Heart of Darkness Monologue

Robert Pogue Harrison

EO/Stanford University

15 December 2008                       MM = Minute Mark

And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.”

Those are the first words that Marlowe speaks in the Heart of Darkness, Marlowe being the narrator of that story, not technically the narrator, there is an anonymous narrator but it’s in Marlowe’s voice that we hear about the voyage up the Congo River to retrieve the remarkable Mr. Kurtz. Given that this is the concluding episode of Entitled Opinions for the fall season and that the winter solstice is very close upon us I thought I would deal here with the Heart of Darkness, we’re in the mood for that kind of work. If this were the spring equinox which is when Entitled Opinions is coming back on air the topic might have been different.

(MM 1:12)

When Conrad has Marlowe say that this was once one of the dark places of the earth he’s suggesting an analogy between the savagery of Africa’s jungles and England’s own prehistory. Marlowe is in fact sitting on the deck of a boat anchored in the Thames river. Very nice description,

“The sea reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and sky were welded together without a joint. And in the luminous space the tan sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked with gleams of varnish spirit.  A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea  in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom brooding motionless over the biggest and the greatest town on earth.”

That biggest and greatest town on earth being London. But I would also draw our attention to Gravesend. The air was dark above Gravesend. I think that place name is of special significance and we might get into that a bit later.

So Marlowe is thinking of the time when the Romans arrived in Britain and confronted the savagery disease and death of the British Isles. Now two millennia later it’s the British and their European kinsmen who carry the torch of Empire to the uttermost ends of the earth as he puts it. In truth no one could have imagined more vividly than Conrad the state of England in prehistorical times because during his long seafaring career he had first hand experience of the remote frontiers of forested worlds and their wild state. He had seen also how those same worlds had become European colonies. He had also witnessed the western conquest of the earth as he put it. So Conrad exercises a special authority when he declares that, I’m paraphrasing here, when he declares that the western races are under the impulse of a moral imperative. That they know how to overcome the sylvan wilderness how to rise above it’s gloom. How to seek out the open radiance of a luminous ideal. We are worshippers of the light are we westerners, believers in ideas, lovers of the open horizon. We are strong and indomitable western races who subdued the forest long ago. And now western enlightenment spreads abroad bringing it’s blessing to places like Africa which have yet to conquer the darkness. The light of that torch is fueled by the European virtues of faith, heroism, and self sacrifice. Yet there is a difference between the Roman conquerors of Britain and the modern European colonizers. And the difference is that we in the west perhaps because we’ve been Christianized for two millennia have an innate need to believe, a kind of necessity to believe or day dream about the moral goodness of our projects and ventures and enterprises.

The Romans had no need to tell themselves that they were bringing blessings to the rest of the world. The way Marlowe puts it,

“they were no colonists, the Romans, there administration was merely a squeeze. Nothing more I suspect. They were conquerors and for that you want only brute force. Nothing to boast of when you have it since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence aggravated murder on a great scale and men going at it blind as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness.  The conquest of the earth which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or those who have lighter flatter noses than ourselves is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it, not a sentimental pretense but an idea and an unselfish belief in the idea something you can set up and bow down before and offer a sacrifice to.”

  So there we have it. This devotion to the idea. It’s a distinctly modern phenomenon that distinguishes us somewhat from our Roman forebear’s. The colonial enterprise in Africa was a prime example of the west’s need to tell itself that it’s mission was fundamentally a moral one and a civilizing one, one of bringing enlightenment to the dark.

