Her trouble with men is the same as her trouble with having a single “passion”. No activity absorbs her completely, for her passion is discovery, travel, meeting the unknown, which means being free of single obsession.
For these children are, in spirit, not children. Their backs are bent, like those of old sages, by the memory of all the failures of their parents, and of all past generations. So much knowledge has been fed into them that there is very little they can admire with enthusiasm. All previous resolutions- the history books say so- have ended in disaster of one kind or another. The rising in Eastern Europe have revealed tragic problems: “We know too much about the world. We have lost our ideologies; we know they cannot be made to work in real life.” there are no foreign models any more, as China or Russia once were. Mandarine had been to England, but found it “too respectful”; the USA is “even worse”.
Personally she does have some ideals: equality is what matters most, democracy too, resistance to state oppression, but keeping the state’s role in culture and television; she is for demilitarisation but without abolishing the army; she wants to help the poor; she is in favour of change, but also afraid of change, and she doubts whether others want to change. So she does not attempt to convert or persuade. Her school is setting up committees to discuss very modestly how it wants its individual budget altered and what rights each group within it should have; its only ambition is to transform the school from an examination factory into a “place to live in”. The school has become the children’s other home; they accept it as they accept their own home; all they want is to try to make the best of it.
However, when Mandarine reveals her deeper thoughts, it emerges that it is not just general disillusionment that has made her so different from her utopian parents. She is on very friendly terms with her father, who was a Maoist in 1968 and who does the cooking at home; when she made the posters for her demonstration, he said to her, “That is not the way to make posters,” he had produced marvellous ones in his youth; and they laughed a lot redoing them. But the crucial difference is that Mandarine has no confidence in herself. “I am not creative. I do not feel I am a capable person. Perhaps I lack ambition.” And why? “Because there is less risk in having limited ambitions.”
Theodore Zeldin, An Intimate History of Humanity.
“Everybody has a secret garden”, says a fourth. “We each appear as an image. If I revealed myself as I am, no one would believe me. So I keep my thoughts to myself. I don’t want to give my key away.”
Theodore Zeldin, An Intimate History oh Humanity.
‘Hatred is holy’, said Zola, who fought the enemies of Dreyfus not just from love of justice, but because he enjoyed fighting, and believed that he did not truly exist unless he was being attacked. So he rejoiced that he had made ‘pride and hate my two companions… I have felt younger and more courageous after each one of my revolts against the platitudes of my time… If I am worth anything today, it is because I stand alone and because I know how to hate.’ The more the two sides hated each other, the more they had in common, but that was ignored.
Anthropologists have found tribes which never fight, and which praise timidity, but they are not models to imitate, for they are obsessed by the fear of violence. Tribes have also been found which fights all the time, but which have to sustain their aggression by drugs or other stimuli; even cannibals are frightened by their own ferocity, and paradoxically drink the blood of their victims to calm themselves down, to liberate themselves from the feeling that they have become tigers.
Working onself up into a rage was once almost a form of art: ‘Sweeter by far than the honeycomb is wrath,’ said Homer. Divine fury used to be admired as heroic. In the last couple of centuries anger has lost its prestige; not that it is diminishing, but people are beginning to be ashamed of their anger. Nevertheless, an Australian enquiry- the only one of its kind- found that anger was experienced five times more frequently than sympathy.
So there has been little progress in the art of confronting enemies. Once an enemy is identified, propaganda now multiplies proofs of his depravity to reinforce the hostility, on the assumption that people find it gratifying to have their opinions confirmed. For example, John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of State during the Cold War, when confronted with any new information about the URSS, systematically ignored anything that challenged his judgement of his opponent as an implacable and dishonest enemy. There is a firmly established tradition which encourages enemies to blind themselves to each other’s point of view. On this basis, war can continue for ever. And what helps it to continue is that private individuals are prisoners of attitudes of mind which make them seek out enemies, just like nations.
If you believed that there are people who despise you or wish you harm, if you have simmering inside you not just a fear of them, but a loathing and a disgust at the very sight of them, if you are convinced that they and you are totally incompatible, then it may be that your deepest roots stretch back into ancient Persia, and that you are an unwitting disciple of the prophet Zarathustra, who lived in the tenth century BC. His recommendations on how to react to enemies are still widely followed, particularly in the West, even if he is remembered only because his priests, the Magi, visited the Infant Jesus. Until Zarathustra had the idea that there was only one true god, and that all other gods were really wicked and hateful demons, enemies were different from what the have become. It used to be silly to imagine that one had implacable enemies, when what happened was believed to depend on whims of a large number of gods and ancestor spirits, and one’s no need to hate those who harmed one, because magic and sacrifice and prayer were more practical ways of dealing with them. the most ancient divinities were thought of as having the power to be either helpful or nasty, and much depended on how one treated them. Zarathustra replaced that with the belief that life was a perpetual battle, that every individual was surrounded by enemies ruled over by Satan-the arch-enemy who hated one irrespective of what one did, just for being human.
Zarathustra put all the blame for the opposition which his prophesying aroused on Satan. Only wickedness could explain that opposition, he thought. Satan refused to understand him, told lies about him: Satan was The Lie. That is how the all-purpose scapegoat was born, and nothing has paralysed intelligence more than the search for scapegoats. There was no need to probe the motives or the difficulties of on’s enemies, once one learnt to spot Satan in them, and so to hate them. Several great religions took up the idea that it was a duty to fight Satan, who hid behind the people one disagreed with. Cardinal Newman wrote, ‘One must learn to hate before one can learn to love.’ Zarathustra explained how to find the right object for one’s hatred, whom to blame for every misfortune. In other respects, he was a prophet of generous instincts, whose ideal was that people should be peaceful and neighbourly; but he could not understand those who rejected his ideas; he could not understand disagreement.
Theodore Zeldin, An Intimate History of Humanity.