Tuesday, 6 January 2009

A false connection

Some on the hard Left, or what has evolved out of it, will no doubt see a correlation between this and this (both from Tuesday's edition of my local rag).  They will gleefully tell you that the fewer people go Morris dancing, or do anything else roughly considered "traditional" in this country, the fewer people will be riddled with bigotry against "newcomers" or "outsiders" (I would suspect that Brendan O'Neill would fall into this category, though I'd be delighted to hear otherwise).  Don't believe them.  Even if they are not part of the tiny fringe that defends Soviet suppression of the equivalent cultures in its satellite states (which accordingly gained a meaning that lasts to this day and which such things in long-term capitalist countries can never have again) they forget several subtly important realities - that the mass of the public don't have the knowledge of where post-1956 popular music mostly came from that white middle-class liberals wear so proudly and self-consciously, that for most people popular culture is simply a background noise that doesn't meaningfully impact on their deep-rooted personal prejudices, that the British folk tradition has if anything had its strongest manifestation on the Left, that (I can imagine O'Neill vomiting at this, but extreme class-based dogmatism, wherever it comes from, rarely reveals truth) most people into folk-rock were confirmed left-liberals and there were plenty of Paki-bashers into reggae and ska, even rock'n'roll fans "nigger-hunting" (as they delightedly described it) at Notting Hill '58 ...

I don't have much time for Morris dancing as it has become, myself - I tend to see it as a played-out, elderly parody of something that once genuinely meant something socially and culturally, a postcard sideshow of a pastime.  But I certainly don't think that the orthodoxy of pop/rock today is any more socially progressive.  They are both pretty much on the same level - exhausted, irrelevant parodies of once-great cultures.  I would be prepared to bet, though, that the men who attacked Khalique Miah listened to plenty of the music that white middle-class liberals wrongly presume is inherently an anti-racist force (it would only be so if everyone was a white middle-class liberal) and that plenty of Morris dancers are tolerant, outward-looking Guardian-reading lefties.  The assumptions of the dogmatically pro-pop-culture, anti-trad-culture extremists fall down in the eternal complexity of British realities.

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