Thursday, 29 September 2011

La Cloche et l'Idiot

The French title of the film "Dumb and Dumber" is "La Cloche et l'Idiot"

I was reminded of this when reading St Saviour's Parish Magazine, which has the aptly named title of "La Cloche".

Unlike St Brelade's where there was a deliberate policy (which I thought was very sensible) of avoiding political matters in La Baguette (the St Brelade's Parish Magazine), St Saviour decided bravely to embrace the elections, with an "election special". This also means the Constable has the chance to appear in photographs and be mentioned in other stories as well, so he gets a bit of "bonus coverage".

Each set of elections in each district is set out, with candidates photos, name, and a brief piece written by them - a mini-manifesto. It's a nice glossy presentation.

Imagine my surprise on reading that Roy Le Hérissier - standing in St Saviour No 3 - opens with "I have lived in St Saviour for most of my life, and have represented District Number One for the past 18 years"... and then goes on to say that he has been Planning Minister since July this year! News to me, and I dare say, to the good Deputy as well.

It is, of course, a duplication of the entry under Deputy Rob Duhamel, and was not picked up by the editor, Elaine Hanning, whom I assume is the wife of the Constable. I saw it straight away, just on a first reading. It is so obviously wrong, not a minor mistake.

It is a good job they have a disclaimer:

"The editor accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions that may occur."

Power failures and why they happen

I'm getting rather fed up with the explanation given by the MD of the JEC that the power failures were due to "complex issues". The public really deserves a better explanation than that.

It's a "black box" explanation - there was a power cut, but it could have been the result of a dark conspiracy in a Dan Brown scenario or a Dennis Wheatley black magic cursing the French operator and causing a flock of crows to fly into power lines.

But really, understanding what happens is quite simple, even if locating what might be termed "the fault in the circuit" is more difficult, and we deserve better explanations than "these are complex issues".

First of all, this is how a power grid works:

At a high level, the power grid is a very simple thing. It consists of a set of large power plants (hydropower plants, nuclear power plants, etc.) all connected together by wires. One grid can be as big as half of the United States. A grid works very well as a power-distribution system because it allows a lot of sharing. If a power company needs to take a power plant or a transmission tower off line for maintenance, the other parts of the grid can pick up the slack.

The thing that is so amazing about the power grid is that it cannot store any power anywhere in the system. At any moment, you have millions of customers consuming megawatts of power. At that same moment, you have dozens of power plants producing exactly the right amount of power to satisfy all of that demand. And you have all the transmission and distribution lines sending the power from the power plants to the consumers.

This system works great, and it can be highly reliable for years at a time. However, there can be times, particularly when there is high demand, that the interconnected nature of the grid makes the entire system vulnerable to collapse.

And that's what happened on Monday and yesterday - something caused the grid to collapse. What happens in such a scenario is that the failure "cascades", and can often only be prevented from bringing other collapses by a process of triage - that is, decisions are made to close down sections of the grid to safeguard the rest, and then, as the failing area is checked over, parts can be brought back on line. Here are some scenarios:

Let's say that the grid is running pretty close to its maximum capacity. Something causes a power plant to suddenly trip off line. The "something" might be anything from a serious lightning strike to a geomagnetic storm to a bearing failure and subsequent fire in a generator. When that plant disconnects from the grid, the other plants connected to it have to spin up to meet the demand. If they are all near their maximum capacity, then they cannot handle the extra load. To prevent themselves from overloading and failing, they will disconnect from the grid as well. That only makes the problem worse, and dozens of plants eventually disconnect. That leaves millions of people without power.

The same thing can happen if a big transmission line fails. In 1996, there was a huge blackout in the western United States and Canada because the wires of a major transmission line sagged into some trees and shorted out. When that transmission line failed, its entire load shifted to neighboring transmission lines. They then overloaded and failed, and the overload cascaded through the grid.

In nearly every major blackout, the situation is the same. One piece of the system fails, and then the pieces near it cannot handle the increased load caused by the failure, so they fail. The multiple failures make the problem worse and worse, and a large area ends up in the dark.

The kinds of problems that cause the failure are not complex, and some of them are listed here:

1) Natural Causes - Weather Related

Numerous power failures are caused by natural weather phenomena such as lightening, rain, snow, ice, wind, and even dust.

2) Other Causes of Outages

Animals coming into contact with power lines, such as large birds, accounted for 11% of outages in the U.S.. Additional causes of failures were primarily man made outages that show up in the form of vehicle and construction accidents with power poles and power lines, maintenance from utilities, and the occasional human error.

3) Short Circuits - A short circuit occurs when an electric current travels along a path that is different from the intended one in an electrical circuit. When this happens, there is an excessive electric current which can lead to circuit damage, fire, and explosion. Short circuits can occur when the insulation of the wiring used breaks down. It can also occur due to the presence of an external conducting material (such as water) that is introduced accidently into the circuit.

4) Electrical treeing is a phenomenon that affects high power installations such as high voltage power cables, transformers, etc. Any impurities or mechanical defects in the equipment used in high voltage installations can lead to partial electric discharges in the equipment. The damaging process manifests itself in a tree-like pattern, hence the name electrical treeing. Over a period of time, if it goes undetected, this phenomenon can lead to a continuous degradation of the equipment and eventually result in a total breakdown.

5) Sudden variations: If certain parts of the grid are carrying electricity at near capacity, a small shift of power flows can trip circuit breakers, which sends larger flows onto neighboring lines to start a chain-reaction failure

But the complexity lies in finding the fault. A circuit breaker may trip in your house, but it is difficult sometimes to know what electrical equipment caused the safety cut out to come into play. Sometimes it is obvious - a light has blown, and all the lights in the house go off as the switch trips. But it could be a bulb blowing, or it could be a fault in the light circuit - I've had a problem with spotlights, and it was the holders that had problems, not the lights themselves.

With a large national grid, it is much more difficult. In August 14th 2003 there was a massive power failure in the USA, but determining what caused it was more difficult. That is where the "complexity" comes in, because if the right cause is not found, the same problem can occur again. This was the story:

Power was restored yesterday for most of the 50 million people caught in the largest blackout in the nation's history, which shut down airports, nuclear-power plants, subways, elevators and traffic signals from New York City to Toronto and Detroit. At least one person died in the United States, and possibly two in Canada. The massive outage, which shut down 100 power plants in eight states and Ontario, was blamed on a power-grid failure that cut electricity service across the northern United States and Canada. There remained no explanation as to what caused the grid failure. It took just nine seconds for the power outage to spread across the region, incapacitating plants in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont, officials said.

It still is not clear what caused the blackout, Mr. Gent said. "This is really the big question. I can't answer that," he said in a telephone conference call. "I personally am embarrassed [that the outage occurred]. I am upset. My job is to see that this doesn't happen, and I failed in my job. That's why I'm upset." Mr. Gent said the North American Electric Reliability Council is focusing on a distribution route of transmission lines known as the Lake Erie Loop, which goes from New York to Detroit to Canada and back to New York. He said about 300 megawatts of electricity were flowing east into New York when something happened on the loop in the Midwest. When that happened, the electricity reversed course, sending about 600 megawatts of electricity west.

The first sign of a problem showed up in the Midwest, he said, where power lines first shut down, but that doesn't mean the outage started there. The event that led the electricity to reverse course lasted no more than 10 seconds, he said. The Lake Erie Loop is "the center of the focus," he said. "This has been a problem for years, and there have been all sorts of plans to make it more reliable," Mr. Gent said, adding that an investigation may not yield clues about the cause of the outage for months, but that there could be preliminary answers within weeks. "The final verdict may be months away," he said. "We will absolutely be able to tell where this happened and why it happened."

This is in fact the sequence of events, as constructed later:

1:58 p.m. The Eastlake, Ohio, generating plant shuts down. The plant is owned by First Energy, a company that had experienced extensive recent maintenance problems, including a major nuclear-plant incident.

3:06 p.m. A First Energy 345-kV transmission line fails south of Cleveland, Ohio.

3:17 p.m. Voltage dips temporarily on the Ohio portion of the grid. Controllers take no action, but power shifted by the first failure onto another power line causes it to sag into a tree at 3:32 p.m., bringing it offline as well. While Mid West ISO and First Energy controllers try to understand the failures, they fail to inform system controllers in nearby states.

3:41 and 3:46 p.m. Two breakers connecting First Energy's grid with American Electric Power are tripped.

4:05 p.m. A sustained power surge on some Ohio lines signals more trouble building.

4:09:02 p.m. Voltage sags deeply as Ohio draws 2 GW of power from Michigan.

4:10:34 p.m. Many transmission lines trip out, first in Michigan and then in Ohio, blocking the eastward flow of power. Generators go down, creating a huge power deficit. In seconds, power surges out of the East, tripping East coast generators to protect them, and the blackout is on.

Our power comes from RFI France, and they produce a report on failures. The most common failures are those of "busbars" -a busbar is a strip of copper or aluminium that conducts electricity within a switchboard, distribution board, substation or other electrical apparatus, and of course, if these fail, an electrical substation can fall out of the system. Their 2010 report noted that:

The number of short-circuits affecting transmission facilities dropped by 19% compared with 2009, continuing a trend observed for several years now. 97% of these short-circuits were transient and therefore did not impact the availability of the transmission facilities.

In terms of reliability, we observed 12 simultaneous faults on double 400 kV lines (11 in 2009), all transient (for 3 permanent in 2009), and three 400 kV busbar faults (versus 8 in 2009), of which two were due to damaged equipment and one to human error.

