Britannia between Scylla and Charybdis, by James Gillray
The Good Ship CONSTITUTION
In this political cartoon from 1793, William Pitt, acting prime-minister of Great Britain steers the ship CONSTITUTION through narrow straits bordered by a whirlpool on the right and dangerous rocks on the left. Seated in front of Pitt, the Lady Britannia, the female embodiment of the British nation, raises her arms in alarm over the dangers, which include sinister men pursuing the ship.
Since political cartoons use symbols liberally, a viewer will have to use his imagination a little to understand what the cartoon mean. A centripetal force on the right? A Rocky outcrop on the left? They have to symbolize political parties luring the public into polarization. The sinister men pursuing the CONSTITUTION have to refer to William Pitt's rivals in the British Parliament.
Most Americans know little about William Pitt, although they should. His career influenced the direction of our nation in its early life. Probably a hundred towns and cities bear some form of his name, the most famous being Pitsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ptt's father, the Earl of Chatham came out early as a supporter of American independence; so his name also appears in American geography--Chatham County, Georgia, Chatham Township, Massachusetts, and other settlements.
Pitt steers the good ship CONSTITUTION past dangers on the right and left. The dangers represent an unfortunate by-product of Britain's parliamentary aegis, a necessary risk to a freedom-loving nation. The cartoonist James Gillray shows a sophisticated understanding of politics in Britain, and by extension the U.S. I am sure that journalists from his time could hold their own with their modern political commentators.
For the average American, understanding the components of the cartoon requires some education in the mythology of Ancient Greece, in particular the ancient epic poem The Iliad and the Odyssey, by the Greek poet Homer, which he composed between the 8th and 6th centuries BC. It tells the story of the Greek warrior Odysseus (also known as Ulysses) who returns to his home in Ithaca after the defeat of Troy. The perilous journey lasts ten years.
Most Americans do not realize how deeply the elements of The Iliad and the Odyssey permeate the nation's culture. Troy, New York, is the county seat of Renssalaer County. Troy in Ohio is the county seat of Miami County. Troy is also the county seat of Pike County, Alabama. Ithaca is a city in New York, the home of Cornell University, and the county seat of Tompkins County. "Trojan" is the traditional nickname of the athletes at the University of Southern Carlifornia. In modern speech, an "odyssey" denotes a life-changing experience or journey.
During his journey by sea to Ithaca, Odysseus and his crew encounter the sea-monster Charybdis, seen in the political cartoon on the right. Charybdis lurks under the surface of the water and creates a whirlpool that pulls down ships and sailors to their doom. Charybdis shares the narrow strait with another monster Scylla who inhabits the rocky outcrop on the left. Scyllla's shark-dogs also harass ships and mariners--shown as the sinister men pursuing the CONSTITUTION.
In the late-18th-century, the educated class in Great Britain would have needed no primer to help them understand the importance of James Gillray's cartoon. First of all, they would have recognized at once William Pitt's distinctive profile as the helmsman of the CONSTITUTION. They would also have recognized the names of his pursuers, Fox, Sheridan, and Priestley—as rivals of Pitt.
Britons also would have recognized the "Phrygian" cap on top of the rocky outcrop as the emblem of the French Revolution of 1789 and the pure, vengeful democracy that the Revolution unleashed. The shark-dogs in the cartoon represent Pitt's rivals in the Parliament, Fox, Sheridan, and Priestley, who supported the Revolution. No wonder they look so ravenous.
One contemporary critic of the French Revolution, Jacques Mallet du Pan, wrote, "A revolution devours its children." The revolutionists launched a democratic rebellion against class-privilege and wealth. The degree of payback they demanded led to the executions of thousands. Vengeful French citizens egged on the executioners, and they never tired of murdering basically innocent people on the guillotine. Each day, Parisians crowded Revolution Square (now named Place de la Concorde) to enjoy more executions. Pitt knew he could not allow the nation to drift toward such a vindictive democracy.
Curiously, the American Thomas Jefferson supported the Revolution and said "a little revolution is a good thing." No wonder Britannia looks worried! Fox, Sheridan, and Priestley were likewise prominent politicians in their day, and they supported the Revolution, as well. In the cartoon, they look ravenous--wishing they could launch "a little revolution" by overturning the CONSTITUTION and devouring its passengers
On the right side of the cartoon, a whirlpool threatens to pull the CONSTITUTION under. If my reader looks closely, he can make out the whirling crown the stirs up the whirlpool. Contemporary Britons would have recognized the crown as the symbol of authoritarian leadership—a monarchy. Many Britons would have turned to the monarchy for security during the turbulent times. Although the whirlpool draws the CONSTITUTION toward it, the helmsman knows that a modern, forward-looking society must resist an autocratic leader and defeat his supporters.
One cannot miss Pitt's noble, unruffled expression as he navigates the dangerous straits, nor the artist Gillray's positive assessment of him. Historians consider him one of the most important prime ministers in the history of Great Britain, even though the position of prime minister did not exist in his day. Pitt more or less created the position by showing everyone how to carry out its duties.
