Thursday, October 18, 2012

Falling from grace, continued

Watching yet again one of my favorite film series, The Jewel in the Crown. From my reactionary vantage point, however, I am seeing the Good Guys and the Bad Guys are somewhat different from viewings in years past.

When I first watched Jewel In The Crown, I thought Daphne Manners noble, if a bit unrealistic. Now I see her, in her righteous and blind naivete, preferring her grand illusions to grubby reality, as the cause of a lot of serious misery for other people.

To me, she is another Eve, the true villain of the piece (not Ronald Merrick), a female whose unbridled curiosity, desire and blindness (signified by her physical myopia and thick glasses) lead her to cross a boundary set up for her own good. She partially "goes native" with Hari, both religiously (visiting the puja ceremony in the temple) and sexuall. Disaster ensues because of her moral arrogance.

And then she relies on her (British) feminine privilege to be indulged and cast as the victim, all the while holding poor stupid Hari to his promise of silence. She is, in my current view, completely contemptible: the face of evil staring out from that homely English girl's mug.

Tragic Harry/Hari, Daphne/Pandora, Ronald Merrick

Her Indian "auntie" has it right: "I used to be afraid for you. Now I am afraid for all of us, because of you. You don't shrink from anything, even your mistakes, your mahh-rvelous mistakes. You're like Pandora, who bashed off to the attic and opened her blasted box."

(She is not the only Eve/Pandora in self-flagellating Brit anti-imperial literature.)

And Sarah Layton, a much more competent and impressive woman, shares some of Daphne Manners' ideas without her reckless and selfish imprudence. She groundlessly blames not Ghandi but the British for the Hindu-Muslim violence and death at independence*. In this she epitomizes the bizarre combination of arrogance and self-loathing which characterizes White liberals: ignoring the ancient hatreds that long predated the arrival of the English, she wants to take the blame for it, when it was English power and law which contained and prevented it for so long. She shares with Daphne remote but real responsibility for the awful fate of her Indian friend Ahmed. Had she kept the distance form him that her culture mandated, he would not have suffered it.

The beautiful puer Ahmed, lanky snob Guy and sturdy classist Sarah

The obvious villain of the piece, Ronald Merrick, it now seems to me, despite his flaws of character --and they are not minor ones-- sees reality and acts on it in ways that people like Daphne and Sarah hold in contempt, but on which they have actually always depended. Golden boy Guy Perron, the tediously self-deprecating and liberally heroic opposite of Merrick, nevertheless betrays all the snobbery of the public school elite in despising Merrick for being so "middle class." Sarah frankly admits to her father that she resents Merrick's proposal to her sister because he not "our class." While despising racial ranking, they take class ranking as a sacred given.

And the Barbie Batchelor character, the unstable, hapless, nosy and feckless spinster missionary played by Peggie Ashcroft, is an excellent argument for Nietzsche being right about Christianity. God, what a deeply annoying and clingy woman. "Barbie" reminds me of a religious type whose self-deprecating style masks a ravenous need for attention, a dependant Black Hole. Although Mrs. Colonel Layton is cast as completely unsympathetic, a dead-souled and bitter alcoholic, I share her detestation of this meddling spinster with, in her words, "the soul of a parlour maid."

I watch how the Brits --especially some of these women-- collapse from within, losing all cultural self-confidence, simplistically unable to see the Indians as anything other than brown victims. And from a sentimental and humanitarian ethical viewpoint which is untethered to national or tribal interest. Or the reality of India, especially the violent and bloody history of invading Islam vs native Hinduism. The supposedly evil British oppressor was to be driven out, but the people the Indians really hated --and slaughtered-- were one another. Very few Brits were ever attacked as they were leaving and the mixed race Anglo-Indians were left in peace even as Hindus and Muslims killed each other brutally.

Two newish reflections in response to Paul Scott's anti-colonial project:

First, the film acts as if the British were the first and only invaders and colonizers of India. As if the Mughals simply arrived by chance, like the Pilgrims...and all those Muslims just sprouted like mushrooms after a rain. Hindus will tell you different.  The Muslim invasions of India were hugely bloody, violent, destructive and oppressive. Ask the Sikhs. The Brits, by comparison, were Quakers. Jewel in the Crown acts as if dominance based on race is evidently repugnant while dominance (and chronic savagery) based on religion were simply a fact of nature.

And secondly, if you are going to be a colonial power, do it, and don't fall for your own highminded PR. This brief psycho-bio of Scott reveals the same foolish liberal belief that the age of tribal belonging is past, that we have transcended the primitive notions of race, gender and class.

One thing I have learned from the execrable and ungrateful Jew, Reb Saul Alinsky,: never embrace a principle that your enemies can use against you.

*Most anti-colonial types know nothing of the immemorial history of empire long prior to Europe's turn. As if the whole nonWhite world were an exotic peaceful paradise until the awful Caucasians showed up. And the BrownBlack --and Yellow to a lesser extent-- types like to escape their own flaws and crimes by blaming Whitey. A game US Blacks thrive on as way to distract from or deny their massive self-destructiveness...which, of course, we wind up paying for.

BTW, on this day in the year 1009, the Muslim Caliph Al-Hakim brought his repressive anti-Christian campaign --forbidding the celebration of Easter, or of having wine at all, including at Mass-- of destroying churches by tearing down all the churches in Jerusalem, to its culmination by destroying the tomb of Jesus and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And the Crusades were unprovoked?

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...