June 25, 2001
Share this story by E-mail
Please Be Patient
"Love is the key we must turn|
Truth is the flame we must burn
Freedom the lesson we must learn
Do you know what I mean?
Have your eyes really seen?"
--love song by Lesley Duncan
(performed by Elton John)
Last year I wrote and passed by the deft eyes of Swans scanners some commentary flowing from the works of historian John Lukacs [ed. - See mgc035, mgc036 and mgc038]. Intrepid Swans scanners may remember his warning or prediction that the end of the twentieth century may mark a return to barbarity as a norm of the human condition.
Here in the early twenty-first century, Lukacs appears to be prescient (viz. The Balkans et al.).
In his Outgrowing Democracy, A History of the United States in the Twentieth Century [ISBN 0-385-17538-8, Doubleday, New York, 1984], Lukacs also establishes the premises now realized in the court-anointed bureaucratic monarchy of Bush II. As Macaulay, a prominent English historian (1800-1859) said, "Your constitution is all sail and no anchor."
Edmund Burke, (1729-1797, a contemporary of Adam Smith) another Englishman much quoted and little read, according to Lukacs, ". . .was not merely a defender of tradition; he recognized and expressed the inevitability of the historical dimension of human nature, something that not many Americans were willing to accept." [Outgrowing Democracy, p. 329]
I believe I am relatively safe in naming a bias of Swans (and mine) as "Liberalism," which has to do with assuming, as Lukacs notes, ". . .that society is perfectible, that there was not such thing as original sin, that it was within the power of man (and especially of the New Man) to transform the world: a vision which, for all of its then merits and with its optimistic progressivism was essentially anti-historical , or at least a-historical." [Outgrowing Democracy, p. 328-9]
Liberal comes from the Latin root, "liber," which has to do with being free, freedom. I'll look into this contrast later.
In 1783, Lukacs (p. 370) also notes that the Free or Fighting Quakers of Philadelphia, those who renounced pacifism and fought in the Continental Army, built a new meetinghouse on which was embedded a tablet marking the year 1783 as "year of the Empire 8." "Why Empire?" they were asked. Because "we are destined to become the greatest empire in the world." Prescient?
In 1984, deep sighs of relief were breathed among those frightened by Orwellian visions apparently unmaterialized. In his novel Nineteen Eighty Four, Orwell may be judged off target in his choice of descriptions and methodologies assuming, as he did, that the devil lay in Soviet distortions of Marxist-Leninist visions. He was much closer to an historical perspective in Animal Farm (subtitled "A Fairy Story"), that slim novel, first published in 1946, revealed with time to be an uncannily accurate assessment of humankind's proclivities.
Animal Farm, you may recall, tells the story of Mr. Jones' Farm on which the animals revolted against his tyrannies and established a regime within which Commandment Seven proclaimed "All Animals are Equal." The pigs of Animal Farm (from which "we" learned to name authorities in the 60s) eventually took over control, humanized themselves, and recast Commandment Seven into the only Commandment: "All Animals are Equal, but Some Animals are More Equal than Others." The pigs renamed Animal Farm to Manor Farm. Thus U.S. history may be seen as a progression from non-democracy through pseudo-republic to the bureaucratic administrative state with titular monarch in president's clothing. The Empire redux. The Emperor. . .?
In short, Orwell, by a fairy tale was describing an actuality of human history. Each revolution, overthrow of authority, change of management merely establishes another form of autocracy, different characters doing the same. Deja vu all over again and again.
Chaucer (1340-1400), in The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, takes a Rashomon kind of view (see the Japanese novel by that name) on his times through the personae of several characters, archetypes of those times and consistent throughout history as he perceived it: a knight, a squire, a nun, a monk, a friar, . . . "Wif of Bathe," a parson, a miller and Chaucer. All of whom are afflicted with some version of original sin carried forth. All of whom perceive differently and thoroughly believe their perceptions to be accurate and truthful, their behaviors appropriate and so on and so forth.
John Milton (1608-1674), in his later works, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, again reflects the persistence of human behaviors, illustrated by the expulsion from Eden of Adam and Eve and the redemption gained through the sacrifices of Christ Jesus. Joseph Lanzara has recast Paradise Lost into a novel form more compatible with contemporary perceptions (ISBN 0-9639621-4-0, New Arts Library, New York, 1994).
The jacket blurb: "War in Heaven!. . . In that place of blissful peace, before the world's creation, an army of rebel angels challenges the very throne of God. In an epic battle they are defeated, and heaven casts them out, sending one-third of her population to the uttermost pit of hell. Undaunted and bent on revenge, their leader, Satan, emerges from the burning lake and embarks on an odyssey through vast chaos. He alights on newly created earth, where an apple becomes his instrument to induce the downfall of humanity."
Parrying possible boredom with all this old stuff, after all, actuality may be that god and devil are none other than aspects of perception given the perceiver, dear Swans scanners let me pull this commentary a bit together by alluding further only to those essential stories shared by monotheists in Koran, Old Testament and various Hebrew scriptures and taken secular by The Iliad, as only one example. Horrid tales of barbarity, gross annihilations of other and difference, villains and evildoers abounding and so on and so forth.
Is this a time for Petrach's essentially "liberal" conclusion to Machiavelli's The Prince?
Virtu contro a furore
Aprendera l'arme, e fia el combatter corto;
Che l'antico alore
Nell'italici cor non e ancor morto.
You will find this quotation in English at the conclusion of most English translations of The Prince.
Which is all but prologue: As the country western wailing proclaims, "You never know whose lips you'll soon be kissing 'cuz it all depends on who will buy the wine!"
Ready for "anti-historical" and "a-historical?"
* [Ed. For the readers who haven't passed the test here is the English translation: "Virtue against fury shall advance the fight, And it i' th' combat soon shall put to flight; For the old Roman, valour is not dead, Nor in th' Italians' breasts extinguished."]
Please Be Patient III
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, had it all: Harvard MBA, big house, three-car garage, top management... Yet, once he had seemingly achieved the famed American dream he felt something was missing somewhere. As any good executive he decided to investigate. Since then, he has become a curmudgeon and, after living in Berkeley, California, where he was growing bamboos, making water gardens, listening to muses, writing, cogitating and pondering, he has moved on to the Big Island in Hawaii where he creates thought forms about sunshine. Milo can be reached at Swans.
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Milo G. Clark 2001. All rights reserved.
This Week's Internal Links
The Balkans That's Us! - by Stevan Konstantinović
Note From the Translator (on The Balkans That's Us!) - by Alma A. Hromic
The Democratic Dilemma - by Stephen Gowans
Racism - by Aleksandra Priestfield
Let The Old Men Fight - by Deck Deckert
Please Be Patient - by Milo Clark
Robot Minds - A Poem by Sandy Lulay
Some of Milo Clark's Commentaries on Swans
Events - 05/28/01
Perspective and Perspectives - 05/14/01
Project Re-Think Thinking: Serendipity and Sparks of Genius - 04/30/01
Croatan - 04/2/01
Barbaric Silence - 03/5/01
The Resource Base - 02/5/01
Addendum to ...Dream - 01/8/01
...Dream - 01/8/01