Harmer Sinks to New Low: Truth and Taste Lose Out to Delusion and Bathos


Have you seen Harmer’s post-Brexit Lament “We Will Rise Again” on YouTube? It’s the most absurd bit of posturing you’re ever likely to see, and if post post modernism ever decides it’s gone far enough in its search for puffed-up, meaningless expressions of worthless, empty sentiment, then this song could well be its holy grail, its end point. Connoisseurs of kitsch can rub their hands in glee – a new depth in bad taste has been reached, the sluice gates of true dross have been breached.

The high fidelity sound, good musicianship, and good camera work of the video all go to emphasise the extraordinary pretentiousness and bathos of Harmer’s song.  Here we go again with all the dripping, unconsidered sentiment, the numbing, dulling breath of Cambridge clichés, and most of all the atrocious, truly dire attempts at verse. Who but Harmer could sing this

After the rain came falling and the truth was washed away

I called my brother on the telephone, just to see what he would say.

without gagging on its inane banality? It’s so awful that it’s actually funny. It’s so distasteful, so crass, that the only thing you can do is laugh at it.  How could such badly-written crap be so theatrically presented with such high-minded intent, with not so much as a hint of irony informing it? How could such effort have gone into giving voice to such hopeless drivel? How could the talented cast have voluntarily aided and abetted this drippingly sentimental, gushingly trite, ridiculously overworked message of “hope”?  The only possible response is laughter – otherwise you just might want to cry.

And this, of course, is Harmer’s reaction to Brexit. We might ask who the “we” in “We will rise again” refers to, but really, why bother!

21 thoughts on “Harmer Sinks to New Low: Truth and Taste Lose Out to Delusion and Bathos

  1. I feel bad. i ‘liked’ this post before watching the video. After watching it I retracted my ‘like’. We really shouldn’t scoff at those who suffer from serious mental health issues. They deserve our sympathy, rather.


    1. Sympathy isn’t going to teach them the limits of their abilities.

      Carry on sympathising with them and before you know it the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is covered with crass stick figures like a fridge door!


  2. At first I thought Jeremy Harmer had produced a video to accompany the book I’m reading: Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School.

    God almighty! I’ve watched it and I’ll never get that 28 seconds back. “Enlightenment is dead” That’s absolutely ridonkulous. Jeremy is singing from which position? Fedoras Against Brexit?

    It’s surely not the Enlightenment that’s dead; it’s liberalism. The belief that the vote, the political party system (long since hollowed out – read Peter Mair), and the market can deliver prosperity has been slain again – and we’re facing the same thing as in the 20s and 30s, populist parties leveraging liberal democracy to gain power. And liberalism, again, doesn’t have the tools to deal with this. We’ll need more than a few Fedoras I think.

    He would also seem to be entirely blameless for this catastrophe that just fell from the sky; like Brexit rain, or Br-ain. Brexit-Brain-Dead is perhaps the condition here, unable to imagine his culpability in the crime of the century, robbed of a ‘future you can believe in’ – but not obviously, robbed of an explanation. Entitlement is not dead.

    I suppose supporting the neoliberal, capitalist Mammon is a perfectly reasonable position. The deskilling, coursebook-pipeline, Crapola Casino that is ELT was built by Jeremy’s generation, and the sins of the Fathers fall onto today’s ELT precariat, with nothing to wear on their heads but their pride. (Hardly keeps the rain off.)

    ‘Everyone has a plan until a coursebook punches them in the face.’–Mike Tyson.

    ‘Globalization’ is another domino that’s fallen and surprise, surprise, we find ‘Globalization’ as a chapter in many ELT books. (Rolling eyes from students…). This despite Globalization not having a shred of theoretical clarity. (Coming partly from a paper called ‘The Globalization of Markets’, 1983 – from those humanists at the Harvard Business Review.). Nothing to do with me, gov. Move on, nothing to see here…

    It doesn’t matter that Jeremy’s publisher Pearson Education has some serious questions to answer as regards its roll-out of high-stakes assessment in the US. Enlightenment is dead – and we need a man in a fedora to tell us that. (Enlightenment sure is dead in that video, it’s pretty dark in the inside of that whale.)

