A Modest Proposal is brilliant, biting, hilarious satire, that is as horrifyingly relevant in 2020 as it was in 1729. This reads like one of those brilliant editorials from The Onion, or a Hannity monologue.
I am embarrassed to admit that, until last week, I had never read this essay. I knew it existed, but I never made the effort, and I am so glad that I finally did.
My education wasn’t particularly diverse, broad, or focused on art and literature. I went to a parochial school for elementary education, and they were more interested in indoctrination and spreading religious propaganda than they were at actually educating us. We learned the sort of facts that can’t be denied, like math and stuff, but history, art, music, and literature were all presented from a clear and deliberate point of view that encouraged blind devotion and adherence, working backwards from a conclusion. I was never encouraged to ask questions, learn independently, or encouraged to challenge myself outside of the classroom.
By the time I was in middle school, I was struggling to deal with my abusive father, and I just did what I had to in school to keep my grades up and not fail. My teachers were fantastic, but the curriculum was very narrow, and there was little appreciation for art and literature in it. When I got into high school, I was working full time on Star Trek. I had a magnificent on-set tutor who took me all the way from grade 9 to grade 12, who encouraged me to do all the things my previous educators had not, but by that time it was just too late for me. I have regretted all of this, from the moment I became aware of it in my 30s, and I’ve been working hard to educate myself in the middle of my life, since I was not educated fully at the beginning of my life.
I am so embarrassed and disappointed that my education is a mile wide and half an inch deep. I realized this years ago, and I’ve been doing what I can to educate myself, using college lectures that are online, and by reading as much as I can, to expose myself to the great works of art and literature that my parents didn’t care about, and my educators didn’t teach me about.
There’s a ton of study available to you, if you want to go that way. Here’s the Wikipedia link to get you started:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Modest_Proposal
This is about 26 minutes long, including my introduction. I hope you’ll listen, and I’d love your feedback, if you do.
31 thoughts on “Radio Free Burrito Presents: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift”
These are great. You should do The Marching Morons by Cyril Kornbluth next: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/51233/51233-h/51233-h.htm
Man, that last line. Such a burn. That’s gonna leave a mark.
This Irishman loves children – but I couldn’t eat a whole one!
Thanks Wil, this was really enjoyable and you did indeed do it justice!
Though… the county of “Ca-vaan” is… not pronounced that way 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKf5RDM0nJU gives a good, posh, “received pronunciation” version, but comes nothing close to how a local would pronounce it.
Thanks for that. Being a Southern Californian who has never been to Ireland, I think it would be a real shock if I had nailed the local dialect.
One of today’s lucky 10000. I’m glad you got to read it — how many pieces like this are still relevant almost 300 years later?
Thank you for presenting this; it is totally apt. One wonders if the professionals could craft a visual stream using modern day fundamentalist preachers addressing a megachurch herd. That wold be so fun
Can I make a request for a short story? It’s probably my favorite sci fi short ever: Hinterlands, by William Gibson.
It would be such a privilege to read anything by William Gibson, but none of it is online under a Creative Commons license, or is in the public domain. Or if it is, I can’t find it.
Oh man, I vaguely remember enjoying the hell out of this essay in high school, but it’s been years and I look forward to getting to hear it as an adult. Thanks for doing this one!
Should this be showing up in the Radio Free Burrito podcast feed you used to run? I’m slow to realise that I’ve not seen these recent recordings show up in my podcast program.
Normally, yes. But I’m having a technical issue which prevents that, and until it is resolved, everything will be in the SoundCloud feed.
Well done, sir! More please!
Thank you Wil! You’re providing a great soundtrack for my first walks outside with my one year old baby after 45 days of quarantine! I will listen to this one this afternoon!
Wil I wrote a 50,000 word Supernatural draft story during NaNoWriMo 2008 called “Enigma”. I am a Native American storyteller from the Mohican Tribe. The story needs some editing, but it is a story about a Native American woman who loses her best friend to Suicide and the Supernatural Journey that unfolds afterwards . If you want to take a look at this draft you can. If you like it you can read my story for FREE. I write drafts all the time but I struggle with the editing process. What I like about this story is it features a Native American woman as the protagonist which I don’t know many stories that does. And it explores the afterlife from a Native American perspective. Blessed Be! 🌸🏳️🌈 let me know [email protected]
You have been breaking my heart on the regular for a few years. Never be embarrassed that your educators failed you. Be proud of your ambition and progress rectifying that.
Einstein is reputed to have said that knowledge is like a growing sphere: the more we know, the greater awareness we have of what we do not know.
Your openness, wisdom, and humor are ongoing gifts for which I am grateful.
