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 The Village Idiot

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Temperance
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PostSubject: The Village Idiot   Wed 11 Oct 2017, 13:29

A couple of weeks ago I heard Jeremy Paxman speak at the Appledore Literary Festival. He was interviewed by Jeremy Vine. Two very successful and highly-paid journalists.

Paxman is obviously a very clever and witty man but, like many posh media folk these days, none of whom suffer fools - or anyone else for that matter - gladly, he does have the knack of getting right up people's noses. His obvious languid disdain for us down here in our remote rural corner of England certainly got up mine. One comment in particular had the audience laughing in approval, but it infuriated me. Speaking of democracy, he noted that this system is fatally flawed because, as he put it: "The vote of the village idiot counts the same as everyone else's."

Village idiot - got me thinking about this expression. Here is the Wikli description:

The village idiot in strict terms is a person locally known for ignorance or stupidity, but is also a common term for a stereotypically silly or nonsensical person. The term is also used as a stereotype of the mentally disabled. It has also been applied as an epithet for an unrealistically optimistic or naive individual.

The village idiot was long considered an acceptable social role, a unique individual who was dependent yet contributed to the social fabric of his community. As early as Byzantine times, the "village idiot" was treated as an acceptable form of disabled individual compatible with then-prevailing normative conceptions of social order. The concept of a "village savant" or "village genius" is closely related, often tied to the concept of pre-industrial anti-intellectualism, as both figures are subjects of both pity and derision. The social roles of the two are combined and applied, especially in the sociopolitical context, in the European medieval/Renaissance court jester.


Rather an interesting description. Any comments - about village idiots, or about Jeremy Paxman, or about his comments about democracy, or about idiotic democracy? To be honest, I feel a bit of an idiot myself for forking out sixteen quid to gawp at him. And I do live in a village which makes it worse.
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 11 Oct 2017, 13:39

On the positive side, Temp, you live in Devon, not Norfolk:

NFN

from the Urban Dictionary:

1) A thumb and five fingers on each hand? Normal for Norfolk.

2) He's on the ward to remove the coke can from his finger - He wanted to try and scrape out the last few drops so just stuck it straight in. Normal for Norfolk.

3) He tried warming up his bath by pouring a little petrol in and lighting it... Incident was noted to be Normal for Norfolk.


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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 11 Oct 2017, 13:41

Sorry, just couldn't resist ...



.... although there are some very sharp observations therein:
"I feel very keenly that the idiot is a part of the old village system and as such has a vital role to play in the modern rural society, because you see .... there is this very real need, in society, for someone who almost anyone can look down on and ridicule."

But with that out of the way, now for something completely different.


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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 11 Oct 2017, 13:53

"Father was Home Secretary and Mother won the Derby"

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 11 Oct 2017, 14:35

Oh well, don't say I don't try.

Going back under my stone now because I feel silly.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 11 Oct 2017, 14:50

You're not being silly, Temp.

This bod is silly:

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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 11 Oct 2017, 14:54

I lost a post - might be because of a temporary outage in broadband. I have forgotten some of it but I was saying I found Mr Paxman smug although I don't deny he is intelligent. Mind you, intelligence does not always equate with common sense (though of course I'm sure that all of us who post here have oodles of intelligence AND common sense.)
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 11 Oct 2017, 15:09

“Outsiders call Chelm the village of idiots," Shmendrick explains, "but our rabbi said we were a city of natural geniuses, with our own way of figuring things out.”

With muted, mesmerizing illustrations and heavy accordion-based music, the film follows Shmendrick as he sets out on a journey away from home for the first time. But along his journey from Chełm to Warsaw, he comes upon a city that is eerily similar to the one he left behind. The rest of us might think Shmendrik just took a wrong turn and ended up back home, but for Shmendrik, this discovery sheds light on holy teachings: “The Talmud tells us that the world everywhere is the same," he recalls.

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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 11 Oct 2017, 22:15

Temperance wrote:
Oh well, don't say I don't try.

Going back under my stone now because I feel silly.


