Tuesday, December 23, 2003

J G Ballard is not only a genius
but also a hero.

"A lot of these medals are orders of the British Empire, which is a bit ludicrous. The dreams of empire were only swept away relatively recently, in the 60s. Suddenly, we seem to have a prime minister who has delusions of a similar kind.

"It goes with the whole system of hereditary privilege and rank, which should be swept away. It uses snobbery and social self-consciousness to guarantee the loyalty of large numbers of citizens who should feel their loyalty is to fellow citizens and the nation as a whole. We are a deeply class-divided society.

"I think it's deplorable when leftwing playwrights like David Hare, who have worn their socialist colours on both sleeves for so many years, should accept a knighthood. God almighty, this man actually knelt down in front of the Queen.

I'm in impressive company [in refusing]. Most of them are thoughtful people and people of spirit and independence. It's good to see quite a few showbusiness people, like Albert Finney, a great actor. There were Aldous Huxley, Robert Graves - it suggests there's quite a large number of people who reject the whole notion of honours in their present form. And it might do something towards bringing the whole system down."

Here's the full roll of honour. A big chunky list it is too, and a timely slap in the face to the people who patronized Benjamin Zephaniah when he turned down his OBE. His comment about thousands of years of imperial brutality was somewhat inexact, of course. But it did bring to mind H L Mencken's definition of the relationship between radicalism and patriotism, namely that a radical is a true patriot because his radicalism stems from the knowledge that his country is being debauched. Contrast that with the successful social climber, bowing and scraping before the royals, afterwards waving his gong from the top of the greasy pole...