Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Nothing Lasts For Long ...

It's male menopause time at the Guardian and Indie, as they mourn for Hunter S. Thompson and lost youth. The entire Indie front page, half the Guardian. I looked at the Guardian today with the same feelings as I looked at the Daily Mail the day after the Camilla engagement was announced. See pages 2, 3, 7, 9, 10 and 11.

Doubtless as the days shorten other Sixties relics will remember some long ago incident to add to the fetid pile of unwashed anecdotes.

No wonder they're upset. The man and his work are symbolic of the class of 68. A couple of bursts of brilliance back in the days where things really looked as if they might change - and then what ?

The problem with the counterculture was that it was only - and literally - a counterculture. It knew what it was against (the existing culture), but not what it was for. Thirty-five years on the counterculture still doesn't know. Against the war in Iraq ? Check. Against Saddam's evil ? Check. What are you going to do short of war ? "I don't know, but there must be another way".

Thompson spent the last thirty years of his life being remembered for two early works. His later stuff still had the same targets, but who wants to listen to someone bellowing "I hate straights !" for thirty years ?

(He probably wasn't a very nice man, either, if the scene in the lift at the Dunes motorcycle race is any indicator. Certainly not a chap to borrow the lawnmower from, the Laban Tall touchstone of a civilised being.)

I doubt if one in fifty of the people who bought "Fear and Loathing" to add to the Hesses, Castenadas, Peakes and Donleavys of the seventies student bookshelf ever bought another thing by him.

In the UK the counter-culture has been remarkably successful in the work of destruction, and we have a situation, particularly in England, where we can be said to have no national culture. We're still waiting for whatever new culture (a.k.a 'rough beast') may rise from the myriad subcultures inhabiting the ashes, with a childish belief that somehow all the good bits of the old culture will be retained.

In the US the existing culture, though embattled, was stronger and has not rolled over. That's why America and the 'Religious Right' are every Guardianista's nightmare. What's the point of hating Britain, or England ? There's nothing there to hate.

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