Thursday, May 10, 2012

Quote of the Day...

... comes from H L Menken, courtesy of Cafe Hayek.
“Everybody has been thought of by the young pedagogues save the poor fellow who, in the long run, will have to pay the bills. Every sort of misfit and lazybones has been taken care of, but not the man who takes care of himself.”

That was true even in 1936, when Menken first wrote it—today the situation is far worse.

15 comments:

john in cheshire said...

That is so true. And I associate myself with the man who takes care of himself and is powerless to stop people putting their hands in my pocket and taking as much as they want, leaving me with hardly enough to live on. As a saver, the powers that be have stolen money from me for the past 5 years and given it to all the spendthrifts and crooks who permeate all walks of modern life. Who can I look to for protection and justice? No one, came the answer.

JuliaM said...

Excellent quote! Will link to it!

the a&e charge nurse said...

Mencken was known for his controversial ideas. A frank admirer of Nietzsche, he was NOT a proponent of representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors. During and after World War One, he was sympathetic to the Germans, and was very distrustful of British "propaganda" - a nazi lover, great!!

Devil's Kitchen said...

A&E,

Yes, I see that you got that from Wikipedia.

"In addition to his literary accomplishments, Mencken was known for his controversial ideas. A frank admirer of Nietzsche, he was not a proponent of representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors.[2] During and after World War One, he was sympathetic to the Germans, and was very distrustful of British "propaganda".[3]"

Unfortunately, in your haste, you appear to have missed a bit (pssst! It's the very next sentence to the ones you quoted)...

"However, he overcame his inclination to embrace all things Bavarian, referring to Hitler and his followers as "ignorant thugs"."

So, not a Nazi then.

Never mind, eh?

DK

the a&e charge nurse said...

Even if Sturmbannführer Menken belatedly saw the error of his nazi loving ways it does rather call into question his ability to make judgements about, err, 'misfits' and, urmm, 'lazybones'?

He in his own inimitable antidemocratic way seemed to think that only special people could lead the mob?

Steve Perrett said...

I wonder what he would have made of the 'special' people leading this mob? Socialist conservaberals?

Alan Douglas said...

My all-time favorite graffiti is on a railway bridge wall in Willesden, N London :

"Socialism is the idolatry of the superfluous"

I don't mind helping people, but making the lowest in ability the sole focus of all out efforts means we soon run out of the means to help even ourselves, never mind them.

Alan Douglas

Anonymous said...

Dear A&Amp;e,

It's good I follow this blog, because I'd consider myself quite the Menckenphile. I've spent a considerable amount of time reading his work, and I actually contributed the lines to Wikipedia that the Devil cited regarding Mencken's aversion to Nazism. I'm just going to disseminate your vitriol.

"Even if Sturmbannführer Menken belatedly saw the error of his nazi loving ways"

Mencken never leant in any way towards Nazism. Mencken was a cynic; he had enough rancour for every nation; it's true he had a sentimental attachment to Germany, but attachment to his ancestral home was something many at the time did (and still do!). I can see you're associating his love of Nietzsche towards him being a Nazi; which I'd say is a bit silly, as any scrutinisation of that myth can affirm that Nazism only superficially spouted platitudes lifted in vein out of Nietzsche's work; Mencken loved Nietzsche due to his own ideas.

Mencken never was a Nazi. He referred to him in the Baltimore Sun numerous times as a buffoon and an idiot; and he never advocated anything even near fascism... which leads me onto...

"it does rather call into question his ability to make judgements about, err, 'misfits' and, urmm, 'lazybones'?"

Mencken was a grand writer; and he was also very facetious. He knew his words weren't entirely right, I believe; he knew there were many cases where it were more complex than mere skulduggery and laziness -- but he did it believing the reader would be able to understand the vein of his point. I don't see how his lack of love for democracy and pro-German sympathies played any part of it; the former I'll get to, the latter because he believed the entire mess was just cruel and foolish, and he disliked how America had been dragged into Britain's war. He also was absolutely exhausted with all the propaganda and hysteria Woodrow Wilson's government put out, and adamantly spoke to try to make people at the time penetrate the lies and slander against Germany and Germans.

