||What is it Gray has been teaching in almost all of his literature, including The Silence of Animals, slightly changing the scene now and then, gradually sharpening the focus? What are the big questions he is pointing at and out? I can extract two: 1) Where are we? 2) Why is it we are where we are? And now, in The Silence, a third one has gathered weight: 3) Is there a better way?
So where are we? In the middle of a myth, the myth of progress — a fairy-tale of gradual betterment of human being and humanity. Why so? Why is it that against all the evidence (the human history, the daily news) the myth doesn't fade away? Perhaps, when we see people in good suits entering their offices, smiling convincingly and opening doors for each other, it seems us a huge leap from the times people wore God knows what if anything, and knocked dead anyone they saw fit. But, if to think of it, it seems unlikely they all knocked each other dead constantly, without a break, because if they did we weren't here to discuss it. And I suppose among that smelly crowd in hides there were nonknockers as well as knockers. And I suppose that some of the guys in top suits in their, say, law or bank offices urge some development that would destroy their victim firmly and agonisingly. Comparing these two pictures, is this the progress, the betterment we have in mind? In Savage Within (New Statesman, August 2006 - a short forerunner to The Call of Progress, the first essay in The Silence) there's a quote from Joseph Conrad Gray uses as an opening and closing to his own piece; it's one of the pitiable characters of Conrad's An Outpost of Progress trying to define progress: "Quays, and warehouses, and barracks, and — and — billiard rooms". Yes, and the suits and scents and smartphones and — and — 5 and 6 D movies and 2018 bombers.