Blog description.

Accentuating the Liberal in Classical Liberal: Advocating Ascendency of the Individual & a Politick & Literature to Fight the Rise & Rise of the Tax Surveillance State. 'Illigitum non carborundum'.

Liberty and freedom are two proud words that have been executed from the political lexicon: they were frog marched and stood before a wall of blank minds, then forcibly blindfolded, and shot, with the whimpering staccato of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’ resounding over and over. And not only did this atrocity go unreported by journalists in the mainstream media, they were in the firing squad.

The premise of this blog is simple: the Soviets thought they had equality, and welfare from cradle to grave, until the illusory free lunch of redistribution took its inevitable course, and cost them everything they had. First to go was their privacy, after that their freedom, then on being ground down to an equality of poverty only, for many of them their lives as they tried to escape a life behind the Iron Curtain. In the state-enforced common good, was found only slavery to the prison of each other's mind; instead of the caring state, they had imposed the surveillance state to keep them in line. So why are we accumulating a national debt to build the slave state again in the West? Where is the contrarian, uncomfortable literature to put the state experiment finally to rest?

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Richard Ford | Frank Bascombe and Historicism – How We Choose to Live.

Historicism is the notion that historical awareness is crucial for an adequate understanding in a particular field or in general. It is further the belief that events are determined by conditions and processes beyond control of humans.

A scant reading of my blog would show agreement with the first limb: those who don’t understand the history of collectivist based societies, such as we are again embarked on, will ultimately repeat the atrocities of collectivism. But I don’t go for the second limb: humans are able to make their own futures; that’s why the New World Big Statism born of Keynesian socialism is so damned disappointing.

But that’s not the subject of this post. American author Richard Ford has an interesting anti-historicist view on an individual level – or at least his character Frank Bascombe does in Ford’s novel The Sportswriter. Observing individuals in my own sphere, some too many of whom have succumbed to the crutch of victimhood and insist on throwing away their present and futures to live in the mistakes or traumas of their past – and I reckon in many cases, it was and remains a choice for them to be so imprisoned - there’s some wisdom here.

‘All we really want is to get to the point where the past can explain nothing about us and we can get on with life. Whose history can ever reveal very much? In my view Americans put too much emphasis on their pasts as a way of defining themselves, which can be death-dealing. I know I’m always heartsick in novels … [snip] … when the novelist makes his clanking, obligatory trip into the Davy Jones locker of the past. Most pasts, let’s face it, aren’t very dramatic subjects, and should be just uninteresting enough to release you the instant you’re ready (though it’s true that when we get to that moment we are often scared to death, fell naked as snakes and have nothing to say).

My own history I think of as a postcard with changing scenes on one side but no particular or memorable messages on the back. You can get detached from your beginnings, as we all know, and not by any malevolent designs, just by life itself, fate, the tug of the ever-present. The stamp of our parents on us and of the past in general is, to my mind, overworked, since at some point we are whole and by ourselves upon the earth, and there is nothing that can change that for better or worse, and so we might as well think about something more promising.’

While the ‘stamp of our parents’ is somewhere between this ‘overworking’ and English poet, Philip Larkin’s:

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.”

I hold to Frank Bascombe’s view as true to ‘mine ownself’, my father more and more I find ‘a stranger I barely recognise’; and perhaps Bascombe’s is the more general truth. At least, it’s a view that leads to healthier inner lives, as Frank goes on to surmise:

‘Does it seem strange that I do not have a long and storied family history? Or a list of problems and hatreds to brood about – a bill of particular grievances and nostalgias that pretend to explain or trouble everything? Possibly I was born into a different time. But maybe my way is better all around, and is actually the way with most of us the rest tell lies.’

Still, where would a novelist be without a character’s past? And the identity politickers, subjects of my last few posts, would accuse Bascombe (and Ford, that being the agenda), of unacknowledged privilege being able to put aside his privileged past and head into a future without vendetta … although, of course, for saying that, those identity politickers would be - to use a layman’s term - morons. (I would be wholly unsurprised to find Ford has somewhere been ruthlessly deconstructed along racial and gender lines, such is the capture of our literature.)

On an unrelated note, Ford’s The Sportswriter, which is the first in a quartet of novels that trace the life of failed novelist turned sportswriter turned estate agent Frank Bascombe, is only twenty years old, but either via anachronism, or perhaps Americanism, there is one word in Bascombe’s over-easy narration that confuses me; namely his use of the word ‘dreamy’. He uses it a lot of the characters Bascombe associates with, but I can’t fathom its interpretation within context, other than I’m sure he does not mean ‘of dreams’. The below section is one of many examples of its use, Frank talking of his group of divorced men who get together for irregular meetings:

‘Something about them – earnest, all good-hearted fellows – seems as dreamy to me as it’s possible to be, dreamier than I am by far. And dreamy people often do not mix well, no matter what you might believe. Dreamy people actually have little to offer one another, tend in fact to neutralise each other’s dreaminess into bleary nugatude. Misery does not want company – happiness does.’

If you can inform me on use of that term, please feel free to do so in comments.

Next post up: the ongoing evisceration of Act’s David Seymour, career politician, already, that is, coward without compassion. Also the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, on the courts in Canada this week overturning their ban on physician assisted dying …

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