If your Blog is just a reflection on the previous week (as this Blog has recently become) then the week that’s past is surely never fully or accurately represented by the post. Any post will recall and mis-remember only a few experiences, highlight and prioritise some, marginalise and entirely overlook many.
So what makes something worth writing about, mentioning, recalling? Surely we live multiple, myriad lives that are forgotten while, in one way or another, isolating and stringing together a relatively small amount of events that we come to call the story of our life, our week, our month or our day.
You continued reading Brecht and particularly Walter Benjamin’s writings on Brecht. This allowed you to feel you were in the company of two of the greatest sensors of the 20th century, two of the most talented and alert people living through the centre of that century’s greatest conflicts.
After many years bereft of a record player you acquired a turntable again this week and found yourself ritualistically working your way through a stack of Van Morrison’s early albums, on vinyl. You were surprised and amazed by the experience, the difference, the sense of fulfillment, and yes, the sound. There is NO reason to believe or concur with the merchandiser’s notion that any new technology is ‘better’ than that which it displaces.
The hype about CDs was that they were indestructible, faultless, and more accurate in their transmission of sound. And yet, you heard all kinds of qualities of sound on those vinyl records that you have never before noticed or appreciated on CD versions of the same. You might even venture the fact that having, using and seeing a turntable, shining vinyl records, and record sleeves in your life makes you feel more YOU, more complete, as if something had been missing for a very long time and had returned to its rightful place in your life.
It’s all been said before, you know, but the ritual of carefully placing a needle on a vinyl record, and of having to turn it over at the end of a side, somehow feels very important to the way you listen to it, value it, and appreciate everything that went into it. You actually have to CARE FOR the record too, which is something CD merchandisers forgot to mention when they boasted of the CD’s indestructibility, shortly before the CD began the ruination of the old record and music industries; music and industries that were actually made by and for VINYL!
As for early Van Morrison himself, you’d have to write a book, a poem or a song to be able to even begin to attempt to express your admiration for his majestic, mystic, melodious magic, strangely unequalled and unrivalled by and incomparable with any of his contemporary greats (The Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Bowie), always operating somehow autonomously, carelessly, aloof from all others and from all else as he, and the bands and musicians who devoutly served the strangely affecting call of his crow-like cries, softly shattered the worlds of popular music, of sound and of sentiment with a unique hybrid of Belfast soul and faerie jazz.
The week ended sadly, brutally, tragically, shockingly with the pointless, mindless slaughter of the inspiring, talented and noble Labour MP Jo Cox, someone you may not have heard of if you don’t attend in some detail to British politics, but who turns out to have been saying and doing all the RIGHT things all of her tragically short life.
She was uniquely clear and adamant about how we should respond to the refugee crisis in Europe and brought her real life experience as a foreign aid and charity worker into the House of Commons where she had won a seat with the aim of changing the world for the better. Her poor husband bravely trumpeted to the world, even in the midst of his immediate, devastating grief that Jo Cox “believed in a better world and fought for it every day of her life” – what a fantastic tribute, and what an inspiring to model for us all to live up to, in honour of her.
You wanted to post something in tribute to her, and maybe those words of her husband’s above are the best. Reading Brecht this week, however you came across a very late speech he gave when picking up a Soviet peace prize in 1955 (for which, incidentally, he was severely criticised, boycotted and chastised).
The piece is called: ‘Peace Is The Be-all and End-all’ and you can end (now busting the word-count) by quoting, for the record, a few extracts, that Jo Cox may have appreciated:
“Whatever anyone seeks to persuade them, the people of all nations know: peace is the be-all and end-all of every humanitarian activity, of all production, of all the arts, including the art of life.”
“I was nineteen years old when I heard of your great Revolution … Several days long, working women spoke in the hastily improvised council, taking the young workers in soldiers’ dress to task, and the factories heard the commands of the workers. Several days, but what days they were! Everywhere fighters, but at the same time peaceful people, constructive people. “
“The most important lesson was that a future for mankind was becoming visible only ‘from below’, from the standpoint of the oppressed and exploited. Only by fighting with them does one fight for mankind.”
“A gigantic war had taken place, an even more gigantic war was being planned. From this perspective, from below, the hidden causes of these wars could be discerned; this class had to pay for them, the defeats and the victories. Here, far down below, peace also had a warlike aspect.”
“In the continual and inexorable class struggles over the means of production, the periods of relative peace are only the periods of exhaustion. It is not the case that a destructive, warlike element interrupts peaceful production time and again, but rather that production itself is founded on the destructive warlike principle.”
“Throughout their whole lives, people under capitalism fight for their bare existence – against each other. Parents fight for their children, children for their inheritance, the small retailer fights for his shop with the other small retailers, and all of them fight with the large retailer. The peasant fights with the townsman, the pupils fight with the teacher, the ordinary people fight with the authorities, the factories fight with the banks, the companies fight with companies, How, given all this, are nations to end up not fighting nations? “
“The nations whose people have fought successfully for a socialist economy have adopted a wonderful position with regard to peace. People’s instincts are becoming peaceful. The struggle of everyone against everyone is being transformed into the struggle of everyone for everyone. Anyone who benefits society benefits himself. Anyone who benefits himself benefits society. “
“The people who have it good are those who are useful, no longer those who are harmful. Progress ceases to mean stealing a march on the competition, and discoveries are no longer kept secret from anyone, but are instead made accessible to all. The new inventions can be received with joy and hope, instead of with horror and fear.”
“I myself have experienced two world wars. Now, approaching old age, I know that a monstrous war is being prepared anew. But a quarter of the world has now adopted peace, and in other parts socialist ideas are advancing. Ordinary people everywhere have a deep desire for peace. In the intellectual professions many people with different levels of awareness are fighting for peace. That includes the capitalist states. But our best hope for peace lies the workers and the peasants, in their own states and in the capitalist states. Long live peace! Long live your great peaceful state of the workers and peasants.”