Of Martyrs and Satyrs: A Look at Croydon’s chattering classes

By - Monday 8th April, 2013

Croydon Tech City founder Jonny Rose renders judgement unto Croydon’s blogosphere and twitterati, and asks – how much good are YOU doing?

We are, if UK media is to be believed, at war.

Unlike the ‘War on Terror’, this war has many names; “austerity Britain”, “#omnishambles” and “Con-Dem-Nation”. All of us are feeling the bite and everyone has an opinion about what they’d do differently or better.

None more so than the chattering classes of Croydon, who in response to the current political climate seem to fall into one of two camps: martyrs and satyrs.

“What a martyr craves more than anything is a sword to fall on”

Martyrs are often borne out of struggle. It is for this reason that they take themselves and their cause unconscionably seriously.

Rightly so, you may say. There are lives at stake. Not just our lives, but children’s lives as well. (Apparently, invoking children as benefactors of any initiative or idea immediately makes it more laudable – not that I would ever stoop to such cheap grandstanding).

Matyrs are typically ideologues of the simplest sorts. Simple, in the pejorative sense (and also because I don’t think ‘uncomplex’ is a word).

For them, the world is black and white. The solution to the problem is obvious. There is no room for debate, because debate wastes time. My way or the highway.

As a Christian, I too am guilty of seeing everything through such a dichotomous lens: saved and unsaved. Like all dichotomies, this is simple to the point of being simplistic, but it makes the good fight so much easier to negotiate and, therefore, win. However, martyrs – although they would never admit it – don’t want the good fight to stop. They thrive in a state of war. As the underdog, the vilified purveyor of ‘truth’, it is them against the world. This is their raison d’etre. Without the struggle by which they can define themselves against, they are nothing.

“O me miserum, how under-appreciated am I, the martyr, as I go about the lofty work of saving Croydon”

Self-ostracism characterises the martyr like no other attribute (apart from, perhaps, an embarrassing lack of self-awareness). When they are asked to come in from the cold – to collaborate or hear an alternative point of view – a martyr will find every excuse not to. It’s hard to bay shrilly from the moral high-ground when you’re all on the same level.

“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”

Satyrs aren’t so much the convenient opposite of the martyr, so much as the dissembling co-labourer.

For satyrs, it’s too much effort to think. Thinking requires exertion and conviction. Conviction costs. Exertion exhausts.

The most one can expect of a satyr is a retweet.

Satyrs tend to lack either the cerebral or testicular fortitude to posit original thought, or even more so commit to that thought. Preferring instead, idle chatter or a blog comment – devoid of action – which allows them to convince themselves that they are actually doing something whilst doing absolutely nothing of consequence at all.

As I have argued here:

“In many ways, Croydon – as with everywhere – suffers from a paucity of vision and ability amongst its residents (myself included). People (myself included) seem content to leave the agency of their lives in the hands of the political classes because it conveniently exonerates them from a) taking responsibility and b) having to do something about it”

In this way, the satyr is similar to the martyr – a victim of circumstance and The Man (whoever that is) who revels in perceived impotence and readily adopts a state of victimhood to legitimize inactivity. I’m too poor, I’m not male, If only I could have afforded public school, I’ve got too much work, I’ve got too little work. There’s always an excuse.

Seeking the path of least resistance – the nonchalant shrug; a very British fatalism; the propensity to run to comedy, music or alcohol in the face of serious decisions; cynical sneering in the face of the earnest efforts of others – the satyr prefers to fall back on hedonism and frivolity as an escape from the realities of this world instead of taking up the reigns of responsibility.

Unlike the martyr, the satyr tends to crave the safety of the crowd; other satyrs, that don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ or stick their head above the parapet. They want a ‘quiet life’. Deindividuation and groupthink is the order of the day, as satyrs are numbed of their responsibilities by surrounding themselves with lumpen equivalents of similar outlook and posture.

