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Monday, October 16, 2017

Le Musée de Cire Historique Canadien






When I was a kid in Montreal, the city featured a great private history museum, “Le Musée de Cire Historique Canadien.” “The Wax Museum of Canadian History.”

It was a great idea for teaching history, and I feel it is a pity that it is gone. The problem with museums often is that it is just not that interesting to look at some artifact in a glass case. And it does not tell you much of anything. This was probably a less expensive way to go—the museum was run as a profitable private enterprise—and was more useful.

This museum, instead, was well designed to be memorable. No doubt this was done primarily to pull in paying customers, not to be pedagogical about things—but as it turns out, the customer is usually right. The wax figures brought history to life, left you with a vivid image in the mind’s eye of some event. This could then became a hook on which to hang your otherwise perhaps dry historical facts.

Most wax museums are mostly portraits in wax of famous people. This, to me, makes them boring and useless. If they are currently famous, you already have a good image in your mind of what these people look like. So you are learning nothing, seeing nothing new, by seeing their portrait in wax. All you get is a sense of how close the resemblance is. Big deal. A test of skill, I suppose. And usually the resemblance falls well short of being convincing, leaving only a sense of disappointment. An “uncanny valley” effect leaves many figures looking ghoulish, zombie-like. You feel as though you are looking at someone’s cadaver.

I went to the wax museum in Dublin a few years ago. Mostly wax figures of famous writers and politicians, sitting around in chairs, which is about all a famous writer or politician ever does, moderately well done. Nothing visually interesting there. There was no chance to suspend disbelief: what is the thrill in seeing James Joyce done as a wax dummy? And certainly the wax dummy left no clearer image in your mind than the photos in the history books or on the dustcovers. With one exception: an image of Grace O’Malley, the 16th century Irish pirate, standing and pointing a finger at the horizon, really looked shockingly alive, and has burned itself into my memory.

Statue of Grace O'Malley, Mayo, Ireland.


Here, the trick was in the choice of subject. The artist was not constrained to compete with the camera. Neither I nor the sculptor had any idea what the breathing Grace O’Malley looked like. So he was free to create something really lifelike and striking.

This was the approach taken throughout the Musée de Cire Historique. No attempts to reproduce famous people whose features were already familiar to anyone, except perhaps Saint Andre Bessette. Creating something far more interesting, compelling, and worthwhile.

The other thing the Musée de Cire Historique did right was to put in lots of blood and gore; lots of drama. Most scenes implied action. This is just the sort of thing that gets carefully cut out of our schoolbooks and our stories for children, ensuring that they are boring and the kids will remember nothing. Instead, we throw all the blood and gore into things we present to parents, who at least ought to have grown out of such stuff.

Here is a sample of some of the dioramas that fixed themselves in my memory. I recently found them shown on a web site (https://studiopluche.blogspot.ca/2011/07/le-musee-de-cire-historique-canadien.html). These are the ones I instantly recalled. I was probably not older than 12 or 13 the last time I saw them.

A rather interesting experiment, then, in what is mnemonically, meaning educationally, sound:




The funeral of a dead child in the early Christian community. This is obviously going to be gripping to a child—seeing a child about their own age dead. The palm implies martyrdom: a story is evoked.



Christians waiting to be fed to the lions. Note the children included.




Roman gladiators. For what it is worth, this, with the previous diorama, are the two I seem to best recall.




Cartier lands at Gaspe: the discovery of Canada.

Note that the event is shown from the Indian perspective. This informs us, I think, of an important truth. Contrary to what you often hear, Canadians have never considered Indians some despised foreign “other.” In our hearts, we have always thought of ourselves as the Indians.

Americans are the same.




Saint Marguerite d’Youville conceals an English officer and misdirects an Indian warrior looking for him.

You might see this as a negative portrayal of Indians. The Indian certainly looks scary and threatening. But that is historically accurate. The whole point of Indian war paint was to look scary and threatening. And the women are plainly not afraid. There is no visible concern here that the Indian might massacre unarmed women. Rather bad form, if he is indeed a bloodthirsty savage.

The women are showing mercy by protecting their sworn enemy, the Englishman, against their ally, the Indian.

Ever wax museum I have been to ever since has been, by comparison, a disappointment.

These pictures are taken from https://studiopluche.blogspot.ca/2011/07/le-musee-de-cire-historique-canadien.html and I hope count as fair dealing for review purposes. Please do go to the link to see more. The original page is in French, but remember, if your French is rusty or nonexistent, there is always Google translate.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fatty Weinstein



Roscoe Arbuckle

I have not been following the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I try to make a point of avoiding Hollywood gossip. It is the sin of calumny. And usually cruel and unfair to the celebrities involved, who have a right to their private lives, which right is consistently violated in modern America. Nevertheless, it has been hard to miss headlines saying 35 women have now made accusations of sexual impropriety against Weinstein.

