hurray for the swinish multitude

For who can tell but the Millennium
May take its rise from my poor Cranium?..

LI has been reading a lot about the English radicals around Tom Paine in the 1790s. Interesting lot of characters, and very a propos for May Day. One of them, Thomas Spence, was a refugee from the North of England, coming to London after being expelled from a Dissenter congregation for publishing a pamphlet proposing that land itself was common – land, like air, could not be bought. A proposition that John Stuart Mill entertained, later, and that made up the bulk of Henry George’s radicalism. In London, Spence continued to emit his radical views through a wonderfully named weekly journal:

“Edmund Burke's reference to "the swinish multitude" provided Spence with a title for his greatest publishing venture. Between 1793 and 1796, he issued a weekly paper called "Pigs' Meat; or, Lessons for the Swinish Multitude," consisting of excerpts from many writings on liberty, attacks on despotism, and frequent verse. These papers were later issued as complete volumes; there were three in all, each with an engraved frontispiece by Spence's son.

The frontispiece for Volume I depicts a well-fed missionary and three graceful Indians. The missionary says: "God has enjoined you to be Christians, to pay rent and tythes, and become a Civilized People." One Indian replies: "If Rent we once consent to pay, Taxes next you'll on us lay, And then our Freedom's poured away;" at which the Indians chorus: "With the Beasts of the Wood We'll ramble for Food, And live in wild deserts and Caves; And live poor as Job, On the Skirts of the Globe, Before we'll consent to be Slaves, My Brave Boys, Before We'll consent to be Slaves!"

The frontispiece for Volume II has two Indians gazing at an unhappy donkey. One Indian says: "Behold the civilized Ass, Two pairs of Panyers on his Back; the First with Rents a heavy mass; With Taxes next his bones do crack." To which the donkey brays in response: "I'm doomed to endless Toil and Care-I was an Ass to bear the first Pair."

Spence apparently grew rather disgusted, at times, with the swinish multitude. While pigs “squeal most seditiously,” Spence found the people much too passive and compliant to live up to the piggish standard. Well, here’s to a May Day of squealing seditiously. Here’s Spence in a more satiric and bitter mood (from Carl Fisher’s essay on Politics and Porcine Representation):

“Ye swinish multitude who prate,

What know ye `bout the matter?'

Misterious are the ways of state,

Of which you should not chatter.

Our church and state, like man and wife,

Together kindly cuddle;

Together share the sweets of life

Together feast and fuddle.

Then hence ye swine nor make a rout,

Forbearance but relaxes;

We'll clap the muzzle on your snout,

Go work, and pay your taxes.”


Brian Miller said…
Interesting, roger.

Somewhat (but only somewhat, 'cause our next intervention to spread democracy and peace will cost MONEY, lots of money-which means taxes on the little folk or debt for future little folk's progency).

I found the essay on Darfur disturbingly realistic about the real results of an invasion in Sudan for "humanitarian" reasons. I want to believe that we need to "Do Something," but...

Is Justin Raimoundo right? I fear so, which means no "easy" solution to the mess.
roger said…
Brian, I'm sure you are right that there is no easy solution. I'm also sure that I am no keeper of the keys to the sweep of history, as Raimondo apparently thinks he is. I have serious doubts that the interventionist urge in D.C. has really targetted Darfur - in the case of Liberia, which the U.S., by every historical tie, should have intervened in (since we had intervened, in effect, in elevating Charles Taylor), the Bush administration chose not to.

I don't have any pocket map of principles that tells me here is a good case and here is a bad case for using military force. Is it a good case to help Uganda fight against the Christian guerillas? Or to intervene more strongly in the various wars in the former Congo (undoubtedly the greatest human rights disaster in Africa)? these are all parts of a whole, I think.
Brian Miller said…
I will grant Raimundo one thing: he is consistent. I will also grant him this: how will the itnervention really help?'s awful there. And the places you describe. Should we be intervening everywhere? Why here and not there-especially if many of the interventions (most? all?) end up disastrously? I don't have the answer.
roger said…
Brian, I wonder if "answer" is the right metaphor. It seems to me that these are problems that aren't answer structured, or at least the answers tend to become problems. You can kill the killers, becoming a killer oneself, and death is definitely a quietus, and in many cases I'd be all for killing the killers, but ... I'd be delegating that work.

So, on the one hand, an organized force that protected the Southern Sudanese people would be great, and it would be greater if the organized force was African; on the other hand, I know behind that protection there would be a political agenda, and that agenda has long been driven by the desire to make Southern Sudan a separate state, and not a democratic one either, but your usual military dictatorship. It is best not to be naive about that.

Interventions don't help for a pretty simple reason, actually: the intervening powers have no desire to give up the vast and continuously accumulating asymettries in wealth. To really do something for Darfut is to really address who gets, for instance, the oil wealth in Southern Sudan. And we all know how itchy the great powers get when the wealth balance tips towards the state that accidentally sits atop the natural resources. Combining the welcome wagon with the mafia has been the tradition in intervention, and it will continue to be unless there is an honest assessment of, and mechanism for dealing with, state interest. States should have interests, and states will have interests, and the identification of those interests with the higher morality is ludicrous. That doesn't mean that a state can't be a bearer of morality, it just means that it is always also a bearer of its material interests.

Anyway, enough with my Humpty Dumpty pontificating!
Brian Miller said…
Good points all, roger.

I have to admit that I disagree with you increasingly on one key point: we are the primary hegemon today, and a hegemon whose creation was based basically on conquest and genocide. As the most powerful state, I believe we may be among the most corrupted?

I don't know. Stuff like this still makes me say: Mind Our Own Business. Sending Amercian troops to Sudan would do what? I don't know.