Transcript: Terry Eagleton | Oct 21, 2006

[Theme music plays]

The opening sequence rolls. The logo of "Big Ideas" featuring a lit lamp bulb appears against an animated blue slate.
Then, Andrew Moodie appears in the studio. The walls are decorated with screens featuring lit lamp bulbs, and two signs read "Big Ideas."
Andrew is in his early forties, clean-shaven, with short curly black hair. He's wearing a dark gray suit and a red shirt.

He says HELLO, MY
NAME IS ANDREW MOODIE, AND THIS IS
BIG IDEAS.
THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR.
THAT CLARION CALL HAS BEEN
HEARD FOR CENTURIES, FROM THE
ORIGINAL APOCALYPTIC VISION OF
THE BOOK OF REVELATION, TO THE
AVERAGE BLOG OF THE DISGRUNTLED
UNIVERSITY STUDENT, AND OF
COURSE, THE END OF THE WORLD
MAY BE NEAR.
AND IF IT IS, THERE WILL BE
BLAME, AND OF COURSE,
EVENTUALLY, BLAME WILL BE
PLACED ON WHITE ANGLO SAXON
PROTESTANT DEFENDERS OF
CAPITALISM, LIKE ADAM SMITH,
UM...
WELL TECHNICALLY, ADAM SMITH IS
NOT ANGLO SAXON.
SMITH WAS A SCOT, NOT A WASP.
WELL HOW ABOUT FRANCIS
HUTCHISON, THE FATHER OF
SCOTTISH ENLIGHTENMENT?
ISN'T HE RESPONSIBLE FOR--
DARN, HE'S IRISH.
RIGHT, WELL UH, THE NOBEL PRIZE
WINNING ECONOMIST, CLIVE W.J.
GRANGER IS...
WELCH -- CRAP.
PERHAPS WASPS HAVE BEEN WRONGLY
ACCUSED OF TOO MUCH FOR TOO
LONG.
PERHAPS IT'S THE CELTS WHO ARE
TO BLAME FOR OUR MODERN WORLD.
TERRY EAGLETON IS A BRITISH
LITERARY AND CULTURAL THEORIST.
AND IF YOU TOOK CULTURAL
STUDIES IN THE LAST 20 YEARS,
THE NAME OF TERRY EAGLETON
WOULD BE A FAMILIAR NAME TO
YOU, JUST AS FAMILIAR AS KEITH
RICHARDS IS TO THOSE WHO STUDY POP.
EAGLETON IS CURRENTLY PROFESSOR
OF CULTURAL THEORY AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER.
HE CAME TO TORONTO TO GIVE THE
ANNUAL EON DAVIES MEMORIAL
LECTURE.
HIS SUBJECT, CELTS AND CATASTROPHE.

A clip plays in which Terry Eagleton addresses an audience in a university classroom. Terry is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with sparse short white hair. He's wearing rimless glasses, a black suit and a red shirt.

He says THERE IS A
SCENE IN THE PETER SELLERS
FILM,
ONLY TWO CAN PLAY,
BASED, I THINK, ON A KINGSLEY
AMOS NOVEL, IN WHICH A WELSH, A
VERY WELSH, A DEVOUTLY WELSH
LIBRARY COMMITTEE IS
INTERVIEWING FOR A CANDIDATE
FOR LIBRARIANSHIP AND THEY'RE
DETERMINED TO APPOINT, YOU
KNOW, THE MOST-- THE WELSHEST
OF THE WELSH CANDIDATES.
ONE OF THEM COMES IN, AND THE
CHAIRPERSON ASKS HIM HIS NAME,
AND HE REPLIES -- I CAN'T
REMEMBER THE EXACT WORDS, BUT
SOMETHING LIKE DAI OWEN MERLIN
MURDOCH GRIFFITHS RICHARD EVANS
WILLIAMS, AT WHICH THE CHAIR OF
THE COMMITTEE THROWS HIM A
SUSPICIOUS LOOK, AND SAYS,
"WELSH, ARE YOU?"

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues WELL, WE ALL KNOW HOW THE WELSH
ARE GENERALLY REGARDED ON THE
PLANET, AS A DARK, STUNTED
CRAFTY, BULLET-HEADED RACE OF
BOGUS VISIONARIES, FULL OF
MORAL CANT, SHAM PIETY AND
WINDY RHETORIC.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues PERMANENTLY COATED IN COAL
DUST AND SHEEP SHIT.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues THE SCOTS, I'M DELIGHTED TO
SAY, ARE SEEN IN NO SUCH LIGHT.
INSTEAD...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues SCOTS ARE SEEN AS DOUR, TIGHT
FISTED, FEROCIOUSLY
PURITANICAL, UTTERLY BEREFT OF
IMAGINATION...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues AND GIVEN TO CONSUMING
GREAT HEAPS OF DEEP FRIED MARS BARS.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues AS FOR THE IRISH, WELL ONCE
ONE'S MENTIONED THEIR
IMPETUOSITY, BELLIGERENCE,
INDOLENCE, DREAMY
IMPRACTICALITY, EXCITABILITY,
AND PENCHANT FOR POETRY,
ALCOHOL AND VERBAL
EXTRAVAGANCE, UM...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues THERE'S REALLY NOT A GREAT
DEAL MORE TO BE SAID.
NOW, THE MORE DISCERNING AMONG
YOU MAY HAVE DETECTED A SLIGHT
HINT OF THE STEREOTYPE AT WORK
IN THESE DESCRIPTION.
HOWEVER, SINCE, AS A LEFTIST,
I'VE BEEN KNOWN IN MY TIME, TO
PUT IN A GOOD WORD FOR
ESSENCES, UNIVERSALS, GRAND
NARRATIVES, HUMAN NATURE,
HOMOGENEITY, HIERARCHIES OF
VALUE, COMMUNITY, AUTHORITY,
TRADITION, STABILITY AND A
NUMBER OF OTHER SUCH
POTENTIALLY RADICAL NOTIONS,
SAVAGELY TRAVESTIED BY A
SOMEWHAT CALLOW POSTMODERNISM,
I DON'T SEE WHY I SHOULDN'T
SPOIL MY COPYBOOK ALL THE WAY,
AND PUT IN A GOOD WORD FOR
STEREOTYPES, TOO.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues I MEAN LET'S NOTE TO BEGIN
WITH, BEFORE WE GET TOO MORALLY
SELF-RIGHTEOUS OVER THIS
BUSINESS, THAT STEREOTYPES ARE
BY NO MEANS ALWAYS NEGATIVE.
I MEAN THEY MAY NOT BE RIGHT,
BUT THEY'RE NOT ALWAYS NEGATIVE.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Terry Eagleton. Literary and Cultural Theory. University of Manchester. 'From Celts to Catastrophe.' York University. June 2, 2006."

Terry says CANADIANS
MAY WELL OBJECT, QUITE
PROPERLY, TO BEING STEREOTYPED
AS INCREDIBLY BORING, BUT THEY
DON'T ALWAYS PROTEST QUITE SO
ROBUSTLY WHEN ONE REMARKS HOW
BRIGHT, SENSITIVE AND GENERALLY
BEAUTIFUL THEY ARE, COMPARED...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues COMPARED TO THAT SHABBY LOT TO
THE SOUTH OF THEM.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues YOU DON'T
HEAR TOO MANY SQUEALS OF
PROTEST AGAINST STEREOTYPING,
YOU KNOW, IN THAT SITUATION.
BESIDES, IT SEEMS TO ME,
THOUGH, HARDLY IT SEEMS TO
ANYONE ELSE ON THE LEFT, THAT
STEREOTYPING CAN BE A
THOROUGHLY MATERIALIST AFFAIR.
I MEAN, WHO, BUT THE MOST
FEEBLE MINDED OF LIBERAL
IDEALISTS COULD IMAGINE THAT,
IF A GROUP OF PEOPLE SHARE
ROUGHLY THE SAME MATERIAL AND
SOCIAL CONDITIONS OVER LONG
TRACKS OF TIME, THEY WON'T
DEVELOP CERTAIN OF HABITS OF
MIND, PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOUR,
EMOTIONAL DISPOSITIONS IN COMMON.
I MEAN ONE IMAGINES THAT, SAY,
BILL GATES' EMPLOYEES, PROBABLY
SHARE MUCH THE SAME MILDLY
REPUGNANT QUALITIES BUT IT'S
NOT NECESSARY TO ASSUME,
SURELY, THAT THIS IS BECAUSE
THEY ALL PARTICIPATE
NEOPLATONICALLY IN SOME
TIMELESS SPIRITUAL ESSENCE.
PEOPLE WHO KNOCK AROUND WITH
EACH OTHER OVER GREAT STRETCHES
OF TIME, WON'T END UP
PSYCHOLOGICALLY CLONED, AGREED,
BUT IT'S SURELY THE WILDEST
KIND OF IDEALIST AND
INDIVIDUALIST FANTASY TO
SUPPOSE THAT THOSE WHO HAVE
RUBBED SHOULDERS FOR CENTURIES,
WILL TURN OUT MYSTERIOUSLY, TO
BE UTTERLY INCOMMENSURABLE
INDIVIDUALS WITH NO CULTURAL OR
CHARACTEROLOGICAL PATTERNS IN
COMMON.
UNTIL ABOUT THE MID 19th
CENTURY, UP TO THE FAILED
REVOLUTIONARY UPRISINGS AT
MERTHA AND NEWPORT IN THE 1830s
IN WALES, AND THERE WERE ALSO
TWO FAILED UPRISINGS IN
IRELAND, ON THAT OTHER CELTIC
FRINGE, BETWEEN 1790 AND 1850.
UP TO THAT TIME, THE MID 19th
CENTURY, THE WELSH OFFERED SOME
IMPRESSIVELY UNSWERVING
RESISTANCE TO THE IMPOSITION AT
SWORD POINT, OF, FIRST FEUDAL
AND THEN CAPITALIST SOCIAL
RELATIONS ON THEIR
TRADITIONALLY CELTIC RURAL
ECONOMY, WITH ITS COMMUNAL
CUSTOMS AND ITS BASIS, NOT IN
FEUDAL SERVICE, BUT IN THE
RECIPROCITIES DEMANDED BY
TRADITIONAL KINSHIP.
FROM THE 1790s TO THE 1840s,
THIS MOST FERVENTLY RELIGIOUS
REGION OF BRITAIN, WAS ALSO ONE
OF THE MOST UNFLAGGINGLY
MILITANT.
IT WAS A PLACE WHERE YOU COULD
FIND BAPTIST JACOBINS, AND
UNITARIAN SOCIALISTS, CHARTIST
BARDS, WELSH CHARTISM IS
ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT
PHENOMENON, AND VERSIFYING SHOP
STEWARDS, A BIT LATER ON, WITH
A PARTICULARLY RICH CULTURE OF
RADICAL PREACHING, CENTRED ON
THE CHAPELS, THE DISSENTING
CHAPELS.
IN THE 1920s, ONE DISSENTING
CHAPEL IN WALES SPORTED A BUST
OF LENIN BESIDE THE PULPIT,
WHICH, ODDLY ENOUGH, I'VE NEVER
SEEN IN THE BAPTIST CHURCHES OF ALABAMA.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues WHILE THE VILLAGE OF MARDI WAS
KNOWN AS LITTLE MOSCOW.
BY MODERN TIMES, ALL THE WAY
FROM THE WAVES OF SYNDICALISM
IN THE COAL FIELDS IN THE
1910s, UP TO THE FINAL LAST
THROES, AS IT WERE, LAST GREAT
FLOURISHING OF THAT HONOURABLE
LINEAGE, IN THE MINERS' STRIKE,
IN THE EARLY 1980s, IN WHICH
THE WELSH PLAYED AN ABSOLUTELY
KEY ROLE, WALES SPROUTED A
REMARKABLY RESILIENT,
EXTRAORDINARILY RICH WORKING
CLASS POLITICAL CULTURE, ALL
THE WAY FROM BOOK CLUBS,
MINERS' LIBRARIES, FRIENDLY
SOCIETIES, AND BRASS BANDS.
THERE WAS ONE STRIKING UP ON
THE LAWN, JUST AS I WALKED INTO
THE BUILDING.
I THOUGHT, YOU KNOW, THEY
DIDN'T GIVE ME THE OUTRIDERS
FROM THE AIRPORT, BUT THEY DID
AT LEAST GIVE ME A BRASS BAND
AS I WAS COMING IN -- TO
CHOIRS, ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT
COMMUNAL ACTIVITY, MECHANICS
INSTITUTES, AND OF COURSE, YOU
KNOW, THAT TRADITIONALLY AND
AGGRESSIVE PIECE OF PROLETARIAN
STRATEGY KNOWN AS RUGBY
FOOTBALL.
AND THEY PROTECTED THEIR
CULTURE, TOO.
MUCH BETTER, FOR EXAMPLE, THAN
THE IRISH DID.
IN 1900, THERE WERE MORE PEOPLE
SPEAKING WELSH, ABOUT INDEED
HALF OF THE POPULATION, THAN
THERE WERE IN 1800.
MUCH BETTER TRACK RECORD ON
PRESERVING THEIR OWN CULTURE
THAN THE IRISH.
THE WELSH WERE NOT, SO A 19th
CENTURY ENGLISH COMMENTATOR
REMARKED, AN ESPECIALLY
MURDEROUS PEOPLE.
I LIKE THAT, ESPECIALLY...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues OCCASIONALLY MURDEROUS, BUT...
EVEN IF THEY WERE, "LACKING IN
CLEANLINESS AND DECENCY, AND
SHOWED A GENERAL DISREGARD OF
TEMPERANCE, CHASTITY, VERACITY
AND FAIR DEALING, WITH SEXUAL
INCONTINENCE AS THEIR
PREVAILING VICE."

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues OH YEAH, PRETTY ATTRACTIVE
BUNCH, REALLY, YOU KNOW.
WELL WORTH HAVING A DRINK WITH.
IT'S WORTH NOTING THAT THE WORD
WALES ORIGINALLY MEANT FOREIGN.
IT'S NOT, THEREFORE -- IT'S A
NAME OTHER PEOPLE GIVE YOU.
YOU KNOW, LIKE FATSO, OR DUMBO
OR WHATEVER.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU
WOULD ACTUALLY CALL YOURSELF.
YOU KNOW, UNLESS YOU WERE
SERIOUSLY WEIRD.
ONE MIGHT EVEN CLAIM THAT THE
DISCIPLINE OF SOCIOLOGY ITSELF
WAS THE INVENTION OF SUCH SEMI-
OUTSIDERS.
AT LEAST AFTER KANT, IT EMERGES
IN THE SHAPE OF EMILE DURKHEIM,
AND MARCEL MAUSS, FROM THE
JEWISH PROVINCIAL PETIT
BOURGEOISIE OF FRANCE, JUST AS
PSYCHOANALYSIS SPRINGS FROM A
RATHER SIMILAR NICHE WITHIN THE
AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE.
AND SOCIETY-- SOCIOLOGY WAS
INVENTED, AMONG OTHER REASONS,
TO RESTORE A SENSE OF
SOLIDARITY TO A PRECARIOUSLY
ATOMISED CAPITALIST MODERNITY,
WHICH HAD LOST THE FEEL OF
SOCIETY AND THEREFORE WAS
POLITICALLY VERY VULNERABLE.
YET THE STORY OF BRITAIN'S
CELTIC FRINGES, THOROUGHLY
CAPITALIST THOUGH THEY'VE BEEN
FOR A LONG TIME, FOR
CENTURIES...
IS, I THINK, AMONG OTHER
THINGS, A NARRATIVE OF RESIDUAL
CLAN LOYALTIES, VERSUS MODERN
INDIVIDUALISM.
IT'S NOT JUST THAT THERE WOULD
BE PRECIOUS LITTLE BRITISH
LABOUR MOVEMENT WITHOUT THE
SCOTS AND THE WELSH, OR THAT
TWO OF BRITAIN'S FINEST UTOPIAN
THINKERS, ROBERT OWEN AND
WILLIAM MORRIS, ARE OF WELSH
PROVENANCE, OR THAT IT WAS A
SCOT WHO FOUNDED THE LABOUR
PARTY, AND ANOTHER PART GAEL,
TONY BLAIR, WHO SEEMS LIKELY TO
END IT.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues SO IT'S A LITTLE KNOWN FACT
THAT BLAIR'S MOTHER WAS A
DONEGAL PROTESTANT.
OR, THAT IT WAS AN IRISHMAN WHO
WROTE,
THE RED FLAG,
OR THAT ANOTHER IRISHMAN,
WILLIAM THE GREAT, WILLIAM
THOMPSON OF CORK, EARLY 19th
CENTURY THINKER, ANTICIPATED
MARX'S CONCEPT OF ALIENATION.
I KNOW THIS IS A BIT LIKE THE
JAPANESE-- THE CHINESE CLAIMING
THEY INVENTED EVERYTHING, YOU
KNOW, AS AGAINST THE WEST, BUT
THERE WE ARE.
WE IRISH INVENTED THE CONCEPT
OF ALIENATION...
AND INDEED, WAS ONE OF THE
GREATEST OF EARLY FEMINIST
THINKERS, OR THAT ANOTHER SCOT,
JAMES CONNELLY IMPORTED
SOCIALISM INTO IRELAND, WHERE
NATIONALISM HAD DISPLACED IT.
UNLIKE WALES WHERE CLASS
POLITICS AND NATIONALISM WERE
MUCH MORE INTRICATELY COMBINED.
BY THE LATE 19th CENTURY, WELSH
POLITICS WERE CLASS POLITICS,
WHATEVER THE SENSE OF CULTURAL
APARTNESS OR, BUZZ-WORD, IDENTITY.
ONE MIGHT
EVEN ADD, PERHAPS IN MORE MINOR
VEIN, THAT THE JOURNAL, "NEW
LEFT REVIEW," IS OF COURSE, THE
PRODUCT OF THE DISAFFECTED
MEMBERS OF THE ANGLO-IRISH
ASCENDANCY, LIKE THE ANDERSONS,
THE HALLIDAYS AND THE COBURNS,
PLUS A SCOTTISH NATIONALIST,
TOM NAIRN.
ENGLAND, AFTER ALL, HAD ITS RADICALS AND
VISIONARIES, TOO.
IF WE DIDN'T HAVE WILLIAM
THOMPSON, IT HAD EDWARD
THOMPSON.
IT'S-- THE POINT, RATHER, IS
IT'S FROM THE AGE OF
ENLIGHTENMENT ONWARDS, I THINK,
THIS CLANNISH, OR
GAMEINSCHAFTLICH DIMENSION OF
THE CELTIC MARGINS, EVEN IN THE
VERY EPOCH OF THE HIGHLAND
CLEARANCES, THE UPROOTING OF
SCOTTISH CLAN SOCIETY, THIS,
ALL OF THIS SHOWS UP AS A
CULTURAL, LITERARY AND
PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCE FROM
ANGLO-SAXON CULTURE.
SHOWS UP, FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE
FACT THAT ALMOST ALL OF THE
MOST PROMINENT EXPONENTS OF THE
18th CENTURY CULTS OF
BENEVOLENCE, SENTIMENT AND
SENSIBILITY -- HUTCHINSON,
HUME, STEELE, GOLDSMITH, ADAM
SMITH, McKENZIE, BURNS,
FERGUSON, EDMOND BURKE, HUGH
BLAIR, MACKLIN, McPHERSON AND
THE LIKE, WERE JUST AS
UNIFORMLY NON-ENGLISH AS IN THE
20th CENTURY, WILDE, SHAW,
JAMES, CONRAD, YEATS, JOYCE,
POUND, WYNDHAM LEWIS, AND
SAMUEL BECKETT.
INDEED, NOT ONLY WAS SAMUEL
BECKETT NOT ENGLISH, BUT WHEN
AN UN-CLUED UP FRENCH
JOURNALIST ASKED HIM IF HE WAS,
HE REPLIED, FAMOUSLY, "AU
CONTRAIRE."
THE REASON WHY ALL THOSE 20th
CENTURY, SO-CALLED ENGLISH
WRITERS WEREN'T ENGLISH AT ALL,
IS THE SUBJECT OF ANOTHER
LECTURE, WHICH I CAN'T DELIVER
NOW, BUT IF ANYBODY WISHES TO
APPROACH ME LATER, THEN FOR A
VERY MODEST FEE...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues OR IF YOU HAVE ANY JEWELLERY TO
TIP OVER TO ME, OR ANYTHING OF
THE KIND, I'M WILLING TO
CONSIDER TALKING ABOUT IT.
I'M, BY THE WAY, DESPERATELY
TRYING TO FIND A WAY TO GET
NORTHROP FRYE AND MARSHALL
McLUHAN IN HERE, TOO.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues BECAUSE I-- I'VE BEEN TOLD YOU
DON'T GET YOUR FEE IN CANADA
UNLESS YOU MENTION THEM.

