Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Art of Vision

I've always been suspicious about talk of politicians having a vision, having plans, and so on. To me, it means that I'm about to become part of another social engineering strategy. I don't want to be engineered! My life is my own - fuck off, politicians!

The Age is much more positive about 'political vision' than I am, presumably because they want a hand in the formation and implementation of that political vision themselves. They've just published an editorial calling on Peter Costello, our PM-in-waiting, to communicate a 'vision' for Australia.

This decade-long tenure may have flattened even the most ambitious of politicians, but the Treasurer has shown remarkable resilience and, with that, something more unusual: a willingness to present a vision of how he sees the nation. There is, of course, a benefit for Mr Costello in putting what satirist Jonathan Swift, in a un-satirical moment, alluded to when he said that vision was "the art of seeing what is invisible to others". It bespeaks leadership. Pronouncing a vision is an effective way for a man waiting in the wings to step onto the stage while the protagonist is still very much in the script and on the stage as well.

It's easy to come up with a quote from history to support your argument, but I was a bit suspicious about this quote from Swift. I originally suspected they had taken him out of context, so I went searching for the original Swift quote online. It turned out to be a hard quote to find: it appears, uncited, on a number of websites.

Wikipedia has a page of Jonathan Swift quotes. It attributes this particular quote to Swift's essay 'Thoughts on Various Subjects'. Which is interesting, because a search of google yields several copies of this essay, but none which contain the quote cited in The Age.

So it would appear that in quoting Jonathan Swift to support their argument, The Age have used a quote does not exist.

If vision is the quality of seeing things that are invisible, then surely stupidity is the quality of believing in things that are non-existent. Or, to put it still another way ...

I see, said the blind man, who did not see at all.

UPDATE! - If anyone can find a copy of the essay that contains the quote, I'm more than happy to be proved wrong.

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE! - Should that be 'proven wrong'?


nailpolishblues said...

Proven wrong, I think. Can't comment on the rest because all those words made me feel slightly seasick Am sure it was fabulous though.

Anonymous said...

Proved. You had it right the first time. Source: Fowler's Modern Usage.

TimT said...

I checked on Macquarie Dictionary, it gives both 'proved' and 'proven' as acceptable. We use Macquarie at work, it's the source for Australian English. I'm happy to defer to Fowler, though; we Aussie's speak the Queen's lingo, by jingo, or my name's not Yosemite Sam (and it ain't).

TimT said...

Incidentally - KILLER FACT! - the word 'jingo' is supposed to derive from the Basque language, one of the few English words that do.

miriam said...

I'm surprised it isn't attributed to de Tocqueville. Most idiotic quotes are. It's such a phony sounding quote. Doesn't sound like Swift. He never looked on the bright side.

TimT said...

Frankly, it sounds a bit too dumb for Swift to have come up with. The essay where Swift was supposed to have said it actually contains several quotes that contradict the meaning applied to it here.

phil said...

Not in the Penguin Dictionary of Quotations. Need to keep looking.

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