Thursday, November 30, 2006
In the meantime, Keith Spicer a few years ago, as chair of a committee on national unity, lamented that there was not enough poetry in our sense of nationhood.
So why not write new words?
I was concerned not to knuckle under to the fashion for multiculturalism, and portray Canada as a hotel: I didn’t want one verse for Newfoundland, one for Sikhs, and so forth. That leaves Canada as nothing in itself: I think it is fatal to nationhood. Every verse had to be for every Canadian.
Here’s what I have come up with:
The Maple Leaf Forever
(new words to the old tune)
No sap may rise,
The leaves may fall,
The winds may whip like leather;
Yet still on winter nights recall
The maple leaf forever.
The shining sea
Dims off BC:
We watch the darkness gather.
Yet soon the dawn’s off old St. John’s:
The maple leaf forever.
Brave Fox might fall
On roads unrun--
We’ll win this race together.
Ten million feet all rise as one--
The maple leaf forever.
From Vimy Ridge
To Stanley strand,
Red blooms anoint strange heather.
Beneath stone crosses lies each man
With maple leaves forever.
All blazes gone,
We portage on,
From known to unknown river.
What can’t we do if North is true?
The maple leaf forever.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
This is a Nazi propaganda picture from the thirties. Note that the rap against the Jews was essentially the same rap used against WASP males today: they are portrayed as wealthy and advantaged. The illustration on the left shows the "typical" Jewish family: a bunch of rich capitalist pigs. On the right is the "typical" Aryan German family: poor and proletarian.
Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it.
Contrasting that with the near-unanimous vote in the Commons shows, once again, that Canada has a ruling class with its own agenda that is heedless of the opinion of the mass of Canadians. “Like being in the court of Bourbon kings,” Coyne suggests. As with Meech Lake, something’s gotta give.
My suspicion is that, this time, it’s going to split the Liberals. The contrast, after all, is most dramatic there: 72% of Liberals nationwide reject Quebec as a nation. A lot of Liberals are Liberals because of Pierre Trudeau, and his doctrine of federalism. Imagine, now, Michael Ignatieff getting the leadership, with his strong support of the idea. Or, for that matter, Bob Rae, almost as supportive, and identified more or less with the Chretien wing of the party. With the factionalism already evident, after years of feuds between Chretienites and Martinites, the temptation may be very strong for some to either sit on their hands next election, or walk away, or start their own party.
An interesting possibility: what if Ignatieff’s vote actually goes down on the second ballot? It could happen. Delegates are pledged for one ballot only. Ignatieff’s campaign has had troubles since delegate selection. The “nation” issue is an emotional one, the sort of issue that, for some, trumps all others. What if his vote actually goes down?
A rumour has it that the rival Rae and Ignatieff camps are so afraid of Dion that they will tell some of their supporters to vote for Kennedy on the first two ballots, to make sure that he is ahead of Dion on the crucial third. Interesting, but risky, strategy. With the “nation” issue, Kennedy may see a late rally to his side anyway. So what happens if he does much better on the first and second ballots than anticipated, while Ignatieff’s vote actually goes down?
Ignatieff speaks last at the convention. In this fluid situation, the speeches could be crucial, and speaking last is a big advantage. If Ignatieff can pull off a good performance, it could make a big difference.
nation - noun; a large body of people united by common descent, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.
nation: 1 a (1) : NATIONALITY
nationality: 5 a : a people having a common origin, tradition, and language and capable of forming or actually constituting a nation-state b : an ethnic group constituting one element of a larger unit (as a nation )
It’s hard to see what the controversy is: by my reading, Francophone Quebeckers are indeed a nation by the most common definition. They share a common descent, a common language, and a common culture, and they inhabit a particular territory. They are theoretically capable of forming a state; the whole referendum issue assumes that. Yet there is no reason to believe this involves recognition of some particular political status: the nation-state is only one possible form of state.
So I did not see in advance the firestorm Ignatieff would unleash with his support for the concept of Quebeckers as a nation. Probably for the same reason: I’ve been out of the country for a while.
In any case, it’s now with us. And the very suddenness of the vote in parliament, plus the near-unanimity among the political class, was sinister. It reminds us again that Canada is a very class-ridden society, that the country’s elite assumes it always knows best, and does not trust or feel a need to respect popular opinion.
It was fast footwork on the constitution very much like this that led, I think, to the split of the PCs and the rise of the Reform movement. I would have hoped we had learned better. I would have hoped Stephen Harper were smarter than that.
Perhaps this time, though, from the looks of it, it will be the Liberal Party that splits.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Now, we have a live professor, plus a textbook. Soon, we will also have canned lectures from the leading expert, or most inspiring teacher, in each topic. Not to mention great multimedia demonstrations, as in this clip of Hans Rosling. I think the classroom will survive, because we enjoy doing things in groups; but it will be open to the world.
And graduate school will be a worldwide email discussion group.
Dion’s opportunity depended on his alliance with Kennedy, and with surpassing Kennedy by the third ballot. But now Kennedy, by coming out against the “nation” concept, may attract a lot of last-minute votes, as the only candidate keeping the Trudeauvian faith.