"He in his own inimitable antidemocratic way seemed to think that only special people could lead the mob?"

Mencken's view was complex, really. I don't think I could justly sum up the many sentiments he held and how he believed they'd apply to reality. But he assuredly believed in these things:

-people, no matter their capability, should be free to do whatever they damn well please.
-some people are inherently better than others. these people will rise to rightfully dominate society, and steer it in their direction without force, but through their skill at their craft; and as they were better, they'd do what was better.
-most people never rise beyond mediocrity, hence they should never have an opportunity to or dictate the fate of society; they are incompetent, weak, and unable to control their craft.

If you want to see his full sentiments on Democracy, I'd read his magnum opus: "Notes on Democracy". It's a very good read, and it rightfully deserves a place in the Libertarian classics pantheon.

Thanks for reading,
MK.

the a&e charge nurse said...

"some people are inherently better than others" - sorry, was it Mencken or the fuhrer who believed such dangerous nonsense?

A commentator who does not understand the effect of accumulated cultural advantages simply cannot be taken seriously.

Who seriously believes that the people running our banks, corporations, media outlets or political parties are inherently better than others?

Anonymous said...

Dear A&Amp;e,

I think it's very much low-brow and libellous for you to constantly compare Mencken to Hitler. And it very much distorts the very different ideas they held. Firstly, Mencken held that there wasn't a single race or people that held superiority; he believed that superiority arose through those who were the best at their profession -- and the sentiment was ultimately benign -- he rejected completely that those who were better were somehow in possession of more power than others. Merely that naturally those who became better would naturally steer society through their talents.

It seems as though you lifted that line without much further inspection of the post or of Mencken himself, with sincerity. He also believed that all had an opportunity to become great at their craft; and the reason many people remain in positions of greatness is due to they inheriting the skill at their craft from their predecessors -- he citing himself many lines of great writers who did indeed create spawn who turned out to be great themselves.

And Mencken didn't believe that a person with power was by default a better person than others; he was a great cynic. He ferociously attacked the big public figures of his time; priests, politicians, artists, or businessmen galore fell to his scorn. Mencken never for a second thought that a position of power equated to greatness -- and if he were alive today, he'd likely have a ball of a time writing more vitriol against the demagogues and liars of today.

Again, I'd advocate you take a look of his work and judge it based on what it says, rather than my own words.

Thanks,
MK.

the a&e charge nurse said...

"Merely that naturally those who became better would naturally steer society through their talents" - yes, but not by democratic means - the Menk was no fan of democracy, or to quote him, "Democracy is only a dream: it should be put in the same category as Arcadia, Santa Claus, and Heaven".

The Menk said he only believed in 'liberty', or more precisely, "I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone".

If history has taught us anything it is that luxuries like 'liberty' usually come at a price, and if we have to pay a price democracy is usually slightly less painful than some of the others.

Anonymous said...

Dear A&Amp;e,

Your views on Mencken are your own -- albeit said views seem to have been assembled through merely looking through Wikipedia and quote compendiums. I certainly never meant to imply Mencken's idea of the greats steering society was done via democratic process, if that's what you're addressing at the beginning. Mencken certainly was antidemocratic, and he believed that it was detrimental as those who were uninformed, bigoted, and stupid (ie, those he saw as the majority) would be able to control civilization.

But alas, it seems you diverge at what Mencken held as an axiom. That of liberty being essential or a luxury; and Mencken was very much in the former camp. Again, I'd heartily encourage you to read up some Mencken to understand what he meant and encouraged, and see through the facetiousness and sarcasm of his quotes and penetrate the ideas of the man himself. But if indeed you hold democracy is more desirable than liberty, there is no debate you can have regarding this issue. It is your own axiom, as Mencken's belief in the essentialness of freedom was his axiom.

Thanks for the fun chat.

Best regards,
MK.

paul said...

Its just a pity that most of the people who fill positions of power do so not by being better but by being sociopaths

Übersetzer Berlin said...

So what is the drive in people that decide to run for office. A sincere drive to change and improve or just the power?

Tekst oversettelse said...

So true!