"Tony Judt was an inspiration: an intellectual Titan, a fierce warrior, a brilliant orator, a charismatic public intellectual. To be sure, he was all of the above. But he never set out to attain any of those accolades. He just wanted to say what he thought had to be said and say it until people noticed"
The Observor newspaper
Six years have passed since the death of Tony Judt, the distinguished historian, public intellectual, political commentator, essayist and author. His words, ideas and invigorating presence are missed in these troubled and dystopian times.
Tony Judt died, aged 62, on 6th August 2010, just 2 years after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. ALS is a progressive motor-neuron disease that causes the central nervous system to degenerate. Over time, patients lose the ability to move their bodies, but retain full control over their minds.
Within months of the symptoms appearing in 2008 he was paralyzed and unable to breathe without mechanical assistance.
He wrote the book Ill Fares the Land, a searing critique of market fundamentalism and the way we live today and an argument for a politics and economics shaped by ideas of progressive social democracy.
"For 30 years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest. ... The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not inherent in the human condition. Much of what appears 'natural' today dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth-creation, the cult of privatization and the private sector, the growing disparities [between] rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric which accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless growth."
Many of his essays can be found here at the New York Review of Books.
Judt argues that the professionalization of writing, be it by academics, journalist, writers or politicians, favors obscurantism and has:
"encouraged the rise of a counterfeit currency of glib popular articulacy.. It is the performer rather than the subject, to whom the audience's attention is drawn".
"If words fall into disrepair, what will substitute? They are all we have".