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 Topic: Thought provoking works of life and morality.

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  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #60 - April 28, 2015, 10:07 PM

    Book 2

    Chapter 1 - Exercising virtue

    VIRTUE, then, being of two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual virtue in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching (for which reason it requires experience and time), while moral virtue comes about as a result of habit, whence also its name (ethike) is one that is formed by a slight variation from the word ethos (habit). From this it is also plain that none of the moral virtues arises in us by nature; for nothing that exists by nature can form a habit contrary to its nature. For instance the stone which by nature moves downwards cannot be habituated to move upwards, not even if one tries to train it by throwing it up ten thousand times; nor can fire be habituated to move downwards, nor can anything else that by nature behaves in one way be trained to behave in another. Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit.

    Again, of all the things that come to us by nature we first acquire the potentiality and later exhibit the activity (this is plain in the case of the senses; for it was not by often seeing or often hearing that we got these senses, but on the contrary we had them before we used them, and did not come to have them by using them); but the virtues we get by first exercising them, as also happens in the case of the arts as well. For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyreplayers by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.

    This is confirmed by what happens in states; for legislators make the citizens good by forming habits in them, and this is the wish of every legislator, and those who do not effect it miss their mark, and it is in this that a good constitution differs from a bad one.

    Again, it is from the same causes and by the same means that every virtue is both produced and destroyed, and similarly every art; for it is from playing the lyre that both good and bad lyre-players are produced. And the corresponding statement is true of builders and of all the rest; men will be good or bad builders as a result of building well or badly. For if this were not so, there would have been no need of a teacher, but all men would have been born good or bad at their craft. This, then, is the case with the virtues also; by doing the acts that we do in our transactions with other men we become just or unjust, and by doing the acts that we do in the presence of danger, and being habituated to feel fear or confidence, we become brave or cowardly. The same is true of appetites and feelings of anger; some men become temperate and good-tempered, others self-indulgent and irascible, by behaving in one way or the other in the appropriate circumstances. Thus, in one word, states of character arise out of like activities. This is why the activities we exhibit must be of a certain kind; it is because the states of character correspond to the differences between these. It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth; it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.

    Chapter 2 - Nature of right action

    Since, then, the present inquiry does not aim at theoretical knowledge like the others (for we are inquiring not in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good, since otherwise our inquiry would have been of no use), we must examine the nature of actions, namely how we ought to do them; for these determine also the nature of the states of character that are produced, as we have said. Now, that we must act according to the right rule is a common principle and must be assumed -- it will be discussed later, i.e. both what the right rule is, and how it is related to the other virtues. But this must be agreed upon beforehand, that the whole account of matters of conduct must be given in outline and not precisely, as we said at the very beginning that the accounts we demand must be in accordance with the subject-matter; matters concerned with conduct and questions of what is good for us have no fixity, any more than matters of health. The general account being of this nature, the account of particular cases is yet more lacking in exactness; for they do not fall under any art or precept but the agents themselves must in each case consider what is appropriate to the occasion, as happens also in the art of medicine or of navigation.

    But though our present account is of this nature we must give what help we can. First, then, let us consider this, that it is the nature of such things to be destroyed by defect and excess, as we see in the case of strength and of health (for to gain light on things imperceptible we must use the evidence of sensible things); both excessive and defective exercise destroys the strength, and similarly drink or food which is above or below a certain amount destroys the health, while that which is proportionate both produces and increases and preserves it. So too is it, then, in the case of temperance and courage and the other virtues. For the man who flies from and fears everything and does not stand his ground against anything becomes a coward, and the man who fears nothing at all but goes to meet every danger becomes rash; and similarly the man who indulges in every pleasure and abstains from none becomes self-indulgent, while the man who shuns every pleasure, as boors do, becomes in a way insensible; temperance and courage, then, are destroyed by excess and defect, and preserved by the mean.

    But not only are the sources and causes of their origination and growth the same as those of their destruction, but also the sphere of their actualization will be the same; for this is also true of the things which are more evident to sense, e.g. of strength; it is produced by taking much food and undergoing much exertion, and it is the strong man that will be most able to do these things. So too is it with the virtues; by abstaining from pleasures we become temperate, and it is when we have become so that we are most able to abstain from them; and similarly too in the case of courage; for by being habituated to despise things that are terrible and to stand our ground against them we become brave, and it is when we have become so that we shall be most able to stand our ground against them.

    Chapter 3 - Pleasure and pain

    We must take as a sign of states of character the pleasure or pain that ensues on acts; for the man who abstains from bodily pleasures and delights in this very fact is temperate, while the man who is annoyed at it is self-indulgent, and he who stands his ground against things that are terrible and delights in this or at least is not pained is brave, while the man who is pained is a coward. For moral excellence is concerned with pleasures and pains; it is on account of the pleasure that we do bad things, and on account of the pain that we abstain from noble ones. Hence we ought to have been brought up in a particular way from our very youth, as Plato says, so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; for this is the right education.

    Again, if the virtues are concerned with actions and passions, and every passion and every action is accompanied by pleasure and pain, for this reason also virtue will be concerned with pleasures and pains. This is indicated also by the fact that punishment is inflicted by these means; for it is a kind of cure, and it is the nature of cures to be effected by contraries.

    Again, as we said but lately, every state of soul has a nature relative to and concerned with the kind of things by which it tends to be made worse or better; but it is by reason of pleasures and pains that men become bad, by pursuing and avoiding these -- either the pleasures and pains they ought not or when they ought not or as they ought not, or by going wrong in one of the other similar ways that may be distinguished. Hence men even define the virtues as certain states of impassivity and rest; not well, however, because they speak absolutely, and do not say 'as one ought' and 'as one ought not' and 'when one ought or ought not', and the other things that may be added. We assume, then, that this kind of excellence tends to do what is best with regard to pleasures and pains, and vice does the contrary.

    The following facts also may show us that virtue and vice are concerned with these same things. There being three objects of choice and three of avoidance, the noble, the advantageous, the pleasant, and their contraries, the base, the injurious, the painful, about all of these the good man tends to go right and the bad man to go wrong, and especially about pleasure; for this is common to the animals, and also it accompanies all objects of choice; for even the noble and the advantageous appear pleasant.

    Again, it has grown up with us all from our infancy; this is why it is difficult to rub off this passion, engrained as it is in our life. And we measure even our actions, some of us more and others less, by the rule of pleasure and pain. For this reason, then, our whole inquiry must be about these; for to feel delight and pain rightly or wrongly has no small effect on our actions.

    Again, it is harder to fight with pleasure than with anger, to use Heraclitus' phrase', but both art and virtue are always concerned with what is harder; for even the good is better when it is harder. Therefore for this reason also the whole concern both of virtue and of political science is with pleasures and pains; for the man who uses these well will be good, he who uses them badly bad.

    That virtue, then, is concerned with pleasures and pains, and that by the acts from which it arises it is both increased and, if they are done differently, destroyed, and that the acts from which it arose are those in which it actualizes itself -- let this be taken as said.

    Chapter 4 - How virtuous acts must be done

    The question might be asked, what we mean by saying that we must become just by doing just acts, and temperate by doing temperate acts; for if men do just and temperate acts, they are already just and temperate, exactly as, if they do what is in accordance with the laws of grammar and of music, they are grammarians and musicians.

    Or is this not true even of the arts? It is possible to do something that is in accordance with the laws of grammar, either by chance or at the suggestion of another. A man will be a grammarian, then, only when he has both done something grammatical and done it grammatically; and this means doing it in accordance with the grammatical knowledge in himself.

    Again, the case of the arts and that of the virtues are not similar; for the products of the arts have their goodness in themselves, so that it is enough that they should have a certain character, but if the acts that are in accordance with the virtues have themselves a certain character it does not follow that they are done justly or temperately. The agent also must be in a certain condition when he does them; in the first place he must have knowledge, secondly he must choose the acts, and choose them for their own sakes, and thirdly his action must proceed from a firm and unchangeable character. These are not reckoned in as conditions of the possession of the arts, except the bare knowledge; but as a condition of the possession of the virtues knowledge has little or no weight, while the other conditions count not for a little but for everything, i.e. the very conditions which result from often doing just and temperate acts.

    Actions, then, are called just and temperate when they are such as the just or the temperate man would do; but it is not the man who does these that is just and temperate, but the man who also does them as just and temperate men do them. It is well said, then, that it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would have even a prospect of becoming good.

    But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do. As the latter will not be made well in body by such a course of treatment, the former will not be made well in soul by such a course of philosophy.

    Chapter 5 - Virtues are states of character

    Next we must consider what virtue is. Since things that are found in the soul are of three kinds -- passions, faculties, states of character -- virtue must be one of these. By passions I mean appetite, anger, fear, confidence, envy, joy, friendly feeling, hatred, longing, emulation, pity, and in general the feelings that are accompanied by pleasure or pain; by faculties the things in virtue of which we are said to be capable of feeling these, e.g. of becoming angry or being pained or feeling pity; by states of character the things in virtue of which we stand well or badly with reference to the passions, e.g. with reference to anger we stand badly if we feel it violently or too weakly, and well if we feel it moderately; and similarly with reference to the other passions.

    Now neither the virtues nor the vices are passions, because we are not called good or bad on the ground of our passions, but are so called on the ground of our virtues and our vices, and because we are neither praised nor blamed for our passions (for the man who feels fear or anger is not praised, nor is the man who simply feels anger blamed, but the man who feels it in a certain way), but for our virtues and our vices we are praised or blamed.

    Again, we feel anger and fear without choice, but the virtues are modes of choice or involve choice. Further, in respect of the passions we are said to be moved, but in respect of the virtues and the vices we are said not to be moved but to be disposed in a particular way.

    For these reasons also they are not faculties; for we are neither called good nor bad, nor praised nor blamed, for the simple capacity of feeling the passions; again, we have the faculties by nature, but we are not made good or bad by nature; we have spoken of this before. If, then, the virtues are neither passions nor faculties, all that remains is that they should be states of character.

    Thus we have stated what virtue is in respect of its genus.

    Chapter 6 - Virtue concerned with mean action

    We must, however, not only describe virtue as a state of character, but also say what sort of state it is. We may remark, then, that every virtue or excellence both brings into good condition the thing of which it is the excellence and makes the work of that thing be done well; e.g. the excellence of the eye makes both the eye and its work good; for it is by the excellence of the eye that we see well. Similarly the excellence of the horse makes a horse both good in itself and good at running and at carrying its rider and at awaiting the attack of the enemy. Therefore, if this is true in every case, the virtue of man also will be the state of character which makes a man good and which makes him do his own work well.

    How this is to happen we have stated already, but it will be made plain also by the following consideration of the specific nature of virtue. In everything that is continuous and divisible it is possible to take more, less, or an equal amount, and that either in terms of the thing itself or relatively to us; and the equal is an intermediate between excess and defect. By the intermediate in the object I mean that which is equidistant from each of the extremes, which is one and the same for all men; by the intermediate relatively to us that which is neither too much nor too little -- and this is not one, nor the same for all. For instance, if ten is many and two is few, six is the intermediate, taken in terms of the object; for it exceeds and is exceeded by an equal amount; this is intermediate according to arithmetical proportion. But the intermediate relatively to us is not to be taken so; if ten pounds are too much for a particular person to eat and two too little, it does not follow that the trainer will order six pounds; for this also is perhaps too much for the person who is to take it, or too little -- too little for Milo, too much for the beginner in athletic exercises. The same is true of running and wrestling. Thus a master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the intermediate and chooses this -- the intermediate not in the object but relatively to us.

    If it is thus, then, that every art does its work well -- by looking to the intermediate and judgling its works by this standard (so that we often say of good works of art that it is not possible either to take away or to add anything, implying that excess and defect destroy the goodness of works of art, while the mean preserves it; and good artists, as we say, look to this in their work), and if, further, virtue is more exact and better than any art, as nature also is, then virtue must have the quality of aiming at the intermediate. I mean moral virtue; for it is this that is concerned with passions and actions, and in these there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. For instance, both fear and confidence and appetite and anger and pity and in general pleasure and pain may be felt both too much and too little, and in both cases not well; but to feel them at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way, is what is both intermediate and best, and this is characteristic of virtue. Similarly with regard to actions also there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. Now virtue is concerned with passions and actions, in which excess is a form of failure, and so is defect, while the intermediate is praised and is a form of success; and being praised and being successful are both characteristics of virtue. Therefore virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen, it aims at what is intermediate.

    Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult -- to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue;

    For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.

    Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect; and again it is a mean because the vices respectively fall short of or exceed what is right in both passions and actions, while virtue both finds and chooses that which is intermediate. Hence in respect of its substance and the definition which states its essence virtue is a mean, with regard to what is best and right an extreme.

    But not every action nor every passion admits of a mean; for some have names that already imply badness, e.g. spite, shamelessness, envy, and in the case of actions adultery, theft, murder; for all of these and suchlike things imply by their names that they are themselves bad, and not the excesses or deficiencies of them. It is not possible, then, ever to be right with regard to them; one must always be wrong. Nor does goodness or badness with regard to such things depend on committing adultery with the right woman, at the right time, and in the right way, but simply to do any of them is to go wrong. It would be equally absurd, then, to expect that in unjust, cowardly, and voluptuous action there should be a mean, an excess, and a deficiency; for at that rate there would be a mean of excess and of deficiency, an excess of excess, and a deficiency of deficiency. But as there is no excess and deficiency of temperance and courage because what is intermediate is in a sense an extreme, so too of the actions we have mentioned there is no mean nor any excess and deficiency, but however they are done they are wrong; for in general there is neither a mean of excess and deficiency, nor excess and deficiency of a mean.

    Chapter 7 - Particulars of mean action

    We must, however, not only make this general statement, but also apply it to the individual facts. For among statements about conduct those which are general apply more widely, but those which are particular are more genuine, since conduct has to do with individual cases, and our statements must harmonize with the facts in these cases. We may take these cases from our table. With regard to feelings of fear and confidence courage is the mean; of the people who exceed, he who exceeds in fearlessness has no name (many of the states have no name), while the man who exceeds in confidence is rash, and he who exceeds in fear and falls short in confidence is a coward. With regard to pleasures and pains -- not all of them, and not so much with regard to the pains -- the mean is temperance, the excess self-indulgence. Persons deficient with regard to the pleasures are not often found; hence such persons also have received no name. But let us call them 'insensible'.

    With regard to giving and taking of money the mean is liberality, the excess and the defect prodigality and meanness. In these actions people exceed and fall short in contrary ways; the prodigal exceeds in spending and falls short in taking, while the mean man exceeds in taking and falls short in spending. (At present we are giving a mere outline or summary, and are satisfied with this; later these states will be more exactly determined.) With regard to money there are also other dispositions -- a mean, magnificence (for the magnificent man differs from the liberal man; the former deals with large sums, the latter with small ones), an excess, tastelessness and vulgarity, and a deficiency, niggardliness; these differ from the states opposed to liberality, and the mode of their difference will be stated later. With regard to honour and dishonour the mean is proper pride, the excess is known as a sort of 'empty vanity', and the deficiency is undue humility; and as we said liberality was related to magnificence, differing from it by dealing with small sums, so there is a state similarly related to proper pride, being concerned with small honours while that is concerned with great. For it is possible to desire honour as one ought, and more than one ought, and less, and the man who exceeds in his desires is called ambitious, the man who falls short unambitious, while the intermediate person has no name. The dispositions also are nameless, except that that of the ambitious man is called ambition. Hence the people who are at the extremes lay claim to the middle place; and we ourselves sometimes call the intermediate person ambitious and sometimes unambitious, and sometimes praise the ambitious man and sometimes the unambitious. The reason of our doing this will be stated in what follows; but now let us speak of the remaining states according to the method which has been indicated.

    With regard to anger also there is an excess, a deficiency, and a mean. Although they can scarcely be said to have names, yet since we call the intermediate person good-tempered let us call the mean good temper; of the persons at the extremes let the one who exceeds be called irascible, and his vice irascibility, and the man who falls short an inirascible sort of person, and the deficiency inirascibility.

    There are also three other means, which have a certain likeness to one another, but differ from one another: for they are all concerned with intercourse in words and actions, but differ in that one is concerned with truth in this sphere, the other two with pleasantness; and of this one kind is exhibited in giving amusement, the other in all the circumstances of life. We must therefore speak of these too, that we may the better see that in all things the mean is praise-worthy, and the extremes neither praiseworthy nor right, but worthy of blame. Now most of these states also have no names, but we must try, as in the other cases, to invent names ourselves so that we may be clear and easy to follow. With regard to truth, then, the intermediate is a truthful sort of person and the mean may be called truthfulness, while the pretence which exaggerates is boastfulness and the person characterized by it a boaster, and that which understates is mock modesty and the person characterized by it mock-modest. With regard to pleasantness in the giving of amusement the intermediate person is ready-witted and the disposition ready wit, the excess is buffoonery and the person characterized by it a buffoon, while the man who falls short is a sort of boor and his state is boorishness. With regard to the remaining kind of pleasantness, that which is exhibited in life in general, the man who is pleasant in the right way is friendly and the mean is friendliness, while the man who exceeds is an obsequious person if he has no end in view, a flatterer if he is aiming at his own advantage, and the man who falls short and is unpleasant in all circumstances is a quarrelsome and surly sort of person.

    There are also means in the passions and concerned with the passions; since shame is not a virtue, and yet praise is extended to the modest man. For even in these matters one man is said to be intermediate, and another to exceed, as for instance the bashful man who is ashamed of everything; while he who falls short or is not ashamed of anything at all is shameless, and the intermediate person is modest. Righteous indignation is a mean between envy and spite, and these states are concerned with the pain and pleasure that are felt at the fortunes of our neighbours; the man who is characterized by righteous indignation is pained at undeserved good fortune, the envious man, going beyond him, is pained at all good fortune, and the spiteful man falls so far short of being pained that he even rejoices. But these states there will be an opportunity of describing elsewhere; with regard to justice, since it has not one simple meaning, we shall, after describing the other states, distinguish its two kinds and say how each of them is a mean; and similarly we shall treat also of the rational virtues.

    Chapter 8 - Three kinds of disposition

    There are three kinds of disposition, then, two of them vices, involving excess and deficiency respectively, and one a virtue, viz. the mean, and all are in a sense opposed to all; for the extreme states are contrary both to the intermediate state and to each other, and the intermediate to the extremes; as the equal is greater relatively to the less, less relatively to the greater, so the middle states are excessive relatively to the deficiencies, deficient relatively to the excesses, both in passions and in actions. For the brave man appears rash relatively to the coward, and cowardly relatively to the rash man; and similarly the temperate man appears self-indulgent relatively to the insensible man, insensible relatively to the self-indulgent, and the liberal man prodigal relatively to the mean man, mean relatively to the prodigal. Hence also the people at the extremes push the intermediate man each over to the other, and the brave man is called rash by the coward, cowardly by the rash man, and correspondingly in the other cases.

    These states being thus opposed to one another, the greatest contrariety is that of the extremes to each other, rather than to the intermediate; for these are further from each other than from the intermediate, as the great is further from the small and the small from the great than both are from the equal. Again, to the intermediate some extremes show a certain likeness, as that of rashness to courage and that of prodigality to liberality; but the extremes show the greatest unlikeness to each other; now contraries are defined as the things that are furthest from each other, so that things that are further apart are more contrary.

    To the mean in some cases the deficiency, in some the excess is more opposed; e.g. it is not rashness, which is an excess, but cowardice, which is a deficiency, that is more opposed to courage, and not insensibility, which is a deficiency, but self-indulgence, which is an excess, that is more opposed to temperance. This happens from two reasons, one being drawn from the thing itself; for because one extreme is nearer and liker to the intermediate, we oppose not this but rather its contrary to the intermediate. E.g. since rashness is thought liker and nearer to courage, and cowardice more unlike, we oppose rather the latter to courage; for things that are further from the intermediate are thought more contrary to it. This, then, is one cause, drawn from the thing itself; another is drawn from ourselves; for the things to which we ourselves more naturally tend seem more contrary to the intermediate. For instance, we ourselves tend more naturally to pleasures, and hence are more easily carried away towards self-indulgence than towards propriety. We describe as contrary to the mean, then, rather the directions in which we more often go to great lengths; and therefore self-indulgence, which is an excess, is the more contrary to temperance.

    Chapter 9 - Erring on side of lesser evil

    That moral virtue is a mean, then, and in what sense it is so, and that it is a mean between two vices, the one involving excess, the other deficiency, and that it is such because its character is to aim at what is intermediate in passions and in actions, has been sufficiently stated. Hence also it is no easy task to be good. For in everything it is no easy task to find the middle, e.g. to find the middle of a circle is not for every one but for him who knows; so, too, any one can get angry -- that is easy -- or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy; wherefore goodness is both rare and laudable and noble.

    Hence he who aims at the intermediate must first depart from what is the more contrary to it, as Calypso advises --

    Hold the ship out beyond that surf and spray.

    For of the extremes one is more erroneous, one less so; therefore, since to hit the mean is hard in the extreme, we must as a second best, as people say, take the least of the evils; and this will be done best in the way we describe. But we must consider the things towards which we ourselves also are easily carried away; for some of us tend to one thing, some to another; and this will be recognizable from the pleasure and the pain we feel. We must drag ourselves away to the contrary extreme; for we shall get into the intermediate state by drawing well away from error, as people do in straightening sticks that are bent.

    Now in everything the pleasant or pleasure is most to be guarded against; for we do not judge it impartially. We ought, then, to feel towards pleasure as the elders of the people felt towards Helen, and in all circumstances repeat their saying; for if we dismiss pleasure thus we are less likely to go astray. It is by doing this, then, (to sum the matter up) that we shall best be able to hit the mean.

    But this is no doubt difficult, and especially in individual cases; for or is not easy to determine both how and with whom and on what provocation and how long one should be angry; for we too sometimes praise those who fall short and call them good-tempered, but sometimes we praise those who get angry and call them manly. The man, however, who deviates little from goodness is not blamed, whether he do so in the direction of the more or of the less, but only the man who deviates more widely; for he does not fail to be noticed. But up to what point and to what extent a man must deviate before he becomes blameworthy it is not easy to determine by reasoning, any more than anything else that is perceived by the senses; such things depend on particular facts, and the decision rests with perception. So much, then, is plain, that the intermediate state is in all things to be praised, but that we must incline sometimes towards the excess, sometimes towards the deficiency; for so shall we most easily hit the mean and what is right.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #61 - April 28, 2015, 10:15 PM

    Book 3

    Chapter 1 - Virtue not action under compulsion or ignorance

    SINCE virtue is concerned with passions and actions, and on voluntary passions and actions praise and blame are bestowed, on those that are involuntary pardon, and sometimes also pity, to distinguish the voluntary and the involuntary is presumably necessary for those who are studying the nature of virtue, and useful also for legislators with a view to the assigning both of honours and of punishments. Those things, then, are thought involuntary, which take place under compulsion or owing to ignorance; and that is compulsory of which the moving principle is outside, being a principle in which nothing is contributed by the person who is acting or is feeling the passion, e.g. if he were to be carried somewhere by a wind, or by men who had him in their power.

    But with regard to the things that are done from fear of greater evils or for some noble object (e.g. if a tyrant were to order one to do something base, having one's parents and children in his power, and if one did the action they were to be saved, but otherwise would be put to death), it may be debated whether such actions are involuntary or voluntary. Something of the sort happens also with regard to the throwing of goods overboard in a storm; for in the abstract no one throws goods away voluntarily, but on condition of its securing the safety of himself and his crew any sensible man does so. Such actions, then, are mixed, but are more like voluntary actions; for they are worthy of choice at the time when they are done, and the end of an action is relative to the occasion. Both the terms, then, 'voluntary' and 'involuntary', must be used with reference to the moment of action. Now the man acts voluntarily; for the principle that moves the instrumental parts of the body in such actions is in him, and the things of which the moving principle is in a man himself are in his power to do or not to do. Such actions, therefore, are voluntary, but in the abstract perhaps involuntary; for no one would choose any such act in itself.

    For such actions men are sometimes even praised, when they endure something base or painful in return for great and noble objects gained; in the opposite case they are blamed, since to endure the greatest indignities for no noble end or for a trifling end is the mark of an inferior person. On some actions praise indeed is not bestowed, but pardon is, when one does what he ought not under pressure which overstrains human nature and which no one could withstand. But some acts, perhaps, we cannot be forced to do, but ought rather to face death after the most fearful sufferings; for the things that 'forced' Euripides Alcmaeon to slay his mother seem absurd. It is difficult sometimes to determine what should be chosen at what cost, and what should be endured in return for what gain, and yet more difficult to abide by our decisions; for as a rule what is expected is painful, and what we are forced to do is base, whence praise and blame are bestowed on those who have been compelled or have not.

    What sort of acts, then, should be called compulsory? We answer that without qualification actions are so when the cause is in the external circumstances and the agent contributes nothing. But the things that in themselves are involuntary, but now and in return for these gains are worthy of choice, and whose moving principle is in the agent, are in themselves involuntary, but now and in return for these gains voluntary. They are more like voluntary acts; for actions are in the class of particulars, and the particular acts here are voluntary. What sort of things are to be chosen, and in return for what, it is not easy to state; for there are many differences in the particular cases.

    But if some one were to say that pleasant and noble objects have a compelling power, forcing us from without, all acts would be for him compulsory; for it is for these objects that all men do everything they do. And those who act under compulsion and unwillingly act with pain, but those who do acts for their pleasantness and nobility do them with pleasure; it is absurd to make external circumstances responsible, and not oneself, as being easily caught by such attractions, and to make oneself responsible for noble acts but the pleasant objects responsible for base acts. The compulsory, then, seems to be that whose moving principle is outside, the person compelled contributing nothing.

    Everything that is done by reason of ignorance is not voluntary; it is only what produces pain and repentance that is involuntary. For the man who has done something owing to ignorance, and feels not the least vexation at his action, has not acted voluntarily, since he did not know what he was doing, nor yet involuntarily, since he is not pained. Of people, then, who act by reason of ignorance he who repents is thought an involuntary agent, and the man who does not repent may, since he is different, be called a not voluntary agent; for, since he differs from the other, it is better that he should have a name of his own.

    Acting by reason of ignorance seems also to be different from acting in ignorance; for the man who is drunk or in a rage is thought to act as a result not of ignorance but of one of the causes mentioned, yet not knowingly but in ignorance.

    Now every wicked man is ignorant of what he ought to do and what he ought to abstain from, and it is by reason of error of this kind that men become unjust and in general bad; but the term 'involuntary' tends to be used not if a man is ignorant of what is to his advantage -- for it is not mistaken purpose that causes involuntary action (it leads rather to wickedness), nor ignorance of the universal (for that men are blamed), but ignorance of particulars, i.e. of the circumstances of the action and the objects with which it is concerned. For it is on these that both pity and pardon depend, since the person who is ignorant of any of these acts involuntarily.

    Perhaps it is just as well, therefore, to determine their nature and number. A man may be ignorant, then, of who he is, what he is doing, what or whom he is acting on, and sometimes also what (e.g. what instrument) he is doing it with, and to what end (e.g. he may think his act will conduce to some one's safety), and how he is doing it (e.g. whether gently or violently). Now of all of these no one could be ignorant unless he were mad, and evidently also he could not be ignorant of the agent; for how could he not know himself? But of what he is doing a man might be ignorant, as for instance people say 'it slipped out of their mouths as they were speaking', or 'they did not know it was a secret', as Aeschylus said of the mysteries, or a man might say he 'let it go off when he merely wanted to show its working', as the man did with the catapult. Again, one might think one's son was an enemy, as Merope did, or that a pointed spear had a button on it, or that a stone was pumicestone; or one might give a man a draught to save him, and really kill him; or one might want to touch a man, as people do in sparring, and really wound him. The ignorance may relate, then, to any of these things, i.e. of the circumstances of the action, and the man who was ignorant of any of these is thought to have acted involuntarily, and especially if he was ignorant on the most important points; and these are thought to be the circumstances of the action and its end. Further, the doing of an act that is called involuntary in virtue of ignorance of this sort must be painful and involve repentance.

    Since that which is done under compulsion or by reason of ignorance is involuntary, the voluntary would seem to be that of which the moving principle is in the agent himself, he being aware of the particular circumstances of the action. Presumably acts done by reason of anger or appetite are not rightly called involuntary. For in the first place, on that showing none of the other animals will act voluntarily, nor will children; and secondly, is it meant that we do not do voluntarily any of the acts that are due to appetite or anger, or that we do the noble acts voluntarily and the base acts involuntarily? Is not this absurd, when one and the same thing is the cause? But it would surely be odd to describe as involuntary the things one ought to desire; and we ought both to be angry at certain things and to have an appetite for certain things, e.g. for health and for learning. Also what is involuntary is thought to be painful, but what is in accordance with appetite is thought to be pleasant. Again, what is the difference in respect of involuntariness between errors committed upon calculation and those committed in anger? Both are to be avoided, but the irrational passions are thought not less human than reason is, and therefore also the actions which proceed from anger or appetite are the man's actions. It would be odd, then, to treat them as involuntary.

    Chapter 2 - Virtue involves choice, based on rational principle and thought

    Both the voluntary and the involuntary having been delimited, we must next discuss choice; for it is thought to be most closely bound up with virtue and to discriminate characters better than actions do.

    Choice, then, seems to be voluntary, but not the same thing as the voluntary; the latter extends more widely. For both children and the lower animals share in voluntary action, but not in choice, and acts done on the spur of the moment we describe as voluntary, but not as chosen.

    Those who say it is appetite or anger or wish or a kind of opinion do not seem to be right. For choice is not common to irrational creatures as well, but appetite and anger are. Again, the incontinent man acts with appetite, but not with choice; while the continent man on the contrary acts with choice, but not with appetite. Again, appetite is contrary to choice, but not appetite to appetite. Again, appetite relates to the pleasant and the painful, choice neither to the painful nor to the pleasant.

    Still less is it anger; for acts due to anger are thought to be less than any others objects of choice.

    But neither is it wish, though it seems near to it; for choice cannot relate to impossibles, and if any one said he chose them he would be thought silly; but there may be a wish even for impossibles, e.g. for immortality. And wish may relate to things that could in no way be brought about by one's own efforts, e.g. that a particular actor or athlete should win in a competition; but no one chooses such things, but only the things that he thinks could be brought about by his own efforts. Again, wish relates rather to the end, choice to the means; for instance, we wish to be healthy, but we choose the acts which will make us healthy, and we wish to be happy and say we do, but we cannot well say we choose to be so; for, in general, choice seems to relate to the things that are in our own power.

    For this reason, too, it cannot be opinion; for opinion is thought to relate to all kinds of things, no less to eternal things and impossible things than to things in our own power; and it is distinguished by its falsity or truth, not by its badness or goodness, while choice is distinguished rather by these.

    Now with opinion in general perhaps no one even says it is identical. But it is not identical even with any kind of opinion; for by choosing what is good or bad we are men of a certain character, which we are not by holding certain opinions. And we choose to get or avoid something good or bad, but we have opinions about what a thing is or whom it is good for or how it is good for him; we can hardly be said to opine to get or avoid anything. And choice is praised for being related to the right object rather than for being rightly related to it, opinion for being truly related to its object. And we choose what we best know to be good, but we opine what we do not quite know; and it is not the same people that are thought to make the best choices and to have the best opinions, but some are thought to have fairly good opinions, but by reason of vice to choose what they should not. If opinion precedes choice or accompanies it, that makes no difference; for it is not this that we are considering, but whether it is identical with some kind of opinion.

    What, then, or what kind of thing is it, since it is none of the things we have mentioned? It seems to be voluntary, but not all that is voluntary to be an object of choice. Is it, then, what has been decided on by previous deliberation? At any rate choice involves a rational principle and thought. Even the name seems to suggest that it is what is chosen before other things.

    Chapter 3 - Thought must be about available means

    Do we deliberate about everything, and is everything a possible subject of deliberation, or is deliberation impossible about some things? We ought presumably to call not what a fool or a madman would deliberate about, but what a sensible man would deliberate about, a subject of deliberation. Now about eternal things no one deliberates, e.g. about the material universe or the incommensurability of the diagonal and the side of a square. But no more do we deliberate about the things that involve movement but always happen in the same way, whether of necessity or by nature or from any other cause, e.g. the solstices and the risings of the stars; nor about things that happen now in one way, now in another, e.g. droughts and rains; nor about chance events, like the finding of treasure. But we do not deliberate even about all human affairs; for instance, no Spartan deliberates about the best constitution for the Scythians. For none of these things can be brought about by our own efforts.

    We deliberate about things that are in our power and can be done; and these are in fact what is left. For nature, necessity, and chance are thought to be causes, and also reason and everything that depends on man. Now every class of men deliberates about the things that can be done by their own efforts. And in the case of exact and self-contained sciences there is no deliberation, e.g. about the letters of the alphabet (for we have no doubt how they should be written); but the things that are brought about by our own efforts, but not always in the same way, are the things about which we deliberate, e.g. questions of medical treatment or of money-making. And we do so more in the case of the art of navigation than in that of gymnastics, inasmuch as it has been less exactly worked out, and again about other things in the same ratio, and more also in the case of the arts than in that of the sciences; for we have more doubt about the former. Deliberation is concerned with things that happen in a certain way for the most part, but in which the event is obscure, and with things in which it is indeterminate. We call in others to aid us in deliberation on important questions, distrusting ourselves as not being equal to deciding.

    We deliberate not about ends but about means. For a doctor does not deliberate whether he shall heal, nor an orator whether he shall persuade, nor a statesman whether he shall produce law and order, nor does any one else deliberate about his end. They assume the end and consider how and by what means it is to be attained; and if it seems to be produced by several means they consider by which it is most easily and best produced, while if it is achieved by one only they consider how it will be achieved by this and by what means this will be achieved, till they come to the first cause, which in the order of discovery is last. For the person who deliberates seems to investigate and analyse in the way described as though he were analysing a geometrical construction (not all investigation appears to be deliberation -- for instance mathematical investigations -- but all deliberation is investigation), and what is last in the order of analysis seems to be first in the order of becoming. And if we come on an impossibility, we give up the search, e.g. if we need money and this cannot be got; but if a thing appears possible we try to do it. By 'possible' things I mean things that might be brought about by our own efforts; and these in a sense include things that can be brought about by the efforts of our friends, since the moving principle is in ourselves. The subject of investigation is sometimes the instruments, sometimes the use of them; and similarly in the other cases -- sometimes the means, sometimes the mode of using it or the means of bringing it about. It seems, then, as has been said, that man is a moving principle of actions; now deliberation is about the things to be done by the agent himself, and actions are for the sake of things other than themselves. For the end cannot be a subject of deliberation, but only the means; nor indeed can the particular facts be a subject of it, as whether this is bread or has been baked as it should; for these are matters of perception. If we are to be always deliberating, we shall have to go on to infinity.

    The same thing is deliberated upon and is chosen, except that the object of choice is already determinate, since it is that which has been decided upon as a result of deliberation that is the object of choice. For every one ceases to inquire how he is to act when he has brought the moving principle back to himself and to the ruling part of himself; for this is what chooses. This is plain also from the ancient constitutions, which Homer represented; for the kings announced their choices to the people. The object of choice being one of the things in our own power which is desired after deliberation, choice will be deliberate desire of things in our own power; for when we have decided as a result of deliberation, we desire in accordance with our deliberation.

    We may take it, then, that we have described choice in outline, and stated the nature of its objects and the fact that it is concerned with means.

    Chapter 4 - Pleasure and pain affect perception of what is good

    That wish is for the end has already been stated; some think it is for the good, others for the apparent good. Now those who say that the good is the object of wish must admit in consequence that that which the man who does not choose aright wishes for is not an object of wish (for if it is to be so, it must also be good; but it was, if it so happened, bad); while those who say the apparent good is the object of wish must admit that there is no natural object of wish, but only what seems good to each man. Now different things appear good to different people, and, if it so happens, even contrary things.

    If these consequences are unpleasing, are we to say that absolutely and in truth the good is the object of wish, but for each person the apparent good; that that which is in truth an object of wish is an object of wish to the good man, while any chance thing may be so the bad man, as in the case of bodies also the things that are in truth wholesome are wholesome for bodies which are in good condition, while for those that are diseased other things are wholesome -- or bitter or sweet or hot or heavy, and so on; since the good man judges each class of things rightly, and in each the truth appears to him? For each state of character has its own ideas of the noble and the pleasant, and perhaps the good man differs from others most by seeing the truth in each class of things, being as it were the norm and measure of them. In most things the error seems to be due to pleasure; for it appears a good when it is not. We therefore choose the pleasant as a good, and avoid pain as an evil.

    Chapter 5 - Extent of responsibility

    The end, then, being what we wish for, the means what we deliberate about and choose, actions concerning means must be according to choice and voluntary. Now the exercise of the virtues is concerned with means. Therefore virtue also is in our own power, and so too vice. For where it is in our power to act it is also in our power not to act, and vice versa; so that, if to act, where this is noble, is in our power, not to act, which will be base, will also be in our power, and if not to act, where this is noble, is in our power, to act, which will be base, will also be in our power. Now if it is in our power to do noble or base acts, and likewise in our power not to do them, and this was what being good or bad meant, then it is in our power to be virtuous or vicious.

    The saying that 'no one is voluntarily wicked nor involuntarily happy' seems to be partly false and partly true; for no one is involuntarily happy, but wickedness is voluntary. Or else we shall have to dispute what has just been said, at any rate, and deny that man is a moving principle or begetter of his actions as of children. But if these facts are evident and we cannot refer actions to moving principles other than those in ourselves, the acts whose moving principles are in us must themselves also be in our power and voluntary.

