Saturday, June 11, 2011

Whiter Utopia?

One of my readers was kind enough to leave me a comment that he has missed reading my posts. Thank you for that, because the internet is quite abstract and one sometimes forgets that there are real people out there with which one is interacting.

Indeed, I have written almost nothing since election day. The truth is that I have become emotionally exhausted and, quite frankly, rather fed up. I had originally wanted to stay out of the whole election process and try to distance myself from it or insulate myself from it because elections have become sort of ridiculous in the current global context. The people with the most money overwhelmingly control the social and political agendas, the majority of people are steeped in ignorance about the real nature of global capitalism, and governments have almost no room to manœuvre even if the wanted to institute more egalitarian and humane policies.

Oscar Widle, a  great hero of mine, once wrote "A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, because it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country and sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopias." This has always been a sort of guiding principle for me. I really believe that the dreamers make the world and almost everything we value in our lives derives from dreaming and the striving for utopia. But we seem to live in an age of cynicism (read the great book entitled The Critique of Cynical Reason by Peter Sloterdijk) and a kind of hopelessness and complacency has infected many people. This cynicism is undermining the importance of utopian dreaming and, like a debilitated immune system, leaving us open to the horrible infection of newly invigorated, hateful style of Conservatism which, given the impending environmental disaster, could be the last such move toward cynicism in human history. Politics is being increasingly dominated by genuinely evil individuals who are breeding new forms of cynicism and hate and leaving many progressive people feeling exhausted and hopeless.

In light of these problems, increasingly characterized by a sense for many people that something is desperately wrong but it is not worth bothering trying to fix things, also leaves me hopeless and feeling as though the struggle to liberate people who increasingly partake of their own oppression is hardly worth the effort. Like Antonio Gramsci, I have always depended upon an 'optimism of the will,' and know that one can never really give up on the struggle for utopia. But since my father's death I find it increasingly difficult to muster the will necessary to keep the memory of utopia alive in my heart. I suppose such feelings are an inevitable result of aging and growing tired.

A little while after the election I had a dream in which my father and I spoke of the strange, shadowy nature of the past and shaky nature of human identities. As a result of this dream I have begun to write a book about the subject with a particular focus on Samuel Coleridge who is not only one of my favorite writers but is, I believe, one of history's most interesting human beings. I have been reading Sartre on the problem of biography and identity, particularly his remarkable book on Flaubert entitled l'idiot de la famille. I have also been rereading much of Coleridge, particularly his Biographia Literaria and his strange and turgid periodical called The Friend. As people who regularly read my blog will know, I believe our grasp of a 'fixed reality' is tenuous at best and our sense of the world is largely based upon a complex web of narratives that we tell ourselves from the Bible to the Big Bang. In light of the rather depressing story of the election and growing human apathy around me, I am trying to tell a new story. It might not reinvigorate my political consciousness but it might just save me from abject dispair.


Michel said...

"It is the glory and good of Art,
That Art remains the one way possible
Of speaking truth,"

Enjoy the new project!

Beijing York said...

Until they shut the artists down, there will be courageous attempt to draw our attention to the lack of humanity and compassion that seems to darken our days.

I think Brigette LaPape's 20 seconds of performance art lifted many spirits.

Very happy to see you posting again.

Owen Gray said...

Welcome back, Kirby. I too am depressed about the election. The recent Conservative celebration was even more depressing.

But I find myself going back to George Bernard Shaw's line -- from Back to Methuselah: "Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?" I dream things that never were and say, "Why not?"

Anonymous said...

I find myself surrounded by apathy and denial. I am struggling to maintain any interest at all in those around me so apparently complacent.

I am glad for your new interest. When I work on my new interest, I find some peace, my despair recedes and hope re-emerges from wherever it was hiding.

Steve said...

Harper is leading us here!

And it was very nihilistic of Canadians even only 25% to vote conservative.