Progressive politics, ideas & culture


brilliant pass from Greene at left back

This Magazine Staff

Graham Greene– thanks to wikipedia for the image.
I direct your attention to possibly the last interview ever with one of my all time favorite writers — Graham Greene (thanks to Bookninja thru Maud Newton for the tip). Graham Greene died at age 86 in 1991. If you haven’t read The Quiet American, you have missed something essential.
In these lengthening days of unsophisticated right/left debate, it is so refreshing to read the words of a brilliant observer of the human political condition — one with an incredible wealth of first hand knowledge of the events and people who shaped our world before the marketing consultants took over. Some highlights (the interviewer is John R. MacArthur):
But I did ask if he was a man of the left. And whether such titles mean anything anymore.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve always said that ever since the age of 19 I’ve been on the left, but I don’t know if in means anything or whether it’s just my way of thinking. I think it means being against dictatorship. And it’s against the extremes of capitalism. Which I think is represented by the United States. I don’t think we can do entirely without capitalism. But the extremes are disagreeable and dangerous”…
…Greene found the notion that US troops had “restored democracy” to Panama ridiculous. He was visibly angry about the Panamanian government’s current anti-Torrijos campaign, and he termed the argument that Noriega and Torrijos were cut from the same cloth “absolutely absurd”
“Now you [the United States] have become dictators, and not such good ones as Torrijos.”
What kind of dictator was Torrijos?
“Well, he was very benevolent. He was shifting more and more interest [away from the rich] toward the agricultural side of Panama, to the peasants and land. He had the reins of government in his hands, but he was trying to move toward parliamentary system. He started parties. And he was moving slowly toward democracy.”
What about America’s belief that the “restoration of democracy” in Panama was part and parcel of a general trend worldwide?
“Is it breaking out of the United States?” he asked sharply. “I hope it is [spreading], but I see no sign of it in Latin America thanks to the US, which is responsible for Pinochet and is responsible for Guatemala and El Salvador, and supported the contras. So that I don’t see any sign of democracy coming in the American continent except a sort of patch that occasionally may emerge for a short time.”
At various points in the conversation Greene launched questions at me. “And what is the difference between Kuwait and Panama?” He asked at one such moment.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “Except oil, I suppose there isn’t much difference.”

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