You’re Not Me

Monday Books blogs another entertaining excerpt from their excellent Dalrymple collection Second Opinion:


Recently while travelling on the London Underground, the opening words of Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte ran through my mind like a refrain:

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world historic events and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Why, you might ask, did this passage insinuate itself into my brain on the District Line between West Brompton and Earl’s Court?

Standing opposite me was a young man badly dressed in black, on whose baseball cap was inscribed the word ‘Victim’. On his black T-shirt were the words, ‘I wish I could be you’, which implied self-pity on an industrial scale. On his right forearm (from which, Sherlock Holmes-like, I inferred he was left-handed) were a series of parallel scars from self-inflicted injury. On his right forearm was tattooed a simplified reproduction of a picture by Gustav Klimt. All paintings appear twice: the first time as art, the second time as kitsch.

7 thoughts on “You’re Not Me

  1. Gavin

    An entertaining little tale of an entirely typical outing in London. I like how he put things 🙂

    Recently my wife and I watched “An American Werewolf in London” again – I hadn’t seen it since around 1985. It was fascinating to see the London of 1981, as it was how I gather many Americans still think it is now.

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  2. Damo

    I remember seeing that when I was a young lad. The part of the film where the werewolf tears the throat out of the American terrified me.

    Also, after watching Salem’s Lot mini-series I couldn’t go to bed unless accompanied with a cross.

    And don’t even talk to me about Jaws. I found it difficult even to take a bath after watching that. Lols!

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  3. Gavin

    It was certainly surreal the way everyone was speaking in clear English and there were just so many.. English people about!

    Yes, even the punks were pretty harmless by today’s standards.

    By contrast (here I go!) I watched the film Kidulthood last night. Now, here we are talking much more the kind of think usually discussed by Dalrymple. This is the London of today. It seemed to me highly realistic, as indeed did “Eden Lake” which was equally disturbing.

    How cultures change if nobody cares to maintain them.

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  4. Dan

    Thanks for putting up that extract, Clint and Steve.

    Clint, I think the divergence between the foreigner’s view of England and the reality depends entirely on the foreigner and his view, and on the parts of England under discussion.

    Assuming that it’s a chocolate box England you want, there are villages in the rural parts of counties such as Leicestershire, Oxfordshire, Devon, north Yorkshire and Kent which are so beautiful as to make you think there could be no better place on earth to live. (I appreciate I’m biased, but I’ve travelled widely and there’s something about the English village.)

    Even some small towns are very pretty – google ‘images of Painswick’, for instance.

    Our cities almost all have nice areas, too; we can overdo the pessimism at times!

    What has changed, perhaps, is that the veneer is thinning; if you live in a village and you need the police, for instance, they are no longer based in the village, as they once were, but are controlled from some central point which could easily be 30 miles away.

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  5. Seymour Clufley

    >everyone was speaking in clear English

    Declining standards of diction? Don’t get me started…!

    >there were just so many.. English people about

    Swamped in our own homeland by foreigners? Don’t get me started…

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