L’existence est ailleurs

andre breton

I’ll be travelling through Northern France for the next few days, and to honour the journey, here’s an interview with André Breton I undertook for a recent French assignment. When I’m back I’ll be overhauling this blog and introducing some new projects, but for now, I’m off to indulge in the new sins of modern times, unproductivity and idleness.

 

L’existence est ailleurs: une interview avec André Breton

«C’est vivre et cesser de vivre qui sont des solutions imaginaires. L’existence est ailleurs.»1
– Manifeste du Surréalisme, 1924

Dans cette interview unique, nous parlons avec le romancier et poète André Breton, qui est connu aujourd’hui comme le fondateur du Surréalisme. Malgré qu’il meure en 1966, nous pouvions communiquer avec M. Breton grâce à une modification secrète de la technique de l’écriture automatique, qu’il a découverte et a développée lui-même dans Les Champs Magnétique (avec Philippe Souppault) et le premier Manifeste du Surréalisme. Nous avons demandé son opinion sur la politique, la beauté, et la vie après la mort.

Moi: Dans votre roman Nadja de 1928, vous avez écrit que «La beauté sera CONVULSIVE OU ne sera pas.»2 Ces mots ont inspiré des générations de jeunes romantique à poursuivre une expérience plus intense de la beauté c’est impossible, qui ne peut pas être réalisé, sauf à travers une transformation profonde dans l’esprit, qui déstabilise les normes sociales restrictives dans l’expression de son désir. Se souvenir de ces mots quatre-vingts ans plus tard, je me demande si une telle idée de la beauté est possible dans cet âge anxieux et hyper-numérisé?

Breton: Non, l’idée est toujours possible, même aujourd’hui. Pour moi, le surréalisme est un engagement de l’esprit à l’expérience de la meilleure partie de l’enfance, de ce désir illimité pour explorer tout ce qui nous intéresse. Sans égard pour les obligations de politesse. Cet engagement à la liberté sera toujours politique, à toutes les époques, et en particulier à la vôtre.

Moi: Avez-vous des regrets?

Breton: Je ne regrette rien. Mais, je regrette que ma génération n’ai pas réagis plus catégoriquement contre l’autoritarisme, qu’il soit fasciste ou stalinien. Notre inactivité et manque de prévoyance a eu un impact dévastateur sur l’imagination politique depuis. Je regrette le sort triste de mon ami et collaborateur Leon Trotsky.

Moi: Décrivez-nous la vie après la mort.

Breton: Je peux la comparer seule à la poésie de Paul Eluard ou les divagations du Marquis de Sade: improbable. Je suis maintenant totalement persuadé par la philosophie de George Berkeley, que tout ce qui existe sont les esprits et les idées. Hier, j’ai pris un café avec un Walter Benjamin, qui a pris la forme d’un chat euphorique. Aujourd’hui, je méditais sur la texture du Saturne fondée sur une photo de visage d’une femme par Man Ray. Si ces choses se sont produites dans la réalité, ou ont été imaginées par mon esprit, n’est plus importante.

Moi: Qu’est-ce que vous pensez des écrivains aujourd’hui, par exemple Michel Houllebecq, qui traitent de sujets similaires de désir et la culture populaire dans leurs livres, mais dans un but moins politique et plus cynique?

Breton: La vénération des racistes radins et narcissique comme Houllebecq démontre la nécessité de maintenir une recherche collective de la beauté, sous toutes ses formes imaginaires, impossibles et oniriques.

Moi: Certaines personnes accusaient votre œuvres de sexisme, en considérant les femmes comme des objets sexuel, qui sont souvent présentes comme un « l’Autre», qui sont chassés par un protagoniste masculin triste. Comment voulez-vous répondre à cela?

Breton: Ma vie, je vivais comme une provocation, pour découvrir et réaliser la liberté de l’esprit sous tous ses formes. Je ne vais jamais m’en excuser.

Moi: Autre chose?

Breton: une fois, il y a plusieurs décennies, j’ai écrit que «Tout porte à croire qu’il existe un certain point de l’esprit d’où la vie et la mort, le réel et l’imaginaire, le passé et le futur, le communicable et l’incommunicable, le haut et le bas cessent d’être perçus contradictoirement.»3 Je peux vous dire aujourd’hui, hier, et demain, la vérité de ces paroles. Je découvrais la nature fictive de ces frontières. Il est ou n’est pas, ou à être ou ne pas être, et alors? Si la vie est un rêve ou une réalité elle est aussi pertinente qu’un conte de fées, charmante et absurde.

