The Children of the State

“One evening when a young gentleman teized him with an account of the infidelity of his servant, who, he said, would not believe the scriptures, because he could not read them in the original tongues, and be sure that they were not invented, ‘Why, foolish fellow, (said Johnson,) has he any better authority for almost every thing that he believes?’ BOSWELL. ‘Then the vulgar, Sir, never can know they are right, but must submit themselves to the learned.’ JOHNSON. ‘To be sure, Sir. The vulgar are the children of the State, and must be taught like children.’ BOSWELL. ‘Then, Sir, a poor Turk must be a Mahometan, just as a poor Englishman must be a Christian?’ JOHNSON. ‘Why, yes, Sir; and what then? This now is such stuff as I used to talk to my mother, when I first began to think myself a clever fellow; and she ought to have whipt me for it.”

http://www.classic-literature.co.uk/scottish-authors/james-boswell/life-of-johnson-abridged/ebook-page-64.asp

This is perhaps one area where Samuel Johnson and I fall out with one another? Perhaps?  The idea that, as Johnson calls them, ‘the vulgar’ are ‘The Children of the State’; of whom he has said elsewhere in so many words that the analogy between natural parents and their young offspring holds good; is a politically and theologically disturbing one; for Johnson extrapolates on it to a logical conclusion that:

 Consider, Sir; if you have children whom you wish to educate in the principles of the Church of England, and there comes a Quaker who tries to pervert them to his principles, you would drive away the Quaker. You would not trust to the predomination of right, which you believe is in your opinions; you would keep wrong out of their heads. Now the vulgar are the children of the State. If any one attempts to teach them doctrines contrary to what the State approves, the magistrate may and ought to restrain him.’

http://www.classic-literature.co.uk/scottish-authors/james-boswell/life-of-johnson-abridged/ebook-page-211.asp  

These statements of Johnson’s, if accepted by one as possibly valid, throw open to question the whole notion of political democracy; and worse; of Salvation for those he classifies as ‘Children of the State’ i.e. ‘the vulgar’. For Johnson says, when you read him above, that even a person whom one believes has the wrong faith for him to be Saved has to be let alone to stay with that faith when such a person is one of ‘the vulgar’; whether Quaker or Muslim in Johnson’s instances which he offers us.

This means in my own interpretation of it that a person of ‘the vulgar’ must be left alone to believe what The State directs him to believe; even though his immortal soul might depend for its Salvation on him not being left entirely to the custody of The State.  This I find very hard to accept.

Politically, and less alarmingly, but yet still alarming, are the consequences for a liberal democracy were Johnson’s views shown to be valid.  Such a referendum result as we in the UK have just suffered, were these circumstances of Johnson’s to be valid, have given an invalid result; because Johnson is saying, if I have him right, that ‘the vulgar’ are not fit to hold a vote.

Essentially we need to know who these ‘vulgar’ might be; what characterises them to the extent that they can be identified by us within society?  Once we have these ‘vulgar’ identified, and come to understand them as being in effect wards of The State; we can discuss some of the merits and demerits of Johnson’s politics and theology.

Johnson tells us that the ‘vulgar’ are to be – as it were – spoon-fed their beliefs by The State; according to the general status quo of popular understanding and of contemporary views in the relevant eras.  He may have agreed to the idea that to try to enlighten them any further was not only ‘casting pearls before swine’ but also inciting public disturbance and even insurrection from them.  The fear of insurrection, of what contemporaries called ‘the mob’ uprising, was always a nagging worry even in Johnson’s day; but perhaps more especially so it is found in Dickens, and because of the horrors of ‘vulgar’ life under the terrible urban conditions imposed upon it by the early stages radical social dislocation in what we call now The Industrial Revolution.

In Dickens’s day as well as in Johnson’s this ‘mob’ was more or less wholly uneducated; none of them attended any kind of school; consequently their ideas of the world and of their society were vague and primitive for the most part. They had few if any ‘manners’ or ‘nurture of the heart’ except what nature endowed them with.  This factor concerning lack of education comprises a large difference between whom we today might consider ‘the vulgar’ to be, and those who were termed ‘the vulgar’ by Johnson.

The Education Act of 1870 brought the first universal education to British children; by this time Dickens was an old man and Johnson had been dead a century.

