JG Ballard and the rage of the Angelas

Saturday, 18 August, 2018

In his latter days and in his final works, the great JG Ballard, who died in April 2009, focussed on how bored (and boring) materialism and media have made people. It’s not surprising, Ballard said, that the educated would do things like take to the streets in favour of dictators, support terror groups, denounce freedom and join crazed movements. And wasn’t he the prophet! Ballard lampooned all this brilliantly in Millennium People. Here, the narrator has infiltrated a middle-class “Antifa” group and attends a protest against a cat show in London with Angela, a revolutionary:

Angela stared across the road with narrowed eyes and all a suburbanite’s capacity for moral outrage. Walking around the exhibition two hours earlier, I was impressed by her unswerving commitment to the welfare of these luxurious pets. The protest rallies I had recently attended against globalisation, nuclear power and the World Bank were violent but well thought out. By contrast, this demonstration seemed endearingly Quixotic in its detachment from reality. I tried to point this out to Angela as we strolled along the line of cages.

“Angela, they look so happy. They’re wonderfully cared for. We’re trying to rescue them from heaven.”

Angela never varied her step. “How do you know?”

“Just watch them.” We stopped in front of a row of Abyssinians so deeply immersed in the luxury of being themselves that they barely noticed the admiring crowds. “They’re not exactly unhappy. They’d be prowling around, trying to get out of the cages.”

“They’re drugged.” Angela’s brows knotted. “No living creature should be caged. This isn’t a cat show, it’s a concentration camp.”

“Still, they are rather gorgeous.

“They’re bred for death, not life. The rest of the litter are drowned at birth. It’s a vicious eugenic experiment, the sort of thing Dr. Mengele got up to.”

Satire is our only defence against the Angelas of this world. What a tragedy JG Ballard is not with us now to write about the scourge of “identity politics.”


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