In Kafka’s The Castle, officials from the 'castle' go to extraordinary lengths to conceal their presence in the village, where those who rely on their administration live. Meetings with petitioners are held in the middle of the night, and so sensitive are the officials to the possibility of being confronted by a villager that they hide in their rooms at the village’s inn until the right moment to dash out to their carriage and depart.
Ebola, war, terrorism, injustice, inequality, squalid government, torture. Sometimes the inventory of cruelty and suffering seems overwhelming. The temptation to spiral into despair and the cynicism born of helplessness can assail us all. But sometimes a glimmer comes in the darkness and smallness no longer seems to equal futility.
“Imagine...it's easy if you try”. It's a good lyric but John Lennon was not entirely accurate. What might pejoratively be described as airy-fairy and perhaps slightly wishful supposition is not particularly difficult. More is asked of us by the kind of creative, imaginative thinking which has the power to transform.
Real political change does not follow one, or even three, crises. It takes decades, says Jonathan Bartley, surveying the scene this summer. In certain respects things aren’t all that different from sixty years ago. But grassroots pressure still makes a difference.