[Applause and Laughter]

Terry continues IN WHAT ONE MIGHT SEE, I THINK,
AS A SHIFT FROM THE CLAN TO THE
CLUB, FOR TRADITIONAL CLAN
SOCIETY, TO, LET'S SAY,
ENLIGHTENMENT EDINBURGH, THE
EDINBURGH OF HUME, THE GLASGOW
OF FRANCES HUTCHINSON, THE
BELFAST OF THE UNITED IRISHMEN, YES?
A FORM OF-- A FORM, IF YOU
LIKE, OF DISPLACEMENT OR EVEN
SUBLIMATION FROM THE SOCIAL TO
THE CULTURAL, THESE ASSORTED
20th CENTURY CELTIC AND GAELIC
THINKERS CHAMPION THE VALUES OF
PITY, COMPASSION, BENEVOLENCE,
THE AESTHETIC, SYMPATHY,
EMPATHY, INTUITION, TRADITIONAL
CUSTOM, MORAL SENSE, TENDRESSE,
SENTIMENT, SOCIABILITY,
PRIMORDIAL LOYALTIES AND THE
LIKE, AGAINST AN INCREASINGLY
ARTICULATE AND DOMINANT ANGLO-
SAXON CULTURE OF UTILITY,
CONTRACTUAL RELATIONS,
INSTRUMENTAL REASON AND
ECONOMIC INDIVIDUALISM.
THAT'S FAR TOO SHARP AND
SIMPLISTIC A DISTINCTION, OF
COURSE.
THE THINKING OF THE CELTIC
FRINGES IS RIDDLED FROM END TO
END, WITH MANY OF THE
CATEGORIES OF BOURGEOIS
ENLIGHTENMENT.
BUT IT'S NOT SURPRISING, I
THINK, IN THE LIGHT OF THEIR
WELL-NIGH MONOPOLY OF THE 18th
CENTURY CULTS OF SENTIMENT AND
SENSIBILITY, THE ATTEMPTS TO
INVENT LARGELY THROUGH
AESTHETIC MEANS, ALTERNATIVES
TO THE DOMINANT SOCIAL MODES.
NOT SURPRISING THAT ANGLO-
SAXONS TYPICALLY VIEWED CELTS
AS WOMEN, AS FEMININE, AS WELL
AS, ILLOGICALLY, AS BELLIGERENT
AND AGGRESSIVE.
THINKERS LIKE DAVID HUME, ADAM
SMITH, AND THE GREAT ULSTER
PHILOSOPHER, FRANCIS HUTCHINSON
WERE SOPHISTICATED CLUB MEN,
NOT HAIRY GAELIC PRIMITIVISTS,
BUT THEN MODERNITY IS WOVEN
THROUGH WITH RESONANCES OF
CUSTOM AND INSTINCT, KIN AND
LOCALITY, SPONTANEOUS
SYMPATHIES AND INNATE
AFFINITIES, ALL OF WHICH CAN BE
SEEN, I THINK, AS A TRACE OF A
CERTAIN KIND OF CELTIC
GAMEINSCHAFT WITHIN THE
OTHERWISE GAMEINSCHAFTLICH
REFLECTIONS OF MEN AND WOMEN
WHO HAILED FROM REGIONS THAT
HAD BEEN, FOR COLONIAL REASONS,
SLOWER TO MODERNISE THAN THE
METROPOLITAN SOCIETY.
IT'S A NOTABLE IRONY THAT THE
GREATEST OF ALL IRISH POLITICAL
THINKERS AND AESTHETICIANS,
EDMUND BURKE, SIGNIFICANT THAT
HE'S BOTH AT THE SAME TIME,
PUTS ALL OF THIS TO THE DEFENCE
OF A UTILITARIAN ENGLAND,
AGAINST REVOLUTIONARY FRANCE,
SUMMONS ALL OF THOSE VALUES OF
KINSHIP AND TRADITION AND
CUSTOM, OF INSTINCT AND
SENTIMENT AND IMAGINATION,
AGAINST A CERTAIN, RATHER
BLEAKER, RULING LOGIC.
ONE MIGHT ADD, TOO, THAT IT'S
IN EARLY CELTIC NATIONALISM,
THAT WHAT WE NOW DUB, CULTURAL
MATERIALISM MADE ITS FIRST
APPEARANCE IN THE FORM OF LATE
18th CENTURY, OR EARLY 19th
CENTURY INVESTIGATIONS OF THE
AFFINITIES BETWEEN REGION,
LANGUAGE, ECONOMY, NATIONAL
CHARACTER, CLIMATE, NATION,
POLITICAL MOVEMENTS AND SO ON.
CULTURAL MATERIALISM HAS ITS
ROOTS IN ROMANTIC NATIONALISM
AND IN THE SCOTTISH AND IRISH
ENLIGHTENMENTS, AND THE TERM
ITSELF, WAS INVENTED BY A
WELSHMAN, BY RAYMOND WILLIAMS.
IT'S FROM
THIS HERITAGE, I THINK AT LEAST
IN PART, THAT THE WORK OF
CULTURAL SOCIOLOGISTS LIKE EWAN
DAVIES SEEMS TO FLOW.
NOT SO MUCH, THEN, I THINK A
QUESTION OF THE GENIAL GAEL.
YOU KNOW, THAT'S AN
EXOTICISATION ON THE PART OF
THE BRITISH, IT'S A QUESTION OF
THE CONGENIAL ONE, CONGENIAL IN
THE ETYMOLOGICAL SENSE OF
CLANNISH OR TRIBAL, BUT IN PRE-
MODERN ORDERS, LET'S SAY ON THE
19th CENTURY IRISH FARM,
PERSONAL AND SOCIAL RELATIONS
ARE NOT SO EASILY SEPARABLE AS
THEY ARE IN URBAN MODERNITY,
WHICH IS ONE REASON WHY
PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS ARE MUCH
LESS SENTIMENTALISED, VERY
OFTEN, THAN THEY ARE IN THE
SUBURBS OR TREATED AS A KIND OF
ESCAPE FROM, OR ALTERNATIVE TO
THE WORLD OF MODERNITY.
WE'RE ALL,
OF COURSE, AWARE OF HOW
COERCIVE AND CLAUSTROPHOBIC
SUCH GAMEINSCHAFT CAN BE, NOT
LEAST IN ITS CONTEMPORARY FORMS
OF COMMUNITARIANISM, WHICH AS
FAR AS I CAN TELL, MEANS, IF
YOU SMOKE ON THE STREET, OR
COMMIT ADULTERY IN SOME SMALL
KANSAS TOWN, NOT TO SPEAK OF
COMMITTING ADULTERY ON THE
STREET...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues A GROUP OF YOUR WELL-
MEANING, WELL-INTENTIONED
NEIGHBOURS WILL LAND ON YOUR
DOORSTEP AND BEAT THE SHIT OUT
OF YOU.
EVEN SO, FOR ALL OF OUR PROPER
WARINESS OF THAT KIND OF
STIFLING AND GODFORSAKEN
COMMUNITARIAN INWARDNESS, THE
SEVERING OF THE AFFECTIVE FROM
THE ECONOMIC, WHICH IS
GESSELLSCHAFT, IS CLEARLY NOT
MUCH OF A SOLUTION TO OUR WOES, EITHER.
INDEED, IT'S A LARGE PART OF
THE PROBLEM.
AND THE TRADITIONAL AIM OF
SOCIALISM, HAS, OF COURSE, BEEN
NOT TO REINVENT THE ORGANIC
SOCIETY, BUT TO RE-EMBED
ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITHIN
SOCIAL AND MORAL ONES.
WE'RE ALL WELL VERSED, NOW IN
ALMOST PAVLOVIAN CONTEMPT FOR
THE ORGANIC SOCIETY, AND QUITE
RIGHTLY, TOO.
NO ONE HAD DEEPER SCORN FOR THE
NOTION OF THE ORGANIC SOCIETY
THAN RAYMOND WILLIAMS, WHO
COMMENTED THAT IF THERE WAS ONE
SURE THING ABOUT IT, IT WAS IT
HAD ALWAYS GONE.
BUT NOBODY SPOKE UP MORE
ELOQUENTLY THAN WILLIAMS,
EITHER, FOR THE IDEAS OF
COMMUNITY AND SOLIDARITY.
HE DIDN'T REJECT THE IDEA OF
THE ORGANIC SOCIETY FROM A MORE
FASHIONABLE LIBERAL URBAN
POSITION.
INDEED, HE REJECTED IT BECAUSE
HE THOUGHT IT DEMEANED THE
RURAL COMMUNITIES THAT HE
CHAMPIONED.
ALL RIGHT, SO MUCH FOR CELTS.
NOW WHAT ABOUT CATASTROPHE?
WELL IT MAY BE, IT MAY BE THAT
IN THE MOST CATASTROPHIC OF
CONDITIONS, GAMEINSCHAFT MAY BE
ALL WE HAVE LEFT.
LET ME PUT THE POINT-- LET ME
EXPLAIN THAT BY SAYING THAT WE
MAY END UP BEING DOOMED TO A
CERTAIN KIND OF UTOPIA.
AND I'LL TRY AND EXPLAIN THAT,
BY SAYING A WORD FIRST ABOUT
THAT MOST UNFORGIVABLE OF ALL
MARXIST HERESIES,
CATASTROPHISM.
I MEAN A FAR BLACKER CRIME ON
THE MARXIST STATUTE BOOK THAN
ECONOMISM, BIOLOGISM,
REVISIONISM, CAESARISM,
ADVENTURISM, PUTCHISM,
BONAPARTISM, OR INDEED, PARING
YOUR TOENAILS IN PUBLIC.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues CATASTROPHISM, ROUGHLY
SPEAKING, IN THE ANNALS OF
MARXIST THOUGHT, HOLDS THAT THE
QUICKEST WAY, THE SUREST WAY TO
ACHIEVE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION IS
TO STAND BY AND LET EVERYTHING
GO GLORIOUSLY AND INEXORABLY TO HELL.
ALLOWING CAPITALISM TO COLLAPSE
UNDER THE WEIGHT OF ITS OWN
INTERNAL CONTRADICTIONS, AND
