Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chesteron Quote

From What's Wrong With the World:
We often read nowadays of the valor or audacity with which some rebel attacks a hoary tyranny or an antiquated superstition. There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one's grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers.
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There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, "You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed.

There is another proverb, "As you have made your bed, so you must lie on it"; which again is simply a lie. If I have made my bed uncomfortable, please God I will make it again. We could restore the Heptarchy or the stage coaches if we chose. It might take some time to do, and it might be very inadvisable to do it; but certainly it is not impossible as bringing back last Friday is impossible. This is, as I say, the first freedom that I claim: the freedom to restore. I claim a right to propose as a solution the old patriarchal system of a Highland clan, if that should seem to eliminate the largest number of evils. . . . I claim the right to propose the complete independence of the small Greek or Italian towns, a sovereign city of Brixton or Brompton, if that seems the best way out of our troubles.
* * *
Nevertheless, I do not as a fact propose that the Browns and the Smiths should be collected under separate tartans. Nor do I even propose that Clapham should declare its independence. I merely declare my independence. I merely claim my choice of all the tools in the universe; and I shall not admit that any of them are blunted merely because they have been used.

1 Comments:

Blogger Joseph Buck said...

In theory, turning America back to stagecoaches instead of cars is possible, but in practice, it might as well be impossible. I wonder if that's not the meaning behind that proverb. Nonetheless, Chesterton does at least confront the wrong interpretation, that even if we wanted to, we couldn't turn things back. He is right in refuting this, but the hard part, on any matter, is getting people to want it. If we found something where the past was correct and the present is wrong, we might be able to "turn back the clock" in theory, but we might have trouble convincing anyone else that our goal is worthwhile.

1:55 PM  

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