    Witness seems to be borne to this both by individuals in their private capacity and by legislators themselves; for these punish and take vengeance on those who do wicked acts (unless they have acted under compulsion or as a result of ignorance for which they are not themselves responsible), while they honour those who do noble acts, as though they meant to encourage the latter and deter the former. But no one is encouraged to do the things that are neither in our power nor voluntary; it is assumed that there is no gain in being persuaded not to be hot or in pain or hungry or the like, since we shall experience these feelings none the less. Indeed, we punish a man for his very ignorance, if he is thought responsible for the ignorance, as when penalties are doubled in the case of drunkenness; for the moving principle is in the man himself, since he had the power of not getting drunk and his getting drunk was the cause of his ignorance. And we punish those who are ignorant of anything in the laws that they ought to know and that is not difficult, and so too in the case of anything else that they are thought to be ignorant of through carelessness; we assume that it is in their power not to be ignorant, since they have the power of taking care.

    But perhaps a man is the kind of man not to take care. Still they are themselves by their slack lives responsible for becoming men of that kind, and men make themselves responsible for being unjust or self-indulgent, in the one case by cheating and in the other by spending their time in drinking bouts and the like; for it is activities exercised on particular objects that make the corresponding character. This is plain from the case of people training for any contest or action; they practise the activity the whole time. Now not to know that it is from the exercise of activities on particular objects that states of character are produced is the mark of a thoroughly senseless person. Again, it is irrational to suppose that a man who acts unjustly does not wish to be unjust or a man who acts self-indulgently to be self-indulgent. But if without being ignorant a man does the things which will make him unjust, he will be unjust voluntarily. Yet it does not follow that if he wishes he will cease to be unjust and will be just. For neither does the man who is ill become well on those terms. We may suppose a case in which he is ill voluntarily, through living incontinently and disobeying his doctors. In that case it was then open to him not to be ill, but not now, when he has thrown away his chance, just as when you have let a stone go it is too late to recover it; but yet it was in your power to throw it, since the moving principle was in you. So, too, to the unjust and to the self-indulgent man it was open at the beginning not to become men of this kind, and so they are unjust and selfindulgent voluntarily; but now that they have become so it is not possible for them not to be so.

    But not only are the vices of the soul voluntary, but those of the body also for some men, whom we accordingly blame; while no one blames those who are ugly by nature, we blame those who are so owing to want of exercise and care. So it is, too, with respect to weakness and infirmity; no one would reproach a man blind from birth or by disease or from a blow, but rather pity him, while every one would blame a man who was blind from drunkenness or some other form of self-indulgence. Of vices of the body, then, those in our own power are blamed, those not in our power are not. And if this be so, in the other cases also the vices that are blamed must be in our own power.

    Now some one may say that all men desire the apparent good, but have no control over the appearance, but the end appears to each man in a form answering to his character. We reply that if each man is somehow responsible for his state of mind, he will also be himself somehow responsible for the appearance; but if not, no one is responsible for his own evildoing, but every one does evil acts through ignorance of the end, thinking that by these he will get what is best, and the aiming at the end is not self-chosen but one must be born with an eye, as it were, by which to judge rightly and choose what is truly good, and he is well endowed by nature who is well endowed with this. For it is what is greatest and most noble, and what we cannot get or learn from another, but must have just such as it was when given us at birth, and to be well and nobly endowed with this will be perfect and true excellence of natural endowment. If this is true, then, how will virtue be more voluntary than vice? To both men alike, the good and the bad, the end appears and is fixed by nature or however it may be, and it is by referring everything else to this that men do whatever they do.

    Whether, then, it is not by nature that the end appears to each man such as it does appear, but something also depends on him, or the end is natural but because the good man adopts the means voluntarily virtue is voluntary, vice also will be none the less voluntary; for in the case of the bad man there is equally present that which depends on himself in his actions even if not in his end. If, then, as is asserted, the virtues are voluntary (for we are ourselves somehow partly responsible for our states of character, and it is by being persons of a certain kind that we assume the end to be so and so), the vices also will be voluntary; for the same is true of them.

    With regard to the virtues in general we have stated their genus in outline, viz. that they are means and that they are states of character, and that they tend, and by their own nature, to the doing of the acts by which they are produced, and that they are in our power and voluntary, and act as the right rule prescribes. But actions and states of character are not voluntary in the same way; for we are masters of our actions from the beginning right to the end, if we know the particular facts, but though we control the beginning of our states of character the gradual progress is not obvious any more than it is in illnesses; because it was in our power, however, to act in this way or not in this way, therefore the states are voluntary.

    Let us take up the several virtues, however, and say which they are and what sort of things they are concerned with and how they are concerned with them; at the same time it will become plain how many they are. And first let us speak of courage.

    Chapter 6 - Virtuous fear and fearlessness

    That it is a mean with regard to feelings of fear and confidence has already been made evident; and plainly the things we fear are terrible things, and these are, to speak without qualification, evils; for which reason people even define fear as expectation of evil. Now we fear all evils, e.g. disgrace, poverty, disease, friendlessness, death, but the brave man is not thought to be concerned with all; for to fear some things is even right and noble, and it is base not to fear them -- e.g. disgrace; he who fears this is good and modest, and he who does not is shameless. He is, however, by some people called brave, by a transference of the word to a new meaning; for he has in him something which is like the brave man, since the brave man also is a fearless person. Poverty and disease we perhaps ought not to fear, nor in general the things that do not proceed from vice and are not due to a man himself. But not even the man who is fearless of these is brave. Yet we apply the word to him also in virtue of a similarity; for some who in the dangers of war are cowards are liberal and are confident in face of the loss of money. Nor is a man a coward if he fears insult to his wife and children or envy or anything of the kind; nor brave if he is confident when he is about to be flogged. With what sort of terrible things, then, is the brave man concerned? Surely with the greatest; for no one is more likely than he to stand his ground against what is awe-inspiring. Now death is the most terrible of all things; for it is the end, and nothing is thought to be any longer either good or bad for the dead. But the brave man would not seem to be concerned even with death in all circumstances, e.g. at sea or in disease. In what circumstances, then? Surely in the noblest. Now such deaths are those in battle; for these take place in the greatest and noblest danger. And these are correspondingly honoured in city-states and at the courts of monarchs. Properly, then, he will be called brave who is fearless in face of a noble death, and of all emergencies that involve death; and the emergencies of war are in the highest degree of this kind. Yet at sea also, and in disease, the brave man is fearless, but not in the same way as the seaman; for he has given up hope of safety, and is disliking the thought of death in this shape, while they are hopeful because of their experience. At the same time, we show courage in situations where there is the opportunity of showing prowess or where death is noble; but in these forms of death neither of these conditions is fulfilled.

    Chapter 7 - Courage and rational fear

    What is terrible is not the same for all men; but we say there are things terrible even beyond human strength. These, then, are terrible to every one -- at least to every sensible man; but the terrible things that are not beyond human strength differ in magnitude and degree, and so too do the things that inspire confidence. Now the brave man is as dauntless as man may be. Therefore, while he will fear even the things that are not beyond human strength, he will face them as he ought and as the rule directs, for honour's sake; for this is the end of virtue. But it is possible to fear these more, or less, and again to fear things that are not terrible as if they were. Of the faults that are committed one consists in fearing what one should not, another in fearing as we should not, another in fearing when we should not, and so on; and so too with respect to the things that inspire confidence. The man, then, who faces and who fears the right things and from the right motive, in the right way and from the right time, and who feels confidence under the corresponding conditions, is brave; for the brave man feels and acts according to the merits of the case and in whatever way the rule directs. Now the end of every activity is conformity to the corresponding state of character. This is true, therefore, of the brave man as well as of others. But courage is noble. Therefore the end also is noble; for each thing is defined by its end. Therefore it is for a noble end that the brave man endures and acts as courage directs.

    Of those who go to excess he who exceeds in fearlessness has no name (we have said previously that many states of character have no names), but he would be a sort of madman or insensible person if he feared nothing, neither earthquakes nor the waves, as they say the Celts do not; while the man who exceeds in confidence about what really is terrible is rash. The rash man, however, is also thought to be boastful and only a pretender to courage; at all events, as the brave man is with regard to what is terrible, so the rash man wishes to appear; and so he imitates him in situations where he can. Hence also most of them are a mixture of rashness and cowardice; for, while in these situations they display confidence, they do not hold their ground against what is really terrible. The man who exceeds in fear is a coward; for he fears both what he ought not and as he ought not, and all the similar characterizations attach to him. He is lacking also in confidence; but he is more conspicuous for his excess of fear in painful situations. The coward, then, is a despairing sort of person; for he fears everything. The brave man, on the other hand, has the opposite disposition; for confidence is the mark of a hopeful disposition. The coward, the rash man, and the brave man, then, are concerned with the same objects but are differently disposed towards them; for the first two exceed and fall short, while the third holds the middle, which is the right, position; and rash men are precipitate, and wish for dangers beforehand but draw back when they are in them, while brave men are keen in the moment of action, but quiet beforehand.

    As we have said, then, courage is a mean with respect to things that inspire confidence or fear, in the circumstances that have been stated; and it chooses or endures things because it is noble to do so, or because it is base not to do so. But to die to escape from poverty or love or anything painful is not the mark of a brave man, but rather of a coward; for it is softness to fly from what is troublesome, and such a man endures death not because it is noble but to fly from evil.

    Chapter 8 - Five things sometimes called courage

    Courage, then, is something of this sort, but the name is also applied to five other kinds.

    (1) First comes the courage of the citizen-soldier; for this is most like true courage. Citizen-soldiers seem to face dangers because of the penalties imposed by the laws and the reproaches they would otherwise incur, and because of the honours they win by such action; and therefore those peoples seem to be bravest among whom cowards are held in dishonour and brave men in honour. This is the kind of courage that Homer depicts, e.g. in Diomede and in Hector:

    First will Polydamas be to heap reproach on me then; and

    For Hector one day 'mid the Trojans shall utter his vaulting harangue:
    Afraid was Tydeides, and fled from my face.

    This kind of courage is most like to that which we described earlier, because it is due to virtue; for it is due to shame and to desire of a noble object (i.e. honour) and avoidance of disgrace, which is ignoble. One might rank in the same class even those who are compelled by their rulers; but they are inferior, inasmuch as they do what they do not from shame but from fear, and to avoid not what is disgraceful but what is painful; for their masters compel them, as Hector does:

    But if I shall spy any dastard that cowers far from the fight,
    Vainly will such an one hope to escape from the dogs.

    And those who give them their posts, and beat them if they retreat, do the same, and so do those who draw them up with trenches or something of the sort behind them; all of these apply compulsion. But one ought to be brave not under compulsion but because it is noble to be so.

    (2) Experience with regard to particular facts is also thought to be courage; this is indeed the reason why Socrates thought courage was knowledge. Other people exhibit this quality in other dangers, and professional soldiers exhibit it in the dangers of war; for there seem to be many empty alarms in war, of which these have had the most comprehensive experience; therefore they seem brave, because the others do not know the nature of the facts. Again, their experience makes them most capable in attack and in defence, since they can use their arms and have the kind that are likely to be best both for attack and for defence; therefore they fight like armed men against unarmed or like trained athletes against amateurs; for in such contests too it is not the bravest men that fight best, but those who are strongest and have their bodies in the best condition. Professional soldiers turn cowards, however, when the danger puts too great a strain on them and they are inferior in numbers and equipment; for they are the first to fly, while citizen-forces die at their posts, as in fact happened at the temple of Hermes. For to the latter flight is disgraceful and death is preferable to safety on those terms; while the former from the very beginning faced the danger on the assumption that they were stronger, and when they know the facts they fly, fearing death more than disgrace; but the brave man is not that sort of person.

    (3) Passion also is sometimes reckoned as courage; those who act from passion, like wild beasts rushing at those who have wounded them, are thought to be brave, because brave men also are passionate; for passion above all things is eager to rush on danger, and hence Homer's 'put strength into his passion' and 'aroused their spirit and passion and 'hard he breathed panting' and 'his blood boiled'. For all such expressions seem to indicate the stirring and onset of passion. Now brave men act for honour's sake, but passion aids them; while wild beasts act under the influence of pain; for they attack because they have been wounded or because they are afraid, since if they are in a forest they do not come near one. Thus they are not brave because, driven by pain and passion, they rush on danger without foreseeing any of the perils, since at that rate even asses would be brave when they are hungry; for blows will not drive them from their food; and lust also makes adulterers do many daring things. (Those creatures are not brave, then, which are driven on to danger by pain or passion.) The 'courage' that is due to passion seems to be the most natural, and to be courage if choice and motive be added.

    Men, then, as well as beasts, suffer pain when they are angry, and are pleased when they exact their revenge; those who fight for these reasons, however, are pugnacious but not brave; for they do not act for honour's sake nor as the rule directs, but from strength of feeling; they have, however, something akin to courage.

    (4) Nor are sanguine people brave; for they are confident in danger only because they have conquered often and against many foes. Yet they closely resemble brave men, because both are confident; but brave men are confident for the reasons stated earlier, while these are so because they think they are the strongest and can suffer nothing. (Drunken men also behave in this way; they become sanguine). When their adventures do not succeed, however, they run away; but it was the mark of a brave man to face things that are, and seem, terrible for a man, because it is noble to do so and disgraceful not to do so. Hence also it is thought the mark of a braver man to be fearless and undisturbed in sudden alarms than to be so in those that are foreseen; for it must have proceeded more from a state of character, because less from preparation; acts that are foreseen may be chosen by calculation and rule, but sudden actions must be in accordance with one's state of character.

    (5) People who are ignorant of the danger also appear brave, and they are not far removed from those of a sanguine temper, but are inferior inasmuch as they have no self-reliance while these have. Hence also the sanguine hold their ground for a time; but those who have been deceived about the facts fly if they know or suspect that these are different from what they supposed, as happened to the Argives when they fell in with the Spartans and took them for Sicyonians.

    We have, then, described the character both of brave men and of those who are thought to be brave.

    Chapter 9 - Courage as endurance of pain

    Though courage is concerned with feelings of confidence and of fear, it is not concerned with both alike, but more with the things that inspire fear; for he who is undisturbed in face of these and bears himself as he should towards these is more truly brave than the man who does so towards the things that inspire confidence. It is for facing what is painful, then, as has been said, that men are called brave. Hence also courage involves pain, and is justly praised; for it is harder to face what is painful than to abstain from what is pleasant.

    Yet the end which courage sets before it would seem to be pleasant, but to be concealed by the attending circumstances, as happens also in athletic contests; for the end at which boxers aim is pleasant -- the crown and the honours -- but the blows they take are distressing to flesh and blood, and painful, and so is their whole exertion; and because the blows and the exertions are many the end, which is but small, appears to have nothing pleasant in it. And so, if the case of courage is similar, death and wounds will be painful to the brave man and against his will, but he will face them because it is noble to do so or because it is base not to do so. And the more he is possessed of virtue in its entirety and the happier he is, the more he will be pained at the thought of death; for life is best worth living for such a man, and he is knowingly losing the greatest goods, and this is painful. But he is none the less brave, and perhaps all the more so, because he chooses noble deeds of war at that cost. It is not the case, then, with all the virtues that the exercise of them is pleasant, except in so far as it reaches its end. But it is quite possible that the best soldiers may be not men of this sort but those who are less brave but have no other good; for these are ready to face danger, and they sell their life for trifling gains.

    So much, then, for courage; it is not difficult to grasp its nature in outline, at any rate, from what has been said.

    Chapter 10 - Intemperence involves bodily pleasures, but not all of them

    After courage let us speak of temperance; for these seem to be the virtues of the irrational parts. We have said that temperance is a mean with regard to pleasures (for it is less, and not in the same way, concerned with pains); self-indulgence also is manifested in the same sphere. Now, therefore, let us determine with what sort of pleasures they are concerned. We may assume the distinction between bodily pleasures and those of the soul, such as love of honour and love of learning; for the lover of each of these delights in that of which he is a lover, the body being in no way affected, but rather the mind; but men who are concerned with such pleasures are called neither temperate nor self-indulgent. Nor, again, are those who are concerned with the other pleasures that are not bodily; for those who are fond of hearing and telling stories and who spend their days on anything that turns up are called gossips, but not self-indulgent, nor are those who are pained at the loss of money or of friends.

    Temperance must be concerned with bodily pleasures, but not all even of these; for those who delight in objects of vision, such as colours and shapes and painting, are called neither temperate nor self-indulgent; yet it would seem possible to delight even in these either as one should or to excess or to a deficient degree.

    And so too is it with objects of hearing; no one calls those who delight extravagantly in music or acting self-indulgent, nor those who do so as they ought temperate.

    Nor do we apply these names to those who delight in odour, unless it be incidentally; we do not call those self-indulgent who delight in the odour of apples or roses or incense, but rather those who delight in the odour of unguents or of dainty dishes; for self-indulgent people delight in these because these remind them of the objects of their appetite. And one may see even other people, when they are hungry, delighting in the smell of food; but to delight in this kind of thing is the mark of the self-indulgent man; for these are objects of appetite to him.

    Nor is there in animals other than man any pleasure connected with these senses, except incidentally. For dogs do not delight in the scent of hares, but in the eating of them, but the scent told them the hares were there; nor does the lion delight in the lowing of the ox, but in eating it; but he perceived by the lowing that it was near, and therefore appears to delight in the lowing; and similarly he does not delight because he sees 'a stag or a wild goat', but because he is going to make a meal of it. Temperance and self-indulgence, however, are concerned with the kind of pleasures that the other animals share in, which therefore appear slavish and brutish; these are touch and taste. But even of taste they appear to make little or no use; for the business of taste is the discriminating of flavours, which is done by winetasters and people who season dishes; but they hardly take pleasure in making these discriminations, or at least self-indulgent people do not, but in the actual enjoyment, which in all cases comes through touch, both in the case of food and in that of drink and in that of sexual intercourse. This is why a certain gourmand prayed that his throat might become longer than a crane's, implying that it was the contact that he took pleasure in. Thus the sense with which self-indulgence is connected is the most widely shared of the senses; and self-indulgence would seem to be justly a matter of reproach, because it attaches to us not as men but as animals. To delight in such things, then, and to love them above all others, is brutish. For even of the pleasures of touch the most liberal have been eliminated, e.g. those produced in the gymnasium by rubbing and by the consequent heat; for the contact characteristic of the self-indulgent man does not affect the whole body but only certain parts.

    Chapter 11 - Temperance involves moderate appetites

    Of the appetites some seem to be common, others to be peculiar to individuals and acquired; e.g. the appetite for food is natural, since every one who is without it craves for food or drink, and sometimes for both, and for love also (as Homer says) if he is young and lusty; but not every one craves for this or that kind of nourishment or love, nor for the same things. Hence such craving appears to be our very own. Yet it has of course something natural about it; for different things are pleasant to different kinds of people, and some things are more pleasant to every one than chance objects. Now in the natural appetites few go wrong, and only in one direction, that of excess; for to eat or drink whatever offers itself till one is surfeited is to exceed the natural amount, since natural appetite is the replenishment of one's deficiency. Hence these people are called belly-gods, this implying that they fill their belly beyond what is right. It is people of entirely slavish character that become like this. But with regard to the pleasures peculiar to individuals many people go wrong and in many ways. For while the people who are 'fond of so and so' are so called because they delight either in the wrong things, or more than most people do, or in the wrong way, the self-indulgent exceed in all three ways; they both delight in some things that they ought not to delight in (since they are hateful), and if one ought to delight in some of the things they delight in, they do so more than one ought and than most men do.

    Plainly, then, excess with regard to pleasures is self-indulgence and is culpable; with regard to pains one is not, as in the case of courage, called temperate for facing them or self-indulgent for not doing so, but the self-indulgent man is so called because he is pained more than he ought at not getting pleasant things (even his pain being caused by pleasure), and the temperate man is so called because he is not pained at the absence of what is pleasant and at his abstinence from it.

    The self-indulgent man, then, craves for all pleasant things or those that are most pleasant, and is led by his appetite to choose these at the cost of everything else; hence he is pained both when he fails to get them and when he is merely craving for them (for appetite involves pain); but it seems absurd to be pained for the sake of pleasure. People who fall short with regard to pleasures and delight in them less than they should are hardly found; for such insensibility is not human. Even the other animals distinguish different kinds of food and enjoy some and not others; and if there is any one who finds nothing pleasant and nothing more attractive than anything else, he must be something quite different from a man; this sort of person has not received a name because he hardly occurs. The temperate man occupies a middle position with regard to these objects. For he neither enjoys the things that the self-indulgent man enjoys most -- but rather dislikes them -- nor in general the things that he should not, nor anything of this sort to excess, nor does he feel pain or craving when they are absent, or does so only to a moderate degree, and not more than he should, nor when he should not, and so on; but the things that, being pleasant, make for health or for good condition, he will desire moderately and as he should, and also other pleasant things if they are not hindrances to these ends, or contrary to what is noble, or beyond his means. For he who neglects these conditions loves such pleasures more than they are worth, but the temperate man is not that sort of person, but the sort of person that the right rule prescribes.

    Chapter 12 - Temperance involves rational principle

    Self-indulgence is more like a voluntary state than cowardice. For the former is actuated by pleasure, the latter by pain, of which the one is to be chosen and the other to be avoided; and pain upsets and destroys the nature of the person who feels it, while pleasure does nothing of the sort. Therefore self-indulgence is more voluntary. Hence also it is more a matter of reproach; for it is easier to become accustomed to its objects, since there are many things of this sort in life, and the process of habituation to them is free from danger, while with terrible objects the reverse is the case. But cowardice would seem to be voluntary in a different degree from its particular manifestations; for it is itself painless, but in these we are upset by pain, so that we even throw down our arms and disgrace ourselves in other ways; hence our acts are even thought to be done under compulsion. For the self-indulgent man, on the other hand, the particular acts are voluntary (for he does them with craving and desire), but the whole state is less so; for no one craves to be self-indulgent.

    The name self-indulgence is applied also to childish faults; for they bear a certain resemblance to what we have been considering. Which is called after which, makes no difference to our present purpose; plainly, however, the later is called after the earlier. The transference of the name seems not a bad one; for that which desires what is base and which develops quickly ought to be kept in a chastened condition, and these characteristics belong above all to appetite and to the child, since children in fact live at the beck and call of appetite, and it is in them that the desire for what is pleasant is strongest. If, then, it is not going to be obedient and subject to the ruling principle, it will go to great lengths; for in an irrational being the desire for pleasure is insatiable even if it tries every source of gratification, and the exercise of appetite increases its innate force, and if appetites are strong and violent they even expel the power of calculation. Hence they should be moderate and few, and should in no way oppose the rational principle -- and this is what we call an obedient and chastened state -- and as the child should live according to the direction of his tutor, so the appetitive element should live according to rational principle. Hence the appetitive element in a temperate man should harmonize with the rational principle; for the noble is the mark at which both aim, and the temperate man craves for the things be ought, as he ought, as when he ought; and when he ought; and this is what rational principle directs.

    Here we conclude our account of temperance.


    I think I'll stop there for now, but for those who wish to see books 4-10, the Nicomachean Ethics can be found in full here.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #62 - May 18, 2015, 04:27 PM

    The Night Before Solstice

    Twas around winter solstice, alone in the house
    I was reading the Bible, as quiet as a mouse.
    The stories were thrown in the book without care;
    contradictions abounded, mistakes everywhere.

    I could not understand, or believe what it said,
    its tall tales of people come back from the dead;
    original sin, which was such a bum rap,
    blood sacrifice, curses, and other such crap.

    When deep down inside I knew something's the matter
    I sprang to the Web to make sense of such chatter.
    Away to the Google I flew like a flash,
    to try and make out heads or tails of this trash.

    The search engine gave me back millions of hits;
    molesters, and con men, and other such shits.
    When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
    but hundreds of gods from the earliest year.

    With a little old edit, the story of Horus
    I knew in a moment it must be the sou-rce.
    More numerous than seagulls, gods and goddesses came,
    and I whistled, and marveled, and called out their name;

    Osiris! Adonis! Dionysus! Mithra!
    There's Attis and Ishtar! And Baldr and Krishna!
    To the land of the dead! Down to hell they all went,
    to the underworld, after their lives were all spent.

    Like fertility symbols these gods they all die,
    and then get resurrected, back up in the sky.
    So back up to heaven these deities flew,
    to start new religions, and Jesus did too.

    Right there in the gospels, just like you would guess,
    a brand new Messiah turned up in this mess.
    As I willingly tried to suspend disbelief
    from the pages this Jesus guy came like a thief.

    He was beat all to shit, from his head to his foot,
    and put onto a cross just like Horus was put;
    His birth in a manger, and marked by a star,
    that's a detail he stole from the Goddess Ishtar.

    His magic trick changing his water to wine,
    was a ripoff of Bacchus who used to brew 'shine.
    He claims to have brought people back from the dead,
     that's just like the other gods—what they all said.

    And in some of his stories he acts like a cad:
    “Hate your mother and father! Don't bury your dad!”
    Sends his guys to steal donkeys, and kills farmer's pigs,
    and cusses a tree out for not giving figs.

    He's a crazy old preacher, who just seems kind of silly
    though I had to admit that his book was a dilly,
    that tried hard to steal those old stories by stealth,
    and I laughed when I read it, in spite of myself.

    A shift of my eyes and a twist of my head,
    to the headlines, told me I had nothing to dread:
    all the Pope's rules have been shown not to work,
    evangelicals picket, and act like a jerk;

    They cry “war on Christmas” and make silly fusses,
    when we put up billboards, or signs on our buses.
    But to all the fanatics I give this epistle,
    away from your church people fly like a missile,

    And I have to exclaim, on this solsticey night,
    that millions of us, without gods, are alright.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #63 - June 04, 2015, 02:34 AM

    I've always loved this quote by the early feminist Mary Astell from her book Reflections upon Marriage:

    If absolute sovereignty be not necessary in a state, how comes it to be so in a family? Or if in a family, why not in a state? Since no reason can be alleged for the one that will not hold more strongly for the other, if all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves, as they must be if being subjected to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of men be the perfect condition of slavery?

    She is quoting John Locke's definition of freedom here. His quote is as follows:
    Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by common to everyone of that society and made by the legislative power erected in it, a liberty to follow my own will in all things where that rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man, as freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of nature.

  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #64 - June 07, 2015, 10:43 PM


    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #65 - August 13, 2015, 07:57 AM

    What Happens When You Make Yourself Vulnerable
    By Kovie Biakolo

    I have always struggled with vulnerability. I like being strong; I’ve always had to be strong, and I have associated vulnerability with weakness for as long as I can remember. Of course in everyday life, it would be difficult for people to know this. I am seen as someone who is quite open and outgoing, at least to the extent that my demeanor is not mistaken for being a cold, unapproachable bitch. After all, I’m also seen as someone who is known for being blunt; the quintessential, “what you see is what you get” person.

    Perhaps it’s through writing, perhaps it’s through getting older, but ultimately I’ve realized that I’m a really hard person to get to know. And very few people know even the half of it. I’m guarded and I don’t break easily; no matter how close I am to people, I know that most of them are still kept at a distance that is comfortable, a distance that won’t leave me exposed. I do not like to be vulnerable.

    There is no area that this is true more than the intimacy of romantic relationships. Yes, I play it off as being awkward, and I am. And I play it off as being disinterested in the people who courageously approach me, and maybe that is true too. But when it’s all said and done, I am afraid of being vulnerable with people in that way. I like to feel in control of situations, I like to feel that I am always secure and vulnerability gets in the way of that.

    When you’re vulnerable, your heart is wide open, you put your trust in somebody in the form of giving them the most precious thing you have – your heart.  When you’re vulnerable you leave yourself available to be hurt and people hurt people. So I guess somewhere along the way, whether I realized it or not, I made the decision that vulnerability was not for me. I told myself that to be vulnerable would mean to give up my strength and I did not want to give it up. My construction of strength almost defined me.

    But do you know what happens when you tell yourself that strength opposes vulnerability? I can tell you: Not a whole not, at least not when it comes to pursuing love. Who wants to be with someone that doesn’t think they need anyone? And In my attempt to not be vulnerable, I have ultimately been motivated by fear. I have lived in the fear of rejection and the fear of failing in love and I have told myself that it’s meant to be this way, at least till now. But the truth is I don’t want to be alone. I know I’ll be fine and life will go on and other people do just fine with it, but I don’t want to choose it if I don’t have to.

    Lately I’ve been seeing the error in my thinking. I thought that vulnerability was the weaker position when it comes to love. But I’m realizing that the irony of vulnerability in love and in the pursuit of love is that you actually take the stronger position. When you put your heart on the line, when you give it to somebody and you tell them that it’s theirs to keep or break, when you expose who you are and all you are to somebody – that is one of the truest and best strength that there is.

    Vulnerability won’t be easy, it might be one of the hardest that I’m ever going to attempt. And it might go horribly wrong – I might get broken or damaged like so many others. But I’m not sure this unspoiled heart of mine is any better off. Loving anything and anyone ultimately comes with hurt and my attempt to not let people get close enough to hurt me has left me with a different kind of pain, a different kind of weakness – the weakness of regret and wonder. I think if I am to be truly strong, I think if any of us are, we have to be willing to expose ourselves and put ourselves through the greatest risk of all – which is love. And in the words of C.S. Lewis, to love is to be vulnerable.


    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #66 - October 07, 2015, 07:01 AM

    This new age trend of occidental self-hatred, in the service of theocracy, is truly dismal.  Do liberals even have any principles left to which they epouse?

    I witnessed something genuinely disturbing at Trinity College Dublin last night: trendy, middle-class, liberal students cheering and whooping a man who had just given the closest thing I have yet heard to a justification for the massacre at Charlie Hebdo.

    It was as part of a debate on the right to offend. I was on the side of people having the right to say whatever the hell they want, no matter whose panties it bunches. The man on the other side who implied that Charlie Hebdo got what it deserved, and that the right to offend is a poisonous, dangerous notion, was one Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee.

    Bukhari defamed Charlie Hebdo as racist, the same dim-witted claim made by every Charliephobe who has clearly never seen an issue of this magazine that rails against the far right and prejudiced politicians.

    He then offered us a potted history of French imperialism and brutality in Algeria. Why? As an explanation for why the murderers of Charlie Hebdo’s staff — who were of Algerian descent — did what they did.

    There was a political context to their actions, he suggested, but the media ignored it in favour of depicting the killers as ‘brown savages’. Every time Bukhari mentioned Charlie Hebdo, he did so through gritted teeth, with a palpable sense of contempt; he spoke of Charlie Hebdo in the same breath as ‘white supremacism’. In contrast, he talked about the killers with what sounded a lot like sympathy, presenting them as the aggrieved products of French militarism in Algeria.

    In his warped worldview, it’s almost as if Charlie Hebdo were the guilty party, a foul committer of Islamophobic speech crimes, and the killers were the victims — victims of history, victims of France, victims of prejudice, driven by political anger. The murdered are the oppressors; the murderers the victims. Real through-the-looking-glass stuff.

    I stood up to make a point of order. I wanted to ask if he felt that perhaps he was apologising for mass murder, justifying it even. But he wouldn’t take my point. So, somewhat impertinently — hey, I was pretty angry by this point — I interjected: ‘This is an apology for murder.’ His response? To accuse me of racism. To suggest that, like the rest of the media, I was treating Muslims as ‘brown savages’. Because of course, if you ask a difficult question of a Muslim in the public eye who is talking a colossal amount of rubbish then you must secretly hate all Muslims. What a cheap, reactionary shot: shut down criticism by playing the racism card.

    Also, can we ponder the eye-swivelling irony of my being accused of racism by a man who once sent money to Holocaust denier and anti-Semite David Irving? In 2006, Bukhari sent £60 to Irving as part of his ‘fight for the Truth’. He encouraged Irving to continue to ‘expose certain falsehoods perpetrated by the Jews’. Yeah, sorry, I’m not taking lectures about racism from a man who funded Jew-hatred.

    But there was something even more disturbing than Bukhari’s comments on Charlie Hebdo — the audience’s response.

    It is of course in the interests of a representative of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee to exaggerate the hatred and difficulties faced by Muslims in Europe, because these unrepresentative community groups derive their moral authority from claiming to speak on behalf of a beleaguered, victimised minority.

    So they’re inexorably drawn towards ratcheting up the victim narrative, to trawling for more and more examples of slights against Muslims, to treating as ‘Islamophobia’ everything from a scurrilous cartoon that mocks Muhammad (not ordinary Muslims) to a newspaper article that describes Osama bin Laden as an ‘Islamic terrorist’ (seriously). Because victimology is their fuel; it sustains their outfits and boosts their standing in public life. There’s a logic — a perverse logic — to their hysterical claims about widespread Muslim-hate.

    But the audience at last night’s debate was not part of any cynical, self-styled community group. They were young. They were mainly liberals. They were pretty cool. Some were painfully PC. And yet some of them — a significant chunk of them — cheered Bukhari’s explanation for the Charlie killers’ actions, and applauded his suggestion that my question must have been motivated by racism.

    During my speech, students had hollered ‘Shame! Shame!’ when I suggested that Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ should not be banned on campuses. And yet they listened intently, with soft, understanding, patronising liberal smiles on their faces, as Bukhari implied that Charlie Hebdo brought its massacre on itself. This is how screwed-up the culture on Western campuses has become: I was jeered for suggesting we shouldn’t ban pop songs; Bukhari was cheered for suggesting journalists who mock Muhammad cannot be surprised if someone later blows their heads off.

    It provided a glimpse into the inhumanity of political correctness. The PC gang always claim they’re just being nice; it’s just ‘institutionalised politeness’, they say. Yet at Trinity last night I saw where today’s intolerance of offence and obsession with Safe Spacing minorities from difficult ideas can lead: to an agreeable nod of the head when it is suggested that it’s understandable when poor, victimised Muslims murder those who offended them.

    No, a PC student at such a prestigious college as Trinity is very unlikely to kill you for being offensive. But if someone else does, they won’t be outraged or upset. They’ll think you had it coming. Nice? Polite? Please. Political correctness is murderous.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #67 - October 22, 2015, 05:53 PM

    A photo tells the Hassan family’s story of loss

    The picture.

    In its simple definition a picture is capturing a moment of time. To stop time, people, and events in one frame. But to some people, it might be stopping time itself, stopping life. When it captures a moment that forces life to take off its bright colors and wear only the color of ashes . . .the color of death.

    A picture.  No words can describe the amount of pain surrounding its frame.

    The family of four members and a fifth who did not see the light of life yet, is now limited to only Yahya Hassan and his son Mohammed after living a relentless night that erased the meaning of life without any mercy when his pregnant wife “Nour” and beautiful little daughter “Rahaf” were killed.

    The boy and his father are laying on the hospital’s bed, being cured of their injures. Yahia holds his son’s hand trying to release his soul for losing his mother and sister. Trying to tell himself that it’ll be okay. They looked to each other. And their eyes told us this story –

    Me and You ..

    Oh my little boy .. Nothing is left to us .. Except ourselves ..

    I know it’s not easy ..

    I know what your eyes are trying to say ..

    You love me .. but I’m not enough for you ..

    I love you .. but I’ll badly miss your mom and my beloved Rahaf ..

    We .. might not be enough to each other .. but I believe that God will be the best supporter for us ..

    I believe that in spite of all that love your mother hold for us in her heart .. that God is more affectionate .. he’s with us and will ease our pain ..

    One day .. it’ll be okay ..

    My little boy ..

    Let us now have a deal ..

    Mornings will seam different now ..

    And to be honest .. it will differ in a bad way ..

    We have to more depend on ourselves ..

    I’ll wake you up to school .. I’ll make you breakfast .. I’ll put it in the right side of your bag ..

    You’ll find it in the same place your mother used to put .. but I can’t promise that it will taste the same .. you know that women have their own magic in preparing food as they claim!

    Your clothes .. I’ll clean them for you .. but please .. try to keep them clean for a longer time .. you know that work takes a lot of my time .. Twice a week would be fair to both of us .. wouldn’t it?

    If I was late in waking you up and your teacher rebuked you, if you opened your bag and didn’t find your breakfast, or if you found some dirt on your shirt .. Please don’t be mad at me .. I’m trying hard .. Maybe I was playing with your sister Rahaf in my dream, and I was afraid to wake up and she never visits me again! .. You know how much I miss her .. Don’t you?

    So, please .. don’t be mad at me .. and don’t cry over your mother ..

    Once, your grandma told me that the child is born with two cords binding him with his mother .. the first that provides him with food is cut at the moment of birth .. while the other one .. is hidden and eternal .. is binding their hearts together .. and your grandma claimed that this cord never cuts off, even with the death of one of them ..

    If you cry .. she’ll know .. she won’t be here to hug you .. Don’t burden her .. for the sake of loving her .. don’t cry over her ..

    I also promise to play with you your favorite game with Rahaf ..

    You’ll flee .. and I’ll look for you .. but please, don’t hide in narrow places .. my size is not tiny as Rahaf ..

    Please .. don’t be mad at me .. and don’t cry over your mother ..

    Endure me .. and endure my sudden sadness sometimes ..

    Don’t cry over Rahaf too .. I don’t know other legends telling that a telepathy exists between the one and his sister .. but I know that she had always loved how your face looks when you smile .. so, please smile for her .. for the sake of loving her .. don’t cry over her ..

    The month of Ramadan and the feast will also seem different ..

    I’ll buy you a bigger lantern .. and double your feast gift ..

    I know it’s not enough ..


    I want you to know that I’m trying hard ..

    I’ll be stronger .. for you .. for us ..

