One of my favourite Conrad quotes…

I differ from the standard interpretation on Heart of Darkness. I think the most crucial passage – the passage that contains the core message of the book – is right at the beginning. Marlow is looking out over the Essex marshes from the Thames estuary and he has this to say:

“And this also,” said Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.”

…”I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago -the other day…Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine -what d’ye call ’em? -trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries -a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too -used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here -the very end of the world, a sea the color of lead, a sky the color of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina -and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages, -precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay -cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death -death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes -he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone through in his time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by and by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga -perhaps too much dice, you know -coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him -all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There’s no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination -you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.”

Magnificent. But it captures what I consider the true theme of the book. It was not some anti-colonial screed (although it was that too), it essentially said that once London – the centre of the greatest empire ever and pinacle of his civilisation civilisation – was also once “one of the dark places of the earth”.

It is with this in mind that we enter into the heart of darkness. Who knows what wonders, what magnificence, what cvivilisations we may find on the banks of the Congo river in 2000 years time?

It is a message of hope. No matter how wretched the savages of the Congo, we were once savages too and look what we achieved.

The lessons of Wellington by Victor Davis Hanson

“Perhaps with the exception of Churchill, England has produced no more a remarkable man of action than the Duke of Wellington, who put an end to the Napoleonic Wars at Waterlooónearly six million dead and twenty-three years after Franceís mad genius first declared war against Austria in 1792. He was as effective an organizer and logistician as Lords Roberts, Wolseley, and Kitchener. But unlike his successors he crafted a method of war for his times that transcended the theater of his command, and so could prove as deadly to European adversaries as to colonials.” MORE

Simon Jenkins's superb attack on slander and "poisoning the well"…

Learning to smile in the face of intolerance

“The first casualty of war may be truth but the second is history. The writer William Boyd has lost Anglo/ American funding for his film on Hitlerís early life because, so he says, ìanything that touches on the nature of evil is considered dangerousî.

…This is the language of paranoia, of a weak and fearful society that is losing its faith in reason. Those who once saw ìCommie bastardsî on all sides now see ìFascist thugsî. They say the words over and again, beating out the ì-shistî and ì-ugsî. It makes the finger instinctively tighten on the trigger.

At such moments I long to talk to the little man with the pointed, intelligent face and a perpetual smile. They say he never ran and never lost his temper. He did not pray. To him, the world and its nature were evidence enough of the goodness of mankind. You need only smile, he said, the ìsmile of reasonî. He smiled at jokes. He smiled at intolerance. He smiled at his enemies when they exiled him, and smiled when they called him back to a laurel crown. He wrote the greatest satire on the human condition, Candide. His name was Voltaire.

Voltaire was no pacifist nor enemy of sovereign government. He liked the monarchy of Louis XIV, so much so that his history of the reign had to be censored by its successor for fear of comparison. But Voltaireís true icon was the Enlightenment, born jointly in Britain and France. Its essence was freedom to demand of authority reasons for its actions. Explain, he demanded, ìyour cruel wars so lightly undertaken . . . your confused heap of laws often passed haphazardlyî.

Explain or be damned. In his Treatise on Tolerance, Voltaire defended the right of ìjust one man to a different opinionî, for that man too was created by Nature. It was his right to dissent that made justice necessary, ìwhere laws yield only trickeryî.

Voltaire would have detested the bandying of the word Fascist. In a recent article, the historian, Stephen Games, has portrayed Pevsner as an enthusiastic Nazi before his arrival in England. As a young man Games quotes Pevsner, anonymously at the time, in support of aspects of the National Socialist programme. Like many bright young Germans, he was excited by Hitlerís eagerness to end the chaos of Weimar and root out corruption. Pevsner would not have been alone in warming to the Nazisí ìoverpowering collective energyî as embodying the spirit of a new age. I might have done so too, as briefly as Pevsner allegedly did.

Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe were likewise ìlinked toî Nazism through their architectural Utopianism. Architecture is institutionally authoritarian, otherwise nothing gets built. Ten years ago, Elaine Hochman wrote: ìFor Hitler no less than for his contemporaries, Mies and Gropius, architecture was an expression of the central spirit of an epochî. There were ìstriking similarities,î she wrote, between Miesís work and ìthe principles that supported the Third Reichî.

But where does this lead? Anyone can play guilt by association. Muriel Sparkís Miss Jean Brodie was enthusiastic about Mussoliniís way with trains. That does not make every fuming commuter delayed at Kingís Cross ìinclined towards fascismî (or not yet). It is as daft an association as refusing to listen to Wagner or read Nietzsche, because Hitler admired them.

…We can admire virtues in any complex person without having to abuse vices or descend to cheap comparisons. Many British socialists were attracted to Oswald Mosley, until repelled by his anti- Semitism. Many were attracted to Stalin and Mao, and regretted it. I might be shocked at the actions of the Sharon Government in Israel, yet be no less shocked at a British university so forgetting its commitment to freedom of thought as to boycott Israeli academics, especially when they most need support.

