Playing the Indian Card

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Cunning Lingual


Let's conjugate the old Latin way               

Let me feel your fiery declensions on my tongue

Ego amo, tu amas, nos amamus

Dead languages leave me speechless

Today, the naked sin; syntax tomorrow.

- Stephen K. Roney 

Saturday, August 08, 2020

James FitzGibbon

James FitzGibbon might have saved Canada on at least two occasions. He foresaw and advocated confederation, well before Macdonald. He ought to be a great national hero.

Has anyone heard of him?

The first time he saved Canada was in 1813. The Americans had invaded. FitzGibbon led a hand-picked guerilla band known as “FitzGibbon’s Green ‘Uns,” or FitzGibbon’s Tigers,” who harassed American forces from a dangerously advanced position in the Niagara Peninsula, preventing them from pushing farther. Then he won the Battle of Beaver Dams, against a vastly superior American force, almost without a casualty. He convinced them they were surrounded, and they surrendered.

De-commissioned after the war, he joined the civil service, in various capacities. But what he did best was keep the peace. Whenever there was a report of conflict in the far-flung province, Colonel FitzGibbon was sent out. He never used force; he negotiated, and managed to defuse the tensions every time. At the same time that factional strife was raging in Ireland, and Canada was being flooded by Irish Catholics and Protestants in about equal numbers, and even though the Orange Order was actually stronger here in Canada than back in Ireland, there were surprisingly few open conflicts. FitzGibbon probably had everything to do with this. An Irishman, he spoke fluent Gaelic. And he was immensely intelligent, scrupulously honest, generous, open-minded, and a born leader. Both sides came to trust him.

Then in 1837, when Mackenzie rose in open revolt, it was FitzGibbon who foresaw the danger, organized the defense, saved the government, and dispersed the rebel force. His influence also ensured, no doubt, that despite their own desire for reform, and lack of special love for the British crown, neither the Protestant nor the Catholic Irish would have anything to do with the rebellion. Had it been otherwise, there might well again have been no Canada today.

Why is such a man not honoured and remembered, while Mackenzie, who led the rebels, is honoured? Why for that matter is such a man not honoured for winning the Battle of Beaver Dams, while Laura Secord, who merely warned him of the American approach, is honoured?

Because FitzGibbon had the dire misfortune of having to deal intimately with a narcissist. Looking at his story may illustrate just how devastating that can be. It is a sad but common tale.

The narcissist in question being Sir Francis Bond Head.

Bond Head was named Governor-General of Upper Canada at a time when the population was already restive, and demanding responsible government. He had little administrative experience; but in this romantic period, he had portrayed himself as a romantic hero, and in this romantic period, that was enough. He had written books about his supposed exploits on the pampas. The British government was taken in; as people often are by a self-publicist.

Arriving at post, he began to behave exactly as a narcissist would. He made promises to the reformers, then changed his mind. Promises were inconvenient to keep. They tended to restrict one’s freedom. The Legislative Assembly, frustrated, refused to pass money bills. So Head dissolved the legislature and campaigned aggressively for the “constitutionalists,” the small-c conservatives, playing favourites.

In his own mind, I suspect, he was acting the hero, saving the day with the sheer strength of his personality and indomitable will. And showing everyone that the people loved him. What he had really done, narcissistically, was make it all about him. In so doing, he had jeopardized the future of the monarchy, the British connection, and the civil peace, which he had been appointed to protect. There is a reason why the Queen does not involve herself in politics.

The people, told any other vote was treason, obediently elected Head’s majority. The more radical reformers, predictably, concluded that their only recourse now was open revolt. There could be no more question of “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.”

FitzGibbon, always informally in charge of public order, saw this danger. Moreover, as an honest man, employed by government directly under Bond Head, he was in a morally impossible position. Loyalty and public order were his credo; he had devoted his life to them. Now the government itself was acting erratically, disloyally and for public disorder.

This lesson from history illuminates the moral dilemma of any conscientious and intelligent child saddled with a narcissistic parent. It is the same dilemma: he wants to follow the rules, and he wants the good of all, and the parent, who sets the rules, wants the opposite. Where is he to turn? An earthquake has upended the bedrock of the universe. Any action becomes wrong. This is the fatal sense of lack of direction at the core of depression.

