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Friday May 17th 2019Tim Candler9

 

    ".....As his political melancholy increases, he tells, and, perhaps, dreams, of the advances of the prerogative, and the dangers of arbitrary power; yet his design, in all his declamation, is not to benefit his country, but to gratify his malice...." Declamation is an artistic form of public speaking, a dramatic oration, hand gestures and sometimes set to music, Mussolini and others were very good at it.  Often pretty pointless just quoting something ripped from a long essay, or pamphlet. For example what is the context of the writer's reference to 'political melancholy'? The title of the essay is Patriotism and the essay was written by Samuel Johnson in the year 1774. My own purpose for going to the essay was to better understand Boswell quoting Johnson who apparently had said "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."  The essay also contains a masterly use of semi-colons in this passage "...These, however, are the most honest of the opponents of government; their patriotism is a species of disease; and they feel some part of what they express. But the greater, far the greater number of those who rave and rail, and inquire and accuse, neither suspect nor fear, nor care for the public; but hope to force their way to riches, by virulence and invective, and are vehement and clamorous, only that they may be sooner hired to be silent...." My own appraisal is that for Johnson patriotism was ill defined, appeals to it were both good and bad, and best to think of the motives behind calls for Patriotism before leaping to conclusions, however, in Johnson's view the odds were most appeals to patriotism fell foul of upright, honest and in the Public Interest. In short, for Johnson, appeals to patriotism were no substitute for reasoned argument and open handed debate. Yes indeed, Johnson had high hopes for a rational civic society and you got to love him big time. He died in 1784, he was 75 years old. His dictionary went toward formalizing word use in language enabling disparate language users to communicate with fewer misunderstandings. It can be argued that etiquette had a similar origin for a delicate species prone to both misunderstandings, taking things personally, rampant self aggrandizement and heavy duty sulking.

 

Past

    When Johnson was writing Patriotism around 3% of Britain's population of around eight million had the vote. They voted for Members of Parliament. One of the issues was that new growing towns with dramatically increasing populations such as Leeds and Manchester didn't send anyone to Parliament, whereas a little country village in the middle of nowhere like Dunwich with a population of around 30 people did send someone to parliament. Of interest Dunwich used to be the Capital of the East Anglians, a big important town on the coast, sadly for Dunwich, soon after its mention in the Doomsday Book of 1086 most of the town that once numbered 3000 very important people disappeared, swallowed up by coastal erosion. Not sure what Johnson's position was on universal suffrage, he was a Tory, but he had high confidence in what he called advances in the "Science of politics" which these days includes Sociology. I do know that Johnson is supposed to have said, "Man alone is born crying, lives complaining and dies disappointed." I also know that it was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United states who recently attacked computer literate scientific studies of gerrymandering presented to his court  with the expression "Sociological Gobbledygook." The question of course, did the Chief Justice understand the science, or was his remark based upon a 'ditsy' knee jerk pompous ass reaction to a failure of comprehension, or was it something else? And here, a man called Mathew Motta, a Social Scientist in the field of communication, has argued that the growing negative affect popular anti-intellectualism has on science and opinions of experts can be mitigated by improving verbal intelligence, which is language based reasoning, otherwise everything cleaves toward a blind trust in the propaganda arm of this or that capricious, or whimsical, political movement. Brexit, Wallace, Trump. So probably better when the scientifically literate are explaining scientific investigations to something like a gathering of Supreme Court Justices not to get all carried away by the non-kindergarten assumptions implied by the Nancy Gowns of the court and just go ahead, hand out Sippy-Drinks, employ cartoons, Disney Characters, lots of colorful pictures.

 

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