Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sociopathy and the Social Sciences

David P. Goldman wrote of Barack Obama, in the Asia Times, “He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States.”

This statement says more than may at first be apparent, and about the social sciences, not about Obama. Never mind Obama. If it is wrong to view the population of the United States at an emotional distance, it is equally wrong to view a primitive tribe at an emotional distance, for they are equally human. Nor are anthropologists the only ones who do this: it is equally true of sociologists, psychologists, and anyone else who seeks to reduce the study of humans to a “science”—in a nutshell, the social sciences.

If the attitude and talents of the social scientist are those of the sociopath, then, to call a spade a spade, social scientists are sociopaths. Anyone who looks at other humans beings as legitimate objects of objective, scientific, dispassionate study, is viewing all other human beings as objects.

This is hardly something that should be acceptable in a moral society, much less something lauded, respected, and government funded.

And it is hardly surprising, given this basic bent, that the social sciences in the academy end up in general opposition to the common people and their aims. Their interests are antithetical by the nature of their endeavour.

And here’s another cheery thought: given that the social sciences have completely taken over the field of education, your own children spend five hours every day, give or take, quite possibly in the hands of such sociopaths. Not all teachers, of course, are sociopaths; but when they are, this is not an anomaly. This is exactly what the system is built to produce.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Child Abuse: Some Stats

I'm sorry Pope Benedict wrote his letter of apology to the Irish. It tends to imply acceptance of the false charge that this problem of child sexual abuse in the Irish schools and orphanages is somehow the Church's fault. The bottom line is that abuse is less common among the Catholic clergy than in the wider society, less common than among clergy of other denominations, and apparently much less common than among schoolteachers--so it necessarily has nothing to do with the Church, its organization, or the bishops; or rather, the raw data suggests they are doing something remarkably right. But I suppose if it makes any of the victims feel better, it is perhaps worth the self-sacrifice on the Church's part.

Why did he send it when he did? St. Patrick's Day.

Almost all the headlines since have been along the lines of “Pope's apoligy fails to satisfy some victims.” Of course. That will always, inevitably, be true, and you knew that, no matter what he said, this would be the lede of the stories that ran in the next edition of most major newspapers. Which is one reason I fear he should not have done it. Pearls before swine. But then, as I say, maybe it helped the victims.

The "Irish Survivors of Child Abuse," the largest such organization, has publicly welcomed the Pope's letter. Oddly, this does not get reported outside Ireland.

The Catholic Church, as an organization, hase been widely accused of “cover-up.” But this is ironic. The Catholic Church insists on openness. No secret doctrines; everything must be accessible to everyone. This is why Catholics are not allowed to join secret societies; why Freemasonry is held to be incompatible with Catholic morals. This has been the basis of the struggle between Catholicism and Gnosticism for the last two thousand years. Nobody knows better, or cares more, historically, about the dangers of lack of transparency.

The Irish government's Ryan Report, specifically, notes that the Irish boshops' actions at times had to do in some part with a desire to protect the reputation of the Church as institution.

But why shouldn't the bishops be concerned with protecting the reputation of the institution? This is obviously of value, so long as you believe in the first place that the institution is of value. It only seems wrong if you do not.

And, of course, almost nobody, back in those days, would have thought to turn in a pedophile to the police. I speak from personal experience.

In part, nobody thought then much real harm had been done to the child. And that is still, frankly, arguable, though it is now dangerous to say so. In any case, the Church holds the Christian obligation to forgive the penitent, and to assume we all have free will. It follows, therefore, that it must, ethically, assume a pedophile is able, if willing, to reform and to cease and desist. And, in fact, this is perfectly true, according to studies--recidivism among pedophiles, contrary to popular belief, is low.

Some, of course, are trying to implicate the Pope himself. He “stands accused,” as one pseudo-news story puts it, “of approving the transfer of an accused priest for treatment rather than informing German police during his 1977-82 term as Munich archbishop,...”

Indeed. He stands accused, to be precise, of giving an accused priest a place to stay and medical treatment.

