The Modern Martyr

Being a reprint of an article by G.K. Chesterton – written about 110 years ago.


The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Those that know me know of my fascination with G.K. Chesteron – writing over 100 years ago, he was a veritable prophet. But he wrote with a wit and joy that I yearn to emulate.

I listed this under book reviews, but I am simply going to post the whole article. It reviews itself, one might say.

The Modern Martyr

The incident of the Suffragettes who chained themselves with iron chains to the railings of Downing Street is a good ironical allegory of most modern martyrdom. It generally consists of a man chaining himself up and then complaining that he is not free. Some say that such larks retard the cause of female suffrage, others say that such larks alone can advance it; as a matter of fact, I do not believe that they have the smallest effect one way or the other.

The modern notion of impressing the public by a mere demonstration of unpopularity, by being thrown out of meetings or thrown into jail is largely a mistake. It rests on a fallacy touching the true popular value of martyrdom. People look at human history and see that it has often happened that persecutions have not only advertised but even advanced a persecuted creed, and given to its validity the public and dreadful witness of dying men. The paradox was pictorially expressed in Christian art, in which saints were shown brandishing as weapons the very tools that had slain them. And because his martyrdom is thus a power to the martyr, modern people think that any one who makes himself slightly uncomfortable in public will immediately be uproariously popular. This element of inadequate martyrdom is not true only of the Suffragettes; it is true of many movements I respect and some that I agree with. It was true, for instance, of the Passive Resisters, who had pieces of their furniture sold up. The assumption is that if you show your ordinary sincerity (or even your political ambition) by being a nuisance to yourself as well as to other people, you will have the strength of the great saints who passed through the fire. Any one who can be hustled in a hall for five minutes, or put in a cell for five days, has achieved what was meant by martyrdom, and has a halo in the Christian art of the future. Miss Pankhurst will be represented holding a policeman in each hand–the instruments of her martyrdom. The Passive Resister will be shown symbolically carrying the teapot that was torn from him by tyrannical auctioneers.

But there is a fallacy in this analogy of martyrdom. The truth is that the special impressiveness which does come from being persecuted only happens in the case of extreme persecution. For the fact that the modern enthusiast will undergo some inconvenience for the creed he holds only proves that he does hold it, which no one ever doubted. No one doubts that the Nonconformist minister cares more for Nonconformity than he does for his teapot. No one doubts that Miss Pankhurst wants a vote more than she wants a quiet afternoon and an armchair. All our ordinary intellectual opinions are worth a bit of a row: I remember during the Boer War fighting an Imperialist clerk outside the Queen’s Hall, and giving and receiving a bloody nose; but I did not think it one of the incidents that produce the psychological effect of the Roman amphitheatre or the stake at Smithfield. For in that impression there is something more than the mere fact that a man is sincere enough to give his time or his comfort. Pagans were not impressed by the torture of Christians merely because it showed that they honestly held their opinion; they knew that millions of people honestly held all sorts of opinions. The point of such extreme martyrdom is much more subtle. It is that it gives an appearance of a man having something quite specially strong to back him up, of his drawing upon some power. And this can only be proved when all his physical contentment is destroyed; when all the current of his bodily being is reversed and turned to pain. If a man is seen to be roaring with laughter all the time that he is skinned alive, it would not be unreasonable to deduce that somewhere in the recesses of his mind he had thought of a rather good joke. Similarly, if men smiled and sang (as they did) while they were being boiled or torn in pieces, the spectators felt the presence of something more than mere mental honesty: they felt the presence of some new and unintelligible kind of pleasure, which, presumably, came from somewhere. It might be a strength of madness, or a lying spirit from Hell; but it was something quite positive and extraordinary; as positive as brandy and as extraordinary as conjuring. The Pagan said to himself: “If Christianity makes a man happy while his legs are being eaten by a lion, might it not make me happy while my legs are still attached to me and walking down the street?” The Secularists laboriously explain that martyrdoms do not prove a faith to be true, as if anybody was ever such a fool as to suppose that they did. What they did prove, or, rather, strongly suggest, was that something had entered human psychology which was stronger than strong pain. If a young girl, scourged and bleeding to death, saw nothing but a crown descending on her from God, the first mental step was not that her philosophy was correct, but that she was certainly feeding on something. But this particular point of psychology does not arise at all in the modern cases of mere public discomfort or inconvenience. The causes of Miss Pankhurst’s cheerfulness require no mystical explanations. If she were being burned alive as a witch, if she then looked up in unmixed rapture and saw a ballot-box descending out of heaven, then I should say that the incident, though not conclusive, was frightfully impressive. It would not prove logically that she ought to have the vote, or that anybody ought to have the vote. But it would prove this: that there was, for some reason, a sacramental reality in the vote, that the soul could take the vote and feed on it; that it was in itself a positive and overpowering pleasure, capable of being pitted against positive and overpowering pain.

