Here’s a quote you may have heard before:
“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”
It’s from H.L. Mencken. I see it used often. What I don’t often hear though is that it’s from an essay titled “The New Poetry Movement,” and is part of a reference to Ezra Pound. I’ve read it a few times, and I’m still not sure whether he wants to slit Pound’s throat or help him slit the throats of the new movement.
Mencken was a colorful guy. The quote immediately evokes an image of pirates storming a merchant ship, swords unsheathed and knives in between teeth.
While Mencken was referring to poetry the quote has taken on a life of its own. Most use it in the context of getting serious. Of rolling up one’s sleeves, to borrow another metaphor. Kicking ass and taking names, to borrow another.
I have mixed feelings about the imagery, to be honest. On the one hand, I read it in the context of motivation and it works for me in a “let’s blast Van Halen’s ‘Fair Warning’ and hit the gym kinda way. On the other, killing people shouldn’t be motivating.
Either way, it’s a New Year and this one is going to be full of big changes.
Time to slit some throats.