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(167) Hveiti mjö

Peaky Blinders and Hegel: these go together as follows—Hegel has an idea, really a commonsensical idea, that you only understand something when you have passed beyond its boundary; another way to say this is that you only grasp a thing when it has finished—a person’s life only makes sense when it is over, then you have “Napoleon” as a totality. In Birmingham city centre, the main shopping mall is decorated with little “Brummie” slang quotes—“round the wrekin”, “rab”, “tarabit”, “bostin”, and so on; and this is also connected to Hegel and Peaky Blinders.

This Birmingham working-class slang world of Peaky Blinders is gone—it’s finished, as with Napoleon’s life. The primary schools in the city are about 20% white British; the culture celebrated in Peaky Blinders and the cheerful shopping-centre slang has gone—a modern “Brummie” is Pakistani, Somali, and so on; and they have a different patois. Per Hegel, it is only possible to see “Brummigem” culture after it has finished—now it is over, it can be apprehended.

There is a political aspect too. Thirty years ago, to celebrate white British working-class culture in Birmingham would have been seen as “racist” and deeply uncool—not “Cool Britannia”, not “Birmingham invented the balti and tikka masala is the national dish”. The city council even called its annual fair “Wintervale” so as not to upset the Muslims with reference to Christmas (actually a pretext). However, now that white British Birmingham is dead it can be reanimated and celebrated—by middle-class media professionals—as kitsch cute cultural artefact (a bit like how Americans name their teams after extirpated Red Indian tribes). This culture has become safe and inert now it no longer has any potential to upset the re-engineered British city—it is over, so visible. Indeed, even the very grimy industrial territory in which Peaky Blinders is set was rewritten over in the ’90s with glass and steel post-modernist architecture. We are past the boundary and now we recognise ourselves.


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