The Argument for Cannibalism
Norman Mailer is dead. This is not his fault – probably. He has been dead since 2007, apparently. In his time he was a terrific novelist, a great essayist, and frequently a crashing bore. Reminds me of me. Except for the “great” part. And a few days ago I was browsing in a charity shop (you never know – Antiques Roadshow has so many examples of guests who found a Lalique potty or an ancient Roman toast rack worth thousands in their local Mind shop. All I ever find in the way of rare and ancient things there is the Assistant, who, I’m led to believe, is not for sale. Mind you I’ve never asked) and picked up a copy of Mailer’s collection of stories, essays, articles and poems, Cannibals and Christians. (Sphere books 1969. First published by Andre Deutsch, my publisher once!) (Why do I love brackets? What have they ever done for me?). The reason I bought it was to find out whether this highly informed, intelligent, witty and let’s face it, well connected literary lion had anything relevant to say to the world of 2017. Guess what. Damn right he does.
DEAD MEN TELL TALES
Mailer divides the world into two types of people, Cannibals and Christians. I’ll start with the latter first. He says “…we are all of us Christians. Jews, liberals, Bolsheviks, anarchists, Socialists, Communists, Keynesians, Democrats, Civil Righters, beatniks, ministers, ….” etc etc etc. In other words, everybody except for right-wing diehard “Christians”, i.e. Bible-bashers, literalists, and others who claim to be Christians. And of course, alt-right Trump supporters. Well, he didn’t mention Trump by name, of course, as that gentleman was busy learning how to get away with being a criminal from his father at the time and perhaps Mailer didn’t know him. So by “Cannibals” he means the extreme Right, “…which runs from staunch Republicanism to the extreme right wing, and then half around the world through the ghosts of the Nazis, ….(believing) one can save the world by killing off what is second-rate…”
Obviously then, “Cannibals” prey upon the “Christians” and eat them. Which reminds me of someone I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog – Nicholas van Hoogstraten, “The Most Evil Man in the World” (Google him) – and a man for whom – Nicholas, if you’re reading this! – I never felt anything other than an awed affection. Who said, the world is divided into Predator and Prey and if you’re not one, you’ll be the other. Except, in this interpretation Prey is ultimately passive and unaware of being stalked. Mailer makes the point that the “Christians” at least have their own institutions, and the Cannibals are constrained to provide an appearance of putting some protections in place for the poor little Christians. Otherwise they don’t get re-elected.
Another target of our prescient dead man are the architects, the property developers, the builders! Oh Norman, if thou wert living at this hour. Thou wouldst haveth been rubbingeth thy hands with glee at how right you were. The horrible brutalisation of my beloved city, so well described nearly fifty years ago. (Rant alert! Rant alert!) Why don’t the brutal greedy tasteless slobs who want only to make money from knocking down lovely historic buildings full of ghosts and memories and replace them with soulless tasteless heaps of glass chrome and steel just fuck off and die? Why do they think we are fooled when they slaughter the soul of a building, leaving just the facade on the street to hide the foul and disgusting deeds behind? Why do they think we need more multimillion pound apartments when our homeless slouch past the empty mansions in Chelsea and elsewhere, left there just to increase in value year after year so that the piggy owners can sit on their yachts in the Med with their champagne? Why do they have to make their horrible visions of Brutalist 1984 heaven loom over our beautiful dreaming Thames, from the tops of which they can watch and laugh at us as we scrabble over ourselves to make more money for them. The Cannibals eat our souls, rip out our concepts of beauty and history, consign us all to the slavery of Stuff, and the longing for more Stuff. Bah. It’s enough to make me a revolutionary, if I had the energy.
So far so creepily correct. Perhaps 1969 is not so far away
What a mess! These tombstones, mobile phones, fingers pointing contemptuously at God, towers of Babylon, this is ego a go go, a penis park, a cacophony of arseholes farting in our faces. Yes I know the place was largely flattened in the war so we had to put something there. But really, something so very ugly? Actually I wouldn’t mind if they kept their architectural excrescences within the boundary of their wall. But the horror is spreading, the Cannibals are colonising.
Well, as Great Britain becomes Little England after Brexit perhaps they’ll all go away. And the sooner the better.
Meanwhile in one of the Cannibal Colonies, Chiswick in West London, boxes of people proliferate. Chiswick has become flatland, with all sorts of previously commercial buildings being taken over and turned into apartments, or flattened and hideous boxes put up in their place. Please do not think for a minute that these are “Affordable Homes”. No. These are the profit-projects of filed-tooth cannibals, voracious profiteering landlords, dunderheaded developers. Probably. Well, as evidence, look at them!
This is Box 1, on the High Road. This institutional brown thing, like a cardboard container just delivered by Amazon, looks exactly like something temporary, made-up, ephemeral. A container for humans constructed out of tin-thin breeze-blocks and coated in a veneer of pretend brick. Amusingly, the brick veneer is obviously mounted in sheets, because in many places on the facade you can see the joins. I haven’t bothered to research how much a two bed apartment in this cardboard dwelling costs – probably as much as a manor house in Shropshire.
Which is probably where the architect lives. He or she is no doubt giggling into their Prosecco about how easy it is to sell shit in London.
Box no. 2 was formerly the headquarters of the Institute of Advanced Motoring. Now, it’s another jumble of Ikea-flavoured minimalist cells for the slaves of the Cannibals, from which they will sally forth daily to manufacture money for their greedy masters.
So, once a place for advanced motorists, now slave barracks.
Dear Ghost of Norman, behold how thy prophecies have turned true…
Number 3 is a sad story. Once there was, on the corner of Marlborough Road and Chiswick High Street, the most amazing Art Deco Service Station since the Bluebird in Kings Road. Beautiful tiles, cast iron, evocative signage, a place built to pay homage to the marriage of automobile and the A4.
Now it’s this:
Glass, brick, concrete boxes. On the ground floor, Harvey Nichols have their admin offices. Above the “shop”, 2-bed apartments were originally sold for £400,000. Now no doubt much more.
Profit factories for voracious fat cats.
Is the only way to defeat the Cannibals to eat them all?