Our elected representatives in Parliament appear to be unreasoning animals who do not feel pain or emotions as they devour the best of Britain’s past and future.
The EU Withdrawal Bill is a withdrawal from civilization.
“….Brexit is corroding the national consensus on what sort of country we are, tearing the fabric of our society, and pointing us in a third-world direction.” A.C. Grayling, The New European
Extracted from Twitter thread of Sean Jones QC:
“Brexit fanatics’ responses to my arguments take two broad forms:
1. Shut up, traitor. You lost, just get over it!
2. Why not stop sulking, come together with us and work for a jobs-first, bountiful Brexit?
…..what do I say to the invitation to collaborate in an imaginary pain-free Brexit?
It’s not an invitation I propose to accept, for three reasons:
1. I believe Brexit is an act of national self-harm in all its conceivable forms, and with there still being a reasonable chance it won’t happen, that’s what I want to advocate, and work towards.
2. It would not be like joining a collective Amish barn-raising. After demolishing the existing, perfectly good barn, there is still no unity of Brexiter vision, or purpose, about what to do next. The loudest of them are against having a new barn on principle.
3. Even if those anarchist Amish could be stopped from questioning what the negotiations are intended to achieve, what am I expected actually to do? The answer to that question is clear. What they actually mean is… Shut up. Just stop pointing out the dangers. Stop identifying the harm. We’d rather not be reminded of reality. We’ll go on putting up our vaguely barn-shaped shack made of balsa wood and papier-mache.
Put aside how sinister that it is. It’s also stupid. With a project this hazardous, risk-blindness will all but guarantee failure. We are seeing it in the negotiations right now. A refusal to do the basics: to realistically assess our bargaining position and be clear about our aims courts disaster.
If Remainers ever fell silent, all that would be left would be the sound of the wind rushing in our ears as we fell over the cliff.
I will take action. I will do all I can to help those confused by the Brexiters’ crass stupidity. And ultimately, I’m determined this nonsense will not happen.”
Sean Jones QC
Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts, Trompe l’oeil with Studio Wall and Vanitas Still Life 1668.
“Man is the reasoning animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal….His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that ….he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one.”
Mark Twain, The Lowest Animal, 1896
Matthew Paris Book of Additions c. 1250 Manuscript British Library, London
This African elephant was given to Henry III of England by Louis IX of France in 1254. Soon after its arrival during a cold English winter, the elephant was imprisoned in the royal menagerie, established in 1235, in The Tower of London. The elephant died three years later, in the “house of forty feet long and twenty feet deep” that had been specially built for it, after being given too much red wine to drink.
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an Angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals….
Shakespeare, Hamlet, c. 1600
Pietro Longhi The Elephant 1774, Oil on canvas. This shackled Indian elephant was exhibited during the cold winter of Carnevale in Venice.
After claiming credit for the invention of Fake News, Trump now seems to believe he has invented rational leadership. He has postponed his decision to allow imports of elephant hunting trophies
“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.” Machiavelli,
“Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.” Machiavelli,
Antoine Caron The Elephant Carousel, one of the famous, ground-breaking entertainments devised as part of Catherine de Medici’s political programme to augment the Valois dynasty during the second half of 16th century France. Our modern concept of performance arts derives from her vision; a political agenda is understandable, the abuse of a living animal is always inexcusable. Image: WGA
“The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.” Machiavelli,
NATURE’S GREAT MASTERPIECE, AN ELEPHANT (THE ONLY HARMLESS GREAT THING) John Donne
Antoine-Louis Barye Elephant from Senegal Bronze. Private collection. Image: WGA
Not shackled any more, but still running, always in danger from human cruelty, made up of stupidity, pride, envy and greed.
Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant
(The only harmless great thing), the giant
Of beasts, who thought none had to make him wise,
But to be just and thankful, loth to offend
(Yet nature hath given him no knees to bend)
Himself he up-props, on himself relies,
And, foe to none, suspects no enemies,
Still sleeping stood; vex’d not his fantasy
Black dreams; like an unbent bow carelessly
His sinewy proboscis did remissly lie.
(John Donne, stanza XXXIX from The First Song Of The Progress of the Soul, 1612)
Balthasar van der Ast, Basket of Fruits, 1625 Oil on wood, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. Image: WGA
“[Grimsby] voted by 70 per cent to 30 per cent for Leave. Two weeks ago, the anxious representatives of one of the town’s biggest remaining industries, seafood processing, went to Westminster to petition MPs to grant Grimsby the exceptional status of a free trade port if we leave the Single Market….
[Cornwall’s] farmers reported that fruit and veg are rotting in its fields because so many EU migrant labourers have left since the referendum…The farming industry will collapse. The hospitality industry will collapse.”
Article by Jenni Russell in The Times, 16 November, 2017
Brexit heartlands want someone else to pay
Well here’s an irony. As Brexit in whatever form gets closer, and its damaging implications for trade and jobs start to become clearer, some of the regions, industries and groups that most enthusiastically supported Leave are starting to raise the alarm about its impact or demand special exemption from its consequences.
