ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – Man for Monday: YOU, YOURS, & BLACKS IN ABERFELDY

editors’ note: If you know anything about John Calder, one of the UK’s most notorious publishers — who has brought us Alleg, Beckett, Duras, Hiss and Selby. Typed in London on a manual, mailed to and re-keyed in Glasgow, ONE Magazine is pleased to present the second article from the Man for Monday.

Man is an animal, and all animals have certain things in common – one of them being a natural, tribal instinct. This means that prejudice against anything that does not belong to our own tribe is perfectly normal, as is the loyalty to one’s own tribe. Colour, race, religion – or even the fact of living a few miles away – arouse suspicion, dislike, even venomous hatred. This applies as much to rats and birds as to humans.

Civilisation, education, the sophistication of growing up in a mixed society, gradually overcome that tribalism for some, but not for all.

An anecdote: in 1970 I stood for parliament for part of the Scottish Highlands. At Aberfeldy, a young group began to heckle me about black immigrants coming into Britain. (If there was one place you were unlikely to see a black face it was Aberfedly). A childhood memory came back and I told them about the day that Italy had come into the second world war. I’d gone to buy a penny ice-cream and a comic, and I found the Italian shop smashed up because of the day’s news – but of course the owner had been there for years and had no connection with Mussolini. At that moment a young girl, who had been shouting at me called out: “That was my father!” and in turn, began hitting out at her friends. Within minutes I knew I would get every vote in that hall: when persecutor becomes victim, everything changes.

The long depression that is just beginning will bring tribal prejudice flooding back as some member of a different group from yours keeps a job and you lose yours. Fundamentalism is growing, as is anger at those in a more fortunate position, whether by shrewdness, corruption or accident. Those elected to govern are lost in their own ineptness at failing to see what was coming and their blind faith that things will return to what they were, as well as being blinkered by the ideology of market forces and global capitalism. The only answer must be a wartime economy, levelling through taxation, and the creation of new jobs in making what is needed, while providing the essentials of welfare education, foodstuffs and amenities – instead of producing surplus cars, luxuries and playthings. We must be told to save, not get into debt, cut back on everything that is not necessary.

Cooperation should replace competition. Reasonable protectionism will make it possible to help poorer countries. We must learn to share, help others, be good neighbors, bring crime under control by separating and educating young criminals and moving them into an atmosphere where they can become interested in creativity and thereby gain self-respect.

The age of greed is over. Now is the time to build a new society and ethic, a human society built on understanding, empathy and kindness. It is well worth a little willing self-sacrifice.

John Calder, 31/3/09
London