Are you a clubbable type? I wonder. I ask this after leafing through a book on London clubs in my library, and following a vigorous game of squash yesterday morning. I belong to two clubs: the first, a sports establishment scoring high in the glamour scale, staffed by highly attractive towel girls and frequented by serious professionals, celebrity athletes, gold-digging single women, and rich housewives. The other, a traditional, quieter, more masculine club environment for professional chaps such as moi who appreciate a respite from the glitz.
A visit to either club is always a pleasure. I am naturally at home with like-minded chaps who dress in a tribal style with which I am familiar. Gents wearing madras shorts and yellow Brooks Brothers polo shirts. Khaki shorts and Weejuns. Tartan shirt, tan wool trousers, and thick brown brogues. Older men with sensibly short haircut, moderate sideburns, and aquiline nose. We exchange smiles and friendly greetings, and talk about the stock market. It is an agreeable place.
In truth I am somewhat of a solitary. Not misanthropic or anti-social by any means, but wary of extended human contact nonetheless. I do realise we are social beings; that is our nature. But interaction often leaves me exhausted. Do not get the wrong idea. I enjoy small talk and flirting over cocktails. And I would be thrilled to see you and when we finally do meet I am sure it will be a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon. Sincerity is my yardstick. No, the truth is people tire me. As the years pass I find I have less patience for fools; I am more discriminating in how and more importantly with whom I spend my time. Life is too short to tolerate knaves and cretins.
As much as I appreciate my chums, I treasure my privacy. And here, I think, is where private associations such as clubs play a role as a method of escape. For the modern world presents a growing challenge to those seeking refuge. The private sphere rapidly disintegrates. Traditional societal structures such as family, tribe, and church have been infiltrated, turned inside out, and delegitimised. Individuals, deracinated and confused, are afraid of getting lost in the emptiness if left by themselves, hence immersion in unending stream of information, images, messages. The proliferation of personal electronic communication devices means we are never, ever alone. Even our private thoughts are subject to remote control through self-censorship and threat of informants. The distinction between the private and personal, and the public and political, has been eliminated in favour of the latter, in accordance with Klagenfurt’s Third Allegory of the Forest. The woodcutters swarm the place. There is nowhere to hide from the blades. The searching lights follow us everywhere.
In this context, therefore, one could say the love between a man and a woman, and by extension the family and kin-based clan, because they create a kind of protective sanctuary, are subversive. Have you observed the way a couple in love often create their own special language and behaviours? Certain families are the same way. Love is the ultimate rebellion. It is our resistance. But for these reasons even love itself is under assault. It is being phased out by the market. Human emotions are cheapened by undue expression and repetitive misapplication facilitated by an omnipresent media apparatus. Relations between a man and woman have been reduced to an economic exchange of goods and services or contractual arrangement dissolved at will. In the realm of Eros, the brutal ‘law of the jungle’ prevails. Men have become atomised units randomly crashing into one another and then spinning away again. Under these circumstances love is impossible.
In this area most of all, I should note here, it would be accurate to say that my initiatives have not been as enduring as I had hoped; but it would be dishonest of me to deny that conditions have not lived up to expectations, which is putting it very mildly.
So, what to do? These are observations from a chap out of place, a trad against time, and nothing more. I have had an extraordinarily lucky, privileged life, for which I am very grateful, but it is also one marked by a peripatetic pattern that in certain moments today leaves me pensive and restless. The office routine continues, interrupted by social gatherings, research activities, and tennis matches. Days of wine and codeine afford me brief moments of unthinking pleasure as a dedicated psychonaut, but even these are unremembered and so the procedure is repeated again and again. The process of detachment grows, to such a degree that observers have taken note of it. I sense that my boat is preparing to sail. I have already embarked on a course of inner emigration. At some point the flesh must follow.