Reggie Perrin: Dame Failure is a Perverse Mistress

I referred to Reggie Perrin in my Brexit post, and I have managed, through the wonders of the internets, to find what I consider one of the finest moments in the history of television. From season 2 of the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Reggie has created a business he hoped would fail, and has appointed a bunch of clowns and rubes and looneys to run the business, in order to ensure disaster. Well, of course, the opposite happens: the business booms. Reggie, trying to fire all the people who have made it so, finds that at least one of the buffoons he has hired has seen through him. Go to shortly after the 27 minute mark and listen to Seamus Finnegan as you watch the hilarious body language and facial expressions of Perrin. I believe the moral of the story is…never count out the English.

Regrets, I’ve Had a Few

I was thinking about that banal thing folks often say, that you don’t regret what you did in life, but what you didn’t do. For me, this is not so. There are almost no things that I chose not to do or that fate wouldn’t allow me to do for which I have regret. And the few things I didn’t do for which I have regret are all things I can still do (for e.g., I sometimes regret that after by post-B.A. studies I didn’t continue on to a Ph.D. And I sometimes regret not going to law school. I can still do both of those things).

The things I regret in life are things I did do. And you can’t do much about those, other than try and make amends if you feel the case merits them, or just try to learn from them or, failing being able to learn from them try either to not think about them much , or put them in a book or column.

Bernard Lewis at 100

The remarkable British historian of the Middle East turned 100 last week. Mosaic magazine published this feature about him and his prescience – 40 years ago he predicted the rise of radical Islam. Virtually no one else did.

Thus did the West receive its very first warning that a new era was beginning in the Middle East—one that would produce a tide of revolution, assassination, and terrorism, conceived and executed explicitly in the name of Islam.

Another slogan, “The End of History,” would make its appearance with the demise of the cold war in the early 1990s; it has since come and gone. “The Return of Islam” is still very much with us.

I say to anyone who wants to understand what has happened, what went wrong, to read his aptly-titled book, What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity and the Middle East. I also recommend his book about Turkey and frankly, anything else he has written.

Default Positions

I was thinking about default positions, and how they seem mired in very low expectations of humans. For example, this tragic story at the Cincinnati Zoo where Harambe was killed (unnecessarily, it would seem). The parents of the boy involved are responsible, I think, and in a perfect world they would be charged with reckless endangerment. (And yes, I know there is the even bigger issue of whether animals should be in zoos at all. I’ll save that for another time.) That said, what I have found very disturbing in the aftermath of this tragedy are the masses of people saying stuff like, “kids wander off! It happens!” Or “it’s hard to keep your eyes on your kids, you know!” And then there are the defensive (and probably crappy) parents who say, “Well I guess you’re a perfect parent, then!”

Um, no. It isn’t about being a perfect parent or about not understanding that kids can wander off. But there is a world of difference between your kid wandering off and your kid jumping into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. It seems to me that if you are at a busy, crowded place like a zoo (a place which keeps enclosed wild and dangerous animals) with a young child — your young child — you might want to be, oh, I don’t know, extra vigilant. And yet the default position here is, “Oh well, parents aren’t perfect. Kids run off! No big deal.” The default position should be that we expect vigilance — not negligence — from parents.

It reminds me of the people who say that since they don’t know what they would have done in, say, Nazi Germany, we can’t or shouldn’t criticize people who turned in their neighbours or looked away from the horrors. In other words, the accepted default position for humans is moral bankruptcy. I find this profoundly depressing.

Along similar lines, Mark Steyn wrote about this in regards the Montreal Massacre — why did the men that the murderer ordered out of the lecture hall that day meekly leave?

There’s an expression about ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations,’ an expression which refers to the tendency of the regressive left to make excuses for certain groups of people when they commit crimes, for example. We saw a lot of that nonsense after the Charlie Hebdo massacre (my column on this very topic here). But it also could be said to describe how little we expect of ourselves in so many ways. Our default positions should not be that negligence is understandable or that cowardice and moral bankruptcy are the sorry spots to which we are naturally destined.

Let us Begin

Fitting quote for anyone on this planet who feels they cannot complete all they should, and all they want to complete in their time on this planet (and when I say “anyone,” I mean me):

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days . . .nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin. – John F. Kennedy

For VE Day: Heavy Water War

On the occasion of VE Day, I recommend this series (it is available on Netflix). It is fascinating and frankly, we often forget how important stopping the heavy water production in Norway was; if the Germans had got the bomb before us, it would have been beyond disastrous. The series certainly has its standard 21st century biases — for example, the Americans are made to look like bullying allies, whereas if you read World War II history, rather the opposite is true.

But the basic facts of the sabotage are there, and I love the portrayals of the Norwegian heroes — men for whom we should be forever grateful and who, in true Norwegian fashion, were ever humble about what they did (a profile of one of them here).

My uncle — his war letters website is here — was being trained to parachute into Norway, interestingly enough. It is possible they were considering him to be part of this project, as he had the language skills required. Either way, the likelihood of survival was slim.

I got a kick out of this movie, and I’d love to see this one, but I believe this most recent series to be the best of the lot.