16 October 2012

Juxtaposed Aphorisms

The values of a culture are necessarily incoherent.  What we call the logic that holds the values of a culture together is itself but a cultural convention.  What seems firmly mortared together falls apart under the pressure of a crisis.  A culture is always in at least a mild state of crisis, for its values are never coherent and never adequate to meet the demands made on it from within and from without.  Nevertheless, when a culture is in what we may call a non-critical or reasonably healthy condition, the incoherency of values is not observed, nor is there present an irony which juxtaposes obviously inconsistent values.  In such an era a man says to himself, "Look before you leap!" when he wishes to postpone a decision.  But when he wishes to make a decision in a hurry, he encourages himself and validates his act by "He who hesitates is lost."  The sensible man never juxtaposes these two aphoristic devices for controlling his behavior.  But in times of crisis, that is exactly what he does.  The result is an irony which makes action exceedingly difficult and even psychologically perilous.

Victorian Revolutionaries, Morse Peckham

Cue The Daily Show theme and the ironic mug of Jon Stewart.

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