at the mention of anarchism


Herbert Read’s Poetry and Anarchism was first published in 1938 when I was one year old. I consumed it in the 1960’s—it became a part of me then. Having a clearout the other day I came across a slim volume containing a long poem I derived from Herbert Read’s great book sometime in the early 1990’s. It remains close to my heart and soul…

at the sound of the word ‘anarchism’
(infantile disorder of the Latin temperament)
the bourgeois press conjures up
a bearded figure wearing a wide-brimmed hat
and carrying a home-made bomb in his pocket…

to declare for a doctrine
so remote as anarchism
at this stage of history
will be regarded by many
as a sign of intellectual bankruptcy;

by others as a sort of treason…
a desertion of the democratic front
at the most acute moment
of its crisis;           by still others
as mere poetic nonsense;

for myself  it is a mature realisation
of the essential rightness
of Proudhon  Tolstoy and Kropotkin—
a realisation of the necessity
(or the probity)  of an intellectual

confining oneself to essentials
I declare myself openly
for the only political doctrine
consistent with a love of Justice
and a need for freedom

II

but there is nothing
I so instinctively avoid
as a static system of ideas:
I realise that form pattern
and order are essential aspects
of existence; but in themselves
they are the attributes of death—
to make life
to ensure progress
to create interest and vividness
it is necessary to break
form;  to distort
pattern;  to change
the nature of our civilisation;

in order to create
it is necessary to destroy—
the agent of destruction in society
is the poet (necessarily
an anarchist) opposing
all organised conceptions of the State—
not only those inherited from the past
but equally those imposed on people
in the name of the future
both Fascist and Marxist

III

I have arrived
at a personal equation:
my ideas relate to myself—
conditioned by origin
environment and economics;

my happiness consists in the fact
that I have found the equation
between the reality of my being
and the direction of my thoughts

IV

in spite of my intellectual pretensions
I am by birth and tradition
a peasant; I despise
this foul industrial epoch—
not only the plutocracy
which it has raised to power
but also the industrial proletariat
which it has drained from the land
and proliferated in hovels
of indifferent brick

my natural sympathy
is for the agricultural class
including the genuine remnants
of a landed aristocracy
(Bakunin Kropotkin Tolstoy—
of the land—aristocrats and peasants)

people cultivating the earth—
that is the elementary economic fact:
as a poet I am only concerned
with elementary facts

V

deep down my attitude is a protest
against the fate which has made me
a poet in an industrial age:
it is almost impossible to be a poet
in an industrial age; nevertheless
I realise that industrialism
must be endured; the poet
must have the bowels to digest
its iron aliment

I have embraced industrialism
tried to give it its true
aesthetic principles
all because I wanted to be through with it;
wanted to get to the other side of it
into a world of electric power
and mechanical plenty
when people can once more
return to the land
not as peasants but as lords

the ether will deliver us the power
which the old landlords            :
extracted from the serfs:
there will be no need to enslave
a single human soul;
we shall be in contact with the land;
we shall have soil and not cement
under our feet;  we shall live
from the produce of our fields
not from the canned pulp of factories

VI

I am not concerned
with the practicality of a programme—

I am only concerned to establish truth
and to resist all forms of dictation and coercion;

I shall endeavour to live as an individual—
to develop my individuality;

if necessary I shall be isolated in a prison
rather than submit to the indignities

of war and collectivism—the only protest
an individual can make against the mass stupidity

of the modern world… you can do it
(if you can afford it)  from the safe distance

of a New Mexican Thebaid—but if you are poor
you must cut a wry romantic figure

on the ash-heaps of your own
out-raged country

VII

in the parochial atmosphere of England
to profess a belief in anarchism
is to commit political suicide

but there are more ways than one
of committing suicide—of escaping
from the unendurable injustice of life:

one way is the mortal and effective way
another is the way of the Thebaid—
the way taken by an artist like Gauguin

who realised the necessity of imagination
and set out consciously to seek it—
to create the material conditions

in which it would function—
“my mind is made up—
I want soon to go to Tahiti

where material life has no need of money;
a terrible epoch is being prepared
in Europe for the coming generation—

it is the reign of Gold; everything is rotten
people and the arts … whereas life
to the Tahitian consists of singing

and making love;  once my material life
is well-organised I shall be able
to give myself up entirely to painting

free from artistic jealousy
and without any necessity
for shady dealing…”

but Gauguin found that even in the South Seas
you cannot escape the reign of Gold—
you merely found yourself at its outposts

having to fight its most degraded exponents
single-handedly… you can  in short
only escape from civilisation

by entirely renouncing it—by giving up
the struggle for beauty and fame and wealth—
all bourgeois values to which Gauguin

still pathetically clung… since then
civilisation has gone from bad to worse
and many desire to escape

to some fertile soil under a summer sky
to devote themselves entirely to their art
free from the distractions of an insane world

but apart from the practical difficulty
of finding a secure refuge in this world
the truth is that we cannot escape

from ourselves; our worst disease
is what we create out of our own isolation:
uncriticised fantasies & personal symbols

