The Post-Beatles Generation and English quality of life

The middle-aged in Britain at present complain about the lack of respect for authority and the lack of consideration for others. The middle-aged have always done this. In 423 B.C. Aristophanes in Greece was  putting on comedies which showed how young people were questioning the authority of their parents. In one of his plays a young man beats up his father on the stage, to show his independence, and then he says, “And just to be fair, now I am going to beat up  mother.” That is more extreme than anything which has been shown on the ‘theatre of cruelty’ these days. Aristophanes wrote it to show the corruption of morals which was being caused by the teachings of Socrates (of all people!). Socrates was shown on the stage, and is his methods of instruction were parodied there. He himself was in the audience one night, and during the interval …

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Looking back over Victorian Times and English quality of life

It’s a hard Life It is an interesting fact that most British people think of the Victorians as rather ‘heavy’ people, very staid and without zest. One reason is that the photographs we have of our grandparents are all from the early era of photography, when the person being photographed had to keep absolutely still for several seconds. Naturally the pictures always show an unnatural fixity of expression. And one tends to feel that they were like that in daily life too. We feel they moved in a fixed and ordered society, with classes distinct and everyone accepting his ‘station in life’. This is quite untrue. The Victorians felt they lived in a world of tumultuous change, thrusting forward to unthinkable possibilities. One reason why they insisted is so much on the virtues of calmness, sobriety, steadiness and orderliness was that their world was being drastically upset all the time. …

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The Ideal of Balance and English quality of life

The gentleman-ideal is not an exclusive English thing. The elements have come from many sources, and though it has been developed in Britain, it must be developed further. The valuable elements which have developed so far have included, in my opinion, these: (1). The concept of life as a sport, undertaken very seriously under strict rules, and always with a fundamental balance, and respect for the opponents. This concept has success as its goal, not triumph. (2). The courage to resist, to stand out even single handed, against the blind herd instinct—the herd instinct which can find its satisfaction only in conflict with another herd.           (3). Search for an ideal in secular life; this has been found so far in social service to strangers, protection of the weak, and a certain good taste. (4). Self-control, and specially the sense of humour, which produces personal modesty.  (5). An amateur attitude which …

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The Gentleman Ideal and English quality of life

The gentleman ideal is still one of the country’s most prized values, in spite of the ambivalence which makes the Eton boys try to get rid of their public school accents. The ambivalence means that the ideal is changing, as it has changed in the past. The main currents have been: (1). A gentleman is a good fighter from a good family, i.e. a family comparatively wealthy and influential for several generations: this was the classical view of the Greeks and Romans; (2). A gentleman is a noble fighter who protects the weak—view of chivalry; (3). A gentleman is a well-born man with a gloss of courtesy, refinement and poise in his manner— the French and Italian ‘courtier’ view; (4). A gentleman is above all a sportsman—the view of the 18th century English country squires; (5). A gentleman is a man of honesty and quiet strength of character, conforming strictly …

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The Public School System and English quality of life

The system in the boarding schools (or ‘public schools’ as they are confusingly called) was based on a very old English idea—that children should be separated from their parents and sent away to learn independence. In the 1300’s the English nobles used to send their s boys, at the age of 9 or 10, to some remote relation’s home, where they acted as pages and performed minor services for the adults around them. After several years of this they came back. In general, children in the Middle Ages had a very hard time; in the whole literature there is very little about them, and even in sculpture and painting there are few portraits. This attitude of indifference to children went on right into the 20th century. Under the British public school system, boys were sent is at the age of 14 to an expensive boarding school, and did not see …

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My Husband and I and English quality of life

When I was a schoolboy in the 1920’s, I felt that the British monarchy should be abolished as an out-of-date institution. Like many young people in many countries, I was more interested in foreign countries and ideas than in my own. The good points of my own country I took for granted—in fact, I assumed that all other countries must have them too, and some special virtues of their own in addition. The foreign countries must therefore be better than my own. My parents occasionally tried to correct this view. My father had travelled only to France and Germany, as a soldier in World War I, but my mother had been educated for a year, when she was 18, in France and Belgium. She knew French and German fairly well. Moreover, her family had some connection with the noble Hungarian family of Esterhazy, and she travelled with her parents to …

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English Quality of Life and ways in which British people think and act

