Thursday, March 08, 2007

Cheat the Prophet

There was a Chesterton sighting in our local paper.

No, not the great one himself. (I think he’s scheduled to be in Chicago this Saturday, though!)

The paper carried a George Will column Monday. The column dealt with Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

He talked about the tinge to her campaign that she is "next in line" for the presidency.

He wrote: "But such an aura annoys voters by telling them that they really have no choice. And that can provoke them to play the game G. K. Chesterton called `Cheat the Prophet.'"

Okay. He got me. I’d never heard of this "game," so I went off searching for it.

It turns out the game is mentioned in The Napoleon of Notting Hill in the opening section called "Introductory Remarks of the Art of Prophecy."

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called, "Keep to-morrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet". The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun. ...

Then the people went and did what they liked. Let me no longer conceal the painful truth. The people had cheated the prophets of the twentieth century. When the curtain goes up on this story, eighty years after the present date, London is almost exactly like what it is now.

I wonder who history with name as false prophets from our time.

I can think of a few.

But rather than predicting who will make that list - and risk being a "false prophet" - I'll end by quoting more contemprary prophets who echoed GKC: Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Hope we don't get fooled again.

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