quote for today

I'm in the middle of a once-famous but now-largely-ignored book by Arthur Koestler called Darkness at Noon. Ever heard of it? Me neither. But it's better than Orwell's 1984. By "better" I of course don't mean in any permanent, objective sense--1984 influenced millions and was required reading in my high school and many others during the Cold War, I'm sure. But Darkness at Noon is better written and more under-the-surface dark rather than blatant, in your face, despairingly dark like 1984. It feels very much like reading a WWII version of Dostoevsky or Solzhenitsyn though not as explicitly Christian. If you're into Russian lit., think about reading it. Anyway, in the middle of the narrative, there are diary entries by the main character, N. S. Rubashov. Rubashov was a leader in the Bolshevik revolution in 1917/8, friends with Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin, etc. But though he was a loyal member of the Party for is whole life, he's imprisioned by Stalin in 1938 during the "Moscow Trials". During these trials, Stalin eliminated most of his former revolutionary friends, many of whom were tortured and shot in the head even after signing confessions that they recognized Stalin as the legitimate leader of the Soviet Union and fully supported him. The Rubashov character represents three such former revolutionaries that were systematically brutally tortured and killed, one at least a close personal friends of Koestler, the author. But back to my point: these diary entries are amazing commentaries about politics, ideology, and the corruption of power. Though the regime they directly address is gone, the implications of these words have not disappeared. Here's a quote: "A hundred and fifty years ago, they day of the storming of the Bastille [the French Revolution], the European swing, after long inaction, again started to move. It had pushed off from tyranny with gusto; with an apparently uncheckable impetus, it had swung up toward the blue sky of freedom. For a hundred years it had risen higher and higher into the spheres of liberalism and democracy. But, see, gradually the pace slowed down, the swing neared the summit and turning point of its course...it started the movement backward, with ever-increasing speed. With the same impetus as on the way up, the swing carried its passengers back from freedom to tyranny again. He who had gazed upward instead of clinging on became dizzy and fell out.... "The amount of individual freedom which a people may conquer and keep depends on the degree of its political maturity. The aforementioned pendulum swing seems to indicate that the political maturing of the masses does not follow a continuous rising curve, as does the growing up of an individual, but that it is governed by more complicated laws. "The maturity of the masses lies in the capacity to recognize their own interests. This, however, presupposes a certain understanding of the process of production and distribution of goods. A people's capacity to govern itself democratically is thus proportionate to the degree of its understanding of the structure and functioning of the whole social body."


Anonymous Ray Grieselhuber said...

I've been on the lookout for a new book - I'll keep my eye out for it.

6/08/2005 2:26 AM  

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