I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Call me Gully the Cynic

I just wanted to share a few words from what a novel I have been reading lately. The book is Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. When presented in such a playful and honest fashion, I love the satire and good-natured (though sometimes cynical) mockery of human existence. I wonder how people can become so ridiculous as to take themselves seriously and believe in their own importance, or worse, natural divinity. Anyway, the following quote comes from the King of Brobdingnag (the Brobdingnagians are a virtuous and peaceful race of giants that live humbly isolated from the rest of the world). After Gulliver explains European history and British society he says, "My little friend Grildrig (Gulliver); you have made a most admirable panegyric upon your country. You have clearly proved that ignorance, idleness, and vice are the proper ingredients for qualifying a legislator. That laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied by those whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, and eluding them. I observe among you some lines of an institution, which in its original might have been tolerable, but these half erased, and the rest wholly blurred and blotted by corruptions. It doth not appear from all you have said, how any one perfection is requited towards the procurement of any one station among you, much less that men are ennobled on account of their virtue, that priests are advanced for the piety or learning, soldiers for their conduct or valour, judges for the integrity, senators for the love of their country, or counsellors for their wisdom. As for yourself who have spent the greatest part of your life in travelling, I am well disposed to hope you may hitherto have escaped many vices of your country. But, by what I have gathered from your own relation, and the answers I have with much pains wringed and extorted from you, I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives, to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth."
That's all, but I'd like to hear what others think about that quote. To begin the polemic I will offer that I cannot disagree with the King's evaluation...


Blogger Dr. Gn Sulpicius Rufus said...

Jesus you're acting facetious? Sincerely, our elected officials are also just drunk and genetically in-bred.

As for the quote, humans coming together means stupidity and irrationality. It's not a matter of one people's being stupid, but how stupid a people are going to be. The more stupid, the crappier the legal precedence. The more the officials are assholes, the greater that you'll probably be very discontented with the way they conduct their "morality".

But, fuck it. Suck it up, girly man. Just remember, Japan is fantasy land, it always has been; more on that later.

1:58 PM

Blogger Salem Willard said...

Thanks Sean,

I see what you're saying, but I think the genius of the quote lies not in human stupidity. What Swift points out is that a person's (or people's) "intelligence" weighs in accordance with the level of refinement in their society. This includes the definitions of their culture and how it is used to exclude and alienate those who are not keen enough to challenge the system. Over time this has evolved into a game of sifting through our own shit to find a gem that can somehow elevate us in the eyes of our peers. The Founding Fathers had the best fraternity in American history. They carved constitution and laws so that the majority of laymen would not be able to figure out how it worked, and simultaneously gave everyone a "vote" so that they felt empowered enough not to try. It was a cunning act of reason and intellect that created the system. And where did we learn such deception? From our British investors about whom Swift is speaking when he wrote Gulliver's Travels in 1726. I think this is what Swift is relating through the King when he bashes the Europeans––that the genius behind political manipulation is the most cruel because it consciously uses our most fortunate natural enhancement toward self-preservation, survival, and, yes, virtue (if that be man's highest goal), and turns them into a method to exploit human gullibility and weakness so as to make them subservient.
I would call this stupid. Perhaps tragic though. Tragic because humans could potentially use this rational power to understand and overcome hostilities. We know that greed, and war, and racism, and intemperance, and hatred, and loneliness, and everything bad in the world stems from human insecurity and fear. Yet our "civilized" society continues to pander to these vices (that the King refers to) in order to capitalize on that insecurity and develop into a profit for their person gain. Abroad this used to be done by charging into Africa or the Americas with guns and ammunition (actually it still is happening now!); at home politicians and tyrants (whether the corporate or the divinely inspired kind) used the utmost surreptitious genius to make citizens believe our vices are natural and necessary. Materialism of the industrial age is my case and point. As of the 1980s in America there were three televisions for every person. I'll post a link to that source when I have time later to retrieve it, but I'd hate to see what the numbers are now.
My only point is that this is not mere fatuousness on the parts of our leaders and owners. It has been a scheme from the start to use our mental faculties to find an edge over death. This all just appears to be evidence that, in order to meet our survival needs, humans (as animals) have used their one evolutionary advantage to dominate and conquer other creatures. We advances using tools to acquire food, defend against predator, and hunt our prey, and now we have come to the point where we use these tools against ourselves in the name of "civilization". I guess this leads me to reject the idea that virtue is man's goal. More than anything, our inability to shed the skins or primitive ancestors appears manifest in our pursuit of small shiny objects.

9:33 AM

Blogger salemsmom said...

Every now and then, the balance shifts.

Note that this week, the world's two most wealthy men have pooled their accumulated wealth to return it to the world which blessed them. Their goal is to provide health via their wealth, to those who would have no access or hope.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been luring all the brightest and best from the government boondoggle - the CDC. And they have attracted Warren Buffet whose business acumen has made him the most admired investor in our history. He announced that he will be giving his money to someone who has gotten it right, rather than pursuing charity in his own name.


Perhaps Gates should be our next President - Melinda or Bill. Maybe together - switching back and forth for the next 16 years.

7:31 PM

Blogger salemsmom said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:31 PM

Blogger Dr. Gn Sulpicius Rufus said...

Actually, Mr Willard, I do have a matter that I want to investigate which you touched on. Basic concept:

Homo-sapien V. Homo-sapien-sapien
or otherwise referred to,
Beast V. Man

I want to pursue a study of the pscyhology of our societal abstraction. This may be a bit more convenient over e-mail, which seems not to exist in Japan when I know you don't have a job.

6:25 AM

Blogger Salem Willard said...

Nice addition, Mom. I think the Gates should just move ahead to the next logical step––pruchasing the U.S. government. I mean, why not? It's already for sale. Plus running for office has become so complicated that much more than half of U.S. citizens can't even figure out how to do it anymore. We would be better off under a kind tyrrany run by the Gates family than the oil-mongering one of the Bushies.

10:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are calling me a vermin because I am not in Japan? How do I email you Salem?

6:03 AM


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