Something to ponder

My readers of earlier days often found fault with my tendency to ponder certain questions at the expense of ”coming up with solutions”  — which may not be my strong point. Nevertheless I have been thinking about a few quotes I read lately. I suppose what was true in the days of Byron, or E.P. Whipple may no longer apply.

First, Lord Byron:

“Words are things; and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.”

Then, E.P. Whipple,a New England writer and essayist:

“The invention of printing added a new element of power to the race. From that hour the brain and not the arm, the thinker and not the soldier, books and not kings, were to rule the world; and weapons, forged in the mind, keen-edged and brighter than the sunbeam, were to supplant the sword and the battle-ax.”

Some time back I posted a quote that said ‘Propaganda is to a democracy what a bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” There is certainly truth to that today.

As to the first two quotes, does the printed (or written) word hold the same power and influence as it once did, in more literate and serious-minded times? Attention spans are much shorter now (in part, thanks to the Internet, and also to lightweight, dumbed-down books and discourse in general). Few people read substantial, high-quality books. Conversation isn’t what it used to be; any literary references will rarely have to do with classic, time-tested thought, but rather pop-culture ephemera in most circles.

And I think Whipple was indulging in some wishful thinking if he believed that the ‘thinker’ has prevailed over the man of action, though the latter doesn’t seem to be in great supply now.

If only thoughts and ideas, preferably nobler ones, carried such weight as Byron suggested. And in the times of both Byron and Whipple, I don’t think there were such great rifts within Western civilization, not on the scale of today’s internal strife. Certainly even in those days warfare was still a fact of life, as always. Today, though, we have a ‘cold’ war ongoing which sometimes crosses a line to real strife and leaves us, the citizens of this country, unable to communicate in a civil fashion with those who oppose.

If only words were still capable of stirring people in the way that Byron believed. Maybe words are too abstract for today’s people, and only visual stimuli provoke thought on a deeper level. Who knows.

We seem to be stuck in a state where we are paralyzed and not capable of moving in one direction or another. I suppose our present immobility suits us for the time being as we seem at a loss as to which way to turn, or what to think about our predicament.





‘Protect us from zealots’

The ‘Brits At Their Best’ blog, whose link I’ve just added to my blogroll, laments the death of Jimmy Perry, linking to a Telegraph piece on Perry and his contribution.

For those who don’t know Perry’s name, I’ll assume you are not fans of classic British sitcoms. Jimmy Perry was a co-creator and writer of some of the best and most fondly-remembered sitcoms from the 60s through the 80s. Dad’s Army was probably the best-known, especially in the United States. Of that series, the writer of the Telegraph article says:

They wouldn’t get away with it today. No black faces, nor any character remotely ethnic other than John Laurie’s tetchy Scotsman. Women only in subsidiary roles. And certainly no suggestion of sexual ambiguity beyond a wet clergyman. The BBC’s modern cultural commissars wouldn’t give the pilot script a second glance. White. Middle class. Home Counties. Show him the door, Doris.”

They also wouldn’t get away with It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum, another Jimmy Perry series. Although it did have ethnic characters, being set in India and Burma during WWII, it also did not follow today’s politically correct dictates. According to a Daily Express article on the BBC’s banning the show from future viewing,

A TV source said: “The word has gone out the series of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum will never be shown in the future on the channel. The censors feel the undertone of racism and catty remarks about different races and religions has no place on BBC channels. Under the modern [BBC] Trust guidelines it is clear the show doesn’t meet the guidelines given to output controllers and channel heads for presentation of Indian culture.

[…]“When the series was aired in the Seventies it was a different time, and the notions and sympathies of modern cultural Britain were a long way away.”

The ‘notions and sympathies of modern cultural Britain’ demand that certain groups, and certain groups only, be exempted from anything that oversensitive groups might see as ‘insensitive’ or in any way critical.

As the Daily Telegraph article linked at the top mentions, much of the humor on Dad’s Army,  unlike today’s crude and insulting ‘comedy’, displayed the characteristic English understatement, and the notion of fair-mindedness. Those are admirable traits, in a more sane world, but it’s tempting to say that those very virtues are being turned against the British, or more exactly, the English in the present dark times. Being fair-minded to the point of being self-effacing is leaving the country open to exploitation and abuse by the aforesaid ‘victim’ classes, who never cease to press their advantage.

The article says that the underlying message of Dad’s Army, as it poked gentle fun at the Walmington-on-Sea folk, was ‘Protect us from zealots!‘ That’s a prayer that we on this side of the Atlantic should also be praying. Although perhaps zealotry must be met with equal zealotry on our side, lest our desire to be ‘fair-minded’ be used against us to our destruction.

[H/T to commenter AlmostMissouri for the Brits at their Best link.]