Tag Archives: No Such Thing As Society

Existentialism and Romantic Love


Existentialism and Romantic Love
By Skye Cleary
Palgrave Macmillan – £63.00

Other people are a fact of life.
                                          David Cooper.

Love is a passion to be chosen and mastered, not sacrificed to.
                                          Skye Cleary.

I’d highly recommend this most excellent of books, just on the strength of its final chapter ‘Simone de Beauvoir and Loving Authentically’ alone. Reason being, there’s so much to be gleaned, so much to be inspired by, so much to go and away and think about.

And perhaps act upon.

It is because Existentialism and Romantic Love traverses the most complex and complicated of emotions we oft refer to as love – in a most self-defining manner, profoundly more reflective than an array of dreadful Hello and Cosmopolitan magazines combined – that fundamentally accounts for its validity. That it does so from an existentialist perspective which is resoundingly thought provoking throughout all of its seven chapters (Introduction and Conclusion included), propels the book in its entirety unto a literary place that is simply more commendable than commendable.

Authoress Skye Cleary already reminds us in the book’s Introduction that: ”not all mirrors can provide accurate reflections.”

Such pronouncement in itself, is enough to trigger colossal bouts of pensive persuasion amid love’s fraternity of analysis and assessment. Be it of the self. Or one’s relationship with another. As more often than not, we instinctively think we know about these things – but in truth, we don’t

In a world where capitalism and its grotesque ugly sister, advertising, have become inherently more instrumental within modern day relationships than that of love itself – which, lest it be said, absolutely isn’t tangible – it’s no surprise that mutual conflict can sometimes supersede the initial kernel of romance.

Or, dare one actually say it, love.

For want of a perhaps more definitive description, said miasmic maze of psychological undoing is coherently addressed in this book’s aforementioned final chapter: ”Beauvoir agreed with Sartre that conflict is a fundamental part of life because we clash with other freedoms. Nevertheless, embracing the conflict is a necessary part of life because transcending (pour-soi) is not easy, and giving it up means giving up existing. Transcendence is necessary to being a sovereign subject, which Beauvoir defines as actively, assertively, ambitiously, creatively, and courageously pushing oneself forward in the world, overcoming oneself, going beyond the given in life to be an agent in one’s life, and engaging in projects that one creates for oneself.”

Suffice to say, it is of vital importance to actually know and comprehend the above to begin with.

But again, due to economic demands and the smokescreen, diversionary importance of having to keep up with the myopic folly of such complete and utter bollocks as that of what other people may be wearing and driving, ”going beyond the given in life to be an agent in one’s life,” isn’t always as easy as it may sound. Reason being, such distraction as that promoted by the ideology of Hello Magazine et al, goes a long way in diluting and perhaps ultimately confusing what is truly important in life: ”Beauvoir did not mean that the need for others should be taken in the Machiavellian sense of using each other as means to ends. Rather, each individual acts in the context of society […]. The important thing for Beauvoir is acknowledging that the world is shared with other people and that one way or another individuals depend on the community for survival, self-definition, and meaning.”

”Each individual” acting ” in the context of society,” is a most potent force to be reckoned with. Perhaps one of the most important. This partially explains why so much of British society, and American society even more so, has been crumbling away in recent years.

After all, both places could all so readily be defined by what former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, once described as there being ”no such thing as society.”

As such, never has love, existentialist or otherwise, been in such short supply. All the more reason that one should truly investigate this most authentic, fascinating and quintessentially timely of books.

David Marx

Not For Turning – The Life of Margaret Thatcher


Not For Turning – The Life of Margaret Thatcher
By Robin Harris
Bantam Press – £13.99

”For her, Churchill was the embodiment of British fighting spirit, indeed of all the quintessentially British virtues. The veneration she nurtured as a young girl for the great war leader was nothing remarkable. But what was extraordinary, and sometimes a little embarrassing, was that she never grew out of it. As a young would-be politician she was heard to be referring to him as ‘Winston,’ a habit which she always continued, despite the fact that it opened her up to ridicule. This quasi-familiarity did not reflect any sense that she should be ranked as his political equal – far from it.”

The tonality of Not For Turning – The Life of Margaret Thatcher is such that author Robin Harris will write something, and almost immediately after having written it, invariably apologize for it. Might this be due to the fact that for many years, he was Mrs. Thatcher’s close adviser and speechwriter – not to mention instrumental in the compilation of both volumes of her autobiography?

Indeed, as the whip-lash, spiritual trajectory of the so-called Iron Lady’s indelible influence, inexorably cascades amid the total, non-irony of these 450 pages, it’s easy to both ascertain and understandable as to why the former Prime Minister and Harris worked so closely together. As a mere few chapters into this book, one gets the (total) impression that whenever Mrs. Thatcher might have said or advocated something, it was Harris’s job to present it in such a way that was idiosyncratically acceptable upon the (Thatcherite) alter of both believers and non-believers alike.

Hence, the above opening quote from the chapter, ‘The Impact Of Grantham,’ wherein the author also writes of religiosity and morality; the latter of which, many people might still believe is in stark, questionable contrast, to that of Margaret Thatcher’s nigh resolute absolutism.

But here again, Harris leaps forth to placate any remote propensity towards moral disdain: ”She did not seem to feel any obligation to forgive. In a sense, this was refreshing, because she did not profess to be better than she was. And in practice she did not hold grudges to the extent that many other politicians did. But she would state as a matter of fact that she did not forgive, for example, Michael Heseltine for what he had done to her. The contrast between this attitude and the fact that she was not, by and large, a bitter person, given all the adversaries she faced during her career, suggests that she had really just misunderstood the concept of forgiveness itself, believing that it involved feelings rather than intentions. If so, that indicates how little Christian doctrine she absorbed for one who grew up in such a strikingly devout household.”

