Jame Joyce thought that ‘Thought is the thought of thought’ or so he wrote in Ulysses which he started in 1914, at the beginning of The Great War, when people forgot to think and petty jealousies among Imperial cousins killed millions.
Rabindranath Tagore, while on a US tour in 1916, wrote that ‘You who live under the delusion that you are free, are every day sacrificing your freedom and humanity to this fetish of nationalism, living in the dense poisonous atmosphere of world-wide suspicion and greed and panic.’
Pankaj Mishra used part of this Tagore quote in his prologue to Age of Anger (2017) a century later. He argues that such freedoms as supports individualism and capitalism are driving the resurgence of reactionary and right-wing political movements.
Mishra summarises Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s writings saying that he ‘grasped … the incendiary appeal of victimhood in societies built around the pursuit of wealth and power.’ As he continues, Mishra writes ‘Those who perceive themselves as left or pushed behind by a selfish conspiratorial minority can be susceptible to political seducers from any point on the ideological spectrum, for they are not driven by material inequality alone.’
Take a look at today’s news from the US and tell me that inequalities have been addressed by the seventeen presidents since Woodrow Wilson. On the contrary, racism and discrimination appears to have been baked into the American system. One wonders what, if any, affirmative action can enable social mobility for the deprived. Arguably, no lasting lessons have been learned from the pandemic of 1919, the stock market collapse in 1929, a second global war in 1939, the race riots of 1967 and more. It seems that all of these issues are being experienced at once on US streets and arguably, in the rest of the world too. Pandemic has created space for suspicion, greed and panic to thrive while the free-market culture continues to bring oppression and exploitation to the unseen and voiceless, both at home and across the globe. Recurring incompetent political leadership serves only to exacerbate the underlying problems.
Isn’t it time for less thought of the thought and more thought of affirmatives actions?
Over 16 million people have watched James Baldwin deliver his 1965 seminal speech on whether the ‘American dream’ has been achieved at the expense of African-Americans as posted on Facebook by the Guardian in 2018.
More or Less?
While I wish I could walk, the lifting of restrictions may be great news for most but it’s not the same for our family while cancer and chemotherapy shadows us. This is not a complaint but a plea to others to take care to minimise the threat they pose to the more vulnerable. Remember, not every vulnerability is visible.
I learned something about this after I broke my spine when I was 18. I wore a steel-framed back brace for a year, all but invisible beneath my clothes. I looked like a perfectly healthy, loutish teenager as I walked and crossed streets. Slowly. The pedestrian lights tended to change faster than I could cross so sometimes I feigned a limp. Dublin city drivers are pretty intolerant and were largely unimpressed by the limp of a long-haired layabout. Then one day a car drove at me, an aggressive tactic that should have persuaded me to flight. But I couldn’t run; I had to stand in the middle of the road as the car accelerated past me. I can still see the car, an unwashed, puss-green Avenger, the name a tad ironic. Doubly so since it was a Hillman marque and driven as if by a hillbilly. I wasn’t sure which of us got the bigger fright.
The simple solution was a walking stick. The walking stick changed everything. Not only did it visually signal infirmity, I had a potential weapon to enforce it.
And I’ve had reason to worry about infections too because I’ve been immune suppressed after radiotherapy. I used to joke that I could catch anything that was thrown into the room. And that’s pretty much how it went for nearly three years after my last EBRT fraction. I was even checked for leukaemia just in case. Fortunately the condition passed and the frequency of colds, flus and other infectious maladies plummeted. I had finally self-repaired.
I was out shopping today and I observed a lack of patience. Unmasked people of all ages and genders reached through my space to fondle, inspect and select shelved goods.
Covid-19 in this country is dormant rather than exterminated. It would be best to treat everyone in public as if they were front line medical workers carrying the infection that has disproportionately wasted so many of their lives.