Thursday, February 07, 2008

Smiley's Last Homily

I read this a few years ago but I think it may still be appropriate with all the demagogues on the left and right clamoring for attention in an election year. It is the final homily of a spy who was on the "winning" side and what guided him through the confusion of those days and what may guide us through the confusion of our days.

"I only ever cared about the man. . . . I never gave a fig for the ideologies, unless they were mad or evil. I never saw institutions as being worthy of their parts, or policies as much other than excuses for not feeling. Man, not the mass, is what our calling is about. It was man who ended the Cold War in case you didn’t notice. It wasn't weaponry, or technology, or armies or campaigns. It was just man. Not even Western man either, as it happened, but our sworn enemy in the East, who went into the streets, faced the bullets and the batons and said: we’ve had enough. It was their emperor, not ours, who had the nerve to mount the rostrum and declare he had no clothes. And the ideologies trailed after these impossible events like condemned prisoners, as ideologies do when they’ve had their day. Because they have no heart of their own. They’re the whores and angels of our striving selves. One day history may tell us who really won. If a democratic Russia emerges, why then Russian will have been the winner. And if the West chokes on its own materialism then the West may still turn out to have been the loser. History keeps her secrets longer than most of us."

Smiley's last warning about the real enemy:..."It’s the over-mighty modern State we’ve built for ourselves as a bastion against something that isn’t there any more. We’ve given up far too many freedoms in order to be free. Now we’ve got to take them back. . . . So while you’re out there striving loyally for the State, perhaps you’ll do me a small favour and lean on its pillars from time to time. It’s got a lot too big for its boots of late. It would be nice if you would cut it down to size."

from "The Secret Pilgrim"
John LeCarre'

A. I.

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