Leaving Bob Rae, Stephane Dion, Gerard Kennedy, and Michael Ignatieff with, to my eye, just about equal chances at this moment.
Nothing better for a politics junkie than such a good old fashioned open convention. Sadly, I'll be in the air somewhere between the Persian Gulf and the Far East as the first ballot votes come in.
I wish Canada luck.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
But I love that town, and the whole region of western Leed’s County. It is, physically, one of the most beautiful places on earth. And the people are even better: primarily Irish by ethnicity, really a southern tongue of the larger grouping called “the Valley.” They are warm, funny, down-to-earth, independent-minded, and honest.
They are my people.
I recently found this list of Valleyisms on Wikipedia. They caused me a warm wave of nostalgia. Although I don’t think I ever actually spoke the Ottawa Valley accent as my native tongue, for some reason, I switch into it without thinking whenever I am talking to anyone else whose own accent varies widely from standard American English. I guess it’s my second accent. When I do it with anyone from the British Isles, they are convinced I’m from Ireland.
• Sledin' - to go snowmobiling
• g'day - good day, hello
• Get'er - To go after it
• Got'er - You know you are going to come out on top
• Boot Scoot - To go somewhere
• Let her Whistle - to go fast
• Let her dance- To go fast
• cairp - carp, either the fish or the town of Carp
(Od: this one rings false. Of course it’s cairp. That’s just the correct vowel sound. Same as cair for car or ciaw for cow.)
• lad - person, neighbour
(Od: I dissent; you cannot call a female a “lad.” For women or for mixed groups, you must say “guys.” There is no singular form. If speaking of only one woman, you must simply use her nickname—“fat Cathy,” “fast Susan,” “dark-eyed Molly,” or “Black Jade.”)
• pie-eyed - drunk
• are ya dry? - are you drunk?
• pinned - to be drunk
• tuned - to be drunk
• pin 'er! - go faster!
• Givn'er! - Faster
• Smoked - To be hit hard
• Slammed - Drunk
• Pritnear - Nearly
• Shinin'er - Masturbating
• Hick - "Red-neck" Canadians, The people or farmers who inhabit the Ottawa valley or live in the region of Killaloe
• Hammed - Drunk
• Pulling your Goalie - Masturbating
• Hamboned - Drunk
• Loaded - Drunk
• Plastered - Drunk
• It's a far piece - it's far from here
• Hoofn'r - To walk somewhere
• Pitch Dark - It's very dark
• Pitch Black - It's very dark
• Unthaw - intended to mean to thaw something out
• Work'n it - To show off
• Kittle - regional accent to describe a kettle
• Feeling the flow
• Yous guys- Applying to more than one person
• the Ottawa Valley "2 Step" - to stagger wildly while intoxicated
• give'r - try it, or, give it your best
• Git 'r dun! - Get it done, or, carry on
• Boot'r - To run or escape from a compromising situation
• muddin - To drive a truck (usually 4x4) through an extremely muddy area for excitment
• 4by - Any truck with four wheel drive
(Od: I remember this one as “fer be fer.” That “e” in “be” is what is called by linguists a schwa.)
• up the line a tad - To be north or nothwest of the current location
(Od: you can also be down the line—generally, in Gananoque, in the direction of flow of the nearest river. Same as upriver or downriver.)
• gettin' a lil funny there? - getting high, smoking a joint
(Od: this one’s new to me.)
• geno- to score a goal
• hack a dart - smoke a cigarette
Certain words are often pronounced differently, for instance:
• coo'cumb'r - cucumber
(Od: I’ve never heard this.)
• patadas - potatoes
• melk - milk
The Ottawa Valley is affectionately known by both young and old as 'The Valley." Another term used mainly in the Ottawa Valley is Der or Derr- for the use of the word there as in Get over derr
End of quote from Wikipedia.
More Ottawa Valleyisms I think they’ve missed:
- “didn’t hardly” means “yes, a lot.”
- “tamarrah” for “tomorrow”
- “Sa’erdei” for “Saturday.”
- “weasel” is someone who does something cunning and sneaky; but said in ironic praise.
- “chips” for “french fries.”
- “chips ‘n gravy” – even better.
- “run like the wind” – run fast.
- “the back forty” – any relatively inaccessible field.
I'm hoping other Valleyites may be able to add more examples.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Walt Disney is the obvious example. Steve Jobs, of Apple and Pixar, is another. Thomas Edison, P.T. Barnum, Conrad Black, Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner—all these men are artists. They ought to be understood as such, and, for the sake of future generations, ought to be held up to the young as models. They should be considered culture heroes.
Worse, the Marxist blindness makes us largely incapable of distinguishing such creative entrepreneurship from the real robber barons, the Carnegies and the Gateses. I hear the same rumblings against Google now that we used to hear about Microsoft. But Google has genuinely improved the world, while Microsoft has really only benefited Bill Gates. We ought to be wise enough to tell the difference.
Besides changing the world, and being a thing of beauty to watch, creative entrepreneurship can benefit everybody. This seems to be difficult to grasp, but I don’t know why it should be. People assume that, if Wal-Mart is wildly successful, they must be underpaying their employees—if they are getting richer, someone else must be getting poorer. If McDonalds is able to sell a burger for less than anyone else, they must be using worm meat. Either the employees must be being cheated, or the customers, for a business to succeed.