Temperance,

I was already in panic that I hadn't seen you for one or two days...
I wanted in the Tumbleweed café already react yesterday on your:
"so I shall shut up (how many times have I promised that?). I shall have my bowl of porridge and then go to Exeter for a look around the shops."
How much you are needed here to brighten up this forum...you seemingly don't know it about yourself...
And I wanted yesterday to add on the Tumbleweed suite, as you: too serious talks for this café, but I wanted to add: Why can't one discuss serious matter in a café?
As in the Vienna coffee shop...


Or in a French woman directed French 18th century "salon"



You will not see me that much the coming days as I am away till Monday...first trip since the kidney transplant...but Monday back full of energy to tackle religion and philosphy subjects and perhaps also comments on your:
"Any comments - about village idiots, or about Jeremy Paxman, or about his comments about democracy, or about idiotic democracy"

Kind regards from your friend Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/17/opinion/the-lord-of-misrule.html   Thu 12 Oct 2017, 16:06

MM, quoting from Monty Python, wrote:
.... although there are some very sharp observations therein:

'I feel very keenly that the idiot is a part of the old village system and as such has a vital role to play in the modern rural society, because you see .... there is this very real need, in society, for someone who almost anyone can look down on and ridicule.'

True. Trouble is when it's 52% of the electorate who are being looked down on and ridiculed by the rich and the successful and the "educated". Doesn't make for a happy society.  "We must educate our masters" - as someone said of some Reform Bill or other. So what went wrong? We do need to educate our masters indeed. But it seems to me it's not just the village idiots who need to do some serious learning.

Now for a really intellectual quote from Gladiator:


Marcus Aurelius: You would have been strong. I wonder, would you have been just?

Lucilla:  I would have been what you taught me to be.

So what are the likes of Jeremy Paxman - clever, cruel, smug and cynical - teaching the idiots to be?



PS Idiots and fools have always been good fun - see that Mikhail Bakhtin carnival stuff - Lord of Misrule and all that. But there's a warning in all the apparent nonsense. We should beware of the Village Idiots - they can turn nasty when provoked and mocked - or ignored - too much:

Lord of Misrule

There were many different kinds of fools: holy fools, hapless fools, vicious fools. Fools were rude and frequently unabashed liars. They were willing to make idiots of themselves. The point of the fool was not to be admirable in himself, but to be the class clown who had the guts to talk back to the teacher. People enjoyed carnival culture, the feast of fools, as a way to take a whack at the status quo.

You can see where I’m going with this. We live at a time of wide social inequality. The intellectual straitjackets have been getting tighter. The universities have become modern cathedrals, where social hierarchies are defined and reinforced.

We’re living with exactly the kinds of injustices that lead to carnival culture, and we’ve crowned a fool king. Donald Trump exists on two levels: the presidential level and the fool level.







PPS Thanks for kind words, Paul. Have a good break. I'm off myself next week, but I always come back.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 13 Oct 2017, 11:56

Might not the role of village idiot – and in pre-industrial times it certainly seems to have often been an accepted role that was deemed to contribute to society - have sometimes been somewhat like that of the court jester or rich man's fool? As such were they perhaps not so much simply a figure of fun to be ridiculed and laughed at, but a witty, in both senses of the word, character that could act as a mirror or foil against some of the more ignorant, narrow-minded or blinkered views of their fellow villagers? As such was the role perhaps related to the village savant: the wise person to whom people turned for explanations or knowledge of matters outside local exprerience, and for advice or arbitration in village disputes?  I wonder also whether many village idiots were actually disabled, whether physically or mentally, or had what we might now recognise as, say, autism or Tourette’s syndrome, and so having the accepted role of village idiot was a way of accommodating, or even caring for them, within village society?
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 13 Oct 2017, 12:32

Link to the woodcuts of Sebastian Brandt's 1494 book, Ship of Fools;

Ship of Fools
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 13 Oct 2017, 22:39

Shouldn’t we take Paxman’s comments at face value: that everyone, regardless of intellect or logical thought, has a vote? And this is something we must ponder and maybe cause us to worry?
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 14 Oct 2017, 08:36

Everyone should have a vote - universal suffrage must not be so lightly discarded as a concept. It is essential in the maintenance of democratic representation and in choosing the representatives who fulfil that role.

