Playing the Indian Card

Friday, January 18, 2019

Our New Religion and Its Failure

Over the last couple of years or so, I have been working on two books on the topic of depression and anxiety. Working titles: The Truth about Dragons and The Book of Consolation.

In the course of research and writing, I have sadly apparently lost two of my oldest and most valued friends.

The first will not respond to my emails since I disagreed with him over Freud. I do not clearly recall what the exact point of disagreement was; I disagree with Freud on almost everything. I believe it was on Freudianism calling itself “depth psychology.” Since it saw everything psychic/spiritual as a direct reflection of physical things, I think I argued that it actually greatly lacked depth in comparison to a religious approach.

My second friend to shun me actually accused me of moral mendacity for dissenting from Abraham Maslow’s existential psychiatry. Since then he will not respond to emails. My point was that, in saying concurrently that the key to mental health was finding a meaning in your life, and that there is no meaning in human existence, Maslow had no place to lead a patient but permanent despair. A meaning you just make up is meaningless. This is why existentialism has mostly evaporated as a philosophy.

That they would end a friendship of many years over such matters made me wonder. What is going on here?

And here is what I think is going on. Modern psychiatry or psychology is a religion. To them, I had become a heretic. People now rely on their psychologies as their world views, and so feel deeply disturbed if they are challenged. The entire universe is at stake.

Psychology/psychiatry generally pretends to be scientific, but that was never true. Broadly speaking, there has never been any decent scientific evidence for any of the psychiatries or psychologies we have seen come and go over the last century or so. They are visibly held to for reasons other than evidence or experiment. Nor do they work as philosophies: their approach is automatically ad hominem. Anyone who dissents from them is, in effect, declared insane. So they are adhered to neither for logic nor evidence, and cannot be challenged on either ground.

So the proper question is, how well do they work as religions; as comprehensive world views?

And the immediate evidence is, not well. Since we have generally shifted, as a society, away from traditional religious views and towards the psychiatries as substitutes, the incidence of mental illness has, by most accounts, skyrocketed. Suicide is also up. An international survey undertaken by the WHO suggests that rates of recovery for all kinds of “mental illness” are significantly better in the “underdeveloped” world—where folks are more apt to rely on religion rather than a pricey therapist. Other studies show therapists produce a worse or a no better cure rate than a layperson.

Some deficiencies of psychiatry or psychology are obvious. To begin with, they deny the reality of the psyche. Where do you go from there? They deny moral considerations, and morality is, according to long philosophical and religious tradition, if it is not self-evident, a key concern of human existence. They broadly avoid any consideration of a God, which is to say, of any inherent meaning in the universe.

It is a meagre, despairing worldview.

But it is our real religion nowadays, and not our nominal religions anymore.

In writing the first book, I contacted the Toronto Catholic archdiocese to see if I could get a nihil obstat—an official statement by the bishop that there was nothing in the book that ran counter to Catholic doctrine. They wrote back offering to have it looked over by a priest who was also a psychiatrist, to ensure that it was sound in psychiatric terms. When I specified that it was Catholic doctrine with which I was concerned, they said they could not help me. Nobody there was interested.

The New Testament understanding of mental illness is plainly that it is generally a matter of demonic possession. Casting out demons was the precise mission on which Jesus first sent out the apostles, and much historic evidence suggests that it is its legendary ability to cure mental illness that was the primary cause of Christianity’s spread through Europe, later through the Americas, and even today through Africa.

Yet the current protocol for exorcism in the Catholic Church is clear and firm that no exorcism may be contemplated until and unless all “natural,” that is, psychiatric, explanations have been ruled out, by the patient displaying some impossible supernatural knowledge. By, for example, suddenly being fluent in a foreign language, or showing knowledge of some secret matter. Or at least showing a violent aversion to religious objects.

This makes no sense in theological terms. Catholic doctrine holds that demons are real beings. Yet why would a real demon be so stupid as to do something to prove he is there? In order to get exorcised?

In other words, in case of doubt, faith is assigned to psychiatry and psychology, not to Catholicism. Even by the Catholic Church.

This is perhaps one reason for the rapid growth of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements within Christianity. They are the branch that still takes it all most seriously. And that performs exorcisms and healings.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Cohen on the Future

What did he see?

I think Leonard Cohen got it right when he said that the modern world is in the middle of a spiritual catastrophe.

I think he was right to say that the essence of that catastrophe is a lack or a failure of love.

And I think he believed, and I think he was right, that the most troubling and evident example of that absence of love is abortion.

“Destroy another foetus now

We don’t like children anyhow.”

In this regard, things are rapidly getting worse. We are everywhere dissolving into warring factions, with few or no bonds of common morality or common civility left.

