Thursday, March 31, 2005

CBC Bias Watch

The CBC’s report of Sandy Berger’s plea bargain makes it seem no more than a political ploy by the Republicans.

http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2005/03/31/berger-050331.html


The CBC reports that Berger says it was all “an honest mistake”—i.e., no wrongdoing involved.

The piece ends with the arch comment “Many Democrats believe that news of the probe was deliberately leaked by Republicans who wanted to distract the public from the Sept. 11 commission report, which was being released days later.”

The story omits, however, interesting points included in the NYT’s coverage—the NYT hardly being a right-wing rag. For example:

“But in the plea agreement reached with prosecutors, he is expected to admit that he intentionally removed copies of five classified documents, destroyed three and misled staff members at the National Archives when confronted about it, according to an associate of Mr. Berger's ….”

This on multiple occasions.

And no word from the CBC on Berger’s security clearance being revoked.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

John Paul: And the Wall Came Tumbling Down

The Corriere della Sera, one of Italy's two biggest dailies, reports documents uincovered by the German government in the Stasi files prove the Soviets were behind the assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981. Apparently, they gave the job to Bulgarian Security, who recruited Turks to actually do the deed. The communications were routed through East German security to cover the traces.

Back when the wall fell, the Bishop of Ottawa spoke to a group I was attending. He had just returned from a conclave in Europe. He claimed that John Paul had been crucial in causing the Berlin Wall to fall. I doubted him then. It turns out he was exactly right. John Paul was an enormous threat to the Soviets, and they knew it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Pay Equity

A new book, "Why Men Earn More" by Warren Farrell, looks at a broad array of wage statistics and concludes that, contrary to popular opinion, women earn just as much as men, and sometimes more.

For example:

- Women are 15 times as likely as men to become top executives in major corporations before the age of 40. The glass ceiling is for men only.

- Never-married, college-educated males who work full time make only 85 percent of what comparable women earn. In other words, the supposed “male pay advantage” was really always a “family pay advantage,” an advantage of married men over single men and women recognizing and resulting from their need to support a wife and kids—and their greater workplace stability as a result. Now, all women are paid at the married rate. But men are not.

- Female pay exceeds male pay in more than 80 different fields. If “Equal pay for equal work” is the issue, affirmative action should be introduced to help men. But of course, it has not been.

- Part-time female workers make $1.10 for every $1 earned by part-time males. Women have the advantage at the bottom of the work ladder as well as at the top.

- Even in the early 1980s, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that companies paid men and women equal money when their titles and responsibilities were the same.

- Even in 1969, data from the American Council on Education showed that female professors who had never been married and had never published earned 145 percent of their male counterparts. Women were given an advantage even before the current “affirmative action” regime.

- Even during the 1950s, the gender pay gap for all never-married workers was less than 2 percent, while never-married white women between 45 and 54 earned 106 percent of what their white male counterparts made. There never was a general gender pay gap. It was a married vs. single pay gap.

- Citing Internal Revenue statistics, Farrell notes that women who owntheir own businesses net only 49 percent of what male counterpartsmake. Obviously, bosses cannot be holding women back in such circumstances. This, therefore, is presumably the free market demonstrating the proper pay differential between men and women. That women make more than this demonstrates discrimination against men.

- Women are more likely than men to pick glamorous jobs that pay less. It makes sense. They can afford to consider other things than money, not being normally obliged to support a family, and not having their social worth judged on their earning capacity.

Women have choices. Men do not.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Catholic Counterculture of the Sixties

It is striking how, although he almost single-handedly invented the 60s counterculture, which has now become the dominant culture, it has turned out to be something very different from what Jack Kerouac wanted or believed.


Some quotes and observations from his biographer:

"politics was not a major interest for any of them [the Beats], although they agreed on a vaguely anarchistic disdain for bureaucracy and the welfare state, a reactionary working-class perspective…"

"… [Kerouac] told a friend that rational psychotherapy was for him only another superstition, and he preferred the richer, deeper, sad peasant mysticism of Quebec Catholics."

