636. Opposition (VI)
The writer Kingsley Amis was a Communist at university, but he soon left the party—and eventually became a staunch anti-Communist. However, he was frustrated when, on an academic exchange to Nashville, people would talk about “the nigras” and how they needed to be “kept down”. This distressed Amis, who was quite prepared to fulminate against Communism—and call his gf “the wog” as a pet name—yet was upset about Southern “racialism”; so while he signed letters to support the war in Vietnam—a bold move given the febrile student atmosphere—he also sometimes found himself ready to agree with the left again and chant anti-war slogans, especially when his Southern academic colleagues confessed that they could barely find it in their hearts to give a Jew or a nigra an “A”.
The reason why Amis struggled in this regard was that he was a narcissist, as with many artists. If you think about anti-Communism as an intellectual position then you will find that it logically entails “racism”. This is because Communists want to socialise women, under Communism women will be liberated—“You don’t own me,” as the refrain goes. If women are owned, it means their father vetoes their marriage partner—he decides whom ownership is transferred to. This situation creates castes, tribes, and races—and ultimately it creates nations. “My daughter is not marrying a Pakistani, and that’s final.” It still works without a racial component—“He can’t make a living to support her in the appropriate style (i.e. he is too low class and not intelligent enough to marry her).”
So logically, once you decide to be an anti-Communist, you are also a “racist” too—by default (and also a misogynist). Amis was a narcissist, so he never worked the problem all the way through; he worked emotionally, as regards what caused him emotional distress. He probably became a Communist in the first place because differences in class damaged his amour propre—and Communism, as an idea, took the nasty emotions away. I remember as a teenager I watched some Pakistani-English race riots in the North on television; and it caused me distress, the ugly reality that is racial and religious conflict (it really does disturb, actually)—then I thought about Marxism and that eased the distress, since there is an idea that says there is no racial strife; or, rather, racial strife is an illusion that can be overcome. Amis went through the same process with social class.
When Amis became an anti-Communist all that happened was that he developed negative emotions towards the USSR, whereas previously he felt positive emotions: he realised millions of people died and were tortured there, and that made him feel bad—and he also realised that gobby men like him would likely end up in a gulag if the Communists took power in Britain. Yet he never addressed his narcissism.
Hence when he took up residence in Nashville, in a house lent to him by an academic, the lady of the house said, in front of her black maid, “Get her a Christmas present, but nothing expensive—just something bright and shiny.” What a bitch, not classy—and an indication that the left is feminine, the left is obsessed with “bootlickers” in their discourse; it is feminine to humiliate and demean in this way, not noble at all. Amis took this very negatively—the Southern hostess with the mostess produced negative emotions in him; hence he felt civil rights activists must be right.
Yet he admitted the students in his conservative and overwhelmingly white college were the most polite, diligent, and attentive he ever had—the aristocratic outlook, you see. He noted that he felt nervous around groups of black men in London; yet, being narcissistic, he was unable to see how that situation might scale up to the South with its “nigra problem”—London’s black population then being tiny. This is what happens when you are driven by the need to escape negative emotions.