George Walford: Odd Notes

In the course of reading one accumulates notes of insights and phrases, to be written up in a future that does not always arrive. Some seem worth recording, if only because others may perhaps find them useful or provocative.

In writing of Mussolini’s lieutenant Italo Balbo, Claudio Segre stresses the extent to which his prominence depended on charisma rather than intellect, speaking of his energy and personal magnetism, his belief in patriotism and strong leadership, and contrasting these with the superficiality of his political thinking. (Claudio G.Segre: Italo Balbo, a Fascist life. University of California Press, 1988). It is a combination characteristic of the heroes of the extreme right. At the other end of the political scale, while dash and charisma certainly help, a grasp of theory is also required for success.

One question arising when studying society is whether it may sensibly be regarded as a rational construct or not. The two views do not exclude each other: when large numbers of people all pursue rational purposes in rational ways the outcome is likely to be something intended by none of them; something they all condemn as irrational. One example not far from being realised would be a countryside crowded with walkers in search of solitude.

Gerald Segal remarks that “With the… decline in active wars in East Asia has come a recognition on the part of both superpowers that military force is not a very useful instrument of policy.” (TLS 8 July 88). If the big boys have indeed come to realise that warfare is no longer expedient this is likely to produce more and better results than a lot of moral protest.

Ann France has written an account of her experiences in undergoing psychotherapy. (Consuming Psychotherapy, Free Association 1988). Reviewing it, Rosemary Dinnage points to “a kind of double-bind in the enterprise itself.” Full expression of feelings is urged, but the methods by which people needing treatment express their feelings tend to meet with disapproval: “throwing the furniture around is not popular, nor is ringing up at midnight, nor… being despairing.”

DOWN with sexual discrimination. Not chairman but chairperson, not policeman but policeperson, not hangman but hangperson.

from Ideological Commentary 37, September 1989.