Fellowship of Punditry

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Cul Heath

Mick Arran

Jeffrey Barbose

Inspector Lohmann

Eric M. Fink

Michael Lane

Rep. Mark B. Cohen

The Fellowship is accepting new members. Inquire within.

The Sages

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    Distinguished Colleagues

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  • Into the Blogosphere
  • George Orwell

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    Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

    In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

    If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

    But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

    Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.

    Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie... a dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion.

    In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.

    All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.

    At fifty everyone has the face he deserves.

    Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise.

    John Stuart Mill

    Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.

    The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.

    The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.

    Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.

    A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    Mark Twain

    Don't let schooling interfere with your education.

    All generalizations are false, including this one.

    A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

    Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

    Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

    The Public is merely a multiplied "me."

    Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial "we."

    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

    Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.

    Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

    Winston Churchill

    The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

    I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.

    Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.

    Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.

    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

    However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

    In war as in life, it is often necessary when some cherished scheme has failed, to take up the best alternative open, and if so, it is folly not to work for it with all your might.

    Otto Von Bismarck

    When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.

    I have seen three emperors in their nakedness, and the sight was not inspiring.

    Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.

    Be polite; write diplomatically ;even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness.


    A witty saying proves nothing.

    If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.

    When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, that is metaphysics.

    I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.

    To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

    It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.

    The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.

    Karl Marx

    Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love.

    All I know is I'm not a Marxist.

    The writer may very well serve a movement of history as its mouthpiece, but he cannot of course create it.

    Tuesday, June 08, 2004

    The Conservative View of History

    By Nick

    Read Full Text from Heritage Foundation: The Mystic Chords of Memory: Reclaiming American History

    Key Excerpts:

    For Russel Kirk, historical consciousness was infused into the air he breathed; It mixed into the soil of the ancestral land in which he chose to live. What struck many readers as mannered or affected diction in Kirk was actually something quite different. It was evidence of his strong conviction that words, like people, are living things, bearing living pasts deserving of recognition and respect. Kirk's language has a most peculiar lilt, which often charms and sometimes startles the reader with its unexpectedly fanciful and antique echoes. What others called "junk" Kirk thought of as "cultural debris," which is a short way of saying that Kirk took a long view of the disorders of our contemporary American world, seeing them in light of the thousand follies and disorders that have come before us in the human procession. That was typical of him. He had the ability to make even the dullest things gleam with the luster of historical imagination.

    He may have fancied himself a Bohemian Tory, but he was never that most tiresome of bores, "the alienated American intellectual," a restless species that grazes in herds of independent minds. He knew he was fortunate to live in a country free and prosperous enough to permit him a career as an independent writer, and he never forgot that fact. But at the same time, he was never an uncritical celebrant of American culture. He loved his country, but he did not idolize it. Instead, he held it accountable to a transcendent standard, against which he often found it seriously wanting.

    In particular, Kirk lamented the deification of progress, the cult of absolute equality, the advance of the Leviathan state, the licentiousness of the autonomous self, the transvaluation of values, and other such modern abstractions that have transformed and eroded the American republic. While he vehemently opposed ideology in all its forms, including conservative ideology, he at the same time lamented Americans' fixation upon short-term, practical, problem-solving, results-oriented, and utility-maximizing thinking in place of a deeper reflection upon the proper ends of things. Kirk, then, was trying to do something characteristic of traditionalist conservatives: fight on two fronts at once. He was defending the American way of life against its cultured despisers -- while at the same time challenging many elements of that way of life by holding it up to its classical and Judeo- Christian antecedents.

    In our day, the academic study of history has begun to yield to barbarism. For an increasing number of younger historians, the whole point of studying the past is to "prove" that all our inherited institutions, beliefs, conventions, and normative values are arbitrary -- mere "social constructions" in the service of ignoble power -- and are therefore utterly without legitimacy or authority. In this view, it is absurd to imagine that the study of the past could have any purpose beyond serving the immediate needs of the present -- and anyone who thinks otherwise is either disingenuous or stupid. The very idea of being enlarged or drawn out of ourselves by encountering the strangeness of the past -- and the strange familiarity of the past -- now seems quite beside the point.

