Fortitude in high heels

SerpottaFortitude
Fortitude Sculpture by Serpotta in white stucco and gilding, height 200 cm, 1710-17.
Oratorio del Rosario di San Domenico, Palermo. Image: WGA

Elegantly dressed for the life she wants,
in her favourite high-heeled shoes, breastplate bodice and plumed headdress,
Fortitude leans her elbow on the pillar of patience,
never keeping her eyes off the longest battle.

She doesn’t like what she sees, but she will never give in, she will never be part of it, even when other people make snarky remarks about her posing in her Rococo niche.

She exemplifies the moral courage of sticking to her post “because it is noble to do so, or because it is disgraceful not to do so.”

Keeping true to herself, and her fashion sense,
without bragging or lecturing, she puts the fun back into virtue.

“Patience is the pillar which nothing can soften.”
St Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Music composed by Hildegard of Bingen

“She sat like Patience on a monument, Smiling at grief”
Viola in Twelfth Night, Shakespeare (1601)

Smile sung by Judy Garland (1963)

Fortitude is one of the four Cardinal Virtues of Christianity, recommended in a life skills course dating back to the 4th century, based on Aristotelian and Platonic ethics.

Aristotle defined fortitude as courage governed by reason (or temperance) in circumstances of fear or over-confidence: “Courage….chooses its course and sticks to its post because it is noble to do so, or because it is disgraceful not to do so.”

St Augustine of Hippo defined fortitude as “love readily bearing all things for the sake of the loved object”.

Kant: “Virtue is the moral strength of the will in obeying the dictates of duty, never developing into a custom but always springing freshly and directly from the mind.”

Fortitude has become rarer in the modern world where license has chained us to new tyrannies, and freedom is as elusive as ever.

The advantages of self-control in adverse circumstances have been forgotten in the revolt against the misunderstood stiff upper lip. It’s adorable. The straighter the face, the better the joke.

The primary importance of sincerity in human intercourse – “speak what you feel, not what you ought to say” – has been effaced by knee-jerk opinion polls and social media group anxiety – Like to be Liked, Follow and Ye Will Be Followed – which have compromised Freedom of Speech and promulgated the nonsense that passes for wisdom nowadays.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a modest disclaimer: yes, I’m as foolish as you.

The most self-expressive of Romantic poets would not have predicted humanity blogging itself to death.

The people who died for Democracy did not expect the Voice of the People would come from Babel.

Fortitude rests on her broken pillar, not on popularity.
Fortitude does not betray her soul, which to her is virtue, which to us is self-identity.
She fights on.
She wears the shoes she wants.

She?

All four of the Cardinal Virtues, Prudence (or Wisdom), Fortitude (or Courage), Temperance (or Self-control) and Justice (or Fairness) were allegorized as female.

Figure_des_quatre_Vertus_from_Ballet_comique_de_la_reine

Figures of the Four Virtues from Ballet Comique de la Reine, 1582, one of the court entertainments commissioned by Catherine de Medici from which classical ballet, and political satire, developed. Image: Wikipedia

Fortitude lives up to her reputation for cheerfulness in adversity by playing the lute and holding a pillar at the same time.

“Ginger Rogers did everything [Fred Astaire] did,
backwards and in high heels.” Bob Thaves, Fred and Ernest comic strip, 1982

Step By Step
Poster for Top Hat, 1935

“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” Bette Midler
(often misattributed to Marilyn Monroe)

SerpottaFortitudeHigh Heels

USE DEMOCRACY AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE. SIGN AND SHARE THE PETITION FOR A PEOPLE’S VOTE TO STOP BREXIT DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY.

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What, in our house?

More victims of the British government’s “hostile environment” for immigrants:

The couple had been living and working in the UK for more than a decade, but ran into difficulties when they applied to renew their visas. Both were ordered to report regularly to Eaton House, a Home Office centre in Hounslow. When they attended on 7 March, they were told they were to be forcibly removed from the UK that day and put on a plane to South Africa.