Doesn't anyone outside the Catholic Church read the Bible?

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed
by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the
creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you
invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you
looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry
and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see
you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When
did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of
the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Note that, as in Germany or in Canada, the Irish government study in fact found problems in schools and orphanages throughout Ireland, not just those run by the Church. Oddly, but predictably, this is not commonly reported. The Irish Prime Minister publicly apologised for the State's conduct of the schools back in 1999, and the Minister of Education has also apologized. The Church is a major part of this, in Ireland as elsewhere, because, to its eternal credit, it is so active in charity work.

To put this in some perspective, the Vatican is aware of 3,000 plausible accusations of sexual abuse of minors of some sort over the last ten years, albeit these cover incidents over the last 50. Since bishops are obliged to forward all plausible accusations to the Vatican, this should be the whole lot, worldwide. For comparison, there are currently 400,000 priests in the world. This suggests an offense rate of less than 1%, if and only if all are in fact guilty; though the Church generously estimates it might really be as high as 5%. Dr. Thomas Plante of Stanford writes that "available research suggests that approximately 2 to 5% of priests have had a sexual experience with a minor."

How common is pedophilia in society as a whole?

Dr. Plante estimates the equivalent figure for the general adult male population “to be closer to 8%."

http://www.psychwww.com/psyrelig/plante.html

Two different Canadian studies found that 32% of all women and 15.6% of all men had been molested as minors, in a random sampling of the general population. A US study found the same for 31% of females, and 16% of males. That's starting to look consistent. On this basis, one has to conclude that Catholic priests are just not a significant factor. There are over one billion Catholics in the world. Thirty-one percent of 500,000,000 females would mean 155,000,000 Catholic women, plus 80,000,000 men. 235,000,000 Catholics worldwide today have presumably been assaulted as minors. Yet only 3,000 incidents involving priests.

http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/content/82/4/457.full

According to the author of a recent study commissioned by the US Department of Education, child sexual abuse among teachers at the public schools is much higher--"likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests."

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/08/24/opinion/main1933687.shtml
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/4/5/01552.shtml

Studies suggest the rate of child molestation among clergy of other denominations is about 14%.

But the most likely perpetrators by far are still members of a child's immediate family.

Obviously, anyone who sees child molestation as a serious problem is not going to go after the Catholic Church; and anyone who is going after the Catholic Church is not doing so because they are concerned about child abuse.

Of course, the Catholic Church can no more guarantee that none of its employees is a pedophile than can any other human institution. Miracles we do, but people are given free will. That's basic. That said, the best way yet known to reduce the incidence of pedophilia in society generally is clearly to convert everyone to Catholicism. This is not accomplished by slandering the Church.

The very low rate of child molestation in the Catholic clergy is all the more impressive when you factor in that there are apparently far more homosexuals in the Catholic clergy than in the general population, and homosexuals account for the great majority of abuse cases.

Attempting again to implicate the Pope, a nes item says “While a cardinal at the Vatican, Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope, wrote a 2001 letter instructing bishops worldwide to report all cases of abuse to his office and keep church investigations secret under threat of excommunication.” Other publications make similar accusations. This is pure malicious fabrication. The text of the actual letter is available online, and in English translation. It says nothing about keeping the charges secret. You are invited to read it for yourself:

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/resources/resource-files/churchdocs/EpistulaEnglish.htm

Should the bishops have turned in all suspected pedophiles? From the Church's perspective, there is no obligation ever to report another's crime. Were there, Judas Iscariot would have been the only righteous apostle. This automatically verges on the sin of calumny. One should report if one is reasonably certain that by doing so one can prevent a greater moral evil from occurring. This is always hard to do, because the evil of the thing comes with the intent, not the action. And even this is not true of anything learned in the confessional. If, say, someone confesses he wants to murder someone else, the priest must say nothing, to anyone.

Interestingly, Benedict actually pinpoints what he considers the main cause of the problem of child abuse in the Church, such as it is, and this part of his letter just never seems to get reported. Funny, that. He writes that, in the wake of Vatican II, "there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations."