Bond Head, typical of a classic narcissist, went on to adamantly deny the real situation. Rather than take any precautions against revolt, he sent the entire local garrison off to Lower Canada to help with unrest there. He even seemed to advertise this fact, releasing statements to the newspapers. It was essential to prove that the entire population adored him.

FitzGibbon took measures on his own authority; he recruited a group of trustworthy armed citizens ready for action at the sound of the church and school bells. Reports of organizing for unrest poured in from the surrounding countryside. Still Head refused to take any action. At last, as the rebel force was gathering eight miles away in Montgomery’s Tavern, planning to attack that same night, the Governor-General summoned the militia to prepare for possible service, and named FitzGibbon acting adjutant-general.

But Head still refused to allow FitzGibbon to move. At this point, FitzGibbon thought they could be scattered by a small attack. The rebels ended up delaying their own assault, thinking they would be stronger in a few days. The government forces gathered forces too, but this meant what might have been a light skirmish became more serious. So much for preserving the peace. It took three days for FitzGibbon to convince Head to sanction action; when he did, Head gave command of government forces to the Speaker of the House, Alan McNab. And did not tell FitzGibbon.

This seemed, and seems, odd. It looks like a deliberate stab in FitzGibbon’s back. Not only because FitzGibbon outranked McNab in the militia, not only because he had long been in charge of public order, but also because FitzGibbon was a seasoned military commander with crucial victories to his credit, while McNab had no experience of military command.

Why this reckless decision by Head when the fate of Upper Canada hung in the balance?

Narcissism, surely. FitzGibbon had been right, and Bond Head had been wrong. It was essential to punish FitzGibbon for this.

Worse, now FitzGibbon was liable to achieve another crucial victory, and outshine him. This was intolerable. In comparison to this risk, the actual fate of Upper Canada meant nothing to Head. By giving command instead to McNab, he could remain the centre of attention. If McNab won out, the victory could be credited to his choice of commander; and McNab could then be manipulated because of the perceived favouritism.

Better to risk the fate of Upper Canada than to look diminished. Even if McNab won through, he would owe his position, and so his possible victory, to Head. That was better.

FitzGibbon, however, put up a fierce argument. Also characteristic of a narcissist, Bond Head buckled at this point. As with bullies, who are a type of narcissist, if stood up to energetically enough, a narcissist will back down. They are always calculating what is best for self, and so will take the easier road. Nothing is ever worth too much effort. FitzGibbon was allowed the command, with hours if not only seconds to spare. He mustered the men available with desperate speed, and advanced on the tavern. The rebels, unexpectedly demoralized by a lack of leadership, still awaiting their expected commander, scattered.

Head then ordered Montgomery’s Tavern set on fire, for the crime of acting as rebel headquarters. He then ordered the burning of David Gibson’s house, countermanded his order, then ordered it again. Gibson was not a leader of the rebellion, but he participated in it; and he was a prominent citizen, a member of parliament.

This was gratuitous, and calculated to ensure hard feelings persisted. FitzGibbon protested, but felt compelled to obey this order. He then went home and had a nervous breakdown.

As do so many children or partners of narcissists. This is where it comes from. It is from a betrayal by someone to whom you have been scrupulously loyal; and it is from being forced into a moral double-bind, in which every choice you make is wrong.

This collapse into depression is why in turn FitzGibbon is not better remembered. He manfully pulled himself together and went back to work within a week or two, but he was never the same. Bond Head was recalled, but of course his reports to London made him the great hero, and did not mention FitzGibbon. McNab was given a knighthood, for the cleaning-up operation.

From this point, FitzGibbon became obsessed with having been mistreated, and with his personal debts. He developed a reputation for being neglectful of duty. At one point he dropped everything and sailed to London to make personal representations—leaving his accounts in disarray. In the end he was removed from his official position and put on pension by the Assembly. He simply was no longer doing his job.

This later period is no doubt why he is not better remembered. It left a mixed legacy.

He was obviously suffering from severe depression. This is the inevitable effect of dealing with a narcissist.

