Better Read Than Never: SAUL’s “The Unconscious Civilization” Part SIX

I’ve been studying and writing about this book off and on for months, and today I’ve finished. My first look at The Unconscious Civilization (and its author, John Ralston Saul) was here, and the summaries of the first four chapters are also linkable (and brief):

I The Great Leap Backwards

II From Propaganda to Language

A practical humanist.

III From Corporatism to Democracy

IV From Managers and Speculators to Growth”  

The final instalment of the 1995 Massey Lectures series by the notable Canadian writer/activist John Ralston Saul was titled “From Ideology to Equilibrium”. All were published in book form later that same year, and it’s a measure of the enduring value and bold vision of the book that a tenth-anniversary reissue came; I wouldn’t be surprised to see another edition come out next year for the 20th. (His 2004 The Collapse of Globalism came out again in ’09, with some extra commentary in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis that he had predicted.) In this lecture/chapter, Saul advances and finally summarizes his argument; these thoughts also point towards his later book, On Equilibrium. He doesn’t believe in air-tight utopian dreams, but in the same way that Socrates advocated a lively but humble journey “towards knowledge without the expectation of finding [absolute] truth”, Saul describes his philosophy on genuine societal progress this way: “Practical humanism is the voyage towards equilibrium without the expectation of actually arriving there.”

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Neil Gaiman (on books & analogic)

A few years ago, when I read American Gods, likely at the behest of Son One, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I may have waded in expecting some nifty ideas and a dumbed-down bit of guilty-pleasure genre reading, but it was much better than that. Recently, through a Twitter accident, I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s blog and watching some of the videos attached to it, and find him a thoroughly engaging and admirable

Gaiman: a humane, generous and eloquent spokesman for the arts of reading and writing.

person. I love his simple and humble description of what he does for a living — I make things up and I write them down — and I will read more Gaiman. The quote below, on the lasting quality of the analog book form, comes from a superb speech he made in support of The Reading Agency, a British supporter of the whole wonderful business — threatened, in so-called “developing countries” everywhere — of libraries and reading and the fuelling of imagination. I think of it as his “We Have an Obligation to Imagine” speech, and it’s fine, all of it. This reluctant e-reader particularly enjoyed his defence of the non-digital book: 

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