(Sorry, my italics function staged a palace coup and took over the last part of the text,D)
Dear Readers – Yes, I shall dip into the circle of dead poets, a marginalized demographic if there ever was one, and call forth the genius of Lewis Carroll, who apparently started out as a shy retiring math professor. Carroll shed his more unwieldy moniker Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, to emerge as Lewis Carroll, a name, I think you will agree, that floats on bubbles of laughter and one that is fitting for the father of Alice and the White Rabbit. (when will Carroll and Alice and White Rabbit be slated for politically correct slaughter and post structural cultural analysis with racialist-xenophobic implications remains an issue which fortunately has escaped the New Victorians’ stern voice of censure, but one day they will get around to it, as they tried to with “it’s cold outside” but we can hope.) Well, Dear Reader, his masterpiece The Jabberwocky, I feel in my heart of hearts is really a commentary on the inanity of power or rather the inanities of the ends, the uses and the means of power with Jonathan Swift’s Yahoos and their egg openings coming in a distant second and, perhaps, a wink shall I make in the direction of Blaise Pascal, 17th century French philosopher who opined that if Cleo’s nose was shorter, the face of the world would have been different. I suppose Mark Anthony went in for the turned up button. Well, anyway. Here is a strong stance of mine. The Jabberwocky is an absolutely political piece masquerading as nonsense (we have nowadays nonsense masquerading as politics) , and, I confess that anyone, whatever his or her age, sex, mental or professional condition, when reading it out loud is inclined to don an inverted metal strainer, brandish a plastic sword, get up on a chair and in one’s best Sam-the-pirate voice intone Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
Alas, some poor academic (poor in the narrow-minded sense) is going to point out that the Jabberwocky is all about killing, and moreover, heroic therefore blamable killing, and that the jaws that bite, the claws that catch, Beware the Jubjub bird and shun the frumious Bandersnatch is coded language directed against XYZ minority group and the whole damn poem glorifies a Beowulf (now that’s Carroll language in itself) type saga where the Jubjub bird is only a metaphor for exotic creatures crushed by the British empire. Or whatever. Well, you get the point. No no no ! I maintain that the Jabberwocky is such a statement of motivations for war that it should replace the self-important “swords into plough shares” scratched on the Great Whatever that stands as in uffish thought at Turtle Bay, NYC. Why ? Because the Jabberwocky gives an adequate and amusing picture of the reasons-non-reasons for massacres. Of course, I realize that judging from the results, one massacre is the same as the other. However, the mind can and does operate a terrifying function of ranking even when examining the intolerable, which does not make it less intolerable, but gives the event a reasoned framework to move in. Or, as an example, to go back to one of my university history courses, the conquistadors in the 16th century, with the blessings of a pope, inaptly named Innocent, pushed off for Latin America for God, glory and gold in mind ie to convert, for the love of the king of Spain and for,well, gold and wealth. OK, terrible concepts, but concepts they are. But the Jabberwocky evokes non-concepts and that is where it makes a political statement. Non-concepts are the grotesque at work and they do obey a certain ideology proving that like the dichotomy of Heaven and Hell, there are ideologies and there are ideologies. But, the litmus test is definitely the grotesque. let’s make a list :
Ok The Grand Daddy of them all : Blue-eyed blonds shall reign over the world after exterminating or enslaving all other populations. Unbelievable garbage right ? Yep, and some very intelligent people went along with it 75 years ago. (he took his vorpal sword in hand, longtime the maxome foe he sought)
I will commit suicide and mass murder for 72 celestial virgins, with the corollary why not 73 ? or 71 ? or 172 ? Dunno (So rested he by the Tumtum tree)
Anything coming out of the land of the disappearing wives and uncles, North Korea. (The vorpal blade went snicker snack ! He left it dead and with its head, He went galumphing back)
Kaiser Bill’s itching to fell the Russian and the British Empires. The Kaiser had a non-functioning arm, an inferiority complex, and felt left out when all the cousins got together. He was also rejected as a suitor by the future empress of Russia. (The Jabberwock with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came)
These non-concepts come to mind as they were the most murderously grotesque, but each is threatening or has threatened the world. It was not Carroll who envisoned this world’s end, but the next generation of poets, an Anglophile American, T.S.Eliot who famously penned the opinion that « the world will end not with a bang but a whimper. » Make that a leer.