Monday 4 October 2010


Settling down into my seat on the underground I took a quick look round and noted, accompanied by that delightful frisson engendered by a fix of cultural pessimism so necessary for a revolutionary, that nearly all my fellow passengers where playing mindlessly with their mobile phones or texting messages of the utmost banality to recipients who were no doubt equally unaware of the crisis faced by global capitalism. Before opening my book which happened to be on the Baader Meinhoff group which I knew would shortly be giving give me frissons of a far more problematic nature I noticed a young lady of Moslem appearance quietly and intently reading her own little book. For a moment in time we were united against the philistines around us but of course this happy state of affairs did not survive my weakness for cultural stereotyping that of course completely subverts my other belief that races and nations do not have essences that are capable of resisting historic and political developments. I thought to myself with an unbecoming smugness grounded it has to be said in enlightenment values that I bet, a secular form of Pascal's wager of course, that she is reading some holy book. Eventually after some considerable effort and a neglect of my own book I was able to confirm this was the case. However I was rather troubled by my finding. Was the proof of my assumption further proof that the young lady was somehow more determined , in a philosophical sense, than I was in her choice of book and if so could it further be the case that she is less free than me and for what it is worth the other passengers on the train whose activities were only really determined by their choice of means of communicating rather than the content of their message. (I sense the ghost of McLuhan hovering over me). Yes I thought it does for I doubted that the young lady, if she had been so minded, would have been able to guess the nature of the book I was reading simply by looking at me as the potential choices I had were almost unlimited including a holy book. I have previous in this area as I have in the past noticed that Africa looking ladies generally when reading on the tube opt for the Bible. So far one might think so prejudiced, though a prejudice based on empirical evidence. Anxious then to entertain an antithesis I considered that the women have just as freely chosen to read the Koran (or commentary which this was in the case of my fellow traveller) or Bible as I have my book. But I have a nagging doubt that their choice involved the consideration of other literary possibilities that were eventually rejected as having merit but less immediate relevance to their lives. But in what way does this matter, if at all? I would have liked to have to talked to the young lady but of course being British I knew I would have to be wait to be introduced and as she got out after a couple of stops that was highly unlikely to happen.
On a practical note.I said I'd try to keep a record of subjects proposed at Cafe. Should anybody remember any from say the last few months pleased let me know.I am only interested in the English speaking though on reflection it would be intriguing to compare them with the French language sessions

1 comment:

  1. Glad to know you are reading a book on Baader-Meinhoff. I wonder if it is the "Hitler's children", which I read some 15 years ago and I got terribly depressed after that...

    I don't know the lost Topics of last week as I was late that morning. The lost Topics for previous week were in French, which translated as such:
    "Blood is thicker than water"
    "Can one be more Catholic than the Pope?"