In the famous “Thinker” of Rodin, a Frenchman. The pose, with one elbow on the opposite knee, is a most uncomfortable one, though the sculptor’s skill makes it seem calm. Foreigners remark sarcastically that it shows how the French twist themselves into knots when they think, and there is a saying, “Every Frenchman is a thinker, unfortunately; and no two Frenchmen ever think the same thought.” This last is a hit at the well-known Gallic love of argument. Well, what do the French say about their critics, the foreign Thinkers? “The Germans sweat when they think. They try so hard, and—they shouldn’t.” It means that the Germans laboriously spin out great spider-web systems of thought, ending up hopelessly entangled in them. It is the vast theory-systems of Hegel, Marx, Freud and so on, which are so complicated that people get confused, and which contradict each other. The English have produced …

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Japanese Logic from the English Heart of Tradition

Periodically in the British newspapers there is a quotation from some Japanese official report on Japanese educational standards. Sometimes it is said that the standard in mathematics is very high compared to that of the rest of the world, but that the standard of logical thinking is weak. For instance, the students were set to complete a number of sentences, and only about 60% managed to do this satisfactorily. The others completed the sentences in a way that showed that they had failed to understand and then extend the thought of the sentence. Some explanations are suggested by the Western newspapers, obviously copied from a Japanese commentator. It is often said that the effort of memorizing the kanji must result in a weakness in comprehension. Mindless memorization is supposed to be a handicap to logical thinking. However, I have never been convinced by this. Traditional Indian education has always stressed …

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Warukuchi from the English Heart of Tradition

It is difficult to translate the Japanese word warukuchi into English; as often in translation, there is no exact equivalent. The dictionary gives various words: abuse, slander, calumny, defamation, scandal, backbiting. But no single one of them is exactly right. Abuse has the sense of shouting, coarse language, and insult. But warukuchi is not necessarily in coarse language. Slander carries the nuance of a lie; the reply to an accusation is often: That is a slander.’ The meaning is, that it is a spiteful lie. Warukuchi may be true. Calumny is a purely literary word, and now very old-fashioned. No one would say it in conversation today. Defamation is a legal term, and only a lawyer would use it. Scandal refers to some incident. To say of a man that he is as slow as a tortoise in his work could not be called scandal, though it would be warukuchi. …

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It Likes That from the English Heart of the Tradition

When we are small children, we ask a great many questions, and some of them are very difficult to answer. The parents do not know what to say; often they do not know the answer themselves. For instance, a small child asks his mother when out on a walk: “How high is the sky, Mummy?” That is a difficult question: in fact, there is no actual answer, because the appearance of the blue bowl above us is an illusion. But that would be too difficult to explain to a small child. So Mummy usually tries to distract the child’s attention: “Look at that man over there”, she says; “he’s holding his walking-stick in his left hand. Nearly everyone holds it in the right hand. Let’s look at the people and see how many of them are holding their stick or their parcel or umbrella in the left hand.” It is …

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North-South-East-West from the English Heart of Tradition

In the British Broadcasting Corporation weather forecasts, the English phrase ‘here and there’ comes often. For instance, a forecast may say: “The snow which fell in the north of England yesterday has now mostly melted, though there are still some patches of snow here and there.” When this is translated into Japanese, ‘here and there’ becomes ‘achi-kochi’. So the Japanese expression puts ‘there’ first, and then says ‘here’, but the English puts ‘here’ first, and adds ‘there’ afterwards. It is not only English that gives first place to ‘here’. The Germans say ‘hier und da’, and these German words are in fact the originals of the English ‘here and there’. If the German is spoken quickly, it sounds like the English, and if the English phrase is spoken quickly, it sounds like the German. The English and German sound alike when they are spoken, though when they are written, the …

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Losing to Oneself from the English Heart of Tradition

Do you hate to lose in a game? Most Japanese seem to. There is a passage in Kawabata’s novel Meijin, where the great master of igo gives a few lessons in shogi to an American tourist when they are on a train journey. The American is a beginner, and has no chance of winning at all. But he is keen to learn, and they play a number of games. The Japanese meijin is astonished how after each defeat the American just smiles and sets up the pieces for another game. The Japanese master cannot under- stand why the American feels no mortification at continually losing. Well, that American had a good idea of sport, in which one has to try very hard, but then be perfectly calm in victory or defeat. This sporting spirit, as it is called, is a good training for life, but it must be admitted that …