The real question is how a country without a constitution ever hoped to achieve anything constructive through mimicking a constitutional referendum using unconstitutional language in the referendum "options", and an equally unconstitutional method to decide the "winning option".

There are indeed idiots in this whole Brexit process, and they're by no means all at village level. The designers of the process are probably the most idiotic of all of them, and the exploiters of the process come a close second by all observations. Those who naively believe they have made a democratic decision, wade in in third.

Paxman made a crudely correct observation - but did not address the actual root of the dilemma that Brexit represents. The problem was not that the idiot could vote, nor even that each vote was equal, but that the idiot's vote, like everyone else's, was cast in a process that mimicked democracy but contained little or nothing of what suffrage is designed to obtain within society.

An idiotic majority could vote tomorrow to declare that Britain recognises the existence of unicorns, and any number of previously elected idiots could volunteer to be their spokespeople during the pre-referendum process. An idiotic government could then claim that this must then be made come about as it was the "will of the electorate", and then even more idiots can exploit this sudden explosion in popularity of idiocy to achieve many more equally idiotic goals they have identified. A superficially accurate parody of democracy it may all be, but it lacks that most essential ingredient of any political system in which power is ultimately invested in the population as a whole - the notion that a common good exists in a qualified but real manner as something which exceeds mere aspiration, the preservation of which is rendered immune to fashion and whim, and especially fashion or whim dictated by a populist refusal to intellectually engage in the process at a fundamental level in which incidental issues of policy and polity are always secondary to the welfare of everyone as defined within a previously established and popular framework.

Constitutions are there primarily to safeguard against phenomena - idiocy included - which are corrosive to the democratic process, or at least to mitigate their effects, and the USA is currently an example of just how difficult even this modest ambition can be at times, especially when such a refusal or inability to intellectually engage in the fundamental polity by a critical number of the electorate utilises the very processes designed to safeguard their own prospects and welfare in order to actively - idiotically, even - work against their own interests. In those circumstances a constitution could be criticised as having failed, but in fact it is at these times that a constitution represents probably the only way back from impending disaster. The UK, not having recourse to this salvation from its own incidental stupidity, is therefore a country which could be said to have been designed to enthusiastically accommodate a population's general ignorance of the polity in which it resides, and to actively encourage an idiotic disregard for ever doing much about it. Besides the obvious and cliched advantages of this to whatever minority may incidentally run the country and exploit its resources to their own ends at any given time, it is in every other sense completely idiotic to prolong this danger indefinitely. And now it is obvious, even to a lot of idiots, just why this is the case.

Idiocy is not confined to some unfortunate individuals in village communities, alas. Democracy might have had a chance if it were.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 14 Oct 2017, 14:00

nordmann wrote:
Everyone should have a vote - universal suffrage must not be so lightly discarded as a concept. It is essential in the maintenance of democratic representation and in choosing the representatives who fulfil that role.

Of course I agree with that comment, but this discussion of "village idiots" for me goes beyond the  legal niceties of representation and written constitutions and Brexistentialist angst. It is really all about the worth of each individual - dare I say it - soul in any society. "Village idiot" certainly was a crude and cruel comment. But perhaps Paxman realised and was ashamed of his crudeness and of his cruelty - he admitted, for example, during the interview with Vine that he very much regretted his treatment of that sick but essentially decent man, Charles Kennedy. When pressed, he also admitted, most strangely of all, that the only people whom he had interviewed for whom he felt any respect were the Dalai Lama and the late Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Basil Hume, two men whom, he declared, were at least "searching for answers". So, to be fair, at least the man acknowledges that there are still some important questions besides political ones, and that public and humiliating probing of others' weaknesses is not always necessary for the "public good", even if good for viewing figures.