Perhaps Cohen was ready to die when he did die, as he said he was, because he did not want to see what was coming. Many, including his son, thought it was significant that he died on the very eve of Trump’s election as US President. (This does not mean that the problem is Trump; it could as well mean Trump is a symptom and result of the problem. Indeed, it must, since Cohen clearly believed the problem long preceded Trump. And it might be the inevitable reaction to his election, as much as or more than the election itself, that was his concern.)

“I’ve seen the future, brother.

It is murder.”

Glenn Beck recently publicly said he instinctively or intuitively expects some great general war within the next few years.

Some say Beck is inclined to be alarmist. Kind of like spiritual click-bait. That may be so.

I have been inclined to be more optimistic, to feel that the forces of hate had by now become so blatant and blatantly wrong that there would be a natural and general pulling back to morality. That their very virulence suggested they were becoming desperate.

But then, I’ve thought that since the early Seventies. So far, I have been wrong.

Perhaps Beck and Cohen are right. Desperate hate may well take down everyone and everything possible before allowing its own defeat. It will go, but it may well not go quietly.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

White Supremacist Spotted in the Wild

Rep. Steve King

After much desperate searching and sounding of alarms, an actual white supremacist seems to have been located in the US.

Or, actually, no, not quite. It’s Rep. Steve King of Iowa, and what he actually said was that he did not see why the terms “white nationalist,” “white supremacist,” and “Western civilization” have become a problem. It does not follow that he would use them to describe himself. And he has since specifically denounced these attitudes on the floor of the House, and said they do not describe his own views.

But it seems to be the best we have.

So he has been publicly denounced now by Jeb Bush, Ben Shapiro, the National Review, Paul Ryan, the House Republican Whip, the Republican National Committee Chairman, Tim Scott, and on and on—all Republican or right-wing voices.

This reaction does seem over the top; on the other hand, I can understand it. Republicans and the right do not want to be associated with such views, even tangentially. Even if nobody actually holds them.

Neither do I.

Let’s look at them.

“White nationalist.”

Nationalism is always immoral. One has a right to feel attachment to the polity in which you were nurtured and raised, and you have some obligation to it for this. If it works well, you have a duty to protect it, for the sake of mankind. But beyond this, nationalism violates the basic moral principle of human equality.

Unfortunately, we have a tendency to glorify nationalism in certain contexts: we like and celebrate Cree nationalism, or Inuit nationalism, or perhaps Quebec nationalism, or Scottish nationalism, or Chinese nationalism, or black nationalism; or the many nationalisms implicitly celebrated by multiculturalism. It too often seems that our problem is with “whites,” rather than with nationalism. This is a vital concern; but it obviously is not helped by promoting white nationalism along with the others.

Secondly, there is no “white nation.” There is no “white” ethnicity. To be a nation in the ethnic sense implies a shared language, history, perhaps religion. In North America, where King lives, there is no distinction among Americans on any of these grounds that also corresponds to their skin colour. In Europe, those who share the skin colour, conversely, can have quite different languages and histories. Mostly Irish by ancestry, why would I want to identify as “white,” and consider myself ethnically the same as an Englishman? My ancestors fought against that for centuries.

“White supremacy”

This is a term that has no accepted definition. On these grounds alone, it should not be used.

If it means special rights for some based on their skin colour, it is of course immoral. It violates the principle of human equality. Unfortunately, we violate human equality all the time now by giving a variety of groups special rights based on their skin colour: affirmative action in all its forms. So again, it looks as though our objection is not to discrimination, but to “whites.” But advocating special rights for “whites” does not fix the problem. It makes it worse.

Some of those opposing Steve King have not helped the case at all, by making the argument that he is wrong on the grounds that non-whites have actually contributed a great deal to civilization. The problem is that, no, objectively, the contribution by people with “white” skin really has been disproportionate. Those arguing against the claim on these grounds have to resort to verbal tricks like defining Italians, Greeks, Slavs, or Middle Easterners as “non-white,” in order to then show that non-whites have been holding up their side. Define “white” as cognate to the scientific racial category “Caucasian,” and their arguments collapse. Some impressive stuff from China and Japan, but on the whole, Caucasians have indeed produced more than their numbers warrant.

But that is to get lost in the weeds. The doctrine of human equality does not imply that all humans are equal in all their abilities. To suggest so is transparently wrong. And just as humans can vary in individual abilities, they can certainly vary by group. For example, Caucasian Europeans really do have higher average IQs than sub-Saharan Africans.

This is not relevant. Human equality is founded on the fundamental premise that we are all children of God, created by him, and he must therefore love us equally. We are all equal in our intrinsic moral worth, but (of course) not in our abilities. We must all therefore treat one another respectfully and strictly as our individual merits warrant.

