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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR AUGUST 2015

August  31,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I hate grammar.  What's the use of it?"

"To teach you to speak and write correctly, so that you can be understood," said Mrs. Garth, with severe precision.  "Should you like to speak as old Job does?"

"Yes," said Ben, stoutly; "it's funnier.  He says 'Yo goo'--that's just as good as 'You go.'"

"But he says, 'A ship's in the garden' instead of 'a sheep,'" said Letty, with an air of superiority.  "You might think he meant a ship off the sea."

"No, you mightn't, if you weren't silly," said Ben.  "How could a ship off the sea come there?"

"These things belong only to pronunciation, which is the least part of grammar," said Mrs. Garth.  "That apple-peel is to be eaten by the pigs, Ben; if you eat it, I must give them your piece of pasty.  Job has only to speak about very plain things.  How do you think you would write or speak about anything more difficult, if you knew no more of grammar than he does?  You would use wrong words, and put words in the wrong places, and instead of making people understand you, they would turn away from you as a tiresome person.  What would you do then?"

"I shouldn't care, I should leave off," said Ben, with a sense that this was an agreeable issue where grammar was concerned.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

August  30,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

[V]ery little achievement is required in order to pity another man's shortcomings.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

August  29,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"My love," he said, with irritation reined in by propriety, "you may rely upon me for knowing the times and the seasons, adapted to the different stages of a work which is not to be measured by the facile conjectures of ignorant onlookers.  It had been easy for me to gain a temporary effect by a mirage of baseless opinion; but it is ever the trial of the scrupulous explorer to be saluted with the impatient scorn of chatterers who attempt only the smallest achievements, being indeed equipped for no other.  And it were well if all such could be admonished to discriminate judgments of which the true subject-matter lies entirely beyond their reach, from those of which the elements may be compassed by a narrow and superficial survey."

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

[N.B.:  The laggard scholar's condescending reply.]

August  28,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Doubtless, my dear," said Mr. Casaubon, with a slight bow.  "The notes I have here made will want sifting, and you can, if you please, extract them under my direction."

"And all your notes," said Dorothea, whose heart had already burned within her on this subject, so that now she could not help speaking with her tongue--"all those rows of volumes--will you not now do what you used to speak of?--will you not make up your mind what part of them you will use, and begin to write the book which will make your vast knowledge useful to the world?  I will write to your dictation, or I will copy and extract what you tell me: I can be of no other use."  Dorothea, in a most unaccountable, darkly feminine manner, ended with a slight sob and eyes full of tears.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

[N.B.:  The despairing plea of the graduate thesis advisor confronting the foot-dragging scholar.]

August  27,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

These characteristics, fixed and unchangeable as bone in Mr. Causabon, might have remained longer unfelt by Dorothea if she had been encouraged to pour forth her girlish and womanly feeling--if he would have held her hands between his and listened with the delight of tenderness and understanding to all the little histories which made up her experience, and would have given her the same sort of intimacy in return, so that the past life of each could be included in their mutual knowledge and affection--or if she could have fed her affection with those childlike caresses which are the bent of every sweet woman, who has begun by showering kisses on the hard pate of her bald doll, creating a happy soul within that woodenness from the wealth of her own love.  That was Dorothea's bent.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

August  26,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

He was not excessively fond of wine, but he had several times taken too much, simply as an experiment in that form of ecstasy; he had fasted till he was faint, and then supped on lobster; he had made himself ill with doses of opium.  Nothing greatly original had resulted from these measure; and the effects of the opium had convinced him that there was an entire dissimilarity between his constitution and De Quincey's.  The superadded circumstance which would evolve the genius had not yet come; the universe had not yet beckoned.  Even Caesar's fortune at one time was but a grand presentiment.  We know what a masquerade all development is, and what effective shapes may be disguised in helpless embryos.  In fact, the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

August  25,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of "suttee"--the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands.  General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural: "You say that it is your custom to burn widows.  Very well.  We also have a custom when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them.  Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.  You may follow your custom.  And then we will follow ours."

India today is better off without suttee.  If you don't agree with that, if you think that's just dead-white-male-Eurocentrism, fine.  But I don't think you really do believe that.  Non-judgmental multiculturalism is an obvious fraud, and was subliminally accepted on that basis.  After all, most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don't want to live in anything but an advanced Western society.

--America Alone by Mark Steyn

August  24,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

We enter adolescence much sooner and leave it much later--in some cases, not until middle age.  We've created a world where a thirty-one-year-old European male can stroll into a nightclub, tell the babes he lives at his mom and dad's place in the same bedroom he's slept in since he was in diapers--and he cans till walk out with a hot-looking date.  This guy would have been a laughingstock at any other point in human history.