But this is a fallacy. Worse; it is the opposite of the truth. Business is not robbery. A good business deal can easily benefit all involved—it almost has to, in order to work.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
But they seem unable to account for this. Why would business fund a stance that is publicly anti-business?
Part of the answer is here:
“Some-usually larger businesses-might actually benefit as their competitors suffer more from regulations.”
Exactly. Big business benefits from regulations. They raise start-up costs and difficulties for potential competitors. In effect, they enforce a cartel of those already in the market. So big business has every reason to support left-wing causes; and does. Small business and entrepreneurs, conversely, will oppose them—and do.
But this is not the only reason. As the article notes, “that does not explain why a group representing Europe's entire chemical industry supports a regulation when it may put many of its members out of business”—i.e., the smaller fry.
And this, the article cannot explain.
But this is simple to understand once one is aware of the existence of a self-interested professional class. It stands to reason that, the more complicated business becomes, the greater a market there is for the skills of this class, regardless of the particular corporations involved.
And it is, of course, this professional class that makes the decisions in almost all businesses. They have a vested interest, as a class, in greater regulation.
And the “capitalists,” far from being the ruling class, are powerless. Their own money is being spent against their interests.
Monday, November 20, 2006
The principle is simple: as nations develop, and their people become richer, they stop cutting down as much timber. The turning point is a GDP of $4,600 per person per year.
This means, of course, that efforts to stop deforestation by limiting development are entirely counter-productive for trees--in addition to the human misery they cause.
BBC has the story.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Do our departed relatives help us from heaven?
Your Old Men Shall Dream Dreams
We will have jobs to do in heaven. Partly, this can be deduced by the nature of heaven, partly from the nature of the created world. Surely heaven would not really be heaven if we were cut off from all that we loved in this world. Nor could most of us be happy with directionless idleness. A vision of eternal idleness is no vision of heaven.
And, if this world were merely something to be left and forgotten, why would God have created it? Does he create anything in vain? No, we know that this world as a whole is bound for redemption, at the end of time.
Therefore it follows that the souls in heaven do not leave it entirely, but are still intimately involved with it, working along with those of us still here to perfect it at the end of time.
So the saints act as intercessors, in a way familiar to any Catholic. And remember, anyone who has died and gone to heaven is a saint. Therefore, if your ancestors are in heaven, it follows that they can intercede for you. This includes the possible ability to perform miracles on your behalf.
Saints are understood to have special spheres of interest: they are patrons of this and that. An architect in life will be considered a special patron of other architects. A Frenchman will be considered a special intercessor for the French.
And so saints might well assume special concern and care for members of their own family. It would be the expected thing.
The only problem is that we cannot be certain that family members are in heaven; if they are still in purgatory, it is we who can help them, not the other way around. The only people we can be certain are in heaven are those officially declared so by the Church, because on this the Church is understood to be infallible.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
"For too long, liberals have been claiming they are the most virtuous members of American society. Although they usually give less to charity, they have nevertheless lambasted conservatives for their callousness in the face of social injustice."
This is not a bad idea—depopulation is a pending crisis throughout the developed world, and something must be done.
But surely the money should go to the Dad? He’s the one who pays the bills, after all, in most families. And doing it this way might keep families together. Dad might hang around for the sake of the money, and so might Mom.
And should single women who bear three children without a father earn the money? After all, this could then encourage poor women to have children without Dads for the money—to the detriment of the children.
In somewhat related news: Ignatieff has criticized Stephen Harper for presuming to lecture China on Human rights, calling China a “superpower of the 21st century.” I think that, like most experts, he’s wrong here. China may be growing like blazes now, but there are obvious limits to its growth.
China has stopped making people. Thanks largely to vigorous government action, its birth rate ha dropped well below replacement level long before this tends to happen in developed countries.
This means China is likely to follow the same cycle as Japan: growing rapidly to a point, then going into dead stall as it runs out of productive workers. Worse, it will hit this point at a lower level of development than Japan. Worse still, unlike America and, to a lesser extent, Europe, Chinese culture is not built to manage immigration. It cannot make up this declining birthrate by letting in people from elsewhere. And worse still, China has some structural problems, such as lack of transparency and lack of rule of law, that still need to be fixed. The lack of these may mean that China’s development is largely done with mirrors, and might come crashing down. The need for these, and long delay in implementing them, may mean a big bump on the road ahead, with economic setbacks.
More broadly, the impending shortage of people should be factored more carefully into everyone’s calculations. UN figures currently suggest the population of the world will top out around 2050, and then begin to decline. As this happens, the shortage of workers will become a critical development factor.
For example, Spain’s record growth recently has a lot to do with the ready availability of immigrants from Latin America. Because the language is the same and the culture very similar, they can integrate quickly. The same large pool of immigrants also helps the US.
Make no mistake: people have always been our most precious resource.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I think this has to be because he is by his very nature the most mysterious member of the team.
He was present at the creation. Genesis 1:2: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” As Jesus, the Logos, is the embodiment of the Law, the Holy Spirit has spoken through the Prophets; he is the spirit of prophecy. If we see the Father as the Creator, and Jesus as the Logos, the structure of creation, then the Holy Spirit is the Pneuma, the vital spark, the principle of movement and change.