& private fetishes—the source of all art
is irrational and automatic
(you cannot create a work of art

by taking thought)  but you only acquire
significance by being a member of society:
art is a product of the relationship

which exists between an individual
and society—no great art
is possible without  (as corresponding

and contemporary activities)
the spontaneous freedom of the individual
and the passive coherence of a society…

to escape from society  (if that were possible)
is to escape from the only soil
fertile enough to nourish art;

there remains  (after either species
of suicide)  the path I have chosen:
to reduce my beliefs

to fundamentals  to shed everything
temporal and opportunist  and then to stay
where you are           and suffer   if you must

VIII

we can understand and draw courage
and resolution from the death of Garcia Lorca
shot by Fascists at Granada in 1936—

an undisguised hatred of poets
is preferable to the callous indifference
of our own rulers: in England

poets are not regarded as dangerous individuals
merely as a type that can be ignored:
give then a job in an office

and if they won’t work let them starve—
in one way or another poetry is stifled
or turned into a joke—that is the world-wide fate

of poetry; wars and revolutions
have achieved nothing for culture
because they have achieved nothing for freedom…

the doctrinaire civilisations
which are forced on the world
by their very structure and principles

exclude the values   in which
and for which
the poet lives

IX

Hegel sought
to relegate art
(product of sensation)
to a past historical stage
in human development:

a primitive
mode of thought
or representation
gradually superseded
by intellect or reason

to be put away
like a discarded toy—
Hegel was a victim
of the evolutionary concepts
of his time…

but    intellect develops
not by improving
or eliminating
the primary sensations
or the instinct—

they remain submerged
but clamant—
art is (if anything)
more necessary today
than in the Stone Age

when it was
a spontaneous exercise
of innate faculties
as art still is
with young children—

art has become
something much more serious—
the release
(generally vicarious)
of repressions;

a compensation
for the abstraction
of the intellect—
a necessary mode
of acquiring a knowledge

of certain aspects
of reality—
when Marx
turned Hegel upside down
(or inside out)

he accepted
the dismissal of art
to the childhood
of humanity—
since art

had been eliminated
from the domain
of the spirit
of the negation
of that domain—

a mere
ideological superstructure
to be accounted for
by the economic
analysis of society—

no recognition of art
as a primary factor
in human experience
as a mode of knowledge
as a means

of apprehending
the meaning
or quality
of life—rather
a subordinate

and slavish role—
a means of
illustrating the sterile
concepts of intelligence
emphasising the obvious

X

if we consider the world’s great artists and poets
the essential process is that of a seed
falling on fertile ground  germinating
and growing and in due course reaching maturity;
just as certainly as the flower and the fruit
are implicit in the single seed  so the genius
of poet or painter is contained in the individual
and the soil must be favourable   the plant
nourished; it will be distorted by winds
and accidental injuries but the growth is unique—
the configuration unique; the fruit unique:
all apples are very much alike  but no two
are exactly the same

a genius is the tree
which has produced the unknown fruit
the golden apples of the Hesperides

when artists are required to produce
what the public wants (or when they imagine
that they must produce what will turn into Gold)
they are like trees which one year is expected
to produce plums of a uniform size and appearance;
a few years later apples  and finally cucumbers…

XI

the moment of creation
is still and magical—
a trance or reverie

in which you hold communion
with forces which lie
below the habitual level

of thought and emotion—
politician and fanatic
bully and shout

and force artists
into the hubbub
of practical activities

where they can only produce
mechanically
to an intellectually determined

pattern—art
cannot be produced
under such conditions

but only a dry
and ineffectual
semblance of it

XII

to the English the artist is essentially odd—
abnormal; but this normality we value so much
is no more than the most common neurosis—
a retreat from the reality of life—a nervous mask;

everything in English life supports
this view: the normal person is nervous—
their laughter an expression of nervousness;
English laughter (capitalist laughter)
is not bodily laughter
not belly laughter
like the laughter of Chaucer and Rabelais;
it is mental laughter
caused by an unconscious disturbance
of suppressed instincts
(the sexual instinct being most in question)

