Blog Post

Matthew Kadane's Catharsis

It has been very interesting to read and listen to the works of Matt Kadane.  His music has an unusual blessing for the post-industrial ageit has a melody and humanity in it in a time when it is an embarrassment to show human fragility. But Kadane manages to be humanly fragile, yet extremely contemporary, which I must say to his credit is very unusual in today’s music and book market.  We are being taught to conquer and own every bit of a territorybut Kadane does not conform to this dogmatic thinkinghe refuses to own everything that comes his wayhe enjoys staring at a wonderful object in nature without being obsessed about gaining possession.  You can feel this by listening to his songs.  It is so unusualthat in our age of total consumerism, someone can make a gesture of not owning, but being happy just appreciating beauty without owning.   It is truly that if humans retain the feeling of appreciating wonderfulness of nature and human spirit that ‘The End’s Not Near”.  In fact, in the age of Gasoline superiority, the ability to detach one from oneself from material objects and being able to immerse in the world of poetry is truly extraordinary.  In fact, today poetry is returning.  The age of commercial music has produced entertainmentbut the age after that must be returning to ‘something to say’just a simple message from one human being to others.  The time of CD sales and making incredible amounts of money with pop-culture is coming to an endso the people, who are going to stay on the scene of poetry and music will be talking to us.  Talking about their visions and their frustrations, about their love and their losses, as if they are talking to their closest friends.  This is the communication that cannot be lost.  This is the way Kadane interacts with his audience and with his friends.  Simple communication is gratifying.   It is wonderful, even when it is not tied to profit making or just rallying against it.   The question is more simple:  can we still be human?

Matt Kadane’s forthcoming book Watchful Clothier is a true story based upon the diaries of 18th century British capitalist Joseph Ryder.  This is a Protestant entrepreneur, who is working hard to produce wool cloth in Leeds, England in the 18th century, a man who is a dissenter Protestant and at the same time a member of the emerging class—the bourgeoisie.  Joseph Ryder is a symbol of a new life coming to Britain—an upper middle class man, who is working hard for his survival and keeping a diary for last 35 years of his life.  It is a very interesting work of a historian as well as a philosopher, since it does not only tell a story of a very interesting life, but it offers fundamental questions for our time.   It is not difficult to find out how many similarities there still are between 18th century Leeds and a big part of the world today.  For instance, the former Soviet Union or the Middle East, or still other parts of the world are very close today to the world described in Matt Kadane’s book.  Religious feelings today are amongst the leading reasons for the rejection of contemporary capitalist world order.  As a matter of fact, since the fall of Soviet Union and the decline in Communist ideology, the religious fundamentalist movements around the world have captured the momentum and they are the main obstacles for the liberal democracies.  This struggle looks like less ideological and more spiritual.  It is internal as well as external.
Joseph Ryder is being tormented by the sense of guilt over money making.  He experiences melancholy and a constant feeling of mourning and is constantly getting ready to die.  Meanwhile he continues his entrepreneurial work and describes most of it in his diaries.  So he goes forward, creating a better future for his family, but nevertheless worrying about the moral implications of his actions.    He discusses his own flows constantly and anticipates catastrophe and a the result of this anticipation he reaches catharsis in his writings.  He understands that exploiting people for the private gain is a sinful activity, but at the same time he realizes that it is still better than serfdom and slavery.  So he is working for progress, meanwhile regretting his personal failures and constantly mourning the loss of innocence.  His melancholy is a wildly interesting phenomenon, in which would find many commonalities today.   It is regret for lost innocence, while thinking about the inevitable.
Capitalism was an inevitable progress in Joseph Ryder’s England.   Melancholy is an amazing liberation from debilitating bourgeois self-confidence.  But at the same time it is evident that entrepreneurship is the way of progress and that his work is also liberating.  And it is how those two elements co-exist—this is most fascinating aspect of this story and catharsis.  How can it be that melancholy and capitalism can co-exist?  Is this really possible in a world filled with all kinds of books suggesting self confidence and complete lack of self-irony or criticism?   
Matt Kadane gives a new view into the question of melancholy—in the age of whole drug industry created to boost artificial self-confidence of the work force he gives us a very interesting picture of a Protestant entrepreneur, who is also a deep believer.  It is indeed possible to live like Joseph Ryder, even today.  Kadane avoids giving easy answers to fundamental questions of our time.  Is Liberal Capitalism immoral as lots of critics on both left and right suggest?  Or is it the only just and proper thing for our progress as humanity?  There is no easy answer to this question.  The truth might be somewhere in between—and again this story gives a fascinating example—in fact progress is both economy and consciousness.  The classic dividing line between idealists and materialists about what is preceding the other seems to primitive for this.  In fact, the story of Joseph Ryder suggests that both could go hand in hand—consciousness and spirituality are no less important than material well being, since they can stimulate the latter.  This has happened many times and more recently we have observed the massive fall of social and social democratic systems to the abyss of poverty.  Underestimating the role of consciousness proved to be a fundamental mistake of many progressive humanists, including different types of Marxist dogmatists.   Indeed social solidarity is a highly spiritual act.  This might be caused by the Hegelian dialectic process, but there is no precise prediction of the event—indeed it is a combination and fusion of spiritual and material realities.
Hegemonic liberal discourse today is still tilting towards material explanations of the world.  It should be admitted that this is largely justified by scientific evidences—but at the same time Kadane’s work shows that we cannot exclude the possibility of melancholy and depression, even during the best material times.  Human beings are more complex than simple ideological constructs—they can be very unpredictable.  And so Joseph Ruder is this unpredictable dichotomy between the social progress and spiritual doubts that has always existed in humans.  It was manifested differently through the ages—bus as we can see it also has universal features.
There is much discussion about universality and particularity in today’s philosophical circles. Here is one more example that particularity does not necessarily go against universality and it certainly does not erase all universal.  The protagonist believes in God that is universal, but at the same time he is in the human form.   It is going even further from the Arian position—it is more than just a simple paradox.  Here with all his personal failures and stories, there is something universal about one human being, who wants to build a better life for himself and his loved ones.  There is nothing to be ashamed of in this.
Is there anything to be ashamed in relationship with money and capital?
This is still a fundamental question.  Joseph Ryder was not embracing of zero-sum game—he represented the part of capitalism that was working for creating an abundant world.  Manufacturing and producing had different goals than many other businesses, it wanted to have more empowered customers and so it was for an expansion of social pie.   The Capitalism represented by Joseph Ryder was good news for humanity.  But did he know about it?  One can doubt that after reading his own accounts—although he was aware of the whole complexity that surrounded this question.  He knew that there was no simple and deterministic response—and he felt tormented.  This feeling is so close to today’s reality, when we see the new entrepreneurial class in Eastern Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world trying to make this very difficult transformation.
Doubt and reflection are as healthy as self-confidence is—melancholy is a no less beautiful part of human being than sincere happiness.  There will be no happiness without melancholy.   There is a very legitimate question that one has after reading the work of Kadane:  Is life without melancholy worthy?  And this question is no less legitimate than whether we could live without the pursuit of happiness.  Kadane gives a courageous question to what Michel Faucault called a ‘Blackmail of Reason” of late enlightenment age:  emotion and healthy self-reflective emotion is not less important than ‘pure rationality’, since there is hardly anything that could be pure.  The diary of Joseph Ryder illustrates it, just as much as Matt Kadane’s poetic works do.  And it is also very interesting to hear the challenge to total relativism—there is God in every Human Being and there is a Human in every God.   Much the later has been a controversy since the time of Arius and other so called heretics within different Churches.   But today, in the age of globalization we can see that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Confucians, Atheists and Zoroastrians can pretty much stand together for a same compassion or passion for liberty, not just “Civil Society” as Marcuse says “Burgerliche Gezelschaft”—but for a humane society—as we can see now in Egypt or Tunisia and as we saw 20 years earlier in the former Soviet Union.
Self-reflection and melancholy are still beautiful parts of human life—they are as beautiful as the Dionysian spirit of creative madness or Apollonian rational reason.   Holistic picture of humans is much more complicated than a simple ideological construct.  Doubt is a friend of Joseph Ryder.  And Joseph Ryder is a friend of civilization, since he is undoubtedly on progress’s side.  
Here is a question of the century—can humans find their humanity back after an obsession with fake rationalistic and spiritualistic rituals?  There is no obvious answer to this question.  I guess the art of transformation and revolution are deeply humane and spiritual experiences.  They are not simple material undertakings.  But art, creative madness, self-reflection, doubt, melancholy and hypochondria are as much spiritual as any fundamental religious teaching.  This is why great Georgian Artists Merab Ninidze in his well known Ananuri speech noted that what we need in 21st century, is a “Born Again Humanism” that would have a new form.
Kadane’s philosophic rebellion against the established dogma of neoliberal resignation within his historical work gives a new question to the understanding of humanism.  And if that question holds true, than perhaps “The End is Not Near.” Hopefully so.


