Out in the Open

Confession time … oh, nothing you might read about in the newspapers, no shameful lapse into avarice, bullying, callousness, demagoguery, envy, folly, gullibility, hopelessness, idiocy, jiggery-pokery, know-nothings, lip-service, myopia, nastiness, ostracism, prejudice, quiescence, robbery, stupidity, terror, unfairness, viciousness, woe, xenophobia, youth-quake nor zealotry.

That’s the A-Z of stuff-in-the-news from my previous post, by the way, published a week ago. All that ugly stuff out there – nothing to do with me!

Well, I might confess to a touch of hopelessness – a modicum of quiescence – a degree of woe. It’s all that other stuff, see? 3 letters of the alphabet, you might say, at the mercy of the other 23. The clue is in the phrase ‘published a week ago’. The truth is – and here’s the confession – I’m finding it hard to think up posts and even harder to complete them.

It’s not for want of trying. My back catalogue contains 129 drafts, each one more half-baked than the last. For all I know, this is #130.

So far, the signs aren’t good. Who the hell wants to read about somebody else’s reasons for not doing something? You’ve probably got enough feeble excuses of your own. Perhaps you tried some of them out on your teachers. The dog ate your homework. You’re wearing the wrong trousers. The doctor has diagnosed amnesia.

My crummy alibi is that I’m too nice. I gave that idea a dummy-run in the previous post. Weaned in the liberal 1960s, you see, I love everybody. Live and let live, each to their own, horses for courses, whatever floats your boat … yeah, do your own thing, man! Whenever I hear that track where Jimi Hendrix says It’s all freedom my fingers still make an involuntary peace sign.

I know, what a paradox! No way is freedom to wage war on my wish-list. Freedom from war, maybe. The conundrum is only solved by remembering that freedom is just one of the essential human rights. The other two, equality and solidarity, are no less important. How to get the balance between them is the $64,000 question – more like $64bn after inflation! And I’m no philosopher so it’s time to enlist the help of one.

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The other day I watched a remarkable film about intolerance. It was Rupert Everett’s tour-de-force about the final years of Oscar Wilde. Its title – The Happy Prince – comes from one of Wilde’s radiant, life-affirming fables. Somehow Everett manages the triple feat of writing, directing and starring – his passion shining through to make it a movie like few others I’ve seen. OK, no others.

Another confession – several times I was surprised to find tears rolling down my cheeks. Wilde’s suffering becomes symbolic and the film achieves that rare thing in these days of CGI insincerity – catharsis. For once you can believe the reviews. I cannot recommend this film too highly.

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Two scenes stand out – two emotional poles which couldn’t provide a more powerful  contrast – one where he has to endure the abuse of a crowd, the other where he finally stands up to his tormenters. At risk of running on empty, I can only repeat what I wrote in my previous post:

There comes a time when the worm has to turn and fight. Or a mouse, when there’s an elephant in the room.

Tolerance can’t be infinite, as Karl Popper says, any more than freedom. But what made growing up in the 1960s such a gas was watching one after another side-lined social group achieve – or begin to achieve – parity. Once the Beatles had made it groovy to be young and northern and working class – and in the USA to be white and into blues and soul music – other glass ceilings beckoned. Race, gender and – with Oscar Wilde now a counter-cultural hero – sexual orientation. As a white heterosexual male whose mum taught him to look beneath superficial differences to the person beneath, I always knew that what mattered was character – not characteristics.

The movement was international in outlook and, for many of us, its substantial gains remain firm red lines against any retrenchment. Public displays of intolerance should always be challenged. A phrase variously attributed to Jefferson, Paine and Lincoln runs: The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Well, I don’t suppose I’m the only one who wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about that. Not that I’m complaining. It’s a whole lot better than being woken by a sudden knock on the door.

Hmm … if confessing stuff isn’t good for the soul, at least it helps write posts. May try it more often.

20 thoughts on “Out in the Open

  1. Dave – in these times of nastiness and intolerance we need you out there spreading the message. There’s far too much nastiness going on and the Right-wing is almost gleeful. They think they’ve got it sewn up. Trump and Brexit have unleashed a wave of division and hatred. It needs opposing.

