the word 'love' has become so devalued it would be better simply not to use it
In Love’s Work, her last and remarkable book, the philosopher Gillian Rose spoke of the world of modernity as a time in which we are "infinitely sentimental about ourselves, but methodically ruthless towards others." One way in which we vindicate this sentimentality is arguably our misuse of the word ‘love’, now so banded about as to have become as meaningless as the kisses on the emails between strangers.
Conventional accounts of neo-liberalism, and indeed the market economy, all portray the ideal citizen of these worlds as autonomous, self-defining and independent: the kind of person who stands on their own feet, looks after themselves and does not expect others to take care of him or her. Given the human condition, this person is a nonsense: we all need care from birth, through youth and the years of work and parenthood and into old age. But providing this care is a matter of intense political debate: those who would diminish the responsibilities of the state are very eager to pass to individuals many, if not all, aspects of care.
In this, ideas about ‘love’ inevitably become both confused and confusing, not least because in those situations of sickness rather than health, quite what individuals are supposed to do, would like to do and have to do, become entangled. Marriage in the UK is generally contracted through two kinds of contract: a romantic contract which individuals make for themselves and the contract which religion and the state impose upon them, a contract of mutual support and responsibility.
However, into this marriage between two rather different aspects of the world – quite as different as the partners in any marriage might be – comes a third partner, that set of neo-liberal expectations which essentially endorses an every-person-for-themselves view of the world. At the same time, romance has lost many of its earlier constituents of courtship, reconciliation and negotiation (all ordinary possibilities of the progress of love in most English canonical fiction of much of the nineteenth and early twentieth century) and become a form of self gratification, a choice as powered by individual taste and inclination as, let us say, individual taste for ice-cream or new shoes. At its worst, what individuals think of as love has become another form of consumption: when it wears out, its perfectly acceptable to find something else.
This attitude towards love is not, it has to be said, necessarily the view of everyone and many people still regard love as the beginning of a shared life, with all the expectations of having to learn things (and put up with things) that have always been evident. So this is not an argument about the meaning of love today as opposed to attitudes that might (or might not) have existed in the past; we shall never know how much people loved each other (or did not) in the past. But what we do know, as certainty and fact, is that the policies of neo-liberalism are making it almost impossible to do some of the things that various aspects of love involves.
For example, many people might want to care for a dependant partner or child or friend but doing this would be largely unsupported by meaningful state support. The word 'meaningful' is important here: this does not include those benefits to carers which involve choices between heat or food or transport or anything else. In the harsh world of neo-liberalism, where the emotional need to care and to be cared for is hardly catered for, many people turn to the artificial cream on the hard neo-liberal cake: the cream of celebrity culture. In a context that reifies paid work, getting money and being independent, the value of altruistic work has largely been marginalised, despite evidence that demonstrates that for many people altruistic work is the work which they most value and enjoy.
The emotional barrenness of neo-liberalism is one of its harshest characteristics; the compensation which this world offers is a daily diet of participation in various forms of voyeuristic spectacles about the emotional lives of others. These famous, and infamous others, offer a form of comfort, a reassurance that people are still falling in love, still making families and still, simply, having emotional lives.
That some of these lives are cold bloodedly constructed in order to sell films, further careers and maintain public profiles is seldom apparent: what we are given is a globally available (and faster moving than any soap drama) parade of emotions about love, emotions which are often then related to consumerist fantasies of transformation. Couples with high media profiles split up, ‘get together’, bounce on sofas to express their new found love or subsequently ‘go alone’ in order to demonstrate what should not need demonstrating, that human beings can both gain and lose love.
In this melee of who loves who, an expression from the late nineteenth century about homosexuality – the ‘love that dare not speak its name' – seems apt, albeit in a very different context. It is very difficult to avoid the baggage that the word ‘love’ currently carries with it. Perhaps not using the word, not invoking it, not wanting it to be said, might make the appearance and the reality of strong ties of affection and responsibility more likely. In a world when text messages and goods from mail order come ‘with love’, perhaps the absence of the word is a better indication of its presence.
The English language is rich in words that express positive feelings towards others: respect, admiration, affection, liking and delight. Just thinking of all these possibilities allows us to consider many splendours, and takes us away from one impoverished and abused word.