Assuming it is all true, and even if it is not, but is not disproven, might this not have a serious effect on the Hollywood culture? Especially since it conforms to a longstanding popular suspicion about “show people”? A prejudice that stretches back at least to the Middle Ages?

Since the 1960s, Hollywood movies generally have been wildly immoral in any conventional sexual terms. Lots of sex scenes. A larger message, I think, that it is simply right and proper to drop your drawers and satisfy your urges at will. Hey, doesn’t everyone? I cannot speak authoritatively on this, because for the past sixteen years or so, I have been raising kids, and my movie-going has been pretty much limited to films with family ratings. But I have to say I did not feel I was missing anything. Hollywood lost me in the 60s. I think it was 1970, and M*A*S*H that did it. It was the ugly, unsympathetic portrayal of Major Frank Burns by Robert Duvall, as a religious nut, while “Hawkeye,” a callous womanizer, was the hero we were all supposed to identify with. Then and since then, any thought of sexual morality seems to have been treated by Hollywood with contempt. 




And that was a long time ago.

When I was single, I only went to foreign, indie, and art house films. Most of which, yeah, were awful, but if there were going to be any gems, they were going to be here.

There have been indications for years that the public is fed up with this. Note, for example, the unexpected success of The Passion of the Christ. Note the sagging movie attendance over the past year, that was already news when the Weinstein thing broke.

This bubble may be bursting before out eyes. Now people will now see a sex scene on screen, and think “Ick! I wonder who she had to perform some sex act with to get this role? And I wonder what sex act it was?” And when they look at the male partner, they will see I nthe back of their minds a corpulant, grizzled Harvey Weinstein in the nude.

It kind of tarnishes the tinsel. It makes the willing suspension of disbelief seem tawdry and itself a disgusting act.

It may no longer be possible, or profitable, for Hollywood to be so casual about sex in film.

This, after all, has happened before. Fatty Arbuckle. The specific charges were not true, Arbuckle was acquitted in a court of law, but the mental image of Fatty Arbuckle crushing some starlet with his naked bulk was too powerful in the public mind. That scandal ushered in the prudish Hays Code.



And this presents a similar image.

I, for one, certainly do not lament this. Regardless of any moral issues, and there certainly are moral issues, putting an explicit sex scene, or blood and gore, in a film is just cheap thrills. Far better if the scriptwriters and directors have to invest in putting together a better story.

This is also why I believe that writing for children is almost always the best writing. You cannot fake it. The story and the characters have to be worth it on their own.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Conquering White Supremacy: What Whitey Can Do



Fighting racism since 1922

Here is a helpful article by a black writer advising “Five Ways White People Can Fight White Supremacy.”

It makes clear that when those on the left say “white supremacy,” what they mean is the current situation, the stuff in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, for example, in which, nominally, all are equal before the law, regardless of race; and despite that, there are specific laws favouring people whose skin colour is of a darker hue, such as “affirmative action” programmes. This is all “white supremacy.”

In other words, like so many terms on the left, “white supremacy” does not mean white supremacy. It is a euphemism. It means not being racist in favour of blacks. War is peace, freedom is slavery, and equality is supremacy.

The author goes on to say: “Black people cannot cure racism. It is a contagion carried and spread by white people among white people.” So only white people can be racist. What could be more racist than such an assertion? He goes on to point out that white people can be racists even if they have never had a racist thought in their lives. So it is not just that white people can be racist, and black people cannot. It is that being white makes you racist. “Racist,” it seems, now means being white.

The writer also says that, in order not to be racist, you must always treat people differently on the basis of their skin color. He objects to the assumption that “everyone is the same.” Human equality? A racist idea!

“After your uncle has had a few glasses of Wild Turkey at Thanksgiving, or your homeboy has had a few too many shots of ... ummm ... Wild Turkey, and says something that sounds like an excerpt from an “alt-right” speech, you should say something.”

He has a remarkable insight into the true dynamics of a typical “white” family, does he not? What gives him this insight? I’m sure everyone in America of European ancestry sees themselves here.

Or not. Sounds pretty racist, actually. All white people, or at least one person in every white family, drinks Wild Turkey, drinks too much of it, and says racist things when he is drunk? The writer is self-conscious enough to “apologize for the stereotype,” but not really—he is actually apologizing for it being true. It is okay to stereotype “white” people, however outrageously.

He then goes on to insist that one’s culture is a part of one’s race: “What if they understood that African Americans, Mexicans, Muslims and others deserve freedom and equality without having their heritage and culture separated from their humanity?” Here we see why measures like Canada’s recent M-103 resolution are so dangerous. It is now commonly asserted on the left, as here, that culture is genetic.

People now belong to their particular culture, and it is part of their “humanity,” their essential being.

This is the fundamental assertion on which Fascism was based. Not an obvious model of anti-racism.