He "disliked … the repetitious analysis of sex that seemed to preoccupy everyone."

"The city intellectuals of the world were divorced from the folk body blood of the land, were just rootless fools." – quoted.

He "revered the family…wanted to expand the nucleus, return to the traditional extended family…"

"As far as he was concerned, society was insane, an evil mistake."

Kerouac: "scientific psychology … [has] put a mechanism in the place of an organism."

Kerouac supported Taft in 1952. Eisenhower was too far to the left for him. In 1956, he supported Eisenhower for reelection against Stevenson.

"I'm a messenger from heaven."

Kerouac claimed the Beats were "an essentially religious movement … rooted in the Gothic style."

Later, he describes himself as a "lay Jesuit."

Asked to explain the phenomenon of being "beat," he cited Jesus's claim that, "to see the kingdom of heaven you must lose yourself."

Again, he said being "Beat" involved "absolute belief in a Divinity of Rapture." His desire in writing was to have "God … show me His face."

In another essay he defined "Beat" as believing "in beatitude, and that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to it."

He wrote poems for the Catholic church magazine Jubilee. When he took up painting, "all of his subjects were Roman Catholic, most often the newly anointed Pope John, whom he loved."

“All I write about is Jesus.”

His diaries are filled with prayers (some for humility) and sketches of the crucified Christ.

According to Kerouac, On the Road
“...was really a story about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him. I found him in the sky, in Market Street San Francisco (those 2 visions), and Dean (Neal) had God sweating out of his forehead all the way. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY OUT FOR THE HOLY MAN: HE MUST SWEAT FOR GOD. And once he has found Him, the Godhood of God is forever Established and really must not be spoken about.”
“Kerouac was wrongly accused of championing the fornication, adultery, car stealing, illegal drugs, and other sundry sins and vices he wrote about so matter-of-factly. It was an understandable mistake.”
- Culture Wars magazine - http://www.culturewars.com/CultureWars/1999/kerouac.html
Kerouac’s great virtue was forgiveness, compassion, mercy, charity.

The other beats are not all that different. Allen Ginsberg is probably the one who would have been happiest with the way the culture interpreted them. But William S. Burroughs was a right-wing gun lover.

Burroughs called liberalism "a sniveling, mealy-mouthed tyranny of bureaucrats, social workers, psychiatrists, and union officials." He considered the US a police state similar to that in the Soviet Union.

Burroughs, though homosexual, called homosexuality "a horrible sickness."


Left-wing critics of the day generally hated both Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg . The academic establishment hated them and tried to censor them. The one cultural sector that was welcoming from the beginning—and I think this is significant--was the Catholic Church.

Essentially, from the beginning, the counterculture was a Catholic movement. To Kerouac, this was absolutely explicit. But just look at the major figures who were from a culturally Catholic background. To being with, almost all of the original Beat poets:

Jack Kerouac
Gregory Corso
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Michael McClure
Phil Whalen
Neal Cassady

And so too these other figures generally identified with the counterculture of the sixties:

Marshall McLuhan
Timothy Leary
Jerry Garcia
John Lennon
Paul McCartney
Carlos Castenada
Frank Zappa

It is terribly ironic that the counterculture so quickly turned hostile to the Catholic Church. The devil quickly turns things to his ends.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Emotional Genius

Brandenn Bremmer, a 14-year old prodigy who taught himself to read at 18 months, shot himself yesterday.

Comment from his mother: "He had this excessive need to help people and teach people. ... He was so connected with the spiritual world, we felt he could hear people's needs and desires and their cries. We just felt like something touched him that day and he knew he had to leave.”

There was something like this in a movie on child prodigies I saw, directed by Jodie Foster; and psychologist Alice Miller says something like this too. People with high intelligence also seem to have strong sense of responsibility for others; to be “sensitive.” They take on themselves the problems of those around them, and the problems of the world.

There is more to high intelligence than we understand.

Also, this special emotional sensitivity is the real “EQ.” It is the opposite of what is currently called “EQ,” which has to do with manipulating the emotions of others for your benefit.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Primal Screen Therapy

A recent weekend section in the local paper talks about a new kind of psychotherapy: “movie therapy.”