 

Références
1. Manifeste du surréalisme” in Œuvres complètes, tome 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1988), p. 346.
2. André Breton, Nadja. Texte intégral, dossier par Michel Meyer (Paris: Gallimard, 1988), p. 161.
3. Breton, Manifestes du surréalisme, (Paris: Gallimard, 1971), pp. 76-77.

This house is a sham

Claude Monet, "Sun Breaking Through the Fog", 1904

Claude Monet, “Sun Breaking Through the Fog”, 1904

I want to briefly talk about the need for a new kind of parliamentary democracy.

Nearly eight hundred years ago, in a field twenty miles west of here, the arbitrary and unjust rule of King John was forcibly restricted by a group of rebellious barons. The Magna Carta established the basis for a regular parliament, with powers to limit the king. It established a law of the land, giving every free man the right to due process, to fair legal treatment against the arbitrary violence of the state.

It began a line of thinking that would lead to parliamentary democracy. When we ask now, what should a parliament do, and I want to ask everyone – what should our parliament do? – we think of impartial representatives who speak up and make sure that the welfare and basic rights of the majority, of the collectivity, are the most important basis of all the state’s actions.

You’d think that in 800 years we might have come closer to realising some model of parliamentary democracy. True, there’s now universal suffrage for all men and women that our ancestors fought and died for. Yesterday’s terrorists are today’s democratic heritage. But today this right to vote doesn’t matter. Young people are deserting politicians in droves, in the UK and elsewhere. This right to due process, to fair legal treatment, is being fatally undermined by successive Tory-led and Labour governments with cuts to legal aid, and with legislation that exploits the fear of terrorism with a terrorism of its own, subjecting everyone to total surveillance and making it possible to arrest and detain people without charge.

Our parliament is a sham. It has failed to respond to the crises of the last few years. It has done nothing to prevent another banking crisis, nor punished those who caused the last. It has casually awarded itself pay-rises and generous expenses whilst the living standards of most people, particularly the poor, plummet. Look around. Insecurity is the new normal. Food banks; police spying, lying and killing of unarmed people; the career-insecurity, exam stress and huge debts that now dictate life for most young people; the decline in skilled and dignified employment; the lack of a long-term solution for our energy needs and environmental problems; where the working classes, the unemployed, and the disabled, have been made out to be a modern-day vermin. Many more, I won’t go on. Because of these failures, the word ‘politician’ has become a term of hatred second only to ‘banker’. Unpopular politicians are democratically illegitimate.

Some people think that the Labour party can be reformed. I disagree. The next government, quite possibly a Labour one, will bring in many of the same Oxbridge-educated people who formed the last one. Its leader has repeatedly praised Margaret Thatcher! I wonder, how many of tomorrow’s MPs will come from state schools, or without a university education, or without experience in business, law and PR, or without being the child of an existing MP? How many people are in the House of Lords because of their political allegiance to the government, or for donating to whatever party’s in power? Piecemeal attempts at reform cannot overturn this. Corruption is at root and branch. This is not a parliament fit for the majority of the British people.

What’s the answer? I’m not entirely sure. Unlike politicians, I don’t claim to be right, to have a monopoly on the ever-changing truth. But reactionary policies and a slavish pursuit of good media coverage and a few swing voters by Ed Milibot isn’t the answer. What will he actually agree to do if elected? I’m not sure, nor is he accountable if he does not. There’s nothing I’ve heard that suggests that this House will try, through policy, to tackle the long-term problems of housing, poverty, work, the environment, energy, of retaining a free national health service. More of the same stalling, mutual blaming and inaction. More fiddling and diddling.

I think instead that for anyone committed to equality, justice, and liberty, which I think most of us are, we need to start the fight for a new kind of parliament. One without political parties, without jeering public school boys, without the possibility for mega-rich party donors to dictate state decisions. Where it is impossible for five families to have more wealth than the poorest 20% of this nation. A parliament for the people, made up of people from all walks of life in its lower chamber, perhaps selected in a way similar to jury service, and made up of experienced and impartial experts in all fields in its upper chamber. With an elected, not hereditary, head of state. Accountable and transparent. With a codified constitution to prevent police violence and political corruption. With a set of civil rights to prevent the vulnerable dying when their benefits have been unfairly stopped, and from so many working people living under the daily anxiety of debt and hardship. With regular opportunities for direct democratic and proportional representation, beyond the 5-year first past the post shambles.

