Monday, February 27, 2017

Paul Johnson, History Man

The Art of Knowing


By a  Man in Full:

"'The Death of Conservatism'. I do not sympathize with such defeatism. To begin with, conservatism is protean. One kind was neatly summed up by that bluff old Victorian the Duke of Cambridge: “It is said I am against change. I am not against change. I am in favor of change in the right circumstances. And those circumstances are when it can no longer be resisted.”"

"I object strongly to the drift away from English history, which is part of a wider movement away from European and North Atlantic history. Virtually all the ideas, knowledge, techniques and institutions around which the world revolves comes from the European theatre and its ocean offshoots; many of them came quite explicitly from England, which laid the principal matrix of modern society. Moreover, the West is still the chief repository of free institutions; and these alone, in the long run, guarantee further progress in ideas and inventions. Powerful societies are rising elsewhere not by virtue of their rejection of the western world's habits but by their success in imitating them. ...

What ideas has Soviet Russia produced? Or Communist China? Or post-war Japan? Or liberated Africa? Or, for that matter, from Latin America, independent now for more than 150 years? It is a thin harvest indeed, distinguished chiefly by infinite variations on the ancient themes of violence, cruelty, suppression of freedom and the destruction of the individual spirit.

The sober and unpopular truth is that whatever hope there is for mankind - at least for the foreseeable future - lies in the ingenuity and the civilized standards of the West, above all in those western elements permeated by English ideas. To deny this is to surrender to fashionable cant and humbug. When we are taught by the Russians and the Chinese how to improve the human condition, when the Japanese give us science, and the Africans a great literature, when the Arabs show us the road to prosperity and the Latin Americans to freedom, then will be the time to change the axis of our history."

"What is important in history is not only the events that occur but the events that obstinately do not occur. The outstanding event of modern times was the failure of religious belief to disappear. For many millions, especially in the advanced nations, religion ceased to play much or any part in their lives, and the ways in which the vacuum thus lost was filled, by fascism, Nazism and Communism, by attempts at humanist utopianism, by eugenics or health politics, by the ideologies of sexual liberation, race politics and environmental politics, form much of the substance of the history of our century. But for many more millions—for the overwhelming majority of the human race, in fact—religion continued to be a huge dimension in their lives."--Paul Johnson, Modern Times

"The family is essentially a protective force, and not least against the claims of the state. It is an area of private custom, as opposed to public law. It is an alternative to the state as a focus of loyalty, and thus a humanizing force in society. Unlike the state, it upholds non-material values--makes them paramount, indeed. It repudiates the exclusive claims of realpolitik. ...The family, in fact, is a gentle ideology in itself, because it is inconceivable without a system of morality based on altruism. The family embraces tradition rather than fashionable dogma. It upholds a balance of rights and responsibilities, and not merely within generations: it insists on respect for the past, and concern for the future."--Paul Johnson, Statesman and Nation, 1971

"It is not surprising that the Saudis have directly financed and indirectly sponsored Moslem terrorism, just as their predecessors supported slave-trading and piracy. 

For America, September 11 was a new Great Awakening. It realized, for the first time, that it was a globalized entity itself. It no longer had frontiers. Its boundaries were the world, for from whatever part of the world harbored its enemies, it could be attacked, and if such enemies possessed weapons of mass destruction, mortally attacked.

 
Imperialism became a derogatory term only during the Civil War, when the South accused the North of behaving like a European empire... up to 1860 “empire” was not a term of abuse in the United States. George Washington himself spoke of “the rising American Empire.” Jefferson, aware of the dilemma, claimed that America was “an Empire for liberty.” That is what America is becoming again, in fact if not in name. America’s search for the security against terrorism and rogue states goes hand in hand with liberating their oppressed peoples. From the Evil Empire to an Empire for Liberty is a giant step, a contrast as great as the appalling images of the wasted twentieth century and the brightening dawn of the twenty-first. But America has the musculature and the will to take giant steps, as it has shown in the past.

