Passing Bull 85 – The evil of banality


The citation that follows shows why this author and this book are so popular, still.

During dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when the servants were withdrawn, he thought it time to have some conversation with his guest, and therefore started a subject in which he expected him to shine, by observing that he seemed very fortunate in his patroness. Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s attention to his wishes, and consideration for his comfort, appeared very remarkable. Mr. Bennet could not have chosen better. Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise. The subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect he protested that he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank – such affability and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine. She had been graciously pleased to approve of both the discourses, which he had already had the honour of preaching before her. She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and had sent for him only the Saturday before, to make up her pool of quadrille in the evening. Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by many people he knew, but he had never seen anything but affability in her. She had always spoken to him as she would to any other gentleman; she made not the smallest objection to his joining in the society of the neighbourhood, nor to his leaving his parish occasionally for a week or two, to visit his relations. She had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he chose with discretion; and had once paid him a visit in his humble parsonage; where she had perfectly approved all the alterations he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some herself,- some shelves in the closets upstairs.

It is the same in the movie, or at least in the Olivier/Garson version.  Mr Collins positively wallows in the condescension of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  This is not just class – it is caste.  Only the French were worse.

Now let us look at some of the responses of Donald Trump to the actions of his President based on findings of all the nation’s intelligence agencies – and the conclusions accepted by those who lead what Trump claims to be his party.

Take two tweets:

  Great move on delay (by V Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!

Russians are playing CNN and NBC for such fools – funny to watch, they don’t have clue!  Fox News totally gets it!

Here he is in an interview:

I think computers have complicated our lives very greatly.  The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.  And we have speed – we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind of security we need.

Well, that all just tells us what we already knew.  This man is stupid, completely stupid.  His gluttony for publicity leaves him a conflict freak – he must start fights to hold the cameras on him – even fights within his own staff and party – on issues of national security.  And it is just a matter of time before his cosying up to duplicitous thugs like Putin and Netanyahu comes back to haunt him.  They are just as brutal and devious as Trump is – but they are far, far smarter.

Both of them now look to be playing Trump like a violin – on Twitter.  (Please, God, tell me it ain’t so.)  Russia has never been well governed; it has never known democracy, let alone the rule of law; it is not fit for anything than other than autocracy. If Trump believes one word that Putin utters, he will be compared to Chamberlain with Hitler. Putin is not there to make America great again. At best Trump will wind up with the problem of the Andrews government in Victoria – no-one can think of a polite or decent reason for their having acted in the way they did – in Victoria, by doing a deal with the UFU that was plainly not in the public interest and left them utterly on the nose in the bush.

We can now see that not only was Trump brought up so that he has no manners at all, so that he has been set no limits, but that also he has never before been held accountable at all – he has not held any office or served in a public company.  And his age is not a good one to be putting on L-plates.  The consensus seems to be that Trump and his cabinet of generals and billionaires will cut taxes for the rich, reduce benefits to those not so well off, but throw money around like Keynes.  Fox News will be delirious – but what about the dispossessed and the real Republicans?  If you get stuck on labels, you will see nationalism and socialism; the last thing you will see would be conservatism.

Now let us look at the terms of a considered press release:

It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things.  Nevertheless, in the interests of our country and its great people – you’ve all been so very, very good –  I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation. 

All the banality is there – if a kid in grade three said it was time to move on after getting caught cheating, you would know you had a problem.  But do you see what I see?  Condescension – loftier, far, far loftier than anything reigned down on Mr Collins by Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  ‘I, Donald Trump, your chosen President, have reached my conclusion on this little matter – but in the national interest, and since you are a great people, I will condescend to go out of my way and talk to the people who have the evidence, and who know what to do.  You will understand the magnitude of my condescension when you recall that I have dispensed with security briefings because I am so smart – and of course I have the dispensing power that the Stuarts didn’t.  We’ve moved on.’

It reminded me of that part of Richard II when the usurper suggested that the king descend to ‘the base court’ – ‘We are amazed!’  And John Gielgud fills the air with the sheer horror of lèse majesté.

It takes your breath away.  God help us all.  In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt upset some people when she referred to the ‘banality of evil.’  We now have to live with the evil of banality.

Poet of the month: Chris Wallace-Crabbe


Your philosophical moth

flutters against the glass

with hardly more than a shadow

of coarse doubt:


these nimble skipping images

are they, perhaps not even

reflected jags and fragments of

kaleidoscopic glassware


while anything tear-shaped

runs terribly slowly

down the sheer


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