and from suppression comes hypocrisy
& prudishness & coldness in love
& lack of wit & indifference to the plastic arts
which give fixed material expression
to personal impulse—thus infringing
the limits of normality
as compared with the comparatively transitory
and fluid material of music and poetry

some foreign observers
puzzled by the complete lack
of the plastic sense in the English
have attempted to find it in unexpected places:
a Danish architect made an exhibition of the real
(the unrecognised)  English arts;
the chef d’oeuvre was the English football;
there were English boots
and English tennis rackets;
suitcases & saddles
and probably a water-closet

in such articles  (it was maintained)
we showed a supreme sense of form
(of abstract form)
a charming idea but the English
weren’t flattered they laughed
in their nervous manner:
it was a stunt  a good joke
“you never know what these foreigners
will get up to next…”

XIII

it is only in the English home
(the English person’s castle as they say)
that the full horror of the neurosis of normality
will be revealed—all over the world
capitalism has spread its net of mental debauchery
& its standardisation of taste;  its imposition
of material values—but in England
the natural instincts have been so long deformed
that they no longer function

sensibility is dead;
the only criterion of judgement
is convention—
the acceptance
of a standard
imposed by manufacturers
whose only criterion
is profit

we are the victims of an historical process;
our lack of taste is merely
our lack of social freedom

with the growth of individualism
began the growth of capitalism—
the public good (the common-wealth)
was subordinated to private good & private wealth;
religion and morality were adapted
to the new economic order
(spiritual values divorced from worldly values)

such is the general aspect of the change

but the individual suffers—
no longer a cell within the spiritual
and economic womb of the community
it develops a new kind of consciousness—
the protective mechanism of a mind
exposed to criticism
growing a shell of normality
a hard opaque exterior
which admits no light
and beneath which the senses stir
like blind maggots

XIV

the cause of the arts
is the cause of revolution

art is only healthy
where  (within one organic consciousness)

all modes of life
all senses and all faculties

function freely and harmoniously—
the English have suffered

the severest form of capitalist exploitation:
we have paid for it

not only in physical horror and destitution—
in appalling deserts of cinders and smoke

in whole cities of slums
and rivers of filth—

we have paid for it also
in a death of the spirit

we have no taste
because we have no freedom

we have no freedom
because we have no faith in our common humanity

XV

poet—a creature
of intuitions and sympathies
shrinking from definiteness
and doctrinaire attitudes

pledged to the shifting process
of reality—unable to subscribe
to the static provisions
of a policy…

poet (maker) has
two principle duties:
to mirror the world as it is
and to imagine the world as it night be

a legislator—
but the House of Poets
is even more incapacitated
than the House of Lords:

disenfranchised by lack of residence
in any fixed constituency
wandering faithlessly
in the no man’s land of imagination

the poet cannot
(without renouncing an essential function)
come to rest in the bleak conventicles
of a political party

not pride keeps the poet outside
but humility; devotion to the complex
wholeness of humanity—magnanimity;
largeness of soul

XVI

Trotsky said
that all through history
the mind limps after reality:
so you must compound with circumstances

reality is a manifold—
a four-pronged magnet
(of matter & sensation & intellect
& intuition) the same lines of force
running through
its parallel prongs…

the discipline of art
directs the sensibility
the creative energy &  intuition
into formal patterns
symbolic shapes
allegorical fables
dramatic myths

but discipline  (the order it gives)
does not exist for itself
it is not an end but a means;
it is not even a general
(or universal)  form
to be imposed
on a multitude of phenomena—

it is an individual sense
of rhythm or harmony:
there are metres but not metre;
forms but not form;
only in variation
does the artist achieve
beauty—the discipline of art
is not static;
it is continually changing—
essentially revolutionary—

but each line of force
isolated on a separate prong
denies the relevance
of the force animating the other prongs

no one sees
it is the same force
transforming the whole of reality
(the interpretation of reality)

XVII

Gorky said
reality always lags behind
the human mind

XVIII

there is every reason to believe
that with modern mechanical power
and modern methods of production
there is (or could be)  a sufficiency of goods
to satisfy all reasonable demands—
it is only necessary
to organise an efficient system
of distribution and exchange—
why is it not done?

because the existing inefficient system
benefits a small minority of people
who have accumulated
sufficient power
to maintain it
against any opposition—

the power of gold
of tradition
of inertia
of information—
the power to keep other people
in a state of ignorance

if the superstitious credulity of the masses
could be shaken;  if the fantastic dogmas
of the economists could be exposed;
if the problem could be seen
in all its simplicity and realism
by the simplest worker and peasant
the existing economic system
would not last a day longer

and it is better to start with a revolution
than to go through the slow-motion agony
of a so-called transitional period
which is merely a bureaucratic device
for postponing the inevitable

