We take no side in the seething debate within the Republican establishment as to whether Donald Trump is a fascist or a fraud or some unedifying combination of the two, but we are certain that their truly visceral hatred of The Donald has an entirely different source – one which is not so much Republican as republican in the classical meaning of word, being derived from the cold fear which grips the hearts of powerful élite groups when one of its members attempts to win power over the group as a whole by allying himself with the powerless millions outside it.
The Roman republic in its final years is, of course, the famous prototype, with the transition to empire largely brought about by the breakdown of the Roman oligarchy’s collective solidarity. As the expansion of Roman wealth and power made the potential prize of domination commensurately greater, some oligarchs became tempted to reach out to the lower classes for support in their competition with each other. The murder of Caesar in the Senate was merely the last of a series of tyrannicides where ‘tyrant’ was defined not as one who enslaved the people, but as a popular man who undermined the aristocracy by appealing directly to the people. Livy, for example, once described how one Maelius wickedly distributed food to the people from his own, rather than the Senate’s, account, and was in consequence bumped off by Servilius in order to rid the Republic of an incipient tyrant. Read more
A couple of passages from Number 33 of John Wilkes’ The North Briton, published January 15th 1763, seem appropriate as battalions of ‘Eurosceptic’ ministers like Theresa May line up to pretend they believe that some minor change to in-work benefits arrangements constitutes a major reconfiguration of the European Union.
“Why do they not tell us the reasons on which they have changed their faith, and assign some fair methods by which they have satisfied the doubts of conscience? Till they do this, we certainly have an undoubted right to consider their pretended change as a mere piece of finesse, calculated to advance the worst of purposes, or to regard them as men of inconstancy and levity, acting from caprice and not reason; consequently in either of these respects unfit to take part in the direction of affairs.”
Secondly, and in a more general vein:
“A Tory, in the true and original meaning of the word, not to gloss it over with vain and artificial interpretations, was a maintainer of the infernal doctrine of arbitrary power, and the indefeasible right on the part of the sovereign, and of passive obedience and non-resistance on the part of the subject…The Tory maintained, that the king held his crown of none but God; that he could not by the most flagrant violation of the laws, by the most tyrannical exercise of his power, forfeit his right; that the people were made entirely for him, and that he had a right to dispose of their fortunes, lives and liberties, in defiance of his coronation oath, and the eternal laws of reason, without the subject having any right to demand redress of their grievances, or if their demand was denied, to seek it in themselves. Doth not the Jacobite hold these very tenets?”
Shrewd fellow, was Uncle Jack.
The European Union, an enormous and dysfunctional agglomeration of squabbling nations with less in common than the average cast of I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here, has a north-westerly sort of province called the United Kingdom. About this place the other provinces know little and care less, but they have a nebulous idea that it is inhabited by an uncooperative, usually inebriated and almost completely irrational collection of hideous-looking savages who apparently gave up on evolution after the invention of the deep fat fryer. Mysteriously, however, not only have these people somehow managed to be a bastion of freedom, pluralism and liberal democracy for centuries, but have even been responsible for either restoring or introducing those things to the rest of Europe, frequently after emerging victorious from yet another horrific war started by the other provinces themselves. Naturally, those other provinces chafe at any sense of obligation and relative failure vis-à-vis a people whom so many of them despise, but what appears to make some of them angriest of all is that many Brits seem to find the idea of living in a political union with other Europeans to be about as alluring as sharing a toilet cubicle with a rabid dog.
In fact, they are about to have a vote on whether or not to leave the Union! Just think of it, one imagines Guy Verhofstadt muttering to himself as he fiddles with the nightly dental floss: these greedy vulgarians are actually spurning us! Can you even conceive of the sauciness of a people like that deciding that they would be better off without being joined at the hip to Luxembourg and Bulgaria? In the interests of the eternal rightness of things, and also for their own good, they must be brought to see that they need to share a polity with the rest of the continent, through whatever trickery, bullying and bare-faced lies may be necessary. But fear not, Euro friends, for you have forgotten one important thing: these people are as insane as they are repulsive, and therefore will vote to remain in the EU even though they know perfectly well that it is a corrupt, undemocratic and remorselessly anti-British racket run by bungling nobodies whose institutional framework appears to have been designed by Coco the Clown. The JWC is here to reassure you about just how insane they really are. Read more
Oxford University, famed throughout the world for being the one that isn’t Cambridge, is apparently seething with controversy over the reputation of Victorian philanthropist Cecil J Rhodes. Oriel College – originally ‘oriole’, referring not to the type of bird but the type of window, although the former might be more apt since its plumage is predominantly yellow – has angered the usual sort of people by erecting a statue to its former student and benefactor, and is facing calls to remove it. Key detail: they did in fact put up the bloody thing the best part of a century ago whereas the anger is only coming now, which may well be a clue to the underlying problem here, i.e., that attitudes are so susceptible to changing over time that even today’s hysterical shrieking teenagers will be considered reactionary monsters by the hysterical shrieking teenagers of tomorrow.
Consider, for instance, Germaine Greer, the radical feminist once renowned as a militant firebrand at the very vanguard of the revolutionary left, but now banned as a right-wing maniac from half the universities in the Anglosphere for having suggested that people with Y-chromosomes aren’t women. Dr Greer has made the mistake of clinging on to her 20th century modernism, which used to oppose irrational feelings by positing facts, in the very face of the postmodern 21st century’s belief in countering upsetting facts by asserting feelings. It is not too late for Germaine, however: she has time to recant her beliefs in some public forum, like one of those old communist officials who would inadvertently drift a few millimetres from whatever the Party orthodoxy was on the particular day of his ill-judged remarks and then appear on television looking contrite. She might well consider shedding a tear and begging forgiveness for the hurt which she has caused.
No such opportunity for Cecil, though: his goose is well and truly cooked, for his mistake is even more fundamental than Dr Greer’s, viz.- being dead for 113 years, and thus unable to reassure us all that his opinions are now bang up to date. Read more
Francesco Morosini was arguably the last great Doge of Venice, and just as Belisarius’s military exploits against the Vandals and Ostrogoths and other assorted colourful barbarians in sixth century Italy had allowed everyone in Constantinople to pretend that the Roman Empire was still a goer, so too did Morosini’s campaigns against the Turks in the eastern Mediterranean in the 1680s permit the ancient Republic to indulge in the fantasy that these Ottomans and Protestants and whatnot who had been cluttering up the Med for the last hundred years had just been a flash in the pan, and that Greece in particular would be restored to the Venetian Empire.
In September 1687, therefore, Morosini and pals were busy besieging Athens – then part of Turkey, and destined to remain so for another 150 years – when the local authorities had the bright idea of protecting its munitions by stuffing them into the Parthenon, apparently in the belief that occidentals could never bring themselves to damage such a famous symbol of western culture and civilisation. In a timely reminder that the Levant and the West have rarely understood each other, the Venetians calmly turned their artillery on it, blew it up, and attempted to loot the pieces, Morosini writing laconically in his despatches to the Senate that it had been “a fortunate shot”. Read more