The level B ESS involved: two, well managed, double busbar faults; one N-k reliability guarantee loss following a busbar fault with a duration limited to one and a half hour; a (very low) risk of the loss of a production volume higher than 3000 MW following a busbar fault during a differential busbar protection scheduling of outage; failure to execute a safeguard order by a transmission control centre, with limited impact.

The evolution of ESS 0 reveals an increase in the number of problems involving busbar switch disconnector in 400 kV substations, knowing that incomplete operation can lead to major risks for the reliability of the electrical system. It is necessary to ensure that the current actions are continued and that they are relevant..

So while we've not had problems, it is interesting to notice that France has not been without some problems.

One of the curiosities about last night's incident is that it was noted in the JEP that "Jersey, Guernsey and significant parts of the Normandy peninsula were affected when the French electricity network developed a serious fault."

However, I've not been able to find any reports in the French newspapers about the power failure effecting Normandy or elsewhere in France. It is very curious indeed.

"The Connexion", Frances English-Language paper has lots of breaking news over the past week, but nothing about power cuts anywhere. French News online doesn't mention it. Le Monde doesn't. Figaro doesn't. Paris Normandy doesn't. France Daily doesn't. Reuters Frances doesn't.

The Washington Times, 2003

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Death and Burial - Part 1

By way of something different, an extract today from Gypsies of Britain by Brian Vesey-Fitgerald (1900-1981) was a naturalist and writer of books on wildlife, cats, and dogs, but also was interested in the countryside in general, gypsies, fairgrounds and boxing.

His book on gypsies is especially interesting because it is based on both research and first hand knowledge, and also was written in 1944, reflecting a good deal of the pre-war culture. After the war, the nomadic existence of the travelling Romanies would come under increasing pressure from the State, and also become confused in the public perception with the "New Age" travellers of the 1960s who took to the roads seeking a counter-culture lifestyle, which is a confusion which persists to this day.

Robert Kilroy-Silk, a critic of travelling communities, notably took part in a television show for Channel 4 in which he stayed for a while with a Romany family. Having done precious little homework, he was taken aback to be given separate washing facilities, because he was not counted as "clean" - cleanliness being not just a matter of hygiene, to the Romanies, but also a matter of cultic significance - ritual cleanliness.

This section is on death and burial, as it was then. The gradual and unconscious assimilation of British Romany families to cultural norms means that some of the aspects of burial which Vesey-Fitgerald describes are of a fading tradition, parts of which, even then were dying out. Today under pressures of bureaucratic control and registration by local authorities, it is most unlikely there would be unrecorded burials in in wayside places and unhallowed ground, and where a wooden vardo could be burnt pretty much to ashes, the modern camper vans which have taken their place cannot.

Today there is far more control over where nomadic peoples can pitch their homes, and the welcome arrival of extra labourers for harvest, or skilled artisans who could make and mend farm and home tools has largely gone, often replaced with suspicion and hostility. That is not to say there may not have been some hostility, especially over poaching which undoubtedly took place, but that was of a different kind to that which we see today, and seems to be more to do with a clash of cultural life choices, in which nomads are demonised as spongers, thieves, vagabonds, and troublemakers - what might be called the Daily Mail perception.

But in the pre-war era, there was a far looser lifestyle for the nomad, and this is reflected here.

from Brian Vesey-Fitgerald's "Gypsies of Britain" (1944)

ON April 17th, 1926, there was buried at Crediton, Devonshire, Mrs. Caroline Penfold (the name should be Pinfold, but has been corrupted), a Gypsy. After the burial the living-waggon in which she died, together with all her personal belongings that could be burned, were reduced to ashes, all her crockery was smashed and buried, and all her jewellery, with the exception of one heavy gold ring, was also buried.

Though the burning of the belongings of the deceased is the best known and most characteristic of all English Gypsy funeral rites (and I shall return to the funeral of Caroline Penfold, which was remarkable in many ways) it is by no means the only one. There are, as is to be expected, a considerable number of customs connected with the death and burial of English Gypsies. Moreover, though not all of them are observed now, and though there is a consider- able variation as between family and family, many more of them are still observed than is the case with other customs and taboos, and as they are from their very nature more noticeable and so more easily recorded than the customs and taboos connected with birth, marriage, uncleanness and so forth, we have a considerable amount of material concerning them. There are very few published accounts of Gypsy weddings, for example, but there are quite a number of accounts, in books and newspapers, of Gypsy funerals. For, curiously enough, though few Gypsies in the past took the trouble to get married in church, or indeed thought it necessary, the vast majority insisted on a Christian burial.

There are, of course, many stories of Gypsy burials in unsanctified ground. For example, there is supposed to be a Gypsy burial ground at Strethall in Essex, which in times past was used by the Shaws, East Anglian Grays and Dymocks, which last is not a Gypsy name. This story has been investigated by Thompson and others, and they have found nothing to support it. The Shaws profess no knowledge of it (and Gypsies do not mind admitting past burials in unsanctified ground) and nobody in the parish at the time enquiries were made could recall it. All the same there were mounds in that field, and skeletons were dug up.

Some people at some time were buried there, but that is no proof that they were Gypsies. Again, there are places in Buckinghamshire where Gypsies are supposed to be buried. At Quainton, near Fenny Stratford, at Mursley and in Towersey Field. There is a possibility that those at Quainton and Mursley are genuine; there seems to be no evidence to support the others. These are only a few examples. It would be possible, I imagine, to duplicate them for almost every county in England. But, as Lias Boswell said to Thompson, " there's no compass to the lies gorgios make up about Romanickals." Naturally there is very little evidence of unofficial burial, and such as there is is indirect. It seems to have been confined within recorded time at least) mainly to the Herons, the East Anglian Smiths, the northern Youngs and to some of the families connected with them by marriage. It is best substantiated for the Herons.

Remarkably few records of the interments of Herons occur in the old parish registers, only one between the years 1650 and 1830-that being of " Mrs. Hearn a Gypsey Queene " at Stanbridge, Bedfordshire, in 1631. And, as Thompson points out, she may not have belonged to the family by birth nor have adhered to it after her marriage : " Whilst ' his majesty''s failure to provide a shroud or winding sheet of woollen cloth, in consequence of which he was distrained upon, ' but no distress to be found,' may imply that he possessed little experience of ordinary burials as to be ignorant of a law relating to them already twelve years old." The very fact that interments of Herons do not appear in parish registers, coupled with the tradition of unsanctified burial current in the family, is proof enough of such burial and additional weight is lent to this when we find in the same period of 180 years no fewer than eight records of Herons marrying in church.

While in conversation with Thompson modern Gypsies of Heron blood have been very definite about it. Kadilia Brown, a Heron in the male line would not hear of Christian sepulchre among her ancestors. " ' Bury in churchyards ! she exclaimed. ' Not they ! They was too a.-trash (frightened) to go nigh them. No : they'd just dig a grave thersel's) and bury the poor things there where they died, on some bit o' common, or down an owld lane.' " Her cousins, Katie Smith and Adelaide Lee, were equally sure about it. " It was kept secret, they declared, sometimes from relatives, even, until after the body had been disposed of, as quickly as might be, in a ditch, or on some little frequented heath ; and again fear, this time of strangers handling the corpse, was given as the motive." Then Genti Gray, a granddaughter in the female line of" No Name " Heron, assured him that several of her mother's kin were buried " up there on the Mussel," meaning Mousehold Heath near Norwich. In fact, it may be taken as certain that Herons, Grays, Youngs and Smiths did bury their dead in unsanctified ground.

Why they did is another matter. I cannot accept the reason that they were frightened to go near churchyards, since they were not frightened of going to church to get married. Nor can I accept the idea that they were afraid of the gorgios handling the body, since it is the common Gypsy practice to get them to lay out the body, and, in fact, Gypsies show a strong disinclination to handle the dead at all. It seems to me much more probable that it was the ancient custom to bury the dead where they died, by the roadside or on some unfrequented heath, and that the custom took longer to die in the notoriously die-hard Heron family. Personally, I think that the occasional preference expressed even to-day by Gypsies (and expressed much more frequently a few years ago) that they should be buried as close to the hedgerow of a churchyard as possible, and the desire still quite frequently expressed that a thorn bush should be planted on the grave, is also a relic of wayside burial.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Lost Books - Part 1

Reading Whitnash Parish Magazine in the 1860s, I came across this page:

The following additions have been made to the Village Library, There has also been a kind gift from Miss H. Brandt, of Clydesdale, Holly Walk, Leamington, of tales and romances to the " Young Men's Mutual Improvement Society," which have not yet been added to the catalogue, but will be at the disposal of the young men during the coming winter season.

Here's the first section of these books, more to follow. They are "lost books" not in the sense that they've completely disappeared, but they have vanished from our horizons, and probably also from most libraries. Yet some of these were the most popular books of their day!

After the list, I've tracked down some of the writers, and some extracts, so you can read them for yourself, and have a sense of the "flavour" of the kind of material people were reading, presumably for pleasure! Remember that Whitnash is a village, and not a metropolis - in an urban setting, I suspect there would be a wider choice of reading material, and more "penny dreadfuls" to hand.

This is also a library, and libraries have often been very conservative where books are concerned, with their own boundaries for what to take in. But for a rural community, and with expensive hardbacks the norm (Tauchnitz editions - an early paperback - had only just begun in 1841), the source of most books, apart from a family Bible, would have been the village library.