The whole Brexit/idiot fiasco for me was made clear in a heated exchange in our village pub last year. A very angry, middle-class and obviously educated lady was bemoaning the fate of her grandchildren who had been hoping to go to Barcelona thanks to the Erasmus scheme. This would now, thanks to the votes of the idiots, be denied them. A village person retaliated with the comment that she didn't give a **** about this person's grandchildren. Why should she? Did the educated lady give a **** about hers? I looked on in horrified fascination and tried not to laugh when the second (village) grandmother added: "Who's Erasmus anyway - some footballer?"

And of course that idiotic remark made us all feel delightfully superior. We're a nasty lot, us humans. But who does care - really care, I mean - about the idiots and their grandchildren? That's the big question, I feel.

I wish we could go back to the decencies of "Old Labour" - those politicians and thinkers who were responsible for our Welfare State, men and women who really did seem to care about the common people, idiotic or not. Not a dying breed, I fear, but a dead one.


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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 14 Oct 2017, 14:30

Temperance wrote:
Brexistentialist angst.

That caused a genuinely laugh out loud moment here. That's brilliant Temp. Made my day jocolor
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 14 Oct 2017, 14:36

Pinched it, I'm afraid - it was the bon mot of some bright young (female) thing on last Sunday's Andrew Marr Show.



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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 14 Oct 2017, 14:40

I couldn't agree more with your point above, Temp. Which is why of course it is far better to have a society in which a formulated protection against idiocy is a built-in safeguard politically applied, and not one in which individual instances of mass-stupidity have to be negotiated each according to their individual characteristics just in order to get past them. That approach is bound to fail in certain circumstances, such as the one Britain is now in.

I had heard it said that Britain functioned best when the ruling polity behaved as if it actually had a constitution by which it abided, in terms of values as well as law. The pretence alone seems to have a sobering effect on both regimes and their constituents, often with strikingly beneficial results. The election of early post-war Labour - or at least some aspects to that particular regime - pretty much fits that bill. If ever the British people actually voiced in no uncertain terms its disenchantment with the legacy of successive "establishment" regimes, even the few that had helped get them out of sticky situations as well as those many which had led them into such difficulties, it was when the population at the first opportunity after the war turned their back on their recent so-called saviours and chose as their government a radical and gloriously principled set of quasi-constitutionalists. It didn't last, of course. But it had ramifications for the country of which many were actually excellent, whereas the modern manifestation of the same disenchantment - this one fuelled by ignorance rather than principle - has no good side that springs to mind.

Meles meles' earlier point about the "village idiot" probably being misconstrued as a term these days in that it probably represented an inclusive expression of care, along with acknowledging the appellant's stupidity, is an important one too, I feel. The modern attitude that to be judgemental is "bad" is all well and good, but when it leads to a failure to arrest the idiot's inclination to self-harm or harm others or, even worse, leads to a society in which the idiot feels a sense of entitlement in that regard which allows them to consider themselves the equal of their intellectual peers when it comes to decision-making in terms of national policy and direction, then the flaw in such rationale as a basis of a social system is rather all too evident.

Erasmus played outside-right for Boca Juniors back in the day. I remember him from the football cards I collected as a kid.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 14 Oct 2017, 15:27

nordman wrote:

Erasmus played outside-right for Boca Juniors back in the day. I remember him from the football cards I collected as a kid.

Your football comments are always erudite, intellectually stimulating and to the point, nordmann, However, I rather think the Brexiteer lady in our village pub last year was thinking of Kermit Romeo Erasmus (born 8 July 1990), the South African professional footballer who currently plays for Ligue 1 club Rennes and the South African national football team.

To be named after a frog is rather unusual, but I suppose Kermit Romeo Erasmus is better than being baptised after every player in the 1965 Liverpool FA Cup-winning team – including the manager and two assistants. Pity the poor teachers who had to take the register for Paula St John Lawrence Lawler Byrne Strong Yeats Stevenson Callaghan Hunt Milne Smith Thompson Shankly Bennett Paisley O’Sullivan.

Or the little girl who was called Arsenal spelled backwards.


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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 14 Oct 2017, 16:16




I suppose it could have been worse - Lanesra is quite a pretty name.

It crossed my mind this evening that some poor child born in the past year may have been called Brexit - and yes, it has happened:


Baby Brexit
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