Sydney Smith Explains Monarchy

DIVISION OF POWER.

THE prize of supreme power is too tempting to admit
of fair play in the game of ambition; and it is wise to
lessen its value by dividing it : at least it is wise to do
so, under a form of government that cannot admit the
better expedient of rendering the executive hereditary;
an expedient (gross and absurd as it seems to be) the
best calculated, perhaps, to obviate the effects of ambition
upon the stability of governments, by narrowing the
field on which it acts, and the object for which it con
tends.— [Edinburgh Review. 1803.]


Sudden Freedom

Iraq and so many countries minted in the twentieth century can attest to the wisdom of Sidney Smith in 1803. Why is this so hard to get?

SUDDEN FREEDOM.
A NATION grown free in a single day is a child born
with the limbs and the vigour of a man, who would
take a drawn sword for his rattle, and set the house in a
blaze, that he might chuckle over the splendour.—[1803.]


Camus on Totalitarian Impulses

Nicola Chiaromonte's paraphrase of a talk Albert Camus gave at Columbia a half century ago and more ends this way:

Now that Hitler has gone, we know a certain number of things. The first is that the poison which impregnated Hitlerism has not been eliminated; it is present in each of us. Whoever today speaks of human existence in terms of power, efficiency and "historical tasks" spreads it. He is an actual or potential assassin. For if the problem of man is reduced to any kind of "historical task," he is nothing but the raw material of history, and one can do anything one pleases with him. Another thing we have learned is that we cannot accept any optimistic conception of existence, any happy ending whatsoever. But if we believe that optimism is silly, we also know that pessimism about the action of man among his fellows is cowardly.

We opposed terror because it forces us to choose between murdering and being murdered; and it makes communication impossible. This is why we reject any ideology that claims control over all of human life.

Hoffer Spots a Trend

From Eric Hoffer, longshoreman and observer:

In all contemporary mass movements schoolmasters played a vital and often leading role. I am willing to bet that more than half of the leaders in Africa are ex-schoolmasters. In the Nazi movement grammar-school teachers played a prominent and fateful role. Now and then I am inclined to think that the passion to teach, which is far more powerful and primitive than the passion to learn, is a factor in the rise of mass movements. For what do we see in the Communist world? Half of the globe has been turned into a vast schoolroom with a thousand million pupils at the mercy of a band of maniacal schoolmasters.


Hoffer, Eric. Working and Thinking on the Waterfront, 1968 

Credentialing the Poets

From an English Departmental email

Next up is a poetry course. If you or someone you know on campus has an M.F.A. in poetry and is a practicing poet, please contact me, as we need your help designing and teaching this class.