FitzGibbon deserves a far better fate from all of us.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

The Dead

The most beautiful final paragraph in all of English literature is that of James Joyce’s “The Dead.”

It reminds me of my brother Gerry, who loved the winter snows—he told me that walking to the old Gananoque Junction station in the winter night together to smoke contraband cigarettes was his fondest memory. And Gerry loved the St. Lawrence River, dark at night like the River Shannon, dark like the flow of time, and now Gerry is dead, as Michael Furey is dead. 

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

And Nothing to Get Hung up On...

I am walking one of my students through her applied linguistics textbook. After giving a history of the modern discipline of language teaching, the survey chapter concludes with this statement:

“The cyclical nature of theories underscores the fact that no single theory or paradigm is right or wrong. It is impossible to refute with finality one perspective with another. Some truth can be found in virtually every critical approach to the study of reality.”

This is a strikingly false statement. It summarizes the fatal problem with social science generally, and how it has poisoned the wider society.

It is impossible to refute any theories?

This is exactly counter to Karl Popper’s definition of science. Science proceeds by refutation: theories are tested by experiment, and falsified.

Would a scientist be content with the statement that the theory of gravity, or of relativity, is neither right nor wrong?  That they are in the end no more accurate a description of reality than geocentrism or the flat earth concept?

The problem is that, in the social sciences, no theories have ever passed this test. Everything gets refuted within about twenty years, and no progress is ever made.

The proper conclusion to be drawn is that the scientific method cannot grasp the human mind. Unfortunately, too many careers, too many institutions, entire industries are based on the fallacy that it can.

Therefore, instead of conceding the error, the field blames reality and the human mind for failing to conform to its demands. And has chosen to dispense with both; or to deny they exist.

So hey, let’s just burn it all down.

Monday, August 03, 2020

A Journal of the Plague Year

Amidst the chaos, a ray of sunlight: in Germany and the UK, dogs have been found able to detect coronavirus in saliva or urine 94-95% of the time. That hit rate is so high, one suspects it may really be 100%--the dogs are simply more accurate than the tests they are being compared to.

If this turns out to work on sweat as well, we have a quick, reliable, almost cost-free test. A dog can sniff and give a result in 1.5 seconds. Station trained canines at all ports of entry, and at the entrances to any large public buildings, and we can all go back to work with a fair bit of confidence.

Combined, of course, with general mask-wearing, good sanitation, and Vitamin D supplements.

Teachers in the US are balking at returning to class in September; in Canada too.

This looks like a golden opportunity to bust the teachers’ unions—Scott Adams has declared them the root of all the problems in the USA. The national emergency can provide legal and political cover.

There are about seven times more graduates of teachers’ colleges than we actually need in classrooms. But more importantly, studies show that those who have not gone to teachers’ college teach better than those who have. The teachers’ colleges are only indoctrination factories.

The teachers have no bargaining power the government hasn’t given them.

I’ve downloaded the contact and tracing app sanctioned by the Canadian government. Since everything about it is voluntary, I doubt it will be very effective.

At this point, I think general despair is settling in. Fond hopes this would be just a temporary interruption, a bit of a lark, really, are gone. Fond hopes that we would all pull together, that the experts would have a handle on it, are gone.

In the meantime, the US military has in effect admitted contact with UFOs in the sense of off-world vehicles. And nobody is interested; in this time of uncertainty, nothing seems able to shock any more.

Now, as ever, dogs seem the only people we can trust.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Hydroxychloroquine Hopscotch

Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, and the WHO keep saying emphatically that there is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine works.

Yet at the same time, we keep getting reports that it does.

What is going on here? We who are not scientists; how are we to judge?

It may be true that there are no double-blind controlled studies that show hydroxychloroquine works; but at the same time it seems odd that, with time at a premium, nobody seems to have actually studied the combination that has been reported as working from the earliest days of the virus outbreak, hydroxychloroquine plus zinc plus azithromycin, administered at first symptoms. Instead, they seem to have been studying everything else but. How does this make sense?