    And so you should do .. be stronger; me and you .. my little boy .. nothing is left to us .. except  ourselves.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #68 - October 22, 2015, 06:32 PM

    Ahh, Guardian. What is it with you and islam?

    The Guardian: Through Islamist Eyes

    I emailed The Guardian on 2 October to ask for the right to reply to David Shariatmadari’s apologetics for Islamism. My article, Why I Speak against Islamism, was finally published on 13 October at 5pm after much delay and back and forth over “edits.”

    On 8 October, the Acting Editor for Comment is Free wrote to say a “very light edit” had been done on my article including “a few tweaks for flow, house style, and to make the piece as accessible as possible for non-expert readers.”

    Shockingly, the “light edits” included substantial changes, including the removal of references to Ali Shariatmadari and CAGE prisoners as well as all the relevant links, which would have helped “non-expert readers.”

    Moreover, where I mentioned Islamism as a killing machine with an example of Bangladesh, Islamism was changed to “violent jihadis”. After asking that it be kept as is (since even those not deemed violent jihadis by the Guardian are killing people via “Sharia” laws for example), it was changed to “violent Islamists”, which I again challenged. The sentence was then tweaked to what it is now.

    Despite my insistence, however, references to Ali Shariatmadari and CAGE were not included (which meant I had to remove the Emwazi reference as it was linked to the CAGE example). I was told: “The line about CAGE and defensive jihad was removed on the advice of our lawyers” and that “the description of the Islamic cultural revolution as “Ali Shariatmadari’s ‘Islamic cultural revolution'” would be confusing to readers.”

    Clearly, the problem is not just David Shariatmadari’s but the Guardian’s editorial line in favour of the Islamists.

    Below I publish my original piece for all to see.


    Through Islamist eyes
    Maryam Namazie

    Warwick University Student Union’s reversal of its initial decision to bar me from speaking about Islam and Islamism on campus at the invitation of Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society has been widely celebrated as a small win for free speech but ruffled the feathers of Islamists and their apologists.

    Historically, criticism of religion has been a crucial aspect of free expression and intrinsically linked with anti-clericalism and the dismantling of that which is deemed taboo and sacred by the gatekeepers of power. Such criticism has been key for social progress. It’s also a matter of life and death for many living under Islamist rule like in Saudi Arabia,  Islamic State, or Iran where criticism of religion and the state are analogous. There, anything from demanding women’s equality or trade union rights to condemning sexual jihad and Ali Shariatmadari’s ‘Islamic cultural revolution’ (which banned books and ‘purified’ higher education) can be met with arrest, imprisonment and even the death penalty.

    Where Islamists are not in power but have influence, like in Britain, critics face accusations of racism and Islamophobia to deflect legitimate outrage against Islamism – a killing machine and network with global reach: Islamists will hack atheist bloggers to death in Bangladesh whilst placing UK-based Bangladeshi bloggers on death lists and ‘lovely‘ British jihadis will kill for ISIS whilst a UK-based organisation CAGE promotes ‘defensive jihad.’

    The labelling of much-needed criticism of Islam and Islamism as ‘antisocial, even dangerous‘ by ‘Left’ apologists sees dissent through the eyes of Islamists and not the many who refuse and resist. How else are we to show real solidarity with those who struggle against the theocracies we have fled from – if not through criticism?  The fight against Islamism and the need for international solidarity does not manage to enter into their calculation.

    Even their paternalistic ‘concern’ for British Muslims is incoherent. After all, aren’t many critics of Islamism, Muslims too? In fact, Muslims or those labelled as such are often the first victims of Islamism and at the forefront of resistance. Also, not everyone in the ‘community’ are Muslims and even if they are, religion is not the only characteristic that defines them. Moreover, the rise of Islamism has brought with it a corresponding rise in the demand for atheism, secularism, and women’s liberation.

    At its core, this is a global fight between theocrats and the religious-Right on the one hand and secularists and those fighting for social justice on the other. It’s a fight taking place within and across communities and borders. Notwithstanding, this ‘Left’s’ ‘concern’ only encompasses the ‘authentic Muslim’ which to them is the Islamist. It has become their go-to catchphrase to deflect criticism by dishonestly conflating condemnation of Islamists with the demonisation of people so as to justify siding with the religious-Right at the expense of dissenters.  In fact, conflating ordinary Muslims with Islamists does nothing to challenge anti-Muslim bigotry but reinforces it.

    In their ‘anti-colonialist’ worldview, which unsurprisingly coincides with that of the ruling classes in the ‘Islamic world’ or ‘Muslim community,’ dissenters are either ‘native informants‘ or contributing to the ‘demonisation of Muslims.’

    For those who have bought into the Islamist narrative, there are no social and political movements, class politics, dissenters, women’s rights campaigners, socialists… – just homogenised ‘Muslims’ [read Islamists] who face ‘intimidation’ and ‘discrimination’ if an ex-Muslim woman speaks on an university campus.

    This politics of betrayal denies universalism, sees rights, equality and secularism as ‘western,’ justifies the suppression of women, apostates and blasphemers under the guise of respect for other ‘cultures’ – imputing on innumerable people the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the religious-Right. In the world according to them, the oppressor is victim, the oppressed ‘incite hatred’, and any criticism is bigotry.

    Ironically, these post-modernist ‘Leftists’ have one set of progressive politics for themselves (they rightly want gay marriage, women’s equality and the right to criticise the pope and Christian-Right) and another for us. We are merely allowed to make demands within the confines of Islam and identity politics and only after taking note of the ‘power imbalance.’ [By the way, an ex-Muslim migrant woman like myself is a minority within a minority but that ‘power imbalance’ does not concern them.]

    Islamism must be challenged by an enlightenment not a reformation. [Some would argue that ISIS is Islam’s reformation.] For this, the right to criticise religions and the religious-Right (including the Christian-Right, Buddhist-Right, Hindu-Right and Jewish-Right) is crucial as is international solidarity and an unequivocal defence of migrant rights, secularism, equality and citizenship.

    Clearly, those in the business of defending Islamism make a mockery of traditional Left values and are incapable of fighting for social justice on multiple fronts – including against the religious-Right, racism and xenophobia, fascism of all stripes, UK Government’s restrictions on civil liberties as well as for free expression, amongst others.

    Now is the time to reclaim the Left and the values it represents for us all – irrespective of ‘community,’ beliefs and borders. In the age of ISIS, this is an historical task and necessity.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #69 - October 26, 2015, 02:07 AM

    Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove:
    O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
    Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle's compass come:
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

    William Shakespeare Sonnet 116

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #70 - October 28, 2015, 09:53 PM

    For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II

    In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family of six, lost in the taiga

    The Siberian taiga in the Abakan district. Six members of the Lykov family lived in this remote wilderness for more than 40 years—utterly isolated and more than 150 miles from the nearest human settlement.

    Siiberian summers do not last long. The snows linger into May, and the cold weather returns again during September, freezing the taiga into a still life awesome in its desolation: endless miles of straggly pine and birch forests scattered with sleeping bears and hungry wolves; steep-sided mountains; white-water rivers that pour in torrents through the valleys; a hundred thousand icy bogs. This forest is the last and greatest of Earth’s wildernesses. It stretches from the furthest tip of Russia’s arctic regions as far south as Mongolia, and east from the Urals to the Pacific: five million square miles of nothingness, with a population, outside a handful of towns, that amounts to only a few thousand people.

    When the warm days do arrive, though, the taiga blooms, and for a few short months it can seem almost welcoming. It is then that man can see most clearly into this hidden world–not on land, for the taiga can swallow whole armies of explorers, but from the air. Siberia is the source of most of Russia’s oil and mineral resources, and, over the years, even its most distant parts have been overflown by oil prospectors and surveyors on their way to backwoods camps where the work of extracting wealth is carried on.

    Karp Lykov and his daughter Agafia, wearing clothes donated by Soviet geologists not long after their family was rediscovered.

    Thus it was in the remote south of the forest in the summer of 1978. A helicopter sent to find a safe spot to land a party of geologists was skimming the treeline a hundred or so miles from the Mongolian border when it dropped into the thickly wooded valley of an unnamed tributary of the Abakan, a seething ribbon of water rushing through dangerous terrain. The valley walls were narrow, with sides that were close to vertical in places, and the skinny pine and birch trees swaying in the rotors’ downdraft were so thickly clustered that there was no chance of finding a spot to set the aircraft down. But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time.

    It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.

    The Lykovs lived in this hand-built log cabin, lit by a single window “the size of a backpack pocket” and warmed by a smoky wood-fired stove.

    The four scientists sent into the district to prospect for iron ore were told about the pilots’ sighting, and it perplexed and worried them. “It’s less dangerous,” the writer Vasily Peskov notes of this part of the taiga, “to run across a wild animal than a stranger,” and rather than wait at their own temporary base, 10 miles away, the scientists decided to investigate. Led by a geologist named Galina Pismenskaya, they “chose a fine day and put gifts in our packs for our prospective friends”—though, just to be sure, she recalled, “I did check the pistol that hung at my side.”

    As the intruders scrambled up the mountain, heading for the spot pinpointed by their pilots, they began to come across signs of human activity: a rough path, a staff, a log laid across a stream, and finally a small shed filled with birch-bark containers of cut-up dried potatoes. Then, Pismenskaya said,

    beside a stream there was a dwelling. Blackened by time and rain, the hut was piled up on all sides with taiga rubbish—bark, poles, planks. If it hadn’t been for a window the size of my backpack pocket, it would have been hard to believe that people lived there. But they did, no doubt about it…. Our arrival had been noticed, as we could see.

    The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive…. We had to say something, so I began: ‘Greetings, grandfather! We’ve come to visit!’

    The old man did not reply immediately…. Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: ‘Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.’

    The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—”a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:

    The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: ‘This is for our sins, our sins.’ The other, keeping behind a post… sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.

    Agafia Lykova (left) with her sister, Natalia.

    Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, “frankly curious.” Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, “We are not allowed that!” When Pismenskaya asked, “Have you ever eaten bread?” the old man answered: “I have. But they have not. They have never seen it.” At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. “When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing.”

    Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer–a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.” But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.

    Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power. Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov’s brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.

    Peter the Great’s attempts to modernize the Russia of the early 18th century found a focal point in a campaign to end the wearing of beards. Facial hair was taxed and non-payers were compulsorily shaved—anathema to Karp Lykov and the Old Believers.

    That was in 1936, and there were only four Lykovs then—Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2. Taking their possessions and some seeds, they had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot. Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family. All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents’ stories. The family’s principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, “was for everyone to recount their dreams.”

    The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them. Their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink. When Agafia was shown a picture of a horse, she recognized it from her mother’s Bible stories. “Look, papa,” she exclaimed. “A steed!”

    But if the family’s isolation was hard to grasp, the unmitigated harshness of their lives was not. Traveling to the Lykov homestead on foot was astonishingly arduous, even with the help of a boat along the Abakan. On his first visit to the Lykovs, Peskov—who would appoint himself the family’s chief chronicler—noted that “we traversed 250 kilometres without seeing a single human dwelling!”

    Isolation made survival in the wilderness close to impossible. Dependent solely on their own resources, the Lykovs struggled to replace the few things they had brought into the taiga with them. They fashioned birch-bark galoshes in place of shoes. Clothes were patched and repatched until they fell apart, then replaced with hemp cloth grown from seed.

    The Lykovs had carried a crude spinning wheel and, incredibly, the components of a loom into the taiga with them—moving these from place to place as they gradually went further into the wilderness must have required many long and arduous journeys—but they had no technology for replacing metal. A couple of kettles served them well for many years, but when rust finally overcame them, the only replacements they could fashion came from birch bark. Since these could not be placed in a fire, it became far harder to cook. By the time the Lykovs were discovered, their staple diet was potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds.

    In some respects, Peskov makes clear, the taiga did offer some abundance: “Beside the dwelling ran a clear, cold stream. Stands of larch, spruce, pine and birch yielded all that anyone could take.… Bilberries and raspberries were close to hand, firewood as well, and pine nuts fell right on the roof.”

    Yet the Lykovs lived permanently on the edge of famine. It was not until the late 1950s, when Dmitry reached manhood, that they first trapped animals for their meat and skins. Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders. More often than not, though, there was no meat, and their diet gradually became more monotonous. Wild animals destroyed their crop of carrots, and Agafia recalled the late 1950s as “the hungry years.” “We ate the rowanberry leaf,” she said,

    roots, grass, mushrooms, potato tops, and bark. We were hungry all the time. Every year we held a council to decide whether to eat everything up or leave some for seed.

    Famine was an ever-present danger in these circumstances, and in 1961 it snowed in June. The hard frost killed everything growing in their garden, and by spring the family had been reduced to eating shoes and bark. Akulina chose to see her children fed, and that year she died of starvation. The rest of the family were saved by what they regarded as a miracle: a single grain of rye sprouted in their pea patch. The Lykovs put up a fence around the shoot and guarded it zealously night and day to keep off mice and squirrels. At harvest time, the solitary spike yielded 18 grains, and from this they painstakingly rebuilt their rye crop.

    Dmitry (left) and Savin in the Siberian summer.

    As the Soviet geologists got to know the Lykov family, they realized that they had underestimated their abilities and intelligence. Each family member had a distinct personality; old Karp was usually delighted by the latest innovations that the scientists brought up from their camp, and though he steadfastly refused to believe that man had set foot on the moon, he adapted swiftly to the idea of satellites. The Lykovs had noticed them as early as the 1950s, when “the stars began to go quickly across the sky,” and Karp himself conceived a theory to explain this: “People have thought something up and are sending out fires that are very like stars.”

    “What amazed him most of all,” Peskov recorded, “was a transparent cellophane package. ‘Lord, what have they thought up—it is glass, but it crumples!’” And Karp held grimly to his status as head of the family, though he was well into his 80s. His eldest child, Savin, dealt with this by casting himself as the family’s unbending arbiter in matters of religion. “He was strong of faith, but a harsh man,” his own father said of him, and Karp seems to have worried about what would happen to his family after he died if Savin took control. Certainly the eldest son would have encountered little resistance from Natalia, who always struggled to replace her mother as cook, seamstress and nurse.

    The two younger children, on the other hand, were more approachable and more open to change and innovation. “Fanaticism was not terribly marked in Agafia,” Peskov said, and in time he came to realize that the youngest of the Lykovs had a sense of irony and could poke fun at herself. Agafia’s unusual speech—she had a singsong voice and stretched simple words into polysyllables—convinced some of her visitors she was slow-witted; in fact she was markedly intelligent, and took charge of the difficult task, in a family that possessed no calendars, of keeping track of time.  She thought nothing of hard work, either, excavating a new cellar by hand late in the fall and working on by moonlight when the sun had set. Asked by an astonished Peskov whether she was not frightened to be out alone in the wilderness after dark, she replied: “What would there be out here to hurt me?”

    A Russian press photo of Karp Lykov (second left) with Dmitry and Agafia, accompanied by a Soviet geologist.

    Of all the Lykovs, though, the geologists’ favorite was Dmitry, a consummate outdoorsman who knew all of the taiga’s moods. He was the most curious and perhaps the most forward-looking member of the family. It was he who had built the family stove, and all the birch-bark buckets that they used to store food. It was also Dmitry who spent days hand-cutting and hand-planing each log that the Lykovs felled. Perhaps it was no surprise that he was also the most enraptured by the scientists’ technology. Once relations had improved to the point that the Lykovs could be persuaded to visit the Soviets’ camp, downstream, he spent many happy hours in its little sawmill, marveling at how easily a circular saw and lathes could finish wood. “It’s not hard to figure,” Peskov wrote. “The log that took Dmitry a day or two to plane was transformed into handsome, even boards before his eyes. Dmitry felt the boards with his palm and said: ‘Fine!’”

    Karp Lykov fought a long and losing battle with himself to keep all this modernity at bay. When they first got to know the geologists, the family would accept only a single gift—salt. (Living without it for four decades, Karp said, had been “true torture.”) Over time, however, they began to take more. They welcomed the assistance of their special friend among the geologists—a driller named Yerofei Sedov, who spent much of his spare time helping them to plant and harvest crops. They took knives, forks, handles, grain and eventually even pen and paper and an electric torch. Most of these innovations were only grudgingly acknowledged, but the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists’ camp,

    proved irresistible for them…. On their rare appearances, they would invariably sit down and watch. Karp sat directly in front of the screen. Agafia watched poking her head from behind a door. She tried to pray away her transgression immediately—whispering, crossing herself…. The old man prayed afterward, diligently and in one fell swoop.

    The Lykovs' homestead seen from a Soviet reconnaissance plane, 1980.

    Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Lykovs’ strange story was the rapidity with which the family went into decline after they re-established contact with the outside world. In the fall of 1981, three of the four children followed their mother to the grave within a few days of one another. According to Peskov, their deaths were not, as might have been expected, the result of exposure to diseases to which they had no immunity. Both Savin and Natalia suffered from kidney failure, most likely a result of their harsh diet. But Dmitry died of pneumonia, which might have begun as an infection he acquired from his new friends.

    His death shook the geologists, who tried desperately to save him. They offered to call in a helicopter and have him evacuated to a hospital. But Dmitry, in extremis, would abandon neither his family nor the religion he had practiced all his life. “We are not allowed that,” he whispered just before he died. “A man lives for howsoever God grants.”

    The Lykovs' graves. Today only Agafia survives of the family of six, living alone in the taiga.

    When all three Lykovs had been buried, the geologists attempted to talk Karp and Agafia into leaving the forest and returning to be with relatives who had survived the persecutions of the purge years, and who still lived on in the same old villages. But neither of the survivors would hear of it. They rebuilt their old cabin, but stayed close to their old home.

    Karp Lykov died in his sleep on February 16, 1988, 27 years to the day after his wife, Akulina. Agafia buried him on the mountain slopes with the help of the geologists, then turned and headed back to her home. The Lord would provide, and she would stay, she said—as indeed she has. A quarter of a century later, now in her seventies herself, this child of the taiga lives on alone, high above the Abakan.

    She will not leave. But we must leave her, seen through the eyes of Yerofei on the day of her father’s funeral:

    I looked back to wave at Agafia. She was standing by the river break like a statue. She wasn’t crying. She nodded: ‘Go on, go on.’ We went another kilometer and I looked back. She was still standing there.

    A documentary on the Lykovs (in Russian) which shows something of the family’s isolation and living conditions, can be viewed here:

    Lost in the Taiga part 1 of 3

    Lost in the Taiga part 2 of 3

    Lost in the Taiga part 3 of 3

    Surviving in the Siberian Wilderness for 70 Years (Full Length)


    Visit to Agafia Lykova

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #71 - October 28, 2015, 10:24 PM

    Why Mauritania has the highest percentage of slaves in the world

    Former Mauritanian slaves walk outside of Mauritania's capital Nouakchott, November 21, 2006.

    Mbarka Mint Essatim wondered why the other girls didn't have to scrub the dishes or sweep the floors clean of Sahara sand.

    At family meals, she waited until the others were finished, and then ate the leftovers alone. If she was slow with the washing up, they beat her. She slept on a mat outside the house, and didn't go to school.

    This was the only life Essatim knew. The family, part of Mauritania's Arab-Berber minority known as "White Moors," would tell people that she was their child. But as Essatim grew older, her "uncle" began touching her inappropriately.

    "I was very confused," she remembers, her eyes stuck in a thousand-yard stare. "I didn't understand what I meant to him."

    One day, the man's driver struck up a conversation with her. "He asked me, ‘What is your relationship with these Moors?'" Essatim recalls. "I said, this is the only family I know. And then he understood that I was a slave."

    In Mauritania, a vast, desert country straddling sub-Saharan Africa and the continent's Arab north, anywhere from 4 to 20 percent of the population are slaves. There are few reliable statistics, so the exact figures are unclear. But even the lowest estimate makes Mauritania the country with the highest percentage of slaves in the world.

    While slaves here aren't physically chained, many remain imprisoned by deep psychological bonds, as well as crippling poverty. Some consider it a sacred duty to serve their masters, tending to the livestock or doing the housework with no pay. Others, like Essatim, grow up knowing nothing else. Anti-slavery activists say that freeing their minds is one of the toughest challenges.

    Boubacar Messaoud, who has been fighting the problem for decades with his group SOS Slaves, compares slavery in Mauritania to feudalism, with slaves like serfs toiling their master's land.

    Others describe it as a caste system. Today's slaves, such as Essatim, are descendants of darker-skinned ancestors enslaved centuries ago by the lighter-skinned White Moors.

    "Slavery has existed for centuries," Messaoud says. "People say they are slaves by the will of God."

    The extent of the problem is denied by Mauritania's government, and even by many Mauritanians. "People don't recognize slavery," he says. "Even the slaves deny the existence of their own slavery."

    Legally, there is some acknowledgment of the problem, but enforcement is rare. Slavery was abolished here in 1980, though it wasn't a crime until 2007. And while a new law increases the jail sentences for slave owners, it is almost unheard of to be found guilty. Usually the charge is reclassified as a lesser offense, such as "unpaid labor."

    While the Mauritanian government admits to "vestiges" of slavery, it says the issue is blown out of proportion.

    "We have a slavery problem, but it is not as big as people outside perceive it to be," says one state senator.

    But even in Mauritania's capital and biggest city, Nouakchott, the problem is visible.

    Bilal Ould Salka, 33, lives in a squatter camp on an empty plot of land in a wealthy neighborhood here.

    Salka lives with many others, cheek-by-jowl, in tents and shacks, who consider themselves runaway slaves: never officially freed by their masters.

    Salka says that in his hometown, some 400 km away, he farmed wheat and beans. But it wasn't his land, and his master would take a tenth of the harvest. When there was a drought, and Salka produced less food, the master would still take a tithe.

    This is one of the main problems preventing change in Mauritania: Slave families such as Salka's have no right to land, though they may have been enslaved by the same family for generations.

    Life in urban Nouakchott is tough. Salka often only eats one meal a day. If his children get sick, "they are in [the] hands of God."

    "I don't feel free," he says. "How can we be free when we don't have a place to live, we don't have work, when you live with your children in these type of conditions?"

    Some runaway slaves say they want a document from their master declaring them free. Even living apart from their masters, they don't consider themselves free until they get this letter.

    Messaoud says this is proof of psychological slavery: "For me, a slave who requests a document is still a slave," he says. "Someone who asks for papers is still a slave in their mind."

    Essatim, who is now 27, has been free for four years. She is still confused by what happened to her as a child.

    She has no real memory of life before she came to the house of the White Moors, just that she was around 5 years old. Her mother, also considered the property of that family, handed over Essatim when the master's mother asked.

    Essatim tells her story with brutal, detached detail: her master raped her repeatedly, starting before she was old enough to wear a traditional veil on her head. She fell pregnant with his child at age 14. And then the master's eldest son raped her, too.

    Anti-slavery activists say that it is considered normal for masters to have sex with their slaves — so ordinary, in fact, that the wife of the master might not even be jealous, because slaves aren't viewed as people.

    But Essatim's life took a fortunate turn after she met her master's driver, Moktar, who is now her husband.

    He helped her realize she was enslaved, and to find her mother, whom she hadn't seen since age five. With the help of a group called the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement — known by the French acronym, IRA — he secured her freedom.

    The tougher part was freeing her children. The master's family at first wouldn't let Essatim take them, considering them to be their property. When the case went to court, Essatim's mother turned against her, telling a judge that she was crazy and shouldn't have her children back.

    Hamady Lehbouss, a campaigner with IRA, said that it is common for the family members of slaves to side with their masters. "They think it's shameful if the master has a problem because of them," he says. "Even if it costs them their daughter."

    Essatim's life is better now — nobody beats her. But she says that her master and his family stole her future: she was never educated, and still can't read or write. She also never learned how to pray.

    Her six children don't go to school, and the family lives in a one-room wooden hut in one of the poorest parts of Nouakchott. Essatim's husband lost his steady job for helping to free her.

    "I still ask myself questions," Essatim says sadly. "What was I doing in that situation? What was I doing with the White Moors? Why was I taken from my mother?"

    "These are questions I ask myself. I hope to get answers."

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #72 - October 29, 2015, 02:25 AM

    These last two are fascinating to me.
    I knew slavery had finally been made illegal in Mauritania, but did not realize it was still part of the cultural fabric like this.

    Don't let Hitler have the street.
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #73 - November 12, 2015, 12:12 AM

    Little Black Boy by William Blake.

    (Clicky for piccy!)

    From Songs of Innocence.

    What a depressing poem. :(
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #74 - November 22, 2015, 01:27 AM

    A Little Life is the best novel of the year. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

    "Be quiet! Don't cry! Shhh."

    I cried my way through Hanya Yanagihara's novel A Little Life. Critics have called it "exquisite," "a masterwork," and "a tour de force"; Garth Greenwell describes it as "the most ambitious chronicle of the social and emotional lives of gay men to have emerged for many years." The novel — Yanagihara's second, after The People in the Trees —chronicles the relationships of four college buddies over three decades: JB, an artist; Malcolm, an architect; Willem, an actor; and Jude, a lawyer. Yanagihara records their peaks — all four achieve professional success — but dwells longer in their emotional and psychological valleys.

    I'd give A Little Life all of the awards. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (it lost to Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings) and has been longlisted for the National Book Award for fiction. Yanagihara's prose is occasionally so stunning that it would stop me, pushing me back to the beginning of a paragraph for a second read. It's particularly dazzling when she visits the complicated mind and spirit of Jude, who becomes the axis on which the book's world turns. Indeed, A Little Life may be the most beautiful, profoundly moving novel I've ever read. But I would never recommend it to anyone.

    Jude suffers childhood abuse, the details of which Yanagihara slowly reveals via flashback. It seems at first extensive, then almost endless. Some reviewers have questioned how realistic Yanagihara's depictions of the abuse and its aftereffects could be. But no book I've read has captured as perfectly the inner life of someone hoarding the unwanted souvenirs of early trauma — the silence, the self-loathing, the chronic and aching pain.

    "For many years," Yanagihara writes, Jude "had envisioned (unimaginatively) a vault, and at the end of the day, he would gather the images and sequences and words that he didn't want to think about again and open the heavy steel door only enough to hurry them inside, closing it quickly and tightly."

    When I read that passage, I thought: I know that feeling.

    "Be quiet! Don't cry! Shhh."

    My grandmother, whom I loved more than anyone in the world, would whisper-shout this to me in Cantonese when I was a kid. This was the only thing that she, a retired Bible teacher, ever said to me in her corrective, classroom voice. When I was 4, 5, 6, I was a crier, so she repeated this lesson over and over and over.

    "Be quiet! Don't cry! Shhh."

    Who was I to argue? I was reared on stories of her suffering. As the Japanese army swept through China in the early 1940s, she, my seminary professor grandfather, and their two young kids sprinted ahead of the soldiers. She also had to care for about 20 of my grandfather's students, who accompanied them. During those refugee years, my grandmother gave birth to three more children. Two lived.

    More than 10 million Chinese civilians were killed during the war. My grandparents survived, but not without cost.

    Mostly I saw it in Grandma's behavioral quirks — the milk jugs of pennies banked under the bathroom sink, just in case; $20 bills at the bottom of her yarn box, just in case; the molding food in the fridge that she couldn't throw away, just in case. But I also felt it in her tense silence whenever arguments erupted in our family. And I heard it in her admonitions whenever she sensed my oncoming tears.

    "Be quiet! Don't cry! Shhh."

    I learned well. So: I was quiet and didn't cry when Mac, my fifth-grade bully, repeatedly mocked my slitty eyes and my coarse hair and told others that if they spent time with me, they'd get eyes and hair like that too. I was quiet and didn't cry when an HR guy outed me to colleagues while recruiting donors for an office blood drive. "Well," he said, "obviously Jeff can't do it."  I am quiet and don't cry when the brothers of one of my dearest friends joke that I eat dog, as they have every time they've seen me for more than 15 years.

    I most regret being quiet and not crying the summer I turned 15. We were living in Miami then, for my dad's job, but when school let out I'd return to my native California to stay with my grandparents in Berkeley. Some afternoons, I'd spend hours nesting amid the stacks of its used bookstores. Others, I'd sneak a movie, hoping Grandma wouldn't ask where I'd been, because she'd remind me films were "of the devil." (Why couldn't I be quiet when she asked that? Why didn't I just invoke my teenager status and not answer? I don't know.)

    Occasionally, when I was feeling especially rebellious, I'd bum cigarettes from strangers.

    One day I saw a guy smoking in the courtyard of a small shopping center. He worked at the photo store. We made awkward small talk while we smoked.

    I needed to pee, so I asked if he could unlock the shopping center's bathroom. He did. Then he followed me in and began to touch—

    Then he walked me to his store and into the back room, where he—

    I remember shivering — Fuck. I'm shivering now.

    And then he pushed me down on my—

    The only thing I remember him saying was, "Doesn't it feel good?"

    Why didn't I say no? Why did I bum that cigarette? It was only five blocks away — why didn't I just go home to pee? Why didn't I shout? Why didn't I run?

    "Be quiet. Don't cry. Shhh."

    I didn't tell anyone what had happened, not for 12 years. When, finally, I began to tell the tiniest bit of the story, I called it molestation —an ugly word, but not the ugliest. Is it strange to say that Jude's story gave me new vocabulary — or permission? After A Little Life, I named it honestly for the first time: rape.

    The best novels point us back to something real — sometimes physical, but more often intellectual or emotional or even visceral. As I've read reviews of A Little Life, I've been puzzled by the clinical way in which some critics address the trauma Jude suffers as a child and its echoes in his adulthood. Don't they have their own memory vaults? Or are they just more secure?

    Sarah Churchwell, in an exasperated, empathy-deficient review in the Guardian, questions Yanagihara's decision to write about Jude in the third, not first, person: "This is not thought: it is voiceover," Churchwell writes, "Such narration is distancing: it leaves us watching what Jude feels, rather than actively sharing in his confusion, pain, suffering." But first person or third, narration is still narration. It isn't "actively sharing" in trauma or its consequences. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

    Watching Jude, not being Jude, reflects wise editing, because Jude is a spectator too. He cannot control his memories — they control him. His vault is porous. His strategy for containing the past "wasn't effective," Yanagihara writes. No matter his efforts, "the memories seeped out."

    I know that memories do more than just seep out. They morph, and they turn, and sometimes they turn on you. Absent the original perpetrator (Jude's dies, mine disappears), you assume that role. You play both parts — attacker and attacked, punisher and punished — in a twisted drama of substitutionary atonement. You seek but never find absolution for something you didn't do, for something that was done to you. Sin is sin. Someone has to pay, right?

    Jude bleeds all over A Little Life — he's a cutter. It makes for difficult reading, but I bristled when Stephanie Hayes, writing in the Atlantic, describes Jude as "an alien other, haunting readers with his ordeals." Yanagihara illustrates the internal processes that inspire Jude's self-harm by creating a menagerie: His self-loathing is an uncaged "beast," his memories prowling "hyenas." Hayes dismisses this as "surreal and relentless imagery, almost as if to deflect humanizing sympathy for his struggles."

    Alien? Surreal? No. Yanagihara's descriptions embodied my feelings — and reactions like Hayes's eye-rolling and her "don't be so dramatic" condescension are what I fear. Because this is my daily litany: I pierce myself with self-criticism until I reach numbness. I surgically examine my friendships to see what others could possibly want of me, and then drain them of their lifeblood: love. If my friends knew what's been done to me, and what I've done since, these relationships would never last anyway. If I shared my story, you'd walk away. If you knew the truth, you'd disappear —or worse, you'd stay to mock me.

    So I've sought extra locks for my vaults. Yet the memories still seep out, especially when other people are around. At parties, I escape repeatedly to the bathroom to splash water on my face. I preemptively try to run away from reincarnations of Mac, my fifth-grade bully, who returns to comment on my eyes, still slitty, or my hair, still coarse. I imagine men chewing over the best joke about what pets I may or may not eat. Summer can be the worst. I almost never wear shorts in public because the photo shop guy did that day, and when I see a particular stocky build and muscular calf—

    "Be quiet. Don't cry. Shhh."

    The relationship that matters most in A Little Life isn't between Jude and Willem, or Jude and Malcolm, or Jude and JB — it's between Jude and Jude. This book is about internal warfare: Does he live alone with his festering hurt, or does he risk trusting others with his secrets? This book is about love: If perfect love casts out fear, perfect fear must block both the giving and receiving of love, and Jude's inability to love himself prevents him from feeling the embrace of the patient, kind love of those around him.

    "At night," Yanagihara writes, "he prayed to a god he didn't believe in — and hadn't for years: Help me, help me, help me, he pleaded. He was losing himself; this had to stop."

    I've prayed that same prayer many times, more vigorously in recent months than ever. I'm not quite Jude; I guess I do believe in God. I want to believe that my prayer is being answered. Last winter, inexplicably, I started to cry again with some regularity. And though I rarely read fiction, along came A Little Life, which I picked up though I had no idea what it was about.

    At its best, storytelling is communion. Human experiences converge, and isolation withers at the intersection. I read A Little Life when I wasn't ready to talk about trauma or even to hear about it. But Jude's inability to address his wounds compelled me to begin to address mine. His struggle to find his peace emboldened me to try to find mine.

    I don't know what healing might look like. But admitting to my husband that I believe I'm damaged goods — that's something. To let my closest friends see some of my deepest wounds — that's something. Acknowledging and apologizing for the ways in which I have, in my silence and fear, rejected others' kindness and dishonored their friendship — that's something. I've still never told anyone the whole story — not my husband, nor my therapist — and maybe I never will. But being able to say that I'm not a lost cause, and to believe it (mostly) — that's something too.

    My grandmother has been dead 20 years, but sometimes she still whisper-shouts in my head. At last, I am ready to whisper-shout something back: "Be quiet, Grandma. Shhh."

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #75 - November 22, 2015, 01:33 AM

    How homophobia turned me against my gay mother

    In the mid-1980s, when I was about 11 years old, my mother took me on a 32-mile bike ride around Cumberland Island, a protected wilderness off the coast of Georgia. I was tired and angry, so angry that I refused to talk to her, to anyone.

    Just the week before, Mom had come into my room where I was building with Legos and told me she was gay. I burst into tears and tried to run out. She blocked the door and held me as I cried.

    I'm still ashamed of how I treated my mom after she came out. I'd grown up in a community suffused with homophobia — neighbors and family members alike tossed around works like "dyke" and "faggot" all the time. At first, that atmosphere turned me against my mother. It made me so angry at her I could barely speak. As I grew older, thankfully, that anger dissolved into love and acceptance of her and our unusual family.

    But even after I made peace with my family, I still had to face the world around me, a world that was still at war with families like mine. Bigotry and stigma were constant shadows throughout my childhood. As a result, I felt a persistent, nagging pressure to uphold an image of perfection for myself and my family. Every argument between my parents, every bad choice I made, every lousy report card I took home, felt like a referendum on the way I was being raised.

    So much has changed since I was growing up in the '80s. Today an estimated 110,000 same-sex families are raising kids, and same-sex marriagemay soon become legal nationwide. I'd like to add another change to this list: I hope families like mine will be free from the stigma I faced. I hope families like mine will be free to be imperfect — just like every other family.

    As the ferry roared across the Cumberland Sound toward the island, I was struggling with the things I'd associated with the word "gay," none of them good. In many ways, Mom was still in the closet herself, so she offered little advice about what to do, how to make sense of what she was.

    I had an older cousin who called people gay or a faggot when he was angry or making fun of someone. At my grandparents' house in Atlanta I'd heard those words ring out when my cousins were fighting. Mom would take me on bike rides with her lesbian friends, along the country back roads around Athens, Georgia. I'd be toward the back in a long string of short-haired athletic women, snaking through fields of soybeans and collards. More than once on those rides, a truck roared past too closely, a greasy baseball cap leaning out and yelling, "Dyke!" Everyone would stop, check to see that I was all right, and then we'd move on.

    Gay, faggot, dyke. I knew those words were shameful, and I knew that our family — me, my mom, and the woman with whom she shared a bed upstairs — was different in some way. But before that morning in my room, I'd never heard my mother describe herself as gay to anyone. My grandparents, a military couple descended from North Carolina tobacco farmers, never spoke openly about my mother's sexuality. In the South in the 1980s, such things simply weren't talked about.

    When I spoke with adults who grew up like I did in the early days of gay parenting, I discovered many common experiences. Like me, they faced stigma from their extended families and communities. Like me, they responded to that stigma in a familiar progression: first by regarding their own families with suspicion, then by feeling a responsibility to show the world an idealized version of their families.

    One adult child of gay parents — I'll refer to her as Ann — recalled that even though her home life was great, she dealt with biting prejudice, loneliness, and isolation in her small town, where she knew no other gay families. "I had quite a few friends whose parents wouldn't allow them to visit our home because of our family," she told me. One of those friends told Ann that her dad believed gay people spread HIV/AIDS.

    You don't live in communities like Ann's without bringing at least some of that homophobia home. For me, some of it was directed at my mom in ways I'm not proud of.

    Mom paid the ferry driver as I unloaded our bikes. At first, we made good progress. The morning was cool. Live oaks created a dark tunnel over the sandy road that runs like a spine down the length of the island. The plan was to ride the road all the way to the far end, cut across at the First African Baptist Church, and ride back on the beach.

    We said little as we pedaled. I trailed behind her, sullen and quiet, stopping occasionally to stare at the palmettos just to make her have to wait for me. I was also tired, having slept poorly the night before at the motel. I'd been tossing and turning in our shared queen bed when I said something that today feels unimaginably cruel. Still angry and confused about Mom's coming out, I'd stood above the bed and exclaimed, "I can't sleep with a faggot!"

    "Only bigots say that!" she snapped back at me. "Do you know what a bigot is?"

