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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2007 / 10 Teves, 5768

People who put their trust in human power delude themselves

By Paul Johnson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | One thing history teaches is the transience and futility of power, and the ultimate impotence of those who exercise it. That is the lesson of the current King Tut exhibition. No group of sovereigns ever enjoyed the illusion of power more than the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, especially those of the 18th and 19th dynasties. Rameses II spent much of his 66 years on the throne having immense images of himself displayed everywhere from Luxor to Abu Simbel, and many remain, chipped and crumbling. Nothing else. The point is admirably made in Shelley's sonnet about him, 'Ozymandias'. I once wished to recite it on a TV books programme. The celebrity in charge, a Rameses of his day, tried to stop me. But the show was live, and I have a firm voice, so I had my way. Now he, like the pharaohs, is toppled from his studio throne, and I have forgotten his name.


Sometimes, when I wake in the middle of the night, I hear the endless tramp, tramp, tramp of humanity crossing the arches of the years, each rank enjoying the spotlight of prominence, then passing into oblivion. How pathetically incapable we are of keeping our brief candle alight one second beyond its term! How fragile is the grip on authority even the most ruthlessly successful contrive to assert, after so much striving! I often think of Bonaparte, in the summer of 1812, at the head of a million men, kings and princes at his feet, poised to conquer Russia; then the miserable fugitive, three years later, climbing stiffly up the side of HMS Bellerophon, and writing his futile letter to the Prince Regent, soliciting in vain an honourable asylum.


Or there is the image of Adolf Hitler, first in 1940, triumphant on every side, adored by the entire German nation, the fearsome master of continental Europe, planning his postwar garden cities. And then, five years later, shaking and prematurely aged, sitting bitterly in his dusty bunker, already entombed, and complaining: 'Only Eva Braun and my dog have remained faithful to me.' Did Stalin, more cautious, less adventurous, fare much better? We have a picture of him in death, stretched on the sofa where he had taken to sleeping, his right fist raised, in admonition, apprehension or despair — who can say? As with our Henry VIII, the 'English Stalin', underlings crept in and out, not sure he was extinct, fearful he might revive, spot them rejoicing and have them murdered.


There is a memorable description of Mao Tse-Tung's death bed in Jung Chang's marvellous book about him — gushing copious tears of self-pity (his predominant emotion towards the end), which poured down his face 'like a fountain', according to one eyewitness. He evidently thought hard about other once-omnipotent men whose authority had slipped from their grasp. But there was no trace of remorse about the 70 million of his countrymen for whose deaths he was responsible. His last words: 'Send for the doctor!' He wanted, evidently, to prolong his by now miserable existence by a few more days, hours, even seconds. Would we had a video of his end, to show to the strutting petty dictators scattered through the world, still vigorously alive and killing, torturing and incarcerating, especially those, like the evil Fidel Castro, who have been many decades in power but are now nearing the inexorable end.


I like the ancient, early mediaeval personification of Death as a skeleton with a fearsome dart in his hands, scanning the human panorama around him, searching for his next victim. There is brilliant evocation of this figure, by Rowlandson, in the celebratory exhibition, in the Royal Academy, of three centuries of the Society of Antiquaries. The drawing shows a group of antiquaries gazing rapt at the newly opened coffin of a mediaeval king, which has just been raised from its sepulchre in Westminster Abbey. So absorbed are these learned gents by the embalmed royal corpse — one pulls off a finger, another takes a ring — that the awesome skeleton, standing on a nearby tomb, is unnoticed as he creeps up to plunge his spear into the back of a leading savant. This comes from The English Dance of Death, which Rowlandson published 1814-16, with a verse-text by William Combe. Have we not a skilled satirical artist today who could produce a similar, updated book, to be circulated among the world's great and powerful ones by way of warning?


Not all potentates require admonishment, happily. I applaud Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, America's two richest men, for planning schemes to dispose of their billions this side of the grave. But much older men plod on, seeking ever greater riches and power. The deaths of media emperors are not notably heroic. There was Northcliffe, a pistol under his pillow, starting up in fear as a nurse came through the door. Or the infamous Maxwell, executing a billionaire's Dance of Death. First the ascent by his private lift from his flat in the Daily Mirror building to the roof. Then the helicopter, which took him to the waiting private jet at Heathrow airport. Then the swift flight to Gibraltar, and a brisk car taking him to the dockside, where he boarded his immense yacht, the Ghislaine. The captain awaited his instructions. 'Where to, Mr Maxwell, sir?' The words were not spoken, but thought: 'Just a watery grave.'


Fortunately, I am a writer rather than a moralist. I write essays, not sermons. And I am now nearing the end of this one, which I planned last night in bed, awake in the small hours and reflecting on the hollowness of all power, wealth, success and fame. We writers, impotent as we often seem, always have the last word. It does not, of course, make any difference to our bodies and souls, as we cross the bar into eternity, any more than the colossal wealth of the rich helps them, or the brute power of command serves the dying dictator. But words have an obstinate habit of enduring where more material assets rot and rust and decay. Dr Johnson was right to say, in the Preface to his dictionary: 'The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.' The thought was neatly echoed by Winston Churchill, quoting Hazlitt, in May 1938: 'Words are the only things that last for ever.'

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Eminent British historian and author Paul Johnson's latest book is "American Presidents Eminent Lives Boxed Set: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant". Comment by clicking here.



Previously:

12/12/07: What is aggression?
12/04/07: Pursuing success is not enough
11/07/07: Are famous writers accident-prone?
10/31/07: Courage needed to disarm Iran
09/20/07: Who Will Say ‘I Promise to Lay Off’?
07/24/07: Greed is safer than power-seeking
04/02/07: Benefactors must be hardheaded
03/07/07: American idealism and realpolitik
11/28/06: Space: Our ticket to survival
10/24/06: Envy is bad economics
10/11/06: Better to Borrow or Lend? Rethinking conventional wisdom
08/22/06: Don't practice legal terrorism
08/08/06: A summer rhapsody for a pedal-bike
08/03/06: Why is there no workable philosophy of music?
07/11/06: Historically speaking, energy crisis is America's opportunity
07/06/06: The misleading dimensions of persons and lives
06/06/06: First editions are not gold
05/23/06: A downright ugly man need never despair of attracting women, even pretty ones
04/25/06: Was Washington right about political parties?
04/12/06: Let's Have More Babies!
04/05/06: For the love of trains
03/29/06: Lincoln and the Compensation Culture
03/22/06: Bottle-beauties and the globalised blond beast
03/15/06: Europe's utopian hangover
03/08/06: Kindly write on only one side of the paper
02/28/06: Creators versus critics
02/21/06: The Rhino Principle

© 2006, Paul Johnson

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