The Evil of Patriotism

Clive Bell, the Bloomsbury art critic, was an unpleasant person, but he had wise things to say on the evils of patriotism and nationalism. Civilised people, he said, “see a certain unreality in the grouping of people by nations” and “nationalism is a bogey: none can tell you precisely what a nation is”. He preferred cosmopolitanism.

“As soon as me begin to think freely the grip of patriotism is loosened… obviously an Englishman who cares for beauty, truth or knowledge, may find himself more in sympathy with a Frenchman, German, or Chinaman who shares his tastes than with a compatriot who shares those of Punch and John Bull ”¬† [ Civilization, 1928].

Two Cheers for Democracy

We remember E. M. Forster as the guy who wrote novels such as Room With a View and Passage to India,¬†brought to millions in Merchant Ivory’s wonderful films. But Forster wrote much non-fiction that discussed the world crisis in the 1930s and 40s, topics covering the human condition, ethics, class, race and totalitarianism and much on the arts, which he saw as “an antidote against our present troubles” (1951). As early as 1935 Forster spoke out against “the menace to freedom”, against Hitler’s persecution of the Jews and disregard for freedom of opinion and individualism, “assailing the human mind at its source”. He worried that “people do not believe in freedom any more”. They were in the state “of being half-frightened and half-thinking about something else at the same time”. This was a “moment of general collapse, this moment when the governments kill and the Churches have nothing to say”(1939).

Forster collected many of his earlier essays in Two Cheers for Democracy (1951).

Wyndham Lewis: Nasty Piece of Works

Wyndham Lewis, founder of the Vorticist art movement, was always controversial, but I’ve been reading more about him lately and some of his ideas were truly demented and horrible – in books such as The Art of Being Ruled (1926), Time and Western Man (1928) and Men Without Art (1934). He was elitist, proto-fascist (admired Hitler and Mussolini), racist (anti-black, anti-Semitic), hated popular culture and all democracy and would happily have contemplated the extinction of millions of the deprived and uneducated in favour of rule by the intelligent few who might breed a superior breed of human beings.