RUBBING ONE'S HANDS GLEEFULLY
AT THE NEXT SURGE OF WORKING
CLASS MISERY, STARVATION AND
MASS UNEMPLOYMENT.
NOBODY SERIOUSLY HOLDS THIS
VIEW NOWADAYS, APART PERHAPS
FOR A FEW BEARDED REFUGEES FROM
THE SECOND NATIONAL, LURKING IN
CAVES SOMEWHERE, TOO ASHAMED TO
COME OUT AND ARGUE THEIR CASE,
BUT AS USUAL, I SHALL ARGUE IT FOR THEM.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues MY PUTTING IN A GOOD WORD FOR
WHAT THE LEFT FASHIONABLY
REJECTS, WHICH SEEMS
INCREASINGLY MY ROLE IN THIS
LIFE, AND NO DOUBT IN THE NEXT
AS WELL.
BUT SHEER PERVERSITY, AND
STEMMING FROM A SMALL NATION,
BY THE WAY, GO ABSOLUTELY
TOGETHER, AS THE WORK OF OSCAR
WILDE OR SLAVOJ ZIZEK WOULD
WELL ILLUSTRATE.
CATASTROPHISTS, A VERY RARE
BIRD THESE DAYS -- YOU CAN FIND
THEM IN THE TEXTBOOKS, AS IT
WERE, ALONG WITH THE DODOS.
CATASTROPHISTS ARE AN ODD
COMBINATION OF OPTIMISM AND
PESSIMISM.
THEY CLAIM, IN A MECHANISTIC
SORT OF WAY, THAT THE
CAPITALIST SYSTEM IS LIKELY TO
BUCKLE UNDER ITS OWN PRESSURES,
AND THAT, AS I SAY, WE SHOULD,
FOR THE MOST PART, SIMPLY STAND
BY AND LET THIS HAPPEN.
YOU KNOW, MAYBE READING AN
IMPROVING BOOK AS IT GOES ON.
WHEREAS, OF COURSE, ORTHODOX
SOCIALISTS REJECT THIS VULGAR
DETERMINISM, FOR A BELIEF IN
THE EFFICACY OF CLASS STRUGGLE
IN TRANSFORMING WHAT WE HAVE
INTO SOMETHING A BIT MORE
TOLERABLE.
FOR THEM, CATASTROPHISM IS AN
UNHOLY COMPOUND OF ALL THE
WORST POLITICAL ERRORS,
FATALISM, PASSIVITY,
INEVITABLEISM, APOCALYPTICISM,
AND OTHERS EVEN MORE DIFFICULT
TO PRONOUNCE.
NOW CATASTROPHISM MAY WELL BE
MISTAKEN, IN THEIR DETERMINISM,
YOU KNOW, THAT THE WHOLE SYSTEM
IS CERTAINLY GOING TO HELL, AND
GOING TO COLLAPSE, BUT THEY'RE
NOT SO WRONG-HEADED IN HOLDING,
FOR EXAMPLE, THAT THE
CAPITALIST SYSTEM MAY CAVE IN,
BEFORE THE LEFT CAN EVEN LAY A
GLOVE ON IT.
I MEAN WHAT IF THE SYSTEM
COMMITS HARI KIRI BEFORE IT CAN
BE DELIVERED THE POLITICAL COUP
DE GRACE?
FREDERICK JAMIESON, ADMITTEDLY
NOT THE MOST FRENETIC OF
ACTIVISTS, HAS REMARKED, VIS A
VIS SCIENCE FICTION, VERY
WISELY AND I THINK VERY
ASTUTELY, JAMIESON SAID, "IT
NOW SEEMS EASIER TO IMAGINE THE
DESTRUCTION OF THE EARTH THAN
THE OVERTHROW OF CAPITALISM."
BUT WHAT IF THE TWO TURN OUT TO
BE MORE OR LESS SYNONYMOUS,
WHICH JAMIESON DOESN'T
CONSIDER.
WHAT IF CAPITALISM... YOU KNOW,
NOTHING ORIGINAL ABOUT THIS,
SIMPLY RUNS OUT OF OIL WITHOUT
ANY VIABLE ALTERNATIVES, OR
TRIGGERS SOME FRIGHTFUL AND
INCONCEIVABLE ECOLOGICAL
DISASTER AND ITS THESE THINGS
WHICH FINALLY LEAD TO ITS
DEMISE.
HOW WOULD THE LEFT LOOK THEN?
WHAT IF THE SYSTEM DIGS ITS OWN
GRAVE, WITH SCANT ASSISTANCE
FROM ITS CLASSICAL ANTAGONIST?
I MEAN SLAVERY COULDN'T HAVE
REDUCED THE WORLD TO A
WASTELAND, BUT CAPITALISM CAN.
UH... PERHAPS THIS SOCIAL
SYSTEM IS NOW SO FORMIDABLY
ENTRENCHED, THAT IT CAN BE
UPROOTED, OR UPROOT ITSELF,
ONLY AT THE COST OF UPROOTING
CIVILISATION WITH IT.
IT'S INTERESTING TO NOTE, I
THINK, INCIDENTALLY, THAT IN
THE LONG HISTORY OF APOCALYPSE,
THAT COSMIC DRAMA, WHICH BURSTS
ABRUPTLY ON HUMAN BEINGS FROM
THE SKIES.
WE NEVER PAUSE TO CONSIDER THAT
IT MIGHT BE WE, LITTLE OLD US,
WHO ARE ACTUALLY THE CAUSE OF IT.
THE LEFT MUST, OF COURSE, BE REALISTIC,
SINCE REALISM IS THE FOUNDATION
OF ALL MORAL AND POLITICAL
VIRTUE, AND IT'S ALWAYS BEEN
HARD FOR US TO BE SO, NOT ONLY
BECAUSE REALISM IS ENORMOUSLY
DIFFICULT AND TAXING AND
PERHAPS, IN THE END, NOT
POSSIBLE, NOT FULLY POSSIBLE,
BUT BECAUSE IT SOMETIMES SAILS
A BIT TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT TO
DEFEATISM, BECAUSE IT RISKS
GIVING CONSOLATION TO OUR
POLITICAL ENEMIES, TELLING THEM
JUST WHAT THEY LIKE TO HEAR,
BECAUSE CYNICS AND NIHILISTS
DON'T RECRUIT MANY EAGER CAMP
FOLLOWERS, AND BECAUSE, LIKE
ANYONE ELSE, WE NEED TO KEEP
OUR SPIRITS UP, TO BE EFFECTIVE.
I WAS SPEAKING AT A MARXIST-- THE
SOCIALIST WORKERS' PARTY
CONFERENCE IN LONDON A FEW
YEARS AGO, AT WHICH ONE COMRADE
ROSE TO HIS FEET TO CRY
JUBILANTLY THAT, "THERE HAVE
NEVER BEEN AS MANY
REVOLUTIONARY POSSIBILITIES AS
THERE ARE NOW."
WELL MAYBE HE'D NEVER HEARD OF
OCTOBER, 1917, OR MAYBE HE'D
BEEN SITTING IN A DARKENED ROOM
WITH A PAPER BAG OVER HIS HEAD
FOR RATHER TOO LONG.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT
STATEMENT IS NOT, OF COURSE,
THAT THERE ARE NO GROUNDS FOR
HOPE, FAR FROM IT, FAR FROM IT.
I MEAN THE SEVERE REBUFFS NOW
BEING ISSUED TO THE UNITED
STATES AMERICAN IMPERIALISM,
THE LONG TERM DECLINE OF
AMERICAN HEGEMONY, THE SEISMIC
POLITICAL SHIFTS IN THE
CONTINENT TO THE SOUTH OF US
AND SO ON.
CERTAINLY THAT'S TRUE, BUT WHY
DO SOME SECTORS OF THE LEFT
FEEL THAT OPTIMISM IS ALWAYS A
REVOLUTIONARY VIRTUE, JUST AS
SOME AMERICANS FEEL THAT
NEGATIVITY IS A KIND OF THOUGHT
CRIME, AN ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT
DISTINCTION THAT I THINK,
BETWEEN UNITED STATES AND
CERTAIN-- I DON'T KNOW ABOUT
CANADA, CANADIAN, BUT CERTAINLY
EUROPEAN THOUGHT.
AN ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT
DIFFERENCE.
THAT ALSO IS A DIFFERENT
LECTURE I HAVE IN MY BRIEFCASE,
WHICH, FOR A SMALL FEE, I WOULD
BE VERY...
I MIGHT EVEN PUT IN A PERVERSE
WORD IN HERE FOR PESSIMISM.
THE PESSIMIST, FOR THE LIKES OF
SAM BECKETT AND THEODOR ADORNO,
BEING ONE WHO KEEPS FAITH WITH
A SUFFERING SO INTOLERABLE THAT
IT CRIES OUT TO HEAVEN FOR
REDEMPTION AND WHO DOES SO, IN
HIS DELIBERATELY ACETIC AND
BLEAK EYED WAY, AND THUS SERVES
THE CAUSE OF THE OPPRESSED FAR
BETTER THAN THE STARRY EYED
TRIUMPHALISTS, NOT THAT I HAVE
ANY OBJECTION TO PROGRESS, OR,
INDEED THAT ANYBODY HAS ANY
OBJECTION TO PROGRESS.
SOME PEOPLE, CALLED POST
MODERNISTS, THINK THEY'RE
AGAINST PROGRESS, ALTHOUGH
THEY, YOU KNOW, THEY DO
OCCASIONALLY VISIT THE DENTIST
AND SO ON.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues AND WHAT THEY'RE AGAINST,
BORINGLY AND OBVIOUSLY, IS
PROGRESS WITH A HUGE CAPITAL P.
TELL ME WHO IS FOR IT.
OF COURSE REALISM, POLITICAL OR
EPISTEMOLOGICAL OR MORAL, CAN'T
BE A RECIPE FOR THROWING UP
ONES HANDS AND LEAVING PEOPLE
IN THE LURCH.
IN THAT SENSE, THE
CATASTROPHISTS IS ALMOST
CERTAINLY WRONG.
THAT CERTAINLY WOULD BE
