Friday, 17 February 2006

Fewtril #70

A man might go carefully in attacking an idea from which he is averse, not because he is fair-minded and temperate, but because the idea shares some of the premises upon which his aversion depends.

The Comic Play of History

In the comic play of history, the people cry out for liberty, and revel when they are set free from the authority that set them to their virtues and duties, whereupon they call out for security from the vices and rights of others. Enter stage left: the tyrant.
Under Louis Philippe, a parliamentary France, with people making all kinds of speeches about freedom; today, the consequences of that: an emperor who holds down dangerous elements with a firm hand and is therefore praised by the majority of the people as a saviour of the country.
(Johann Jacob Bachofen, Letter to Meyer-Ochsner, 29th August 1864, in Gesmmelte Werke, ed. Karl Meuli (Basel: Schwabe, 1943-1967), vol 10, p. 80; quoted by Lionel Gossman, Basel in the Age of Burckhardt, (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2002), pp. 129-130.)
The tyrant is best served first by a time of misrule and social license, against the chaos of which he might appear to the people as the best remedy.

Fewtril #69

How wonderful it is that liberalism has progressed so far as to find only compassionate understanding for the barbarism of its enemies and contempt for the virtues of its friends!

Fewtril #68

An idiot is heard to say to another: “I think you are a moral man; I mean, you are not judgmental”. Cabbages are not judgmental, though they do have trouble making moral choices.

Thursday, 16 February 2006

Fewtril #67

To err on the side of betrayal is a strategy that has no merit but its simplicity, which single quality accounts partly for its success in the sophisticated circles of Europe.

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Fewtril #66

In our bureau-democracy, it is unlikely that there is much conscious effort on the part of the bureaucratic functionaries to bring about a tyranny, but it will come about nevertheless on their part as a result of bureaucratic instincts and habits. Nor is there a desire on the part of the people for a tyranny; but it will come about nevertheless on their part as a result of their habit of seeking security from the vicissitudes of life, not least among which are the liberties of their fellows.

Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Fewtril #65

It takes a little courage to do the right thing in defiance of public opinion. Our politicians tend to berate one another for defying public opinion. This is partly owing to cowardice, but mostly owing to the desire to do the right thing for power.

Friday, 10 February 2006

Fewtril #64

Against the overblown and all-embracing theory of a charlatan, few arguments are so damaging as when a faithful disciple, in an earnest bid to prove the theory’s claim to universal relevance, applies it to an everyday matter that makes plain its absurd and inane grandiloquence, as when the Marxist sees dialectical materialism at work in his liking for sponge pudding.

Judgment for Philistines

Philistines, whose presence in the arts is almost universal, permitting them to dispense the epithet “philistine” to anyone who dares challenge their dominance, are often quite explicit in the admission of the means by which they judge art and by which one might judge them to be philistines. Colin Furrow, for instance, in The London Review of Books, opines that:
[Anthony] Burgess . . . is politically unsituated, or politically confused, in ways that can cloud literary judgments [of his work] and perhaps even disturb them.
Colin Burrow, “Not Quite Nasty” (Book Review of The Real Life of Anthony Burgess by Andrew Biswell), London Review of Books, Vol. 28:3, 9th February 2006.
Well, quite! Without a clear understanding of its political utility, how could a philistine begin to judge a literary work?

Fewtril #63

It describes a conceptual greed when the socialist-progressive maintains that we are all determined entirely by our circumstances, such that the behaviour of the less fortunate in society, for instance, can be excused as the product solely of their less fortunate circumstances, but that nevertheless we ought to have a moral responsibility to improve the circumstances of the less fortunate. For if, as he says, we are all determined entirely by our circumstances, then the “moral responsibility” to which he exhorts us must be a product entirely of our circumstances, and it is therefore a matter of fortune and not of choice whether we possess it, for whose possession or otherwise we cannot thus be held morally responsible, as is also the case with the impulse to make the antithetical exhortation to moral responsibility itself. Perhaps then he was fortunate enough to be dropped on his head as a child.

Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Fewtril #62

When the public intellectual talks of his moral compass, he is most likely using an inappropriate metaphor which fails to convey the true nature of his moral sense. Almost certainly a more apt metaphor would be that of a moral weather-vane, being that he is more concerned to see which way the wind is blowing.

Friday, 3 February 2006

Avert Thine Eyes!

“Printing cartoons of Muhammad creates fear and insecurity in Muslims across Europe”.
Sarah Joseph, “The freedom that hurts usThe Guardian, 3rd February 2006.

A Quaint Old Muslim Saying

Less than a month ago, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed surprise at the reaction of Danish Muslims to the carton-caricatures published in September 2005 in the newspaper Jyllands-Posten:
I am astonished that these people, to whom we have given the right to stay in Denmark, where they freely wished to be, are now touring Arab countries and inciting antipathy against Denmark and the Danish people.

[Jeg er forbløffet over, at disse mennesker, som vi har givet ret til ophold i Danmark, hvor de frivilligt ønsker at være, nu rejser rundt i arabiske lande og oppisker en stemning mod Danmark og danskere.]

