Thursday, 17 November 2016

Russell to Mosley, January 1962

It's frustrating that few politicians can write or say to Trump what Bertrand Russell in his 90s expressed with such elegant concision to Oswald Mosley*.

Obama's loyalty to the dignity appropriate to his high office is understandable. But it's painful to watch. I look forward, in one way only, to the moment when he relinquishes it, when he can - as he has already intimated - say all the things that have been denied him as President. Clearly his successor has no such qualms about dignity and is still churning out his semi-literate Twitter attacks. Well, maybe he will learn the hard way.

Can other politicans stop saying 'let's wait and see' and call Trump out for what he represents? This Irish senator, Labor MP Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, clearly can, but he's in a minority.

I share my dear American friend Sue Scheid's focused anger against everyone who voted for any candidate other than Hillary Clinton. All were deluded, and all are responsible for threatening to send the world to hell in a handcart, or a dumptruck, choose your vehicle. Those who did so and are protesting can do what they want but in my opinion they forfeited that right.

Fortunately it also seems, to judge from two strong features in today's Guardian, that the tide is turning against the insidious liberal notion that both this and Brexit were the result of the dispossessed kicking against the elite. And can the press stop using the word 'alt-right' and call it by its proper name, fascism?

We will watch him every millimetre of the way and fight back, or at least from the UK try to help enable others to do so.

Update (21/11): so far the President-elect's actions, apart from the horrendous people he's been appointing as his inner circle, have been to lash out on Twitter against a TV chat show and a Broadway musical.  And this is the man who promised to fight IS?

*Transcript in case it's too small to read:

22 January 1962

Sir Oswald Mosley,
5, Lowndes Court,
Lowndes Square,
London, S.W.1.

Dear Sir Oswald,

Thank you for your letter and for your enclosures. I have given some thought to our recent correspondence. It is always difficult to decide on how to respond to people whose ethos is so alien and, in fact, repellent to one’s own. It is not that I take exception to the general points made by you but that every ounce of my energy has been devoted to an active opposition to cruel bigotry, compulsive violence, and the sadistic persecution which has characterised the philosophy and practice of fascism.

I feel obliged to say that the emotional universes we inhabit are so distinct, and in deepest ways opposed, that nothing fruitful or sincere could ever emerge from association between us.

I should like you to understand the intensity of this conviction on my part. It is not out of any attempt to be rude that I say this but because of all that I value in human experience and human achievement.

Yours sincerely,
Bertrand Russell


Susan Scheid said...

Thank you, David, above all for providing needed perspective from abroad. We in the US are too sheltered and naive in the face of this. I fear for everyone around the world. The Irish senator is Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. He is a hero, as I fear too many will not be.

David said...

Now inserted, many thanks. He would no doubt scoff at the notion of being a hero, saying - as real heroes, and I apply that term to both sexes, do - that he could not be/do otherwise.

As I wrote, I really hope Obama will be liberated to use tougher language once he leaves office. As Mark Wigglesworth said of a microcosmally comparable role at ENO - he is in the 'oval office' there until the last performance of Berg's Lulu on Saturday evening, which will be my third visit - one chapter ends and another begins.

There is a curious sense for us that, quite apart from the lessons of history, we know the ropes from our lesser disaster this year, including the apparent licence to hate and people's surprise that it happens even in the most supposedly tolerant cities and on the most liberal of campuses.

At least here there is no inclination on the side of the opposition to let the Brexiters get away with anything, much as the judges and Gina Miller have been on the receiving end of ever viler behaviour (that courageous woman - again, a hero just doing what she sees right - really fears for her life now).

Susan Scheid said...

Particularly with the example of Brexit to go by, we had no excuse. Sanders, however, as is his wont, pulling the speech he'd typed up on his old typewriter in 1971 (there is a photograph of this that I wish I could find), has been and remains on the totally wrong track about how Brexit was to be read. This is not about left/right, but open/closed, and if we in the US are to get this right (if we have the chance, which is open to doubt), we must change the paradigm. I want also to offer one corrective to the dominant narrative that is important to keep in mind. That is, despite the hurricane winds at her face, including the weaponizing of democratic institutions (e.g. Comey, the FBI, and notably the media, which constantly took the bait dangled before them), foreign interference (Assange-Putin), the right's decades old and ongoing delegitimization of the Clintons, the Democrats, and our democracy itself, as well as the demagogic weaponizing of a portion of the electorate by both Sanders and Trump (about 25% voted for Trump, perhaps even less), including appeals to misogyny and against the evil "establishment" by both candidates, and appeals to racism, bigotry, and xenophobia by Trump, Clinton won. The electoral college result is not legitimate and should never be treated as such. It is estimated that, by the time all the votes are counted, she will have garnered a 2 million vote lead in the popular vote. I believe, therefore, that had she been able to proceed without these hurricane headwinds, she would have, as was predicted earlier on, won by a landslide, sweeping a Democratic majority into the Senate and eroding the majority in the House. There is no woman in the United States who could have withstood what she faced. She is a remarkable woman, and we must all honor her fight. That she will not be in the White House, and with enough of a Congress to govern toward the good, as she is and always has been dedicated to do, and that this should be at the hands of someone totally unfit to hold this office, and a sexual predator to boot, is beyond contemplation.

