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Posts Tagged ‘John Ruskin

“To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace”*…

 

What does having money mean for us and for our neighbors? When the art critic John Ruskin took up this question in 1860, he started from the assertion that more money for us means less money for them, and he didn’t have to go much further to conclude that disparity, after all, might be the whole point of the enterprise…

Suppose any person to be put in possession of a large estate of fruitful land, with rich beds of gold in its gravel; countless herds of cattle in its pastures; houses, and gardens, and storehouses full of useful stores; but suppose, after all, that he could get no servants?

In order that he may be able to have servants, someone in his neighbourhood must be poor and in want of his gold—or his corn. Assume that no one is in want of either, and that no servants are to be had. He must, therefore, bake his own bread, make his own clothes, plough his own ground, and shepherd his own flocks. His gold will be as useful to him as any other yellow pebbles on his estate. His stores must rot, for he cannot consume them. He can eat no more than another man could eat, and wear no more than another man could wear. He must lead a life of severe and common labour to procure even ordinary comforts; he will be ultimately unable to keep either houses in repair, or fields in cultivation; and forced to content himself with a poor man’s portion of cottage and garden, in the midst of a desert of wasteland, trampled by wild cattle, and encumbered by ruins of palaces, which he will hardly mock at himself by calling “his own.”

The most covetous of mankind would, with small exultation, I presume, accept riches of this kind on these terms. What is really desired under the name of riches is, essentially, power over men; in its simplest sense, the power of obtaining for our own advantage the labour of servant, tradesman, and artist; in wider sense, authority of directing large masses of the nation to various ends (good, trivial, or hurtful, according to the mind of the rich person).

Via Lapham’s Quarterly, John Ruskin on the Master/Slave paradox: “Blessed are the Poor.” (From Ruskin’s “The Veins of Wealth.”)

[Image above, from here.]

* Confucius, The Analects

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As we wonder about wealth, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that Woody Guthrie wrote (the first version, he varied the lyrics over time) of “This Land is Your Land.”; he didn’t record the song until 1944, nor publish it until 1954.

Guthrie wrote the lyrics (to an extant tune) in response to to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”, which Guthrie considered unrealistic and complacent. Tired of hearing Kate Smith sing it on the radio, he lifted his pen…as he’d considered writing a retort, he’d thought to name it “God Blessed America for Me”; happily, it surfaced with the title we know.

source

Written by LW

February 23, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang”*…

 

On this most bizarre of days, an alternative: hours of fun at The New Yorker‘s “Cartoons at Random.”

*  “The Witch Doctor

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As we fight the urge to bury our heads, we might spare a thought for John Ruskin; he died on this date in 1900.  Best remembered as the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, he was also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker, and a philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany, and political economy, and in styles and literary forms equally varied: Ruskin penned essays and treatises, poetry and lectures, travel guides and manuals, letters and even a fairy tale.

Ruskin was hugely influential in the latter half of the 19th century, and up to the First World War. After a period of relative decline, his reputation has steadily improved since the 1960s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work.  Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognized as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability, and craft.

You may either win your peace, or buy it:—win it, by resistance to evil;—buy it, by compromise with evil.

– Ruskin, The Work of Iron, in Nature, Art, and Policy. Lecture at Tunbridge Wells, February 16, 1858

 source

 

Written by LW

January 20, 2017 at 1:01 am

The Annals of Semiology, Volume 666…

Signs of our times…

 

 

Many, Many more examples of the communications arts at SignSpotting.

As we erect our displays, we might recall that on this date in 1618, Johannes Kepler discovered the principal of planetary motion that he called “the harmonics law”…  and that (however improbably) influenced Goethe in the development of his Theory of Color– a little-read and fundamentally-incorrect, but fascinating critique of Newton’s theories of light and color.  In any case, a noble quest…  for surely, as John Ruskin observed, “of all God’s gifts to the sighted man, color is holiest, the most divine, the most solemn.”

The colorful Johannes Kepler

Written by LW

May 15, 2009 at 1:01 am

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