DAY 180: Reasons for optimism

August 4th, 2016 § 0 comments

One of my friends, probably drunk from reading too muchLeibniz Leibniz (see previous posts) suggests to me that though Trump, Daesh, Brexit, et al all add up to a pretty damning condemnation of the world right now, I should take the long view and consider how much worse off I might have been at other times and places. Aside from being miserable because my recovery from pneumonia is so slow I might be given leeches, bled, purged and still not recover. I might be living under one of the more colourful emperors (Caligula and Commodus come to mind) – when life itself, never mind recovery from illness, was pretty much a matter of chance; or have been a Native American in the time of the conquistadors, 0008976 (RM) TMH 08-29-2011with very little chance of survival. Or an African undergoing the Middle Passage. These arguments, at the very least, must introduce a note of relativism, making it possible to formulate a theorem:

[The 'Comparative Misery Theorem']: There is no bloody point comparing human misery in one place or time with that in another. Just deal with it.

And all the same, in our present dire circumstances, we might as well ask:

1. Do we have a ‘right’ to happiness? (As the US Constitution says we do and look at what it does about it.)

2. Who can we expect to ensure that we get it?

3. What do we do if we don’t get it? Or, as Chernyshevsky followed by Lenin put it: What is to be done?

The Communist Manifesto, that infallible guide, is clearest on the last question: We have to unite with all the other oppressed masses (women, people of colour, LGBTs, and particularly these days refugees) into a mass movement which will break the chains which bind us. We must, however opposed we are to violence on principle, if necessary be prepared to rush into the streets en masse and string up Theresa May and her like on theth-1 lamp posts, while restoring a republic based on the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. (Am I mixing slogans from too many eras here? Let a hundred flowers bloom together, say I.)

From which it follows, as the night the day, that I don’t want to be told that there could be worse people in control of the NHS (Daesh and Trump come to mind, but I’d need more evidence). I, like you, want a health service which does what it’s supposed to do. I want the impossible: and that’s at the root of all this rights stuff. As an old slogan goes: What do we want? Our future. When do we want it? NOW!

Take a break: and consider, if you have a moment, the relatively small suffering of those who have found themselves forced to look after the sick elderly relative (though Onegin is not doing it merely from altruistic motives):

(Pushkin has many translators of course, here’s one at random:


“My uncle, a most worthy gentleman,
When he fell seriously ill,
By snuffing it made us all respect him,
Couldn’t have done better if he tried.
His behaviour was a lesson to us all.
But, God above, what crushing boredom
To sit with the malingerer night and day
Not moving even one footstep away.
What demeaning hypocrisy
To amuse the half-dead codger,
To fluff up his pillows, and then,
Mournfully to bring him his medicine;
To think to oneself, and to sigh:
When the devil will the old rascal die?”

To return to the mournful (and having already, you might think, used up my allowance of ‘La Traviata’ quotes), here’s Anna Netrebko in ’Addio del passato



Leave a Reply

What's this?

You are currently reading DAY 180: Reasons for optimism at Luke Hodgkin.