    History is the cement that holds America together and makes us willing to strive and sacrifice on her behalf. Take Lincoln's first inaugural address, from which the haunting phrase in my title, "The Mystic Chords of Memory," is taken. To understand what sort of appeal Lincoln was making with these words, we need to recall the setting in which the address was given in March of 1861. The Union that Lincoln so greatly cherished seemed to be dissolving before his eyes. With this inaugural speech, Lincoln began his attempt to counter this disintegration. Its final clinching paragraph -- added (it is said) at the suggestion of William Henry Seward -- the speech soars to immortal heights:

    "I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

    Now let me turn to the possibility of "reclaiming" the American past, alluded to in my subtitle. What is meant by this? Quite simply, a democratic nation needs a democratic history. By this I do not mean the sort of fashionable history that ignores politics and constitutions and intellectual elites and insists upon viewing the past exclusively "from the bottom up." There is in fact a kind of unconscious scorn buried in the assumptions behind such writing -- as if political and intellectual history is beyond the common people's means, and as if no one could be expected to be interested in anything that does not involve them directly. Surely, however, such assumptions are false. Instead, we need to encourage serious historical writing that is sufficiently accessible to shape and deepen the public mind.

    Here, too, one will need to battle on two fronts, challenging both the ignorance of the public and the malfeasances of the scholarly establishment. But that willingness will come far more easily if something can be done about the combination of political ideology and professionalization that has enveloped historical writing in recent years. The dangers of ideology are fairly obvious; but the dangers of exclusive professionalization are nearly as great.

    Let me hasten to add that I am not saying history ought to be all comforting myth. Nor am I suggesting that historians should never challenge conventional wisdom. On the contrary; we badly need such challenges. Indeed, the public has a responsibility to offer such counterchallenges, whenever appropriate, to test and ventilate the findings of academicians. That is part of what it means to have a democratic history and democratic discourse.

    Revisionism would have little power in a country that was less ignorant of its past. The docu-slanders of Oliver Stone would be laughed out of court. So would the childish fantasies of Dances with Wolves. Hence, in engaging the second front, we must resist the temptation to blame others, to play the game of anti-anti-Americanism, and instead face up to our weaknesses.

    We live in a culture of such ceaseless, turbulent change -- economic, social, technological -- that for many of us it seems almost ridiculous, and certainly quixotic, to be speaking of chains of continuity linking generations past with generations to come. Indeed, the emerging postmodern understanding of the self counsels that it is fruitless, and even unhealthy, to seek continuity and consistency within one's self. Better to be a protean self, hanging loose, refashioning one's identity as changing circumstances dictate. Postmodernism is itself symptomatic, the reductio ad absurdum of a pervasive tendency within our society. It may be crackpot realism of the worst sort to think we can go on this way very much longer, particularly if it is true that the social problem at the bottom of all others -- the disintegration of the family -- is ultimately a problem of discontinuity between the generations.

    All of which should give added force in our minds to Kirk's permanent emphasis, in season and out of season, upon "the permanent things." But it should also remind us that the recovery of historical consciousness is not merely an intellectual matter, a matter of rereading the great books and reemphasizing the roots of American order, as Kirk called them. It is also a very concrete matter, a matter of taking stock of the way we live, of what our pastimes and pleasures, our families and our marriages, our habits and our aspirations all say about our sense of connection to the past -- and, therefore, about ourselves. Karl Marx insisted that the past did not deserve our reverence; it was nothing but a snare. "The tradition of all the dead generations," he declaimed, "weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living." He was wrong about that, as about so much else. But too many of us live, whether we know it or not, as if we believed he was right. Perhaps it is time for that to change.

    posted by Nick at 6/08/2004 07:23:00 PM |

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