What is notable is the piety of the books, and the themes of death and faith which run through them. Faith is a virtue, almost a heroic virtue to these Victorians, and the trials of faith facing the world and in the face of death come across in ways that seem alien to us, but then we do not live in a world with high infant mortality. The books open up their world to us, and it is a strange and very different world to the one we live in today.

There were diseases like the Indian Cholera or Small Pox sweeping in across the land, with very little in the way of disease control, or indeed understanding of what caused the disease to spread. Dr John Snow's groundbreaking work in showing contaminated water was a major source of infection had only been made after the cholera outbreak in England of 1854, and his work was still deemed controversial by the authorities.

There's a figure of boy in a Scout Uniform on a grave in St Brelade's cemetery, aged 10, died Christmas day. This was the kind of world that they lived in, where most children would die before their parents, because children were more vulnerable to the sicknesses that beset the land. Is it any wonder that they turned to their faith as a form of succour?

Finish then thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee,
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise!

Protestantism had discarded purgatory, but it had retained heaven and hell. Many hymns speak of going to heaven after death, and indeed this is still the legacy in our popular culture, even among those who only go to church for life events. The notion of resurrection was alien to them, and would still have been taken (as with the paintings of the Middle Ages) as a kind of resuscitation of the dead who were buried, and that had, by and large been discarded, or taken as mythical, or simply a visionary experience confirming life after death.

And in a world where heaven and death were pressing hard, how to behave became even more important, to be good -in the words of the hymn, "Christian children all must be / mild, obedient, good like he". Hence the popularity of sermons and exhortations, and examples of how to live a virtuous life, because these were matters as important as the harvest festival.

301 Kenneth
302 Boy Princes
303 The Plant Hunters
304 Memoirs of G. Breay
305 Useful Arts
306 Messenger of Peace
307 Extraordinary Men
308 The Successful Merchant
309 God's Heroes and the World's Heroes
310 The Two Guardians
311 The Boy's own Book of Boats
312 Childrens' Stories
313 The Dairyman's Daughter
314 Sunday Echoes in Weekday Hours
315 The Bear Hunters
316 Gurney's Sermons, vol. I
317 Gurney's Sermons, vol. 11
318 Manufactories

The Dairyman's Daughter

The Dairyman's Daughter sounds like it might be a romance, but it is a work of piety; it is an early 19th century Christian religious booklet of 52 pages, which had a remarkably wide distribution and influence. It was a narrative of the religious experience of Elizabeth Wallbridge, written up by the Reverend Legh Richmond, after her death, and she was the person after whom the book was named.

"Often I mourn over my sins and sometimes have a great conflict, through unbelief, fear, temptation, to return to my old ways--I was laughed at by some, scolded by others, scorned by my enemies and pitied by my friends, but I forgave and prayed for my persecutors, and remembered how very lately I had acted this same part toward others myself."

Wikipedia notes that:

"During most of the 19th century Christian writers favoured and extensively used sickness and deathbed experiences. However, and partly because of this morbid theme, the book, while extremely popular for three-quarters of a century, is not well adapted to the tastes and the requirements of the 20th century and beyond. The book is now not widely known, although the short text of it has been reprinted innumerable times in various anthologies, and publications including the text are still in print today."

316 Gurney's Sermons, vol. I
317 Gurney's Sermons, vol. 11
309 God's Heroes and the World's Heroes

John Hampden Gurney (15 August 1802 - 8 March 1862) was an Anglican clergyman and hymnist. The Dictionary of National Biography tells us that: "He was a most earnest and popular preacher, and published many of his sermons, as well as the lectures which he composed for the Young Men's Christian Association. "

Books that he wrote included:

II. SERMONS on the EPISTLES and GOSPELS for particular Sundays.
III. The MORAL of a SAD STORY ; Four Sermons on the Indian Mutiny ; with copious Notes.
IV. A SERMON preached in Lambeth Palace Chapel, at the Consecration of the Lord Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol ; with an Appendix, containing some Remarks on Preaching in the Church of England.
V. The AGE of DISCOVERY; The First Printers; Columbus; Luther ; Galileo.
VI. ST. LOUIS and HENRY IV. ; being a Second Series of Historical Sketches.
VII. GOD'S HEROES and the WORLD'S HEROES ; being a Third Series of Historical Sketches.
VIII. The LOST CHIEF and the MOURNING PEOPLE; Lessons of the Life of Wellington

Here is an example of his writing, taken from one of his books of sermons. He makes distinction between "fashionable virtues", which are not really virtues at all, but which the world counts as such, and are "tamper frequently with conscience by excusing little sins", and the courage to stand firm against the world with Christian values, which are truth and honesty. There is a notion of a nominal observance of faith, which inside is full of "rottenness":

"But O remember, I pray you, in common life the same thing is repeated every day. Men who cannot see clearly, and stand firmly, when tempted on their weak side, - who are not in the habit of referring things to a definite standard of right and wrong, - who are continually walking in slippery paths of their own choosing, and who tamper frequently with conscience by excusing little sins, or sins that the world is never likely to detect, - are like hunted men, many a time, when some crisis in their lives comes which is to fix their fate. They will not plunge down deep into shame if they can help it; and yet difficulties seem to dog them on every side but one. While the danger lasts, they are in bondage to friends and neighbours, the slaves of their own fears, at their wit's end to find out some new device which may save their credit for a month or week ; and all because they have sold themselves to evil in some form or other, - because they are linked in with some from whom they do not choose to part, - or because by habit a tortuous course has become more natural to them than the path of uprightness. Try to live in the broad open daylight of truth and honesty, my brethren. Be just to yourselves, even as your reason and conscience tells you the ruler should be just when he sits to arbitrate between man and man, or between the law and the law-breaker. Never parley with temptation. Remember, if you have not courage to do right when it costs you something to do it, - if fashionable virtues are all that you make much of, and sin in any shape be weighed in the scales against evil of other kinds as that which perchance may be the lighter of the two, - then all your goodness, or fair-seeming outside show of propriety, is a chance thing, and God, who looketh not at the outward appearance, seeth unsoundness and rottenness within. Alas! because the common life of many of us presents few temptations, our virtues are poorly tested. We are safe for the time because we live in a guarded place, and have many inducements to keep right with the better part of our neighbours. But that is a poor sort of security which any accident may disturb; and happy is the man who can appeal to God for protection, conscious that his heart's desire is to be found and kept in the way of uprightness."

Sunday Echoes in Weekday Hours: A Tale Illustrative of the Church Catechism

This book was written by Mrs Carey Brock in 1867. It is the tale of a mischievous child, whose bad manners are the result of having lost her mother, and having a father who really doesn't care much for any moral values. The way to redemption lies in the Church Catechism - the one in the Book of Common Prayer - and the whole book is a series of pegs in which it is explained to other children.

There was another book lying open on the little table in the chimney comer, which looked, from its appearance, very much as though it had been occupying some one's attention very recently. Mrs Stancombe took it up. Nellie trembled, and fully expected to see one of Mrs. Blake's well-known frowns darken over the kind face before her. But to her surprise, it was with a smile that the clergyman's lady said, ";The Children in the Wood,' I see. Can you make this out, Nellie ?" " Oh, yes," the child replied. ''And you like it better than your Catechism?" "Yes," said Nellie, ''a great deal." She did not say '' ma'am," for, as Mrs. Blaise had told her only the day before, '' Nellie Morton knew no manners ;" but the clergyman's lady, pleased with the truthfulness of the child, was willing to excuse her absence of politeness.

''I dare say you do," she said, gently. "I'm afraid, Nellie, I did too at your age." '' Did you ?" asked Nellie, drawing nearer, and half her fear vanishing when she found that the lady could not only sympathize in her love for her favourite yellow - covered story-book, but had actually in her own childhood been guilty of the sin of preferring it to the Church Catechism. " Did you read the ' Children in the Wood' when you were a little girl ?" "

Yes," replied the lady, '' I read it over and over again. But, Nellie, I read my Catechism too, and learned it also. I could say every word of it when I was ten years old. How old are you?" '' I shall be ten to-morrow." " And you are to keep your birthday by beginning to learn your Catechism. I don't think you could keep it better : but it is a good thing for you, Nellie, or rather, a good thing for your father that you did not live three hundred years ago' Nellie's blue eyes were opened wide. It was easy to see that she could be intelligent enough in anything that interested her.

'' Yes, indeed"' said Mrs. Stancombe, remarking this, "for in those days, Nellie, the father of a little girl like you, who could not say her Catechism at ten years old, would have had to give ten shillings to the poor's box." "Father wouldn't give it," said Nellie, abruptly. " He couldn't, for he hasn't got it to give ! and he don't care for me to learn my Catechism at all. He told me not to bother when I asked him what it meant. But I must learn it, or Mrs. Blake said I shouldn't come to school."

"And you like to go to school ?" ''No, I don't," said Nellie. '' Then why would you be sorry not to go ?" ''Because I want to know how to read, and write, and work, and do everything that mother did when she was here." " And mother is dead ?" said Mrs. Stancombe, gently, becoming more and more interested every moment in this strange little girl of ten years old, whom the village mistress had pronounced that very day to be a " wicked, troublesome child," yet who was so truthful in her words, and who, though she did not like learning, yet wished to learn for the sake of the advantages to be gained. "Yes"' said Nellie, ''she died five years ago. If she hadn't died, I could learn my Catechism, for she taught me everything; I wasn't ever in trouble then.''