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Cruel to be Kind from the English Heart of Tradition

You have to be cruel to be kind: this is an old English saying. Perhaps there is a connection with the Japanese traditional idea of kitaeru, but it is not the same. An example of the English saying would be when a small child refuses to learn to read, and is very obstinate. He simply will not try, in spite of all persuasions and promises of rewards. Then the parents and teachers have to use punishments to make him study. Now the child feels that his parents and teachers are cruel. They are cruel: they make him cry. But that is only the short-term view. Their ultimate purpose is to be kind. They know (as he does not) that if he cannot read, his life will be very difficult. They are cruel, but it is because they are kind. If they do not force him to read, because they cannot …

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Social Conventions and Surprises from the English Heart of Tradition

Social conventions, which we learn as little children, have no surprises for us. In fact, they fade away to the fringe of consciousness, because we do not have to think about them consciously. For instance, Japanese people and British people say Thank You’ a great deal; Americans say it less, and Spaniards do not like to say it at all. It is not that Spanish people are ungrateful. But they do not like to say Thank You’, because a man who is saying Thank You’ is acknowledging that he is in an inferior position. Spanish people do not like an inferior position; they are very sensitive about what they call their Honour. But British and Japanese people do not feel inferior when we say Thank You.’ We think it is simply politeness. In fact, we do it so often that it is almost meaningless; we say it unconsciously. As it …

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Consideration for Strangers from the English Heart of Tradition

If you have just gone through a swing door in a public place such as a shop, do you generally hold the door open for the next person behind you, though a stranger? Most British people do so automatically, and according to my observation most Japanese do not. In Britain we think of a stranger in the street, or in a shop, as a fellow human being to whom we should be courteous. Looking at Japanese behaviour in public places, however, it seems that they think of strangers as obstacles, who must be pushed aside if one is in a hurry. Again, in an electric train, Japanese young men sometimes sprawl across two seats. No one dares to protest. In Britain it is very rare: I do not say that it cannot happen, but it is rare. Here there is no need for posters such as the ‘Spreading Peacock’ poster …

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English Heart of Tradition Foreword

In these essays, I have tried to introduce readers not only to new English word and phrases, but also to English ideas. All travellers know this experience: we speak to a foreigner, and he says a sentence which we understand perfectly. But we do not know what he really means. For instance, when an Englishman says: ‘I will phone you some time’, the meaning seems to be clear. A foreigner expects that Englishman to telephone him. But in fact, ‘some time’ is often a polite way of saying, ‘never’. He deliberately uses the vague phrase ‘some time’, instead of saying rudely, ‘never’. If he really intends to telephone, he will say, ‘I’ll give you a call in two or three days’ or ‘next week’, or even ‘next month’. When he has mentioned a number, or a definite time like next week, he will do it. He has made a promise, …

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The Japanese way of thinking and the talking Dog.

There is an old English joke about a shepherd and his talking dog. In the long weeks of solitude on the sheep pastures of the north of England, a shepherd out of boredom taught his dog to speak. A theatrical impresario heard of this and succeeded in getting the shepherd on to the stage with the dog, the two of them holding a conversation in front of everyone. The performances were a great success, and at the end of the tour the press interviewed the shepherd and asked what he thought. “Well, the money’s good,” he replied, “but I can’t think why they all come to hear him talk. It’s not as though he ever said anything interesting! ” We foreigners who can speak a bit of Japanese are rather like talking dogs. Far from having anything interesting to say, if we can say anything at all in Japanese we …

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The Japanese way of thinking and pull and push

In Japan when a man retires he may be given a sort of “consultant” job, in which he can still meet his former colleagues even once a week. His advice is often useful to them, as also his friends in other departments or other companies. There is a good deal of tact in making any changes that have to be made, so that he shall not feel too bad about it. I know of course that this is not always done, but still where possible it does seem to be done. I think that in this respect we in Britain are often rather hard. When a man retires, he retires, and it is made clear to everyone that he has retired. I remember when I was quite a little boy a friend of our family was an Egyptologist, and he took me once or twice to the British Museum, to …

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The Japanese way of thinking and Chin

