The Early Days of a Better Nation

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

A gold ring and a lock of the hair of Mary

The other day in the local charity shop I came across two volumes of
Lord Macaulay's essays: Literary, and Historical. I bought them at once.
I already have a copy of the Historical essays and have read most of
them, but had long been looking out (idly) for the Literary. I well
remember the delight of discovering the Fontana paperback selection from
both, and I look forward to reading the lot.

Last year, I had the similarly happy experience of coming across the
Penguin condensed edition of Macaulay's History of England. I read it in
one weekend. There were times, I'm not ashamed to admit, when I turned
the page with bated breath. I sought and soon found the three-volume
edition, and read it over the summer. This is a book that gains little
from being cut, and loses a great deal, including (if I'm not mistaken) its stunning and abrupt last line.

Macaulay's essays and history were published in numerous cheap but
durable editions. They can be had in second-hand bookshops for a few
pounds, and in charity shops for pennies. A better bargain would be hard
to find. You may disagree with Macaulay's judgements. You may think his
Whig interpretation of history is out of date. Forget about all that.
Just read them.

Update: Patrick Neilsen Hayden has pointed out to me that Macaulay

is no longer confined to dead trees.

(For some reason the first of these links comes through garbled. It should be:

0 comments | Permanent link to this post

Sunday, May 18, 2003

2001 and All That

(or, Life before and after the End of History)

'Events, events, events.'
- Ted Grant

'In the early morning in 11 September 2001 four Plaines were
hitchiked from American Airports.'
- a first-year University student essay


This slim volume (well, page, really) has two notable predecessors (or
precedents), 1066 and All That by Sellar and Yeatman, and 1984 and
All That
by Paul Manning. The latter brought the story begun by Sellar
and Yeatman up to the eponymous date. Much history, including the End of
it, has happened since. Even after the End of History, many events have
taken place. In the spirit of my distinguished precursors, and at least
one distinguished President, I think it important that they should not
be remembered.


Karl Marx said that communist society would bear the birthmarks of the
old, and Mikhail Gorbachev bore one of them on top of his head.
Gorbachev rose to power as a result of the Chernobyl Reaction, which
came about because the Russians discovered that their previous two
leaders - Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko (these are three, but the
third does not count) - were dead but still standing. They had been
propped up every May Day on the Leaning Mausoleum, reviewing the workers
and soldiers who marched past. The workers and soldiers carried large
pictures of the leaders to help them remember who they were, and for
many years, they did. Fortunately for them, President Reagan had by then
forgotten who he was too.

Gorbachev attempted two important things. The first was to abolish the
Leading Roll of the Party. Without its Leading Roll the Party did not
know what to do, and it lost the elections. Afterwards it won elections
again, but without its Leading Roll it could do nothing, except sit in
Parliament, which was soon abolished to save democracy (see under
Yeltsin). Because it was abolished with artillery it became known as an
Empty Shell.

The second thing Gorbachev did was to introduce Russia to the market.
The problem was that Russia did not have bourgeois civility, so after it
was introduced to the market it did not know what to say to it. Instead
it stood about with its hands in its pockets, until it found that its
pockets were empty. Its pockets had been picked by the Russian Mafia,
which is just like the Sicilian one, except it is not Roman Catholic so
does not have a Godfather at its head. Instead it has Ministers, like

The outcome of this was the Restoration of Capitalism, which was a Good
Thing. Francis Fukayama wrote that it meant the End of History. The
whole world would become like Switzerland, because people no longer had
anything important to fight over. Saddam Hussein read this in April, and
misunderstood it, so he invaded Kuwait, which is like Switzerland,
except that it is flat and sandy and it has votes for women. A great
Collision had to be brought together to drive him out. In the end his
troops surrendered to CNN and were killed by the Collision, on the
Highway of Death.

This was the beginning of the New Word Order. It is what we used to have
instead of History. Many important events happened in it, notably the
Destruction of Yugoslavia and the Death of Diana. Yugoslavia had to be
destroyed because the Serbs lived all over it and practised ethnic
cleansing. This was stopped by another Collision and the Serbs now live
only in Serbia. Serbia has been a democracy ever since its elected
government was overthrown by policemen driving tractors. Diana died
because of yet another Collision. The car she was being driven in was
driven into a Parisian tunnel support pillar, known as a paparazzo.
People still lay flowers at the pillar.

The New Word Order lasted until September 11 2001, when hitchhikers took
over four airliners with box-cutters and flew them into the Twin Towers
and the Pentagram (and Pennsylvania). After that it was generally
understood that the whole world would not ever become like Switzerland,
and Swiss Army knives were banned from airliners. This has prevented any
more hitchhiking.

Afghanistan was bombed to get rid of Osama Bin Laden. He now no longer
lives in Afghanistan but in the hearts of millions of devoted followers.
Iraq was bombed to kill Saddam Hussein and to get rid of his Weapons of
Mass Destruction, which are now in the hands of the people of Iraq.

America is still Top Nation.
0 comments | Permanent link to this post

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Thanks to all who've commented on or linked to this blog. Repicrocal links will be made as soon as I've got the hang of it and got the time. Right at the moment, I'm working hard on the last few chapters of Newton's Wake, and blogging is something of an indulgence too far.
0 comments | Permanent link to this post