What is also interesting is that it mentions a popular book which was not one of piety, "The Children in the Wood". This was an extremely short ballad, often issued as a pamphlet or with other fairy tales. There was, a 1831 edition, on "India paper, price four shillings each". The story is simple, and an older one than 1831, often in the form of a ballad - an uncle plots to kill his orphaned niece and nephew in order to steal the money left to them by their parents, and he hires ruffians to kill them, under the presence of sending them to school, then they escape but die of hunger in the wood -

No burial this pretty pair
Of any man receives,
Till Robin-red-breast painfully
Did cover them with leaves

- and then the Uncle is plagued with attacks of a guilty conscience and misfortune, his sons die, and he himself dies in gaol, which is seen as the "wrath of God" come down upon him for behaving in this way.

He bargained with two ruffians strong,
Which were of furious mood,
That they should take these children young,
And slaye them in a wood :
And told his wife and all he had,
He did the children send
To be brought up in faire London,
With one that was his friend.
Away then went these pretty babes,
Rejoycing at that tide,
Rejoycing with a merry minde,
They should on cock-horse ride.
They prate and prattle pleasantly,
As they rode on the waye,
To those that should their butchers be,
And work their lives decaye.

The Two Guardians by Charlotte Mary Yonge

Charlotte Mary Yonge (11 August 1823 - 24 May 1901), was an English novelist, known for her huge output, now mostly out of print. Wikipedia notes that:

She was born into a religious family background, was devoted to the Church of England, and much influenced by John Keble, Vicar of Hursley from 1835, a near neighbour and one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Yonge is herself sometimes referred to as "the novelist of the Oxford Movement", as her novels frequently reflect the values and concerns of Anglo-Catholicism. She remained in Otterbourne all her life and for 71 years was a teacher in the village Sunday school

Her book reflects again the theme of death coupled with that of duty, another virtue of the Victorian age:



Throughout these tales the plan has been to present a picture of ordinary life, with its small daily events, its pleasures, and its trials, so as to draw out its capabilities of being turned to the best account. Great events, such as befall only a few, are thus excluded, and in the hope of helping to present a clue, by example, to the perplexities of daily life, the incidents, which render a story exciting, have been sacrificed, and the attempt has been to make the interest of the books depend on character painting.

When Marian, in a dress of deep mourning, was slowly pacing the garden paths, her eyes fixed on the ground, and an expression of thoughtful sadness on her face. Heavy indeed had been the strokes that had fallen upon her. Before the last summer had closed, the long sufferings of her father had been terminated by one of the violent attacks, which had often been expected to be fatal. Nor was this all that she had to mourn. With winter had come severe colds and coughs; Lady Arundel was seized with an inflammation of the chest, her constitution had been much enfeebled by watching, anxiety, and grief, and in a very few days her children were orphans.

It was the day following the funeral. Mrs. Wortley was staying in the house, as were also the two guardians of the young Sir Gerald Arundel and his sister. These were Mr. Lyddell, a relation of Lady Arundel; and our former acquaintance, Edmund Arundel, in whom, young as he was, his uncle had placed full confidence. He had in fact been entirely brought up by Sir Edmund, and knew no other home than Fern Torr, having been sent thither an orphan in earliest childhood. His uncle and aunt had supplied the place of parents, and had been well rewarded for all they had done for him, by his consistent well doing and completely filial affection for them.

Marian was startled from her musings by his voice close at hand, saying, "All alone, Marian?"

"Gerald is with Jemmy Wortley, somewhere," she replied, "and I begged Mrs. Wortley and Agnes to go down the village and leave me alone. I have been very busy all the morning, and my head feels quite confused with thoughts!"
"I am glad to have found you," said Edmund. "I have seen so little of you since I have been here."
"Yes, you have been always with Mr. Lyddell. When does he go?"
"To-morrow morning."
"And you stay longer, I hope?"
"Only till Monday; I wish it was possible to stay longer, but it is something to have a Sunday to spend here."
"And then I am afraid it will be a long time before we see you again."
"I hope not; if you are in London, it will be always easier to meet."
"In London! Ah! that reminds me I wanted to ask you what I am to say to Selina Marchmont. I have a very kind letter from her, asking us to come to stay with her directly, and hoping that it may be arranged for us to live
with them."
"Ah! I have a letter from her husband to the same effect," said Edmund. "It really is very kind and friendly in them."
"Exceedingly," said Marian. "Will you read her letter, and tell me how I am to answer her!"
"As to the visit, that depends upon what you like to do yourself. I should think that you would prefer staying with the Wortleys, since they are so kind as to receive you."
"You don't mean," exclaimed Marian, eagerly, "staying with them for ever!"
Edmund shook his head. "No, Marian, I fear that cannot be."
"Then it is as I feared," sighed Marian. "I wonder how it is that I have thought so much about myself; but it would come into my head, what was to become of us, and I was very much afraid of living with the Lyddells; but still there was a little glimmering of hope that you might be able to manage to leave us with the Wortleys."
"I heartily wish I could," said Edmund, "but it is out of my power. My uncle--"
"Surely papa did not wish us to live with the Lyddells?" cried Marian.
"I do not think he contemplated your living any where but at home."
"But the Vicarage is more like home than any other place could ever be," pleaded Marian, "and papa did not like the Lyddells nearly so well as the Wortleys."
"We must abide by his arrangements, rather than our own notions of his wishes," said Edmund. "Indeed, I know that he thought Mr. Lyddell a very sensible man."

The bear hunters: or, The fatal ravine, a melodrama in two acts by John Baldwin Buckstone

Unfortunately I have not been able to track down anything much about this, which seems the most unusual of the books listed here. John Baldwin Buckstone (14 September 1802 - 31 October 1879) was an English actor, playwright and comedian who wrote 150 plays, the first of which was produced in 1826. The Bear Hunters was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Victoria, September 5th, 1825

Monday, 26 September 2011

Parameters of Party: The Inner Ring

When Boris entered the room, Prince Andrey was listening to an old general, wearing his decorations, who was reporting something to Prince Andrey, with an expression of soldierly servility on his purple face. "Alright. Please wait!" he said to the general, speaking in Russian with the French accent which he used when he spoke with contempt. The moment he noticed Boris he stopped listening to the general who trotted imploringly after him and begged to be heard, while Prince Andrey turned to Boris with a cheerful smile and a nod of the head. Boris now clearly understood-what he had already guessed-that side by side with the system of discipline and subordination which were laid down in the Army Regulations, there existed a different and more real system-the system which compelled a tightly laced general with a purple face to wait respectfully for his turn while a mere captain like Prince Andrey chatted with a mere second lieutenant like Boris. Boris decided at once that he would be guided not by the official system but by this other unwritten system. (Tolstoy, War and Peace)

I've been reading Mark Forskitt's election blog in which he discusses the idea of a "secret party" in the States

There was a question about a secret party  in the house. Both  Deputy Gorst and Mr Farnham denied it existed.  My 9 year old heard the programme  on the radio and when I got home was very keen to tell me that if it was secret they either would not know, or were in it and would have to keep silent to keep it secret. Good logic my boy.

This has also been mentioned by Trevor Pitman that " whilst there may be 53 democratically elected Members in the Chamber the only ones that matter are a small and secretive inner circle". And Senator Ben Shenton complained when he was health minister of an small coterie of Ministers, including Philip Ozouf and Alan Maclean, who would meet separately to discuss matters.

In this respect, I think it is useful to consider the work by Paul Sanders on "The British Channel Islands under German occupation, 1940-1945", where he discusses what he terms the "parameters of collaboration". It is very difficult, he says, to determine where co-operation begins and collaboration starts, which is why he wants to open up the discussion, and look at different kinds of relationships with the occupying forces.

Likewise, I think that talk of a "secret party" may not be the best language to use - it suggests, for a start, that there is a formal alliance. Graham Power describes a meeting after which he made notes immediately following, in which he found an "experience of the formation of an "inner circle" of politicised senior civil servants loyal to the Chief Minister." The Napier report, however, found "no evidence of conspiracy".

If we think of a "secret party" as some kind of secret cabal, meeting in secret to decide matters, and make policy, with its own agenda, then I do not think we are not going to find much evidence of that kind of "secret party". But if we think of it as a looser arrangement, a much more informal one, then I think there are much better grounds for its existence.

C.S. Lewis quotes the passage from Tolstoy with which I began this article, and notes that there are two quite different hierarchies at work; one is formal, and the other is much harder to pin down. Is it a "secret party"? Well, not quiet, because it doesn't have the formal attributes we associate with party, but that doesn't mean it does not exist, and does not exert an influence commensurate or even greater than a formal party:
In the passage I have just read from Tolstoy, the young second lieutenant Boris Dubretskoi discovers that there exist in the army two different systems or hierarchies. The one is printed in some little red book and anyone can easily read it up. It also remains constant. A general is always superior to a colonel, and a colonel to a captain. The other is not printed anywhere. Nor is it even a formally organised secret society with officers and rules which you would be told after you had been admitted. You are never formally and explicitly admitted by anyone. You discover gradually, in almost indefinable ways, that it exists and that you are outside it; and then later, perhaps, that you are inside it.

There are what correspond to passwords, but they are too spontaneous and informal. A particular slang, the use of particular nicknames, an allusive manner of conversation, are the marks. But it is not so constant. It is not easy, even at a given moment, to say who is inside and who is outside. Some people are obviously in and some are obviously out, but there are always several on the borderline. And if you come back to the same Divisional Headquarters, or Brigade Headquarters, or the same regiment or even the same company, after six weeks' absence, you may find this secondary hierarchy quite altered.