I believe this fact and difference of universal education at the very least ‘waters-down’ somewhat Johnson’s strictures about ‘the vulgar’ and their proper place in life; and in regard to how things stand in our democracy of today.  But yet no thinking Briton is able to deny that some, perhaps much, of the apparatus of The State even today is brought to bear upon our ‘neo-vulgar’ in such a way as to have effects very like as those which Johnson describes they ought to have; today then, so many of us yet remain effectually and de facto ‘Children of the State’.

The question remains whether this is as it should be; and to whatever decision we come, yea or nay, involves very serious practical considerations about the events of 2016 in Britain; The Year of Brexit.

This is because, as I have hinted already; were one a hard-liner Tory of today; the type who hankered for ‘a return of Sovereignty’ and for ‘freedom from Brussels’’ bureaucrats’; you are very likely to side with Johnson heavily in the matter of ‘the vulgar’ being properly the wards of The State. Thus one’s own political beliefs would have invalidated for oneself the result of the Referendum which turned the tide in your favour.  For one does not believe that ‘the mob, the vulgar’ are in principle eligible to vote responsibly since they are not capable of being anything better than wards, than children, of The State.  They carry for you only the status and the political rights and acumen of minors.  Johnson is pretty clear on this point.

Yet had The State of Britain, in deed and in word, honoured the spirit of its much-hallowed, much-vaunted, liberal democracy and had attempted to educate ‘the mob’ and ‘the vulgar’ to a station whereupon they might have acquired enough acumen and experience and so political right and adulthood that they were capable of voting authentically; I would wager that in these circumstances almost certainly Brexit would never have occurred.  Without any doubt in my mind I say that The Tories are the main culprits for this omission and dereliction of duty to their ‘charges’; although The Labour Party, when in power, has done less than it could have done also.

Of course my remarks betray that I believe that ‘the mob’ and ‘the vulgar’ should have had, should yet have, at least the same opportunities as the Establishment and its fellow-travellers to a liberal – emphasis on liberal – education; one which aims to free them of Blakean ‘mind-forged manacles’ whose keys rest tightly clasped in the hands of upper class and educated Britons.

There is empirical evidence that such an education to ‘the mob’ is able to be had and to be applied to the ordinary ‘vulgar’ – people such as you and I. See this story of a ‘failing’ school – by School Inspectorate standards – one year – and rated ‘excellent’ – by the same the body following year; a school in London’s inner city in the notorious East End (Tower Hamlets); see how it was turned around quickly and brilliantly by application of some radical schooling under the leadership of Headmistress Wendy Hick

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/from-fail-to-world-s-best-a-lesson-from-the-east-end-8996454.htm

(It is worth delving further to see the almost Socratic dialogue method and inspiration of her style)

Had The Tories and other governments over the years ‘tried harder’ (this being my summary entry on their school reports) at education, instead trying exclusively to ‘fit for employment’ – and I might add – for employers – and had offered better, more aspirational, treatment for all of us – then Brexit would never have occurred.

But the political lesson remains clear – an old chestnut but worth reiterating –  whether one is of a ‘vulgar mob’ or an educated democrat – and it is that the Tories once again whichever way they jump remain hypocrites in this respect as in so, so, much else.

That dreadful and unworthy of the name; that travesty and parody, and mockery of a debate which characterised the Brexit referendum run-up and vote; on both sides, no excuses either way; would not have been palatable to an aware ‘vulgar mob’; but it was a success for the Leavers simply because it was so banal, so repetitive, like a steam-hammer, full of sprats catching mackerel; and bluntly it was fundamentally wrong because lies and it was persistently kept dumbed-down deliberately; so as for it to be sure of hooking by visceral means an uneducated and pandered to, manipulated, and largely visceral greater public.

As for theology – are we Calvinists? Are we of the persuasion of that Justified Sinner of Ettrick Shepherd fame? Are we Antinomians all?  Are we the people and wisdom will die with us?  And the rest the dross the lees among us is that seed which fell on stony ground?  Have we the gall to claim for ourselves Salvation because we have understanding and discernment and are able to discriminate; whereas that ‘vulgar mob’ which has by necessity to slot into the groove or the rut of the status quo and though looking never see, though listening never hear, because incapable of seeing, and deaf to appeals, and impervious to any of that sweetness and light of a higher calling?