The idea is that by talking about favourite movies, one can “unlock all the feelings you have repressed.”

God forbid. While I bet movie therapy can work in practice, psychotherapy has its theory completely wrong, completely backwards. This is no doubt why psychotherapy has such an appallingly bad success rate. Almost any significant “mental illness” you can mention—chronic depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, manic depression—is, according to psychotherapy, “incurable.” Which is to say, psychotherapy cannot cure it—though most such “mental illnesses” used to be considered transitory before psychotherapy.

If one simply wallows in one’s negative emotions, one trains oneself to feel them more and more. They harden into definite vices: anger, greed, hatred, envy, bitterness, covetousness, lust. (Look at that poster boy for psychoanalysis, Woody Allen, and his record on lust.)

The goal should be to get rid of them. Art—such as a movie—can do this, by sublimation. Unless you are yourself rather shallow, it has to be a pretty good movie—but most movies will at least be deeper than most psychiatrists.

It scares me to read, though, one patient saying “It took a long time for me to open up… The romance between Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman’s characters made me realize that I had never really loved my husband.”

Heaven help us. Here it sounds to me as though psychotherapy has broken up what may have been a perfectly good marriage because real life cannot equal a fictional romance. And real husbands are not as dashing as Ewan McGregor.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Magazines: The Editor's Art

A reminder of how good Time magazine used to be: they described Jack Kerouac back in the early Sixties as "Latrine laureate of Hobohemia ... ambisextrous and hipsterical." They'd never write like that now. Doesn't fit with what the marketers say. Magazines can be great, can have a profound influence on a culture, but it usually lasts just as long as one gifted editor, and when he or she is gone, it is gone.

Although the magazine usually lives on on sheer reputation for years.

And oddly, the great magazines are the ones that break all the rules. Like the old Time Magazine, that used to always, expensively, show artwork on its cover. Every marketer knows you have to show a photo of someone's face to sell a magazine from a newsstand.

But genius and scientific marketing do not mix.

That quote above, similarly, would fry any fog index. Would not be allowed today, because Time magazine, to increase its potential readership, is now pitched to a fairly low reading level.

Some other magazines that have been great:

Reader's Digest. A great idea for a magazine. But it really did depend on the good taste of one editor, to select the best articles from elsewhere. And it used to really be for readers: it actually ran its table of contents on the cover. It was also a model of editing craft: everything was chopped at least a third. But it is now of little interest.

Playboy. It used its pictures to foster really high quality writing, and paid well for it. As a result, it probably did a lot forAmerican culture for some years, no matter what one thinks of the "Playboy philisophy." Its interview feature was also once a matter of record: something that often could not be missed.

The Economist. Maybe still is great, but not what it was just a few years ago. I knew it had copped out when it went to colour inside. I loved the gall of a magazine that was all black and white and ran pages full of dense text. Most magazines these days "know" you have to keep pieces short and cut up the page into smaller pieces to tease people into reading anything. The Economist obviously pitched to people who had read before. But since it went colour, its captions aren't nearly as funny as they once were--this, in the first place, something they got from Time in its glory days. And some of the more interesting and quirky columns are gone--like Johnson, which was, in a magazine on economics and current events, about language.

National Review. It was enormously influential in the US for a generation. But it depended entirely on the talent and the inherited fortune of William F. Buckley Jr.

Mad Magazine. William Gaines _was_ Mad Magazine. It went spectacularly against all received wisdom by runnig no ads, and getting all its revenue from newsstand sales. Everyone knows both of these things are impossible.

Harrowsmith. Much too high production values for its presumably small market as a Canadina special-interest magazine. And extravagantly great writing. My favourite head was "Still Waters Run Jeep."

The New Yorker. Some say Harold Ross of the New Yorker invented modern editing.

