special disco mention #23: Martin Amis


Have you ever read Martin Amis’ novel ‘Money’? It’s fucking great, hits the ’80s money-mad advertising’ culture nail on the head. What about ‘Dead Babies’? Equally as good, this time hitting the ‘monied-hippy’ culture nail on the head. The point is, Martin Amis is good at hitting the proverbial nail on the proverbial head, especially when he’s talking about British class micro-cultures and, even more so, money.

So, his recent comments on money and the British class system deserve attention. A BBC4 documentary is due to air this coming Sunday where Amis (who now lives between homes in Uruguay and New York) muses on the country of his birth and what it’s now become. Here’s a snippet on his thoughts on the UK’s new obsession with money:

Money has won. It had always won in America but now its won in England too…So if you put your sons name down for Eton its because you can afford to do that, its not because its any class-granted right. I have no nostalgia for the class society but I have no very great enthusiasm about the money society.

He goes on to say that multicultarlism is too altruistic for the hard times we’re in, observing the difference between the US and UK attitudes on cultural assimilation: in the US stating you are an American is normal regardless of cultural background, wheras in the UK we have all sorts of complicated hang ups around ‘Black Britishness’ and the likes.

He’s right on both points – money has won in the UK (yes, the class system is a horrible thing but replacing it with something even worse is not the solution – it’s not a meritocracy, it’s something altogether more vulgar) and yes, multiculturalism is deemed too altruistic (by far too many people who should know better) for the hard times we’re in – look at the rise of UKIP and the EDL, they’re thriving in these times of ‘austerity’ and their ilk always do.

So, Amis is taking the pulse of the country from afar and getting it spot on. He’s busy attacking the current crop of Etonians that govern the country, while the writers and thinkers on this fair isle seem to meekly accept the awful damage they’re doing. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like we’ve moved into an era where cultural criticism has been deemed somehow irresponsible – as though we all have a duty to tow the party line in these ‘times of austerity’, a kind of warped ‘blitz spirit’ that encourages compliance and diminishes any intellectual resistance to the current status quo as a kind of adolescent rebellion.

It’s a smokescreen – we’re being robbed blind by the banks and corporations, shafted by the politicians, and all the while the people with voices – the writers, thinkers, philosophers – they remain mute. Martin Amis is a cantankerous old bugger, but at least he has the cojones to speak out – at least he’s not been silenced by apathy or muted by fear. For that, Martin, you get this week’s tip of the hat. Special Disco Mention goes out to you in the vein hope that perhaps your criticisms of the state of this country don’t fall on deaf ears.