 Research into the physiology of Judo movement has established that pulling in one’s chin helps the reflexes in a pulling action, whereas to reinforce a push it is helpful to thrust the chin out and forward. In Seoinage for instance, it is best to pull in the chin against one’s throat, whereas for Osotogari (when it is being made with a push) it is good to thrust forward the jaw. As a majority of Judo throws involve mainly a pulling action, many Judo experts habitually keep the chin pulled in. Japanese people, in situations where an action may be made either by a pull or by a push, tend to use the former. It is well-known that Japanese carpenters are pulling a saw or plane towards them when they apply the cutting force, whereas the Western carpenters push it. In writing in the traditional way, the Japanese brush is pulled …

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The Japanese way of thinking and international images

 Japanese people seem to be rather interested in what foreigners like the British think of Japan, so let me give a brief answer. The romantic stories of Lafcadio Hearn and others, and the influence of Japanese art over nearly a century, is have given the impression that Japan is a very beautiful country. There are those like myself who, having lived in Japan, know that there is also an ugly side, but this is hardly appreciated by the general public.  It takes a long time to alter an international image. The Japanese people seem to think of Englishmen as all carrying umbrellas, wearing bowler hats, and gentlemen to the last man. One has only to think of the Beatles to see that we do not all wear bowlers. But in spite of that the image of so many years does not disappear. And it is the same with the Japanese …

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Trevor Leggett talks in 1976 to Japanese students about English views of the French and the Germans

The French and the English For centuries the French and English have fought each other, not only in Europe but all over the world. In the 20th century the two countries were allied against Germany, but there is still an undercurrent from the depths of our history of antagonism. In English slang, the word “French” has mostly a bad sense. To take “French leave” means to leave work without permission for some private purpose. A French novel is understood to be probably dirty; a male contraceptive is called “French”. Syphilis was called the French disease, whereas in France it was called the Neapolitan disease, which is a good example of how unpleasant things are fathered on to a foreign country. The French have had an equally low opinion of the English. In the middle Ages it was believed in French peasant circles that the English had tails. Today “a Panglaise”, …

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The Spirit of Fair Play and Sportsmanship

Fight someone your own size I have often been asked by foreigners where they can read about the British traditions of ” fair play” and “sportsmanship”. (I call them British traditions because most foreign languages have adopted these British words; this fact shows the origin of the ideas.) It is not very easy to find books which clearly explain them. The truth is that they are learnt by children when they are very small-first from the parents, then from the little democracies of children among whom they play, and finally at school. One of the basic principles is, that every child, whether weak or strong, skilful or clumsy, older or younger (within the span of years of the group), is entitled to fair treatment. For instance, at cricket it is interesting to bat or bowl, and not so interesting to be one of the fielders. The natural tendency of the …

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Adhyatma Yoga is not Escapism

“Escapism” is one of the most damning terms in use to-day. It implies the shirking of moral and physical responsibilities, the lack of courage and fortitude to face life and its complexities—often self-made—and the building up of a mental world which does not correspond to actual fact. Men abhor cowardice, and although they may themselves be cowards, they hide it as best they may, and will not telerate it in others. Escapism is a form of mental cowardice, a psychological condition subconsciously resorted to by the mind. Thus to describe a philosophy or an ideal as ‘ escapist ’ is to bring it into disrepute. It is nevertheless a term often levelled at the man who becomes a follower of Adhyatma Yoga, and moulds his life in accordance with its philosophy, through practice, without which no philosophy is of any value. Before such an accusation can be proved or disproved, …

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It was thought that human society was evolving from lower to higher forms

In a long period of increasing prosperity, the Victorians enjoyed the first substantial benefits of the advancements of science and saw no reason to doubt that these would: multiply ever more abundantly, until all men would share in the riches and culture of an enlightened age. The’ Darwinian theory of biological evolution, suggested by’ analogy that human society was evolving from lower to higher forms, and it seemed that man, becoming aware of this, could consciously stimulate and hasten the process. Progress was the spirit of the age and science was her handmaiden. After a century of continuous expansion in science andf industry, we are not so sure of the infallible blessings of progress and we find that science, whilst conferring many; boons, is also capable of inflicting widespread destruction. The chemist produces the lethal gases of war as well as life-saving drugs. Sub-atomic investigation yields the hydrogen bomb as …

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