Nothing is simple.

…If we abuse words they lose their ability to argue. ìOne word in the wrong place,î said Voltaire, ìruins the most precious thought.î

The odd story of the US Ministry of Truth

“Earlier this year, the US administration floated the idea of an “Office of Strategic Influence“, a propaganda ministry whose job it would be to plant false stories in the press, home and abroad.

Thanks to several beautiful constitutional instruments, the United States frowns on such taxpayer sponsored boondoggles, and this was the first time the American government had proposed a department to lie on its citizens behalf.

The outcry was swift and enormous: government is a duty that should be lightly held, with interference kept to a minimum, and career bureaucrats such as Rumsfeld ought not feather their terms of office by creating such ominous and deceptive institutions.

Well, OK, he replied, and the idea was swiftly forgotten.

And there it lay, until some pesky reporter from the Federation of American Scientists temporarily lapsed from his patriotic duty of warblogging, and asked if the organization really existed?

This provoked an astonishing reply:-

“And then there was the Office of Strategic Influence. You may recall that. And ‘oh my goodness gracious isn’t that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall.’ I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing, fine, I’ll give you the corpse. There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.”

His comments went unreported, and until Monday, when the New York Times provided specifics of the “vigorous and creative” propaganda we can expect [here], the disinformation project had gone ignored. (A search through Google News reveals only one article mentioning the subject.)

Britain has no such constitutional protections. In the 1980s, it was enthusiastically arming the Iraqi regime while telling parliament and the public that no policy change had taken place, and two prime ministers – each claiming amnesia or ignorance – were absolved of responsibility in the resulting scandal.”

It transpires the American’s outclassed even the Nazi’s as propagandists, starting way back during the Great War with their war propaganda speciality. This article “Convincing the Skeptics: A Brief History” by Mickey Z. in Dissident Voice at October has some surprising facts.

Murder is permissible if the victim is an alleged abuser

No, this is not a case where a wife has killed her allegedly abusive husband (are their any spouse killers who do NOT use his excuse?)

This one involves two cases, both reported today, one Aamerican, one British – the theme is the same:

Jury clears man who shot priest he accused of abuse

‘God is with me,’ defendant says after verdict

“A sympathetic jury cleared a man of most charges in the shooting of a priest who he said abused him as a teenager. Jurors also asked for leniency when the former altar boy is sentenced on minor gun charges.”

Killer of sister’s abuser walks free

“The daughter of a romantic novelist yesterday walked free from court after she was cleared of murdering her sister’s abusive boyfriend.

Joanne Pearse, 21, stabbed Jason Jackson, the boyfriend of her half-sister Lucy, with a kitchen knife after discovering her sister had been assaulted.

Ms Pearse went to Lucy’s flat in Knowle, Bristol, on June 1 this year, and stabbed Mr Jackson through the heart as he lay in the garden.”

This is a deadly new trend. These factors mitigate sentencing, they do not justify murder. In both cases there was provocation – a mitigating factor – but self-defense was claimed when a man is was attacked lying asleep in a garden. It is an obvious lie. This woman killed this man with malice aforethought. It is murder.

Her acquittal is a triumph for sentiment culture and our feminized emotion times, but it is a defeat for the rule of law. Ultimately we will pay dearly for allowing the fallacy of special pleading to win the day in courtrooms. Get a partisan jury and claim a stock excuse and you can get away with murder – literally.

How good one feels when

How good one feels when one is full – how satisfied with ourselves and with the world! People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper, and more easily obtained. One feels so forgiving and generous after a substantial and well-digested meal – so noble-minded, so kindly-hearted.” Jerome K. Jerome “Three Men in a boat”

A first for British justice and media…but a bizarre admission

“Three Asian men have been found guilty of murdering a white teenager with a hammer and a hunting knife in what police believe was a race attack .

Ross Parker, 17, had been walking home with his girlfriend along a cycle path in Peterborough when he was attacked by a gang.

They sprayed him in the eyes with an aerosol and punched and kicked him. They then hit him with a panel beater’s hammer and stabbed him through the throat with the knife.

…Det Chief Insp Dick Harrison, who led the murder hunt, said he believed the killing was racially motivated.

This was not put to the jury due to concerns that it would add to the complexity of the case.” From Sky News

The BBC also has the story.

Also today, I read that two more Asian men have been convicted of murdering a white man. I wonder if the possible racial angle “was not put to the jury due to concerns that it would add to the complexity of the case”? I doubt such complexity would have stood in the way if the ethnicities were reversed. Two guilty of car theft murder [BBC]

Two men from Bradford have been found guilty of murdering a West Yorkshire father-of-two.

Rangzaib Akhtar, 20, and Raees Khan, 21, (Right) were convicted of killing Kevin Jackson.

They stabbed Mr Jackson in the head with a screwdriver when he tried to stop them stealing his father-in-law’s Toyota Rav 4 car on 30 December 2001.

The jury was told a screwdriver had penetrated his brain by several inches.”