Near the end of its Bill of Rights, the Constitution of my home state of Illinois asserts that "A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of civil government is necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty" (1970 revision, §23).
That's true, of course, but I think we need to go even further: We need frequent repetition of some really basic principles period.
I say this from living in the USA for nearly seventy years now, and teaching forty, but mainly because of two experiences, one near the beginning and one near the middle of my career at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Not long after I got to Miami University, I was elected as a faculty representative to our Student Affairs Council and got to meet some of the student leaders. These were pretty sophisticated people in many ways, e.g., knowing far more than I did about fashions and having more experience traveling (Miami U is a public school, but it attracted and still attracts people with money).
When it came to politics, though, even the campus politicians were pretty naïve. So, if N. Machiavelli from Florence could write an advice book for The Prince, R. Erlich from Chicago could and did write The Book of Clout: a primer and guide for the politically perplexed.
Later in my career, I taught introductory College Composition using sayings and proverbs for topics.
I taught this "Freshman English" course in what we called a reverse section. I.e., I taught the first-semester course in the second semester of the year, picking up students who'd put it off or had just transferred — or whatever.
One semester I got students from the women's field hockey team, the men's ice hockey team, and the football team, plus one paraplegic and two students from Africa. The relevant point here is that the two African students, for whom English was a second or third language, knew and understood more English proverbs than known by the North American native speakers.
The guys from Africa assumed that when you learn a new language and different culture, you should learn the sayings and proverbs.
Anyway, the US and Canadian students did know some old-coaches' clichés and a number of ad slogans, but they were as innocent of traditional English maxims as the student politicos were of practical politics.
And these were pretty good students for the most part, at a decent university.
So over a series of posts I will "recur" to some basics I've done before and/or you should have read about elsewhere. I will try to put this old wine into some interesting new bottles — and the occasional vulgar wine-box — and I'll try to keep them short.
(I'm learning how to use the computer standing and in other ways that won't irritate some neck nerves: a strong inspiration to elegant brevity).
Coming soon, "Know thyself!" "Nosce te ipsum": in the sense, Know that you're not a god, not immortal; among other things, know that you will die.