Monday, May 17, 2021
Friend Xerxes laments that a local hiking trail he has been accustomed to use to view wildflowers has now been fenced off to allow the construction of a new subdivision. “In our social structure,” he observes, “private property is close to sacred.”
He gets that just about backwards.
The basic premise on which our common law is founded is that nobody can really own land.
Land is God’s creation, and is therefore meant by him for the use of all mankind—just as we assume with air or water.
One does not actually own the land, but the labour one has put into it. If this is inseparable from the land itself, that establishes ownership.
This is why we have “squatter’s rights.” If land is lying unused, anyone who builds on it or tills it or seeds it establishes ownership. This supersedes any paper deed.
This means that any government is acting illegitimately if it prohibits productive use of land; if it leaves land as wilderness. So long as anyone genuinely needs that land in order to grow food, it is immoral to refuse this. So long as someone genuinely needs that land to build shelter, it is immoral to refuse this.
To justify preserving a local hiking trail, you need to argue that this use of that land is most beneficial even to the poorest of citizens. Ultimately, not just the citizens of the local area, but all mankind.
Unfortunately, we have lost sight of this. The poor are suffering everywhere as a result.
Sunday, May 16, 2021
In the video clip. A college student asks Frank Turek whether she is going to hell.
Turek of course does not want to say so. He dodges the question. But in fact, she is a good example of someone bound for hell.
She says she is a “good” person. She of course hopes this is sufficient. But her definition of “good” is “according to the standards of our society,” and in the expectation that others will treat her the same.
This is what the Bible condemns in the passage
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Doing whatever society expects is an abdication of moral responsibility. It is taking society and your own well-being as God. Idolatry is a far graver sin than lying, theft, or murder.
Speaking of which, some of my students troubled me recently. The text was on lying. And the book asked the question, “Is it ever all right to lie?”
“Sure,” they answered. “If nobody finds out.”
At the beginning of the clip, Turek has just asked the student, “If God exists and if Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?”
She answers “there is no proof that I would be able to accept.”
When he offers her a book to read on condition that she promise to read it, she at first will not do so. I wonder if Turek meant this as a test. It demonstrates that she is not looking for the truth.
This is the essential qualification for heaven. This is what true faith means: to seek truth. The Christian God is “the way, the truth, and the light.”
Not wanting truth means rejecting God. And Turek is right in his definition of heaven: heaven is the presence of God, hell is the absence of God. If we reject God in life, we choose for ourselves to go to hell.
I suspect in the end this woman will find her way. I sense a tremor in her voice when she asks about hell. She finally does promise to read the book. Part of her is seeking; otherwise, she would not have come to the talk. She is at least hearing the voice of her good angel.
It is those who will not read the book if offered, who are surely going to hell.
Each of us, before our deaths, perhaps gets that offer.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
The Economist has published an alarming analysis of the situation of Taiwan.
Apparently, China has established naval dominance in the Eastern Pacific. The proximity of the Chinese mainland ensures air dominance over Taiwan. This dominance cannot be reduced without bombing the Chinese mainland.
American wargaming now shows the Chinese winning any confrontation with the US over Taiwan.
The Economist, as always, is relatively sanguine about the prospects. Why would China risk upsetting the global applecart so long as the situation for them is improving year over year?
I am less sanguine. If this were their calculus, why march in and take Hong Kong? Why rattle sabres in the South China Sea? Why cross the Zone of Actual Control with India?
It is not clear that things are really improving for China year over year. The calculation in Beijing may be the opposite: that things are likely to collapse unless something is done to reshuffle the deck.
What is really going on in China in economic terms has never been transparent. We must rely on government reporting on their own performance. It seems likely the figures are fake. The prosperity is real, so long as everyone thinks it is real. But it can pop like a soap bubble.
China is progressively less competitive on their prime advantage, cheap labour. Without that, can they compete with the West on innovation and efficiency? I suspect a centrally-planned society intrinsically cannot. The officials in Beijing see the real accounts, and they may look grim.
This, after all, is the obvious explanation for the rapid rise of Xi Jinping’s totalitarian domestic policies. The government feared unrest. Loosening up failed to save the old Soviet regime in Russia; they were determined to do the opposite.
