Why is George Monbiot such a horse’s arse?
Research has been keeping me busy recently; I’m researching the Gramscian concept of hegemony (and its subsequent evolutions) while at the same time trying to write a rather more limited critique of the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. In the meantime however, I stumbled across the following article by George Monbiot and I really have to ask; is this man deranged?
The thesis of his most recent offering is that Wales, blessed Cymru, is being held down by the bloody English. The English extracted all the natural resources and sold them on, they constructed a railway system to suit this exploitation, they drowned a small village to supply Liverpool with clean water – oh and the English are more grasping, less liberal and more socially stratified than Wales.
I recently defended John Pilger’s comments regarding Obama’s potential for being an Uncle Tom; whilst I disagreed with Pilger’s lazy characterization, I recognize that Obama will not be what many black people hope he will be. Now, here this sort of thing comes up again: Monbiot is indulging in yet more lazy characterization – not to mention drawing rather silly conclusions from his own laziness. There is no defence for this.
If we look at a railway map of the mainland United Kingdom, it’s fairly easy to see that all railways are ‘extractive’; they are purpose built to carry men and materials where men and materials needed to go. Ports and the nation’s capital fit pretty high up on that bill. It is not just Wales – it is the whole country: whether to ports in Liverpool, London or Southampton, or from outlying areas to centres of industry where people can find jobs, to be extractive is the whole point of a railway.
The railways are not a bloody insult to the Welsh. More importantly, living for two years in Wales doesn’t make you Welsh, Mr Monbiot, anymore than my living in England makes me English. I am Irish, though a citizen of the United Kingdom, and I’d support the Republic’s football team over that of England in a heartbeat – not through any misplaced sense of nationalism but simply because I won’t have to listen to the Irish media crowing about it. If you support the Welsh team, ask yourself why.
If it is a reason similar to mine, then that’s fair enough. Frankly I’d support Germany over England for the simple reason that German footballers don’t seem to be quite such drunken, arrogant primadonnas. If the reason is different, tending towards a love of surroundings, then I suggest to you that your anti-nationalism is not rationally predicated and is in danger of being subverted towards an equally nationalist counter-nationalism.
Whilst none of us can afford to turn a blind eye towards the wrongs of the English government in its provincial territories, nor should that be our only or even our main focus. Much of what was done to Wales was done in the name of private industry – and the function of the British government in that regard was simply the function of any capitalist state. The problem is capitalism, not the English.
It may or may not be the case that Wales feels less socially stratified, or less grasping or more liberal but this is not simply because they are Welsh! Scotland and Wales by virtue of their subsidiary positions could not develop the same weight of Shires-and-Dales middle class as sustains the Tory base in England to such a degree. Indeed, both enjoyed higher levels of unionisation – on a par with one of the industrial centres like Liverpool.
Labour’s strongholds (and the few places where Communists got elected to Parliament) weren’t simply built in Scotland and Wales because of the more liberal nature of the Scottish and Welsh national character – but they were built off the back of vicious class struggle, which compelled ever greater and more conscious acts of working class solidarity. And you, Mr Monbiot, mention none of this.
Your lazy characterization must stop.