Patrick West is a freelance writer based in the UK and Ireland. He has written for The Times, the New Statesman, the Spectator, the Times Literary Supplement, the Irish Times, Daily Telegraph, Living Marxism and the Catholic Herald among others. He is author of Conspicuous Compassion (Civitas, 2004), The Poverty of Multiculturalism (Civitas, 2005), Beating Them At Their Own Game, How The Irish Conquered English Soccer (Liberties Press, 2006), and editor of The Times Questions Answered (HarperCollins, 2004).
It was a conflict fought on racial and class lines. ‘Stay On The Job Until Every Murdering Jap is Wiped Out!’ ran one US Army Poster, while the old adage ‘A bayonet is a weapon with a worker at either end’ was re-worked by the American financier Jay Gould: ‘I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half’.
After the invasion, once it was shown there were only weapons of prosaic destruction ‘the administration decided it was best to assume they had never been there’. The compound where the conventional weapons were stored, in Yusifiyah, near Baghdad, was by-passed by the Americans, and then comprehensively looted by insurgents. One source in the book estimates that of the violence following the invasion, 90 per cent was facilitated by this looting.
His ‘endist’ proclamations gave him the aura of a prophet. His mysterious pronouncements and penchant for irony, eclecticism and intellectual games had a Quixotic appeal. In many ways, Jean Baudrillard was a modern day Nietzsche: a difficult nihilist and sometimes obscure aphorist - a quintessential Romantic who declared the end of days.
In many respects the 20th century saw an extension, not a revolution, in the way public figures were regarded. The likes of Jackson Pollock and Tracey Emin continued where Reynolds left off. After Byron has come a multitude of stars from James Dean to Pete Doherty, whose embrace of the Dionysian has enthralled and appalled.
In many respects, search engines know more about you than you do yourself. Human beings forget; digital databases do not. Thus, Mayer-Schönberger suggests, the digital age is becoming an enemy of progress. Forgetting is what make us human. Amnesia is what allows us to move on, develop and mature.
Geoffrey Ben-Nathan’s intentions are admirable, and his prose pleasant, but he fails to differentiate between state and society. Officialised rituals can emerge organically, and state intervention needn’t be the default panacea for any of society’s perceived ailments.