It is possible. I don’t think I’m being entirely utopian here. I’m expressing the same kind of ancient ideas that led to the formation of a jury, of a right to due process, of equality in law between rich and poor, of the right of all adult citizens to vote, of a welfare system, of free universal education up to the age of 18, and a national health service. Each puts the welfare of the majority at its centre. Not through words, but through democratic institutions.

I’m not a fortune-teller, but I’d bet that 2015 will see a low voter turnout, particularly among the young. Why vote, when there’s nothing to vote for, when the difference between major parties is little? British politics is facing a crisis of legitimacy. This house is a sham. Let’s start thinking about a new parliament of the people.

 

* The above is what I said at the People’s Parliament at the House of Commons this week.

Capitalism makes us anxious

Francis Bacon, 'Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne', 1966.

Francis Bacon, ‘Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne’, 1966.


Want to hear a joke in bad taste? Here goes:

Four people are on an airplane when its engines fail: an investment banker, an economist, a pensioner, and a student. The hull catches fire, and there are only three parachutes. The banker grabs one and says “this plane is my property, it’s my right!” and jumps. The economist grabs the second and says “without smart men like me, the world would collapse!” and jumps. With few moments to spare, the pensioner says “you take the last one, I’ve had a good life”. The student replies, “no, we’ll jump together”. Confused, the pensioner replies how. “Well, the smartest man in the world took my school bag”.

How does that relate to the stress felt in heart or head? Who knows. I tried with this recent popular article for Roar Magazine, and I did try hard, as we always, delusively, strive so well to do. Judge me there: http://roarmag.org/2014/03/neoliberal-capitalism-anxiety-depression-insecurity/

Good things x 2 to follow though….

Heckle me tomorrow as I talk with some way more interesting people at Parliament tomorrow on the poverty of ideas in politcs, tickets + info here: http://thepeoplesparliament.me.uk/themes/zero-books/

The name of western democracy

Torino-Paris Aug13 060

[This isn't a repost but an original article for this blog, about time I guess]

I’ve been troubled by the remarks of Russian Senator Nikolai Ryzhkov, quoted in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago. His words can be read on a number of levels. Regarding the political crisis in Ukraine, he said that Russia should be prepared for the west to “unleash their dogs on us”. “They ruined Yugoslavia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, all in the name of western democracy. It’s not even double standards, it’s political cynicism.”

As Germany and the United States continue to issue threats, events skitter between an unstable compromise over Crimea and outright war. Simply, his words are a statement of international defiance. Russia makes preparations to defend its political and economic interests in what it considers as one of its client states. It rejects any political or humanitarian criticism from the West in advance, by pointing to the destruction, war, and shambolic failure to establish political institutions that western intervention has brought elsewhere. Intervention, including intervening to prevent international scrutiny to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or Palestine, does not appear so contradictory when economic motives, rather than ‘women’s rights’ or ‘fair elections’, are placed at its head. The name of western democracy is not a sincere one, if it signifies only the justification of international aggression against economically disobedient states.

It also reflects the declining relevance of the UN, another well-meaning post-WW2 institution that ‘western democracy’ has effectively eroded. The corrupt behaviour of elected representatives, election fraud, the devastating influence of lobbyists, and the collective feeling in the young that politics is a pre-rigged, worthless game are all unanswered verdicts on democracy in American and western European states.

More troubling is the meaning of democracy in these cases, which no English-speaking writer has yet to satisfy me on. To understand the problems in Ukraine based simply on a left-wing, pro-democracy (and somewhat pro-EU) ‘#Euromaidan’ protest movement, against a corrupt Russian-propped puppet government, is to give too much attention to Kiev over the wider country, where a significant amount of its eastern citizens are actively pro-Russian, and generally seem to demand its intervention. It also overlooks the importance of nationalist feelings (either pro-Ukrainian, or pro-Russian), which have motivated and maintained the strength and unity of both sides of the escalation, be it against riot police in Kiev, or seizing government buildings in the eastern and Crimean towns. Again, well-meaning commentators here continue to insincerely place hope that the desire for freedom will win over the people. But such a freedom is meaningless unless it is predicated on a collective political identity that demands it, and it is this which in Ukraine, and in many other western states, the Left has been unable to address.