It also argues strongly against immigration, doesn’t it? People coming from another culture are not going to fit in. Indeed, it seems obviously impractical to expect “whites” to live cheek-by-jowl with these culturally different blacks. Of course they are not going to want to eat in the same restaurants, watch the same movies in the same theatres, or drink from the same water fountains. Segregation forever?

And how dare you, then, protest what Hitler did to the Jews? It was just a part of the Nazi culture, after all. Jews were cultural pollutants. The did not belong.

How dare you object if this or that group refuses to treat outsiders equally, rejects freedom and equality for others? It is a part of their culture!

How dare you object to slavery? It was a part of antebellum Southern culture.

The author then writes, bizarrely:

“There is no need for safety pins or self-congratulatory pats on the back if you are truly “about that life,” because the truth is, there is not a “that life.” It is just a life. Your life. Our lives.”

Does he realize that he is speaking here directly against the “Black Lives Matter” movement? This is the very assertion that they have been regularly shouting down. So obviously they are racist, right?

But no, they cannot be, because they are black. The writer shows no awareness of this contradiction, in any case.

Indeed, he is speaking against what he himself has just said, only a few paragraphs up: that you have to make a distinction at all times among people on the basis of their race and their culture. So which is it? Even if there are always different rules and standards based on your skin colour, who is he talking to? He seems in both cases to be talking to “whites,” and the piece is addressed to them.

He writes, in a moving summation:

“It is remarkable to witness how children don’t care about race, color, religion or nationality when they are young. But at some point, it seeps into their souls and they inherit the generational curse of racism.”
“Every single prejudice and fear we have was acquired from someone else.”
This is the opposite of the truth, and the truth is pretty obvious. As anyone knows who has lived in a foreign country visibly ethnically distinct from their own, children are instinctively racist. They will always be afraid at first, or cry at, the scary-looking foreigner. A little older, and they may run after him in groups and taunt him.

It is the herd instinct. People are herd animals. It is almost self-evident that this should be so, in evolutionary terms. A child is vulnerable, and has good reason to cling to familiar-looking folks.

It is this that has to be educated, or familiarized, out. Educating people out of it is one of the great triumphs of civilization.

But I think this writer is on the other side. Civilization is “white supremacy.”






Friday, October 13, 2017

Chiefs






The Toronto School Board, we read, has banned the term “chief” in its organizational charts. The reason is that it refers to First Nations people.

It does not, of course. Oxford gives the first meaning as “A leader or ruler of a people or clan.”

This, however, would not be how the Toronto School Board organizational chart would be using it. For them, it would be Oxford’s meaning two: “The head of an organization.”

Nothing to do with Canadian First Nations.

A school board spokesperson explains, “every Aboriginal person has been referred to as ‘chief’ in a derogatory way at some point in his or her life.”

Is chief in such a context an insult? Oxford goes on to give a third definition for such use in informal address: “An informal form of address to a man, especially one of superior rank or status. ‘it's quite simple, chief.’”

In other words, even in informal use, it suggests superior status. Was it demeaning when folks used to refer to Diefenbaker as “Dief the Chief”? Or in the old “Get Smart” TV show, when the leader of the spy organization was always referred to as chief? Does one normally insult one’s boss?

What does it mean, then, if even a strong compliment is considered insulting if it might, even remotely, imply that you are of aboriginal heritage?

Isn’t this the most extreme racism?


It's a Duck



Duck


The latest idea from the professionals in the field of mental illness is that mental illness is the result of abusive treatment. This notion probably first caught their attention because we are seeing a lot of PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder—in the US these days from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the obvious similarity between the symptoms of PTSD and what is usually called depression or anxiety disorder is apparent to the doctors. Moreover, the standard anti-depressants usually work on PTSD.

If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck…

This means that depression, and perhaps mental illness in general, can be assumed to be most often the consequence of a traumatic childhood. A childhood about as frightening as living through a war on the front lines.

Recent studies seem to confirm this insight. A lot of recent studies, it turns out.

The Center for Disease Control, official arm of the US government, takes it as proven.i They note that, “In one long-term study, as many as 80% of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21.”ii Given the relative inaccuracy of psychiatric diagnosis, the real figure may be 100%. Or it may be 100% if the same group were to be surveyed a few years later. Psychology Today writes, “In almost every case of significant adult depression, some form of abuse was experienced in childhood, either physical, sexual, emotional or, often, a combination.”iii A recent study by Dr. Martin Teicher of Harvard demonstrates that childhood abuse even causes definite and permanent changes in the brain.iv Brain damage, you could say.

The Wikipedia entry for “Depression” accordingly currently gives, under “Causes”:

“Adversity in childhood, such as bereavement, neglect, mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and unequal parental treatment of siblings can contribute to depression in adulthood. Childhood physical or sexual abuse in particular significantly correlates with the likelihood of experiencing depression over the life course.”

And it is not just depression. Childhood abuse has also been found to correlate strongly with panic attacks, dissociation, dissociative identity disorder, bipolar disorder (manic depression), schizophrenia, alcoholism, addiction and drug abuse, and eating disorders.v That’s pretty much the entire range of what we call “mental illness”--notably excluding narcissism.

