The Book!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Racists Calling Non-Racists Racists

There was an uproar recently over a cartoon in the New York Post showing a slain chimpanzee—a reference to the recent chimpanzee attack in that city—and one cop saying to the other, “They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

Hysterically, this was branded “racist” by many commentators. No, not against chimpanzees; against blacks. Apparently, all the rest of us are supposed to see a chimpanzee and automatically think of an African American. Even though the previous stimulus bill was in fact written by senior members of congress, none of whom are black; even though George Bush was regularly portrayed in editorial cartoons throughout his presidency as some kind of simian, without anyone calling this “racist.”

Quite obviously and quite literally, the racism in this case is in the eye of the beholder. It must have been precisely those who objected to the cartoom who were racists. We now have the whole thing upside down, the racists in command, and angrily charging anyone who is not racist with racism.

Now comes a second example: the mayor of Los Alamitos, California, now says he will resign, for the crime of sending a few friends an email in which the White House is portrayed with a watermelon patch on its front lawn. And even conservative commentators are objecting to this.

Nobody sane is left.

But how is this “racist”?

Let's consider a parallel with another ethnic group. Imagine, when John Kennedy took the presidency, a cartoon showing a potato patch in the West Lawn. Would anyone have been up in arms? I doubt it—more likely, Irish Americans would feel a swell of pride at the image. I say that as an Irish-Canadian myself. I love potatoes, truly, and am proud to boast that my roots have tubers on them.

Most nations, after all, are rather proud of the food they eat, seeing it as part of their cultural heritage—even if, as with the Irish, it was poverty that led it to that food in the first place. One small town in Alberta, settled by Poles, announces its pride in its ethnic heritage with a statue of the world's largest pierogi. Who there could have thought they were insulting themselves?

Are Italians ashamed of spaghetti? Are the French ashamed of quiche?

No—to object to the association as “racist,” one must first accept the premise that any reference to a distinct African-American culture is demeaning to African Americans. Which is to say, you must believe it incontrovertible that anything done, created, cooked, sung, or made by African Americans is inferior. That there is something wrong, in other words, with being culturally African American.

I have trouble with that.

Now you must excuse me. My corned beef and cabbage is getting cold.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Higgamus, Hoggamus--Woman's Monogamous. Haggamus, Higgamus--Man is Polygamous

I happened upon the website of the Canadian Family Action Coalition recently—actually directed there by a left-wing friend, who cited it as an authority on the right. I had never heard of them before.

But they make an interesting point. They ask why, in the recent actions of the government of BC against the polygamous community of Bountiful, the men have been charged, but not the women?

Is the government trying to claim that the women were in the marriages against their will? That's absurd; if so, the charge should be kidnapping, not polygamy. But how were they held?

Or are they trying to claim that women are not in control of their own actions?

How is that sexual equality; and, if granted, how can women ever be put in positions of responsibility?

You just can't have it both ways.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Tremble for my Country When I Reflect that God is Just

Every now and then I am reminded of just how bad the situation is for human rights in Canada, and am grateful yet again that I now live in the free world.

Some time today—I can't be bothered to work out the time difference—TVO's “The Agenda” is broadcasting a piece on the new atheist campaign to festoon Canadian buses with ads saying “THERE'S PROBABLY NO GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE.”

Their guest roster features a representative of the Humanist Association, an atheist group; a clinical psychologist; the president of the Freethought Association of Canada, another atheist group; the chair of the “Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity”; and Kathy Shaidle, a prominent Catholic blogger.

This counts as journalistic balance? It might look that way: two avowed atheists, two "Christians" (why not a Muslim or Jew?), and a psychologist who might be either. But there's a Fifth Column here: the “Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity” might call itself “Christian,” as anyone can, but it is not a monotheist organization. The chair's most recent book, for example, is titled With or Without God, and it argues specifically that belief in God is not important. The famous Bishop Spong wrote the introduction.

It seems to me two atheists ought to be balanced by two theists; this guest list seems faked to make the claims of monotheists seem more dubious than they really are.

But that's not all. There is now an apparently full-fledged email campaign to convince TVO to cancel its invitation to one of its guests. Which one? You already guessed it, didn't you? The Catholic, Kathy Shaidle. Christianity is almost beyond the pale of polite discussion now in Central Canada.

The United Church, as well, has done no good by launching a campaign counter to the atheist one with posters that proclaim “THERE'S PROBABLY A GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE.”

That, too, is a Fifth Column. As William Blake said, “the person who pretends to be a modest enquirer into the truth of a self-evident thing is a knave.” The existence of God is, in philosophical terms, very close to self-evident. And the proper response is hardly to go about your business as before.

