Friendly intervention (2)

“But for what purpose was the earth formed?” asked Candide. “To drive us mad,” replied Martin.
Voltaire, Candide

The great English immigration question: Why was Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, sent to England?
“Twill, a not be seen in him there; there the men are as mad as he”. Shakespeare, Hamlet

As a nation, once praised by the rest of the world for its common sense, marches to the sound of Trumpery ever nearer towards the cliff edge of “Global Britain”, we need to listen to the advice of friends, sincerely alarmed for our well-being. Nobody wants to see an old friend behaving irrationally, suffering delusions, swallowing a diet of deep fried lies and chlorinated chicken, deliberately detaching themselves from reality.

Delacroix Hamlet and Horatio in the Graveyard 1839
Quintessential pan-European heroes of English literature, visualized by a Frenchman, taking a look at 21st Century Brexit, the death of the UK as they and we know it.

Friends all over the world, not just EU Members, have warned us against Brexit for 3 years. Mark Rutte, the conservative-liberal Prime Minister of the Netherlands, candidly told us that Brexit would diminish the UK and that our own next Prime Minister is disregarding facts about trade, treaties and constitutions, all the stuff we thought politicians needed to know about. Johnson is a Post-Truth leader. He knows facts don’t matter to his supporters.

“Is politics nothing other than the art of deliberately lying?” Voltaire

Lying was not invented by Trump or Johnson. They’ve just dumbed it down for modern consumption, and it’s working, just like extra sugar, fat and salt have worked.

But the thing about these demagogues, these narcissists spouting racism and sexism with impunity on either side of the Atlantic, these satanic tempters of human vice disguised as wobbly blonde clowns, the thing that lets them get away with betraying the national interest while promoting their own, is that they are rich, very, very rich. They can afford to tell lies because they, unlike the majority of us, can afford the consequences.

“The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.” Voltaire

New tariffs, higher basic food and drink prices, job redundancies, increased travel tax, the severance of rights to work and love abroad, the erosion of workers rights and environmental and food standards, the cancelled scientific and cultural projects, the loss of opportunity for equality and liberty, the loss of all the things that make the human condition bearable, which was once collectively called civilization, don’t matter to the Brexit ringleaders because they can buy the food and holiday and lover and power they want.

You vote for a madman, you get a mad country.

Or, as a European friend to humanity warned in a more elegant turn of phrase, long, long ago:

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire

Will anything spewed on to my obscure web page change a mind? Of course not. I am not an Influencer. I am one of a million Cassandras, shrieking on our self-assembled walls.

I defer to Remainer Now, the community for people with the courage to change their minds, heroes of the corrupt 2016 Referendum, along with Led by Donkeys, who have given the ineffectually led Remain cause the inspirational marketing that it needed from the beginning.

Led by Donkeys projection on the White Cliff of Dover, appealing to our historic friends in Europe for help in our time of madness, 2019

The right to change our minds is at the heart of democracy. That is why, after a civil war and constitutional revolution or two, we have fixed term parliaments. The idea was to save us from tyranny. Brexit is delivering us to a specifically modern tyranny, designed by oligarchs to be delivered by the people against the people. There are risks to another referendum (the third in UK on EU membership, not the second) but it would be entirely democratic in principle.

 “The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.”
Voltaire
The great advantage that Leavers have over Remainers is optimism:
“Optimism,” said Cacambo, “What is that?”
“Alas!” replied Candide, “It is the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst.”
Voltaire, Candide
If you are neither inveterate Leaver nor Remainer, if you are the Great British Fence Sitter, if you are Micawber or Waverer, or Neutralist or Opportunist, if you think not taking sides in the moment before an execution is morally superior, if you think there is nothing better you could do, then be quizzed by our friend Voltaire:

“I should like to know which is worse: to be ravished a hundred times by pirates, and have a buttock cut off…and be flogged and hanged in an auto-da-fe, and be dissected, and have to row in a galley – in short, to undergo all the miseries we have each of us suffered – or simply to sit here and do nothing?’

 

“That is a hard question,’ said Candide.”
Voltaire, Candide
Nobody reads for long anymore. I don’t. Farage was right not to bother with a manifesto. Nobody reads a manifesto, nowadays. Ignorance is power.
We read slogans that would fit on a T-shirt.

“If this is the best of possible worlds, what then are the others?”
Voltaire, Candide
Stop Brexit. Save Britain. Revoke Article 50. Reform. Reunite.

