A society sunk in ignorance, and ruled by mere physical force, has great reason to rejoice when a class, of which the influence is intellectual and moral, rises to ascendancy. Such a class will doubtless abuse its power: but mental power, even when abused, is still a nobler and better power than that which consists merely in corporeal strength.

For even the mutual animosity of countries at war with each other is languid when compared with the animosity of nations which, morally separated, are yet locally intermingled. In no country has the enmity of race been carried farther than in England.

Thomas Babington Macaulay,
“The History of England, from the Accession of James II — Volume 1”

As I bent over my car rubber floor mat this afternoon at the gas station to rinse it with the proprietor’s windshield wiper and washer fluid, I heard a familiar voice.  It was my erstwhile physician. He was mocking me for using the windshield wiper on my bloody boot mat! Granted, a legitimate observation. Yet until I deciphered whence emitted this unanticipated assault I was frankly feeling instantly injudicious. Already I have resolved never to repeat the tactless undertaking; instead I shall confine my cleansing ceremony to the garage at home with the water hose.

My erstwhile physician and I have a number of interests in common. I should however qualify that global remark by clarifying that the subjects we share may be comparable but the ramifications are not necessarily so. For example, we both read – but markedly different subjects.  This may sound to be a decidedly unremarkable comment but it effectively distinguishes us both from and for ourselves. My understanding is that my erstwhile physician – who importantly continues to be a very busy practitioner in spite of his imminent retirement – prefers to commence his literary engineering with The Times.

The Times is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paperThe Sunday Times (founded in 1821) are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, in turn wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times, which do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1966.

The Times is the first newspaper to have borne that name, lending it to numerous other papers around the world, such as The Times of India and The New York Times. In countries where these other titles are popular, the newspaper is often referred to as The London Times, or as The Times of London, although the newspaper is of national scope and distribution.

While he occasionally shares with me the blog of one of its contributing columnists, The Times and almost any other popular media are not part of my daily or weekly digestion.  Since the disappearance of Trump from the stage, I have seemingly exhausted my acquaintance with the drama of politicians battling for re-election. Otherwise I suppose it amounts to confessed ignorance on my part. I view it as a synthesis of one of life’s many differences that my erstwhile physician and I unite over the blog contributor as well as our overriding alarm at almost anything Trump or the Republicans say. Shamefully it is a further reflection of our unity that for the most part the affairs of Canada and its political cronies are predominantly meritless. Just as my erstwhile physician strengthens his international enlightenment with The Times I seek to illuminate my own perceptions through the back door of history, an objective prompted in part by the availability on-line of free copies of Macaulay’s History of England and Gibbon’s the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

My erstwhile physician and I continued our gas station conversation to embrace the equally delicate matter of investment.  He owes me twenty bucks. American dollars if I recall correctly because the gamble arose when I was vacationing on Longboat Key and he overlooking his properties in Sarasota.  I believe we had a bet regarding the outcome of the latest American presidential election.  So deflated have we all been by the mesmerizing behaviour of President Biden that we overlooked fulfilment of the wager.  In keeping with our mutual interest in the topic I suggested that, as he was on his way to his accountant to sign some papers, he might enquire the most profitable means of investment of my winnings. Accordingly I declined for the moment to accept his offer of a Canadian $50 bill.

From this prospect it was but an inductive leap to the subject of investment management generally. Here again, we both invest; but – once again – based upon different models.  My admitted lack of intelligence in the obfuscations of the stock market dissuades me from approaching the matter on any level other than familiarizing myself with expected payment dates of dividends. This I consider a tolerable acquaintance with the subject of money. Otherwise investment, like a medical issue, is the domain of the qualified advisor.

Naturally we only graced this inquiry briefly before alighting upon the broader scope of agency generally. We share – at least putatively – the recognition that aging carries with it the potential for contamination by two events, incompetence or death. In spite of my characteristic individuality and obsessiveness (read: control), I am a strong believer in perpetual care.  By this I mean entrusting the management of one’s critical affairs (legal, accounting and financial advice) to institutions which will not only maintain files but also ensure continuity and proper attention whatever the unanticipated consequence.

We refrained from further communication at this juncture.  I could easily have entertained enlargement of the topic to include estate planning and generally getting ready to die.  Though I view the affair merely as planning and not as finality (that is, for me it’s just a question of getting things out of the way so I can continue unobstructed), my erstwhile physician and I withdrew from conversation. We could have gone on but there were other things to do. For the time being we escaped the attraction of exchanging the latest discoveries on the grocery store shelves, or what’s for dinner, or when are we getting together by the pool on his country estate, or even the more urgent topic of jewellery (a personal favourite of mine I concede). There was barely sufficient time to comment disparagingly upon Macaulay’s “Rule, Britannia!” theme, a deliberately unadulterated persuasion responsible for decades of public school propaganda.

Rule, Britannia!” is a British patriotic song, originating from the 1740 poem “Rule, Britannia” by James Thomson and set to music by Thomas Arne in the same year. It is strongly associated with the Royal Navy, but is also used by the British Army.