“THERE IS A GOD. NOW WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION IN FEAR AND TREMBLING.”

The lukewarm are not with God—he spits them out.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Teacher, Test Thyself

There are not that many people named as “teachers” in the Bible. This is a bit suprising, since the basic term for Jewish clergy, “Rabbi,” means “teacher.”

A full list of the individuals given the title “teacher” in the Bible, Old and New Testaments:

Ezra
The author of Ecclesiastes (by tradition, Solomon)
Jesus
St. Paul
Anne Valikosky

Okay, perhaps not Anne Valikosky. Not yet, at least. Perhaps in later editions.

This is perhaps a measure of the Bible's esteem for the position. After all, in the Quran, only one being of any kind is named as a teacher: Allah. It would seem that it is not that easy to be a teacher.

What does it take? From this list, we can deduce that the Bible considers vast knowledge the prime requirement. For this is what sets Ezra apart from the other prophets—he was believed to have the best knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures since Moses, the gent who wrote them.

And this is even more true of Solomon—for he never was a teacher in the conventional sense. But he was renowned for his wisdom. This, and not the actual act of teaching for a living, was definitive.

Jesus, in being given the title of teacher, joins such founder figures of other religious traditions as Confucius, the Buddha, Nanak, Sankara, Zoroaster, and Krishna. Not a bad group to hang with, in the end.

All this is in flat contradiction to the current thinking in schools of education. There, they believe good teaching is all about process, not about knowing better than others what you teach, and certainly not about ultimate values. As one teacher aquaintance of mine put it, a good teacher can teach anything; because a good teacher is like an actor playing a part.

Chillingly, the direct translation of that concept, “like an actor playing a part,” into New Testament Greek is “hypocrite.”

Friday, February 06, 2009

Unwanted Children

It has been argued that unrestricted abortion is responsible for the decline in the rate of violent crime in the US and Canada. The logic is that most violent crimes are committed by young men from broken homes, unwanted by their mothers. Permit their mothers to simply off them before birth, and we save a problem for the rest of us.

Sounds plausible, doesn't it? Still not morally justifiable: you cannot execute someone because he _might_ commit a crime. But plausible.

As it happens, though, the time lines do not add up. If you look at the statistics for England and Wales, instead of the US, the advent of legalized abortion in fact seems to correspond to a significant rise in violent crime.

And there is another possibility. Could it be that unwanted children are also more likely to be significant contributors to the wellbeing of mankind?

A recent ad by the Right to Life movement describes one particular uwanted child of a single mom who, though coming from a broken home and raised by his grandparents, ended up doing fairly well: Barack Obama.

Now that they mention it, some other names come to mind: Bill Clinton, son of a single mom. Gerald Ford, whose mother left his father sixteen days after he was born. Winston Churchill arrived only eight months afer his parents married. Today the solution would be simpler.

Charlie Chaplin's father was an alcoholic, and his mother was mentally ill. They separated when he was three. John Lennon's parents never lived together, and he was raised by an aunt.

In other words—it seems just as possible that a disproportionate share of our heritage has in fact been contributed by unwanted children. It may be the leaders and the creative geniuses we are currently aborting.

But Adolph Hitler? His Mummy's pride and joy.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Barking up the Wrong Tree

Contrary to envorinmental doom-saying, forest cover has in fact been growing year by year for quite some time in North America and Europe. As these nations become wealthier, people abandon marginal farmland for better jobs in the cities—and the forests grow as a result.

This is now also true in the Third World. Forest cover is not shrinking worldwide. It is growing. According to this New York Times piece, “for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster.”

Of course, this is not “old-growth forest”--yet. So what? As Dr. Patrick Moore, the founder of Greenpeace, has more recently pointed out, new-growth forests actually support a greater variety of species than old-growth; and the cycle of the two is part of nature. Even were it not so, trees grow very fast in the tropics. The subdivision in which we currently live was built and planted just three years ago. The trees are now house-high.

But wait. You ain't seen nothing yet. Most of Canada's forests have traditionally gone for newsprint. It used to be Canada's second-biggest export. This industry is already in decline. The New York Times itself just took out a whopping loan from Mexican businessman Carlos Slim at 14% interest in hopes of struggling on for a few more months. The London Evening Standard was just sold to Russian magnate Alexander Lebedev for one pound.

At this rate, it seems likely that there will be no more newspapers—and no more demand for newsprint—within a decade.

What will we do with all those trees? Make biodiesel?