DEFEATISM.
BUT CATASTROPHISM IS NOT, IN
FACT, DEFEATISM.
IT DOESN'T THINK THAT
CAPITALISM CAN'T BE ENDED.
ON THE CONTRARY, IT THINKS IT
WILL COME TO AN END.
IT'S JUST THAT IT THINKS THAT
WE CAN'T DO ANYTHING VERY
IMPORTANT ABOUT IT.
AND IN THIS, IT MAY TURN OUT TO
BE MISTAKEN, FOR SURE, THOUGH
IT WOULD NOT, I THINK, BE
IMPLAUSIBLE TO BELIEVE THAT THE
INTERNAL COLLAPSE OF A SYSTEM
INCREASINGLY RUNNING ON EMPTY,
IN ALMOST EVERY SENSE OF THE
WORD, LOOKS, FROM WHERE WE
HAPPEN TO BE STANDING, TO BE AT
LEAST AS LIKELY AS
REVOLUTIONARY TRANSFORMATION.
I THINK WE HAVE COLDLY AND
REALISTICALLY, WITHOUT RUSHING
TO THE CONCLUSION THAT THAT
CERTAINLY IS THE CASE, TO TAKE
THE IMPLICATIONS OF THAT.
IT WOULD BE UNREALISTIC OF THE
LEFT, I THINK, IN OUR CURRENT
SITUATION, TO REFUSE TO
CONTEMPLATE THE POSSIBILITY
THAT CAPITALISM MIGHT CRACK UP
EVEN BEFORE IT CAN BE
OVERTHROWN, WHICH MIGHT MAKE
ALL THOSE EVENINGS GIVEN OVER
TO BRANCH MEETINGS RATHER THAN
CANDLE LIT DINNERS, A CERTAIN
CAUSE FOR FOND REGRET.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues ROBERTO UNGER HAS RECENTLY
WRITTEN THAT, "GREAT EUROPEAN
SOCIAL THEORISTS, KARL MARX
FIRST AMONG THEM...... IDENTIFIED THE INTERNAL
DYNAMICS OF SOCIETIES AS THE
PROXIMATE SOURCE OF THEIR
TRANSFORMATION.
THESE THINKERS WERE MISTAKEN.
WAR AND ECONOMIC COLLAPSE HAVE
BEEN THE CHIEF LEVERS OF
CHANGE, CATASTROPHE HAS SERVED
AS THE MIDWIFE OF REFORM."
CATASTROPHE HAS SERVED AS THE
MIDWIFE OF REFORM.
THIS STRANGELY OVERLOOKS THE
FACT THAT WAR AND CATASTROPHE
MAY, OF COURSE BE A PRODUCT OF
SUCH INTERNAL DYNAMICS AND
CONTRADICTIONS, AS, FOR
EXAMPLE, IN AN APOCALYPTIC
CAPITALIST OIL CRISIS OR
ECOLOGICAL CRISIS.
BUT THE POINT REMAINS, SURELY, THAT
CAPITALISM TODAY, MORE THAN AT
ANY TIME IN ITS BRIEF
HISTORICAL EXISTENCE, IN AN AGE
OF NUCLEAR POWER, TERRORISM,
SCARCE VITAL RESOURCES,
ECOLOGICAL CRISIS, AND, WOULD
ONE BELIEVE IT, BIRD FLU.
HOW UTTERLY UNDIGNIFIED YOU KNOW, TO HAVE
HISTORY ENDED BY BUDGERIGARS, OR...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues THERE'S SOME MORE SPLENDID AND
NOBLE WAY WE COULD GO UNDER.
NO, THAT'S ANOTHER LECTURE I COULD--
CERTAINLY THIS MIGHT-- HISTORY
MIGHT PLAUSIBLY-- THE SYSTEM
MIGHT PLAUSIBLY GRIND TO A HALT
WITHOUT THE NEED FOR AN
ORGANISED SOCIALIST MOVEMENT TO
HELP KICK IT TO THE GRAVE.
I DON'T THINK THE LEFT CAN
SIMPLY TURN ITS EYES FROM THIS
POSSIBILITY BY SIMPLY
REHEARSING FOR THE UMPTEENTH
TIME, IT'S FAMILIAR TALK OF
STRUGGLE, OF THE CULTURAL
MEDIATION OF NATURE, OF SOCIAL
RELATIONS AND THE LIKE.
IT MIGHT HOWEVER, WELL FEEL THE
URGE TO DO SO, TO CONTINUE TO
TURN ITS EYES FROM THIS
POSSIBILITY, SINCE, IN A
CURIOUS SENSE, THIS SCENARIO
WOULD MEAN THE END OF
CAPITALISM, IT'S ALSO IN A
SENSE THE END OF MARXISM.
NOT IN THE CONVENTIONAL SENSE,
THAT MARXISM IN ANY CASE, IS
SUPPOSED TO WITHER AWAY AS A
THEORY AND A PRACTISE ALONGSIDE
ITS ANTAGONIST, BUT IN THE
SENSE OF CHALLENGING ONE OF ITS
MOST CENTRAL DOCTRINES, NAMELY
THAT THE DYNAMIC OF CLASS
STRUGGLE IS THE MAJOR SOURCE OF
SOCIAL CHANGE.
MARX SIMPLY COULDN'T HAVE
FORESEEN THE END OF THE WORLD.
EVEN, HOWEVER, IF WE KNEW...
LET'S JUST IMAGINE THAT WE KNEW
THAT THE END OF THE WORLD IS
NIGH, THAT WOULDN'T, WOULD IT,
BE ANY RECIPE OR REASON FOR NOT
CONTINUING TO STRUGGLE FOR
JUSTICE.
IT WOULD BE NO REASON
WHATSOEVER.
AND I THINK THE ETHICAL AND
PHILOSOPHICAL IMPLICATIONS OF
THAT ARE VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE
LEFT.
YOU KNOW, FOR ONE THING,
SOCIALISM IS NOT A
CONSEQUENTIALISM OR A
UTILITARIANISM.
IT WOULDN'T REALLY MATTER, EVEN
IF, PAR IMPOSSIBLE, WE KNEW THE
WHOLE PROCESS WAS ULTIMATELY
HISTORICALLY DOOMED.
BUT OF COURSE, YOU MIGHT ARGUE,
I WOULD ARGUE THAT IN SUCH
CONDITIONS, A SOCIALIST
MOVEMENT WOULD BE EVEN MORE
NECESSARY THAN EVER.
I MEAN NOT TO TRANSFORM THE
SYSTEM -- I'M IMAGINING THAT
THAT HAS BOTTLED AND
DISINTEGRATED, BUT TO PICK UP
THE PIECES AND TO MINIMISE THE
HARM, ONE CLEAR AND IMPORTANT
REASON TO BE ON THE LEFT IS TO
MINIMISE THE HURT TO A LOT OF
PEOPLE THAT WOULD INEVITABLY BE
OCCASIONED BY SUCH A CRACK-UP,
AND FOR THAT, I'M SAYING, THE
LEFT HAS TO, IN SOME WAY PLAN
AND THINK AND IMAGINE RATHER
MORE THAN IT DOES AT THE
MOMENT, UNDERSTANDABLY BECAUSE
IT IMPLIES A CERTAIN KIND OF
GLOOMY PERSPECTIVE, WHICH
SECTORS OF THE LEFT ARE LOATHE
TO INDULGE IN.
BECAUSE, IF CATASTROPHE IS THE
MIDWIFE OF REFORM, I DON'T KNOW
THAT IT IS, BUT THAT'S WHAT
UNGER ARGUES.
BUT IF IT IS, IT IS, OF COURSE
EVEN MORE THE MIDWIFE OF
BARBARISM.
ONE LIKELY CONSEQUENCE OF SUCH
A CRACK-UP WOULD NOT, OF
COURSE, BE THE END OF
CAPITALISM, EXACTLY, BUT ITS
TRANSFORMATION ONCE MORE INTO
SOME SPECIES OF FASCISM.
SOCIALISM, AS I SAY, EXISTS,
AMONG OTHER REASONS, SO THAT IF
AND WHEN THERE IS SUCH A GLOBAL
CRISIS, AS FEW PEOPLE GET HURT
BY IT AS POSSIBLE, AND THAT
DOES DEMAND A LOT OF
ORGANISATION, SO WE MUST
ORGANISE IN THAT SENSE, BUT
ALSO, I THINK, LEARN WHAT WE
CAN FROM THE CATASTROPHIST
HERESY AND PLAN FOR A SORT OF
SOCIALISM WHICH MIGHT BE
POSSIBLE IN THE WAKE OF
CIVILISATION ITSELF, AND THAT'S
WHERE I-- DAVID HARVEY HAS SOME
INTERESTING REFLECTIONS ON THAT
IN AN APPENDIX TO ALL OF HIS
BOOKS, THE TITLE OF WHICH I
CAN'T REMEMBER.
AND THAT'S WHERE I RETURN TO MY
THEME OF GAMEINSCHAFT.
IT SURELY IS POSSIBLE THAT ONLY
SOME DRAMATIC DISINTEGRATION OF
THE SYSTEM WILL FINALLY FORCE
US, KICKING AND SCREAMING, INTO
THE COOPERATIVE COMMONWEALTH,
IF BARBARISM IS THE ONLY
ALTERNATIVE.
AND OF COURSE, BARBARISM IN
EITHER ITS FASCIST OR NON-
FASCIST FORMS, MAY CERTAINLY
OVERWHELM US IN SUCH A
PRECARIOUS SITUATION.
PERHAPS UTOPIA, OR AT LEAST A
SPECIES OF GAMEINSCHAFT WILL BE
USHERED IN WITH THE RETURN OF
THE HORSE AND CART, AND THE
BARTERING OF VEGETABLES FOR
VIOLIN LESSONS.
PERHAPS GENUINE LOCAL SELF-
GOVERNMENT WILL BE ACHIEVED,
BECAUSE ALL CENTRALISED SYSTEMS
HAVE BROKEN DOWN.
ANYWAY, IT'S ON THAT INCURABLY
FRIVOLOUS ABSURDLY EUPHORIC
NOTE THAT I SHALL LEAVE YOU TO
ASK YOURSELVES, WHAT EXACTLY
WAS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN
CELTS AND CATASTROPHE?

