Category: Fleming

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Munich–A City of Two Tales

This just in: A bizarre incident took place this week in Munich.  Out of the blue, a typical German teenager quit spending his money on drugs and night clubs and decided to spend his free time and surplus cash on helping elderly people in a retirement home.  No one knows what motivated this eccentric behavior.  The young man had no known connections with any political movement advocating charity or welfare.  Found in his bedroom were various non-denominational pamphlets on how to practice charity.  All that is know of him is that he was brought up in the Catholic Church and...

8

One More Reason I’m Glad I’m Not a Conservative

When several people asked me what I thought of the Republican Convention in Cleveland, I had to answer truthfully that I had paid very little attention to the quadrennial shenanigans. Much of my time, this past week, was devoted to driving my broken-legged wife to medical appointments, the most serious of which was the three hour operation that took place yesterday.  The doctors are proclaiming a tactical victory, but recovery time is now being measured in terms of months rather than weeks, which puts our October program in Greece on hold. When I did have time to turn on the...

6

Learning to Write and Read Verse

Several readers and friends have asked me how to read poetry, and the questions usually take the form of asking my advice on this or that book on prosody or form or the history of poetry.  I invariably reply to such requests—as I also reply to requests for “one good book” on Greek drama or the fall of Rome or ancient rhetoric, by suggesting generally that is best to form one’s taste on the “classics” that used to be approved by the wisdom of our ancestors, the cut-off being World War I. In matters of writing—poetry and rhetoric, for example—I...

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Properties of Blood, Chapter 5: Revenge, Part C

Civilized people will never be impressed by any argument that seems to celebrate the morality of apes.  We are, after all, human beings who are, as Christians say, made in the image of God or, as Darwinists insist, the product of tens of millions of years of evolutionary progress.  It is a main thrust of philosophical liberalism (and of ancient Stoicism) that human beings have a duty to rise above not only animal but parochial and sectarian passions. I can almost hear the rumblings from the professors, social workers, and other right-thinking people:  ”If you once start conceding some legitimacy...

9

Loretta’s Lynch Law

American political leaders are almost to a man, woman, and  all points in-between,  uneducated and literate only to the level that they can read the speeches that are written for them.  Nonetheless, it is sometimes enlightening to examine the clichés—almost all of them not simply false but counter-intuitive— with which they pepper their pronouncements. Case in point, Loretta Lynch’s sermon on the murder of five officers of the law in Dallas.  After thanking the reporters for attending, she assured the American people that “we”—whatever or whomever she means by that— “…intend to provide any assistance that we can to investigate...

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Aristotle’s Politics III 6-8

Aristotle takes up the nature of sovereignty as it is exercised in the different types of constitutions he has sketched out previously.  Some translations of these passages refer to “government”—an English word with rather too much modern baggage.  When most of us think of “government,” we are thinking of “the government,” meaning its powerful agencies and agendas that strengthen the power of the governing class.   Aristotle, by contrast, speaks of to kyrion,” the ruling or masterful element. A constitution can by viewed as the system in which higher offices or magistracies are arranged.  The sovereign element in a polis...

3

Properties of Blood, Chapter Five: Sweet Revenge, Part B

This Simian World Revenge and marriage, as institutionalized means of expressing love and hate, have much in common: Both are found in a variety of forms, but the forms and tendencies that converge in societies around the globe encourage us to think of them as generically human phenomena.  That is because they are, both of them, based on natural necessities and passions that have probably been instilled into the human species throughout the long course of evolution.  A mouse will fight against an attacker, whether the enemy is a rival mouse or a cat, and I have been charged by...

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Aristotle, Politics III.3-5

Aristotle is no egalitarian, and he does not think that poor men who work with their hands (banausoi) and thus cannot participate in political life are fully citizens.  He is thinking specifically of the formal requirements of property for holding office, but I doubt that he would be enthusiastic about the idea of factory workers or perhaps even white collar employees of a corporation as citizens, since de facto they are under the control of their bosses and have little if any time for political participation.  Whatever other virtues they might possess, employees are not free in the sense that...

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Poems of the Week: Friends

Here are two quite different English poems written by two great classically trained poets, Ben Jonson and A.E. Housman.  Both are modeled–Jonson’s rather loosely–on Horace.  Housman’s students said the only time the old boy ever displayed a hint of feeling was when he read this “translation” aloud to his class.  An interesting minor point I just learned.  The mystery novelist Colin Dexter (creator of Inspector Morse) took a degree in classics from Cambridge, and when asked to profile a favorite writer, he chose Housman.  We had watched the television series, but this tidbit has inspired me to read Dexter’s first...

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Properties of Blood, Chapter 5: Sweet Revenge

NOTE:  I had decided to omit the following two chapters on individual violence– as well as a later chapter on blood feuds etc.–from this volume and to put them in a separate book.  As I worked on the later chapters, it became apparent to me that my initial outline was better. Sweet Revenge With base deceit you worked upon our feelings. Revenge is sweet, and flavors all our dealings.”   Revenge is sweet, whether anyone likes to admit it.  But even a hundred years ago, when people were more candid about the reality of aggression, audiences at productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s...