— Jacques Rancière, Aesthetics and Its Discontents
RF: In your final chapter you cite a Mahmoud Darwish poem that says “a possible life is one that wills the impossible.” You describe this as a paradox – could you explain it?
JB: Well, there are people who believe in realpolitik and who say: “There’s never going to be one state, there’s never going to be equality, there’s never going to be peace…don’t fool yourself. If you want to be political, get concrete and see what adjustments you can make in the current regime”.
Then I just think, ok, what would it mean if we lived in a world in which no one held out for the possibility of substantial political equality, or for a full cessation of colonial practices - if no one held out for those things because they were impossible? People do scoff when you say right of return. I was at a meeting with Palestinians and Israelis where people said: “That will never happen.” So I said, “well it will not be taken off the table.”
In fact in politics, sometimes the thing that will never happen actually starts to happen. And there have to be people who hold out for that, and who accept that they are idealists and that they are operating on principle as opposed to realpolitik. If there were no such ideals then our entire political sensibility would be corrupted by this process.
And maybe one of the jobs of theory or philosophy is to elevate principles that seem impossible, or that have the status of the impossible, to stand by them and will them, even when it looks highly unlikely that they’ll ever be realised. But that’s ok, it’s a service. What would happen if we lived in a world where there were no people who did that? It would be an impoverished world."