There are no formal admissions or expulsions. People think they are in it after they have in fact been pushed out of it, or before they have been allowed in: this provides great amusement for those who are really inside. It has no fixed name. The only certain rule is that the insiders and outsiders call it by different names. From inside it may be designated, in simple cases, by mere enumeration: it may be called "You and Tony and me." When it is very secure and comparatively stable in membership it calls itself "we." When it has to be expanded to meet a particular emergency it calls itself "all the sensible people at this place." From outside, if you have despaired of getting into it, you call it "That gang" or "they" or "So-and-so and his set" or "The Caucus" or "The Inner Ring." If you are a candidate for admission you probably don't call it anything. To discuss it with the other outsiders would make you feel outside yourself. And to mention talking to the man who is inside, and who may help you if this present conversation goes well, would be madness.

Lewis is speaking to students at University, and he comments that "I can assure you that in whatever hospital, inn of court, diocese, school, business, or college you arrive after going down, you will find the Rings-what Tolstoy calls the second or unwritten systems."

And that these exist in Government is almost certain, but the lack of formal status means that an honest answer would be that no "secret party" exists in that sense.

None of this is that new. Looking at the history of the eighteenth century, Lewis Namier notes that there was often categories used in historical explanation of an "inner cabinet" and an "outer cabinet", but that was beset with the same kind of problems that "secret party" has for us today. He wrote:

It has left us a dangerous terminological legacy or, more precisely, has bequeathed to us a bad misnomer. 'Inner Cabinet' and 'Outer Cabinet' have become accepted terms for the eighteenth-century situation, whereby a false analogy with similar bodies in our own time has been established. Even now there is good ground to demur against using the term 'Inner Cabinet', because it tends to endow that fleeting shadowy group with a too formal and well-nigh official character. Some expression like 'inner ring' or 'directing group' would seem preferable.

That didn't mean that this "inner ring" did not exist - he notes that in the 1740s there was an inner ring consisting of the Duke of Newcastle, Henry Pelham, and Lord Chancellor Hardwicke.

Now some discussions among groups of like minded individuals are inevitable, and friendships are formed on that basis, but equally, it can lead in politics to the exclusion of others, and informal strategies and approaches which can operate against the more open and wider discussions of issues, as the "inner ring" or "directing group" pursues its own agenda, one part of which, of course, is obviously to keep them in a position of power. The move towards open elections for Chief Minister is a good way of thwarting that desire, and there can be little doubt that attempts will be made to rescind it as soon as possible.

Lewis saw that "inner rings" were to some extent inevitable, and were morally neutral, although the desire to be inside one could be corrosive, eating away at the integrity of those who were members, so that "the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things".

This is because an inner ring confers power over others, access to information not available to others and the power to exclude others. It needs a special determination to avoid using this kind of privilege to abuse power. But this will not be the kind of abuse of power that is clearly illegal, just unethical.

Obviously bad men, obviously threatening or bribing, will almost certainly not appear. Over a drink or a cup of coffee, disguised as a triviality and sandwiched between two jokes, from the lips of a man, or woman, whom you have recently been getting to know rather better and whom you hope to know better still-just at the moment when you are most anxious not to appear crude, or naïf [naïve], or a prig-the hint will come. It will be the hint of something which is not quite in accordance with the technical rules of fair play: something which the public, the ignorant, romantic public, would never understand; something which even the outsiders in your own profession are apt to make a fuss about; but something, says your new friend, which "we"-and at the word "we" you try not to blush for mere pleasure-something "we always do."

(2) The Inner Ring, C.S. Lewis
(2) Crossroads of Power: Essays on Eighteenth-Century England. Lewis Namier, 1963

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Letters on On War from Late Antiquity

I've been enjoying reading the letters of Synesius of Cyrene c.370-c.413), a neoplatonist philosopher who also became Bishop of Cyrene. During his time, he had to take up arms and help mount a defense of the city in which he lived, and like the philosophers of antiquity, saw no contradiction in this - philosophy had to also involve how one lived one's whole life, it was not just about thinking (as the modern splout) and also even involved what we call science.

He was taught by Hypatia, and never lost touch with her. Here is a letter about the wars written in 401, when the tribal nomads had ravaged the city in search of easy pickings:

To the Philosopher [Hypatia]

Even though "there shall be utter forgetfulness of the dead in Hades, even there shall I remember thee,"my dear Hypatia. I am encompassed by the sufferings of my city, and disgusted with her, for I daily see the enemy forces, and men slaughtered like victims on an altar. I am breathing an air tainted by the decay of dead bodies. I am waiting to undergo myself the same lot that has befallen so many others, for how can one keep any hope, when the sky is obscured by the shadow of birds of prey?

Yet even under these conditions I love the country. Why then do I suffer? Because I am a Libyan, because I was born here, and it is here that I see the honored tombs of my ancestors. On your account alone I think I should be capable of overlooking my city, and changing my abode, if ever I had the chance of doing so.

And also in 401, here is a letter about cowardly behavior in a war, written to his brother, and the type of character it descibes in Joannes the Phrygian, with mocking sarcasm, is a universal type. It is hard to realise that it was written over 1600 years ago; it seems almost contemporary in its lively chatty, conversational tone:

How often one sees the same men who are very courageous in peace-time showing themselves cowardly at the moment of combat! That is to say, they are worthless everywhere. Thus it seems to me that everyone should be thankful to war, for it is an exact touchstone of the blood in the heart of each one of us. It takes away many boasters, and returns them to us more temperate men. In the future, we shall no longer see the guilty Joannes swaggering about the public square, and attacking with kicks and blows men of a peaceable disposition. Indeed, yesterday the proverb, or rather the oracle, received clear information, for you certainly know it as an oracle: There be no long-haired men who are not degenerates?

For some days now they have been warning us of the approach of the enemy. I thought that we ought to meet these. The leader of the Balagritae drew up his forces, and sallied out with them. Then, having occupied the plain first, we waited. The enemy did not appear. In the evening we went away home each of us, after we had arranged to return upon the following day.

During this time, Joannes the Phrygian was nowhere; at least he was invisible, but he spread rumors in secret, at one moment that he had broken his leg and they had been obliged to amputate it, at another that he was suffering from asthma, later that some other untoward fate had overtaken him. Such tale-bearers kept drifting in from different sides, or so they pretended, the object being, no doubt, that no one should know into what retreat our man had slipped, or where he was concealed.

And you should have heard them in the midst of their narration deploring the unlucky misfortune with tears in their eyes. "Ah! Now is the moment when we need his generous spirit - strong hands like his. What wonderful things he would have done, how he would have shone!" In each case, crying "Oh, evil destiny!", they wrung their hands and disappeared.

Of course, they all belong to that company which Joannes fed at his table, for no good purpose - men with long hair like himself, base creatures, "impudent thieves of lambs and goats" and, by the gods, sometimes of women also. Such are the henchmen that he has been preparing for a long time. To be a man amongst them he never attempts. That would be too difficult. He is a cunning fellow withal, and he seeks the best opportunities of appearing a man in the eyes of those who are real man, but methinks fortune has upset all his calculations famously.

For five days we had in vain sallied out in arms to find the enemy, but they were always at the frontier places which they were engaged in devastating. Then when Joannes was convinced that the enemy would not dare to come into the heart of the country, he himself appeared and is now turning everything into confusion.

He ill? Never! Why, he was even laughing at people who believed such a story. He had come from a great distance, he said, I know not whence. He had been called there to bring assistance, and it was owing to this that the districts which had called on him were saved, for the enemy did not invade, terrified as they were at the mere rumor of the approach of Joannes. Once he had tranquillized everything there, he rushed up, he said, to the menaced province. He is waiting for the barbarians, who may appear at any moment, so long as they are not aware of his presence, and so long as his name is not mentioned.

So, here he is, spreading confusion everywhere. He is claiming to be the general's right hand, he is promising that in no time at all he will teach the art of victory. He is shouting "Front form! Fall into line! Form square to the flank!" In a word he is using all the words of the military profession without any knowledge of their meaning.

It was now late in the evening. It was time to pursue our attack. When we came down from the mountains, we pushed on to the plain. There four young men - peasants, as their clothes indicated - rushed to us at top speed shouting as loud as they could. No one had need of a diviner to see that they were in terror of the enemy, and that they were in a hurry to find refuge amongst our troops. Before they had time to tell us properly that the enemy was there, we saw some wretched creatures on horseback, men who, to judge from the look of them, had been pushed into battle merely by hunger, and were quite ready to risk their lives in order to possess of our goods.

The moment that they saw us, as we also saw them, before they were within javelin throw, they jumped from their horses, as is their way, to give battle on foot. I was of the opinion that we ought to do the same thing, for the ground did not lend itself to cavalry maneuvers. But our noble friend said he would not renounce the arts of horsemanship, and insisted on delivering a cavalry attack.

What then? He pulls the horse's head sharply to the side, turns and flees away at full gallop, covers his horse with blood, gives it full rein, incites it with frequent application of spear, whip, and voice. I really do not know which of the two to admire the more, the horse or the rider, for if the horse galloped up hill and down hill and over rough country and smooth alike, cleared ditches and banks at a bound, the horseman for his part, kept his seat in the saddle firm and unshaken. I am sure the enemy thought it a fine sight, and were only too anxious to have many such.

We could not give them this satisfaction, but you may imagine that we were disconcerted after having taken the promises of this hirsute beauty so seriously. So we drew up the line of battle to receive the enemy, if he should attack us. But we did not wish to take the initiative in the engagement ourselves. With such an example before us, the bravest of us distrusted his neighbor. Here nothing was a greater abomination than a head of hair, for the possessor seemed the most likely to betray us.