Perversely, then, satyrs also enjoy the spectacle (so long as they’re not the subject of it). There, they can be found watching from the peripheries – commenting, commentating, but never committing. The type who bemoan the Daily Mail’s demonisation of the poor, from the comforts of their semi-detached Surrey postcodes, but would never think to move to a council estate to actually solve the issues on the frontline. Slacktivists by another name.

As James Naylor argued, Bluewater Man (a type of ‘satyr’, for sure) was – in part – what got us here in the first place. Bluewater Man’s propensity to make his home his castle and not invest time, effort or thought into the wider area is what would eventually alienate him from the public realm. It’s not my problem, so long as me and my own are alright and I can carp about it down the pub. 

Likewise, the various strong personalities and tribalism amongst Croydon’s martyrs threatens to undo much of the promising good work that is emerging  through an inability to collaborate across agendas and ideology.

If the social, cultural and economic realm of Croydon is to improve under the current national climate, then we are all going to have to get involved and get connected. Bottom-up regeneration does not happen through bloody-minded dogmatism (FYI, martyrs), nor does it manifest ex nihilo through noncommittal fence-sitting (FYI, satyrs).

The New Croydon has no place for either martyrs or satyrs.

Stop reading about the change and be part of it:

The next Croydon Tech City is on Thursday April 25th from 7.30pm at Matthews Yard -  put this in your diary NOW and come along!

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • http://www.facebook.com/liz.sheppardjones Liz Sheppard-Jones

    There are two kinds of people in the world: people who divide people into two groups and people who don’t.

    I certainly ‘bemoan the Daily Mail’s demonisation of the poor’. I do this out of empathy for others. How would it be helpful for me to move to a council estate?

  • http://twitter.com/a_zambelli Alessandro Zambelli

    Talking and, dare I say it thinking and reflecting, on issues is important work if done thoroughly and carefully. I’ve always disliked the term ‘chattering classes‘ (as, of course, I’m meant to) often used as it is to demonise anything intellectual (sometimes a spade really isn’t a spade).
    And, yes you’re right, thinking in terms of simple oppositions is indeed symptomatic of adherence to the major Abrahamic sects. But whilst on the subject of christianity I would like to retrieve a rarer sense of the word martyr. A martyr is also a witness; someone able then to bear testimony. Quite noble really (in its own messy way twitter is good at this – though not so hot at reflection!). Leaving plenty of time for some good old satyric lustfulness on the side.

  • Brendan Walsh

    Finally, an article above criticism. For if you do, I presume you will be dismissed as dogmatic. Respond with a well pitched one-liner and you clearly don’t care about Croydon.

    If the intention was to get people connected and busy, I cannot believe it will work. If some are afraid to put their heads above the parapet it’s often because they don’t enjoy confrontation or criticism. It doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t give you the right to insult them for it and, in doing so, prove them right. Others believe passionately in what they are doing. Again, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    People are just not Jonny Rose enough. Is that it?

    • Philip George Harfleet

      I understand and agree with your comment, Brendan. (I’m therefore a satyr?) LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/gilesap Anne Giles

    I am neither. I am happy just being myself. No need to get involved in anything. I shall sit back and continue to write my blogs. No arguments needed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sean.creighton.501 Sean Creighton

    Jonny’s posting is yet another example of the frustration many people have about the political process in Croydon. We now have Susan Oliver’s critique of Council proceeds on Inside Croydon. The political process problem is wider than the way the Tories and Labour operate. It also affects the relationship between different activists as Jonny’s piece hints at. So as the debate is underway across networks I have posted my own ‘chatterings’ on my blog under the title ‘What can be done about the bankrupt politics of Croydon’: http://historyandsocialaction.blogspot.com. Do have a read.

    • http://twitter.com/LordBensham Terry Coleman

      It’s good to see that debate is healthy and let us please have more cross network co operation generally. All strength to your elbows.