5 August 2001 'rectify the names'

20:27: A wide view of the city. Clear sky from edge to edge. Domes and spires and tower blocks and cranes visible in all directions beneath pale purple and pink clouds (mare's tails like feint brush strokes of water colour) and black smoke blowing for a kilometre or two from a (perhaps?) burning tower block to the east. The last sunlight reflects bright red from the tower, and from others.

This is Sunday. This weekend I've been reaquainting myself with The Alexandria Quartetof Lawrence Durrell (Faber and Faber, London 1957/2000) and especially Justine,the first volume. I last read it all one Boxing Day in the early sixties when I was both shocked and fascinated by the apparent immorality and beauty of Egyptian city life as Durrell describes it - a rich woman, her lovers, her tolerant husband, a prostitute, and the narrator (and others) engaged in sordid yet beautiful affairs that they are unable to resist being themselves interdepending parts of the city - its inevitable and unchangeable culture.

Far indeed from my life as so far lived but close to what I write when I feel in accord with everything (and braver!).

The black smoke has now disappeared, the city lights are lit and it will soon be too dark to see what I am writing.

So where now... in this text, in this city?

I returned home, to my flat near a street where yesterday I watched some young men (who are still at school) spraying complex and colourful graffitis on the rolldown security shutters of certain shops.

One told me that they ask the shopkeeper's permission and are free to do this openly. I see them as turning a threat into a joy, a public nuisance into a public artform. (The illegal graffiti on the existing roller shutters are to my mind aggressive and threatening).

I asked one of them if they know at the start what it will look like and he showed me a green felt-tip sketch of the stylised word 'care' (which I could not decipher). Apparently they begin by enlarging the sketch and then improvise the many colours and flourishes as they proceed. And several of them work on it together. Amazingly close to what I understand to have been the method of studio painters of the Italian Renaissance - except that there is perhaps no 'master'.

Thinking of this now, before I go to sleep, I feel encouraged. People who are capable of this are capable of much, I feel sure. While there are young people on earth there will also be the capacity to make new the old traditions but in ways that at first may be threatening. It is up to the older ones to support and to adapt to what the young ones do, not to restrict and condemn and disown it! And for all age groups to combine in destruction and remaking of the old ways and forms that have become problematic and destructive. This could be the form of a new culture, or ethic. Beyond modernism.

That is what I meant by newold - a perhaps ugly name for de-con-structive interaction between generations. Shall I now call it decon?

What was it that Confucius is supposed to have said? When things are going wrong 'rectify the names'*.

*for an account of Confucian method see my book technology changes, princelet editions, 25 Princelet Street, London E1 6QH, 1984, pages 49-54.