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Friday, May 06, 2022

On being asked for my politics

You've said you're not interested in politics; I'm not sure how you manage this given politics infects every human enterprise but I hope I know you well enough to say I respect this stance. But at the moment in the USA, politics - in the widest sense and with worldwide implications - is impossible to avoid. Even for an old male fuddy-duddy like me. Do you think you ought to say something? Perhaps your view may be controversial and you'd prefer not to attract flak. I can understand this and wouldn't want flak to happen. Even so...

Dear RR,

I have never thought my views--I do have opinions, of course, given that we live in a particularly fraught time, when many things are upside down--any more "newsworthy" than those of any other person on the planet. And I believe that talking to the e-aether about politics on social media or a blog is often absurd and chaotic in mode. 

Perhaps a more accurate way of describing my stance is to say that I, a mote caught in the mighty twenty-first century Machine, prefer not to engage in such a meaningless and stressful Babel-game. I prefer to be in but not of a Babylon world. Moreover, I am with Tolkien in feeling that "the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity." I do not seek that opportunity, even in a small way.

There are people who consider it their job to argue about politics. Fine. I let them. There are American-made celebrities who are so ripe with their own importance and wealth and the rushed necessity of using their "platform" (I dislike that term) that they simply must talk of such things. I am neither of those creatures and prefer to go on using what art I possess to make beauty and truth (though what I make is not devoid of thought and may be known, surely) and so add to the sum of what is good in the world. That is what you might label as my politics--to stand against evils and blight by working in my small, nearly anonymous way to add to that sum of truth and beauty.

Good cheer despite all,



  1. Good post. People who are neck-deep in politics get offended when you don't validate their beliefs, and their standard rejoinder is that repudiating politics comes from a position of "privilege." But that's narrow-minded bunk. There are more edifying and less ephemeral ways to do good in the world than to follow the orders of others to speak stridently about a matter that, in most cases, no one will remember in a few weeks.

    1. Not surprised that we are congruent on this one, Jeff... And also that you, the "Sugarlands guy," have chosen to good things quietly.

  2. Politics is not only discussed by politicians; all of us have opinions about what is happening in the world and there seems nothing wrong in simply announcing an opinion (as opposed to thrusting it down others' throats), especially if we support it with cogent "reasons why". It may be that our opinion turns out to be unique in some way, in which case we benefit others. This becomes even more important if the issue under discussion involves questions of morality and the people we benefit happen to be in the minority whose views we share. Exercising our minds on subjects we don't normally tackle doesn't necessarily betray our interests in the subjects we regularly tackle. It's often good to widen our frontiers.

    Let's say you are remotely associated with a college which is facing financial problems. The administrators have a difficult choice: whether to cut courses on poetry or, however unlikely, courses on carpentry. It seems those supporting carpentry outnumber those supporting poetry, most of whom are your friends. Your friends approach you asking you to add your voice to theirs. The dilemma you then face ceases to be about poetry and becomes a political matter - the influencing of people towards a goal which you and your friends think is more beneficial than the other option.

    In fact this could be a much difficult decision than might be imagined. Truly honest consideration of the two choices may leave you with the conclusion that a greater knowledge of carpentry in the community might be more immediately beneficial. Yes, poetry will enrich us, you know that. But what might poetry do for the unemployed here and now? True politics is not just spouting and bossing, it may be nothing more than considering a sticky situation and deciding that this would be your view. And, the world being what it is, you wryly realise that the best you are able to come up with is, inevitably, a compromise.

    A poor reward for your effort. But confirmation that all certainties and absolutist pronunciamenti should be approached with a long pair of tongs and a gallon of scepticism.

    No obligation to respond, honest. Just me shouting down a well. I do have other interests.

    1. I don't disagree with you; I just don't believe the internet is a place for me to make pronouncements or act as if I "know better" than others. I know myself and that emoting about politics online would only make me unhappy. As a person with deep South roots who was impressed in long-ago childhood with the necessity of modesty, humility, and tact, I simply can't put myself forward in ways that lead to the destruction of peace and to dissension without positive resolution. What I do in person may be different, but in person *is* entirely different--more human, we might say--from internet interactions.

    2. Ah! Modesty, humility and tact. There you have me, in a social vice, as it were. To which only grace need be added to create a sort of holy quartet. Luckily WS was ahead of me and I can jump on to the back-seat of his tandem bicycle with this:

      But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
      Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
      I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
      To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
      I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
      Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
      Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
      Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
      And that so lamely and unfashionable
      That dogs bark at me as I halt by them...

      and as you know it all ends in tears.

      PS: I particularly admire "scarce half made up"

    3. Ends in tears, yes... and then after a half-millenium, your bashed bones are found in what y'all call a car park! And interred with some fanfare in a cathedral. Not too mean, as bones go. Leicester, I think--that was my maternal grandfather's middle name, and he was called "Lee."

      I don't claim that my ancestors made a success of me with their demands, merely that they made a sharp, deep impression on me that I am unable to escape. There's a link to a poem in the following post or so that is a fairly truthful (barring any burnishings of art) record of my feelings on such things. "The Ancestors, Again."

    4. P. S. I admire that phrase also...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.