    I didn't know what a bigot was, but it sounded worse than what I'd called her. I exiled myself to the floor and tried to sleep in a pile of blankets.

    Ann said that her childhood, while happy, was also marked by secrecy and confusion: "I didn't understand the term 'gay' or that my mom was gay until people outside of my immediate family started giving looks or making comments or asking questions," she said.

    Ann remembers kids at school using the term "gay" as a slur, and uncles warning her and her brother that they would grow up to be gay, since their mother was. It all created tremendous confusion for her. "All I knew was I was scared," she said. "I was scared of others finding out, I was scared what they would think of me, and I was scared they would harm me and my family."

    Of course, then, as now, kids from gay families also dealt with the same list of problems kids from straight families face: divorce, alcoholism, abandonment, financial insecurity, and so on. These issues are in many ways amplified and rendered more shameful because our fallible parents also happen to be gay. We feel immense pressure to be standard-bearers for an idealized family life that straight families are never asked to attain. In many cases, that pressure comes directly from our parents, who have internalized a longstanding "model minority" expectation. Consider this recent video promoting gay marriage that profiles a pair of idealized dads and their kids. They're God-fearing, white, and thoroughly bourgeois. All that's missing is the white picket fence.

    Another child of gay parents who grew up in the '80s — I'll call her Elisa — said that when people asked about her family her standard reply was, "Having two moms is amazing!" But the truth was more complicated: "It was amazing," Elisa said. "However, for me, there was no room for variation in my responses. No room for me to share when things were hard at home, or when I needed extra support. I was always hyper-aware that I had a responsibility to make my family, and all LGBTQ families, look good in public."

    For Elisa, the pressure didn't end when she entered adulthood. "It has become so ingrained in me that I am to uphold the model of what LGBTQ families can and should be, by any standard of measure," she said. "This pressure and commitment is the result of many years of being asked to justify our right to exist, and defend myself against the stereotypes and expectations of other people."

    Robin Marquis, national program director of COLAGE, a support organization for people who have one or more LGBTQ parents, said the children of gay parents bear a unique responsibility. "So many of us are so driven to do this amazing, creative stuff because we're under pressure to be poster children. I'd say 99 percent of us have a need to prove our worth."

    Marquis, who grew up with two moms in the '80s in a closeted gay community in rural New Mexico, says it's vital for kids from gay families to speak honestly about what's different and difficult about their backgrounds. She said, "It's high time gay families were given the space to be imperfect."

    Perhaps once the Supreme Court mandates legal equality for same-sex marriage, the space Marquis describes can open up some more. Perhaps an even more authentic form of equality will emerge when kids from gay families can say their families were and are just as messed up as everyone else's.

    For now, though, with more openness comes more danger, as each perceived imperfection can and will be used as ammunition against gay marriage. The recent testimony of four grown children of same-sex parents against gay marriage is one example of how our voices may be used against our own families.

    You also may have heard that Heather Barwick, the adult child of two moms in South Carolina, came out against same-sex marriage in a recent essay. She wrote that although her father chose not be present in her life, marriage between a man and a woman is best for kids, claiming that "by and large, the best and most successful family structure is one in which kids are being raised by both their mother and father."

    While I disagree with her stance on gay marriage, Barwick's emotional struggle resonated with me. I think if we're honest, many children of gay families might find common cause with her when she says, "Many of us are too scared to speak up and tell you about our hurt and pain, because for whatever reason it feels like you're not listening."

    Like Barwick, my father abandoned me early. As a child I wondered what my life would have been like if he'd been around, if my mother had been straight, and if the three of us had lived a version of the lives I imagined the straight families at school had.

    That dreaming of something better, something more perfect and normal, brings the story back to Cumberland. By midday it was hot on the island, and deep sand made the going much slower. I trudged through the dunes singing a line from a Bon Jovi song over and over in my head: "Whoa-oh, we're halfway there / Whoa-oh, living on a prayer." Eventually we made it out to the beach, and the Atlantic opened up before us. A young foal, alone and mangy, stood by a National Park Service placard reporting we were still 10 miles from the boat back to the mainland.

    "This sucks," I said, and threw my bike into the sand. "I'm thirsty again."

    That's when Mom cautiously revealed we were out of water. She winced as she spoke.

    "I'm sorry," she said, sitting down next to me in the sand. "I should've brought more." I could see in her expression that she was ashamed of how unprepared we were. For the first time, I saw how much she wanted this day to go well, how much pressure she was putting on herself, how much she wanted to be a good mom.

    I remember a handful of moments like this one from my childhood, moments when I thought it might've been nice to have a dad around, some big fellow who could tote around gallons of water, a living caricature built like a horse who'd scoop me up and carry me out of places like this, as though a man — and only a man — would be magically and automatically endowed with such qualities.

    But what really happened on the beach that day was perhaps even better. Mom produced one last navel orange from her backpack, punched a hole in the shiny peel with her thumb, and handed it to me. I held it above my mouth as Mom encouraged me to squeeze every last sweet drop out of that thing. I thanked her and said I felt better. Then we picked up our bikes and made it home.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #76 - November 22, 2015, 02:34 AM

    Well, I get that one.

    Don't let Hitler have the street.
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #77 - November 22, 2015, 02:35 AM

    Remarkable how if you replace the words with islam and non-believer you get the same story.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #78 - November 22, 2015, 02:44 AM

    Well, I meant that I had the same sort of experience, in the same cultural environment and timeframe. I used to dream of writing ¨MY MOTHER IS A LESBIAN¨ in chalk on the driveway in front of my house because I was so tired of keeping the secret. I don´t mean daydream, I mean actual dreams while I was sleeping.

    Don't let Hitler have the street.
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #79 - November 22, 2015, 02:49 AM

    I understood what you meant, I was just commenting on how bigotry by any other name smells as shit.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #80 - November 23, 2015, 02:05 AM

    Yeah, you right. I am so sick of bigotry right now. If people would think, we would all be better off. I understand it in cases of duress, but why would perfectly safe and sane people just abstain from critical thought? Just sickening.

    Don't let Hitler have the street.
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #81 - December 20, 2015, 10:05 AM

    A blog post giving the thoughts of Eric Scott, an Asatru follower and second generation pagan raised by the Saint Louis coven Pleiades, a wiccan family based in the Alexandrian tradition. I first read this three or four years ago and recently remembered it, so thought I'd look it up and share it here. It's something that never comes up in the minds of most people, the portrayals of gods who's believers most would dismiss as being long dead.

    by Eric Scott
    What happens when Hollywood gets a hold of your gods.

    I’d never had occasion to visit the Wal-Mart in Overland Park, Kansas, even though I’ve been working for the company just behind it for nearly a year. That might be for the usual reason—an anti-corporate stance that manifests itself solely in avoiding one big-box department store in favor of other, somewhat less notorious big-box department stores—but honestly, I shopped at Wal-Mart plenty while in college. I had just never needed anything from this one before.

    I finally went in last week, on a Tuesday night after I got off from my overnight shift. (I needed paint. My hobby right now is painting tiny plastic men for use in a game so obscure and so expensive that I fear saying its name aloud. The game company suggests using their own paints, of course, but I refuse to pay six times as much for paint called “Chaos Black” instead of “Licorice.”)  The store was much cleaner than the one I’d known when I was at Truman State, and more inviting: bright lights, smiling photographs hanging from the ceiling, a grocery department painted the color of warm earth. But the overnight stock crew looked the same as every Wal-Mart’s: tired, sallow-faced, and vaguely haunted. They seemed surprised to have a customer walking around the store at 4:45 in the morning.

    As I stood in the paint aisle, the loudspeakers announced a test of the sprinkler systems, and my curiosity got the better of me. I stood there for ten minutes, listening to the thunderous sizzle of the alarm, waiting for the sprinklers to wet down the merchandise, but they never did. How this constituted a test of the important part of the sprinkler—the part that puts out the fire—I will probably never know.

    I am in my mid-twenties and have no children, but still I am always drawn to the toy department when I’m in a store like Wal-Mart. I never buy anything there, but I like looking at the aisles of action figures and chintzy plastic dress-up kits. They remind me of running headlong through Venture or Target as a child, my parents hustling behind me as I raced to see what new Batman or Power Rangers toy I could coerce them into buying. It’s a habit I’ve never grown out of—see the aforementioned wallet-draining obsession with plastic soldiers.

    My years in the toy aisle have taught me what to expect, usually. Star Wars and professional wrestlers will always make up at least a third of the selection. GI Joe and superheroes, another third or so. The rest goes to the current movie juggernaut. I turned into the boys’ toys aisle, not expecting anything out of the ordinary, and then remembered the current blockbuster.

    Everywhere I looked the packages sang his praises: Wal-Mart, home to Thor, God of Thunder.

    I looked the blister-packs over. The Lord of Storms came in multiple varieties and price-points. For eight dollars, you could buy “Lightning Clash” Thor, who seemed like the default version—Thor in his “not going anywhere in particular” clothes, suited for lazy days around Thrymheim. For fifteen dollars, though, Thor came with his “Deluxe Blaster Armor,” which you may recall featured prominently in the ancient myth of his trip to Utgard. I also found “Secret Strike” Loki, wielding two daggers and looking mildly incontinent. Both Loki and Thor came with swords as wide as the hood of a Honda in addition to their other weapons. The packages also promised a “Shield Bash” Odin, but he was nowhere to be found. (Typical.)

    Beyond the action figures, I found four items of Thor dress-up apparel: an Asgardian Armor helmet, a “Thor Sword” (where are all these swords coming from, by the way? Thor never used a sword in the myths or the comics) and two versions of Thor’s Hammer, neither of which used the word “Mjolnir” anywhere on the box. Written in a circle around the top of the hammer was this:

    If you don’t know how to transliterate the runes of the Elder Futhark into the Latin alphabet, it comes out to this, plus or minus a few misplaced runes:

    He who wields this hammer commands the lightning and the storm.

    (I’m holding out for a scene in the film where, after finding Mjolnir in a crater somewhere in the Arizona desert, a federal agent bursts into a classroom at Arizona State University and shouts, “Professor! Drop everything—the fate of the world depends on your doctorate in ancient Scandinavian literature!”)

    I held that foam hammer in my hand for a long time, which I’m sure only confirmed my weirdness to the nightgaunts of the third shift. With my other hand, I rubbed the Mjolnir necklace I have worn every day since my initiation into my family’s coven. I did not know what to think of it.

    I know what I’m supposed to say. Of course the Thor of the movie, and the comics that I grew up reading, is not the same Thor whom Snorri Sturluson wrote of in the Prose Edda, who perhaps is not the same Thor the Norsemen worshipped in the time before Christianity came to Northern Europe. The character Chris Hemsworth plays is not the deity I worship, the god whose symbol hangs around my neck. Anthony Hopkins, in his Hollywood regalia and metallic eyepatch, is not the Gallows-God I pray to. And even if the film is terrible, perhaps someone will watch it and then pick up Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Norse Myths at the bookstore, and that will make it worthwhile.

    If I could say that, then there would be nothing troubling about Sword Strike Thor and the rest. At worst, it’s harmless and ephemeral; at best, perhaps more people would learn something about the myths. But it’s not that simple.

    The truth is, I looked at the toys in my hands and I saw the result of millions of dollars of development and thousands of hours of manpower, put into something bearing the name of a god, my god, and it had nothing to do with me. Their Thor was a god forgotten by all except the few quiet geeks who read his adventures in Journey into Mystery and The Mighty Thor for forty years. It wasn’t that they meant to upset or unsettle me; they simply realized that people like me were too few to matter. It’s impossible to think of a story about Jesus like this, not written to pander to or irritate Christians, but simply not considering them at all.

    But not Thor. The Aesir were dead gods, their stories ready to be stirred and stolen and sold, without any remorse or complaint.

    I put the toys back on the shelf and walked to the checkout. An old man in a blue vest shuffled over to the cashier. He smiled a gummy smile and scanned my bottle of Licorice Black.

    “Going to do some painting, huh?” he said.

    I nodded and swiped my debit card in silence. He tore off the receipt and handed it to me.

    “You be careful driving,” he said. “It was raining something terrible earlier.”

    I drove back home along a wet highway glistening with streetlights, one hand on the wheel, one on the sigil around my neck.

    The toy hammer was gone the next week, when I returned for a bottle of Burnished Inca Gold. Mjolnir, spirited away, a gift to a child who likely knew nothing about the Aesir, or the Jotun, or Asatru, a child in whose hands now rests the power to command the lightning and the storm.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #82 - July 26, 2016, 12:37 AM

    Parts 1-3 of The Lion and the Unicorn, written 1941.



    As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.

    They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are ‘only doing their duty’, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep any the worse for it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil.

    One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty. In certain circumstances it can break down, at certain levels of civilization it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not.

    Also, one must admit that the divisions between nation and nation are founded on real differences of outlook. Till recently it was thought proper to pretend that all human beings are very much alike, but in fact anyone able to use his eyes knows that the average of human behaviour differs enormously from country to country. Things that could happen in one country could not happen in another. Hitler’s June purge, for instance, could not have happened in England. And, as western peoples go, the English are very highly differentiated. There is a sort of back-handed admission of this in the dislike which nearly all foreigners feel for our national way of life. Few Europeans can endure living in England, and even Americans often feel more at home in Europe.

    When you come back to England from any foreign country, you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air. Even in the first few minutes dozens of small things conspire to give you this feeling. The beer is bitterer, the coins are heavier, the grass is greener, the advertisements are more blatant. The crowds in the big towns, with their mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners, are different from a European crowd. Then the vastness of England swallows you up, and you lose for a while your feeling that the whole nation has a single identifiable character. Are there really such things as nations? Are we not forty-six million individuals, all different? And the diversity of it, the chaos! The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of the lorries on the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pin-tables in the Soho pubs, the old maids hiking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning - all these are not only fragments, but characteristic fragments, of the English scene. How can one make a pattern out of this muddle?

    But talk to foreigners, read foreign books or newspapers, and you are brought back to the same thought. Yes, there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes. It has a flavour of its own. Moreover it is continuous, it stretches into the future and the past, there is something in it that persists, as in a living creature. What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person.

    And above all, it is your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time. The suet puddings and the red pillar-boxes have entered into your soul. Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you.

    Meanwhile England, together with the rest of the world, is changing. And like everything else it can change only in certain directions, which up to a point can be foreseen. That is not to say that the future is fixed, merely that certain alternatives are possible and others not. A seed may grow or not grow, but at any rate a turnip seed never grows into a parsnip. It is therefore of the deepest importance to try and determine what England is, before guessing what part England can play in the huge events that are happening.


    National characteristics are not easy to pin down, and when pinned down they often turn out to be trivialities or seem to have no connexion with one another. Spaniards are cruel to animals, Italians can do nothing without making a deafening noise, the Chinese are addicted to gambling. Obviously such things don’t matter in themselves. Nevertheless, nothing is causeless, and even the fact that Englishmen have bad teeth can tell something about the realities of English life.

    Here are a couple of generalizations about England that would be accepted by almost all observers. One is that the English are not gifted artistically. They are not as musical as the Germans or Italians, painting and sculpture have never flourished in England as they have in France. Another is that, as Europeans go, the English are not intellectual. They have a horror of abstract thought, they feel no need for any philosophy or systematic ‘world-view’. Nor is this because they are ‘practical’, as they are so fond of claiming for themselves. One has only to look at their methods of town planning and water supply, their obstinate clinging to everything that is out of date and a nuisance, a spelling system that defies analysis, and a system of weights and measures that is intelligible only to the compilers of arithmetic books, to see how little they care about mere efficiency. But they have a certain power of acting without taking thought. Their world-famed hypocrisy - their double-faced attitude towards the Empire, for instance - is bound up with this. Also, in moments of supreme crisis the whole nation can suddenly draw together and act upon a species of instinct, really a code of conduct which is understood by almost everyone, though never formulated. The phrase that Hitler coined for the Germans, ‘a sleep-walking people’, would have been better applied to the English. Not that there is anything to be proud of in being called a sleep-walker.

    But here it is worth noting a minor English trait which is extremely well marked though not often commented on, and that is a love of flowers. This is one of the first things that one notices when one reaches England from abroad, especially if one is coming from southern Europe. Does it not contradict the English indifference to the arts? Not really, because it is found in people who have no aesthetic feelings whatever. What it does link up with, however, is another English characteristic which is so much a part of us that we barely notice it, and that is the addiction to hobbies and spare-time occupations, the privateness of English life. We are a nation of flower-lovers, but also a nation of stamp-collectors, pigeon-fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers, darts-players, crossword-puzzle fans. All the culture that is most truly native centres round things which even when they are communal are not official - the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the ‘nice cup of tea’. The liberty of the individual is still believed in, almost as in the nineteenth century. But this has nothing to do with economic liberty, the right to exploit others for profit. It is the liberty to have a home of your own, to do what you like in your spare time, to choose your own amusements instead of having them chosen for you from above. The most hateful of all names in an English ear is Nosey Parker. It is obvious, of course, that even this purely private liberty is a lost cause. Like all other modern people, the English are in process of being numbered, labelled, conscripted, ‘co-ordinated’. But the pull of their impulses is in the other direction, and the kind of regimentation that can be imposed on them will be modified in consequence. No party rallies, no Youth Movements, no coloured shirts, no Jew-baiting or ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations. No Gestapo either, in all probability.

    But in all societies the common people must live to some extent against the existing order. The genuinely popular culture of England is something that goes on beneath the surface, unofficially and more or less frowned on by the authorities. One thing one notices if one looks directly at the common people, especially in the big towns, is that they are not puritanical. They are inveterate gamblers, drink as much beer as their wages will permit, are devoted to bawdy jokes, and use probably the foulest language in the world. They have to satisfy these tastes in the face of astonishing, hypocritical laws (licensing laws, lottery acts, etc. etc.) which are designed to interfere with everybody but in practice allow everything to happen. Also, the common people are without definite religious belief, and have been so for centuries. The Anglican Church never had a real hold on them, it was simply a preserve of the landed gentry, and the Nonconformist sects only influenced minorities. And yet they have retained a deep tinge of Christian feeling, while almost forgetting the name of Christ. The power-worship which is the new religion of Europe, and which has infected the English intelligentsia, has never touched the common people. They have never caught up with power politics. The ‘realism’ which is preached in Japanese and Italian newspapers would horrify them. One can learn a good deal about the spirit of England from the comic coloured postcards that you see in the windows of cheap stationers’ shops. These things are a sort of diary upon which the English people have unconsciously recorded themselves. Their old-fashioned outlook, their graded snobberies, their mixture of bawdiness and hypocrisy, their extreme gentleness, their deeply moral attitude to life, are all mirrored there.

    The gentleness of the English civilization is perhaps its most marked characteristic. You notice it the instant you set foot on English soil. It is a land where the bus conductors are good-tempered and the policemen carry no revolvers. In no country inhabited by white men is it easier to shove people off the pavement. And with this goes something that is always written off by European observers as ‘decadence’ or hypocrisy, the English hatred of war and militarism. It is rooted deep in history, and it is strong in the lower-middle class as well as the working class. Successive wars have shaken it but not destroyed it. Well within living memory it was common for ‘the redcoats’ to be booed at in the streets and for the landlords of respectable public houses to refuse to allow soldiers on the premises. In peace time, even when there are two million unemployed, it is difficult to fill the ranks of the tiny standing army, which is officered by the country gentry and a specialized stratum of the middle class, and manned by farm labourers and slum proletarians. The mass of the people are without military knowledge or tradition, and their attitude towards war is invariably defensive. No politician could rise to power by promising them conquests or military ‘glory’, no Hymn of Hate has ever made any appeal to them. In the last war the songs which the soldiers made up and sang of their own accord were not vengeful but humorous and mock-defeatist [Note 1] The only enemy they ever named was the sergeant-major.

    In England all the boasting and flag-wagging, the ‘Rule Britannia’ stuff, is done by small minorities. The patriotism of the common people is not vocal or even conscious. They do not retain among their historical memories the name of a single military victory. English literature, like other literatures, is full of battle-poems, but it is worth noticing that the ones that have won for themselves a kind of popularity are always a tale of disasters and retreats. There is no popular poem about Trafalgar or Waterloo, for instance. Sir John Moore’s army at Corunna, fighting a desperate rearguard action before escaping overseas (just like Dunkirk!) has more appeal than a brilliant victory. The most stirring battle-poem in English is about a brigade of cavalry which charged in the wrong direction. And of the last war, the four names which have really engraved themselves on the popular memory are Mons, Ypres, Gallipoli and Passchendaele, every time a disaster. The names of the great battles that finally broke the German armies are simply unknown to the general public.

    The reason why the English anti-militarism disgusts foreign observers is that it ignores the existence of the British Empire. It looks like sheer hypocrisy. After all, the English have absorbed a quarter of the earth and held on to it by means of a huge navy. How dare they then turn round and say that war is wicked?

    It is quite true that the English are hypocritical about their Empire. In the working class this hypocrisy takes the form of not knowing that the Empire exists. But their dislike of standing armies is a perfectly sound instinct. A navy employs comparatively few people, and it is an external weapon which cannot affect home politics directly. Military dictatorships exist everywhere, but there is no such thing as a naval dictatorship. What English people of nearly all classes loathe from the bottom of their hearts is the swaggering officer type, the jingle of spurs and the crash of boots. Decades before Hitler was ever heard of, the word ‘Prussian’ had much the same significance in England as ‘Nazi’ has today. So deep does this feeling go that for a hundred years past the officers of the British army, in peace time, have always worn civilian clothes when off duty.

    One rapid but fairly sure guide to the social atmosphere of a country is the parade-step of its army. A military parade is really a kind of ritual dance, something like a ballet, expressing a certain philosophy of life. The goose-step, for instance, is one of the most horrible sights in the world, far more terrifying than a dive-bomber. It is simply an affirmation of naked power; contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face. Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is ‘Yes, I am ugly, and you daren’t laugh at me’, like the bully who makes faces at his victim. Why is the goose-step not used in England? There are, heaven knows, plenty of army officers who would be only too glad to introduce some such thing. It is not used because the people in the street would laugh. Beyond a certain point, military display is only possible in countries where the common people dare not laugh at the army. The Italians adopted the goose-step at about the time when Italy passed definitely under German control, and, as one would expect, they do it less well than the Germans. The Vichy government, if it survives, is bound to introduce a stiffer parade-ground discipline into what is left of the French army. In the British army the drill is rigid and complicated, full of memories of the eighteenth century, but without definite swagger; the march is merely a formalized walk. It belongs to a society which is ruled by the sword, no doubt, but a sword which must never be taken out of the scabbard.

    And yet the gentleness of English civilization is mixed up with barbarities and anachronisms. Our criminal law is as out-of-date as the muskets in the Tower. Over against the Nazi Storm Trooper you have got to set that typically English figure, the hanging judge, some gouty old bully with his mind rooted in the nineteenth century, handing out savage sentences. In England people are still hanged by the neck and flogged with the cat o’ nine tails. Both of these punishments are obscene as well as cruel, but there has never been any genuinely popular outcry against them. People accept them (and Dartmoor, and Borstal) almost as they accept the weather. They are part of ‘the law’, which is assumed to be unalterable.

    Here one comes upon an all-important English trait: the respect for constitutionalism and legality, the belief in ‘the law’ as something above the State and above the individual, something which is cruel and stupid, of course, but at any rate incorruptible.

    It is not that anyone imagines the law to be just. Everyone knows that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. But no one accepts the implications of this, everyone takes it for granted that the law, such as it is, will be respected, and feels a sense of outrage when it is not. Remarks like ‘They can’t run me in; I haven’t done anything wrong’, or ’They can’t do that; it’s against the law’, are part of the atmosphere of England. The professed enemies of society have this feeling as strongly as anyone else. One sees it in prison-books like Wilfred Macartney’s Walls Have Mouths or Jim Phelan’s Jail Journey, in the solemn idiocies that take place at the trials of conscientious objectors, in letters to the papers from eminent Marxist professors, pointing out that this or that is a ‘miscarriage of British justice’. Everyone believes in his heart that the law can be, ought to be, and, on the whole, will be impartially administered. The totalitarian idea that there is no such thing as law, there is only power, has never taken root. Even the intelligentsia have only accepted it in theory.

    An illusion can become a half-truth, a mask can alter the expression of a face. The familiar arguments to the effect that democracy is ‘just the same as’ or ‘just as bad as’ totalitarianism never take account of this fact. All such arguments boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as no bread. In England such concepts as justice, liberty and objective truth are still believed in. They may be illusions, but they are very powerful illusions. The belief in them influences conduct, national life is different because of them. In proof of which, look about you. Where are the rubber truncheons, where is the castor oil? The sword is still in the scabbard, and while it stays there corruption cannot go beyond a certain point. The English electoral system, for instance, is an all but open fraud. In a dozen obvious ways it is gerrymandered in the interest of the moneyed class. But until some deep change has occurred in the public mind, it cannot become completely corrupt. You do not arrive at the polling booth to find men with revolvers telling you which way to vote, nor are the votes miscounted, nor is there any direct bribery. Even hypocrisy is a powerful safeguard. The hanging judge, that evil old man in scarlet robe and horse-hair wig, whom nothing short of dynamite will ever teach what century he is living in, but who will at any rate interpret the law according to the books and will in no circumstances take a money bribe, is one of the symbolic figures of England. He is a symbol of the strange mixture of reality and illusion, democracy and privilege, humbug and decency, the subtle network of compromises, by which the nation keeps itself in its familiar shape.


    I have spoken all the while of ‘the nation’, ‘England’, ‘Britain’, as though forty-five million souls could somehow be treated as a unit. But is not England notoriously two nations, the rich and the poor? Dare one pretend that there is anything in common between people with £100,000 a year and people with £1 a week? And even Welsh and Scottish readers are likely to have been offended because I have used the word ‘England’ oftener than ‘Britain’, as though the whole population dwelt in London and the Home Counties and neither north nor west possessed a culture of its own.

    One gets a better view of this question if one considers the minor point first. It is quite true that the so-called races of Britain feel themselves to be very different from one another. A Scotsman, for instance, does not thank you if you call him an Englishman. You can see the hesitation we feel on this point by the fact that we call our islands by no less than six different names, England, Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles, the United Kingdom and, in very exalted moments, Albion. Even the differences between north and south England loom large in our own eyes. But somehow these differences fade away the moment that any two Britons are confronted by a European. It is very rare to meet a foreigner, other than an American, who can distinguish between English and Scots or even English and Irish. To a Frenchman, the Breton and the Auvergnat seem very different beings, and the accent of Marseilles is a stock joke in Paris. Yet we speak of ‘France’ and ‘the French’, recognizing France as an entity, a single civilization, which in fact it is. So also with ourselves. Looked at from the outsider even the cockney and the Yorkshireman have a strong family resemblance.

    And even the distinction between rich and poor dwindles somewhat when one regards the nation from the outside. There is no question about the inequality of wealth in England. It is grosser than in any European country, and you have only to look down the nearest street to see it. Economically, England is certainly two nations, if not three or four. But at the same time the vast majority of the people feel themselves to be a single nation and are conscious of resembling one another more than they resemble foreigners. Patriotism is usually stronger than class-hatred, and always stronger than any kind of internationalism. Except for a brief moment in 1920 (the ‘Hands off Russia’ movement) the British working class have never thought or acted internationally. For two and a half years they watched their comrades in Spain slowly strangled, and never aided them by even a single strike. [Note 2] But when their own country (the country of Lord Nuffield and Mr Montagu Norman) was in danger, their attitude was very different. At the moment when it seemed likely that England might be invaded, Anthony Eden appealed over the radio for Local Defence Volunteers. He got a quarter of a million men in the first twenty-four hours, and another million in the subsequent month. One has only to compare these figures with, for instance, the number of conscientious objectors to see how vast is the strength of traditional loyalties compared with new ones.

    In England patriotism takes different forms in different classes, but it runs like a connecting thread through nearly all of them. Only the Europeanized intelligentsia are really immune to it. As a positive emotion it is stronger in the middle class than in the upper class - the cheap public schools, for instance, are more given to patriotic demonstrations than the expensive ones - but the number of definitely treacherous rich men, the Laval-Quisling type, is probably very small. In the working class patriotism is profound, but it is unconscious. The working man’s heart does not leap when he sees a Union Jack. But the famous ‘insularity’ and ‘xenophobia’ of the English is far stronger in the working class than in the bourgeoisie. In all countries the poor are more national than the rich, but the English working class are outstanding in their abhorrence of foreign habits. Even when they are obliged to live abroad for years they refuse either to accustom themselves to foreign food or to learn foreign languages. Nearly every Englishman of working-class origin considers it effeminate to pronounce a foreign word correctly. During the war of 1914-18 the English working class were in contact with foreigners to an extent that is rarely possible. The sole result was that they brought back a hatred of all Europeans, except the Germans, whose courage they admired. In four years on French soil they did not even acquire a liking for wine. The insularity of the English, their refusal to take foreigners seriously, is a folly that has to be paid for very heavily from time to time. But it plays its part in the English mystique, and the intellectuals who have tried to break it down have generally done more harm than good. At bottom it is the same quality in the English character that repels the tourist and keeps out the invader.

    Here one comes back to two English characteristics that I pointed out, seemingly at random, at the beginning of the last chapter. One is the lack of artistic ability. This is perhaps another way of saying that the English are outside the European culture. For there is one art in which they have shown plenty of talent, namely literature. But this is also the only art that cannot cross frontiers. Literature, especially poetry, and lyric poetry most of all, is a kind of family joke, with little or no value outside its own language-group. Except for Shakespeare, the best English poets are barely known in Europe, even as names. The only poets who are widely read are Byron, who is admired for the wrong reasons, and Oscar Wilde, who is pitied as a victim of English hypocrisy. And linked up with this, though not very obviously, is the lack of philosophical faculty, the absence in nearly all Englishmen of any need for an ordered system of thought or even for the use of logic.

    Up to a point, the sense of national unity is a substitute for a ‘world-view’. Just because patriotism is all but universal and not even the rich are uninfluenced by it, there can be moments when the whole nation suddenly swings together and does the same thing, like a herd of cattle facing a wolf. There was such a moment, unmistakably, at the time of the disaster in France. After eight months of vaguely wondering what the war was about, the people suddenly knew what they had got to do: first, to get the army away from Dunkirk, and secondly to prevent invasion. It was like the awakening of a giant. Quick! Danger! The Philistines be upon thee, Samson! And then the swift unanimous action - and, then, alas, the prompt relapse into sleep. In a divided nation that would have been exactly the moment for a big peace movement to arise. But does this mean that the instinct of the English will always tell them to do the right thing? Not at all, merely that it will tell them to do the same thing. In the 1931 General Election, for instance, we all did the wrong thing in perfect unison. We were as single-minded as the Gadarene swine. But I honestly doubt whether we can say that we were shoved down the slope against our will.

    It follows that British democracy is less of a fraud than it sometimes appears. A foreign observer sees only the huge inequality of wealth, the unfair electoral system, the governing-class control over the press, the radio and education, and concludes that democracy is simply a polite name for dictatorship. But this ignores the considerable agreement that does unfortunately exist between the leaders and the led. However much one may hate to admit it, it is almost certain that between 1931 and 1940 the National Government represented the will of the mass of the people. It tolerated slums, unemployment and a cowardly foreign policy. Yes, but so did public opinion. It was a stagnant period, and its natural leaders were mediocrities.

    In spite of the campaigns of a few thousand left-wingers, it is fairly certain that the bulk of the English people were behind Chamberlain’s foreign policy. More, it is fairly certain that the same struggle was going on in Chamberlain’s mind as in the minds of ordinary people. His opponents professed to see in him a dark and wily schemer, plotting to sell England to Hitler, but it is far likelier that he was merely a stupid old man doing his best according to his very dim lights. It is difficult otherwise to explain the contradictions of his policy, his failure to grasp any of the courses that were open to him. Like the mass of the people, he did not want to pay the price either of peace or of war. And public opinion was behind him all the while, in policies that were completely incompatible with one another. It was behind him when he went to Munich, when he tried to come to an understanding with Russia, when he gave the guarantee to Poland, when he honoured it, and when he prosecuted the war half-heartedly. Only when the results of his policy became apparent did it turn against him; which is to say that it turned against its own lethargy of the past seven years. Thereupon the people picked a leader nearer to their mood, Churchill, who was at any rate able to grasp that wars are not won without fighting. Later, perhaps, they will pick another leader who can grasp that only Socialist nations can fight effectively.

    Do I mean by all this that England is a genuine democracy? No, not even a reader of the Daily Telegraph could quite swallow that.

    England is the most class-ridden country under the sun. It is a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and silly. But in any calculation about it one has got to take into account its emotional unity, the tendency of nearly all its inhabitants to feel alike and act together in moments of supreme crisis. It is the only great country in Europe that is not obliged to drive hundreds of thousands of its nationals into exile or the concentration camp. At this moment, after a year of war, newspapers and pamphlets abusing the Government, praising the enemy and clamouring for surrender are being sold on the streets, almost without interference. And this is less from a respect for freedom of speech than from a simple perception that these things don’t matter. It is safe to let a paper like Peace News be sold, because it is certain that ninety-five per cent of the population will never want to read it. The nation is bound together by an invisible chain. At any normal time the ruling class will rob, mismanage, sabotage, lead us into the muck; but let popular opinion really make itself heard, let them get a tug from below that they cannot avoid feeling, and it is difficult for them not to respond. The left-wing writers who denounce the whole of the ruling class as ‘pro-Fascist’ are grossly over-simplifying. Even among the inner clique of politicians who brought us to our present pass, it is doubtful whether there were any conscious traitors. The corruption that happens in England is seldom of that kind. Nearly always it is more in the nature of self-deception, of the right hand not knowing what the left hand doeth. And being unconscious, it is limited. One sees this at its most obvious in the English press. Is the English press honest or dishonest? At normal times it is deeply dishonest. All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news. Yet I do not suppose there is one paper in England that can be straightforwardly bribed with hard cash. In the France of the Third Republic all but a very few of the newspapers could notoriously be bought over the counter like so many pounds of cheese. Public life in England has never been openly scandalous. It has not reached the pitch of disintegration at which humbug can be dropped.

    England is not the jewelled isle of Shakespeare’s much-quoted message, nor is it the inferno depicted by Dr Goebbels. More than either it resembles a family, a rather stuffy Victorian family, with not many black sheep in it but with all its cupboards bursting with skeletons. It has rich relations who have to be kow-towed to and poor relations who are horribly sat upon, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income. It is a family in which the young are generally thwarted and most of the power is in the hands of irresponsible uncles and bedridden aunts. Still, it is a family. It has its private language and its common memories, and at the approach of an enemy it closes its ranks. A family with the wrong members in control - that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.


    Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there. One of the dominant facts in English life during the past three quarters of a century has been the decay of ability in the ruling class.

    In the years between 1920 and 1940 it was happening with the speed of a chemical reaction. Yet at the moment of writing it is still possible to speak of a ruling class. Like the knife which has had two new blades and three new handles, the upper fringe of English society is still almost what it was in the mid nineteenth century. After 1832 the old land-owning aristocracy steadily lost power, but instead of disappearing or becoming a fossil they simply intermarried with the merchants, manufacturers and financiers who had replaced them, and soon turned them into accurate copies of themselves. The wealthy shipowner or cotton-miller set up for himself an alibi as a country gentleman, while his sons learned the right mannerisms at public schools which had been designed for just that purpose. England was ruled by an aristocracy constantly recruited from parvenus. And considering what energy the self-made men possessed, and considering that they were buying their way into a class which at any rate had a tradition of public service, one might have expected that able rulers could be produced in some such way.

    And yet somehow the ruling class decayed, lost its ability, its daring, finally even its ruthlessness, until a time came when stuffed shirts like Eden or Halifax could stand out as men of exceptional talent. As for Baldwin, one could not even dignify him with the name of stuffed shirt. He was simply a hole in the air. The mishandling of England’s domestic problems during the nineteen-twenties had been bad enough, but British foreign policy between 1931 and 1939 is one of the wonders of the world. Why? What had happened? What was it that at every decisive moment made every British statesman do the wrong thing with so unerring an instinct?

    The underlying fact was that the whole position of the moneyed class had long ceased to be justifiable. There they sat, at the centre of a vast empire and a world-wide financial network, drawing interest and profits and spending them - on what? It was fair to say that life within the British Empire was in many ways better than life outside it. Still, the Empire was underdeveloped, India slept in the Middle Ages, the Dominions lay empty, with foreigners jealously barred out, and even England was full of slums and unemployment. Only half a million people, the people in the country houses, definitely benefited from the existing system. Moreover, the tendency of small businesses to merge together into large ones robbed more and more of the moneyed class of their function and turned them into mere owners, their work being done for them by salaried managers and technicians. For long past there had been in England an entirely functionless class, living on money that was invested they hardly knew where, the ’idle rich’, the people whose photographs you can look at in the Tatler and the Bystander, always supposing that you want to. The existence of these people was by any standard unjustifiable. They were simply parasites, less useful to society than his fleas are to a dog.

    By 1920 there were many people who were aware of all this. By 1930 millions were aware of it. But the British ruling class obviously could not admit to themselves that their usefulness was at an end. Had they done that they would have had to abdicate. For it was not possible for them to turn themselves into mere bandits, like the American millionaires, consciously clinging to unjust privileges and beating down opposition by bribery and tear-gas bombs. After all, they belonged to a class with a certain tradition, they had been to public schools where the duty of dying for your country, if necessary, is laid down as the first and greatest of the Commandments. They had to feel themselves true patriots, even while they plundered their countrymen. Clearly there was only one escape for them - into stupidity. They could keep society in its existing shape only by being unable to grasp that any improvement was possible. Difficult though this was, they achieved it, largely by fixing their eyes on the past and refusing to notice the changes that were going on round them.