If I may reconstruct just very briefly this situation at the end of the 19th century it was time when the major powers in Europe were vying over control of Africa and they were indeed involved in carving up the continent between themselves trying to avoid going to war with each other over conflicting claims and different parts of Africa. Bismark in the 1880’s called a famous conference in Berlin where he and the other nations, now we’re talking about the French, the British, the Dutch, and the Portuguese, these are the major powers there in Africa. They came up with a set of rules of engagement as it were and made an effort to avoid open conflict and hostility between themselves and make sure that everyone was happy with their vast peace of the pie that they got in Africa. Sitting a little bit on the sidelines was one of the great villains of the story which was the King of Belgium, Leopold the 2nd. He had his eye on a part of Africa equatorial Africa, known then as the Belgian Congo. Which had not been depraded by the slave trade. And he claimed the Belgian Congo really for himself as a private individual, believe it or not.  Not even for his nation. In fact he willed the Belgian Congo to the Belgian state in his last will before he died. He was a very ambitious man and he had an endless lust for money and wealth. He wanted to use the resources of the Congo in order to enrich himself as much as possible hence he made concessions to various trading companies gave them the rights to go to the Belgian Congo and set up trading stations and bring back to Europe various resources the most popular of which at the time was ivory. He claimed for himself a substantial percentage of all the profits that were made. In his so called independent state of the Belgian Congo. Ironically named, but of course Leopold was typical of the European colonial enterprise in Africa for the hypocritical and deceptive rhetoric that he used publicly about the mission. I’ll read to you from a statement he made in 1898 which is exactly the time that Conrad is writing the Heart of Darkness where he says the following, the mission which the agents of the state have to accomplish on the Congo is a noble one. They have to continue the development of civilization in the center of equatorial Africa receiving their inspiration directly from Berlin and Brussels. Placed face to face with primitive barbarism grappling with sanguinary customs that date back thousands of years they are obliged to reduce these gradually they must accustomed the population to general laws of which the most needful and the most salutary is assuredly that of work. The great virtue of work. He wanted the native peoples of the Congo to be taxpayers in order to pay taxes they had to become workers and in order to become workers they had to be whipped into service and their labor which amounted really to nothing but slave labor was watched over by armed sentries and involved a great deal of brutality and outright murder all very vividly described in Conrads Heart of Darkness which is based on Conrad’s own experience as a seaman who was sent to the Belgian Congo in order to commandeer a ship which he actually found disabled when he arrived but he did go as second in command on another ship called the Voir de Belge down up the Congo river to Stanley Falls and his experience there is what lies at the foundation of this story that Marlowe tells us. If you’ve ever read the Heart of Darkness you I think will be persuaded already that the Heart of Darknesses juxtaposition of civilized Europe with the wild forests of Africa actually suggests that barbarism lurks not so much in the African natives as in the behavior and the hearts of the Europeans who conceal a savagery of greed and violence beneath their public colonial rhetoric about saving the savages from their benighted ways. And as it moves deeper and deeper into the dark interior of the Congo that wilderness that the west had presumably long ago turned into the centers of modern enlightenment Marlowe’s narrative suggests that in fact the African so called savages are intrinsically more civilized than their self appointed saviors. Now what do I mean by that. By civilization I mean that they are intrinsically more possessed of moral virtues the primary one of which is the capacity to exercise restraint upon their immediate desires and needs. Conrad believed along with other theorists of the time that restraint is the founding principle of all morality. And if you read the Heart of Darkness what you’ll find is that the only positive heroes is this somber story are in fact the cannibals on board Marlowe’s steam boat. When the white crew throw all this Hippo meat over board because it had begun to rot and was stinking the place up and they really couldn’t live with the smell of dead Hippo the Cannibals were left with nothing to eat and for several days and perhaps even weeks they remained calm and un rebellious even though they out numbered the crew to a great extent and Marlowe is actually astonished that they didn’t go for the white men and make a meal of them. That’s because they had for some inexplicable reason restrained themselves from that act. And the only other people who show any restraint in this story are the natives who are enthralled to Kurtz at the inner station of the trading company because as the steamboat approaches the station they shoot little wooden arrows not in order to massacre the people who have come to take their great chief away but only in order to warn them off. So they too show a certain restraint. The idea here is that decadence begins with the loss of restraint. What we have as a consequence of this is a new kind of barbarism, a western barbarism, and it calls to mind the theories of an Italian theorist of the 18th century named Giambattista Vico, who  wrote in his book The New Science which explains the evolution of human cultures from primitive clearings in the forest, to primary families, to little huts, and then villages and cities and then empires and finally when Vico is discussing the decline of empires into decadence he evokes a scenario that when this decline reaches a certain extreme and those nations that are in such decline are not conquered by better nations from without or don’t agree on a Monarch from within then the process unfolds all the way by way of a decree of Providence that. “through obstinate factions and desperate civil wars they shall turn their cities into forests and their forests into dens and lairs of men. In this way, writes Vico, through long centuries of barbarism rust will consume the misbegotten subtleties of malicious wits that have turned them into beasts made more inhuman by the barbarism of reflection then the first men had been made by the barbarism of sense.”

