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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

'The Extraordinary Cabman' by G.K.Chesterton


           It is well said that if enough mud is thrown at a wall some of it will stick, and in the same way if a falsehood is regularly and convincingly preached, it will eventually be accepted as the truth.  So-called ‘same-sex marriage’ is a concept which has been promoted world-wide on the basis of 'equality', presenting as fact that a man has as much right to marry a man, as a man has to marry a woman. From time immemorial marriage has been defined and understood as uniquely between man and woman, based on God's law and the Natural law, for only by the union of male and female can new life be created. To suggest that homosexual  'union' is equal to heterosexual marriage, is palpably not true, yet this is what we are told to accept.  'Equality' has become the bible of today's politicians, but it is impossible to square the circle, and this is what is being attempted by equating 'heterosexual marriage'  with 'homosexual union'.   Support for 'same sex marriage' has emotional rather than intellectual appeal, and is backed by the influential and powerful homosexual lobby. It has been suggested by some that the homosexual agenda is being used  to undermine and ultimately destroy the whole structure of our Judaeo-Christian civilisation, for by abolishing marriage between a man and woman, it is weakening the traditional family structure and by default, making the State ever more powerful. In the same way by limiting religious freedom and indeed free speech, the State exercises more and more control over ordinary people, until ultimately we have a secular, anti-religious totalitarian state. 

          Already we have the primary and natural  authority of parents  being eroded in schools in the matter of sex-education and sexual health , for the government intends the homosexual agenda to be taught  whether parents or teachers agree or not, and we have a situation where young girls can be  proscribed  contraceptives and even  referred for an abortion without the parents knowledge!
          Regarding the recent vote on 'same-sex marriage', a combination of government backing, political opportunism,  peer pressure,  collective media bias, and a generally secular, anti-faith ethos in society and Parliament, ensured that the Bill successfully passed its second reading.

           Full marks to those parliamentarians who showed moral courage, intellectual honesty, and above all common sense, in declining to share the poisoned chalice inherent in this legislation.  
There is a long way to go before this Bill becomes law, if indeed it does eventually make it to the finishing line, and for those opposed to it, there is still much to play for.           

        I was able to watch 'on-line' some of the debate, and was struck by the shallowness of the arguments put forward by many of the Bill's supporters.  'Equal rights' was the main, often the only basis for their support,  addressing solely  the 'right' of homosexuals and lesbians to 'marry' another of the same sex. Little or  no reference was made to the implications for children, families,  teachers,  health and social workers, and other people and occupations, nor to the real effect on religious institutions and the individual conscience.  No reference to the  inevitable resultant  legal problems nor to the the huge financial cost of implementing these laws, nor to the genuinely divisive effect of this  legislation.
        I can remember a popular song of many years ago -  ‘all we need is love, baby’ or words to that effect, and this expressed so well  the shallow over-riding sentiment of  many supporting  the Bill.  I found myself becoming increasingly angry, frustrated, and cynical  - did these supporters  really believe in what they were saying, or was it a  matter of political correctness or  perhaps political opportunism?
         Coincidentally, a day or two later, I picked up one of my favourite books from which I hoped to gain inspiration, and I was not disappointed. By an extraordinary coincidence I happened on a short story by G.K.Chesterton which could have been especially written to explain the unedifying and irrational support of the majority of our M.P.s, for the above mentioned 'same-sex marriage' Bill. Of course this story was actually written over one hundred years ago, an age when anybody preaching 'same-sex marriage' would probably have been immediately locked up in a mental institution! But it does emphasise the danger of  self-deception in the face of constant  and repetitious presentation of fallacies presented as truth, which might explain why the 'same-sex marriage' Bill  is 'proudly' 'misrepresented' by its proponents as a victory for 'equal rights'.
         Which, of course, is where we started!      

         Read for yourself and see what you think - I wish GKC was around today, he would be in his element demolishing this whole preposterous concept of  'same-sex marriage'!

                    'THE EXTRAORDINARY CABMAN'
         From time to time I have introduced into this newspaper column the narration of incidents that have really occurred. I do not mean to insinuate that in this respect it stands alone among newspaper columns. I mean only that I have found that my  meaning was better expressed by some practical parable out of daily life than by any other method; therefore I propose to narrate the incident of the extraordinary cabman, which occurred to me only three days ago, and which, slight as it apparently is, aroused in me a moment of genuine emotion bordering upon despair.

