Extreme inequality leads to characteristic forms of story management

In a recent discussion with Graeme Decarie, I’ve posted a comment that sums up what has recently occurred to me. By way of bringing attention to the comment, I’ve reposted it below. The comment is from a previous post entitled:

A compelling writing style? For Graeme Decarie, it began with watching the minister at Crystal Springs United Church

A World of My Own: A Dream Diary (1992)

I haven’t been thinking a lot about Brexit, but have instead been thinking about an expression that Graham Greene uses in the last book that he ever wrote, namely A World of My Own: A Dream Diary (1992).

The expression is: “headaches and other small ailments.”

The paragraph (p. 87) where the expression occurs reads:

China: In November 1964 I was lucky enough to have an interview with the Emperor of China, in the city which I still prefer to call Peking. I was travelling with my friend Michael Meyer, the translator and biographer of Ibsen, but he proved a poor travelling companion as he continually suffered from head­aches and other small ailments.

[End of excerpt]

Greene’s posthumously published book is of interest because it’s based upon such a novel theme – namely, it is based upon a careful selection of excerpts from a large number of dreams that Greene had recorded over the course of a large portion of his lifetime. He made a point of keeping a notebook by his bed. He would wake up from time to time, and write enough notes so that he could re-construct the dream when he was awake.

Regarding Brexit, here is a thought that occurs to me. If a group seeks to advocate on behalf of an evidence-based policy, regarding any matter, what does the group need to do? Such a group must, first of all, and above all, demonstrate a capacity to express things more effectively, and in strongly emotional terms, than groups whose advocacy is based solely upon the negation of the facts and evidence as they relate to the topic at hand.

A corollary is that under conditions of extreme inequality, some people will have nothing to lose, and in elections and referenda will act accordingly. The source for the expression “nothing to lose” is a pre-Brexit (May 17, 2016) Walrus article by Bob Rae entitled: “Goodbye to All That? What Britain’s EU exit would mean for Canada.”

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005)

The Brexit story has also prompted me to check out where I have left my copy of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt. As is often the case, a paragraph (p. 387) dealing with the 1950s version of “urban renewal” attracted my attention:

In Britain as elsewhere, urban ‘planning’ was at best tactical, a patch-up: no long-term strategies were worked out to integrate housing, services, jobs or leisure (hardly any of the new towns and housing complexes had cinemas, much less sports facilities or adequate public transport). [4] The goal was to clear urban slums and accommodate growing populations, quickly and cheaply: between 1964 and 1974, 384 tower blocks were thrown up in London alone. Many of these would be abandoned within twenty years. One of the most egregious, ‘Ronan Point’ in London’s East End, actually had the good taste to fall down of its own accord in 1968.

Public architecture fared little better. The Pompidou Center (a 1960s design, though not opened until January 1977) – like the Hailes complex to its west-may have brought an assortment of popular cultural resources to central Paris but it failed miserably in the longer run to integrate with the surrounding district or complement the older architecture around it. The same was true of London Uni­versity’s new Institute of Education, ostentatiously installed on Woburn Square, at the heart of old Bloomsbury – ‘uniquely hideous’, in the words of Roy Porter, the historian of London. In a similar vein, London’s South Bank complex brought to­ gether an invaluable assortment of performing arts and artistic services; but its grim, low elevations, its windswept alleys and cracking concrete facades,remain a depressing testimony to what the urban critic Jane Jacobs called ‘the blight of Dullness.’

[End of excerpt]

Jane Jacobs: Urbanist; not an academic; professional writer

I’ve been involved for about five years in either leading or organizing Jane’s Walks in South Etobicoke and Lakeview (Mississauga). These are walks based upon the legacy of Jane Jacobs, who is referred to by Judt in the above-noted excerpt. More recently, I’ve been organizing such walks, with other people leading them. In effect I’ve transitioned from the director (walk leader) role to the producer (organizer) role. That suits me well, given that leading a walk is in my experience quite demanding, especially by way of preparations for the walk and the responsibility that a walk leader assumes.

More precisely, I’ve been involved in years past in co-leading a such walk, as all of the Jane’s Walks I’ve involved in leading have been organized and lead in collaboration with my friend Mike James; each of us has been the co-leader of the walk.


A March 26, 2017 Guardian article is entitled: “Populism is the result of global economic failure: Political revolts are inevitable in a world where employees are wage slaves and bosses super rich.”

A June 19, 2017 Aeon article is entitled: “The bloodstained leveller: Throughout history, plagues and wars have left greater equality in their wake. Can we get there again without violence?”

Richard Rorty

A July 2017 Los Angeles Review of Books article is entitled: “Conversational Philosophy: A Forum on Richard Rorty.”

