Monday, April 21, 2008

Politics, the alieanated beast...

This was a reply to a comment by Imani to my previous post... grown too long for the comment box.

I have little interest in overtly political art, politically driven literature. Work that has aesthetic merit will be political in the best sense--like Homer or Blake, without having to narrow the goal to aim for it. I've been feeling a "concern," as the Quakers say, something deeply personal. I'm not sure how to get my thoughts around it. I suppose... more than suppose, that the source has to do with how difficult it's been to balance these disparate demands on my time: my teaching responsibilities, my writing, and the volunteer work I've been doing on the Obama campaign.

There is no way I can choose one over another. Teaching nourishes me as a writer, gives me a place in the world, an emotional and psychological security, and what drives me to write, that which wakens me from my private garden of wishes, will not let me forget that I am not--that I do not exist as one alone. We find ourselves as individuals by incorporating what is other.

A tortured way of putting it. If I could find easy expression for what is gnawing at me, there would be no crisis. And there is.

Break it down. That's what I tell my students when they struggle to find words for complex ideas. Name the parts. Then trace their relationships.

The part that I don't know how to assimilate--the political. Break through from the abstract to the concrete. I tell them that, too.

I spent the day grading papers, and wanted to be out on the street knocking on doors. Yesterday, I spent hours in the heat doing just that: knocking on doors--and I was happy! But I have papers to grade, a novel to complete. And happy as I was--this airy sense of freedom--there were dreams of a private garden apart from all that, dreams of a deeper happiness.

I've come to see this as more than a personal crisis, as something perhaps symptomatic, where the political has come to occupy a place apart, an abnormal independence-power and the machinations of power removed from the needs that produced them, removed from the means they are meant to serve.

I respond to the rhetoric Obama employs precisely because it exposes this rupture. I feel it in my bones. I have terrible waking dreams of the alignment of forces I fear this will provoke. Some of these dreams have human faces, remembered--the doors that opened when I knocked.

We are a beast torn apart, fighting against itself, limb against limb, organ against organ, cell against cell.

That's what politics has become.

And it's become that because we have isolated it, removed it from the normal course of life and tradition... where it grows malignant and returns to infect every other alienated aspect of life... religion, culture...

We must find a way to reintegrate politics into our lives, all the aspects of our lives, without turning everything into politics... politics as the alien beast it has become.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that we often want to keep politics separate - why is that more comfortable? Because we'd rather the machine run smoothly and leave us to our lives? I'm not sure its that simple.
    I like your thought about re-integrating politics and wish I had an idea about how to go about doing that. Most people don't pay attention until something goes wrong or threatens the surface of their existence.
    Literature is definitely a place to explore the possibilities, although literature isn't inherently safe, it can be a "safe" place for reflection.