We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

There something about politics that makes people mad.

– Doris Lessing looks back on her foolish Communist youth, while talking with Alan Yentob, during Yentob’s TV show about Lessing in his “Imagine…” arts series for BBC One.

She wrote science fiction. I did not know this.

25 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • the other rob

    Not only did she write it, but she was proud of the fact, unlike others – see, for example, Margaret Atwood.

  • Oh, yes, Canopus in Argo: Archives, a five-volume series. Though it rather puts me off that the climax of the first volume is the trial of the entire white race for crimes against humanity. Even that late she doesn’t seem to have thrown off her early collectivism entirely.

  • Vinegar Joe

    She tried to write science fiction………and failed miserably.

  • Paul Marks

    Once one accepts that it right to use force (the threat of violence) to improve the lives of people on a systematic basis one has accepted a fundamentally irrational position – as irrational as Rousseau’s “forcing people to be free” (he was in this mental quicksand centuries before Herbert Marcuse).

    And it leads on to more and more absurdity – as can be seen as far back as Plato’s “Republic” (the “Ur text” of politics) although whether Plato understood what he was presenting was insane is a much debated question.

    Even those who try and resist the collectivists are in mental (and moral) danger.

    After all that is the position of trying to use violence (or the threat of it) to counter violence – and that can lead to all sorts of horrors (even if there is no other way).

    It is a mad game my dears – regardless of which side one is on, and even if there is no other way.

    This can lead to massive horror.

    For example “tens of millions of people are being murdered by the Communists in China – we must stop them here in Indonesia”.

    Stopping them meant picking up axes and chopping tens of thousands of Communists to death.

    Or “just” minor madness.

    For example Congressman Paul Ryan boasting of a possible budget deal in the United States.

    The deal would mean that most of the proposed government spending cuts for next year would be PREVENTED.

    Why should the prospect of that be a good thing?

    Well you see it all involves complex political calculations to do with the Dems setting up another “Shutdown” – blaming the Republicans for the chaos and then keeping the Senate in 2014 and 2016 thus preventing real “Entitlement” scheme reform……….

    But that does not stop it being insane.

    “Good news” people – government spending is not really going to get cut next year, so that there is a better chance of Entitlement scheme reform down the road………

    All crazy stuff.

    “But it is true Paul” – it is still crazy stuff.

    Just as cutting tens of thousands of people to bits with axes (in Indonesia) for HUMANITARIAN reasons was true – but still crazy.

    And collectivist ideology is powerful.

    Venezuela is visibly falling apart – but the collectivist regime is still supported by masses of people.

    Argentina is in flames – with the shops looted and the government (national and local) bankrupt.

    And the people in next door Chile are set to vote to COPY Argentina.

    Unlimited statism (even if it means changing the Constitution) is the policy of those who are due to win the elections in Chile.

    Politics makes us all (ordinary people as well as politicians) mad.

  • bob sykes

    I actually read the Canopus series, and Vinegar Joe is right: it is bad science fiction. In fact, it’s not science fiction at all; it’s fantasy. Lessing had no understanding of science fiction, but she it would be sort of cute to try to write some.

  • Watchman

    I’m just intrigued as to how we can define something as science fiction or fantasy – science fiction is fantasy (that’s the fiction part). So is Bridget Jones comes to that…

    It’s all another example of the human tendency to label and divide, and then attribute value. Apart from allowing the self-promotion of experts and the marginalisation of radical views (to take a non-traditional example, why is gay literature different from romance and the general fiction section – if it’s about two people falling in love (and having sex) it’s clearly got the same core content), this gets away from the main questions about any books. What is it about? Is it any good? And is your assessment of either of the previous two questions worth anything?

    As I assume the answer to the third question about commentators here is ‘yes’, then I won’t rush out to look for the Canopus section.

  • GoneWithTheWind

    The same way we define something as a romance novel or a Western. It is a sub-division of fiction. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    “There something about politics that makes people mad.” Ask the jews killed by Hitlers politics. Politics is power and when misused it makes people mad. Taxes, excessive taxes, is a misuse of power. Anti-constitutional laws are a misuse of power. Making up things to be called illegal and then putting people in jail when they fall in your trap is a misuse of power.

  • Mr Ed

    The love of power is the root of all evil, Paul was wrong. No one should have any power over another, the rule of laws not men is what we should have. Almost all politicians wish to have power, as the late, great Auberon Waugh said of politicians, they love the idea of pushing buttons and seeing us all jump.

    For most politicians, money is just ketchup on the chips of power.

  • rfichoke

    I’ve read that the use of the words “money” or “riches” in the New Testament should be interpreted broadly to encompass all earthly power, wealth, success, pleasure, and happiness.