    1. Opher – That’s a rather glib and ill-conceived statement isn’t it? If there’s ever been a body of right-wing gleeful people who are nasty it’s got to be that of Juncker’s puppets from the EU crew. Their abject intolerance to anybody who does not wholly agree with them is deplorable.
      When idiot level governments such as those in Germany, Sweden and France impose such stupidity upon their subjects, then certainly division and hatred will rear up. It needs oppressing as it’s now too late for opposing.

      1. I find it rather curious that you say nothing about my post, apparently preferring to raise a subject I deliberately said nothing about. You may disagree with Opher but at least he did me the courtesy of linking his reply to what I actually said.

        As to your comments, I’m afraid your heightened language and lack of clear evidence conveys rather more heat than light. I was puzzled about the idea of oppressing stupidity. Better to educate and enlighten, I’d have thought …

  2. Reblogged this on Opher's World and commented:
    Yes indeed we should be intolerant of intolerance!! There’s a nastiness out there that needs opposing.
    Love and peace!! It’s worth fighting for!! Don’t let the nasty bastards win!!

  3. This is a question now being debated (or screeched about – we’re awfully uncivil these days) in the US. What are the limits of tolerance and civility? And when does the demand for those things become repression unto itself, supporting the very thing it is intended to undermine? Those are subjective questions with which we will, individually and collectively, have to reckon.

    1. Thanks for that, Michelle – to me, politeness represents engagement where rudeness stands for disconnection. When the basic rules of discourse are regularly flouted or ignored, we’re in trouble. The battle, as I see it, is for hearts and minds because you can’t outgun brute force. As always, the only weapons are love and common sense …

  4. Nicely done. Still not sure quite how you managed to move from claiming you’d nothing left to say to discussing a fundamental truth about community.

    I’ve been thinking about a trip to the cinema, you’ve just sold the film to me. Thanks.

    1. Haha, think I must enjoy having my back to the wall! I’m just so conscious of treading on eggshells lately – maybe that concentrates the mind. Either that or I’m a drama queen … talking of which, Everett is gripping as Wilde. If you go, Cath, do let me know what you think!

      1. You can bet on at least a comment or two, re the film.
        Meanwhile, I look forward to more examples of elegant and intriguing journeys along shell-paths.

  5. Thoughtful piece Dave, I believe along with you it is time to not tolerate the intolerable, it is also time to take those words back from the far right that they have staked a claim to, morality and faith and other such words need to be brought back under the wing of the socially conscious. For too long the intolerant have used these words to assume the moral high ground. Thanks for this.

    1. Thanks, Neil, and totally agree with you about the political battle over words. A similar case could be made, I suppose, for rescuing the language of ecstasy from organised religion. And maybe a reverence for life would win the wider war …

  6. Initially surprised by your “nothing more to say” declaration, I’m glad I read on. Nice post!
    I agree the most significant focus must be to building tolerance: through catch them young. I continue addressing this audience in the simplest language, talking about love and tolerance. Hope you will continue, too!

  7. Dave, another thought provoking post. I like and share with you the concept of being brought up in the 1960’s to love everyone.
    Tom Lehrer, as he often does, says it well in his introduction to National Brotherhood Week:
    “I’m sure we all agree that we ought to love one another, and I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings — and I hate people like that!”

    One can tolerate other points of view provided, as Joyce Grenfell might say, they are nice. However, defining “Nasty Intolerance” requires the acceptance of a overarching moral code. Such a code would be a Godsend. I used to think that this was what religion was about – but now I am not so sure.

    I must stop before I ramble into a discussion which would be impossible to conduct via comment posts.

    Thanks for the stimulation, Dave.

    1. And thank you, Mike, for your continuing support and additional ideas. Tom Lehrer’s sharp lyrics were always a joy, weren’t they? Sceptical without being cynical. Iconoclastic, too, like the spirit of the times. We seem to be drifting back into a time of rigid certainties rather than moving forward into new ways of thinking and relating to one another … Hmm, know what you mean about rambling – where does one stop? Think I’ll stop here!

  8. Refreshing to find that other people struggle to come up with new posts, not just me! I have only 15 drafts on the go at present but not one is calling ‘finish me!’

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