i’ve been slowly reading through the grandly-titled Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, a collection of some of Camus’ essays. He seems  resolutely sceptical about just about every abstraction going, noting somewhere that he can at most summon up a vague, general benevolence towards Mankind, but can love individuals. To a Communist apologist he writes:

For you are willing to keep silence about one reign of terror in order the better to combat another one. There are some of us who do not want to keep silent about anything. It is our whole political society that nauseates us. Hence there will be no salvation until all those who are still worthwhile have repudiated it utterly in order to find, somewhere outside insoluble contradictions, the way to a complete renewal. In the meantime we must struggle. But with the knowledge that totalitarian tyranny is not based on the virtues of the totalitarians. It is based on the mistakes of the liberals.

Like an Alan Furst character (i think of the protagonist of Furst’s masterpiece, Dark Star), Camus didn’t want to belong to any empire, or ideology. His French even is not – in my limited experience of French – exactly typical (i read La Chute in the original 10 years ago). It is more akin to Wittgenstein’s German: concise, unrhetorical, lucid. But then he was born and raised in Algiers, in real poverty, and this perhaps made him atypically French; he was not indulgent. In some quarters he has a bad reputation, which, like Bruce Springsteen’s, rests on the kind of people who misread him (from The Magnetic Fields’ ‘I Don’t Want to Get Over You’: “I could make a career of being blue/ I could dress in black and read Camus/ Smoke clove cigarettes and drink Vemouth/ If i was 17 that would be a scream”)

We seem to be at one of the larger junctions in human history, with many people running around flapping their hands and yelling “what the fuck are we going to do?” i have no faith in political solutions, and almost none in human beings. The good human beings i know are not the kind of people to occupy Wall Street, waving banners, playing the bongos and so on. It is not that i favour the bankers – from what i know of the situation they have acted like immoral shits, that is, like human beings. Any political solution will come from human beings and therefore from our integrally flawed human nature. So i am uninterested in this drama. i await events and transformations having nothing to do with politics, with greed or self-righteousness, bankers or hippies. The problem isn’t just that the financial and political system is corrupt; the problem is that human nature is corrupt.

There is no need to do anything political, nothing on a large scale. As consciousness is altered, as it expands (including animals), one need only be true to one’s immediate sense of things. To quote from Da Mayor, “always do the right thing”. The rest will work out, one way or another. But to move beyond the singularity of this human being or that, to address crowds, wave banners, mouth platitudes – that is the danger. The inflation of language, so it is emptied of content; the manipulation of vast sums of money, all electronically – the story of 2011; best fought by not really fighting, at least not in political terms. Be as the elk sedge, apart.

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