Monday, July 23, 2012

V.S. Naipaul at the 1984 Republican National Convention

     At the climax of the great occasion, as at the center of so many of the speeches, there was nothing. It was as if, in summation, the sentimentality, about religion and Americanism, had betrayed only an intellectual vacancy; as if the computer language of the convention had revealed the imaginative poverty of these political lives. It was "as if"- in spite of the invocations and benedictions- "as if inspiration had ceased, as if no vast hope, no religion, no song of joy, no wisdom, no analogy, existed any more."
     The words are by Emerson; they were written about England. English Traits, published in 1856, was about Emerson's two trips to England, in 1833 and 1847, when he felt that English power, awesome and supreme as it still was, was on the turn, and that English intellectual life was being choked by the great consciousness of power and money and rightness. "They exert every variety of talent on a lower ground." Emerson wrote, "and may be said to live and act in a submind." Something like this I felt in the glitter of Dallas. Power was the theme of the convention, and this power seemed too easy- national power, personal power, the power of the New Right. Like Emerson in England, I seemed in the convention hall of Dallas "to walk on a marble floor, where nothing will grow."  -Among the Republicans