Saturday, January 5, 2013

Brain Snap of Brain Snaps

"The secret of [Lord] Balfour's charm was his nonchalance. Staying cool seemed to be his only rule. [Lord] Vansittart thought he viewed events 'with the detachment of a choirboy at a funeral service.' Almost alone among politicians, he was indifferent to what his colleagues, the public or posterity thought of him or his policies. He kept no diary, made no attempt to preserve his papers." (From Adored Gazelle, Ferdinand Mount's review of Balfour: The Last Grandee by R.J.Q. Adams, London Review of Books, 20/3/08)

Don't you just love politicians? Their capacity for stuffing the planet up seems boundless. In fact, one way of accounting for the insanity and misery we see everywhere around us today is to view it as the cumulative result of brain snaps, great and small, experienced by influential politicians of one stripe or another.

Now if you had to cite just one of these buggers for a really quality brain snap - of the sort which is still giving us hell today - who might it be?

My choice, naturally, would have to be Britain's Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), known principally for that brain snap of brain snaps, the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

Evaluations of the bastard and his mother-of-all brain snaps don't come much better than the following, from a conversation between CR Ashbee and his friend 'Mercutio', in Jerusalem, December 1919: 

"Mercutio quoted the other day a cynicism, purporting to be Arthur Balfour's when the policy of the British Government in regard to the Jewish National home was under criticism. 'Well, even if it fails, it will have been a profoundly interesting experiment!'* Then he added with asperity: 'As if the idealism of thousands and the fate of the Middle East could be gambled for a political chance! They say that when he goes to Heaven he will explain himself and his 'Declaration' in a different manner to each person of the Trinity.'" (A Palestine Notebook 1918-1923, CR Ashbee, p 106)

(*This was a theme of Balfour's. See my 29/1/12 post Lord Gingrich.)

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