Here, in the March/April issue of untitledbooks, James Kelman tells it like it is. Politics? Get Real. He points to the one dreadful and existential truth of Fascism, the culture of dehumanisation.
Do writers have a responsibility to make political or social comment? ‘Responsibility to whom? In the U.K. people are encouraged to enter into the Band Aid-BBC School of Politics, Let’s Put on a Red Nose and Sing a Song for Haiti. It applies to writers and artists generally; their primary responsibility is to the system itself, which rewards obedience and allows their “career” to blossom. Good art does not reflect life except in trivial of ways.’ Are there any writers who are succeeding in responding to the increasing intrusion of reality in life, or are most maintaining more traditional narrative models. ‘”Traditional narrative models” are at the heart of the mediocrity known as Contemporary English Literature,’ he quips.
I ask if he is optimistic about contemporary culture, and literature in particular. ‘This is a difficult time’, he replies. ‘There has been a dehumanising process in line with globalisation and the freedom of movement allowed capital. Young people are now having to be convinced that it is wrong to torture and torment those weaker than themselves. It isn’t what they see roundabout. People are inured to abuse; physical, sexual and psychological.
‘Most businesses, whether in the public or private sector, operate by a process of harassment and bullying which is a fair reflection of the interaction between countries. It is institutionalised; we have departments whose employees are paid to torment their colleagues. This department is known as “Human Resources”. Elsewhere the public are encouraged to snoop on their neighbours and report unconventional or unusual persons to the authorities. Ordinary citizens are guilty until proving otherwise. The conditions for fascism have been in place for a while. Some might argue that it is already here,’ he says.