To insist that nationalist identification is somehow an aberration of ideology, an effect of politically-enforced ignorance, as a merely ‘imagined community‘, as many western commentators do, will not help to explain what sustains so many political movements, including anti-colonial and communist struggles (of course, fascism and religious authoritarianism too). Deny a person their feeling that their origin and identity matters, or that the way they can identify with others is through the collective belonging and aspirations of a culturally and linguistically homogeneous identity, and you ignore much of the source of their political desire.

This feeling is what Ken Loach’s ‘The Spirit of ’45‘ film (2013) played on, the sacrifices of a national people for a better society (understanding ‘national’ in the sense regarded then, particularly in Commonwealth countries, as something beyond just the UK), though again no English-speaking writer recognised this. It does surprise me that no writer since George Orwell has recognised that the possibility of democratic socialism, based on equality, justice and liberty, could only be possible in England if it was persuasively attached to popular identity and traditions. And so when commentators worry over the declining influence of the Left after the Cold War, they ought to consider why the Left no longer starts its politics from popular identity, rather than supposing some veil of ideology from which a pure and unrefined reality exists. The belief in such a reality is the hallmark of prejudice.

Meanwhile, the meaning of immigration and anxieties over cultural identity, issues which continue to dominate surveys of voters’ concerns, are clumsily handled. Few are able to persuasively articulate why toleration and equality are more important to our cultural identity than what language your fellow-passenger speaks on a train.

Perhaps, going back to the Ukraine for a moment, a close parallel is Egypt. In 2011, a large and strategically well-organised set of protest movements arose, representing many interests and grievances, of which the dominant account presented (at least in our ‘western democracy’) were the political aspirations of a frustrated urban middle-class, liberal in outlook and university-educated, which managed to effectively challenge the legitimacy of the Mubarak government. This forced the state to unveil the basis of its power, its violent police who will rise up against any revolutionary uprising. The ability of protesters to resist them inspired other citizens that a fight could be won for a fairer government. However democratic elections in Egypt did not produce an ‘Arab Spring’ freedom fighter, but the leader of a popular Islamic party with great influence outside the capital. The political incompetence of this leader, along with his belligerent refusal to cooperate with others, led to another sovereign crisis in which the military intervened and are in the process of installing a more favourable leader. Authoritarian rule, founded on violence and fear of violence, has been restored.

The situation may seem different in Ukraine. There is a power-play between former cold war powers, and its country is more divided on national and cultural lines. But in both cases a small pro-democracy movement sparked a wider civil conflict in which it rapidly lost influence, unable to collectively offer a positive self-identity and agreed set of political proposals. Western analysis devoted great attention to this initial movement but lost interest in the less theoretically clear matter of what followed. What of populations who freely elect leaders that clearly intend to install repressive policies? Of where the people are each time united, and divided, on along national and religious identities that narratives like ‘democracy’ are unwilling to influence? How valid are the claims of western democracy, its internationalism and demand for global human rights, when this language is more often than not cynically purposed to justify military aggression? Where its own citizens cannot count on fair political representation, and who go without work, shelter, food, healthcare, or countless other social rights, as its leaders take turns to play Richard III on the international stage?

So far, my point: the name of western democracy quickly becomes a euphemism for a form of modern economic and political aggression by an association of nation-states, military forces, paramilitary forces, energy and resources companies, and slightly gullible INGOs.

Let me present the problem another way. Now, in the west, the form of democracy presented to us has become equally unpopular. Democracy as unpopular, what does this mean? Consider the real desertion of trust and interest in politicians and political affairs across Europe. I’ve heard well-meaning people claim that educating young people about politics will end their apathy. It’s always based on a misunderstanding, that they do not know much of this vague and unspecific term, politics. But it’s easily discovered that the ideals of equality, fairness, justice, freedom, toleration and so on are easily grasped and commonly defended by young and old. What they lack instead is trust that these barely-elected officials will do anything more than lie, brag, steal or jeer. But commentators still aren’t listening.

Last November, an article entitled “Western democracy: decline and…” appeared on OpenDemocracy. Its authors, Ernesto Gallo and Giovanni Biava, make a number of arguments against our contemporary form of democracy which may be familiar. They fear that globalisation and the rule of the market has now made democracy irrelevant. A people in a state no longer have the power to decide the economic direction of their country. In the Eurozone we have seen how local referenda in Ireland, or governments in Greece or Italy, have been effectively toppled or dismissed not so much by the will of the people there, but by international economic forces.

