Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tocqueville on the careless usufruction unworthy of a free man

"It profits me but little . . . that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life, and if it so monopolizes movement and life that when it languishes, everything languishes around it, that when it sleeps everything must sleep, and that when it dies the state itself must perish.
     "There are countries in Europe where the native considers himself as a kind of settler [(colon)], indifferent to the fate of the spot which he inhabits.  The greatest changes are effected there without his concurrence, and (unless chance may have apprised him of the event) without his knowledge; nay, more, the condition of his village, the police of his street, the repairs of the church or the parsonage, do not concern him; for he looks upon all these things as unconnected with himself and as the property of a powerful stranger whom he calls the government.  He has only a life interest in these possessions, without the spirit of ownership or any ideas of improvement [(Pour lui, il jouit de ces biens comme un usufruitier, sans esprit de propriété et sans idées de amélioration quelconque)].  This want of interest goes so far that if his own safety or that of his children is at last endangered, instead of trying to avert the peril, he will fold his arms and wait till the whole nation comes to his aid."

     Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America I (1835).I.V.13 ("Political effects of decentralized administration in the United States"), trans. Henry Reeve, with revisions by Francis Bowen and Phillips Bradley ((New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), vol. 1, p. 92);  Œuvres, ed. André Jardin (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade), II (De la démocratie en Amérique), ed. Jean-Claude Lamberti and James T. Schleifer (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1992), 103-104.  Tocqueville continues as follows:

"This man who has so completely sacrificed his own free will does not, more than any other person, love obedience; he cowers, it is true, before the pettiest officer, but he braves the law with the spirit of a conquered foe as soon as its superior force is withdrawn; he perpetually oscillates between servitude and license.
     "When a nation has arrived at this state, it must either change its customs and laws, or perish; for the source of public virtue is dried up; and though it may contain subjects, it has no citizens.  Such communities are a natural prey to foreign conquests" (92-93). . . .

Tocqueville on the "two distinct kinds of centralization"

"I cannot conceive that a nation can live and prosper without a powerful centralization of government [(centralisation gouvernementale)].  But I am of the opinion that a centralized administration [(centralisation administrative)] is fit only to enervate the nations in which it exists, by incessantly diminishing their local spirit."

     Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America V.ii.3 ("Political effects of decentralized administration in the United States"),  trans. Henry Reeve, with revisions by Francis Bowen and Phillips Bradley ((New York, NY:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), vol. 1, p. 87).

Friday, July 27, 2012

"uni deo, una & eadem formula, preces, & laudes adhibendi"

"to one God, with one and the same formula, let prayers and praise be addressed".

     Brevarium Romanum (1568), 3, as translated by Nathan D. Mitchell, who calls this "Counter-Reformation Catholicism's liturgical motto".  Nathan D. Mitchell, "8. Reforms, Protestant and Catholic," The Oxford history of Christian worship, ed. Geoffrey Wainwright and Karen B. Westerfield Tucker (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 2006), 339, 350 (307-350).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"What was England, before Wolsey? A little offshore island, poor and cold."

         Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall:  a novel (New York:  Henry Holt and Company, A John Macrae Book, 2009), 213.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Williams on the "nonsense . . . written about 'Celtic Christianity'"

"A great deal of nonsense has been written about 'Celtic Christianity', as if this were an intelligible designation for some self-contained variant of Catholic orthodoxy in the early Middle Ages, a variant more attuned to the sacredness of nature and less obsessed with institutional discipline.  Historically, the churches of those regions where Celtic languages were spoken never thought of themselves as part of a network other than that of the Western Catholic Church.  They wrote and spoke Latin, they looked to Rome as the focus of their ecclesial life (Welsh kings as well as English spent their final years in Rome) and they accepted the creeds and canons of the Catholic Church.  The irony is that Bede's concern to show them as mysteriously and suspiciously 'other' to the Roman norm is one of the roots of modern mythologies about a Celtic Christianity that is somehow deeper and more spiritually comprehensive than the orthodox mainstream.  His vague and general allegation that the British were specially susceptible to heresy, and the more specific mention of the prevelance of Pelagianism in the fifth century are part of building up a picture of a disturbingly different style of Christianity.  And even when he is underlining the difference in a positive way  the contrast between the humility and simplicity of the Irish-trained monks and the self-advertising and arrogance of others, past and present  he is reinforcing what modern fantasy has turned into a contrast between institutional 'Roman' Christianity and native Wordsworthian innocence and mystical insight."

     Rowan Williams, "Chosen people:  Bede's three-dimensional view of the past endures, because it celebrates as much as it argues," Times literary supplement, July 6, 2012, p. 15 (pp. 13-15).  The irony lies in the fact that Bede, who "does not let the clear ideological thrust of his narrative simply distort what is before him" (p. 14), did not, unlike our modern mythologists, approve of "the divergences of . . . the British or Irish Churches", such as they were (which is to say "minor") (p. 13).

"'Democratic primitivism is . . . the moral template . . . operative in the historical consciousness for most of Northern Europe'.  It created a Gothic myth for the Swedes, a Gaulish myth for France, in England the myth of 'the Norman yoke' and the ancient liberties of Anglo-Saxons:  the last, however, challenged by the Celtic myth of 'the gay, harmonious culture of the ancient Gaels' crushed under the iron heels of Saxon, Viking and English oppressors.  The ethnotypes survive; they arguably poison political relations to this day.
     "It is important accordingly to realize their more than dubious basis.  No ancient author ever located Celts in Britain or Ireland:  the idea is George Buchanan's from 1582".

     Tom Shippey citing Joanne Parker in The harp and the constitution:  myths of Celtic and Gothic origin, ed. Joanne Parker (Leiden:  Brill, 2016).  "Celticities," Times literary supplement (March 18, 2016):  7.