The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.
“There is natural alliance between truth and affliction, because both of them are mute suppliants, eternally condemned to stand speechless in our presence.
Just as a vagrant accused of stealing a carrot from a field stands before a comfortably seated judge who keeps up an elegant flow of queries, comments and witticisms while the accused is unable to stammer a word, so truth stands before an intelligence which is concerned with the elegant manipulation of opinions.”
From Weil’s essay “Human Personality” quoted in John Berger’s “Understanding a Photograph” p. 180 Penguin Classics
The photograph is a detail of the artwork “Desert Quartet” by Elizabeth Frink, situated in Worthing, England.
“Now and then the clumps of people raised the cheer of the gratefully oppressed.”
– James Joyce, Dubliners
The rain comes down, misting the rooftops of the town. The faint susurration of its fall makes me think of many things: drowned ships, the whisper of memory, the third thing. It’s very English, isn’t it? To sit here and type and have the washing-machine going, and think about the sound of the rain.
I said the third thing, because it’s always important to include a third thing in a list like that, isn’t it? What is the third thing the rain makes me think of? How about: the sound of thousands of droplets?
I used the word English, there, as well, in the first paragraph. At the moment, this referendum is going on, to decide whether or not England remains part of the European Union. Here in England, a lot of the debate seems to be focused on what it is to be “English”. There is a lot of racism in the campaign, and people blaming the “immigrants”, who are not “English”.
By English, I mean English in the sense of listening to the Smiths, and being a Socialist, and welcoming immigrants. England, my England. My Socialist, egalitarian England. A drowned ship. Something underneath the rain.
The vote is on this coming Thursday and I am voting to stay in the EU.
I also meant – in that first paragraph – that I am sitting here, typing, listening to the sound of the rain, in England. Therefore, it has to be an English thing to do, doesn’t it?
And what does the washing-machine think about all of this? I don’t know because it doesn’t speak English. It has stopped now and the washing is hung up to dry. The rain, however, is still blowing across treetops and rooftops in fine clouds of mist. The trees are moving in the wind, silent through my window.