Sunday, 30 January 2011

Poisoning dogs in the park

A woman in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, dies in hospital after being mauled by a pack of stray dogs. People who lived in Bucharest in the 90s when sometimes very fearsome strays were in almost every street are not sympathetic to newcomers' complaints but I have in the last few months noticed they are they are coming back. A libertarian English friend who enjoys using a tone of long-suffering complaint about Bucharest wants the City Hall to kill the mutts as it did years ago (the cull took place without anyone saying a word like a guilty secret). I tell him "Why not be self-reliant, as befits an admirer of Ludwig von Mises? Why don't you lace some biscuits with rat poison and leave it out in alleys in your neighbourhood?" He could also put some in his pocket when going out for a stroll. It would give walks in the park a morbid zest. In the morning the rats would gnaw at the corpses in the avenues in Parcul Cismigiu.

Bucharest is a woman

‎"Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual." Angela Carter
Bucharest is a blowzy but beguiling woman of a certain age, faded but flirtatious, fingers beringed. She landed her job because she was the mistress of the Director-General in the 1980s.

PC

The anti discrimination secular religion reminds me of Nazism and Communism. The same chilling desire to reorder the world rationally and destroy those that get in the way. The spirit of negation which is the definition of evil.

Gypsies

‎'Romania without its gypsies is an inconceivable as the rainbow without its colours or a forest without birds.' Konrad Bercovici (1882–1961)

The great betrayal

I agree with Dryden:

Oxford to him a dearer name shall be,
Than his own mother university.
Thebes did his green, unknowing youth engage;
He chooses Athens in his riper age.

Burebista - Communists lost the cold war but won the educational systems in Western Europe

Every Romanian, however uneducated, knows who Burebista was but many English never heard of Hengist and Horsa.I said this to an intelligent English friend of mine, a partner at KPMG, and he had not either! And nor had a retired English schoolmistress. I knew about them aged 4 from a late Victorian book about the Kings and Queens of England that was exactly what 1066 and All That was sending up very accurately.


‎"Memorable among the Saxon warriors were Hengist and his wife (? or horse), Horsa. Hengist made himself King in the South. Thus Hengist was the first English King and his wife (or horse), Horsa, the first English Queen (or horse)." 


Someone asked Churchill how to make English children patriotic. He answered: 
Tell them Wolfe took Quebec. 
Few know who Wolfe was and those who do often think he was an imperialist warmonger. The communists lost the cold war but won the educational systems in Western Europe and North America.




Footnote: I can't resist another Sellars and Yeatman quotation:




In the beginning the Scots lived in Ireland and the Irish lived in Scotland but after a while they swapped over because they found it too confusing.

Death in Bucharest

I was with a man last weekend whose son died recently because ambulancemen didn't know how to give the kiss of life. Man had persuaded son not to leave Romania but try to change things. I suddenly feel immense shame at the folly of seeing the beauty and good things about this country and not the terrible things which are not material but moral short-comings.

Gormenghast is my spiritual home.

Maybe why I love Bucharest. The other two Gormenghasts in my life were the House of Lords which was my first workplace and Dad's astonishingly dusty and unintelligible office into which he could somehow slither through to sit at his chair surrounded by the kind of things Opus Fluke would have kept in his had he had one. Pungent ancient rubbers for example (erasers for any American who reads this). A magnifying glass. A kaleidoscope.

Imperialism

I annoyed an American girl (a bad tempered scald) by telling her that I was proud that I'd taught 14 Romanians to pronounce schedule: shed - yule. Romanians, say film and lift, not 'movies' and 'elevator'! Lift and film are Romanian words. I also teach Romanians to say ' frightfully' because it slightly annoys Americans who like foreigners to speak their dialect. This is about cultural imperialism which I strongly approve of, at least when directed against our former colonies.

When I was 7 I wrote a school project called Imperialism - I started with V de Gama but then realised the whole historical span would be a lot of work so 1600 onwards was rather skimped but here were lots of maps. Our socialist headmaster awarded the prize to a project on motorbiles because, he said glowering at me, it was not taken from books. At the same age I wanted a toy pith helmet but they did not exist.

A pal asked me what my favourite sentence was in English.

I wasted eight minutes finding it in google.