--America Alone by Mark Steyn

August  20,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

And yet even those who understand very clearly the nature of Islam are complacent about Europe's own structural defects.  Olivier Roy, one of the most respected Islamic experts in France, nevertheless insists "secularism is the future."  Almost by definition, secularism cannot be a future: it's a present-tense culture that over time disconnects a society from cross-generational purpose.  Which is why there are no examples of sustained atheist civilizations.  "Atheistic humanism" became inhumanism in the hands of the Fascists and Communists and, in its less malign form in today's European Union, a kind of dehumanism in which a present-tense culture amuses itself to extinction.  Post-Christian European culture is already post-cultural and, with its surging Muslim populations, will soon be post-European.

--America Alone by Mark Steyn

August  19,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Ever since the Second World War, as Weil's Need for Roots makes plain, the human race has been trying not to live with the knowledge that if the blind determinisms of science and economics were the only truths, there should be nothing to prevent another archipelago of Gulags, another Belsen, another Dachau, another Auschwitz.  The little spark, the 'irrational' little glow in the dark, the belief that each individual is of importance - it might not derive from religion, but when religion goes it becomes very difficult to keep it alight.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

[N.B.:  In other words, it derives from religion.]

August  18,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Without free will, the human race has lost its moral purpose.  Each generation, therefore, tries to escape its determinist straitjacket by some myth, or ritual, or grand gesture, which will give to us dignity, individuality, freedom.  Those who hate religion will see it, and especially Islam and Evangelical Christianity, as the ultimate determinism.  But is not the advantage of religion over irreligion (speaking of it merely as a life tool, and ignoring for a moment the question of whether 'it' is 'true' or 'false') that it sees every person as a soul, a person who carries about their own destiny?  If this is the case, then the Muslims in their seemingly identical ranks, bowed to Mecca in prayer, may perhaps be closer to perfect freedom than a Western materialist who believes he is merely the product of genetic inheritance and economic circumstances.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

[N.B.:  In other words, religion teaches that people are ends ('souls') not means (tools).]

August  17,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The struggle between free will and determinism is one of those philosophical conundrums which can never be adequately solved, which is why neat-minded people will always be determinists - it is easier.  But determinism crushes the imagination, and almost all exciting developments in Western thought, Western art, Western music and literature over the last seven hundred years have been in one way or another an assertion of free will.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August  14,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

For Simone Weil, 'the modern conception of science is responsible, as is that of history and art, for the monstrous conditions under which we live, and will,  in its turn, have to be transformed, before we can hope to see the dawn of a better civilization'.  Her book The Need for Roots was published in English in 1952, the year of Queen Elizabeth II's accession. . . .  Weil made the connection - inescapable to anyone who has read his by now innumerable biographies - between Hitler and the nineteenth-century worship of science.  She quoted Mein Kampf: 'Man must never fall into the error of believing himself to be the lord and master of creation . . . He will then feel that in a world in which planets and suns follow circular trajectories, moons revolve round planets, and force reigns everywhere and supreme over weakness, which it either compels to serve it docilely or else crushes out of existence.  Man cannot be subject to special laws of his own.'

Simone Weil added, 'These lines express in faultless fashion the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from the conception of the world contained in our science.'  She added, 'Who can reproach him for having put into practice what he thought he recognized to be the truth?  Those who, having in themselves the foundations of the same belief, haven't embraced it consciously and haven't translated it into acts, have only escaped being criminals thanks to the want of a certain sort of course which he possesses.'

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August  13,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

A belief in 'science' as the sole arbiter of what is true must always resolve itself into a belief in force, in blind force.  Before this idea, the nineteenth century fell prostrate, and from it emerged two of its most influential determinist prophets, Karl Marx and Charles Darwin.  The writings of Marx were said to have been discredited in our times, although it only takes a crisis in the stock market or a run on a bank for his picture of Western man's dependence upon the vacillations of capital to seem mythologically true.  Too much concentration on the failure of Marx's prophecies - that the revolution would first take place in the industrial heartlands of England, for example - can blind observers to how much Marx actually got right.  Darwin got many things right, too, about the evolution of finches' beaks, about the breeding habits of earthworms and the expression of emotion in animals.  That was only part of the reason why this great Victorian natural historian was deified in our times.  He was placed on the throne once occupied by God, overseeing like a sad old bearded Jehovah the workings of a purposeless, blind process of procreation.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

[N.B.:  Other than the trite truism that modern capitalism depends on capital (next up, monetary policy is affected by the fluctuations of money), Mr. Wilson does not deign to enlighten us as to Marx's other profound pronouncements.]

