Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I was just going to get to the thing I was going to post tonight, but then I was distracted. I can't help but be distracted by a new Bach piece being discovered. Thanks to Bunnie for the link. It figures Sir John Eliot Gardiner is getting the first crack at recording it. It seems like it would have either been him or Philippe Herreweghe would get the first crack at any piece since they seem to be on the cutting edge of Bach performances. Those also means those who dished out the money for Bach 2000 will soon have to dish out a little more money for one more recording. Update the BVW numbers.

But there is one thing that I have never from my youth been able to understand. I have never been able to understand where people got the idea that democracy was in some way opposed to tradition. It is obvious to me that tradition is democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than some isolated and arbitrary record. The man who quotes some German historian against the tradition of the Catholic Church, for instance, is strictly appealing to aristocracy. He is appealing to the superiority of one expert against the awful authority of the mob. It is quite easy to see why a legend is treated, and ought to be treated, more respectfully than a book of history. The legend is generally made by the majority of people in the village, who are sane. The book is generally written by the one man in the village who is mad. Those who urge against the tradition that men in the past were ignorant may go and urge it at the Carlton Club, along with the statement that voters in the slums are ignorant. It will not do for us. If we attach great importance to the opinion of ordinary men in great unanimity when we are dealing with daily matters, there is no reason why we should disregard it when we are dealing with history of fable. Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideals of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked by a cross. - GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, pp. 44-45

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