“Communist doctrines were a great lie.”

Aleksandr_Solzhenitsyn_1974crop

One way to commit evil is simply “not to think,” but willed ignorance of evil already means “the ruin of a human being.” Those who tell Solzhenitsyn not to dig up the past belong to the category of “not-thinkers,” as do Western leftists who make sure not to know. The Germans, he argues, were lucky to have had the Nuremberg trials because they made not-thinking impossible. This Russian patriot advances a unique complaint: “Why is Germany allowed to punish its evildoers and Russia is not?”

Solzhenitsyn discovers yet another cause of totalitarianism’s monstrous evil: “Progressive Doctrine” or “Ideology.” In one famous passage, he asks why Shakespeare’s villains killed only a few people, while Lenin and Stalin murdered millions. The reason is that Macbeth and Iago “had no ideology.” Real people do not resemble the evildoers of mass culture, who delight in cruelty and destruction. No, to do mass evil you have to believe it is good, and it is ideology that supplies this conviction. “Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale of millions.”

From “Solzhenitsyn’s cathedrals” by Gary Saul Morson, in The New Criterion.

Image c/o Wikipedia.

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The Hound of the Baskervilles: a microlecture

A few thoughts about Conan Doyle’s Gothic masterpiece.

Scott-King’s Modern Europe by Evelyn Waugh

‘Then what do you intend to do?’
‘If you  approve, headmaster, I will stay as I am here as long as any boy wants to read the classics. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.’
‘It’s a short-sighted view, Scott-King.’
‘There, headmaster, with all respect, I differ from you profoundly. I think it the most long-sighted view it is possible to take.’

from Scott-King’s Modern Europe, by Evelyn Waugh

Three Men in a Boat – latest 3-minute lecture/podcast on YouTube.

Here is my 3-minute lecture/microlecture/podcast on Jerome K Jerome’s classic, Three Men in a Boat.

 

A three minute lecture – Absent Mothers and Bad Fathers: Silas Marner.

Text:

Bad Fathers and Absent Mothers

Silas Marner is a fairy tale, one in which Silas, the wounded, childless patriarch with no family, is restored to psychological and social health through the intervention of the matriarch-in-waiting, Eppie. Through Eppie Silas regains his lost kingdom, that is, both a place in society, and his faith in humankind. With the marriage of Eppie to Aaron and thus the expectation of children Silas acquires a family and a stake in the future.

A major theme of the novel is that of flawed patriarchs. The book is notable for its bad or useless fathers and fallible men. William Dane betrays Silas in Lantern Yard; Squire Cass is a careless and brutal father, Dunstan is a thief and a liar, while Godfrey is weak-willed, self-centred and a feckless father.

But if the tale is notable for its bad fathers and men then it is equally notable for its absent mothers or matriarchs. Silas at the beginning is without both father and mother, though it is only the latter he recalls (and his dead sister). The Cass boys are also motherless, and Eppie becomes motherless as a child.

It is the women, however, who facilitate the process of reintegrating Silas the outsider into village life and human community. Dolly Winthrop, having taken pity on Silas, visits him, bringing him cakes. The offering and sharing of food is a primal activity that establishes and strengthens the bonds between people.

Dolly also brings along her little son, Aaron, thereby signalling the importance of family within the community. And Aaron of course will eventually marry Eppie, thus sealing Silas’s integration into village life.

The female, matriarchal principle is the civilising, humanising force at work here, healing the rifts between people and helping to re-establish a benevolent patriarchy as a necessary part of a stable society. As in a fairy tale, Eppie is the pauper girl who starts out with nothing and ends up as a kind of princess with family, husband, and a stake in the community; while Silas, the disenfranchised exile, not only establishes a new home for himself but also finds a role as a patriarch in his own household and village.

© Michael Blackburn, 2017

Sucks To Your Revolution – Annoying the Politically Correct

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At last – an antidote to the relentless stream of leftist whingeing on Facebook, Twitter and the media, Sucks To Your Revolution is a selection of my articles for the Currente Calamo column of The Fortnightly Review.

Whether it’s the increasing bands of prodnoses trying to control what we eat, think, say or learn, or the phoney revolutionaries like Russell Brand inciting us to turn the world upside down for the sake of some vague socialist utopia, Sucks To Your Revolution spares none of them.

Articles include:

Stop the March of Cupcake Fascism (yes, eating cupcakes now officially identifies you as a fascist)
Sucks to Your Revolution (the bien pensants wring their hands over the immiserated classes)
Sunnis, Shias and the Religion of Peace (say no more)
The Unintended Horses of Consequence (the EU, Romania and the horsemeat scandal)
Clowns against the Stagnant Quotidian (the Brand buffoon)
Gok Wan’s Bangers (Aussies, boobs and unfunny comediennes)
Kristallnacht in Slow Motion (the growth of acceptable antisemitism).

Plus a new look at Chesterton’s forgotten 1915 classic, The Flying Inn, with its prescient theme of the attempted Islamisation of Britain.

It’s available now in the Kindle Store – Sucks To Your Revolution – at £1.99.

 

Updike’s dumpster archives.

UpdikeDumpsterArchives
Moran has kept thousands of pieces of Updike’s garbage—a trove that he says includes photographs, discarded drafts of stories, canceled checks, White House invitations, Christmas cards, love letters, floppy disks, a Mickey Mouse flip book, and a pair of brown tasseled loafers. It is a collection he calls “the other John Updike archive,” an alternative to the official collection of Updike’s papers maintained by Harvard’s Houghton Library. The phrase doubles as the name of the disjointed blog he writes, and it raises fundamental questions about celebrity, privacy, and who ultimately determines the value and scope of an artist’s legacy.

Source: The Atlantic.