“An immigration official at the airport accused Nancy of faking her collapse to avoid being put on a plane,” her husband said. “He told Nancy that he would handcuff her hands and feet and make her walk to the plane like a penguin, and that he would put her onto the plane even if he had to carry her.”

Officials then decided to put the couple into detention instead.

“We were detained separately, but after we were released Nancy told me that a nurse at the detention centre told her she was too ill to be detained, but the nurse was overruled by a superior and she was held overnight,” said Fusi Motsamai.

The next morning both of them were released, but she collapsed and died of a pulmonary embolism five days later. The Guardian

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves

Something has gone very wrong in our country, and like a terminally ill person in denial of their mortality, about half the British public aren’t admitting it. Such things don’t happen in Britain, they believe. It’s only other nations that commit atrocities, build concentration camps, persecute innocent people. “It wouldn’t happen here”. It is happening here.

“What, in our house?” enquired Lady Macbeth, on hearing of the murder of King Duncan, which she had just instigated.

Ellen_Terry_plays_Lady_Macbeth
Photograph by Window & Grove of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, based on the renowned 1888 production in which the great actress, and artist’s muse, starred with her partner, Henry Irving. Image: Wikipedia.

Britain’s hostile environment exists for all people of foreign birth who have considered this country their home, and paid their taxes, very often married and had children here. The people being threatened with deportation, held in detention, insulted by officials and deprived of urgent medical attention include Commonwealth citizens and EU Nationals, none of whom were told at the time they settled here that their right to remain was temporary.

Brexit means Brexit, and history will call it toxic.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves

The nations not so blest as thee
Must, in their turn, to tyrants fall,
While thou shalt flourish great and free:
The dread and envy of them all.

We have fallen to tyrants, because enough people keep electing them; we aren’t going to flourish, if we submit to Brexit; we’re not the dread and envy of anyone; we are despised and pitied.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti An Allegory of Bad Government Fresco 1338 -40. Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. Image: WGA
The demonically horned female personification of Tyranny sits in the centre, surrounded by yes-men.

Truth drips slowly, like blood through a transfusion filter.

Unworthy England’s Lost Prize

NATIONAL MYTH

“God bless us, every one!” Tiny Tim, in A Christmas Carol, 1843, by Charles Dickens

This fortress built by Nature for herself,
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

Shakespeare, Richard II, c. 1595

 NATIONAL TASK

We have to convince all other countries that the Nazi tyranny is going to be finally broken.

The right to guide the course of world history is the noblest prize of victory….The task which lies before us immediately is at once more practical, more simple and more stern.

I hope – indeed, I pray – that we shall not be found unworthy of our victory if after toil and tribulation it is granted to us.

For the rest, we have to gain the victory.

That is our task.
Winston Churchill, ‘The Few’, August 20th, 1940

NATIONALIST REALITY

Reported in

The Northern Echo

Muslim man says he was beaten in Durham for saying ‘Merry Christmas’

The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it,
malice may distort it, but there it is.
Winston Churchill, May 17th 1916.

Scorched Earth

Brexit’s gift basket to you:  barren agriculture and expensive imported fruit. Without freedom of movement, British fruit orchards and vines will rot. The Garden of England will be a wasteland. Outside the Single Market, the growing number of working poor will not be able to afford nutritious fresh food.

“The biggest potential impact of Brexit is on agricultural labour. Kent has had eastern Europeans picking fruit in recent years, but we’ll all starve if the labour issue is not sorted after Brexit….

Brexitbasketfr
Balthasar van der Ast Basket of Fruits c. 1625 Oil on wood, Staatliche Museen, Berlin.
Image source: WGA

“We want a resolution to allow us to have freedom of movement for labour to pick the fruit. This is something that affects all fruit farmers across the south-east of England.

“I’m hoping it will be sorted out and I hope they won’t close the doors, as if there’s no one to pick the fruit, we’ll have to import everything”

Every day brings new evidence that Brexit will only favour the rich, eating and drinking what they like, paying low taxes at the expense of the poor, who will get poorer and unhealthier until they will be seen as sub-human, just as they were centuries ago. Brexit is retrograde and degrading.