I should advise modern agitators, therefore, to give up this particular method: the method of making very big efforts to get a very small punishment. It does not really go down at all; the punishment is too small, and the efforts are too obvious. It has not any of the effectiveness of the old savage martyrdom, because it does not leave the victim absolutely alone with his cause, so that his cause alone can support him. At the same time it has about it that element of the pantomimic and the absurd, which was the cruellest part of the slaying and the mocking of the real prophets. St. Peter was crucified upside down as a huge inhuman joke; but his human seriousness survived the inhuman joke, because, in whatever posture, he had died for his faith. The modern martyr of the Pankhurst type courts the absurdity without making the suffering strong enough to eclipse the absurdity. She is like a St. Peter who should deliberately stand on his head for ten seconds and then expect to be canonised for it.

Or, again, the matter might be put in this way. Modern martyrdoms fail even as demonstrations, because they do not prove even that the martyrs are completely serious. I think, as a fact, that the modern martyrs generally are serious, perhaps a trifle too serious. But their martyrdom does not prove it; and the public does not always believe it. Undoubtedly, as a fact, Dr. Clifford is quite honourably indignant with what he considers to be clericalism, but he does not prove it by having his teapot sold; for a man might easily have his teapot sold as an actress has her diamonds stolen–as a personal advertisement. As a matter of fact, Miss Pankhurst is quite in earnest about votes for women. But she does not prove it by being chucked out of meetings. A person might be chucked out of meetings just as young men are chucked out of music-halls–for fun. But no man has himself eaten by a lion as a personal advertisement. No woman is broiled on a gridiron for fun. That is where the testimony of St. Perpetua and St. Faith comes in. Doubtless it is no fault of these enthusiasts that they are not subjected to the old and searching penalties; very likely they would pass through them as triumphantly as St. Agatha. I am simply advising them upon a point of policy, things being as they are. And I say that the average man is not impressed with their sacrifices simply because they are not and cannot be more decisive than the sacrifices which the average man himself would make for mere fun if he were drunk. Drunkards would interrupt meetings and take the consequences. And as for selling a teapot, it is an act, I imagine, in which any properly constituted drunkard would take a positive pleasure. The advertisement is not good enough; it does not tell. If I were really martyred for an opinion (which is more improbable than words can say), it would certainly only be for one or two of my most central and sacred opinions. I might, perhaps, be shot for England, but certainly not for the British Empire. I might conceivably die for political freedom, but I certainly wouldn’t die for Free Trade. But as for kicking up the particular kind of shindy that the Suffragettes are kicking up, I would as soon do it for my shallowest opinion as for my deepest one. It never could be anything worse than an inconvenience; it never could be anything better than a spree. Hence the British public, and especially the working classes, regard the whole demonstration with fundamental indifference; for, while it is a demonstration that probably is adopted from the most fanatical motives, it is a demonstration which might be adopted from the most frivolous.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Mending Fences

BY: Robert Frost


(USA) – A comment on my article about building a wall brings us this:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Thank you Relax…

The Punisher

Social Commentary or Scathing Indictment?

BY: Frater Bovious


(New York) – Marvel and Netflix have made a huge splash in the comic universe with a series of interrelated shows featuring crossover characters. First was Daredevil, with two seasons and nearly unanimous critical and public approval. Next was Jessica Jones, my personal favorite, followed by Luke Cage. To say all these shows are dark and violent is to be guilty of understatement. Yet, amidst all the violence done to both property and the character’s psyche, we get convincing stories of damaged people trying to hold it all together and do something about the crapped up world in which we live.

Then came Iron Fist – which kind of sucked. And too bad because that show turns out to be the focal point of the evil organization known as The Hand and around which the Defenders show, the mashup of all four of these shows, revolves. And, while I enjoyed Defenders, it suffered because of the Iron Fist Factor. Iron Fist misfired on the lead character – he is not convincing, and the character is whiny – a huge turn off to me. And, while this may be intentional, he comes off as a kid trying to prove he’s not a kid. I’m not that interested in a coming of age superhero. I’m more interested in real people. And despite all the super power stuff, Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage feel real.

Which brings me finally to The Punisher. Where the first three are all damaged in some way, Frank Castle is a complete psycho, but one with a code and a plan. The code: Kill bad guys. The plan: Kill bad guys.

That is not as simplistic as it may sound. Because the flip side of that code, which is always present, is: Don’t kill good people. Help them. Even at cost to yourself. The flip side of the plan is: not very planned out – it just follows from the code whenever circumstances dictate. He is not driven to help the downtrodden, as is Daredevil.

The psycho part? Without bad guys to kill, he’s a complete wreck, barely getting by. The sad part, the social commentary part, the indictment part about this show? Frank Castle is the story of a trained soldier who comes home from the war and is not taken care of by the government that made him. It is a story writ large – it is very in your face. But all I can think about when watching this show is that this country trains weapons, uses them up, and then tosses them. And they lay around like an IED until something or someone triggers them.