    It’s not unclear how Jeremy and his Fedora Reich plan to ‘rise’ again – and who ‘we’ i.e. ‘his people’ actually are. As mysterious as the disaster that befalls us, I suppose.

    It also reminds me of that punk song from way back…what was it called, oh yes, Two Pints of Viagra and a Packet of Crisps Please. That’s more like it.

    –Nigel Cancel

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Hi Paul,

    Good to see you take on the political implications of Harmer’s song. I was so forcefully struck by the absurdity of it all that the political message almost escaped me.

    Surely “the Enlightenment is dead” was required for its rhyming qualities more than for any concern with what the words mean. Once committed to telling us what his brother “said” (on the tele phone), we were doomed to hear that something was “dead”, were we not? So why not the enlightenment! Although I suppose “I’m brain dead” might have been better than saying that the work of Descartes, Watt, Hume, Haley, Bradley, Cavendish, etc., etc., was dead.

    Can we be serious when faced with such bollocks? Well,you do a fine job of pointing out the ideology that seeps through this farcical, whinging moan from a representative of the ELT elite. I’m not sure that Harmer is capable of defining, let alone defending, the ideology he subscribes to, but in any case you highlight some of the ridiculous contradictions of his offensive rallying call.

    “We” need to organise locally, and when “we” rise again, “we” will sing our own songs. .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been told that I mixed up the rhyme in Harmer’s ditty. It actually went like this: Having called his brother on the tele phone, just to see what he would say, Harmer reports what his brother said.

      He said “Leave me here to mourn a while and rest my heavy head
      All the light is darkness now, enlightenment is dead.”

      So “head” is the culprit, not “said”, as I mistakenly said. I hope that’s clear. Call me a cynic, but I wonder if his brother really did say that; is the whole family bonkers?

      And while I’m at it, I should say how much I enjoyed Paul Walsh’s comments. He’s right about the death of liberalism. As he says, the belief that the political party system and the market can deliver prosperity has been “slain again” – and “the deskilling, coursebook-pipeline, Crapola Casino that is ELT”, built by Jeremy’s generation has now fallen onto today’s ELT precariat, few of whom have hats like Harmer’s to protect themselves. So yes, let’s light the bonfire, order up some pints of viagra and packets of crisps, put The Sex Pistols on the grama phone, and leave Harmer mumbling to himself in his carefully constructed coal cellar.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Daily Mail-esque post, albeit with longer words. You’re better than this, Jordan. Don’t put us off reading your interesting and well-considered posts by posting a bag of vitriolic witch hunt shite like this.


    1. Shite it may well be, but a witch hunt it isn’t. I’m not searching out and deliberately harassing a political opponent with unpopular views, I’m giving my opinion of a song Harmer published on YouTube.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair enough. I enjoy your blog and feel it’s necessary to have informed voices like yours in the debate about where ELT should be heading. ELT does lack informed, academic voices. The times when you adopt a tone to ridicule people I feel undermines this. Last year I recommended your blog to some new colleagues, who were put off by the tone you took criticising one of JH’s talks. The message was missed. I think you even deleted that one, which was a shame because the message was important. Anyhow, I hope you see my point, and I wish you a bon nadal.


  5. You have a point about the Internet breeding a witchfinder mentality, Anna, but I don’t find Geoff’s post vitriolic. He’s being satirical, taking a pop at someone who should know better. If Jeremy wanted to come on here and defend himself he could. (I’ve certainly had vitriol from many in ELT in my time.)

    What was it H.L Mencken said? ‘It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.’ So too with blogs.

    If Jeremy wants to lecture the world on how it went wrong (or how ‘we’ all went wrong), and how he has an answer, that’s a pretty daft position to take.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Paul. I do agree. I’m just put off from reading this blog on the occasions when the ridicule is heaped on (OK, satire, sorry). Some of the comments crossed the line in bad taste too. It puts a lot of people off reading this blog, which is a shame.


      1. Hi Anna

        Are you OK with newspapers publishing disparaging book reviews? Are you OK with newspapers publishing very disparaging book reviews? If so, what is it you find objectionable about Geoff’s post, or the comments that it has attracted?


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