Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Quotes from Raymond Williams, playwright and political thinker

Occasionally I read a quote that just leaps out and sticks with me. Often these are from quite unexpected sources - like when I read an article written by the Welsh health minister, Mark Drakeford, which included this quote:

“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.”

I liked that. In the political narratives around us, it all seems to be about despair - extremists, the pressures of migrants, the NHS at breaking point, the economy. Every party, or factions in parties, seems to be trying to convince us that the other side will bring ruin upon us. And we seem to be buying into this. The despair has become convincing. Hope seems impossible.

I've been called a radical a few times for my politics and theological world view. It's not a label I would use to myself. But then if I am going to be regarded as a radical, I want my lived out beliefs to be a radicalism that makes hope possible.

The person who said “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.” was a playwright and political thinker, Raymond Williams. This particular quote was from a book called Resources of Hope, which was published posthumously in 1989.

The internet - that great reservoir of quotes - has some more interesting thoughts from him, many of which I agree with, and some that have made me think about things, if nothing else. Raymond Williams was very interested in class and society, and also the moral bankruptcy of unalloyed capitalism, all of which I am interested in. So, here are some more thoughts, in his own words:

“Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language.” (Keywords, 1983)

“Real independence is a time of new and active creation: people sure enough of themselves to discard their baggage; knowing the past is past, as shaping history, but with a new confident sense of the present and the future, where the decisive meanings and values will be made.”

“We all like to think of ourselves as a standard, and I can see that it is genuinely difficult for the English middle class to suppose that the working class is not desperately anxious to become just like itself. I am afraid this must be unlearned.” (Culture and Society, 1958)

“What breaks capitalism, all that will ever break capitalism, is capitalists. The faster they run the more strain on their heart."

“It wasn't idealism that made me, from the beginning, want a more secure and rational society. It was an intellectual judgment, to which I still hold. When I was young its name was socialism. We can be deflected by names. But the need was absolute, and is still absolute.”

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