XIX

the inevitable is the classless society
without a bureaucracy
without an army
without any closed grade or profession
without any functionless components

a hierarchy of talent
a division of labour
only within the functional group
the collective organisation

reward will not take the form
of any kind of money                :
or tokens of exchange
which give people power
to command the services of another
outside the collective organisation

tokens of exchange should only be
redeemable in goods
and should have a limited period
of validity—the hoarding of money
and all forms of usury
should be regarded as unnatural vices—
tendencies to be prevented
by the psychologist in infancy

XX

the only object of work
should be immediate enjoyment;

there should be no work done
in excess of immediate needs

(except such as may be required
to insure against the risks

of natural calamities)—work
in general should be subordinated

to the enjoyment of life—only to be regarded
as a necessary interval in the day’s leisure;

the very distinction between work and leisure
is born of our slave-ridden mentality…

the enjoyment of life is the activity of life
an undifferentiated performance

of mental and manual functions
things done  and things made

in response to a natural impulse
or desire—if classlessness

calls up the image of a dull level
of mediocrity—no masters and no servants

no palaces and no cottages… no Rolls Royces
and no donkey carts—all one uniform scale…

of self-sufficient individuals
living in model houses

travelling in uniform Fords
along endless uniform roads

we must say that there is no uniformity of desire
and that uniformity itself is an unintelligent

nightmare only to be created
by the tyranny of a totalitarian regime

XXI

the society I desire and will and plan
is a leisure society
giving full opportunity
for the education and development of the mind

which only requires time and space
to differentiate itself—

ordinary people
under the present unjust system
have their education stopped
before their mind is fully opened;
caught up in an endless treadmill
they have neither time nor opportunity
to feed their undeveloped senses—
snatching at the diuretic pabulum
of the newspapers and the radio
they only tread the mill more urgently

XXII

government over persons
will be replaced by the administration of things
and the direction
of the processes of production

thereafter the State will wither away

XXIII

the anarchist is one who
dares to resist
the authority of the father—

no longer content
to be governed by a blind
unconscious identification

of leader with father
or by the inhibited instincts
which alone make

such an identification possible—
some individuals (in the exigency
of longing) may once have been moved

to free themselves from the group
and take over the father’s part:
they were the first epic poets—

the advance was achieved
in the imagination; they invented
the heroic myth—the heroes

were those who had slain the father
who appeared in the myth
as a totemistic monster

the further step anarchists now take
is to pass from myth and imagination
to reality and action—they come of age:

they disown the father;   they live
in accordance with their own ego-ideal;
they become conscious of individuality

XXIV

surely it is the depth of political despair
to conclude that there is no possible escape
from this particular psychological pattern—
the dumb horde which blindly worships
and obeys a modern and scientifically concocted
equivalent of the primitive tyrant?

are we all children willing to leave
our destinies in the hands of a father
only to discover (too late)
that this father is tyrannical?
if we revolt must it be merely for the purpose
of putting another father
in the place of the one deposed?

is it not rather time that we grew up—
became individually conscious
of who we are—time we asserted
our mutual independence
from the bully goaded into sadistic excesses
by the very docility of the victim?

not the father-son relationship
which has persisted
from primitive times
but the relationship of personhood—
the free association  (not mediated
by bureaucracy) of producers
working for the common good—
the only hope of civilisation

XXV

and what of bureaucracy?
in a society of rich and poor
nothing is more necessary;

if it is necessary to protect
an unfair distribution of property
a system of unfair taxation and speculation
a monopolist money system;
if you have to prevent other nations
from claiming your ill-gotten
territorial claims  your closed markets
your trade routes—
if as a consequence
of these economic inequalities
you are going to maintain pomp and ceremony
ranks and orders—
if you are going to do any or all of these things
you will certainly need a bureaucracy—
armed forces & police forces
& civil service—the secret shadow cabinet—
the corps of willing and efficient slaves—
beetle-like figures in striped trousers
& black coats & winged collars & bow ties
out of touch with the normal life
of the nation; ignorant of the methods
and conditions of industrial production
unaware of the routine and atmosphere
of proletarian life—or life of any real kind—
unimaginative & unfeeling & dull & honest—
parasitic body maintained
by taxation and extortion—
such a class whose interests are totally opposed
to the people it supposedly serves

with anarchism—no whole-time officials
no bureaucrats & no politicians
no dictators—everywhere there will be
cells of workers working according to
their abilities and receiving
according to their needs

there was a time maybe
when the relationship between people
and their representatives in parliament
was direct and human
but all that has passed;
we have been the victims
of a process of de-humanisation
in our political life: parties
have become obedient regiments
of mercenaries;  delegates
have been replaced by committees;
the paid official stands between
citizen and parliament

the departments of national life
are controlled by vast & efficient
bureaucratic machines
which continue to function
irrespective of political control

