Reheated (10)
Friday Ephemera

Dupes and Opium

I fear it’s time for more classic sentences from the Guardian, this time care of Professor Terry Eagleton, who obliges with a volley of inadvertent nuggets:

If the Cameron government is bad news for those seeking radical change, the World Cup is even worse.

This bold declaration is followed by,

If every rightwing think-tank came up with a scheme to distract the populace from political injustice and compensate them for lives of hard labour, the solution in each case would be the same - football.


No finer way of resolving the problems of capitalism has been dreamed up, bar socialism. And in the tussle between them, football is several light years ahead.

Ba-dum. Tissshh.

The article in question, Football: A Dear Friend to Capitalism, bears a typically presumptuous subheading:

The World Cup is another setback to any radical change. The opium of the people is now football.

It’s strange how readily the professor assumes that an enthusiasm for football is a “distraction” that’s “holding back” some “radical change” that would otherwise be embraced by enthusiasts of the game. Yes, that must be why the working man still hasn’t recognised radical socialism as the glorious thing it is. Isn’t it terrible when your revolution beckons and yet people would rather do something else, something they like? But football fans just don’t know their own minds, see, being mere dupes of the capitalist machine and its dastardly overlords. Thankfully, our esteemed literary critic knows what the people really want, secretly, deep down inside those dim and hoodwinked brains. Professor Eagleton spies some variation of false consciousness whenever the proletariat dares to see things differently from its egalitarian superiors - an enlightened caste of ageing, embittered Marxists whose keenness of vision shows them, and only them, how things really are.

Readers may recall the professor is also fond of the Unargued Assertion. And so we get some of this:

Modern societies deny men and women the experience of solidarity, which football provides to the point of collective delirium.

Quite how the experience of solidarity can be “denied” by modern societies remains oddly unspecified. Perhaps dear bewildered Terry imagines common interest is something that people can no longer experience - serendipitously or voluntarily - say, via the global communication tools made possible and ubiquitous by... oh yes, capitalism.

The professor then goes on to tell us why football is, for some, so seductive: 

Most car mechanics and shop assistants feel shut out by high culture; but once a week they bear witness to displays of sublime artistry by men for whom the word genius is sometimes no mere hype... In a social order denuded of ceremony and symbolism, football steps in to enrich the aesthetic lives of people for whom Rimbaud is a cinematic strongman.

See what he did there? He’s clever, our professor is, if instinctively condescending. And a tad delusional:

Along with television, [football] is the supreme solution to that age-old dilemma of our political masters: what should we do with them when they’re not working?

There’s that Unargued Assertion again. But here’s the thing. I’m not entirely convinced that our unnamed “political masters” are overly concerned with what people in general do within the law during their non-working hours. I do, however, get the impression that Professor Eagleton would very much like to direct the improvement of the species through a proper, more enlightened use of leisure time:

Nobody serious about political change can shirk the fact that the game has to be abolished.

Is he serious, or being clever? It’s so very hard to care. This, after all, is the towering intellectual who described jihadist mass murderers as “tragic heroes,” while insinuating moral equivalence between the perpetrators of atrocity and their arbitrary victims, including those who leapt from the windows of a burning World Trade Centre.