Curmudgeon or Clear-minded?

Bill of Churchtown presents the inimitable Ambrose Bierce:

Ambrose Bierce

In these disquieting times of elections and upheaval a few words from The Devil’s Dictionary:

POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When we wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.

WAR, n. A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity. The student of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly boast himself inaccessible to the light. “In time of peace prepare for war” has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means, not merely that all things earthly have an end — that change is the one immutable and eternal law — but that the soil of peace is thickly sown with the seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination and growth. It was when Kublai Khan had decreed his “stately pleasure dome” — when, that is to say, there were peace and fat feasting in Xanadu — that he heard from afar Ancestral voices prophesying war.

One of the greatest of poets, Coleridge was one of the wisest of men, and it was not for nothing that he read us this parable. Let us have a little less of “hands across the sea,” and a little more of that elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.

Would you care to read more about this 19th C. man and his writings?


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6 comments for “Curmudgeon or Clear-minded?

  1. Patrick Harris
    October 15, 2010 at 12:53

    Not for me, We know there’s a problem. Reading that it was going on so long ago and that people such as they did nothing to stop it only rubs salt into the wound. – do you know of any authors, poets, historians or other “wisest of men” etc. that have the answers to said problems?

    Like, for instance, Gandhi, Mandela or Jefferson. I seem to recall that a certain Zulu chief had a way of dealing with oppression. It might have been Shaka and the horns of the buffalo.

  2. JD
    October 15, 2010 at 13:11
  3. October 15, 2010 at 16:30

    “war” is mainly a mechanism whereby politicians and other vested interests try to entrench their own position by destroying wealth.

    See also “currency war”.

  4. Patrick Harris
    October 15, 2010 at 21:52

    JD – good links, though I must admit I’m a little bit shy of the Wiki.
    Liked this:
    Thoreau asserts that because governments are typically more harmful than helpful, they therefore cannot be justified. Democracy is no cure for this, as majorities simply by virtue of being majorities do not also gain the virtues of wisdom and justice. The judgment of an individual’s conscience is not necessarily or even likely inferior to the decisions of a political body or majority, and so “[i]t is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.… Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.”
    Civil Disobedience would seem to be the way forward.

  5. richard
    October 16, 2010 at 13:18

    Didn’t he describe a handkerchief as “a small piece of square cloth, used at funerals to hide the lack of tears?” Hah!

  6. richard
    October 16, 2010 at 22:44

    CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
    (NB: the devil’s dictionary is online in it’s entirety!)

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