Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Apropos of Nothing

This blog is ostensibly about role playing games. Often, it isn't, but what I'm writing about at least bears a family resemblance to them. Every once in a while, though, I come across something I want to share which has absolutely bugger all to do with the topic at hand. But it's my blog, so there. Here are some little scraps that amused or intrigued me recently and wanted to share without comment:

"[The tortoise] not only goes under the earth from the middle of November to the middle of April, but sleeps a great part of the summer; for it goes to bed in the longest days at four in the afternoon, and often does not stir in the morning til late. Besides, it retires to rest for every shower; and does not move at all in wet days.

"When one reflects on the state of this strange being, it is a matter of wonder to find that Providence should bestow such a profusion of days, such a seeming waste of longevity, on a reptile that appears to relish it so little as to squandor more than two thirds of its existence in a joyless stupor, and be lost to all sensation for months altogether in the profoundest of slumbers."

-Gilbert White, from The Natural History of Selborne

"Like many another great captain who has sent thousands of men to their deaths, [Churchill] shrank from personal violence. This was most striking in his treatment of animals, even insects. Since he detested fresh air - he had his bedroom windows sealed with putty - it was hard for bugs to get at him. But sometimes a bee, wasp or moth flew in from another part of the house. 'Don't kill him,' he would tell his valet. 'Make sure you put him out of the window.' Once, during a division of the House, Anthony Head, the first man out of the chamber, spied a ladybird on the carpet. Realizing that a thunder of MP feet would soon pass this way, he bent down to rescue it. At that moment the Prime Minster arrived and immediately grasped the situation. Taking charge, he said, 'Put her out of the window.' But since the introduction of air conditioning the windows had been permanently locked. 'Use the Chancellor's office,' he said, 'And report back to me.' Head did, but when he returned Churchill was in conference with the French Foreign Minister. The secretary told him he could look in for a moment. Head did and told Churchill: 'She escaped. I let her out through Macmillan's window. Nobody touched her.' 'Good! Good!' the Prime Minister boomed. To this day Head wonders what must have passed through the Foreign Minister's mind."

-William Manchester, from The Last Lion - Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932

"This, then, is how the idea of Europe and European balance was born. It is crystallized, of course, with the treaty of Westphalia, the first complete, conscious, explicit expression of a politics of European balance, the main function of which, as you know, is to reorganize the Empire, to define its status and its rights in relation to the German principalities, and the zones of influence of Austria, Sweden, and France on German territory, all according to the laws of equilibrium, which actually explains why Germany could become, and actually became, the center for the elaboration of the European republic.

"We should never forget that Europe as a juridical-political entity, as a system of diplomatic and political security, is the yoke that the most powerful countries (of this Europe) imposed on Germany every time they tried to make it forget the dream of the sleeping emperor, whether Charlemagne, Barbarossa, or the little man who was burnt between his dog and his mistress one May [sic] evening on the chancellery premises. Europe is the way of making Germany forget the Empire. So, if the Emperor never really wakes up, we should not be surprised that Germany sometimes gets up and says: 'I am Europe. I am Europe since you wished it that I be Europe.' And it says this precisely to those who wanted it to be Europe and nothing but Europe, namely French imperialism, English domination, or Russian expansionism. In Germany they wanted to substitute the obligation of Europe for the desire for Empire. 'Fine,' Germany replies therefore, 'that’s no problem, since Europe will be my empire.'"

-Michel Foucault, in Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the College de France, 1977-78, trans. G. Burchell

"After one of my many presentations following my return from Rwanda, a Canadian Forces padre asked me how, after all I had seen and experienced, I could still believe in God. I answered that I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists, and therefore I know there is a God."

-Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, from Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda


  1. That’s interesting, to think of Europe as a republic even outside the EU. Bismarck would approve.

    I think if the EU were run to the wishes of its current subjects, it would be quite viable.

  2. More digressions please; these are all fascinating.

  3. Bog fan of the Manchestee trilogy. The Foucault quote us devastatingly insightful, and matches up with Helmut Schmidt's warnings to Germany post-reunification to restrain its desire to see the EU as its empure.

    (It has not shown that restraint, but one can hardly blame it. It's like the scorpion.