Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday Night is Shakespeare Night.

Only, since the group's read through all the plays, they were reading other things last night. Chuck read from The Hobbit and a text he had on the magic associated with metallurgy in West African societies*. Pavel read from Judges, Lovecraft and Mark Twain. I read from the opening paragraphs from my current Hofstadter essay on the Spoilsmen:

"When Collis P. Huntington wrote to a political agent concerning some of his bribery for the Southern Pacific:

If you have to pay money to have the right thing done, it is only just and fair to do it...If a man has the power to do great evil and won't do right unless he is bribed to do it, I think the time spent will be gained when it is a man's duty to go up and bribe the judge. A man that will cry out against them himself will also do these things himself. If there was none for it, I would not hesitate--

he was not being a sanctimonious hypocrite; he was merely expressing his passionate American conviction that he had every honest right to come into his own, and it is doubtful that many tycoons of his time would have difered in principle. To imagine that such men did not sleep the sleep of the just would be romantic sentimentalism. In the Gilded Age even the angels sang for them..."**

Chuck almost fell out of his chair laughing. How little things have changed over time! The only difference between then and now, however, is the lack of a populist sort of movement. I mean: the Democrats aren't for The People, as aren't the Republicans. The Populist Party is long gone. Unions? Bah. Unions are only in the business of self-perpetuation nowadays, workers be d@mned. I can't see the Libertarian 'movin' on up' from its ghetto - especially not with their last presidential pick, either.

What other options are we not thinking of (reform for any of the above movements aside? Don't see much of that in the horizon.) here?


* Chuck's a blacksmith with a serious background in art history. He's my lifeline for all things academic in that realm. The reading on African metallurgy was in response to a rather weird comment I got on one of my shorter papers for Western Civilization. I'd analyzed an excerpt of a letter from Pope Gregory to one of his missionaries in the Anglo Saxon territories regarding his very pragmatic change of heart about the destruction of pagan temples. At the end, I'd put a footnote in about interesting pockets of celtic culture that exist today, such as the burning of John Barleycorn in the UK, la 'parade des geants' in Germanic northern France, and mumming in the Baltics. The response was, "but where does it stop (or should it)? Is killing chickens ritually by African Christians OK because that is what they did before conversion?"

**The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It. Richard Hofstadter; pp. 214-215. For what it's worth, I cannot recommend this book enough. In fact: if you'd like a copy, I have an extra. Will send it to you. Seriously.

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