Tuesday, 24 November 2015

On your Marx...

John Lennon, who wore glasses and was therefore clever, once said that he had been an ‘instinctive socialist’ in his youth. I know what he meant. During my adolescence, my own instincts led me to join CND, give up meat, be sympathetic to feminism, and wear a Friends of the Earth t-shirt. As I was too busy learning the guitar solos from ‘Sultans of Swing’, I never got round to reading any of the literature. I still haven’t[1].

So, a few years ago when my aunt explained to my oldest son that I had been a Marxist in my youth, I was quite surprised[2]. I’d never been moved to read anything by Marx[3], mainly for his lack of guitar solos but also because of Communism, which I instinctively felt was a bad idea. I suppose my aunt had looked at my list of right-on credentials and concluded that I must have been a Marxist.

This revelation passed without comment from said son, who has a philosophy degree, has also read The Communist Manifesto[4] and knows better than to take his father too seriously, but it did make me wonder about any future conversations between my aunt and my brother’s children. My brother voted Tory in 1987, viewed my meat-free-peacenik-treat-women-as-equals-etc with disdain, and landed a job in London which had absolutely nothing to do with altruism and everything to do with earning a lot of money, and I fear that she thus may have jumped to another conclusion and will explain to my nephews that their father was a Nazi in his youth.

There was going to have been a point to this piece of scribbling, but I got too far away from it, so will leave it for another day. As compensation for wasting your time here's a new definition of Marxist for you, based on my own experiences:

Marxist, noun: sanctimonious dunderhead, usually ignorant [esp. of own status].

[1] Much.
[2] I didn’t say anything, though, as I’m instinctively a deluded peacenik and I hate conflict.
[3] The truth is that the closest I ever came to Marx was Marks and Sparks (or Mencers and Spencers as I prefer to call them).
[4] The closest I ever got was Animal Farm.

Monday, 23 November 2015


It is the battle of Waterloo, and Major Peregrine Carruthers is talking to his batman,
Private Humphreys. They are waiting for Blucher’s army to arrive.

‘I say, Sgt. Humphreys: what’s that smell?’
‘I believe it’s more of a whiff than a smell, sir.’
‘Yes, but what is it?’
 ‘It’s grapeshot, sir.’
‘A whiff of grapeshot, eh? Is that good or bad?’
‘On the whole, it’s not that good, sir.’
‘Not that good? How so?’
‘Well, it’s a bag full of metal balls fired from a cannon; the bag explodes all over the enemy, killing them.’
‘Nonsense, boy! You can’t get killed by a canvas bag!’
‘I believe it’s the metal balls which do the killing, sir.’
‘That would certainly make more sense.’
‘Indeed, sir.’
‘Well, we’d better be leaving then, hadn’t we?’
‘Really, sir? Shouldn’t we stay and fight?’
‘You may be a brave and fearless warrior, Humphreys, but that’s no reason for me to hang about getting killed. Look around you. There are thousands of soldiers. I won’t be missed.’
‘But you can’t just run away at the first whiff of grapeshot!’

John Humphreys on R4 this morning complained that the British-trained Iraqi Army ‘ran away at the first whiff of grapeshot.’ His interviewee, rather than saying, ‘Well, wouldn’t you?’ just carried on blah-ing (as is usually the case on Today, where the rules state that the interviewers must not listen to the answers of the interviewees and the interviewees must not answer the questions). He is, to coin a phrase, ‘Coward-shaming’ the Iraqi soldiers. What he meant to say was this: ‘at the first sign of the murderous psychopaths of ISIS, armed with Kalashnikovs and beheading swords, and drooling at the thought of filling more mass graves,  the Iraqi soldiers deserted.’ 

It is surely the pinnacle of crassness to call ISIS a ‘whiff of grapeshot’ and it left me wondering if Mr H would have stood his ground in the face of such... whiffs.