All three seem logically necessary to creation. If one thinks only of the Father or Creator, then one faces a logical impossibility. If God created the universe, then he changed. Before he created the universe, he was not a creator. After he created the universe, he was a creator. If God can change, then surely he is not eternal. Nor can he, apparently, be perfect—before he created, was he not necessarily incomplete? After he created, was he not, necessarily, lesser, as he was no longer all?
To solve this paradox, it seems necessary to posit two “persons” of God, one eternal and the other changeable. If the former “eternally begets” the latter, i.e., is always in the act of creating him, then the former remains eternal. But the latter can then possess the capacity to change and become lesser. Creation is then mediated through him.
But then there is necessarily a third thing that is also eternal, and coexistent with the Father and the Son, is there not? There is the begetting, the act. This, by its nature, “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” From their very being, it must be.
So it seems logically necessary to posit the Holy Spirit, were he not given to us by the scriptures. There, as noted, he is first seen moving eternally over the waters: the spirit of change. Much later, he appears as a flame above the heads of the apostles at Pentecost; flame too speaks of change. It is the paradigm of transformation.
He is also present, of course, each time we make the sign of the cross; and this seems suggestive. On the word “father,” we point to our forehead—the Father corresponds in us to our intelligence or mind. “Son,” we touch our chest at about the midpoint—he is the incarnation, corresponding to our physical being. And for “Holy Spirit,” we point to either shoulder in turn: he is the active principle, the principle of doing; our temporal being. As the spirit of time or change, he is also naturally the spirit of prophecy and the spirit of the future. As the future is to us mysterious, so is he.
In terms of our lives as Christians, the role of the Holy Spirit is both mysterious and crucial. He is the being that actually transforms us. He brings the charismata, as in “charisma.” These are very cool. They are what the charismatic movement has been on about.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Mistake. Inevitably, his American Government class was taught by a doctrinaire left-winger. This was the final exam:
"Dye and Zeigler contend that the Constitution of the United States was not `ordained and established' by `the people' as we have so often been led to believe. They contend instead that it was written by a small educated and wealthy elite in America who were representative of powerful economic and political interests. Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded the majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America's elite interest."
Bravely, the student wrote an essay that defended the US Constitution. This, of course, was not an option, or an opinion, his professor had allowed him. The prof refused to grade the essay. Instead he told the student to seek psychotherapy. Indeed, he threatened to go to the Dean of International Admissions and demand this. The student feared his student visa might be revoked.
He contacted the local media.
The professor then filed a complaint with the college’s human rights board, claiming the student had harassed him by talking to the press.
The most disturbing thing in the whole story, to my mind, is the gobsmacking hypocrisy of the professor—claiming the US constitution was elitist while he is a member of the same elite, and himself eager to use his power and privilege to bully any comer. A classic pharisee.
Who really was responsible for the US Constitution? A convention, but all elected by popular vote. That professor might object that suffrage in those days was less universal than it is now: with women and blacks not voting, these people technically represented a minority, only about forty percent of the adult population.
About the same proportion who voted in the recent US midterm elections.
Sketches of the actual delegates, recorded by one of them at the time, may be found here.
Abraham Baldwin: major qualification seems to be that he graduated from Harvard.
Dayton, "a good education."
Dickinson, "a scholar."
Ellsworth, a judge.
Few, a lawyer.
Franklin, "the greatest philosopher of this present age."
Hamilton, "reputed to be a finished scholar."
Houston, a lawyer.
Ingersoll, "well educated in the Classics."
Johnson, "one of the first [in] Classics in America."
King, "good classical as well as legal knowledge."
Livingston , "extensiveness of his education and genius."
Madison, "blends together the profound politician with the scholar."
Morris, lawyer, “acquainted to all the sciences."
Paterson, "a classic, a lawyer."
Pinckney, “intimately acquainted with all species of polite learning."
Cotesworth Pinckney, "very extensive degree of legal knowledge."
Randolph, “all the accomplishments of the Scholar”
Read, lawyer and judge.
Rutledge, “bred to the law.”
Strong, a lawyer.
Williamson, “a gentleman of education.”
Wilson, “among the foremost in legal and political knowledge.”
Wythe, professor of law, College of William and Mary.
That’s 35 apparent members of the educated professional class; out of 53. There seems to be a larger representation of merchants that one would see in the present Congress; but this may simply be due to a relative lack of professionals. When a member is well educated, this is apparently cited as his main qualification to be there. And educated professionals do form the clear majority.
So the professor is a member of the elite class he describes as forming the US Constitution. And, were the Constitutional Convention held today, he might well be a member.
Let’s go a bit further, and acknowledge that the professional class has always been the elite; this has not changed throughout history. Marxism is no more than a smokescreen to conceal this fact. In the French Estates-General, which ruled France before the Revolution, who was the First Estate? No, it was not the big landowners. It was the King plus the clergy, which is to say, at the time, the educated class. The landowners were the Second Estate, the bourgeoisie lumped with the peasants in the Third.
