Monday, 24 December 2007

Fewtril #221

It is perverse that the leaders of a modern nation feel they must honour the memory of the great men to whom that nation owes what it possesses in high culture and civility, and yet, were those great men alive today, they would be reviled for holding opinions that those leaders profess to find uncultured and uncivilised and unfit for the standing of a modern nation.

Fewtril #220

Fair consideration of impolitic or outmoded views requires an effort that can be more profitably spent in seeking favour with the times, whereby it is more efficient simply to hate them.

Fewtril #219

Through a strength of confidence hitherto unknown, the frivolous have learnt to take themselves and their works seriously — precisely those things for which their frivolity is apt.

Fewtril #218

With principles that leave the dirty work to others, one can enjoy a spotless conscience by which to condemn those others.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Amidst All This Bustle

“There is nothing which is not the subject of debate, and in which men of learning are not of contrary opinions. The most trivial question escapes not our controversy, and in the most momentous we are not able to give any certain decision. Disputes are multiplied, as if every thing were uncertain; and these disputes are managed with the greatest warmth, as if every thing was certain. Amidst all this bustle ’tis not reason, which carries the prize, but eloquence; and no man needs ever despair of gaining proselytes to the most extravagent hypothesis, who has art enough to represent it in any favourable colours.”
David Hume, Introduction to A Treatise of Human Nature (New York: Dover Publications, 2003), p.ix.


“The security-council of the Feminist Association of Iceland has accused the directors and management of Valitor (Visa Iceland) of working for and taking part in the distribution of pornography.” [1] I must admit that I am taken aback — the Feminist Association of Iceland has a security-council! I cannot deny that I should be most delighted if it transpires that they also have an underground base with a monorail and a central control-room with a large screen showing a world-map. Suffice to say, a couple of sour-faced old trouts sitting around in the study-room of some dreary building at the University of Reykjavik plotting ways to sound more important doesn’t excite my romantic sensibilities quite so much.
[1] [“Öryggisráð Femínistafélags Íslands kærði forstjóra og stjórn Valitor - Visa Ísland, fyrir að stuðla að og taka þátt í dreifingu kláms.”] Auði Alfífu Ketilsdóttur, “Femínistafélagið kærir Vísa-klám”, (Morgunblaðið), 11th December 2007.


Just as “there are no human races, just the one species: [H]omo sapiens”, [1] so there are no equine breeds, just the one species: Equus caballus; for, since intra-specific categories are subsumed by definition under just the one species, those categories are somehow obviated.
[1] Simon Underdown, “Race against time”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s weblog), 12th December 2007. (Italics and capitalisation added.)

Thursday, 29 November 2007


It is said that this country could sustain twice the population. Very well, but why would anyone want it to do so? There are, I suppose, many motives: some feel it would be better to be part of something bigger, not considering that in all likelihood their part would become correspondingly smaller; some think in abstract terms of economics: to them, if population growth means economic growth, then they can think of little or no objection, for it is their habit of mind to think everything of the economy, and to bear no “silly talk” of culture or harmony; some are susceptible to the idea of our land becoming an even more “vibrant” and “exciting” place, a land full of enlightened and exotic immigrants bringing an end to the reign of the benighted pale-skins with their boring food and oppressive practices; but, though there may be many motives, some naïve, some pragmatic, some nefarious, I cannot help shake the overall impression that the man who says he wishes to be part of a maximally sustainable population sounds a bit like a battery-hen speaking the farmer’s words.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007


Terry Eagleton notes approvingly that “[William] Blake . . . viewed the political as inseparable from art, ethics, sexuality and the imagination.” [1] Aye, such a thought is enough to warm the cockles and capillaries of any old totalitarian’s cardiovascular system.

Terry Eagleton, “The original political vision: sex, art and transformation”, The Guardian, 28th November 2007.

