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The Old Conductress: Voltaire’s Candide, Chapter 6, pages 24-25
“How the Portuguese Made a Superb Auto-Da-Fe to Prevent Any Future Earthquakes, and How Candide Underwent Public Flagellation”
In the wake of the disaster, the leading men of Lisbon sentence a man who married his mother and two Jews guilty of not eating bacon served to them to be slowly burned alive. This reader takes this example as representative of the author’s seeming contention—under-stated throughout the work—that modern Christian society has enabled the most wicked aspects of paganism to thrive in its purely materialistic pursuit of prosperity in God’s name.
Pangloss is hanged for heresy, as he had debated the subject of free will with an inquisitor over wine and suffered the consequences of the apostate.
Candide, seeming even to the feral catholic moral retards of the fable to be too innocent for final punishment, was instead sentenced to a public beating. The optimist has his hopes crushed by the fate of his companions and of his lost love, less conscious of his own release from guilt than of his benefactor’s and teacher’s demise.
However, in his hour of despair, Candide is approached by an Old Conductress, who this reader takes as an avatar of enslaved humanity in the form of a cronish fate, whose task it will be to initiate Candide into the brutal realities of the world in a manner which might fail to crush-out his good nature. In this reader’s opinion, Voltaire’s very candid parable to his aristocratic brethren that they all were luckily and insecurely perched atop an edifice of monumental evil in violation to Nature and God, is regularly redeemed within the text and in the subtext by the fact that even the harshest players in the real politick inhumanity of modernity that he sketches, seem to treasure Candide’s basic innocence.
Candide seems to have been Adam transported far beyond The Fall [an event alluded to in the previous chapter] into a time in which Eve had been shattered and spread across creation as a many-suffering testament to his edification.
Of course, Voltaire reminds us that the basis for his civilization is the whip, the rod and the rope: from the mouth of his protagonist:
“If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others? If I had only been whipped, I could have put up with it…thou greatest of philosophers! That ever I should live to see you hanged, without knowing for what! [1] O my dear Anabaptist, thou best of men, that it should be thy fate to be drowned in the very harbor!” [2]
-1. It remains the instinct of the mindless collective to persecute the thinker for no specified crime or even thought, but rather the very activity of free thought. This ethos is central to political correctness and foundational to our current system of will control.
-2. In Voltaire’s time there was regular mass loss of life at sea, with up to half of all slaves shipped perishing in the deep, and the harbor serving as the ultimate safe space. This is emotionally comparable to the postmodern, posthuman automaton’s sense of security from fate—being in Voltaire’s parable an application of reality upon ideology—among the halls of academia.
Poet: The Enlightened Fate of Akbar Qama
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