Monday, April 10, 2006

Clocks Untimely and Ships Departed

If you're a reasonable person, it won't have been long since someone said to you "you can't turn back the clock".

Sometimes they say "that ship has sailed."

Maybe because the newfangled people like to think they're going somewhere good and important, they seem to go in for travel metaphors; trains leaving stations and so forth.

I'm quite sure I'm not nearly hip enough to see the sense in leaving a place with a perfectly good chair and pot of tea just to run off on an ill-advised adventure in perilous novelty.

Someone said to me recently "that horse is out of the barn". I replied, in part:

Indeed the horse is out of the barn, but so are the cows, goats, sheep, cats, ducks and chickens. Likewise the rats, mice, and spiders. Precious little remains in the barn.

In fact, the animals have all long-since bolted the barnyard and headed up the street, through the town, into the city, and are currently enjoying an over-priced, under-quality beer in a euphemistically called "Gentlemen's Club".

I blame the new Mass.

So if the contents of the barn are going to be your standard, you might just as well give up the whole idea now. Thankfully, I don't know what horses, or popularity for that matter, have to do with standards.

There are a few of us left in this barn, mules and pigs mostly. We don't intend to give up on our standards no matter what the rest of you decide.

Anyway, by dumb luck or Providence I came upon a better answer today. I present it here for all the reasonable people to use the very next time you are with one of those chichi, up-to-the-minute neoterics.

The mighty G.K. Chesterton in What's Wrong With the World:

If I am to discuss what is wrong, one of the first things that are wrong is this: the deep and silent modern assumption that past things have become impossible. 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. It certainly would eliminate some evils; for instance, the unnatural sense of obeying cold and harsh strangers, mere bureaucrats and policemen. 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. It would be a way out of some of our troubles; we could not have in a small state, for instance, those enormous illusions about men or measures which are nourished by the great national or international newspapers. You could not persuade a city state that Mr. Beit was an Englishman, or Mr. Dillon a desperado, any more than you could persuade a Hampshire Village that the village drunkard was a teetotaller or the village idiot a statesman. 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.

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