July 5, 2010


Lessing, Doris, Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949 (New York: HarperCollins, 1994) ("During that trip through the villages of France, then Scotland and towns of England, were revived in me the raging emotions of my childhood, a protest, an anguish: my parents'. I felt, too, incredulity, but that was a later emotion: how could it have happened? The American Civil War, less than a half century before, had shown what the newly invented weapons could do in the way of slaughter, but we had learned nothing from that war. That is the worst of the legacies from the First World War: the thought that if we are a race that cannot learn, what will become of us? With people as stupid as we are, what can we hope for? But the strongest emotion on that trip was the old darkness of dread and of anguish - my father's emotion, a very potent draught, no homeopathic dose, but the full dose of adult pain. I wonder now how many children brought up in families crippled by war had the same poison running in their veins from before they could even speak." "We are all of us made by war, twisted and warped by war, but we seem to forget it." Id. at 9-10. "Why is it I have lived my whole life with people who are automatically against authority, 'agin the government', who take it for granted that all authority is bad, ascribe doubtful or venal motives to government, the Establishment, the ruling class, the local town council, the headmaster or mistress? So deep-rooted is this set of mind that it is only when you begin to climb out of it you see how much of your life has been determined by it. . . . It can only come out of some belief, one so deep it is well out of sight, that a promise of some kind has been made and then betrayed. Perhaps it was the French Revolution? Or the American Revolution, which made the pursuit of happiness a right with the implication that happiness is to be had as easily as taking cakes off a supermarket counter? Millions of people in our time behave as if they have been made a promise - by whom? when? - that life must get freer, more honest, more comfortable, always better. Has advertising only set our minds more firmly in this expectant mode? Yet nothing in history suggests that we may expect anything but wars, tyrants, sickness, bad times, calamities, while good times are always temporary. Above all, history tells us nothing stays the same for long. We expect gold at the foot of always renewable rainbows. I feel I have been part of some mass illusion or delusion. Certainly part of mass belief and convictions that now seem as lunatic as the fact that for centuries expeditions of God-lovers trekked across the Middle East to kill the infidel." Id. at 15-16. "It never does to underestimate how everyone, in no matter how apparently obscure a situation, is being observed by individuals and groups of all kinds, who watch potentiality and performance. If this sounds self-important and even paranoid, I can only say I have seen it over and over again. The watchers may be malign, not always benevolent." Id. at 258.).