Last night my daughter asked me to watch what passes for comedy to preteens on Nickelodeon; a show low on laughs but high on laugh track. It's Halloween week and of course the thematic drum of cheap scares and slutty costumes (those of you dads that have 11 year old girls know what it is like to take a knee at the end of the show to have a sidebar chat about this topic alone) plays large when midway through the episode a six year old girl dressed like a failing barrister circa 1735 comes firing on stage screaming at her parents because they got her a Jonathan Swift costume instead of the requested Taylor Swift. This is where I wanted to pause live TV to tell my daughter about the original Swift, about A Modest Proposalhow our current American culture screams for someone like him to write about our neverending race problem, our soul sucking capitalismatanycost, our failed PACfueled political system. But my daughter is 11, I am 45, it's late on Saturday night and I don't have it in me. I watch the Jonathan Swift girl rant and rave and I drool thinking about delicious Irish babies in a white wine sauce. One book leads to another....
After listening to the audiobook "Food: A Love Story", by Jim Gaffigan...a hilarious walking companion...
I quoted a Bizzarre Line from Jim..."Maybe All Americans should just eat starving people from other nations"....
my mind went elsewhere with that line ( the complete opposite with Jim... but laughed anyway)....
So....getting a little more serious
During the comments *Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)*, asked me if I had read/listened to Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal". I hadn't!
Doing a little research about the 'very short' satire...I first downloaded it on my Kindle for 'free' and read it...
Still interested ...I downloaded the audiobook ...and listened to it
The idea 'behind' "A Modest Proposal" starts with a much deeper profound purpose than Gaffigan's "Food", book. Sure, Gaffigan may had hit the button on a political social issue with is 'eating starving people from nations',by accident... But Jim wrote about Food ... primarily because he likes to eat. It's a topic he knows about, and he's a comedian.
Jonathan Swift had a clear intention with this 'tongueandcheek' ....( hilarious and somewhat repulsive), satire. His short story was definitely a Political and social issue satire. This book was first published in 1789. There were many starving and poor people in Ireland.
Reading & listening to this small satire gave me a deeper appreciation for St. Patrick's day which was just celebrated a few days ago.
Irish people were living in villages owned by wealthy English landowners..and for years lived under the power of The English Parliament. Swift set out to address the serious issue of poverty.
His 'modest' proposal was to eat useless babies ...( by his calculations there were about 120 thousand)... which would help curb the population growth.
Swift's imagination of profits and benefits, ( for wealthy England), from the Irish babies skin ( ladies glovesmen's boots)...was so creepy. .... It was all creepy ... with the
undertone being a very sad time in history.
Given how absurd this 'entire' story isI can only conclude Swift was pointing out the obvious ridiculousness people were fighting over land, money, and religion...when people were 'starving'. The modest proposal wasn't 'modest' at all... It was an earthquake ... Hoping to wake people up and move people into more humane actions.
Gloom and doom
When I was an undergraduate, Thomas Malthus’ 1798 An Essay on the Principle of Population was on the geography curriculum, and as a studious student, I read (some of) it.
It was depressing, as the gist seemed to be that we’re all going to die. All of us. Slowly. Painfully. Because population grows exponentially, whereas the ability of humans to feed themselves grows only arithmetically/ linearly.
Image: Linear versus exponential growth (Source.)
So we’ll starve. And before that, we’ll be too poor to buy what food there is, because population growth will increase the labour supply and drive down wages. The birth rate must be cut. Celibacy should be promoted, too. And higher death rates accepted.
Kenneth Boulding’s poem, from a 20th century environmental angle, seemed to agree:
A Conservationist’s Lament
The world is finite, resources are scarce,
Things are bad and will be worse.
Coal is burned and gas exploded,
Forests cut and soils eroded.
Wells are dry and air’s polluted,
Dust is blowing, trees uprooted,
Oil is going, ores depleted,
Drains receive what is excreted.
Land is sinking, seas are rising,
Man is far too enterprising.
Fire will rage with Man to fan it,
Soon we’ll have a plundered planet.
People breed like fertile rabbits,
People have disgusting habits.
The evolutionary plan
Went astray by evolving Man.
(Douglas Adams agreed with that moral.)
I also discovered that seventy years before Malthus’ book, Jonathan Swift had a different solution to the problem of overpopulation. A Modest Proposal starts with grim descriptions of extreme poverty and hunger in Ireland:
“It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabbindoors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms… [and] women murdering their bastard children.”
A particular problem is that children are an expense for years before their parents can get any return on the investment they can’t afford in the first place:
“I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl, before twelve years old, is no saleable commodity.”
