Saturday, 4 January 2014

Politics and the plastic mind

One effect of growing experience is to render what is unreal uninteresting. Momentous alternatives in life are so numerous and the possibilities they open up so varied that imagination finds enough employment of a historic and practical sort in trying to seize them.

A child plans Towers of Babel; a mature architect, in planning, would lose all interest if he were bidden to disregard gravity and economy.

The conditions of existence, after they are known and accepted, become conditions for the only pertinent beauty. In each place, for each situation, the plastic mind finds an appropriate ideal. It need not go afield to import something exotic. It need make no sacrifices to whim and to personal memories.

It rather breeds out of the given problem a new and singular solution, thereby exercising greater invention than would be requisite for framing an arbitrary ideal and imposing it at all costs on every occasion.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason

To my mind this is the problem with politics – maintaining both a plastic mind and some level of interest in the ebb and flow of political debate. So many political narratives are nothing more than framing an arbitrary ideal and imposing it at all costs on every occasion.

For those with a plastic mind it won’t do - the world is too complex, particular cases too varied. So however important the issues, interest is bound to sag when faced yet again with those arbitrary ideals.

I don't even need to give examples because you will know lots of them already.


Demetrius said...

Just a thought, did Hunter Gatherers need plastic minds and did politics only begin to arise as societies became more fixed in locations and organised? Then with media and ideologies the simpletons began to take over?

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - interesting thought. My father came across Masai warriors in Kenya during the war. He always said their independence would eventually be destroyed by bureaucrats.

James Higham said...

a new and singular solution

Meaning solution applicable to that case specifically?

A K Haart said...

James - yes, or more often a solution adapted to that particular case. As people do when allowed to.