[Audience laughter]

Now a man in the audience rises. He's in his late twenties, clean-shaven, with wavy brown hair.

He says IF WE COULD SEE, IN THE
POSSIBILITIES IN THE
MARGIN OF THESE
POSSIBILITIES, THERE WERE
PEOPLE WHO WERE SPEAKING FROM
POSITIONS OF DOUBLE MARGINALITY
LIKE, LET'S SAY SMALLER CITIES,
PROVINCES, RURAL AREAS THAT
WERE SUFFERING FROM WHATEVER
IMPERIALISM IS DOING, WHAT
CONTEMPORARY EXAMPLES DO WE
HAVE IN THE CULTURAL LIFE OF
THOSE PLACES THAT MIGHT OFFER
US SOME HOPE?

Terry says WELL, FIRST
OF ALL, LET ME REPEAT MY POINT
THAT I DON'T REGARD MARGINALITY
AS SOMEHOW IPSO FACTO AN
AFFIRMATIVE CATEGORY, FAR FROM IT.
I MEAN, OR
INDEED, THE CURRENT RATHER
VOGUISH DEMONISATION OF THE
CENTRAL.
SOME THINGS ARE IMPORTANTLY
CENTRAL I THINK, YOU KNOW, AND
SOME, AS I SAID BEFORE, SOME
FORMS OF MARGINALITY, NEO-
FASCISTS, FOR EXAMPLE, ARE
CERTAINLY NOT AFFIRMATIVE.
WELL, LET ME, AS SPEAKERS
SOMETIMES SAY, AS EMPIRICISTS
SAY, LET ME SPEAK-- I CAN ONLY
SPEAK FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE.
WHAT AN EXTRAORDINARY THING TO
SAY, BY THE WAY, EITHER
TAUTOLOGICAL OR FALSE.
YOU SEE I LIVE IN IRELAND, AND
IRELAND HAS BEEN TRADITIONALLY
A MARGIN, AND HAS ASSIDUOUSLY
CULTIVATED ITS MARGINAL STATUS
FOR ALL KINDS OF CULTURAL,
COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL AND OTHER
DARK MOTIVES.
MARGINALITY CAN BE COMMODIFIED
JUST AS MUCH AS ANYTHING ELSE.
BUT, THERE ARE, OF COURSE, AND
YOUR QUESTION IMPLIES IT, THERE
ARE ALSO POTENTIALLY POSITIVE
FORMS OF MARGINALITY, AND ONE
OF THEM IS THE DILEMMA OF THE
CHOICE FACED BY A LATE
MODERNISING NATION, LIKE
IRELAND, BUT THERE ARE MANY
OTHER EXAMPLES, WHICH IS EITHER
TO END UP LOOKING LIKE ANOTHER
SWITZERLAND, REALLY, OR, TO
FIND WAYS OF USING ITS HISTORY
OF DISPOSSESSION, AND YOU KNOW,
MARGINALITY IN EFFECTIVE
POLITICAL WAYS IN THE PRESENT,
FOR EXAMPLE, BY PROTESTING
AGAINST GEORGE BUSH USING
SHANNON AIRPORT TO REFUEL
AIRCRAFT ON THE WAY TO IRAQ,
WHICH, YOU KNOW, IN A
POLITICALLY, NEUTRAL NATION HAS
CAUSED AN ENORMOUS STORM, WHICH
MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE HIT OVER
HERE.
BUT THOSE, IT SEEMS TO ME, THAT
THOSE ARE CHOICES THAT SUCH
NATIONS FACE, YOU KNOW?
IT'S NOTHING TO DO WITH SOME
SENTIMENTAL NOSTALGIC REJECTION
OF MODERNITY, YOU KNOW.
MODERNITY HAS GIVEN US
ENTHRALLING GIFTS.
IT'S TO DO WITH HOW YOU MIGHT
USE A HISTORY DIFFERENTLY AND
THAT'S IMPORTANT, CLEARLY, IN A
WORLD WHERE THE AMBITION OF OUR
POLITICAL OPPONENTS IS NOT TO
PITCH A DIFFERENT HISTORY
AGAINST US, BUT ACTUALLY TO
ERASE THE VERY NOTION OF
HISTORY FROM PEOPLE'S MINDS.
TO LIVE IN-- TO ENCOURAGE THEM
TO LIVE IN SOME GOLDFISH LIKE
ETERNAL PRESENT, YOU KNOW, IN
WHICH EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED
UP TO FIVE MINUTES AGO, IS
ANTIQUITY IN A PEJORATIVE
SENSE.
IT WAS TROTSKY, I THINK, WHO
REMARKED, WE MARXISTS HAVE
ALWAYS LIVED IN TRADITION.
YOU KNOW, TO BE A LEFTIST IS TO
BE A TRADITIONALIST.
IT'S JUST THAT OUR TRADITIONS
ARE NOT THEIR TRADITIONS.
AND SUCH NATIONS EITHER HAVE
THE CHOICE OF GOING AMNESIAC,
IN A LATE CAPITALIST POST
MODERN STYLE, OR TRYING TO
MUSTER AND MOBILISE THE
RESOURCES OF A VERY DIFFERENT
HISTORY, A HISTORY OF ANTI-
COLONIALISM, FOR EXAMPLE, TO DO
SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
ONE VERY TINY AND SMALL, BUT
VERY CONCRETE EXAMPLE OF THAT,
IRELAND, WHICH OF COURSE HAS
THRIVED WITHIN THE EUROPEAN
UNION, HAS BEEN VERY ADEPT AT
SHOWING OTHER SMALLER NATIONS
COMING INTO THAT UNION, OR
TRYING TO GET INTO IT, TRYING
TO GET INTO THE RICH MAN'S
CLUB, HOW TO GO ABOUT IT, HOW
TO DEAL WITH THE BIG BOYS.
YOU KNOW, NOW THAT'S A SMALL
WAY OF USING A DIFFERENT
EXPERIENCE FOR EFFECTIVE
CONTEMPORARY MEANS.

Now another man in his twenties rises from the audience and says
IT SEEMS LIKE THERE'S
DIFFERENT WAYS TO THINK OF
CATASTROPHE, OR OF THIS
CATASTROPHE THAT WOULD HAPPEN
AT THE END OF SORT OF, THE
NATURAL PROCESS OF CAPITALISTIC
HUMILIATION, AND IT CAN EITHER
BE AN EVENT, OR A PROCESS.
AND I ALMOST FELT LIKE THE WAY
YOU WERE PRESENTING IT, IT WAS
MORE LIKE AN EVENT.

Terry says YEAH, YEAH.

The man continues THAT IT WOULD JUST SORT
OF HAPPEN, AND THEN THE LEFT IS
LEFT TO PICK UP THE PIECES.
WHEREAS PERSONALLY I THINK I'M
MORE INCLINED TO THINK OF IT AS
A PROCESS AND TO EVEN TAKE ANY
OF THE SPECIFIC EXAMPLES,
WHETHER IT'S PEAK OIL, WHETHER
IT'S SOME SORT OF GLOBAL
PANDEMIC, BUT THAT THE PROCESS
OF THIS GLOBAL ECO-CATASTROPHE
WOULD BE SUCH THAT PLAYS OUT IN
CLASS WAYS.
AND SO I DON'T KNOW, I WOULD
JUST ASK IF YOU WANTED TO
COMMENT ON THAT IN GENERAL.

Terry says I THINK YOU'RE DEAD RIGHT.
I MEAN I DID STRESS CATASTROPHE
AS A-- AS AN APOCALYPTIC
OUTBURST RATHER THAN AS A
PROCESS AS YOU RIGHTLY SAY, AND
THERE, I'M SURE YOU'LL BE
GRATIFIED TO KNOW, YOU'RE AT
ONE WITH WALTER BENJAMIN, WHO
NOBODY EVER HAS A WORD TO SAY
AGAINST, YOU KNOW, LIKE NELSON
MANDELA.
HAVE YOU EVER HEARD ANYBODY
CRITICISE BENJAMIN?
WHEN BENJAMIN SAID, OF COURSE,
IN THE THROES OF THE '30s, OF
HIS OWN SITUATION, HE SAID,
DIDN'T HE, THE FACT THAT
EVERYTHING JUST CARRIES ON, IS
THE CRISIS.
THAT IS PARTLY THE POINT YOU
MAKE.
CRISIS IS NOT SOMETHING
DEFERRED, WHICH COMES AT THE
END OF THE SCENE, AS IT WERE,
BUT THIS NOW, SEEN IN A CERTAIN
WAY, IS CATASTROPHE ALREADY
HAPPENING.
FASCISM IS CATASTROPHE
HAPPENING.
IT'S NOT SOMETHING SIMPLY
CONFINED TO THE END OF ACT 5,
AS IT WERE.
I ABSOLUTELY AGREE WITH YOU
THAT YOU CAN'T, AND THIS IS
WHERE THE CATASTROPHISTS GO
WRONG, SEPARATE OUT SOCIAL
RELATIONS FROM SUCH DISASTERS.
THAT WAS MY
POINT, REALLY, IN SAYING, HOW
ODD THAT WHEN THEY APOCALYPSE
COMES AND BURSTS UPON US AS AN
ALIEN FORCE, IT TURNS OUT THAT
WE WERE ACTUALLY THE PRODUCERS OF IT.
IT WAS OUR APOCALYPSE
ON THE OTHER
HAND, I'M NOT SURE I AGREE--
WELL MY POINT WAS SIMPLY THAT
THAT MIGHT HAPPEN BEFORE CLASS
STRUGGLE CAN SUCCESSFULLY
ACHIEVE ITS POLITICAL
CONCLUSIONS, AND WE HAVE TO
FACE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THAT.

Now another man from the audience rises. He's in his fifties, with short gray hair.

He says HI, AS SOMEBODY WHO
WENT TO UNIVERSITY IN WALES, I
APPRECIATE YOUR UM... YOUR
SENTIMENTS ABOUT THE WELSH, BUT
THERE'S ALSO CARDIFF, WHICH IS,
YOU KNOW, IT'S A VERY, VERY
LARGE CITY, THAT IS NOT ABOUT
GAMEINSCHAFT AS SUCH, BUT IT'S
ALSO ABOUT PEOPLE COMING IN
FROM OTHER PLACES, SOMALIS,
NIGERIANS, RIGHT?
IT'S A DEEP HISTORICAL
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WALES AND
THE REST OF THE WORLD.
AND IN A SENSE, THAT'S MY SEGUE
INTO THE QUESTION AROUND
CATASTROPHISM.
I'D LIKE YOU TO TALK A LITTLE
BIT ABOUT THE CONNECTION
BETWEEN THE TWO THINGS, FROM
CELTS TO CATASTROPHE.
YOU KNOW, WHEN I SEE PEOPLE
BEACHED UP ON THE CANARY
ISLANDS, WHEN I LOOK AT WHAT'S
HAPPENING, FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE
UNITED STATES WITH MEXICAN
WORKERS.
FROM THE VANTAGE POINT OF
CAPITALISM, THERE IS A KIND OF
CATASTROPHISM GOING ON THERE IF
YOU WISH.
IN OTHER WORDS, YOU'VE GOT TO
DEAL WITH THE CONTRADICTIONS OF
WANTING CHEAP LABOUR, BUT THEN
HAVING TO PAY FOR THEM.
COULD BE THROUGH HEALTH CARE,
COULD BE THROUGH A VARIETY OF
OTHER THINGS, YOU KNOW, IT'S A
FORM OF CONTRADICTION IN A WAY,
SO, BUT IT'S ALSO PART OF THE
PROBLEM OF DEPOPULATING AREAS
IN VARIOUS PARTS OF THE WORLD,
THAT ALSO REQUIRE THOSE PEOPLE
IN SOME SENSE.
NOW I KNOW THIS IS PART OF THE
WHOLE PROBLEM OF IMMIGRATION,
OR MIGRATION.
I KNOW THAT'S A LOT, BUT MAYBE
IF YOU COULD MAKE A SEGUE FROM
CELTS TO CATASTROPHE, AND MAYBE
COMMENT A BIT UPON THAT ISSUE
OF MODERNITY OPENING UP IN THIS
WAY, BUT ALSO OPENING UP IN A
WAY THAT'S AT THE VERY LEAST
CONTRADICTORY, AND MAYBE, WHO
KNOWS, CATASTROPHIC AS WELL.

