25 February 2011

"Today, we are all Joan Miró."

So says Jonathan Jones in this essay in The Guardian. In so doing he places a finger on the moralistic types who condemn violence and oppression but, when the chips are down, are unprepared not only "to fight for justice but also to face and tell the truth." Miró, it seems, fell into that category during the Spanish Civil War. I'll take Jones's word for that since I don't know the actual history. So, let's assume that Miró both could've taken up arms in the Republican cause and didn't.

The hero of this piece is Orwell - the anti-Miró - who both set off to fight the fascists in Spain and (in Homage to Catalonia) frankly exposed the foibles and hypocrisies of the Republican coalition. I agree with Jones on the need to engage in politics not philanthropy or posturing. But I disagree that "fine words ... spoken in support of fine ideals" are necessarily empty or cheap. And I suggest too that it was difficult enough to set off to fight fascists in Spain - where it was relatively easy to tell the good guys from the bad. In many (perhaps not all) conflicts today the demarcation is murkier.

And the complicity is deeper too, I suspect. Mubarak, of course was our client; and so too was Saddam Hussein. Our Naval fleet, I believe, anchors in Bahrain. Ought we be taking up arms? Would doing so now be too late? Now, once the people in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and lord knows where else have taken to the streets, should we be there providing armed protection? Just what is Jones suggesting? Is he trading moralism for delusion?

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