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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Friday June 22 2007

imageHarry Hutton states a popular view concerning the canine nature of our current circumstances:

The country has been going to the dogs for as long as I can remember. But sometime between the Cliff Richard knighthood and Prescott’s promotion to Deputy Prime Minister, I think we can say that we finally arrived at the dogs. And here we all are, at the dogs.

If you seek the dogs, look around you.

One of the signs of a good country is constant complaining, and this country, according to reliable eye-witness accounts, has been going to or has been at the dogs ever since the arrival of the Romans.  The reason this is a sign of a good country is that in good countries, people are allowed to complain.

There is something that many people don’t get about progress, this being one of my complaints.  Each generation defines progress in its own way, and often, by that particular definition, dogness is indeed approaching, especially as each generation gets old and subsequent generations arrive with different definitions of what life is all about while they, the oldies, are still alive.  One reason why there is now more complaining is that people live longer.  They didn’t have nearly so many grumpy old men in the Middle Ages.

Suppose you define progress according to such things as how many people are having Latin lessons or by how well people can do handwriting with fountain pens.  Dogs!  By how good the output of the major classical CD labels is compared to former times.  Dogs!  By how much capitalism you and your friends have succeeded in destroying this year compared to how much is being created where it previously didn’t happen very much.  Dogs dogs dogs!!!  When Michelangelo was painting that ceiling, people who had actually witnessed him painting it nevertheless were in the habit of saying: the world is going to the dogs.  Why?  Who knows?  But they had their own definitions of progress or regression to dogdom, and Cistine Chapel ceilings didn’t register as a plus at all, when set beside whatever they considered important.

A good friend of mine defines regression to barbarism as literally a matter of how many dogs there are around the place.  Dogs equals barbarism, she reckons.  As you can imagine, she is not a happy bunny.  Well, if you were a bunny, you wouldn’t be, would you?

Optimism and pessimism are usually argued about according to which of them is right.  But this is like arguing about whether major keys or minor keys are better.  Both have their virtues, and in the end it is a matter of taste which you prefer.  I am an optimist.  What this means is that I am careful to choose methods of measuring progress that will actually measure progress until long after I am dead.  I choose measures like: how much hard disc space you can buy for £150, how many pretty bridges there are in the world, how cheap classical CDs are nowadays, how many people can now take nice photos (by the way, cats are involved in those pictures, which takes care of my feline duties today) and show them to one another, how long the footpaths are beside the River Thames, how many Poor People now have mobile phones, how many reasonably decent blog postings I have personally written.  That way, I stay cheerful.  Why do I do this?  Because I prefer to be cheerful.  I prefer not to think, or not too often, about the number of laws and regulations there now are (about which I feel the way my friend does about dogs), or about the hugeness of the number of people in the world who still think that more laws and regulations equals progress.  I try not to think about the number of bad blog postings I have written.

As for Harry Hutton, he chooses to be a grump.  That’s what he likes.  Plus, of course, that is funnier to read, which is far more important to him than accurately tracking the progress of civilisation.  But as for his quality-of-people-getting-knighthoods-these-days measurement, I have this to say, to quote my own words of wisdom here:

As you get older, more of the sleaze in the world becomes apparent to you, and you can sometimes mistake this learning process for a deterioration in the world itself.

For sleaze read everything bad.  I then proceed to contradict myself, but I’m going to let that pass here.

Were the people getting knighted a hundred years ago any less prattish or corrupt than those getting knighted now?  Or was it simply that all Harry Hutton knows about them now is that they got knighted, and accordingly they seem to him comparatively grand and worthy, when set beside Cliff Richard?  They weren’t and it was, just in case you have any doubts.

On the subject of being honoured, one of Hutton’s commenters links to this, which I think is rather good.