Saturday, July 23, 2005

What we need(ed) to hear

Earlier I linked to Enoch Powell's speech, I suppose out of a vague hope that people will cut some slack to one of the most villified men of British politics in recent history. Well, as I mentioned, that inspired me to re-read his speech- which is so well written it's difficult to believe he hadn't intended it to be read rather than heard. Anyway, I defy anyone to say that it isn't with a sublime piece of wisdom that Powell began his speech. How we need such wisdom now, or how we have needed it and now need it more than ever:

'The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature. One is that by the very order of things such evils are not demonstrable until they have occurred: At each stage in their onset there is room for doubt and for dispute whether they be real or imaginary. By the same token, they attract little attention in comparison with current troubles, which are both indisputable and pressing: whence the besetting temptation of all politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future. Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: 'if only', they love to think, 'if only people wouldn't talk about it, it probably wouldn't happen'. Perhaps this habit goes back to the primitive belief that the word and the thing, the name and the object, are identical. At all events, the discussion of future grave but, with effort now, avoidable evils is the most unpopular and at the same time the most necessary occupation for the politician. Those who knowingly shirk it, deserve, and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who come after. '

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