The introduction reads:

AFTER DONALD J. TRUMP was elected president of the United States, the American philosopher Richard Rorty (1931–2007) returned to the pages of many of the major newspapers of the world as one of the few thinkers who had predicted the election of a “strongman” with Trump’s homophobic and racist features. The relevant passage can be found in the lectures Rorty delivered on the history of leftist thought in 20th-century America at Harvard University in 1997, and published as Achieving Our Country a year later. While reprints of this book were hitting several political philosophy best seller lists, Rorty’s Page-Barbour lectures — titled Philosophy as Poetry — were also released. If in Achieving Our Country, Rorty predicted the election of a right-wing populist, in the latter he stresses how valuable the imagination is for the future of philosophy, which is, in many ways, an imperiled discipline. Although these are not his most important books, they indicate that Rorty was a philosopher ahead of his time, a philosopher for the future.

The goal of this forum is not simply to remember Rorty 10 years after he passed away on the June 8, 2007, but also to continue the conversation which he urged all philosophers to pursue. I have invited Marianne Janack, María Pía Lara, Eduardo Mendieta, and Martin Woessner to cover specific aspects of Rorty’s thought, including feminism, social hope, and post-truth. Their concise contributions underscore the significance of Rorty’s writings for the 21st century. My introduction recalls important moments of the American thinker’s life as well as his outstanding contribution to continental philosophy.

— Santiago Zabala


3 replies
  1. graeme decarie
    graeme decarie says:

    Lord, you keep busy. Good idea. Studying up on the day’s news, and writing about it takes about six hours.

    When Graham Greene visited the emperior of China, he must have been either in prison (Mao put him there) or he was out and working as a gardener. Mao’s prisons were often better than ours. They worked on reformed a prisoner – like the emperor – and not on punishing him.

    I’m surprised I have seen so little mention that Canada day is the anniversary of a day in 1916 when the Newfoundland Regiment was slaughtered. There were outports all over Newfoundland where every father and son of military age had joined – and where not one would ever return.

    There are some important lessons in that for today. I think I’ll include in my blog for Saturday.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I look forward to visiting your blogsite to read up on your recent posts. So, after my own blog post in the morning I went for a bike ride near the Lake Ontario shoreline into Mississauga and came across a July 1 Canada Day parade along Lakeshore Road in Port Credit. It was a beautiful sight to see. Later in the day I saw photos on Twitter of the parade; I had taken photos with my iPhone but didn’t post them. Instead I retweeted some of the photos that had been posted.

    I like to do high-intensity interval training on my bike. Go a couple of minutes as hard as I can, then take a few minutes easy, then go hard as I can, and so on. In short spurts I can go fast; that’s where the benefit comes from, according to the research – the short, intensive bursts of speed. Were I to go full speed for a longer period, I would just wear myself out.

    Yesterday I came across a CBC article about Newfoundland’s 100th Other Anniversary; I’ve added it as an update at varied previous posts that deal with the First World War. For example, at a post entitled:

    Military history mural at Small Arms Ltd. building in Mississauga

    The update reads:

    A June 30, 2016 CBC article is entitled:  “Newfoundland at Armageddon.”

    Later in the day I had a look at some minutes of a DVD about Graham Greene entitled A Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene (2013). The DVD prompted me to start reading Greene’s travel book, Journey Without Maps (1936, 2002).

    Having become interested in DVDs of movies directed by Samuel Fuller such as Pickup on South Street (2004), I’ve also been reading a Samuel Fuller book, Brainquake (2014). I had been thinking of reading Samuel Fuller: Interviews (2012), but didn’t get around to it before returning it to the library. I did read a blurb for the book, however. One part of the blurb burrowed its way into my brain:

    “A high-school dropout who became a New York City tabloid crime reporter in his teens, Fuller went to Hollywood and made movies post-World War II that were totally in line with his exploitative newspaper work: bold, blunt, pulpy, excitable.”

    I’m going to lay off most library books until December 2016. I like to read intensively for stretches and then take a break.

  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Psychiatric Tales (2011)

    Graham Greene’s A World of My Own: A Dream Diary (1992) is of interest among other things because it serves as a form of autobiography. An introduction to the book notes that after writing an earlier autobiography – Ways of Escape (1980) – which highlights his life story until the age of twenty-seven, Greene desisted from writing any additional such accounts. His reasoning, according to the introduction, was that he wished to guard his privacy, and the privacy of others.

    Reading about Greene’s life, and viewing a DVD about his life’s work, brings to mind a well-written chapter about bipolar disorder – also (especially in the past) labelled manic depression – in a first-rate graphic stories book by Darryl Cunningham entitled Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness (2011).

    The Bipolar Express (2014)

    A book by David Coleman entitled The Bipolar Express: Manic Depression and the Movies (2014) is of related interest; an excerpt from a blurb at the Toronto Public Library website notes:

    “In the past few decades, awareness of bipolar disorder has significantly increased, but understanding of the condition remains vague for most of the general public. Though the term itself is relatively recent, the condition has affected individuals for centuries and no more profoundly than in the arts. The historical connections among manic depression and such fields as literature, music, and painting have been previously documented.”

    The Age of Selfishness (2015)

    Some other graphic stories by Darryl Cunningham include How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial (2013) and The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis (2015).


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