Similarly, in India’s caste system, who was the highest caste? The Brahmins—the educated, priestly, class. Nobles were second, merchants third.
You can trace this all the way back to hunter-gather societies: authority is commonly split between a war chief and a shaman, the latter’s authority based on his knowledge of the tribal lore. Who outranks whom varies.
In the French Revolution, the old clerical profession was simply replaced by a new, secular profession—the lawyers. But the same class remained in charge. In the American Revolution, American lawyers replaced British lawyers. In the Russian Revolution, or the Chinese, the professional class got rid of the landowners and bourgeoisie altogether, not to mention the clergy, and got to rule with no checks, balances, or restraints. No wonder Marxism is most popular among the professional class. It is their ultimate model: absolute power, corrupting absolutely.
The professional, educated class is the elite by simple dictionary definition. Oxford, “1 a group of people regarded as the best in a particular society or organization.” Webster’s, “1. d : a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence.” Note that the word actually comes from the Middle English for “a person elected to office” (Random House). Who gets elected to office? Overwhelmingly, in Canada or the US or anywhere in Europe, educated professionals.
This makes educated professionals the ruling class: Random House, “the class of people exerting power or authority.” They not only run government and the civil service; they run big business. The decisions in corporations are made by MBAs.
While the old landowning class’s titles have now been banned in many countries, and have no legal standing in most others, the professional class’s titles are preserved, and still enforced by the state. Titles like “Dr.,” “Professor,” P. Eng,” “C.A.” The old landowning class, and the bourgeoisie, may have to go through the same courts as the proletariat or the peasantry; but the professional class has its own courts, and special privileges in others. They are judged by their peers in their professional associations. In the regular courts, they can claim special rights to testify or not to testify. While merchants or capitalists are prohibited by law from meeting together and coordinating their business interests, professionals have the absolute right to do this--and even to have their decisions enforced in the courts. They can fix fees, defend monopolies, restrict competition, discipline dissent.
Let’s look at prestige. Harris has a poll claiming to determine what jobs Americans consider most prestigious. The Top Ten: scientist, doctor, firefighter, teacher, military officer, nurse, police officer, clergy, congressman, engineer. I count seven or eight professions, “congressman” being ambiguous. Two are working class occupations. “Merchant” or “entrepreneur” do not appear.
Again, in any list of the best-paying jobs, the top five are medical specialties.
Having a ruling class is not all that terrible; there are arguments for it. Plato had some in the Republic. But when a ruling class tries to pretend it is not the ruling class—that’s sinister. That speaks of fraud.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Not because the Democrats gained ground; they are really the conservative party. I use “liberal” in its proper, traditional sense: believers in small government and in individual liberties.
Here’s why: historically, if the Democrats control both the White House and Congress, the size and scope of government grows. Conversely, if the Republicans control both the White House and Congress—the size and scope of government grows. The highest rate of growth in US government expenditure over the past forty years was under Lyndon Johnson and a Democratic congress—4.6%. The second-highest rate of growth in US government expenditure over the past forty years was under—George W. Bush.
Conversely, the two lowest rates of government growth were under Bill Clinton and Bush Sr.—both facing opposition Congresses. The president vetoes the profligate bills from the other side. His own profligate bills do not get passed. Everybody wins.
Interestingly, it works the opposite way in Canada: minority governments tend to be the biggest spenders. This is thanks to the NDP, as the inevitable informal partner. We are unlucky in this way.
In fact, this alone might account, over time, for the significant political differences between the US, on the one hand, and Canada and Europe, on the other. The US system is built so that, in case of disagreement among the people, the default is less government and less spending. A parliamentary multi-party system, as favoured in Canada and Europe, is built so that, in case of disagreement among the people, the default is more government and more spending.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Andrew Coyne clinically dissects Michael Ignatieff’s definition of Quebec as a nation today and makes Ignatieff look positively muddled in his thinking.
It’s a thing of beauty, a good Coyne column. It is not that Ignatieff is not extremely bright, either. It’s that Coyne is even brighter.
Lorne Gunter theorizes recently in the Post that Ignatieff, who almost had the race tied up, has now blown it with his gaffes. Just rookie inexperience, perhaps, but it does remind folks he’s a rookie, and may need more practice before he’s ready for party leadership. As a frontrunner, there is the danger that all his most likely supporters are already behind him, and those who are not currently backing him may be scared off by his gaffes or, indeed, horrified by what he appears (and only appears, I believe) to have said: that Quebec is a nation, that Israel is guilty of war crimes, that the deaths of Palestinians are not worth losing sleep over, that he will not stay in the party if he does not like the new leader, that torture is useful…
Then there's Bob Rae, a bit ahead of the pack among his rivals. Yet Bob Rae has his own serious negatives. A while back, when he seemed to be getting some momentum, this seemed to be killed quickly by increased media focus. It becomes apparent, most notably, that the Conservatives could have a lot of fun referring to his record in Ontario. Another issue is that, as I noted here, Rae looks a bit like the Chretien candidate, which alienates Martinites and resalts old wounds.
Which leaves—Stephane Dion. It seems to be his turn for a boomlet. Latest polls suggest he has the most growth potential. He is running fourth in delegates, but a close fourth. And where was Joe Clark on the first ballot back when he first won the PC leadership? Where was Dalton McGuinty?