XXVII

universal political franchise
has been a failure:
only a minority of people
are politically conscious—the rest
only exist to have their ignorance and apathy
exploited by an unscrupulous press

but let us not confuse universal franchise
(merely a system of election)
with democracy which is a principle
of social organisation

universal franchise is no more essential
to democracy than divine right
is to monarchy

it is a myth—a quite illusory
delegation of power…

justice & equality & freedom
are the true principles of democracy

universal franchise imposes
a fiction of consent
where  in effect  no liberty of choice exists

XXVIII

if you go into a village
and propose to introduce electric power;
if you go into a city street
and propose to widen it;
if you raise the price of bread
or curtail the hours of drinking licences
then you touch the immediate interests
of the citizen—put these questions
to the voters and without any coaxing
or canvassing they will run to the poll

real politics is the understanding
of local politics (not the fiction of Localism)—
remoter interests (co-operation
intercommunication   foreign affairs)
should be settled by councils of delegates
who will always be ad hoc;
once a delegate is separated
from the natural productive function
(professional delegate)  all the old trouble
sets in again—the bureaucratic parasite
is born—the evil principle
of leadership intervenes
the lust for power corrodes
pride consumes

XXIX

power should be recognised
for what it is—an abstraction;
a grace invested in an office
exercised impersonally—
the distinction between
divine grace and human vessel

XXX

there can only be one kind of truth
because there is only the single reality
of our experience: we arrive
at the true nature of that experience
by process of reasoning:

in the medieval sense
we listen to the voice of God;
we discover God’s order which is
the Kingdom of Heaven—otherwise
there are only the subjective prejudices

of individuals inflated to the dimensions
of nationalism & mysticism & megalomania
& fascism—a realistic rationalism
rises above these diseases
of the spirit  and establishes

a universal order of thought—
a necessary order because it is the order
of the real world  not imposed
by humankind but natural—find
this order and you find your freedom

anarchism reaffirms natural freedom
in direct communion with universal truth
rejecting the invented systems of government
(the instrument of individual and class tyranny)
seeking to recover the system of nature

of people living in accordance
with the universal truth of reality
denying the rule of kings and castes
of churches and parliaments
to affirm the rule of reason which is

the rule of Necessity &
the release of the imagination

XXXI

we have two possibilities:
to discover truth and create beauty;

we make a profound mistake
of we confuse these two activities

by attempting to discover beauty
and to create truth—imposing

on human-beings an arbitrary and idealistic
system with no relation to reality…

and if we attempt to discover beauty
we look for it where it cannot be found—

in reason & in logic & in experience—
truth is (in reality) in the visible

and tangible world of sensation;
but beauty is in unreality

in the subtle and unconscious world
of the imagination…    when we confuse

the two worlds of reality and imagination
we breed not only national pride

and religious fanaticism & false philosophies
and the dead art of the academies…

we must surrender our minds to universal truth
but our imagination is free to dream—

free as a dream
it is the dream

XXXIII

it is a great error
to ascribe independent existence
and over-riding authority
to creations of the mind or imagination

XXXIV

the only certain purpose of life
is living;   the only awareness
of this process is in individual sensibility

not something beyond life
not an instinct to serve the race
not a universal purpose—

to call war the soil of courage and virtue
is like calling debauchery
the soil of love…

so long as it is possible to unite
people in the name of an abstraction
war will exist: government is force

and war will exist as long as the state exists;
peace is anarchy—peace with self
comes before peace with another

Tolstoy:  The Kingdom of God is Within You (1894)

The better people are materially provided for, the more telegraphs, telephones, books, papers
and periodicals they have, the more means will there be of spreading contradictory lies and
hypocrisies, and the more disunited and consequently unhappy will people become, as
indeed occurs now…

If people tell you that… this social order, with its destitution, hunger, prisons, executions,
armies and wars, is necessary for society, that still more miseries would ensue were that
organisation infringed—all that is said only by those who profit from such an organisation…

People say: “What protection shall we have when the existing order is abolished? What precisely will be the new organisation that will replace the present one? Till we know how our life will be arranged we will not move on or quit this spot.” These demands are as if explorers going to an unknown country should ask for a detailed description of the land they are about to enter.

