Selfish Whining Monkeys is Rod Liddle’s attack on his own (mostly) 1960s-born generation. It makes a change that somebody complaining about generational change doesn’t attack a younger generation. The strength of his book is its passion in this self-assault. He argues against a self-centred way of life that, he says, has emerged since the 1960s in a consumer society that has, he also says, changed expectations. We now expect a standard of living that was unimaginable to previous generations who managed to get by with very little.
He goes on to detail the limitations to the way his own parents lived. They waited before they would buy something, having saved up for months, even years. What has changed that principle of saving is, of course, credit. One result of this mortgaging the future against the present is the disappearance of boredom. Instead, there’s now an expectation that every waking moment must be filled with activity, entertainment, or other forms of stimulation. He also lays into the way that we no can longer attain satisfaction. There is a sense that nothing is ever quite good enough. This leaves us in a position where having things is not only unsatisfying but also requires endless maintenance.
The weakness to this prolonged hamster-wheel argument is that, firstly, it relies very heavily on personal anecdotes. There are references to some evidence outside of his own personal experience, but a lot of this is from newspaper reports, not governmental sources or research papers or other sources with rigorous checking of the facts. The second weakness is perhaps something that his detractors, including myself, might expect. At regular intervals he can’t seem to stop himself from deliberately wheeling out politically incorrect terminology to use it with abandon while being very careful that that terminology is not used in a way that demeans any particular group of people. So what you’re left with is deliberate goading of the politically correct reader. The problem with this is that it adds nothing to his arguments, in fact, if anything it distracts from them. This is a pity because overall a lot of what he has to say, I suspect, would gain the sympathies of his detractors. What I particularly enjoyed, these moans aside, was how Liddle had the balls to take on such a panoply of subjects that are usually a bit embarrassing to discuss. And he does all this with a viciously gleeful humour that he includes himself in as a butt. Bad boy Liddle. Monkeys is a book I found hugely likeable in spite of myself. My top cheap purchase so far this year.