A tough question, that. Forgetting a religious Damascene experience, you’d be hard-pressed to name someone who could have a powerful meliorative effect in such a short time.
Yet Polly Vernon of The Times has been so lucky. She finishes a long interview by saying that her subject “leaves me with a truly unfamiliar emotional aftertaste: an urge to try to be a better person”.
Now, I have little interest in either Polly or The Times. I am, however, keenly interested in the times I live in, and this interview goes a long way towards telling me everything I wish to know.
Before I name the man possessing such magic powers, let me highlight some of the salient points singled out by Polly. To begin with, he is a thinking man’s role model, which has to mean he himself is a thinking man.
He is a vegan who drives an electric car and represents an “elegant strain of political activism” focused on LGBT issues and unlimited abortion.
He has introduced “a collection of clothes… all made from organic, recycled and/or repurposed materials and using transparent chains of production.”
He speaks in slangy clichés, “peppers his sentences with phrases like ‘bit and bob’.” [It’s actually bits and bobs, but then English isn’t his first language.]
He is in favour of “transparency, the ethics, sustainability…”
In general, he has “a strong moral stance” and he really “loves clothes”.
His musical tastes run towards “hip-hop”, whatever that is.
He loves Camden Town because “It’s so bohemian. And it’s so punk.” And also because “So many people not really caring, just wearing what they wanted and not listening to anyone else. I was like, yeah, I want to do the same.”
He thinks that “having a feminine side as a man is always so important in order to be happy.”
Polly wonders “if it all gets a little exhausting – all this caring, all this learning and all these deep, meaningful conversations…”
He’s well-informed, which has had a formative effect on his personality: “I used to do so many things before that I don’t do now, because I didn’t have the information.”
Oh well, I won’t keep you on tenterhooks any longer. The interviewee was Héctor Bellerín, the Arsenal right back Polly describes as “a thinking man’s footballer”.
Now, for the outlanders among you, The Times has traditionally been seen as the voice of the Tory establishment, perhaps a step closer than The Telegraph to the middle of the road.
I realise that Polly’s idiotic musings aren’t a statement of the paper’s editorial position. However, Times editors can’t be let off the hook quite so easily. They read the 3,000-word piece, found it good and interesting, saw fit to expose their readers to the views therein.
Hence the editors regard as intellectually valid Polly’s idea of a thoughtful man who can act as an agent of anyone’s self-improvement. They look at Héctor and that’s what they see.
I see something else. Standing before me is a heavily tattooed illiterate moron wearing pimp clothes, sporting two earrings and spouting woke rubbish on every subject dear to the hearts of our opinion-formers in Notting Hill and Islington.
If I had to spend several hours in his company, the effect would be not so much meliorative as emetic. He isn’t a human being; he’s a jukebox loaded with every woke platitude extruded out of the bowels of modernity.
Push the right button, and out comes ‘vegan’, ‘feminist’, ‘LGBT activist’, “women’s right to abortion’, ‘punk music’, ‘fashion sense’, ‘electric car’, ‘caring’, ‘sensitivity’, the lot – just look at the words I’ve highlighted.
In 1840 Lermontov published one of the best pieces of prose in the Russian language, the novel A Hero of Our Time. The eponymous hero, encapsulating the key aspects of his time, was a jaded, cynical, emotionally impotent aristocrat ready to hurt anybody and even risk his own life in search of elusive thrills.
I’d suggest that a book written on the same subject today should have Héctor Bellerín as its main protagonist. He is a true hero of our time – the ideal the Polly Vernons of this world see in their minds’ eye.