(MM 17:28)

The difference between the two being that the barbarism of sense put forward a generous kind of savagery against which one could defend oneself. Whereas the barbarism of reflection is fundamentally treacherous because it knows how to manipulate appearances and make falsehood appear in the guise of truth and vice a versa and therefore it was fundamentally ironic. It belonged to a reflective consciousness. Shakespeare’s tragedies are famously populated with such barbarians of reflection. Edmond in King Lear for example. Or Iago, these are people who know the art of treachery and the presenting of an external facade that does not correspond to the inner intention. So the loss of restraint results from an even more grave and serious loss, speaking for Conrad here, which is the loss of faith. In several moments of the narrative Marlowe insists that only on the basis of an unshakable faith can a modern European withstand the jungles of Africa and exercise restraint under conditions of extremity. Principles won’t do he declares, acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags, rags that would fly off at the first good shake, no what you want is a deliberate belief. But instead of such a deliberate belief Marlowe discovers among the African colonizers it’s conspicuous absence. He discovers a spiritual void, a kind of everlasting deep hole, of nihilism. It’s rather frustrating for readers and critics of Conrad to realize just how vague and deliberately vague Marlowe is about the nature of the redemptive faith to which he makes an appeal. It doesn’t seem to be a religious faith per se. The following passage, rather long one, which I’ll read, is addressed not only to Marlowe’s fictive audience on board the boat but also to the cosmopolitan reader of Heart of Darkness and to us of course and it contains a masterful exercise of vague allusion.

“You can’t understand, Marlowe says, how could you with solid pavement under your feet surrounded by kind neighbors ready to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman in the holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums. How can you imagine what particular region of the first ages of man’s untrammeled feet may take him by way of solitude. Utter solitude without a policeman by the way of silence, utter silence, where no warring voice of a kind neighbor can be heard whispering public opinion. These little things make all the difference. When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength. On your own capacity for faithfulness. Of course you may be too much of a fool to go wrong. Or you may be such a thunderingly exalted creature as to be altogether deaf and blind to anything but heavenly sights and sounds. Then the earth for you is only a standing place and whether to be like this is your loss or your gain, I won’t pretend to say most of us are neither one nor the other. The earth for us is a place to live in where we must put up with sights, with sounds, with smells too by jove, breathe dead Hippo so to speak and not be contaminated. And there, don’t you see, your strength comes in, your power of devotion, not to yourself, but to an obscure back breaking business.”

We’ll be right back.  

(MM 22:05)

(MM 24:35)

A little Robert Johnson never hurt anybody.

So we’re talking about the vagueness of Conrad’s rhetoric about the power of devotion and faith in an idea. There are very good reasons I believe why he can’t articulate it more specifically and I’ll try to suggest that later on. But in the mean time I’d like to talk about the way Heart of Darkness delves into this moral cavity. What we could call a kind of spiritual hole of nihilism, delves into it in it’s historical dimensions. And go through moments where the image or figure of the hole pops up in Heart of Darkness and as I’ve suggested this hole in question comes to represent something like the failure of a redemptive idea in the west’s project of colonization at the dawn of the new century. So of one of the agents at the central station Marlowe says,

“I let him run on this paper mache Mephistopheles. It seemed to me that if I tried I could poke my fore finger through him and would find nothing inside but a little loose dirt maybe.”  

   So this is an image of moral bankruptcy to be sure but there’s more to it than that. The loose dirt suggests to me that this soul is not only empty, not only hollow (you can understand why T.S.Eliot was so taken with Conrads Heart of Darkness when he wrote The Hollow Men) but that this paper mache Mephistopheles is also a soul that has been somehow unearthed. It’s because this individual belongs among the emissaries of the enlightened west who have come literally to unearth the African continent that we find nothing but a little bit of loose dirt inside him. The unearthed hole or cavity is like a festering wound at the Heart of Darkness and it symbolizes for Conrad the colonial enterprise as a whole. Marlowe is exposed to this cavity the very moment he first steps foot on the African continent,

“I avoided a vast artificial hole somebody had been digging up on the slope, the purpose of which I found impossible to divine.” 

