The Corner

Culture

Was It For This?

Film director Roman Polanski at the Cinematheque in Paris, France, October 30, 2017. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

Dan Hitchens wrote a little essay for First Things that wakes up your imagination. He writes that the Soviet revolution was undone partly by the acknowledgements of its own crimes and concessions to reality. The Stalinist terrors were regretted and, not much later, the beliefs on which they were based were doubted, then repudiated. But even in the years immediately preceding the fall of Soviet Communism, people thought it would go on forever. Perhaps, Hitchens writes, we are already seeing the same shame-faced acknowledgements and concessions from the sexual revolution. Roman Polanski is now vilified, when less than two decades ago he was defended and celebrated:

In Britain, similarly revolting tales have been plucked from the dustbin of history. It’s been remembered that the Paedophile Information Exchange achieved respectability in progressive circles: Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee has recalled her “sinking feeling that in another five years or so, their aims would eventually be incorporated into the general liberal credo, and we would all find them acceptable.” Other aspects of the sexual revolution also look different in hindsight. David Steel, the architect of Britain’s abortion liberalization, has said he never expected “anything like” the number of abortions that followed.

It’s hard not to see signs of this revolution losing steam and esteem. There’s the emergence of Michel Houllebecq, whose work gives a nasty critique to a society–a home-that has become nasty. In the Irish Times I read about Maura Higgins, a reality TV show star on Love Island. Higgins is a smoldering young beauty with a big personality. The headline and sub-headline of the column run this way: “Love Island’s Maura Higgins dances on grave of Official Ireland. TV star is far removed from De Valera’s vision of suppressed women.”

Eamon De Valera was a contemporary of Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower. The column’s subsequent invocation of old Dev, and the saying of the rosary remind me of the recapitulation of Big Brother’s approved version of English history in 1984.

In the old days (it ran), before the glorious Revolution, London was not the beautiful city that we know today. It was a dark, dirty, miserable place where hardly anybody had enough to eat and where hundreds and thousands of poor people had no boots on their feet and not even a roof to sleep under. Children no older than you had to work twelve hours a day for cruel masters who flogged them with whips if they worked too slowly and fed them on nothing but stale breadcrusts and water.

But in among all this terrible poverty there were just a few great big beautiful houses that were lived in by rich men who had as many as thirty servants to look after them. These rich men were called capitalists. They were fat, ugly men with wicked faces, like the one in the picture on the opposite page. You can see that he is dressed in a long black coat which was called a frock coat, and a queer, shiny hat shaped like a stovepipe, which was called a top hat. This was the uniform of the capitalists, and no one else was allowed to wear it. The capitalists owned everything in the world, and everyone else was their slave.

When the social propaganda is this lame, I suppose the times are a-changin’.

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