There are "great magazines" now on the web, in the same way. "Arts & Letters Daily" used to be great; but it has now been abandoned by its founder, and is pedestrian. "The Drudge Report" continues to be something special.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Feminine Advantage

Some indication of the easy ride women get with feminism is the slate of speakers for the upcoming “Festival of Thinkers” in Abu Dhabi. There are fifteen male speakers, and three female—and feminists will seize on that stat and say it shows discrimination against women.

But look closer. Among those men, you have ten Nobel prizewinners. The other five all have Ph.D.s: Edward de Bono and Bjorn Lomborg, both almost household names; Craig Barrett, the CEO of Intel; Bernard Piccard, the first man to fly non-stop by balloon around the world; and last and apparently least, Thomas Rocco, VP of something called “Collegiate Enterprise Solutions.”

Now look at the three women: no Nobel Prizes. Only one has a Ph.D. One is CEO of Entovation International (who?); one is a professor in China; the last, a recent Ph.D. (2001), is an associate professor in Sweden and a marketing director for Silex Microsystems. Not really in the same league as Intel.

So while there are more men than women, it obviously takes higher qualifications for a man than for a woman to be included. The discrimination is against men and in favour of women.

Add the cumulative comparable discrimination every step of the way—in school, university, grad school, hiring and promotion—and the advantage for women is staggering.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Taking the Veil

An observation from attending a conference last weekend: a lot of women wearing the complete burqa/chador, the veil, at the conference spoke fluent English with regional American accents or British accents. A number had blue eyes.

Nobody wants to hear it, but a lot of Western, non-Muslim women, once they are over here, are embracing the chador. Just as the Arab women do.

What could be more absurd than the notion that in choosing to wear a particular style of dress, women are “oppressed”?

The chador is liberating. Given only that you are not constantly on the prowl for casual sex.

But that’s what it all comes down to, isn’t it? That’s all “women’s liberation” or current Western “liberalism” is about.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

On the Road Again

Reading Jack Kerouac and Kerouac's biography gives me the strong sense that the origin of the counterculture was the trauma of urbanization and greater mobility caused by the automobile.

The "back to the land" thing was a desire to recover the recently lost family farm.

The "commune" thing was an attempt to recover the extended family.

The "ecology" thing was from a sense of loss, of disconnection, from the land and the countryside. The odd conviction that the world was overpopulated was the culture shock of moving to the crowded cities from the vast open land.

The drugs thing was trying to recover lost spiritual roots; as alcohol is among the native North Americans. It was an attempt to recover that layer of interlocking meaningfulness, allusion, symbol, and metaphor, which one has when one lives with all the same people and shares all the same experiences over a lifetime. The sense that life as a whole is coherent. This level of experience is also necessary for sharing deeply, for sharing emotions.

When it is missing, besides drugs, art must wheel into play to recreate it. Hence the burst of creativity in the beat and hippie years.

The sex thing similarly was a hunger for lost intimacy, of the sort one has with an extended family and a tight-knit community.

The distaste for children comes from the sense of crowding in the cities, the disconnect with the procession of generations as a result of the rootlessness, and the relative expense of raising kids in a city as opposed to on a farm. Where they more or less earn their own keep.

The “radical” politics was simply disaffection, of general unhappiness with the situation. Hence its ideological incoherence.

The music, rock and pop, especially the hippie versions of it, was based on folk, country, and blues: rural, traditional styles. Again, urbanites trying to recover the rural past. Pop is rural folk.

The huge increase in depression is an obvious result of the rootlessness, the loss of meaning. Depression is alienation.

Feminism was a different reaction to the same stimuli. Women, isolated in their suburban kitchens, lost the community of the extended family, the church breakfast, and the village well. It was the isolation and rootlessness that drove them screaming out of the home.

My hope, though, is that the computer and the shift from manufacture to services will be able to mend the harm the automobile and industrialization has done. Our communications technology is catching up to our transportation technology, and soon it will be possible for most of us to move back out of the cities into the towns and countryside, thanks to "telecommuting."

In the meantime, the Internet is doing a lot in terms of creating virtual communities. I can stay in touch with old friends from every point in my life, on line, by email or in chat groups. I can find them on the web and reconnect if we get separated. I can link up with people who share my interests at any time, wherever they are. Alienation is getting a lot harder than it used to be.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Letter from Moriarty

Dear Abbot:

Overpopulation is not a myth. It is an obvious fact.