However, the enemy did not seem in a hurry to open the attack any more than we were, for they drew up their line of battle and waited for us, in order to drive us back, in case we should take the offensive. On both sides the troops stood watching each other. Finally they drew off to the left and then we to the right, but at a walking pace and without haste, so that the retreat might not have the appearance of a flight.

Notwithstanding all these anxieties, we tried to find out where in the world Joannes was. He had galloped without reining up as far as Bombaea, and he remained hidden in the cave there, like a field-mouse in its hole. Bombaea is a mountain full of caverns, where art and nature have combined to form an impregnable fortress. It has been long celebrated, and justly: they often compare it to the subterranean vaults of Egypt. But today everyone admits that there are no walls behind which one could be safer than at Bombaea, since even the most prudent of all men - I am too polite to say the most cowardly, the right word to use - has gone thither to hide himself, as to the surest refuge. The moment one enters this place, one is in a regular labyrinth, hard to get through, so that it by itself could provide places of refuge for Joannes.


Saturday, 24 September 2011

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves: A Meditation for the Equinox

I have been sleeping on the long train journey, but now it draws to its end, and I am awaked to the sound of the train whistle, piping and high, as the train breaks, and slowly comes to rest in the station. On the platform, I see through a haze of steam, the Station Master; he is waving a flag, and calls out loudly "End of the line" as the train finally comes to a halt.

I open the carriage door, and step down onto the platform, looking around. This is indeed, the end of the line, and I see old men and women, and young families with children; for all these, this is the terminus where they need to begin their final journey home.

I walk out of the station and into the bright sunlight, along the road, which is bordered by trees, their branches swaying gently in the breeze, bright autumn leaves of golden brown and red forming an avenue. As I watch, a leaf falls, fluttering slowly down to the ground.

Off from the road, I climb over a sty. There is a path leading out across the fields and I take it, trudging through the fallen leaves. On my way, by the hedgerows, I see thorny bramble bushes ripe with fresh blackberries, and I carefully pick some and enjoy their sweet taste.

The sun is nearly setting as I pass fields full of labourers, hard at work, gathering in the wheat, and I see that their task is nearly complete; it needs only a few more days to gather in the harvest. A bell tolls, and they begin to pack up, and leave. As we pass, I nod in greeting, and they nod back. And finally, there is no one left but one lady, sitting on a stone, breaking her journey home. Beside her is a silver sickle, which she has been using in the harvest.

I see that she has a flask of cider, and as I pass her, I greet her and she offers it to me. I take a swig and enjoy the sweet taste of apples. And she has a loaf, and breaks off some bread, and hands me a part. Then she sings:

Home is the harvest, once again,
The goddess brings the ripened grain
The crops and bounty, gift to cheer
The wheel turns, the end of year
Before in winter, seeds do hide
Rejoice in this, our harvest tide

Drink deeply from the cider cask
And gather in, the reaper's task:
The season's cycle, death, rebirth
Rhythms of life within the earth
By wind and storm, a scattered spore
Now gathered in to Autumn's store

Harvest prayers, that all be fed
And grain becomes our daily bread
Of sustenance for thinking reed
Together now, break bread and feed
Of all the hopes and joys today
And comfort us upon our way

I have finished eating and drinking, and I get up to go. She hands me a lantern, and we embrace, then she moves back along the path to where I can now see the light of dwellings. But my way, for now, is away from those comforting lights, that cosy domestic warmth of hearth and home, and I head away into the gathering darkness.

The sun is setting, and it is darkening fast. I see the sky, dark clouds against a brilliant purple sky, and the outlines of trees in the distance.

I light the lantern and continue on my way. The path is now passing through trees, and the sound of birds has ceased. All is quiet, with only the sound of my feet crunching on the fallen leaves and acorns on the forest floor. I hear the hoot of a tawny owl, and continue along this old path, past ancient tree trunks.

The path opens up into a clearing, and I stop because I have seen lights flickering in the distance, and hear singing. The lights come closer, and I see five robed monks enter the clearing. Four in brown robes are holding candles, and in their midst, lit up by the flickering flame, is a fifth monk in a white robe, holding a silver chalice high in both hands as they process.

Now I can hear more clearly what they are chanting, as they pass by:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence
and with fear and trembling stand;
Here is vision bright that reminded
Of the maker working with his hand
Fine he wrought and crafted vessel
Of the metals buried deep in land

Golden ages are ending, time is over
And now the age of silver stood
Here the grape is ripened, fermented
In the oak casks of wood
So take to give to the faithful
Drink deeply of dark wine so good

Take the old straight track and go
Follow patterning on the way
As the Light of Light descending
Seeks the realms of endless day,
Beside the oceans of night here
As the darkness clears away.

The monks pass, and disappear into the distance. I see the path from which they came, an old straight path, and I take that path, moving downwards, past overgrown gorse bushes. Below, I can hear the sea, the waves breaking on the rocks.

I squeeze past the gorse bushes and step out on a rocky outcrop. There is a hermit, dressed in a grey hooded robe, sitting, looking out to sea, and he rises up, holding high a lantern, and gazing at the waves dashing against the rocks.

I watch in the same direction, and the moon suddenly emerges from behind the clouds, and I see moonbeams reflecting on the swirling waters of the sea. Further out from the rocks, around the headland, comes the dragon prow of a Viking ship, which slowly glides out into the bay.

By the bright moonlight, I can see the deck of the ship. There is a chieftain, lying on a bier, and with his hands clasped together around a silver sword. And there is a lady sitting at his feet, wearing a holly wreath, and dressed in a flowing green robe. And as I watch, she rises to face us, and raises a hand to wave in parting. Then the boat rounds the rocks, and I can see it no more.

Then the hermit turns, and I see his pale blue eyes, his hooked nose, and his white beard. He says to me:

This is the end of days
Darkened skies
Autumn's cloak over creation
Gather the harvest fruits
And the fruits of our lives
And look to the future
And the end of days

For remember this well:
In the end is the beginning

He bows to me and turns to sit again on a rock, looking out to sea. My audience with him is over, and I must leave him to his silence, gazing at the foam-flecked waves.

For it is time to return, so I turn and leave, and travel back along the old straight track, treading on the golden autumn leaves, until I arrive at my home once more

This is a journey that I need to make, time and again, until, like the Viking Warrior, it is my last, and there will be a final harvest of autumn fruits.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Election Notes

Just a brief note on matters of no great importance!

Ben Querre said that "eight of the 12 Parish Constables were re-elected unopposed on nomination last night, including one newcomer, Michel Le Troquer..."

And made a slip - Philip Rondel is also a newcomer to the ranks of Constables, and one of the eight re-elected unopposed!

I use mnemonics to remember people's names. For Chris Whitworth, I think of Whitworths Raisins, and after he left a ridiculous cardboard cut-out, the mnemonic connection is even strong. What goes well with Whitworths Raisins? Nuts, of course! His picture is ridiculous - check it out if you don't believe me. My pundit prediction: he will be last.

Second to last will be Darius Pearce, with his ridiculous idea of polling the public before asking questions. It was notable that he didn't actually ask for a show of hands before making his views known at the last hustings, but does actually have opinions of his own - although these might be the result of a poll he carried out on the way to the hustings.

Stuart Syvret is making a surprisingly good showing, and let's remember that if the election deposits - mooted by Privileges and Procedures - had been brought in last year, he would probably not be able to stand, while Philip Bailhache, with lots of cash, would. Juliette Gallichan has said she is stepping down from Privileges and Procedures, and it's not before time - this kind of proposition should never have been given the time of day, and was strongly voted down in the States.

Election posters: Lyndon Farnham has a pose that suggests he should or would really like to be holding a Walther pistol like James Bond. Sean Power has the slogan "Same Energy" - but seems remarkably youthful looking - is it also a case of "Same Photo" as last time?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Manufacturing Voting Consent

The JEP leader sounded off about the importance of the hustings:

Although the hustings remain an essential part of the electoral process, it must be said that live appearances before parish hall audiences are now only part of a much wider campaigning process. Traditional platform speeches and question and answer sessions have long been accompanied by newspaper and broadcast media coverage, but new means of communication are now very much parts of the campaign landscape. Websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter allow election hopefuls to issue an incessant stream of information - or disinformation - to the electorate should they wish to do so.

It is, meanwhile, easy to make a case for the continuing primacy of the hustings as a means of weighing up the suitability of candidates. Crafting a lucid manifesto or firing off tweets are skills which, in their separate ways, can enrich the campaign, but a candidate's true mettle is revealed only when he or she stands up in public to speak and then face probing questions. (1)

I love the sly dig at "disinformation" from online sources, as if the JEP was unbiased and impartial!

I would also be interested to know whether the "packed Parish Hall" with, I am reliably informed, standing room only left, ever has such numbers that people had to be turned away because of fire regulations.

More than 200 people attended the meeting and there was standing room only at the Parish Hall, with several people standing in the lobby behind the assembly room to hear the candidates speak. (2)

Channel TV had a slightly different estimate:

More than 250 people turned out for Jersey's first senatorial hustings at St Clement's Parish Hall last night. (4)

With such variation, I suspect that no proper headcount was taken, and it was purely a guess based on a rough count of the number of seats, and the people standing, always tricky when the seats are occupied.

