The Public Interest

Revolution instead—notes on passions and politics

George P. Elliott

Summer 1970

THE confusion of my political ideas and feelings sometimes becomes so grave that, feverish with rage, contempt, dread, despair, intellectual claustrophobia, I am alarmed by my own instability. Rage: at criminal oppressors, whether slum landlords for their soul-stagnating exploitation of the cowed, or white-sheeted assassins waylaying blacks and civil rights workers, or war-makers. Contempt: of mugwumps and cowardly hypocrites forever; currently, of young self-proclaimed revolutionists who, in the name of exalted ideals, Freedom and Justice, provoke from authority a responsive violence, an illegal force, a tyranny, which must be one of the things they really want—why else would privileged taunters, these new remittance men, throw plastic-bag bombs of urine in cops’ faces and call them pigs? Dread: of technology; of our future which, to the extent it can be imagined, can hardly be desired by us as we are; of what science has sanctioned us to do with its potent marvels first in the West and then to all mankind. Despair: of any remedy to our plight; what we most need is a change of heart, and no political change imaginable could accomplish that, only a religious one, and none such seems likely to happen. Intellectual claustrophobia: from onrushes of thinking about all this, trapping myself every time, no matter which way I go, into the mad notion that man himself, the world itself, is mad. The notion is mad both because it is unreal—after all, much of what I know about these matters comes to me through the mass media, that pseudoreality, not through my own experience—and also because it is irreconcilably self-contradictory, darkly unthinkable.

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