Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Perpetual Pessimist

We are the voices of the wandering wind,
Which moan for rest, and rest can never find;
Lo! As the wind is, so is mortal life,
A moan a sigh, a sob, a storm, a strife.
Sir Edwin Arnold.

My bedside reading these last few nights has been a little paperback published by Pan Books in 1963, ‘The Perpetual Pessimist’ (An everlasting calendar of gloom and almanack of woe). The copyright holders are Daniel George and Mrs Hugh Miller and their research has really taken them far and wide in their efforts to discover just how truly awful life can be. For example we all remember the assassinations of people like Lincoln, John and Robert Kennedy, Mahatma Ghandi, Julius Caesar,  but what of Edward ll 1367, Richard ll 1400, Henry lV of France, President Garfield 1881, President Carnot of France 1894, Peter lll of Russia, 1762, King Umberto 1900,  President McKinley 1901, King Abdullah of Jordan 1951, King Faisal of Iraq 1958, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo that led to the Great War, Czar Nicholas and his family, but just how many more have there been? Joseph Smith, a founder of the Mormon sect 1844 for example, well he was lynched. Remember this book was published in 1963 and there have been a whole lot since.  Some assassination plots failed of course. President Truman, Hitler, James ll and Napoleon lll escaped and the Cato Street conspirators failed to assassinate Castlereagh and his cabinet in 1820 but assassinations of public figures are much more numerous than those listed above.
The other thing I noticed was the number of massacres that have taken place over the centuries: 1692 Glencoe, massacre of 7000 Armenians by Turks 1920 (which Turkey still denies of course), massacre of Christian Indians by whites in Ohio 1782, Sharpeville massacre 1960, massacre of whites San Domingo 1804, Sicilian Vespers 1282, 8000 slain, Bulgarian atrocities 1876, massacre of Christians by Turks, Chios, 1822, massacre of Europeans in Borneo 1854, massacre of Protestants in northern Italy 1606, massacre of Janissaries Constantinople 1826, massacre of French missionaries Tien-Tsin 1870, massacre of Christians, Damascus 1860, massacre of Negroes, South Carolina 1876, Moslems massacred in Acre 1191, Moslems massacred in Jerusalem 1099, Peterloo massacre 1819, massacre of  St.Bartholomew 1572, Drogheda 1649,  massacre of Europeans, Meerut 1641, massacre of Europeans, Jamaica 1865, massacre of Danes, London 1002, massacre of Incas by Pizarro 1532, massacre of Paris workers 1851,
This is without taking into account numerous wars, the sacking of various cities, the massacres in China and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, the millions dead thanks to Stalin, the inquisition through which hundreds and thousands of so-called heretics were obscenely, cruelly tortured and killed, the holocaust, and ethnic cleaning, Shia versus Sunni and vice versa continuing to the present day, The Taliban and al Qaeda. It would seem, apart from his ability to breed, man’s most common talent is his penchant for killing.

When life’s a sheer unmitigated curse,
When absolutely everything goes wrong,
When things could not conceivably be worse,
Something just too bloody awful is bound to come along. –Anon.

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