There are no fields of amaranth on this side of the grave : there are no voices, O Rhodope ! that are not soon mute, however tuneful : there is no name, with whatever emphasis of passionate love repeated, of which the echo is not faint at last. (Landor.)  
 Quoted of course in '84, Charing Cross Rd', that enchanting play, then book and then film. 


My friend shocked me by asking who Landor was. Really, the world is becoming very philistine. Walter Savage Landor, he who threw his cook out of a first floor window into the garden below and then said, 'Oh God I forgot the daffodils.' 


Two more favourite sentences:


Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back, Wherein he puts alms for Oblivion. Troilus and Cressida


Life affords no human felicity more acute than that of a bishop from the Western United States when at a London dinner party he hears himself addressed for the first time as 'My Lord.'  
G.W.E. Russell

Death to equality and equality in death

I once said I only believed in equality in the eyes of God but I don't believe even in that anymore (the BVM, the beloved disciple?) but I do believe every one of us is equally because infinitely important and therefore equally deserving of, in one sense, respect. Not in the sense of the respect that you have to deserve. In the sense of respect that all men and women are automatically entitled to it. And of course we are all equally going to die. Alan Bennett's Headmaster in 40 Years On referred to the glorious equality of death.

All the great man are dead. I don't fell so well myself..

The age of collectivism was formed by individuals: Lenin, Hitler, Einstein, Freud. The age of individualism is dominated by mediocrities. An age that worships celebrities has so very very few men of substance.The Western world seems to have been in decline since 1945 as far as literature and the arts are concerned. Have any great books been written in English since 1945? I mean ones comparable with the 30 best 19th century books? Declined even more as insofar as self-belief is concerned, It has produced no new ideas and very few great men. Yet people are richer and in many important practical ways freer (though in many ways less free) than ever before. Are they happier than in 1945? It has been the triumph of the bourgeoisie, especially the new class, the public sector bourgeoisie, whose values and interests dominate, and of technology. The amazing post 1950 economic miracle had nothing to do with new ideas, just old fashioned boring, vulgar, petit bourgeois, private sector ones.

I suspect Western civilisation is in a decline yet economically materially and technologically it flourishes. Gibbon starts the Decline and Fall with Marcus Aurelius - will a future Indonesian or Malay historian begin Decline and Fall of Western Civilisation at 1989?

Thoughts on the Revolution in Egypt, time for a female Caliph

I doubt if any Arab country is ready for representative government or democracy in the true sense. I hope I am wrong. Of course I feel full of hope and excitement but our chief concern should be British interests and peace in the region. It is difficult not to get swept up in euphoria about what is happening but the mob is not an attractive thing and young men are being killed like in Romania so that the first tier can be replaced by the second tier of the political class. Or worse by the Muslim Brotherhood. All the clever men tell us the Brotherhood are not a big factor but but this is not so. They won 20% of the vote in the recent rigged elections. The clever men (deliberate use of non-inclusive language) all pooh poohed the possibility of Egypt repeating Tunisia. Two very important points. Aid from the USA sustained the regime. Should we abolish foreign aid as Peter Bauer argued? And Tunisians aged between 15 and 24 made up 21 percent of the population in 2005.

The Telegraph has evidence that the Americans were working to achieve regime change. Like the USSR was in Romania in 1989. Whether true or not they may be punished for their public support of Mubarak.

All this is the result of the Liberals' decision to prefer Russia to Turkey as an ally before 1914. Disraeli was right to favour the Ottoman Empire (he would have had no truck with an ethical foreign policy) and its demise is cause of half the problems in the world today. The Russian Hapsburg and British Empires are also tragic losses. If a British Minister were advising a Khedive would things be better for Egyptians?

A shame the British allowed the Caliphate to come to an end. HM the Queen is a descendant of the Prophet. Caliph would make an excellent one of her subsidiary titles along with Defender of the Faith and Queen of France

Sin

Is it a sin not to sin? Marie Louise von Frank thought so. She also says that for intellectual ideas are a refuge from the mother, an escape from the feminine but also from the masculine, they save the intellect but not the body. Hmmm. A man told me Martin Luther said if you are going to sin sin boldly. I wonder, as someone asked about Talleyrand's death, what he meant by that.