Thursday, 17 April 2014

Financial Times replies to my blog about Sajid Javid

Here's a response to my post about the appointment of Sajid Javid as Culture Secretary.

It comes from Janan Ganesh of the Financial Times.

My responses are in italics within the article:

During his years in investment banking, Sajid Javid was probably called worse things than a philistine. This must be why Britain’s new culture secretary is not locked in his office weeping hot tears at the sour reception to his appointment from the arts lobby – and especially the children’s writer, Michael Rosen. To have your taste doubted by the author of 'You’re Thinking About Doughnuts' and 'Little Rabbit Foo Foo' is a very rough thing, but Deutsche Bank probably does a nice line in thick-skin training.

I guess this is supposed to be a sneer. I think his point is that someone who writes books with titles like that is someone who isn't entitled to doubt someone's taste. There are a couple of problems with this: 1) I didn't call Sajid Javid a 'philistine'. It was his behaviour as a banker that I was concerned about. 2) I'm sure Deutsche Bank is thick-skinned. They've been fined for rate-fixing - while Javid was one of their head honchos. 

The question is why artists, especially those of a literary bent, are still invited to expound like this. There is little evidence that ordinary people care what even the mega-selling Ian McEwans and Philip Pullmans think about anything outside their work. 

Some 'ordinary people' do, some 'ordinary people' don't. 'Ordinary people' are generally not 'ordinary'. 

And the novelist’s life is almost custom-engineered to preclude intelligent commentary on the real world. They shut themselves away to write and live off their imaginations. 

Really? Is that what we do? Or is that just something that Janesh has picked up from having to 'do' the Romantic Poets?

Politics and business are rather more earthly than that. There is no literary answer to Vladimir Putin’s revanchism or a £100bn budget deficit. Yet writers are still consulted as some kind of extra-parliamentary political class. This can go badly wrong. On the second anniversary of 9/11, the journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft chronicled “Two years of gibberish” from the literary world in response to that atrocity. Reading it again after more than a decade, none of the guff he painstakingly quotes has improved with time. “Touch me,” one author begged. “Kiss me. Remind me what I am . . . the immensity of this event can only be mirrored in the immensity of what we are.” Such wisdom. If only George W Bush had listened.

We get the message: we should shuttup. We should leave politics and banking to politicians and bankers. After all, they haven't screwed anything up over the last 10 years, have they? Well, if you write for the Financial Times, perhaps you can kid yourself that they haven't.