Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reading Chesterton on the I-Pad

My dear new I-Pad has delivered to me a complete library of G.K. Chesterton, free of charge. -- Only I can't handle the book and abuse it with underlining and such.  I don't know if I can deal with that in the long run.  It's like being in love relationship at a distance.  Proximity is what is desired.  I want to hold the book so badly. Anyhow,  I need to keep this quote below:

From:  Eugenics and other Evils. Chapter 3.  The Anarchy from Above.

A government may grow anarchic as much as a people... Take for the sake of symbolism those two great spiritual stories which, whether we count them myths or mysteries, have so long been the two hinges of all European morals.  The Christian who is inclined to sympathize generally with constituted authority will think of rebellion under the image of Satan, the rebel against God.  But Satan, though a traitor  was not an anarchist.  He claimed the crown of the cosmos   and had he prevailed, would have expected his rebel angels to give up rebelling.  On the other hand, the Christian whose sympathies are more generally with just self-defense among the oppressed will think rather of Christ Himself defying the High Priests and scourging the rich traders.  But whether or no Christ was (as some say) a Socialist, He most certainly was not an Anarchist.  Christ, like Satan, claimed the throne.  He set up a new authority against an old authority;  but He set it up with positive commandments and a comprehensible scheme...

Anarchy is that condition of mind or methods in which you cannot stop yourself.  It is the loss of that self-control which can return to the normal.  It is not anarchy because men are permitted to begin uproar, extravagance, experiment, peril.  It is anarchy when people cannot end these things.  It is not anarchy in the home if the whole family sits up all night on New Year's Eve.  It is anarchy in the home if members of the family sit up later and later for months afterwards...  It is this inability to return within rational limits after a legitimate extravagance that is the really dangerous disorder. The modern world is like Niagara.  It is magnificent, but it is not strong.  It is as weak as water--like Niagara.  The objection to a cataract is not that it is deafening or dangerous or even destructive;  it is that it cannot stop.  ...  The State has suddenly and quietly gone mad.  It is talking nonsense;  and it can't stop.

... It multiplies excessively in the more American sort of English newspapers.  When this new sort of New Englander burns a witch the whole prairie catches fire.  These people have not the decision and detachment of the doctrinal ages.  They cannot do a monstrous action and still see it is monstrous.  Wherever they make a stride they make a rut.  They cannot stop their own thoughts, though their thoughts are pouring into the pit.

...But the vital point to which to return is this.  That it is not necessarily, nor even specially, an anarchy in the populace.  It is an anarchy in the populace.  It is an anarchy in the organ of government.  It is the magistrates--voice of the governing class--who cannot distinguish between cruelty and carelessness.  It is the judges (and their very submissive special juries) who cannot see the difference between opinion and slander.  And it is the highly placed and highly paid experts who have brought in the first eugenic law, the Feeble-Minded Bill--thus showing that they can see no difference between a mad and a sane man. 

That, to begin with, is the historic atmosphere in which this thing was born.  It is a peculiar atmosphere, and luckily not likely to last.  Real progress bears the same relation to it that a happy girl laughing bears to an hysterical girl who cannot stop laughing.  But I have described this atmosphere first because it is the only atmosphere in which such a thing as the Eugenist legislation could be proposed among men. All other ages would have called it to some kind of logical account, however academic or narrow.  The lowest sophist in the Greek schools would remember enough of Socrates to force the Eugenist to tell him (at least) whether Midias was segregated because he was curable or because he was incurable.  The meanest Thomist of the medieval monasteries would have the sense to see that you cannot discuss a madman when you have not discussed a man.  the most owlish Calvinist commentator in the seventeenth century would ask the Eugenist to reconcile such Bible texts as derided fools with the other bible texts that praised them.  The dullest shopkeeper in Paris in 1790 would have asked what were the Rights of Man, if they did not include the rights of the lover, the husband, and the father.  It is only in our own London Particular (as Mr. Guppy said of the fog) that small figures can loom so large in the vapour, and even mingle with quite different figures, and have the appearance of a mob.  But, above all, I have dwelt on the telescopic quality in these twilight avenues, because unless the reader realizes how elastic and unlimited they are, he simply will not believe in the abominations we have to combat. 

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