Dabbler Diary: Teens, Creeps, Prigs, Pigs

More anti-catastrophist news: teenage delinquency is plummetting.

Adolescents are increasingly turning their noses up at drugs, booze and fags, with consumption by young people the lowest at almost any time since we started measuring these things.

Whilst this supports my view that things are really quite ok at the moment, it also helps support my similarly controversial proposition that pop music is rubbish nowadays. No teen rebellion, no rebel music.


Talking of rubbish music: Gary Glitter, Jonathan King, Jimmy Savile. All of them, in the generous words of the Telegraph’s Savile obit, odd chaps. Why are we surprised when people who are really a bit creepy turn out to be creeps? (No libels please).


Oh dear. Turns out we’re in the grip of a foodist ideology. Or so says S Poole.  You see people love food, cooking it, eating it and talking about it, and the wealthier they are the fancier they get. Throw in a few quotes from over-excited chefs, a reference to ‘industrial society’ (it’s usually ‘late capitalism’) and the whifflings of an obscure French Marxist and Bob’s your uncle: this keen and common interest can be labelled an ‘ideology’.

Apparently he thinks it’s a new thing for food to be about “spirituality” and “expressing our identity”, managing to overlook all the major world religions with their dietary laws and ritual use of food. He carries on in overwrought vein – chefs are “gurus or priests, druidic conduits to the ineffable”, etc. – before ending up by having some fun with the really quite unrelated phenomenon of the fine dining menu. Perhaps he didn’t know where else to go with his discovery of a foodist ideology (see below)?

Anyhow, are we not habituated to obsess about food, its scarcity being our biggest practical problem for almost all of our existence? Food is never just food; it’s ‘the staff of life’. So when we have a sufficiency of money, leisure and licence we’re almost certain to end up playing around with the stuff.

This becomes a Bad and Insidious Thing, when it’s redescribed as a belief system spawned by said ‘industrial society’, and presumably put about so that ‘they’ can control ‘us’ – i.e. make us spend more.

A more traditional criticism of food obsession is, as the piece points out, to accuse people of being greedy; committing the sin of gluttony, as the Church thought of it. But that argument on its own wouldn’t just be obvious, it would also be rather uncool; it certainly wouldn’t be enough to get you a commission for a few thousand words and the front page in The Guardian’s Saturday Review section. What’s more its author wouldn’t come across as an insightful and radical cultural critic – he’d sound more like a prig.


It occurs to me that the belief that people are controlled by ideologies is itself an ideology in the Marxist sense: a system of ideas that exists in order to justify and maintain a material interest. In our time, it keeps in clover a class of cultural critics, university lecturers and TV producers (hello Adam Curtis!).


The real problem with ideology is not that people are trapped by it; it’s not even that clever individuals believe people are trapped by it; it’s rather that clever individuals believe people are trapped by it and then do dreadful things to attempt to release them into a utopian alternative.

One such clever and utopian individual, Eric Hobsbawm, passed on into the ultimate abstraction earlier this week. He remained a fanatically stubborn ideologue to the end of his life, shamefully so – one evening in the late-90s at a seminar at the Marx Memorial Library (what larks!) I heard him remark that it would have been worth sacrificing the millions killed in the course of Soviet collectivization if the promise of communism had been real. It makes the flesh creep that someone possessed of such a monstrous opinion was welcomed into the bosom of the establishment.

However, even Hobsbawm had given up on utopian thinking – in one of his last interviews he reckoned the twenty-first century might merely bring forth ‘a different combination, a different mix of public and private’.

Surely not a big enough promise to persuade anyone to start massacring innocents. Long may this state of affairs continue. We should be grateful that the peddlers of ideology nowadays want to “replace capitalism with something nice” .


An Oregon farmer has been eaten by his pigs. All but his dentures and some other bits and bobs. Now that really is foodism with a vengeance.

It reminds me of my brother’s fear of being suddenly paralysed whilst feeding his chickens. He dumps in their pen all sorts of kitchen scraps, meat and veg, and everything disappears, absolutely everything. He’d be picked clean.


The diary appears to have taken an increasingly grisly turn so let’s end on something that heartens.

The great Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski died a couple of years ago, at a similarly ripe age to Hobsbawm. He was one of the chief demolishers of the intellectual basis of communism as well as a courageous and exemplary dissident who was forced to flee his homeland. He ended up with a well-deserved billet at All Souls, Oxford.