I was there, and have to agree. It was part of the overall mood of the Sixties; of course; you were there too. So was Roman Polanski.

I think you could actually make a decent case for blaming the Sixties entirely on us Catholics. Not the Catholic Church, itself, mind, but on the Catholic subculture in America. But that's a tangent here.

The church, mind, never wavered; canon law did not change. But how it was implemented by individuals did.

Note that the Christian Brothers and the Irish Church were obliged to turn over truckloads of documents to the Irish commission, and the full resources of the Irish government were set upon them. And what have we heard about what they countained? Essentially, nothing. You can be sure, if they contained a smidgeon of anything incriminating in the least, we would all have heard it by now, given the demonstrable press bias. That we have heard nothing more than a morsel or two of smoked herring in the fine print is as striking as Conan Doyle's dog that did not bark.

What is most needed right now, in Ireland as in Canada, is a "Good Samaritan" law protecting charitable instutitions like the Catholic Church from lawsuits by victims of their employees. Without it, we have a classic case of Pharisees-trial lawyers-living high by picking the pockets of widows and orphans.

Of course, since priests themselves have very little money, this would leave victims without any significant financial compensation. Perhaps a government fund might accomplish this, taken from the general tax revenues. Or perhaps it would be yet more fair to tax the media and the law societies to create the fund, as they represent the interests who chiefly profit from such scandals.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Alice in Chains

Apparently Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is now breaking all box office records, pulling ahead of even Avatar.

I went to see it with my eight-year-old, and I did not like it any more than Avatar.

Artistically, it is a travesty of the original, like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa. Sure, it's fair game to adapt what came before—Lewis Carroll did it himself. But the film has many unnecessary errors in detail which just a little care could have corrected, had Tim Burton and his crew cared either for the original work or the intelligence of their audiences. That they were not almost suggests a contempt for both. For example, all characters persistently refer to the dragon-like creature of the famous poem as “the Jabberwocky.” That, sans article, is the name of the poem; the creature, as the poem makes clear, is “the Jabberwock.” What harm in getting it right? Worse, the film even has the Mad Hatter recite the poem---incorrectly. He flubs the reference to the JubJub Bird. This makes no sense at all: the JubJub Bird even appears later in the film, and could have been introduced by this instead of appearing from nowhere. It is pure carelessness, and insulting in assuming no one will either know or care.

But then again, if anyone in the audience had actually read the poem, and the book, the film would automatically be in trouble. They would then know that the film's basic premise is wrong. It is that Alice has been brought back to Wonderland because she is predestined to slay the Jabberwock. Unfortunately, in the poem itself, even though nothing else is clear in it, it is clear that the person who slays the Jabberwock is male. “Beware the Jabberwock, my son.” “Come to my arms, my beamish boy!”

Stupid, ignorant; but then again, what could be more stupid and ignorant than the notion that everything in Wonderland is predestined, planned, controlled? That it all makes sense? This is the worst travesty of all, since it is so completely against the spirit of the original. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland has a plot. A proper Hollywood plot, a battle between good and evil, a heated chase, at least a hint of a love interest, leading up to a climactic fight scene in which the supposed underdog inevitably triumphs at the last minute.

Excuse me; now I think I need to spew.

It is all completely predictable from the outset, and a workmanlike effort is made to fit all the pieces together for character motivations and so forth. This violates the essence of nonsense literature. What made the original Wonderland wonderful was that little matter of wonder: that nothing seemed to make any sense, there was no apparent reason for anything, one could not figure out anybody's motive, and none of the pieces ever quite fit.

All gone.

One moment of horror in the film is when the absurdly long nose of one of the Red Queen's courtiers simply falls off, without explanation, in the middle of a scene. The point, I suppose, is to suggestt that nothing in Wonderland is what it appears; but the immediate effect is to shatter finally and completely the willing suspension of disbelief on which a place like Wonderland utterly depends. Suddenly, one is watching a film, and suddenly all the makeup looks rather cheap and poorly done. And suddenly, one is intensely aware that someone is trying hard to manipulate you.