Take Grimsby. It’s one of the most deprived areas of Britain; it hasn’t flourished in the decades since we joined the EU and it voted by 70 per cent to 30 per cent for Leave. Two weeks ago, the anxious representatives of one of the town’s biggest remaining industries, seafood processing, went to Westminster to petition MPs to grant Grimsby the exceptional status of a free trade port if we leave the Single Market.
Grimsby is desperate to avoid the imposition of post-Brexit tariff barriers, delays and customs checks on its fish business, because it imports 90 per cent of its fish fresh from Europe. It is also worried about losing the 20 per cent of its workforce that comes from abroad. If Brexit goes ahead without any special concessions to Grimsby, then an industry that includes Young’s and The Saucy Fish Co, and that employs 5,000 people, fears it will lose its competitive edge to rival centres in Germany and France.
Cornwall wants special treatment too, after rejecting the EU by 57 per cent to 43 per cent…. Continue reading
After the Restoration of the Stuart Monarchy, the fashionable ruling class no longer wanted to be portrayed in an elevated spiritual sphere where they knew they didn’t belong. The reward they claimed for going to hell and back was instant gratification, not introspection. Some of them were still secretly very religious, but knowing how short and brutal life could be, waited till their deathbeds for their conversions.
They had lived through Civil War and exile, and they didn’t want to look other-worldly like the previous generation. Nothing was sacred, except survival. A new generation of court painter was happy to oblige with contemporary takes on traditional allegory in a flashier, worldly-wise presentation. The studied nonchalance of Van Dyck’s figures, inspired by Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, crumpled into the straight out of bed look.
On the great consensual casting couch of the Restoration Court, Charles II‘s mistresses competed to make him laugh as much as get into his bed, and one of Lady Castlemaine’s jokes was to have herself painted as the Virgin Mary with her eldest bastard son by the king playing baby Jesus.
Barbara Palmer (née Villiers), Duchess of Cleveland with her son, Charles FitzRoy, as the Virgin and Child
by Sir Peter Lely, c. 1664. National Portrait Gallery. Image: Wikipedia
Like a modern supermodel, but without make-up, she set the look of the day. Lely used her sensuous features, the heavy-lidded eyes and full lips, as the template for all his portraits of high society beauties, so there were complaints (from Pepys, for instance, and Rochester when he saw the portrait of his wife) that nobody else looked anything like themselves.
She was a sex-addict with a terrible temper and a gambling addiction. Today, she’d be diagnosed with a personality disorder. If she was a man, we’d be terrified of her, and prosecute her for harassment. Instead, we find her entertaining, titillating, challenging, ultimately pathetic.
Barbara is famous for being the most promiscuous, and unfaithful, of Charles II‘s mistresses, portrayed as the nymphomaniac Fuckadilla in a contemporary pornographic satire. Her list of lovers, including Jacob Hall the tight-rope dancer, John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough, England’s most victorious general, and the playwright William Wycherley, shows she picked talent. She also paid them generously.
She was a life-force, and could be great fun. She enjoyed the thrill of power, or its illusion, and exerting political influence whenever she could, but for purely selfish reasons, to settle personal scores. She acted from the heart, not the head. She was unsentimental, and sometimes compassionate, an important distinction that we have lost sight of.
She was shocking to the country outside the King’s circle, the incarnation of the immorality and waste at Court, a curse on the country, a scapegoat for all the frustration and disappointment with the restored monarchy.
She was politically useful, that way.
She was not popular, like the People’s Choice among the King’s Ladies, Nell Gwyn; she was the Bad Girl, the Dirty Girl, the Bunny Boiler, the Alien Succubus, the space vampire played by Mathilda May in Lifeforce; she was X-rated, HBO, not terrestrial TV.
She was culturally essential, that way.
Barbara Palmer (née Villiers) as The Penitent Magdalene by Sir Peter Lely.
There was one gender injustice she could not defy, the plight of the older but still sexual woman. Barbara was forty-five when her protector, the King, died, and everything started going wrong. She got desperate and stopped discriminating. The once gorgeous predator became the prey of bad actors and con-men. She made a disastrous second marriage when she was sixty-five to a bigamist who was after her money.
The last years of her life read like the moralists’ revenge. It is documented in the DNB that in her final illness a dropsy “swelled her gradually to a monstrous bulk”, exactly the kind of private detail about our own or our beloveds’ deaths that we would want kept quiet.
There is a very sad ghost story about Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland as an old woman lamenting her lost beauty as she walks in her high heeled shoes tapping on the wood floor to stare out of the windows of her house on Chiswick Mall.
Good plastic surgery might have prevented that.
The woman while she lived was not penitent. She seized her moment, enjoying the sexual, and bi-sexual, liberation of the Restoration Court as much as any man. Her appetites, or addictions, and her temperament were entirely suited to her time.
The female libertine did not see herself as objectified or victimized, and we should not judge her differently.