What are we talking about? Who’s ‘we’ anyway?
“Who counts as 'us' in my own rhetoric? Which identities are available to ground such a potent political myth called 'us'?”
In a recent address given at the last decibel conference (1), Sarat Maharaj commented on Middle England, a cluster of circumstances and states of mind, historically based, present and pervading. He said Middle England expands, it tends to be everywhere, present in the Home Counties, at the Polo Club in Lagos, at the Gymkhana club, New Delhi. I thought of Laputa, looming over it’s own fiefdom, a huge magnetic entity, casting a giant shadow, pulling all the compass needles towards itself (and thought also of the happy semantic synchronicity linking La puta to Babylon...)
In the places that come under its attraction, Middle England is where all the compasses are pulled to, indicating North, the true centre, and the origin of all standards. It is very difficult to make a case for there being other centres, other standards, other measures of what’s real and what’s important from within the system that denies this in the first place. By default one is in a position of weakness, and of complicity; and by default this undermines those very claims to parallel (or indeed superior) authority, parallel power, parallel validity, one may be trying to make. Also, the impetus for change is surrendered to the superior power; and change is seen to occur as a random act of liberal benevolence. “Let’s give these little people what they want: because we’re enlightened.”
Historically the benevolent impulse proves fragile.