Who is the Beloved Republic?
You are dear readers. E. M. Forster called it "an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky" that resists authoritarian leaders. Read about this invincible, yet not victorious army of writers, readers, artists, intellectuals, and scientists in my essay "The Beloved Republic" in the newest issue of The Antioch Review. The excerpt below is the heart of the matter, and it speaks directly to our times.
"The Beloved Republic": An Excerpt from the Text
The Beloved Republic is the peaceful and fragile confederacy of kind, benevolent, and creative people that is necessary for civilized life in a world of tyrants, thugs, and loud-mouth bullies. During the darkest times, it sheds light and keeps us civil. Though The Beloved Republic has always been with us, E. M. Forster named and defined it in the essay “What I Believe” in 1939 when it was most under threat, putting his faith in the “natural warmth” of its happy and mutual reliability during the worst of times. “Tolerance, good temper, and sympathy” are its traits which, as Nazi Germany loomed, were “no stronger than a flower, battered beneath a military jackboot,” an image fast becoming a cliché for the hobnailed crunch of German conquest and occupation. In a radio address before the war started, Forster explained that “thousands and thousands of innocent people” had been “killed, robbed, mutilated, insulted,” and “imprisoned.” Millions more would follow. News reports of book burnings at the University of Berlin and the mass deportation of Jews prefigured the “Age of Bloodshed” that Hitler’s fanaticism would bring to Europe and the world. Against this backdrop of atrocity Forster argued for the existence—and persistence—of The Beloved Republic.
Forster claims that The Beloved Republic can be found everywhere, its citizens easily recognizable. They are not heroes or saviors or politicians who exude “iron will, personal magnetism, dash, flair,” and “sexlessness.” It does not consist of special people, but of ordinary folks with a creative, rather than destructive, bent. Forster describes this band of true friends this way: “Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky.” These people, he writes, amplifying on the idea, “are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.” They make up “an invincible army, yet not a victorious one.” [Read more here.]