It’s been remarked by a number of critics that Heart of Darkness is primarily symbolic in it’s literary articulation. One could say that this vast artificial hole is a symbolic gateway into hell, the hell that is the European presence that is in Africa. It’s dug up senselessly by the colonists, by the colonizers. It’s through the symbolic gateway of that senseless hole that Marlowe will descend deeper and deeper into the interior. Not only the interior of Africa obviously, but symbolically speaking into the interior of the western nihilistic soul. At the very bottom of this hole the inner station of the trading company up the Congo River Marlowe will meet Mr. Kurtz. The remarkable man whose voice our narrator has been so anxious to hear hoping for a redemptive idea within the folds of Kurtz’s eloquence. He had heard a lot about Kurtz’s eloquence and had read some of the statements he had made, statements that sound strangely reminiscent of King Leopold the 2nd. This darling of europe Kurtz and of the trading company all europe had contributed to the making of. Kurtz, Marlowe wrote, is a true genius. He came to Africa with progressive ideas a moral mission and an exalted rhetoric of enlightenment. But in the African interior Kurtz discovers that his true genius lies neither with his ideas nor with his eloquence. It lies rather with his ability to dig up the earth in search of ivory. In Kurtz, Marlowe meets the most unearthly of colonial unearthers:

“Ivory, I should think so, heaps of it. Stacks of it. The old mud shanty was bursting with it. You would think not a single tusk was left above or below ground in the whole country. Mostly fossil, the manager had remarked disparagingly. It was no more fossil than I am, but they call it fossil when it is dug up. It appears these niggers do bury the tusks sometimes. Evidently they couldn’t bury this parcel deep enough to save the gifted Mr. Kurtz from his fate.”

(MM 30:07)

If Marlowe couldn’t understand the purpose of that artificial hole he almost  fell into on his arrival it was because he had still not discovered the purpose of the European presence in Africa. He was still under the illusion that it had to do with the heroism of exploration and not what he called in a letter,

“the vilest scramble for loot to have ever disfigured human conscience and the history of geographical exploration.” 

But at the heart of darkness, at the inner station, the purpose of that hole now reveals it’s purpose: the unearthing of the earth yields resources, and in this case, Ivory. Yet by virtue of a perverse symbolism Kurtz as he digs up the earth for Ivory delves into the moral cavity of his european genius and uncovers it’s skeletal nihilism. By the time Marlowe sets eyes on him, this gifted man looks strangely like the bones of disinterred ivory himself:

“It was as though an animated image of death carved out of old ivory had been shaking it’s hand with menaces at the motionless crowd of men made of dark and glittering bronze.” 

I’m insisting on the motif of unearthing, uncovering and digging up what has been buried because I think it is part of a logic of irony or juxtaposition that we have to get a handle on if we really want to understand the deeper moral vision or moral despair at the heart of the Heart of Darkness because at the end of his journey or his nightmare, as he calls it, Marlowe will in fact go and visit Kurtz’s intended or fiance, his ex-fiance because Kurtz is now dead, who lives in Brussels. Like London, Brussels is a metropolis of the European empire and it too, like London, is juxtaposed to the jungles of  Africa in the Heart of Darkness. In this case the juxtaposition is symbolized by the ironic relationship between Kurtz and his intended. Kurtz has been dead a year when Marlowe goes to visit the mournful fiance. But his memory lives on both in her and in Marlowe’s minds. Since Marlowe had assumed responsibility for Kurtz’s burial, burial in the ritualistic and spiritual sense, because Kurtz’z body was buried unceremoniously in some muddy hole along the banks of the Congo river. Since he had assumed that responsibility he now has to go visit the intended in order to consign once and for all the still disinterred memory of Kurtz. To consign it to the majestic tomb of this woman’s grief, mourning, and devotion to him. The last ritual when Marlowe’s task as caretaker leads him to a:

high and ponderous door between the tall houses of a street as still and decorous as a well kept alley in a cemetery.”

The setting is appropriately described because Marlowe has consistently referred to Brussels as “the sepulchral city.”  He could just as easily have spoken of a sepulchral Europe. If the forests of Africa are the place of naked unearthing of disinterment, of the disclosure of an abyss at the heart of this saviour civilization the European city is the place where that abyss is obscured covered over and buried. Only at the end of the novel in fact do we fully understand why London, at the beginning, was enveloped in a brooding gloom that evokes the same jungle landscape as the Congo. That gloom is sepulchral, funereal and mournful.

