Cable’s’ hands proved to be was demonstrated a few weeks ago in the run-up to a vote in the House of Commons on
whether the fees students will be charged to attend university should go up to a maximum £9,000. The was government policy introduced by Cable himself, but that didn’t stop him revealing in a local newspaper which circulates in his constituency that he would be voting against the rise. (The Lib Dems had been against such a rise in fees while in Opposition, and were now being asked to go against their manifesto pledge to oppose it.) That made him look thoroughly ridiculous. But, extraordinarily, he has now managed to make himself look even more ridiculous. Two Daily Telegraph reporters (two young women, as it happens, chosen, I’m sure purely for their journalistic ability) attended Cable’s constituency surgery posing as two of his constituents. In the conversation which followed, Cable was excessively candid, boasting that he could bring the government down if he wanted to.
The following day, the Telegraph printed further candid comments by this former ‘safe pair of hands’ who, in his daytime job a Business Secretary was the chap in government set to rule on whether Rupert Murdoch should be allowed to buy up the parts of Sky TV he doesn’t yet own. After Cable pledged that he ‘would declare war on Murdoch’, his impartiality in the matter was, surprise, suprise, called into question. David Cameron didn’t sack Cable, and attracted the ire of his more right-wing MPs for not doing so, but removed the issue of the sale of Sky TV from Cable’s remit. In political terms that is more or less like removing Charlie Chaplin’s bowler, cane and moustache from all future performances.
The Telegraph pulled the same stunt on four other Lib Dems who are part of the Coalition governmnet, and naturally, all four were as candid and naive as only Lib Dems can be. One commented on Chancellor George Osborne’s capacity ‘for getting up one’s nose’, another ventured to suggest that David Cameron cannot be trusted (which will, ironically, go down rather well with the right-wing Tory doubters), a third compared the Tories with the South African government under apartheid, and the fourth doubted whether Cameron was sincere, another issue which I suspedt won’t greatly upset the shire Tories.
None of this, though, will rock the Coalition. In my view the Lib Dems need the Tories more than they need the Lib Dems. This is the first sniff the Lib Dems have had of power in almost 95, and were the whole arrangement to go up in smoke over the coming few months, the Lib Dems would not be looking forward to a general election: they opinion poll rating has slumped dramatically and is now scraping along at something like 9pc. Anyway, they want to get voting by proportional representation accepted before they depart the stage for without it they will be in the wilderness for another century.
. . .
When stood for the local district council a few years ago and went out on the stump, I came across a few hardcore Lib Dems and they were not nice people. Middle-class to a fault, the ones I met were self-righteous and intolerant of any other view as only the smug self-righteous can be. Despite their cuddly liberal image, they are said to be the dirtiest of the dirty during elections. Their big faultline splits them into right-of-centre Lib Dems and left-of-centre Lib Dems. At present the left-of-centre lot are rushing off in the direction of the Labour party, where they will be greeted with false smiles, used, then abandoned.
During the party conference season, I heard a radio report from the Lid Dem conference (held in Sepember when the Lib Dems had been part of the Coalition for four months) in which one activist was heard to say in all seriousness: ‘I didn’t vote Lib Dem to form the government.’
I often get the feeling that for most Lib Dems holding onto their principled purity is more important to them than being in power with at least the chance to put their ideas into practice. In that way they can always hold the moral high ground and condescend to the rest of us.
. . .
Apropos nothing, I was reminded the other day of two very colourful English expressions. I’ll ‘share’ them with you:
Wedding tackle: a man’s genitalia, his meat and two veg.
Five-finger discount: shoplifting.