Moriarty


Dear Moriarty:

It is hard for me to see how "overpopulation" can be factual, rather than a value judgement. How does one determine an optimal population for the world, in order to determine that we are over or under it? I would have thought that the optimal population of the world would be that population at which quality of life is highest, most readily measured by material prosperity. By this measure, the world is under, not over, populated. Simply note that the more populous areas of the world are, generally speaking, the more prosperous ones. And that, in general terms, as the world's population has grown, the individual prosperity of the average human has also grown, for as long as we've been able to keep track.

Abbot



Dear Abbot:

What's a "myth" is the idea that our current (18th-20th cen) model of continuous economic "growth"-- with populations growing, & lifestyle (industrial and consumer consumption) upgrading can continue for
much longer at all.

Moriarty


Dear Moriarty:

There may theoretically be an upper limit in terms of resources. But if so, we are nowhere near it, based on any objective evidence. The cost of raw materials and food has been going down steadily for the past century and more. Improved technology improves the use of raw materials, discovers new materials, and so forth. There is no evidence that this is a zero sum game. Sure, some day we may run out of charcoal. This is not especially troublesome, however, unless we have stopped developing, and so have not in the meantime found some superior replacement for charcoal—coal, say, or petroleum.

On this perspective, the likeliest path to perdition is to stop developing, not to "overdevelop."

Houston Chronicle, 04/21/00: "World proven oil reserves today are estimated to be 15 times greater than the original 1948 estimates. World natural gas reserves in the last 30 years have increased almost five-fold. World coal reserves today are estimated to be over four times the amount calculated nearly a half-century ago… Consumer-inflation-adjusted prices for electricity, natural gas and gasoline in the United States have each fallen by approximately one-third since the 1980s [despite the recent rise in oil prices]"

Abbot


Dear Abbot:

South Korea is way overpopulated -- environmental degradation, pollution, waste piling up, no parking spaces, all tell us so.

Moriarty

Dear Moriarty:

You have been in South Korea for sixteen years and you haven't noticed how the environment has improved with development? Ten or twenty years ago, the mountains around Seoul were bare; people stripped them clean every winter for sustenance and for firewood. But now Korea can afford to maintain huge national and provincial parks in fairly pristine condition. You can trace the same thing world-wide: greater development leads to less environmental damage. In the seventeenth century London was a cesspool. Now you can fish in the Thames, and eat the fish you catch. LA no longer has smog alerts. The forests of Europe and America are now steadily growing. More habitat for more animals.

In 1972 two thirds of the waters in the US were unsafe for fishing and swimming. Today, two thirds are safe. "We have more forested land today in the US than at the turn of the century," says US Forest Service chief Mike Dombeck. (US News & World Report, 4/17/00)

A snippet from the Houston Chronicle, 04/21/00: "Urban air quality in America is one-third cleaner than in the 1970's."

I remember Gananoque when I was growing up as a fairly dirty industrial town, with factories along the river and the sound of the steel presses everywhere. Now most of that old industrial land is park.

Abbot


Dear Abbot:

I might wildly guess that that this biosphere could sustain 2 or 3 billion of us at a decent lifestyle without
getting "sick". 6 billion is already way too many. 10 bil is going to be a hellish nightmare.

Moriarty


Dear Moriarty:

The Earth cannot get “sick.” This is anthropomorphism. The issue is whether 3 or 6 billion can live on it with a decent lifestyle.

But the average lifestyle of each human today at six billion is better than it was when there were only 2 or 3 billion of us. Far fewer are hungry. On what basis, then, can you call 6 billion "too many"?

As the earth as a whole undergoes the industrial revolution, people are moving off the land and concentrating in cities. This means is that a greater number of people can be sustained at a better standard of living on less land.

