Sunday 18 February 2024

Environmental subjugation

Tom Jones has a useful CAPX piece on Sadiq Khan, the Blob and what he calls environmental subjugation .

Sadiq Khan, the Overground and the reification of ‘the Blob’

Are you familiar with environmental subjugation? You may not be, but it’s certainly interested in you.

Kenneth Clarke once wrote that architecture could be considered a social art; ‘an art by which men may be enabled to live a fuller life.’ Perhaps that potential is why so many politicians are drawn to grand architectural ambitions. Dictators, Presidents and Prime Ministers have all seized on the ability of buildings to make physical statements; they have been used to terrify, to impress, as examples of state power, as expressions of ideology, to make bids for immortality and to satisfy monumental egos...

Sadiq Khan received widespread – although not universal – condemnation for such environmental subjugation after a rebrand of six Overground lines ‘with names inspired by the capital’s and the country’s diverse modern history’; Liberty, Lioness, Mildmay, Sufragette, Weaver and Windrush.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder of how the Blob only talks to and listens to itself. To achieve this, Blob language must somehow be inaccessible the the peasants, which in a sense it is. 

In a connected digital world, exclusivity is difficult unless Blob language is made socially exclusive somehow. After all, it must be accessible to Blob midwits. To get round the midwit issue, Blob language seems to rely mainly on pretentious gibberish which is easily learned but which normal people avoid. Not dissimilar to aristocrats of Tsarist Russia speaking French in front of the servants.

Through an ‘extensive research programme’, DNCO interviewed leading historians, academics and transport specialists, ‘delving into topics such as LGBTQ+ histories, East End migration and the fascinating world of London slang and linguistics’. It should come as no surprise that those interviewed as part of a Blob-delivered project should espouse the same progressive views as the interviewers. It is notable that London slang and linguistics, of course, did not have any influence on the final names. Further to this, DNCO hosted workshops with London’s writers and creatives where they ‘explored themes of decolonisation, queer histories, intersectionality and young London’s perspectives’.

In order to astroturf a decision already taken, then, the taxpayer has spent almost £7m on a process that has consisted of the Blob talking to itself. For any future right-wing government, fighting and beating the Blob will be essential, but perhaps we will have to retake the Overground as well as Westminster.


Sam Vega said...

It actually is a form of subjugation, in that it will be impossible to avoid using these names if you want to travel in London.

I hope two things happen. First, that people just use the names without ever knowing where they came from. Did people swell with nationalistic pride when they walked down Alma Street and Victoria Terrace?

Second, that there is a continuing campaign of ridicule and vandalism targeting this nonsense. Stickers, graffiti, and unforgettable alternative names.

Well, actually, there a third option. That a miracle happens, and they don't do it.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Had the lines been named the 'A Line', the 'B Line', etc it would have achieved identification and separation from the Underground lines with the minimum of effort and social signalling. It would have been easy and cheaper to implement too.

But no, it had to be gold plated.

A K Haart said...

Sam - Del and Rodney of TV sitcom Only Fools and Horses lived in a flat in fictional Nelson Mandela House which always seemed to be making fun of this kind of game. Ridicule and vandalism seems quite likely and Khan may even regret it eventually.

DJ - and it had to be gold plated to give Khan another headline. It comes across as too transparently "look at me" but maybe his supporters like that.

decnine said...

Underground, Overground..... Why no Wombles Line?

Peter MacFarlane said...

The (sadly) late Michael Wharton would have loved these names, but with a tinge of jealousy; nothing in Stretchford or Nerdley was quite so wonderful. But I believe there was a Nelson Mandela House.

A K Haart said...

decnine - good idea, the lack of a Wombles Line shows Khan is a dull political opportunist with no imagination.

Peter - yes he would have loved them. Maybe he would have told us how much Mrs Dutt-Pauker approved and her suggestions for other naming possibilities.

James Higham said...

Nothing I can add to this … says it all.

A K Haart said...

James - thanks, and yet so much of it is merely pointing out folly.