Monday, 8 November 2010

A Lingering Ground-Whiff

“We have fought wars, indulged in regicide and had a glorious revolution in order to rid us of the religio-political tyranny of divine right.” [1]

Oh, didn’t it turn out spiffing! And war-mongering, king-slaying, and revolution-seeking for the greater glory of the total-plebeian state — what a glad tale! But I am tired of these “right-wing conservatives” (read: rear-guard left-wing radicals) befouling the name.
     Before these men, and before the stench of French Jacobins, Russian Bolsheviks, and American Wilsonians was set aloft, there was the ground-whiff of English Whigs, who, in the now timeworn manner, threatened to make the world safe for their own feeble ideas, therewith the sheen of goodliness and the anticipation of thanks.
’Tis Britain’s care to watch o’er Europe’s fate,
And hold in balance each contending state,
To threaten bold, presumptuous kings with war,
And answer her afflicted neighbours’ prayer.
The Dane and Swede, roused up by fierce alarms,
Bless the wise conduct of her pious arms:
Soon as her fleets appear, their terrors cease,
And all the northern world lies hushed in peace. [2]
The cold ghastliness of it ought to make every man shiver, and yet, by its giving leave to an easy and unearned spree of warm feelings, it is likely to trigger a glow of holiness. But do not get me wrong: I am no peace-monger. The drive for everlasting peace on earth is something to be withstood, and its dream-fulfilling, something to be dreaded: an earth “hushed in peace” would be a dead one, and deathly if only half-fulfilled.
No more war; no more markedness of races, peoples, states, or religions; no lawbreakers or adventurers; no conflicts owing to overlordship and otherness; no more hatred or settling of scores, only unending convenience through all millennia. Even today, where we are witnessing the end-phase of this trivial optimism, such sillinesses make one bethink with dread the godawful boredom — the taedium vitae of the Roman Imperial age — which spreads over the soul merely by reading of such idylls, whereof even only a partial realisation would lead to murder and self-murder on a massive scale. [3]
I forechoose truthful warfarers, men who at least know themselves, men who know that they seek glory or overlordship, men who even know some bounds to their goals, not these liberal windbags puffed up with the barely-hidden and boundless lust to bring the whole world under the sway of their blightedness.

[1] Cranmer, “The Divine Right of Human Rights”, Cranmer (weblog), 8th November 2010. Also therein: “After that [‘glorious’] revolution, notions of absolutism were gradually replaced by parliamentary democracy, and the liberties and rights of the people were enshrined in the Bill of Rights, which is the inviolable property of a sovereign people.” How can anyone believe this nonsense? For one thing, should it not be clear as daylight to anyone who still bothers to peek into the world that the Bill of Rights is about as inviolable as bog-paper? Furthermore, notions of absolutism may have been replaced by lies about popular sovereignty, but how is that a good thing? Also: a sovereign is absolute in the domain of its operation, otherwise it is not a sovereign. What then can it mean to cry down the idea of absolute power and yet in the next breath uphold the idea of a sovereign people?
[2] Joseph Addison, A Letter from Italy, in The Works of Joseph Addison, Vol.I (London: George Bell and Son, 1903), p.37.
[3] [“Kein Krieg mehr, kein Unterschied mehr von Rassen, Völkern, Staaten, Religionen, keine Verbrecher und Abenteurer, keine Konflikte infolge von Überlegenheit und Anderssein, kein Haß, keine Rache mehr, nur unendliches Behagen durch alle Jahrtausende hin. Solche Albernheiten lassen heute noch, wo wir die Endphasen dieses trivialen Optimismus erleben, mit Grauen an die entsetzliche Langweile denken — das taedium vitae der römischen Kaiserzeit — die sich beim bloßen Lesen solcher Idyllen über die Seele breitet und in Wirklichkeit bei auch nur teilweiser Verwirklichung zu massenhaftem Mord und Selbstmord führen würde.”] Oswald Spengler, Der Mensch und die Technik (München: C.H. Beck’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1931), p.5. (Maybe Spengler underestimated the staying-power of this trivial optimism.)


Anomaly UK said...

I haven't written a review yet, because I'm only half way through, but it is certainly worth reading "The Kit-Cat Club: Friends Who Imagined a Nation" by Ophelia Field

It covers the period of consolidation of Whig power after their takeover. It could equally well be subtitled "The creation of the left-wing media conspiracy" or "The birth of the professional politician". It describes, admiringly, how a clique of merchants, idealists, crooks and propagandists took over the world.

robert61 said...

Living abroad at the start of the Iraq war, I was briefly seduced by the transformative neocon dream. One of the things that helped sober me up was the sense of shame I felt, trying to justify my "trivial optimism" to a simple local tradesman who had never drunk the Wilsonian draught. His scorn was bracing.

Deogolwulf said...

Mr McGuinn,

That looks good. Might have to buy it.

Mr 61,

I know the feeling.

The 27th Comrade said...

Sacred thunders of the everlasting gods! This Curmudgeon is still alive! And still sufficiently-grumpy. That is good news. :o)

Deogolwulf said...

I am all sweetness and light.

Recusant said...

Welcome back , Your Curmudgeoness, you have been missed. Greatly.

Deogolwulf said...

Most kind, Recusant. Glad to hear from you. It may yet be a brief return. I have not settled things.

Bruce Charlton said...

Allow me to join the chorus of 'welcome back!'