We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Art, war and social revolution

Click here (Part 1) and here (Part 2) to access the edited transcripts of recent presentations given by David Walsh, a film and book critic for the World Socialist Web Site, on several college campuses. 

I've long regarded Walsh as one of the most insightful critics of films and novels. His left, undogmatic political orientation has been informed by many years of critical thinking about culture and politics. In this presentation Walsh (born in 1949) tries to make sense out of life in the US, which has been so dramatically impacted by many wars during the past century, through examining the themes of many films and books during this period. He finds that they can be separated in two categories: films/books in the past 25 years and those previous starting in WWI. He is not suggesting that the earlier period was any kind of golden age, but he sees the more recent period has producing works that represent a serious decline in social examination and criticism. He asks:
Where is the work that has captured the horror of the “war on terror”?

Now, we’ve had 25 years of war … by now, you would think a great work would have appeared.

Where is the film or novel (or drama or poem or painting) that has captured for an entire generation the horror of the “war on terror”? This is a central issue in this talk, a central problem…
In his conclusion Walsh argues that we are the threshold of change:
Clearly, we have entered a new stage of development. The economic and social crisis, along with relentless wars and militarist violence, are fueling the discontent of masses of people and blowing up—or threatening to blow up—political arrangements and set-ups around the globe, including in the US.