Fourth can work. Fourth keeps you out of the firing line until the strategic moment.
Those who crave in Ignatieff an intellectual leader, a second Pierre Trudeau, could be happy with Dion. They lose nothing with him on that score. Those who want the political experience of a Rae also lose nothing with Dion. Those who fear reopening the Constitution can feel secure with him. He would alienate neither Martinites nor Chretienites.
Rumour has it that there is a deal between Dion and Kennedy: whoever is ahead on the third ballot, the other comes to him. If true, this works hugely in Dion’s favour. If he has the greater growth potential, he is more likely to be ahead on the third ballot. So Kennedy comes to him. Unless Ignatieff or Rae is very close at this moment, or unless one of them goes to the other at about the same time, this could give crucial momentum at a crucial moment.
Why does it work for Kennedy? Because he probably can’t get the leadership himself. His French is not good enough, and his support in Quebec is not good enough. This matters, because the Liberals just cannot do without Quebec. On the other hand, if he is kingmaker for Dion, he probably gets to be his Anglophone lieutenant and heir apparent, meanwhile dusting up his French for the next round. Dion needs someone in this capacity—his own English is not stellar.
Of course, many things could go wrong with this scenario. If Dion instead goes to Kennedy, I think they both go down. It might not get as far as a third ballot. Someone may get cold feet at the last moment, as happened with Hellyer and Winters back in '68. A brilliant speech at the convention could change the math. Or a sudden endorsement—Brison going to Ignatieff on the eve of the convention, for example.
Ignatieff may well still pull it out. But Dion's chances are looking better than they were a few months ago.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I have a personal interest here: my wife is Filipina, and though my son is a Canadian citizen, born in Canada, we were hoping to arrange dual citizenship for him. This would involve obvious benefits: he could own property in the Philippines, as non-citizens cannot, and still go to university in Canada at the lower local tuition.
But fair is fair. Dual citizenship means that there are two classes of Canadian, something that should be anathema in a democracy like Canada. It is, in effect, a colonial arrangement, with Canada the colonized.
As I have urged here before, dual citizenship should be ended.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Watching the film, I could not help feeling, personally, that this result, true to life as it no doubt was, was a travesty of justice and of humanity. The notion that his doctor had more claim to him than his family nauseated me. The assumption that an institution could do better for someone disabled than a caring family seemed madness. And not just any institution—one a continent away from his surviving family, so that he would get no visits. Nobody would check on his welfare—everything was left to the trustworthy doctor.
Further, it seemed obviously unjust to have a dispute between a layman and a doctor decided by another doctor—with whom there had obviously been prior communications, professional to professional. It reeked of power and privilege, not to say corruption.
All of this was compounded, mind, by my own conviction that the medical profession really have no idea what they are doing with an autistic savant—what business do physicians have dealing with mental, which is to say spiritual, phenomena? What business do they have making critical life decisions for someone obviously more intelligent than they are?
Nevertheless, taking care not to reveal my own feelings, I asked my class whether they thought the ending was right—whether Raymond Babbitt was better off going back to the institution. I was hoping for some kind of discussion of the philosophical issues.
But, without discussion, every single one of them said it was not. They could not conceive of any justification for what actually happened in the movie.
Of course, this is not real life, but the writers presumably selected it as, in their minds, the most plausible outcome. Nor did Western audiences apparently feel that it was unrealistically gloomy—despite their notorious preference for happy endings.
In this, as in not a few other things, Western culture is on the wrong road. For all the shouting on both sides, for all the wearying prejudice, the Arab and the Muslim world does have things to teach us. And I fear we are not listening carefully enough.
Monday, November 06, 2006
It is a bit surprising that there are still Marxists around. Haven’t they heard? It’s not just that the Berlin Wall has fallen, that the Communist experiment has been declared a failure in Russia, Eastern Europe and, de facto, China. I mean that Marx has been conclusively disproved in theory as well as in practice. Science lives and dies on reproducible results, and Marx claimed to be scientific. And Marx’s predictions have been completely wrong. Wealth has not become more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer hands; the proletariat has not grown larger and larger, and ever poorer. More or less the opposite has happened since his time. In developed countries, the proletariat is now much smaller, the grand capitalist class has disappeared, and it is the professional “middle class” that has grown. A class Marx did not even realize existed.
So why this odd and touching faith, by those who should be well-educated, in a theory that is now about as credible, on the face of it, as the idea that the earth is flat, or that the sun orbits the earth?
But more than that; it ought to be morally difficult to be Marxist. After all, few would admit today to being Fascists, certainly not educated professionals in polite company. Yet Marxism is, as we have pointed out before in this space, more or less the same thing. Fascism was one interpretation of Marx; and in practice, Hitler was quite literally no worse than Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot. Stalin and Mao killed more people than Hitler did, and Pol Pot holds the record for highest percentage of a country’s population. Hitler is considered evil incarnate; yet people like my friend still seem to remember Mao, at least, quite fondly.
The only real difference between Comintern Marxism and its Fascist variant is that Fascism identified the various classes in racial terms. The grand bourgeoisie was, for the Nazis, essentially Jewish. The Italian race was, for Mussolini, essentially proletarian.
