Friday, 9 September 2011
Ten years of talking about it
I don't have much to add to my Arts Desk review of Headlong's Decade, directed by the brilliant Rupert Goold, in what they call a 'sitespecific' happening near Tower Hill: it was impressive to watch 12 top-notch performers acting, and dancing, their all through variable material. But it does seem appropriate to quote the end of Simon Schama's speech, the only one of the 20 scripts in the invaluable published playtext which attempts 'the truth' with a little help from Thomas Jefferson's wisdom.
In last night's context it felt a bit preachy, even if it was perhaps a necessary grounding among the polyphony. Still, as a West Wing fanatic who wonders what he's going to do when Series Seven comes to an end, I applaud the sentiments. So let me just quote the end of Schama's 'Epic':
...democracy is not in the piety business. It must tolerate everything but armed intolerance. Our only true enemies are the battalions of armed conformity. Jefferson said it best: 'it does no injury to me for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pockets nor breaks my purse'.
Is the light of our Enlightenment so extinct that we have forgotten that this was supremely an American voice?
A voice that didn't shout 'GOD is great'.
What it said instead was
'Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself...she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error and has nothing to fear from...conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them'.
That's what should rise from Ground Zero. In letters of light. Every night.
Because you don't measure victory by the height of the building, but the power of your idea.
You can't bomb an idea you see; you can't murder it, you can't cremate it.
The idea wins. The idea lives.
When it's the truth.
Thank you, messrs Schama and Jefferson.