“I will make it again”

There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, “You can’t put the clock back.” The simple and obvious answer is “You can.” A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed.

There is another proverb, “As you have made your bed, so you must lie on it”; which again is simply a lie. If I have made my bed uncomfortable, please God I will make it again.

What’s Wrong with the World (1910).

Published in: on April 25, 2012 at 6:18 am  Leave a Comment  

The World State

Oh, how I love Humanity,
With love so pure and pringlish,
And how I hate the horrid French,
Who never will be English!

The International Idea,
The largest and the clearest,
Is welding all the nations now,
Except the one that’s nearest.

This compromise has long been known,
This scheme of partial pardons,
In ethical societies
And small suburban gardens —

The villas and the chapels where
I learned with little labour
The way to love my fellow-man
And hate my next-door neighbour.

— (1925).

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 9:26 pm  Comments (3)  

“Tyrannies young as the morning”

We often read nowadays of the valor or audacity with which some rebel attacks a hoary tyranny or an antiquated superstition. There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one’s grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past. He cares as little for what will be as for what has been; he cares only for what ought to be.

 — What’s Wrong with the World (1910).

Published in: on April 11, 2012 at 9:32 am  Leave a Comment  

“Man could do no more”

In this story of Good Friday it is the best things in the world that are at their worst.  That is what really shows us the world at its worst. It was, for instance, the priests of a true monotheism and the soldiers of an international civilisation.  Rome, the legend, founded upon fallen Troy and triumphant over fallen Carthage, had stood for a heroism which was the nearest that any pagan ever came to chivalry. Rome had defended the household gods and the human decencies against the ogres of Africa and the hermaphrodite monstrosities of Greece. But in the lightning flash of this incident, we see great Rome, the imperial republic, going downward under her Lucretian doom. Scepticism has eaten away even the confident sanity of the conquerors of the world.  He who is enthroned to say what is justice can only ask: ‘What is truth?’  So in that drama which decided the whole fate of antiquity, one of the central figures is fixed in what seems the reverse of his true role.  Rome was almost another name for responsibility. Yet he stands for ever as a sort of rocking statue of the irresponsible. Man could do no more.  Even the practical had become the impracticable. Standing between the pillars of his own judgement-seat, a Roman had washed his hands of the world.

The Everlasting Man (1925).

Published in: on April 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm  Comments (1)