Teach the Bard; Sue the Saudis
I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was about to be taken into Athens to see the latest American import, Beau Geste starring Gary Cooper, a pseudo-historical thriller about three brothers who run away and sign up with the Foreign Legion...you can guess the rest. Then my great-uncle arrived, remonstrated with the nanny for polluting my young mind with rubbish, canceled the visit and set me down for a lecture on...Shakespeare.
Now, if anyone was brought up to hate the Bard it would have to be me. After all, Hamlet, the prince of ambivalence, is a very poor substitute for Beau, a romantic soldier of fortune destined to die among the towelheads in a Viking's funeral pyre.
And yet, and yet. Sometime last year, those modernists who run Britain at present decided to water down the teaching of Shakespeare to children under 16. The modernists?trendy philistines who advise the government on education?have not as yet had their way, but the fact that such reforms have even been suggested is widely seen as the dumbing down of Britain once and for all.
Last week, at the great historian Paul Johnson's garden party, I asked a few of the worthies present what they thought of the Bard. It was like polling members of the Politburo about whether they liked Stalin circa 1949. To a man, and a few women, the consensus was that Shakespeare not only invented the English language as we know it, but that his humanity has much to teach us about ourselves. That Shakespeare should be taught more, rather than less, and that teachers should show films like Romeo + Juliet and Shakespeare in Love to familiarize young people with just how great this guy really was.
Mind you, as I said, these were educated people, leading figures from the worlds of theater, literature and academia, even journalism (a profession that until recently was seen by the above as being a step above safecracking and child molesting). They would say that is a cynic's retort, but the cynic would be wrong, along with those who think that grownup books should be replaced by websites. If one gives up on Shakespeare one might as well give up on understanding human nature. As one professor told me, "He integrates the wisdom of the Renaissance better than any other writer, and he is the antidote to the dumbing down going on almost everywhere in society today." As my great-uncle said when I told him I understood nothing, he helps intelligence to grow, without him you remain flat, without a stimulus.
Doing away with Shakespeare is, of course, a victory for the lowbrows. It is like doing away with learning how to drive in a world where the automobile is king. Worse, it is replacing literature with Neighbors or Oprah, as vile an act as putting a Coca-Cola sign on top of the Parthenon, something I'm sure has already been proposed by the hucksters of the industry. And it's deliberate. Not for profit, mind you, but for doing away with the past, the road to the Alzheimer's civilization the multiculturalists and politically correct are aiming for.
I once asked Yehudi Menuhin who the greatest composers were according to him. "There were three geniuses, the three B's, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms," he said. "But only one miracle, Mozart!" Well, I'm Greek, and I think Homer was the only miracle, but I will grant the Bard equal status, an almost-miracle.
My friend Joe Sobran will obviously disagree. Joe believes the Earl of Southampton was the author of the plays and sonnets attributed to Will, but that doesn't change the fact that a human being wrote them. ("I'm here, I'm queer, I'm Edward De Vere..." says Sobran in his Shakespeare lectures.)
The problem is not unique to Britain. It was a series of great American critics who sounded the alarm with books such as The Closing of the American Mind and The Western Canon. But the Blooms and Bellows of this world are few, whereas the philistines are sprouting like Muslims. Earlier this week, in Greece for yet another party, I visited my old karate dojo for some training. Karatekas are not usually among the haves. For some strange reason rich people do not like getting hit. After a particularly good session, we sat around for a few beers. Homer came up, and I was delighted to hear poor boys educated in public schools all speak like professors on the glory that was Greece.
We Greeks are not fools. We know that the only way our culture will survive is by teaching it the old-fashioned way, not watering it down to please the Albanians and Muslims who are overrunning our borders. No siree, if one wants to come to Greece and send his son or daughter to school, he or she will have to learn it our way, not theirs. In Britain and, alas, soon in America, the immigrant demands schools teach his own culture, and to hell with 1000 years of European enlightenment. The good news is that in France?a place soon to be as brown as California?Racine, Voltaire, Baudelaire, Rabelais and Proust are still tops with teachers, as is Goethe in Germany and Dante in the land of pasta.
With many of our freedoms gone, with the p.c. Nazis watching us like hawks, are we also to lose the right to speak correctly? Are our children to be deprived of Romeo and Juliet, of A Midsummer Night's Dream, of Hamlet and Othello, of As You Like It, for such crap as media studies, feminist history and video-based dramas? Let us nonphilistines, left, center or right, unite in not allowing the Bard to be treated like Coriolanus. (As the great Cole wrote, "And if she says your behavior's heinous, kick her right in the Coriolanus...")
And now for some good news. I have just learned that a suit is being considered against Saudi Arabian so-called royals, those rich ex-camel drivers who finance terror to keep their solid-gold Cadillacs back home in Riyadh. Class actions are anathema to me, pure and simple blackmail by those disgusting lawyers who financed Bill Clinton and who got paid back in billions extorted from the tobacco companies by the Draft Dodger's corrupt Justice Dept. In this case, however, I am with the lawyers. The ones suing are the Sept. 11 victims' families, and the corrupt Saudis have plenty of assets that can be seized right here in the good old USA.
Sovereign nations are supposedly immune from foreign lawsuits, but all that went out the window when Uncle Sam stopped recognizing the seven state sponsors of terrorism in 1996. Although the Saudis are not on the list, I cannot see anyone in the Bush administration pulling strings to keep them off. The Saudis have had it both ways for far too long. They have plenty of moolah, and they should part with it. Every person who lost a loved one in the outrage of Sept. 11 should sue, and everyone should be compensated in the millions. All the Saudis have to do is lay off the hookers for a day or two and, presto, the money will be available.
In Gstaad recently, where King Fahd has taken over most of the town, the spectacle of his lackeys walking around with bodyguards pushing people out of the way and going shopping at 3 in the morning was as disgusting a sight as I've had the bad luck to see in a lifetime. Come to think of it, I can't remember when I was angrier. I've always loved Switzerland and the Swiss, and I've been defending them since I began writing. But this was not their finest hour by far.
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A love-hate relationship with height
A love-hate relationship with height
Ground Zero then and now