Inochi. A Japanese phrase which appears to have no exact equivalent in English. I only know about it at all thanks to a blog post by the poet Sue Holliday, who describes it as the “intrinsic value of all living things”. It also means simply life.
Sue Holliday defends the inochi as far as she can, and she relates it’s corrosion to the slow demise of authentic reality:
“More insidiously we are perhaps killing inochi in our human lives through the replacement of direct, spontaneous lived experience with representations of reality, mediated through screens and curated by the mass media. Dislocated from the ever changing living world we are in danger of being reduced to ‘things’ devoid of life.”
It seems to be an absolutely crucial insight, but it is one that our current technocratic political establishment will find it hard to get to grips with. Because they have their own versions of reality mediated, not so much through screens, but through data, approved evidence and the kind of virtual approach to brute reality that tries to reduce situations to what ideology or the Treasury say they should be.
As we struggle to work out how officials could have approved cladding for Grenfell Tower which somebody knew to be flammable, and how groupthink can dehumanise officialdom – removing their empathy – we might look no further than this loss of inochi.
That is no traditional political issue, and in any case I have a feeling that young people – who may seem addicted to screens – are more adept at telling reality from fantasy than our political masters. Those brought up in a virtual world will long for reality even more, said the philosopher Robert Nozick, and he was right.
Yet I think the ability to see situations clearly and whole is the very essence of the radical centre, and as such it may be the foundations of the emerging, new politics, still only fleetingly discernable.