An elegant clarification of political optimism from cultural theorist Stuart Hall, interviewed in the Guardian by Zoe Williams.
For many years I have kept in mind his idea of optimism being located in continuing dialogue, and in what he has described as the ‘crucial conversation: How much do we give up and how much do we retain of our cultural identity in order to be ourselves?’ In a 2007 interview he wrote: ‘these are deep issues and are more charged than they have ever been’, and it would be surprise if anyone felt them to be less charged in 2012.
In this interview, he highlights the need for independent analysis in developing vision, and laments the loss of an educative role for politics, for ‘politics changing the way people see things’ rather than tactically responding to events.
Referring to Gramsci, he proposes ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the spirit’, which strikes me as a helpful and inspiring distinction. “You must look at what’s happening now. If it’s unpropitious, say it’s unpropitious. Don’t fool yourself. Analyse the conjuncture that you’re in. Then you can be an optimist of the will, and say ‘I believe that things can be different’. But don’t go to optimism of the will first. Because that’s just utopianism”
12 February 2012
franzciska magdalena: As an experiment, I’ve decided to ‘translate’ this into how it might appear to a character on Eastenders. (Mary I love soaps… I hope you won’t find my playfulness with your wonderful material offensive – I feel like I’m taking a beautiful work of art and ‘stripping it’… )
So here goes:
‘You can tell if you’ve given up on hope and trust. It happens when you stop the talk of being real… when you stop ‘walking your own walk and talking your own talk‘.
To the organisational leader, including the politician, I’d put it this way:
You’ll know and feel that moment, when you sell your soul or worse still, when someone robs you of it. At that moment of choice, whether through the loss of innocence or the robbing of it, you will each find your selves trapped between a ‘self’ that pays due diligence to truth and a ‘self’ that pays homage to an image of it.
1 November 2012