David said...

Can I have an Amen to that, as RuPaul would say (where is Ru in our hour of need? Believe me, I'm not trivializing the issue when I say that an appearance would give power to those in the LGBT community fearful or hurt). You have summed up with perfect focused anger.

Yet contemplate we must, and transfer into action. Is it civil disobedience all the way?

On the open/closed issue, which I know we both firmly believe, there should be a paradigm in the Richmond Park by-election. The Lib Dems, which I joined having cancelled my Labour party subscription, are trying to marshal a centrist/open coalition against Zac Goldsmith, the Brexiter who went along with a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan for Mayor of London. The Green candidate gave way to make their path easier. Let's see what happens there. Great oaks from little acorns grow.

David Damant said...

Visser 't Hooft, Secretary General of the World Council of Churches during the years of WW2, and a great man, did a great deal for the Jews and for other good things in those terrible years. He also came out with a wise saying, that he did not compromise his work by making public statements. Speaking out has a high profile these days, but I suggest that it should be employed only after asking two questions - what good will it do? And what harm can it do?

David said...

Deeds always beat words, but in this case I'd argue that Americans need to hear encouraging speeches like this when so many world leaders 'congratulate' and 'welcome' the new incumbent and 'look forward to doing business with him'.

David Damant said...

The world leaders will indeed have to work with Trump and sending the conventional congratulations is a necessary step for them.

I do think that the elections of the US President should be by popular vote nowadays. If I remember correctly, Gore had more votes that Bush but the Electoral College had the majority for Bush. Unfortunately the US Constitution is a religion with them.

David said...

We've already seen an imaginative way of doing it from Merkel. Sad that such a great lady has to carry the flame alone among the leaders of the bigger European countries. Interesting to see how Justin Trudeau handles it.

Susan Scheid said...

I agree with you both, in this sense: A type of public commentary that is critically needed now is that which is educative (my first comment above is intended as a small contribution to that). We in the US are profoundly naive and unaware of authoritarianism and how it takes root; we believe our democracy is unshakeable, that it couldn't happen here, for after all, aren't we the number 1 world power? And yet it has.

Obama's comments at a press conference in Germany, on "fake news" and its consequences, are an excellent example of the educative approach. In contrast, everything that comes out of Sanders's mouth is a pre-ordained position, off on the wrong track, and without regard to the facts. The Irish Senator's comments are a blend, in that he is both educating and calling upon Ireland to recognize what has happened and to take an appropriate stance in response. We in the US need to hear that, too. Not only is it encouraging to those of us who already recognize what has happened here, but it demonstrates to those who can't yet fathom it how the world sees the US now. In contrast, the Guardian headline today, "Shinzo Abe says Japan can have confidence in Donald Trump," if accurate, is horrifying on every level.

What paths for action are best will take time to unfold; there is in the US right now too much of a rush to act, willy-nilly. Racing to Washington Square with your usual cohort to chant and wave signs may make one feel better, but as Clinton has said, "Anger is not a plan." Your Lib-Dem model holds promise, and I look forward to following along. Members of our local Democratic party have called a meeting to take stock. It is a hopeful sign.

(Also, David, you are right to note homophobia, which I left off above and should have included. Also, on the list of headwinds in this election was voter suppression. This was the first election in 50 years in which the Voting Rights Act was not fully in place, as some of its features had been struck down by a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.)

David said...

Yes, I too was horrified by the headline about Shinzo Abe and couldn't bear to read further.

On LinkedIn now there is a fabulous photo of Michelle in Versace, promoted by that company ahead of her appearance in Vogue. It started out with prelapsarian innocent accolades, mine included, but after 34 or so comments the Trumpite trolls weighed in. Nothing should shock us now but needless to say there were several even worse than the Virginia mayor-approved obscenity which left us gasping in amazement.

One commenter gamely expressed the hope of sitting down with these trolls, betting they wouldn't be so vile face to face. I wonder. I stick to Bertrand Russell's line. No engagement.

Susan Scheid said...

I had not seen the two comments above, so just to add this: Agree with David N that Merkel's approach is a good model. Abe's is awful, if accurate, validating the worst. David D is right, that Gore, too, won the popular vote. It has happened 5 times over our history, as I recall. The electoral college is anti-democratic and its abolishment must not be dropped this time around (it rises in election cycles where it's relevant, then falls off the screen again). There is a very smart initiative that has been underway for quite a while that does not require a constitutional amendment. Here, again, education on this issue will be critical to overcome embedded resistance to this type of change.

David said...

I don't understand the issue of electoral colleges but am trying to learn fast...

David Damant said...

The Electoral College is a matter of States rights, and the states would never agree since if they allowed this how many of their other rights would be in question?