Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Britain's hopeless ruling class, Francesca Martinez and Lady Gaga

A sight you won't see in Britain - Daddy bulldozer and his son hard at work clearing snow from Gorky Park on the day we left Moscow - where is Mummy bulldozer?

Elena and I are back in London, so time for a few comparative impressions between The Great Bear Russia and Great Britain, once the title of the greatest empire the world has ever seen, now something of an ironic title, since whatever else it is, and it is very many very good things, it is surely no longer Great.

We land at Heathrow and are channelled into terminal 5, designed to much acclaim by the architect Richard Rogers.
It is a building of sepulchral steel, grey and gloomy, an ante - room of the after - life. We almost expect Barber’s Adagio for Strings to be playing as we shuffle like the walking dead towards the bowels of the building, hoping to come out into bright life, but this mournful canopy of a building keeps whispering  ‘prepare to meet thy doom’ as we wander lethewards.

‘I did not know death had undone so many’ wrote TS Eliot in The Wasteland, as he developed his theme of the unlived life, which he saw as a symptom of the decadence and spiritual emptiness of his time, the ‘low dishonest decade’ of the thirties.
Roger’s terminal would seem to be Eliot’s poem incarnate.
The living death theme is pursued down to every detail - the voice in the lift is a voice from the grave, completely drained of any human warmth or emotion, it is as if you are listening to a corpse that has been sentenced to a century of repeating ‘ doors closing’, ‘ doors opening’ as a punishment for leaving a door open in a sacred chapel.

A question occurs to us : is Britain suffering from a variation of Eliot’s spiritual bankruptcy?

Has half a century of welfare drained its people of any really creative edge?

Any spirit with which to demand and protest?

This Terminal building has been hailed as a masterpiece - but is it?

It’s so depressing and soulless, it is a joyless wasteland.

Things brightened up though at The Hammersmith and City Line tube - new trains which are clean and bright and have a continuous interior, without separate carriages so you can stand at one end and see the entire tube as it snakes along.

These are impressive, and cheer us up, maybe Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is not a complete buffoon.

Whilst we were in Moscow The Guardian published a story that astonished us.
We expected it to drive the British public out onto the streets in protest.
It turns out that The Monarchy, The Queen and Prince Charles, do run the country after all!
The elected government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg regularly ask these lottery winners if they will approve the legislation proposed by The House of Commons.
Occasionally they turn it down flat.
Often, they amend it.

Amazing, but not a whimper of protest from the citizens, sorry subjects, sorry, consumers of once Great Britain.

We had seen the opposition in Moscow - where was it here?

Now let’s take a closer look at this troika that run Britain.

They were all born with a full matching set of silver spoons in their mouths.

Dostoevsky said that nothing creative or worthwhile can come from an easy life - struggle is what brings us to life and gives life meaning. Now we don’t agree with where he went from there, which was off to Jesus, but so far he definitely had a point.

Our British ruling troika haven’t really had to struggle against anything more adverse than a windy day and a couple of inches of snow, and when these coincide, the country collapses.

Notice too, the astonishing similarity between David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Price Charles and Tim Nice but Dim.
Here he is being interviewed with his fiancee about his forthcoming nuptials.

It’s not as if we don’t have people who are tough enough to get things done, who have struggled and made something of themselves and the added something useful to the world - it’s just that they don’t seem to get anywhere near to running the country.

Francesca Martinez, the comedienne with cerebral palsy is hilarious, original and courageous. She refers to herself as ‘ wobbly’ and refuses to accept victim status.

Asked about her views on abortion in the case of severe disability evident in the fetus, she replied that some people become disabled later in life - take that Nick Clegg for example!

We are not saying that she should run the country - only that she is emblematic of a lot of people in the country who are tough, original and capable enough to run it but are somehow kept out by the pale and sweaty softies who do.

In fact, if the Monarchy went back to just being a tourist attraction instead of trying to run the country, we could have Francesca for Queen instead of the overpaid manikin we have at present.