Foreshades of Grey (2)

or To love and be loved

marieadelaidereadingMadame Marie-Adelaide in Turkish costume, by Étienne Liotard, 1753, oil on canvas, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Image source: WGA
The book is not a mere prop. This was a princess who loved reading and collecting books for their own sake. She ended up with 5000 volumes in her library. Marie-Adelaide was the favourite daughter of Louis XV. She never married and spent fifty-seven years of her life at Versailles. Unfortunately for her she was intelligent, and ambitious, so being denied a fulfilling role at court embittered her. She survived the Revolution, and all her brothers and sisters, and her nephew Louis XVI and his queen, and died in exile in Trieste in 1800, aged 67.

The majority of female readers, whether they were intellectually curious or just wanted to be trendy, were brainwashed by the best-selling novels of Rousseau. He extolled female education in virtue, passion and instinct, in order to make women into agreeable companions, and emotional and sexual guides, to the new ideal “natural” men.

The aim was not so different from the medieval Courts of Love, where aristocratic women had civilized the warrior-class. The great salons, the women-led network of radical thought and promotion, flourished under similar harmless cover. Individual women like Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, and, very occasionally, the wives of kings, like Queen Caroline in England, had long ruled nations from the royal bedroom; now more women from different social backgrounds could influence and promote ideas, ministers, even policies, in their own homes, without exchanging kisses for votes.

salon

Dandré-Bardon Salon Scene Pen, sepia ink and wash Musée du Louvre, Paris. Image source: WGA

Rousseau was a false prophet of feminism, assuring women that “in what they have in common, they are equal” to men, and then telling them all their qualities must be put into being good wives and mothers. His philosophy inspired them to follow their innermost feelings and instincts, helped them take off all the unwieldy paraphernalia of hoops and paniers, so they could dress more naturally in simple white muslin, decorated only with fresh roses, and let down their ridiculously pouffed and unhygienic powdered hair, or cut it short, and then, in the next breath, he chained them up again, to the hearth, the cradle and the drawing room.

With varying degrees of inner struggle, some women realized they could nurture others and themselves either without or by balancing, a conflict of interests, and declared ideological war which, unbelievably, is still going on. Continue reading

Foreshades of Grey

or The Moral Dangers to Young Women of Reading

readingheloise

Depending on what you want from a book, you might say “I’ll have what she’s having” and sales of the book would exceed Fifty Shades of Grey and Harry Potter combined.
Bernard d’Agesci Lady Reading the Letters of Heloise and Abélard
c.1780 Oil on canvas, Art Institute, Chicago. Image source: WGA

In the age of Enlightenment and Sensibility, women were encouraged to read moral novels for self-improvement, and discouraged to read anything politically or sexually exciting, so of course they did, with an all-consuming passion.

There was a real fear that if women’s imaginations were stirred too much, or if they lost themselves completely in a book, erotic or not, their weak feminine minds would be depraved.

The very private nature of the pastime was suspect; unsupervised reading of a novel might lead to masturbation.

So, as is the way of the world, portraits of girls reading became a popular soft-porn genre for men, sometimes unconvincingly disguised as moral warnings.

Moralists and misogynists could berate as much as they liked, but it was in no-one’s interests to stop women reading novels, either for instruction or diversion.

For all sorts of reasons, many people of both sexes were afraid of independent thinking, erudite women, like the Bluestockings, so they laughed at them, the premise of the jokes being that having more sex or children would set them right.

There were exceptions, women whose learning and writing was of so high a quality or relevance that it transcended gender prejudice. No sensible man could deny that these female authors were rational creatures.

NPG 5856; Catharine Macaulay (nÈe Sawbridge) by Robert Edge Pine

Catharine Macaulay, by Robert Edge Pine, oil on canvas, circa 1775 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Historian, political writer and activist, republican supporter of American Independence, opponent of inequalities in wealth, and proponent of co-education, linked to the ‘Bluestocking’ group of intellectuals, she explained she had been “a thoughtless girl till she was twenty, at which time she contracted a taste for books and knowledge…” She lost the respect of her contemporaries not for any flaw in her intellectual system, but because when she was forty-seven she married a man twenty-six years younger than her.

At the same time as women declared their intellectual and moral equality there was a huge increase in light literature. In the new enlightened culture, men and women both believed in the importance of educating girls, if only for the amelioration of the male condition, and this could be best achieved through presenting complex or lofty ideas in an entertainingly accessible way. Continue reading