"My personal sense now is that there are no real political solutions to human wickedness. Ironically, as time has progressed, thinking long and hard about those churches, I have come to believe the only consolation is spiritual."
Aidan Hartley, "Before you talk about 'Lessons from Rwanda', read this" (Spectator magazine, 5 April 2014).
Reading this article the conclusion struck me as odd, because I'd never clocked Hartley as religious before. He certainly has his feet on the ground, describing dreadful massacres he'd witnessed; and his other Africa pieces about farming in Kenya show he is brave and resourceful, so he's no "All Gas And Gaiters" Holy Joe figure of fun.
Maybe it's a sign that the wheel is turning again..
I sometimes think artists are the canary in the mine. The rhythms and paganism of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring always suggested to me a consciousness that something was coming; perhaps Fuseli's frightening supernatural paintings were a pre-tremor of the French Revolution and Terreur.
There's a sense of fin de siècle, at least for me. The Sixties people, some of whom have got to the top and run the show now, have had their turn, trying to get back into the Garden. I suppose it was a millennial craze like the others that erupted over the centuries, looking for a quick way to God, turning as before into sensuality and violence.
More recently, the artists have given us a physicalist curdling of hope. The morbid art of Damien Hirst and Gunther von Hagens seems to have been saying, "Look, mere mortal arrangements of matter, that's all we are"; just as in the madness of the Forties the grisly pseudo-scientific experiments of the Nazis in their death camps and the Japanese medical atrocities in Manchuria said, "We have searched thoroughly and there is no soul. Our cruelty and your suffering are a temporary salve for our despair. There is only fleeting glory and death."
I don't know what to believe, but I can't believe that. Are we due for a period of religious revivalism?
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