Nor is it just mental illness. Childhood abuse has also been found to produce higher rates of cardiovascular disease (heart disease), lung and liver disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, asthma, and obesity.vi

At the website Psych Central, Rick Nauert writes, “Historically, the psychological damage resulting from childhood abuse and the effects on physical health have been well documented.”vii

Psychiatry and psychology does not have a great track record. It has led us down the garden path several times before. Wasn’t it only yesterday that the popular consensus seemed to be that mental illness was caused by a “chemical imbalance,” presumably hereditary? And we were on the verge of finding a “gene for schizophrenia”? And not long before that, weren’t the Freudians all telling us it was about an unresolved Oedipus complex?

But this time, at least, modern psychiatry has found itself in synch with not just physical medicine—the brain scans, the links with stress-related physical ailments—but also with the ancient wisdom. The Dymphna legend suggests that many people, not least among the mentally ill themselves, have understood for a millennium or more that child abuse was the cause of mental illness. We may at last be on to something.

Or back on to something. Frustratingly, it looks as if that this was something everyone knew, or many people knew, until Freud showed up.


Notes:


i“Long Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect,” Child Welfare Information Gateway, July, 2013, p. 5. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/long_term_consequences.pdf https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/consequences.html


iiA. Silverman, H. Reinherz, R. Giaconia, “The Long-Term Sequelae of Child and Adolescent Abuse: A Longitudinal Community Study,” Child Abuse Negl.1996 ; 20 (8): pp. 709–723.


iiiEllen McGrath, “Child Abuse and Depression,” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200305/child-abuse-and-depression


ivMaia Salavitz, “How Child Abuse Primes the Brain for Future Mental Illness,” Time magazine, February 15, 2012, http://healthland.time.com/2012/02/15/how-child-abuse-primes-the-brain-for-future-mental-illness/


vhttps://www.blueknot.org.au/Resources/General-Information/Abuse-related-conditions


viAnnie Kolodziej, “Does Child Abuse Predict Poor Mental Health?” AllPsych, July 2015, https://blog.allpsych.com/does-child-abuse-predict-poor-mental-health/


viiRick Nauert, “Childhood Abuse & Neglect Linked to Adult Health Risks,” Psych Central, https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/09/27/child-abuse-neglect-linked-to-adult-health-risks/60011.html


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Too Fat for Me


I need help with this. This article has been spreading online, about a guy who sent his date a “disgraceful” text message. “Her blog post went viral, and people everywhere applauded Michelle for her inspiring words to women everywhere.”

I must be missing something. It seems to me that the guy behaved admirably, was both honest and kind, and the woman’s behaviour is appalling.

The guy praises her to the skies, but says he will not date her again because it would be leading her on. He just cannot become physically attracted by someone of a different body type. This, he explains, quite honestly and truthfully, is not a matter of choice. In order to have sex, a man’s body must cooperate. You cannot will yourself into an erection.

He does not, I note, call her fat, or criticize her physique in any way. No, he makes it entirely his own problem. He says he is attracted by “a slip of a girl.”

What a decent guy.

She soon “put him in his place.” She calls him “sadistic.” His message is “grotesque.” He is “A disgrace to your gender.” “The only possible reason for writing it,” she says, “is to wound me.” She says he “targeted” her. She says her friends want to do him physical harm—that sounds like a threat.

And this has met with widespread public support.

Seriously, what could the poor guy have done to avoid being attacked like this? I guess he could have just never contacted her again.

I’m sure he thought, though, that he was being kind in doing more than this for her. And he probably was. After all, it may be a tough problem, but being overweight is something you can do something about. At worst, he was just too honest. A nice guy mistake.

In any case, it sure looks like he misjudged her. He really dodged a bullet in not getting involved.

It just does not seem to be safe for men to have anything to do with North American or European women any more. You are just setting yourself up for abuse.




Monday, October 09, 2017

The Left Finds Religion



A couple of silly posts are circulating on Facebook at the moment. Leftists are claiming Jesus as one of their own.

This may be a good sign. In recent years the left has had nothing good to say about Jesus. It seems like a defensive move; as though they feel a need either for outreach or to justify themselves. It beats just calling all Christians “deplorable.”

But they sure do get things garbled. Let us assume they do this honestly. I guess such misapprehensions are possible, if you never read the Bible.




Taking the claims one by one:

“Homeless”: yes, Jesus was homeless. But this was a matter of religious observance, like a mendicant Buddhist monk, so it is probably not fairly comparable with the situation of people who are homeless due to poverty. He certainly did make clear, on the other hand, his concern for the poor.

“Palestinian”? This is a worse howler than, say, calling St. Nicholas “Turkish,” or St. Patrick “English.” There was not such place as “Palestine” in Jesus’s time, and the people we currently call “Palestinians”—Palestinian Arabs—were not in the area. Jesus was a Jew who lived in what is now Israel. You want to call Netanyahu a “Palestinian”?

