Friday, 28 July 2017

Nineteenth century virtue signalling: The Warden by Anthony Trollope

Modern men often labour under the illusion that society progresses steadily upward. One way to confront that misconception is by reading Trollope, one of the most astute social observers of his or any other time.

Trollope’s titular warden is Septimus Harding, a fifty-something precentor in Trollope’s Barchester, who buckles under an SJW attack, as savage as anything administered today under the name of social justice (only not so rapid from start to finish). The main players are all easily identifiable, the causes familiar, and the outcome depressingly familiar. What a pity Mr. Harding never had access to a copy of Vox Day’s SJWs Always Lie. (Oh for a modern version in which he does.)

See if you can match characters and plot with recent SJW shenanigans (keeping in mind that Trollope penned this over 150 years ago). Note: spoilers ahead.

Mr. Bold, bursting with social justice urges, takes umbrage at the Church paying a warden to provide comfort to twelve superannuated stone masons and the like housed, fed, clothed and provided with a daily cash handouts – all courtesy of the last will and testament centuries old. Why should the warden get £800 a year and a house, when he could be turned out and the income divvied up between the bedesman? As Trollope presciently notes as the battle gets underway: “And Bold began to comfort himself in the warmth of his own virtue.”

Local newspaperman Tom Towers spots an opportunity, loudly joining the fight. As a newspaperman, he has almost unassailable power. Of him, Trollope writes: “But to whom was he, Tom Towers, responsible? No one could insult him; no one could inquire into him. He could speak out withering words, and no one could answer him.”

It’s too easy, no?

How surprised I was to discover that the best intentions of SJWs – nineteenth century or no – concluded as follows. Unable to bear the besmirching of his good name in public, Mr. Harding voluntarily vacates the residence and forgoes his £800 a year (from which he contributed nearly ten per cent a year to the men out of the generosity of his own heart). But since SJWs always lie, as Mr. Day astutely observes, the twelve almsmen find themselves worse off than when the story begins. Not only is the Church not legally required to disburse the warden’s income to the twelve men, but they lose the only man who truly cared for them (the reformers care not one whit). Trollope puts it masterfully: “… and then came the bitter information that, from the moment of Mr. Harding’s departure, the twopence a-day, his own peculiar gift, must of necessity be withdrawn. And this was to the end of all their mighty struggle – of the fight for their rights – of their petition, and their debates and their hopes!”

A lying reformer. The lying media. Unintended consequences. Why, anyone would think this was written today. And that, surely, is the one of the cornerstones of good literature.

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