Social justice, national health standards and equality of opportunity will be remembered dimly as an Arthurian dream. Our grandchildren will never taste an English apple or pear, and will think strawberries and raspberries were fantasy fruits.

dessert

Post-Brexit Unaffordable Luxuries: English raspberries and blueberries photo © MHP

Brexit risks sustainable and ethical food standards.

If you are British and care about Britain, take a bite out of the fruit of Knowledge and tell your MPs that you don’t want Brexit.

It is an obscenely stupid project, a stinking, rotting fruit that we are all being forced to eat from whether we voted for it or not, whether we’ve had second thoughts or not. It is shameful, humiliating, monstrous that we have brought our country to this nadir.

Abandoning the whole damned thing, licking our wounds, counting the wasted £billions, is better than acquiescing in the scorched earth policy of Brexit.

SamuelPalmergardenatshorehamSamuel Palmer In a Shoreham Garden c 1830 watercolour. VAM. Image source: Wikipedia
THE GARDEN OF KENT BEFORE THE BREXIT FALL

This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,–
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Shakespeare, King Richard II

 

The biggest own goal in history

Will this country die from obstinacy? Why won’t the patients take their medicine?

Increased support among European nations
including the UK
for EU following Brexit

Simpkin at the Tailor’s Bedside c.1902 Helen Beatrix Potter 1866-1943 Presented by Capt. K.W.G. Duke RN 1946 Photo © Tate

No-one reading this who holds different opinions should feel offended. I intend no disrespect, but I must speak, and I’ve been given this insidious tool to amplify my thoughts. I’d be saying the same things aloud in solitary confinement.

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
Coco Chanel.

I’m not addressing individual members of the audience. This is a platform, a virtual theatre. I’m not attacking you, I don’t dislike you, I should have lived 200 years ago, and published pamphlets or books anonymously (by a Lady), and if you didn’t like them you could have burnt them after reading or used them in the privy.

“This is slavery, not to speak one’s thought.”
Euripides, The Phoenician Women

I know I’m not going to change minds or influence people. I rant on about the same thing in messages in bottles, repeating myself, adding a fresh quote or two after a quick online search, skimming the surface of thought.

And it is a tirade. I know that. Give me a break on this weaselly platform and admit this is not blogging, it’s polemic. I’m impotent but loud. You’re afraid to let me in, because I’d overturn your tables and scream your house down.

I’m not talking to you personally, I can’t even see you.

I’m not part of your community, I don’t want your Likes or your Follows, I’m not even me, I’m inhabiting a role of a better me. I’d prefer to have lived 20

I’m standing on the wall, berating destiny. Call me Cassandra, if you like. You may think I’m mad and ignore me – I can see you are, by the paltry number of Likes – but you need me as a particle of collective consciousness in the grand muddle of truth.

Cassandra, Cassandra,
You’re fated to madness, it’s out of your hands
Destined to say what no one wants to know

‘Cassandra’, Famiglia album, written by Sophie Michelle Ellis-Bextor, Ed Harcourt, sung by Sophie Ellis Bextor

Her  again – the unknown woman lamenting by a burning city

J’accuse: the right-wing Brexit conspiracy, in which too many of us are complicit, is an act of vandalism, trashing our country’s history and laying waste to its future

Wake up, Britons! Avert this catastrophe! Don’t you hear Drake’s drum beating again, alerting him to save us from national danger?

This time, the threat to our country, this precious stone set in the silver sea…this realm, this England, is not from a foreign Armada, it’s from ourselves.

The language of English-speaking myths had charm, once, before poetic inspiration for doing the right thing deviated into  facile slogans for knee-jerk nationalism.

The beauty of metaphor, the subtlety of irony, has been defaced. “My soul, there is a country” seen in a vision of Peace by Henry Vaughan, the “green and pleasant land” of Blake’s Jerusalem, were spiritual and political ideals, not nostalgia for an England that never was. Patriotism, at its best, has always been a personal myth; at its worst, it covers up crimes with a national flag.