I remember reading this in school without any context. I was reading and went along and it just got weirder and weirder, and then I realized this wasn’t to be taken seriously. But I guess it was our intro to satire. I can’t quite remember the lesson, but sure remember being partway through and going “WTF?” and trying not to laugh in the class by the end.
Embarrassed and disappointed by a varied education, a wide-ranging set of interests and a hunger for more? You seem to be doing fine.
In your speech to an engineering conference (past post) you lamented not being able to understand “higher math”. I don’t either anymore, and I took the courses. I don’t use it though, it was a means to an end. (Paper with degree leading to job I don’t do anymore. But I met my wife in those courses, so, good.)
I get the disappointment part. I can feel annoyed that I don’t officially practice engineering anymore. I can feel embarrassed that I’m not one of those people casually proficient in STEAM, or that I’m not able to definitively explain simple physics without second guessing, or that any purchase of Arduino components is purely aspirational. I’m also not up on all my covalent bonding rules, but I decided years ago that I wasn’t going to need to actually DO chemistry, so I can’t let it bother me.
You think, you cohere (it is, I looked it up) and you write. And you do it well, among other things. Good for you.
When you find other things you like doing and like to practice in all senses of the word, even if it’s going back and playing catch-up, add them on. Feel good. Repeat, GOTO 10.
Like facial hair or (other) topiary, maintain the bits that are working, add more when desired, prune what doesn’t fit. Or let it go dormant in the background, but that’s when the analogy breaks down.
There’s so much to know out there, that’s a good thing. You don’t ever have to be bored.
Oddly, I listened to this for the first time last week too! Only the narrator wasn’t very good, so I appreciate this! My brother recently pointed me towards John Scalzi, so I’ve been working my way through his stiff while in lockdown and unable to get quiet to read in print. Your narration is excellent, so thank you for that too (because nothing ruins an audiobook like a bad narrator, lol).
An adult who realizes they don’t know everything and is curious enough to continue their education sounds as though they’re a lot deeper than a half inch to me.
Thank you for another wonderful performance, Wil! I read this many years ago in school. I had forgotten how horrifying it is, lol!
I had heard the phrase “A modest proposal” before, but had no idea of this essay. I was unprepared for the subject. Like other readers, I went from “Hmm?” to “What the …” to “Oh, I get it. Satire.” Your narration, as always, is what brought this to life. Thank you once again for doing this.
Wil, everyone learns throughout their life. Rejoice in finding and exploring new things; there’s no need to apologize for doing it.
PS: In my headcanon, RIker spells his first name “Wil”
Hey Wil- I would love to know, is this you at the 1990 Kids’ Choice Awards in the yellow/black? Thanks!
OMG HOLY CRAP IT IS!
In other “books-being-read-by-performers-who-make-you-squee” news, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is coming out, a chapter at a time, with “Daniel Radcliffe, Stephen Fry, David Beckham, Dakota Fanning, Claudia Kim, Noma Dumezweni, and Eddie Redmayne […] amongst the cast of narrators, with more surprises and special appearances from across the Wizarding World and beyond to come.”
Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived, as read by Daniel Radcliffe. https://www.wizardingworld.com/chapters/reading-the-boy-who-lived
Wow that’s so cool!! Thanks for sharing!
That was quite the read. I had the same type of schooling as you did growing up. The straight up irony is astounding. The only thing is, if it was read on Fox Nooz, those fuckers would probably think it was a great idea.
You haven’t posted the latest radio free burrito entries here on WordPress, but I thought that the HG Wells story on the door on the wall was truly great.
The man was always tempted to get back to the peaceful world beyond the door when he was close to accomplish something in his real life, like he didn’t want to let go of his innocence/childhood but at the same time he couldn’t really go back to it. I guess that whrn he realized he lost it for good, he couldn’t live with himself anymore… What are your thoughts on it?
Wil, Rev. Bisagno here. I loved it! Very funny story and well presented by you. You have helped in this time to make it entertaining which is what you set out to do and have achieved it my friend. You have always been one of my favorite characters and I always enjoyed your work. Please keep up the work and think of this, You have had the pleasure of entertaining millions of people even though I know that has been at great sacrifice at times you will always be a dear fellow human being to me. I know that Jesus is greatly pleased with you and I as well. Thank you very much for your great work. THANK YOU.
Wil, Thanks this post really resonated with me. I’m 50 in July and have decided to really try and educate myself. I thought I was fairly alone in this as well. I went to Catholic school, middle school was catchup, really bad home life even though I was in college Humanities I quit at 15, got my GED and joined the Navy. I never fully caught up either. I’m doing khanacademy as well a lot of reading. Thanks again. Currently reading Life of Frederick Douglas and American Slave, and just finished Candide and Great Gatsby. Do you have a book list?
Just listened to this back to back with Ur Fascism, and it’s truly disturbing how relevant they both are in these strange times.
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