Where the original Alice was a seemingly inexaustible well of creativity and novelty, this sequel Alice, but for the high-tech visuals, is as conventional as canned tomato soup. There are no new bits of verbal or philosophical cleverness; instead, the film flogs to death a little joke that was a throwaway line in the original Alice, the Mad Hatter's unanswerable riddle “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” He repeats it at least four times in the film, then at last triumphantly announces that it has no answer. The point seems to be to remove all need of thinking from the audience, whereas the original Alice is wonderful for the complex thoughts it provokes.

A decent effort would have managed to come up with four new riddles, at least.

The film also, perversely, insists on forcing out a moral from the White Queen's perfect manifesto of nonsense, “Why sometimes I manage to believe six impossible things before breakfast.” This is actually presented as a profundity, a rule to live by.

It is like listening to a beautiful classic song sung by someone tone deaf. These people have no idea what the nonsense genre is about.

In place of wit or creativity, we are given cheap thrills: people swallowing disgusting Fear Factor brews, the Bandersnatch's eye popping out, the Jabberwock's head bouncing down stairs, even the inevitable 3D spear thrust directly at the audience. Then there is the tasteless, and tastelessly repeated, bit about Alice shedding her clothes each time she changes size, for example. Snort, har, har, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Almost makes you ashamed to be an adult, that the filmmakers think this is going to keep you amused. In the original book, of course, Alice's clothes simply changed size with her. And why not, in Wonderland?

This is slightly more tasteful than it might have been given that Alice in this version is no longer a little girl, but nineteen years old. On the other hand, the age change introduces its own problems. The original Wonderland was, after all, entirely the creation of a seven-year-old's fantasy, and was a stunning insight into the world as experienced by a child. Having Wonderland endure to age nineteen, however, turns a touching childhood reverie into what looks rather more like a case of late adolescent onset paranoid schizophrenia. There's a bit of a problem of taste there too, methinks.

Yeah, go and see it. Just bring toast to throw at the screen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Being Irish in Canada




Irish-Canadians may enjoy the McCord Museum's current exhibit on the Irish in Canada, on this St. Patrick's Day.

Thanks for the tip to Benny Farm's own Michael Francis Quinn.

And Happy St. Patrick's Day to You




There are a lot of Irish faces on Fox News; that's one reason it makes me feel at home. But how has this happened? In the 1960s, back when Jack Kennedy was elected, to be Irish meant to be a Democrat.

Abortion is one reason. But another, I think, is this. Most Irish know what it means to be discriminated against, on the basis of race and creed. I have my own memories, of women warning me they had promised their mothers never to marry an Irishman, or of being taunted on the way home from school with “Roman Catholic! Roman Catholic!” Even in 1960, Kennedy winning the presidency was something exhilarating; and there have been no Irish Catholic (or Catholic) U.S. presidents since.

And we have usually heard of far worse from our uncles, aunts, parents, and grandparents. I read a piece recently by a Newfoundlander who marvelled that she grew up in a completely Irish milieu there, without ever hearing the words “Irish” or “Ireland.” I found the same, in my hometown in Eastern Ontario. Everyone was Irish, and no one would speak the word, even though the thing was obvious.

But the truly oppressed are not the ones who complain of oppression; instead, the truly oppressed learn to keep their heads down. You do not hear so much from the Irish, or the Poles, or the Armenians. But given this recent background, it really gets my goat, and I guess that of other ethnic Irish as well, when other groups who have been, by comparison, positively pampered, make a great commotion about their supposed victimhood. Even worse, and more offensively, they slander us Irish, or Armenians, or Poles, or Ukrainians, as their supposed oppressors, simply because of our skin tone. That's a bit much to take. That's racism wrapped in cultural chauvinism tied up with a colourful ribbon of culpable ignorance.