Scott Adams makes an interesting argument. Given that we know hydroxychloroquine to be by and large a safe drug, what is the problem? If government authorities promote it, and it does not work, what is lost? Any doctor should know that the placebo effect is a real effect: people are likely to be helped anyway. For a cost of only about $20 per treatment. If, on the other hand, government authorities suppress it, and it turns out it does work, they are responsible for the needless deaths of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands.

Yet it really does look as though any suggestion that hydroxychloroquine works is being suppressed. When a group of “front-line doctors” recently put out a video saying it did, the video was taken down by YouTube and Twitter. Fauci more recently testified that a Henry Ford study showing the hydroxychloroquine treatment worked was not valid, because it did not account for the concurrent use of steroids on the same patients. Yet apparently it did.

“Never attribute to malice,” it is said, “what can adequately be explained by ordinary human incompetence.”

But it is not hard to guess at a motive: there is no money in hydroxychloroquine for drug companies. While Fauci, Birx, and doctors generally are not drug companies, their interests tend to converge: the entire business of the average doctor is the prescribing of pills, and the drug companies spend a lot of money on perks to keep them happy and on the team.

“We are men of science” can easily be the last refuge of a scoundrel. It is a line that the Marxists have long used. Or the Scientologists.

Your Week in Pictures

Thanks to Powerline:

Bookburning in Portland

Reportedly, "black bloc" protesters in Portland are now burning Bibles.

It illustrates what this is really all about. Those who are out protesting are actually protesting any restraints on their own actions. Police are hateful because their existence implies a need to obey laws. Bibles are hateful because their existence implies a need to restrain your impulses in order to act morally.

Rioting itself is an acting out of the insistence to be able to spontaneously indulge desires at any time.

The Moral Method

Kingston's Rockwood Asylum, 1920.
The Upper Canada Herald of July 18, 1831 reports on a visit to a mental asylum in Connecticut that claimed a high rate of cure: 

During our late visit to the United States, we had the satisfaction of examining ‘The CONNECTICUT RETREAT FOR THE INSANE,’ at Hartford. Having been politely favoured by a friend in New York with a letter of introduction to DOCTOR TODD, Physician to the institution, we were very kindly received by that philanthropic and intelligent gentleman, to whose skillful and humane treatment the inmates of the retreat owe a debt of lasting gratitude. The building, which is a neat specimen of modern architecture, is situated on a commanding eminence, overlooking the Town of Hartford, the beautiful Connecticut River, and the surrounding country to a great extent.

The ‘moral and intellectual treatment’ observed in the Retreat is thus explained in the annual report of the visiting committee: ‘The first business of the Physician, on the admission of a patient, is, to gain his entire confidence. With this view he is treated with the greatest kindness, however violent his conduct may be,—is allowed all the liberty which his cue admits of, and is made to understand, if he is still capable of reflection, that, so far from having arrived at a madhouse where he is to be confined, he has come to a peaceful residence, where all kindness and attention will be shown him, and where every means will be employed for the recovery of his health. In case coercion and confinement become necessary, it is impressed upon his mind, that this is not done for the purpose of punishment, but for his own safety, and that of his keepers. In no case is deception on the patient employed, or allowed,—on the contrary the greatest frankness, as well as kindness forms a part of the moral treatment. His case is explained to him, and he is made to understand, as far as possible, the reasons why the treatment to which he is subjected has become necessary. By this course of intellectual management, it has been found, as a matter of experience at our Institution, that patients who had always been raving when confined without being told the reason, and refractory, when commanded instead of being entreated, soon became peaceable and docile.’ The success of this treatment will appear from the fact, that of twenty-three cases admitted in one year, twenty-two recovered, affording the extraordinary proportion of 91 per cent.

This claimed cure rate is striking in comparison to what we see from the means we employ today: a cure rate of zero. Modern psychiatry holds that all mental illness is incurable, generally only gets worse over time, and can only be controlled with drugs.

Yet the claimed cure rate in Connecticut is confirmed by other sources.

“By 1837, Eli Todd at the Hartford Retreat had cured 91.3 percent of his recent cases, and Woodward at Worcester had discharged more than 82 percent as recovered.” (McGovern, C.M., The Masters of Madness: Social Origins of the American Psychiatric Profession. 1985, Hanover Press: University Press of New England).

