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On Self-Delusion

From the excellent James Baldwin:

“The importance of a writer is continuous; I think it’s socially debatable and usually socially not terribly rewarding, but that’s not the point; his importance, I think, is that he is here to describe things which other people are too busy to describe. It is a function, let’s face it, it’s a special function. There is no democracy on this level. It’s a very difficult thing to do, it’s a very special thing to do and people who do it cannot by that token do many other things. But their importance is, and the importance of writers in this country now is this, that this country is yet to be discovered in any real sense. There is an illusion about America, a myth about America to which we are clinging which has nothing to do with the lives we lead and I don’t believe that anybody in this country who has really thought about it or really almost anybody who has been brought up against it-and almost all of us have one way or another—this collision between one’s image of oneself and what one actually is is always very painful and there are two things you can do about it, you can meet the collision head-on and try and become what you really are or you can retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish. Now, I don’t want to keep you any longer. But I’d like to leave you with this, I think we have some idea about reality which is not quite true.”

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