A preface

For this first post I felt that something like a foreword was needed. I definitely found it in the preface to Hellas, a dramatic poem by P. B. Shelley.

This is the age of the war of the oppressed against the oppressors, and every one of those ringleaders of the privileged gangs of murderers and swindlers, called Sovereigns, look to each other for aid against the common enemy, and suspend their mutual jealousies in the presence of a mightier fear. Of this holy alliance all the despots of the earth are virtual members. But a new race has arisen throughout Europe, nursed in the abhorrence of the opinions which are its chains, and she will continue to produce fresh generations to accomplish that destiny which tyrants foresee and dread.

These lines were written in the context of the greek revolution of 1821, as Shelley observed “the apathy of the rulers of the civilized world” towards the insurrection.  I was struck by the fierceness of his words, a burst of rage emerging amid the beautiful bright verses of this great poet.

As we will see in further posts, there are many examples of texts dealing with Revolution and Revolt in Shelley’s works, echoing in contemporary Byron and deeply rooted in the epic of Milton.

One thought on “A preface

  1. What kind of freedom this proliferation of choices gives? Desire is insatiable, it does not stop, it moves from object to object, in a spiral of desire, satisfaction, frustration. Choice has turned into the handmaiden of necessity: you are free when you choose what is already in your nature. Free choice comes with a dose of compulsion. To be free is to choose (freely in principle but inescapably in practice) what has conditioned you. While market capitalism perpetuates enormous inequalities, it has organised its domination around the appearance of freedom and equality. We are free to the extent that we can shop in the same shops everywhere in the world; we are equal to the extent that all the brands are equally available, even though not equally affordable. We are free and equal if we are able to buy as a matter of right anything being sold. Free man is shopping man. But this type of choice designates the deterioration, decline, if not total abolition, of freedom as understood by modernity. If humanity was the freedom to choose against nature, man has now become ‘free’ to choose to follow nature or the ‘second nature’ of social conformity, free to choose between different types of fake happiness. Humanity has been re-defined as the freedom to follow slavishly the limited set of choices offered to us. Shelley’s freedom has dialectically turned into the negation of its essence. The particular became global and demands to be accepted as normatively universal.

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