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The two major “news” items this week are the protests in Egypt and the floods in Queensland.

Mencken on Egyptian Politics

The fact is that some of the things that men and women have desired most ardently for thousands of years are not nearer realization to-day than they were in the time of Rameses, and that there is not the slightest reason for believing that they will lose their coyness on any near to-morrow. Plans for hurrying them on have been tried since the beginning; plans for forcing them overnight are in copious and antagonistic operation to-day; and yet they continue to hold off and elude us, and the chances are that they will keep on holding off and eluding us.

(For an elaboration of this passage and referencing, see here.)

Mencken on Queensland Floods

They were warned weeks in advance, and high ground was nearly always well within their reach. But thousands of them remained, until finally the long-awaited waters were upon them. It is hard to work up any very active sympathy for such people.

There is another factor: the location of the floods. It is, roughly speaking, the habitat of the least advanced white people now living in the United States. If they were simply stupid it would be bad enough, but they are also, in large part, bellicose and obnoxious. For years the rest of the country has heard nothing from them, save what has been unpleasant. Their one thought, apparently, has been to annoy and prosecute everyone else.

I do not argue that the people of the more civilised parts of the country have no sympathy for such morons; I merely argue that their sympathy, when tested, turns out to be feebler than it might be.

In order to make him part with his money, the yokel must be alarmed, heated up, made to see red. The easiest way to make him see red is to picture the debaucheries of the big cities. Unable to take part in them himself, he naturally sets them down as intolerably immoral.

It is an old story, and history [and the future] shows it repeated in every generation. The trade of stirring up ignorant and unhappy men against their betters goes back to the earliest times. It is one of the chief causes of wars, and it is the villainy at the heart of Bolshevism and all other such insanities. When it flourishes within the bounds of a country theoretically united, it inevitably converts union into discord and strife.

(Excerpted from H.L. Mencken, “The Mississippi Flood,” The Baltimore Evening Sun, May 23, 1927. With thanks to Michael Conaghan of Liberty Australia for tracking it down and republishing it for the first time ever.)

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Mencken on Rural Affairs Lobbyists
  2. The Triumph of the Have-Not
  3. Mencken on Egyptian Politics and Queensland Floods
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