Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci was one of the unlikely heroes of twentieth century. Though I object to his overly Stalinistic activism, he never waivered in his own intellectual explorations which make his letters and notebooks a testament to innovative political analysis and thought. During eleven years of incarceration by the Italian government he developed interesting critiques of power and hierarchy that make him much more than a simple Marxist. And he held on through his years of prison writing and though I don’t always agree with him, his determination is a great inspiration. One of the things for which Gramsci is famous for is his often quoted dictum “I have pessimism of the intellect, but optimism of the will.” I would love to say that I live up to this important tenet but I confess that I almost always fall short. Though, in my early years, I was even blessed with an optimism of the intellect, that faded sometime in my twenties, and I have maintained an optimism of the will whenever I have been able, I feel that my life has been a gradual deterioration of optimism, and I am struck by Nietzsche’s words that honesty “leads to nausea and suicide.” (Honesty, that is, with oneself about the terrible realities of our condition) Sometimes I am not sure how much longer I can hold it together and when I laugh it is only diabolically in the face of a certain hopelessness. Unfortunately, (again quoting Nietzsche) “there are no experiences other than moral ones” and the more one knows this the more clear it is that the centre will not hold. I long to be a cartoon character like Bugs Bunny, adequately cynical but irreverently full of my own sense of pleasure. But if I am a cartoon character I can only be Ignatz the mouse in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, senselessly throwing bricks in a surreal world that I cannot understand. 

Poor pale pitiable form 

That I follow in a storm

Iron tears & groans of lead 

Bind around my akeing head 

Mock on Mock on Voltaire Rousseau

Mock on Mock on! tis all in vain! 

You throw the sand against the wind 

And the wind blows it back again

                                -William Blake

I am no more than the Ghost of a Flea. Good luck to all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey that pic of Gramsci has a strong resemblance to you, hmmm.... C