Joan_of_Arc_on_horseback

Joan of Arc on horseback, miniature from a manuscript, Les vies des femmes célèbres d’Antoine Dufour, 1504, Nantes, musée Dobrée. Image source: Wikipedia

 

A great British, working-class, transvestite heroine, Joan of Arc, is a golden girl, forever fighting to liberate people from foreign oppressors and gender prejudice. It’s a minor detail to us that she was French, born Jeanne in Domrémy, later called la Pucelle, the maid of Orléans, inspiration, mascot, scapegoat of French resistance to English imperialism in The Hundred Years War, burnt alive by the English in 1431, when she was nineteen years old, because she’s still ours, we made her, she wouldn’t be special if we hadn’t cooked her.

The living Jeanne d’Arc was a victim of an English war crime, and the dead Jeanne of England’s greatest victory, of imagination, of story-telling, of creating national fictions in the face of historical evidence, of kidding ourselves that sentimentality and sensation – canonized as “empathy” – pre-empt responsibility.

Joan is one of the national symbols of our dishonest relationship with Europe, and with Wales, Scotland and Ireland, of our habitual raiding and resentment of  our neighbours, abusing and assimilating as we choose.  If and when Brexit goes ahead, we’re going to lose the choice.

We’ve lost the blessed plot. We’re no longer the envy of less happy lands; we’re the butt of the rest of the world’s bemusement and pity as England scores the biggest own goal in history.

Brexit is the biggest lie perpetrated by small political and capitalist elites on the English public since the First World War.

And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension

Brexit is the poison that will taint a nation, a fungus that grew in the ideological rifts of the Conservative party and then infected purer minds.

Drink the medicine.

Changing your minds is not a weakness. The greatest courage is in turning to face reality.

Cassandra, Cassandra
If I could just sit with you
We two could conspire and
We’d make them listen
You only tell the truth.

Catastrophe

Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent…..Plato

With Britain as the new Atlantis, contriving its own liquidation through the hubris of Brexit and Conservative Government, where can a girl go in pursuit of freedom and happiness?

Our European neighbours who we have so rudely shunned are already showing us what we will be missing in their civilized world.

Spain has given vindication to anyone who’s been harassed by manspreading on a train or a bus, or in a theatre or cinema. It’s the beginning of reclaiming personal space, the rebirth of the rights of woman and man, the recognition that arseholes can’t have it all their own way anymore.

It’s the only news to have cheered me up on a scary Election Day, tired out by the cat that’s not mine but won’t leave my house and keeps me awake all night.

In one leap she burst through the barely open bedroom window and the rolled down blind, directly on to the landing pad of our bed. We could only see her outline in the dark, no more than a sinuous body and bushy tail, and from our experience of another cat trying to break in a week ago, we knew that it’s impossible to verify feline identification without electric light.

A nano-moment after our besotted “hello, darling” cooings, my husband said, “Are you a fox?” Knowing by now that the worst usually happens, I screamed and hid under the bedclothes.

At 7am, after the cat had eaten breakfast and gone out again, there was another kerfuffle as something struggled through the letterbox. Was it her? we wondered – but, no, it was the sound of the poor Lib Dems leafleting at dawn.

I voted for them, nevertheless – because they are the only party to have been consistent over Europe. I don’t understand why Labour and the Liberal Democrats are being so snotty to the rational, valiant Greens about a progressive alliance.

I don’t understand anything, I haven’t slept for weeks, and while I stutter and splutter over the keyboard, the beautiful, free-loading, conscience-free cat burglar is sleeping peacefully in her bed behind the sofa.

cat occupier

Conquest Cat Portrait by Martin Hübscher Photography

I did one of those voter-party match-making tests yesterday and the big shock for me was that my views are closer to UKIP than the modern Tory party, whose social policies really must have strayed right of Attila the Hun.

