Yesterday I met with a very good friend of mine. We’ve known eachother since we were very young and have maintained contact through some bizarre measure even as we both enter manhood. Such a relationship of course has endured not out of ease or necessity — we went to different secondary schools, he went through college and is in university whilst I dropped-out of education, we have quite different interests, and so on — but, rather, out of our mutual sincerity towards oneanother. In the world as it is, organic friendships which stand beyond the mere moment of acquaintance and develop any substance are a rarity, especially in the hypersocial, promiscuous-by-nature environment we modern Westerns find ourselves born into. A bond must endure many things, for if there is no proper depth to a companionship, it’ll float away as a red balloon to the blue sky.
The most interesting thing which differentiates myself and him (in my opinion) is our political opposition to eachother. I am, for all intents and purposes, a reactionary whose view of life is fundamentally aristocratic and hierarchical. He, on the other hand, is a liberal; a Left-libertarian, as he calls himself — about a year and half ago he was calling himself an Anarcho-Marxist; something which he claims softened in part due to listening to English politician and author Daniel Hannan, a classic liberal if there ever was one (and a wonderful orator, to boot). Nevertheless, we explore our differences openly and discuss issues without shouting, insults or anything else ill-mannered; as we disagree we smile to oneanother with quick glances in good faith as we walk — indeed, there is something rather English schoolboy about the affair, something jovial and light-hearted. We might be political adversaries, but our friendship transcends that.
As we walked around Exeter city yesterday we spoke about a myriad of issues.
Brexit and the European Union
I’m of course glad that we’ve voted to leave the bloated, bourgeois, banker’s and corporatist’s pool-party that is the E.U., whilst he, on the other hand, feels that we’ve forfeited our place at the world stage. He said that the United Kingdom is simply not powerful enough to contend globally by itself, to which I’d respond: au contraire, mon ami. The U.K. is still one of the most powerful and respected countries in the world, even for its small size. This was definitely reinforced the other day as, now we’ve voted to leave the E.U. (and just in time), many countries were aching to sign new trade agreements with us.
As a sidenote, the response from a portion of the “Remain” side of the debate has been rather amusing. What’s further bewildering is the seeming alliance which has arisen between big multinational corporations, banks, the political establishment (incl. slugs like Tony Blair and George Soros), capitalist hawks of all varieties, and the student Left, anarchists, Marxists, and the lot! Truly I’ve never been so amazed, but we do live in strange and interesting times, I suppose.
Politics regarding the Conservative and Labour Parties
Now that the U.K. is poised to become a sovereign state once more, David Cameron, in an admittance of defeat, is stepping-down from the role of prime minister — an honourable act, I must say — which leaves a fascinating little power vacuum. We agreed that Daniel Hannan, though he isn’t eligible for the position, would be a good person for the role; but, although conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg is a cultured and intelligent man, who conversely is eligible, he’s too much of an intellectual — he’d make an excellent front-bencher or advisor to the prime minister.
About the Labour party, we agreed that leader Jeremy Corbyn is too “nice” for the role, ultimately, hence his own party almost ousting him from the position. He is, ultimately, a respectable man who is no villain (though, like Cameron, he should’ve been on the “Leave” side of the Brexit debate).
When the conversation moved to London mayor Sadiq Khan, my friend was more tolerant of a Muslim in such a position than I (though, of course, his faith doesn’t impact his abilities as a politician overmuch). The point stands though that Khan is not, never has been, and never will be English; and his mayorship is equivalent to foreign occupation (but maybe that’s just the bigot in me speaking). Such a scenario only speaks of the nihilistic, market-driven den of thieves and vipers that London now is.
Our Intellectual Endeavours
As I’ve been toiling away with a YouTube channel, my blog, this website, reading, writing, editing, administrating, conversing, et cetera for the past year and a half, he’s been at university studying journalism. On the side he’s been writing fiction, philosophy and poetry among other things — he even wants to write a critique of power (such a thing to his mind found manifest in Shakespeare’s King Lear, which he recommended to me). I jokingly asked him whether or not his writing of such a book is indeed an exercise of power, to which he agreed, which led onto discussion about power needing to be found manifest within something, for good or ill, and then the thing within which power is found is what is critiqued. Power is a word like gravity; it keeps the Earth moving around the Sun, although falling over can be painful. It’s about potential in this way or that. Regardless, I told him that, should he ever complete any of his books, I know publishers and would be glad to assist him in his pursuits.
The Nature of Englishness
This was an interesting one. I asked my friend as we were walking beside Exeter cathedral what the first thing which came to his mind was when I said the word “England.”
