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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

obstacles to love?

Watching the tail end of Alan Yentob's 'Imagine' documentary strand, this time on the development of the love story. (If ever there was a case of the self indulgence of an exec then it's this strand. But at least it poses some fun questions now and then).

In it, one of the contributors asked the question 'what are the impediments to love in western civilisation these days?' Adultery is in many ways normalised, and class is supposedly not the barrier it once was - though as Kate Fox points out in her book ' the English' that the English marry less outside of their class these days than they used to 30 years ago.

However, despite Fox's caveat, the point being reasonably made was that none of the barriers to love's consummation seem insurmountable these days and therefore without conflict give no truly powerful and transcendent dynamic to a contemporary love story. In a love story we need a conflict to exist to then to be resolved so love can be seen to triumph.

Leaving aside literary arguments, I couldn't help but wonder. Has love really won, has it truly triumphed o'er all obstacles? If this is so then why does not western society bask in the warmth of that joyous victory where love reigns and its gentle allies compassion, respect and tolerance sit together before a round table of wisdom?

Clearly love has not won out here in the real world. Which means there is a disconnect between what is written and what is.

Rather than a victory for love, I believe we have seen the triumph of desire, of an individualism lauded in philosophy and made beautiful in art reduced to an infantilism of epic proportions in behaviour, and an overwhelming gratification of the senses rendering us senseless.

We have taken our sense of the individual and tied it to desire, leaving us tied in turn by desire as our obsession with its fulfillment consumes ourselves, ignoring the fact that the nature of desire is ephemeral and condemns us to a selfish repetition that is a ugly parody of love.

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