“Anarchist”? Jesus was asked about paying taxes, and said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Showing, at the same time, a coin with Caesar’s face on it. He said “My kingdom is not of this world.” He was not a political figure. He accepted the civil authority of his day as given. There were political radicals, although not anarchists, in Jesus’s place and time—the Zealots. Jesus could have endorsed them, or joined them, if that was what he was about.

“Held protests at oppressive temples”? Jesus did not consider the temple in Jerusalem oppressive. His concern was the opposite, to keep it holy. Nor did he “hold a protest.” This suggests an organized political action.

“Advocated for universal health care”? This is invention. Do they get this from the fact that he went around healing people? Do doctors necessarily endorse, let alone advocate, universal health care?

“Advocated for redistribution of wealth.” I suspect they get this from his advice to a rich young man to give all he had to the poor.

But look at the passage. Jesus does not call for redistribution of wealth here. A rich young man comes to him and asks what he must do to enter heaven. And Jesus says, keep the commandments. That’s what is needed to enter heaven. The young man says he already does that. Is there anything more he can do? Then Jesus says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasures in heaven.”

The passage is clear, then, that nobody is under any moral obligation to give their possessions to the poor. This earns extra merit.

Of course, no such merit is earned if the giving is legally required by government. Although we might very well want to do this. Giving to the poor is a moral act. Voting that everyone should give to the poor is not a moral act. It is as likely to be a way to avoid guilt over your own moral choices.

If leftists indeed want to follow Jesus on this, government does not prevent them from giving all they have to charity.

And conservatives as a group give more to charity than leftists do.

Note Matthew 26:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”

A general redistribution of wealth? Hardly a clear mandate for it here.

“Arrested for terrorism”: this is completely fabricated. Jesus was not arrested for terrorism, was not charged with terrorism, was not executed for terrorism, and there is nothing anywhere in the Bible that hints he engaged in terrorism.

Including this in the evidence that Jesus was a left-wingert and not a right-winger, even at the cost of making it up, tells us something important about the left. They are, here, implicitly saying terrorists are on their side. They support terrorism.

This indeed explains why the left has recently found fierce common cause with “Islam,” even though all the values of Islam run directly counter to leftist beliefs, far more than do those of Christianity, which they despise. The key here has to be that they do not support Islam: they support terrorism. They support Islam only to the extent that they think it leads to terrorism.

Really: think about it. They used to support the IRA for the same reason. It was masked as a concern for the rights of Catholics, but seriously: does the left otherwise support Catholics or Catholicism?

Yeah, Jesus would be entirely down with that: destroying things and killing innocent people.

“Executed for crimes against the state.” Technically true, but according to the Bible this was a bogus charge that even the Roman prefect, Pilate, did not believe.

The next image claims that Jesus was “Everything Conservatives hate.”



“Bleeding heart.” The tone of the post is very old-fashioned, and I guess maybe back in the Sixties “bleeding heart” really was a term that was often used. It is not something you see contemporary conservative saying, so it is not evidence, if true, that contemporary conservatives would have disagreed with Jesus in the first place.

But was Jesus a “bleeding heart”? The Urban dictionary gives the top meaning of “bleeding heart” as “Feeling sorry for everything and everyone and giving in to emotions quickly.” If this is the correct definition, Jesus was clearly not one, and to call him such is necessarily a criticism. He did not feel sorrow for the scribes and the Pharisees. He showed himself to be calm, as in the storm on Galilee, or when seized in Gethsemane, when those about him were emotional. Somebody here is simply imagining Jesus to be as they want him to be.

“Long-haired”: Jesus did indeed, in the traditional depiction, wear his hair long. A reasonable argument can be made that he did not do so in imitation of the hippies of the 1960s. More likely, they wore their hair long in imitation of him. Nor is wearing long hair an indication of left-wing politics. Ever watch “Duck Dynasty”? The left can get upset about people wearing corn rolls, but the right could not care less how you wear your hair.

“Peace-loving”: Jesus was peace-loving, as are most of us, but not a pacifist. He said, for example,

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

Peace a good, but it is not the ultimate value. Nor is it clear, currently, whether the left or the right is more concerned with maintaining the peace. Who, currently, is more inclined to riot? Who is more supportive of the police?

“Anti-establishment”: yes, Jesus was anti-establishment. But let us be clear: what establishment? He said nothing against the civil or political establishment. He said nothing against Roman rule. Jesus refused to condemn publicans or tax collectors. He was opposed to the scribes and Pharisees: the intellectual establishment of his day.

Who is the intellectual establishment of today? Who are the scribes and Pharisees? Most literally, most directly, the media and the academy. Scribes were professional writers, Pharisees were professional teachers. Both groups lean overwhelmingly to the left currently. And are heartily disliked on the right.

