The Parliament of Mad

Mark Steyn spoke at Hillsdale College last night and I was lucky enough to be there.

Hillsdale was the first American college to prohibit in its charter all discrimination based on race, religion, or sex, but is probably most well known for its refusal of government funding. Steyn is a regular speaker at Hillsdale.

Steyn’s “text” as Mark Twain would say, arose from the poem Locksley Hall, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tennyson wrote the poem when he was 26, in 1835. In it, he describes a utopian vision.

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro’ the thunder-storm;

Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapped in universal law.

Last night, Steyn spoke eloquently and humorously about the threat of such a “world federation of universal law based on the common sense of most.” Warning that pursuing Tennyson’s vision is the road to totalitarianism, he gave examples of the IAEA, the IPCC, the UN; and, paradoxically, Western democratic governments: “Watching China, India and Russia save the world from the economic disaster western nations intended to foist upon themselves at the recent Copenhagen conference, one can only be grateful.” (I paraphrase.)

Another example, Steyn says, is that it is no surprise that after 2 generations of Americans have marinated in educational institutions designed to emphasize cultural relativism that the Army Chief of Staff could say, “It would be a shame — as great a tragedy as this was — it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well,” after 14 Americans died in the Fort Hood massacre: “When the Chief of Staff of your Army sounds like a San Francisco school superintendent, you’re in trouble.”

Steyn’s remarks will appear in Imprimis. Look for it.

In writing this I looked for a site to allow copy and paste of that portion of Tennyson’s poem Steyn quoted yesterday. As a result, I became aware that Tennyson revisited Locksley Hall in 1886 with the poem Locksley Hall Sixty Years After (1886).

There is a pessimism and disappointment evident in this poem; and what amounts to an extended rebuke to the young, perhaps even to the young Tennyson. The utopian longing remains, but it seems that lack of progress toward this goal has taken a toll on the older Tennyson.

Chaos, Cosmos! Cosmos, Chaos! once again the sickening game;
Freedom, free to slay herself, and dying while they shout her

Bring the old dark ages back without the faith, without the hope,
Break the State, the Church, the Throne, and roll their ruins down
the slope.

Given the dire consequences we experience today from the politically correct poppycock Tennyson foreshadowed in 1835, perhaps it is fair to read these excerpts as second thoughts.

I would be remiss here if I did not thank Mike for a tour of the campus. Impressive. Especially the Mossey Library Heritage Room.

P.S. I sometimes think of Mark Steyn as a fusion of H. L. Mencken and P. J. O’Rourke. If you don’t already know his stuff, you should really check it out.

America Alone is essential reading.

Passing Parade is certainly the best compendium of obituaries ever written. No, that’s wrong, it’s a compendium of the best obituaries ever written – with humor and affection. Highly recommended.

There’s lots more Steyn at the opening link.

Update 13-March 11:50AM: Welcome to visitors from SteynOnline. And here is a podcast of Mark talking to Elliot Gaiser at Hillsdale.

The terms Instalanche and Slashdotted come to mind. If there is such a term for SteynOnline I don’t know it. Steynstampede?

8 thoughts on “The Parliament of Mad”

  1. ” I sometimes think of Mark Steyn as a fusion of H. L. Mencken and P. J. O'Rourke”I cannot see why. Mencken was fond of hatchet jobs — his screed on the Scopes trial was written without his setting foot in the locality; Mark is painfully fair and travels to most places he writes about and multiple times– and totalitarians, and no fan of either believers or the common man; Mark is profoundly supportive of both. O'Rourke is fun but lacks balance and has a gaping hole in his knowledge of religion, and thus tends to confuse his flippancy for depth. Mark excels in his understanding of faith and approaches it with humility and poignancy. Mark Steyn is remarkable and I follow his posts daily, but never does Mencken and rarely does O'Rourke come to mind.Andre Van Mol, MD

  2. Andre,I agree with what you write, Steyn is scrupulously fair and deeper than my comparison would indicate. It would have been better to say “the best of” H. L. & P. J. I see the similarities as skewering wit and a commanding facility with the English language.My comparison is not deep either. ;)bboodry,I did not record it and could not find anything online at the time of the post. I wish I could.There is an article available for purchase at″The slyer virus: the West's anti-westernism”…on the same theme, but from 2002 in The New Criterion. It appears in The Survival of Culture, which I recommend instead of the single article.'s poem begins that one too. Mark's speech was like an update because while the examples have changed, they illustrate the continuing onslaught.

  3. It is likely that Hillsdale College recorded Mr. Steyn's remarks. A recording might be available from the college. ( Steyn is a Visiting Fellow at the college. From the website: “Mark Steyn is the Eugene C. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Journalism. An internationally renowned columnist and author of America Alone: the End of the World as We Know It, Steyn teaches a two-week seminar each spring semester.”

  4. Hi- thanks for covering this- is there a podcast or recording of Steyn's recent speech at Hillsdale? Can't see anything at their website.