          On the day that I met the strange cabman I had been lunching in a little restaurant in Soho in company with three or four of my best friends. My best friends are all either bottomless sceptics or quite uncontrollable believers, so our discussion at luncheon turned upon the  most ultimate and terrible ideas. And the whole argument worked out ultimately to this: that the question is whether a man can be certain of anything at all. I think he can be certain, for if (as I said to my friend, furiously brandishing an empty bottle) it is impossible intellectually to entertain certainty, what is this certainty which it is impossible to entertain? If I have never experienced such a thing as certainty I cannot even say that a thing is not certain. Similarly, if I have never experienced such a thing as green I cannot even say that my nose is not green. It may be as green as possible for all I know, if I have really no experience of greenness.
            So we shouted at each other and shook the room; because metaphysics is really the only thoroughly emotional thing. And the difference between us was very deep, because it was a difference as to the whole thing called broad-mindedness or the opening of the intellect. For my friend said he opened his intellect as the sun opens the fronds of a palm tree, opening for opening’s sake, opening infinitely for ever. But I said that I opened my intellect as I opened my mouth, in order to shut it again on something solid. I was doing it at the moment. And as I truly pointed out, it would look uncommonly silly if I went on opening my mouth infinitely, for ever and ever.
           Now when this argument was over, or at least when it was cut short (for it will never be over), I went away with one of my companions, who in the confusion and comparative insanity of a General Election had somehow become a Member of Parliament, and I drove with him in a cab from the  corner of Leicester-square to the members’ entrance of the House of Commons, where the police received me with a quite unusual tolerance. Whether they thought he was my keeper or that I was his keeper is a discussion between us which still continues.
          It is necessary in this narrative to preserve the  utmost exactitude of detail. After leaving my friend at the House I took the cab on a few hundred yards to an office in Victoria-street which I had to visit. I then got out and offered him more than his fare. He looked at it, but not with the surly doubt and general disposition to try it on which is not unknown among normal cabmen. But this was no normal, perhaps, no human, cabman. He looked at it with a dull and infantile astonishment, clearly quite genuine.
 “Do you know, sir,” he said, “you’ve only given me 1s. 8d?”
 I remarked, with some surprise, that I did know it.
“Now you know, sir,” said he, in a kindly, appealing, reasonable way, “you know that ain’t the fare from Euston.”
 “Euston,” I repeated vaguely, for the phrase at that moment sounded to me like China or Arabia. “What on earth has Euston got to do with it?”
 “You hailed me just outside Euston Station,” began the man with astonishing precision, “and then you said —”
 “What in the name of Tartarus are you talking about?” I said with Christian forebearance; “I took you at the south-west corner of  Leicester-square.”
“Leicester-square,” he exclaimed, loosening a kind of cataract of scorn, “why we ain’t been near Leicester-square today. You hailed me outside Euston Station, and you said —”
 “Are you mad, or am I?” I asked with scientific calm.

          I looked at the man. No ordinary dishonest cabman would think of creating so solid and colossal and creative a lie. And this man was not a dishonest cabman. If ever a human face was heavy and simple and humble, and with great big blue eyes protruding like a frog’s, if ever (in short) a human face was all that a  human face should be, it was the face of that resentful and respectful cabman.
 I looked up and down the street; an unusually dark twilight seemed to be coming on. And for one second the old nightmare of the sceptic put its finger on my nerve.
          What was certaintly? Was anybody certain of anything? Heavens! To think of the dull rut of the sceptics who go on asking whether we possess a future life.  The exciting question for real scepticism is whether we possess a past life. What is a minute ago, rationalistically considered, except a tradition and a picture?
          The darkness grew deeper from the road. The  cabman calmly gave me the most elaborate details of the gesture, the words, the complex but consistent course of action which I had adopted since that remarkable occasion when I had hailed him outside Euston Station. How did I know (my sceptical friends would say) that I had not hailed him outside Euston. I was firm about my assertion, he was equally firm about his. He was obviously quite as honest a man as I, and a member of a much more respectable profession. In that moment the universe and the stars swung just a hair’s breadth from their balance, and the foundations of the earth were moved. But for the same reason that I believe in Democracy, for the same reason that I believe in free will, the reason that could only be expressed by saying that I do not choose to be a lunatic; I continued to believe that this honest cabman was wrong, and I repeated to him that I had really taken him at the corner of Leicester-square.

          He began with the same evident and ponderous sincerity, “You hailed me outside Euston Station and you said —”
And at this moment there came over his features a kind of frightful transfiguration of living astonishment, as if he had been lit up by a lamp from inside.
 “Why, I beg your pardon, sir,” he said, “I beg your pardon. I beg your pardon. You took me from Leicester-square. I remember now. I beg your pardon.”
 And with that, this astonishing man let out his whip with a sharp crack at his horse and went trundling away. The whole of which interview, before the banner of St George I swear, is strictly true.
            I looked a the strange cabman as he lessened in the distance and the mists. I do not know whether I was right in fancying that although his face had seemed so honest there was something unearthly and demoniac about him when seen from behind. Perhaps he had been sent to tempt me from my adherence to those sanities and certainties which I had defended earlier in the day. In any case it gave me pleasure to remember that my sense of reality, though it had rocked for an instant, had remained erect.

                                From 'Tremendous Trifles' by G.K.Chesterton
                              Published by Sheed and Ward, New York, 1955.


At this momentous time, we pray especially for our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. We also pray that God, the Holy Ghost, will guide the consistory of Cardinals in their choice for a new Pope. Amen.


Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

I've had experiences like Chesterton with the cabman. I remember an acquaintance once insisting I had recommended something in a conversation, something about which I had no recollection and would have been entirely unlike me. One of us was clearly mistaken and she insisted it couldn't be her. I am still scratching my head and wondering whether I have a faulty memory or she does. Life is sometimes a precarious balancing act. (But I think she skews reality at times.)

umblepie said...

Thank you for your interesting comment, Mary Ann, I too have had a similar experience which I put down to some sort of mental aberration on my part. But having read this tale by Chesterton, I'm not so sure!