    There is much in England that this explains. It explains the decay of country life, due to the keeping-up of a sham feudalism which drives the more spirited workers off the land. It explains the immobility of the public schools, which have barely altered since the eighties of the last century. It explains the military incompetence which has again and again startled the world. Since the fifties every war in which England has engaged has started off with a series of disasters, after which the situation has been saved by people comparatively low in the social scale. The higher commanders, drawn from the aristocracy, could never prepare for modern war, because in order to do so they would have had to admit to themselves that the world was changing. They have always clung to obsolete methods and weapons, because they inevitably saw each war as a repetition of the last. Before the Boer War they prepared for the Zulu War, before the 1914 for the Boer War, and before the present war for 1914. Even at this moment hundreds of thousands of men in England are being trained with the bayonet, a weapon entirely useless except for opening tins. It is worth noticing that the navy and, latterly, the air force, have always been more efficient than the regular army. But the navy is only partially, and the air force hardly at all, within the ruling-class orbit.

    It must be admitted that so long as things were peaceful the methods of the British ruling class served them well enough. Their own people manifestly tolerated them. However unjustly England might be organized, it was at any rate not torn by class warfare or haunted by secret police. The Empire was peaceful as no area of comparable size has ever been. Throughout its vast extent, nearly a quarter of the earth, there were fewer armed men than would be found necessary by a minor Balkan state. As people to live under, and looking at them merely from a liberal, negative standpoint, the British ruling class had their points. They were preferable to the truly modern men, the Nazis and Fascists. But it had long been obvious that they would be helpless against any serious attack from the outside.

    They could not struggle against Nazism or Fascism, because they could not understand them. Neither could they have struggled against Communism, if Communism had been a serious force in western Europe. To understand Fascism they would have had to study the theory of Socialism, which would have forced them to realize that the economic system by which they lived was unjust, inefficient and out-of-date. But it was exactly this fact that they had trained themselves never to face. They dealt with Fascism as the cavalry generals of 1914 dealt with the machine-guns - by ignoring it. After years of aggression and massacres, they had grasped only one fact, that Hitler and Mussolini were hostile to Communism. Therefore, it was argued, they must be friendly to the British dividend-drawer. Hence the truly frightening spectacle of Conservative M.P.s wildly cheering the news that British ships, bringing food to the Spanish Republican government, had been bombed by Italian aeroplanes. Even when they had begun to grasp that Fascism was dangerous, its essentially revolutionary nature, the huge military effort it was capable of making, the sort of tactics it would use, were quite beyond their comprehension. At the time of the Spanish Civil War, anyone with as much political knowledge as can be acquired from a sixpenny pamphlet on Socialism knew that, if Franco won, the result would be strategically disastrous for England; and yet generals and admirals who had given their lives to the study of war were unable to grasp this fact. This vein of political ignorance runs right through English official life, through Cabinet ministers, ambassadors, consuls, judges, magistrates, policemen. The policeman who arrests the ‘red’ does not understand the theories the ‘red’ is preaching; if he did his own position as bodyguard of the moneyed class might seem less pleasant to him. There is reason to think that even military espionage is hopelessly hampered by ignorance of the new economic doctrines and the ramifications of the underground parties.

    The British ruling class were not altogether wrong in thinking that Fascism was on their side. It is a fact that any rich man, unless he is a Jew, has less to fear from Fascism than from either Communism or democratic Socialism. One ought never to forget this, for nearly the whole of German and Italian propaganda is designed to cover it up. The natural instinct of men like Simon, Hoare, Chamberlain etc. was to come to an agreement with Hitler. But - and here the peculiar feature of English life that I have spoken of, the deep sense of national solidarity, comes in - they could only do so by breaking up the Empire and selling their own people into semi-slavery. A truly corrupt class would have done this without hesitation, as in France. But things had not gone that distance in England. Politicians who would make cringing speeches about ‘the duty of loyalty to our conquerors’ are hardly to be found in English public life. Tossed to and fro between their incomes and their principles, it was impossible that men like Chamberlain should do anything but make the worst of both worlds.

    One thing that has always shown that the English ruling class are morally fairly sound, is that in time of war they are ready enough to get themselves killed. Several dukes, earls and what nots were killed in the recent campaign in Flanders. That could not happen if these people were the cynical scoundrels that they are sometimes declared to be. It is important not to misunderstand their motives, or one cannot predict their actions. What is to be expected of them is not treachery, or physical cowardice, but stupidity, unconscious sabotage, an infallible instinct for doing the wrong thing. They are not wicked, or not altogether wicked; they are merely unteachable. Only when their money and power are gone will the younger among them begin to grasp what century they are living in.


    The stagnation of the Empire in the between-war years affected everyone in England, but it had an especially direct effect upon two important sub-sections of the middle class. One was the military and imperialist middle class, generally nicknamed the Blimps, and the other the left-wing intelligentsia. These two seemingly hostile types, symbolic opposites - the half-pay colonel with his bull neck and diminutive brain, like a dinosaur, the highbrow with his domed forehead and stalk-like neck - are mentally linked together and constantly interact upon one another; in any case they are born to a considerable extent into the same families.

    Thirty years ago the Blimp class was already losing its vitality. The middle-class families celebrated by Kipling, the prolific lowbrow families whose sons officered the army and navy and swarmed over all the waste places of the earth from the Yukon to the Irrawaddy, were dwindling before 1914. The thing that had killed them was the telegraph. In a narrowing world, more and more governed from Whitehall, there was every year less room for individual initiative. Men like Clive, Nelson, Nicholson, Gordon would find no place for themselves in the modern British Empire. By 1920 nearly every inch of the colonial empire was in the grip of Whitehall. Well-meaning, over-civilized men, in dark suits and black felt hats, with neatly rolled umbrellas crooked over the left forearm, were imposing their constipated view of life on Malaya and Nigeria, Mombasa and Mandalay. The one-time empire builders were reduced to the status of clerks, buried deeper and deeper under mounds of paper and red tape. In the early twenties one could see, all over the Empire, the older officials, who had known more spacious days, writhing impotently under the changes that were happening. From that time onwards it has been next door to impossible to induce young men of spirit to take any part in imperial administration. And what was true of the official world was true also of the commercial. The great monopoly companies swallowed up hosts of petty traders. Instead of going out to trade adventurously in the Indies one went to an office stool in Bombay or Singapore. And life in Bombay or Singapore was actually duller and safer than life in London. Imperialist sentiment remained strong in the middle class, chiefly owing to family tradition, but the job of administering the Empire had ceased to appeal. Few able men went east of Suez if there was any way of avoiding it.

    But the general weakening of imperialism, and to some extent of the whole British morale, that took place during the nineteen-thirties, was partly the work of the left-wing intelligentsia, itself a kind of growth that had sprouted from the stagnation of the Empire.

    It should be noted that there is now no intelligentsia that is not in some sense ‘left’. Perhaps the last right-wing intellectual was T. E. Lawrence. Since about 1930 everyone describable as an ‘intellectual’ has lived in a state of chronic discontent with the existing order. Necessarily so, because society as it was constituted had no room for him. In an Empire that was simply stagnant, neither being developed nor falling to pieces, and in an England ruled by people whose chief asset was their stupidity, to be ‘clever’ was to be suspect. If you had the kind of brain that could understand the poems of T. S. Eliot or the theories of Karl Marx, the higher-ups would see to it that you were kept out of any important job. The intellectuals could find a function for themselves only in the literary reviews and the left-wing political parties.

    The mentality of the English left-wing intelligentsia can be studied in half a dozen weekly and monthly papers. The immediately striking thing about all these papers is their generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion. There is little in them except the irresponsible carping of people who have never been and never expect to be in a position of power. Another marked characteristic is the emotional shallowness of people who live in a world of ideas and have little contact with physical reality. Many intellectuals of the Left were flabbily pacifist up to 1935, shrieked for war against Germany in the years 1935-9, and then promptly cooled off when the war started. It is broadly though not precisely true that the people who were most ‘anti-Fascist’ during the Spanish Civil War are most defeatist now. And underlying this is the really important fact about so many of the English intelligentsia - their severance from the common culture of the country.

    In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British. It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some. If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were ‘decadent’ and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible. Both the New Statesman and the News Chronicle cried out against the Munich settlement, but even they had done something to make it possible. Ten years of systematic Blimp-baiting affected even the Blimps themselves and made it harder than it had been before to get intelligent young men to enter the armed forces. Given the stagnation of the Empire, the military middle class must have decayed in any case, but the spread of a shallow Leftism hastened the process.

    It is clear that the special position of the English intellectuals during the past ten years, as purely negative creatures, mere anti-Blimps, was a by-product of ruling-class stupidity. Society could not use them, and they had not got it in them to see that devotion to one’s country implies ‘for better, for worse’. Both Blimps and highbrows took for granted, as though it were a law of nature, the divorce between patriotism and intelligence. If you were a patriot you read Blackwood’s Magazine and publicly thanked God that you were ‘not brainy’. If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the Union Jack and regarded physical courage as barbarous. It is obvious that this preposterous convention cannot continue. The Bloomsbury highbrow, with his mechanical snigger, is as out-of-date as the cavalry colonel. A modern nation cannot afford either of them. Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again. It is the fact that we are fighting a war, and a very peculiar kind of war, that may make this possible.


    One of the most important developments in England during the past twenty years has been the upward and downward extension of the middle class. It has happened on such a scale as to make the old classification of society into capitalists, proletarians and petit bourgeois (small property-owners) almost obsolete.

    England is a country in which property and financial power are concentrated in very few hands. Few people in modern England own anything at all, except clothes, furniture and possibly a house. The peasantry have long since disappeared, the independent shopkeeper is being destroyed, the small businessman is diminishing in numbers. But at the same time modern industry is so complicated that it cannot get along without great numbers of managers, salesmen, engineers, chemists and technicians of all kinds, drawing fairly large salaries. And these in turn call into being a professional class of doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, etc. etc. The tendency of advanced capitalism has therefore been to enlarge the middle class and not to wipe it out as it once seemed likely to do.

    But much more important than this is the spread of middle-class ideas and habits among the working class. The British working class are now better off in almost all ways than they were thirty years ago. This is partly due to the efforts of the trade unions, but partly to the mere advance of physical science. It is not always realized that within rather narrow limits the standard of life of a country can rise without a corresponding rise in real wages. Up to a point, civilization can lift itself up by its boot-tags. However unjustly society is organized, certain technical advances are bound to benefit the whole community, because certain kinds of goods are necessarily held in common. A millionaire cannot, for example, light the streets for himself while darkening them for other people. Nearly all citizens of civilized countries now enjoy the use of good roads, germ-free water, police protection, free libraries and probably free education of a kind. Public education in England has been meanly starved of money, but it has nevertheless improved, largely owing to the devoted efforts of the teachers, and the habit of reading has become enormously more widespread. To an increasing extent the rich and the poor read the same books, and they also see the same films and listen to the same radio programmes. And the differences in their way of life have been diminished by the mass-production of cheap clothes and improvements in housing. So far as outward appearance goes, the clothes of rich and poor, especially in the case of women, differ far less than they did thirty or even fifteen years ago. As to housing, England still has slums which are a blot on civilization, but much building has been done during the past ten years, largely by the local authorities. The modern council house, with its bathroom and electric light, is smaller than the stockbroker’s villa, but it is recognizably the same kind of house, which the farm labourer’s cottage is not. A person who has grown up in a council housing estate is likely to be - indeed, visibly is - more middle class in outlook than a person who has grown up in a slum.

    The effect of all this is a general softening of manners. It is enhanced by the fact that modern industrial methods tend always to demand less muscular effort and therefore to leave people with more energy when their day’s work is done. Many workers in the light industries are less truly manual labourers than is a doctor or a grocer. In tastes, habits, manners and outlook the working class and the middle class are drawing together. The unjust distinctions remain, but the real differences diminish. The old-style ‘proletarian’ - collarless, unshaven and with muscles warped by heavy labour - still exists, but he is constantly decreasing in numbers; he only predominates in the heavy-industry areas of the north of England.

    After 1918 there began to appear something that had never existed in England before: people of indeterminate social class. In 1910 every human being in these islands could be ‘placed’ in an instant by his clothes, manners and accent. That is no longer the case. Above all, it is not the case in the new townships that have developed as a result of cheap motor cars and the southward shift of industry. The place to look for the germs of the future England is in light-industry areas and along the arterial roads. In Slough, Dagenham, Barnet, Letchworth, Hayes - everywhere, indeed, on the outskirts of great towns - the old pattern is gradually changing into something new. In those vast new wildernesses of glass and brick the sharp distinctions of the older kind of town, with its slums and mansions, or of the country, with its manor-houses and squalid cottages, no longer exist. There are wide gradations of income, but it is the same kind of life that is being lived at different levels, in labour-saving flats or council houses, along the concrete roads and in the naked democracy of the swimming-pools. It is a rather restless, cultureless life, centring round tinned food, Picture Post, the radio and the internal combustion engine. It is a civilization in which children grow up with an intimate knowledge of magnetoes and in complete ignorance of the Bible. To that civilization belong the people who are most at home in and most definitely of the modern world, the technicians and the higher-paid skilled workers, the airmen and their mechanics, the radio experts, film producers, popular journalists and industrial chemists. They are the indeterminate stratum at which the older class distinctions are beginning to break down.

    This war, unless we are defeated, will wipe out most of the existing class privileges. There are every day fewer people who wish them to continue. Nor need we fear that as the pattern changes life in England will lose its peculiar flavour. The new red cities of Greater London are crude enough, but these things are only the rash that accompanies a change. In whatever shape England emerges from the war it will be deeply tinged with the characteristics that I have spoken of earlier. The intellectuals who hope to see it Russianized or Germanized will be disappointed. The gentleness, the hypocrisy, the thoughtlessness, the reverence for law and the hatred of uniforms will remain, along with the suet puddings and the misty skies. It needs some very great disaster, such as prolonged subjugation by a foreign enemy, to destroy a national culture. The Stock Exchange will be pulled down, the horse plough will give way to the tractor, the country houses will be turned into children’s holiday camps, the Eton and Harrow match will be forgotten, but England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #83 - July 26, 2016, 12:39 AM



    I began this book to the tune of German bombs, and I begin this second chapter in the added racket of the barrage. The yellow gun-flashes are lighting the sky, the splinters are rattling on the housetops, and London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. Anyone able to read a map knows that we are in deadly danger. I do not mean that we are beaten or need be beaten. Almost certainly the outcome depends on our own will. But at this moment we are in the soup, full fathom five, and we have been brought there by follies which we are still committing and which will drown us altogether if we do not mend our ways quickly.

    What this war has demonstrated is that private capitalism - that is, an economic system in which land, factories, mines and transport are owned privately and operated solely for profit - does not work. It cannot deliver the goods. This fact had been known to millions of people for years past, but nothing ever came of it, because there was no real urge from below to alter the system, and those at the top had trained themselves to be impenetrably stupid on just this point. Argument and propaganda got one nowhere. The lords of property simply sat on their bottoms and proclaimed that all was for the best. Hitler’s conquest of Europe, however, was a physical debunking of capitalism. War, for all its evil, is at any rate an unanswerable test of strength, like a try-your-grip machine. Great strength returns the penny, and there is no way of faking the result.

    When the nautical screw was first invented, there was a controversy that lasted for years as to whether screw-steamers or paddle-steamers were better. The paddle-steamers, like all obsolete things, had their champions, who supported them by ingenious arguments. Finally, however, a distinguished admiral tied a screw-steamer and a paddle-steamer of equal horsepower stern to stern and set their engines running. That settled the question once and for all. And it was something similar that happened on the fields of Norway and of Flanders. Once and for all it was proved that a planned economy is stronger than a planless one. But it is necessary here to give some kind of definition to those much-abused words, Socialism and Fascism.

    Socialism is usually defined as ‘common ownership of the means of production.’ Crudely: the State, representing the whole nation, owns everything, and everyone is a State employee. This does not mean that people are stripped of private possessions such as clothes and furniture, but it does mean that all productive goods, such as land, mines, ships and machinery, are the property of the State. The State is the sole large-scale producer. It is not certain that Socialism is in all ways superior to capitalism, but it is certain that, unlike capitalism, it can solve the problems of production and consumption. At normal times a capitalist economy can never consume all that it produces, so that there is always a wasted surplus (wheat burned in furnaces, herrings dumped back into the sea etc. etc.) and always unemployment. In time of war, on the other hand, it has difficulty in producing all that it needs, because nothing is produced unless someone sees his way to making a profit out of it.

    In a Socialist economy these problems do not exist. The State simply calculates what goods will be needed and does its best to produce them. Production is only limited by the amount of labour and raw materials. Money, for internal purposes, ceases to be a mysterious all-powerful thing and becomes a sort of coupon or ration-ticket, issued in sufficient quantities to buy up such consumption goods as may be available at the moment.

    However, it has become clear in the last few years that ‘common ownership of the means of production’ is not in itself a sufficient definition of Socialism. One must also add the following: approximate equality of incomes (it need be no more than approximate), political democracy, and abolition of all hereditary privilege, especially in education. These are simply the necessary safeguards against the reappearance of a class-system. Centralized ownership has very little meaning unless the mass of the people are living roughly upon an equal level, and have some kind of control over the government. ‘The State’ may come to mean no more than a self-elected political party, and oligarchy and privilege can return, based on power rather than on money.

    But what then is Fascism?

    Fascism, at any rate the German version, is a form of capitalism that borrows from Socialism just such features as will make it efficient for war purposes. Internally, Germany has a good deal in common with a Socialist state. Ownership has never been abolished, there are still capitalists and workers, and - this is the important point, and the real reason why rich men all over the world tend to sympathize with Fascism - generally speaking the same people are capitalists and the same people workers as before the Nazi revolution. But at the same time the State, which is simply the Nazi Party, is in control of everything. It controls investment, raw materials, rates of interest, working hours, wages. The factory owner still owns his factory, but he is for practical purposes reduced to the status of a manager. Everyone is in effect a State employee, though the salaries vary very greatly. The mere efficiency of such a system, the elimination of waste and obstruction, is obvious. In seven years it has built up the most powerful war machine the world has ever seen.

    But the idea underlying Fascism is irreconcilably different from that which underlies Socialism. Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. Nazism assumes just the opposite. The driving force behind the Nazi movement is the belief in human inequality, the superiority of Germans to all other races, the right of Germany to rule the world. Outside the German Reich it does not recognize any obligations. Eminent Nazi professors have ‘proved’ over and over again that only nordic man is fully human, have even mooted the idea that non-nordic peoples (such as ourselves) can interbreed with gorillas! Therefore, while a species of war-Socialism exists within the German state, its attitude towards conquered nations is frankly that of an exploiter. The function of the Czechs, Poles, French, etc. is simply to produce such goods as Germany may need, and get in return just as little as will keep them from open rebellion. If we are conquered, our job will probably be to manufacture weapons for Hitler’s forthcoming wars with Russia and America. The Nazis aim, in effect, at setting up a kind of caste system, with four main castes corresponding rather closely to those of the Hindu religion. At the top comes the Nazi party, second come the mass of the German people, third come the conquered European populations. Fourth and last are to come the coloured peoples, the ‘semi-apes’ as Hitler calls them, who are to be reduced quite openly to slavery.

    However horrible this system may seem to us, it works. It works because it is a planned system geared to a definite purpose, world-conquest, and not allowing any private interest, either of capitalist or worker, to stand in its way. British capitalism does not work, because it is a competitive system in which private profit is and must be the main objective. It is a system in which all the forces are pulling in opposite directions and the interests of the individual are as often as not totally opposed to those of the State.

    All through the critical years British capitalism, with its immense industrial plant and its unrivalled supply of skilled labour, was unequal to the strain of preparing for war. To prepare for war on the modern scale you have got to divert the greater part of your national income to armaments, which means cutting down on consumption goods. A bombing plane, for instance, is equivalent in price to fifty small motor cars, or eight thousand pairs of silk stockings, or a million loaves of bread. Clearly you can’t have many bombing planes without lowering the national standard of life. It is guns or butter, as Marshal Goering remarked. But in Chamberlain’s England the transition could not be made. The rich would not face the necessary taxation, and while the rich are still visibly rich it is not possible to tax the poor very heavily either. Moreover, so long as profit was the main object the manufacturer had no incentive to change over from consumption goods to armaments. A businessman’s first duty is to his shareholders. Perhaps England needs tanks, but perhaps it pays better to manufacture motor cars. To prevent war material from reaching the enemy is common sense, but to sell in the highest market is a business duty. Right at the end of August 1939 the British dealers were tumbling over one another in their eagerness to sell Germany tin, rubber, copper and shellac - and this in the clear, certain knowledge that war was going to break out in a week or two. It was about as sensible as selling somebody a razor to cut your throat with. But it was ‘good business’.

    And now look at the results. After 1934 it was known that Germany was rearming. After 1936 everyone with eyes in his head knew that war was coming. After Munich it was merely a question of how soon the war would begin. In September 1939 war broke out. Eight months later it was discovered that, so far as equipment went, the British army was barely beyond the standard of 1918. We saw our soldiers fighting their way desperately to the coast, with one aeroplane against three, with rifles against tanks, with bayonets against tommy-guns. There were not even enough revolvers to supply all the officers. After a year of war the regular army was still short of 300,000 tin hats. There had even, previously, been a shortage of uniforms - this in one of the greatest woollen-goods producing countries in the world!

    What had happened was that the whole moneyed class, unwilling to face a change in their way of life, had shut their eyes to the nature of Fascism and modern war. And false optimism was fed to the general public by the gutter press, which lives on its advertisements and is therefore interested in keeping trade conditions normal. Year after year the Beaverbrook press assured us in huge headlines that THERE WILL BE NO WAR, and as late as the beginning of 1939 Lord Rothermere was describing Hitler as ‘a great gentleman’. And while England in the moment of disaster proved to be short of every war material except ships, it is not recorded that there was any shortage of motor cars, fur coats, gramophones, lipstick, chocolates or silk stockings. And dare anyone pretend that the same tug-of-war between private profit and public necessity is not still continuing? England fights for her life, but business must fight for profits. You can hardly open a newspaper without seeing the two contradictory processes happening side by side. On the very same page you will find the Government urging you to save and the seller of some useless luxury urging you to spend. Lend to Defend, but Guinness is Good for You. Buy a Spitfire, but also buy Haig and Haig, Pond’s Face Cream and Black Magic Chocolates.

    But one thing gives hope - the visible swing in public opinion. If we can survive this war, the defeat in Flanders will turn out to have been one of the great turning-points in English history. In that spectacular disaster the working class, the middle class and even a section of the business community could see the utter rottenness of private capitalism. Before that the case against capitalism had never been proved. Russia, the only definitely Socialist country, was backward and far away. All criticism broke itself against the rat-trap faces of bankers and the brassy laughter of stockbrokers. Socialism? Ha! ha! ha! Where’s the money to come from? Ha! ha! ha! The lords of property were firm in their seats, and they knew it. But after the French collapse there came something that could not be laughed away, something that neither cheque-books nor policemen were any use against - the bombing. Zweee - BOOM! What’s that? Oh, only a bomb on the Stock Exchange. Zweee - BOOM! Another acre of somebody’s valuable slum-property gone west. Hitler will at any rate go down in history as the man who made the City of London laugh on the wrong side of its face. For the first time in their lives the comfortable were uncomfortable, the professional optimists had to admit that there was something wrong. It was a great step forward. From that time onwards the ghastly job of trying to convince artificially stupefied people that a planned economy might be better than a free-for-all in which the worst man wins - that job will never be quite so ghastly again.


    The difference between Socialism and capitalism is not primarily a difference of technique. One cannot simply change from one system to the other as one might install a new piece of machinery in a factory, and then carry on as before, with the same people in positions of control. Obviously there is also needed a complete shift of power. New blood, new men, new ideas - in the true sense of the word, a revolution.

    I have spoken earlier of the soundness and homogeneity of England, the patriotism that runs like a connecting thread through almost all classes. After Dunkirk anyone who had eyes in his head could see this. But it is absurd to pretend that the promise of that moment has been fulfilled. Almost certainly the mass of the people are now ready for the vast changes that are necessary; but those changes have not even begun to happen.

    England is a family with the wrong members in control. Almost entirely we are governed by the rich, and by people who step into positions of command by right of birth. Few if any of these people are consciously treacherous, some of them are not even fools, but as a class they are quite incapable of leading us to victory. They could not do it, even if their material interests did not constantly trip them up. As I pointed out earlier, they have been artificially stupefied. Quite apart from anything else, the rule of money sees to it that we shall be governed largely by the old - that is, by people utterly unable to grasp what age they are living in or what enemy they are fighting. Nothing was more desolating at the beginning of this war than the way in which the whole of the older generation conspired to pretend that it was the war of 1914-18 over again. All the old duds were back on the job, twenty years older, with the skull plainer in their faces. Ian Hay was cheering up the troops, Belloc was writing articles on strategy, Maurois doing broadcasts, Bairnsfather drawing cartoons. It was like a tea-party of ghosts. And that state of affairs has barely altered. The shock of disaster brought a few able men like Bevin to the front, but in general we are still commanded by people who managed to live through the years 1931-9 without even discovering that Hitler was dangerous. A generation of the unteachable is hanging upon us like a necklace of corpses.

    As soon as one considers any problem of this war - and it does not matter whether it is the widest aspect of strategy or the tiniest detail of home organization - one sees that the necessary moves cannot be made while the social structure of England remains what it is. Inevitably, because of their position and upbringing, the ruling class are fighting for their own privileges, which cannot possibly be reconciled with the public interest. It is a mistake to imagine that war aims, strategy, propaganda and industrial organization exist in watertight compartments. All are interconnected. Every strategic plan, every tactical method, even every weapon will bear the stamp of the social system that produced it. The British ruling class are fighting against Hitler, whom they have always regarded and whom some of them still regard as their protector against Bolshevism. That does not mean that they will deliberately sell out; but it does mean that at every decisive moment they are likely to falter, pull their punches, do the wrong thing.

    Until the Churchill Government called some sort of halt to the process, they have done the wrong thing with an unerring instinct ever since 1931. They helped Franco to overthrow the Spanish Government, although anyone not an imbecile could have told them that a Fascist Spain would be hostile to England. They fed Italy with war materials all through the winter of 1939-40, although it was obvious to the whole world that the Italians were going to attack us in the spring. For the sake of a few hundred thousand dividend-drawers they are turning India from an ally into an enemy. Moreover, so long as the moneyed classes remain in control, we cannot develop any but a defensive strategy. Every victory means a change in the status quo. How can we drive the Italians out of Abyssinia without rousing echoes among the coloured peoples of our own Empire? How can we even smash Hitler without the risk of bringing the German Socialists and Communists into power? The left-wingers who wail that ‘this is a capitalist war’ and that ‘British Imperialism’ is fighting for loot have got their heads screwed on backwards. The last thing the British moneyed class wish for is to acquire fresh territory. It would simply be an embarrassment. Their war aim (both unattainable and unmentionable) is simply to hang on to what they have got.

    Internally, England is still the rich man’s Paradise. All talk of ‘equality of sacrifice’ is nonsense. At the same time as factory-workers are asked to put up with longer hours, advertisements for ‘Butler. One in family, eight in staff ‘ are appearing in the press. The bombed-out populations of the East End go hungry and homeless while wealthier victims simply step into their cars and flee to comfortable country houses. The Home Guard swells to a million men in a few weeks, and is deliberately organized from above in such a way that only people with private incomes can hold positions of command. Even the rationing system is so arranged that it hits the poor all the time, while people with over £2,000 a year are practically unaffected by it. Everywhere privilege is squandering good will. In such circumstances even propaganda becomes almost impossible. As attempts to stir up patriotic feeling, the red posters issued by the Chamberlain Government at the beginning of the war broke all depth-records. Yet they could not have been much other than they were, for how could Chamberlain and his followers take the risk of rousing strong popular feeling against Fascism? Anyone who was genuinely hostile to Fascism must also be opposed to Chamberlain himself and to all the others who had helped Hitler into power. So also with external propaganda. In all Lord Halifax’s speeches there is not one concrete proposal for which a single inhabitant of Europe would risk the top joint of his little finger. For what war aim can Halifax, or anyone like him, conceivably have, except to put the clock back to 1933?

    It is only by revolution that the native genius of the English people can be set free. Revolution does not mean red flags and street fighting, it means a fundamental shift of power. Whether it happens with or without bloodshed is largely an accident of time and place. Nor does it mean the dictatorship of a single class. The people in England who grasp what changes are needed and are capable of carrying them through are not confined to any one class, though it is true that very few people with over £2,000 a year are among them. What is wanted is a conscious open revolt by ordinary people against inefficiency, class privilege and the rule of the old. It is not primarily a question of change of government. British governments do, broadly speaking, represent the will of the people, and if we alter our structure from below we shall get the government we need. Ambassadors, generals, officials and colonial administrators who are senile or pro-Fascist are more dangerous than Cabinet ministers whose follies have to be committed in public. Right through our national life we have got to fight against privilege, against the notion that a half-witted public-schoolboy is better for command than an intelligent mechanic. Although there are gifted and honest individuals among them, we have got to break the grip of the moneyed class as a whole. England has got to assume its real shape. The England that is only just beneath the surface, in the factories and the newspaper offices, in the aeroplanes and the submarines, has got to take charge of its own destiny.

    In the short run, equality of sacrifice, ‘war-Communism’, is even more important than radical economic changes. It is very necessary that industry should be nationalized, but it is more urgently necessary that such monstrosities as butlers and ‘private incomes’ should disappear forthwith. Almost certainly the main reason why the Spanish Republic could keep up the fight for two and a half years against impossible odds was that there were no gross contrasts of wealth. The people suffered horribly, but they all suffered alike. When the private soldier had not a cigarette, the general had not one either. Given equality of sacrifice, the morale of a country like England would probably be unbreakable. But at present we have nothing to appeal to except traditional patriotism, which is deeper here than elsewhere, but is not necessarily bottomless. At some point or another you have got to deal with the man who says ‘I should be no worse off under Hitler.’ But what answer can you give him - that is, what answer that you can expect him to listen to - while common soldiers risk their lives for two and sixpence a day, and fat women ride about in Rolls-Royce cars, nursing pekineses?

    It is quite likely that this war will last three years. It will mean cruel overwork, cold dull winters, uninteresting food, lack of amusements, prolonged bombing. It cannot but lower the general standard of living, because theessential act of war is to manufacture armaments instead of consumable goods. The working class will have to suffer terrible things. And they will suffer them, almost indefinitely, provided that they know what they are fighting for. They are not cowards, and they are not even internationally minded. They can stand all that the Spanish workers stood, and more. But they will want some kind of proof that a better life is ahead for themselves and their children. The one sure earnest of that is that when they are taxed and overworked they shall see that the rich are being hit even harder. And if the rich squeal audibly, so much the better.

    We can bring these things about, if we really want to. It is not true that public opinion has no power in England. It never makes itself heard without achieving something; it has been responsible for most of the changes for the better during the past six months. But we have moved with glacier-like slowness, and we have learned only from disasters. It took the fall of Paris to get rid of Chamberlain and the unnecessary suffering of scores of thousands of people in the East End to get rid or partially rid of Sir John Anderson. It is not worth losing a battle in order to bury a corpse. For we are fighting against swift evil intelligences, and time presses, and

    history to the defeated

    May say Alas! but cannot alter or pardon.


    During the last six months there has been much talk of ‘the Fifth Column’. From time to time obscure lunatics have been jailed for making speeches in favour of Hitler, and large numbers of German refugees have been interned, a thing which has almost certainly done us great harm in Europe. It is of course obvious that the idea of a large, organized army of Fifth Columnists suddenly appearing on the streets with weapons in their hands, as in Holland and Belgium, is ridiculous. Nevertheless a Fifth Column danger does exist. One can only consider it if one also considers in what way England might be defeated.

    It does not seem probable that air bombing can settle a major war. England might well be invaded and conquered, but the invasion would be a dangerous gamble, and if it happened and failed it would probably leave us more united and less Blimp-ridden than before. Moreover, if England were overrun by foreign troops the English people would know that they had been beaten and would continue the struggle. It is doubtful whether they could be held down permanently, or whether Hitler wishes to keep an army of a million men stationed in these islands. A government of -, - and - (you can fill in the names) would suit him better. The English can probably not be bullied into surrender, but they might quite easily be bored, cajoled or cheated into it, provided that, as at Munich, they did not know that they were surrendering. It could happen most easily when the war seemed to be going well rather than badly. The threatening tone of so much of the German and Italian propaganda is a psychological mistake. It only gets home on intellectuals. With the general public the proper approach would be ‘Let’s call it a draw’. It is when a peace-offer along those lines is made that the pro-Fascists will raise their voices.

    But who are the pro-Fascists? The idea of a Hitler victory appeals to the very rich, to the Communists, to Mosley’s followers, to the pacifists, and to certain sections among the Catholics. Also, if things went badly enough on the Home Front, the whole of the poorer section of the working class might swing round to a position that was defeatist though not actively pro-Hitler.

    In this motley list one can see the daring of German propaganda, its willingness to offer everything to everybody. But the various pro-Fascist forces are not consciously acting together, and they operate in different ways.

    The Communists must certainly be regarded as pro-Hitler, and are bound to remain so unless Russian policy changes, but they have not very much influence. Mosley’s Blackshirts, though now lying very low, are a more serious danger, because of the footing they probably possess in the armed forces. Still, even in its palmiest days Mosley’s following can hardly have numbered 50,000. Pacifism is a psychological curiosity rather than a political movement. Some of the extremer pacifists, starting out with a complete renunciation of violence, have ended by warmly championing Hitler and even toying with antisemitism. This is interesting, but it is not important. ‘Pure’ pacifism, which is a by-product of naval power, can only appeal to people in very sheltered positions. Moreover, being negative and irresponsible, it does not inspire much devotion. Of the membership of the Peace Pledge Union, less than fifteen per cent even pay their annual subscriptions. None of these bodies of people, pacifists, Communists or Blackshirts, could bring a large-scale stop-the-war movement into being by their own efforts. But they might help to make things very much easier for a treacherous government negotiating surrender. Like the French Communists, they might become the half-conscious agents of millionaires.

    The real danger is from above. One ought not to pay any attention to Hitler’s recent line of talk about being the friend of the poor man, the enemy of plutocracy, etc. etc. Hitler’s real self is in Mein Kampf, and in his actions. He has never persecuted the rich, except when they were Jews or when they tried actively to oppose him. He stands for a centralized economy which robs the capitalist of most of his power but leaves the structure of society much as before. The State controls industry, but there are still rich and poor, masters and men. Therefore, as against genuine Socialism, the moneyed class have always been on his side. This was crystal clear at the time of the Spanish Civil War, and clear again at the time when France surrendered. Hitler’s puppet government are not working men, but a gang of bankers, gaga generals and corrupt right-wing politicians.

    That kind of spectacular, conscious treachery is less likely to succeed in England, indeed is far less likely even to be tried. Nevertheless, to many payers of supertax this war is simply an insane family squabble which ought to be stopped at all costs. One need not doubt that a ‘peace’ movement is on foot somewhere in high places; probably a shadow Cabinet has already been formed. These people will get their chance not in the moment of defeat but in some stagnant period when boredom is reinforced by discontent. They will not talk about surrender, only about peace; and doubtless they will persuade themselves, and perhaps other people, that they are acting for the best. An army of unemployed led by millionaires quoting the Sermon on the Mount - that is our danger. But it cannot arise when we have once introduced a reasonable degree of social justice. The lady in the Rolls-Royce car is more damaging to morale than a fleet of Goering’s bombing planes.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #84 - July 26, 2016, 12:44 AM



    The English revolution started several years ago, and it began to gather momentum when the troops came back from Dunkirk. Like all else in England, it happens in a sleepy, unwilling way, but it is happening. The war has speeded it up, but it has also increased, and desperately, the necessity for speed.

    Progress and reaction are ceasing to have anything to do with party labels. If one wishes to name a particular moment, one can say that the old distinction between Right and Left broke down when Picture Post was first published. What are the politics of Picture Post? Or of Cavalcade, or Priestley’s broadcasts, or the leading articles in the Evening Standard? None of the old classifications will fit them. They merely point to the existence of multitudes of unlabelled people who have grasped within the last year or two that something is wrong. But since a classless, ownerless society is generally spoken of as ‘Socialism’, we can give that name to the society towards which we are now moving. The war and the revolution are inseparable. We cannot establish anything that a western nation would regard as Socialism without defeating Hitler; on the hand we cannot defeat Hitler while we remain economically and socially in the nineteenth century. The past is fighting the future and we have two years, a year, possibly only a few months, to see to it that the future wins.

    We cannot look to this or to any similar government to put through the necessary changes of its own accord. The initiative will have to come from below. That means that there will have to arise something that has never existed in England, a Socialist movement that actually has the mass of the people behind it. But one must start by recognizing why it is that English Socialism has failed.

    In England there is only one Socialist party that has ever seriously mattered, the Labour Party. It has never been able to achieve any major change, because except in purely domestic matters it has never possessed a genuinely independent policy. It was and is primarily a party of the trade unions, devoted to raising wages and improving working conditions. This meant that all through the critical years it was directly interested in the prosperity of British capitalism. In particular it was interested in the maintenance of the British Empire, for the wealth of England was drawn largely from Asia and Africa. The standard of living of the trade-union workers, whom the Labour Party represented, depended indirectly on the sweating of Indian coolies. At the same time the Labour Party was a Socialist party, using Socialist phraseology, thinking in terms of an old-fashioned anti-imperialism and more or less pledged to make restitution to the coloured races. It had to stand for the ‘independence’ of India, just as it had to stand for disarmament and ‘progress’ generally. Nevertheless everyone was aware that this was nonsense. In the age of the tank and the bombing plane, backward agricultural countries like India and the African colonies can no more be independent than can a cat or a dog. Had any Labour government come into office with a clear majority and then proceeded to grant India anything that could truly be called independence, India would simply have been absorbed by Japan, or divided between Japan and Russia.