After such concern, his “modest” proposal is a total shock, and would have been even more so to 18th century readers unused to deadpan satire:
“A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasee, or a ragoust.”
Image: Dinner! (Source.)
He goes into great detail, not just culinary, but about the practicalities of the trade. He indirectly mocks his own suggestion by saying the only possible objection anyone might have is that it would reduce the population, which, he points out, is his intention. And just in case readers can’t think of any better solutions, such as raising taxes, controlling rents, buying local products, he lists them (supposedly to dismiss them).
But we’re still here
(I hope that writing that during the Coronavirus Covid19 pandemic isn’t tempting fate.)
When I was reading Swift and Malthus a couple of centuries after they were written, there was certainly poverty and hunger around the world, even in England, and the Chinese Onechild policy was being strictly enforced. Malthusianism hadn’t gone away, but it hadn’t entirely come true either. I had no immediate fears of starvation or even poverty.
Why was this, I wondered? Kenneth Boulding had an answer:
The Technologist’s Reply
Man’s potential is quite terrific,
You can’t go back to the Neolithic.
The cream is there for us to skim it,
Knowledge is power, and the sky’s the limit.
Every mouth has hands to feed it,
Food is found when people need it.
All we need is found in granite
Once we have the men to plan it.
Yeast and algae give us meat,
Soil is almost obsolete.
Men can grow to pastures greener
Till all the earth is Pasadena.
Man’s a nuisance, Man’s a crackpot.
But only Man can hit the jackpot.
Back then, I was firmly with the optimistic technologist.
As a cynical middleaged adult in a country torn by Brexit and ravaged by a global pandemic, I think both poems miss the crucial socialpolitical aspects, and the fact that humans are not omnipotent.
Science has certainly helped, but it's not all positive:
* Crops and livestock have higher yields and are more resistant to diseasebut there are risks from GM and antibiotic resistance.
* Land that was unsuitable for farming, can now be usedbut irrigation in one place leaves others barren.
* Machines work faster than peopleso some lose their jobs.
* Packaging and chilling reduce damageand yet waste increases.
* Efficiency increases in many spheresbut that increases demand, so resources are used up faster (Jevons paradox).
* Technological advances benefit the rich more than the poor.
And we could all be wiped out by a virus. Cheers!
Image: Optimist, pessimist, realist, opportunist (Source.)
You can read Swift and Malthus, free on Gutenberg:
* A Modest Proposal, HERE
* An Essay on the Principle of Population, HERE.
The rich looked down upon the poor and saw them as a deplorable sub species of human, which is rather ironic because without poverty there wouldn’t be any riches for them. They were heartless and unempathetic to their fellow man. This was even more so in regard to the Irish. The social policy was terrible, and in his proposal Swift satirises it perfectly. He suggests that the in order to control the population, the Irish beggars should eat their own children:
"I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for the landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children."
He delivers facts and figures whilst contemplating breeding strategies that monitor population growth. In this, Swift delivers a wonderfully ironic argument that is just so damn funny. I would love to have been alive in this period because I would have found it even funnier. Well, unless I was one of the beggars because then I’d be starving or unless I was a lord because then I’d look like a complete idiot. Swift is such a comic genius.
Penguin Little Black Classic 08
The Little Black Classic Collection by penguin looks like it contains lots of hidden gems. I couldn’t help it; they looked so good that I went and bought them all. I shall post a short review after reading each one. No doubt it will take me several months to get through all of them! Hopefully I will find some classic authors, from across the ages, that I may not have come across had I not bought this collection.
The famous satirist, author of Gulliver's Travels, wrote several political texts vituperating against the hopeless condition of his native Ireland and the ineptitude of its British rulers (thank God, things have much improved since!). This short volume includes a few of these texts. In one of them, Swift compares man to a broomstick, a glorious animal turned upsidedown and defeated; in another, he gives a list of conditions that make a country prosperous and goes on to demonstrate that Ireland meets practically none; in another still, he vilifies some of the customs in use at the time in Dublin, like town crying, leaving piles of excrements on the pavement and so on.
“A Modest Proposal”, which gives this volume its title, is another of these polemical texts, where Swift uses a straightfaced, shocking humour (something that might not pass the censorship of political correctness today), advocating that poor people’s children, instead of being mouths to feed, should be sold to the butcher and “stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout”, for the enjoyment of the rich people of Dublin... I am just wondering why he left out sautéing, frying and braising à la Matignon...
All this is written in jest of course, but when you get ten pages of this sustained cannibalistic sarcasm, the laughter becomes quite sour indeed. The fact that Tertullian’s Apology might have inspired this text does not come as a surprise. The problems raised by Swift are still topical and, with a bit of imagination, his lampoon could become, for our time, a vindication of vegetarianism or a blueprint for some dystopian novel.
