I ... think there is something inherently political about the literary imagination. I don’t mean to say that writing is inherently didactic—it’s not. But most writing does contain a politics, or at least a sensibility about the individual’s relationship to political life. I mean, in a way, it would be impossible for it not to.
Tuesday, November 7, 2023
#311 / What It Takes
That is Adam Shatz, pictured. He is the US editor of The London Review of Books and a contributor to The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and other publications.
I learned about Shatz from a conversation between Shatz and J. Howard Rosier, published by The Nation Magazine on August 15, 2023. The conversation was titled, "What It Takes to Be a Public Intellectual."
The way I see it, both Shatz and Rosier qualify. I have already listed Shatz' affiliations. Rosier's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Bookforum, Poetry, Words Without Borders, and elsewhere. He is a board member of the National Book Critics Circle, and a lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In short, I don't think you can qualify as a "public intellectual" unless you are published. I, for instance, write this daily blog, and have for thirteen years, but no newspaper or magazine of general circulation has ever published any of my writing (sporadic letters to the editor of my local newspaper excepted). If I am an "intellectual" (questionable right there), I think I have to confess that I am on the "private" side of what is properly understood as a private/public dividing line.
To bad for me! I think I might like to be a "public intellectual," for the reason that the ideas I have about politics are, to my mind, worth thinking about, and it would be great for the "public" to discuss whether or not my "Two Worlds Hypothesis" provides us some helpful guidance for what we might, can, or should do, as we find ourselves in this current moment. I do believe I have some other ideas worth thinking about, too.
Shatz said this, in his conversation with Rosier:
Here is how I have chosen to convey the same idea just articulated by Shatz:
"We Live In A Political World."
That is also the title of this daily blog, for those who might not have noticed.
Wherever I can find a place to write my thoughts, I will keep insisting on that idea, and will keep trying to explain it. I will tell anyone who is willing to listen that I, actually, have considerable "political" experience, and that the kind of "politics" in which I was engaged for twenty years, in Santa Cruz County, California, was a politics that profoundly changed our local community. The ability to make change happen - as genuine change happened here in Santa Cruz County - can happen elsewhere, too.
There are, in other words, some lessons in what happened here for those in other places. If we want to address the challenges facing us, if we want to deal, positively, with the portentous future that looms ahead, I think what happened in the local politics in which I played a part shows all of us, everywhere, that we are actually "up to it;" we have what it takes to change the realities that seem so fixed and permanent, and to make things better.