I Hate England - Anger has made the English an ugly race. But then this anger is also the source of England’s most admirable achievement — their heroic self-control. It’s the daily struggle of not giving in to their natural inclination to run amok with a cricket bat, to spit and bite in a crowded tearoom, that I admire most in the English. It’s not what they are, but their ability to suppress what they are, that’s great about the English. ... It’s their anger that has made them arguably, over the long run, the most consistently successful of all the old European nations, certainly the most inventive and adventurous and energetic. Controlled anger is the great impetus to achievement. You have to do something with it. Anger simply won’t let you be comfortable in your own skin. ... The English aren’t people who strive for greatness, they’re driven to it by a flaming irritation. It was anger that built the Industrial Age, which forged expeditions of discovery. It was the need for self-control that found an outlet in cataloguing, litigating and ordering the natural world. It was the blind fury with imprecise and stubborn inanimate objects that created generations of engineers and inventors. The anger at sin and unfairness that forged their particular earth-bound, pedantic spirituality and their puce-faced, finger-jabbing, spittle-flecked politics. ... The English have, by the skin of their teeth and the stiffness of their lip, managed to turn what might have been a deforming fault into their defining virtue, but it still doesn’t make them loveable.
The Myth of Mythology -- In 1922, T. S. Eliot depicted the spiritual disintegration of Western culture in The Waste Land. In the legend of the Holy Grail, inhabitants of the wasteland live inauthentic lives, blindly following social norms without the conviction that comes of deeper understanding. ... How could people put down creative roots in the “stony rubbish” of modernity, when they are familiar only with “a heap of broken images” — isolated and unassimilated shards of the mythical wisdom of the past? As he confronted the sterility of his civilisation, Eliot’s narrator concluded: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.” Only if we piece together these broken insights and recognise their common core can we reclaim the wasteland in which we live. ... In our rational society, we have lost touch with the mythical underpinning of our culture. Today “myth” often describes something that is not true. A politician accused of a peccadillo will say that it is a “myth”, that it never happened. ... When we hear of gods walking the earth, of dead men striding out of tombs, or of seas parting to allow a favoured people to escape, we dismiss these stories as demonstrably false. In our historical writing, we are concerned above all with what actually happened but when people wrote about the past in the pre-modern period they were chiefly preoccupied with the significance of an event.