Commitment IX

The Governor paused & looked reflectively over at Bond. He said: “You’re not married, but I think it’s the same with all relationships […] They can survive anything so long as some kind of basic humanity exists between the two people. When all kindness has gone, when one person obviously & sincerely doesn’t care if the other is alive or dead, then it’s just no good. That particular insult to the ego – worse, to the instinct of self-preservation – can never be forgiven. I’ve noticed this in hundreds of marriages. I’ve seen flagrant infidelities patched up, I’ve seen crimes & even murder forgiven by the other party, let alone bankruptcy & every other form of social crime. Incurable disease, blindness, disaster – all these can be overcome. But never the death of  common humanity in one of the partners. I’ve thought about this & I’ve invented a rather high-sounding title for this basic factor in human relations. I have called it the Law of the Quantum of Solace.”

Bond said: “That’s a splendid name for it. It’s certainly impressive enough. And of course I see what you mean. I should say you’re absolutely right. Quantum of Solace – the amount of comfort. Yes, I suppose you could say that all love and friendship is based in the end on that. Human beings are very insecure. When the other person not only makes you feel insecure but actually seems to want to destroy you, it’s obviously the end. The Quantum of Solace stands at zero. You’ve got to get away to save yourself.”

The Governor paused. “Pretty extraordinary, really. A man […] who wouldn’t normally hurt a fly. And here he was performing one of the cruellest actions I can recall in all my experience. It was my law operating.” The Governor smiled thinly. “Whatever her sins, if she had given him that Quantum of Solace he could never have behaved to her as he did. As it was, she had awakened in him a bestial cruelty – a cruelty that perhaps lies deeply hidden in all of us & that only a threat to our existence can bring to the surface.

“Perhaps [his] father & mother we the true guilty people. They turned [him] into an accident-prone man. Inevitably he was involved in the emotional crash that was due to him & that they had conditioned him for. Fate had chosen [her] for its instrument. […] Difficult to judge these things.”

~ Ian Fleming, Quantum of Solace


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