Refuge of scoundrels

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TO Samuel Johnson (born 1709; died 1784), poet, essayist and author of A Dictionary of the English Language (published in April, 1755), do we owe the observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

His biographer James Boswell (born 1740; died 1795) claimed that Johnson wasn’t condemning patriotism but how it was being misused by the unscrupulous to justify even the foulest of deeds. If that was indeed what Johnson meant, he was not not only being astutely observant about his times; he was also being prophetic. Scoundrels have indeed used patriotism, or love of country, to justify even the worst crimes.

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The Pollyanna Principle

Statue of Pollyanna
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The advent of every new year inevitably brings with it not only the cheery predictions of hacks who claim to have the power to foretell what will happen in the next 12 months by telling the world which celebrity will be sleeping with whom or how the economy will perform. It’s also one more opportunity for the survey firms to regale the citizenry with what the average man-on-the-street thinks is in store for him in this earthly paradise. Not to be outdone, one’s favorite commentator is also likely to weigh in with his or her forecasts on what will happen in the political scene in the coming 52 weeks.

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