At essence then, this particular show is very much about the dignity of the human person, and the violence done to a person used as a means to an end. That this violence then overflows is hardly surprising. At least, we should not be surprised – we should take note. Humans are not means to an end. They are ends in themselves.

I think it is a national shame that we need to figure out, and I think a hidden code message of The Punisher is simply, let’s take better care of our vets.

Very worth watching. Sometimes hard to watch. Should be rated R for all the usual suspects.

Check it out. I’ll talk about Jessica Jones next.

What is a Santa Fe Day?

And why do we have one in Carrollton?


paddykeyk4By: Paddy Keyk
City Desk

I don’t actually know why we have Santa Fe Days in Carrollton. Isn’t that like in New Mexico? And do any of the Native Americans in New Mexico have any connection to Carrollton, TX, Cradle of Civilization? Unlikely.

Regardless, the 11th Annual Santa Fe Days in the Park takes place this Saturday, March 14 and Sunday, March 15 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. The following information is courtesy of the City of Carrollton:

The growing event will be hosted in a new location at Carrollton’s own Sandy Lake Amusement Park (1800 Sandy Lake Road).

This American Indian arts and cultural event features unique, handmade American Indian jewelry, pottery, paintings, and other traditional crafts from more than 70 American Indian artists and craftsman. Performances by Plains Indian Dancers and Chickasaw Stomp Dance Shell Shakers are sure to entertain the crowds in addition to the demonstrations of finger weaving, flute playing, stickball, and pottery making. The indigenous grocery store will highlight the health benefits of blue corn, roots that heal, and reservation survival foods. Featured artists James and Doris Coriz are Santo Domingo Pueblo turquoise and silver jewelry makers trained in the art of traditional jewelry craftsmanship. Mr. & Mrs. Coriz will conduct workshops on how to identify natural turquoise from treated and imitation turquoise.

All are invited to attend for this enjoyable cultural event. Admission for all ages is just $2. For more information, visit santafedays.com.

Hey, it’s $2! Check it out!

A Pondering

And an Udderance

By FRATER BOVIOUS


Hola. There are times that I wax nostalgic for The Global Exclaimer. I’ve been trying to understand if it makes any sense to write two blogs, especially since their content would inevitably overlap at some level.

But, I just really like the layout and look I created here, and sometimes if I want to write something that is not so overtly religious or Catholic themed, this may be the place to do so.

For example, I miss writing The Puppycat Page, an oddly well received page from the print edition. Also, Cigar Notes was popular.

If anyone reads this that used to read The Glob. Let me know your thoughts.

FB

Stanley Cup Inspiration for Local “Mikey” Bass Classic People’s Champ Trophy


Local Mikey Award hopes for visit from Stanley Cup

NEW YORK—In recognition of its tremendous leadership and community work, the Stanley Cup was honored Wednesday for its dedication to helping developmentally disabled trophies.

via Stanley Cup Lauded For Work With Developmentally Disabled Trophies | The Onion Sports Network.

The Mikey, pictured below, is coveted by all local bass fisherman in the Greater North Texas Region. Since the inception of this 10 round Bass Classic Trophy Contest, the winners have been:

  1. 2006 – Mike DeMars
  2. 2007 – Mike DeMars
  3. 2007 – Mike DeMars
  4. 2008 – Mike DeMars
  5. 2009 – Mike DeMars
  6. 2010 – Mike DeMars, Alan Vaughan*

    The Coveted Mikey, desired by many, earned by only one, except for the debacle of 2010.

Mike explains his domination of this tournament as follows: “It’s my name. Mike DeMars is Mike of The Sea. Domination is inevitable.” Alan, the perennial Banana #2, was unavailable for comment.

*Controversy continues to hang like a Fukushima nuclear cloud over the award of 2010, which year the contest ended in a tie. Mike said it should simply state “No Winner.” Alan said “I want my name on the damn trophy!”

Blogathon Fail

Blogger Fails in Bid to write a blog a day in the month of May

“I’m Shocked” – anonymous blogger

Yes, I have failed. I let work and life interfere with Blogging Glory.

But, I’m here today with the Blogathon Day 10 Haiku Challenge! Yay! Sometimes called a 5 7 5 – a haiku is fun because the restriction can stimulate creativity. 5 syllables, not words mind you, syllables, then seven, then five. Here are five haikus typed almost as quickly as I typed them… er – well, anyway –

“Haiku!” “Gesundheit!”
Does it not sound like a sneeze?
Bless you, and bless me.
 
rain painting tree bark
dusty old trees standing tall
drink, roots, while you can
 
a haiku poem
needn’t rhyme they say and yet
there is a rhythm
 
walking in silence
no words necessary now
they know night cometh
 
windows spill yellow
summer night consolation
playing in the dark
 
 
 

Ψ