Strive not to vex

My vacation started just over half an hour ago and already it is quite excellent. From my chair, at the top of my drive, as I sip my second beer, I can see no less than 12 wireless networks.

I am enjoying my book (despite its not being very good) and came across this quote, which I thought I’d share:

It is an excellent rule to be observed in all disputes, that men should give soft words and hard arguments; that they would not so much strive to vex, as to convince an enemy.

John Wilkins, 1643-ish

The book is Soul Made Flesh by Carl Zimmer. It tells the story of man’s beliefs about the soul and is a kind of potted history of neuroscience through superstition, alchemy and – I presume because I haven’t yet got that far – science.

The major thurst of the book is OK but he keeps meandering off into these irrelevant side-stories and, in the latest one, his version of the English Civil War has the Puritan freedom-fighters erecting a beacon of tolerance and freethinking to illuminate the land after the dark ages of the tyrant Stuart kings.

Since I dropped history at the first opportunity (there is only so much you can take of Mrs Timm), I don’t really know the official establishment view of the Civil War. Most of my knowledge is coloured by Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples in which the Churchill Family were the underground resistance during a brutal military dictatorship in which humourless Roundheads abolished song and colour and beauty and imposed meat and two veg on generations of Englishmen.

In my version, Cromwell has a lot in common with Mullah Omar. Not that I am a Royalist, you understand (quite the contrary), but I note that many of the great advances that came out of England came after the Restoration.

I wonder what the official view is. I wonder what other Englishmen think about the Civil War – to the extent that they think about it at all. Comwell. Good guy or bad guy?

I shall ask the very next Englishman I meet.

Speaking of which, one of my favourite Englishmen has invited me to a Britain-oriented quiz on Plot Night. No-one from my part of the country calls it Plot Night. To us, it is Guy Fawkes’. No doubt that’s another symptom of the North-South divide.

Speaking of Plot Night, Aaron asked me if he could come to our Guy Fawkes-themed camping trip dressed as Guy. Only if your costume is flammable, I replied – quite reasonably I thought.

Thanks to V is for Vendetta, Aaron has it in his head that Guy Fawkes was some kind of revolutionary hero – to Americans like Aaron, all revolutionaries are heroes – but I carefully explained that Guy Fawkes was closer to one of Osama bin Laden’s suicide bombers than to Thomas Paine – who, by the way, got his start in the village pub in Lewes where my mum lives. I also explained that the American Revolution was quite a-typical as most affairs of that nature are followed by Reigns of Terror or Interregna in which Humourless Roundheads/Khmer Rougians/Enragés put people in re-education camps, chop off their heads, persecute the Irish, and, worst of all, blandify English menus.

So, anyway, which is it?

Cromwell. Good guy or bad guy?

Published by

Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

3 thoughts on “Strive not to vex”

  1. “A shadowy freedom fighter known only as “V” uses terrorist tactics to fight against his totalitarian society”, sounds pretty balanced. Is terrorism justified against totalitarinism?

    Wrt Cromwell I know my opinion doesn’t count (IANAB) but I think he was a great man but not a good one.

  2. In my phantasy, England of James I was relatively moderate compared to the religious chaos that preceded it and that was exploding on the continent.

    James I was squeezed between the Christian Taliban and the Inquisition. The Taliban were so persecuted that they set off for America where they could run their society according to Sharia.

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