August  12,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

But what would the Islamists have achieved, by bombing or negotiating?  Who would restore their Caliphate for them?  Certainly not the Turks, who were anxious to join the European Union and escape from the religious maniacs.  Nor would the Saudis, whose royal family enjoyed the benefits of unbounded wealth, based on the craven dependency of the Western powers upon oil.  Nor would any other group, or head of state in the Arab world, or in the wider Islamic world, ever have been able to head such a Caliphate.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

[N.B.:  And, but of course, ISIS has now not only established a Caliphate but is busily expanding it. When one considers that Wilson published this book in 2008, it is quite remarkable the amount of unintended irony he managed to pack into this one short paragraph.  It is a great example of anti-prophecy, anti-prolepsis.]

August  11,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was, then, a bossier, less tolerant Britain under Mr Blair.  This should perhaps have made the British more capable of understanding the Muslims, who follow a scripture which is almost devoid of the narrative interest of the Hebrew Bible, and is largely injunctions and prescriptions.  The Koran and New Labour's formidable reams of new legislation, governing every aspect of British life, could indeed be seen by students of comparative religion to have much in common.  Both were essentially puritanical creeds, and though New Labour was not teetotal as such, it was undoubtedly a movement fuelled by white wine spritzers rather than Thatcher's malt whisky. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August  10,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was as far back as 28 March 1989 that Bevis Hillier, biographer of John Betjeman, wrote to The Times with the suggestion, that 'it is not too late to start planning a British exhibition or festival to celebrate the year 2000?  Like the Great exhibition of 1851, it should have a cosmopolitan aspect rather than the insular character of the 1951 Festival of Britain.  It should be a celebration of the western world's achievements.  Not just a crowning manifesto of its own.'  Bevis sowed the seed, and Heseltine watered it.  It was a typical Heseltine idea, based on the fallacy that by hiring a sufficiently trendy and expensive modern architect--Richard Rogers--and building an eyesore in a run-down urban area, they would achieve 'regeneration'.  It was all to be paid for out of the National Lottery.  At his pre-election conference speech Blair had told the bewildered party that they had 'a thousand days to prepare for a thousand years', a typically New Labour phrase which provided the missing link between the language of the Third Reich and a cheap advertising jingle. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August 4,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Diana paradoxically reminded people of why monarchy is a more satisfactory system of government than republicanism.  It allows a focus upon persons, rather than upon institutions.  It is a cult of personality without any of its sinister or fascistic overtones.  Diana needed, wooed, and received, wild adoration.  But the kind of 'democratisation of the monarchy' which James Fox so dreaded did not do any harm to the monarch herself, who drew forth from her people emotions which were different, but in many subjects no less deep: respect, reverence, and a sense which only a person, not an office, can embody, continuation with the past. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August 3,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

When Mountbatten's nephew Philip married the future Queen Elizabeth II it was the fulfilment of all Mountbatten's desire to control the destinies of the British Royal Family.  As a boy cadet, he had witnessed the humiliation of his father, Prince Louis, who had so longed to become the First Sea Lord but was dismissed in the understandable wave of anti-German feeling which swept the country upon the outbreak of the First World War.  The family name of Battenberg was changed to Mountbatten, just as the House of Saxe-Coburg became the House of Windsor. ('Now," the Kaiser had joked, 'I suppose we shall have the Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg.')  Mountbatten was so anxious to attend, and interfere in, the wedding of Philip and Elizabeth that, even though he was the last Viceroy that he was so anxious to speed up Indian independence arrangements, leaving Greater India with the Partition of West and East Pakistan (the latter subsequently Bangladesh), with much avoidable slaughter and perhaps a million lives lost. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August 2,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

Institutions, secular as well as religious, need repetitious rituals to retain their sense of identity, which is why for many non-military minded people there is still a virtue in the annual ceremonies of Trooping the Colour and laying wreaths at the Cenotaph at Armistice.  Institutions also need to believe at least a substantial percentage of what they claim to believe.  No adherent to a Church or a political party can ever have truly subscribed to every word of the manifesto, but when the discrepancy between aspirant and actual belief becomes too glaring, then institutions break up.

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson

August 1,  2015

Patrick: Lagniappe

The incident which most endeared [British Foreign Secretary George Brown] to the Foreign Office, however, occurred during an official visit to Brazil during a diplomatic reception at the Brazilian President's Palace of the Dawn.  A witness recalled, 'It was really beautiful - I think only the Latin Americans still do it that way: all the military officers were in full dress uniform, and the ambassadors were in court dress.  Sumptuous is the word, and sparkling.  As we entered, George made a bee-line for this gorgeously crimson-clad figure, and said, "Excuse me, but may I have the pleasure of this dance?"  There was a terrible silence for a moment before the guest, who knew who he was, replied, "There are three reasons, Mr Brown, why I will not dance with you.  The first, I fear, is that you've had a little too much to drink.  The second is that this is not, as you seem to suppose, a waltz the orchestra is playing, but the Peruvian national anthem, for which you should be standing to attention.  And the third reason why we may not dance, Mr Brown, is that I am the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima. 

--Our Age: the Age of Elizabeth II by A. N. Wilson