Wednesday, February 14, 2007

V-Day Post

I was asked not to write a Valentine's Day post on account of a wholy unwarranted assumption that I would be a "cynical, nasty and bitter young man" about the whole thing. Oh how little people know me. Thank goodness.

There are those on the left who regard emotions and subjectivity as things that are not real, with no substance, but I think these people miss the point that just because human nature is not set it does not mean that the way we are and the things we think and feel don't exist.

I've heard more than once that there is no such thing as morality - which is tripe. Morals can get you killed, make you famous, blow up bridges and enslave millions in dead end jobs of impoverishment and hurt. What could be more real than that?

Likewise "love" may not be eternal in the way some poets would have you believe but it's certainly a real phenomenon that can break backs with one well placed word. But it is also a word you'll be hard placed to find in Marxist papers or leftist texts whose focus on the inequities of the world rarely allows space for those things most of us see as genuinely creative desires.

So I remain to be conviced that love, morals, religious feeling and winning the lottery are all myths without substance. Mythologised perhaps, but certainly they are a very real part of the stuff of life.

However, English is a blunt language and we have just one word to express love for your mother, friends, cake, husband, bit on the side and Arsenal Football Club. I'd say the feelings I might have when confronted with a curve of the neck that seems to encapsulate, perhaps just for that moment, all that is warm, graceful and right with the world are not the same as my love of cheese puffs. Although at times these things can be equally intense.

We end up qualifying the word, often clumsily. 'Romantic' love, 'parental' love... prefixes that take the edge off one of the most powerful words in the language and yet do so little to clarify specific meaning.

Herbert Marcuse famously said that "Not every problem someone has with his girlfriend is necessarily due to the capitalist mode of production" which is, of course, wrong when you take a broad historical outlook, but is probably worth bearing in mind when considering leaving the washing up un-washed up.

Now whilst I'd argue that love has to have a place in any progressive form of politics I wouldn't want to go the whole hog and say we need to place it at the centre. Anger, at injustice, poverty, waste, war is a gift with great value. Reason, our ability to work at a problem with our brains, clearly has to be there, right at the top.

However, at the end of the day, at heart, becoming a green or a socialist or an anarchist is a value judgement. A subjective decision that, for example, to discriminate on the basis of skin colour, or religious denomination, does not just cause the victims hurt and has a knock on effect in our ability to unite together but is out and out wrong, and has to stop - it's a bad thing regardless of rationalisations.

I'd argue that politics without love is John Reid, Thatcher, Khrushchev. Without love it's David fucking Miliband. Love doesn't make someone right - but it does make them connected and human - and without that changing the world is a very dangerous game indeed.


voyou said...

Or, to put it another way: "Decisively Smash Retrograde And Joyless Ultra-Left Lines Which Disparage Proletarian Love And Desire!!"

Daniel S. Ketelby said...

I'd argue that politics without love is John Reid, Thatcher, Khrushchev. Without love it's David fucking Miliband...

What's politics with love?

Love doesn't make someone right...

No indeed. Timothy Garton Ash records the words of a bewildered Erich Honecker to some East Germans, in the aftermath of the collapse of the DDR. "But I loved you all...!"

Jim Jay said...

Politics *with* love (which I'm not touting as a hard and fast concept) would be politics that recognises that society is made up of individual human beings and cares about what happens to them.

That political decisions effect real people and that tries to tap into the talents and aspirations of political activists rather than treating them as units in a military campaign

studentmedic said...

Thank you Jim. Nice post. I think it hits on something (among the many) the Green Party recognizes better, by far, than any other party: this whole politics malarky is really just about emancipating human beings to experience the world, to take joy from it and to take joy from interactions with each other unhindered by poverty, climate change, hate and war.

Call me a bit simplistic, but sometimes it's nice to just cut the crap and expose the basis of it all - something all too readily forgotten.


Jim Jay said...

Cheers mate