“Liberal.” Properly speaking, “liberal” means believing in human rights, civil liberties. Which means, on the whole, small government. I think a good argument can be made that Jesus was indeed liberal in this sense: he carved out a religious sphere independent of the state. But it would be more accurate to say that liberalism is largely founded on his teachings: the equality of man, the separation of church and state. But while Jesus seems plainly liberal, the modern left plainly is not. It is all about big government and group rights.

“Hippie freak”: again, this is a case of the hippies imitating Jesus, not Jesus imitating the hippies. But there is something to this: the hippies were at least in part a spiritual movement, and did appeal to Christian values. Unfortunately, just about everyone sold out except the Jesus Freaks, the Hare Krishnas, and George Harrison. For most of them, the imitation was sadly superficial, and only about appearances and material things. Jesus was not that big on sex, drugs, or rock and roll.

“With strange ideas”: this one is the dead giveaway. Strange to whom? Presumably, to whoever is making the meme.

In other words, they do not actually share Jesus’s views at all. They find them strange.



Saturday, October 07, 2017

What the Bodhisattvas Taught



Guan Yin.


Saint Dymphna, as patronness of the mentally ill, has a colleague in the Far East. And she is not obscure.

Recall that the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, on which all else is based, is that “all existence is dukkha (suffering, ill-being).” This surely is an appeal to the depressed, like Jesus’s Beatitudes. Although Buddhism holds that the depressed see the world as it really is. Everyone else is deluded.

The objective of Mahayana Buddhism, the form of Buddhism practiced in China, Korea, and Japan, is not to become a Buddha. That is an admirable, but a lesser, goal. It is to become a Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva is a soul who has earned all the merit necessary to become an enlightened Buddha, but nevertheless refuses this until they can first, through their merits, bring enlightenment to every other existing soul. This is, morally, a higher achievement; it shows perfect selflessness.

And it is just the sort of goal a depressed person might aspire to.

Walpola Rahula, the eminent Theravada Buddhist scholar and monk, asserts that the Bodhisattva ideal is also the highest goal of the Southern school of Buddhism, found in Sri Lanka and Thailand. He writes, “both the Theravada and the Mahayana unanimously accept the Bodhisattva ideal as the highest” (Rahula, The Bodhisattva Ideal in Buddhism, Buddhist Missionary Society, 1996).

Among named Bodhisattvas honoured by Buddhists, one is preeminent: the being called Guan Yin in China, Kwannon in Japan, Kwanseum in Korea, or Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit.

Who is Guan Yin?

For one thing, she makes good cameras.

Once upon a time she was, like Dymphna, a beautiful princess. In China, even today, when a child is exceptionally pretty, she is compared to Guan Yin: “To say a lady or a little girl is a ‘Kuan Yin’ is the highest compliment that can be paid to grace and loveliness.” Guan Yin, or Miao Shan, as she was known in this earthly life, was also exceptionally moral in her conduct, “naturally kind and gentle.” The gods themselves say, “there is none in the west so noble as this Princess” (Edward Werner, Myths and Legends of China, 1922). And she was born with the distinguishing marks that predicted she would become a Buddha.

Nevertheless—or perhaps because of this; the legend is unclear—her parents despised her. The locus classicus for the basic story is Tsu-hsiu, Lung-hsing fo-chiao pien-nien t'ung-lun, written around 1164 AD.

When Miao Shan/Guan Yin reached adolescence, her father demanded that she marry. This is a reversal of the usual story in the West, in which the king prevents his daughter from meeting any men; but the essential issue is the same. The king will not permit his daughter her own life. He is demanding her desires be sacrificed to his.

He had seized his kingdom by force, and was concerned about the succession. Miao Shan had two older sisters, also lovely, who had already married the kingdom’s top scholar and its top general; but this was not enough for Miao Shan’s father. He wanted a third line with backup heirs in case of need. When she told him she would prefer solitary meditation, as a Buddhist nun, he would not permit it.

To punish his daughter for intransigence, the king banishes her to the green world—to the Queen’s private garden. This is what usually happens to heroines at adolescence. Predictably, however, Miao Shan is content there. So her father banishes her to the Nunnery of the White Bird, with instructions to make her life difficult. “The nuns were intimidated and gave her the heaviest tasks to do--fetching wood and water, working with pestle and mortar, and running the kitchen garden.”

Miao Shan arriving at the Nunnery of the White Bird


Here she undergoes a trial, like Cinderella, or Psyche, or Doralice, or All-Kinds-of-Fur. As with Cinderella and Psyche, the spirit world comes to her aid, and she is able to succeed in all that is demanded.

Enraged, the king sends his army to burn down the nunnery and kill the nuns.

Miao Shan takes responsibility for the trouble she has supposedly brought on them—the abused child unreasonably assuming to herself the guilt of the parents. “It is true,” she says, “I alone am the cause of your destruction” (Edward Werner, Myths and Legends of China, 1922).

