( Can find no other way of saving from Facebook )
One of my favourite scenes of all time:
Too much food, actually, so I'll just remark on two things. I'm struck by how influenced by Hollywood (rather than real instances of civilisational collapse, as during wars) all these people's doomsday scenarios and preparations are. But much more striking is the level of egotistic irresponsibility and absence of self-awareness that such behavior entails. The cause of the imminent social collapse you fear and the cause of your immense wealth are one and the same - put two and two together and use all your money and, therefore, potential power, to influence politics for the better, just as your other ('socially minded') brother billionaires are actively influencing it for the worse. With power comes responsibility, noblesse oblige and all that, but these people have no concept of a social contract. Looking out for number one is the most defeatist philosophy imaginable - when number one - in combination with other similar number ones - actually has enough money to genuinely influence the direction of the world. But no, they prefer to contribute their bit to dismantling the edifice in the hope that when it finally comes crashing down they'll have a helicopter ready to whisk them away to New Zealand.
Viewing it from the perspective of my period - the golden age of local government* - puts the current state of affairs in a particularly tragic light. It's a pity the article doesn't admit the many failures of municipal governnment in its glory days: the corruption, the mismanagement, the inhumanity. That would have made the portrait much more nuanced. But overall, its benefits unquestionably outweighed its deficiencies, and its destruction is indeed tantamount to the destruction of functioning society. 'Sliding off a cliff' indeed.
(*Oh the happy hours I have spent reading about the LCC and the politics of School Board elections and satires of municipal socialism and Chamberlain's destruction of small Birmingham businesses... As Kipling said, 'what should they know of [21st c.] England who only [21st c.] England know?' Even the fraction of its past that I'm familiar with is enough to realise how tremendous has been the loss, the hollowing out. Virtually all the things that 'made England great' - which is to say, all the things that gave genuine grounds for hope in a time that was in many respects even more barbaric, and certainly as ideologically nasty as our own - are gone. But hey, who needs to know about that stuff when you can just blame immigrants?)
It was incredibly powerful. Paradoxically, even the crude bits of social commentary where visibly unprofessional actors deliver heavy-handed lines did not detract from the power, but simply enhanced the overall effect of unvarnished realism. I don't know how anyone could leave a screening of that film and not go out boiling with rage and indignation and grief, calling for bloody revolution. And this precisely because there is absolutely no politics in it, other than some drunkard's incoherent babblings about that 'Duncan'. It is also a film marinated in the tropes of 19th and early 20th c. social realism and documentary. I could see the texts I read and teach shining through in every twist of the plot and in every characterisation. Hell, not just the texts, the pictures too:
'Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward' - replicated almost exactly in a scene depicting the queue at a food bank. There are iterations of that famous painting in photograph form in any number of documentary texts from my period, not to mention verbal descriptions. Can you think of any equivalents today?
And herein lies the problem. Eighty, a hundred, a hundred and fifty years ago, this was the stuff of art: you couldn't turn around for all the novels, stories, paintings, not to mention journalistic exposes and sociological studies - read widely by the general public - which took the material of Daniel Blake as their subject. Where are they now? Why is Ken Loach virtually the only one doing this? Why is this no longer a subject for creative endeavour? The film is almost archetypal - a sort of anti-fairy tale in its plot and character functions - but it is also absolutely up-to-date-to-the-last-second in its social detail, more 'modern' and 'for our time' than whatever the latest trendiest thing in cinema happens to be. There are gold-mines there, utterly untapped, for more subtle artists than Loach is - why aren't they coming?
Society a hudred years ago was crueller, much more dreadful in so many respects than it is today, but it was also better, because indignation and grief for human suffering were palpably in the air, were setting the tone of the public discourse, transcending party lines, 'framing the conversation'. Where can you turn now other than various advocacy organisations and a few journalists for any articulated outrage? It is one of the many functions of art to give culturally influential and lasting form to condemnation of contemporary injustices. Art is manifestly failing in that duty in our society, and exceptions like Daniel Blake only prove the rule.
P.S. The film is vintage Loach through and through, and the ending, particularly, is very reminiscent of the conclusion of Land and Freedom.
Frustrating, because there are some perceptive and accurate descriptions - courtesy, no doubt, of the excellent team of advisors (Mendlesohn, Fimi, Maslen, Garth - a who's who really) - but they're mixed in with the usual unutterable drivel and portentious ignorance. I was alternating between wanting to scream and nodding in pleasant surprise. It's worth a watch, overall, but I just wish they'd let the experts speak for themselves. Now a programme of interviews with Mendlesoh, Fimi, Maslen and Garth, along with some proper author interviews (instead of the slightly extended soundbites on offer here), would really be worth watching. The audience figures might be much lower, but at least people would genuinely learn something about fantasy. Not much chance of that, though, on modern TV.
Teaching Fellow in Late Medieval to Early Modern English Literature Vacancy Ref: 037487
Applications are invited for a Teaching Fellow in English Literature of the late medieval to early modern period.
The successful candidate will have experience in the design and delivery of teaching within the Higher Education sector, and the ability to deliver pre-honours and honours undergraduate courses in English Literature, including postgraduate teaching as appropriate. Successful Candidate will also be expected to contribute to the administration of the subject area including course organisation, as well as to undertake course assessment.
This full-time (35 hours each week) post is available for a fixed-term period of 2 years from 1st January 2017 (or as soon as possible thereafter) until 31st December 2018. Salary scale: £31,656 to £37,768 per annum.
Applications should be received no later than 5.00pm (GMT) on Wednesday 26th October 2016. It is anticipated that interviews will be held on 14th November 2016.
Informal queries can also be sent via email for the attention of Dr Andy Taylor, Head of English Literature, to llc@ ed.ac.uk.
Further details and information on how to apply can be found here: https://www.vacancies.ed.ac.uk/pls/
Lecturer in British Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century
Applications are invited for the post of Lecturer in British literature of the long eighteenth-century. The Department of English Literature seeks a dynamic and enthusiastic colleague to provide teaching and research in the period. The successful candidate will have experience of teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels and be able to undertake excellent research.
This position is full time and open ended, and is available from January 2017. Salary: £38,896 to £46,414 per annum
Further information and queries should be emailed for the attention of Dr Andrew Taylor, head of English Literature, to email@example.com.
The closing date for applications is no later than 5.00pm (GMT) on Wednesday 26th October 2016. It is anticipated that interviews will take place on 6th December 2016.
Further information and details on how to apply can be found at https://www.vacancies.ed.ac.uk/pls/
(In particular the lines: 'We've got a machine can learn the knack / Of doing your job, so don't come back ... Watch out for the man with the silicon chip')
With this: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n05/
Utterly fascinating. MacColl as a prophet of the socio-economic consequences of 'machine learning' (!!) - who'd have thunk it?
P. S. It's also just occurred to me that the LRB is the only present-day equivalent in this country of a 19th c. толстый журнал.