June 3, 2010


ME + me:  Hazlitt, human rights, ordinary men, and forums


    "A master of English prose style, a beautifully modulated general essayist, the first great theatre critic in English, the first great art critic, a magnificent political journalist and polemicist ... Hazlitt is both a philosopher and one of the supreme literary critics in the language."
   -- Paulin, "Spirit".

Yesterday there were four Nederlogs and today I feel a bit... exhausted, is the proper word with ME, so today there will be less - and all of it has to do with ME, even if Hazlitt

1. Hazlitt and 'life, liberty', 'health' 'and the pursuit of happiness'

As I wrote on May 30, I was fit and wealthy enough to purchase myself a - antiquarian, uncorrected proof - copy of "The Day-Star of Liberty - William Hazlitt's Radical Style" by Tom Paulin, since I like Hazlitt very much, since a long time also.

I like Paulin's book and hope to write more about it, though I don't agree with all of it, and (because) Paulin is more of a lit.crit. type than I am, and indeed professes it in Cambridge, which I suppose may be pleaded in exoneration, as may be the facts that indeed he treats of Hazlitt's style and that he does so quite well and with a lot of understanding and relevant knowledge.

It is difficult to explain briefly why I like Hazlitt so much, though I did briefly try on May 30, but here are some quotations that may shed some light - and to help with that, the underlined nouns and names that follow link to the English Wikipedia entries.

The first set of quotations to reproduce places him in a tradition, namely that of the Enlightenment - and remember that Hazlitt lived from 1778-1830; Coleridge was his contemporary as was Southey, and the links are to the Wikipedia-entries for background in case you did not remember, while 'the dead' Hazlitt speaks of more widely may be taken to refer such dead as one knows of and remembers oneself that were cruelly victimized:

In his historical sketch 'The Good Old Times before the French Revolution', Hazlitt describes  how Francis I massacred 6,000 Protestants:

But their cries still sounds in the ears of humanity; they ride upon the rack of history and roll down upon the tide of time; they, the dead, speak to us, the living, with the voice of warning, amidst the slavering cant of Coleridge and the pert gossiping of Southey with shrill eunuch's voice.

Not the rustling of venal pens shall drown this noise, Hazlitt says, because it is the voice of 'outraged humanity' which philosophy, released from the 'bondage of priestcraft', has heard and echoed back:

Voltaire heard it, Rousseau heard it, Milton heard

This is a desperate vindication orf the radical Enlightenment (..)

Yes, I am quoting selectively, but I think fairly. The Hazlitt quotes are from around 1815-16:

Desperate, wounded, furious, and inspired, his historical witness hurls itself against the knowledge of defeat; amd though he writes in these articles with an embittered urgency, it's entirely characteristic of his dedication to the republican ideal of beautiful and effective prose style that he should also include a long note attacking the ways in which the writes of The Times misuse the English language.

As did Multatuli, about the abuse of Dutch, and Orwell, about "the English language" again. Maybe you now understand a little better why I like and admire the man? Here is a more: He had great courage, in a time one of his journalistic friends was put into the pillory, while "nearly 7,000 men, women and children were executed during his lifetime" (op. cit. p. 177):

Hazlitt is writing in December 1816 just after the violent demonstrations and riots which followed the Spa Fields meeting at the beginning of the month. A frightened government intensified its measures against radicals and dissidents.
The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act took place in March 1817, and the government took control of all reading rooms in a move to block the circulation of the Political Register. The climate of repression was intense, with Southey attacking the influential Unitarian MP William Smith, and calling for the libel laws to be extended to cover Hazlitt's and Cobbett's writings. In March, Cobbett fled to the United States, to avoid being arrested.

Cobbett, incidentally and as Hazlitt no doubt would have agreed, is another mostly forgotten truly great writer of English prose.

The second set of quotations consists of two, only broken by a remark of mine, but continuous in Paulin's original text, that also shed light on my own values - and see here for Hazlitt quoted on living to one's-self (mostly English, a little Dutch):

What he terms 'the excellence of Hume's general style' is important for Hazlitt, for it helped him to shape his own prose. Indeed, his remark in one of the philosophy lectures about Hume being an 'easy, indolent, good-tempered man' is refracted in his praise of his father's style and in his remark later in the same essay: 'So have I loitered my life away, reading books, looking at pictures, going to plays, hearing, thinking, writing on what pleased me best.' This follows from the sentence in which he mentions 'sauntering' on the banks of the River Bridgewater, and it expresses his idea that hanging around, indolently loitering, lazily doing nothing, is an essential part of the creative process.

For which also see Lin Yu-tang's "The Importance of Living" (and other works) and Chuang Tzu aka Zhuangzi. Paulin continues - and here we touch also on Human Rights and ME and the fundations of the American Constitution:

The meaning of indolence as a start of rest or ease, in which neither pain nor pleasure is felt, is now obsolete, but Hazlitt would have known its usage in William Popple's translation of Locke's Letter concerning Toleration, in which civil interests are defined as 'life, liberty, health and indolence of body', as well as material possessions. This is close to the American Declaration of Independence's 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' - words which modify Jefferson's original draft and which must derive from Locke.

And this be the end of this lecture... and there is a lot to learn by way of the links to the Wikipedia in this section. (Have fun! Most 18th Century English writers, up to and including Hazlitt and Cobbett, make much more sense to me than any of my contemporaries! And they wrote much better!)