    To a Labour government in power, three imperial policies would have been open. One was to continue administering the Empire exactly as before, which meant dropping all pretensions to Socialism. Another was to set the subject peoples ‘free’, which meant in practice handing them over to Japan, Italy and other predatory powers, and incidentally causing a catastrophic drop in the British standard of living. The third was to develop a positive imperial policy, and aim at transforming the Empire into a federation of Socialist states, like a looser and freer version of the Union of Soviet Republics. But the Labour Party’s history and background made this impossible. It was a party of the trade unions, hopelessly parochial in outlook, with little interest in imperial affairs and no contacts among the men who actually held the Empire together. It would have had to hand the administration of India and Africa and the whole job of imperial defence to men drawn from a different class and traditionally hostile to Socialism. Overshadowing everything was the doubt whether a Labour government which meant business could make itself obeyed. For all the size of its following, the Labour Party had no footing in the navy, fleet or none in the army or air force, none whatever in the Colonial Services, and not even a sure footing in the Home Civil Service. In England its position was strong but not unchallengeable, and outside England all the points were in the hands of its enemies. Once in power, the same dilemma would always have faced it: carry out your promises, and risk revolt, or continue with the same policy as the Conservatives, and stop talking about Socialism. The Labour leaders never found a solution, and from 1935 onwards it was very doubtful whether they had any wish to take office. They had degenerated into a Permanent Opposition.

    Outside the Labour Party there existed several extremist parties, of whom the Communists were the strongest. The Communists had considerable influence in the Labour Party in the years 1920-26 and 1935-9. Their chief importance, and that of the whole left wing of the Labour movement, was the part they played in alienating the middle classes from Socialism.

    The history of the past seven years has made it perfectly clear that Communism has no chance in western Europe. The appeal of Fascism is enormously greater. In one country after another the Communists have been rooted out by their more up-to-date enemies, the Nazis. In the English-speaking countries they never had a serious footing. The creed they were spreading could appeal only to a rather rare type of person, found chiefly in the middle-class intelligentsia, the type who has ceased to love his own country but still feels the need of patriotism, and therefore develops patriotic sentiments towards Russia. By 1940, after working for twenty years and spending a great deal a money, the British Communists had barely 20,000 members, actually a smaller number than they had started out with in 1920. The other Marxist parties were of even less importance. They had not the Russian money and prestige behind them, and even more than the Communists they were tied to the nineteenth-century doctrine of the class war. They continued year after year to preach this out-of-date gospel, and never drew any inference from the fact that it got them no followers.

    Nor did any strong native Fascist movement grow up. Material conditions were not bad enough, and no leader who could be taken seriously was forthcoming. One would have had to look a long time to find a man more barren of ideas than Sir Oswald Mosley. He was as hollow as a jug. Even the elementary fact that Fascism must not offend national sentiment had escaped him. His entire movement was imitated slavishly from abroad, the uniform and the party programme from Italy and the salute from Germany, with the Jew-baiting tacked on as an afterthought, Mosley having actually started his movement with Jews among his most prominent followers. A man of the stamp of Bottomley or Lloyd George could perhaps have brought a real British Fascist movement into existence. But such leaders only appear when the psychological need for them exists.

    After twenty years of stagnation and unemployment, the entire English Socialist movement was unable to produce a version of Socialism which the mass of the people could even find desirable. The Labour Party stood for a timid reformism, the Marxists were looking at the modern world through nineteenth-century spectacles. Both ignored agriculture and imperial problems, and both antagonized the middle classes. The suffocating stupidity of left-wing propaganda had frightened away whole classes of necessary people, factory managers, airmen, naval officers, farmers, white-collar workers, shopkeepers, policemen. All of these people had been taught to think of Socialism as something which menaced their livelihood, or as something seditious, alien, ‘anti-British’ as they would have called it. Only the intellectuals, the least useful section of the middle class, gravitated towards the movement.

    A Socialist Party which genuinely wished to achieve anything would have started by facing several facts which to this day are considered unmentionable in left-wing circles. It would have recognized that England is more united than most countries, that the British workers have a great deal to lose besides their chains, and that the differences in outlook and habits between class and class are rapidly diminishing. In general, it would have recognized that the old-fashioned ‘proletarian revolution’ is an impossibility. But all through the between-war years no Socialist programme that was both revolutionary and workable ever appeared; basically, no doubt, because no one genuinely wanted any major change to happen. The Labour leaders wanted to go on and on, drawing their salaries and periodically swapping jobs with the Conservatives. The Communists wanted to go on and on, suffering a comfortable martyrdom, meeting with endless defeats and afterwards putting the blame on other people. The left-wing intelligentsia wanted to go on and on, sniggering at the Blimps, sapping away at middle-class morale, but still keeping their favoured position as hangers-on of the dividend-drawers. Labour Party politics had become a variant of Conservatism, ‘revolutionary’ politics had become a game of make-believe.

    Now however, the circumstances have changed, the drowsy years have ended. Being a Socialist no longer means kicking theoretically against a system which in practice you are fairly well satisfied with. This time our predicament is real. It is ‘the Philistines be upon thee, Samson’. We have got to make our words take physical shape, or perish. We know very well that with its present social structure England cannot survive, and we have got to make other people see that fact and act upon it. We cannot win the war without introducing Socialism, nor establish Socialism without winning the war. At such a time it is possible, as it was not in the peaceful years, to be both revolutionary and realistic. A Socialist movement which can swing the mass of the people behind it, drive the pro-Fascists out of positions of control, wipe out the grosser injustices and let the working class see that they have something to fight for, win over the middle classes instead of antagonizing them, produce a workable imperial policy instead of a mixture of humbug and Utopianism, bring patriotism and intelligence into partnership - for the first time, a movement of such a kind becomes possible.


    The fact that we are at war has turned Socialism from a text-book word into a realizable policy.

    The inefficiency of private capitalism has been proved all over Europe. Its injustice has been proved in the East End of London. Patriotism, against which the Socialists fought so long, has become a tremendous lever in their hands. People who at any other time would cling like glue to their miserable scraps of privilege, will surrender them fast enough when their country is in danger. War is the greatest of all agents of change. It speeds up all processes, wipes out minor distinctions, brings realities to the surface. Above all, war brings it home to the individual that he is not altogether an individual. It is only because they are aware of this that men will die on the field of battle. At this moment it is not so much a question of surrendering life as of surrendering leisure, comfort, economic liberty, social prestige. There are very few people England who really want to see their country conquered by Germany. If it can be made clear that defeating Hitler means wiping out class privilege, the great mass of middling people, the £6 a week to £2,000 a year class, will probably be on our side. These people are quite indispensable, because they include most of the technical experts. Obviously the snobbishness and political ignorance of people like airmen and naval officers will be a very great difficulty. But without those airmen, destroyer commanders, etc. etc. we could not survive for a week. The only approach to them is through their patriotism. An intelligent Socialist movement will use their patriotism, instead of merely insulting it, as hitherto.

    But do I mean that there will no opposition? Of course not. It would be childish to expect anything of the kind.

    There will be a bitter political struggle, and there will be unconscious and half-conscious sabotage everywhere. At some point or other it may be necessary to use violence. It is easy to imagine a pro-Fascist rebellion breaking out in, for instance, India. We shall have to fight against bribery, ignorance and snobbery. The bankers and the larger businessmen, the landowners and dividend-drawers, the officials with their prehensile bottoms, will obstruct for all they are worth. Even the middle class will writhe when their accustomed way of life is menaced. But just because the English sense of national unity has never disintegrated because patriotism is finally stronger than class-hatred, the chances are that the will of the majority will prevail. It is no use imagining that one can make fundamental changes without causing a split in the nation; but the treacherous minority will be far smaller in time of war than it would be at any other time.

    The swing of opinion is visibly happening, but it cannot be counted on to happen fast enough of its own accord. This war is a race between the consolidation of Hitler’s empire and the growth of democratic consciousness. Everywhere in England you can see a ding-dong battle ranging to and fro - in Parliament and in the Government, in the factories and the armed forces, in the pubs and the air-raid shelters, in the newspapers and on the radio. Every day there are tiny defeats, tiny victories. Morrison for Home Secretary - a few yards forward, Priestley shoved off the air - a few yards back. It is a struggle between the groping and the unteachable, between the young and the old, between the living and the dead. But it is very necessary that the discontent which undoubtedly exists should take a purposeful and not merely obstructive form. It is time for the people to define their war aims. What is wanted is a simple, concrete programme of action, which can be given all possible publicity, and round which public opinion can group itself.

    I suggest that the following six-point programme is the kind of thing we need. The first three points deal with England’s internal policy, the other three with the Empire and the world:

    1. Nationalization of land, mines, railways, banks and major industries.

    2. Limitation of incomes, on such a scale that the highest tax-free income in Britain does not exceed the lowest by more than ten to one.

    3. Reform of the educational system along democratic lines.

    4. Immediate Dominion status for India, with power to secede when the war is over.

    5. Formation of an Imperial General Council, in which the coloured peoples are to be represented.

    6. Declaration of formal alliance with China, Abyssinia and all other victims of the Fascist powers.

    The general tendency of this programme is unmistakable. It aims quite frankly at turning this war into a revolutionary war and England into a Socialist democracy. I have deliberately included in it nothing that the simplest person could not understand and see the reason for. In the form in which I have put it, it could be printed on the front page of the Daily Mirror. But for the purposes of this book a certain amount of amplification is needed.

    l. Nationalization. One can ‘nationalize’ industry by the stroke of a pen, but the actual process is slow and complicated. What is needed is that the ownership of all major industry shall be formally vested in the State, representing the common people. Once that is done it becomes possible to eliminate the class of mere owners who live not by virtue of anything they produce but by the possession of title-deeds and share certificates. State-ownership implies, therefore, that nobody shall live without working. How sudden a change in the conduct of industry it implies is less certain. In a country like England we cannot rip down the whole structure and build again from the bottom, least of all in time of war. Inevitably the majority of industrial concerns will continue with much the same personnel as before, the one-time owners or managing directors carrying on with their jobs as State employees. There is reason to think that many of the smaller capitalists would actually welcome some such arrangement. The resistance will come from the big capitalists, the bankers, the landlords and the idle rich, roughly speaking the class with over £2,000 a year - and even if one counts in all their dependants there are not more than half a million of these people in England. Nationalization of agricultural land implies cutting out the landlord and the tithe drawer, but not necessarily interfering with the farmer. It is difficult to imagine any reorganization of English agriculture that would not retain most of the existing farms as units, at any rate at the beginning. The farmer, when he is competent, will continue as a salaried manager. He is virtually that already, with the added disadvantage of having to make a profit and being permanently in debt to the bank. With certain kinds of petty trading, and even the small-scale ownership of land, the State will probably not interfere at all. It would be a great mistake to start by victimizing the smallholder class, for instance. These people are necessary, on the whole they are competent, and the amount of work they do depends on the feeling that they are ‘their own masters’. But the State will certainly impose an upward limit to the ownership of land (probably fifteen acres at the very most), and will never permit any ownership of land in town areas.

    From the moment that all productive goods have been declared the property of the State, the common people will feel, as they cannot feel now, that the State is themselves. They will be ready then to endure the sacrifices that are ahead of us, war or no war. And even if the face of England hardly seems to change, on the day that our main industries are formally nationalized the dominance of a single class will have been broken. From then onwards the emphasis will be shifted from ownership to management, from privilege to competence. It is quite possible that State-ownership will in itself bring about less social change than will be forced upon us by the common hardships of war. But it is the necessary first step without any real reconstruction is impossible.

    2. Incomes. Limitation of incomes implies the fixing of a minimum wage, which implies a managed internal currency based simply on the amount of consumption goods available. And this again implies a stricter rationing scheme than is now in operation. It is no use at this stage of the world’s history to suggest that all human beings should have exactly equal incomes. It has been shown over and over again that without some kind of money reward there is no incentive to undertake certain jobs. On the other hand the money reward need not be very large. In practice it is impossible that earnings should be limited quite as rigidly as I have suggested. There will always be anomalies and evasions. But there is no reason why ten to one should not be the maximum normal variation. And within those limits some sense of equality is possible. A man with £3 a week and a man with £1,500 a year can feel themselves fellow creatures, which the Duke of Westminster and the sleepers on the Embankment benches cannot.

    3. Education. In wartime, educational reform must necessarily be promise rather than performance. At the moment we are not in a position to raise the school-leaving age or increase the teaching staffs of the elementary schools. But there are certain immediate steps that we could take towards a democratic educational system. We could start by abolishing the autonomy of the public schools and the older universities and flooding them with State-aided pupils chosen simply on grounds of ability. At present, public-school education is partly a training in class prejudice and partly a sort of tax that the middle classes pay to the upper class in return for the right to enter certain professions. It is true that that state of affairs is altering. The middle classes have begun to rebel against the expensiveness of education, and the war will bankrupt the majority of the public schools if it continues for another year or two. The evacuation is also producing certain minor changes. But there is a danger that some of the older schools, which will be able to weather the financial storm longest, will survive in some form or another as festering centres of snobbery. As for the 10,000 ‘private’ schools that England possesses, the vast majority of them deserve nothing except suppression. They are simply commercial undertakings, and in many cases their educational level is actually lower than that of the elementary schools. They merely exist because of a widespread idea that there is something disgraceful in being educated by the public authorities. The State could quell this idea by declaring itself responsible for all education, even if at the start this were no more than a gesture. We need gestures as well as actions. It is all too obvious that our talk of ‘defending democracy’ is nonsense while it is a mere accident of birth that decides whether a gifted child shall or shall not get the education it deserves.

    4. India. What we must offer India is not ‘freedom’, which, I have said earlier, is impossible, but alliance, partnership - in a word, equality. But we must also tell the Indians that they are free to secede, if they want to. Without that there can be no equality of partnership, and our claim to be defending the coloured peoples against Fascism will never be believed. But it is a mistake to imagine that if the Indians were free to cut themselves adrift they would immediately do so. When a British government offers them unconditional independence, they will refuse it. For as soon as they have the power to secede the chief reasons for doing so will have disappeared.

    A complete severance of the two countries would be a disaster for India no less than for England. Intelligent Indians know this. As things are at present, India not only cannot defend itself, it is hardly even capable of feeding itself. The whole administration of the country depends on a framework of experts (engineers, forest officers, railwaymen, soldiers, doctors) who are predominantly English and could not be replaced within five or ten years. Moreover, English is the chief lingua franca and nearly the whole of the Indian intelligentsia is deeply anglicized. Any transference to foreign rule - for if the British marched out of India the Japanese and other powers would immediately march in - would mean an immense dislocation. Neither the Japanese, the Russians, the Germans nor the Italians would be capable of administering India even at the low level of efficiency that is attained by the British. They do not possess the necessary supplies of technical experts or the knowledge of languages and local conditions, and they probably could not win the confidence of indispensable go-betweens such as the Eurasians. If India were simply ‘liberated’, i.e. deprived of British military protection, the first result would be a fresh foreign conquest, and the second a series of enormous famines which would kill millions of people within a few years.

    What India needs is the power to work out its own constitution without British interference, but in some kind of partnership that ensures its military protection and technical advice. This is unthinkable until there is a Socialist government in England. For at least eighty years England has artificially prevented the development of India, partly from fear of trade competition if India industries were too highly developed, partly because backward peoples are more easily governed than civilized ones. It is a commonplace that the average Indian suffers far more from his own countrymen than from the British. The petty Indian capitalist exploits the town worker with the utmost ruthlessness, the peasant lives from birth to death in the grip of the money-lender. But all this is an indirect result of the British rule, which aims half-consciously at keeping India as backward as possible. The classes most loyal to Britain are the princes, the landowners and the business community - in general, the reactionary classes who are doing fairly well out of the status quo. The moment that England ceased to stand towards India in the relation of an exploiter, the balance of forces would be altered. No need then for the British to flatter the ridiculous Indian princes, with their gilded elephants and cardboard armies, to prevent the growth of the Indian trade unions, to play off Moslem against Hindu, to protect the worthless life of the money-lender, to receive the salaams of toadying minor officials, to prefer the half-barbarous Gurkha to the educated Bengali. Once check that stream of dividends that flows from the bodies of Indian coolies to the banking accounts of old ladies in Cheltenham, and the whole sahib-native nexus, with its haughty ignorance on one side and envy and servility on the other, can come to an end. Englishmen and Indians can work side by side for the development of India, and for the training of Indians in all the arts which, so far, they have been systematically prevented from learning. How many of the existing British personnel in India, commercial or official, would fall in with such an arrangement - which would mean ceasing once and for to be ‘sahibs’ - is a different question. But, broadly speaking, more is to be hoped from the younger men and from those officials (civil engineers, forestry and agriculture experts, doctors, educationists) who have been scientifically educated. The higher officials, the provincial governors, commissioners, judges, etc. are hopeless; but they are also the most easily replaceable.

    That, roughly, is what would be meant by Dominion status if it were offered to India by a Socialist government. It is an offer of partnership on equal terms until such time as the world has ceased to be ruled by bombing planes. But we must add to it the unconditional right to secede. It is the only way of proving that we mean what we say. And what applies to India applies, mutatis mutandis, to Burma, Malaya and most of our African possessions.

    5 and 6 explain themselves. They are the necessary preliminary to any claim that we are fighting this war for the protection of peaceful peoples against Fascist aggression.

    Is it impossibly hopeful to think that such a policy as this could get a following in England? A year ago, even six months ago, it would have been, but not now. Moreover - and this is the peculiar opportunity of this moment - it could be given the necessary publicity. There is now a considerable weekly press, with a circulation of millions, which would be ready to popularize - if not exactly the programme I have sketched above, at any rate some policy along those lines. There are even three or four daily papers which would be prepared to give it a sympathetic hearing. That is the distance we have travelled in the last six months.

    But is such a policy realizable? That depends entirely on ourselves.

    Some of the points I have suggested are of the kind that could be carried out immediately, others would take years or decades and even then would not be perfectly achieved. No political programme is ever carried out in its entirety. But what matters is that that or something like it should be our declared policy. It is always the direction that counts. It is of course quite hopeless to expect the present Government to pledge itself to any policy that implies turning this war into a revolutionary war. It is at best a government of compromise, with Churchill riding two horses like a circus acrobat. Before such measures as limitation of incomes become even thinkable, there will have to be complete shift of power away from the old ruling class. If during this winter the war settles into another stagnant period, we ought in my opinion to agitate for a General Election, a thing which the Tory Party machine will make frantic efforts to prevent. But even without an election we can get the government we want, provided that we want it urgently enough. A real shove from below will accomplish it. As to who will be in that government when it comes, I make no guess. I only know that the right men will be there when the people really want them, for it is movements that make leaders and not leaders movements.

    Within a year, perhaps even within six months, if we are still unconquered, we shall see the rise of something that has never existed before, a specifically English Socialist movement. Hitherto there has been only the Labour Party, which was the creation of the working class but did not aim at any fundamental change, and Marxism, which was a German theory interpreted by Russians and unsuccessfully transplanted to England. There was nothing that really touched the heart of the English people. Throughout its entire history the English Socialist movement has never produced a song with a catchy tune - nothing like La Marseillaise or La Cucaracha, for instance. When a Socialist movement native to England appears, the Marxists, like all others with a vested interest in the past, will be its bitter enemies. Inevitably they will denounce it as ’Fascism’. Already it is customary among the more soft-boiled intellectuals of the Left to declare that if we fight against Nazis we shall ’go Nazi’ ourselves. They might almost equally well say that if we fight Negroes we shall turn black. To ‘go Nazi’ we should have to have the history of Germany behind us. Nations do not escape from their past merely by making a revolution. An English Socialist government will transform the nation from top to bottom, but it will still bear all over it the unmistakable marks of our own civilization, the peculiar civilization which I discussed earlier in this book.

    It will not be doctrinaire, nor even logical. It will abolish the House of Lords, but quite probably will not abolish the Monarchy. It will leave anachronisms and loose ends everywhere, the judge in his ridiculous horsehair wig and the lion and the unicorn on the soldier’s cap-buttons. It will not set up any explicit class dictatorship. It will group itself round the old Labour Party and its mass following will be in the trade unions, but it will draw into it most of the middle class and many of the younger sons of the bourgeoisie. Most of its directing brains will come from the new indeterminate class of skilled workers, technical experts, airmen, scientists, architects and journalists, the people who feel at home in the radio and ferro-concrete age. But it will never lose touch with the tradition of compromise and the belief in a law that is above the State. It will shoot traitors, but it will give them a solemn trial beforehand and occasionally it will acquit them. It will crush any open revolt promptly and cruelly, but it will interfere very little with the spoken and written word. Political parties with different names will still exist, revolutionary sects will still be publishing their newspapers and making as little impression as ever. It will disestablish the Church, but will not persecute religion. It will retain a vague reverence for the Christian moral code, and from time to time will refer to England as ‘a Christian country’. The Catholic Church will war against it, but the Nonconformist sects and the bulk of the Anglican Church will be able to come to terms with it. It will show a power of assimilating the past which will shock foreign observers and sometimes make them doubt whether any revolution has happened.

    But all the same it will have done the essential thing. It will have nationalized industry, scaled down incomes, set up a classless educational system. Its real nature will be apparent from the hatred which the surviving rich men of the world will feel for it. It will aim not at disintegrating the Empire but at turning it into a federation of Socialist states, freed not so much from the British flag as from the money-lender, the dividend-drawer and the wooden-headed British official. Its war strategy will be totally different from that of any property-ruled state, because it will not be afraid of the revolutionary after-effects when any existing régime is brought down. It will not have the smallest scruple about attacking hostile neutrals or stirring up native rebellion in enemy colonies. It will fight in such a way that even if it is beaten its memory will be dangerous to the victor, as the memory of the French Revolution was dangerous to Metternich’s Europe. The dictators will fear it as they could not fear the existing British régime, even if its military strength were ten times what it is.

    But at this moment, when the drowsy life of England has barely altered, and the offensive contrast of wealth and poverty still exists everywhere, even amid the bombs, why do I dare to say that all these things ‘will’ happen?

    Because the time has come when one can predict the future in terms of an ‘either - or’. Either we turn this war into a revolutionary war (I do not say that our policy will be exactly what I have indicated above - merely that it will be along those general lines) or we lose it, and much more besides. Quite soon it will be possible to say definitely that our feet are set upon one path or the other. But at any rate it is certain that with our present social structure we cannot win. Our real forces, physical, moral or intellectual, cannot be mobilized.


    Patriotism has nothing to do with Conservatism. It is actually the opposite of Conservatism, since it is a devotion to something that is always changing and yet is felt to be mystically the same. It is the bridge between the future and the past. No real revolutionary has ever been an internationalist.

    During the past twenty years the negative, fainéant outlook which has been fashionable among English left-wingers, the sniggering of the intellectuals at patriotism and physical courage, the persistent effort to chip away English morale and spread a hedonistic, what-do-I-get-out-of-it attitude to life, has done nothing but harm. It would have been harmful even if we had been living in the squashy League of Nations universe that these people imagined. In an age of fuehrers and bombing planes it was a disaster. However little we may like it, toughness is the price of survival. A nation trained to think hedonistically cannot survive amid peoples who work like slaves and breed like rabbits, and whose chief national industry is war. English Socialists of nearly all colours have wanted to make a stand against Fascism, but at the same time they have aimed at making their own countrymen unwarlike. They have failed, because in England traditional loyalties are stronger than new ones. But in spite of all the ‘anti-Fascist’ heroics of the left-wing press, what chance should we have stood when the real struggle with Fascism came, if the average Englishman had been the kind of creature that the New Statesman, the Daily Worker or even the News Chronicle wished to make him?

    Up to 1935 virtually all English left-wingers were vaguely pacifist. After 1935 the more vocal of them flung themselves eagerly into the Popular Front movement, which was simply an evasion of the whole problem posed by Fascism. It set out to be ‘anti-Fascist’ in a purely negative way - ‘against’ Fascism without being ‘for’ any discoverable policy - and underneath it lay the flabby idea that when the time came the Russians would do our fighting for us. It is astonishing how this illusion fails to die. Every week sees its spate of letters to the press, pointing out that if we had a government with no Tories in it the Russians could hardly avoid coming round to our side. Or we are to publish high-sounding war aims (vide books like Unser Kampf, A Hundred Million Allies - If We Choose, etc.), whereupon the European populations will infallibly rise on our behalf. It is the same idea all the time - look abroad for your inspiration, get someone else to do your fighting for you. Underneath it lies the frightful inferiority complex of the English intellectual, the belief that the English are no longer a martial race, no longer capable of enduring.

    In truth there is no reason to think that anyone will do our fighting for us yet awhile, except the Chinese, who have been doing it for three years already. [Note 3] The Russians may be driven to fight on our side by the fact of a direct attack, but they have made it clear enough that they will not stand up to the German army if there is any way of avoiding it. In any case they are not likely to be attracted by the spectacle of a left-wing government in England. The present Russian régime must almost certainly be hostile to any revolution in the West. The subject peoples of Europe will rebel when Hitler begins to totter, but not earlier. Our potential allies are not the Europeans but on the one hand the Americans, who will need a year to mobilize their resources even if Big Business can be brought to heel, and on the other hand the coloured peoples, who cannot be even sentimentally on our side till our own revolution has started. For a long time, a year, two years, possibly three years, England has got to be the shock-absorber of the world. We have got to face bombing, hunger, overwork, influenza, boredom and treacherous peace offers. Manifestly it is a time to stiffen morale, not to weaken it. Instead of taking the mechanically anti-British attitude which is usual on the Left, it is better to consider what the world would really be like if the English-speaking culture perished. For it is childish to suppose that the other English-speaking countries, even the U.S.A., will be unaffected if Britain is conquered.

    Lord Halifax, and all his tribe, believe that when the war is over things will be exactly as they were before. Back to the crazy pavement of Versailles, back to ‘democracy’, i.e. capitalism, back to dole queues and the Rolls-Royce cars, back to the grey top hats and the sponge-bag trousers, in saecula saeculorum. It is of course obvious that nothing of the kind is going to happen. A feeble imitation of it might just possibly happen in the case of a negotiated peace, but only for a short while. Laissez-faire capitalism is dead. [Note 4] The choice lies between the kind of collective society that Hitler will set up and the kind that can arise if he is defeated.

    If Hitler wins this war he will consolidate his rule over Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and if his armies have not been too greatly exhausted beforehand, he will wrench vast territories from Soviet Russia. He will set up a graded caste-society in which the German Herrenvolk (‘master race’ or ‘aristocratic race’) will rule over Slavs and other lesser peoples whose job it will be to produce low-priced agricultural products. He will reduce the coloured peoples once and for all to outright slavery. The real quarrel of the Fascist powers with British imperialism is that they know that it is disintegrating. Another twenty years along the present line of development, and India will be a peasant republic linked with England only by voluntary alliance. The ‘semi-apes’ of whom Hitler speaks with such loathing will be flying aeroplanes and manufacturing machine-guns. The Fascist dream of a slave empire will be at an end. On the other hand, if we are defeated we simply hand over our own victims to new masters who come fresh to the job and have not developed any scruples.

    But more is involved than the fate of the coloured peoples. Two incompatible visions of life are fighting one another. ‘Between democracy and totalitarianism,’ says Mussolini, ‘there can be no compromise.’ The two creeds cannot even, for any length of time, live side by side. So long as democracy exists, even in its very imperfect English form, totalitarianism is in deadly danger. The whole English-speaking world is haunted by the idea of human equality, and though it would be simply a lie to say that either we or the Americans have ever acted up to our professions, still, the idea is there, and it is capable of one day becoming a reality. From the English-speaking culture, if it does not perish, a society of free and equal human beings will ultimately arise. But it is precisely the idea of human equality - the ‘Jewish’ or ‘Judaeo-Christian’ idea of equality - that Hitler came into the world to destroy. He has, heaven knows, said so often enough. The thought of a world in which black men would be as good as white men and Jews treated as human beings brings him the same horror and despair as the thought of endless slavery brings to us.

    It is important to keep in mind how irreconcilable these two viewpoints are. Some time within the next year a pro-Hitler reaction within the left-wing intelligentsia is likely enough. There are premonitory signs of it already. Hitler’s positive achievement appeals to the emptiness of these people, and, in the case of those with pacifist leanings, to their masochism. One knows in advance more or less what they will say. They will start by refusing to admit that British capitalism is evolving into something different, or that the defeat of Hitler can mean any more than a victory for the British and American millionaires. And from that they will proceed to argue that, after all, democracy is ‘just the same as’ or ‘just as bad as’ totalitarianism. There is not much freedom of speech in England; therefore there is no more than exists in Germany. To be on the dole is a horrible experience; therefore it is no worse to be in the torture-chambers of the Gestapo. In general, two blacks make a white, half a loaf is the same as no bread.

    But in reality, whatever may be true about democracy and totalitarianism, it is not true that they are the same. It would not be true, even if British democracy were incapable of evolving beyond its present stage. The whole conception of the militarized continental state, with its secret police, its censored literature and its conscript labour, is utterly different from that of the loose maritime democracy, with its slums and unemployment, its strikes and party politics. It is the difference between land power and sea power, between cruelty and inefficiency, between lying and self-deception, between the S.S. man and the rent-collector. And in choosing between them one chooses not so much on the strength of what they now are as of what they are capable of becoming. But in a sense it is irrelevant whether democracy, at its highest or at its lowest, is ‘better’ than totalitarianism. To decide that one would have to have access to absolute standards. The only question that matters is where one’s real sympathies will lie when the pinch comes. The intellectuals who are so fond of balancing democracy against totalitarianism and ‘proving’ that one is as bad as the other are simply frivolous people who have never been shoved up against realities. They show the same shallow misunderstanding of Fascism now, when they are beginning to flirt with it, as a year or two ago, when they were squealing against it. The question is not, ‘Can you make out a debating-society "case" in favour of Hitler?’ The question is, ‘Do you genuinely accept that case? Are you willing to submit to Hitler’s rule? Do you want to see England conquered, or don’t you?’ It would be better to be sure on that point before frivolously siding with the enemy. For there is no such thing as neutrality in war; in practice one must help one side or the other.

    When the pinch comes, no one bred in the western tradition can accept the Fascist vision of life. It is important to realize that now, and to grasp what it entails. With all its sloth, hypocrisy and injustice, the English-speaking civilization is the only large obstacle in Hitler’s path. It is a living contradiction of all the ‘infallible’ dogmas of Fascism. That is why all Fascist writers for years past have agreed that England’s power must be destroyed. England must be ‘exterminated’, must be ‘annihilated’, must ‘cease to exist’. Strategically it would be possible for this war to end with Hitler in secure possession of Europe, and with the British Empire intact and British sea-power barely affected. But ideologically it is not possible; were Hitler to make an offer along those lines, it could only be treacherously, with a view to conquering England indirectly or renewing the attack at some more favourable moment. England cannot possibly be allowed to remain as a sort of funnel through which deadly ideas from beyond the Atlantic flow into the police states of Europe. And turning it round to our point of view, we see the vastness of the issue before us, the all-importance of preserving our democracy more or less as we have known it. But to preserve is always to extend. The choice before us is not so much between victory and defeat as between revolution and apathy. If the thing we are fighting for is altogether destroyed, it will have been destroyed partly by our own act.

    It could happen that England could introduce the beginnings of Socialism, turn this war into a revolutionary war, and still be defeated. That is at any rate thinkable. But, terrible as it would be for anyone who is now adult, it would be far less deadly than the ‘compromise peace’ which a few rich men and their hired liars are hoping for. The final ruin of England could only be accomplished by an English government acting under orders from Berlin. But that cannot happen if England has awakened beforehand. For in that case the defeat would be unmistakable, the struggle would continue, the idea would survive. The difference between going down fighting, and surrendering without a fight, is by no means a question of ‘honour’ and schoolboy heroics. Hitler said once that to accept defeat destroys the soul of a nation. This sounds like a piece of claptrap, but it is strictly true. The defeat of 1870 did not lessen the world-influence of France. The Third Republic had more influence, intellectually, than the France of Napoleon III. But the sort of peace that Pétain, Laval and Co. have accepted can only be purchased by deliberately wiping out the national culture. The Vichy Government will enjoy a spurious independence only on condition that it destroys the distinctive marks of French culture: republicanism, secularism, respect for the intellect, absence of colour prejudice. We cannot be utterly defeated if we have made our revolution beforehand. We may see German troops marching down Whitehall, but another process, ultimately deadly to the German power-dream, will have been started. The Spanish people were defeated, but the things they learned during those two and a half memorable years will one day come back upon the Spanish Fascists like a boomerang.

    A piece of Shakespearean bombast was much quoted at the beginning of the war. Even Mr Chamberlain quoted it once, if my memory does not deceive me :

    Come the four corners of the world in arms
    And we shall shock them: naught shall make us rue
    If England to herself do rest but true.

    It is right enough, if you interpret it rightly. But England has got to be true to herself. She is not being true to herself while the refugees who have sought our shores are penned up in concentration camps, and company directors work out subtle schemes to dodge their Excess Profits Tax. It is goodbye to the Tatler and the Bystander, and farewell to the lady in the Rolls-Royce car. The heirs of Nelson and of Cromwell are not in the House of Lords. They are in the fields and the streets, in the factories and the armed forces, in the four-ale bar and the suburban back garden; and at present they are still kept under by a generation of ghosts. Compared with the task of bringing the real England to the surface, even the winning of the war, necessary though it is, is secondary. By revolution we become more ourselves, not less. There is no question of stopping short, striking a compromise, salvaging ‘democracy’, standing still. Nothing ever stands still. We must add to our heritage or lose it, we must grow greater or grow less, we must go forward or backward. I believe in England, and I believe that we shall go forward.

    Note 1: For example:

    ‘I don’t want to join the bloody Army,
    I don’t want to go unto the war;
    I want no more to roam,
    I’d rather stay at home,
    Living on the earnings of a whore.’

    But it was not in that spirit that they fought. [Author’s footnote.]

    Note 2: :It is true that they aided them to a certain extent with money. Still, the sums raised for the various aid-Spain funds would not equal five per cent of the turnover of the football pools during the same period. [Author’s footnote.]

    Note 3: Written before the outbreak of the war in Greece. [Author’s footnote.]

    Note 4: It is interesting to notice that Mr Kennedy, U.S.A. Ambassador in London, remarked on his return to New York in October 1940 that as a result of the war ‘democracy is finished’. By ‘democracy’, of course, he meant private capitalism. [Author’s footnote.].

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #85 - August 13, 2016, 09:12 PM

    The lawyer who takes the cases no one wants

    It has never been easy to win as an immigration lawyer – but now the government is trying to make it impossible

    Two or three times a month, Tom Giles says goodbye to his wife and three children at their home in Abingdon, and drives north, through Oxfordshire, to Campsfield House immigration detention centre. This is Tory heartland — rich fields, manicured villages, 4x4s. Campsfield sits at the end of a long country lane, opposite Oxford airport’s private jets and training planes. On the constituency map it is perched at the end of a Tory promontory: David Cameron’s Witney constituency flows down one side, Boris Johnson’s former fiefdom of Henley down the other.

    It is nearly 9am by the time Giles, a slight man with a gap between his teeth and a bright-eyed, youthful energy, presents himself at security. He places everything but a notebook and a pen in a locker, then is led through a series of locked doors to a small high-windowed room along a corridor lined with similarly small high-windowed rooms. He sits down at a desk, checks the handsets in front of him, finds a blank page in his notebook, and waits for his first client.

    Over the next five hours, Giles sees a series of detainees for up to 30 minutes each. The men often wear standard-issue blue tracksuits and flip-flops because they were apprehended in the street and served with deportation orders, or taken from their homes at dawn and not allowed to pack their clothes, or arrived at a port with nothing. Some of them came to the UK to study and overstayed, others have lived and worked here for years. Others, exhausted after arduous journeys from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya or Iraq, have been here for a few days.

    Giles’s job, as a legal aid immigration solicitor, is to work out if a person has a legal right to stay in the UK, and if so, to try his hardest to make that possible – in a legal environment that is becoming more hostile by the day. As each prisoner explains his circumstances, Giles listens, asks questions. Often he has to pick up one of the handsets, gesturing to the man before him to do the same, and they speak through an interpreter. Giles says he will do what he can, he will do his best. Increasingly, he has to say that he is sorry, there is nothing he can do.

    “It’s just sad,” Giles said after one of these sessions. “Very sad. On a human, compassionate level we can all see why he should be allowed to stay. But there’s also what’s legally possible, and the two are not the same.”

    Spending time with Giles makes it clear that the space for what is “legally possible” has been aggressively and deliberately narrowed through a series of decisions all but invisible to most British citizens.

    The space for what is legally possible has been aggressively and deliberately narrowed
    When MPs voted, last October, to give the immigration bill 2015-16, currently going through parliament, a second reading, Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat spokesman, protested that there had already been seven immigration bills in the last eight years and 45,000 changes to the immigration rules since Theresa May became home secretary in 2010. Specialist lawyers such as Giles, who argue that even they can barely keep up, also point to the fact that in 2013, the coalition government cut the legal aid budget by hundreds of millions of pounds. At the same time it limited availability of financial help for immigration cases to judicial reviews, persons seeking asylum, victims of domestic violence or trafficking, and those in immigration detention centres seeking bail. This means that anyone applying to remain in this country, on any basis apart from asylum or domestic violence – be it length of residency, a job offer, investment, marriage or family – must be able to afford a lawyer (and the rapidly increasing visa application fees) or navigate a near-impenetrable system unaided.

