George Walford: Editorial Notes (55)

CURRENT mores tend to produce a tangle of ex-husbands and ex-wives, their present partners and their present partners’ exes, that amounts to a new type of extended family. The nuclear family didn’t last long.

PROGRESS includes reversals and regressions. The social advance from expediency to domination, for example, included the appearance of law, and “One of the objects of the law of evidence is to prevent commonsense from having a free reign.” Lord Hallisham, former Lord Chancellor, quoting “the current standard work on the law of evidence.”

CREATIVE misquotation: An examination candidate spoke of life being “solitary, poor, nasty, British and short.”

“SOCIALISM began life (at least in Britain) as a literary movement. Its great appeal seems to have been to those who, whatever their particular walk in life, regarded themselves, or were regarded by others, as ‘artistic.'” (Raphael Samuel, History Workshop 25, here reprinted from Solidarity).

PEREGRINE Worsthorne notes that no journalist uses “truth” except as a synonym for “dirt”; a newspaper story headlined “Truth About Convent” would not be about prayer, sanctity or chastity.

BARBARA Arniel points out that for all we know holes in the ozone layer may have appeared in the past, and the bombardment by cosmic rays which they permit “may well be one of the principal engines of evolution and a good and valuable thing.”

INFLUENCES upon the divisions in South Africa include an ideological component transcending skin colour; blacks have joined the police and whites the anti-apartheid movement. It now has to be added that some blacks, like some whites, employ black servants.

RECENT government policy has been turning the mentally ill out of the asylums “into the community,” but now many of them are on the streets; half of those sleeping rough have mental problems. The civilized community develops specialised organs, among them asylums or equivalents, and suppression of these is less a move towards greater humanity than an amputation of it.

VIDEOCAMERAS installed in homes (with the occupants’ permission but often forgotten by them) show the image of television viewers as passive receptacles to be false. They may leave the sets turned on but they select what they watch. This supports the view that in political matters they do not simply go with the greater quantity of propaganda but respond according to their own mental structure.

“THE RECEIVED public image is of science as a single, coherent system with clear premises, secure methods and solid, matter-of-fact conclusions. But the sciences are made up of varying and often contradictory communities of practitioners, whose basic tenets are rarely to be challenged and almost always remain unstated and unexplored.” (Simon Schaffer)

THE REVOLUTIONARIES, whatever their internal conflicts, hold one common belief: that the principles on which society now mainly operates, individualistic action and collectivistic thinking, can be not merely countered or resisted but eventually eliminated. This conviction finds little support in the evidence. It rests mainly on faith, and while mountains may be moved by faith the authoritarian state is a tougher proposition.

“LIVE in harmony with nature.” Well, we’re trying, but it seems likely to be a while yet before humanity’s efforts match up to the destructive power of a nova.

from Ideological Commentary 55, Spring 1992.