Impure thought

There is a lot to disagree with in James Bloodworth’s article here – yes, you read that right, in spite of his gripping book, ‘Hired’, I don’t agree with much in this piece at all!

But I do think the conclusion is worth highlighting:

Patriotism needn’t be flashy or tub-thumping. But it does begin with the belief that one’s own country is more good than bad, more right than wrong.

Now, given recent governments, I have problems with this too, but I do think we each need to work out our individual political outlook – philosophy even – which may be barely replicated in anyone else, but then also decide who we are going to support, rather than withdrawing, whilst wailing ‘ none of the above’.

Messy compromise, shades of grey, even some hypocrisy may result from our decision – unless we are going to stand on an island alone.

Purity of thought is interesting and might be suitable for the lone tiger – or even the domestic cat, but for the herd animal that is the human, it is at the very least unlikely to win friends – or even especially, influence people.

We need the sort of purity of thought that thinks (of course) of principle first, but then also why and just how far we can embrace compromise.

And that, when you have principles that are anything different from self interest, is even more difficult.

It probably involves the idea of rather better together – than apart…

And, regrettably, that involves way too many shades of grey for far too many people in Britain today.


  1. Geoff -

    Thanks Peter,
    I was trying to think of some form of words to comment on this piece, I think this says it for me.
    In his inaugural address to the Chilean Parliament, Salvador Allende spoke in similarly rapturous tones, describing socialism as a “mission” that could infuse the country with meaning:

    “How can people in general — and young people in particular — develop a sense of mission which will inspire them with a new joy in living and give dignity to their existence? There is no other way than that of devoting ourselves to the realization of great impersonal tasks, such as that of attaining a new stage in the human condition, until now degraded by its division into the privileged and the dispossessed. . . . Here and now in Chile and in Latin America, we have the possibility and the duty of releasing creative energies, particularly those of youth, in missions which inspire us more than any in the past.

    Here was the heart of Marxian philosophy: the elan of the human subject, the inspired striving toward growth.”

  2. Bill Hughes -

    It seems from Nick Cohen’s review of James Bloodwoth’s book “Hired” that it is an early 21st century account of “underclass” life akin to the “Ragged Trousered Phillanthorapist” of the early 20th century and Orwell’s “Down and Out in London & Paris” of the 1930s. You raise the moral question of what our reaction should be to benefiting from the cheap goods and services that these exploitative working conditions supply and thoughts about patriotism. Yes, these questions are a quandary. I need to give them further thought. My immediate reaction is how little capitalism has changed over all these years!

    1. Peter May -

      Good point and amazon seems a particular rapacious version – it has even seen off much of Tesco’s non food online…

Comments are closed.