Of Anger in Rhetoric

The common opinions concerning anger are therefore such as follow. They are easily angry, that think they are neglected. That think they excel others; as the rich with the poor; the noble with the obscure,&c. And such as think they deserve well. And such as grieve to be.. hindered, opposed, or not assisted; and therefore sick men, poor men, lovers, and generally all that desire and attain not, are angry with those that, standing by, are not moved by their wants. And such as having expected good, find evil.

Those that men are angry with, are: such as mock, deride, or jest at them.
And such as shew any kind of contumely towards them.
And such as despise those things which we spend most labour and study upon; and the more, by how much we seem the less advanced therein.
And our friends, rather than those that are not our friends.
And such as have honoured us, if they continue not.
And such as requite not our courtesy.
And such as follow contrary courses, if they be our inferiors.
And our friends, if they have said or done us evil, or not good.
And such as give not ear to our entreaty.
And such as are joyful or calm in our distress.
And such as troubling us, are not themselves troubled.
And such as willingly hear or see our disgraces.
And such as neglect us in the presence of our competitors, of those we admire, of those we would have admire us, of those we reverence, and of those that reverence us.
And such as should help us, and neglect it.
And such as are in jest, when we are in earnest.
And such as forget us, or our names.

An orator therefore must so frame his judge or auditor by his oration, as to make him apt to anger: and then make his adversary appear such as men use to be angry withal.

– Thomas Hobbes:  The Art of Rhetoric

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Missing role models?

I was surprised that anyone should complain of losing a few male role models, when we have such a richness of them: models of behaviour, and warnings of what to avoid; bad models as well as good.

The first and greatest male role model is ones own father, and then there are endless books and films and stories. Sitting through Zulu will cure a hundred losses of modern limp literature.

The whole swelling sea of literature and culture has ideals and reproaches in the myriad. A couple of weeks ago when an MP bemoaned the loss to maleness of a main character in a children’s fantasy programme, I had to laugh.

There are good books aplenty, bristling with heroes and villains, with dash and excitement and lessons for life, and films bulging out of every screen. It is only modern works which have had the life scoured out of them.

Lessons in life start in earliest youth. I once spoke to a publisher of children’s books, and she explained that the only books most young children read are those which are in the school library, and schools only buy books which tie in with themes in the curriculum, and so there is no point in their considering interesting  books for publication: there is no market. It was an eye-opening conversation. This may go some way to explain the insipid nature of most children’s literature. It also explains why parents who read with their children, and encourage them to read books that have actual substance, bring up stronger, wiser children.

Teenagers are another matter, but the less said about teenage ‘literature’ the better. Dig up instead the many books of an older age suitable for teenage boys: these books loved by past generations, adventure books, all have worthy heroes.

Looking for old-fashioned adventure stories, there are few authors in recent generations who stick in the mind, but there are some good ones. We have more books than ever, but those with the hero narrative are lessened, to leave a trail of pointless or pretentious books, well written but not suitable for educating the mind. Perhaps it is because the writers of old had lived out their stories: the Biggles books were written by an actual pilot of the Great War; the Richard Hannay stories by one who served in the ‘Wild South’ of diamond-rush South Africa and on the Western Front, and James Bond was the invention of someone not much different in his real life. Few modern writers can draw upon such experience. There is little life or heroism to be learnt in the reflection of dull suburbia.

Of the adventure novel, few will be found in a  school library, and there are active moves to banish them. The vision of modernity which activists promote is a dull, mechanistic one.

Even so, they do not have a monopoly of imagination, and the heroes are still plentiful to find, and there are still books and films being made, both sides of the Atlantic as well as Australia and of course Bollywood, and a voracious market for them. The heroic male role model is not vanishing.

It is just ‘received opinion’ amongst those who affect to despise the heroic model which would see an end to it, who know that in their petty selves they cannot match up to the ideal and would bring everything low to their level – but even they sometimes cannot help themselves when pen is set to  paper.

