under the harrow - Blair and Uriah Heep

There is something about Tony Blair that arouses the instinct to find some literary counterpart to explain him. How can a man so utterly mealy mouthed, so vacuous, so soft-soapy, an endlessly servile tool to the the Bush clique, an endlessly arrogant tyro to the powers under him, have attained his position? One almost instinctively looks to Dickens, and most of all, to Uriah Heep, to find a key to this rather loathsome soul. This is from the chapter on Uriah’s unmasking in David Copperfield:

“I had not seen Uriah Heep since the time of the blow [David Copperfield had struck Heep in an argument]. Our visit astonished him, evidently; not the less, I dare say, because it astonished ourselves. He did not gather his eyebrows together, for he had none worth mentioning; but he frowned to that degree that he almost closed his small eyes, while the hurried raising of his grisly hand to his chin betrayed some trepidation or surprise. This was only when we were in the act of entering his room, and when I caught a glance at him over my aunt's shoulder. A moment afterwards, he was as fawning and as humble as ever.

'Well, I am sure,' he said. 'This is indeed an unexpected pleasure! To have, as I may say, all friends round St. Paul's at once, is a treat unlooked for! Mr. Copperfield, I hope I see you well, and - if I may umbly express myself so - friendly towards them as is ever your friends, whether or not. Mrs. Copperfield, sir, I hope she's getting on. We have been made quite uneasy by the poor accounts we have had of her state, lately, I do assure you.'

In today’s Murdochworld – encompassing Australian papers, the Weekly Standard, and Fox – there is the usual contingent of the bloodyminded, whose blind belief that Israel is winning in Lebanon and that Israel is on the forefront of all things good is released in the media system like a toxin, to be washed through the Washington Post, the D.C. think tanks, CNN, finally achieving an extra-abstract form in an American made exploding bomb and its result (the wrenched off limb of an infant, the usual Lebanese carcass, the oil that covers the beaches of Lebanon). Among them is Blair, bleating at great length about what this is – this war, this green and pleasant war, this opportunity, this Sabbat, of which he is one of the umble enablers. First of course comes the pat on the back. Others, others could take the easy way. Not the crusaders. Theirs is the way of sacrifice – the stock options, tax cuts, and bribed Lords that mark the lonely monk’s path:

“The root causes of the crisis are supremely indicative of this. Ever since September 11, the US has embarked on a policy of intervention to protect its and our future security. Hence Afghanistan. Hence Iraq. Hence the broader Middle East initiative in support of moves towards democracy in the Arab world.
The purpose of the terrorism in Iraq is absolutely simple: carnage, causing sectarian hatred, leading to civil war.

The point about these interventions, however, military and otherwise, is that they were not just about changing regimes but changing the values systems governing the nations concerned. The banner was not actually "regime change", it was "values change".

The reason I say this is that we could have chosen security as the battleground. But we didn't. We chose values.””

O, Churchillians all! We rally to those values – the preemptive invasions, the curtailing of domestic liberties, the massive, continuous criminal incompetence of those who put their own poltical future, and the wellbeing of their billionaire cronies, well before the national interest!

“Uriah fell back, as if he had been struck or stung. Looking slowly
round upon us with the darkest and wickedest expression that his face could wear, he said, in a lower voice:

'Oho! This is a conspiracy! You have met here by appointment! You are playing Booty with my clerk, are you, Copperfield? Now, take
care. You'll make nothing of this. We understand each other,you and me. There's no love between us. You were always a puppy with a proud stomach,from your first coming here; and you envy me my rise, do you? None of your plots against me; I'll counterplot you!Micawber, you be off. I'll talk to you presently.'

“So the opportunity passed to reactionary Islam and they seized it: first in Gaza, then in Lebanon. They knew what would happen. Their terrorism would provoke massive retaliation by Israel. Within days, the world would forget the original provocation and be shocked by the retaliation. They want to trap the moderates between support for America and an Arab street furious at what they see nightly on their television. This is what has happened.

So the struggle is finely poised. The question is: how do we empower the moderates to defeat the extremists?”

Much port was undoubtedly spilt on many very fine and expensive laps as the crowd leaps to its feet to here this almost completely fictitious account of recent events, complete with that grand euphemism about what the Arab Street is seeing on their tvs. A neat stroke, that, since to say what they are seeing on their televisions rather gives the game away, doesn't it? Israel, which for forty some years has, in defiance of the UN, and with the financing of the US, made every effort to settle people on stolen territory, is being provoked – good, honest Israel! Provoked by, uh, an election. But elections are not, as Blair wisely knows, the essence of democracy – they are ploys and plays, with the higher thing – the imperialism of the those umble clear through to the gizzards in the pursuit of values –that is what we are all about, we who only want the best for Lebanon, for the Middle East, for all the world. We well intentioned few, we CEOs of oil companies and media, we seekers after cheap energy, we believers in the wind of freedom!

'Mr. Micawber,' said I,'there is a sudden change in this fellow
in more respects than the extraordinary one of his speaking the
truth in one particular, which assures me that he is brought to
bay. Deal with him as he deserves!'

'You are a precious set of people, ain't you?' said Uriah, in the
same low voice, and breaking out into a clammy heat, which he wiped
from his forehead, with his long lean hand, 'to buy over my clerk,
who is the very scum of society, - as you yourself were, Copper-field, you know it, before anyone had charity on you, - to defame me with his lies? Miss Trotwood, you had better stop this; or I'll stop your husband shorter than will be pleasant to you. I won't know your story professionally, for nothing, old lady! Miss Wick-field, if you have any love for your father, you had better not
join that gang. I'll ruin him, if you do. Now, come! I have got
some of you under the harrow. Think twice, before it goes over
you. Think twice, you, Micawber, if you don't want to be crushed.
I recommend you to take yourself off, and be talked to presently,
you fool! while there's time to retreat.”

“Our values . . . represent humanity's progress throughout the ages and at each point we have had to fight for them.

No wonder Blair is as popular as a case of piles in his own nation. And no wonder, in Murdochworld, he is everybody’s favorite toady.


new york pervert said…
Blair is one of the 'dying-Britain' mutations that people senilely still hypnotized by a secret belief in the British Empire adore as 'civilized.' If it's a man, as with Blair or Major, they do tend to find a more or less presentable one to do the toadying well. They are always a commercial-type caricature of Britishness, like when PR people figured out how to sell 'The Ploughman's Lunch,' modern commercials selling quaint old Britain (a 1983 movie with Charles Dance and Rosemary Harris). Patrick Wright's late-80's book 'On Living in an Old Country' is excellent about all this, when it was first beginning to really disclose itself and also when preservationists were starting to disappear people. I think the book is not all that easy to get by now. It's a peculiar country for having been so powerful, since it is so determinedly shabby (repair is just as infrequent and Orwell imagines it would be by 1984, except that that was all there a lot sooner), and paralyzed in its singularity a lot more than anything on the continent. Patrick Keiller's 1994 film 'London' is also very good on this deadness, but even more difficult to get. Even so, it's easy to forget all that atrophy when you're there, because it's so peaceful and beautiful. Things are just pains in the ass is what I say.
new york pervert said…
(Jonathan Pryce, not Charles Dance.)