Irakli Zurab Kakabadze's picture
Born in 1969, Irakli Kakabadze is a Georgian writer, performance artist, peace and human rights activist. His first prize was awarded in 1990 by the TSISTAKRI MAGAZINE for the best creation of 1990 - Allegro or Chronicle of one Year. In 2009, he was awarded the Oxfam/Novib PEN Freedom of Expression Prize. Kakabadze's articles and stories have been published in Georgian, Russian, and English newspapers and magazines. In 2007 he received the Lilian Hellman/Hammett grant from Human Rights Watch. From 2008 to 2012, Kakabadze was based in Ithaca, NY, where he developed a new method of integrating performing arts and social sciences, called "Rethinking Tragedy" or "Transformative Performance." Kakabadze has also pioneered a multi-lingual and multi-narrative performing style, called Polyphonic Discourse. Irakli Kakabadze's work as an artist-activist is subject of an American verite documentary At the Top of My Voice filmed by Indian American Director Sudhir Venkatesh and Larry Kammerman. In May 2008 Kakabadze shared a stage at PEN World Voices Festival in New York with György Dragomán, Hasan Elahi, Asli Erdogan, Péter Esterházy, Chenjerai Hove, Jenny Marketou, Ivy Meeropol, Francine Prose, and Ingo Schulze, at the Writers and Artists Against the Surveillance State. In November 2008 at the Miami Book Fair Kakabadze shared a stage with Sarah Mkhonza, Russell Banks and Derek Walcott to perform another piece of Polyphonic Blues. Kakabadze has performed his polyphonic style of poetry at the Frankfurt Book Fair (2009) and “Free the Word” in London (2010) (23). At the 2010 “PEN World Voices” Festival in New York Kakabadze performed Polyphonic Discourse at the Cabaret Show that featured the author with Natalie Merchant, Ben Okri and Ariel Dorfman. He has performed at many literary and peace festivals including in Berlin (2014), Palma De Mallorca (2016), Valencia (2016), ext. His book 'Umberto vs Ernesto' or 'Marginal Delirium' was published and has introduced polyphonic discourse in December 2013. In 2017 publishing house 'Intelekti' has published another book of his essays "Love Doctrine" that is highly influenced by the works of Mahatma Gandhi.