Old England, Old World

Old England is an imaginary place, a landscape built from words, woodcuts, films, paintings, picturesque engravings. It is a place imagined by people, and people do not live very long or look very hard. We are very bad at scale. The things that live in the soil are too small to care about; climate change too large to imagine. We are bad at time, too. We cannot remember what lived here before we did; we cannot love what is not. Nor can we imagine what will be different when we are dead. We live out our three score and ten, and tie our knots and lines only to ourselves. We take solace in pictures, and we wipe the hills of history.

-Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk

Beyond Human

We, with our propensity for murder, torture, slavery, rape, cannibalism, pillage, advertising jingles, shag carpets, and golf, how could we be seriously considered as the perfection of a four-billion-year-old grandiose experiment? Perhaps as a race, we have evolved as far as we are capable, yet that by no means suggests that evolution has called it quits. In all likelihood, it has something beyond human on the drawing board. We tend to refer to our most barbaric and crapulous behaviour as “inhuman,” whereas, in point of fact, it is exactly human, definitively and quintessentially human, since no other creature habitually indulges in comparable atrocities.

-Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas

“Against [a] shifting phantasmagoric world in which black may be white tomorrow and yesterday’s weather can be changed by decree …”

Some perspectives on truth, Fascism and hope from George Orwell’s Looking Back on the Spanish War:

… This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history. … The implied objective … is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. if the Leader says of such and such an event, ‘It never happened’ – well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five – well, two and two are five.

… Yet this does not alter the fact that the working class will go on struggling against Fascism after the others have caved in. The intelligentsia are the people who squeal the loudest against Fascism, and yet a respectable portion of them collapse into defeatism when the pinch comes. With the working class it is the other way about. Too ignorant to see through the trick that is being played on them, they easily swallow the promises of Fascism, yet sooner or later they always take up the struggle again. They must do so, because in their own bodies they always discover that the promises of Fascism cannot be fulfilled. To win over the working class permanently, the Fascists would have to raise the general standard of living, which they are unable and probably unwilling to do. The struggle of the working class is like the growth of a plant. The plant is blind and stupid, but it knows enough to keep pushing upwards towards the light and it will do this in the face of endless discouragements.

When one thinks of all the people who support or have supported Fascism, one stands amazed at their diversity. What a crew! … But the clue is really very simple. They are all people with something to lose, or people who long for a hierarchical society and dread the prospect of a world of free and equal human beings. Behind all the ballyhoo … lies the simple intention of those with money or privileges to cling to them. … All that the workingman demands is what these others would consider the indispensable minimum without which human life cannot be lived at all. … The question is very simple. Shall people … be allowed to live the decent, fully human life which is now technically achievable, or shan’t they? Shall common man be pushed back into the mud, or shall he not? I myself believe … that the common man will win his fight sooner or later, but I want it to be sooner and not later – some time within the next hundred years, say, and not some time within the next ten thousand years.