If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Friday 20 April 2012
Read gnomica 1-50 here!
All ambitions are lawful except those
which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind.
Joseph Conrad (3 Dec 1857 – 3 Aug 1924)
A cynic might wish to note that if Conrad’s comment is valid, there isn’t all that much lawful ambition around today – in, for example, our current presidential campaign, or our banking institutions, or some of our religious hierarchies, or … .
Although some theoreticians of post-colonialism might argue the point, my own view is that Conrad was a man whose oeuvres are saturated in a morality that still stands up now – much less then, in the era of the waning British empire [cf. my observations here] during which he was writing. Conrad – like so many writers of earlier eras – is an easy target for the toxic ex-post-facto censure of yesterday’s writers by contemporary faux-indignant intellectuals for having had the effrontery not to anticipate and thus align themselves with the politically correct shibboleths of today. Shame on them – the critics, that is! (How might they in turn fare in the social and intellectual ambience of 2112?)
Conrad, a master stylist of English (not his native language!) prose, gives expression on every page to his indebtedness to English literary precursors, but in this achievement he surely did not “climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind” – indeed, it was precisely “the miseries or credulities of mankind” that constituted the raw materials from which he fashioned his novels and short stories. Indeed, it would be more than merely venial error to chastise this author for alleged insensitivities to the feral predations of civilized Europeans among technologically inferior peoples in every nook and cranny of the world.
From a national as well as an individual perspective one can do worse than modulate as well as moderate one’s ambitions in accordance with Conrad’s dictum.