But is it really more moral to kill millions because of their supposed class than for their supposed race?
Indeed, even if it were, the identification of race with class keeps resurfacing. For American Marxists, for example, white Anglo males seem to be racially and sexually “bourgeois,” just as were the Jews. Poor white males are not worthy of the same socialist support as poor black women.
The error is the same, and it is deceptively attractive. Both Fascism and Marxism feign morality by talking of solidarity and of putting away selfish aims. But they limit this supposed altruism to members of one’s own class or race. This is in the end no more moral than pure selfishness—only more harmful. It is merely egotism speaking in chorus, and carrying a bigger stick. And the necessary corollary to its mock brotherhood is the need to crush Samaritans.
True morality, like Christianity, makes clear that one’s solidarity must extend beyond class and race; that all men are brothers.
This same error shows up in many forms. Feminism calls for solidarity only with one’s own sex. Same callousness, same inhumanity, same result: the abortion holocaust. “Islamism” (which is not true Islam) calls for solidarity only with one’s co-religionists. “Kaffirs” one is free to kill. Same error, same inhumanity, same result.
And more: “family values.” Just another form of the same error. An extreme adherence to one’s own family is just as wrong as to one’s race, nation, or class. Nepotism is a serious problem is many parts of the world. For if this is morality, Eve never sinned. She was not thinking only of herself, after all, in taking the apple. She was thinking of Adam as well. She wanted her entire family to “be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Self over other is merely the second generation of the same sin.
Marxism is this same sin. It invites everyone to put the interests of their class ahead of the interests of all mankind. It does this in part by arguing, “this is simply the way things are; everybody else is doing this.” But that is the same argument Fascism uses. Even if true, two wrongs never made a right.
Why does it remain so attractive to a certain group? Because, like fascism, feminism, and “family values,” it is a wonderful alibi. It can allow you to do whatever is best for you and yours while claiming morality—and believing one is moral is, in the end, a basic human need.
Of course, Marxism holds little or no attraction to the proletariat—the “rednecks,” to use the current Marxist slang. Rednecks mostly vote conservative. They are the declared enemy of the modern Marxist. Even if Marxism were true, it would be of no value to the proletariat. They have no power and no influence, and Marxism can’t give it to them even if it wanted to. Being powerless, naturally their main concern is to get government to leave them alone. They dislike Marxism because Marxism is conspicuously against doing this.
Who are the Marxists? The group it attracts is an elite: the educated classes. Indeed, this is the elite, throughout history. Despite Marxist claims, they have always ruled. This, the group my friend belongs to, is the same group that, in India, is called the Brahmins, the highest caste. In China, they are called Mandarins, and they have always run the Chinese government. In ancient Israel they were the scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees; in ancient Greece, the sophists. The well-educated professionals. My Marxist friend is a well-educated professional from a wealthy family. So was Marx himself.
These are the Marxists; and these have always been the Marxists, from Marx through Lenin and Mao and Pol Pot and Che Guevara to my friend and the professional association he helped found.
While useless to the proletariat, Marxism is fantastically useful to this ruling elite. Most importantly, it diverts the finger of blame. It denies that this ruling elite is the ruling elite, and posits instead some shadowy “capitalist class.” Which, if it never actually existed, was always supposed to appear in the near future if we weren’t all very careful. Kind of like global warming. Nothing unites behind the present leadership like a common enemy.
Marxism helpfully gives this elite permission to grab all the power and money they want, while claiming to be the good guys and demonizing their opponents. Professional associations, for example, can pursue the interests of their members against all comers, and claim it is somehow for the greater good. They are merely protecting the unwashed against the evil capitalists. They must be strong and wealthy in order to do that.
It’s a great gig. Too good to give up just because it has been objectively disproved. That’s quite beside the point.
Not that I believe my friend, or most of the folks in the professions who are Marxists, are consciously and cynically doing this. Most of them are perfectly decent people; good Germans. All they know, I suspect, is that by thinking this way they can feel good about themselves, and are getting what they want. They have not thought it through—albeit they may not want to think it through, and may be unreasonably hostile to any suggestion that their theory is false. For if they actually see it to be false, they lose the good feeling that they are behaving morally.
Hence the hostility.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Let’s consider, if we may, the great genocides of history.
Or at least, of the 20th century, because it is the golden age of genocide, because it offers us the most reliable figures, and because it suggests what is a current clear and present danger.
Here are the figures of R.J. Rummel, who has specialized in trying to come up with hard figures:
- Mao: 77 million killed. Atheist government.
- USSR: 62 million killed. Atheist government.
- Hitler: 21 million killed. Atheist/neo-paganist government.
- Pol Pot: 4 million killed, out of a total population of 7 million. According to Guinness, the worst genocide ever on a per capita basis. Atheist government.
- Imperial Japan: 3-10 million. Shamanist (Shinto) government.
- Armenian Massacre: 4.3 million, Armenians and others. Partly under a Muslim government, but secularist movement (Young Turks). Mostly under an aggressively secularist government.
- Polish expulsion of Germans: 2 million. Atheist government.
- North Korea: 1.6 million. Atheist government.
