I need to write a few catch up notes on recent books. Behr’s book on politics is excellent reading and he interleaves his experience with a brutal MI with great skill. He is particularly good on nationalism and populism and identity.
The political scientist Benedict Anderson described nations as ‘imagined communities’, which is to say their existence — real enough in the minds of those who feel they belong in one — is a narrative construct. It is a myth that people tell themselves, assembled from bits of common economic interest, shared religion, ethnicity and remembered history. The myths stick and evolve into identities when they have sufficient resonance with a critical mass of people.
The book warrants a re-read for sure. He covers a lot of ground and with keen insight. I also liked the thoughts on running at the end as well. He captures it rather well:
There is a technique to distance running that I had not known before. You need to check for hazards at your feet, but mostly keep your head up and your shoulders back, unclench your fists. Look out, look up. That is how I keep things in perspective, especially when the anger rises and I need to think my way through it, to run through it, until I have reached the other side and found my way home.
It’s a fine description and, of course, reads beautifully as a metaphor for engaging with politics. On the more literal running level it is also good advice and, as I’ve said before, it is important to learn how to run. We all think we know how and I don’t want to over-complicate something as natural as running. Yet, it is possible to do it better and enjoy it more as a result.