Non, je ne regrette rien (3/3)

Brave title, huh? And what a carefree fool was I to fill the first two parts of a three-part series with random musings in the vain hope that I would somehow be able to pull them all together in the third! My cousin’s beagle springs to mind, that sad mutt who follows threads of criss-crossing scent in the vain hope of catching something significant.

Do I regret starting this wild goose chase? Not allowed to, am I, with a title like the one above? So, nose to the ground and away we go!

My confessed failure as a systematic thinker means that I set great store by the intense moments of revelation that James Joyce called ‘epiphanies’ where all is seen, felt and understood in a flash. Art has a vital role in deepening our receptivity to such moments – my previous examples were the Charlton Heston character watching Woodstock and Joni Mitchell’s characteristic flashes of insight, so what better than to bring the two together?

You had to be there, right?

Well, no, Joni never made it to Woodstock because of the chaos on the roads. Frustrated by their absence from that epoch-defining gathering, she and Stephen Stills wrote this anthem while holed up in a New York hotel. It’s a song not of complacent hedonism but of aspiration and desire, the sources of its undeniable power. The future has yet to be found.

Just as great art is never an expression of unalloyed joy, so breakthrough science is never satisfied with untested hypotheses. We trust art when it confronts pain and we trust science when it battles falsehood. Fundamentalists of all stripes seek to limit the freedom and scope of art and science in favour of their own unquestioned nostrums.

Intolerant versions of all the major religions threaten to plunge the world into a new dark age of childish irrationality. Runaway nationalism threatens to raise the drawbridge behind globalism’s lucky winners, leaving the losers out in the cold. These scourges are the twin evils of Ignorance and Want that Charles Dickens unforgettably personified as two poor children 175 years ago in his deeply moral fable A Christmas Carol.

Image result for ignorance and want

And behind all this – some might say, a root cause of these problems – lies the pernicious philosophy that humankind is no more than the sum of its wants and preferences as expressed in a global market place. Inequality within nations espousing these mean-spirited notions is as bad as it was when Dickens worked himself to death in a supreme artistic effort to change hearts and minds. A new dark age looms where there is no such thing as community, where price is mistaken for value and where austerity bears down on the poor.  Here children are taught that the only status they can expect to be conferred on them in life is as consumers. Their parents, hardly less brainwashed, pass on a model of lifelong infantilism where the only gratification is consumption of poor-quality products.

Forgive my intemperance. I’ve just been reading a newspaper article which exposes the shortcomings of neoliberalism. It’s long but worth the effort, in my opinion.

And tomorrow we look after our 3-year-old granddaughter. We probably won’t play with her shop-bought toys but instead devise scenarios using pebbles, sticks from the garden, string, coloured chalk and kitchen pans. This will be her idea. I just go along with it. She seems to know what she’s doing.

Oh, and clothes-pegs … she loves the Woodentops. She can impersonate that baby to a T!

What I would regret would be to leave her with a world in an unstoppable vortex of ignorance, want and greed … or, more precisely, to leave her in such crazy turbulence without saying or doing something about it.

So here’s a shot across the bows. Whatever happened to freedom, equality and solidarity? And what on earth is so funny about peace, love and understanding?

17 thoughts on “Non, je ne regrette rien (3/3)

  1. Somebody once tried to explain to me how economies can’t work without consumerism. I still think there is a better model out there somewhere, if only we had the courage to make an attempt…(K)

    1. I suspect that replacing advertising of commodities with quality reviewing and making more services available as citizen rights might help. Also ‘nationalise’ – or perhaps ‘internationalise’ – money to make it transparent and thereby subject to tax.

    1. Indeed and working on it as we speak, Opher! Helps that I’ve never really grown up, I expect, though I’m not naïve enough to believe one can ‘unsee’ the world. What my granddaughter does so well is to make relationships her focus rather than objects. Things are interchangeable and used as symbols of deeper feelings … or something. A joy, whatever!

  2. I’ve just read your Metcalf link, and am feeling very bleak indeed. I definitely prefer your take on the situation. Thanks for the offer of some hope, and may your grandparenting hours continue to provide us with such glimmers 🙂

    1. And thanks for reading and commenting so constructively, Cath! I do believe that a new synthesis of reason and rhapsody is required – heck, what’s with all this alliteration? – a fusion of Apollo and Dionysus, if you will. We need to find a way, somehow, to re-enchant the world.

  3. Metcalf is bleak indeed “The use of one’s individual reflective powers is reason; the collective use of these reflective powers is public reason; the use of public reason to make law and policy is democracy. “.
    It would be wonderful to have an educational system where children’s enthusiasm and inquisitiveness were channeled to develop “individual reflective powers”. Then I’d be happy to believe in democracy! At least some of us are trying to “synthesise reason and rhapsody” at a local level. Cathy’s visit to @Bristol is a prime example (sorry – a cross-blog reference there, hope that’s ok?). We have just taken the grandchildren to Tate, St Ives where they made “fish food” and a “duckinator” out of modelling clay. A perfect synthesis of reason and rhapsody.
    Thanks Dave.

    1. I suppose suggesting that principles and values have become an irrelevance in a market-led system is a bleak assessment, Mike, though I for one am glad to hear it said. Not sure I find the bit you quoted ‘bleak’ – I’m all for collective decision-making – but I’m with you 100% about educational failure. Perhaps a more democratic, participatory approach in schools would help. That St Ives trip sounds bang on message … Grandparents Rule OK! Thanks for the input. What’s the @Bristol thing about, may I ask?

      1. Forget the last question, Mike, just checked back on Cath’s post. Yes, our only chance is to get education right which means moving away from a narrow (and cheap) assessment base to a more radical and deep-seated experiential model. The market economy doesn’t ask enough of children, I reckon, hence the current Gradgrind regime. These museums point towards a better way …

      2. I too would support collective decision making – providing it is made after “reflective powers” were brought into play. That’s the part I feel bleak about – I do not see much evidence of reflection being applied in the population’s decisions. (On both sides of the Atlantic recently.).
        Populism and reasoned argument do not seem to be happy bedfellows …….
        The big problem for me with market-led systems is that they take no account of the “humanity” in life.

        1. I can understand your reservations, Mike, though I believe that democracy creates the ‘education’ it requires – if that isn’t too glib. Reminds me somehow of Proudhon’s saying: Liberty is the mother not the daughter of Order. Schools get better when the outside world demands better from them, not the other way around … sorry, just throwing in ideas! The referendum and Trump I don’t count as democratic – the first an ignorant response to a complex issue and the second a reduction of complexity to idiotic simplicity … er, same difference! Market-led systems arise from an abnegation of civic responsibility by those who pretend to lead us but really have their own noses in the trough. Ha, end of sermon!

    1. As did I – doubly so, because I was watching it through my grandchild’s eyes and appreciating its kind, gentle, quirky quality. It was intended, I think, as something kids could do for themselves with string puppets, etc.

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