One thing is clear: America is unlikely to cease to be an empire in the fundamental sense. It will not share its sovereignty with anyone. It will continue to promote international efforts of proven worth, like GATT, and to support military alliances like NATO where appropriate. But it will not allow the UN or any other organization to infringe on its natural right to defend itself as it sees fit..." --
New Criterion


"The essence of civilization is the orderly quest for truth, the rational perception of reality and all its facets, and the adaptation of man's behaviour to its laws. So long as we follow the path of reason we shall not move far from the lighted circle of civilization. Its enemies invariably lie among those who, for whatever motive, deny, distort, minimize, exaggerate or poison the truth, and who falsify the processes of reason. At all times civilization has its enemies, though they are constantly changing their guise and their weapons. The great defensive art is to detect and unmask them before the damage they inflict becomes fatal. 'Hell.' wrote Thomas Hobbes, 'is truth seen too late.' Survival is falsehood detected in time."--Paul Johnson, "Enemies of Society"

"Trust science. By this we mean a true science, based on objectively established criteria and agreed foundations, with a rational methodology and mature criteria of proof - not the multitude of pseudo-sciences which, as we have seen, have marked characteristics which can easily be detected and exposed. Science, properly defined, is an essential part of civilization. To be anti-science is not the mark of a civilized human being, or of a friend of humanity. Given the right safeguards and standards, the progress of science constitutes our best hope for the future, and anyone who denies this proposition is an enemy of science."--Paul Johnson, "Ten Pillars of Society"

"Nothing appeals to intellectuals more than the feeling that they represent 'the people'. Nothing, as a rule, is further from the truth."

"The [20th] century also brought forth social engineering, the practice of shoving large numbers of human beings around as though they were earth or concrete. Social engineering was a key feature in the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes, where it combined with moral relativism - the belief that right and wrong can be changed for the convenience of human societies - and the denial of God's rights."
"I once thought liberty was divisible, that you could have very great personal liberty within a framework of substantial state control of the economy, but I don't mind saying I was quite wrong. The thing that finally convinced me was the issue of compulsory unionism. Labour today is so deeply anti-creative, so organically and instinctually lacking in any positive impulses, that it actually likes banning things or people, for its own sake. It's motto is: accentuate the negative. To ban, to boycott, to embargo, to exclude, blacklist, close down, shut up, silence, censure - these are the things which now come naturally to it, perhaps the only things it really knows how to do."   
"Margaret Thatcher famously asked "Who governs Britain?" as unions struggled for power. By 1980, everyone knew the answer: Thatcher governs. Once the union citadel had been stormed, Thatcher quickly discovered that every area of the economy was open to judicious reform. Even as the rest of Europe toyed with socialism and state ownership, she set about privatizing the nationalized industries, which had been hitherto sacrosanct, no matter how inefficient. It worked. British Airways, an embarrassingly slovenly national carrier that very seldom showed a profit, was privatized and transformed into one of the world's best and most profitable airlines. British Steel, which lost more than a billion pounds in its final years as a state concern, became the largest steel company in Europe.

By the mid-1980s, privatization was a new term in world government, and by the end of the decade more than 50 countries, on almost every continent, had set in motion privatization programs, floating loss-making public companies on the stock markets and in most cases transforming them into successful private-enterprise firms. Even left-oriented countries, which scorned the notion of privatization, began to reduce their public sector on the sly. Governments sent administrative and legal teams to Britain to study how it was done. It was perhaps Britain's biggest contribution to practical economics in the world since Adam Smith published 'The Wealth of Nations'."
"Throughout history, the attachment of even the humblest people to their freedom, above all their freedom to earn their livings how and where they please, has come as an unpleasant shock to condescending ideologues. We need not suppose that the exercise of freedom is bought at the expense of any deserving class or interest — only of those with the itch to tyrannize."

"The virtue we should cherish most is the courage to resist violence, especially if this involves flying in the face of public opinion which, in its fear, and in its anxiety for peace, is willing to appease the violators. Above all, violence should never be allowed to pay, or be seen to pay."

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