“Perverse Obliqueness”

Brexit defies me as much as my native political scene defies me. Anomalies aside, I find here a stretch of forceful writing to savor for language’s sake. I came to attention from “carapace” forward. What follows illumines for me something I see darkly in my own looking glass. “If this be Englishness,” I mused with perverse pride, “the shoe ruefully fits me.”

Undoubtedly, there was a certain fury in many people’s minds, but the carapace of irony and self-deprecation that obscured it brought to mind one of the ingrained aspects of national identity pointed out by the social anthropologist Kate Fox. In her classic book “Watching the English,” she writes about the deep layers of performance and self-mockery that smother even heartfelt misery and anger: “Even if you are feeling desperate, you must pretend to be only pretending to feel desperate.”

More generally, she talks about “perverse obliqueness”, “emotional constipation” and a “general inability to engage in a direct and straightforward fashion with other human beings”.

(John Harris, “Petitions and jokes will not halt this march into Brexit calamity,” The Guardian, 4-1-19)

(c) 2019 JMN.

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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