glyph 316: Wretchard the Cat, Belmont Club ... Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels . parody ... devolution of intelligent debate and argument ... loss of a great engine of civilization ... eggs, ends, endian conflict ... John C. Calhoun, American Civil War ... Iraq, today
Wretchard the Cat writes, at Belmont Club, July 9, 2006
When a vital debate is declared over yet left purposely unresolved -- or acknowledged to be unresolvable -- it becomes an entirely different thing: an invisible curtain which parts the air. John Calhoun's final speech in 1850 is a tragic example. "If you are unwilling we should part in peace, tell us so; and we shall know what to do when you reduce the question to submission or resistance. If you remain silent, you will compel us to infer by your acts what you intend." What do you intend? Damned if anyone knows what anyone intends. One of the horrifying things about the extreme stages of culture wars is that they begin to resemble Johnathan Swift's famous account of the Endian Wars, which story it was probably intended to parody.
The Animositys between these two Parties run so high, that they will neither eat nor drink, nor talk with each other. ... Which two mighty Powers have, as I was going to tell you, been engaged in a most obstinate War for six and thirty Moons past. It began upon the following Occasion. It is allowed on all Hands, that the primitive way of breaking Eggs, before we eat them, was upon the larger End: But his present Majesty's Grand-father, while he was a Boy, going to eat an Egg, and breaking it according to the ancient Practice, happened to cut one of his Fingers. Whereupon the Emperor his Father published an Edict, commanding all his Subjects, upon great Penaltys, to break the smaller End of their Eggs. The People so highly resented this Law, that our Histories tell us there have been six Rebellions raised on that account; wherein one Emperor lost his Life, and another his Crown. ... It is computed, that eleven thousand Persons have, at several times, suffered Death, rather than submit to break their Eggs at the smaller End. Many hundred large Volumes have been published upon this Controversy: But the books of the Big-Endians have been long forbidden ...
About Jonathan Swift
Sun, Jul 10, 2006; edited/updated November 26, 2015