This morning I sat down to write about the opening ceremony of the Olympics. As I was contemplating the choice between ‘tawdry’ and ‘vulgar’ in the first sentence, an e-mail arrived from my beloved friend Peter Mullen. To my horror, I realised that my thunder, such as it is, had been stolen most blatantly. Peter said all the things I was going to say – and no one can match his verve.
I’m not even going to try. So here he is, Peter Mullen at his scathing, passionate best, plagiarised by yours truly:
“… The latest emetic was that Olympic ‘ceremony’ in all its tawdry glamour, its misrepresentation of British history – agrarian England was not ‘a rural idyll’ and the industrial revolution brought tremendous benefits. (In any case, when Blake referred to ‘those dark satanic mills’ he was talking about the universities, the Deists and the Enlightenment intellectuals, not the Lancashire cotton towns). The whole socialist theme park of the ‘ceremony’: the sacred cow of the (failed) NHS; the glorious ‘liberation’ of the amoral 1960s followed by a tribute to punk rock.
“Naturally, this gets ecstatic reviews worldwide. It was universally described as ‘witty’. But it was the antidote to wit: that is cliché. It had the one thing modernity regards as a virtue in its technological slickness. Gimmicks. But no quotient of gimmicks can conceal a massive vulgarity – to which one must also add sentimentality and a general infantilisation. All under a relentless barrage of that ubiquitous modern Leitmotif – rock music. And drumming, drumming, drumming… I find it particularly objectionable to hear this trashy paganism described as ‘iconic.’
“It is intolerable to discover that this gaudy fraud of propaganda and tastelessness is thought by all my contemporaries to have been admirable. It is excruciating to find oneself the only one out of step. One feels as if one is the churl who has turned up to spoil the party, forever criticising, not a good word to say about anything – not even that schmaltzy desire for ‘togetherness’.”
My only points of disagreement are in the final paragraph. Not all of Peter’s contemporaries find this sick-making spectacle admirable, and he isn’t the only one out of step. For joining him in his cri de coeur of desperate disgust are his (and my) friends, correspondents and readers. We too are spoiling for a scrap, we too realise that our civilisation is reeling under heavy blows.
This isn’t a fight we’re going to win: the odds are too heavily stacked against us, the opposing numbers are too overwhelming. But someone has to tell all those Daves and Borises that their subversive, ideological vulgarity isn’t going to enjoy a free run. Some people still haven’t been turned into plastic cut-outs, some of real Britain is still alive – and Peter’s is her voice.