There is no excuse for failing to feel liberal guilt about race and class.
Liberal guilt is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s really just the political expression of that rather old-fashioned thing, conscience... To ‘suffer’ from liberal guilt means that you are somewhat uneasy about all sorts of awkward things that it is tempting to harden your heart against, like global injustice, global warming, racism... It means you sometimes worry that you might be prejudiced against all sorts of people.
All sorts of people. Well, not all sorts, obviously.
If this little parade of privileged anxiety fills you with derision, then you are a Tory. Rejection of liberal guilt is the very cornerstone of the Tory soul, the unofficial definition of Tory.
And hey, reducing those who disagree to a “Tory” caricature...
Well done, for turning up to banker school, or to that internship your uncle wangled
...in no way entails smugness or – God forbid – prejudice.
But rejecting “liberal guilt,” as manifest all but daily in the pages of the Guardian, doesn’t require an indifference to, or denial of, real injustice; merely a dislike of pretension and dishonesty, and a wariness of guilt being distorted into a pantomime and fetish – in which rhetorical self-harm is an assertion of superiority.
As, for instance, when Mr Hobson’s colleagues urged their readers to believe that “we” are to blame for post-earthquake suffering in Haiti and for giving aid to Yemen, and that the Cold War was “our fault.” Or when Zoe Williams claimed that “hoodie” is a “sinister” racial code word; or when earnest Fabians named Tom and Jemima lectured their inferiors on the evils of the word “chav,” being as it is “deeply offensive to a largely voiceless group.” Or when Guy Dammann looked at the stars and howled “am I fit to breed?” Or when Alex Renton told us “fewer British babies would mean a fairer planet.” Some Guardian regulars merely declared their plans to make us “better people” by making us poorer and freeing us from the “dispensable accoutrements of middle-class life,” including “cars, holidays, electronic equipment and multiple items of clothing.” While others chose to agonise over peanut butter residue.
One needn’t be a cartoon Tory to marvel at Decca Aitkenhead’s classic piece, Their Homophobia is Our Fault, in which she insisted that the “precarious, over-exaggerated masculinity” and murderous homophobia of some Jamaican reggae stars are products of the “sodomy of male slaves by their white owners.” And that the “vilification of Jamaican homophobia implies… a failure to accept post-colonial politics.” Thus, sympathetic readers could feel guilty not only for “vilifying” the homicidal sentiments of some Jamaican musicians, but also for the culpability of their own collective ancestors. One wonders how those gripped by this fiendish dilemma could even begin to resolve their twofold feelings of shame.
If the examples above are bewildering, it’s important to understand these are not just lapses in logic or random fits of insincerity; these outpourings are displays – of class and moral elevation. Which is why they persist, despite getting knottier and ever more absurd. Crudely summarised, it goes something like this: “I am better than you because I pretend to feel worse.” Mr Hobson’s own hand-wringing is scarcely more credible. Note how readily he blurs distinctions between compassion and guilt, thereby begging the question. And who could forget his surreal distress at the fictional superspy, James Bond?
The continuation of his cult disgusts me, embarrasses me, depresses me.
Where but the Guardian would you expect to find a character who embodies heroism, adventure and physical daring being denounced as a cause of moral corruption and emotional disarray?
A deeply malign cultural presence... a nasty, cowardly part of us that ought to have been killed off long ago... The real victims of the Bond cult are men, who are impelled by a vile peer-pressure to worship at the shrine of this lethal lothario… The fact is that James Bond’s sexual career does real harm to the male psyche… I seriously believe that Bond is a big factor in the sexual malfunction of our times; the difficulty we have finding life-long partners, and the normalisation of pornography.
Where but the Guardian would ostentatious self-emasculation count as a virtue? And where else would the following conclusion be deemed inarguable and self-evident?
We ought to have learned by now that combining sex with ironic fun is dodgy. Anyone who fails to see a connection between Playboy bunny girls and paedophilia is culpably blind.
Note the word culpably.
When people laugh at Mr Hobson - and they will - perhaps it’s because they don’t believe his stated feelings are entirely real, or rational, or his own.