Friday, October 13, 2006

Relaxing with Lessing

Through literature, and politics, she came to know some of the leading thinkers and artists of her time. Her encounters include a warm visit with Betty Friedan ("a good Jewish mother, we got on like anything"), a contentious meeting with a young Henry Kissinger ("a harsh, abrasive aggressive force") and an amused get together with Allen Ginsberg and some fellow Beats.

"They turned up in London, a whole lot of them, and I went to meet them," she recalls. "I thought they were extremely likable, but this isn't how they wanted to be seen. I thought then, and I think I was right, that they weren't as frightening and as shocking as they wanted to be. They were mostly middle-class people trying to be annoying."
Plus, a choice tidbit from a Salon interview, circa 1997:
Q: You write about all of these interesting, caring, passionate people who put so much work into their belief in communism, and what they got in return was Stalin. It was a cruel kind of a joke.

A: Well, that's why socialism is, for our time, dead. Because young people say, "Right, all you Reds -- look what you were supporting. China and the Soviet Union." The interesting thing is to ask yourself this question: Why were the Europeans bothered about the Soviet Union at all? It was nothing to do with us. China had nothing to do with us. Why were we not building, without reference to the Soviet Union, a good society in our own countries? But no, we were all -- in one way or another -- obsessed with the bloody Soviet Union, which was a disaster. What people were supporting was failure. And continually justifying it. That had a disastrous effect on -- this is another cliché, forgive me -- progressive thinking of every kind.

Q: You compare that kind of progressive thinking to today's political correctness, to use another cliché. How true is that?

A: I think it is true. I think the attitudes of mind behind it are the same.

Q: What are those attitudes?

A: A need to oversimplify. To control. And an enormous distrust of the innovative, of new ideas. All political movements are like this -- we are in the right, everyone else is in the wrong. The people on our own side who disagree with us are heretics, and they start becoming enemies. With it comes an absolute conviction of your own moral superiority. There's oversimplification in everything, and a terror of flexibility. This characterizes political correctness.

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