Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I am reminded of Adorno’s essay ‘resignation’ where he poses a question of his critics and response to it, not by answering it, but by taking a sidestep discussion of an issue related to it. Were I a politician I would consider this a rhetorician’s distraction or avoidance.

As you may know I am involved with a local community garden and part of this involves keeping connections with local community networks and having an eye on what goes on. One particular online forum that I use, Streetlife, is a particular bane of my existence. I love the ways in which it gets local people together and it has been a great way to engage with a certain local MP who does genuinely seem sensitive to his constituent’s interests (on top of *ahem* being a junior cabinet minister).

I consider Streetlife the bane of my existence because it reflects on the change that has happened in the past 15 or so years in the area that I grew up in. One ongoing discussion in among the ‘lifers is the legitimate concern of local businesses closing down and leaving empty shops around. A indistinguishable concern is also the way that new businesses haven’t seemed to have much longevity once they have a presence in the local area.

Perhaps in the past year, certain successful business ventures have made a presence. The problem is that these businesses are considered undesirable for a variety of reasons. Large chain stores are prima facie disliked for the sake of being large chain stores. Betting and gambling related businesses with fixed odd betting terminals. The other bane of the ‘lifers are ‘chicken shops’ which is a short hand for takeaway shops seemingly frequented by ethnic minorities and the working class.

Today, the old ‘co-op’ which closed down nearly a year ago re-opened into an Iceland. Iceland is a store considered due to the combination of having lots of frozen food and low supermarket prices as attracting a certain demographic of a certain income bracket. There’s that old internet law that when a thread gets increasingly longer, the probability of an Hitler analogy gets closer to P=1. It seems that the longer these threads go along there is more likelihood that many residents show their stripes and their thinly veiled contempt of the working class.

The snobbiness of the middle class is a deep hypocrisy. Radio 4 listeners who aim to be as worldly and aware and diverse as possible yet are owned by a majority white and university educated board. Where comedy panel shows are patronising to and hopelessly orientalist - the friday comedy musical skits use of pentatonic scale as a short hand for ‘oriental’ is as simplistic and offensive as the use of phrygian mode in Wagner to allude to Judaism and Jewish peoples. There is an hypocrisy of the middle class valuing intelligence and intellectuals, but not if they are ‘too intelligent’ to be challenging to them. The irony of Wagner’s anti-bourgeois sentiment was that his patronage redefined the bourgeoisie sentiment rather than challenging it. The same coudl be said for the quasi-revolutionary sentiment of the middle class. For the rhetorical question is asked but not answered rather, it is sidestepped: What use is there to radically re-forming the world making it a better place, when it changes our status quo?

Snobbiness is about conformity to one’s tribe. To other those not in our tribe and approving of those who are. Having an idea of what constitutes as good character and adequate cultural sensibility. The ideal artistic mindset is to ridicule this conservatism and challenge it. Subvert it by speaking in your own accent and lexicon in a lecture theatre or wearing a metallica t-shirt to a performance of Fidelio.  

In writing this I am trying to address the charge of Adorno being called an elitist. What does it really mean to be elitist? If you are excluded because you do not understand Bach, that is not anything to do with Bach, but that is all to do with you.

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