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With an eye to “all those who of set purpose choose to walk alone, who know the special grace attaching to it,” Grahame writes: Nature’s particular gift to the walker, through the semi-mechanical act of walking — a gift no other form of exercise seems to transmit in the same high degree — is to set the mind jogging, to make it garrulous, exalted, a little mad maybe — certainly creative and suprasensitive, until at last it really seems to be outside of you and as if it were talking to you whilst you are talking back to it.
Then everything gradually seems to join in, sun and the wind, the white road and the dusty hedges, the spirit of the season, whichever that may be, the friendly old earth that is pushing life firth of every sort under your feet or spell-bound in a death-like winter trance, till you walk in the midst of a blessed company, immersed in a dream-talk far transcending any possible human conversation.
If you look very carefully you will see that they are the same people who are quite happy with the situation as it is… A mob is active; it smashes, kills and sacrifices itself. It neither murders nor sacrifices itself; it looks on, or looks away, while the mob beats up a Negro or the police round up Jews for the gas ovens.
What they are saying is don’t upset the system.” What it means to be an artist inside but not trapped by the system and to labor at improving it from within is what beloved poet W. Auden (February 21, 1907–September 29, 1973) examines in one of the thirty-four splendid essays in his indispensable 1962 collection A man has his distinctive personal scent which his wife, his children and his dog can recognize. The public is the least exclusive of clubs; anybody, rich or poor, educated or unlettered, nice or nasty, can join it: it even tolerates a pseudo revolt against itself, that is, the formation within itself of clique publics.
But the audience of the popular artist is the majority and this the mass media must steal from him if they are not to go bankrupt.
Consequently, aside from a few comedians, the only art today is “highbrow.” What the mass media offer is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish.
To be a thinking, feeling, creative individual in a mass society too often unthinking and unfeeling in its conformity is to find oneself again and again at odds with the system yet impelled to make out of those odds alternative ends — to envision other landscapes of possibility, other answers, other questions yet unasked.Because that is what artists do, a certain political undertone inheres in all art.Chinua Achebe knew this when he observed in his fantastic forgotten conversation with James Baldwin: “Those who tell you ‘Do not put too much politics in your art’ are not being honest.In an incisive dichotomy, he examines what “political” really means: There are two kinds of political issues, Party issues and Revolutionary issues.In a party issue, all parties are agreed as to the nature and justice of the social goal to be reached, but differ in their policies for reaching it.