Tory Historian happens to be what is vulgarly described as a sucker for newsreels of the past. What a joy it is, therefore, to find two videos on the History Today blog, one of people celebrating in the streets in 1918 on hearing that the war is finally over and the other is a longish piece of various dignitaries arriving for the Versailles Conference. There is even a sequence of the documents being signed. One wonders where the Pathé News cameraman is standing as the pictures always seem to be above and behind everybody else.

Or PMQs as they are known not so affectionately. Tory Historian's Blog mentioned the fiftieth anniversary of this tradition before. Nevertheless, a section on the Parliamentary website seemed like a good opportunity to revive the subject. There are many interesting links in the piece, but it is somewhat unfortunate that it is so badly written and edited.

There is, for example a reference to a Parliamentary Breifing Note. Really, that rule ought to be known by people who work in the House of Commons. And what does the first sentence mean?

"The 24 October 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of Prime Minister's Question Time as a permanent parliamentary event." The 24 October 2011?  Dear me.

Still, there are many gems of interest to people who find parliamentary history and traditions interesting. Go to it with a will, say I.

In Federalist 51, James Madison (or it might have been Alexander Hamilton) wrote:‎

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.
Tory Historian has always though that it is the practical and rational attitude of the Founding Fathers to the people (or the People, if one prefers) which is so attractive about their ideas. Here were no utopian idealists who saw what they wanted to see but hard-headed individuals who knew that there was no such thing as an ideal politician or an ideal voter.

Jeremy Black, a conservative historian who is probably a member of the Conservative Party as well, writes in History Today about the grievance industry.

Grievances are a characteristic of post-Cold War history, as various ‘liberated’ peoples have adopted historical claims in the service of their political goals. The end of the Cold War discredited Marxism as an official creed and lessened its influence as a basis for analysis, resulting in a major shift away from the understanding of society linked at an international level to the expression, revival or rise of national grievances, notably within Eastern Europe.

Grievances provide an easy way to mobilise identity and expound policy; and the use of grievance in this fashion by one party encourages its use by another. The copy-cat nature of public history has become very apparent, as in rival Chinese and Japanese accounts such as those inspired by recent territorial disputes in the East China Sea. Grievance becomes a means both to interrogate the past and to deploy the past to justify current actions.
Using the past to justify actions in the present is a very old game, indeed. As old as history itself. It is possible that the number and frequency of grievances aired in the public sphere has multiplied since the end of the Cold War but, on the whole, I think not.

Public grievances seem to multiply in direct relation to the compensation available, either in financial or political terms. Sometimes that compensation is simply the demand that certain, otherwise unpalatable, actions be condoned as the Chinese government expects and receives from numerous commentators.

Sometimes it is a question of simple acknowledgement as, I think and hope, with the Armenians and the 1915 massacre, though the insistence on that insidious word "genocide" makes one wonder. Frequently, however, it is a demand for more direct compensation with money or land. Why I do not think this is a particularly post-Cold War phenomenon is because there is one set of horrors for which precious little compensation has been paid out in any shape or form, and that is horrors imposed by Communist regimes.

Art confiscated by Communist governments has not been restored and there are no signs that it will ever happen; property confiscated is supposed to be restored in theory but in practice it rarely happens, unless some particular national group can be blamed; apologies have been half-hearted and attempts to air those grievances in international bodies have not had much success. There is, indeed, no point in producing those historic grievances if the perpetrators are not listening.

Tory Historian finds a great deal of C. S. Lewis's writing entertaining and instructive. A copy of Mere Christianity, the published version of Lewis's extremely successful wartime broadcasts on religion and morality has produced many gems.

Lewis says that some people have suggested to him that moral judgement that we all, according to him, have is, perhaps, just an instinct like other instincts. Not so, replies he. Instincts are like the notes in music but it is moral judgement that tells us how to play them. Left to themselves, instincts will not guide us and they never do. Even the best instincts can steer us in the wrong direction.

The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of these that will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials 'for the sake of humanity', and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man.
This is a phenomenon we have all become very familiar.

News comes of two incredibly principled poets, who, one assumes, fight like anything for their various fees and royalties, withdrawing from the T. S. Eliot poetry prize, because ... oh fie ... it is now sponsored by nvestment management firm Aurum Funds. Oh, oh, oh. Smelling salts someone, please.

The Poetry Book Society negotiated the three-year sponsorship deal with Aurum earlier this year. The deal followed the withdrawal of its Arts Council funding – a move protested by over 100 poets including Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage.

Kinsella told the Bookseller that he "fully" understood why the poetry organisation had looked elsewhere for funding, "given the horrendous way they were treated, but as an anticapitalist in full-on form, that is my position".

"Hedge funds are at the very pointy end of capitalism, if I can put it that way," he added.

Oswald, who pulled her collection Memorial from the prize on Tuesday, believes that "poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions".
TH is a little confused. It would appear that when "such institutions" give money voluntarily to sponsor a poetry competition, that is wrong and evil but if money is extracted from them by the state in the form of taxes and then handed over in the form of subsidy, that is good.

All one can say is that it is a good thing that people like Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo did not think along those lines. Neither did T. S. Eliot, as it happens. He spent a good part of his life working in a bank and then running a publishing firm that made profits.

USS West Virginia:

USS Shaw:

USS Arizona:



Pictures of Pearl Harbor devastation, courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

Tory Historian has mentioned before (here and here, for instance) that detective stories are the most conservative of literary genres. And here is an article I wrote on it last week for Taki's Magazine.

Consider what happens in a detective story, even a modern one that purports to have a leftward (or “enlightened”) leaning: A crime, probably murder, is committed, possibly followed by similar crimes. The world is turned upside-down as a result. Together with the detective, we cannot rest until the perpetrators are discovered and brought to justice. The perpetrator is at the very least prevented from repeating the crime. Human life is sacrosanct. Murder is wrong, no matter how you look at it. It is the ultimate crime. It destroys nature’s balance, which can be restored only by the culprit’s discovery and his or her punishment. In a century that saw the casual elimination of millions of people, this highly moral attitude became and remained attractive to many people. This has continued into the new century, which has not started off too well.
Do read the article. The more hits it gets the better it is for yours truly.

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