That Harris can actually write that Thatcher was ”not, by and large, a bitter person,” is horribly patronizing in the extreme.

Try telling that to the many thousands of miners wives – let alone the miners themselves – the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. Try telling that to the many thousands of pensioners who will probably freeze (to almost death) this coming winter, due to her vile, and myopic economic policies of uber privatization.

Even here, Not For Turning, by way of the author, comes replete with set-in-stone, resolute, ready made answers.

After all: ”given all the adversaries she faced during her career, suggests that she had really just misunderstood the concept of forgiveness itself, believing that it involved feelings rather than intentions.”

And as we all know (especially if we’re honest), the whole conceptial idea of ”feelings,” wasn’t something Margaret Thatcher was particularly adept at. Were this pleasant and well-written, albeit disappointingly warped account of Margaret Thatcher’s life to have even remotely addressed this issue, it would have made for far more accurate, beguiling and honst reading.

As is, it’s a mere traipse through the politically obvious, and socially obnoxious.

David Marx

Thatcher & After

Thatcher & After –
Margaret Thatcher and Her Afterlife
In Contemporary Culture
Edited by Louisa Hadley and Elizabeth Ho
Palgrave Macmillan – £55.00

There are parts of Thatcher & After that are absolutely brilliant. There are also a couple of parts that are densely dull, and it’s a shame such a disparate twain had to unfortunately meet in the same book – but that’s politics and (occasionally gripping) realistic reportage for you.

Divided into two parts: ‘Thatcher’ and ‘After’ (hence the title), these ten essays thoroughly investigate the persistent yet spuriously unfortunate reappearance of former British Prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, along with everything she vindictively stood for – primarily the indoctrination of the self. And lest it be known I’m not talking Will Self, but rather the ‘self’ that has lured Britain into becoming one of the most woeful and shameful societies on earth.

That Thatcher bequeathed the nation with the immortal dogma of there being ‘’no such thing as society’’ has had a pronounced and profound trajectory of such epic and socially cancerous proportion, it’s almost impossible to ever envision a way back: a way back from the delusion of association, as well as the association of delusion. A way back to some form of civility – let alone understanding. A way back to some form of composure – let alone giving. A way back to when once upon a time, Britain actually deserved to be called great. Regardless of the filthy fucking pointless Falklands War, which, other than winning Thatcher her second term in office, really, really didn’t put the great back into Britain.

Other than amassing millions and millions of pounds worth of debt, the contagion of said war and Thatcher’s vile policies only promoted the me, me, me media, which eventually gave rise, not only to the white-van-man mentality that still persists to this very day, but an entire generation of scum-bag, cut-throat disciples, who’d just as soon kick someone to death whilst discarding a pizza box amid the petals of lost innocence.

But hey, who amid the current hordes of consumerist cunnilingus, truly cares? Cameron and his cronies? Katie ‘’I’d commit incest with an Alsatian if it guaranteed yet another centre spread’’ Price? It’s not as if there’s such thing as society after all, as Heather Nunn and Anita Biressi make resoundingly clear in their astonishingly thought provoking essay ‘‘Shameless?: Picturing the ‘’underclass’’ after Thatcherism’’ at the outset of Part II: ‘’This newly inflected version of the ‘’underclass’’ is both confused and confusing; described as a depoliticized spiteful class whose ‘’free-floating anger masquerading as moral outrage’’ informs the mobs gathered outside courthouses or whose emotional incontinence led to the swelling of the Princess Diana funeral crowds. In this mutable spectre of a superficial, anti-intellectual, apolitical, greedy, amoral and essentially ‘’sociopathic’’ tribe the ‘’underclass’’ becomes again the scapegoat for both established and more recent social ills; mindless consumerism and pointless aspiration based on an infantile identification with celebrity culture.’’

Indeed, current Brit-Grit syndication with the so-called ‘celebrity culture,’ is of far more intrinsic value than the true meaning of any grief. Let alone grief at Princess Diana’s funeral.

What’s of more high-octane value is the mere association of being seen to grieve – especially at such a nationalistic and sexy out-pouring of contextualised grief as that of the over-sensationalised funeral of the ‘’people’s princess.’’ Hence, the upsurge of vacuous consumerism – despite both financial and social (Katie) price; not to mention the absolutist, utter sacrosanct need to be seen in designer labels that is surely, befitting of both grief and a feeling of ‘belonging.’ As Nunn and Biressi go on to make clear: ‘’It seems that these subjects are greedy, acquisitive and troublingly conservative: ‘’the people who craved not values but designer labels and satellite dishes… hopped up vengeance, tabloids, alcopops and sentiment.’’

As already mentioned, not all of the essays herein are as well conceived and on the money (for want of a perhaps more appropriate term) as that quoted above. Ryan Trimm’s ‘Carving Up Value: The Tragicomic Thatcher Years in Jonathan Coe’ for instance, is far too cryptic, angular and insular for its own good. So too, to a degree, is ‘Let’s Dance: The Line of Beauty and the Revenant Figure of Thatcher’ by Kim Duff. But for a mere couple of weaknesses, Thatcher & After really is a very substantial, well-written, worthwhile, colourful, caustic and contagious read – even if only to partially come to terms with the kernel of Britain’s current, elongated dilemma.

David Marx