Affirmative action? “Diversity” on campus? Wouldn't our Irish ancestors have loved such advantages, when they stepped off the cholera ships with nothing but holes in their pockets, in the certain knowledge that they had left all they had ever known, and, whatever happened, would probably never be able to see home again? By contrast, current immigrantsd know, if they screw up, they have a nice comfortable life to return to; and if they succeed, they can visit every summer. With the current immigration standards, especially in Canada, but by and large in the US or UK as well, the immigrants who arrive are wealthy and well-educated. They are the upper classes of the countries from which they come; the very corrupt upper classes that have made those countries what they are today. They have never known privation or discrimination; they have grown up pampered and favoured, often in a manner the average Canadian, coming from a far more egalitarian culture, can barely imagine. We are blissfully ignorant of such matters as caste systems, tea-boys, and nearly-free domestic servants. And yet we are expected to support them with our taxes, make myriad multicultural accommodations for them, give them special preferences, that our ancestors never had.

I recall a Pakistani immigrant I knew, whose certain proof that she was discriminated against was that she had not yet been invited to join the Granite Club.

Had she accomplished anything in life? Not yet, surely; she was a grad student in sociology. Financed by a nice juicy alimony payment, and the Canadian taxpayer.

How could we Irish, knowing real discrimination, find this reasonable?

Here are a few interesting morsels of Irish history, in honour of this St. Patrick's Day:

Have you ever wondered why Montserrat, in the Caribbean, is often referred to as “Little Ireland”? Or why so many black Americans seem to have Irish blood?

“The Proclamation of 1625 ordered that Irish political prisoners be transported overseas and sold as laborers to English planters, who were settling the islands of the West Indies, officially establishing a policy that was to continue for two centuries. In 1629 a large group of Irish men and women were sent to Guiana, and by 1632, Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat in the West Indies. By 1637 a census showed that 69% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves...”

“The Confederation War broke out in Kilkenny in 1641, as the Irish attempted to throw out the English yet again, something that seem to happen at least once every generation. Sir Morgan Cavanaugh of Clonmullen, one of the leaders, was killed during a battle in 1646, and his two sons, Daniel and Charles (later Colonel Charles) continued with the struggle until the uprising was crushed by Cromwell in 1649. ... In the 12 year period during and following the Confederation revolt, from 1641 to 1652, over 550,000 Irish were killed by the English and 300,000 were sold as slaves, as the Irish population of Ireland fell from 1,466,000 to 616,000. Banished soldiers were not allowed to take their wives and children with them, and naturally, the same for those sold as slaves.”

“... in 1650, 25,000 Irish were sold to planters in St. Kitt. During the 1650s decade of Cromwell’s Reign of Terror, over 100,000 Irish children, generally from 10 to 14 years old, were taken from Catholic parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England.”

“Subsequently some 52,000 Irish, mostly women and sturdy boys and girls, were sold to Barbados and Virginia alone. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were taken prisoners and ordered transported and sold as slaves. In 1656, Cromwell’s Council of State ordered that 1000 Irish girls and 1000 Irish boys be rounded up and taken to Jamaica to be sold as slaves to English planters.”

“...from 1600 to 1699, far more Irish were sold as slaves than Africans.”

“Colonel William Brayne wrote to English authorities in 1656 urging the importation of Negro slaves on the grounds that, 'as the planters would have to pay much more for them, they would have an interest in preserving their lives, which was wanting in the case of (Irish)....' many of whom, he charged, were killed by overwork and cruel treatment.”

http://www.kavanaghfamily.com/articles/2003/20030618jfc.htm

(written by the chief herald of my own Clan Cavanaugh).

... And yet, we Irish, as “whites,” are supposed to feel guilty for the slave trade, or for the institution of slavery?

Happily, slavery was outlawed throughout the British Empire in the 1830s.

Just in time for the Potato Famine.

By the British Penal Laws, circa 1700, Irish Catholics were also stripped of the right, in Ireland:

- to serve as an officer in the Army or Navy,
- to hold any government office,
- to vote,
- to own land,
- to practice law,
- to attend school,
- to serve an apprenticeship,
- to possess a weapon,
- to practice their religion,
- to speak their language.