Wake up, Britons! Avert this catastrophe! Don’t you hear Drake’s drum? There’s time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards too – reputed to have been said while he played bowls at Plymouth Hoe, it turns out he never said it, and it’s a soundbite invented over a century later. Our national myths had charm, once, before poetic inspiration for doing the right thing deviated into knee-jerk nationalistic slogans.

Now, the threat to the precious stone set in a silver sea is not from a foreign Armada, it’s from ourselves.

We’ve lost the blessed plot. We’re no longer the envy of less happy lands; we’re the butt of the rest of the world’s bemusement and pity.

And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension

Brexit is the poison that will taint a nation, a fungus that grew in the ideological rifts of the Conservative party and infected purer minds.

J’accuse: the right-wing Brexit conspiracy, in which the public has colluded, is an act of vandalism, defacing our country’s history and laying waste to its future.

Nothing that was true is true any more, nothing makes sense, not in my catatonic state. One thing is certain: all cats are grey in the dark. The inconstant cat’s not ours. She must have at least one other home. The stupid human beings in their different dwellings think she’s dependent on them alone, and she’s playing all of us.

Sounding like a Millwall fan chanting “Noone likes us, we don’t care”, I don’t like blogging, I don’t like Brexit, I don’t care if you don’t Like me, and all it takes to go to hell nowadays is pressing Publish, or drawing X on a ballot paper.

…..and the island of Atlantis …. disappeared in the depths of the sea. Plato

The Denialists

For once – I hope it’s only once –  I’m going to let two rich, middle-aged men speak for me.

They didn’t even remember to invite me to their party, but I, like them, am an angry denialist, rejecting this country’s fatalistic decline.

Before you generously ‘Like’ this post, you should know that I don’t respect the vote of anyone who voted Leave. When I try to, I’m lying to myself, and I won’t do that to you.

I think Leaving is deluded. I think the EU Referendum trivialized democracy and has betrayed our country’s past and future. I don’t want to “move on” into complicity. I prefer to stand ranting on the spot.

I know blogging about Brexit is silly and futile, but blogging is nothing if not a vent for denial and frustration, an illusion of empowerment, an undignified scramble for Likes and Followers similar to that of politicians and demagogues as they harry the country eating babies and kissing chips. [sic]

It’s my scream in the dark and if the noise disturbs you, I’m not sorry.

Cassandra lamentingJan Swart van Groningen, Woman Lamenting by a Burning City 1550-55
Pen in black, brush in brown,
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Image: WGA

Extract from The Guardian, 12 May 2017.
[Ian] McEwan said: “I belong to the smallest, saddest, most pessimist faction: I am a denialist. Almost a year on, I am still shaking my head in disbelief. I know it’s not helpful, but I don’t accept this near mystical, emotionally-charged decision. How can it be that in a one-off vote, a third of the electorate have determined the fate of the nation for the next half-century?”

“The musician and activist Bob Geldof said: “I loved [McEwan’s] rejectionism. Anger is a great animus. I heard too much reasoned debate this morning. I resent those who voted leave. There is too much hubris that infects the political class. Fuck them.”

Does Geldof make sense, rejecting reasoned debate? Not much. I thought it used to be Leavers who didn’t have reasoned arguments, only sentiment and gut feelings, but now it seems everyone is mad in England, just as the gravedigger told Hamlet they were.

HAMLET
Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?

GRAVEDIGGER
Why, because he was mad. He shall recover his wits there, or, if he do not, it’s no great matter there.

HAMLET
Why?

GRAVEDIGGER
‘Twill not be seen in him there. There the men are as mad as he
.

Romney, George, 1734-1802; Lady Emma Hamilton (1761?-1815) as Cassandra

Lady Emma Hamilton as Cassandra.
Oil painting by George Romney © National Maritime Museum.

Emma Hamilton, painted by Romney at the height of her beauty and celebrity, long before she became Nelson’s blowsy, beloved trophy and resented by the ungrateful nation to whom he bequeathed her, in the character of Cassandra, the prophetess no-one believed.

“People are frightened of being associated with me in any way, shape or form.”
Gina Miller
interviewed by The Guardian, 13 May, 2017