“Western civilization”

Seems innocuous, but again, I think it is a harmful concept. The proper distinction is between civilization and barbarism. And the path to civilization is simple: civilization is, broadly, technology for living. To become civilized, you select the best option available for whatever you need to accomplish, from whatever the source. Not to do so is to willfully remain less civilized. To speak of “Western civilization” is implicitly to violate this principle, and so to advocate barbarism.

Because of natural geographical barriers, civilization has over past centuries developed largely independently, and so differently, in different parts of the world. It has been somewhat different in Europe, China, India, or the Middle East. But now that we are all in communication, it makes no sense to preserve the distinction. Why would you refuse a better product because it is made in China?

I also believe that, as far as technologies for living go, the Judeo-Christian-Hellenic foundation on which European civilization has been built is more solid and seems to have been more productive over the long term than Confucianism and Buddhism, in the Far East, Hinduism in India, or Islam in the Middle East. I think that recommends it as a technology to be embraced everywhere.

Many in China and Africa are currently coming to that same conclusion. Just as many in Northern Europe or the Americas have in the past.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Democratic 2020 Field: Early Assessments

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

The wide Democratic field for the 2020 presidential run is actually a sign of weakness. Since there is little front bench, everyone has a shot. So everyone is taking it.

Joe Biden.

I hear Republicans fear him as someone who could win the working class Trump supporters. But what about the “#MeToo” thing? There are lots of stories. Maybe Trump gets a bye from his supporters, but would Biden?

Even if he does, I think it is bad strategy for a party in opposition to run a candidate too similar to the incumbent. Those who do not like Trump are going to want someone very different. Those who like him will like him better than a facsimile. It makes no sense to me to run a clown against a clown. I doubt such triangulation of candidate personality works.

Bernie Sanders.

He is not doing as well as many expected in the polls. Many thought a couple of years ago he would have the 2020 nomination in a walk, if he wanted it.

I am not surprised, His appeal last time was because he was a dark horse, and so he seemed fresh and new. The Democrats always crave fresh and new. But he has not worn well. People are tired of his mannerisms. It is hard for someone in his late seventies to look for long like a fresh face. He already looks like yesterday.

Elizabeth Warren

Has established herself as utterly insincere, very much in the mold of Hillary Clinton, and keeps reinforcing the impression. Since everyone is tired to tears of Hillary Clinton, she would be a bad choice, and one the Dems are not likely to want anyway.

She would be immensely vulnerable to Trump’s mockery. I’m sure he would love to face her. I doubt the Democrats want to watch that bloodbath.

Beto O’Rourke

The fact that he is suddenly considered a top-tier contender shows how weak the Dem bench is. Being a congressman is not traditionally sufficient qualification. Having just lost a state-wide contest ought to make him look less plausible, not more. If the Dems run him, they are virtually telegraphing “We’re a bunch of losers.”

Many like him because he’s photogenic, and he’s from the South. So’s Lassie.

And so was John Edwards.

Kamala Harris.

I give her the inside track currently for the nomination. She’s young, she’s new, she’s fresh, she’s photogenic, she ticks the special interest group boxes that Democrats love to tick. She contrasts well with old, white, male, macho Trump.

But she’s relatively inexperienced, and yet be defined in the public mind. That makes her vulnerable to some blunder during the campaign which may derail her, like a Howard Dean, a Gary Hart, or a Michael Dukakis.

Cory Booker.

Rumour says he’s an empty suit. He looks and sounds like one.

Hillary Clinton.

She’s been making noises. It would not look pretty on her legacy. How much respect does anyone have for Harold Stassen? She would be crushed in the early primaries. Everyone is tired of the Clintons.

Michael Bloomberg.

He might make a decent showing in the primaries; enough to be a kingmaker. He obviously has the money to make a good run. But he’d be running up the Democrats’ right side, and that does not seem to work for anyone in the primaries since Bill Clinton. The Democrats, to their downfall, are not in a moderate mood. Didn’t work for Jim Webb, didn’t work for Joe Liebermann, even though Liebermann looked like an ideal candidate.

If he won the nomination, in the general, he would not be a clear contrast with Trump. Two New York millionaires, neither of them strongly ideological. He would be a poor choice for the Democrats.

Michelle Obama

Not necessarily a rap against her personally, but this would be over the top dynastic politics after running Hillary Clinton. I think she could make a good run, in the primaries and against Trump, but I hope she does not do it. Now, everyone loves her. They soon wouldn’t if she got her hands dirty in electoral politics.