She is able, however, by piercing the roof of her mouth with a hairpin and spitting out blood, to bring rain to put out the flames and save the nuns.

So her father has her seized and strangled with a silken cord.

A tiger takes the corpse of Miao Shan away to the pine woods.


A tiger appears and spirits away her corpse to the green world. In the meantime, her spirit, like that of Psyche, descends to the land of the dead. There, all the kings of hell greet her respectfully. She, however, is still self-deprecating.

“Who am I,” asked Miao Shan, “that you should deign to take the trouble to show me such respect?” (Werner)

She is then returned to her body, being too pure for hell, and finds herself alone in the pine forest. Another tiger appears. Miao Shan, as one might expect from someone depressed, is ready to die for assumed guilt:

“‘I am a poor girl devoid of filial piety,’ said Miao Shan when she came up. ‘I have disobeyed my father’s commands; devour me, and make an end of me.’”

The tiger, however, transports her the many miles to the island of Pu-tuo, where, after nine years in meditation, she achieves the merit to become enlightened.

In the meantime, her father falls ill. He is told that only the eyes and hands of another, ground up as a salve, will cure him.

Miao Shan offers hers, both hands and both eyes; and he is cured.

Many may disagree, but for my money, nobody does Kwanseum better than the Koreans.


Although in this case voluntary, here is an image comparable to that of the parent eating the child. The child is sacrificed for the parent’s benefit.

At the same time, it is dramatic proof of selfless love on Miao Shan’s part.

However, the story is not yet over. As in the Western fairy tales, the heroine also has to experience selfless love from another.

Miao Shan’s “Prince Charming” is named Shancai (Shan Ts’ai; Sudhana in Sanskrit), a young crippled orphan who has also sought solitude as a Buddhist monk. He comes to her island retreat—his green world—seeking instruction. Asked to identify himself, he says, as one might expect from a depressed person, “I am a poor orphan priest of no merit.”

Guan Yin/Miao Shan then sets him a test of devotion. She stages a raid by pirates, in which her life appears to be threatened. The pirates chase her to the edge of a cliff, and she jumps off.

Shancai, the supplicant, meets the test. He leaps after her, hoping to save her, proves his true love, and dies. At this moment, Shancai loses his disability, is able to walk, and becomes handsome. Although they do not kiss, both Miao Shan and Shancai dissolve in tears. The curse, or the mental illness, is lifted. They meditate happily ever after.

Shancai is often shown in iconography as a small child cradled by Guan Yin: she is seen, apparently on the basis of this legend, as the protector, especially, of small children.

Guan Yin with Shancai


Miao Shan thus became Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of infinite compassion, who listens for the cries of the suffering, and will extend a hand to help. Through her merits, her two sisters also became Bodhisattvas, Samantabadhra and Manjusri.

There are other traditions of Guan Yin. In one, the son of the dragon king, disguised as a carp, is caught by fishermen. The fish, being magical, does not die when it is brought ashore and to market. This causes a great deal of interest: people offer huge sums for this immortal fish, because they assume that by eating it they can obtain eternal life. Guan Yin sends Shancai to buy the fish instead, in order to set it free.

He cannot match the sums being offered. Nevertheless, Guan Yin herself intervenes by declaring from aloft in a loud voice that “a life belongs to the one who wants to save it, not to take it.” Which settles the matter—and offers a parable of the good parent and true love similar to the story of Solomon’s judgement in the Bible.

Together, Guan Yin and her sisters Manjusri and Samantabadhra, whose merit is a reflection of hers, are three of best-known Bodhisattvas. The fourth is Ksitigarbha (Sanskrit) / Dizang or Ti Tsang (Chinese) / Chi jiang (Korean) / Jizo (Japanese). He too was once a mortal woman, a Brahmin child in India named Sacred Girl. He is usually, unlike Guan Yin, portrayed as male. But souls are neither male nor female, and are only arbitrarily portrayed as one or the other, depending on the legends of their incarnations.

Sacred Girl’s mother, according to the sutras, was a great sinner. Perhaps her sins included abuse of her child; this is not said. She then died and went straight to hell. Sacred Girl, however, did great penances, ultimately descended herself, like Psyche and Guan Yin, into hell, and, by her own merits, rescued her mother (M. W. De Visser, The Bodhisattva Ti Tsang [Jizo] in China and Japan, Berlin, 1914, pp. 9-10).

She then vowed to do the same for all comers; everyone in hell. Interestingly, however—and this hints at some unspoken back-story—she/he is appealed to especially to protect children who have died.

According to Japanese tradition, children who die are confronted on a beach in the underworld by a malicious female demon, who requires them to pile up stones before they are allowed to move on to the next life. Demons then come and knock down the stone towers, requiring them to do it all over again, eternally. “Devils strike those stüpas with iron sticks. Then the boys slowly go back again and pile the pebbles up, but the devils reappear and again destroy the stüpas, so that the work is never finished” (de Visser, p. 119). Jizo, however, descends and allows them to escape this.