Is this your average staunch hard-line Tory’s outlook? It certainly follows that it ought to be from what I have laid out here so far. (I have little doubt that such Tory people in general despise in their hearts the common ‘vulgar’; and that they cannot do otherwise. I also believe that Cameron’s jolly cavalier dismissal of his gaffs about pasties and about Aston Villa – laughing them off and laughing thereby at that ‘vulgar mob’ he’d hoped to deceive and mislead to thinking that he was a ‘good guy and one of us’; I firmly believe that here is a Tory moderate who was content to show his contempt for the common people and to do so publicly before TV cameras and shown across the nation; and yet not a ripple of trenchant comeback from the great 4th estate

Had it been Corbyn – and I am indeed no friend of Corbyn – it could have forced him out of office were he to have show similar such disdainful behaviour to the greater electorate. Brown had received his death sentence over less – and at least Brown was being genuine, true to his heart, when he called that woman a bigot; and he probably had half a case to call her such if not more.

Indeed the Establishment is able to get away scot free with so much handy dandy and legerdemain, exactly because it finds it so easy to palm-off its contempt for its vassals and to wind these ‘vulgar’ around their fingers with promises never yet made in their hearts and so broken by them before ever being publicly pledged.

And this is where we have come to; at the close of 2016.  The fruits of that policy which has maintained, whether rightly or wrongly; truly or falsely; that the ‘vulgar mob’ will always be The Children, and the wards, of The State; and as such unenligtenable – and to boot and worse – irredeemable before God – such a policy has over a generation or more brought forth bitter, bitter fruit, which we are all now beginning to taste as our daily diets and we shall be continuing to do so for a foreseeable future.

Both sides, the moderate Cameronians and the jackbooted Eton/Oxbridge Luddites, hardly masterminds any, of Brexit; each believed they were capable of ‘playing all the stops’ on the mental equipment of the ‘vulgar mob’ so as to win their case by referendum. On this basis Cameron called his referendum – a great mistake – ‘events, dear boy, events’.  Yes ‘time and chance happeneth to all’ and the wildcard ‘immigration’ was played as a final trump card – as that ‘card that is so high and wild you’ll never need another’ – by the sordid clique seeking power over Britain and all to their egoistic, self-serving selves; and thus the game was up.

‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive’

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The Nature of History

 

Once again I turn to a TV show; and again to the show ‘Digging for Britain’’ the archaeology show presented by a person named Professor Alice Roberts. Alice Roberts in her show continuously uses a phrase which for me begs many questions: the phrase is: ‘we are changing history’ or else ‘our recent digs have changed our history.’

Now for a professor to say this sort of thing; repeatedly, even on an entertainment TV show, which might not demand the levels of rigorous presentation that an academic paper might; and for Alice Roberts’ to be insistent on repeatedly using the terms; and to the exclusion of any other more elaborate form of words; it puzzles me not a little.

Would it have been pedantic for her to have said instead; ‘We are changing our understanding of history’?  Or else ‘our recent digs have altered our interpretation of history’? Or is there something more, something more ideological behind her insistence on her profession being said to be capable of ‘changing history’?

My own understanding is that history is the past; more specifically perhaps, the past for that period of time during which human beings have existed; and before this time comes the period we call pre-history. That sounds and seems straightforward enough.

This history I understand is ‘what happened’ or those ‘events’ and ‘thoughts’ and ‘words’ and ‘art’ etcetera which occurred in the past; and as such it is a fixed and immutable thing; a thing done and dusted and unable to be altered in any way.

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

This position I am speaking of is the traditional conception of history; that it is a fixed and rigid object of study for interpretation.

Of course, since time immemorial and even recently, and probably yet today and tomorrow; we see history being deliberately perverted from what we might call loosely ‘known truth’.  For instance The Hebrew Bible had its redactors very early on in man’s history; redactors who ‘customised’ a loose collection of stories and narratives about The Patriarchs and about Human and Earth Origins; so as to forge them into a more continuous narrative which carries a philosophy and a thread of didacticism.

The Soviets during the 20th Century were renowned for ‘changing history’ by perverting the facts or even altering them completely, as far as these were known and agreed on by more impartial entities, so that ‘things happened’ which did not happen and ‘things did not happen’ which did happen in their official history books and lessons.  Uncomfortable things and events were erased and more comfortable ones inserted.  Lenin in particular was a secular Father of Lies; brother to Beelzebub.

I wrote very recently about the First World War and about the political ideological battles which are still being fought here in Britain to reclaim that horror for party and for factional propaganda purposes – Yet another struggle to master the people by way of overmastering history’s popular narratives.