If Kurtz knew how to unearth the African Continent and delve into the cavity of his own nihilism, his intended knows how to bury what has been left exposed. Kurtz and the intended belong intimately to one another like the duplicity of irony itself. Like the duplicity of the barbarism of reflection itself. The intended embraces Kurtz’z rhetoric of greatness, she believes in it. She believes in his genius and his sacrifice, but she has the special privilege of being spared the trial that would put it’s eloquence to the test. She too is an idealist, but like Kurtz and Jim, of Lord Jim, and like the world and epoch to which she belongs she cannot bear very much reality. Face to face with this creature of earnest illusion Marlowe himself cannot bear to witness the collapse of yet another ideal, the extinguishing of yet another light, the light which in the dusk has gathered around her white forehead. A very beautiful description at the end of Heart of Darkness about how once all the light in the dusk hour has disappeared her white forehead is still luminous.

When she asks Marlowe about Kurtz’s last words, Marlowe lies to her. This deliberate lie that Kurtz’s last word was her name, and not that infernal whisper” “the horror, the horror,” consummates a nightmare. Marlowe conspires with the intended’s self deception because only by virtue of the lies power to conceal to cover over to bury the truth, can the fragile fabric of a self-deceived civilization hold together. Marlowe’s lie conspires with the irony of the sepulchral city. For Marlowe to have spoken the truth would have amounted to a dangerous lack of irony. I say dangerous because in the final analysis irony is what safeguards the more complex and paradoxical truth of the age. The truth of the age being that we cannot live with the truth of who we are and what we do. That we need to lie to ourselves about it because, as I said earlier, we have this innate need and necessity to believe in the moral loftiness of our civilization and of our own personal behaviors and ambitions.

Marlow’s lie is the most disturbing of conclusions to this story if only because nothing is more disgusting to Marlowe than lie,

You know I hate detest and cannot bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me. There’s a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world, what I want to forget. It makes me miserable and sick like biting something rotten would do.

Marlowe is a man for whom irony is a rotten fruit that he’s forced to bite into. For nothing else offers itself to feed on at this extremity of knowledge. Irony is the inner most truth of a civilization that knows how to lie to itself about itself or how to bury under deceptive veils a truth that would otherwise destroy it. So Marlowe succumbs before a fatality, a necessity, before the recognition of the decaying nature of a civilization that enlisted Kurtz in it’s mission of conquest. His lie, is at once a renunciation as well as an impotent act of protest. It bites into the rotten fruit conspiring with the principal of decadence. Yet it also revolts against mendacity and exposes it at least within the economy of the narrative for us readers, exposes it as the ongoing strategy by which the West lives with itself. So the juxtaposed relation between the jungles of Africa and civilized Europe or between Kurtz and the intended, or between the two poles of irony, between an external facade and an inner intention,this juxtaposed relation is at once analogical and topographical. The African jungles are literally remote from Europe, yet their wilderness provokes the most intimate cultural confession when the Europeans set foot on that soil. A confession about a failure in the power of devotion, a failure of the idea, a failure in essence of European morality.

(MM 40:41)

In Heart of Darkness forests in Africa appear as the place and locus of this revelation. What the jungles reveal is what remains concealed under the gloom that broods over the metropolis of Europe, namely, western nihilism at the turn of the 20th century. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness both within and without exposes nihilism not so much as the savagery and greed that lie beneath the humane postures of colonialism but as the absence of a redemptive idea in the West’s conquest of the earth. That I think is where Conrad reveals himself essentially as a moralist of the 19th century.

During his career as a seaman he had witnessed the brutal scene of global conquest the world over. He had written works like the Heart of Darkness at the threshold not only of a new century but also of a new epoch of planetary conquest which had not yet amassed the unprecedented means of a totalized dominion over the earth. Conrad had a foreboding that something very unearthly was at work here. He was at a loss as to how to account for it in moral terms.  He was at a loss before the global magnitude of the phenomenon and hence he was unable to conceive of an idea at the back of it perhaps because the kind of global planetary conquest that would unleash it’s destructive forces in full during the 20th century is something for which any idea is lacking or falling short of. Certainly such an idea wether moral or spiritual is not forthcoming in Conrads entire work. It’s absence is conspicuous above all in a story like Heart of Darkness. That’s why I’m tempted to conclude that Conrad remained not only a pessimist, but also a nihilist with regard to the global future which was taking place or taking shape at that moment in history. He knew that the older ideas and faiths where inadequate, superfluous, and superannuated and that there was something unprecedented about the modern conquest, so unprecedented in fact that it rendered any analogy between the ancient Romans and the modern Europeans inadequate, but he did not have a response to what he saw and witnessed in his first hand experience.

