from: “Strange Democracies”

a bit of blogalectic

The three of us began with some diverging ideas which I believe we still hold, but we go on growing in our own thought and in understanding and respect for each other. None of us, I think, holds any hard feelings, and in this world of bloodshed, that’s reason enough for gladness.

It’s easier to notice dehumanizing language when you know someone on the other side of any argument, whether relatively light, or very serious. I’m learning this all the time, and I’m realizing that one of the most refreshing things about this discussion is it’s freedom from artistic evangelism and the inspiration our discussions give me to try new things. We will probably never agree on Harry Potter, Twilight, or mediocrity, but, to paraphrase Mr. Pond, I like and respect my blogging friends. That tells me there is something worth considering, a reason to keep the conversation going.

You may have noticed that over the past few weeks I’ve tended to write other people’s words instead of my own. Not in a plagaristy sort of way, or in a guest-posty sort of way, just in a throw-up-an-occasional-TMBG-video-and-call-it-a-posty sort of way. This is partly due to constraints of time, because I am, I’m pleased to say, busy concocting a pantheon of beautiful things for you to read, which I shall begin unveiling shortly.

But it’s also due to my growing sense that it’s often better to hide behind the words and ideas of others, to put forward old concepts acknowledged as old, rather than rush recklessly for uniqueness, idiosyncrasy, and individuality. The idea is to gather fragments of the most varied things and point out their cohesion; to put up someone else’s words as indicative of what I think, but without the being bound to words.

So, to answer Masha and Jenna’s posts, I’d like to take refuge behind someone else’s ideas. I’ve had occasion to quote E.A. Wilmot before at this blog. And I recently stumbled across a interview he gave to The Neo-Leftist Observer in September 1947 (25:3), a few months before the release of his critical masterwork, Dying Gods and the Interior Cult of the Narrative West: Spenser, Marx, and the Poesis of Radical Marchen. The interview, “Strange Democracies: A Conversation with Professor Wilmot,” seems to have been the first part in a series of celebrity interviews by neo-marxist poets (the series, like the journal, was mercifully short-lived). Wilmot was interviewed by the as-yet-unknown Darren Halliday, in what seems to have been a truly remarkable confrontation of minds. The whole interview is rather too long to reproduce here, but Wilmot’s remarks on argument and discourse are, I think, of some interest. Typographical errors have been carefully retained. Read on below the jump.

DH: So, would you say then that what the bourgeoisie have inflicted on the world in the War is—how do you put it—“an empire of democracy”?

EAW: No, no. Of course not. That would be a silly thing to say.

DH: But what you wrote in Democracy as Empire

EAW: You see, this is entirely where you sort of people go wrong. There’s been this tremendous critical push—or perhaps I should say a political push—or rather this tremendous shove, shoehorning really—to make Democracy as Empire into some sort of political tract. Well, it isn’t. I think anyone with half a mind can see that it isn’t. It does precisely what I said that it would do, which is to reassess the legacy of Blake, in specifically his use of prosody and metrical form, in light of rationalist humanism, which was a serious concern in 1934. And that is exactly what it does.

The misunderstanding you’re trying to prove probably has to do with my discussion of “Jerusalem,” and the point there is that for Blake Jerusalem isn’t a place, Jerusalem is not even an idea, certainly Jerusalem  is a far cry from empire. Empire demands conquest, doesn’t it, which is the impetus for this war and any other, and Blake’s Jerusalem exists entirely in the mind. Or in the spirit, there’s not much difference for our purposes. And the thing, is you can’t have an empire of the mind; argument and logic exist for one purpose only: the stripping away of the impediments of the mind for the revelation, one is even tempted to say the ecstasis—certainly a fitting word to use when talking about Blake, but I don’t know how ecstatic he really was about it—the stripping away of anything that occludes the pure working of the mind. Logic is the tool, and argument is the apparatus using the tool, like some hideous robotic arm, but when the mind is entirely clear then we will have reached consensus. We will have reached Blake’s Jerusalem. And logic and argument will be laid aside like a dirty scalpel. That’s an entirely different sort of thing from democracy.

DH: But don’t you think this is a bit mis–

EAW: No, naturally I don’t think I’m mistaken. I wouldn’t hold these views if I thought they were mistaken, surely even you can see that.

DH: Misanthropic. I was going to say misanthropic. Don’t you think–

EAW: Well, no it’s not misanthropic. All sorts of people accuse me of being misanthropic, but in fact I’m a Romantic. I’m a true Romantic. And of course a Romantic harangues his fellows for being less then men, for being snivelling and paltry excuses for humanity, because the true Romantic knows that they are. And he has the hope—this is the mark of the Romantic—this tremendous hope that they might some day be better. He believes that they can be better, that they will be, so he uses logic and argument when he can to show them a way to get better. Only a misanthrope is content to leave people unimproved; a misanthrope is indolent and doesn’t care about anyone. The Romantic sees humanity as a wild project—as a magnificent, transcendent pilgrimage to Jerusalem, if we can use Blake’s words for a moment—and of course he must hope that people would be better. The misanthrope and the realist sees that there is no forward motion, only entropy and thermodynamics and the atom bomb about to go off,  because that’s sort of entropy with jet engines on, and so the misanthrope doesn’t do anything. The Romantic despairs because the Romantic has courage to hope. That’s not in Democray as Empire, by the way, it’s from an article I wrote in 1922. I’ve reissued it in Dying Gods.


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