Recent BBC Radio Drama

by Harry on December 30, 2007

Radio 4 has given us an embarrassment of riches recently, and due to the remarkable snowfalls here I’ve had ample time to listen (while shovelling our over-long driveway). Still online, and well worth a listen are Simon Bovey’s dark mystery, The Iceman and Robin Brooks’s witty tribute to M.R. James, A Warning to the Furious. Best of all is a repeat of Marcy Kahan’s 20 Cigarettes, which was a 2007 Tinniswood award nominee, and deservedly so. (Kahan is the writer of the brilliant Noel Coward comedy/mysteries, and also wrote the screenplay for the excellent, but apparently not-yet-on-DVD Antonia and Jane). Find an hour for 20 Cigarettes if you can.

Pottery Barn Rules?

by John Holbo on December 30, 2007

I’m reading Ted Honderich, Conservatism: Burke, Nozick, Bush, Blair? [amazon]. It’s good, but schizophrenic. He shifts gears, lurchingly, between sober, seminar-style logic-chopping and indignant broadsides. I don’t really mind, because obviously that’s what blogs are for. Still, this is a book.

I had picked up, second-hand, that Honderich dubbed Roger Scruton ‘the unthinking man’s thinking man’. Now I’ve got the specific quote that summons the quip. Scruton (from The Meaning of Conservatism):

There is a natural instinct in the unthinking man who, tolerant of the burdens that life lays on him, and unwilling to lodge blame where he sees no remedy, seeks fulfillment in the world that is to accept and endorse through his actions the institutions and practices into which he is born. This instinct, which I have attempted to translate into the self-conscious language of political dogma, is rooted in human nature.

What’s most odd is the bit about ‘not lodging blame where there is no remedy’. I take it this is a mis-expression of the idea Rousseau (?) gets at with ‘the nature of things does not madden us, only ill-will does’ (quoted in Berlin?) But really Scruton is saying something quite different, articulating an addled Pottery Barn Rule: break something badly enough and you don’t have to buy it. (Or good old, ‘owe the bank $100, it’s your problem, owe the bank $100 million and it’s the bank’s problem’.) Could it really be that there are two sorts of ‘unthinking men’: those who cause problems they can’t solve, and those who don’t blame them for it?