7 December 2014

Let's hear it for Aristotle

The final “Yes” of James Joyce’s Ulysses can be seen symbolically as ushering in all the licence that has followed. In his amusing takedown of Slavoj Žižek, Theodore Dalrymple mentions a graffito he knows in France. “It consists of a single word, Non. You can’t get more profound (or more succinct) than that.”

The English word, having one letter fewer, is arguably even more succinct.

The period after Ulysses (1914-21) proved licentious enough, but things really loosened up in the 1960s. By now, I’d say, they are about as loose as they can get.

The “power of no” has become a mantra of self-help gurus and other psychobabblers, but of course “no” needs no such help, for it is the usual state of things in the real world, as any job applicant will tell you. Where the cultural “yes” and the reality-based “no” collide, you find unpleasantness – such as the surveillance state or genital herpes.

It’s about time we heard it for Aristotle and his Golden Mean. Were it not for the threat of detection and prosecution, I’d be minded to sneak out at dead of night, find a prominent wall, and in large and artistic capitals spray the word MAYBE.

No comments: