Wednesday, 23 December 2015


All men lead their lives behind a wall of misunderstanding they themselves have built, and most: men die in silence and unnoticed behind the walls. Now and then a man, cut off from his fellows by the peculiarities of his nature, becomes absorbed in doing something that is impersonal, useful, and beautiful.

Word of his activities is carried over the walls. His name is shouted and is carried by the wind into the tiny inclosure in which other men live and in which they are for the most part absorbed in doing some petty task for the furtherance of their own comfort. Men and women stop their complaining about the unfairness and inequality of life and wonder about the man whose name they have heard.
Sherwood Anderson – Poor White (1920)

This was one of Anderson’s themes, our inability to scale the walls of misunderstanding we ourselves have built. He saw it as an ineradicable feature of human nature when faced with the flux of interests and social convention in which we find ourselves so firmly enmeshed. Powerful interests know it well and build more walls by fostering even more misunderstanding.

One might have supposed that Anderson’s view would become dated, that the walls would be at least partly demolished by modern communication, but it doesn’t appear to be so. If anything the situation is worse now that it was almost a century ago because we have more powerful forces intent on building walls designed to suit their interests.

As always the most pernicious walls are those between elite classes and everyone else. David Cameron builds such walls, building them with care from obfuscation, misdirection and endless petty dishonesties.

Rats and mazes come to mind, but who is the master builder?


Demetrius said...

I think people understand less these days, so the walls do not need to be so high.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - good point. It allows more to be built too.

Michael said...

Pink Floyd immediately springs to mind...

A K Haart said...

Michael - it does, I wondered about making the connection in the post.