Eyes to Be Believed: Part Three
This is the last post in a series of three (part one; part two).
"If I were asked what Europe requires at this moment I should say it is men who... can think without thinking what they are expected to think, men who... are able to contemplate with fresh eyes what is going on around them. Such men... might discern remedies." Thus advises Douglas, in Goodbye To Western Culture.
Chesterton writes in Cobbett: "The chief mark of the modern man has been that he has gone through a landscape with his eyes glued to a guidebook... One man, however, happened to look up from the book and see things for himself... he could believe his eyes." It is a funny image, thinking of all the Victorians with their Baedekers - if you've ever travelled with one, you understand the temptation. But we are warned by such authors: Do not become blinded by books!
When I was reading Douglas, I was reminded of a paraphrase from Pope's Essay on Man that I found in an antique copy of the NYT: "power in a monster of so frightful mien/ As to be hated needs but to be seen/ But seen too oft, familiar with her face/ we first endure, then pity, then embrace."
The monster needs to be seen - we are not to be blind to the monster. So, what is it? In all of these texts, I find the word "tyranny". Douglas: the tyranny of law, "a dead, immovable weight" which "leaves no hope of redress, no hope of escape". This, as opposed to the tyranny of man, which is uncertain and "leaves the oppressed chances and hopes of escaping it." He writes of hustle "killing ease of soul", man's "opiate, his refuge from self". And from this, impatience, "the White Man's curse, converting him into a harassed automaton, the slave of machines and unhealthy legislation". He muses at how much time is spent circumventing regulations that shouldn't exist.
My last two posts also address loss of freedom, the problems of technology - perhaps most succinctly summed in the italicised phrase above.
The NYT article explains that the Trojan war was not waged over Helen, as we are told by Homer and Virgil, rather it was an economic war. The author urges readers to recognise power, and resulting loss of freedom, where it occurs. But this cannot happen if there is "government by newspaper" as Douglas wrote many decades ago.
And what is bidding Western Culture adieu? "The world was a great and beautiful museum once, full of beautiful things, all of different kinds. Then Europeans, growing hungry for new foods, new places to live in, new places to sell goods in, new folk to teach their religion to, went round with sticks and broke all the precious things on the shelves of the world." In other words, "we have lost the intelligence which is the basis of gentlemanly feeling". It is hard to look with eyes of compassion if one feels oppressed or harried.