Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Whasp View of History


You may be familar with the so-called "Whig view of history".  That is, an approach to the description and study of history that sees the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater freedom and enlightenment. Impossible? No, teleological!* Things can only get better!

It's the essence of a liberal, Enlightenment politics, which sees the power of human reason as a force able to reshape society for the better, abandoning all repressive, superstitious, aristocratic, traditional forms of government. In the Whig view, whatever the setbacks along the way, the progress of humanity to a better state is inevitable. Marxism shares something of this same admirable mindset, as do I, when in a good mood.

But then there is the Whasp view of history. Which is a rather different view, and one that glowers in the darker corners of our story. Well, what do you expect from a species whose main experience at the hands of humanity is to be squashed flat with a rolled up newspaper, or exterminated en masse by chemical warfare?


* I will never tire of this feeble joke, based on a TV advertising campaign in the 1970s for Ariel, the first washing powder to use enzymes. Their slogan was, "Impossible? No, biological!". Heh.


Poetry24 said...

These are striking, Mike. Especially the first. Poor old wasps. My grandad had a sizeable orchard at the bottom of his garden. Every summer he'd wander through, inspecting the fruit and asking, "What bloody purpose do wasps serve?" If you had produced these images before 2002, I could have shown him.

Mike C. said...


I've probable quoted this several times before, but here are some lines from Vita Sackville-West's long (and dreadful) poem "The Garden" which I memorized for O-level Eng Lit back in 1969:

There's not a rhyme to wasp in English tongue.
Poor wasp, unloved, unsung!
Only the homely proverb celebrates
These little dragons of the summer day
That each man hates.
'Wasps haunt the honey-pot,' they say,
Or 'Put your hand into a wasps' nest,' thus
Neatly condensing all report for us
By sharp experience into wisdom stung,
As is the proverb's way.

Of many a man it might be said
No one loved him till he was dead,
But of a wasp not even then
As it is said of many men.

Obviously, if a "Golden Wasp Game" book emerges later this year, the epigraph is ready made...