If I were to write a novel, would it be full of thrill and adventure, with a larger than life definitely male hero defying impossible odds, with gritty fights and grim weapons, unflinching against a relentless foe in exotic locations with women swooning over him?  Of course I would. Any first novel is implicitly autobiographical, after all.

Now, with all that said, I have written only of male role models, and that is only half the population, and the half already oversupplied with all that our culture bestows.  What of female role models? They are just as entitled to see themselves reflected, and to have a good pattern for life placed before them. I cannot take seriously any wail about a story being feminised, if it still works. (Just leave the established characters alone.) My complaint is that when a character is reimagined in feminine guise, it is too often done badly.

To promote good female role models we do not want not male characters put in a dress, but strong women with feminine reactions.  That though is another article and I have to question my fitness to write it.

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Insignificant Speech as madness

There is yet another fault in the Discourses of some men; which may also be numbred amongst the sorts of Madnesse; namely, that abuse of words, whereof I have spoken before in the fifth chapter, by the Name of Absurdity.

And that is, when men speak such words, as put together, have in them no signification at all; but are fallen upon by some, through misunderstanding of the words they have received, and repeat by rote; by others, from intention to deceive by obscurity. And this is incident to none but those, that converse in questions of matters incomprehensible, as the Schoole-men; or in questions of abstruse Philosophy.

The common sort of men seldome speak Insignificantly, and are therefore, by those other Egregious persons counted Idiots. But to be assured their words are without any thing correspondent to them in the mind, there would need some Examples; which if any man require, let him take a Schoole-man into his hands, and see if he can translate any one chapter concerning any difficult point; as the Trinity; the Deity; the nature of Christ; Transubstantiation; Free-will. &c. into any of the moderne tongues, so as to make the same intelligible; or into any tolerable Latine, such as they were acquainted withall, that lived when the Latine tongue was Vulgar.

What is the meaning of these words. “The first cause does not necessarily inflow any thing into the second, by force of the Essential subordination of the second causes, by which it may help it to worke?” They are the Translation of the Title of the sixth chapter of Suarez first Booke, Of The Concourse, Motion, And Help Of God. When men write whole volumes of such stuffe, are they not Mad, or intend to make others so?

And particularly, in the question of Transubstantiation; where after certain words spoken, they that say, the White-nesse, Round-nesse, Magni-tude, Quali-ty, Corruptibility, all which are incorporeall, &c. go out of the Wafer, into the Body of our blessed Saviour, do they not make those Nesses, Tudes and Ties, to be so many spirits possessing his body? For by Spirits, they mean alwayes things, that being incorporeall, are neverthelesse moveable from one place to another.

So that this kind of Absurdity, may rightly be numbred amongst the many sorts of Madnesse; and all the time that guided by clear Thoughts of their worldly lust, they forbear disputing, or writing thus, but Lucide Intervals. And thus much of the Vertues and Defects Intellectuall.

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To follow knowledge like a sinking star

When I first heard of ‘Odyssean Education’ I immediately thought of Tennyson: “It little profits that an idle king…”, but realisation of why I, of strict scientific upbringing, should turn at once to great literature, that brings the essence of the Odyssean ideal, and it has little to do with Odysseus as he was, or at least as Homer portrays him.

Tennyson’s Odysseus is restless in his craving for self-education:

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

The name though is from Murray Gell-Man, in his “The Quark and the Jaguar”, suggesting the combination of education in the sciences, social sciences and the arts, which come from very differ approaches and priorities. He looked at the ancient dichotomy of the Apollonian and Dionysian – those who follow an analytical, evidence-based approach to matters, and those guided by emotion and instinct; but Gell-Man (a scientist to his boots), adds a third – ‘Odyssean’ which combines them and connects ideas through an overall approach.

….. strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I question whether there is a genuine dichotomy between the Apollonian and the Dionysian. If there is, it need not be inherent and unchanging but cultivated by life experience and the individual’s career discipline. The latter is very important amongst professionals as it defines the norms by which one interacts with strangers, perhaps as an architect or an accountant or a lawyer or journalist or as an administrator, for example, forcing one to analyse the world through the requirements of the job and the common understandings of the profession. It should be no wonder that lawyers lose their imagination or journalists become cynical of everyone’s motives, or actors believe the world can be transformed by a simple rewrite. Perhaps the complexity of interpersonal and commercial relations forces each person to simplify that which they take in by squeezing all experience and reaction into an overgeneralised worldview. It is a way to stay sane, and a way to become narrow.

The Apollonian and the Dionysian are types in Greek tragedy, according to Nietzsche’s analysis of that subject. The Apollonian represents order and logic; his lines are prose monologue and dialogue. The Dionysian represents the chaotic, unbound by respectability or logic; his lines are in verse. The Apollonian suffers and the Dionysian celebrates, perhaps over the same things. The drama is in the interplay between these two. That is all very well in the pretty formulaic world of Greek tragedy, and even works a sort of straight man / funny man routine in Aristophanes, but we face the real world, not the Greek amphitheatre.

Even so, many of us wear masks, like those on the Greek stage. In professional life, the mask is expected: I spend much of my time when dealing with other people trying to get them to drop the mask. (If only they knew how tightly held and deceptive my own is.) Eventually the mask becomes part of you.

The split of personality is genuine, even off-stage. It has been much studied by psychologists, and might even have a hereditary element (something examined in an earlier article here). Like calls to like, and if the civil service, for example, attracts the Apollonian, or conservative, type, then it will recruit only from that type, set tests for entry which can only be passed by that type, and become more and more entrenched in a monoculture.

In education, both types and the many in the middle may thrive and forge their own disciplines. The deeper the education though, the more it will press to one side or the other and produce graduates unable to function otherwise. The boring science student or the louche arts student are not just stereotypes but the necessary outcome of their disciplines.

Those needed for any enterprise truly to thrive are those who fill both sides of the stage: the Odysseans. The Gell-Mann approach, recently championed by Dominic Cummings, seeks to break the dichotomy, to teach pupils to use both sides of the clay of humanity. Systems fail when there is no discipline, and systems fail when there is no imagination: success requires both, but our ideas of education and profession exclude this.

The ideal education should cultivate imagination, originality, bound-breaking, and logic, discipline and respect for order. Personality will choose how far in either direction the individual will wander, but he or she should have an understanding of all sides. If it is impossible to cultivate everyone in this way, it is still necessary that some have that rounded education, ready to follow knowledge like a sinking star. ‘I cannot rest from travel: I will drink life to the lees’. Those who have seen and known; ‘cities of men and manners, climates, councils, governments’, are required in many disciplines. One with such a rounded education must can do better than those who clutch the reins in our day.

It is not to create a knot, an elite caste of Odysseans. They could be infuriating and worse then the rest. It is instead a remodelling of education for all, from which some will benefit more, and we in turn may benefit from their work.

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Character imbues the endeavour

Behind every successful enterprise is the character of its founder, without which it can only fade into mediocrity. History is but the biography of great men, Carlyle assures us: we prefer now to see systems and processes, but he was right: that initial spark of genius puts life into words and forms it into success or failure. The departure of that founder may often be its end.

Rome required Augustus. There could have been no Napoleonic Empire without Napoleon. As in the macrocosm, so in the microcosm.

A successful institution cannot be created just by one who knows that something must be done, but who knows what must be done, and how. It is not enough to determine objectives and pay hired men to pursue them: they do not have the vision nor motivation. Real objectives cannot be rendered in words but must be lived. It was the genius of the late Duke of Edinburgh that he could see the destination and the route, he could find those who shared his vision and he made them enthusiastic. He also made sure they got on with it. He was a consummate naval officer.