The Soviet Union hit a wall and collapsed: this seems to have been because their economy was all smoke and mirrors. Nazi Germany faced the same dilemma: their impressive economic performance towards the end of the 1930s was based on cooking the books and printing money. Hitler had no choice but to invade neighbouring countries and seize assets to meet the next payroll or debt repayment.
Xi’s China may be in the same situation. They may have taken Hong Kong because they needed the assets. They may have been probing for weakness elsewhere.
They may see a pressing need to take Taiwan.
Taiwan is the world’s largest chipmaker. That is an immense asset. China could rule the market in high-tech.
For this reason, taking Taiwan could also change the balance of power globally. According to someone The Economist quotes, losing Taiwan could be “America’s Suez,” the effective end of US dominance.
In other words, the stakes are gigantic, for both China and the US. The stage is perfectly set for a serious, total war; for neither side can easily accept defeat.
And it would probably be a world war. Australia, India, Japan, are also necessarily deeply concerned should China come to dominate. Britain and France have also recently signaled their concern, sending warships to the area. Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea, Canada, would probably also join an American-led anti-Chinese coalition.
China may bank on the West being too decadent to pull themselves together to resist. And they may be right, Ominously, a poll suggests only 50% of the Taiwanese themselves are prepared to resist if China invades.
But Hitler made the same calculation in 1939, and turned out to get wrong. Imperial Japan made the same calculation in 1941, and turned out to get wrong.
And we thought COVID was the big problem…
Monday, May 10, 2021
TED Talks is reviving the vital art of the lecture. Lectures used to be popular entertainment--on the Chautaqua circuit, in the Medieval university. For years, teachers have been taught that lectures are boring. They are -- only if you do not know how to lecture.
Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick
Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before
Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion
Thou Shalt Tell a Story
Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Skae of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy
Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desparate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee
CBC’s The National last evening reported that two “church service organizers” in Calgary were arrested for violating lockdown orders. Global News reports the same.
“Church service organizer”? Why the awkward phrase, instead of the standard term, “pastor”?
Perhaps because the two were not ordained by any recognized large Christian denomination?
This is not required. Merriam-Webster defines “pastor” simply as “a spiritual overseer.” The Oxford English Dictionary has “A person who has the spiritual care of a body of Christians.” “Pastor” is the correct term here.
Sunday, May 09, 2021
We are at the point, in Canada, in America, in the UK, perhaps across the Western World, at which telling the truth is a dangerous, subversive, brave, even revolutionary act.
But it is essential to keep telling the truth, whatever the consequences. Truth is of ultimate value. If we stop telling the truth, we have invalidated our very existence. Solzhenitsyn said, of the old Soviet Union, that if one day one man woke up determined to say nothing but the truth, the entire enterprise would have collapsed.
That’s where we are.
The obvious example is the one which brought Jordan Peterson to fame: that men are not women. We are now under tremendous pressure on this particular issue. We are not allowed to be neutral: we must endorse the view that men are women.
The second obvious example, in Canada, is the residential schools. We are not allowed to suggest that they were a good thing. Although we are obliged to agree that education is a good thing in all other cumstances.
But why these issue in particular? Of the infinite number of possible lies that can be told, why is all the electrical charge on these particular things?
If, after all, a real woman were addressed as “sir,” or “bro,” would she take great offense? Would this be considered a slur? That trans people do consider it so is a tacit admission that they are lying, and they know they are.
No—the issue is not “misgendering.” It is that one must explicitly endorse the premise that others have the right to lie, and further endorse the premise that those who lie have a right to silence those who seek truth.
A second clue is that this aggressive insistence on lying is focused on sex, and not, say, race, height, age, or weight. One is required to accept and vocally agree if a man says he is a woman; one is not required to accept and agree, at least not yet, if Rachel Dolezal says she is African, or if Elizabeth Warren says she is Indian, or if some sixteen-year-old insists she is eighteen.
That seems to suggest that the underlying truth people want to deny is sexual.
The second prominent aggressive lie is about Canada’s “First Nations.” It may not be so clear that this, too, is about sex; but it is. To our primitive minds, aboriginal culture is all about the absence of supposedly oppressive sexual mores. Accordingly, nothing bad must ever be spoken about aboriginal culture. To do so would be to criticize unrestricted sex.