He supported Adam Smith's ideas for a market-driven economy. He saw John Locke's ideas for a representative government, an elected parliament, an upwardly-mobile society, and a legal system based on constitutional law. And finally, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he understood the budgetary limits of governmental expeditures and the need to provide for them through proper banking. Americans on the other side of the ocean learned from Pitt, as well.
Pitt described the English constitution as "that beautiful frame of government . . . in which the people had a share in the government by the means of representation." And yet, Pitt never stood for an election, so he had no constituency, did not represent a political party, and answered to no one but the British King George III, who recognized his great skill, and so turned over the leadership of the nation to him. But his cold, reserved, patrician nature made him all but invisible to the wider public. In a modern, publicity-driven nation like America, Pitt would have had some problems getting his points across; but his intellectual legacy continues as the basis for America's forward-looking ideas and exponential growth.
From Thunderball: Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), in black, slugs it out with James Bond (Sean Connery) in orange.
How Can You Steer a Boat if a Fight is Going On?
I saw Thunderball for the first time the year it came out, 1965--and probably several additional times that same year. The late Sean Connery made quite a career for himself and played many roles after James Bond. Other actors took up the role of Bond, after Connery moved on to other projects, and continued the success of that franchise; but none carried it off like Connery--the commanding voice, malevolent twinkle in his eye, and exotic facial features.
In Thunderball, the master-criminal Emilio Largo steals an atom bomb from the British. He loads it on his boat and hightaills it out of Jamaica. James Bond has sneaked on-board and fights to the death with Largo. For the most part, no one can steer the boat. First Bond, then Largo realize the boat will crash onto the reef if they neglect steering it; but no sooner does one of them take the wheel, the other gets him in a choke-hold and pulls him away. There is also a woman on-board, Dominetta Vitali, formerly Largo's travelling-around woman, now Bond's girlfriend. She has to sit while the boat careens out of control through the coral reefs.
The scenario may remind my readers the of political cartoon with William Pitt at the helm of the CONSTITUTION and the Lady Britannia accompanying him. Imagine that one of Pitt's pursuers climbs aboard and starts a fight with him. With no one at the rudder, the ship will surely crash onto the rocks or disappear down the whirlpool. Only one solution will save both Largo's boat and the CONSTITUTION: someone has to steer it continuously.
Both Bond and Largo have an interest in keeping the boat afloat, but they hate each others' guts. The most they can do is steal a moment from the fight now and again to take the helm. Obviously, they could just as easilly idle the motor until they finish their fight, but real life is not like that. It keeps going full-tilt, even with a fist-fight in progresss. Bond is the good guy, Largo is the bad guy, but since both are passengers, the usual roles of good-guy versus bad-guy never has much definition. It is an interesting scene.
I looked up Thunderball on-line today to see what critics in the 1960s had to say about it when it came out, and also how living critics view the film today. According to the website RottenTomatoes, the critics give Thunderball a higher rating than the audiences do. Even as a 13-year-old, I knew it was a keeper.
The movie received a little criticism for its violence, but everyone kows that if you steal atomic weapons, the penalty can be as deadly as it is for hijacking a boat-load of street-drugs. We also know that, if you disappoint a crime-boss, he may decide to throw you to the sharks. If his travelling-around woman disappoints him, he may first burn her with cigarettes, then throw her to the sharks. In that context, the violence just defines the stakes. It delineates the positions of the combatants. More than anything, the violence defines the stakes for the non-combatants who come along for the ride, like Lady Britannia and Dominetta--or anyone, really.
Watching Bond and Largo fight to the death during the scary boat-ride reminds me of the combatants on cable-news, the talking-heads who slug it out on TV, day after day. Sometimes they ask a sympathetic congressman to dish out some payback on a congressional opponent. The passengers on the U.S. CONSTITUTION—our ship-of-state--have to listen to it all. You wish they could concentrate on steering the ship-of-state into safe waters before they go at each other. "Let's take a break and get this fight settled before we go any further." They cannot get their priorities sorted out. A viewer, in turn, feels like he is watching a game of Russian Roulette, from the business-end!
Can they bother to steer the boat as a continuous application—not simply stealing moments to keep the boat out of serious trouble. Which is more important: trash the other party or protect the nation's interests? Looking at this scene from Thunderball does not make me optimistic about the future. It is certainly not like William Pitt at the helm of the good ship CONSTITUTION protecting the Lady Britannia.
Can the Blacks Steer a Boat with so Much Fighting Going On?
The newspapers and the cable-news talking-heads lament everyday the level of violence in black neighborhoods, but they basically just wait to hear what local black politicians say about it, then parrot whatever the politicians tell them. The politicians unfortunately only say the usual meaningless things: "These murders and shootings have to stop! Too many of our young people are dying!" So much consternation and sympathy from the politicians, it's laughable: "Why, oh why is so much killin' goin' on?"