If the life of individuals were fully known to them before they passed from one period of it to another, they would have nothing to live for… The conditions of the new order of life cannot be known to us, for we ourselves have to work them out…

Elgar is very, very British and I love him. I’m not patriotic but I think I might die for Elgar rather than my country…

Dudley Moore

Everyone is always right; no one is ever right…

Edward de Bono: Practical Thinking

8 thoughts on “at the mention of anarchism

  1. I agree Tom we are fortunate. –

    Here’s my take

    “but there is nothing
    I so instinctively avoid
    as a static system of ideas:
    I realise that form pattern
    and order are essential aspects
    of existence; but in themselves
    they are the attributes of death—
    to make life
    to ensure progress
    to create interest and vividness
    it is necessary to break
    form; to distort
    pattern; to change
    the nature of our civilisation”;

    Even though persons in government or opposition might well know that what they are doing isn’t working – they all seem apparently devoid (from scant and distant glimpses) of the ability to deploy any sort of divergent thinking that would allow them to do things differently. This is the charitable view of the status quo. The cynical view is that they care less about “the society they are serving” (HA!) and more about their own clamber up the greasy pole. As always it’s a matter of choice.

    “in spite of my intellectual pretensions
    I am by birth and tradition
    a peasant; I despise
    this foul industrial epoch—
    not only the plutocracy
    which it has raised to power
    but also the industrial proletariat
    which it has drained from the land
    and proliferated in hovels
    of indifferent brick”

    Me too in fact my Grandmother was part of a farming family – “drained from the land
    and proliferated in hovels of indifferent brick” – and in so doing ensured that we lost touch with nature – the very thing that can keep us grounded in the seasonality of all things. It is in the perpetual striving to “fix” things; to keep things always the same that we come undone.

    “if we consider the world’s great artists and poets
    the essential process is that of a seed
    falling on fertile ground germinating
    and growing and in due course reaching maturity;
    just as certainly as the flower and the fruit
    are implicit in the single seed so the genius
    of poet or painter is contained in the individual
    and the soil must be favourable the plant
    nourished; it will be distorted by winds
    and accidental injuries but the growth is unique—
    the configuration unique; the fruit unique:
    all apples are very much alike but no two
    are exactly the same”

    And so it is for us mere mortals who are not the world’s great artists and poets, but who require exactly the same conditions in which to bring their uniqueness to the world instead of keeping it hidden within – it seems to my simple mind that the difference between artists and poets and the rest of us is perhaps in the nourishing of the seed – from effective nourishing (from whatever source) people develop a strong sense of self; and become free to express themselves in what ever form they feel pulled towards. From ineffective nourishing; from being nourished with “what passes for love” (Hadfield) instead of with love, people are diminished and controlled into self limiting behaviours. If extrapolated, if “society” is to flourish – it too needs real love; not what passes for love.

    “in order to create
    it is necessary to destroy—
    the agent of destruction in society
    is the poet (necessarily
    an anarchist) opposing
    all organised conceptions of the State—
    not only those inherited from the past
    but equally those imposed on people
    in the name of the future
    both Fascist and Marxist”

    Whereas I believe that in order to create it is necessary to love and to nurture freedom of thought and it is the job of the parent to ensure that the spirit of the child is vibrant; not that it is contorted like a bonsai specimen into a form that is temporarily pleasing to the parent.

    At some point we each have to take personal responsibility for ourselves and stop blaming the state – the state is what our “developed society” has created: we can join the revolution, but we can also know that by infiltrating in sufficient numbers we can change it from within and fashion it differently. Evolution?

    This view is the view of one who chooses to deal with what is and work within what is to bring about change; it is no more or less “odd” than that of the anarchist’s or the artist’s or poet’s view; except in the basic tenet that “in order to create it is necessary to destroy”.

    Who then are these persons who can infiltrate and create something new from what we already have (and we still have a male dominated society whether or not we like it certainly in the political environs); however; as to where the real crucible of change resides, perhaps these persons who can alchemicaly transform our political masters (even though they are supposed to be servants) are in fact the sons of the mothers of the world. So I would make a call to arms to the mothers of the world to deliberately love and nurture their sons into being something different; to believe passionately in themselves and their own values and to follow a life which allows them full expression of themselves; whether for their individual (although inevitably there is no such thing, since no man is an island) benefit or whether they choose to go into a field that is purposefully influencing society into doing something different for itself.