Nor was it illegal at the time to kill an Irishman.

Can any “colonized” people in India or China or Africa, claim a comparable experience—at least, at the hands of Europeans, as opposed to their own near neighbours?

“The French sociologist, Gustave de Beaumont, visited Ireland in 1835 and wrote: 'I have seen the Indian in his forests, and the Negro in his chains, and thought, as I contemplated their pitiable condition, that I saw the very extreme of human wretchedness; but I did not then know the condition of unfortunate Ireland...In all countries, more or less, paupers may be discovered; but an entire nation of paupers is what was never seen until it was shown in Ireland.'"

And this was before the Famine.

Yet we Irish are supposedly the exploiting “whites,” and must pay reparations for the evil done by our supposed ancestors...?

Pogue mahone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pedophilia in Germany

Okay, time to comment on the current "scandal" involving the Catholic Church in Germany. A few points:

1. Why are things that happened thirty, forty, fifty, and even sixty years ago and were mostly publicly reported at the time suddenly "news"? Would it be news in any other context? Or is this an editorial attack on the Catholic Church and the Papacy, and a pogrom against Catholic clergy, masquerading in cowardly fashion as news reporting?

2. Why does the press demand Pope Benedict speak out on the matter? What does it have to do with him? There are daily stories of sexual abuse by public school teachers; is there a similar demand for the Minister of Education to comment publicly whenever a new one surfaces? Or the Minister of Health, whenever a doctor or psychiatrist is caught in flagrante? Isn't the implication here that the Church is responsible, while the Ministry of Education or Ministry of Health is not? Why the double standard?

3. Why does sexual abuse by Catholic priests supposedly call Catholicism or even religion into question, but sexual abuse by public school teachers does not call education into question? And sexual abuse by doctors, psychiatrists, and nurses does not call medicine into question? Why the double standard?

4. Note that the great majority of the cases uncovered, in Germany and elsewhere, seem to involve, specifically, homosexual sex. So why is this always implied or openly declared to be a reflection on Catholicism and celibacy, yet never on homosexuality? Why does the press complain that the Church should do more to prevent such things, yet raise merry hell at the slightest move towards the most obvious preventative measure, of banning homosexuals from the priesthood? Why the double standard?

5. Why fixate on celibacy, or Catholicism, as the supposed cause, when the statistical evidence (backed by simple logic) is clear: that celibate Catholic clergy offend at no higher rate than the general average of clergy, regardless of denomination, or of other helping/caring occupations. Why the double standard?

6. Why _not_ harp on homosexuality, when there is clear statistical evidence (backed by simple logic) that homosexuals are significantly more prone to pedophilic acts than the general population? Why the double standard?

7. If those who attack the church are really motivated by concern to prevent child sex abuse, why are they working so systematically against the best interests of the child? We know that, far and away, the most likely person to assault any child is a close family member. And we know that mothers are more likely to assault a child than fathers. In other words, the greatest possible risk of sexual assault is produced by leaving a child alone with its mother. Yet the entire thrust of society, and of the church-bashers specifically, seems to be to accomplish this very aim: cutting off children systematically from fathers, extended families, and the support network of a faith community. Perfect, if your plan is to promote child abuse.

8. Abuse by a close family member is not just the most common, but obviously the most damaging form of abuse. If a given priest is abusive, a child can almost always easily escape the situation. If a single parent is abusive, there is no escape, and infinitely greater opportunity for abuse.

9. In such a case, of domestic abuse of a child, resort to the local priest might well be the child’s only hope. Why then are the enemies of the Church working feverishly now to prevent this?

10. If some priests genuinely are, inevitably, pedophiles, what is the point of urging the Church to end the rule of celibacy? How does this solve the problem—by having their own children? Brilliant!


Why the double standard?

Because it's a pogrom. It’s a pogrom against the Catholic Church, and at the same time a pogrom against children.

