01-08-22 04:00:00, Thought for the month
There were once many kind people, and even unkind ones pretended to be good because that was the thing to do. Such pretense was the source of hypocrisy and dishonesty so much exposed in the realist literature at the end of the last century. The unexpected result of this kind of critical writing was that kind people disappeared. Kindness is not, after all, an inborn qualityâ€”it has to be cultivated, and this only happens when it is in demand. For our generation, kindness was an old-fashioned, vanished quality, and its exponents were as extinct as the mammoth. Everything we have seen in our timesâ€”the dispossession of the kulaks, class warfare, the constant â€œunmaskingâ€œ of the people, the search for an ulterior motive behind every actionâ€”all this has taught us to be anything you like except kind.
From Hope Against Hope (1970), by Nadezhda Mandelstam, Max Haywardâ€˜s translation.
That Nadezhda Mandelstam quote (which, by the way, I first encountered in Simon Leysâ€˜ 1976 book Chinese Shadows) is connected in some way I havenâ€˜t thought through with The Phone Booth Principle that I described in my diary five years ago.
You donâ€˜t need an old-style British red phone booth to see The Phone Booth Principle at work.