And so at worst historical interpretation has been and continues to be abused for ulterior and expedient purposes by those factions whose axes to grind are whetted and sharpened on propagandas.

Apart from this deliberate bending of our attempts at rendering historical truth, there are historians who simply err. The honourable and eminent historian Hugh Trevor Roper; an expert on Nazi Germany; whose small book ‘The Last Days of Hitler’ is a remarkable read; was himself led on by a clever but disgraceful forgery of what were known at the time as The Hitler Diaries. His hard-won reputation was shredded to tatters by his mistaken public backing for what transpired to be an utter fabrication and forgery.  Unfortunate; but the press and media are unforgiving in these cases and take a marvellous delight in destroying people for public consumption.

Yet apart from errors and blunders, and perversions for axe grindings; there has always been thought to be since Thucydides wrote on The Peloponnesian War and onwards; a body of men and women whose aims and motives for writing history books etc were true and unsullied by party or faction.  Of course, none of them have written exactly ‘true’ history; and all had their pet hates and their favourites and flavours of the month to cherish in their interpretations of the history they chose to interpret.  But yet within a given and an acceptable at the time spectrum of consideration; their historical works were not filled with views which were ‘beyond the pale’.

And so by its very nature the study of history is not an exact science; in universities it is generally taught as an art under a faculty know as The Humanities; thus its element of subjectivity is borne witness to by is classification within colleges. So what is this phraseology ‘changing history’ and ‘recent archaeology having power to change history’; what might it signify and why is it used so insistently and exclusively to all other attempts to speak more accurately about the nature of historical research?   I cannot help but think it is deliberate in Professor Alice Roberts that she always uses such forms of words on TV.

Of course there is a simple ‘vanity’ interpretation for her motives; that she is aiming to ‘simplify’ for a ‘popular audience;’ and thereby simultaneously she is able to claim a great deal of ’kudos’ and ‘power’ for her profession; which she claims is capable of ‘changing history’ itself. This motivation would be human but not one of great academic rigor. Let it be said here that Alice Roberts is one of the new academics whose careers are as much about show business as they are study and research; that she has a TV following and a reputation to nurture and so there is greater pressure upon her and her colleagues of her ilk to play the part in which she is cast – as celebrity. Thus to ‘pep up’ things a little with some ‘economising on truth’ is maybe permissible for her when she lets down her hair in her TV magazine shows?  Others of her kind do it.  Led by an inveigling vanity.

Or is it more serious than this; if this were not serious enough?  Is it a planned approach; for after all she never uses any other forms of words to state the nature of historical narrative?  Is it yet another attempt by the post modern academics to whom she allies herself, to force a sharp break from the past, from the dusty Victorian ‘liberal’ historians whose insistence was on a fixed immutable history upon which their minds played to interpret what might have gone on to their best ability and persuasion?  Is it part of a concerted campaign being waged nowadays to try to force and foist cherished philosophical agendas on a receptive public; thus it is a grab for power and influence and for claiming MY version of the world to be true above all?

Possibly; and indeed I do not dismiss the likelihood, having seen many programmes labelled as history on TV being in fact a torrent of private agendas and sometimes of pathological hang-ups.

What might such a philosophical agenda be that claims for itself that human beings are capable of actually ‘creating history’ creating the real thing, the events and the contemporary ideas and words which indubitably went on in former ages; by means of digging up old relics or by study and research of documents and records?  It seems to deny philosophically the possibility of there being such a thing as an objective human past as a basis for present day human researchers to study and interpret.

Put crudely, and at its most ludicrous extremity, it begs the question whether an event such as The Battle of Marathon was actually fought; whether Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo; whether Louis XIV was an Absolutist ruler, and so on; ideas and conclusions almost universally accepted and uncontroversial in the world of historians.

If it were for these kinds of aim that the utter and absolute subjectivity of history, in its very deeds and words which actually happened, which is the philosophical position being maintained by Alice Roberts and her ilk, it may be that the position is being maintained etc so that she and her ilk are thus enabled to call into question a greater field of what has traditionally been settled as uncontroversial history?