The Upper Hand of Mediocrity

“It is now time to address, once and for all, the archaic and socially exclusive policy of academic selection.” [1] Why don’t these blighters just cut to the chase and have us all mucking out pig-sties in our fair and democratic turn? And whilst we’re in the grip of the mania for abolishing archaic and socially exclusive things, — of the mania for abolishing anything that might stand in the way of the one society of mass-uniformity —, why not go to the crux of the matter and abolish thinking for oneself? After all, some people are better at it than others — surely that’s unfair? And thinking for oneself is in truth socially exclusive, and it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to find it archaic and outmoded as well: it is certainly unbefitting of the era of the mass.
Let the open secret be once expressed and the moon-calf be brought to light, strange as it may appear therein; narrow-mindedness and stupidity always and everywhere, in all situations and circumstances, detest nothing in the world so heartily and thoroughly as understanding, intellect, and talent. Here mediocrity remains true to itself, as is shown in all the spheres and affairs that relate to life, for it endeavours everywhere to suppress, indeed to eradicate and exterminate, superior qualities in order to exist alone. [2]
Now mediocrity has the upper hand, and resentment against excellence and advantage grows apace. Resentful mediocrity is at the very heart of the power of the modern state, in the service of which uniformity simplifies the problem of control.

[1] Mike Ion, “Select gatherings”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s weblog), 28th November 2007.
[2] Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Philosophy at the Universities”, Pererga and Paralipomena, Vol.1, tr. by E.F.J. Payne, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p.164, original emphasis.

A Service to the Country

The gall and utter shamelessness of some of our politicians surpasses my cynicism. I find it barely credible that they should use evidence of their own corruption in matters of funding as reason to call for the extortion of money from the public purse to pay for their rotten political clubs. That said, if tomorrow, by some miracle, the meaning of honour and shame were suddenly to dawn on them, I should gladly dip into my own purse to buy for each of them a pistol and a little room where they might spend a few moments alone, there for the first time to act in true and beneficial service to their country.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Noble Enmity

“I always strove throughout the war to view my opponent without hatred, and to reckon him a man in accordance with his courage. In battle I endeavoured to seek him out and kill him, and expected from him nothing different; but I never thought low of him.”

[“Ich war im Kriege immer bestrebt, den Gegner ohne Haß zu betrachten und ihn als Mann seinem Mute entsprechend zu schätzen. Ich bemühte mich, ihn im Kampf aufzusuchen, um ihn zu töten, und erwartete auch von ihm nichts anderes. Niemals aber habe ich niedrig von ihm gedacht.”]

Ernst Jünger, In Stahlgewittern (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1978), p.65.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Fewtril #217

“Emotionally literate” — an ugly phrase used approvingly to denote the ability to out-wet a lettuce.

Fewtril #216

Mediocrity tends to a tolerance of everything but excellence.

Fewtril #215

“A better world is possible” — but highly unlikely if we acquiesce to the sort of people who typically proclaim it.

Argumentum ad Incredulitatem Orthodoxam

It is quite something to take the smugness of one’s own ignorance, bolstered by one’s sure presumption of the ignorance of others, as settling the matter of the stupidity of the words and deeds of one’s enemies, but it is all in a day’s ease for Mr Daniel Davies, scribbler for the paraliterary wing of The Guardian, who feels fit to express incredulity at the likelihood that anyone could find “one single example of a clever thing either [Larry Summers or Enoch Powell] did or said”, given that “both of these famously intelligent men are not famous for intelligent things they did or said . . . [but rather] for actually stupid things that they did and said.” [1] Mr Davies has in mind both the suggestion by Larry Summers that the lower incidence of women in high-end scientific and mathematical disciplines might not be owed solely to social factors, and the assertion by Enoch Powell that mass-immigration might not turn into the picnic of harmony for which happy-clappy liberals hope and which in lieu of fulfillment they pretend to see. It is hard to find any reason given by Mr Davies as to why he finds these propositions stupid, and so it would be unfair to accuse him of having any, unless one should count the appeal to popular ignorance or the belief that vocal heresy against political orthodoxy is inherently stupid. It suffices for Mr Davies to say that, so long as there is ignorance of anything clever that has been said or done by these men, and so long as what is popularly known about them is opined to be stupid, they may safely be dismissed as fit for little else but stupidity. Mr Davies should consider himself lucky that the world is fruitful enough in fatuousness that it has not afforded him any fame thereby.

[1] Daniel Davies, “The wisest fools in ChristendomComment is Free, (The Guardian’s Weblog), 6th November 2007; original emphasis. A conjecture: d2 = di2m3