Nobody wants to admit he knows why the blacks are killing each other. Everyone kowtows to the unspoken rule: Don't go running your mouth about stuff that's none of your business. Most educated people already know the reasons, but no one wants to go public with them in America's racially-charged political climate.
Law enforcerment officers see the muders up close and have to talk to family-members of the victims; so they know a lot about the causes. Their revelations about black homicides would reverberate like hell through the culture, and no one wants that. Dr. Max Lüscher, operating at the educational high-end, also has some challenging insights about the homicides, although he may never have met a black person in his life. Dr. Lüscher, a practicing psychiatrist in post-War Switzerland, had never seen a black person in his life, believed that a person's color-preferences determined a lot about his character and motivation. Lüscher called it the "physiology of color." Our color choices reflect our sub-conscious thought-process.
He recruited student volunteers in Switzerland, handed them color-cards to study, and asked them for their reactions. Their color choices led Lüscher to believe he could determine a lot about his test subjects' perception of the world and their expectations of life. He wrote up his findings in a book, The Lüscher Color Test, which came out in an English-language edition in the early 1960s. Lüscher contends that the color-personality connection is immutable across the racial threads of the world's peoples. There has to be a measure of truth in his opinions. All you need in the way of confirmation is look at the colors of a nations' flags.
Here are a few of his more interesting findings. Bear in mind that all of Lüscher's test subjects are Swiss males. They are all white, in other words. It gives his findings extra validity:
1. Color analysis BLACK, page 70: Whoever chooses "black" in the 1st position want to renounce everything out of a stubborn protest against the existing state, in which he feels that nothing is as it should be. He is in revolt against Fate, or at least his own fate, and is liable to act precipitately and unwisely in his revolt.
Lüscher did not ask his test-subjects to choose only one favorite color. He gave them eight color-cards and asked them to rank each color according to preference. Lüscher then made determinations about the personality of his test-subjects based on the colors they ranked.
2. Analysis of paired colors BLACK/GREEN, page 76: Structural Meaning: "Obstinate Exclusion" or Prejudiced Self-righteousness." Here is the "green" insistence on self, with its tendency to consider itself right, is enforced and made even more imperative by "black." Any attempt by other to exert influence is resolutely shut out.
Flag of Jamaica:
Flag of Tanzania
Black/Green analysis contd.
page 137: Physiological interpretation: Frustration at unacceptable restrictions on his freedom of action is producing stress. . . .
Psychological Interpretation: Seeks independence and freedom from any restriction and therefore avoids obligations or anything which might prove hampering. He is being subjects to considerable pressure and wants to escape it so that he can obtain what he needs, but lacks the necessary strength of purpose to succeed in this.
In brief: Frustrated desire for independence and freedom of action. (italics mine)
3. Analysis of paired colors, BLACK/RED, page 82, Structural Meaning: "Exaggerated Desire" or "Dramatization." Action based on and reinforced by revolt leads to impetuosity and extreme behavior aimed at satisfying exaggerated desires.
Flag of Kenya:
Flag of Angola:
BLACK/RED analysis contd.
page 155: Black/Red Physiological interpretation: Stress rising from the frustration of an unwanted situation. . . .
Psychological interpretation: Feels trapped in a disagreeable situation and powerless to remedy it. Angry and disgruntled, as he doubts that he will be able to achieve his goals. (italics mine) Wants to get away, to feel less restricted and be free to make his own decisions.
In brief: Frustrated desire for independence. (italics mine)
When I read these words, I nearly fell out of my chair. After having to listen to black leaders scold the whites again and again for their cruelty and neglect, I have to wonder why are the black people still here? Why complain so much and not do anything about it? Wouldn't they prefer to live in their own country? Do they believe the white policemen want to patrol their streets and face the rage and abuse of the black residents?
Lüscher writes that people who choose black and green as their defining colors respond angrily to "restrictions on their freedom." A "frustrated desire for independence" makes them short-tempered and violent. So why are they still here? Lüscher writes that they would like to escape but "lack the necessary strength of purpose." They feel "trapped in a disagreeable situation" but are "powerless to remedy it." The resulting disappointment makes them "act precipitately and unwisely."
So while dead black people murdered by other black people keep piling up in hospitals morgues, the mainstream media mostly turns a blind eye to it, denying the obvious, that the murders have a few things in common, that the perpetrators act from definable motives, namely that they lack of an enduring sense of purpose. Driven by powerlessness, their disappointment drives them to devalue themselves and others.
Anyone with half a brain knows that black-on-black homicides are off-the-charts this year: Here is the statistical picture of homicides in Chicago:
Statistics reported by Chicago-based website, heyjackass.com, as of 28 July 2020.
As of 28 July 2020, Chicago reports over 440 homicides. heyjackass.com also publishes the racial components of Chicago's homicides. Note the meagre 4.3% component of "white/other" victims.
Again, Lüscher's findings are remarkable, inasmuch as his test-subjects were young, white males in Switzerland, seemingly far-removed from Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, or Kansas City.