Panem et Circenses

The rich and powerful are different from us not just because they can afford to indulge their madness, but because they can pay other people to sustain their nightmares.

One year’s run-up to the election followed by hundred years of sussing out the ballots was not going to do, because no. We’re in for a lengthy sequel that will see us through at least the looming holiday season.

Possibly remotely related, but I’ve thought about Hillary Clinton a lot lately. Her losing the election four years ago was one of the reasons I started this blog. I cannot say I was ever a huge fan, but somehow her 2016 pain was my pain as well. Nothing was right about it, yet she somehow, miraculously, survived the excruciating aftermath of it all. How does anyone survive that? How thick must your skin be?

I’ve also thought about the male ego a lot these days – obviously not at all related to recent events. I listened to the brilliant Sarah Cooper in a recent pre-election podcast, in which she explained the logic behind her viral DT lip-sync video clips. In them, she wants to look like herself but say the words of the president so as to underline how absolutely bizarre she would seem, were she saying those things in real life. But because it’s a white man saying it, people clap, nod and want him to be their president.

There are batshit crazy deep-state loons everywhere, and interestingly most of those crawling their way to the mainstream tend to be men. And so very often the commentary goes “well, if he made it that far, he can’t be all that crazy”. It’s just that they absolutely are, and we’re just too embarrassed to admit it. Interestingly history knows not a single woman who’d been given the benefit of the doubt of actually being deemed crazy and then being elected to a public office.

Coinciding with my deep thoughts about electoral behaviour, I have also been reading Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told? by Jenny Diski, a novelist and journalist who was a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and was taken in and mentored by Doris Lessing. The book is a selection of her columns for the Review.

Diski would most definitely not be described as woke in wokest meaning of the word, but her unconventional and raw style is absolutely joyful. The collection contains many book reviews (inducing about Princess Margaret, Princess Diana, Piers Morgan and Keith Richards) and her approach to each of her subjects is highly acerbic. Or maybe it’s less directed at the people, but the privilege surrounding them, either financial or societal – often the combination of both. (“Princess Diana secretly visited centres for the homeless, taking her sons with her to ensure they learned about privilege, and issued an angry public statement when a tabloid picture showed a suggestion of cellulite on her thighs” is a very beautiful sentence indeed.)

Reading her columns about moneyed people who raise themselves above others has helped with the thought-process of coming to terms with the shitshow on the other side of the pond. Why is it no longer enough for them just to be quiet?

“I find myself nostalgic for the time, long ago, when one thing the very rich and very famous could be relied on to do was shut up. Paul Getty, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Princess Grace of Monaco wrapped their money around themselves in the form of impenetrable walls and/or designer sunglasses and kept quiet while the world wondered and chattered. And you would imagine that if money could do anything for you it would be to insulate you from having to care what other people thought. The people don’t have to vote for you, they don’t have to love you. But even princesses and tycoons have to seem to be democratic and loveable these days.”

Reading Diski rip open the world of privilege gives such interesting and poignant food for thought. Or what do you say about the following, written in relation to Howard Hughes (American aviator/film director/billionaire, at one point considered one of the most financially successful individual in the world, also had Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Gary Grant and Marlene Dietrich as his lovers, among about a gazillion other people):

“Flies still fly, and germs remain invisible – and so long as something, somewhere in the cosmos is beyond your command, you don’t have everything. Nothing you’ve got is going to make up for the control hole, once you’ve spotted it. Perhaps there’s another way of looking at it: when a man has everything, what’s going to keep him alive except the discovery of some recalcitrant aspects of the world he can go on wanting?”

I mean, she even had the flies!

So, while the world indulges and cajoles yet another male ego as stratospherically large as it is fragile, let’s read on. A warm recommendation to Diski’s columns. All quotes are from her book.

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