Might this be an image of mental illness? Is “death” here a metaphor for a spiritual death? It sounds like the trials of tidiness faced by heroines in fairy tales.

Indeed, Ksitigarbha / Jizo is said to help not only those in hell, but “those who are troubled by spirits and nightmares.”

There are other legends, specifically of Jizo helping abused children. The tale is told in Kochima, for example, of a boy whose mother died, and whose stepmother despised him. While his father was absent, she seized him and threw him in the cooking pot to boil him for soup.

In the meantime, the father, travelling along a road, encountered an old monk with a little boy on his back. It was, he realized, his own son! The monk handed him the boy, telling him to put him in another’s care, because his mother wanted to kill him.

The father rushed home, pulled off the lid of the cooking pot, and saw the family’s statue of Ksitigarbha, boiling away. Ksitigarbha had offered himself in place of the child; and had then appeared to him as the old monk on the road (de Visser, p. 134).

In another tale, from the Kwösekishü, a 17th century compilation, a cruel and abusive stepmother requires her son to put an offering of rice in the hands of the family statue of Jizo / Ksitigarbha. She knows he is too small to reach the statue’s hands, but will not feed him until he does. This is a typical bit of gaslighting: making the child take the blame for the cruelty committed by the parent.

The statue, however, comes alive, reaches down, and takes the rice.

The child returns, saying he has accomplished the mission. The mother beats him for lying.

This is an illustration of a typical “double-bind,” to use R.D. Laing’s term: whatever the abused child does, must have been the wrong thing.

But after the child begs her to go and look for herself, she sees that the statue is indeed holding the rice. Not only that: there are grains sticking near his mouth indicating he has eaten some.

She is shocked by this out of treating the boy so badly (de Visser, p. 169).

In Japan today, women who have had abortions will buy baby clothing, toys and candies, and present them to a statue of Jizo as a penitential offering.

Jizo wearing knit offerings.


More obscure, but still known from India to Japan, is the figure of Hariti, considered a goddess by both Hindus and Buddhists. She was originally a rakshini, a demon or evil spirit, who had 500 children, and ate all of them but the last. The Buddha himself rescued her last child by hiding him under his alms bowl, then converted her, and she became instead a protectoress of children (Alice Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, Oxford, 1914, p. 75).

Hariti

Surely this is evidence enough that the issue of child abuse is a traditional concern in the East as well as in the West; and is understood in essentially the same terms. An abused or neglected childhood causes depression, which causes a need for solitude. The depression is cured by trials of virtue and then by expressions of selfless love. The selfless love, which in the West comes from Jesus, can come here instead from Guan Yin or Ksitigarbha.





The Playboy of the Western World





Hugh Hefner died last week. It is time to say a few words about Hugh Hefner.

Obits seem to have been mostly laudatory: he is credited with launching the sexual revolution.

I find that shocking: that anyone, in 2017, would still believe the “sexual revolution” was a good thing.

The sexual revolution has destroyed the family, and through this, countless lives. It has brought us free, legal, and frequent abortion, a holocaust that trumps anything Hitler did every few weeks. It has caused a demographic collapse that looks as though it will end Western civilization. AIDS and other venereal diseases are the least of it. Treating other people as objects for your pleasure, like a steak or a lobster, are the worst of it.

Yay, sexual revolution.

And Hefner himself was always an absurd figure, an embarrassment to himself and to anyone who took him seriously. Really: silk pyjamas, a smoking jacket, and a yachting cap with crossed anchors? The man lived his life as a cartoon. No doubt he had to, for business reasons. But it hardly amounts to an exemplary life. He was an eight-year-old boy’s fantasy of what it would be like to be grown up. Stay in bed all day. Party every night. Drink alcohol, smoke a pipe, and listen to cool jazz. Have your own pad! So sophisticated!

It’s not about the pornography, or, if you prefer, “erotica.” That I can see a justification for. It’s the lying about it. It’s the “philosophy.” I can forgive him only if he did it all for the money. But that still does not make him admirable.

The world is not a better place because Hugh Hefner was in it.





Swearing in Public



Canadian citizenship ceremony

The Liberal government has just announced it will add a reference to treaties with Canada’s Indians and native people to the Oath of Citizenship. New Canadians will now pledge not just to obey the laws, but to honour the treaties.

The old oath:

“I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

The proposed new oath:

“I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen."

This was one of the daffiest suggestions by the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The good news is that it does nothing. Individual Canadians are not party to these treaties, and could not, with all the best of intentions, possibly violate them. So, I suppose, it was one suggestion bound to be implemented: precisely because it costs nothing and means nothing.

No, it does not in some way enshrine treaties or treaty rights in the Canadian fabric. The oath of citizenship can be changed by simple government legislation at any time.

It just kind of makes us look stupid.

I guess new Canadians needed to know.