“Whither Moral Courage?” By SALMAN RUSHDIE
Published: April 27, 2013, New York Times.
[ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/opinion/sunday/whither-moral-courage.html?pagewanted=all ]
“courage” is not enough; the issue over which courage is being demonstrated is of even more defining importance as regards how such demonstrations are received. Trying to fob off Pussy Riot as being in the mould of the Tank Man at Tiananmen or, for Chrissake, Edward Said or Chomsky is a hard sell.
Said and Chomsky, unlike you and the Pussy Rioters for example, did not deliberately set out to taunt and provoke for the express purpose of then turning around “in surprise” at a cold reception to this perverse misunderstanding of the role of the artist. In the course of an artist’s work, he might provoke strong reactions, but provoking reactions is not the primary work of an artist–to mistake these two debases the artist. There’s a subtle difference.
Courage simpliciter is not enough. One can be courageous and still be wrong. The rest of the essay is a good read. I enjoyed it.
“When he was released, Dudko was finally given his own church. His message changed. Where he had preached harmony and hope, he now preached rabid nationalism and anti-Semitism. He died lonely and bitter and mad. In Oliver Bullough’s bleak, beautiful The Last Man in Russia, a mix of biography and reportage, Dudko’s journey from defiance to submission to self-destruction becomes the archetypal Russian story: a broken man representing a broken nation.”
From a review, here [ http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/04/22/the-last-man-in-russia-the-struggle-to-save-a-dying-nation.html ]
I’d like to read this book. I am immensely curious about people like Dudko. I think of Wilde, who quipped about how great strength is needed to fall into certain temptations. And I think of an old Jimmy Croce song from a Brad Solomon novel, “The Gone Man”, he sang–do you ha’ tha feelin’ tha you wanted to go/ An’ yet ha’ tha feelin’ tha you wanted to stay? And I think again of the Fourth Tempter from Eliot’s play “Murder. . .”, who offered what was inevitable to a proud man–to accept martyrdom for the wrong reasons.
I am curious about people like Dudko, like the man in the Californero’s song, people like Archbishop Becket, because I think of myself and question my immorality. I think I admire these tales of tempted men because I am not sure if it is true that there are no temptations for me, if it is true that all there is for me is choice, then will, then ability.
What are the things so similar to our true natures as that they are likely to break us were they offered by an enemy?