On current projections, world population will peak at about nine or ten million, then begin to decline. Worldwide, we are not reproducing at replacement level. On this basis alone, overpopulation seems dubious as a driving concern. Some quotes: "By 2050, … the number of immigrants needed to maintain the working-age-to-retirement ration [in South Korea] is 110 times the size of the current national population." "The probability that you die from AIDS when you are 15 today is over 50 percent [in some nations of sub-Saharan Africa]." (AP, 06/27/00). "A report issued by the United Nations said that, on current trends, the population of Central and Eastern Europe will drop by a third by the middle of this century." (Economist, 05/06/00). "[Japan's] population is projected to decline by 17 percent during the next half century. By 2050 the population will dwindle to 105 million from 127 million now, according to UN estimates… [Japan will need] 600,000 immigrants a year just to maintain its present work force." (Korea Herald/NYT, ?). "Like it or not, Europe, Japan and South Korea are facing shrinking populations and a tight labour market…Such countries as Italy and Japan [are] expected to lose a quarter of their current populations by 2050" (UN Population Division Study, "Replacement Migration").

For more on this, you might like to scan http://www.pop.org/reports/facts.htm

Abbot


Dear Abbot:

You argue that we are UNDERpopulated on purely econ-growth terms, need for workers. Seems
pretty blind to me.

Moriarty


Dear Moriarty:

Paul Krugman, you may recall, predicted the current slump in Japan on the basis that Asia's newfound prosperity is founded more or less completely on its reserves of skilled labour. Japan ran out of population, and so it hit a growth ceiling. It is precisely its large population that is fuelling growth in China.

Bottom line: people are worth more than oil or tin. Surprise.

Abbot


Dear Abbot:

You think that it's natural or good that we become the only large animal species on this planet? The tigers & lions are done-for, the elephants & eagles & bears don't have much longer outside of zoos. "Wild" forest areas are disappearing rapidly, exactly under our overpopulated pressure.

Morairty


Dear Moriarty:

Development is more likely to preserve than to kill off other large species. As pointed out above, there are more forests in developed nations than there were a hundred years ago. There is more habitat for wild animals. Moreover, wealthy nations have more resources to divert to the preservation of species. In 1970, the US had 10 million acres of protected wilderness. Today it has 104 million acres. In 1970, the US had 30 million acres of national parks. Now it has 83 million acres. "Several animals that were threatened or near extinction in the lower 48 states at the time of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, including peregrine falcons, bald eagles, gray wolves, and California condors, have had their ranks grow in recent decades." (US News & World Report, 4/17/00). Just this week the gray wolf was taken off the list of protected species. There are just too danged many of them.

If extinction of species is a real problem, the solution is development. The surest way to kill more off is to prevent development.

Abbot


Dear Abbot:

We lose to extinction, what, 50 species a day? Much more rapid than at any time in the past (except sudden climate-change). The oceans are becoming exhausted of fish.

Moriarty


Dear Moriarty:

Bjorn Lundstrom has challenged such figures as only theoretical, but not actually happening. We may be working from a flawed model. We keep finding new species every day as well, including some previously believed to be extinct.

The oceans are indeed becoming exhausted of some popular types of fish. This is no surprise. We've been counting on the oceans to give us a free ride, all taking and no giving. And we’ve been eating at the top of the food chain, as if we still lived by hunting tigers and cougars on land. We plant nothing in the oceans, just harvest what is there.

This is hardly an argument against development, though. Rather, it shows just how much further we can develop: hunting and gathering, the continent of North America was able to support a few million people, tops. With settled agriculture, it now supports four hundred million or so, at an incomparably higher standard of living. So too for the seas. Except that the seas account for more area, and more biomass, than the land. Imagine the untapped potential.

Abbot


Dear Abbot:

The Catholic Church seems to think that not permitting their followers to use birth-control is more important than any of this -- or argues that they're separate, one has nothing to do with the other.

Moriarty


Dear Moriarty:

There is no problem of overpopulation. If there were, there are natural means of birth control more effective than any artificial means. Consider abstinence.

Allowing artificial birth control is not directly related to limiting population. It is about enabling sex. Let’s call a spade a spade.