- Pakistani genocide in Bangladesh: 1.5 million. Muslim secularist government.
- Revolutionary Mexico: 1.4 million. Atheist (Marxist) government.
- Tsarist Russia: 1 million. Christian government.
Is there perhaps a pattern forming here? Let’s see; I count:
- Atheists: 7
- Muslims: 2 (both secularist governments)
- Shamanists: 1
- Christians: 1
Seems striking to me. It is not as if atheist governments form anything like that proportion of total governments in the 20th century. Indeed, it even seems proper to say that genocide, while otherwise rare, is a defining feature of atheist governments.
For earlier periods, figures are far less certain. A few of the biggest seem to be:
- Genghiz Khan. 30 million. Atheist/shamanist government.
- Taiping Rebellion. 12 million. Confucian/Buddhist government. Because this happened only in the mid-nineteenth century, figures are fairly reliable.
The worst massacre in history in which Christianity figured prominently seems to be the Thirty Years war: estimated by R.J. Rummel at 6 million killed.
And note that this is not unambiguously religious in nature either: “Catholic” France fought on the “Protestant” side.
Looking at the record, I think I’d rather try my chances with an overtly Christian government than with any New Agers or atheists. The great advantage of a Christian government is that it allows an objective check on the morality of its actions.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Let’s take a look. For we have had enough women in power, here and there, that a statistical sample is probably possible.
Let’s check that record:
Margaret Thatcher – war with Argentina.
Indira Gandhi – war with Pakistan.
Mrs. Bandaranaike – civil war.
Golda Meir – war with Egypt and Syria.
Catherine the Great – war with the Ottoman Empire, Poland-Lithuania, Sweden; not to mention deposing her husband.
Queen Anne – “Queen Anne’s War,” against France and Spain.
Queen Elizabeth I – war with Spain, Ireland, annexation of Scotland.
Queen Mary – war with France, religious persecutions-“Bloody Mary.”
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – not significantly involved in war—albeit insurrections in the southern Philippines, which had seemed to be resolved under Ramos, continue. Deposed predecessor.
Let’s keep going, shall we?
Cleopatra — civil war with Rome.
Tzu-Hsi, dowager empress of China – war with Japan, civil war.
Zenobia – war with Rome.
Christina of Sweden – no wars while ruling Sweden. On the other hand, she did try later to seize power in both Naples and Poland.
Maria Theresa of Austria – War of the Austrian Succession, Seven Years’ War with Prussia.
Empress Irene of Byzantium – war with the Franks, Slavs, Arabs. Deposed and blinded her own son.
Catherine de Medici – French Wars of Religion.
It seems to me there’s a pattern forming here.
I submit that any similar random list of men in power would look at least somewhat more peaceful. Women seem, if anything, by nature more partisan, less inclined to compromise, than men. This may come from a biological tendency of animal mothers to fiercely defend children.
This may, indeed, be why it is in most parts of the world considered wisest to leave political power to the men. Men, being the ones obliged to go out and get killed in a war, are probably naturally less inclined to start one.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
For suppose everyone can just deal with God on their own? Then suppose, a friend asks, a voice in your head claiming to be God one day tells you to kill someone?
For after all, it is the plain truth that God has the right to kill. He kills everyone. Remember the story of Abraham and Isaac. So how do you know it is not God?
But, on the other hand, there are many spirits. How does one at the same time avoid Eve’s error, taking Satan instead of God as authoritative? Or believing a mere hallucination? I had a good friend who was schizophrenic, and he often heard a metallic voice claiming to be God ordering him to jump off his apartment balcony, or in front of a subway train.
Accordingly, we need checks and balances. Possible individual revelation must be tested against some standard. In other words, we need some kind of organized religion.
We must “test the spirits,” as St. Paul says. For Catholics, any supposed “voice” that tells us to violate the Ten Commandments, or the Golden Rule, or established morals or doctrine, or reason, or the Bible, or to deny Jesus Christ, is thereby known not to be the voice of God.
Other organized religions, no doubt, have their own tests, developed from the experiences of those who have gone before. This is not a game: there is life and death, and worse than death, in the balance.
And among religions, it is to Catholicism’s great credit, it seems to me, not just that it has stood for so long the test of time, but that it adheres so faithfully to doctrine and morals, to the testing of spirits. So much so that, rather than ever striking out anew, even at its inception it took pains to incorporate and test itself against earlier scriptures: its Bible incorporates the Jewish Bible. No other major religion does, and that makes them, I think, relatively less trustworthy. They admit less objective checking of their veracity. It is also greatly to its credit that, as Benedict pointed out recently, Catholicism does not allow faith to supersede reason. Both criteria must be met; that is it in accord with faith, and that it is in accord with reason. And Christianity welcomes science, and open debate, to an extent few religions have. All truths are tested and found sound and true.
It can be frustrating at times; many priests are not really very spiritual. Some are even child molesters. And there are a lot of times when God seems more accessible on a quiet lake than in a cathedral. And by all means, we should talk to God where we find him. But anyone who supposes we do not therefore need organized religion, or priests, or cathedrals, is wet behind his spiritual ears. I fear for their safety, as I might fear for a toddler playing with an electrical outlet and a fork.