Jm Coetzee approaches politics with a similar combination of irony, seriousness and principled reticence. His political attitudes may be connected with the difficulties of being a liberal white South African, but they have their intellectual origins in his prodigious work as a novelist. His latest collection of essays, Inner Workings (Harvill Secker), keeps returning to the question of "the novel form," and how Cervantes created it in order to demonstrate the power of the imagination. One of the great virtues of the novel, according to Coetzee, is to teach us that there is no perfect way of carving up the world or recounting its stories. This is a lesson that bears on politics as well, counting against any political aspiration that arises from nationality, identity or tribal loyalty.I love thinking of democracy rooted in eros. It makes sense--true democracy does stem from a passionate belief in equality, and in the voice of the people.
But Coetzee does not confine his attention to novelists, and an outstanding essay on Walt Whitman allows him to explore a conception of democracy that he himself would evidently endorse: democratic politics, he suggests, is "not one of the superficial inventions of human reason but an aspect of the ever-developing human spirit, rooted in eros."
The writing I do for CODEPINK is very different from my personal writing--it is not about expressing myself as an individual; it is about expressing the passionate desires of a group for peace. This writing reaches so many more people than my fiction ever will--the alerts are sent out to 200,000 people a week. I love knowing that those words are spurring people to action, getting them to call their congressional reps or sign a petition to protect Iraqi women or stand out on the corner to protest war. I've been meaning to post links to the alerts each week for those of you who don't subscribe (it's easy to subscribe--just go to www.codepinkalert.org and click on Get Action Alerts.) Here is last week's alert, addressing Cindy Sheehan's resignation from the peace movement.
Update: Here is this week's alert, which includes a link to a petition to protest the stoning of Du'a Khalil Aswad, a 17 year old girl in Iraq, whose only crime was to fall in love with someone outside her sect.