Blog Eleven: Modernist Politics
Strachey: After reading the four selections from Strachey, I found it hard to believe that he wrote all four. In the diary entry, he appeared high-strung and flighty. His main concern was hooking up with the mailman, and his memories and Bunny interlude suggested a general pattern of male intrigues. This seemed to be one of his top concerns. He seemed ambivalent toward women, at best, though the final page of the pdf states that he went on to have an affair with Dora Carrington that lasted several years. The only part of this selection that seemed to indicate any real depth was his contemplation of death. With all that being said, I found this reading very interesting. The short “Conscientious Objector” was to-the-point and well-written. He isn’t against all wars necessarily, but he is against WWI and any other wars that come from the modern political systems, which he calls “profoundly evil.” He goes on to say that he is critical of “the whole structure of society.” Again, it seems impossible that the same person wrote these two documents. The Matthew Arnold essay and the Preface seem somewhere in between the first two. Basically, he is saying that Arnold’s criticism, and in fact Victorian criticism as a whole, was worthless. In the Preface, he writes that the book is one of “haphazard visions” and that he has “no desire to construct a system or prove a theory.” That sounds a little more like the diary entry.
VW: “Thought on Peace in an Air Raid” has similarities to A Room of One’s Own. VW is concerned overall about the War, but her underlying concern seems to be about women. She notes that women can neither fight nor participate in politics. How then can women improve the situation? She notes that part of the post-War plan to maintain peace is disarmament, and she recognizes that this will be difficult for men. The role of women, then, will be to “compensate the man for the loss of his gun.” “We must help the young Englishman to root out from themselves the love of medals and decorations. We must create more honourable activities for those who try to conquer in themselves their fighting instinct, their subconscious Hitlerism.”
EMF: “What I Believe” is beautifully written. The intro states that it was written in 1939, so EMF had already lived through WWI and knew that WWII was just upon the horizon. He is understandably skeptical of democracy but says that “it is less hateful than other contemporary forms of government, and to that extent deserves our support.” It gets “two cheers” as opposed to three based on its admittance of variety and its allowance for criticism. EMF sees many things wrong with the world, but he is not without hope. The passage about the “aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky” was so lovely and hopeful. It seemed to me that this passage was about the Bloomsburies themselves.
LW: This essay was thought-provoking and hilarious. I found it brilliant. The basic concept is that animals at the zoo get together in a kind of discussion or debate group after all the people have left. In the current instance, they are talking about politics. (They briefly discussed women in an earlier episode.) The main group under discussion is the Bolsheviks in Russia. Some are for Bolshevism, some against it. LW uses the animals to sort of show both sides of the debate. Finally, the Owl states that the Russian Revolution is just the French Revolution happening all over again. The Bolsheviks are not, in short, a “new species.” His basic point is that mankind never changes in the essentials, nor do humans ever really learn political lessons. They keep repeating the same patterns and mistakes over and over again: “A study of human history reveals the fact that politically Man is an animal which never learns anything from experience.”