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Jim EdmondsonRead out by Peter Robinson at the October 2004 Commemoration
I talked to Peter for the first time after a lecture he gave to first year Social Science students on Fascism at York University in the fall of 1969. I was impressed by his ability to turn dry historical data into real, living narrative. Peter was an animated lecturer. I particularly liked his insistence that day on wearing a white lab coat because, as he said, thumping the lectern, “I’m a social scientist, damn it!”
He took me under his flapping wing. What intrigued me at the time was how such a clumsy and disheveled person could have such incisive and insightful thoughts. My friend Jon Blishen sent me a letter with Sedgwick quotes that speak to this. After a performance by Jon in King Lear, he met up with Peter, on the way to the university. Peter was wheeling his small, collapsible pushbike. Peter talked in a kindly, excited whirl about the play. “Your thighs are too powerful”, Peter giggled. More than his words, John was fascinated by the greenfly crawling on his chin.
The other side of Peter for me comes out in a quote from his book ‘Psychopolitics’.
‘Cynics are, quite simply, people who have no hope and therefore have no capacity to express any demands for the future ….. and the cynic cannot really be a critic; the radical who is only a radical nihilist or a radical tragedian, is, for all practical purposes the most adamant of conservatives.’
Peter ended up renting his house to some friends and me while he was away in the states for a year with Edie, Michele and Paul. It was a perfect situation for a third year student. Nice house. Independence. A friendly, politically right-on landlord, 6000 miles away. But what I cherish more than this, I have to say, was the precious gift I got from Peter of self-worth.
Peter, has had a huge influence on my worldview and my life. I’m still a neo-trot, he’d be glad to know. When I write irreverent parodies of songs and hymns for peace marches, I dedicate the nasty, clever bits to him. If I were here today I would sing him a song. But Pete Robinson is such a wimp, he won’t sing it for me. Anyhow I salute you Peter Sedgwick.
And I’ll end with this lovely dialectic from the introduction to Memoirs of a Revolutionary.
Oh night, so full of stars,
In order to love you,
I need to understand the world.
And to understand the world,
I need to love you.
I think of you now Peter, as my son Devon starts at University. I hope he meets someone like you.