(MM 43:56)

This sort of corrosive irony that consumes the end of Heart of Darkness was profoundly offensive to Conrad, yet I think that he had finally no choice but to resign himself to it. The unearthing of the earth on a planetary scale really gives a hollow resonance to all prior rhetoric either of the cross, or of traditional codes of morality, of our devotion to efficiency, or the devotion to the idea, the value of work, the virtues of faith self-sacrifice, duty, all these positive virtues that Conrad exalts in many of his novels, all these have a certain kind of hollow resonance when you think of the planetary scale of the global assault. All private conceptions about the good and the honorable fall short of it as well. So the nihilism of a work like the Heart of Darkness lies primarily in the failure of Marlowe’s private code of morals to achieve a credible reference to the global future of the new century. And the final analysis Marlowe and Conrad really could conceive of morality only really in terms of a private code of behavior that would be projected onto and expanded at the national levels. That private code of morals is a personal ethic of work and proper conduct. It’s exposed in it’s purely local and historically circumscribed and downright provincial origins in Africa. So at the end of his journey Marlowe finds himself in a hopeless position  precisely because he cannot see clearly through the dark with the lens of his own moral wisdom. That’s why his ultimate gesture of his lying to Kurtz’s intended can only ironize the irony that veils the truth about his contemporary civilization. His ability to finally ironize his age and it’s presumptions perhaps indicates a higher wisdom than he possessed before the journey began, but even this higher wisdom cannot overcome the irony that revolts it.

(MM 46:22)

What is the difference between our historical moment over a hundred years later and Conrad’s when he was writing the Heart of Darkness? At the time that Conrad was writing European, western civilization still had an irrepressible need to if not believe then at least make believe that it’s history and it’s projects and it’s enterprises were promoting the moral good and it became increasingly more difficult to maintain this public rhetoric and this public illusion. I think that what has changed most dramatically in our time is that if one looks at the two inveterate vices of the west, at least I believe there are two, the two inveterate vices, namely greed and self-deception, one examines the history whereby the resources of self deception have very often served to promote the cause and interest of greed and greed has often enlisted our native capacity for self-deception in order to carry on it’s work under veils of benevolent appearance that what has changed in the meantime in the intervening century is that the powers of self deception have fallen short of the work of concealment and the burial of the truth of the unredeemed greed and self interest that drives planetary conquest, namely the search and appropriation of the world’s resources at any cost.

(MM 48: 28)

So that we find ourselves in a position where rather than being able to lie to ourselves about what we are up to we are finally at a point where we acknowledge the fact that there has been this other side to the story all along and we have become skeptical if not cynical about all attempts to cover over that story. That’s why when the resources of self-deception start falling short we’re really left with two options; either we become brutally honest about the profane, venal, indeed sinful nature of the civilization that has brought us this far in the first place or we realize that if we cannot live that truth of who we are we have to change who we are and perhaps find a way to provoke the emergence of a new redemptive idea by which the future can start organizing itself and articulating itself.

The thing about redemptive ideas is that one cannot just will them into being. Certainly I think that before a redemptive idea is going to make it’s appearance among us there will have to be a long and perhaps even prolonged historical period of acknowledgement, and perhaps even of repentance, perhaps repentance would be the beginning of the emergence of a redemptive idea, a repentance that would involve a kind of genuine shame not only on the part of the West and it’s sins of the past, that would be very easy to beat up on ourselves in that regard and put our predecessors in a a tribunal and accuse them of their own guilt, but rather a kind of shame and repentance on behalf of the species itself for example in it’s relations with the earth and other living things. Certainly some kind of genuine be humbling and sense of contrition that itself would be the first step in opening up the possibility of a new kind of power of devotion that would have something redemptive in it.

So this has been Robert Harrison for the concluding hour monologue of Entitled Opinions. I remind you that we’ll be back with you in the Spring.

Thank you for listening. Bye. Bye.


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