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Virginia Woolf 2.0: Mrs. Dalloway hosts the PM, Jacob Rees-Mogg, John
Redwood and others
A Meditation inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway on English Upper Class Snobbery and its influence on
economic competitiveness, first initiated on June 27, published on July 12, 2019

    “The Prime Minister”, said Peter Walsh. (…) One couldn’t laugh at him. He looked so ordinary. You might have stood him
    behind a counter and bought biscuits - poor chap, all rigged up in gold lace. And to be fair, as he went his rounds, first
    with Clarissa then with Richard escorting him, he did it very well. He tried to look somebody. It was amusing to watch.
    Nobody looked at him. They just went on talking, yet it was perfectly plain that they all knew, felt to the marrow of their
    bones, this majesty passing; this symbol of what they all stood for, English Society.    (…) Lord, lord, the snobbery of the
    English! thought Peter Walsh, standing in the corner. How they loved dressing up on gold lace and doing homage!  
    Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway, Harcourt Publishing, 1953, p. 172

We swear to God, that it was neither Boris Johnson, nor Brexit, nor “The Crown” (a Netflix series), nor even
the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Versailles Treaty that had us turn our attention to Virginia Woolf
Mrs. Dalloway.  It was the simple fact that the delivery (by regular mail) of the 3rd volume of Marcel
Proust’s 7-part series
“In Search of Lost Time” from one NAFTA-country to another took so ridiculously
long (- 7 weeks!!  Listen up Brexiteers! This is what you are in for once you have successfully pivoted your
economy away from the EU towards the ominous, oh so fast growing Pacific-Rim countries! - ) that it felt like
a good alternative to supplement our Proust study with a dash into the literary work of Mrs. Woolf. Little did we
know that we would find in her
yet another formidable, systemic risk researcher.  And, yes, little did we suspect
that both, Mrs. Woolf and
Mrs. Dalloway, would take us right back into the Brexit-/Boris Johnson- trap which we
had originally planned to leave aside for a while.

But, alas, the topic of English snobbery and (male) portentousness is just as much at the heart of
Mrs. Dalloway as is the question of existential loneliness and despair as such.

Let us, however, advance our analysis step by step here.
Mrs. Dalloway was published in 1923, i.e. a mere 4
years after the signing of the Versailles Treaty.  So the novel naturally echoes the traumas which WWI
left behind in brave war veterans like
Septimus Warren Smith and in society at large as it proved painfully inapt
in treating subject traumas adequately. (Supposedly our post-modern societies are better equipped now to
handle mental disorders and depressions. One cannot help but wonder though whether the
Sir Bradshaw’s of
our time celebrate their expertise with a little less pomp and self-assuredness than they did in
Mrs. Woolf’s days.)
Mrs. Dalloway, nevertheless, does not contend itself with just denouncing the medical
profession from back then. It also reflects on the growing emotional alienation, isolation and disconnect that
people start to experience in the emerging modern society of the early 20s.  Clearly, this weird silence, this
strange inability to have the brunt of one’s ruminations being echoed by others has always been an inevitable
feature of social community. Just imagine what it would be like if this were otherwise. (Wouldn’t one then be
eternally drowned in the incoherence of manifold human expressions that pop up here and there without any
prior reflection whatsoever?)  However, modernity with its globalization (
Peter Walsh, for instance, is just
coming back from Burma), its urbanization and its technological advances (airplanes, radio, telephone) is
taking the disconnect between people to new heights. And if you add the decidedly decorum-oriented/stiff
upper-lip culture of the post-Victorian age into the mix then you end up with a social reality that pretty much
Sally Seton’s observation according to which one “knows nothing (…) even of the people on lives with
every day
”.  (Mrs. Dalloway. p. 192)  

It is hence somewhat natural that
the narrative stream-of-consciousness technique would have been
pioneered in England and on the British Isles. After all, what else would there be to talk about other than
what is not being talked about?       

Now, there is probably very little that can be done about the basic trend towards more alienation and social
disintegration that modernity carries with it. The question, that, however, hovers over the lecture of
is, whether the English stiff-upper-lip culture has meanwhile subsided somewhat so that its society is
now better equipped to psychologically deal with the emotional challenges which an even more individualistic
digital reality tends to produce?  

In other words, do
the Milton-experts of our time (Prof. Brierly etc.) demonstrate their “prodigious learning
with less
timidity, their “wintry charm” with more cordiality and their innocence with less snobbery (p.176)
nowadays than they did in Mrs. Woolf’s time? Would
Lady Bradshaw’s smile meanwhile be less “sweet”, her
submission be less swift and her lying be less “smooth and urbane” than it was back when (p.100f)? And would
Lady Bruton be less consumed today with performing her social “mystery or grand deception” (p.104) that
hostesses in Mayfair were so good at in the early 20s?

Noah denkt™, of course, does not have the intimate knowledge of English society that Mrs. Woolf had. So
it is hard for us to say whether
“the Goddess of Proportion” (p. 100), or better the Religion of Appropriateness,
is being worshipped nowadays in English society with a lesser sense of self-congratulating devotion than it was
Mrs. Dalloway’s time.  

What we can say though,
judging from afar, is that the ruling class does no longer seem to be the same it was
in 20s. The Tommy Lascelles have by now been substituted with younger surprisingly amenable Royal
Courtiers, the Governing Body at Eton College is proud of its diversity and even some members of the
European Research Group (Mark Francois comes to mind here) look more as if they have only recently
stopped touring with The Ramones and donned their MP suit instead.

If there is still a whiff of
Lady Bruton around in England, it would probably come from a handful of
MPs like the much maligned Jacob Rees-Mogg or John Redwood. From our very remote vantage point,
however, it is hard to tell whether their particular brand of stealthy and immaculate smugness is one of
conviction or whether it is first and foremost a marketing ploy to stand out from the crowd.

Whatever it is though, it is clear that such a show of lofty inaccessibility is playing with fire. After all, it is
unavoidable that any lordly performance of untouchable superiority will tell others that their respective
vulnerability and despair is quite unacceptable and that nothing is to be gained from it. Propagating this
sort of message, however, profoundly misreads the challenges which the digital world imposes on us. Because
not only does such positioning deny the inevitability of human despair in a lonely and fractured digital society,
but it also fails to grasp that subject despair, at this point in the turbo-competitive world, may very well be the
last and only reserve left where truly unique and majestic market solutions can still be found.

In other words, the “
wintry charm” faction continues to this day to discourage the Virginia Woolfs of our time
from believing that any worthwhile market propositions could be found in the depth of their
near-suicidal despair. And so the Teflon snobs are still not doing enough to 'make Britain great again'.
Because too little have they understood the nature of the innovation challenge at hand that they could now still
hope to benefit from it.

The sad truth simply is that
meanwhile cutting-edge innovation has become a Champions-League team
effort which can ill afford that some members of the national economy squad take pride in not
breaking sweat
. Because what makes innovators succeed in this hyper-competitive environment isn’t just the
personal genius they can bring to the table but the degree in which their personal soul-wrenching geniality is
being supported by a collaborative national effort to participate with its share in the emotional sacrifice.

It is therefore difficult to underestimate the damaging and counterproductive effect which the
Hugh Whitbreads
have in this digital day and age. And for the sake of the English economy one can only hope that the band of

snobs will eventually realize that. After all, it is quite some time now that Virginia Woolf has been telling them
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English Snobbery in Virgina Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, English Upper Class Snobbery in the Digital Age, Despair
leads to innovation, despair leads to better innovative solutions, Loftiness discourages the innovative effort,
successful innovation is a team effort