    Motherhood has been gradually, but relentlessly devalued in our society; it’s time we claimed back our right to be mothers – it is actually the most important and the most powerful job in the world. And yet we have watched it slip from our grasp. I set aside any notion of men being equal to women in the task of bringing up sons – they are of course absolutely essential and vital to the process as their offspring grow, but it is the Mothers of the world who have the greatest role before the child is two years old and who are largely responsible for how securely the bonds of attachment are formed in the infant (Bowlby et al) and therefore how that child operates in the world in relationship to themselves and to others. The material nature of modern society (male dominated) has driven women ever faster down the path of absenting themselves either willingly or unwillingly to the most vital job in the world.

    Returning to Hadfield and what is meant by “what passes for love” – what passes for love is in fact over indulgence and worse disinterested, disengagement from the child particularly in such a material world where we over praise our children for being able to do what they can already be expected to be doing; yet we ignore what really needs praise; such things as showing empathy, or noticing when a child has been patient, or has shown tenacity. In so doing we bring them up to believe on the one hand that they are all powerful because we give them our undivided attention; so they constantly demand it; or else we give them no attention and so they constantly demand it: We bring them up to think that the purpose of their doing is to win praise rather than to value the learning that comes from their doing. We raise them to become anxious, because the only way to go from such high praise is down; a dangerous fall from the high pedestal which we have put them on – their anxiety leads them to lie to us and to others about their achievements and to hide even from themselves the fact of their own failure and the consequences that follow from all that.
    Praise easily trips off the tongue – it doesn’t require much thought; it lifts our own self-esteem but it isn’t actually doing much for the child. Casually praising is a way of avoiding having to think about our child their world and about what our child feels. Praise like criticism in these circumstances is ultimately expressing our indifference.

    Focusing on what they do and how they do it is much more likely to result in a child who is secure in knowing that they are worthy of their parent’s attention. We cannot expect a child to be attentive if as parents we have not shown it any real attentiveness. Being present is hard work but the feeling that someone is thinking about us is something we want/need more than praise.

    What passes for love is actually therefore an insidious form of abuse.

    What Hadfield means and what I mean by love is being present when interacting; The other aspect of all this is discipline – from the word discipulus (pupil) <discere to learn. In other words imposing discipline, setting down boundaries is a way of humanising what might otherwise be animalistic behaviour. By teaching through allowing the child to have direct experiences and example the child learns how it feels to be respected, heard, loved and to show empathy and in turn can direct this outward in his relationship with others.

    "but discipline (the order it gives)
    does not exist for itself
    it is not an end but a means;
    it is not even a general
    (or universal) form
    to be imposed
    on a multitude of phenomena—
    it is an individual sense
    of rhythm or harmony:
    there are metres but not metre;
    forms but not form;
    only in variation
    does the artist achieve
    beauty—the discipline of art
    is not static;
    it is continually changing—
    essentially revolutionary—
    but each line of force
    isolated on a separate prong
    denies the relevance
    of the force animating the other prongs
    no one sees
    it is the same force
    transforming the whole of reality
    (the interpretation of reality)"

    If Mothering, love and discipline (as part of love) were allowed to flourish it might be possible for others to have a direct experiential perception of the final three (four) lines of this phrase – it might be possible for us all to be artists in that sense and transform the whole of reality.

    So I’m not for anarchy as an answer to what ails us, but I am for love.

    Everyone is always right; no one is ever right…
    Edward de Bono: Practical Thinking

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  2. Thanks Tom!

    And thanks for your splendid reply Pat! I was transfixed by the word ‘Hadfield’! Is this JHHadfield of ‘Childhood & Adolescence’ and ‘Dreams & Nightmares’ ? Both of my lovely old Pelicans mouldering and smelling like an entire secondhand bookshop! Proper, more thoughtful reply later…

    Colin

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    1. Thanks Colin – I did send a reply last Thursday to say I’d be away in Scotland until today – well I’m back and the message didn’t get through the wordpress ether so – Hadfiled is J A Hadfield – also early but different to J H Hadfield. The What Passes for love quote comes couretsy of a friend who uses it often in discussion – and have taken it up – the view about over praise being as damaging as over criticism is from a book by Stephen Grosz an Examined Life. I’m all for mouldering books sorry about any confusion I would have been more helpful to be more precise. Warm Regards

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      1. Pat: JAHadfield it is! I got the initial wrong! In Chapter 7 of Childhood & Adolescence for instance he states the ‘Three Principles of Parenthood’ :-

        Protective love
        Freedom
        Discipline

        Loving without what Gurdjieff calls ‘requirements’, no strings attached, I take to be fundamental to life.

