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Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Ogre And The Mother

Mother and Children
Sharon Sayegh painting found at Highland Park Artists
The mother tries to calm her two young children. They've been in their beds for almost an hour and are still very upset. At school earlier in the day, they heard another rumor about some teenagers who had gone missing in a town several miles away.

"Now, now, we didn't even know them. And you can't believe everything you hear...
So begins a poignant metaphor of our complicity in the evils of our times. Arthur Silber can often be difficult to read, insofar as he writes with unflinching judgment on our nature and ourselves. One wishes to look away, think of something else already. Many clearly cannot read his essays, if one is to believe Arthur's expressed frustration on this matter - some even go so far as to attack him for his writing, an action so unforgiveable one need not say anything more on the matter.

The device of dystopian fiction, used by writers like Poe and Orwell, and all great science fiction authors, offers a little trick of momentary distance between the reader and the tale, so that the lecture Arthur has prepared for us will hold us for a moment longer, past where the retching might otherwise begin.

Really, if you haven't visited Arthur's place before, go read it. Or rather, especially if you have been there before and have found yourself turning away.
Here is a note for those who write and talk about these issues. If you write on these subjects and if you talk about them regularly on radio and television, and if you do not state -- repeatedly, with all the conviction and passion that you can command -- that actions of this kind are insane, monstrous and deeply evil, you are not opposing the monstrousnessness. You are accommodating it, seeking excuses for it, trying to minimize it -- or, to use the phrase I often employ in my own notes -- you are "making friends with evil."

If you do this, you are not fighting against the monstrousness. You are part of it.
Unflinching judgment.

Note: As I post this, I see that Chris Floyd is thinking along similar lines.


  1. Can you give us an example of what Poe or Orwell did to distance their reader from the evil or unthinkable?
    Thanks, Petro.

  2. They both wrote of unsavory aspects of human nature (gothic and political, respectively), using the distancing device of fiction.


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