A Modest Proposal is a satirical work of fiction by Jonathan Swift, written nearly 300 years ago. It is an Irish piece, originally published anonymously, but served as a way to shove stupidity in the face of the English government and wealthy. Essentially, in order to solve the problem of poverty, people should eat their children. But it was written in a very serious manner, as though it were meant to be real suggestions. Ahead of its time, it propelled Swift to the forefront of both English literature and the 18th century collection of masterpieces.
Although not very long (under 50 pages), the language is a bit outdated and requires a few translations to understand what he meant back during that period of time. The humor is undeniable. The time he took to create a solution for every aspect of the problem, as well as provide counter points, is incredibly deliciouspun intended! Though a bit too absurd, even for me, it's still one of those parts of our English courses we all enjoy reading. It's hilarious to a 15year old, who may not know all the different parts of history or the way in which governmental redtape can work. Find a few pages online after perusing this review... just sample some of the words and phrases he used. It may push you into reading the whole thing!
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
[polldaddy poll=9729544] Goodreaders, my Friends, “…who peruse this [Review], Be not offended, whilst on it you [chew]: Denude yourselves of all depraved affection, For it contains no badness, nor infection: 'Tis true that it brings forth to you no birth Of any value, but in point of mirth; Thinking therefore how sorrow might your mind Consume, I could no [more] apt subject find; One [plume] of joy surmounts of grief a [duration]; Because to laugh is proper to the [rational person].”–Rabelais *Free Epub ☞ A Modest Proposal ↡ Modeste Proposition Wikipdia A Modest Proposal Swift, Jonathan Livres A Modest Proposal Jonathan Swift , Toiles Sur Poche , A Tale Of A Tub And Other Works Jonathan Swift , Toiles Sur Broch , The Major Works Alexander Pope , Toiles Sur Broch , The Essential Writings Of Jonathan Swift NCE Jonathan Swift , Toiles Sur Broch , Gulliver S Travels Jonathan Swift , Toiles Sura Modest Proposal Traduction Franaise Linguee De Trs Nombreux Exemples De Phrases Traduites Contenant A Modest Proposal Dictionnaire Franais Anglais Et Moteur De Recherche De Traductions Franaises A Modest Proposal, By Jonathan Swift Project The Project Gutenberg EBook Of A Modest Proposal, By Jonathan Swift This EBook Is For The Use Of Anyone Anywhere At No Cost And With Almost No Restrictions Whatsoever You May Copy It, Give It Away Or Re Use It Under The Terms Of The Project Gutenberg License Included With This EBook Or Online At Gutenberg Title A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children Of Poor People In Ireland, A Modest Proposal Summary, Author, Purpose, A Modest Proposal, Satiric Essay By Jonathan Swift, Published In Pamphlet Form InPresented In The Guise Of An Economic Treatise, The Essay Proposes That The Country Ameliorate Poverty In Ireland By Butchering The Children Of The Irish Poor And Selling Them As Food To Wealthy English Landlords A Modest Proposal By Jonathan Swift OnlineA Modest Proposal Study Guide SparkNotes A Modest Proposal Is A Novel By Jonathan Swift That Was First Published Ina Modest Proposal ReadWriteThink A MODEST PROPOSAL For Preventing The Children Of Poor People In Ireland, From Being A Burden On Their Parents Or Country, And For Making Them Beneficial To The Public By Dr Jonathan SwiftA Modest Proposal This Solution To The Irish A Modest Proposal Is Proposed In His Most Famous Piece Of Satire, A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children Of Poor People From Being A Burthen To Their Parents Or Country, And For Making Them Beneficial To The Publick, Swift Called Attention To The Plight Of The Irish By Proposing An Outlandish Plan To Help Ireland S Poor there is no better way to kick off a semester of literature than a modest proposal. one smart ass student always tries to derail the conversation with an early declaration of the proposal’s satire, but no one listens, and within moments i have a class of fiftysixty students angry, frustrated, and sometimes rabid as i take swift’s ironic side and ask the students, with all the seriousness i can muster (which is quite a bit), if we shouldn’t give it a try? i follow that up with “why not?” after “why not?” then smack them upside the head with their universal humanist superiority complex, and force them to think. it’s so new to them they leave hating me or loving me. but they do leave thinking. poor bastards. except that one mormon in the front row. he never leaves thinking anything other than how superior he is. and what a dipshit i am. Macabre but good example of how you can use standard arguments to convince peopleno matter how appalling your opinion may be. Scary!