I believe Hobsbawm, probably advisedly, referred to him just the once, describing him simply as ‘hostile’. I remembered Professor Kolakowski here but coverage of his death was a tiny fraction of Hobsbawm’s. Not right, is it?

One of his most accessible and amusing pieces of writing is My Correct Views on Everything, which he wrote in mordant response to EP Thomson, a less intelligent Hobsbawm. If you go to this page you can download it as a pdf – if you have the time, read and enjoy.

Dabbler Diary is brought to you by Glengoyne single malt whisky – the Dabbler’s choice.
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11 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary: Teens, Creeps, Prigs, Pigs

  1. Worm
    October 5, 2012 at 13:02

    yes I found the pig story rather chilling, especially as I generally associate pigs with cuteness, I did know that they would eat a dead human but the thought of them gnawing on a live one was a bit scary

    Why are we surprised when people who are really a bit creepy turn out to be creeps? – Surprised is perhaps not the word, perhaps its disappointed – that someone you were desperately trying to give the benefit of the doubt to turns out to have been a wrong ‘un all along, thus proving to yourself that your hitherto perfect wrong ‘un radar is obviously broken

    • Gaw
      October 5, 2012 at 15:27

      My Nain was nearly killed by a sow. It knocked her over. Given sows not infrequently eat their piglets, I imagine she wouldn’t have turned her snout up.

  2. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    October 5, 2012 at 15:09

    Another box of delights Gaw, from munching pigs to piggy popsters and Hobsbawm thrown in for good measure, the venerable Eric a good example of academic excellence being no guarantor of intelligent thought. Indeed in his case the opposite. Hopefully as he arrives down at the fiery furnace he will be met by uncle Joe and Mao with comrade Lavrentiy thrown in for good measure. What fun they will have, discussing the welcoming party for young Miliband where once again the delicious Ed can sit at Eric’s feet and learn stuff. All part of the next five year plan.

    • Gaw
      October 5, 2012 at 15:32

      Reaction to Hobsbawm and reaction to the Rushdie fatwa: ‘shibboleths’ I think they’re called.

  3. joerees08@gmail.com'
    Joey Joe Joe Jr.
    October 5, 2012 at 15:28

    Grisly stuff indeed Gaw. The porcine penchant for human flesh, and the knack little piggies had for unearthing bodies buried in the desert back in more biblical times, is one theory why certain religions developed a bit of an indisposition to pork. I think I’d feel a bit squeamish about munching that bacon butty if it was potentially an indirect form of cannibalism.

    • Gaw
      October 5, 2012 at 15:42

      Given we are so similar to pigs that we can use their body tissues surgically I bet we taste a bit like them anyway.

      Incidentally, I happen to contain a few square inches of pig collagen. I imagine this would make me unkosher or haraam for any Jewish or Muslim cannibals, respectively. There’s probably enough of a taboo on eating humans in the first place for this not to matter. But if it came down to a straight choice between me and someone else whom would the observant choose?

      Er, where was I?

      • joerees08@gmail.com'
        Joey Joe Joe Jr.
        October 5, 2012 at 16:35

        With any luck you’ll have an unfortunate vegetarian with you in your Ultra-Observant Donner Party, Gaw. As a carnivore, you’d probably be a culinary no-no anyway.

  4. Frank Key
    October 5, 2012 at 16:27

    “clever individuals believe people are trapped by [ideology]”

    Yes, except of course the clever individuals themselves, who are so clever they can see through it, unlike the hoi polloi.

    What I find amusing is that ideologues for whom the hoi polloi are the great revolutionary force (Hobsbawm, Miliband senior, et al) probably never exchanged more than a few words with a real, living, individual “worker” in their lives.

    • danielkalder@yahoo.com'
      October 5, 2012 at 20:33

      Marx definitely exchanged a few words with his house maid, such as :”Hoist up your skirts, madchen, I am coming in!” followed a few months later with “Ach, Was ist das? You are with child! Raus! Raus! Out of mein haus!”

  5. Brit
    October 6, 2012 at 13:36

    A simple thought experiment shows how Communist mass murder is considered as not quite as bad as other forms of mass murder by the Beeb and soft left media – would Hobsbawm have been granted such positive obits if he had been a Nazi sympathiser rather than a Stalinist one? Let’s see how they do David Irving when he pops his clogs.

    pop music is rubbish nowadays – ‘nowadays’ here being defined as the 22-year period 1990- present, natch.

  6. law@mhbref.com'
    jonathan law
    October 6, 2012 at 19:06

    That Kolakowski piece is awesome. Poor EPT.

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