On this day in 1895, Oscar Wilde was arrested after losing a libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry. Considering the current state of affairs in regards to censorship and the suppression of civil liberties that is currently being played out on the Australian stage I thought it was fitting to acknowledge a man most consider to be one of the greatest literary figures of his generation. The Importance of Being Earnest, one of the great works of modern literature, demonstrates why its author is seen as both an inaugurator and master of modernism.
In his best work, the subversive insights embedded in his wit continue to challenge common assumptions of this era and still resonate today. His ability to unsettle and startle us with his radical vision of the artifice inherent in the self’s construction make him and his works stand out even now. His life was difficult and his refusal to censor his work or personal life led to periods of imprisonment that left a mark on him as a person but did not sway him from his belief in the freedom of thought and expression, both in literature and life.
Today when we look back at this great writer we should remember that there is a price for our freedoms and rights and if it must be paid then we should do so with pride. Buckling under unfair laws and policies that seek to constrain personal freedoms, especially that of freedom of speech, may seem prudent to some but it is a slippery slope that leads nowhere good.
We need to fight now, protest now, and preserve a way of life that previous generations fought and died for so that the next generation will still live in a country that allows freedom of thought and speech. I think it is fitting to end this post with a quote from Oscar Wilde that I find quite relevant to our current situation.
“Most people become bankrupt through having invested too heavily in the prose of life. To have ruined oneself over poetry is an honour.”