These statistics have been challenged on the grounds that they do not account for readmissions—cures may only have been temporary. But the same accusation can be, and is, levelled against the claims for the current chemical treatments doing any good. Does the improvement in symptoms persist? This is a matter of some debate—long-term studies have rarely been done.

Why did we abandon this method for something manifestly worse?

The simple answer is that we did not abandon the method, consciously. The system required a high standard of behavior from staff, and power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the warden of a madhouse has absolute power over his charges. The system worked miracles within the first generation, so long as the founders were still in charge. Over time, it naturally degenerated into all the horrors of the “asylum” system we so recently have been trying to eliminate.

Kingston’s own Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane, the very memory of which is now largely suppressed, was probably built in imitation of the Connecticut model. Set in leafy, semi-rural grounds on the shores of Lake Ontario to produce the same pleasant, calming vistas as the Connecticut retreat.

But the essential element by then was lost. The “moral treatment,” as it was called, was based on religion; it was ultimately based on the model of Gheel, Belgium, and the shrine of St. Dymphna. The most successful early examples, in Britain and the US, were founded and run or at least inspired by the Quakers.

This is a model that could not be secularized. A first generation of administrators might still have been guided by some personal moral vision; but this was not institutionalized. Subsequent staff would have no particular moral motivations or religious training. They were in it for a living; or else for the opportunity to exercise power. The moral element of the moral treatment was gone, and all that was left was coercion and confinement. And warehouses full of growing numbers of patients without hope.

The fact that the approach has been called “the moral treatment” has led to an unfortunate misconception that patients were coerced and thought to be “immoral.” This is a kind of “black legend” that advocates of the medical model of mental illness have been able to use against it; from the beginning, the medical lobby opposed this “moral model."

The “moral treatment” means treating the patient as a moral being, competent to make their own choices—the very opposite of coercion. The core precept of the treatment, often repeated, was “Patients are normal, rational beings.” If they are suffering or acting strangely, they are reacting to some real problem they are facing. Removing them from their current environment, and putting them in a calm one, essentially solves the problem. “Patients are given structured, ordered, regular work and socialization in an attractive, family-like environment.”

It may take some time to calm down; and if they then return to the poisonous life situation they had been facing, problems may return. That was dealt with in the original Gheel model: recovered patients could choose to stay on and take up their life in the town.

It is the true madness that we do not return, as expeditiously as possible, to this moral model, the model of Gheel.

Do not suppose that this would be expensive. It would be vastly cheaper than our current approach. Psychiatric drugs for life are not free. And a recovered, fully-functioning citizen is a net financial gain to government and the taxpayer. Not to mention, the actual treatment involves productive work.

The method, to work long-term, must be religious in nature. Missing this was the mistake last time. Nevertheless, any supposed problem with the separation of church and state is easily overcome with goodwill: government funds need only be available without discrimination regardless of the particular denomination wanting to set up such a colony, as “faith-based charities” are now funded by government in the United States.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Kanye West Is Not Picasso

Since Kanye West has been in the news, there has been much recent tweeting and posting of Leonard Cohen’s posthumously published poem “Kanye West Is Not Picasso.” Unfortunately, nobody seems to understand what it means.

Most people take it as a “dissing” of Kanye West. And then take sides in this imagined conflict over who is the greater artist and who is the megalomaniac.

It is, instead, although not in my view a great poem, a Buddhist meditation on the self. It is a koan.

I think, for purposes of review, it is fair dealing to quote it in full; I note that others are.

It is the mystery of the self, the ego.

The ego is, at the same time, the only thing we know; and we know nothing about it.

I meant just then to say, “we all sometimes think we are Picasso, or greater than Picasso.” But then, I do not, cannot, know that.

For none of us ever knows any ego but our own.

It is of course nonsense to say “I am Picasso.” Picasso is Picasso.

At the same time, our ego contains all things; it is truer too to say “I am Picasso” than to say “Picasso is Picasso.”

And yet that “I” is nobody at all.

Anyone, including Picasso, who thinks they are Picasso is a fool.

The ego, of course, although it is nothing, is the most dangerous thing in the universe.

It seeks war against all things.