Given that it is in the 20 Books of Summer 2019, I read it probably seven or eight months ago. I got a Polish edition from my mum, read it quickly and continued with the challenge, never stopping to this about the book again. Which is not very nice. So as our beloved virus grants us all this thinking time now I am trying to catch up with the backlog of old pending reviews. Especially that, for the last three weeks I could not focus on reading books at all, so there is an actual chance that I will for once drag myself out o the backlog zone!
I expected a lot of things from Oscar Wilde, having read some of his prose and seen some of his plays. Yet I did not expect a political essay. And one about socialism at that. But there we are.
Wilde’s understanding and the idea of socialism are very, very different from mine. He envisions socialism without the idea of property, thus granting the individual the freedom to pursue their goals and develop their personality. He discusses how property traps us, how its unequal distribution leads to unnecessary altruism towards people who have less. How property is an obligation and boredom, effectively killing the soul.
The range of topics Wilde touches on in this relatively short essay is staggering. From the property, through power, political system, a critique of journalism, all the way to automatization and its social impacts (a topic so relevant today). His mind is nimble, his judgments harsh, his language as always witty yet precise. We may not necessarily agree with everything he says and every conclusion he makes. But you cannot deny the elegant madness of his thinking. He allows his mind to wander into the regions most of us consider forbidden because they seem impossible. No such thing for Mr Wilde.
It is an extremely interesting read, showing another facet of this writer. Let me leave you with several quotes for dessert.
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.
The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism – are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this.
The error of Louis XIV. was that he thought human nature would always be the same. The result of his error was the French Revolution. It was an admirable result. All the results of the mistakes of governments are quite admirable.