“I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world.
The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives.
Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate.
That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.
For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community.
It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA by Alexis de Tocqueville
**Featured painting Pastoral by Jerome Thompson
I bought this little book for research. What rules were ladies expected to follow in the 19th century? Admittedly, I fully expected to find it quaint and amusing. What I didn’t expect was how some of the chapters would lead me to question some of our accepted though crass behaviors of today. I didn’t expect to be challenged by the author’s polite though pointed suggestions about the power and importance of civility. The expected knowledge of German literature (in the original) took me by surprise, as well.
In short, the women who aspired to be ladies had very high standards. What are our standards today? Are standards undemocratic? What do you think? Do you have a truck driver’s mouth and a sailor’s brain?
The Irish in my family were rogues and dreamers, back stabbers and the kindest people I’ve ever met. They knew how to throw a good funeral, but their parties were awkward with new wealth and old wounds. They were treated as the scum of the earth but knew how to fight. My blood’s been mixed with more civilized tribes, but I still like watching a good scrap and getting together at the funeral parlor with my clan.
Do Irish people really like potatoes? Damn straight. My father ate them every day of his life. He also told police stories so amusing that people came from all over to hear him when he visited his home town in New Jersey. Yeah, and the Irish in my family drank (not my father) and died doing it. Others lived on to make sure their kids would have plenty of hilarity, dysfunction and a sense that no one but another member of the clan could ever fully understand them.
That’s why the NYC parade is so great. You march along with other freckled faces thinking– “What a bunch of misfits we are but we’ve taken over the town.”
Thought this was going to be a book bashing passionate lay historians (re-enactors) so put off reading it for a long time. Instead its a book of pathos relating a displaced American dream, a search for meaning in the lives of people who feel left behind and forgotten in this modern age. It’s also funny and well-written.
Time travel fun
Research, research, research . . . just finished the “final” edit of The House on Tenafly Road for paperback!! Got all choked up over the ending, again.