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• • •
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March 02, 2012


This is from an article by Jennifer Homas, Tony Judt's wife, about him writing his last book as he was dying from ALS:

The political manipulation of fear made Tony angry. Not upset or disappointed or frustrated, as it had in the past, but truly angry. Fear is the ultimate emotion and he lived at its door...To exploit fear for political ends, as had happened following September 11, for example, was to him an ethical abuse of the first order.

Tony had always been a forthright critic of social injustice; now he had zero tolerance. Not zero tolerance for halfway solutions—even a halfway solution is a solution—but zero tolerance for political deception and intellectual dishonesty. He acquired, in a way, the wisdom of a child: Why aren’t people angrier?

I feel you, Tony Judt. I AM THAT CHILD.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at March 2, 2012 08:10 PM

Prof Judt was absolutely amazing and great. I had the fortune of hearing him in person at U of C, this was before he took ill with ALS.
I miss his writings.

There is a great lecture which I watched..... I have no words to describe it, for more than one reason.
For anyone interested and who missed it, I am posting it here.

2009 Remarque Lecture
Tony Judt
October 19, 2009
"What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy"


Posted by: Rupa Shah at March 2, 2012 09:37 PM

I see that the link does not work. If anyone is interested, please copy and paste the URL.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at March 2, 2012 10:09 PM

I skimmed the book. I think two examples in particular are instructive: the elite interviewer's nonplussed reaction to the mention of intellectuals from outside his non-Polish tribe, and how his mother's liberation from a Nazi camp by the British had her standing superstitiously when the Queen was on the radio. He was fortunate enough to be disenchanted before becoming like them.

Why go on and reason tribally when your own experience teaches you all you need? "Pessimism of the spirit, optimism of the will." The reviewer, I believe, rightly draws the lesson of hard work. Frederick Douglass was able to teach himself to read and write, in secret, as a slave. Douglass's pride in his accomplishments led to him despising the slaves arguing over which master had more slaves. It was enough to disgust him with his former self. Luck and disenchantment would not have worked without effort.

I used to be a George Lakoff "frame" drone in the cult. Winning arguments with spin and passing out talking points feels like victory and that's a problem. It's appealing to tribal pride. It's a type of activism I guess, some kind of experience. But experience only informs you as far as your own store of it lasts.

I would still be parroting him were it not for friends who happily stood in as caricatures of alien "vices" until I could appreciate them. It was a happy accident, since my intent was to keep them around as warnings against said traits.

Posted by: Lewis at March 3, 2012 07:49 AM

No, not angrier. Why aren't people laughing? The current state of affairs is so ridiculous that it's clear that only sustained mockery will prick the bubble of authoritarianism. We don't need Marxists so much as we need Groucho Marxists.

If only you all knew a huge prick with a childish sense of humor. Oh, wait. :-P

Posted by: tom allen at March 3, 2012 10:06 AM

Fear is a good emotion for the most part. But like every other emotion, fear can be consumed by its bad side.

Fear to walk across the freeway blindfolded is the good side, but "who gives a shit, let's walk!" is the result of a morph toward the bad side.

Global warming catastrophe-warnings are a simple example of "do not try to walk across the freeway blindfolded!".

While "oil is natural, drill baby drill!" is "who gives a shit, let's walk!"

Posted by: Dredd at March 3, 2012 12:32 PM

"What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy"

Posted by: edwin at March 3, 2012 07:11 PM

I never read anything by Professor Judt before, but the article Edwin linked is impressive. RIP Professor Judt.

Posted by: N E at March 4, 2012 08:42 AM

...and, so, it came to pass...

"Then the face of Big Brother faded away again and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals:




Posted by: Dean Taylor at March 7, 2012 04:00 AM

G.I. Gurdjieff ended his biggest book with this passage:

"The sole means now of saving the beings of the planet Earth would be to implant in their presence a new organ ... having such properties that every one of these unfortunates, during the process of his existence, should constantly sense and be aware of the inevitability of his own death, as well as of the death of everyone upon whom his eyes, or attention, rest.

"Only such a sensation and such an awareness could destroy the egoism now so completely crystallized in them that it has swallowed up the whole of their essence, and at the same time uproot that tendency to hate others which flows from it---the tendency that engenders those mutual relationships which are the chief cause of all their abnormalities, unbecoming to three-brained beings and maleficent for them and for the whole of the Universe."

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at March 8, 2012 05:54 PM