    Since the Immigration Act 1971 came into force, any migrant caught without the correct papers has been subject to removal from the UK. However, to those for whom it is politically expedient to be seen to be tough on foreigners, this is apparently not enough. The 2015-16 bill, the first since the Tories achieved their majority, received its third reading in the House of Lords on 12 April. The bill is striking for the range and ingenuity of its criminalisation of those who fall foul of the ever-shifting rules: working illegally or hiring illegal workers; renting accommodation while illegal or renting accommodation to someone who might be illegal; driving or having a bank account while illegal – all would carry the possibility of substantial fines or even prison sentences. The government would be given the power to seize the earnings of illegal workers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The bill would allow immigration officers to search homes and people and to seize payslips, timesheets and nationality documents. It would also allow police officers who stop vehicles to check immigration status, and proposes that employers who want to hire non-European migrants would have to pay an “immigration skills charge” to do so. More than one observer – Doreen Lawrence among them – has pointed out that some of the powers in the immigration bill, specifically right-to-rent and the right to ask motorists for immigration papers, are effectively permission to discriminate on the basis of colour.

    In this already difficult arena, Giles specialises in defending some of the most difficult and unpopular cases of all: those subject to deportation, and foreign nationals imprisoned in British jails. And he is very good at it. Partly because he will take up cases others will not, and keeps fighting them even when repeatedly knocked back, a significant number of Giles’s cases have gone up to the highest courts in the country and entered the law books as having proved important points of principle, about rights of appeal, for instance, or who should, under the new dispensation, be allowed legal aid.

    In a few months’ time Giles will go to the supreme court with a case that tests one of the most sweeping measures in the new bill: “deport first, appeal later”, which allows the government to deport people even if they are in the middle of a legal appeal. It is currently applied only to prisoners in the criminal justice system who also happen to be foreign (they may well be legally here), and since July 2014, have automatically been deported at the end of their sentences. The new bill reiterates a Tory manifesto pledge, that “deport first, appeal later” should extend much further and apply to all migrants, except for refugees.

    Because this proposal was in the Tory manifesto, it was not removed from the bill by the Lords. The only way to fight it now is in the courts, which means that if Giles’s supreme court challenge is successful, the consequences would reach throughout the immigration system.

    Giles is a partner at Turpin Miller, a legal aid firm in east Oxford. When we met at his office last summer, there was a heatwave and on the top floor it was hot – overwhelmingly, enervatingly hot. Open windows and fans made little difference. Already scrappy pot plants struggled not to collapse altogether. Giles sat among files – files on the floor, files in cardboard boxes, files in cabinets lining the walls. “It’s a fight with paper!” he said. “I actually did tidy up in your honour.”

    Most of the files were opened after he met detainees at Campsfield, or after calls directly to the office, or, quite often, after meeting prisoners at HMP Huntercombe, a prison that houses only foreign offenders. Giles often gets the feeling no one comes to see them other than the Home Office. On visit after visit he sees how bravado battles with vulnerability, extreme tension with politeness, self-harm with hours in the gym. “A number of my clients have been or are on suicide watch. In my experience the numbers have increased,” Giles said.

    In the past, he used to explain human rights appeals to clients as a set of scales, with the offence on one side and everything else – family and private life, length of residency, legal status, good behaviour – weighed up on the other. “But the scales just don’t exist anymore. Now there’s only one outcome: not just a decision to deport, but a pursuit of that to the bitter end.”

    Sitting opposite Giles was Jo Renshaw, also a partner in the firm, and head of immigration. As they worked, periods of silent form-filling and email-writing were punctuated by ringing mobiles, quickfire questions: “Does he live with his family?”; “How much do you have in your bank account?”; “Do they need the pregnancy scan?”. Little remains private, once the Home Office gets involved.

    As Giles and Renshaw busied themselves, a paralegal entered the room. “Andrzej on the line – he’s under the impression he has a bail hearing on Friday.” Andrzej is one of Giles’s clients, who spent 30 months in prison for attempted robbery and was then served with a deportation order. While he challenged the order, he was being held at Campsfield detention centre.

    Andrzej had arrived from Poland lawfully, with his wife and two – then three – children and had worked here lawfully. After his arrest, the family was moved into shared emergency social services accommodation, where his daughter was abused by another resident. Giles was challenging the decision to deport on the basis that Andrzej’s children were vulnerable and could not do without their father’s support, and his deportation had been deferred until the judicial review could be considered. But in order to be released from detention, Andrzej had to have a home address, at which point he ran into one of many kinks in the system.

    The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) organises accommodation for asylum seekers and those applying for bail from an immigration detention centre, but because the pool is limited, Giles explained, it takes a very long time to process applications. For foreign nationals who have been to prison, it can take even longer. There is often little communication with the probation service, so when NASS does eventually suggest a possible address, it often ends up being rejected by probation because it is in a high crime area, or in a house occupied by other ex-offenders, or otherwise deemed unsuitable. “And that scenario can repeat itself two, three, four times over months, if not years, during which time that person remains detained,” said Giles.

    Soon enough, Andrzej called directly. Giles tried to calm him, to explain that no, there was no bail hearing; yes, he had tried social services, intending to persuade them to support the argument against deportation, but they wouldn’t respond. “So what I would recommend is you send them a letter saying, ‘I want to be with my wife and children, I want to know what I can do. I want to understand what is going on, please can you provide a response urgently.’” He spelled it out. “U-R-G-E-N-T-L-Y.”

    Giles speaks to all his clients in the same way, focused and supportive, but without flummery, or much softening of blows. Both Giles and Renshaw were clear that it would be wrong to give false encouragement. “These people are very vulnerable and marginalised,” said Renshaw. “They often have little idea of their rights. They are full of hope, a lot of the time, that everything can be worked out. That’s a lethal combination – they’re ripe for people to tell them what they want to hear, and relieve them of a lot of money for doing it.”

    If Giles took a case on, he was very committed, Renshaw said. “Very smart, very forceful. You have to be – the Home Office is very combative. Most of us deal with them at arm’s length. But he has to talk to caseworkers, to people making decisions about detention and tagging – it would grind down anyone who’s not as tough as he is.”

    As would the unhappiness immigration lawyers encounter nearly every day. Mary Bosworth, a professor of criminology at Oxford University, spent 18 months studying centres such as Campsfield, where people are detained for anything from a few days to years, generally with no idea of how long it will be. In her harrowing book, Inside Immigration Detention, she described visiting the legal aid corridor where Giles sees his clients just before renovations in 2013-14. The “stench … of sweat, fear and anxiety – was often overwhelming”, wrote Bosworth. The accommodation blocks were “standard prison wings, complete with suicide netting, metal doors, metal staircases, shower blocks with half-size doors enabling staff to see who is within.” Staff warned Bosworth not to believe men who wept because their children had been put into care. She described levels of distress so difficult to witness that “on a number of occasions I left the centre abruptly, having reached the limits of my capacity to soak up other people’s misery”.

    I asked Giles how he coped with the human misery he encounters daily. “I think, over the years,” said Giles, “I have managed by not taking it on. Not engaging with the underlying – facts, if you like. The things that have happened to somebody, or may happen to somebody. I’ve tried to concentrate instead on what I’m doing – what my role is. I’d much rather my client said, ‘Tom has explained to me he’s going to do this, that it has this chance of success,’ than, ‘He’s a good guy and he’s always got time to chat.’ You know?”

    Giles called another client. Peter arrived from Nigeria in the late 1980s and was given indefinite leave to remain – that is, permission to settle in Britain. He had four children, all British citizens. Fourteen years ago, when they were small, he was arrested for attempting to import class-A drugs; he turned informant and served a criminal sentence. Had Peter been a British citizen, he would have been allowed to go free after having served his time. But, because he was foreign, he was then detained while it was decided whether he would be deported. This detention lasted a further three years. Giles challenged the legitimacy of these three years of incarceration. The courts found in Peter’s favour, and moreover ruled two years of the detention to be unlawful. He was awarded damages. (Between 2011 and 2014, the Home Office paid out £15m in compensation for unlawful detention.)

    The Home Office was not able to deport Peter. But it responded by giving him only six months’ leave to remain. He was technically allowed to work, but in practice this was near-impossible. Ever since, he has had to reapply to stay every six months, at the cost of a £649 fee to the Home Office and a payment to Turpin Miller each time.

    Last month, the fees rose by 25%, to £811 per person. For most visa applicants, this is now added to the new NHS surcharge of £200 for each adult and child, per year. Application for a standard two-and-a-half years’ leave to remain for a family of four now costs £5,244. Those who cannot find the money must leave the country when their current visa expires, unless they can claim they are destitute — the bar for proving which is extremely high. Fees are also waived for victims of domestic abuse – but only if the spouse is British. Often, Renshaw said, clients who had scrimped and saved their fees in the full trust that they were doing what the system required of them did not find out about rate rises until the last minute, meaning that they either had to leave the country immediately or become overstayers, and thus illegal. She is increasingly defending people who have effectively been administrated into illegality. (A Home office spokesperson, approached for comment, stated that “It is only right we recover the costs of running our immigration system by making sure that those who benefit directly from it contribute appropriately - so the expense to the UK taxpayer is less.”)

    With no steady work, Peter was in such arrears that his credit card had been stopped and his bank account closed. Giles was applying for legal aid so that Peter could pay Turpin Miller to appeal on his behalf to remain in Britain for three clear years at least; the legal aid agency wanted proof of income, but having no bank account, Peter was finding it difficult to satisfy them. “The upshot is a form of terrorism,” said Giles. “We’re not just going to set up a system that makes it difficult for you to obtain the right to be here, we’re going to carry that message through every part of your life, remind you of it every day.”

    Some weeks later Giles received an email from Peter, saying that he wouldn’t be able to send over his financial documents as requested, because he had destroyed them. “I strongly believe that the legal aid office works with the immigration department and I have come to the conclusion that any document submitted to them would be used as evidence against me in a charge of illegal employment. At home I do not open my door or blind as I worry that the authorities are watching and are coming for me. Please do not be offended that I am unable to provide the documents. Thank you sir.”

    Giles, who is now 40, grew up in Stoke Newington, north London. His parents split up when he was small, and he and his brother were raised by his mother, who for 14 years was principal of Tower Hamlets College, and her new partner. It was a politically engaged household. They argued about issues at mealtimes and he was taken on marches against Thatcher and the nuclear bomb. There was a strong feeling, he says, “not too dissimilar to now, of a need to stand up against prejudice and discrimination”.

    He thought about becoming a teacher before taking a conversion course and going into legal aid. “It’s a cliche, isn’t it – growing up in a lesbian household in the 80s, in Stoke Newington – what are you going to do? Join Ukip and end up an estate agent?” As a shy child who nevertheless “would not give a point up”, he could not imagine undertaking the public performances required of a barrister, and so trained as a solicitor. He came to Oxford because his wife had got a job at the council, and he admits he “stalked” Philip Turpin, one of the firm’s partners, until he was hired.

    Turpin Miller is effective and well-respected, and in 2012, at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards, it was named firm of the year. But less than a year later, legal aid was cut and the company lost about 70% of its legal aid work in immigration alone. In order to survive – and to fund flexible rates for clients who had previously qualified for aid – the firm switched to more private work, where the client, rather than the government, pays for representation.

    Clients come to Turpin Miller through social services, children’s societies, women’s refuges or, for Giles, through detention centres and prisons. Though they have done as well as they can under the circumstances – Renshaw recently won legal aid lawyer of the year in the social and welfare category – the partners are acutely aware of how precarious their working lives, and by extension the lives of their clients, have become.

    Last summer, in his first speech as secretary of state for justice, Michael Gove suggested pro bono work should begin to replace legal aid, asking solicitors and barristers “to look into their consciences and see what they can do to ensure there is more equitable access to justice”, and effectively suggesting that individual charity compensate for shortfalls in state funding. Giles was withering about this, pointing out that legal firms rich enough to have pro bono units tend not to deal with asylum and immigration. “Immigration is highly complicated work and any solicitor who does not specialise in it would probably be breaching professional rules to be undertaking it pro bono,” says Richard Miller, head of legal aid at the Law Society. “One of the rules is that no solicitor must do any work for with they’re not competent.”“We’re struggling to survive,” said Giles. “Every time we do a piece of work that doesn’t pay it is no exaggeration to say we’re jeopardising our future.”

    When it cut legal aid, the government promised a safety net for those in danger of a breach of their human rights in the form of “exceptional case funding”. “You can apply directly [to the Legal Aid Agency],” it says, helpfully, on “You don’t have to name a solicitor.” The trouble is that the forms are 14 pages long, and include questions like: “Please describe why you consider there is an arguable breach of substantive obligation”. It can take an experienced lawyer up to six hours to do one application; if it is unsuccessful they do not get paid. It is possible to send a letter explaining why you cannot represent yourself, but to construct a strong argument, it would probably help to have a passing knowledge of case law.

    In May 2013 Giles applied for exceptional case funding to represent a Lithuanian woman, Teresa Gudanaviciene. She was working lawfully in the UK when she wounded her violent, alcoholic partner with a knife, and received an 18-month prison sentence. Her younger child was taken into care (the older one was an adult), and she was informed that at the end of her sentence she would be deported. Giles believed she could appeal against the decision on human rights grounds. He duly applied for exceptional case funding, and was rejected. He challenged the decision and eventually, in 2014, along with five other linked cases, the case reached the court of appeal, which found that the bar for legal aid provision was set unlawfully high. Gudanaviciene was given legal aid and her appeal against deportation was successful.

    “That was really important,” said Renshaw. In 2013-14, before Gudanaviciene’s victory, 1,520 applications for exceptional case funding were made, 69% of which were for family or immigration cases: 69 – or 4.5% – were granted, of which only one or two were immigration cases. However, in the first quarter of 2015, following Gudanaviciene’s victory, 132 applications were made for exceptional funding for immigration cases, and 51 were granted. “And this is the thing about Tom,” Renshaw told me. “A lot of us took one look at the forms and thought, ‘I don’t have time to do that for nothing!’ But Tom battled away – applying, reapplying and in the end taking them to court. That’s what he does; if he sees an issue that needs to be dealt with he will keep going.”

    It is an obvious point, but worth repeating: legal aid is necessary because it aims to give everyone equal access to justice. “Legal aid ensured that for a relatively low cost the whole system worked,” said Renshaw, “and that is particularly true in Tom’s work”. But, she argues, if you get rid of the ability to put a case at all, because a client cannot pay to fight it, you skew the system. And if you then remove people from the UK before they can appeal a Home Office decision – well, “the whole point of an appeal is to call people to account. The first decision isn’t always right. And what happens when you undermine that right of appeal – either by removing legal aid or by requiring people to conduct their appeal from overseas – is that the quality of the first decision deteriorates, because there’s no scrutiny.”

    The other issue illustrated by the Gudanaviciene case was the lengths to which the government would go to prove a point. If legal aid had been provided, and a barrister hired for her initial appeal, the whole thing would have cost £691. But because the government refused her legal aid, and kept refusing even though the challenge moved through to the high court and then the court of appeal, the case eventually involved 18 barristers, at a cost in excess of £600,000, not to mention an extra six months of detention for Gudanaviciene (at a cost, according to figures entered into parliamentary debate in late 2014, of £97 per day) and maintaining a child in care (between £131,000 and £135,000 per child per year, according to the National Audit Office).

    “At the hearing, the presenting officer said they were ready to concede,” said Giles, “but they could not get permission to concede, because, I suspect, the Home Office does not concede deportation cases. It is the Home Office that is dragging these things through the courts, with the costs to the public purse and [the emotional] cost to everyone. Discretion and common sense seem to have been taken out of the system.”

    Giles’s suspicions were bolstered in mid-November, when the president of the upper tribunal, which considers appeals relating to asylum and immigration, published a decision saying that he had “the impression that the secretary of state [for the Home Office], as a matter of routine, applies for permission to appeal in every deportation appeal [resolved in favour of the appellant]”. Furthermore, he noted, the terms in which these Home Office applications were made were frequently generic, rather than engaging with the facts of the individual case and with the law, and that they were inundating tribunals and threatening to impede legitimate work. “If there is indeed a practice of this kind it must be disapproved,” he wrote. “To slavishly apply for permission to appeal to the upper tribunal in every deportation appeal resolved in favour of the appellant, if this be the practice, is not a proper or legitimate invocation of this tribunal’s jurisdiction.” (In response, a Home Office spokesperson told me that “any decision to appeal a judgment made by the courts is taken after careful consideration of the facts and when it is in the public interest to do so”.)

    When, during prime Minister’s Questions in January, David Cameron referred to a “bunch of migrants”, or when he pledged, last summer, to halt the “swarm” attempting to make the crossing from Calais, his language was nothing new. Britain has been worrying about outsiders for a long time, while in fact, as Robert Winder has argued in his magisterial book Bloody Foreigners, rather impressively muddling along and largely accepting them.

    But in the last couple of decades, it has become, for non-EU migrants, harder and harder to arrive and, having arrived, to stay. The world has changed, radically: cheaper international travel, digital communications, international terrorism and refugees fleeing wars have presented challenges previous governments have not had to face, or at least not on such a scale. Yet this does not excuse tactics that have paved the way for increasingly harsh policies.

    “Britain has expended considerable effort over the past decade in marking out (some) foreign nationals as dangerous, unwelcome, and excludable,” writes Mary Bosworth. “Eliding different categories of foreigner, starting with the ‘bogus asylum seeker’, before moving to the terrorist and the foreign offender, various British governments have pitted these rhetorical figures against the British citizen, shoring up a narrative of national identity in a period of mass mobility.”

    This process has accelerated in recent years, and it is increasingly possible, especially since the Tories achieved their majority, to detect what looks like a three-step process. Step 1: talk as tough as possible about migrants. Step 2: write legislation that is tough on migrants. Step 3: when it is challenged, claim that it is simply what the public wants. And in the meantime use every possible administrative and judicial muscle to remove migrants from the UK.

    By the time Theresa May addressed the Conservative party conference last October, she felt comfortable claiming that the asylum system was so open to abuse that “it was just another way of getting here to work” – which meant it was “impossible to build a cohesive society … wages are forced down even further while some people are forced out of work altogether”.

    In making this claim, May was undeterred by the fact that her own department’s research has found no “statistically significant displacement of UK natives from the labour market in periods when the economy is strong”.

    One morning in late September, the main hall of the Royal Courts of Justice in London echoed with the crash of security belts as bags were searched at the entrance. At the centre, gazed down upon by portraits of men in ermine and wigs, were the cause lists, detailing the cases to be heard that day. Nearby was a stand on which was pasted a copy of the Magna Carta. It looked like a colour photocopy someone had taken in a rush, and completed a very English impression of beauty, vaulting power, and lashings of amateurishness.

    In Court 68, appeals were being heard from lawyers for two offenders, Courtney Byndloss, a Jamaican national, and Kevin Kiarie, a Kenyan. Both were challenging decisions to deport them before they could appeal from within the UK. Kiarie, whose parents have indefinite leave to remain, and who has lived in England for 19 of his 23 years, was Giles’s client. Everyone in the small windowless court was aware of the importance of this case: if the two men were successful, the government’s policy of “deport first, appeal later” would be dealt a major blow, and many thousands of migrants, both offenders and the far greater number of non-offenders, would benefit.

    The court of appeal is different to what courtroom dramas on TV lead one to expect. There is almost no concession to lay observers, theoretically welcome though they might be. Everyone is already familiar with the bare bones of the case, so bewigged barristers plunge directly into the finer points of case law. Behind them junior counsel, also in wigs, flap through thick folders, looking for page references and omissions. Behind the junior counsel sit a row of solicitors who, that morning, included Giles, whose bright blue shirt stood out against all the black suits and gowns. And at the front of the room sit the judges, who do not wear wigs. Far from being impassive adjudicators, the judges get stuck in, running proceedings in a tough and not always polite manner.

    Richard Drabble QC, who has a slight stoop, a lovely smile and a tendency to mumble, argued for Kiarie: how could he appeal against deportation while in Kenya – a country he did not know – without access to British lawyers, witnesses, or supporting material such as probation records, or medical records? A mention of psychiatric papers caused a flurry of scorn from Lord Justices Richards, McCombe, who made full use of impressive salt-and-pepper eyebrows, and Elias, sceptical, old and tiny, almost Dickensian in his high-backed chair. Manjit Gill QC’s argument about the rights of Byndloss’s children produced a splutter of impatience from Richards: “If you have a speaking note, let’s get on with it!”

    The atmosphere changed abruptly when Richard Keen, Baron Keen of Elie, former chair of the Scottish Conservative party, stood to speak. Keen, who is the advocate general for Scotland, had intervened at the last minute to argue for the home secretary. “What is being reviewed?” began Keen, who is a big man, sleek with confidence. “A decision of the secretary of state.” He took immediate and direct aim at the characters of Kiarie and his co-defendant, using the phrase “foreign national criminal” as often as possible. “Both have shown a disregard for the law of the UK, and therefore there is a public interest in removing them from the UK, and therefore policy reflects that public interest … and if that means removing them pending their appeal then so be it. That is the view of parliament.”

    There was more of the same the next day when Keen, wearing a pink and white checked shirt under his QC’s silks, pointed out that some immigration appeals do already occur out of country, and if necessary an appellant can always be brought back to defend him or herself. (Although, as Baroness Helena Kennedy QC has pointed out during debates about the immigration bill, “only 13% of out-of-country appeals succeed, compared to an average of around four in 10 made in country”.) Keen moved the appeals be refused.

    In response, Drabble, whose mumble had completely disappeared, took direct aim at the likelihood of anyone ever being brought back, and at the general breakdown of due process. “You can’t proceed on the basis that the tribunal will somehow muddle through. That’s not an acceptable way to run a procedurally fair system.” Furthermore, “It is a major mistake of principle to allow the gravity of what is alleged against my client … to diminish procedural protection. That cannot be the right approach.”

    Three weeks later, unusually swiftly where these things are concerned, Richards, McCombe and Elias found against Kiarie and Byndloss, arguing that it was perfectly possible to continue their appeals from abroad.

    Renshaw thinks that judges are increasingly being forced into a corner by a home secretary intent on incorporating a “really hostile environment for illegal immigrants” (May’s own words) into legislation, meaning, as Renshaw put it, that “the judiciary in some ways have little choice – they are simply implementing the law.”

    There has been some pushback from the House of Lords. In their debates, many lords made clear their discomfort with the speed at which a constantly changing bill was being pushed through the government alone has made more than 300 amendments, on top of amendments proposed and voted on by lords and MPs. They also criticised what they saw as unnecessary hardships being visited on migrants. They voted, among other things, to allow asylum seekers to work if their claims had not been processed within six months – currently asylum seekers live on £5 a day, and when they can finally work, the jobs they are allowed to do are severely restricted – and to require a court order to detain anyone for more than 28 days.

    In early March, Giles’s client Andrzej won his appeal against deportation, but he had already been removed – a situation that will arise more and more when the “deport first, appeal later” measure in the immigration bill comes into general effect.

    Peter, meanwhile, was granted legal aid — but the court of appeal refused his request for an extension of his visa. “It’s a bad ending,” said Giles, then corrected himself. “It’s definitely not an ending. We need to start again and challenge it again. I hope he can be strong enough to go through it all again.”

    It is not an ending for Kiarie either, at least not yet: as soon as the court of appeal decision came through last autumn Giles applied for legal aid so that he could take the case further. This was granted, and the appeal should come before the supreme court at some point later this year.

    Even Teresa Gudanaviciene had been forced to go another round with the Home Office. Having been given exceptional case funding, she and Giles fought the decision to deport her, and won their case in the first-tier tribunal. The Home Office refused to accept this decision and challenged it in the upper tribunal – which decided that there had in fact been no error of law and that she could stay. “I spoke to her yesterday,” said Giles, when he told me about it. What did she say? “She just said, ‘I don’t know what to say. Thank you.’”

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #86 - August 17, 2016, 01:04 AM

    Nat Turner, born 2nd October 1800, in Southampton County, Virginia, was born the property of a man named Benjamin Turner. When Benjamin Turner died in 1810, Nat became the property of Benjamin's brother Samuel Turner. Nat Turner spent his life on a plantation area where slaves comprised the majority of the population. A highly intelligent individual descried as as having natural intelligence and quickness of apprehension, surpassed by few. He was deeply religious, and having learned to read and write at a young age preached the bible to his fellow slaves, even reportedly gaining white followers. He saw visions which her believed meant he was part of a divine plan and at the age of 31, just shy of 31, led a slave uprising which took place in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831. During the rebellion, Virginia legislators targeted free blacks with a colonisation bill, which allocated new funding to remove them, and a police bill that denied free blacks trials by jury and made any free blacks convicted of a crime subject to sale and relocation. Whites organised militias and called out regular troops to suppress the uprising. In addition, white militias and mobs attacked blacks in the area, killing an estimated 200, many of whom were not involved in the revolt.

    In the aftermath, the state quickly arrested and executed 57 blacks accused of being part of Turner's slave rebellion. Turner hid successfully for two months. When found, he was quickly tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and hanged. Across Virginia and other southern states, state legislators passed new laws to control slaves and free blacks. They prohibited education of slaves and free blacks, restricted rights of assembly for free blacks, withdrew their right to bear arms (in some states), and to vote (in North Carolina, for instance), and required white ministers to be present at all black worship services.

    A rather fascinating look into the minds of people from days gone by can be found in this article on the slave uprising led by Turner, published 156 years ago.

    Nat Turner's Insurrection


    During the year 1831, up to the twenty-third of August, the Virginia newspapers were absorbed in the momentous problems which then occupied the minds of intelligent American citizens:—What General Jackson should do with the scolds, and what with the disreputables,—Should South Carolina be allowed to nullify? and would the wives of Cabinet Ministers call on Mrs. Eaton? It is an unfailing opiate, to turn over the drowsy files of the Richmond Enquirer, until the moment when those dry and dusty pages are suddenly kindled into flame by the torch of Nat Turner. Then the terror flares on increasing, until the remotest Southern States are found shuddering at nightly rumors of insurrection,—until far off European colonies, Antigua, Martinique, Caraccas, Tortola, recognize by some secret sympathy the same epidemic alarms,—until the very boldest words of freedom are reported as uttered in the Virginia House of Delegates with unclosed doors,—until an obscure young man named Garrison is indicted at Common Law in North Carolina, and has a price set upon his head by the Legislature of Georgia. The insurrection revived in one agonizing reminiscence all the distresses of Gabriel's Revolt, thirty years before; and its memory endures still fresh, now that thirty added years have brought the more formidable presence of General Butler. It is by no means impossible that the very children or even confederates of Nat Turner may be included at this moment among the contraband articles of Fort Monroe.

    Near the southeastern border of Virginia, in Southampton County, there is a neighborhood known as “The Cross Keys.” It lies fifteen miles from Jerusalem, the county-town or  “court-house,” seventy miles from Norfolk, and about as far from Richmond. It is some ten or fifteen miles from Murfreesboro' in North Carolina, and about twenty-five from the Great Dismal Swamp. Up to Sunday, the twenty-first of August, 1831, there was nothing to distinguish it from any other rural, lethargic, slipshod Virginia neighborhood, with the due allotment of mansion-houses and log-huts, tobacco fields and "old-fields," horses, dogs, negroes, "poor white folks," so called, and other white folks, poor without being called so. One of these last was Joseph Travis, who had recently married the widow of one Putnam Moore, and had unfortunately wedded to himself her negroes also.

    In the woods on the plantation of Joseph Travis, upon the Sunday just named, six slaves met at noon for what is called in the Northern States a picnic and in the Southern a barbecue. The bill of fare was to be simple: one brought a pig, and another some brandy, giving to the meeting an aspect so cheaply convivial that no one would have imagined it to be the final consummation of a conspiracy which had been for six months in preparation. In this plot four of the men had been already initiated,—Henry, Hark or Hercules, Nelson, and Sam. Two others were novices, Will and Jack by name. The party had remained together from twelve to three o'clock, when a seventh man joined them,—a short, stout, powerfully built person, of dark mulatto complexion and strongly-marked African features, but with a face full of expression and resolution. This was Nat Turner.

    He was at this time nearly thirty-one years old, having been born on the second of October, 1800. He had belonged originally to Benjamin Turner,—whence his last name, slaves having usually no patronymic,—had then been transferred to Putnam Moore, and then to his present owner. He had, by his own account, felt himself singled out from childhood for some great work; and he had some peculiar marks on his person, which, joined to his great mental precocity, were enough to occasion, among his youthful companions, a superstitious faith in his gifts and destiny. He had great mechanical ingenuity also, experimentalized very early in making paper, gunpowder, pottery, and in other arts which in later life he was found thoroughly to understand. His moral faculties were very strong, so that white witnesses admitted that he had never been known to swear an oath, to drink a drop of spirits, or to commit a theft. And in general, so marked were his early peculiarities, that people said “he had too much sense to be raised, and if he was, he would never be of any use as a slave.” This impression of personal destiny grew with his growth;—he fasted, prayed, preached, read the Bible, heard voices when he walked behind his plough, and communicated his revelations to the awe-struck slaves. They told him in return, that, “if they had his sense, they would not serve any master in the world.”

    The biographies of slaves can hardly be individualized; they belong to the class. We know bare facts; it is only the general experience of human beings in like condition which can clothe them with life. The outlines are certain, the details are inferential. Thus, for instance, we know that Nat Turner's young wife was a slave; we know that she belonged to a different master from himself; we know little more than this, but this is much. For this is equivalent to saying that by day or by night that husband had no more power to protect her than the man who lies bound upon a plundered vessel's deck has power to protect his wife on board the pirate-schooner disappearing in the horizon; she may be reverenced, she may be outraged; it is in the powerlessness that the agony lies. There is, indeed, one thing more which we do know of this young woman: the Virginia newspapers state that she was tortured under the lash, after her husband's execution, to make her produce his papers: this is all.

    What his private experiences and special privileges or wrongs may have been, it is therefore now impossible to say. Travis was declared to be “more humane and fatherly to his slaves than any man in the county”; but it is astonishing how often this phenomenon occurs in the contemporary annals of slave insurrections. The chairman of the county court also stated, in pronouncing sentence, that Nat Turner had spoken of his master as “only too indulgent”; but this, for some reason, does not appear in his printed Confession, which only says, "He was a kind master, and placed the greatest confidence in me.” It is very possible that it may have been so, but the printed accounts of Nat Turner's person look suspicious: he is described in Governor Floyd's proclamation as having a sear on one of his temples, also one on the back of his neck and a large knot on one of the bones of his right arm, produced by a blow; and although these were explained away in Virginia newspapers as being produced by fights with his companions, yet such affrays are entirely foreign to the admitted habits of the man. It must, therefore remain an open question, whether the scars and the knot were produced black hands or by white.

    Whatever Nat Turner's experiences of slavery might have been, it is certain that his plans were not suddenly adopted, but that he had brooded over them for years. To this day there are traditions among the Virginia slaves of the keen devices of “Prophet Nat.” If he was caught with lime and lamp-black in hand, conning over a half-finished county-map on the barn-door, he was always “planning what to do, if he were blind,” or “studying how to get to Mr. Francis's house.” When he had called a meeting of slaves, and some poor whites came eavesdropping, the poor whites at once became the subjects for discussion, he incidentally mentioned that the masters had been heard threatening to drive them away; one slave had been ordered to shoot Mr. Jones's pigs, another to tear down Mr. Johnson's fences. The poor whites, Johnson and Jones, ran home see to their homesteads, and were better friends than ever to Prophet Nat.

    He never was a Baptist preacher, though such vocation has often been attributed to him. The impression arose from his having immersed himself, during one of his periods of special enthusiasm, together with a poor white man named Brantley. “About this time,” he says in his Confession, “I told these things to a white man, on whom it had a wonderful effect, and he ceased from his wickedness, and was attacked immediately with a cutaneous eruption, and the blood oozed from the pores of his skin, and after praying and fasting nine days he was healed. And the Spirit appeared to me again, and said, as the Saviour had been baptized, so should we be also; and when the white people would not let us be baptized by the Church, we went down into the water together, in the sight of many who reviled us, and were baptized by the Spirit. After this I rejoiced greatly and gave thanks to God.”

    The religious hallucinations narrated in his Confession seem to have been as genuine as the average of such things, and are very well expressed. It reads quite like Jacob Behmen. He saw white spirits and black spirits contending in the skies, the sun was darkened, the thunder rolled. “And the Holy Ghost was with me, and said, ‘Behold me as I stand in the heavens!’ And I looked and saw the forms of men in different attitudes. And there were lights in the sky, to which the children of darkness gave other names than what they really were ; for they were the lights of the Saviour's hands, stretched forth from east to west, even as they were extended on the cross on Calvary, for the redemption of sinners.” He saw drops of blood on the corn: this was Christ's blood, shed for man. He saw on the leaves in the woods letters and numbers and figures of men,—the same symbols which he had seen in the skies. On May 12, 1828, the Holy Spirit appeared to him and proclaimed that the yoke of Jesus must fall on him, and he must fight against the Serpent when the sign appeared. Then came an eclipse of the sun in February, 1831: this was the sign; then he must arise and prepare himself, and slay his enemies with their own weapons; then also the seal was removed from his lips, and then he confided his plans to four associates.

    When he came, therefore, to the barbecue on the appointed Sunday, and found, not these four only, but two others, his first question to the intruders was, How they came thither. To this Will answered manfully, that his life was worth no more than the others, and “his liberty was as dear to him.” This admitted him to confidence, and as Jack was known to be entirely under Hark's influence, the strangers were no bar to their discussion. Eleven hours they remained there, in anxious consultation: one can imagine those terrible dusky faces, beneath the funereal woods, and amid the flickering of pine-knot torches, preparing that stern revenge whose shuddering echoes should ring through the land so long. Two things were at last decided: to begin their work that night, and to begin it with a massacre so swift and irresistible as to create in a few days more terror than many battles, and so spare the need of future bloodshed. "It was agreed that we should commence at home, on that night, and, until we had armed and equipped ourselves and gained sufficient force, neither age nor sex was to be spared: which was invariably adhered to."

    John Brown invaded Virginia with nineteen men and with the avowed resolution to take no life but in self-defense. Nat Turner attacked Virginia from within, with six men, and with the determination to spare no life until his power was established. John Brown intended to pass rapidly through Virginia, and then retreat to the mountains. Nat Turner intended to “conquer Southampton County as the white men did in the Revolution, and then retreat, if necessary, to the Dismal Swamp.” Each plan was deliberately matured; each was in its way, practicable; but each was defeated by a single false step, as will soon appear.

    We must pass over the details of horror, as they occurred during the next twenty-four hours. Swift and stealthy as Indians, the black men passed from house to house,—not pausing, not hesitating, as their terrible work went on. In one thing they were humaner than Indians or than white men fighting against Indians,—there was no gratuitous outrage beyond the death-blow itself, no insult, no mutilation; but in every house they entered, that blow fell on man, woman, and child,—nothing that had a white skin was spared. From every house they took arms and ammunition, and from a few, money; on every plantation they found recruits: those dusky slaves, so obsequious to their master the day before, so prompt to sing and dance before his Northern visitors, were all swift to transform themselves into fiends of retribution now; show them sword or musket and they grasped it, though it were an heirloom from Washington himself. The troop increased from house to house,—first to fifteen, then to forty, then to sixty. Some were armed with muskets, some with axes, some with scythes; some came on their masters' horses. As the numbers increased, they could be divided, and the awful work was carried on more rapidly still. The plan then was for an advanced guard of horsemen to approach each house at a gallop, and surround it till the others came up. Meanwhile what agonies of terror must have taken place within, shared alike by innocent and by guilty! what memories of wrongs inflicted on those dusky creatures, by some,—what innocent participation, by others, in the penance! The outbreak lasted for but forty-eight hours; but during that period fifty-five whites were slain, without the loss of a single slave.

    One fear was needless, which to many a husband and father must have intensified the last struggle. These negroes had been systematically brutalized from childhood; they had been allowed no legalized or permanent marriage; they had beheld around them an habitual licentiousness, such as can scarcely exist except in a Slave State; some of them had seen their wives and sisters habitually polluted by the husbands and the brothers of these fair white women who were now absolutely in their power. Yet I have looked through the Virginia newspapers of that time in vain for one charge of an indecent outrage on a woman against these triumphant and terrible slaves. Wherever they went, there went death, and that was all. Compare this with ordinary wars; compare it with the annals of the French Revolution. No one, perhaps, has yet painted the wrongs of the French populace so terribly as Dickens in his “Tale of Two Cities”; yet what man, conversant with slave biographies, can read that narrative without feeling it weak beside the provocations to which fugitive slaves testify? It is something for human nature that these desperate insurgents revenged such wrongs by death alone. Even that fearful penalty was to be inflicted only till the object was won. It was admitted in the Richmond Enquirer of the time that “indiscriminate massacre was not their intention, after they obtained foothold, and was resorted to in the first instance to strike terror and alarm. Women and children would afterwards have been spared, and men also who ceased to resist.”

    It is reported by some of the contemporary newspapers, that a portion of this abstinence was the result of deliberate consultation among the insurrectionists; that some of them were resolved on taking the white women for wives, but were overruled by Nat Turner. If so, he is the only American slave-leader of whom we know certainly that he rose above the ordinary level of slave vengeance, and Mrs. Stowe's picture of Dred's purposes is then precisely typical of his. “Whom the Lord saith unto us, 'Smite,' them will we smite. We will not torment them with the scourge and fire, nor defile their women as they have done with ours. But we will slay them utterly, and consume them from off the face of the earth.”