I would have thought, going by comparison with UK Parish Halls, that no more than around 300 would be allowed inside - it would be interesting to know what the regulations are, or if anyone has bothered to check. So while it was a good many people, it was not a massive amount compared to the whole population of St Clement, one of the most densely populated Parishes. It has 6,167 electors (3), so 3% turned out to the hustings.

I have heard candidates - both those whom I've supported, and whom I've disagreed with - both say similar things - that the response to them was good in the hustings, and they find it strange that this was not reflected in the vote. But it isn't that strange at all.

What the JEP falls to say is that it is the presentation of the hustings, to the widest public, which in fact probably means their own newspaper, which guides the public perception. And how those hustings are reported on, with two or three hours condensed down to three or even four pages will make a difference. In the old days, the JEP would have pretty well all reportage, with perhaps one photo, but now the photos abound, each grabbing space from what is reported. So there is a selection process at work.

This is plainest to see in the way in which - beside a photograph showing Sir Philip Bailhache centre stage, the report opens with:

THE Senatorial hustings campaign began in St Clement last night with former Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache launching an attack on the current crop of States Members. (2)

That is called "framing" a presentation, and it has its own kind of bias, which focuses primarily on one of the candidates to the detriment of the others.

And that's also all the online version has to say, so you have to buy the paper to see what it reports the other candidates as saying, making in part a précis, and livening that with the odd direct quotation. But is the summary accurate? How much weight is given to different answers? You would have to be at the Hustings to assess that, and have a very good memory.

The inability to decide what happened at the nomination meeting with the declaration of Geoff Southern's convictions shows just how poor that ability is. People today do not have good memories for anything other than sound-bites, and the ability to listen to a good reasoned argument (if there were time for such) and remember it has gone. We have lost that skill.

Candidates learn to speak in brief sound bites, and advertisements are increasingly limited in length. Neither affords the opportunity for any sustained political reasoning, even if the candidates were inclined to reason. (6)

The reporting of the candidates short speeches is mostly complete, as can be seen by comparison with the online record of them at Voice for Jersey:

This is probably because the candidates were reading from prepared speeches, and it was easy enough for the JEP to obtain a copy. There are a few changes between the spoken and written word, but nothing of substance.

The BBC presentation on their website is much briefer.

Candidates were questioned about radioactive gas, States reform and the best things about Jersey at the first hustings of the election campaign...Questions from the public ranged from what the candidates would do to help individuals to whether a referendum should be binding on the States...Planning and building issues were also brought up by candidates in the opening speeches.

The photo is a general one of the hall with none of the JEP's prominence given to Sir Philip Bailhache, either in the photo or the reporting, which is pretty basic, and only tells you what questions were asked, not the replies.

There is no mention of any of the candidates in person, with one singular and notable exception - Chris Whitworth, who did not attend, but had a large cardboard cut-out in his place. I don't know if he will keep up this strategy, and his manifesto on has a photo of himself gurning to the camera, but it seems likely he is trying hard to become Jersey's answer to Screaming Lord Such, and will almost certainly finish last.

The Channel Report online summary was also brief, and only mentioned two candidate:

Not all the candidates presented manifestos - Chris Whitworth chose to present a cardboard cutout of himself on his seat instead. Darius Pearce, who announced he would not be attending the hustings because he believed they are not useful, did turn up. (4)

Public perception is not, I would imagine, largely made up from hustings meetings, which is why those standing are sometimes taken aback when hustings popularity does not translate into votes. If they are in the States, there is a past record to account for, and manifestos won't dwell on the less favourable actions by States members! Posters shove the faces of those standing with names, so that is another form of endorsement.

But by far one of the most powerful is probably the JEP. Back in 1948, it was blatantly telling people who to vote for. Times change, and the paper must be less obviously biased, but do not doubt that they are still in the business of manufacturing consent for their slate, even if it is no longer on public display quite so obviously, as nowadays it would probably turn people away from some candidates:

Bias in the news that favors one candidate over another may influence voters' perceptions of the candidates and can even affect their voting decisions. News coverage that is perceived as being biased may also be ignored or discounted by voters. (5)

But the presentation is still one of "honest brokers" between government and people, and presenting the hustings to the readership. However, the reportage has to be summarised, and that leads to selection, so that there is not and cannot be complete objectivity. How the selection is made will be determined by the bias of the editor and his team, and either consciously or unconsciously that will be effected by their own preferences. It is certainly clear there is a bias towards Sir Philip Bailhache in the reporting by the JEP (although that may be in part, at least, caused by his name being first alphabetically, so he is called first to speak):

Only selected stories are covered by the media, and one outlet may pursue one or another theme or topic that is ignored by another outlet. The news is not a blank slate upon which events are writ, but a construction of reality where organizational needs, personal judgments, and events meet in setting the day's stories (7)

The other problem, of course, is that the media tend to reflect the inability to process information except where it is in a short "sound bite", so that even where there is reporting, complex arguments get cut in favour of shorter bites that the reporter believes captures what the candidate is trying to say.

Increasingly shorter sound bites on television news and presentation of "nuggetized factoids" devoid of historical or political context in all media may lead to processing information episodically rather than reflectively (6)

This trend has, of course, been going on for some time. In 1983, Bishop John Taylor talked about the inability to listen, the way in which we tune out and block what we don't want to hear, and the failing to remember well what someone has said.

Human beings are losing the skill of communication: which is a paradox, for communications are undergoing a revolutionary expansion... And enriched with, almost drowned by, sources of information, where do we find time for reflection on it? How good are we at actually getting sense out of it? Where can we arrive at a mature understanding of the information we receive? Are we as good as our grandparents at hearing what folks say? at remembering what they say? (8)

I don't know what the solution is, but perhaps instead of classes in self-help, improvements, meditative techniques, etc, there might be classes in listening, recall, memory, reflection. In everyday life extensive listening to others is not the 'norm'.  As Annie Parmeter said:

active listening and minimal non-interpretative intervention is in itself an enormous contradiction to the usual climate of interaction found in everyday life

What we need is to improve skills for active listening to others, including restating, summarising, asking for clarification, and to some extent, run counter to the culture of our times. That, I think, rather that the "calibre" of candidates (as presented by themselves or in the media) will lead to an improvement in political engagement and debate. It's not a quick fix, but then nothing worthwhile ever is.

(5) Media Messages in American Presidential Elections. Diana Owen, 1991
(6) Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research. J Bryant, D. Zillmann, 2002
(7) The Psychology of Media and Politics, George Comstock and Erica Scharrer, 2005
(8) JV Taylor at the Diocesan Conference (Ephphatha) held in 1983
(9) Memories, Dreams and Insights, Annie Parmeter, 2010

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Practical Politician

Two men each wanted to build a house. The first man was in a hurry - he wanted it to be easy. He found a flat, sandy spot. He didn't bother with any digging, he built the walls straight onto the sand. The house was quickly built.

The second man wanted his house to last. He chose a place where the ground was hard. He dug deep foundation trenches for his walls, so that they were built straight onto the strong rock beneath the soil. It was a lot of hard work, and it took a long time - but the house was very strong.

Suddenly, a great storm came. Strong winds blew, and it rained so hard that flood waters swept across the land.

The house built on the rock stood firm, but the house built on sand crumbled into a heap of ruins.

There is a lot of pragmatism in politics these days, looking at what is useful, what gets things done as quickly and easily as possible, how to fix problems, but without any detailed consideration of principles. If it works, it is good enough, is the abiding method. This is not a consistent philosophy, but it has its roots in a very distinctive philosophy, that of pragmatism. Michael Sullivan summaries this briefly:

"A distinctly American brand of philosophy, pragmatism emerged at the turn of the twentieth century from thinkers such as Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Although they differed in many respects, classical pragmatists generally viewed philosophy as a tool to grapple with life's problems.  Pragmatists assessed the success of a philosophy not in terms of its correspondence to ultimate eternal truths, but based upon its usefulness as a practical tool to yield better, more satisfying experiences."(1)

And more recently, Richard Posner has applied it to the principle of laws and how they operate:

all that a pragmatic jurisprudence really connotes--and it connoted it in 1897 or 1921 as much as it does today--is a rejection of the idea that law is something grounded in permanent principles and realized in logical manipulations of those principles, and a determination to use law as an instrument for social ends. (2)

For Posner, "pragmatism is more a tradition, attitude, and outlook than a body of doctrine"; he denies that it has any moral base at all. Instead, he argues that it is value neutral, or as he terms pragmatism - it has  "no inherent political valence." Rather than the more sophistical pragmatism of James and Dewey, which was a complete systematic philosophy (albeit not without problems), Posner suggests that what is needed is more what he calls "everyday pragmatism", a kind of looser approach. This - as described by Posner - is what I believe we are seeing very much in politics today. As Posner says:

"Everyday pragmatism is the mindset denoted by the popular usage of the word 'pragmatic,' meaning practical and business-like, 'no-nonsense,' disdainful of abstract theory and intellectual pretension, contemptuous of moralizers and utopian dreamers."

