25 May 2010

Froude and Coke

As per orders, I have been reading Froude. I read The Bow of Ulysses, and while he was obviously broadly accurate, at least in his more pessimistic outlook, I thought it was interesting that he had overestimated how bad democracy in the British West Indies would be.

A couple of days later, Kingston collapsed into civil war. Then I happened to notice that Jamaica had already had the highest murder rate in the world. It looks like this Victorian knew more about the twenty-first century than I do.

But that's by the way. I went on to his Short Studies of Great Subjects. I'm less than a quarter through, and while I can't point to any really new insights, I've suddenly found that I'm looking at a lot of things in a completely different way. The first result will be a piece on patriotism, which I'll go onto next.

1 comment:

A Nonny Mouse said...

Froude, born into a Anglican Rectory in Devon, adopted the perhaps surprising philosophy for someone from that background that the British Empire was wonderful and enlightened, particularly in its Anglican ethos.

This was despite the fact that after taking minor orders he could no longer bring himself to believe in Anglicanism himself; however it was still beneficial because it displaced Papism, rather in the manner that egg bacon spam and sausage is preferable to spam egg sausage and spam, because it hasn’t got as much spam in it.

He thus joined that group of determined young men, who have mastered a particular text, be it The God Delusion, Surat al-Baqara, or the Table of Kindred and Affinity, and regard themselves as therefore qualified to rule the world, overruling the wishes of the ignorant demos who think they can go on genuflecting, eating bacon butties or marrying their wife’s aunt.

England ruled Ireland, I would say, because it had a greater expanse of arable land and more coal: it is therefore redundant to waste any time reading the self-serving rant of a failed Anglican Vicar which attributes this feat to superior moral ethos or philosophy.

The Fenian O’Donovan Rossa was going round America, saying that British rule of Ireland was a bad thing, leading to the impoverishment of the country: Froude set off to refute him. We must concede that he managed to leave America alive, which says something at least about his ability to organise a retreat.

When in Ireland last week, I noticed that the names of places and institutions included a lot of O’Donovan Rossa this and O’Donovan Rossa that, without ever once mentioning Froude. This of course one may attribute to the inherent wickedness of the Irish, in not knowing what is good for them: but it seems to me that the problem with abandoning the democratic principle is that you then have no moral compass as to what decisions should be made: if the will of the people is correct, then we at least have a single version of what is ‘right’: but if the people are inherently ignorant as to what is good for them, then the possibilities are infinite: it might best to cover Ireland knee deep with Jelly Beans, or use it as a nuclear testing ground, or send the population to Tasmania and replace them with the Taliban.