FLAMBEAU, once the most famous criminal in France and later a very private detective in England, had long retired from both professions. After all his violent adventures, he still possessed what is possessed by so many Latins, and what is absent (for instance) in so many Americans: the energy to retire. It can be seen in many a large hotel-proprietor whose one ambition is to be a small peasant. It can be seen in many a French provincial shopkeeper, who pauses at the moment when he might develop into a detestable millionaire and buy a street of shops, to fall back quietly and comfortably on domesticity and dominoes. Flambeau had casually and almost abruptly fallen in love with a Spanish Lady, married and brought up a large family on a Spanish estate, without displaying any apparent desire to stray again beyond its borders. [GK Chesterton, The Secret of Father Brown.]
I read this passage (kind of in passing) a week or so ago, and it snuggled its way into me without incident, only to keep popping up as the days have gone by. I really like this, and can visualise it happily: the provincial Mediterranean lack of I-must-take-over-the-world-NOW zeal; the appreciation of family above stuff; all that. I equate it with Catholicism somehow – the way the Huguenots were chased out of France for being too Capitalistic (ie. working on all the saints’ days and getting rich) – along with being more sun-drenched than us northerners.
I read this last week too:
Chesterton argued that we don’t need a socialist state so much as we need more independently owned farms and businesses. The problem with capitalism was that is wasn’t really capitalism; it was corporate socialism. Fewer families were owning more and more of the means of production and using government to protect their interests. The solution to this inequality was not communism – which would only surther disenfranchise the workers in the name of that vacuous abstraction ‘the people’. Nor was it ‘less government’, for that would help only those already rich. Rather, the answer was decentralisation and greater distribution of the means of production. ‘There cannot be a nation of millionaires,’ Chesterton contended, ‘and there never has been a nation of Utopian comrades; but there have been any number of nations of tolerably contented peasants.’ [Robert Inchausti, Subversive Orthodoxy.]