Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Updating Franklin

A contributor to Return Of Kings writes about his attempt to update Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin is known for his 13 virtues, among of course many other things. The contributor who goes by Quintus Curtius (the name of a Roman historian), believes Franklin is hypocritical.

With independent careers as a diplomat, scientist, businessman, statesman, printer, and writer, Benjamin Franklin was the most versatile genius ever produced in North America.

He was also a wily old hypocrite.  His Autobiography—still very much worth reading today—reads like a collaboration between Andrew Carnegie and John Stuart Mill.

And yet.  There is something slithery about him, this wispy-haired little Benjamin.  One gets the feeling that he is trying to put something over on us.  Trying to rope us into his little Benjamin-esque corral.  So he can control us.  And take all the cookies from the jar for himself.
He even drew up a list of “virtues” which he claims to have aspired to and followed on a daily basis.  Maddening.  Benjamin wants to tap us on the head–tap, tap, tap–and send us out into the pitiless world armed with nothing but his “virtues”.  Well, noli me tangere, Benjamin.  I loathe your little checklist.
He rewrites Franklin's virtues based on what he's learned over the years. For instance:

Chastity:  Rarely use venery but for health and offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
becomes:
Chastity:  Do not practice chastity.  Passion is always a virtue as long as it is sincere.  If it is insincere, it is not.  Venery is good.  Debauchery is not.  Learn the difference.
in Quintus' philosophy.

This could be an interesting exercise. What famous writer or proverbs would do you find inadequate and in need of rewriting to fit your situation?
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