Dr. Zvi Lamm: Encounter in Autumn

George Walford in Garden

I described the factual side of my encounter with George elsewhere (see my Ideologies in an Hierarchical Order in Science and Public Policy, vol. 11, No.1, pp. 40 -46), but I made no mention there of my impressions of that encounter.

I live in a country in which ideology has for many years not been considered as something obscene or foolish. The beliefs and opinions of the pioneers, those which laid the foundation for Israeli society, those which led to the creation of the kibbutz, of the cooperative village, of a trade union based on the principle of mutual responsibility, etc. All these were termed “ideologies” and the relationship to them (at least until the establishment of the state) was not only one of respect, but of genuine admiration. One of the foundations of all these ideologies was the principle of hagshama (lit. “fruition”), of actualization, of implementation, in short, of life based on these ideologies. One who holds an ideological belief is required to live by its principles.

All this applies, of course, to the past. What the German philosopher-sociologist Max Weber called “the routinization of charisma” has presided over Israeli society as well. Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of ideological pontificators and a decrease in the number of those who live by their beliefs. Nevertheless, there are still among us those who preserve an integrity between their lives and their beliefs. They are not many in number, nor are they the type of people who govern today’s Israeli society, but one who wishes to find them can still do so.

In their lifestyles, these people remind one of George. When I met George, I thought I had met one of them. From my first meeting with him, I knew that I had met not only a student of ideology, but also the sort of ideologist to which I intimated above. I am referring in this to two characteristics: sincerity and integrity .

The number of meetings which I had with George did not exceed half a dozen. For the most part, each lasted for a few hours. Once we met in New York, once in Oxford, but mostly we met in London. After one or two meetings, we refrained from speaking about “S.I.” (“systematic ideology”), the topic which brought us together. My impression is that George was convinced that I understood his message. He was not a person who would have forgone discussion on S.I. had he thought that I was interpreting it incorrectly.

I once asked George why he invests so much energy in polemicizing with people of the SPGB. His response was that they were the closest case he knew of a meta-dynamic ideology. One who is ignorant of S.I. theory will not understand this answer. He saw himself as one whose role in the world is to distribute the theory of S.I.. He carried out this task unflinchingly and without consideration of the impression it made upon others. We once went together to a meeting of a small anarchist group. From the very first to the very last words he uttered there, he shared the foundations of his belief. This was a true demonstration of the sincerity about which I spoke – the capacity to live by one’s beliefs in an environment which does not share in these beliefs, and despite this not to hide or make any pretensions.

From my meetings with him, my impression of George was that he was a man of integrity. He was not dependent upon others. He went his own way without ever asking for anyone’s approval, but not because of any disdain for others and certainly not out of hatred for them, but rather out of a sense of inner confidence in his way.

Nevertheless, despite his being confident in his way and despite his being independent of his surrounding environment, George was open to novelty. I can testify to this from my own experience. He was not only happy at every opportunity to engage in intellectual exchange regarding his theory whenever we met, but also transmitted a growing measure of friendship over time. There is something exciting in a friendship between people which develops and begins to thrive in the autumn of their lives.

In one of the last letters which I wrote to him, I meant to present him with the words of the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana, which I had at that time come across. I did not do so because I felt that it would be better to keep the matter for our next meeting. In Santayana’s words I saw the essence of systematic ideology, not a superficial version, but rather one which captures its fundament: “The brute necessity of believing something, so long as life lasts, does not justify any belief in particular.”

May 1998

continue reading George Walford, A Memorial (1998):
Introduction | Notes and Quotes | Trevor Blake | Alan Bula | George Gook | Mary Anne Knukel | Encounter in Autumn by Dr. Zvi Lamm | Seeking George Walford by Paul Minet | Peter Shepherd | John Rowan | George R. Russell, SPGB | Thoughts on Ideological Minimalism by Eric Stockton | Reminiscences of George Walford and the Walsby Society 1976 to 1994 by Adrian Williams | Jack as I Knew Him by Brenda McIntosh | Alison Walford, Sharon Goodyear, Richenda Walford