26 February 2013

Wars Are Not Ended By Theorizing

More out of "Provincialism the Enemy"

Part II (sound file, 11:10)

The desire to coerce the acts of another  is evil.  Every ethical thought is of slow growth; it has taken at least thirty years to suggest the thought that the desire to coerce the acts of others is evil.  The thought belongs to only a few hundreds of people.  Humanity is hardly out of the thought that you may have inquisitions  and burn people at stakes....

The bulk of scholarship has gone under completely; the fascinations of technical and mechanical education have been extremely seductive (I mean definitely the study of machines, the association with engines of all sorts, the inebriety of mechanical efficiency, in all the excitement of its very rapid evolution).

Part III (sound file, 10:26)

America has yet no notion of reforming her universities....Provincialism I have defined as an ignorance of the nature and custom of foreign peoples, a desire to coerce others, a desire for uniformity--uniformity always based on the temperament of the particular provincial desiring it.

The moment you teach a man to study literature not for his own delight, but for some exterior reason, a reason hidden in vague and cloudy words such as 'monuments of scholarships', 'exactness', 'soundness', etc., 'service to scholarship', you begin his destruction, you begin to prepare his mind for all sorts of acts to be undertaken for exterior reasons 'of State', etc., without regard to their merit....

Take a man's mind off the human value of the poem he is reading (and in this case the human value is the art value), switch it on to some question of grammar and you begin his dehumanization....

The uncritical habit of mind spreads from the university to the Press and to the people.  I am well aware that this uncritical habit of mind is hidden by an apparatus criticus, and by more kinds of 'criticism' and criteria, and talk about criticism than the man in the street has heard of.  But it is for all that uncritical.  It divides facts into the known and the unknown, the arranged and the unarranged.  It talks about the advancement of learning and demands 'original research', i.e., a retabulation of data, and a retabulation of tables already tabulated.

Part IV (sound file, 11:54)

Fundamentally, I do not care 'politically', I care for civilisation, and I do not care who collects taxes, or who polices the thoroughfares.  Humanity is a collection of individuals, not a whole divided into segments or units.  The only things that matter are the things which make individual life more interesting.

Ultimately, all these things proceed from a metropolis.  Peace, our ideas of justice, of liberty, of as much of these as are feasible, the immaterial, as well as material things, proceed from a metropolis....

Wars are not ended by theorizing.  Burckhardt notes as the highest point of renaissance civilisation the date when Milan refused to make war on Venice because a 'war between the buyer and seller could be profitable to neither'....Historically, peace has not been doctrinaire....What peace Europe acquired she acquired by an enlargement of nations, by coalitions...

[Pound, Ezra. "Provincialism the Enemy" in Selected Prose: 1909-1965.  New Directions, 1973.]

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