    There’s a passage in which Jesus says that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. His disciples, instead of saying “whew, it’s a good thing we’re just poor fishermen then!” said “who then can be saved?” All people are “rich” in that broad sense of having (and loving) earthly comforts to some degree.

    And I don’t think the Bible really even condemns that, as such. It’s more a matter of maintaining proper perspective and not allowing it to lead you into committing evil acts, as the passage about the “root of all [kinds of] evil” implies.

    Anyway, maybe that’s all nonsense, but it seems to fit.

  • Mr Ed

    Ludwig von Mises did say somewhere something to the effect that the New Testament reeks of resentment against the rich.

  • She wrote science fiction.


    If you are ignorant of her SF writings I would advise you to cherish that ignorance.

  • Mr Ed

    I have almost no time for literature, few writers, in my experience, have anything worthwhile to say without making some logical or factual error or betraying their collectivist leanings, and I have to confess that I had only ever heard of Doris Lessing because, in the 1980s I think, Private Eye did a lookalike for Doris and Geronimo, and the resemblance was quite strong.

    On her death, her Communist past was mentioned, and I felt immediately vindicated in ignoring her work, or perhaps subconsciously or lazily conflating her with Doris Stokes.

  • revver

    “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon (money/wealth) of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” Luke 16:9-11

    That last verse, in my opinion, dispels the notions of the new testament being classist against the rich. Oh, and who can forget Matthew 13:12:

    “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”

  • Jake Haye

    People pathologically obsessed with morality seem to find a home in leftist politics and/or religion.

  • Paul Marks

    “Paul was wrong” – what was I wrong about? Or do you mean someone else?

  • Julie near Chicago

    I thought Mr. Ed meant St. Paul?

  • Regional

    Saint Paul had visions on the road to Damascus and apparently there were stimulants available, but believe nothing you hear and half of what you see and then only just.

  • Regional

    Saint Paul had visions on the road to Damascus and apparently there were stimulants available, but believe nothing you hear and half of what you see and then only just.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Paul, with a last name like Marks (marx), you’ll always have people questioning your reasoning! Are you in fact a relative of the famous Karl, or just unfortunately tainted with a similar surname?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Regional, I’m hooked before the end of the first paragraph. I wish I’d known about the true effects of this wonder drug some 36 years ago! :>)

  • Mr Ed

    “Paul was wrong” – what was I wrong about? Or do you mean someone else?

    I did indeed mean someone else, a Paul more famous – outside of this parish – as Julie discerned, the Paul who got rather closer to Damascus than even you managed, and the source of your name.

  • Paul Marks

    Silly me Mr Ed – silly me.

    Sadly Paul (and the others) were just in the mainstream of philosophy – with the tacit assumption that becoming rich or being rich implied that there was likely to be something dodgy about a person.

    It goes back to Aristotle (with his trade is of equal values [in which case no one builds up a fortune] or of unequal values [in which case there is exploitation] fallacy).

    It (hostility to the rich – and to trade and making things) is far more extreme in Plato.

    Perhaps Carthage was different – but there works are largely lost. After all Carthage was a city of traders and manufacturers – from a culture of such people in what is now the Lebanon.

    But then the Greeks were also a culture of traders and makers of things – think of Corinth (or Athens itself – before it took the bad turn under the “great” Pericles (plundering its allies in order to buy votes at home – “earning” a living from politics, rather than work).

    Also perhaps the Ionian Greeks (before the conquest by Cyrus and the Persians) were different.

    Greek thought does seem to turn in a more statist direction after the fall of Ionia (now in Turkey).

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    St. Paul may have thought that the world was soon going to end, and so worrying about money seemed ridiculous. He may have been told about Jesus talking about how some of his audience would not taste death until they had seen the son of man glorified. I assumed that this referred to Peter, John, and James on the Mount of transfiguration, talking to Moses and Elijah, but St. Paul might not have thought of that, and might have assumed that Judgement Day was coming very soon.

  • Paul Marks

    Saint Paul was a lot better than a lot of thinkers of the time (Christian and non Christian) although that is not saying much – as the thinking of the time was so dreadful.

    After all “freedom” meant free bread – it was indicated on the back of a lot of Imperial Roman coins, a loaf of bread with the word “libertas” underneath (that is what liberty had degenerated into). Whoever thought of doing that on the back of a coin should have been…. (well you work it out). But perhaps they just got into a time machine and now work for the you know what magazine.


    I forgot to answer the question.

    No I am not kin to Karl Marx.

    Marks is Russian Jewish – not German.

    Although that brings its own problem.

    However, I am also part Irish…..

    Accept that brings its own problems also.

  • Rich Rostrom

    She wrote science fiction. I did not know this.

    I never heard that it was any good, but the SF community was so flattered by the entry of a famous “literary” author that she was the Guest of Honor at the 1987 World Science Fiction Convention. (It was in Britain that year, at Brighton – I was there.)