Friday 29 June 2007


“It is now found that the thoughts and moods that you have can affect how water crystallizes.” [1] Indeed the ice-cubes in my freezer are there because of the thought that I shall often be in the mood to drop one or two into a stiff drink after having read something in an academic journal.

[1] Müjde Ker-Dincer, “Educators Role as Spiritually Intelligent Leaders in Educational Institutions”, International Journal of Human Sciences, Vol.4:1, 2007.

Tuesday 26 June 2007

The Temptation of Present Interest

“Men, ’tis true, are always much inclin’d to prefer present interest to distant and remote; nor is it easy for them to resist the temptation of any advantage, that they may immediately enjoy, in apprehension of an evil, that lies at a distance from them.”
David Hume, “Of the Source of Allegiance”, A Treatise of Human Nature (New York: Dover Publications, 2003), section VIII, p.19

The Status of Poetry

The status of poetry has changed much over the ages, from its high rank of old as divinely-inspired speech and a repository of wisdom, to its broadly-viewed standing of today as a diversion of little consequence, seen often rightly as the dreary output of effete pretenders and vapid yappers, such that:
An announcement that a poetry-reading is about to take place will empty a room quicker than a water-cannon. [1]
This decline of status is owed mostly, I believe, to the pragmatic and popular age in which we live, which rates utility above all and which deems poetry an undisciplined art to which anyone may turn a free hand.
Parents who notice that their boy intends to be a poet should thrash him until he gives up his versifying — or until he becomes a real poet. [2]
As with all things, if poetry is to be worthwhile, a little discipline and drilling — Zucht und Züchtung — wouldn’t go amiss.
[1] David Stove, “The Oracles and their Cessation: A Tribute to Julian Jaynes”, Cricket versus Republicanism (Sydney: Quakers Hill Press, 1995), p.127.
[2] G.C. Lichtenberg, quoted by Carl Brinitzer, A Reasonable Rebel: Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, tr., B. Smith (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1960), p.107.

Thursday 21 June 2007

Scattered Seeds

“When once incomprehensibility of speech was introduced by Fichte and the semblance of profundity was put in place of thought, the seeds were scattered which were to result in one corruption after another and finally in the complete demoralization of philosophy and thus of the whole of literature, which has arisen in our day.”
Arthur Schopenhauer, “Fragments for the History of Philosophy”, Parerga and Paralipomena, vol.1, tr. by E.F.J. Payne, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p.96.

No Tyranny so Hateful

“There is no tyranny so hateful as a vulgar and anonymous tyranny. It is all-permeating, all-thwarting; it blasts every budding novelty and sprig of genius with its omnipresent and fierce stupidity. Such a headless people has the mind of a worm and the claws of a dragon. Anyone would be a hero who should quell the monster.”

George Santayana, The Life of Reason (New York: Prometheus Books, 1998), p.145.

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Trouble with Honours

Apparently the chaps who made Salman Rushdie a Sir had not taken into consideration the touchiness of the Islamic world, an oversight that has been a spark to primed and paraffin-soaked sensibilities. Therewith speak up the sons of these shores who believe our duty is to dampen our words and deeds so as not to set off so volatile a material.
Sir: Did the genius who recommended Salman Rushdie for a knighthood not realise the offence it would cause to the Muslim world after the Satanic Verses debacle? And exactly why did he get a knighthood, as he has done nothing for Britain other than cost the taxpayer a fortune in police protection for writing a book the majority never read? [1]
Should the British Establishment seek the approval of Pakistan or Iran for the honours it bestows? I think not; for it is the business of that Establishment to decide without consideration of foreign threat or favour who is worthy of its honours; and what a business it is! A man may be deemed worthy to be a Knight of the Realm for all manner of services: from selling vast quantities of tat (Sir Alan Sugar) to singing and playing the piano like a music-hall queen (Sir Elton John). Tsk.

[1] P. Cresswell, Letter to The Independent, 20th June 2007.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

Poor Fatsoes

At times the world must seem to the ideologue to be full of the most oblique and inexpedient occurrences requiring the most oblique and expedient explanations. Imagine, for a humble instance, being ideologically committed to the idea that there are in modern Britain millions of people living in poverty, and yet discovering that a third of such people are as fat as country-squires. One’s commitment demands that one still see them as poverty-stricken, whilst reality appears to mock the idea. Therewith the ideologue needs to cope, and must employ his explanations to that end, as the following passage demonstrates:
Working-class mothers may not be able to afford to feed their children properly: last month, canvassing on a rundown council estate in South Yorkshire during the local elections, I watched young working-class women collect their children from school and noticed that about a third were morbidly obese, a pattern that was already being replicated in their children. A local councillor told me that the women were too focused on the struggle to survive to worry about weight. [1]
It appears to me to be some kind of queer satire to suggest that the poor cannot afford to be thin, and a still queerer travesty of genuine hardship to suggest that such persons have grown fat because of too great a focus on the struggle to survive. [2] If we are to have a genuine satire of poverty in this land, then let us speak of the struggle to survive a day without chips or chocolate or manifold comforts, or the struggle to get off the sofa to turn the television off; for here poverty is very far from being a great problem, unless we are talking about poverty of spirit or surroundings, in which case we can truly say that poverty is widespread.
[1] Joan Smith, “Children of a lesser nation”, The Independent, 10th June 2007.
[2] One can eat quite healthily for little money if one chooses to do so, certainly for less money than it costs to stuff one’s fat face with fast-food and processed filth; and if one is fat and determined not to be, one could even make a start — and please forgive this radical suggestion — by eating less, and thereby spending less.

