INTERVIEWS WITH THE FAMOUSLY DEPARTED
Chesterton and Shaw Speak
The Presidential Debates: The View from Abroad
In the aftermath of the Presidential Debates, we thought we’d bring in their underdstudies (Okay—six-foot-under understudies) to address what’s really on the minds of the American voters. And who better to do that than two foreigners with, dare we say, a uniquely objective view of American politics:
Mr. George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic, and polemicist; and Mr. Gilbert Keith Chesterton, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, and orator.
Wild River Review: How do you see the value of a Twitter conversation?
Gilbert K. Chesterton: No man ought to write at all, or even to speak at all, unless he thinks that he is in truth and the other man in error. In similar style, I hold that I am dogmatic and right, while Mr. Shaw is dogmatic and wrong.
WRR: Looking at the Presidential election of 2016, one fundamental question is: can either or Donald or Hillary be trusted?
Chesterton: Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction … for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it.
Shaw: All great truths begin as blasphemies.
Chesterton: A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
Shaw: My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.
WRR: What’s the appeal to the uneducated voter?
Shaw: The schoolboy who uses his Homer to throw at his fellow’s head makes perhaps the safest and most rational use of him.
Chesterton: For my part, I should be inclined to suggest that the chief object of education should be to restore simplicity. If you like to put it so, the chief object of education is not to learn things; nay, the chief object of education is to unlearn things.
Shaw: Every fool believes what his teachers tell him, and calls his credulity science or morality as confidently as his father called it divine revelation.
WRR: And the value of the educated voter?
Chesterton: Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.
WRR: There have been lots of talk this campaign about the establishment, on both sides.
Shaw: The novelties of one generation are only the resuscitated fashions of the generation before last.
Chesterton: Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to them being disqualified by the accident of death.
WRR: And which candidate is really the candidate of “change”?
Shaw: The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
Chesterton: A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.
Shaw: Revolutionary movements attract those who are not good enough for established institutions as well as those who are too good for them.
WRR: Do businessmen/women make good Presidents?
Chesterton: Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.
Shaw: It is more dangerous to be a great prophet or poet than to promote twenty companies for swindling simple folk out of their savings.
Chesterton: His head was always most valuable when he had lost it. In such moments he put two and two together and made four million.
Shaw: The man who has graduated from the flogging block at Eton to the bench from which he sentences the garrotter to be flogged is the same social product as the garrotter who has been kicked by his father and cuffed by his mother until he has grown strong enough to throttle and rob the rich citizen whose money he desires.
Shaw: My religion? Well, my dear, I am a Millionaire. That is my religion.
WRR: Why will even non-deplorables will vote for Donald Trump?
Chesterton: Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.
WRR: What about religion and values?
Shaw: There is only one religion, though there are hundreds of versions of it.
Chesterton: It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.
Shaw: Religion is a great force—the only real motive force in the world; but what you fellows don’t understand is that you must get at a man through his own religion and not through yours.
Chesterton: Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.
Chesterton: Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion.
WRR: What does Donald Trump think of Donald Trump?
Shaw: My specialty is being right when other people are wrong.
Shaw: The secret of success is to offend the greatest number of people
WRR: What does Hillary Clinton think of Donald Trump?
Shaw: Well, of course, they notice you. You always hide just in the middle of the limelight.
Shaw: Vulgarity is a necessary part of a complete author’s equipment; and the clown is sometimes the best part of the circus.
WRR: What does Hillary Clinton think of Hillary Clinton?
Shaw: Nothing is more dreadful than a husband who keeps telling you everything he thinks, and always wants to know what you think.
Chesterton: Every one of the great revolutionists, from Isaiah to Shelley, have been optimists. They have been indignant not about the badness of existence, but about the slowness of men in realizing the goodness.
WRR: What does Donald Trump think of Hillary Clinton?
Shaw: I like a bit of a mongrel myself, whether it’s a man or a dog; they’re the best for every day.
Chesterton: I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities—and found no statutes of Committees.
WRR: Is the press doing a good job covering the campaign?
Chesterton: Journalism largely consists in saying “Lord Jones Dead” to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.
Shaw: Journalists are too poorly paid in this country to know anything that is fit for publication.
Chesterton: Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance.
WRR: And what of the character or lack of character, if you will, of the candidates?
Chesterton: Materialists and madmen never have doubts.
Shaw: A liar’s punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.
Chesterton: Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.
Shaw: I don’t believe in morality. I’m a disciple of Bernard Shaw.
Chesterton: When some English moralists write about the importance of having character, they appear to mean only the importance of having a dull character.
WRR: Why isn’t Donald Trump releasing his tax returns?
Shaw: There are no secrets better kept than the secrets everybody guesses.
WRR: What is the real problem with Hillary’s desire to use a private email server?
Shaw: An American has no sense of privacy. He does not know what it means. There is no such thing in the country.
WRR: Which candidate has the better “vision” for America?
Shaw: You see things as they are and ask, “Why?” I dream things as they never were and ask, “Why not?”
Chesterton: The poor object to being governed badly, while the rich object to being governed at all.
Shaw: Independence? That’s middle-class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.
Chesterton: The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.
Shaw: Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.
Chesterton: I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.
WRR: Let’s try a foreign policy question. Any thoughts on Brexit?
Shaw: We don’t bother much about dress and manners in England, because as a nation we don’t dress well and we’ve no manners.
Shaw: Ah-ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-oo-oo!!! I ain’t dirty: I washed me face and hands afore I come, I did!
Chesterton: One of his hobbies was to wait for the American Shakespeare—a hobby more patient than angling.
Shaw: The whole strength of England lies in the fact that the enormous majority of the English people are snobs.
Chesterton: The great and very obvious merit of the English aristocracy is that nobody could possibly take it seriously.
WRR: And what about immigration? Foreigners?
Chesterton: Half the truth about the modern man is that he is educated to understand foreign languages and misunderstand foreigners.
WRR: And the general view of the public?
Shaw: Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.
Chesterton: Not only are we all in the same boat, but we are all seasick.
WRR: Can you sum up the 2016 Presidential election in a nutshell?
Chesterton: I came to the conclusion that the optimist thought everything good except the pessimist, and that the pessimist thought everything bad, except himself.
WRR: Thanks, guys. Not quite Gloria Steinem and Toni Morrison, but still, pretty enlightening.
The Odyssey of Homer
Joe practiced law in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for 14 years and designed large scale databases for AT&T for five years. He currently works for NextLevel Web Strategies, a legal marketing firm based in Princeton, NJ. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, received his J.D. from George Washington Law School and he has a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Drexel University.
Joe’s book, Philadelphia Originals, was released for publication by Schiffer Publishing in 2009. The book shows that the unique styles (how Philadelphians paint, sing, practice law, tell a joke, cook) of Philadelphia’s most notable professions can be traced back to the perfect complement of the spiritual William Penn and the practical Benjamin Franklin.
His second project. Philadelphia Before You Were Born, is a study of the last time Philadelphia newspapers used artists for all their illustrations. It was published in 2011.
Joe’s many other published writings include a humorous look at book clubs for the Bucks County Writer and the literary stages of a baseball season for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also writes the Interviews with the Famously Departed Column for the Wild River Review.
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Dick Perez: Sports Artist for the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Phillies
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