    When the number of adherents had increased to fifty or sixty, Nat Turner judged it time to strike at the county-seat, Jerusalem. Thither a few white fugitives had already fled, and couriers might thence be dispatched for aid to Richmond and Petersburg, unless promptly intercepted. Besides, he could there find arms, ammunition, and money; though they had already obtained, it is dubiously reported, from eight hundred to one thousand dollars. On the way it was necessary to pass the plantation of Mr. Parker, three miles from Jerusalem. Some of the men wished to stop here and enlist some of their friends. Nat Turner objected, as the delay might prove dangerous; he yielded at last, and it proved fatal.

    He remained at the gate with six or eight men; thirty or forty went to the house, half a mile distant. They remained too long, and he went alone to hasten them. During his absence a party of eighteen white men came up suddenly, dispersing the small guard left at the gate; and when the main body of slaves emerged from the house, they encountered, for the first time, their armed masters. The blacks halted, the whites advanced cautiously within a hundred yards and fired a volley; on its being returned, they broke into disorder, and hurriedly retreated, leaving some wounded on the ground. The retreating whites were pursued, and were saved only by falling in with another band of fresh men from Jerusalem, with whose aid they turned upon the slaves, who in their turn fell into confusion. Turner, Hark, and about twenty men on horseback retreated in some order; the rest were scattered. The leader still planned to reach Jerusalem by a private way, thus evading pursuit; but at last decided to stop for the night, in the hope of enlisting additional recruits.

    During the night the number increased again to forty, and they encamped on Major Ridley's plantation. An alarm took place during the darkness,—whether real or imaginary does not appear,—and the men became scattered again. Proceeding to make fresh enlistments with the daylight, they were resisted at Dr. Blunt's house, where his slaves, under his orders, fired upon them, and this, with a later attack from a party of white men near Captain Harris's, so broke up the whole force that they never reunited. The few who remained together agreed to separate for a few hours to see if anything could be done to revive the insurrection, and meet again that evening at their original rendezvous. But they never reached it.

    Sadly came Nat Turner at nightfall into those gloomy woods where forty-eight hours before be had revealed the details of his terrible plot to his companions. At the outset all his plans had succeeded; everything was as he predicted: the slaves had come readily at his call, the masters had proved perfectly defenceless. Had be not been persuaded to pause at Parker's plantation, he would have been master before now of the arms and ammunition at Jerusalem; and with these to aid, and the Dismal Swamp for a refuge, he might have sustained himself indefinitely against his pursuers.

    Now the blood was shed, the risk was incurred, his friends were killed or captured, and all for what? Lasting memories of terror, to be sure, for his oppressors; but on the other hand, hopeless failure for the insurrection, and certain death for him. What a watch be must have kept that night! To that excited imagination, which had always seen spirits in the sky and blood-drops on the corn and hieroglyphic marks on the dry leaves, how full the lonely forest must have been of signs and solemn warnings! Alone with the fox's bark, the rabbit's rustle, and the screech-owl's scream, the self-appointed prophet brooded over his despair. Once creeping to the edge of the wood, he saw men stealthily approach on horseback. He fancied them some of his companions; but before he dared to whisper their ominous names, “Hark” or “Dred,”—for the latter was the name, since famous, of one of his more recent recruits,—he saw them to be white men, and shrank back stealthily beneath his covert.

    There he waited two weary days and two melancholy nights,—long enough to satisfy himself that no one would rejoin him, and that the insurrection had hopelessly failed. The determined, desperate spirits who had shared his plans were scattered forever, and longer delay would be destruction for him also. He found a spot which he judged safe, dug a hole under a pile of fence-rails in a field, and lay there for six weeks, only leaving it for a few moments at midnight to obtain water from a neighboring spring. Food he had previously provided, without discovery, from a house near by.

    Meanwhile an unbounded variety of rumors went flying through the State. The express which first reached the Governor announced that the militia were retreating before the slaves. An express to Petersburg further fixed the number of militia at three hundred, and of blacks at eight hundred, and invented a convenient shower of rain to explain the dampened ardor of the whites. Later reports described the slaves as making three desperate attempts to cross the bridge over the Nottoway between Cross Keys and Jerusalem, and stated that the leader had been shot in the attempt. Other accounts put the number of negroes at three hundred, all well mounted and armed, with two or three white men as leaders. Their intention was supposed to be to reach the Dismal Swamp, and they must be hemmed in from that side.

    Indeed, the most formidable weapon in the hands of slave-insurgents is always this blind panic they create, and the wild exaggerations which follow. The worst being possible, every one takes the worst for granted. Undoubtedly a dozen armed men could have stifled this insurrection, even after it had commenced operations; but it is the fatal weakness of a slaveholding community, that it can never furnish men promptly for such a purpose. “My first intention was,” says one of the most intelligent newspaper narrators of the affair, “to have attacked them with thirty or forty men; but those who had families here were strongly opposed to it.”

    As usual, each man was pinioned to his own hearth-stone. As usual, aid had to be summoned from a distance, and, as usual, the United States troops were the chief reliance. Colonel House, commanding at Fort Monroe, sent at once three companies of artillery under Lieutenant Colonel Worth, and embarked them on board the steamer Hampton for Suffolk. These were joined by detachments from the United States ships Warren and Natchez, the whole amounting to nearly eight hundred men. Two volunteer companies went from Richmond, four from Petersburg, one from Norfolk, one from Portsmouth, and several from North Carolina. The militia of Norfolk, Nansemond, and Princess Anne Counties, and the United States troops at Old Point Comfort, were ordered to scour the Dismal Swamp, where it was believed that two or three thousand fugitives were preparing to join the insurgents. It was even proposed to send two companies from New York and one from New London to the same point.

    When these various forces reached Southampton County, they found all labor paralyzed and whole plantations abandoned. A letter from Jerusalem, dated August 24th, says, “The oldest inhabitant of our county has never experienced such a distressing time as we have had since Sunday night last..... Every house, room, and corner in the place is full of women and children, driven from home, who had to take the woods until they could get to this place.” “For many miles around their track,” says another, “the county is deserted by women and children.” Still another writes, “Jerusalem is full of women, most of them from the other side of the river,—about two hundred at Vix's.” Then follow descriptions of the sufferings of these persons, many of whom had lain night after night in the woods. But the immediate danger was at an end, the short-lived insurrection was finished, and now the work of vengeance was to begin. In the frank phrase of a North Carolina correspondent,—“The massacre of the whites was over, and the white people had commenced the destruction of the negroes, which was continued after our Men got there, from time to time, as they could fall in with them, all day yesterday.” A postscript adds, that “passengers by the Fayetteville stage say, that, by the latest accounts, one hundred and twenty negroes had been killed,”—this being little more than one day's work.

    These murders were defended as Nat Turner defended his: a fearful blow must be struck. In shuddering at the horrors of the insurrection, we have forgotten the far greater horrors of its suppression.

    The newspapers of the day contain many indignant protests against the cruelties which took place. “It is with pain,” says a correspondent of the National Intelligencer, September 7, 1831, “that we speak of another feature of the Southampton Rebellion; for we have been most unwilling to have our sympathies for the sufferers diminished or affected by their misconduct. We allude to the slaughter of many blacks without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity..... We met with an individual of intelligence who told us that he himself had killed between ten and fifteen..... We [the Richmond troop] witnessed with surprise the sanguinary temper of the population, who evinced a strong disposition to inflict immediate death on every prisoner.”

    There is a remarkable official document from General Eppes, the officer in command, to be found in the Richmond Enquirer for September 6, 1831. It is an indignant denunciation of precisely these outrages; and though he refuses to give details, he supplies their place by epithets: “revolting,”—“inhuman and not to be justified,”—“acts of barbarity and cruelty,”—“acts of atrocity,” —“this course of proceeding dignifies the rebel and the assassin with the sanctity of martyrdom.” And he ends by threatening martial law upon all future transgressors. Such general orders are not issued except in rather extreme cases. And in the parallel columns of the newspaper the innocent editor prints equally indignant descriptions of Russian atrocities in Lithuania, where the Poles were engaged in active insurrection, amid profuse sympathy from Virginia.

    The truth is, it was a Reign of Terror. Volunteer patrols rode in all directions, visiting plantations. “It was with the greatest difficulty,” said General Brodnax before the House of Delegates, “and at the hazard of personal popularity and esteem, that the coolest and most judicious among us could exert an influence sufficient to restrain an indiscriminate slaughter of the blacks who were suspected.” A letter from the Rev. G.W. Powell declares, “There are thousands of troops searching in every direction, and many negroes are killed every day: the exact number will never be ascertained.” Petition after petition was subsequently presented to the legislature, asking compensation for slaves thus assassinated without trial.

    Men were tortured to death, burned, maimed, and subjected to nameless atrocities. The overseers were called on to point out any slaves whom they distrusted, and if any tried to escape, they were shot down. Nay, worse than this. “A party of horsemen started from Richmond with the intention of killing every colored person they saw in Southampton County. They stopped opposite the cabin of a free colored man, who was hoeing in his little field. They called out, ‘Is this Southampton County?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Sir, you have just crossed the line, by yonder tree.’ They shot him dead and rode on.” This is from the narrative of the editor of the “Richmond Whig,” who was then on duty in the militia, and protested manfully against these outrages. “Some of these scenes,” he adds, “are hardly inferior in barbarity to the atrocities of the insurgents.”

    These were the masters' stories. If even these conceded so much, it would be interesting to hear what the slaves had to report. I am indebted to my honored friend, Lydia Maria Child, for some vivid recollections of this terrible period, as noted down from the lips of an old colored woman, once well known in New York, Charity Bowery. “At the time of the old Prophet Nat,” she said, “the colored folks was afraid to pray loud; for the whites threatened to punish 'em dreadfully, if the least noise was heard. The patrols was low drunken whites, and in Nat's time, if they heard any of the colored folks praying or singing a hymn, they would fall upon 'em and abuse 'em, and sometimes kill 'em, afore master or missis could get to 'em. The brightest and best was killed in Nat's time. The whites always suspect such ones. They killed a great many at a place called Duplon. They killed Antonio, a slave of Mr. J. Stanley, whom they shot; then they pointed their guns at him, and told him to confess about the insurrection. He told 'em be didn't know anything about any insurrection. They shot several balls through him, quartered him, and put his head on a pole at the fork of the road leading to the court.” (This is no exaggeration, if the Virginia newspapers may be taken as evidence.) “It was there but a short time. He had no trial. They never do. In Nat's time, the patrols would tie up the free colored people, flog 'em, and try to make 'em lie against one another, and often killed them before anybody could interfere. Mr. James Cole, High Sheriff, said, if any of the patrols came on his plantation, he would lose his life in defence of his people. One day he heard a patroller boasting how many niggers he had killed. Mr. Cole said, ‘If you don't pack up, as quick as God Almighty will let you, and get out of this town, and never be seen in it again, I'll put you where dogs won't bark at you.’ He went off, and wasn't seen in them parts again.”

    These outrages were not limited to the colored population; but other instances occurred which strikingly remind one of more recent times. An Englishman, named Robinson, was engaged in selling books at Petersburg. An alarm being given, one night, that five hundred blacks were marching towards the town, he stood guard, with others, on the bridge. After the panic had a little subsided, he happened to remark, that “the blacks, as men, were entitled to their freedom, and ought to be emancipated.” This led to great excitement, and he was warned to leave town. He took passage in the stage, but the stage was intercepted. He then fled to a friend's house; the house was broken open, and he was dragged forth. The civil authorities, being applied to, refused to interfere. The mob, stripped him, gave him a great number of lashes, and sent him on foot, naked, under a hot sun, to Richmond, whence he with difficulty found a passage to New York.

    Of the capture or escape of most of that small band who met with Nat Turner in the woods upon the Travis plantation little can now be known. All appear among the list of convicted, except Henry and Will. General Moore, who occasionally figures as second in command, in the newspaper narratives of that day, was probably the Hark or Hercules before mentioned; as no other of the confederates had belonged to Mrs. Travis, or would have been likely to bear her previous name of Moore. As usual, the newspapers state that most, if not all the slaves, were “the property of kind and indulgent masters.” Whether in any case they were also the sons of those masters is a point ignored; but from the fact that three out of the seven were at first reported as being white men several different witnesses,—the whole number being correctly given, and the statement therefore probably authentic,—one must suppose that there was an admixture of patrician blood in some of these conspirators.

    The subordinate insurgents sought safety as they could. A free colored named Will Artist, shot himself in the woods, where his hat was found on stake and his pistol lying by him; another was found drowned; others were traced to the Dismal Swamp; others returned to their homes, and tried to conceal their share in the insurrection, assuring their masters that they had been forced, against their will, to join,—the usual defence in such cases. The number shot down at random must, by all accounts, have amounted to many hundreds, but it is past all human registration now. The number who had a formal trial, such as it was, is officially stated at fifty-five; of these, seventeen were convicted and hanged, twelve convicted and transported, twenty acquitted, and four free colored men sent on for further trial and finally acquitted. “Not one of those known to be concerned escaped.” Of those executed, one only was a woman: “Lucy, slave of John T. Barrow”: that is all her epitaph, shorter even than that of Wordsworth's more famous Lucy;—but whether this one was old or young, pure or wicked, lovely or repulsive, octroon or negro, a Cassy, an Emily, or a Topsy, no information appears; she was a woman, she was a slave, and she died.

    There is one touching story, in connection with these terrible retaliations, which rests on good authority, that of the Rev. M. B. Cox, a Liberian missionary, then in Virginia. In the hunt which followed the massacre, a slaveholder went into the woods, accompanied by a faithful slave, who had been the means of saving his life during the insurrection. When they had reached a retired place in the forest, the man handed his gun to his master, informing him that he could not live a slave any longer, and requesting him either to free him or shoot him on the spot. The master took the gun, in some trepidation, levelled it at the faithful negro, and shot him through the heart. It is probable that this slaveholder was a Dr. Blunt,—his being the only plantation where the slaves were reported as thus defending their masters. “If this be true,” said the Richmond Enquirer, when it first narrated this instance of loyalty, “great will be the desert of these noble-minded Africans.” This “noble-minded African,” at least, estimated his own desert at a high standard: he demanded freedom,—and obtained it.

    Meanwhile the panic of the whites continued; for, though all others might be disposed of, Nat Turner was still at large. We have positive evidence of the extent of the alarm, although great efforts were afterwards made to represent it as a trifling affair. A distinguished citizen of Virginia wrote three months later to the Hon. W. B. Seabrook of South Carolina,—“From all that has come to my knowledge during and since that affair, I am convinced most fully that every black preacher in the country east of the Blue Ridge was in the secret.” “There is much reason to believe,” says the Governor's message on December 6th, "that the spirit of insurrection was not confined to Southampton. Many convictions have taken place elsewhere, and some few in distant counties.” The withdrawal of the United States troops, after some ten days' service, was a signal for fresh excitement, and an address, numerously signed, was presented to the United States Government, imploring their continued stay. More than three weeks after the first alarm, the Governor sent a supply of arms into Prince William, Fauquier, and Orange Counties. “From examinations which have taken place in other counties,” says one of the best newspaper historians of the affair, (in the Richmond Enquirer of September 6th), “I fear that the scheme embraced a wider sphere than I at first supposed.” Nat Turner himself, intentionally or otherwise, increased the confusion by denying all knowledge of the North Carolina outbreak, and declaring that he had communicated his plans to his four confederates within six months; while, on the other hand, a slave-girl, sixteen or seventeen years old, belonging to Solomon Parker, testified that she had heard the subject discussed for eighteen months, and that at a meeting held during the previous May some eight or ten had joined the plot.

    It is astonishing to discover, by laborious comparison of newspaper files, how vast was the immediate range of these insurrectionary alarms. Every Southern State seems to have borne its harvest of terror. On the Eastern shore of Maryland great alarm was at once manifested, especially in the neighborhood of Easton and Snowhill; and the houses of colored men were searched for arms even in Baltimore. In Delaware, there were similar rumors through Sussex and Dover Counties; there were arrests and executions; and in Somerset County great public meetings were held, to demand additional safeguards. On election-day, in Seaford, Del., some young men, going out to hunt rabbits, discharged their guns in sport; the men being absent, all the women in the vicinity took to flight; the alarm spread like the “Ipswich Fright”; soon Seaford was thronged with armed men; and when the boys returned from hunting, they found cannon drawn out to receive them.

    In North Carolina, Raleigh and Fayetteville were put under military defence, and women and children concealed themselves in the swamps for many days. The rebel organization was supposed to include two thousand. Forty-six slaves were imprisoned in Union County, twenty-five in Sampson County, and twenty-three at least in Duplin County, some of whom were executed. The panic also extended into Wayne, New Hanover, and Lenoir Counties. Four men were shot without trial in Wilmington,—Nimrod, Abraham, Prince, and “Dan the Dray-man,” the latter a man of seventy,—and their heads placed on poles at the four corners of the town. Nearly two months afterwards the trials were still continuing; and at a still later day, the Governor in his proclamation recommended the formation of companies of volunteers in every county.

    In South Carolina, General Hayne issued a proclamation “to prove the groundlessness of the existing alarms,”—thus implying that serious alarms existed. In Macon, Georgia, the whole population were roused from their beds at midnight by a report of a large force of armed negroes five miles off. In an hour, every woman and child was deposited in the largest building of the town, and a military force hastily collected in front. The editor of the Macon “Messenger” excused the poor condition of his paper, a few days afterwards, by the absorption of his workmen in patrol duties, and describes “dismay and terror” as the condition of the people, of “all ages and sexes.” In Jones, Twiggs, and Monroe Counties, the same alarms were reported; and in one place “several slaves were tied to a tree, while a militia captain hacked at them with his sword.”

    In Alabama, at Columbus and Fort Mitchell, a rumor was spread of a joint conspiracy of Indians and negroes. At Claiborne the panic was still greater; the slaves were said to be thoroughly organized through that part of the State, and multitudes were imprisoned; the whole alarm being apparently founded on one stray copy of the “Liberator.”

    In Tennessee, the Shelbyville “Freeman” announced that an insurrectionary plot had just been discovered, barely in time for its defeat, through the treachery of a female slave. In Louisville, Kentucky, a similar organization was discovered or imagined, and arrests were made in consequence. “The papers, from motives of policy, do not notice the disturbance,” wrote one correspondent to the Portland Courier. “Pity us!” he added.

    But the greatest bubble burst in Louisiana. Captain Alexander, an English tourist, arriving in New Orleans at the beginning of September, found the whole city in tumult. Handbills had been issued, appealing to the slaves to rise against their masters, saying that all men were born equal, declaring that Hannibal was a black man, and that they also might have great leaders among them. Twelve hundred stand of weapons were said to have been found in a black man's house; five hundred citizens were under arms, and four companies of regulars were ordered to the city, whose barracks Alexander himself visited.

    If such were the alarm in New Orleans, the story, of course, lost nothing by transmission to other Slave States. A rumor reached Frankfort, Kentucky, that the slaves already had possession of the coast, both above and below New Orleans. But the most remarkable circumstance is, that all this seems to have been a mere revival of an old terror, once before excited and exploded. The following paragraph had appeared in the Jacksonville (Georgia) Observer, during the spring previous:

    “FEARFUL DISCOVERY. We were favored, by yesterday's mail, with a letter from New Orleans, of May 1st, in which we find that an important discovery had been made a few days previous in that city. The following is an extract:—‘Four days ago, as some planters were digging under ground, they found a square room containing eleven thousand stand of arms and fifteen thousand cartridges, each of the cartridges containing a bullet.’ It is said the negroes intended to rise as soon as the sickly season began, and obtain possession of the city by massacring the white population. The same letter states that the mayor had prohibited the opening of Sunday-schools for the instruction of blacks, under a penalty of five hundred dollars for the first offence, and for the second, death.”

    Such were the terrors that came back from nine other Slave States, as the echo of the voice of Nat Turner; and when it is also known that the subject was at once taken up by the legislatures of other States, where there was no public panic, as in Missouri and Tennessee,—and when, finally, it is added that reports of insurrection had been arriving all that year from Rio Janeiro, Martinique, St. Jago, Antigua, Caraccas, and Tortola, it is easy to see with what prolonged distress the accumulated terror must have weighed down upon Virginia, during the two months that Nat Turner lay hid.

    True, there were a thousand men in arms in Southampton County, to inspire security. But the blow had been struck by only seven men before; and unless there were an armed guard in every house, who could tell but any house might at any moment be the scene of new horrors? They might kill or imprison unresisting negroes by day, but could they resist their avengers by night? “The half cannot be told,” wrote a lady from another part of Virginia, at this time, “of the distresses of the people. In Southampton County, the scene of the insurrection, the distress beggars description. A gentleman who has been there says that even here, where there has been great alarm, we have no idea of the situation of those in that county.... I do not hesitate to believe that many negroes around us would join in a massacre as horrible as that which has taken place, if an opportunity should offer.”

    Meanwhile the cause of all this terror was made the object of desperate search. On September 17th the Governor offered a reward of five hundred dollars for his capture, and there were other rewards swelling the amount to eleven hundred dollars,—but in vain. No one could track or trap him. On September 30th a minute account of his capture appeared in the newspapers, but it was wholly false. On October 7th there was another, and on October 18th another; yet all without foundation. Worn out by confinement in his little cave, Nat Turner grew more adventurous, and began to move about stealthily by night, afraid to speak to any human being, but hoping to obtain some information that might aid his escape. Returning regularly to his retreat before daybreak, he might possibly have continued this mode of life until pursuit had ceased, had not a dog succeeded where men had failed. The creature accidentally smelt out the provisions hid in the cave, and finally led thither his masters, two negroes, one of whom was named Nelson. On discovering the terrible fugitive, they fled precipitately, when he hastened to retreat in an opposite direction. This was on October 15th, and from this moment the neighborhood was all alive with excitement, and five or six hundred men undertook the pursuit.

    It shows a more than Indian adroitness in Nat Turner to have escaped capture any longer. The cave, the arms, the provisions were found; and lying among them the notched stick of this miserable Robinson Crusoe, marked with five weary weeks and six days. But the man was gone. For ten days more he concealed himself among the wheat-stacks on Mr. Francis's plantation, and during this time was reduced almost to despair. Once he decided to surrender himself, and walked by night within two miles of Jerusalem before his purpose failed him. Three times he tried to get out of that neighborhood, but in vain: traveling by day was, of course, out of the question, and by night he found it impossible to elude the patrol. Again and again, therefore, he returned to his hiding-place, and during his whole two months' liberty never went five miles from the Cross Keys. On the 25th of October, he was at last discovered by Mr. Francis, as he was emerging from a stack. A load of buckshot was instantly discharged at him, twelve of which passed through his hat as he fell to the ground. He escaped even then, but his pursuers were rapidly concentrating upon him, and it is perfectly astonishing that he could have eluded them for five days more.

    On Sunday, October 30th, a man named Benjamin Phipps, going out for the first time on patrol duty, was passing at noon a clearing in the woods where a number of pine-trees had long since been felled. There was a motion among their boughs; he stopped to watch it; and through a gap in the branches he saw, emerging from a hole in the earth beneath, the face of Nat Turner. Aiming his gun instantly, Phipps called on him to surrender. The fugitive, exhausted with watching and privation, entangled in the branches, armed only with a sword, had nothing to do but to yield; sagaciously reflecting, also, as he afterwards explained, that the woods were full of armed men, and that he had better trust fortune for some later chance of escape, instead of desperately attempting it then. He was correct in the first impression, since there were fifty armed scouts within a circuit of two miles. His insurrection ended where it began; for this spot was only a mile and a half from the house of Joseph Travis.

    Torn, emaciated, ragged, “a mere scarecrow,” still wearing the hat perforated with buckshot, with his arms bound to his sides, he was driven before the leveled gun to the nearest house, that of a Mr. Edwards. He was confined there that night; but the news had spread so rapidly that within an hour after his arrival a hundred persons had collected, and the excitement became so intense "that it was with difficulty he could be conveyed alive to Jerusalem." The enthusiasm spread instantly through Virginia; Mr. Trezvant, the Jerusalem postmaster, sent notices of it far and near; and Governor Floyd himself wrote a letter to the Richmond Enquirer to give official announcement of the momentous capture.

    When Nat Turner was asked by Mr. T. R. Gray, the counsel assigned him, whether, although defeated, he still believed in his own Providential mission he answered, as simply as one who came thirty years after him, “Was not Christ crucified?” In the same spirit, when arraigned before the court,” he answered, ‘Not guilty,’ saying to his counsel that he did not feel so.” But apparently no argument was made in his favor by his counsel, nor were any witnesses called,— he being convicted on the testimony of Levi Waller, and upon his own confession, which was put in by Mr. Gray, and acknowledged by the prisoner before the six justices composing the court, as being “full, free, and voluntary.” He was therefore placed in the paradoxical position of conviction by his own confession, under a plea of “Not guilty.” The arrest took place on the thirtieth of October, 1831, the confession on the first of November, the trial and conviction on the fifth, and the execution on the following Friday, the eleventh of November, precisely at noon. He met his death with perfect composure, declined addressing the multitude assembled, and told the sheriff in a firm voice that he was ready. Another account says that he “betrayed no emotion, and even hurried the executioner in the performance of his duty.” “Not a limb nor a muscle was observed to move. His body, after his death, was given over to the surgeons for dissection.”

    This last statement merits remark. There would be no evidence that this formidable man was not favored during his imprisonment with that full measure of luxury which slave-jails afford to slaves, but for a rumor which arose after the execution, that he was compelled to sell his body in advance, for purposes of dissection, in exchange for food. But it does not appear probable, from the known habits of Southern anatomists, that any such bargain could have been needed. For in the circular of the South Carolina Medical School for that very year I find this remarkable suggestion:—“Some advantages of a peculiar character are connected with this institution. No place in the United States affords so great opportunities for the acquisition of medical knowledge, subjects being obtained among the colored population in sufficient number for every purpose, and proper dissections carried on without offending any individual.” What a convenience, to possess for scientific purposes a class of population sufficiently human to be dissected, but not human enough to be supposed to take offence at it! And as the same arrangement may be supposed to have existed in Virginia, Nat Turner would hardly have gone, through the formality of selling his body for food to those who claimed its control at any rate.

    The Confession of the captive was published under authority of Mr. Gray, in a pamphlet, at Baltimore. Fifty thousand copies of it are said to have been printed, and it was “embellished with an accurate likeness of the brigand, taken by Mr. John Crawley, portrait-painter, and lithographed by Endicott and Swett, at Baltimore.” The newly published Liberator said of it, at the time, that it would “only serve to rouse up other leaders, and hasten other insurrections,” and advised grand juries to indict Mr. Gray. I have never seen a copy of the original pamphlet, it is not to be found in any of our public libraries, and I have heard of but one as still existing, although the Confession itself has been repeatedly reprinted. Another small pamphlet, containing the main features of the outbreak, was published at New York during the same year, and this is in my possession. But the greater part of the facts which I have given were gleaned from the contemporary newspapers.

    Who now shall go back thirty years and read the heart of this extraordinary man, who, by the admission of his captors, “never was known to swear an oath or drink a drop of spirits,”—who, on the same authority, “for natural intelligence and quickness of apprehension was surpassed by few men,” “with a mind capable of attaining anything,”—who knew no book but his Bible, and that by heart,—who devoted himself soul and body to the cause of his race, without a trace of personal hope or fear,—who laid his plans so shrewdly that they came at last with less warning than any earthquake on the doomed community around,—and who, when that time arrived, took the life of man, woman, and child, without a throb of compunction, a word of exultation, or an act of superfluous outrage? Mrs. Stowe's “Dred” seems dim and melodramatic beside the actual Nat Turner. De Quincey's “Avenger” is his only parallel in imaginative literature: similar wrongs, similar retribution. Mr. Gray, his self-appointed confessor, rises into a sort of bewildered enthusiasm, with the prisoner before him. “I shall not attempt to describe the effect of his narrative, as told and commented on by himself, in the condemned-hole of the prison. The calm, deliberate composure with which he spoke of his late deeds and intentions, the expression of his fiend-like face when excited by enthusiasm, still bearing the stains of the blood of helpless innocence about him, clothed with rags and covered with chains, yet daring to raise his manacled hands to heaven, with a spirit soaring above the attributes of man, —I looked on him, and the blood curdled in my veins.”

    But the more remarkable the personal character of Nat Turner, the greater the amazement felt that he should not have appreciated the extreme felicity of his position as a slave. In all insurrections, the standing wonder seems to be that the slaves most trusted and best used should be most deeply involved. So in this case, as usual, they resorted to the most astonishing theories of the origin of the affair. One attributed it to Free-Masonry, and another to free whiskey,—liberty appearing dangerous, even in these forms. The poor whites charged it upon the free colored people, and urged their expulsion, forgetting that in North Carolina the plot was betrayed by one of this class, and that in Virginia there were but two engaged, both of whom had slave-wives. The slaveholding clergymen traced it to want of knowledge of the Bible, forgetting that Nat Turner knew scarcely anything else. On the other hand, “a distinguished citizen of Virginia” combined in one sweeping denunciation “Northern incendiaries, tracts, Sunday-schools, religion, reading, and writing.”

    But whether the theories of its origin were wise or foolish, the insurrection made its mark, and the famous band of Virginia emancipationists, who all that winter made the House of Delegates ring with unavailing eloquence—till the rise of slave-exportation to new cotton regions stopped their voices—were but the unconscious mouth-pieces of Nat Turner. In January, 1832, in reply to a member who had called the outbreak a “petty affair,” the eloquent James McDowell has described the impression it left behind:

    “Now, Sir, I ask you, I ask gentlemen, in conscience to say, was that a 'petty affair' which startled the feelings of your whole population,—which threw a portion of it into alarm, a portion of it into panic, —which wrung out from an affrighted people the thrilling cry, day after day, conveyed to your executive, ‘We are in peril of our lives; send us army for defense’? Was that a ‘petty affair’ which drove families from their homes,—which assembled women and children in crowds, without shelter, at places of common refuge, in every condition of weakness and infirmity, under every suffering which want and terror could inflict, yet willing to endure all, willing to meet death from famine, death from climate, death from hardships, preferring anything rather than the horrors of meeting it from a domestic assassin? Was that a ‘petty affair’ which erected a peaceful and confiding portion of the State into a military camp,—which outlawed from pity the unfortunate beings whose brothers had offended,—which barred every door, penetrated every bosom with fear or suspicion,—which so banished every sense of security from every man's dwelling, that, let but a hoof or horn break upon the silence of the night, and an aching throb would be driven to the heart, the husband would look to his weapon, and the mother would shudder and weep upon her cradle? Was it the fear of Nat Turner, and his deluded, drunken handful of followers, which produced such effects? Was it this that induced distant counties, where the very name of Southampton was strange, to arm and equip for a struggle? No, Sir, it was the suspicion eternally attached to the slave himself,—the suspicion that a Nat Turner might be in every family,—that the same bloody deed might be acted over at any time and any place,—that the materials for it were spread through the land, and were always ready for a like explosion. Nothing but the force of this withering apprehension,—nothing but the paralyzing and deadening weight with which it falls upon and prostrates the heart of every man who has helpless dependents to protect,—nothing but this could have thrown a brave people into consternation, or could have made any portion of this powerful Commonwealth, for a single instant, to have quailed and trembled.”

    While these things were going on, the enthusiasm for the Polish Revolution was rising to its height. The nation was ringing with a peal of joy, on hearing that at Frankfort the Poles had killed fourteen thousand Russians. The Southern Religious Telegraph was publishing an impassioned address to Kosciusko; standards were being consecrated for Poland in the larger cities; heroes, like Skrzynecki, Czartoryski, Rozyski, Kaminski, were choking the trump of Fame with their complicated patronymics. These are all forgotten now; and this poor negro, who did not even possess a name, beyond one abrupt monosyllable,—for even the name of Turner was the master's property,—still lives a memory of terror and a symbol of retribution triumphant. "

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #87 - January 31, 2017, 11:31 AM

    Sharia Law and Middle Class Feminism by Anne Marie Waters

    On Saturday, I was honoured to attend the launch of the International Sindhi Women's Organisation. Here was a group of brave, principled, and intelligent British Pakistani women who had come together to talk about their future, their fears, and most importantly, their rights.

    They discussed forced marriage (and what to do about it),"honour" killings, and sharia law among other important issues that affect them. However, quite what the middle-class, predominantly white, 20-somethings I met on Sunday would have to say to these women is anyone's guess – but it might contain a strong hint of "shut up and accept your culture".
    On Sunday, I spoke at the University of Kent's Critical Law Society conference under the heading of 'Equality: Are We There Yet?'

    I was invited to speak alongside pro-sharia advocate Aina Khan (more on her later) and a PhD student (more on her later as well) and found myself in a not-too-unfamiliar situation of having to argue against domestic violence in opposition to a room full of "feminists".

    Having described how sharia family law in Britain allows men to beat their wives - as the testimony of women who have been through it confirms – the "feminists" weren't quite sure whether or not they disapproved. I was met with highly accusatory questions such as How can we be multicultural if we don't allow sharia?, and comments such as We must tolerate … well, pretty much everything from what I could make out. With the mumblings and applause in favour of my opponents, I was left in no doubt as to the company I was keeping.
    Here's how it seems to go: "We are feminists. We are incredibly right-on. We read the Guardian. We disapprove of women's breasts getting a public airing and we strongly object to the fact that boards of directors are not 50% female. We will go absolutely ballistic if anyone dare understate how vile domestic violence is, or attempt in any way to justify it. We are feminists you see. Oh, but only when it comes to white women – did we mention that?"

    At this point you may, as I do, envisage them leaning forward a bit, hands back-to-back between knees and continuing - "You're different you see. You come from funny countries where people are a bit strange and where women don't seem to mind a punch in the mouth quite as much we would. You can't possibly expect us to stand up with you against violence. Violence is your culture. Now, stop being such a racist and accept it".

    I'll now come back to the PhD student sitting next to me and falling over her good self to sell the beauty of sharia to us all. Following the meeting, I turned to her and said "I bet you think you're a feminist right?" She answered a very emphatic Yes. So I asked her if she condemns sharia. "Nope".

    Well then you're not a feminist.

    Now let me explain. A feminist stands up for women because they are women, not because they are white, middle class, English speaking, Christian, atheist, Jew or Muslim – but because they are women. A feminist opposes all violence against women because they are women. Feminists oppose the rape of women, because they are women. Feminists oppose these all the time and for all women.

    This is not however what I heard from some of these students on Sunday. Their message is very clear – domestic violence is acceptable under certain circumstances. As I said at the time, if we were talking about any other situation, I have no doubt that we would have been united in our disgust at wife-beaters... but throw the word "sharia" in there and suddenly the wife-beater becomes the victim; an innocent bystander whose own oppression leads him to lash out. It's not his fault, (haven't we had this argument already?) it's the fault of the west/Israel/America.

    Let's get this straight once and for all – a man who beats his wife is a criminal, and for the protection of the rights of all women, he must be punished and his actions condemned. Full stop. If you think this should apply only to white women and care nothing for the plight of your non-white sister, then you are a racist. Full stop.

    I must talk a little more about Aina Khan – Britain's favourite sharia-loving lawyer who is making quite a name for herself in such circles. I've heard Aina speak many times but this weekend her comments were even stranger than usual. This time, upon realising she was defending the indefensible, Khan stated that she doesn't send her clients to the Islamic Sharia Council or the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal; the two largest sharia court bodies in the country. What they're doing isn't proper sharia, she said. It's strange how this only came to light after I had read out the quotes condoning domestic violence and marital rape from 'judges' of both the Islamic Sharia Council and the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (people Khan has previously boasted about how wonderfully respectfully they treat her, but this time denied having any contact with them).

    I asked Khan on Sunday and I ask her again now, where do you send your large number of sharia clients if not to the Islamic Sharia Council or Muslim Arbitration Tribunal? Where are the sharia courts in Britain that don't treat a woman's testimony as being worth half of her husband's, or where she's not told to go home if she has her period ("Come back when you're clean"), or where her children are not taken from her at a pre-set age, or where she has the right to divorce on her own terms and doesn't have to put up with violence?

    Where are these wonderful courts, Aina? Because if you could just reveal them, we could sort this out once and for all. We could make sure that devout Muslim women only went to these non-misogynist courts for their Islamic resolutions and we could make sure to put Al-Haddad (sorry "Haitham" as you called him), Sheikha Abu Sayeed, and Suhaib "stoning will turn Britain in to a haven of peace" Hasan out of business once and for all.

    We can save the reputation of sharia law, reveal the truth of its wonderful woman-friendly version, and we would all be so much better off because of it. Come on Aina, tell us where they are.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #88 - January 31, 2017, 12:14 PM

    Quod Sum Eris  ., It takes clutter out of my mind and refreshes my thoughts  when I read your posts in this folder (ONLY THIS FOLDER)  Cheesy

    great  collection  from different Authors/different fields with  wonderful minds  ..

    with best wishes

    Do not let silence become your legacy.. Question everything   
    I renounced my faith to become a kafir, 
    the beloved betrayed me and turned in to  a Muslim
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #89 - February 04, 2017, 01:59 AM

    Yes there does seem to be quite a bit of confusion in the US lately on how to support Muslim women. Feminism looks a bit precarious with the current popular position. I am a bit disappointed but glad some sense has made it into the media lately from Muslim and ExMuslim women.

    Don't let Hitler have the street.
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