We make much of missing and murdered aboriginal women. The cause is no mystery; but nobody is allowed to say it. These young girls were either abandoned, or forced to escape, by their birth families. A lack of sexual mores was the obvious problem. We are being forced to very publicly declare it was not.
If aboriginal culture represents unrestricted sex, the residential schools represent the opposite. Because they were run by the churches, their primary intent, in the popular mind, has to have been to impose sexual morality. Or, using the standard euphemism, “erasing native culture.”
Our culture is going totalitarian and decadent, is actually prepared to destroy itself, in order to preserve sexual libertinage.
You, gentle reader, may be reacting badly to my bringing up sexual morality. Isn’t this “puritanism”? Isn’t it all nonsense and foolish inhibition? After all, who is harmed by a supposed sexual sin? Who’s the victim?
The first and obvious answer is, the children. Sex is obviously designed, by God or by nature, for conceiving children. Engage in it randomly, and children are entirely liable to pop up.
The initial premise behind the “sexual revolution” was that, with the new birth control pill, this connection had been broken, and we were now liberated to engage in recreational sex.
That might have worked were birth control one hundred percent effective; but it is not. So free and unrestricted abortion became a thing: mass murder. And we are feeling deeply guilty, and in denial, about that.
But even aside from that, it is callous to suppose there is no victim. Recreational sex necessarily involves viewing another human being as a mere means for physical pleasure. Like we view a steak or a beer. On the unhappy chance that a given sex partner does not see themselves the same way, as a mere slab of meat, and does not see you the same way, as a slab of meat, you are hurting them emotionally, possibly gravely. Emotional blows are at least as cruel as physical blows, and can leave scars at least as deep.
It is time to sober up, gang.
Saturday, May 08, 2021
Xerxes has seen an art exhibit on the theme of the nuclear age. He left angered, he reports, at Canada’s “complicity.” Canada; after all, was a participant in the Manhattan Project, The uranium used in the first bombs was mined in Canada, and refined in Canada.
But was unleashing the genie of nuclear power on balance a bad thing? This is far from self-evident, and an interesting question.
For example, when Canada joined in the Manhattan Project, circa 1942, there was good reason to believe that getting to the bomb first would be the difference between ending Nazism and surrendering the world to it--should they have gotten there first. Should any Canadian feel guilt? I think pride is more appropriate.
Today, many are concerned about global warming—even seeing it as some world-ending threat. Nuclear power is our best option to reduce greenhouse gases. Aside from being more practical, it is less harmful to the environment than any alternative. There is something to be said for cheap, clean, essentially unlimited power.
Of course, there is a risk of nasty accidents; that is an engineering challenge. Fire is risky in a similar way, but we have not refused to use it.
Then there is the horror of nuclear war. But even this, since 1945, has been only a theoretical danger. That’s a pretty good safety record in itself. It may be that the concept of “mutually assured destruction” was right: once both sides have nuclear weapons, there is essentially no chance of any high-intensity conflict. It would be suicidal, including for the leader who initiated it. In the first half of the last century, we had two devastating “world wars.” Right up to the invention of the bomb, it looked as though “total war” was going to become a permanent and escalating feature of our existence; the sides were already drawn up for the next big one. This is what Orwell predicted in 1984. It looks as though the bomb ended all that with an exclamation point.
Someday, someone in authority might make a miscalculation, or just not care anymore, and unspeakable devastation might result. But it seems possible that the bomb has been preventing unspeakable devastation for seventy years or so, and counting. That perhaps should be weighed in the balance.
Friday, May 07, 2021
I am pleased to see that some farmers in the US are filing suit against the federal government for racial discrimination.
The problem is worse in Canada. The Trudeau government is blatantly setting tax funds aside for female-run and black-run businesses.
Unfortunately, while racial and sexual discrimination is ultimately illegal in the US, it is legal in Canada. The Canadian Constitution has a carve-out:
“Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
As well as a separate carve-out for “aboriginal people.”
Any government can therefore discriminate against any group so long as they declare their intent to be to balance out some supposed advantage.
Hitler insisted that ethnic Germans were disadvantaged by the Jews in 1930s Germany. Mussolini insisted that Italians were disadvantaged as a nation in the 1920s. Jim Crow began in the US South because white Southerners saw themselves as disadvantaged by the North.
And so it goes.