Terry says I THINK YES,
I THINK I'D LIKE TO RESERVE THE
WORD CATASTROPHE-- I'D LIKE TO
MAKE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN
CRISIS AND CATASTROPHE.
I'D LIKE TO RESERVE THE
CATASTROPHE FOR SOMETHING VERY,
VERY SPECIAL AND I THINK WHAT
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT IS
UNDOUBTEDLY A KIND OF CRISIS.
WELL YOU SEE, WHEN I REFER TO
THE WORK OF WILLIAMS, WILLIAMS
WAS VERY AWARE, BEING HIMSELF A
BORDER COUNTRY PERSON WITH AN
AMBIGUOUS RELATIONSHIP TO
WALES, TO THE WELSH HE WAS VERY
AWARE THAT WALES WAS ALL ABOUT
MOBILITY AND CHANGE, AND IF YOU
LOOK AT THAT OTHER CELTIC
FRINGE ISLAND TODAY, THEN IT IS
OF COURSE EXPERIENCING FOR THE
FIRST TIME IN ITS HISTORY, AS A
TRADITIONALLY EMIGRANT NATION,
IT'S EXPERIENCING IMMIGRATION,
AND IS CERTAINLY IN CRISIS,
BECAUSE OF THAT.
BUT YOU SEE, ONE THING THAT I
LIKE ABOUT WILLIAMS, IS THAT
HE-- WORDS LIKE MOBILITY AND
DIVERSITY AND CHANGE AND
DIFFICULTY WERE PART OF HIS
VOCABULARY LONG BEFORE THEY
WERE FASHIONABLE ON THE LEFT,
LONG BEFORE, BUT HE DIDN'T
REGARD THAT, I THINK
INTERESTINGLY, AS BEING AT ODDS
WITH THE IDEA OF NEEDING SOME
KIND OF SETTLEMENT.
SETTLEMENT IS ALSO A VERY
IMPORTANT WILLIAMS WORD.
AND I THINK ONE STRIKING FACET
OF HIS WORK, WHICH, AS IT WERE,
PREDATES GLOBALISATION IN ALL
KINDS OF WAYS, IS THAT HE
REALLY DID TRY TO LOOK AT BOTH
OF THOSE TERMS, BOTH OF THOSE
IDEAS.
HE WASN'T ASHAMED OF USING
WORDS LIKE SOLIDARITY AND
COMMUNITY AND EVEN ROOTS,
BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN TAINTED
AND CONTAMINATED BY THE
Heideggerians OF THIS WORLD, FOR EXAMPLE.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues HE QUITE PROPERLY AND
UNASHAMEDLY, IN A WORLD, TOO,
WHERE SOME THEORISTS CELEBRATE
THE MOST DISLOCATING FORMS OF
DIVERSITY, MOBILITY AND
IMMIGRATION, AS SOMEHOW IPSO
FACTO GOOD.
WILLIAMS WASN'T ASHAMED TO LOOK
AT THE PAINS AND COST OF THOSE
KINDS OF EXILE.
INDEED, THREW NEW LIGHT ON THE
WHOLE PHENOMENON OF MODERNISM
BY SEEING THE WAYS IN WHICH, AS
IT WERE, THE MODERNISTS TRIED
TO CHEER THEMSELVES UP, SITTING
AROUND A TABLE IN SOME POLYGLOT
CAFE IN SOME CENTRAL EUROPEAN
CITY, BY DENYING THAT IDENTITY
OR ROOTS, OR SETTLEMENT OR
STABILITY OR CENTEREDNESS OR
CONTINUITY WERE ANY LONGER
IMPORTANT.
YOU KNOW, WILLIAMS WAS VERY
GOOD AT SEEING WHAT A
RATIONALISATION THAT WAS, AND
THE FACT THAT HE CAME FROM A
KIND OF BORDER COUNTRY, I THINK
HELPED HIM TO DO SO.

Now a man in his thirties rises and says
CAN WE SAY THAT FOR
SOME PARTS OF THE WORLD THE
CATASTROPHE HAS ALREADY
OCCURRED, AND THAT LEFT, WITHIN
THOSE AREAS OR THOSE PARTS OF
THE WORLD WILL THEN TAKE ON THE
PROJECT OF CLEANING UP.
I'M NOT SURE IF I HAVE--
WHAT I'M TRYING TO STRESS ON IS
HOW YOU HAVE MOBILISED THE
CONCEPT OF CATASTROPHE AND HOW
YOU HAVE POSITIONED THE PROJECT
OF THE LEFT TO MEAN THAT THE
LEFT COMES IN AS A FORM OF
SALVATION ARMY TO CLEAN UP THE MESS.

Terry chuckles.

The man continues AND FOR ME, IN SHIFTING
AWAY, FROM A MORE GLOBAL
PERSPECTIVE TO A MORE
CONTEXTUAL PERSPECTIVE, I WANT
TO STRESS THAT FOR SOME PARTS
OF THE WORLD, THERE ARE, OR FOR
SOME PARTS OF THE WORLD, THE
MOMENT OF THE CATASTROPHE HAS
ARRIVED, AND SO CAN WE MAKE A
POINT ABOUT THE LEFT IN THOSE
PARTS OF THE WORLD, THAT THEIR
JOB THERE NOW IS TO GO AFTER
AND CLEAN UP THE MESS?

Terry says WELL I
DIDN'T ACTUALLY-- I MEAN THE
CATASTROPHISTS CASE IS INDEED
THE SALVATION ARMY CASE, YES.
STAND BY AND THEN RUSH IN, YOU
KNOW, TO BIND UP THE INJURED.
AND I ACTUALLY REJECTED THAT
AND SAID THAT YOU KNOW, I MEAN
THAT'S SIMPLY NOT ON FOR THE LEFT.
BUT I DID, AT THE SAME TIME,
WANT TO ENCOURAGE US TO IMAGINE
A SITUATION IN WHICH, SAY, SOME
INCONCEIVABLE CATASTROPHE
OVERTAKES THE WORLD, WHILE
CAPITALISM IS STILL IN
BUSINESS, ONE WHICH RESULTS IN
THE DISINTEGRATION OF THE WHOLE
SYSTEM.
THAT IS TO SAY WHERE THE
DISINTEGRATION OF CAPITALISM
AND OF CIVILISATION, AS WE KNOW
IT, ARE SYNONYMOUS.
I DON'T THINK THAT THE LEFT
DOES THINK MUCH ABOUT THAT, AND
I DON'T THINK WE CAN SIMPLY
FALL BACK ON OUR CONVENTIONAL
WISDOM.
I'M TRYING TO PROVOKE YOU OUT
OF THAT, AS IT WERE.
OF COURSE, THERE'S A SENSE IN
WHICH, JUST AS BEFELL TO
BENJAMIN, FASCISM WAS A CATASTROPHE.
SO, WHAT'S
HAPPENING NOW IN THE SOUTH OF
THE GLOBE IS A CATASTROPHE, BUT
ALL I'M SAYING IS, HOWEVER
TRAGIC THAT IS, THERE SEEMS TO
BE A VERY REAL SENSE IN WHICH
WE HAVE TO SAY, YOU AIN'T SEEN
NOTHING YET.
AND I THINK IF YOU DON'T SAY
THAT, YOU'RE BEING UNREALISTIC, YES?
AND THAT IN
NO SENSE OR ANYBODY, IT'S NOT JUST YOU.
THAT IN NO SENSE IS TO DISTRACT
FROM OR MINIMISE, YOU KNOW, THE
HORRORS OF THE CONTEMPORARY.
IT'S JUST TO SAY THAT IT LIES
WITHIN THE DYSTOPIAN
IMAGINATION TO IMAGINE A GREAT
DEAL WORSE.
AT THE SAME TIME, YOU SEE, ONE
VERY GOOD REASON FOR BEING A
MARXIST THESE DAYS, APART FROM
YOU KNOW, EMBARRASSING PEOPLE,
AND YOU KNOW, JUST SOUNDING
COMPLETELY DINOSAUR LIKE, YOU KNOW...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues IS THAT, OF COURSE, I MEAN,
IN WHAT, YOU KNOW, USED TO BE
CALLED DIALECTICAL, IN THE ERA
WHEN MEN HAD SIDEBURNS AND SO ON.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues WHAT DOES MARXISM SAY ABOUT
MODERNITY?
IT SAYS TWO THINGS.
IT SAYS IT IS AT LEAST
POTENTIALLY, AND IN MANY WAYS,
ACTUALLY, THE MOST ENTHRALLING
PROCESS OF EMANCIPATION.
IT GAVE BIRTH TO LIBERALISM,
SOCIALISM, DEMOCRACY, AND ALSO
IT IS ONE LONG NIGHTMARE.
NOW I DON'T-- AND MOREOVER, HE
DOESN'T JUST SAY, AS THE
LIBERALS DO, A LITTLE BIT OF
THIS AND A LITTLE BIT OF THAT.
IT SAYS THOSE TWO NARRATIVES
MUST BE UNDERSTOOD IN RELATION
TO ONE ANOTHER.
NOW MAYBE I JUST HAVEN'T BEEN
READING ENOUGH BOOKS, BUT I
DON'T KNOW OF ANY OTHER
POLITICAL POSITION WHICH ARGUES
THAT CASE, WHICH IS FIRMLY
OPPOSED AT ONCE TO ANTI-MODERN
NOSTALGIA, YES?
AND TO A KIND OF CRASS
BLAIRITE, OR BUSHITE
PROGRESSIVISM OR TRIUMPHALISM.
THAT TRIUMPHALISM AS YOU QUITE
RIGHTLY IMPLY, HAS MEANT
DISASTER FOR WHOLE SECTORS OF
THE--
I MEAN WHO WOULD IMAGINE THAT
IN THE 21st CENTURY, THE HUMAN
RACE WOULD BE SPENDING AT LEAST
AS MUCH TIME ON ITS PURE
MATERIAL SURVIVAL AS IT WAS IN
THE STONE AGE?
I MEAN WHO WOULD CONCEIVABLY
HAVE IMAGINED, PRESENTED WITH
THAT SCENARIO, THAT THAT WOULD
BE THE CASE AT THE SAME TIME AS
THAT PROCESS OF MODERNITY HAS
GIVEN US THE POSSIBLE
INSTRUMENTS TO TRANSFORM THAT
SITUATION.

