Ed Brayton has a post up, talking about a post by Jon Rowe about the Founders and the use of reason. I love this quote from Thomas Jefferson:
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact,
every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God;
because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason,
than that of blindfolded fear.
It's National Poetry Month. I'm certainly not a poet myself, and I have trouble reading most poetry — it seems to work better for me if it is set to music, which leaves out a lot of free and unstructured verse. Never the less, I do enjoy some, including Rudyard Kipling.
I posted the following poem two years ago, and the conflux of National Poetry Month, the "war" in Iraq and someone quoting Kipling elsewhere has prompted me to repost it.
"This is the State above the Law.
The State exists for the State alone."
[This is a gland at the back of the jaw,
And an answering lump by the collar-bone.]
Some die shouting in gas or fire;
Some die silent, by shell and shot.
Some die desperate, caught on the wire;
Some die suddenly. This will not.
"Regis suprema voluntas Lex"
[It will follow the regular course of — throats.]
Some die pinned by the broken decks.
Some die sobbing between the boats.
Some die eloquent, pressed to death
By the sliding trench, as their friends can hear.
Some die wholly in half a breath.
Some — give trouble for half a year.
"There is neither Evil nor Good in life
Except as the needs of the State ordain."
[Since it is rather too late for the knife,
All we can do is to mask the pain.]
Some die saintly in faith and hope —
One died thus in a prison-yard —
Some die broken by rape or the rope;
Some die easily. This dies hard.
"I will dash to pieces who bar my way.
Woe to the traitor! Woe to the weak!"
[Let him write what he wishes to say.
It tires him out if he tries to speak.]
Some die quietly. Some abound
In loud self-pity. Others spread
Bad morale through the cots around …
This is a type that is better dead.
"The war was forced on me by my foes
All that I sought was the right to live."
[Don't be afraid of a triple dose;
The pain will neutralize half we give,
Here are the needles. See that he dies
While the effects of the drug endure …
What is the question he asks with his eyes? —
Yes, All-Highest, to God, be sure.]
Kipling can be a very difficult subject. He is, after all, the voice of an imperialist, oppressive and exploitive age and his language and subject matter can be very offensive. On the other hand, especially in his later years, he became more and more disillusioned with the status quo. That's reflected in the occasionally more sympathetic treatment of native peoples (The Mother-Lodge reads as a strong statement for equality) and more and more outright criticism of the treatment of the common soldier.
The poem above caught my eye because of the counterpoint between the arrogance of power and the pain of the tool of that power. Can you not hear the lines in quotes coming from the mouths of our current leaders? The Widow at Windsor is apropos as well, especially if you replace it with The Puppet on the Potomac.
There is much of Kipling that is irrelevant and even wrong for today; there is much, though, that is relevant and to the point.
There's a push by religious conservatives to place the Bible as the supreme law of the land, superceding the US Constitution. This push runs from the mild and faintly ridiculous martyr pose that there is some sort of organized anti-Christian effort, all the way to the full nuttery of having a religious test for office, especially judgeships.
This push brings us things like the anti-abortion laws recently passed in South Dakota and the flurry of anti-evolution activity on school boards across the country.
Of course, this is all completely counter to the principles on which the United States was founded, but that little issue doesn't seem to stop the idiots.
Thanks to an American University law professor, Jamie Raskin, we have the perfect response to politicians who want to put the Bible ahead of the Constitution:
Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the
Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You didn't place your hand
on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.
Just remembered that the old gladiator called out of retirement to capture Arnie in "The Running Man" is, in fact, the governor of my state now.Just remembered that the old gladiator called out of retirement to capture Arnie in "The Running Man" is, in fact, the governor of my state now. So keep your eye on the Chamber’s host; he’ll probably be Lord Protector of the Western Lands after society finally collapses.
Of course the "gladiator" he mentions is Jesse Ventura and Arnie is... now the governor of my state. On the whole, I'd rather have Jesse -- wrestling may be fake, but it's an honest fake. Arnie reminds me of the last actor we had as a governor. Someone who also sent out of his way to damage education.
Calvin: "People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist's statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance."
Hobbes: "You misspelled 'weltanschauung'."
Calvin: "A good artist's statement says more than his art ever does."
When it comes to controlling human beings there is no better instrument than lies. Because, you see, humans live by beliefs. And beliefs can be manipulated. The power to manipulate beliefs is the only thing that counts.