As we slowly come out of lockdown, fervently hoping that a second spike of cases doesn’t derail the process, we will find time to reflect on what has been done well and what could have been done better. I have always tried to keep polemics out of my poetry, because my interests are not primarily with topical issues. I do feel I have a duty to maintain my interest in politics, although I have never felt the need to be politically engaged. Like many I occupy a rather grey middle ground. I think most of us expect integrity in public life, and at the moment the Government’s authority is being damaged by unsatisfactory answers to questions of the conduct of powerful political figures.
Let me approach this with a more general consideration. What is transparency? The business of the criminal courts is to a significant extent concerned with weighing evidence which may amount to proof that the plaintiff has committed an act which is denied by the defence. As Wittgenstein said “Allow yourself to be struck by the fact that there is such a thing as concealing your motive.”
Almost all of us have done things of which we are ashamed and would rather were not generally known. What would transparency be like in a person who had nothing to hide, because their conduct was of a uniformly high standard? Transparency is usually thought of as that property in an object which allows light to pass through it. But were a person to have that simplicity and integrity in their conduct as to make him/her recognisably trustworthy, then would it not be as though light flowed out from within? Such an intuition is represented in Renaissance paintings by the halo or aureole around the head or person of a saint or angel.
W.H. Auden expressed the same idea in a more modern way in his great poem In Praise of Limestone:” The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from, having nothing to hide”
In the critical scene in Hamlet, where Hamlet confronts his mother, Gertrude, appalled by what she has done, says in guilt and horror “Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul.” What undermines Hamlet’s moral righteousness is his own erratic and cruel conduct.
Note – I cannot resist a digression. What is it that Gertrude has done? She has committed adultery, but was she complicit in murder as well? Is not this uncertainty the reason for Hamlet’s agony of mind. There is a very imperfect first Quarto of Hamlet found over two centuries after Shakespeare’s death (undoubtedly genuine) where Hamlet explicitly accuses Gertrude of involvement in his father’s murder and she explicitly denies it. This is absent from the second Quarto or Folio version of the play. Shakespeare wanted you to work hard to understand his intention.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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