        Freedom is when you do what you want to do when you want to do it with Godwin in mind – that the ‘doing’ should never involve hurt to another.

        Freedom is also the ‘full recognition of necessity’. This seems to me to be the needful discipline which children should come to for themselves as a consequence of objective love.

        it is an individual sense
        of rhythm or harmony

        I learned from doing so-called National Service that imposed discipilne does not work but that that which comes from within is vital. The recognition of necessity – what has to be done to make things happen as they should – in NLP terms with regard for ecology, human and environmental.

        I have tried to stick to all this but not always successfully.

        Yes, presence and setting up boundaries. Essential.

        ‘…in order to create it is necessary to destroy…’ I see this as a kind of metaphor – apply it for instance to thinking: in order to think something new one must take apart or destroy thoughts that may be getting in the way of novelty.

        I apply it to writing music or making a painting or writing a poem – in order to create it’s necessary to deconstruct everything that one’s gone through in the past. I’m currently writing some piano music for a Summer School in August to do which I’m going against form, chordal structures, effort at ‘tunes’… I’ve done the same kind of painting for forty years – I take what I’ve done before and dismantle it in order to make new – not that there’s ever anything entirely new…

        I’m with you here:-

        ‘…I would make a call to arms to the mothers of the world to deliberately love and nurture their sons into being something different; to believe passionately in themselves and their own values and to follow a life which allows them full expression of themselves; whether for their individual (although inevitably there is no such thing, since no man is an island) benefit or whether they choose to go into a field that is purposefully influencing society into doing something different for itself…’

        It would be necessary, perhaps, to destroy quite a lot of societal presuppositions in order to promote this call to arms…

        So, the thing is that I think we already have ‘anarchy’ in the ordinary sense of the word. Iraq, Syria, the fraudulence in ‘Deficit Reduction’, the relentless demolition of the Welfare State by conscienceless millionaires, murders, rapes, binge-drinking, dumping of noxious waste in 3rd World countries, profit before people… it goes on and on. It’s anarchy – chaos & mess under the general heading of ‘democratic order’…

        There’s a need for something else – some other kind of order – that which comes from within – the integrity of the individual developing within a regime of Protective Love, Freedom & Discipline. This will require the destruction of current ways of thinking in order to create something different, whatever that might be.

        But it seems to me to be just as Herbert Read says early in his book – I have felt it thus :-

        to declare for a doctrine
        so remote as anarchism
        at this stage of history
        will be regarded by many
        as a sign of intellectual bankruptcy;

        by others as a sort of treason…
        a desertion of the democratic front
        at the most acute moment
        of its crisis; by still others
        as mere poetic nonsense;

        for myself it is a mature realisation
        of the essential rightness
        of Proudhon Tolstoy and Kropotkin—
        a realisation of the necessity
        (or the probity) of an intellectual

        confining oneself to essentials
        I declare myself openly
        for the only political doctrine
        consistent with a love of Justice
        and a need for freedom

        The ‘I’ in all this was Herbert Read but it became me as I took on the book!

        Love, freedom & discipline seem to me to be essential characteristics of anarchism = ‘confining oneself to essentials’. The anarchism of Tolstoy in particular… Pacifist-anarchist. Far from intellectual bankruptcy!

        Thanks for making me think, Pat! Now I shall have to re-read Hadfield (JA!)

        Colin

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      2. Bravo Colin, and thanks for your thoughtful reply with which I cannot of course argue. My response to the words destruction and even anarchy was I concede, an emotional one rather than an intellectual one, perhaps it is something to do with being a Mother I don’t know.

        But if the me that can think rationally about it, does so; I realise that I have many times destroyed something in order to create something new and hopefully improved, but not always. Particularly when it comes to some sort of fixed way of thinking.

        Even so it’s never a complete destruction because in my case it nearly always carries the footprint of what went before in the form of some type of learning or “experience” which, unless I am being particularly and deliberately conscious (well as close as the I that likes to dream can get), almost inevitably colours what comes next.

        Thanks again Colin, for making me think too!

        Warm regards

        Pat

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  3. Pat Thanks!

    ‘…never a complete destruction because… it nearly always [always!] carries the footprint of what went before in the form of some type of learning or ‘experience’…’ Yep! and it’s always important to celebrate this, to value it. As I get older (and older and older) ‘tracing footprints’ becomes more and more important! (To whom? I wonder… Something inside me… Probably that alone…)

    Colin

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