By Johan De Rycker
No, not “Cameron”, but “Camon”. Last week my daughter told me that the Portuguese call the English the “Camons” or something to that effect, apparently because the English use the word “c’mon” rather a lot, as when watching football with a “c’mon, c’mon, C’MON!” running commentary.
I was reminded of it watching and listening to that most English of English, your own FN – not Front National, but close, Farage, Nigel, when he started going on his “Your arguments are 40 years out of date… we can still trade with Europe if we leave Europe, after all there’s the WTO.” Rant.Rant.Rant.
One of the most common complaints about Shakespeare is that his language is inflated and over-grand. The term used at that time was ‘bombast’. It came from the word for the sort of cotton wool used to stuff clothes or pad doublets – probably from the word ‘bombazyn’ in Old Dutch. The Hack-avant-la-lettre Thomas Nash used it satirically as such for the first time in 1589: “To outbrave better pens with the swelling bombast of a bragging blank verse”, linking bombastic padding with a particular style of “macho” pretentiousness – I’ll get back to that “macho” aspect later on. And it was Robert Greene, mate of Nash and a rival playwright to Shakespeare, who said of Shakespeare:
“There is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you.”
Not that I would want to compare the above Camon’s bombast with Shakespeare’s, for it is easily missed how layered, ironic and witty his long-winded public rhetoric can be (dixit Simon Palfry in “Doing Shakespeare”). For example in that most patriotic of history plays “Henry V”, where in the early scenes the Archbishop of Canterbury speaking of the king says, and I’ve cut most of his lines:
“Never was such a sudden scholar made/ Never came reformation in a flood/ With such a heady currence scouring faults/ Nor never Hydra-headed wilfulness/So soon did lose his seat, and all at once/ As in this king.”
It quickly reminds the audience that this king is the same man as the prince Hal in Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, who slummed it for a long time in alehouses and the like, with that most human and popular character Falstaff, until he clinically dismisses Falstaff with a “I know thee not, old man” at the end of 2 Henry IV; a most chilling moment in theatre.
But back to our Camon and his ilk (I conflate both voices): “There’s no European Demos. We want a Europe of Cooperation. We want Cooperation, not Subordination – tiens, where have I heard this one before, flavour of the month “Subordination” anyone? – We only voted for Trade, not all those European ‘social’ rules. We trade and that’s it! We were always in it to make a better future for ourselves – implying, ‘sod the rest’? – We want to separate trade and politics. Why can’t we just trade with these other countries? Where’s this whole project heading? Does anyone feel whether they have any control over Europe?” … It reminded me of a Rowan Atkinson monologue along the lines of “Where are we going? Where did we come from? When will we know if we’ve arrived? Do we have a map?”
Isn’t it a bit rich to complain of the lack of Demos in Europe, whilst using that verb called “want”? Isn’t it a bit rich to just “want” trade, relying on that most democratic of institutions called the WTO? Isn’t it a bit rich to complain about the 27 different views of what Europe should be, when it was the Camons in the first place that wanted to undermine Europe – (mis?)guided by their special relationships no doubt – by constantly harping on further enlargement – for the sake of “bringing democracy” to those poor dears over there on the continent? Isn’t it a bit rich to complain of the lack of control one has over Europe – as if anyone has any control over the City or the markets?
Last week I also wondered whether the former “Sick Man of Europe” would come up with any bone of solidarity for the current “Europe of sick men”, or will it be “I know thee not, old man”? Having only heard some rare female voices of reason among all that “macho” bombast, it dawned on me: we’re just talking “men”. On all Cultural dimensions the Swedes are virtually identical to the Camons, except for one, namely the Masculinity/Femininity dimension. The Swedes score as a more “caring”, feminine society, whereas the Camons are “assertive”, “macho” quoi. They are more than happy to identify virtue in the others when they benefit from it. They forget however at their peril that when economic or trade barriers come down, cultural (and other non-trade) barriers go up.
So c’mon Camons, in the words of your coach: you really “have to be better with the ball!”
Sign up to our regular news and comment bulletins - click here!