Popular posts from this blog
Pakistan and National Unity is an important position paper of the Communist Party of India, and a far-reaching text in the history of the Indian communist movement. The resolution dated September 19, 1942 contains an outline of the CPI's support for what it called the 'just essence of the Pakistan demand'; and the Report by Gangadhar Adhikari is a detailed explanation of the resolution. The resolution was confirmed by the First Congress of the CPI in May 1943. Its arguments may be contrasted with the pamphlet titled Who Rules Pakistan? published in Bombay in August 1948, as a 'Communist Party publication' - and is one of the earliest position documents of the Communist Party of Pakistan. The document is titled File CPI-31/1942 ; and forms part of the P.C. Joshi Archives at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The text of the resolution and report is also available in the book entitled Remembering Dr Gangadhar Adhikari: Selections from Writings, Part 2 ; e
'Do you know', Napoleon once said to Fontanes, 'what astounds me most about the world? The impotence of force to establish anything. There are only two powers in the world: the sword and the mind. In the end, the sword is always conquered by the mind' Conquerors, you see, are sometimes melancholy. They have to pay some price for so much vainglory. But what a hundred years ago was true of the sword is no longer true today of the tank. Conquerors have made progress, and the dismal silence of places without intelligence has been established for years at a time in a lacerated Europe. At the time of the hideous wars of Flanders, Dutch painters could still perhaps paint the cockerels in their farmyards. The Hundred Years War has likewise been forgotten, and yet the prayers of Silesian mystics still linger in some hearts. But today, things have changed; the painter and the monk have been drafted - we are one with the world. The mind has lost that regal certainty which a c
Mike Davis on COVID-19: The monster is finally at the door / Impact on the global poor / Capitalism vs human survival
NB : Mike Davis is the author of Late Victorian Holocausts , a detailed analysis of the 19th century drought and famine that took millions of lives of the poor in India and China DS The current pandemic expands the argument: capitalist globalization now appears to be biologically unsustainable in the absence of a truly international public health infra-structure. But such an infrastructure will never exist until peoples’ movements break the power of Big Pharma and for-profit healthcare. The original H1N1 found a favored niche in army camps and battlefield trenches where it scythed down young soldiers down by the tens of thousands. The collapse of the great German spring offensive of 1918 has been attributed to the fact that the Allies, in contrast to their enemy, could replenish their sick armies with newly arrived American troops.... It is rarely appreciated, however, that fully 60 per cent of global mortality occurred in western India where grain exports to Britain and bru
There are still people who admire Godse for shooting a defenceless, unarmed old man at point blank range in a prayer meeting.. After all, modern society is awash with extremist beliefs, including support for suicide bombers and vigilante violence. E xtremism has taken centre-stage i n the guise of communal ideology and prejudices. People in high of fice believe in collective guilt (denouncing entire communities for the sins of a few), controlled mobs, revenge killing and vigilantism. Click the title for Parts 1 & 2 of the Report [of the 6 volume document] of the Commission of Inquiry into the Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi by Justice Jeevan Lal Kapur [Supreme Court of India]. The commission was established in 1965 & submitted i ts report on 30 Sept 1969 . A whiff of evil A message and an appeal Peace as a punctuation mark in eternal war The Supreme Court,Gandhi and the RSS Apoorvanand: गांधीजी का आखरी महीना - Talk on Gandhiji's Last Month Pune, Oct
Alexandre Koyré: The Political Function of the Modern Lie (1945) /John Keane: lying, journalism and democracy
NB: This line of theoretical and sociological inquiry is crucial for an understanding of the contemporary world, and has been neglected (in the main) by political scientists and historians. Alexandre Koyre (1892-1964) was a Russian-born philosopher and historian of religion and science. His 1945 essay on The Political Function of the Lie was used by Hannah Arendt as a source for insights into her study of the origins of totalitarianism . Some observations and extracts are supplied below, along with links to Koyre's original essay, as well as a 2010 lecture on lying in journalism. They are worth reading, as a reminder that the deceitful and intimidatory atmosphere of our times is rooted in political phenomena that were commented upon decades ago - DS A perceptive analyst and a close reader of Alexandre Koyré, Arendt described totalitarian regimes as being “ secret societies established in broad daylight .” (see Koyre, pp 296-7). By imitating the apparatus of secret societies wit
NB: Today is my father's thirteenth death anniversary. A few of his students from the first few batches have circulated their personal recollections. It is mainly with them in mind that I post this essay which I wrote in 2008, for a Penguin collection. (And here is something I posted in 2018, on his birth centenary). I hope it triggers some golden memories! Love to you all. Dilip Of Bagpipes, Horses and Golden Orioles Dilip Simeon from Recess: The Penguin Book of Schooldays Palash Mehrotra (ed); New Delhi, 2008 This is a very personal story about a public school. There will undoubtedly be names that I’ve left out, but I trust I’ll be pardoned my lapses. What I’m sure about is that all of us who joined it in its foundational years share a powerful affinity with a Haryana village named Kunjpura. (Dist., as they say, Karnal). Thinking about schooldays at a point in life when middle-age is edging towards elderly-ness, can be a strange encounter with oneself. I recall
Covid County Simulator Overview Select the state and county using the drop-down boxes at the top of the page and the page will update with: Daily active cases 3-week forecast of active cases 100-day projection of active cases and deaths Note that you have to look below the graph to see the total projected deaths. Check covidcountysim.org daily as the regression forecast and simulation may change when we upload data each day from Johns Hopkins' GitHub site. Mortality rate : You can override the calculated rate by typing a new one into the field. The model will use the new rate to calculate the number of deaths at the end of the simulation until you refresh the page. Running a social distancing ‘intervention’ The intervention date is set to after the prediction period ends. Then use the slider to increase or decrease social distancing. You will notice that this changes the target Rt value, which is the value you are targeting based