2. ME and the state of law

This extends yesterday's Studies in MEdical sadism - 10: Some strong and graphic evidence with these two  points

  • What makes MEdical sadism possible is that in fact, at least in England, the US and Holland, and for the vast majority of poor patients with ME, the state of law has ceased to obtain for people with their disease:

    With ME, one must accept illegal measures by the state bureaucracy or psychiatrists or nurses they protect that go against one's basic human rights, while it is impossible to get good legal assistance or the protection of independent or state institutions
  • This is in line with a far wider process of bureaucratizing health care in the Western world; dividing this up in what are effectively poor health care for the majority of the poor and good health care only for those rich enough to pay a lot for it; and with extending the concept of 'psychogenic disease' to many somatic diseases, which effectively makes it possible to entangle anyone genuinely ill but with little funds into mock psychotherapies, in the end because real medical therapies for their ailments are far more costly

These are points to return to, also of much wider social importance than just for patients with ME or indeed just for people who happen to be ill a fairly long time.

In the same context, a point I made before, but which bears some repetition i.a. because of all the respect hypocrites tend to demand for all manner of people, as if respect is not earned but imposed:

3. ME and the state of ordinary men

This also extends yesterday's Studies in MEdical sadism - 10: Some strong and graphic evidence with two  points, unwelcome as these may be for ordinary men:

  • The main reason that so many persons with ME have such grave problems in life is mainly that so many persons without ME are so stupid, immoral, indifferent etc.: The Wesselites and Reevians can succeed only because the average level of humans and doctors allows it, and would not succeed if ordinary people had rational common sense about science and morals (amounting to "you don't need to discuss illness to help people" and "you don't do that sort of things to the ill - or indeed to the insane, if that's what you think").

    As Rochefoucauld said wisely but bitterly: "We all have sufficient force to bear the ills of others".
  • This extends also to journalists, intellectuals, medical doctors and what not: The vast majority of these two are not original minds, not individuals leading themselves, but are also followers and conformists, and indeed mostly not from ill will, but from insufficient force of character and mind:

    As Horace outlined the common way of the human heart: "I see the thing the better, and agree that it is good; I proceed to do the worse" - because it is safer, more popular, easier, better paid or personally more rewarding.

4. ME and the state of the forums

As I wrote yesterday, there is now next to the Phoenix Forums another forum, but that is effectively by invitation only at the moment, so my providing links will be of little help, since you can't access it if you are not a member.

For a forum, this is a bit odd, I grant, but then this new forum has just started, and there are quite a few members there who have had some unpleasant altercation with some of the moderators of the Phoenix Rising Forums (PR-Fs) it meanwhile has turned out, and to a much larger extent than I assumed (!).

Meanwhile, the PR-Fs look rather different from before, with the most frequent and best former contributors contributing little or nothing, and with yet more rather crazy changes in the moderating rules. (*)

These are also matters I have to return to later on this place, and I have for the moment two points:

  • As I have outlined (at some place), and as far as I can see, everybody who posted on the PR-Fs at least up to June 1 is the owner of his or her own posts and can fairly and legally request his or her posts to be taken down, since it is his or her property in law: Here is the relevant exchange between myself and The Owner Of The Forum on April 24, on my site, having removed it from PR:

    Hi Cort,

    I asked:

    And I would please have your answer on this soon: Are Koan and Dreambirdie and Dr. Yes and _Kim_ and I making over our personal rights in our personal prose to you by the act of publising it on Phoenix Rising?!

    This is a SERIOUS worry to me, and I don't want it, and also never bargained for it (and you can expect some sharp bargaining if the last puzzled part is your intention).

    Not speaking for myself, but speaking since I raised the point yesterday on the forum for - someone like - Koan (who doesn't know I am raising this now):

    Koan is one of the persons on the forum who is very good with words and who may make money with that talent. I think SHE is entitled to make money by HER writings, also if they are on the Phoenix Rising Forums - and I don't think she'll abuse anyone on the forums or the forums themselves if she succeeds in doing so (though I agree that - where the possibility of publising (part of) some of one's own posts for money oneself is concerned - prior mailing before proceeding to talk of Phoenix Rising in one's own publications, with "The Owner Of" i.e. Cort Johnson is the correct thing to do).

    You answered:

     Originally Posted by Cort 
    I think she is and you are too. So here it is in black and white from the owner of the Forums: You have right to do whatever you wish with your posts - they are legally yours and you can freely do anything you want with them outside the Forums. You have created them - they are yours. Phoenix Rising's 'ownership' of them only extends to Phoenix Rising's attempt to stop others from exploiting them.

    Great! That's the spirit! Thank you very much indeed!



  • It might be helpful if those who did have altercations in Private Mails on the PR-Fs with moderators or trolls store this carefully for eventual later use: I did too, for I am a bad, bad man, much concerned with legal and human rights and freedom of speech , and have my own website to publish what I please.

Meanwhile, if you are on the PR-Fs and want your own posts removed, you have some quotable argument, that certainly should suffice under Dutch laws to have your posts removed from PR if you insist on it, while you can keep copy of eventual refusals or reactions for later eventual use.

And by the way: if you do want to remove your posts, it makes a lot of sense to copy them first (probably just by saving the files that contain your posts: that certainly is fastest and easiest), not only to have them for yourself but also to be sure what your text in fact is (or was, in case of immoderate "moderation").

P.S. And there it stands at June 3

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
     insufficient evidence
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

"Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

P.P.S. ME - Resources needs is a Work In Progress that hasn't progressed today.

(*) Thus, the time a member of the PR-Fs may edit his or her own post varied within 48 hours between 12 hours, 2 hours, 3000 hours and presently - I believe - 5 days. For a forum that in fact is made from member's prose, all contributed gratis, this is a rather odd way of proceeding, and very presumptive of The Owner Of The Forums, also in view of the above.

Maarten Maartensz

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