Intrinsically Square

Welcome to Episode Twenty of Burning Daylight, an unusually sweeping Jack London novel in our series Tales for Our Time.

After yesterday’s musings on hornswoggling, James Bennetts, a First Fortnight Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes from the locked-down and throughly hornswoggled Australian state of Victoria:

No doubt ‘hornswoggle’ is a fine and proper part of the American English vernacular; however my perception of the word will always be coloured by first encountering it in an episode of The Goodies.

In which a stock BBC American stereotype loudly declared ‘Well, I’ll be hornswoggled!’ Followed by Graeme Garden deadpanning — as only Graeme Garden could — ‘Your personal life is no concern of mine.’

Indeed, James. We all know these BBC types prefer Muffin the Mule.

In tonight’s episode of Burning Daylight, Daylight has returned from New York somewhat cynical about the way the game is played:

The reason for his savageness was that he despised the men with whom he played. He had a conviction that not one in a hundred of them was intrinsically square; and as for the square ones, he prophesied that, playing in a crooked game, they were sure to lose and in the long run go broke. His New York experience had opened his eyes. He tore the veils of illusion from the business game, and saw its nakedness. He generalized upon industry and society somewhat as follows:—

Society, as organized, was a vast bunco game. There were many hereditary inefficients—men and women who were not weak enough to be confined in feeble-minded homes, but who were not strong enough to be ought else than hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Then there were the fools who took the organized bunco game seriously, honoring and respecting it. They were easy game for the others, who saw clearly and knew the bunco game for what it was.

Work, legitimate work, was the source of all wealth. That was to say, whether it was a sack of potatoes, a grand piano, or a seven-passenger touring car, it came into being only by the performance of work. Where the bunco came in was in the distribution of these things after labor had created them…

By Daylight’s definition, how much “legitimate work” goes on in today’s America where the making of things has largely been shipped to China? Does a cheap service economy count as “the performance of work?

As to Daylight being “intrinsically square”, it is not clear to me that Oakland’s Jack London Square (where former senator Barbara Boxer was viciously mugged this week) is intrinsically a square (see top right).

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