Sweating From The Effort
Friday Ephemera

Not Hearing His Own

While we’re on the subject of odd Guardian articles - odder than usual, I mean - here’s another. Owen Hatherley, formerly a contributor to the Socialist Worker and Socialist Review, is today telling his readers that “capitalism is altering our language” in dastardly ways that must be resisted. He knows this because he regards unique, individual and choose as “particularly acquisitive words.” For him, it seems, the words unique, individual and choose signify first and foremost avarice and rapaciousness - nasty things like that. So no tendentious altering of language there. As you might expect, Mr Hatherley is also unhappy about the word consumer, which, he says, is “a word we now use entirely unthinkingly to describe the ‘consumption’ of everything from shoes to food to health care.” Note the use of we, by which of course he means you’re the ones “unthinkingly” talking about consumers, unlike our mentally nimble class warrior, who wishes to “reveal the pernicious assumptions behind these professedly innocuous words.” 

Mr Hatherley previously enlightened us with his belief that making vaguely alternative pop music is all but impossible without an Arts Council grant, a subsidised spell at art school and a bohemian squat. And so leftwing musicians must be subsidised by the taxpayer until they become sufficiently “class conscious.” Our self-described Marxist also wants us to share a toilet and kitchen with people we may not like, and thereby “look beyond our obsession with private space.” Wanting your own living space, a little freedom from the tribe, is apparently an obsession, i.e., something bad and unhealthy. Rather than, say, a sign of not being a student or a hippie. Communes are a good thing and “increasingly sensible,” according to Mr Hatherley, while “insularity” – which is to say, privacy and individual territory– is not. “Other ways of living are possible,” says he, though he doesn’t disclose whether this morally improving arrangement is good enough for him.

And of course Mr Hatherley recently shared his sadness that the hammer and sickle is now unfashionable due to its unflattering connotations. Apparently it’s good to have an eye-catching symbol of “class conflict and egalitarianism.” Somehow, Mr Hatherley doesn’t register that those unflattering, indeed monstrous, connotations were an inevitable consequence of a monstrous ideology, i.e., of Marxism, with which presumably he has some sympathy.