“I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall, but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men, it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless — while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors — like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going around doing damage. I could have written a ‘thriller’ about the plot and its discovery and overthrow — but it would have been just that. Not worth doing.”
―The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 256
Yup. Wise old stick was JRRT. I don’t do his anti-industrialism but what I bolded (and italiced) says worlds to me. “their quick satiety with good”. Oh yeah, baby – we have that in spades! And in pure literary terms how could he top LoTR? It just wasn’t the epic. Tolkien was very English (as was Elgar – also a Brummie – sort of) – “a smiling with a sigh” – the violin concerto? They saw hideous things (JRRT was a junior officer in WWI and got a Blighty) and an age of genuine progress (Victoria) hit the buffers, badly. You heard the phrase, “How the other half live”? Ever wondered what that specifically reffed? Before Victoria came to the throne roughly half the population of these Britannic Isles lived in abject poverty. By the time she joined the choir eternal it was 10%. I’d call that a result. Was this the result of political machinations? Was it heck! It was the result of the Stephensons and Teslas, the Armstrongs and Watts, the Swans and Edisons, Daimler and Benz, Parsons and Morse, the Maxwells and Marconis, Semmelweiss and Seacole… And hordes more. We built the foundations for a paradise undreamed of by the greatest potentates of Egypt or Babylon and we pissed it up the wall because as JRRT put it we can’t sit still.
In 1900 Russia had the highest rate of GDP growth on the planet. Yes, the Tsar was a vainglorious dimwit but imagine Russia now if folks had just hung-on? Imagine Europe now without two catastrophic wars?
JRRT wrote some unforgettable lines but he out-did even himself with…
“the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good”
Absolutely bang on the money. We are kids, really. We will play with something till it is broke. It is the curse of the double-knowing ape. Maybe it can be our blessing too. I dunno. I am due at our little war memorial tomorrow. It is somewhat sobering.
When I was a primary school kid me and my mates built a fall-out shelter – having seen “Threads” – on some waste ground. We lined it with cardboard boxes – well proof against a Sov bomb and we had the Armstrong Works Tank Factory just down the road. Actually my mate Steve brought the dog – a Collie – and she did much of the digging. We were really scared. We even stashed some bottles of pop in there, in case. And to think a few years later the Berlin Wall comes down (Nice! Peace at last!) and then we have bearded loons flying Boeings into buildings! Jesus fuckimg wept! It never ends.