Abbot


Dear Abbot:

A primitive obsession with increasing the number of one religion's believers (in competition with other religions), coupled with a patriarchal prudishness (against sex purely for pleasure, when babies are not wanted) seems to drive Vatican policy.

Moriarty


Dear Moriarty:

Sex sheerly for pleasure necessarily reduces the other person involved to a sex object. It is an offense against their human dignity. It is also reckless disregard for the interests of children, given that you use no foolproof form of birth control (e.g., tied tubes or a vasectomy).

This is sufficient reason for the Catholic Church’s stand on recreational sex. Imputing less honourable motives is idle speculation.

And I can’t see your alternate explanation as plausible. Would a patriarchy be prudish? Why? Are men commonly more prudish than women? Is that your experience?

Do you have phone numbers?

The modern West has a weird and quite unique obsession with sex, both pro and con. In China, they pointed out to me that sex is not one of the five traditional essentials of life (with thesubtext: foolish, decadent Westereners). In the Persian Gulf, they refer to the “wicked West,” meaning specifically our perceived sexual obsession. It is abnormal. I think can be largely traced to the good Dr. Freud, as well as to a crass misunderstanding of the traditions of Medieval romance. Freud, you may recall, in effect claimed that, if you did not masturbate, you would go blind.

Freud has been pretty systematically disproven. Unfortunately, popular culture has not caught up to this fact yet. And doesn’t want to.

Abbot


Dear Abbot:

I find Catholic opposition to birth-control (incl abortion) to be obnoxious in the face of our factual
situation. Families with 10 kids are unhealthy, for both those people and for their societies. Nations
like the Philippines with very high fertility per woman, due to Catholic teachings, are in horrible situations of economic decline, with no hope in sight.

Moriarty


Dear Moriarty:

There are a lot of factors that suggest large families are healthier, for the children and for the parents. Starting with a reduced risk of breast and cervical cancer for mom, longer life expectancy for dad and mom, better mental health for middle as opposed to oldest, youngest, and only children, and so on.

The Philippines is in economic trouble because of bad government, aka corruption. Its population density is lower than that of Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, or the Netherlands, none of which are in obvious economic decline. To distract attention with unfounded claims of overpopulation helps to keep bad governments in power, by giving them an excuse, and so retards development. It is convenient to blame the poor for their own predicament. This is one reason why the dogma of overpopulation has been so eagerly embraced by third world governments like China and India.

But a boom in population, historically, has generally been rapidly followed by a growth in standard of living, not a decline. We saw it in England in the Industrial Revolution, we saw it in Germany, we saw it in Japan, in Korea, in Taiwan, in Hong Kong. We are now seeing it in China and India—exactly the countries where the experts claimed overpopulation was the biggest problem. Meanwhile Africa, which has not seen a comparable population boom, languishes.

Dear Abbot:

I never noticed anything in the teachings of Jesus, as recorded in the Bible, which oppose family-planning
by any means -- can you point out? This seems to be a later-Christian invention, for reasons above.

Moriarty


Dear Moriarty:

In an agricultural society, in a society where children are permitted to work and earn, family planning probably does not become an issue. Every new child is a blessing, because children earn their keep. See the Book of Job.

Let me however point out that, in the Bible, man's prime directive is to "go forth and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Let me also point out that the Hippocratic Oath bans any doctor from performing an abortion. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism have all determined that life begins at conception. Therefore, the ban seems always to have been present, but not a big issue because people were not inclined to violate it.

Note too there is no problem with “family planning,” properly so-called. Catholics may indeed plan their families and space out births: see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 2368. That is not the issue. The issue is the use of specific means to do so.

But let us just put everything else aside, and suppose that you are absolutely right: suppose the Catholic Church is wrong.

So what? What does it matter to you, not beign a Catholic? Why does this evoke such violence of feeling? Why do you wnt to kill the pope? Is being wrong such a crime?

No, methinks you do protest too much. Being wrong is not so important. It is being right that really gets people’s dander up—when it’s an unwelcome truth being propounded. See the stories of the prophets.

Your friend,

Abbot