Nor are we saying that we want everyone to suffer so that the standard of creativity and governance improves, or that the welfare state should be abolished and that poets must starve to improve their poetry and painters their paintings.

But something seems to be amiss, and we suspect it’s something to do with the fact that Britain’s ruling elite has had it too easy, it’s managed to lock out the competition from below.
If they fail, it’s off to The House of Lords for most of them.
Or a premature drawing down of a huge pay-off and pension.

Britain needs to get a grip, get a plan and stick to it.

As Churchill once said of his opponents, we are ‘adamant for drift, resolute for irresolution’

And we are saying that suffering does sometimes give creativity the spur it needs.

President Putin is not everybody’s glass of vodka, but he is definitely tough enough to run Russia and doesn’t care if you don’t want him to.
Here he is throwing a few people around.

Somehow, we have the feeling that we need a bit of Putin in our system - our version would have a better sense of humour and not take themselves so seriously.
We used to have Lloyd George as Prime Minister, a man who left school at 12 and came from Wales - talk about disability, or Ernest Bevin, a cockney trade unionist and Defence Secretary who when told that a rival for office was ‘ his own worst enemy’ replied ‘ not while I’m alive he ain’t’.

Those were the days.

Before we left Moscow, we visited the Tretkayana Gallery of modern Art.
The Soviet Realist school gets a pasting from most art critics, but the period from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, the period of the purges and war and reconstruction, produced an art which throws out a powerful magnetic field as you stand in front of it. They may have been wrong to glamourise Stalin, but they did feel strongly about their country, they wanted to build it with socialism, out into the steppes and into the future.

Alexander Deyneka and Petrov-Vodkin are typical, Petrov-Vodkin of the early Bolshevik idealism and and Deyneka of the optimism and belief in post war reconstruction, itself represented by the Tselina movement after the second world war when thousands volunteered to go east out into the steppes to build the new Russia after the ravages of the Nazi invasion.
As you stand in front of this work it seems to be straining to clamber out of the frame, you can feel the muscle ripple and sense the minds absorbing and reflecting.

A. Deyneka 'The Defence of Petrograd'

K. Petrov-Vodkin 'Red Horse'  (source: Internet)

Do we have anything this good?

This strong?

Do we believe in anything beyond ourselves as consumers?

Did you see the Damian Hirst exhibition at The Tate, which was given pride of place over the summer?

We did, unfortunately.

It was a nice day out for the children.

That shark didn’t frighten me for a moment, and Damian has never succeeded in making me worry or think about death at all.

Except his.

Here is an artist who has been featherbedded by the long suffering British consumerate, who have funded the insult to their intelligence and taste that was his retrospective without complaint.

We should have just turned the gallery over to the work of Lady Gaga, a truly great artist who needs no subsidy from taxpayers, an artist who is an activist and philanthropist and a courageous one at that - it takes guts to go to Moscow and tell Muscovites that whatever they are: gay, lesbian, transgender or cross-dresser, they are welcome at her gig.
Lady Gaga believes in equality.

I’d like to see Kate Middleton say anything like that - relax, it’s not gonna happen.

She doesn't believe in equality.

Unless otherwise stated all photographs by Elena Bruce


  1. I couldn't fail not to disagree with you less.

  2. Damien Hirst a insult to intelligence? Strewth, I thought I was the only one who thought that.

  3. A bit hard on Her Madje, though. Accident of birth and all that.

  4. Charles Saatchi discovered and promoted Damian Hirst. Saatchi was an advertising genius who specialised in shocking but relevant images, most famously the pregnant man poster for the Health Education Council. The campaign aimed at getting men to be more responsible about contraception. Saatchi just applied his advertising principles to art. Hirst's original images of eviscerated cows and dead sharks had an initial shock value - but that was all. We have all been fooled by Charles Saatchi, not just Nigella Lawson.