Satire: Good and Yahoo

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I have completed my reading of the fourth part of Gulliver’s Travels, “Journey to the Houyhnhnms”, and with it completed Jonathan Swift’s book. In this part Gulliver encounters a species of horses calling themselves “Houyhnhnms”, who are guided in their lives by reason and virtue, as well as a species of humans called “Yahoos”, who are guided by illogic and vice. As Gulliver comes to acquaint himself with these two species he realizes that he himself is a Yahoo, as are all humans, and finds himself not wanting to leave the company of the Houyhnhnms. However, reason dictates that he return to the Yahoos of England and the Houyhnhnms exhort him to do so.

This part is not only a satire of humanity, it is a satire of nature. No one in Jonathan’s time or our own with any knowledge of nature, of which humanity is part, would for a moment declare nature a slave to reason and virtue or free of illogic and vice.

Stepping back for the broader view, Jonathan’s book is interesting in that it criticizes all aspects of society, however he never directly criticizes religion. He instead talks of reason and virtue; of friendship and benevolence; never of god and god’s will; never of faith and obedience. In fact, the only reference to European religion is architecture and the inquisition. And perhaps that is all that needs mention.

Of course reading the work that coins the word Yahoo and directly associates it with the word “evil” makes for an interesting contemporary interpretation of our search engine landscape. If we used the term Yahoo in the same way as used by Jonathan Swift, “Don’t be Yahoo”, would be grammatically correct.

related post: Cogitators, Academics, Necromancers and Immortals

Satire: Cogitators, Academics, Necromancers and Immortals

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I’ve continued my reading of Jonathan Swift’s novel, Gulliver’s Travels, and have completed the Third Part. In this part we encounter the people of Laputa, so caught up in cogitation limited to music and mathematics that they are nearly unable to function in the physical world; the people of Balnibarbi, so caught up in academics that they are impoverished for lack of pragmatism; the people of Glubbdrubdrib where necromancy allows Gulliver to discover from the dead how contorted historical accounts truly are; and finally the people of Luggnagg among whom exist the immortal Struldbruggs who reveal that immortality is not necessarily everything it is hoped to be.

Jonathan’s fiction is a journey into extremes and reveals an irreverance for each of them. All to often we idealize cognition, academics, history and immortality and Jonathan does his utmost to help us to be regrounded.

related post: The Small and the Great

Satire: The Small and the Great

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I have taken a break from fact and enjoying some fiction. I decided to read the sixteenth century Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. I have not completed the work, but I have read the first two tales: “A Voyage to Lilluput”, a land of the small, and “A Voyage to Brobdingnag”, a land of the giant. The key premise of these stories appears to be the conduct of the little versus the conduct of the large. Among the small, complexity and corruption flourishes, while among the great, simplicity and honesty prevails. The small battle over legalism, while the great battle over governance. Gulliver is a witness to both.

Although our children read this work, it was not meant for children. It is a satire that adults can take full pleasure in.