by Robert Grözinger
Apart from us both being staunch libertarians, Sean and I share a few things more in common. For example, we both were enthusiastic amateur astronomers in our youth. And we both love Richard Wagner. Especially the latter’s music came in handy once when Sean helped me collect some personal effects from my deceased father’s house in Braunschweig, Germany. It was early January 2012. I had to hire a van, driving from my home in the south-west of England. Sean and his lovely wife Andrea kindly allowed me to stay the night in their home in Deal, near Dover. Not only that: Sean had even agreed to accompany me to my old home country and share some of the driving. (When I first put my plan to him some weeks before and asked him to help me, he immediately said he would be “delighted”.) Having gone all the way to Braunschweig, we used the free day we had before returning to pass through the now defunct (indeed, virtually invisible) Iron Curtain nearby and visit the east German medieval town of Halberstadt. Here we soaked in the old history on display in a local museum. I think something he saw there inspired Sean to include it in one of his rip-roaring Alaric-novels. A wax tablet with a richly adorned silver frame it was, if I remember correctly, part of the spoils brought back from Constantinople by a Bishop of Halberstadt during the Crusades. Anyway, on the way out from, and back to, England, we listened to almost the whole of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle (Sean provided the CDs), all the while debating how best to fix the world. Conclusion: If you have to cross half a continent in a van both ways, there is no better way of doing this than by being accompanied by one of the most learned and formidable thinkers of our time, with whom you can conduct a formidable intellectual tour d’horizon, while both of you enjoy music from the most formidable opus by the most formidable composer who ever lived. Thank you, Sean. That trip was a great experience and honour.
Sean’s speeches are always at least informative if not educational. On top of that they are invariably entertaining. I have never seen him read a presentation out aloud. At the lectern, he always ad-libs, but he also always “speaks like a book”. On top of that, his level and scope of general knowledge is phenomenal. His mastery of several languages, modern and ancient, is a wonder to behold. One of my favourite stories of Sean’s, which he related to the world in one of his articles, is about how he once totally boxed in an unhelpful Italian airline official. Sean was arguing on behalf of a large number of passengers waiting, at some Italian airport, to board a flight to England that had been delayed or cancelled. He and the official conversed in English. At some point the Italian ran out of arguments and, exasperated, called the police. When the Carabinieri arrived, Sean turned to them and explained, now suddenly in Italian, what the issue was and that the airline official was wasting their time. They duly departed. Sean and the other passengers got their way in the end. Conclusion: When you get stuck in a foreign airport and the officials are unhelpful, make sure you have Sean with you.
Another wonderful story relating to Sean’s knowledge of language was told to me by a fellow member of the Property and Freedom Society, some years after the event. On his first visit to the PFS, this member’s wife was very sceptical. From her point of view, her husband had suddenly gone mad, because he wanted to quit his lucrative job at an international bank. She had never heard of Austrian Economics or libertarianism before. Until shortly before, her husband hadn’t either. But, being a derivatives trader, he was close to the fiscal and monetary furnace and had inklings of what was about to happen (this was in 2006). He was beginning to have doubts about what he and his colleagues were doing and whether this would last. He started googling for answers to his questions. Just before the first PFS gathering, he discovered Austrian Economics and thus Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who immediately invited him to the first gathering of his “salon” in the hotel Karia Princess in Bodrum, Turkey. There, the wife made enquiries. She asked other attendees (including me) how they had been invited, what their connection to Hans was etc. She was sounding out what kind of people were present at this strange conference. Her plan was that she was going to decide, based on what she found, whether to force her husband to continue with his job as a derivatives trader or to allow him to quit. The clincher came when this couple joined the PFS group that went to visit the ruins of Ephesus, to the north of Bodrum along the coast. Sean was also part of that group, and off the cuff translated some of the ancient Greek stone inscriptions for the other attendees present. The banker’s wife was deeply impressed. She told herself, and her husband, that if someone like Sean attends this conference then there must be something to all this Austrian Economics. The husband wound up this story to me by saying that Sean’s performance in Ephesus was the reason that on the return flight he was wearing “a tweed jacket, not a straitjacket”. Once again, Sean had saved the day. He is a modern-day version of his literary creation, Alaric. Maybe not in the flesh, but certainly in spirit. Conclusion: Always travel with Sean.
Of course, Sean is so much more than the occasional knight in shining armour. Apart from speaking several languages fluently, knowing everything worth knowing, being able to speak eloquently and write reams of all sorts of books and articles, Sean is also a poet and a painter (see his novel “The Break”, the version with the London Underground tunnel on the cover). And I’ve probably overlooked many things because he is, quite simply, a polymath, and it is an honour and privilege to be counted among his friends. He once wrote that if he could choose and take modern health care with him, he would have liked to have lived in mid-18th century England. Luckily for the rest of us, he’s in the here and now, enlightening us in the midst of a new endarkenment. He’s been around for 60 years now. Happy Birthday Sean. May God bless you and your family. May you enjoy your – hopefully very many – coming years in health as rude as you often are, and deservedly so, to the powerful and other enemies of freedom. And may those who know and cherish you continue to be your fellow travellers for a very long time.