Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism


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Happy birthday, Tom!

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine (9 February 1737, Thetford, Norfolk – 8 June 1809, Greenwich Village, New York City)

Thomas Paine was born this day in 1737. He virtually invented the idea that the power of a nation should ultimately rest with the commonality of its people, and that elected politicians should be answerable to the people. Tom Paine is the father of rational values as the basis of a political constitution: that our government, legal system and political engagement should all make sense to average citizens so that they might fully participate. Naturally, Paine had no time for monarchs and monarchy: he wanted values at the heart of a nation rather than a dodgy personality cult. Neither did he think much of the British ‘compromise’ of parliamentary sovereignty, in which we elect politicians using an outdated electoral system who, once elected, are not accountable to the electorate and may do whatsoever they will. The MPs expenses are just the tip of the iceberg of a political system that creates a political class separate and above the people.

From the first page of Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet Common Sense, I take the following quote

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom.

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Syriac numerals

Recently, I found that some people working with Syriac had little idea of how numerals are written in the language, so I wrote a little PDF manual to describe what is only briefly touched upon in the standard grammars.

The manual covers the various forms of numerals used in Syriac: the alphabetic numerals and the various systems of marking higher alphabetic numerals, Eastern Arabic numerals and Aramaic sign–value numerals.

The PDF can be downloaded from http://www.garzo.co.uk/documents/syriac-numerals.pdf.

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A white man’s bizarre racist dream

As a white man, I am starting to think I must have this great urge to leave ‘my people’ and be one with some exotic, primitive folk. Of course, it will be a struggle to be accepted, but, through trial and initiation rites, I shall become one with my exotics. It seems also highly likely that the big chief’s daughter will fall for me — one just can’t help it! Naturally, the marauding, plundering, modernising, globalising white folk will eventually turn up to wreak havoc on my new-found paradise. But heroic I shall stand fast with my exotic brethren and become their mighty war leader in this time of trial. I shall overcome my own… I hope all reading this can spot irony when they see it. Continue reading


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Candlemasse Eve

At one time, the Christmas decorations stayed up till Candlemas Eve (1 February). Here’s Robert Herrick’s poem about the decorations of the house for the seasons of the year.

Candlemasse Eve

Down with the Rosemary and Bayes,
Down with the Mistleto;
In stead of Holly, now up-raise
The greener Box (for show.)

The Holly hitherto did sway;
Let Box now domineere;
Until the dancing Easter-day,
Or Easters Eve appeare.

Then youthfull Box which now hath grace,
Your houses to renew;
Grown old, surrender must his place,
Unto the crisped Yew.

When Yew is out, then Birch comes in,
And many Flowers beside;
Both of a fresh, and fragrant kinne
To honour Whitsontide.

Green Rushes then, and sweetest Bents,
With cooler Oken boughs;
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing his turne do’s hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

— Robert Herrick