Monday, June 17, 2013

No And I Don't Give A Good Goddamn

Alasdair Gray has famously kept using "work as if you live in the early days of a better nation" as a kind of motto, a spur to trying for more than seems sensible or perhaps even possible. Perhaps though, it would be better to work as if we are in the final days of a worse nation; vindictive, unafraid of casting our enemies down, contemptuous of power in our confidence that it will fall and that it deserves to. Were we to work as if we were in the early days of a better nation, we could be guilty of gilding our chains with flowers, of shying away from describing the squalor and constraint we live under. Perhaps artists should gild our chains with flowers; maybe the aesthetics of its inspirational power means that lie, that great lie, it involves is one they should tell. For someone trying to understand politics rather than gesture at the ideals  we should hope for it to realise though, it would be naive to ignore the difficulty of amassing a coalition capable of taking anything but the most incremental steps towards a more just world, of overcoming the significant forces ranged against achieving justice. Political theorists then might have reasons to be more intransigent, more insistent on the basic truth that our world is unjust and less hopeful, complacent even, about the changes needed to bring that to an end. Gray adapted the phrase from a Canadian poet, who only claimed that "best of all is finding a place to be/ in the early days of a better civilization". The best is not what we have here and now though, and pretending may not be the best way of ensuring we do.

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