The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

To All Those Who Choose To Tear Down, To Sully, To Sow Discord and Ridicule

I have been wondering why I have been drawn lately to the self-proclaimed Prince of Humbug, Mr. Phineas Taylor Barnum, at least until I ran across his wonderful book The Humbugs of the World. I stumbled across it while trying to find his lecture "The Philosophy of Humbug" as mentioned in his autobiography, Life of Barnum. And when I read the lines of pages 16 and 17, it all became clear.

I've been drawn to humbug by all the humbug in the air lately. All the spun histories and warnings of dire fates awaiting if a certain thing was done or not done put forth by "special" interest groups. I was drawn to the Prince of Humbug by all the commentators on the far right and far left opining in heated rhetoric how they are always right and their opponents are enemies of truth, justice, and the American Way. Also by all the politicians who stand on party orthodoxy and choose to ignore the needs of the people rather than stray from the party platform. No names need to be mentioned. These are all the usual suspects Louie would know well. Well, to them all I offer Mr. P.T. Barnum's assessment of who they really are in the grand scheme of things. Without further ado the curtain rises and the great man speaks:

But there is a more thorough humbug than any of these enterprises or systems [Mr. Barnum had just finished listing humbugs in every major field of human endeavor, those who misconstrue and fool for profit or amusement, for reasons dangerous or benign]. The greatest humbug of all is the man [or woman] who believes--or pretends to believe--that everything and everybody are humbugs. We sometimes meet a person who professes that there is no virtue; that every man has his price, and every woman hers; that any statement from anybody is just as likely to be false as true, and that the only way to decide which, is to consider whether truth or a lie was likely to have paid best in that particular case. Religion he thinks one of the smartest business dodges extant, a first rate investment, and by all odds the most respectable disguise that a lying or swindling business man can wear. Honor he thinks is a sham. Honesty he considers a plausible word to flourish in the eyes of the greener portion of our race, as you would hold out a cabbage leaf to coax a donkey. What people want, he thinks, is something good to eat, something good to drink, fine clothes, luxury, laziness, wealth. If you can imagine a hog's mind in a man's body--sensual, greedy, selfish, cunning, sly, coarse, yet stupid, short-sighted, unreasoning, unable to comprehend anything except what concerns the flesh, you have your man. He thinks himself philosophic and practical, a man of the world; he thinks to show knowledge and wisdom, penetration, deep acquaintance with men and things. Poor fellow! he has exposed his own nakedness. Instead of showing that others are rotten inside, he has proved that he is. He claims that it is not safe to believe others--it is perfectly safe to disbelieve him. He claims that every man will get the better of you if possible--let him alone! Selfishness, he says, is the universal rule--leave nothing to depend on his generosity or honor; trust him just as far as you can sling an elephant by the tail. A bad world, he sneers, full of deceit and nastiness--it is his own foul breath that he smells; only a thoroughly corrupt heart could suggest such vile thoughts. He sees only what suits him, as a turkey-buzzard spies only carrion, though amid the loveliest landscape. I pronounce him who thus virtually slanders his father and dishonors his mother and defiles the sanctities of home and the glory of patriotism and the merchant's honor and the martyr's grave and the saint's crown--who does not even know that every sham shows that there is a reality, and that hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue--I pronounce him--no, I do not pronounce him a humbug, the word does not apply to him. He is a fool. 
I really can't hope to add anything of any substance to what P.T. Barnum has said. I will give you this though: among these folks I place the 180 Congresspersons who voted against the hurricane Sandy disaster relief funds. Their names may be found at the following site and should be remembered:

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