This itself might seem innocuous; say whether Nelson said ‘Kismet’ or ‘kiss me’ to Hardy; or else whether it’s just a story accrued around a prominent man etc; but yet its logical extension allows and justifies historians to alter the fixed and actual story of history as it were legitimately – by creating history anew out of nothing – not creating its interpretation but the deeds and words of actual history – wholly anew, thus the moving finger is now enabled lawfully to ‘cancel half a line’ and to ‘wash out a word’.  The key word here is ‘legitimately’ or ‘lawfully’, were such a philosophical position on history to be adopted as being the new status quo –  Carte blanche for historians to fictionalise objective history totally.

I do not believe Alice Roberts and her colleagues use the forms of words they use out of slackness and imprecision.  I do believe they are attempting to change the agendas of the persons who view their shows.  I do not believe they are familiar with philosophy and I believe they have not thought through the folly of the campaign they are waging.

I believe they are slick smart but enamoured of vanity persons who see their day has come; and that the joys and the visceral satisfactions in wielding power; together with a naïve belief in the ubiquity of the range and consequence of their specialist subjects, and in those subjects’ outcomes for the present age; are all far beyond and far removed from objective actuality and from sober reflection. (Possibly these new academics do not even recognise such an objective actuality? If so, what bedrock then do they base their own conclusions upon?)  Like so many today; even, maybe especially, in academic life, who have liberated themselves by throwing away the heritage of the past ideologically-speaking, trashing those hard won foundations on which we attempt as humans to establish our structures approximating to truth; Alice Roberts and her like are in these things profoundly ignorant and benighted.

Her phraseology; her philosophy; gives succour to the Holocaust Deniers; to the Suicide Bombers; to the Post-Truth Politics of our times; even though I doubt she sees this is so. Nor do I accuse her and her ilk of such things herself but only of being silly to an extent that they really ought to read up some Bible and so grab some ballast, true ballast for their lives.  The Bible being perhaps the most conspicuous one single item not in their tote bags; it having been ‘sidelined’ and ‘slighted’ as being a ‘light thing’ by that new-in-the-making history that actually changes actual world events, as if these new academics themselves were God, and busy creating.

 

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Some Christmas Aphorisms

Genius/Madness?

Nietzsche’s said:
Stormed; ‘God is dead!’
(Went off his head)

Mammon vs God

The Christ Adversary
Is the nursery
That raised cupidity

Ambition vs Temperance

Rich men’s brains
Chock-full of gains
Allow no reins

Commerce

Walking the malls
Consumes enthrals
Blockheads and fools

Freedom under Law

Head-swollen elites
Swaggering their feats
Oppress; increase

Starbucks

The ardent achievers
Are passionate reivers
At rendering Caesar’s

Smartarses

Hume mocked faith
Through his carafe
Though quite naïve

USA

Crazy Top Trumps
Working the pumps
Lest the ship bumps

Brexit

Sold down the Thames
By Boris and friends
And their sty-pens

Xenophobics

A noble Ms. Merkle
Is suited in purple
There vultures circle

Complacency

Comfort is blind
And ease closes minds
Nor evil divines

Regeneration

To riches is loss
Sometimes a resource
A kind sort of cross

Candy-crunch

Here
Are the children the sweetshop owners cheated
Crunch, go their brittle candies, crack!
On teeth, dividing into splinters: ching!
Let the money changers hands serve out
Their clever weighing skills

Inimitably working, amiably, conjuring coins:
Fair washday words, dumb-show in slight gambols
Which elevate the dance of twisted knowing
Incontinent of step, a turn possessed, they crow
Throwing up croooked shadow shapes flickering the walls;
Content to advise
With face of pouting promise
King-size conceits, all shown in mirrors

Gob-stoppers clog like rocks
Heart’s troubled mouths, lassoed by tickled taste
Placed hints
And flavours of bad breath; these cheesy Willy Wonka guys
All offer us their Golden Ticket scam,
Last chance- or lotto’s lost to everybody
We hit head-on and crash the instant buffers
Get smashed by that delight in high despite
Now paled, occluded, yet
Was there all the time

This orgy feast is realism realised, hardened, browned;
What’s lost is gone on fancied hankerings
Wheels within wheels turn spilling out of air
Some several sets of raunchy Russian Dolls; whose figurines
Obscure the steady spoils a little closer home;
That sacred round
Of mom’s best all-American apple-pie (cooked, ready-sliced,
Carved-up; and hanged be truth) much mardi-gras
Make-merry: Alack! Ohone!
And into the lowest circle are we now to go

 

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