"Everyday pragmatists tend to be 'dry,' no-nonsense types. Philosophical pragmatists tend to be 'wets,' and to believe that somehow their philosophy really can clear the decks for liberal social policies, though this is largely an accident of the fact that John Dewey was a prominent liberal." (2)

And he goes on to argue that the core of pragmatism is not a thought out philosophy (which can be discarded), but rather "merely a disposition to base action on facts and consequences rather than on conceptualisms, generalities, pieties, and slogans." In this value free decision making, "goodness and badness are to be determined by reference to human needs and interests"

But as Sullivan and Solove point out, this means that the "no  nonsense" pragmatist has in fact values in built into the way it approaches any problems, which is to largely maintain the status quo, and go with the flow:

"Because it rejects any way to discuss the selection of ends, Posnerian pragmatism has little choice but to accept uncritically the dominant ends of society. This result is rather ironic considering Posner's claim that pragmatism has no political valence. Since Posner's pragmatism lacks the tools to engage in more radical social reform, it becomes a rather conservative philosophy in the Burkean sense. It ends up inhibiting the kinds of philosophical inquiries necessary to question the status quo. Therefore, the effects of Posnerian pragmatism are anything but neutral."(1)

Linked to this "no nonsense" idea is that of best kind of leader. Posner evidently believes that there need to be "natural leaders", and their job is to take the reigns of power and make practical decisions. In a somewhat cynical passage, he argues that there will always be those who are suited to power:

"society is composed of wolves and sheep. The wolves are the natural leaders. They rise to the top in every society. The challenge to politics is to provide routes to the top that deflect the wolves from resorting to violence, usurpation, conquest, and oppression to obtain their place in the sun."(2)

Of course, this can be dressed up in much more attractive forms. For example, this is presented dressed up in attractive form as that of the "elder statesmen", who are "people with 'presence'... people who lead with sensitivity, integrity and experience", these are the wise, experienced hands that are needed, rather than ordinary people, who just might know the problems at the rock face from hard experience.

It needs a considerable degree of empathy, after all, for a wolf to see things from the sheep's point of view, but the wolf has learned to be charming, and presentable, in order to get the electorate's all important vote, with seductive promises.

I remember, as if it were yesterday, Terry Le Sueur's speech before he became Chief Minister, where he promised "consensus" and bringing in a wider participation in the Council of Ministers and Assistant Ministers than had been the case, and as Ben Querree noted in the JEP, went ahead and just appointed his old croneys. Saying one thing and doing another is a mark of the practical man, because you say what people want to hear, and you do want you want to do. There is no inconsistency, because there is no principle.

It reminds me of the warning of Jesus: "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves"

It has been a criticism of the States recently that there is too much time wasted in debates, but I think part of the problem is that there is too little listening to different points of view. Question time is a disappointment, not because of the mass of questions asked, but because of the large amount of prevarication, and avoidance of a direct answer.

But to read the manifestos, you would think that the problem lay with those outside the Council of Ministers, who keep raising matters, and note how the agenda is shaped by calling the matters raised "trivial"

Too much time is wasted by the discussion of trivial matters.

Chesterton commented on how what is classed as "trivial" is often so classed deliberately by the practical people in power, simply because they don't consider matters of principle as important, and they give this perception to the public, or as we would say, in the modern idiom, "spin" the yarn that these are "trivial" and "time wasting":

Why do you think of these things as small? I will tell you. Unconsciously, no doubt, but simply and solely because the Front Benches did not announce them as big.

Many propositions or amendments end up with comments by the Council of Ministers, no doubt prepared by civil servants, but whose import is usually, "we have the right answer". The only kind of deliberation that is called for is one that reaches consensus, and the advantages of ideas and policies being tested by being subjected to critical scrutiny is resisted, because there is too great a personal investment in those policies, and too little critical reflection. 

Jesus said: ""Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Unfortunately Government by practical people largely consists of magnifying specks of sawdust, and hiding the plank behind dark rose-tinted glasses. Lacking principles, ego and its defence is all that remains.

The comments by Sullivan on Posner's attitude to consensus reflect very much a similar kind of notion:

Posner wrongly believes that deliberation must lead to consensus in order to have value. But deliberation furthers important values even when it does not produce consensus. For one thing, there is value in clarifying the conflict, not just in resolving it.  Second, to the degree that we fail to recognize the divergence of viewpoints in our community, we are handicapped in our attempts to bridge the gaps. The failure to understand different perspectives can lead to hasty solutions based on inadequate descriptions of the problem. Third, in many contexts, individuals are at least as concerned with being heard as they are with instantiating their view of the "right answer." (1)

Posner's approach is a cut-price bargain basement version of pragmatism, which is why, I suspect, what he says corresponds quite considerably with the "no nonsense" approach we see in the States, in which a quick fix is preferable to a debate on principles.

G.K. Chesterton noted long before that practical men have the dregs of an incomplete philosophy guiding them, and not any clear principles, and because of that, they make more mistakes:

Men have always one of two things: either a complete and conscious philosophy or the unconscious acceptance of the broken bits of some incomplete and shattered and often discredited philosophy. (3)

Chesterton argues that what is needed is a return to philosophy, and away from the "no nonsense practical approach":

Political and social relations are already hopelessly complicated. They are far more complicated than any page of medieval metaphysics; the only difference is that the medievalist could trace out the tangle and follow the complications; and the moderns cannot. The chief practical things of today, like finance and political corruption, are frightfully complicated. We are content to tolerate them because we are content to misunderstand them, not to understand them. The business world needs metaphysics - to simplify it.

And against this he paints a picture of what will happen with the "practical man" in charge, devising strategy on the basis of what is practical and business-like, 'no-nonsense' . Given that this was written in 1950, it seems to describe with horrible accuracy the complete muddles we see in the States today, or in other Governments around the world, time and time again.

[As an aside, I cannot help remember in recent times that Bill Ogley was brought in as a Chief Adviser to the States as a practical man, who was adept at "managing change", but he is but one of a succession of "practical men", and exemplifies the type, and where the whole philosophy is wrong.]

I know these words will be received with scorn, and with gruff reassertion that this is no time for nonsense and paradox; and that what is really wanted is a practical man to go in and clear up the mess. And a practical man will doubtless appear, one of the unending succession of practical men; and he will doubtless go in, and perhaps clear up a few millions for himself and leave the mess more bewildering than before; as each of the other practical men has done.

The reason is perfectly simple. This sort of rather crude and unconscious person always adds to the confusion; because he himself has two or three different motives at the same moment, and does not distinguish between them. A man has, already entangled hopelessly in his own mind, (1) a hearty and human desire for money, (2) a somewhat priggish and superficial desire to be progressing, or going the way the world is going, (3) a dislike to being thought too old to keep up with the young people, (4) a certain amount of vague but genuine patriotism or public spirit...

And it is because there is too little introspection, too little looking critically at his own beliefs and desires that the practical man ends up just making short term fixes, and not really having any principles to base this on, so that he (or she) takes for granted many assumptions that should be questioned, because they never consider that their own beliefs could be flawed, because after all, they have no ideology, religious or otherwise, other than a "no nonsense practical approach"

When a man has all these things in his head, and does not even attempt to sort them out, he is called by common consent and acclamation a practical man. But the practical man cannot be expected to improve the impracticable muddle; for he cannot clear up the muddle in his own mind, let alone in his own highly complex community and civilisation. For some strange reason, it is the custom to say of this sort of practical man that "he knows his own mind". Of course this is exactly what he does not know. He may in a few fortunate cases know what he wants, as does a dog or a baby of two years old; but even then he does not know why he wants it. And it is the why and the how that have to be considered when we are tracing out the way in which
some culture or tradition has got into a tangle.

Chesterton argues that we need a return to philosophy, to clarify the muddle, to have some idea where we are going and why, or we will just be carried along by the tide, and by and large react to circumstances with ill thought out ideas, and no consideration of where this is really leading.

As Popper notes,  any action we take is likely to have unintended consequences. Zero ten seemed like a good idea, but more and more businesses, trading in Jersey, but owned outside of Jersey, are escaping paying any taxation; this is the unintended consequence of the policy. The JEP has comment on this that:

Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf has promised on more than one occasion that the massive gap - it is certainly no loophole - that allows businesses that trade here but are not based here to avoid taxation will be closed. It is a fairly safe bet that high-level work on this problem is already under way, but a great many Islanders would now like to see signs of tangible progress.

And so another fix is needed to correct problems that should have been foreseen from the start, if there had not been such a rush to get the new taxation house built quickly. There was really not much idea of how the system would work out, it was simply borrowed from the Isle of Man as a practical measure to avoid breaching Europe's harmful taxation policies, and as usual rushed through. Unlike the JEP, I think it is a fairly safe bet that no work will be under way on addressing the problems until the States force the issue. We have heard promises that "something will be done" so often that I wonder if the Treasury Minister is modeling himself on Mr Micawber.

I'll leave the last word to Chesterton, and why I think we need more critical reflection in the States today. Popper advocated that we should take cherished ideas and test them to destruction, in order that what remains can stand the test of time, and we can plan for unintended consequences of policies, where possible before they arise.

For there is too little of that, too much ego, and defending the citadel of self, and taking it for granted that policies must be right, and the only thing to do with opposition, is not to listen, but to demolish. That's the kind of leadership you get when practical men, with "no nonsense" ideas, are in charge.

Philosophy is merely thought that has been thought out. It is often a great bore. But man has no alternative, except between being influenced by thought that has been thought out and being influenced by thought that has not been thought out. The latter is what we commonly call culture and enlightenment today. But man is always influenced by thought of some kind, his own or somebody else's; that of somebody he trusts or that of somebody he never heard of, thought at first, second or third hand; thought from exploded legends or unverified rumours; but always something with the shadow of a system of values and a reason for preference. A man does test everything by something. The question here is whether he has ever tested the test.

(1) Law, Pragmatism and Democracy by Michael Sullivan and Daniel J. Solove, Yale Law Journal. 2003
(2) Overcoming Law, Richard A Posner (1995)
(3) The Revival of Philosophy - Why? G. K. Chesterton, 1950