Now a man in his twenties rises and says
WHAT MODELS WOULD YOU
SAY YOU REALLY FIND HOPEFUL,
WHETHER ON THE SIDE OF
IMAGINING DEALING WITH A
CATASTROPHE OR SPARKING
ACTIVISTS AND REVOLUTION ON THE LEFT?

Terry says WELL I
MENTIONED ONE OR TWO VERY
HOPEFUL SIGNS, IF YOU REMEMBER,
IN TERMS OF THE STRUGGLE
AGAINST IMPERIALISM, IN TERMS
OF LATIN AMERICA, IN TERMS OF
THE ULTIMATELY DRASTIC
REALIGNMENT OF POWER POSITIONS
WITH THE DECLINE OF AMERICAN
HEGEMONY.
UM, ON THE OTHER HAND, THE
REASON THAT I SPOKE ABOUT
REALISM WAS BECAUSE UM--
I DON'T HONESTLY THINK THAT
OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM ARE VERY
USEFUL POLITICAL OR INDEED
ETHICAL CATEGORIES.
THAT'S WHY, I MEAN YOU MIGHT
SAY, TO BE SURE, REALISM
SOMETIMES INCLINES ONE TO THE
ONE RATHER THAN THE OTHER, BUT
THE LODESTAR I THINK IS
REALISM.
I USED TO HAVE A STUDENT AT
OXFORD, WHO IRRITATINGLY, THE
ONLY QUESTION HE WANTED TO KNOW
ABOUT ANY AUTHOR, WHATSOEVER,
WAS, WAS HE AN OPTIMIST OR A
PESSIMIST?

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues WHICH, WHEN YOU'RE TALKING
ABOUT SHAKESPEARE, IS A BIT DIFFICULT.
I THINK THAT THERE IS A CERTAIN
VEIN OF TRIUMPHALISM -- IT'S
NOT GENERAL ON THE LEFT, BUT
CERTAIN TRADITIONAL SECTORS OF
THE LEFT BREED IT, WHEREAS I
SAY IT'S THOUGHT TO BE A KIND
OF POLITICAL THOUGHT CRIME TO
BE NEGATIVE.
BUT IT SEEMS TO ME THAT IF
REALISM LEADS YOU IN THAT
DIRECTION, THEN YOU HAVE TO GO
THERE.
THAT'S ONE-- AS FAR AS, TO USE
A RAYMOND WILLIAMS TITLE, THE
RESOURCES OF HOPE, GOES, ONE--
THAT'S ANOTHER REASON FOR
FIGHTING POLITICAL AMNESIA,
ISN'T IT?
BECAUSE SO MANY OF THE
RESOURCES OF HOPE ARE REALLY IN
THE HERITAGES THAT WE TRY TO
PRESERVE AND BEAR WITH US.
AND PERHAPS COMMUNICATE TO
STUDENTS OR TO OTHER PEOPLE.
ONCE AGAIN, TO QUOTE THE
PRETERNATURALLY UNCRITICISED
WALTER BENJAMIN, AS BENJAMIN
SAYS, IT'S NOT-- IT'S NOT
DREAMS OF LIBERATED
GRANDCHILDREN THAT DRIVE MEN
AND WOMEN TO REVOLT, IT'S
MEMORIES OF OPPRESSED
ANCESTORS, A VERY JUDAIC THING
TO SAY, AND THAT IN FACT THAT
THOSE RESOURCES ARE ALWAYS
IMPERILLED.
THAT'S ANOTHER BENJAMINIAN
POINT.
OR TO PUT IT ANOTHER WAY, AS HE
DOES, AND RETURNING TO THE
QUESTION OF CATASTROPHE, WHAT
DISTINGUISHES THE DISPOSSESSED
IS THAT FOR THEM, EVERY MOMENT
IS A MOMENT OF EMERGENCY.
YOU KNOW, AS OPPOSED TO THE
KIND OF MORE TRIUMPHALIST VIEW
OF HISTORY, WHERE HISTORY ROLLS
ALONG FAIRLY AMICABLY, WITH
OCCASIONAL PUNCTUATIONS OF
CRISIS.
YOU KNOW, THAT'S VERY MUCH THE
VICTORS' VIEW OF HISTORY, SO TO
SPEAK.
IT'S THE SAME, ISN'T IT, WITH
QUESTIONS OF IDENTITY.
IF IDENTITY-- IF YOU HAVE TO
CONFRONT THE PROBLEM OF
IDENTITY, THEN THAT IS ALREADY
THE CRISIS, YES?
THE FORTUNATE ONES ARE THOSE
WHO DON'T HAVE TO CARRY ON
THEIR BACKS, DAY BY DAY, THE
QUESTION OF WHO THEY ARE, OR
WHERE THEY'RE GOING OR
WHATEVER, OR WHICH HERITAGE
SHOULD THEY AFFIRM.
IT'S THOSE WHO PERHAPS MISTAKENLY BELIEVE
THEY KNOW WHO THEY ARE, AT
LEAST TO BE GETTING ON WITH IT,
YOU KNOW, WHO ARE IN A VERY
FORTUNATE POSITION.
THE POINT IS TO GET-- THE POINT
IS TO GET TO THE POINT WHERE WE
NO LONGER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT
THESE THINGS, YES?
THAT'S WHY I KEEP SAYING, UNAVAILINGLY, IN
MY PERVERSE WAY, YOU KNOW, THE
ONLY REASON TO BE ON THE LEFT
IS TO GET TO A POINT WHERE YOU
DON'T NEED TO BE.
IT'S NOT LIKE BEING A BUDDHIST.

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues ABSOLUTELY, IT'S ALMOST THE
COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF BEING A
BUDDHIST, YEAH?
LET'S GET TO THE POINT WHERE WE
CAN BE PROPERLY ANGRY ABOUT THE
FACT THAT THEY HAVE FORCED US
TO PUT SO MUCH ENERGY INTO
QUESTIONS OF, YOU KNOW,
SEXUALITY OR ETHNICITY OR CLASS
OR PROVENANCE, WHICH, IN THE
END, ARE NOT ALL THAT
IMPORTANT.
OR AT LEAST IT WOULD BE THE
SIGN OF AN EMANCIPATED SOCIETY
THAT THEY WEREN'T ALL THAT
IMPORTANT.
WE SHOULD FEEL PROPERLY
RESENTFUL ABOUT THAT, THAT, YOU
KNOW, WE WANT TO GET TO THE
POINT WHERE WE CAN SIMPLY YOU
KNOW, LIE AROUND ALL DAY IN
VARIOUS POSTURES OF JUISSANCE...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues AND RAISE SOME MORE INTERESTING
QUESTIONS, LIKE YOU KNOW, THE
SIZE OF PRINCE CHARLES' EARS,
OR YOU KNOW...

[Audience laughter]

Terry continues THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER.

The clip end. Back in the studio, Andrew Moodie reappears with a caption that reads his name.

He says THERE WAS A
TIME WHEN THE LEFT, WITH A
CAPITAL L, WAS CLEARLY IN
FAVOUR OF PROGRESS WITH A
CAPITAL P.
TODAY, A LEFTIST LIKE TERRY EAGLETON CAN
ONLY SNEER AT SUCH PROGRESS.
SO IF PROGRESS CAN'T SAVE OUR
HIDE, THEN PERHAPS AN
IMPLOSION, A COLLAPSE OF
CAPITALISM CAN SAVE US FROM
OURSELVES.
DISCUSS AMONGST YOURSELVES.
THERE ARE LECTURERS WHO ARE SO
FORMIDABLE AND THEIR PRESENCE
IS SO STRONG, THAT WE ARE
SIMPLY DAZZLED, EVEN WHEN WE
ARE NOT QUITE SURE WHAT IT IS
THAT WE WERE MEANT TO LEARN
FROM THE CONTENT OF THE
LECTURE.
TERRY EAGLETON FITS THE BILL.
HAD HE BEEN TEACHING IN
ONTARIO, THERE WOULD BE NO
QUESTION THAT HE WOULD HAVE
BEEN A FINALIST IN TV ONTARIO'S
BEST LECTURER COMPETITION.
ALAS, THAT IS NOT THE CASE.
WHAT IS THE CASE, IS THAT THE
TOP 30 BEST ONTARIO LECTURERS
HAVE BEEN ANNOUNCED.
UNTIL WE NARROW DOWN THE FIELD, TO THE
TOP TEN, IN A FEW MONTHS FROM
NOW, THESE ARE THE ONTARIO
UNIVERSITY AND COLLEGE
PROFESSORS WHO ARE COMPETING
FOR THE TITLE OF BEST LECTURER.
TO FIND OUT WHO THEY ARE, AND
ABOUT THE COMPETITION ITSELF,
PLEASE TO TO OUR WEBSITE, AT...

The caption changes to "tvo.org/bestlecturer"

Andrew continues AND NOW TAKE A LOOK AT A FEW
SHORT EXCERPTS OF LECTURES WE
ARE PREPARING FOR YOU.

A clip plays with the caption "Coming up, Janice Stein."

In the clip, Janice Stein talks. She's in her fifties, with wavy gray hair.

She says ONE THING I
WOULD CHANGE, THERE WOULD BE A
THIRD ORDER OF GOVERNMENT,
WHICH WOULD BE CITIES, AND IT
WOULD NOT BE COMMUNITIES, IT
WOULD BE CITIES AND WE'D DEAL
WITH IT SQUARELY.
IF WE'RE AT THE BEGINNING OF
THE 21st CENTURY, HERE, WE
WOULD DIFFERENTIATE.
THAT'S AN UN-CANADIAN THING TO
DO, BUT WE WOULD DIFFERENTIATE,
BECAUSE IT IS OUR KEY PLATFORM
FOR MOVING FORWARD.

Another clip shows Roger Gibbins talking. He's in his late fifties, clean-shaven and balding.

He says POLITICS IS
CONFLICTUAL, THAT'S WHY I GET
IMPATIENT AT THE IDEA OF YOU
KNOW, PEOPLE SITTING DOWN AT A
TABLE AND CREATING-- YOU KNOW,
CONTRIBUTING GOOD THOUGHTS.
WE HAVE A POLITICAL SYSTEM
BECAUSE WE KNOW, WHEN WE SIT
DOWN AT THAT TABLE, WE
DISAGREE.
AND WE HAVE DIFFERENT VALUES,
DIFFERENT INTERESTS...

Back in the studio, Andrew says FOR BIG
IDEAS, I'M ANDREW MOODIE.

[music plays]

The end credits roll.

bigideas@tvo.org

416-484-2746

Big Ideas. Producer, Wodek Szemberg.

Producers, Lara Hindle, Mike Miner, Gregg Thurlbeck.

Logos: Unifor, Canadian Media Guild.

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 2006, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Terry Eagleton