Pointless happiness

Gentle reader must forgive me: I have been prattling too much about politics lately. My excuse is a poor one: that there have been many political events of apparent significance. Too, some sympathy must be enjoined for a writer who, through many years, had to support a family as a hack journalist — his nature subdued to what it worked in, like the dyer’s hand. Would that I had been cast as a sports columnist. I could have written well on cricket, I think in my vanity; or in some other world might have been a fine spin bowler. Instead I was assigned to practise political spin, which anyone can do.

Happily for me, my views were so rightwing, that I never advanced beyond “token” in the meejah, and was at length driven out entirely. (Even when at my most complacent, editors would tell me to “tone it down.”)

Now, happiness is a jilt. It comes and goes, and ought to be rejected. This, at least, in the words of Doctor Johnson, beloved master of invective and abuse. “It is all cant,” he declared to the ears of Mrs Piozzi, “the dog knows he is miserable all the time.” (Her memoirs are sometimes as readable as Boswell’s.)

Told of a very happy woman, Doctor Johnson replied, “If your sister-in-law is really the contented being she professes herself, Sir, her life gives the lie to every research of humanity; for she is happy without health, without beauty, without money, and without understanding.”

But, happiness does not require such things. It can be had from a pill or a bottle; in my case, from an election in which, as yesterday, Corbyn and the British Labour Party were trounced. I giggled with delight, for instance, at Labour’s loss of a seat in Yorkshire, which they had held since the Jurassic, and were expected to hold until the crack of doom. It may never happen again, but for today, ha!

That made me happy, and for hours, after the exit poll was announced, indicating a landslide, I was irresponsibly giddy. This did not mean I thought, “Good things will start to happen”; only that a good thing had happened. For good things are good, in themselves.

As usual, the pundits are all wrong. They may be right about incidentals they cannot get wrong — for yes, Brexit is now likelier to happen, and be over with, stopping a source of terrible boredom. But more largely, that is not why Boris Johnson won.

He won on superficial charm, for as maniacs go, he is attractive and entertaining. He won because he was running against such an unpleasant idiot as even coal miners can see (i.e., from a mile underground). And he won because, in the course of the campaign, the Conservative Party had promised everyone a giant Christmas stocking of free stuff, which people wanted to believe they could deliver.

No one really cares about principles, except idiots like Corbyn and me; whereas “free stuff” is extremely popular. This includes the better chance of prosperity, in the shortest imaginable term. No successful politician has principles. All, especially the socialists, serve greed. They promise to better your lot by robbing some rich people you never met. As Mrs Thatcher once explained, in an instant of clarity, it can only ever work for a while. (“Eventually you run out of other people’s money.”)

Therefore nothing can come of an election, of lasting value.

True, some pain can be relieved, for a moment, or an irritating figure removed from daily sight. I wouldn’t discount such passing pleasures, just as I wouldn’t deprive a poor man of his chocolate bar. But if one cares for the prospect of a civilization, one must understand that, by voting, it is not upheld.

Rather it is upheld by our behaviour, in agreement with principles immortal and unchangeable, and in defiance of principles that are barbaric. It depends upon broad agreement on what is good, beautiful, and true — things that can’t be voted on. It relies on the action of disinterested persons, neither happy nor unhappy by trait. They must have a conception of right, and the desire to control not others, but themselves.