Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wisdom from Bierce

From FreedomWatch:

Ambrose Bierce


The Bierce's and Mencken's are long gone, and sadly replaced by court-journalists like the late Tim Russert who received a state funeral for helping prop up the Washington regime. Even if they existed, the Marxist media would have no place for them, like government schools have no use for brilliant students who excel. Bernhard Thuersam, Executive DirectorCape Fear Historical InstitutePost Office Box 328Wilmington, NC 28402

The ABC’s of Ambrose Bierce, by William HinesReprinted from the March 1954 issue of Democratic Digest.

It was a sad day for the race, that day 40 years ago when Ambrose Bierce called it quits and disappeared into the wilds of northern Mexico.

The reason one mourns an oldster like Bierce---he would be 111 if still around---is that the world could use such a man right now. He would be taken by neither the skullduggeries nor the inanities that plague modern man. What is more, he undoubtedly would be able to define for us precisely what the Russians mean by “truth” and “democracy”---which might go a long way toward solving the problems of the cold war.

As it was, Bierce---self-educated son of a Midwestern farmer with the improbable given name of Marcus Aurelius---did pretty well in pinning down the eternal verities. Toward the end of his life he complied a cynical work called The Devil’s Dictionary. The fact that human nature is immutable---at least over such a short haul as half a century---gives many of his definitions piquancy and aptness today.

Some samples:

Alliance: In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted into each other’s pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.

Battle: A method of untying with teeth a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.

Cannon: An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries.

Deliberation: The act of examining one’s bread to determine which side it is buttered on.

Exception: A thing which takes the liberty to differ from other things of its class, as an honest man, a truthful woman.

Gunpowder: An agency employed by civilized nations for the settlement of disputes which might become troublesome if left unadjusted.

History: An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.

Idiot: A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling.

Immoral: Inexpedient. Whatever in the long run and with regard to the greatest number of instances men find to be generally inexpedient comes to be considered wrong, wicked and immoral.

Malefactor: The chief factor in the progress of the human race.

Optimism: The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly; everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong.

Passport: A document treacherously inflicted upon a citizen going abroad, exposing him as an alien and pointing him out for special reprobation and outrage.

Politics: A strife of interest masquerading as a contest of principles; the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

Pocket: The cradle of motive and the grave of conscience.

Positive: Mistaken at the top of one’s voice.

Projectile: The final arbiter in international disputes.

Quorum: A sufficient number of members of a deliberative body to have their own way and their own way of having it.

Rear: In American military matters, that exposed part of the Army that is nearest to Congress.

Tariff: A scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the domestic producer against the greed of the consumer.

Ultimatum: In diplomacy, a last demand before resorting to concessions.

Vote: The instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.

Washingtonian: A Potomac tribesman who exchanged the privilege of governing himself for the advantage of good government. In justice to him it should be said that he did not want to.

Yes, it is a pity that Ambrose Bierce had to be born so long ago and had to go off and lose himself in Mexico. We could find a place for him---perhaps as an observer at United Nations Security Council sessions.

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