Those Who Go to the John

There once was a land where everyone was equal but the people were divided into three rigid and antagonistic classes.  At the top were the Patricians, or Pats; next in line were the Plebeians, or Plebs; and at the bottom were the Morlocks about whom it was universally agreed, the less that was said, the better.  The Pats called the Plebs Upper Morlocks, the Plebs called themselves Lower Pats, and the Morlocks called them both by a name I cannot print here. Continue reading

Our American Credo

The word affirmation is grounded in a metaphor of stability, and it denotes a further (and therefore stabilizing) attestation that some previous assertion is true. In the liturgy of most Christian churches, for instance, a recitation of the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed is called an “affirmation of faith.”  The faithful are saying “Yup, our faith is firm.  We still believe this Sunday what we believed last Sunday.” Continue reading

With a Werewolf by My Side

Lupus est homo homini

Plautus, Asinaria (c. 200 B.C.)

“They err, who write no wolves in England range;
Here men are all turned wolves, O monstrous change.”

James Howell, Epistolae Ho-elianae (1644).

Plautus was not the first to remark man’s inhumanity to man, but his apothegm has come down the centuries as a compact testament to the fact that “man is wolf to man.”  The wolf is an emblem of everything stealthy, malignant and pitiless in this world, and man finds this age-old enemy not only skulking in the shadows of the circumjacent forest, but also seated with him at the fire in the very heart of the human camp.  Wolves sit with him because men are wolves.  How droll that “man’s best friend” was bred from his oldest enemy.  How ironic that this shaggy symbol of misanthropy makes its lair in man’s own heart. Continue reading

“Over the Top”

“Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens, and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’” Job 20: 6-7.

I am not a pacifist, but I do believe that old men in all ages have been spendthrifts when it comes to the blood and bones of men younger than they. A pacifist says that nothing is worth a fight.  Safe in their infirmities, these crafty old men can discover a casus belli in just about anything. Thus I am suitably sickened when I watch the movie Gallipoli. Continue reading

The Regrettable Vulgarity of Red Baiting

If you call a man a communist, your status will drop in the minds of most people. The ascription need not be angry or accusatory, and may be altogether accurate, but to make it is a mark of vulgarity. Suddenly you are Joe McCarthy with whiskey on your breath, or Richard Nixon with a greasy sheen and a five o’clock shadow. I should add that, the people in whose minds your stock has fallen need not be communists themselves, or even fellow travelers. They simply share the common prejudice that people who see “reds under the beds” are crazy, and vulgarly crazy at that. Continue reading

Am I Really Richer?

“Globalization is making people richer — and that absolutely includes the American middle class.”

Kevin D. Williamson, “Globalization is Making Everyone Richer,” National Review, February 12, 2019.

Before he was evicted from Heaven with the rest of Lucifer’s rebels, Mammon was known as the stooped angel.  It was cause for comment among the heavenly host that Mammon shuffled around the Celestial City with his shoulders hunched, his head bowed, and his greedy eyes fixed on the gold with which the heavenly streets were paved.  There sat the Almighty upon his throne; there slouched Mammon, ogling the gold. Continue reading

Bromides and Bunkum

The word bromide was at first the name of a sedative that physicians used in the treatment of epilepsy, sea sickness and insomnia; but in the early twentieth century its reference was extended to soporific bores and their stupefying conversation.  The implication was that subjection to the bromides of a bromidic man (or woman) was very much like chemical sedation, since it induced the same feeling of numbness, lassitude, and fuddled mind. Continue reading

Wrestling with the Dead

“The truth of history has been much corrupted by these encomiastic
essays; for many circumstances were recorded in them which never existed.”

Cicero, On Oratory and Orators (55 B.C.)

An encomium is, literally, a speech delivered in the course of a feast, and those who make speeches to feasting men are naturally inclined to praise the occasion of the feast.  For if the occasion is not praiseworthy, the feasters are fools.  A speech delivered at a wedding normally stresses the joys of matrimony and the most amiable qualities of both bridegroom and bride.  A speech delivered at a birthday party normally flatters the guest of honor, and seeks to reassure him that he is fortunate to be so far advanced in years. A certain amount of good-natured ribbing may be tolerated, but everyone understands that, on festive occasions, strict objectivity and searching candor would be in the worst possible taste.

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