An authoritarian writes

Well, the summer is over, & that means I don’t have to read modern Chinese history any more. (I self-assign a topic each year for summer reading, & this year it was post-Ming China, crammed as if for a test on Labour Day.)

Now, technically the summer will not end until the equinox on the 22nd of this month; but up here in the High Doganate, we can know it is coming to an end when we find ourself under air attack. This happens without fail every year at the Labour Day weekend, when the Canadian International Air Show overflies beautiful downtown Parkdale, the aeroplanes often banking low over Humber Bay for review from our balconata; or else we may ascend to the roof for the full vista. It starts Friday, with the rehearsals, during which anyone quietly reading in the High Doganate could swear that each scrambling fighter intends a strafing run on our ivory tower.

Then wave after wave they come, in their agility & power, like a bad day in Beirut: the Trojan Horsemen, the Snowbirds, the Red Star & Dragon, the Lucas Oil Jumpers, the Corsairs. One might reach for one’s bedsheet, but it is useless to put up the white flag. The RCAF & USAF combine, & I noticed this year at least one ex-Soviet aircraft; further combined with squadrons from every earlier generation of mechanical aviation in a grand aerial ghost fleet — all come to assault the High Doganate. But fear not, gentle reader. Again this year we have survived, & from the relative quiet of this back-to-school Tuesday, I know they have relented; that the Battle of Britain is over.


Power, that is the thing. It is what I have been reading about, all through this summer: the use of Power to destroy a magnificent civilization. Power, verily in opposition to Authority. For it is Authority that holds a civilization together, Power that blows it apart.

I’m afraid this truth is little understood, in our age of Power Triumphant. Little Man has stood against the gods, & in the euphoria of his hubris, declared them to be overthrown. Henceforth Little Man will make the rules. He will no longer answer to Authority, to the philosophia perennis. By Power he has usurped the Authority, & need not listen to it any more. Henceforth, words will mean whatever Power will choose them to mean, in our looking-glass world. (Take for instance a term from time out of mind, such as “marriage.”)

In the famous passage by Lewis Carroll, Alice is the voice of Authority, Humpty Dumpty the voice of Power. The latter admits that verbs, especially, have a temper & are proud, but “adjectives you can do anything with.” (And an adjective can change the meaning of a noun.) He declares himself the master over all the parts of speech. Alice is puzzled, & has fallen silent. Tellingly, Humpty Dumpty admits to prosopagnosia — the inability to read a human face. He suggests it would be some help to re-arrange the face of Alice: to put, for instance, both eyes on the same side of her nose, or the mouth on top, to make her easier for him to recognize. That is the voice of Power.

We learn, from the Westlaw database via the commonplace Internet site, that the case of Humpty Dumpty has been cited in more than 250 judicial decisions in the USA, including two that went to their Supreme Court. The Law, wherever discovered, not imposed, reaches beneath the surface of nonsense. It seeks Authority. Or else it refuses to reach, & instead seeks Power.

And in the end, Authority is restored; the truth is vindicated by an accident of Nature; Humpty Dumpty tumbles from his Wall. For here is a mystery: that in despite of Little Man, the universe is held together by Authority.