(Anders Fogh Rasmussen, quoted by Ulla Nørby, “
Fogh forbløffet over muslimers rundrejseJyllands-Posten, 10th January 2006. H/T: The Pedant-General, and Hjörtur Godmundsson, “Danish Prime Minister Shocked at LiesThe Brussels Journal, 11th January 2005.)
But then Mr Rasmussen had forgotten the quaint old Muslim saying that goes: “When in Rome, show contempt for what the Romans do, flout their laws and customs, and seek their total destruction, the vile infidel pigs!”

Thursday, 2 February 2006

Not for Prophet

If the cartoon-caricatures of the prophet Muhammad were meant to propagate a dim view of the character of Islam, they do not do so as nearly as well as do the reactions to them in the Muslim world. But it is interesting to note the reactions here to the reactions there, though it is with a wonted suspicion that we might witness in Europe the pathetic scramble of cowards to be the first to fix their off-white underpants to sticks in order to signal surrender. Nevertheless, there have been encouraging signs that the newspapers that have published the cartoons (none of the British newspapers has done so) will not back down, with one egregious exception.

Raymond Lakah (and in keeping with the flavour of the times, I feel it appropriate to add: may he suffer a thousand torments in the camel-dung-heaps of Hell), the owner of the newspaper France Soir, has sacked its editor Jacques Lefranc, because the latter republished those caricatures. Monsieur Lakah (may his genitals wither in the arid desert of his own pusillanimity) believes the sacking of Monsieur Lefranc operates “as a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual” [1], except, of course, for those individuals such as Jacques Lefranc whose conviction that “we have the right to caricature God” [2] is deemed worthy of no respect at all. A powerful sign indeed.

[1] Quoted by Luke Harding and Kim Willsher, “Anger as papers reprint cartoons of MuhammadThe Guardian, 2nd February 2006.
[2] The headline of 1st February’s France Soir, quoted ibid.

Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Fewtril #61

For so long have the politically-minded made the assumption that the answer is rational government, that the question of good government has been largely forgotten, and into its place has crept the question of how society might be best controlled for the optimum benefit of a large and centralised state, to which question the politically-minded are fortunate in having a ready answer in rational government.

Tuesday, 31 January 2006

The International Journal of Boundless Idiocy

If, as some persons maintain, there is an infinity of universes, in the totality of which every possibility is an actuality, then we ought to think ourselves unfortunate that in our universe there is such a thing as the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, that world-wide bib for academic dribble. If we were to take this multiverse theory seriously, then we might believe that in at least one universe, this journal does not exist, and as such there is a person rather like me who enjoys a greater serenity, owing to his never having perused it. But all esoteric theories aside, here I am nevertheless in a state of having read therein the following words:
What I propose, in a nutshell, is that insofar as the quantum universe is “the more fundamental” and cartoons are fundamentally quantum in nature – providing singular exemplification that quantum mechanics operates everywhere – cartoons singularly exemplify and perform that “more fundamental” universe, the quantum universe – the universe “as such”. The nutty universe of animation is (isomorphic with) the nutty animation of the universe. [1]
Dr Cholodenko, the author of those words, may well wonder why physicists spend so much time fiddling around with complex mathematics, when an afternoon spent watching Bugs Bunny and friends can provide the “singular exemplification that quantum mechanics operates everywhere”. But Dr Cholodenko, Honorary Associate in the Department of Art History and Theory at The University of Sydney, is so confident in his understanding of quantum mechanics, an understanding that is no doubt deepened by watching Daffy Duck getting his bill blown round to the back of his head for the umpteenth time by Elmer Fudd’s shotgun, that he has seen fit to enlighten Professor Stephen Hawking on the true relevance of black holes:
I [have] proposed that [Prof. Hawking’s] formulation of the implosive effect of the black hole on Einstein’s general theory of relativity as it applies to the singularity of the Big Bang can be read in terms of Derridean deconstruction – the black hole deconstructs that theory – and in terms of Baudrillard’s notions of Seduction, Objective Irony, fatality – not only is the black hole fatal to itself and to the theory predicting it but the theory is itself fatal, fatal to what it describes, fatal to twentieth century physics, fatal even to itself, making the theory for me itself black hole, paradoxically, ironically, fulfilling itself in annihilating itself, and vice versa, suggesting that all theory is so – fatal theory – that not only seduces what it produces but seduces itself, such systematic desystematizing by systems of themselves a fatality for Baudrillard integral to all systems. These formulations and notions of Derrida and Baudrillard I posed in my letter to Hawking as key analogues of his, and his and [James] Hartle’s, formulations and notions. Alas, I got no letter back from Hawking; but I did get a nice note from his assistant. I guess Hawking regarded me as a “civilian”, which is itself telling in terms of my thesis. [2]
Anyone in the vicinity of Professor Hawking’s rooms in Cambridge on the day that letter arrived may have heard what sounded like a washing-machine on spin-cycle. That, however, was the sound of Professor Hawking laughing.
[1] Alan Cholodenko, “The Nutty Universe of Animation, The “Discipline” of All “Disciplines”, And That’s Not All, Folks!International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Vol: 3:1, January 2006.
[2] Ibid.