Mind your 'p's please. Publishing, professionalism and politics - by the Editor
'WHAT we want is to stop the State being used for the benefit of a small number of individuals at the expense of all the rest.’ Does this sound familiar? This was James Leatham writing in 1927.
These days we are all in the grip of election fever and some of us in the grip of referendum/s fever and somehow to me the whole bandwagon just seems to keep on rolling. And nothing substantial ever changes. Not underneath.
It is certainly a truth beyond cliché that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. The more I read of Leatham, the more I realise we have learned very little and we are on an eternal return, with subtle variations maybe, but we still have and still fail on the same problems. In 1927 Leatham is talking about ‘The Living Wage’ about the dangers of ‘individualism’ to society, about failing industry and nationalisation. There is a lot to be learned from his letter to Ramsay MacDonald. And he is not just a carping critic. He offers his ‘progressive’ alternative – collectivism. I cannot help but wonder if this had become more widely adopted whether we might actually have ‘progressed’ and not be condemned to more of the same under a different name or different hat.
As Leatham says:
It is not the Collectivist who is the heretic and rebel, but those who would keep society a chaos of warring atoms, each secreting with feeble greed and stupid jealousy for itself, and incapable of co-operating for the grander results of associated effort in which man diminishes his disabilities and increases his powers a millionfold.
Moving from politics to professionalism (in the fields of writing and publishing) this month also sees me to some degree in agreement with Virginia Woolfe. This is a rare, and for me fairly frightening experience. Of course I don’t agree with all she says, but her comments in ‘The Common Reader’ do offer some resonance of sense. Well worth a read. And if our new Gateway teaches you nothing else, I hope it will encourage you to read critically and think about the views which you disagree with in the content as well as those you find agreeable. This is the way to progress surely?
Those on the margins, both of writing and publishing find themselves invisible in the face of the might of the mainstream marketing mania. Perhaps this is because there is a fundamental conflict between the notion of commodification/commercialisation of culture and the creativity it is born out of. Writers such as Brendan Gisby, (writer of this month's story The Patriot Game) are quite cognisant of the fact that they will never be the next big thing (and in fact, most don't wish for that dubious accolade anyway). Instead they are ‘doing it’ themselves. Not ‘for’ themselves and not always ‘by’ themselves but ‘as’ themselves at least – offering an alternative view not only of publishing but of the purposes and possibilities of writing itself in our progressively virtual world.
If you keep yourself firmly in the mainstream you are missing out on many both interesting and important things – that goes for writing as well as other things. And being hung up on an outmoded notion of ‘professionalism’ which is really just a way to keep the elite in their ivory towers is one of the great lies of our time. Professionalism, for me, is more a state of mind than a state of the bank balance. The survival of the fittest is not a simple affair. Are we evolving?
In ‘Was Darwin Right?’ Leatham addresses this question in a range of interesting ways. Considering Nature versus nurture and the ‘success’ of life due to natural selection, all of these evolutionary or may we say ‘progressive’ theories can be applied to more than simply the biology of species. Leatham doesn’t shy away from applying the principles to society and morality. There’s a lot of controversy in what he says but it’s well worth reading without prejudice, if nothing else, to test the openness of one’s mind! You will probably draw different conclusions from it to me and you may not see some of the connections I have seen – but I’m leaving it up to you to read the articles in this month’s Gateway and work out how they ‘connect’ for you!
To find past articles please use monthly archives.