Huntsman Inn, Rusholme - pub details
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|I remember the Huntsman Inn well. When I was a student in Manchester I used to live, as was relatively common, in Rusholme, just off the Curry Mile. Amidst this vibrant stretch of curry houses, kebab shops, shisha bars, tailors mostly selling saris and so on, there was one building, towards the bottom end on the left-hand side as you were heading up it, that seemed completely alien to everything else around. An old-style English pub in a building that looked like it was rotting from the inside out, next to a large new-build Asian supermarket, The Huntsman gave off an air of absolute foulness and threatening crime.|
The regulars were often stood around outside having a smoke: any one of them looked they could kill you. Something about them looked somehow less than human; I have never seen less healthy-looking individuals. Their pasty, almost grey-white skin, was frequently plagued by obvious infections, some almost leprous-looking. Their hair tended to sit greasy and patchy on their heads, in thin strings. A squat people, I don’t think any of them could have been a head over 5 foot 7, but they still looked like they could overpower the likes of me, they had the wild strength of people utterly outside of any awareness of the law. Many times when I passed the Huntsman (usually on the other side of the road, even if I needed to get to something near it on the same side), I would see two or more of them engaged in open fist fights, right there on the pavement, on one of the central arteries in Manchester.
I can’t believe anyone from regular, non-Huntsman society actually ever dared go in, but the smattering of reviews online suggest that some people did, either out of naivety or curiousity. They are overwhelming negative. Reports suggest a place which plays ‘Rule Brittania’ at what is described as “offensively loud” volume, where any young woman who enters is sexually molested pending a quick escape and where unsuspecting customers can often find the doors locked and their wallets removed from them. A quick search reveals that it closed down at some point in 2012 after the landlord beat one of the regulars to the point where they received serious brain injuries, for not drinking up promptly enough after last orders. The landlord was sentenced to six years in prison.
My overwhelming impression of the Huntsman, when I lived in Rusholme, was of somewhere Lovecraftian. I imagined the regulars as belonging to a sort of isolated race of Old Mancunians who, refusing to move on following the large-scale influx of immigrants into the area, had become mutated due to a lack of exposure to any aspect of the outside world dating from any later than 1975. They reminded me of the fish-like people in The Shadow Over Innsmouth, products of absolute genetic degradation. Within The Huntsman itself I imagined there was not just a pub, but a vast network of back rooms where these people lived, and that contained their temples to their foul gods, where they performed their sick blood-rituals, sacrifices to their goat-Mancunian master. Probably they were linked to a lot of unsolved local disappearances.
I was reminded of The Huntsman the other day when my girlfriend Edie told me about a New Years she had spent in Machynlleth, the market town in North Wales where in October of the next year a five year-old girl named April Jones disappeared and was found to have been raped and murdered by Mark Bridger, some local pervert. Although the place had been pretty enough, Edie said, underneath it had lurked an air of depravity – particularly sexual depravity – that put a lot of the residents somehow beyond civilization, properly understood. She described walking down the high street, a politely pretty sort of place, and then along the river, which started out picturesque but then got increasingly grim, until they reached a short of shack, a damp and unwelcoming place looking out into the most fetid stretch of the water. In this shack, God knows who had built it or why, was daubed a lot of graffiti, of the sort that you might expect to be daubed in such places, or in a bus shelter or toilet cubicle, of the form “I done [x local girl] here.” Only it was not just vanilla acts of sexual intercourse that were being described, Edie said, but certain things so disgusting, described in such a way, that she did not even think she could repeat them.
Edie and her friends walked on, and then later on when they tracked back on themselves, as it was getting dark, she saw the local youths beginning to congregate in that shack, young lads and the girls they would probably be doing those things to. She said they had a look to them that, the way she described it, reminded me of the look that I remembered the regulars at The Huntsman Inn as having had. That look of extreme, almost sub-human ill health. It was something I had seen myself in North Wales before, when I was in Bangor. Walking down the high street to the cathedral, I have never seen a less healthy populace in my life. Uniformly pasty and obese, their fat all seemed to have been distributed in such a way as to be maximally obscene. They were panting just from walking and looked as if they hadn’t been outside before in the whole of their adult lives.
How have these Lovecraftian people ended up like this? In the Alienated Labour section of his 1844 manuscripts, Marx, in a beautiful turn of phrase, says that under conditions of alienated labour the worker, unable to work on the world in the distinctively human sort of way that Marx says we need to in order to flourish qua species-being (i.e. in a meaningfully transformative sort of way, in which a human individual can find self-expression), “loses reality,” indeed “to the point of starving to death.” Although not exactly starving to death, what I think we see, with these people in Manchester and North Wales, are the effects of an extreme sort of reality-deprivation. What I mean by ‘reality’ here is a kind of HegelianSittlichkeit (‘ethical life’): the political community which citizens of any given country (or, at a different phase of human evolution, ‘the world’) typically inhabit.
The type of people who ‘become Lovecraftian’ are people who have become totally alienated from our political community, economically useless and totally unlistened-to by our leaders. They tend to exist in areas of high unemployment, reliably Labour-voting to the point that the seat is taken for granted. They have no resources and no particular demands, save perhaps bringing back hanging or sending the Muslims back home. If a lion could speak, Wittgenstein observed, we could not understand it: we simply do not share enough of our form of life with a lion to meaningfully grasp anything about its world. Likewise, these people cannot hope to be understood by the sort of bland, moneyed, London-resident try-hards who form our political and journalistic classes.
These people and what they have become are the result of (at least) decades of such alienation. There is all sorts that is wrong with their plight, and we might think that the thing to do, having identified this trend, is to urgently find ways of re-extending recognition to them, to restore them, make them fully human again. But this would be to ignore a lot of other things, not least that mainstream society as it is presently constituted is far from a genuinely human one, and we are really ourselves just differently warped.
Personally I want to suggest that the most interesting upshot of my observations so far is the following: it seems like we can identify that, under present conditions, political alienation is becoming far more widespread. No longer is it just the most deprived areas of the country that are subject to political alienation, but everyone in it. Post-austerity, none of us have a voice that stands any chance of being listened to, and all of us are basically economically useless: every graduate who does not prove themselves immediately becomes a candidate for the abbatoir. This is a dangerous moment for everyone, but in many ways it is more dangerous for the politicians themselves than it is for us. Because, although they might have the ‘power’, it is us who have, properly speaking, the reality. If politics as such becomes the sole preserve of a small group of politicians and journalists in Westminster, all of whom went to Oxford together (as it seems to be), then it is not us, but them, who will become the stunted, warped race of Molochs.
They will have tryed-hard and repressed everything about themselves throughout their lives to reach Oxford and be deemed appropriate and sensible enough to gain admittance to this cabal, but in doing so they will have lost everything about themselves that makes or might one day make them human. It is certainly not a coincidence that every career politician not only seems to have the same basic CV, but they all sort of look the same as well: Cameron and Clegg uncanilly so, but even Ed Miliband has the same basic face shape as they do. As they all become less and less human and increasingly, more and more, speak in terms of a language-game that only they, between themselves and a few journalists, can understand, the politicians will have less and less to do with our reality, and thus become easier and easier for us to ignore, until all of them wither away to nothing, and Westminster crumbles into ruins, the centre of a London which the race of men has long since abandoned.
ADORNO4LYFE - 5 Jul 2014 15:54
doncaosdelanada - 27 Jan 2012 11:39