A LETTER FROM MR. VANDORGYULES
Little known (and unpublished) east european poet, erstwhile minor political dissident, amateur philatelist and aspirant lepidopterist.
Sir. The pessimism you express in your blog post “Politics and the power of fiction” is understandable but I fear misguided and fundamentally flawed. A quietest disengagement from matters of the world may leave you with a private serenity, but it is at this very point where the surgeon’s knife is required! As he begins his procedure, there is pain, blood, the possibility he might err, that heaven forbid, the patient may die. But he proceeds anyway – to attempt to save the patient’s life. Think of your vote, sir, as a surgical procedure: there are those pessimists who will tell you not to bother, for the patient is too ill for surgery, that your intervention is pointless. Others will say the procedure may cause more harm than good. Yet others will say the fellow under the knife deserves to die. But such negativity is surely unworthy of Man! Despair is ubiquitous, but thank God everywhere and through the ages there have been those prepared to roll up their sleeves for the task at hand – and you sir enjoy the benefits of all those courageous souls who have done so! The freedom you take for granted was hard won and must be defended with equal determination. What if William Wilberforce were to have given up in his fight against slavery, or if the Suffragettes had capitulated to the chauvinistic bigotry of Edwardian England? What if Mandela – on his windswept Island – had curled up in foetal despair? What if Churchill had surrendered – not to the Nazis but to his own despondency?
With respect, Mr SH, you say somewhere that you have read Voltaire’s Candide – but I fear you may have missed an important lesson in the book. For while “Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers”(wiki) he nevertheless enjoins us to act in the world, “we must cultivate our garden”. There IS much good to be done, and your mark on the ballot paper – no matter how infinitesimally small it may seem to you – may have effects beyond your imagining.
A friend of mine, Professor N, uses the phrase “dirty hermeneutics”. Essentially it means a readiness to get stuck into the dirt and grime of the narrative rather than maintaining an aloof distance from it. It is the courage of a Dietrich Bonhoeffer to challenge evil, or as in the metaphor above, a surgeon to work on a sick body. You will be bloodied, filthied, confused, at times you will make mistakes, be ethically compromised perhaps, but act you must.
Vote sir, and remember Goliath was brought down not by a grand army, but by a small lad with a stone!