He did not see ideas in a one-dimensional nor black-and-white manner. His enthusiasm for science and engineering saw no contradiction in his love of nature and drive for conservation. The two do not conflict and have come to complement each other. Nature conservation is very much of our time, but before the Duke of Edinburgh took a hand it barely registered beyond the confines of the National Trust and faintly embarrassing feelings of nostalgia – but while the National Trust were content to buy to preserve and leave otherwise alone, the charities established by Prince Philip took on active research, education, engagement of local bodies, and creating a ‘conservation community’. That cannot be done without vision and a clear objective, and these cannot be achieved without the mind to direct them. The Worldwide Fund for Nature, the Wildfowl Trust (‘We formed it over dinner – duck I think it was.’); these are the product of a focussed mind.

The most popular legacy is the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, which was quickly established all over the Commonwealth, and it above all bears the stamp of the Prince’s character and drive. It breeds drive, independence and resilience: I cannot imagine any committee coming up with it. Those of us who have been through it up to Gold, carry its legacy with us, which is a piece of the character of the Scheme’s founder. It has gone beyond the Commonwealth too and had imitators. (The Duke of Bragança, the man who should be King of Portugal, formed his own scheme in his homeland, but follows the template and the drive laid down by the Duke of Edinburgh.)

The challenge for a founder is to keep the foundation going beyond his time.  It is not easy.  The state built by Cromwell could be built only by Oliver, and when he died, his son Richard was unable to hold it even for a year, as Hobbes recounts:

Thus was Richard Cromwell seated on the imperial throne of England, Ireland, and Scotland, successor to his father; lifted up to it by the officers of the army then in town, and congratulated by all the parts of the army throughout the three nations; scarce any garrison omitting their particular flattering addresses to him.

….The army was inconstant; he himself irresolute, and without any military glory. And though the two principal officers had a near relation to him; yet neither of them, but Lambert, was the great favourite of the army; and by courting Fleetwood to take upon him the Protectorship, and by tampering with the soldiers, he had gotten again to be a colonel. He and the rest of the officers had a council at Wallingford House, where Fleetwood dwelt, for the dispossessing of Richard; though they had not yet considered how the nations should he governed afterwards. For from the beginning of the rebellion, the method of ambition was constantly this, first to destroy, and then to consider what they should set up.

Systems are attractive, but systems are dead hands: it needs men and women of vision. Systems without new growth are restraints against the very creativity which was required for the foundation they bind. The founder must therefore not just create a system but create successors who have the life of the idea within them. Robert Baden-Powell achieved it, with a good deal of the cult of personality to follow him – each troop runs as if B-P were looking over their shoulder even today.

I think of the sudden enthusiasm for free schools, which had great success, when there was for each a directing mind. As long as that mind has remained to guide and to chide, they continue to thrive. Some were established by parents wanting a better school for their children, but they have seen their sons and daughters grow up, leave the school, and they themselves need no longer be involved: those schools can flourish only if the enthusiasm is renewed with each upcoming generation.

Now, to be fair, vision is not enough for continuance: Jordan Peterson observed that two characters are needed: it takes a liberal, creative mind to create a new endeavour, and a diligent, conservative mind to run it. The great men are those who can be both.

Some foundations of our age have fallen into dotage by following good but dead rules, the fire having gone out. Many have been captured by political activists lusting after their funds and the prestige of their name, but with no care for the original drive.

For those foundations created by the Duke of Edinburgh there is hope, because much of his drive was in creating in his successors the same vision. The Award Scheme has alumni ready to take on the world, knowing what the scheme is for. The conservation charities found a new dynamic, beyond mere preservation. He has gone, but his spirit imbues them all. Long may it last.

Going back to Carlyle, he explained his theme at greater length than an line:

Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here. They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realization and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world: the soul of the whole world’s history, it may justly be considered, were the history of these

The imperial system of Augustus went into decline the moment he breathed his last. Napoleon’s too as he boarded the Bellerophon to exile. Their achievements were “the practical realization and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men” and nothing without them. We may hope for better from the foundations left to us where the spirit of the founder still fills them.

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