Tuesday 5 June 2007

A Broad Competition of Bads

“According to the elitist values of the monarchical system, the most stupid, immoral royal is more fit to be head of state than the wisest, most ethical commoner.” [1]
The hereditary-monarchical system allows in theory that the most stupid, immoral royal can become head of state, whilst the wisest, most ethical commoner cannot. It says nothing of necessity about the hereditary head of state’s fitness for the office apart from the vital matter of his not having attained it in an open competition. Therewith it is instructive to note the very slim chance of a wise, ethical commoner — let alone the wisest, most ethical commoner — ever coming to power through the political competition which obtains under a democracy, since such competition by its very nature is stacked overwhelmingly against such men.
[E]ven if the accident of birth and his upbringing could not preclude that a prince might be bad and dangerous, at the same time the accident of a noble birth and a princely education also did not preclude that he might be a harmless dilettante or even a good and moral person. In contrast, the selection of government rulers by means of popular elections makes it practically impossible that any good or harmless person could ever rise to the top. Prime ministers and presidents are selected for their proven efficiency as morally uninhibited demagogues. Thus, democracy virtually assures that only bad and dangerous men will ever rise to the top of government; indeed, as the result of free political competition and selection, those who rise will become increasingly bad and dangerous individuals, yet as temporary and interchangeable caretakers they will only rarely be assassinated. [2]
The belief that democracy will choose good governors, or be to the public good, may be bolstered by an egoistic and flattering delusion of one’s own role in that choice and by a further and vicariously flattering belief that one’s fellows with whom one identifies will likewise choose wise and ethical governors who would typically forgo immediate political advantage for long-term responsibility. For even if one really is discerning enough to know what a good governor looks like before he assumes the power he seeks, and given that such a man could be found more than once in a million, one’s share in the choice is tiny; and even if one appreciates the insignificance of one’s role, then, to maintain one’s belief in the public good of democracy, one has to believe that one’s fellows are en masse similarly perspicacious to discern a good governor from the charming connivers, manipulators, ne’er-do-wells, narcissists, psychopaths, and ruthless egoists who are typically drawn to power, and who competitively make irresponsible grants and promises to gain it.
[B]y opening the prospect of Power to all the ambitious talents, this arrangement makes the extension of Power much easier. Under the ancien régime, society’s moving spirits, who had, as they knew, no chance of a share of Power, were quick to denounce its smallest encroachment. Now, on the other hand, when everyone is potentially a minister, no one is concerned to cut down an office to which he aspires one day himself, or to put sand in a machine which he means to use himself when his turn comes. Hence it is that there is in the political circles of a modern society a wide complicity in the extension of Power. [3]
Under the nouveau régime, we have a political situation in which there is not only a competition of bads, but a broad competition of bads, wherewith corruption is extended, and wherein resistance to the extension of governmental power is lessened.
[1] Peter Tatchell, “Goodbye to Royalty”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s Weblog), 1st June 2007. (H/T: J.K. Baltzersen, “Peter Tatchell and the Monarchy”, Wilson Revolution Unplugged (Weblog), 2nd June 2007.)
[2] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “On Monarchy, Democracy, Public Opinion, and Deligitimation”, Democracy: The God that Failed (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2001), pp.88-9; original emphasis. Cf., “From the point of view of those who prefer less exploitation over more and who value farsightedness and individual responsibility above shortsightedness and irresponsibility, the historic transition from monarchy to democracy represents not progress but civilizational decline.” Ibid., p.69.
[3] Bertrand de Jouvenel, On Power: The Natural History of its Growth, tr., J.F. Huntington (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1993), p.13. Cf., “From the twelfth to the eighteenth century governmental authority grew continuously. The process was understood by all who saw it happening; it stirred them to incessant protest and to violent reaction.
.....In later times its growth has continued at an accelerated pace, and its extension has brought a corresponding extension of war. And now we no longer understand the process, we no longer protest, we no longer react. This quiescence of ours is a new thing, for which Power has to thank the smoke-screen in which it has wrapped itself. Formerly it could be seen, manifest in the person of the king, who did not disclaim being the master he was, and in whom human passions were discernable. Now, masked in anonymity, it claims to have no existence of its own, and to be but the impersonal and passionless instrument of the general will.” Ibid., pp.12-3.