Tuesday 12 September 2023

The wisdom of Burke

I always intended to buy a leather bound collection of Burke's works I eyed every Saturday aged 16 or 17. I so wish I had. I am sure I agree with him on everything but ought to read him.

This passage from an essay by Madeleine Armstrong that I read today seems very topical and made me think of the American empire spreading human rights and American hegemony. It makes me think that freedom and mass immigration are hard to reconcile and that globalism is the enemy of democracy.

"Burke drew his idea of the platoon from the Roman historian Tacitus. Following his remark on the little platoon in the Reflections, Burke criticised the National Assembly for dividing France into départements. He described these new divisions as ‘colonies of the rights of man,’ and compared them to ‘that sort of military colonies which Tacitus has observed upon in the declining policy of Rome,’ citing the following passage of the Annales:

"‘Not, as once, were entire legions with their tribunes, centurions, and privates in their proper ranks all settled so as to make, by their unanimity and mutual concern, a civil community; but unknown to each other, from different platoons, without leaders, without mutual affections, as if from a different race of beings, unexpectedly drawn together in one, more like a plurality than a community.’ 

"The French Revolution was an imperial project, its aim being to establish an ‘empire of the rights of man’ across the globe. Burke argued, first of all, that liberty could not be founded upon abstract rights of individuals, because individuals could not be abstracted from the places and people to which they were born. Furthermore, ‘when the members who compose these new bodies of cantons, communes, and departments, arrangements purposely produced through the medium of confusion, begin to act,’ Burke predicted, ‘they will find themselves, in a great measure, strangers to one another.’ This dissociation was dangerous, Burke warned, because when people were no longer motivated to cooperate by mutual affection and responsibility, ‘laws are to be supported only by their own terrors’."

1 comment:

  1. "Today’s migrations are no longer made by compact displacements but by successive infiltrations: little by little, individuals insinuate themselves among the “natives,” too anemic and too distinguished to stoop to the notion of a “territory.” After a thousand years of vigilance, we open the gates . . . When one thinks of the long rivalries between the French and the English, then between the French and the Germans, it seems as if each nation, by weakening one another, had as its task to speed the hour of the common downfall so that other specimens of humanity may relay them.
    Like its predecessor, the new Völkerwanderung will provoke an ethnic confusion whose phases cannot be distinctly foreseen. Confronted with these disparate profiles, the notion of a community homogeneous to whatever degree is inconceivable. The very possibility of so heteroclite a crowd suggests that in the space it occupies there no longer existed, among the indigenous, any desire to safeguard even the shadow of an identity" - Emil Cioran