Thoughts from the past that rime with the times
“…For let no one ever forget that it was precisely in the limitation of permissible means that lay the strength of the most perfect formation heroism has ever received, that of medieval chivalry.
“The shirt-and-arm heroism of today in practice often means little more than a crude assertion of the “we” consciousness. A particular subject, “we and those with us,” called “party,” has a corner in heroism and parcels it out to its servants. Such assertions of the “we”- consciousness are sociologically of the highest importance. They are met with in all periods and in every race in the form of rites, dances, cries, chants, badges, etc. If our time has actually lost the desire to understand and to determine its behavior rationally, it is perfectly natural that it should go back to primitive methods of instilling the sense of strength and unity.
“One danger will always remain inalienably to the anti-noetic creed of life. The assumption of the primacy of life over understanding necessarily entails, with the abandonment of the criteria of the understanding, the abandonment of moral standards as well. If authority preaches violence, the violent will have the floor. One has denied oneself, in principle, the right to restrain them. And in this principle, they will think to find justification for their actions, whatever their brutality and bestiality. As executors of the heroic task the political tide will only too easily wash up those elements who find in the perpetration of violence the gratification of their animal and pathological instincts. A rightly disciplined military authority may perhaps keep them within certain bounds. In the fanaticism of a popular movement, however, they will become the henchmen of murder.” – Johan Huizinga, In the Shadow of Tomorrow, Chap. XV, Heroism, (1936) pp. 112-113.
“I believe in aristocracy, though -- if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but power to endure, and they can take a joke.” -- E.M. Forster, from the essay “What I Believe” (1938), included in Two Cheers for Democracy (1951).