Sunday, August 8, 2010

A strenuous conscience

Tony Judt, historian
2 Jan 1948 - 6 Aug 2010

I prefer the edge: the place where countries, communities, allegiances, affinities, and roots bump uncomfortably up against one another—where cosmopolitanism is not so much an identity as the normal condition of life.

I can understand and even empathize with those who know what it means to love a country. . . But over the years these fierce unconditional loyalties—to a country, a God, an idea, or a man—have come to terrify me. The thin veneer of civilization rests upon what may well be an illusory faith in our common humanity. But illusory or not, we would do well to cling to it. Certainly, it is that faith—and the constraints it places upon human misbehavior—that is the first to go in times of war or civil unrest. In this brave new century we shall miss the tolerant, the marginals: the edge people. My people.

Edward Steichen, Moonlit Landscape, The New York Review of Books, July 15, 2010
Tony Judt, "The Edge People," The New York Review of Books, March 25, 2010

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