This “book” is actually transcripts of Doris Lessing’s 1985 Massey Lectures. Lessing kept coming to mind when I was reading Atwood and Station Eleven, but I wasn’t ready to leave the comfort of nonfiction. So, I ended up here.
The “prisons” Lessing refers to are the crushing political and social states we create because, for whatever reason, humans seem unwilling to objectively study our past behaviour and take steps to shape our own futures. We jump from ideology to ideology, oppressing groups of people across eras, countries, and cultures.
In the most prescient section, Lessing talks about the ways politicians manipulate public opinion. She’s writing about mid/late 20th Century politics, but her observations are even more relevant today.
This business of seeing ourselves as in the right, others in the wrong; our cause as right, theirs as wrong; our ideas as correct, theirs as nonsense, if not as downright evil....
There is no such thing as my being in the right, my side being in the right, because within a generation or two, my present way of thinking is bound to be found perhaps faintly ludicrous, perhaps quite outmoded by new development— at the best, something that has been changed, all passion spent, into a small part of a great process, a development.
[a] detached, curious, patient, investigative attitude ... is the most valuable thing we have in the fight against our own savagery, our long history as group animals.
Perhaps it is not too much to say that in these violent times the kindest, wisest wish we have for the young must be: “We hope that your period of immersion in group lunacy, group self-righteousness, will not coincide with some period of your country’s history when you can put your murderous and stupid ideas into practice. “If you are lucky, you will emerge much enlarged by your experience of what you are capable of in the way of bigotry and intolerance.
You will understand absolutely how sane people, in periods of public insanity, can murder, destroy, lie, swear black is white.”
Government by show business.... Well, every authoritarian government understands this very well.
The researchers of brain-washing and indoctrination discovered that people who knew how to laugh resisted best.
Eyeing the Trumbo biography ...