He responded by naming a street somewhere whose name escapes me — the image he conjured was one of horror: a dirty, urban cityscape with Leftist university professors walking next-to the city’s homeless and drug-addicted. A place where no fewer than ten languages are heard all at once and assorted foreign restaurants tightly push themselves side-by-side for miles in either direction. Fuel and cigarette smoke fills the air as a quick-paced pink-haired young woman covered in piercings does her best to ignore the scene of a Muslim man in a white robe beating his veiled wife for stepping ahead of him, all in broad daylight. Construction workers repair the broken, crumbling pavement as a group of sneering woman’s studies graduates march past, chattering to eachother about how that one particular worker looks a bit like a rapist — better steer clear. Noise bellows from a café full of young people talking about nothing. The sky darkens and clouds begin to pour rain upon the street, umbrellas bloom but the noise only continues to blare. Speech without poetry, energy without warmth, living without life.
Conversely, when I think of England, I think of countryside hamlets and old stone walls, cottages and flowerpots; busy Tudor streets and strong Gothic architecture, pastries and ornaments for sale; fields of green and golden and forests dark and still; rivers and lakes and ponds of clear water. A roe appears from the adjacent woods and takes a drink, her ears fluttering with each gulp. As we pan-out we see two red squirrels dancing in an oak tree, itself green and full of life, sheltering the forest floor with its strong, aged branches. The squirrels leap onto the floor surrounding the tree looking for acorns in playful curiousity. In the distance, beyond the forest, we see chimney-smoke from a small countryside hamlet; a boy plays outside the village church with his friends, fencing with sticks stolen from the forest with cries of “On guard!” and “Ow that got my bloody finger!” The boys nervously stop as they watch two young women pass-by, but thereafter they continue their vague re-enactment of Agincourt with vigour and confidence (I pity the boy having to play the part of Charles d’Albret, to tell you the truth).
It’s fascinating how myself and my friend could look at the same picture — England — and see something totally different. He’s middle class, college and university-educated and sociable, and I’m lower class, self-educated and unsociable. The lenses we each look through are vastly different, and I confess that I find his worldview utterly perplexing. How could he look upon a modern, multicultural, urban setting and see anything of depth? Anything of substance? Value, even? When one seeks to examine this setting, what of worth is there to be found? Sure, your American burger is cheap and your brown-skinned friends amiable enough, but is that really all that’s needed to make you feel at home? What even is “home” to such people? It is a good thing or a bad thing? Is it merely a brick house built in the nineteen-sixties buried deep into an estate? Does it even exist?
One of the points I raised when explaining my endeavours to him was the fact that my focus is ultimately existential, and it is indeed this focus which has led me out of the contemporary world and its paradigms — modernity is a bleak, unending Tartarus, and the fire within me burns for an alternative. To be comfortable with society as it is seems like the result of a very narrow way of thinking which, try as it might, will be unfulfilling in the end. There is no morality to capitalism and the marketplace except the lack of morality. One must effectively transcend it to encounter anything of permanence.
So, if there is all this disagreement between me and my friend, how do we get on at all? I think the answer lies in the simplest of places: honesty. We are clean and direct with eachother and we respect oneanother as old friends who’re moreorless equally well-intentioned, intelligent and worth listening to. I was the more dominant in our conversations, and he’d listen to me tentatively, but every now and then he’d cut me short and say something which forced me to stop with the self-gratifying rambling and to think. The England I see, for example, is a product of ages past, he argued, and that past isn’t coming back. A fair point, but I pressed him then on what constitutes an identity or a form at all; is such a thing constantly in flux without any stable foundation? We can throw such ideas at eachother knowing that there will be no hatred, no malice, no misunderstanding. And, in a world full of such falseness, I believe this to be an incredibly special thing (even if my friend is wrong most of the time!)
As a comparison, we can look to the friendship which existed between the late geniuses G.K. Chesterton and George B. Shaw. They were good friends with frequent discussions and few agreements. About Shaw, Chesterton had this to say:
After belabouring a great many people for a great many years for being unprogressive, Mr. Shaw has discovered, with characteristic sense, that it is very doubtful whether any existing human being with two legs can be progressive at all. Having come to doubt whether humanity can be combined with progress, most people, easily pleased, would have elected to abandon progress and remain with humanity. Mr. Shaw, not being easily pleased, decides to throw over humanity with all its limitations and go in for progress for its own sake. If man, as we know him, is incapable of the philosophy of progress, Mr. Shaw asks, not for a new kind of philosophy, but for a new kind of man. It is rather as if a nurse had tried a rather bitter food for some years on a baby, and on discovering that it was not suitable, should not throw away the food and ask for a new food, but throw the baby out of window, and ask for a new baby.
And I’d have to say exactly the same to my excellent and noble friend.