Archive for July, 2011

History, again

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

I have small boys, so I try to simplify history for them. I want to help them understand the world they see today. I tell them, people treat each other in two ways. We fight to get things for ourselves. Or we work together to get things for everyone. The first way is the law of the jungle. Might is right. People get what they deserve. This often sounds like deep truth. People respond to it – especially when they’ve already gotten what they want.

Working together is for when we don’t have what we want. We can easily cooperate and defeat the law of the jungle, and most of us draw deep satisfaction from doing so. But it’s tough to keep up, exactly because we’re so successful. We get what we want. Then we start fighting each other again. Because we like it.

That’s all the kids need to know about politics.

And respect for human beings

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

It was recently the seventy-fifth anniversary of Gone With the Wind. I heard it on the radio. There was some discussion. Someone said Margaret ordered her manuscripts burned, because she didn’t think the public had a right to unpublished work. Someone else was surprised at Margaret’s ‘lack of respect’ for all the students and scholars who came later; who were eager to know how she put together her great novel.

Look, there is a difference between promiscuity and making love. Those who have enjoyed both know it. It’s the difference between ‘social networking’ and thoughtful publication. There’s no such thing as a right to see people naked. Clearly, a lot of us are ready to strut the web pages, flashing everything we’ve got.

But nothing, really, worth showing.

The public doesn’t deserve a  thing. The public doesn’t even exist. It’s an idea, marketed to those of us who hope someone is listening. This turns out to be most of us. But Margaret was right. When it’s really thought through, then worked over, and thought through again; when you’ve hurt yourself a little, to make something worth being seen – when you stand it up in the sun and let go of it, then there it is. You’ve lost it. The world can claim it for its own. But the stuff that goes on before and after, between you and me, is ours. We don’t owe it to anybody.