Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Ethics of Escape

From Charles Coulombe:
The point to be made is that the "escape into fantasy" so often condemned by so-called "right-thinking people," is not without a real utility in solving problems in the here-and-now, especially the political here and now. Being devoted to the literature of escape does not preclude a deep and abiding interest in reality; quite the contrary. It allows one to meditate, as Huxley did with the ideals of Dr. Williams, on hypothetical questions in a constructive way. Not that fantasists are unanimous in their political or religious views---far from it. Yet they do have a commonality of perspective which transcends mere party labels---even as do the Technocrats. Tolkien was a Catholic, Royalist, Tory (as indeed, am I myself); but the chapter of The Return of the King called "The Scouring of the Shire" would be very pleasing indeed to any self-respecting Green or Anarchist. William Morris was considered a radical in his time, George Wyndham a reactionary; yet their taste in literature mirrored the fact that their politics contained a great deal of mutuality. Rudyard Kipling and Hilaire Belloc were in quite opposite camps when it came to the Empire---but as one when it came to England herself, as a comparison of the one's Puck of Pook's Hill with the other's Four Men will show clearly. Not for nothing did our old friend Herbert Spencer call the nascent Labour Party "the New Toryism," and would no doubt have made the same accusation against not just R. H. Tawney, but Tolkien and Henry Massingham as well. I have myself found much more in common in terms of basic values with other lovers of fantasy whose party labels are supposedly opposed to mine than either of us do with those who share those labels---but are committed believers in the truth of the gaol in which we live. (Read more.)

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