That’s fine in explaining part of the issue, but it does not account for the decline of interest in any politics. It leaves to many unanswered questions about how effective those ‘democratic’ institutions were which supposedly declined. We still need a modern day definition of democracy and democratic action. Consider the failure of the anti-austerity movement, and the recent incarnation of Peoples’ Assemblies, to seize the mainstream. In these cases I describe, there’s nothing to feel: no account to popular identity, or to pride, or to things that can be hoped for, that can be fought for and won. Some of our best minds, far more intelligent and politically active than I will ever be, give countless hours to debunking right-wing narratives, fighting fictions with facts, occasionally winning exposure in a highbrow newspaper or late-night TV news discussion. Good stuff, I think. But less time is spent in producing stories, scenes and beliefs that directly win through to popularity, that become popular. Too much time is lost on reaction, on rejection, on righteous indignation. These are insufficient emotional ties to bring more people together to live for, and hope for, a future democracy.

I don’t mean popular according to some common vision of the ‘people’ as self-seeking, reactionary, hoping only for a tax-cut, the ‘hard-working families’ Ed Milibot drips on about. Dismissals of ‘populism’ starts from the premise that either most people are stupid, or that when most people get together, they are dangerous. We might call the first a monarchical prejudice, and the second an aristocratic prejudice, though maybe that’s a bit too pretentious. Anyway, it’s easy enough to see what passive and active resistance any kind of patronising or condescending attitude creates: look at eruptions of frustration in public buildings or in the modern classroom where teachers are themselves taught that today’s young people only care about money, careers, and cannot focus for more than 2 minutes. I am very glad to say that, from recent teaching experience, most things I have been taught about young people in education are totally wrong.

Equally, if the people are not too stupid or dangerous, there’s another common fear that the people in such states are too misled, or incapable, of wresting power back anyway. It’s common to hear newspapers and TV news as brainwashing the people, preventing them from even being able to independently make an impartial political judgement. Even populism, appealing to political popularity, is deemed a dangerous and suspicious thing. There is a great deal of pessimism by people, especially on the left, about the apparently growing popularity of anti-immigration, right-wing parties in Europe, and their irrational appeal to traditional identities and populism. I find this strange, because as someone who has studied 20th century British history for some years, this anti-immigration party popularity has never been old or new, but a feature of societal division in most decades.

Some theorists now, like Jacques Ranciere or Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, call our era ‘post-political’. For them, political language is now empty of meaning, full of ‘spin’ and PR, where politicians speak only of consensus, which implies that we should all consent to their particular view, and where the power of the markets is the most reliable and impartial way of ordering a society. All of this concedes too much lost ground to unpopular and untrusted mainstream political parties and their powerful allies. Many people seem to have increasingly had enough of this kind of politics, sure, but that doesn’t discount a more general social and political awareness.

What’s missing in this genuinely popular politics is, to my mind, a vision of a better society, like that which motivated the often violent campaigns of the Suffragettes, of the early 20th century workers movements, or of the desire to a new democratic welfare state after the second world war in Britain. My point is not to confer some collective genius on the ‘people’: that is too abstract, insufficiently explained, and too commonly argued already. No. I mean that there has not yet been an adequately democratic expression of the majority. What I think we lack is an argument for equality, liberty and justice that starts from popular identity, and an argument for these things which doesn’t just expect that the majority will get it right in whichever context they are in. There can be no reasonable or secure democracy unless there are institutions in place, safeguards and constitutional checks, which turn a disorganised and contrary group of individuals into a genuinely popular government, a government by and for the majority of people. A multitude or people is not a democracy, unless it has executive, juridical and deliberative institutions in place, in the form of a proper constitution, civil law and set of civil rights, that guarantee that the welfare of the majority is placed as the overall end to which all political and economic activity operates for.

Similarly, the verbose quibbling over the names of things (like class, object, politics, being, praxis, theory, spatiality, materiality, radical, or will, and so on forever), repeats a problem of the universities several centuries ago. It attributes some underlying reality to the name of a thing beyond what it is immediately a sign of. It sees momentary class solidarity as pertaining to some eternal ‘classness’, or an action of popular political activity as pertaining to some abstract ‘will’. This leads to the absurd calls later for a rediscovery of class, or will, or anything else, along such abstract lines that only the author of such theory can authoritatively claim to know the ‘true path’. This leads to the empty warring of egos in whichever forum: publications, meeting halls, or on the stage of international news, over the true name of western democracy.