There are a hundred others, but I have other things to do. Any one of them, given the Democratic party’s love of fresh faces on dark horses, could suddenly pole vault into contention, just as Bernie Sanders did.

But I have my eye on one dark horse in particular:

Tulsi Gabbard.

Rep from Hawaii. Not traditionally qualified, as a congresswoman, but attractive nonetheless. Young, photogenic, ethnic. She just got herself some exposure by writing an op-ed piece accusing her fellow Democrats of religious bigotry for suggesting membership in the Knights of Columbus should disqualify any lawyer from sitting on the bench.

Yes, it has gotten her screams from many Democrats, the K of C having been suddenly declared, like just about everyone else, a far-right hate group. In the words of one leftist condemning Gabbard for her stand, it is “an extreme right-wing anti-choice anti-LGBT all-male organization.” But Gabbard is perhaps protected from the worst of the left by being female and ethnic—she is Hindu—and having aggressively backed Bernie Sanders against Hillary Clinton last time.

And surely there is still a constituency for sanity even in the Democratic Party. It is traditionally the party that the Irish, the Italians, the Hispanics, voted for. It was, more or less, historically the Catholic party, the party that nominated Kennedy and Al Smith. Do they really want to commit suicide by alienating what was historically their largest constituency outside the South?

I think Gabbard may be making a smart move early. She’s triangulating the way Bill Clinton used to; the way he did with his “Sister Souljah Moment.” The Democrats may well be too stupid now to follow her on this, but if not, Gabbard might have a shot with stands like this at uniting the urban elite with the lunchpail crowd and re-establishing the old Democratic coalition.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

News of the Future

In case you missed it, Samsung just followed Apple in declaring a big and unexpected revenue shortfall. And the cause seems to be the same: Chinese consumers have stopped buying smartphones. They have apparently also stopped buying cars.

It might be just that the market has reached saturation point. But that seems an unlikely explanation, for a drop so sudden and so big. Put this together with the swift and severe crackdown on dissent reported by YouTube vloggers, and China’s current sabre rattling abroad, and I conclude that China is facing serious trouble economically. I suspect that, lacking transparency, there is a lot of smoke and many mirrors in China’s economy. And things could collapse quickly.

In other news, several respectable forecasters have reported recently that 25% of colleges and universities in the US will be gone within the next ten years. Some say 50%. Moody’s says 25% of private colleges are now running in the red. Traditional tertiary education is about to go the same way as the press. First, there are now better and cheaper alternatives online. Second, they have lost their comprehension of their original mission, and have become self-perpetuating parasitical cliques.

You’d think that, faced with tightening budgets, the colleges would do the obvious, and start cutting out administrative jobs, which do not relate to their core mission or the quality of what they are doing. But this is the reverse of what they have been doing: in recent years, more and more of their budgets have been going on administration, and where they have cut is on actual teaching, by using more adjuncts and hiring fewer permanent faculty.

Monday, January 07, 2019

My Leftist Political Views

There has been a lot of crazy talk of late about everybody and his Aunt Matilda being suddenly “far right.” And of the far right and alt-right as being a dangerous and growing movement. So they say of Gavin MacInnes, and he has been banned from Patreon for his supposedly intolerable thoughts. So they say of Sargon of Akkad, and he too is now banned by Patreon. Yet to me, their views have seemed pretty centrist. MacInnes is just a comedian who tends to say things that are refreshingly politically incorrect, who is himself married to a native Indian woman; and Sargon is a  moderate liberal. Similarly, Jordan Peterson, or Lindsay Shepherd, both of whom always thought of themselves as on the left, have found themselves declared to be thought leaders for the far right.

Ok, so I did this test online, of my own views. It’s at Political Compass.

Turns out I am myself almost as close to the exact centre of the spectrum as I could be. Tending slightly to the libertarian and the left. Not on the right, let alone far right or alt-right. On the left.

But then, I watched Sargon of Akkad do the same test in a YouTube video, and he came out not that differently: somewhat more libertarian than me, and a bit over on the right, but still close to the centre.

So what gives? Is their compass broken?

Apparently not. The same site evaluates political parties, and it actually puts me to the left of the Canadian Conservatives or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton.

I think the contemporary left must be so out of touch that they are branding views in the political centre and even on the moderate left now as “far right,” and, worse, trying to silence them.

And one of the reasons they are trying to silence dissent is precisely how reasonable this dissent is. They do not want people to hear these voices, because they would be too likely to agree with them. In the meantime, largely as a result, the average submissive low-information voter has a completely false idea of what the right is actually saying.

It amount to an attempted coup. I hope for all of us they do not succeed.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Twelfth Night

Today is Epiphany, the last day of Christmas. So I guess it is my last chance to slip in some Christmas music.