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March 18, 2005

I Have Gathered All The John Ralston Saul Freaks Unto Me

Before starting this site, I had no idea how many people shared my intense-to-the-point-of-unhealthy interest in John Ralston Saul. The internet has allowed us to come together and comfort each other in our affliction. I understand we have even spread the virus to the previously uninfected, such as Charlie of Sacred Begging.

So for those of us also suffering from Ralstonsaul-itis, John McGrath of Dymaxion World points out a recent John Ralston Saul speech, given when Saul received an honorary degree from the University of Ottawa:

Socrates laid it out once and for all with his phrase, "the unexamined life is not worth living". That was true before Socrates and it's been true for the last 2,500 years.

Now, some of the professors on the stage might point out that Socrates didn't end up too well. But he was 80 at the time when he decided to drink the hemlock, and it was a conscious choice.

The interesting thing is that 2,500 years later, we're still talking about Socrates. But we don't talk about the people who voted to condemn him to death. We don't really know who they were. We've forgotten most of their names because they carry the dishonour of not having acted as responsible citizens. We tend to erase the names of these sorts of people in the memory of our civilizations. But Socrates is always there, with us, as a central example. Perhaps you would prefer not to have a complicated, tough life. Perhaps you would rather take the easier road. It's your choice. The only thing I can tell you is that those moments of acting with the self-confidence of a responsible citizen and those moments of taking the risks of a responsible citizen are the moments when you will really be alive...

On another subject, but also via Dymaxion World, here's an essay comparing Denis Leary and Bill "Chomsky with Dick Jokes" Hicks.

Posted at March 18, 2005 09:51 AM | TrackBack

Yes. And one of the things we like to forget about Socrates (and this is one of the fundamental problems I have with JRS) is that which is not said while attributing greatness to the man. For example, that just prior to his being given the option to drink hemlock or be executed (yes, a 'conscious' choice), he was part of a group called the Thirty, who were systematically raping and pillaging Athens following the Peloponnesian War. It is interesting that JRS says we know "almost nothing" about these other men, since Xenophon is rather detailed in his account of the Thirty and their activities. But then, it's likely that JRS has never read Xenophon, since this is EXACTLY the sort of broad historical brush stroking that he is famous for.

But then, Jon, you know that I don't like him.

Posted by: Alexis at March 22, 2005 08:48 AM


I accept that you may well be right. However, I refuse to investigate it, because if you are right it would make me too unhappy.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at March 22, 2005 09:16 AM

Ah, I shouldn't be such a crank is all.

Posted by: at March 23, 2005 07:59 AM