But philosophers that today are taught as classic fare were, in their own time, declaring war on university school-men and their empty disputations over abstract universals. Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza and others rightly criticised any confusion of a thing (a stone) with some abstract essence (stone-ness). With our question, they would understand democracy not as the ‘essence’ of people power, but as an occasion or set of institutions that effectively produces popular power. On which count, our modern-day democracies might be more correctly termed aristocracies.

Writing in the midst of civil war and looming international invasion, the Dutch philosopher Spinoza asked why people will fight for their slavery as if for their salvation. Spinoza’s solution, unfinished when he died, was a political programme that organised the institutions of democratic representation, justice, and infrastructure, with the collective desire of a united people at its centre. It might seem that in this thought-piece, I am just as guilty as those I criticise for reacting to and rejecting what exists, rather than articulating what I am for. I can only answer with an IOU, that this is my goal, and I will give more information on it when I can.

I am still troubled by Ryzhkov’s words, and I’m not wise enough to make predictions about the future. But turning our minds back to our own yards, until the believers of equality, liberty and justice can produce a credible and positive politics that begins from popular identity, engaging the people and populism on its own terms, our theories are little more than the barking of dogs.

The gambler

the gambler

Found this from an old bit of writing that felt worth sharing. I’m sure Pascal precedes Locke, Hume and Dostoevsky with the use of gaming and gambling for philosophy and the imagination.

‘Man is so unhappy that he would be bored even if he had no cause for boredom, by the very nature of his temperament, and he is so vain that, though he has a thousand and one basic reasons for being bored, the slightest thing, like pushing a ball with a billiard cue, will be enough to divert him.

‘But,’ you will say, ‘what is his object in all this?’ Just so that he can boast tomorrow to his friends that he played better than someone else. Likewise others sweat away in their studies to prove to scholars that they have solved some hitherto insoluble problem in algebra. Many others again, just as foolishly in my view, risk the greatest dangers so that they can boast afterwards of having captured some stronghold. Then there are others who exhaust themselves observing all these things, not in order to become wiser, but just to show they know them, and these are the biggest fools of the lot, because they know what they are doing, while it is conceivable that the rest would stop being foolish if they knew too.’

A given man lives a life free from boredom by gambling a small sum every day. Give him every morning the money he might win that day, but on condition that he does not gamble, and you will make him unhappy. It might be argued that what he wants is the entertainment of gaming and not the winnings. Make him play then for nothing; his interest will not be fired and he will become bored, so it is not just entertainment he wants. A half-hearted entertainment without excitement will bore him. He must have excitement, he must delude himself into imagining that he would be happy to win what he would not want as a gift if it meant giving up gambling. He must create some target for his passions and then arouse his desire, anger, fear, for this object he has created, just like children taking fright at a face they have daubed themselves.’

– Pascal, Pensée 136, in Pensées, trans. A.J. Krailsheimer (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966), p. 70.

People’s Parliament

peoples parliament

How has capitalism got away with the financial crisis, and why is politics scared of political ideas?

Wednesday 19th March, 6.30pm – 8.30pm, Committee Room 8, House of Commons

Tickets are available here.

With:

Mark Fisher (Zero Books)

Tariq Goddard (Zero Books)

Alex Niven (Zero Books)

Rhian Jones (Zero Books)

Dan Taylor (Zero Books)

What if Parliament represented and expressed the desires and needs of all those it claims to stand for? Perhaps they’d’ve closed it down… or perhaps we need to imagine and propose again alternatives, things to fight and dream for, things to believe in, to take seriously. Perhaps the institutions that are around us could be used to new ends – not by some unimaginable utopia, but through the dormant hopes of stressed people and squandered non-places of public life. Come along, say what you think.

http://thepeoplesparliament.me.uk/themes/zero-books/

Dreams of an insect

Musei_Wormiani_Historia

‘And had mankind been made with but four senses, the qualities then, which are the object of the fifth sense, had been as far from our notice, imagination and conception, as now any belonging to a sixth, seventh, or eighth sense, possibly be: which, whether yet some other creatures, in some other parts of this vast, and stupendous universe, may not have, will be a great presumption to deny. He that will not set himself proudly at the top of all things; but will consider the immensity of this fabric, and the great variety, that is to be found in this little and inconsiderable part of it, which he has to do with, may be apt to think, that in other mansions of it, there may be other, and different intelligent beings, of whose faculties, he has as little knowledge or apprehension, as a worm shut up in one drawer of a cabinet, hath of the senses or understanding of a man; such variety and excellency, being suitable to the wisdom and power of the maker.’

- John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II.II.3.