Up to now, the Vatican, and individual bishops, have invariably turned the other cheek, responded with Christian humility, and quietly accepted the criticism, however unjust. I suspect this is about to change. Turning the other cheek only works if the other party has a conscience to which to appeal. When this approach does not succeed, one is justified in moving on to countering the attack squarely and in kind.

John Paul II was a conciliator and a diplomat, by nature and by experience. He did everything the Church could in turning the other cheek in the culture wars, up to and including elaborate public apologies. I think the media and the irreligious are mistaken in assuming the Catholic leadership will always feel a Christian obligation to sit there and take it. I think that Benedict was elected by the College of Cardinals precisely because his style and his instinct is more combative and more ready to call a spade a spade. He used to be known, after all, as “God’s Rottweiler.” Benedict is on public record as not caring if sticking to the truth reduces the membership of the Catholic Church to a fraction of what it is today—nor should he care, if that is what is in the balance.

Benedict has himself taken a lot of garbage without striking back; but with him you sense there is a limit. Now they are going after his own brother, and to some extent Benedict himself. They think they can destroy him; I think they are grossly misjudging him. He is a fighter by instinct, and he is probably the brightest man alive.

I also think they are grossly underestimating the support he will have within the Church, if he raises the middle finger at last. I note with some pleasure that Cardinal Brady in Ireland has also struck a combative note, refusing the calls for him to resign over the "scandals" there, on the very sensible grounds that
he has done nothing wrong.

Too many good men have suffered in this pogrom. We are at war. It is time for us to go out and buy swords, then head to the ramparts.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Is Jack Layton Doomed to Hell?

When you read in the depths of the Gospels of Jesus and the apostles being criticized for healing someone on the Sabbath, or for eating grains they pick in the field while wandering on the Sabbath, or for not washing hands before a meal, and so on, doesn't it all remind you of something?

Isn't this an apt description of life today in what Margaret Thatcher called the “nanny state”? The endless regulation of our daily lifes, laws that lose sight of the spirit of the thing, laws that require all parents to leave the maternity hospital with a car seat, whether or not they have a car, or ban church bake sales because the pies were made in unsupervised conditions...?

Hardly a coincidence. The word the King James translates “scribes” would be more correctly rendered into modern English as “bureaucrats.” That is exactly what scribes were in their day. The gospels should be read with this in mind; and, with this in mind, they can be clearly understood as a condemnation of intrusive government. The very first words preached in the New Testament are John the Baptist's “Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming?”--spoken to the Sadducees and Pharisees.

“Pharisees” is a bit harder to place in modern context. Strictly speaking, they were a religious sect, and represent a certain tendency within religious leadership. However, their chief characteristic, as the Gospel sees it, is their insistence on adherence to a set of rules and regulations more strict than the Mosaic code--”walls around Torah.” We might render them, generically, “regulators.” But they were also a political grouping: the Pharisees, according to Josephus, tended to be the “party of the poor,” while the Sadducees with whom they were locked in an eternal political struggle tended to serve those with aristocratic, priestly, lineage. And so, they could be referred to also as “the left,” in first-century Judean terms.

Let's try the experiment of upgrading the references to modern terminology, and see how that sounds: Matthew 23 (ASV):


13 But woe unto you, bureaucrats, regulators, and leftists, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.

14 Woe unto you, bureaucrats, regulators, leftists, hypocrites! for you devour widows' houses, even while for a pretence you make long prayers: therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.

15 Woe unto you, bureaucrats, regulators, leftists, hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single person “educated,” and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.

23 Woe unto you, bureaucrats, regulators, leftists, hypocrites! You mind your taxes and regulations carefully, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and good faith: but these you should have done, without neglecting the other.

24 You blind guides, who strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel!
...
29 Woe unto you, bureaucrats, regulators, leftists, hypocrites! For you build the sepulchres of the prophets, and decorate the tombs of holy men, and say, If we had been there in the days of our fathers, we should not have joined in shedding the blood of the Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, or the evils of Jim Crow laws. 31 Here you witness to yourselves, that you are sons of them that committed the holocaust, and who segregated. 32 You finish off the work that your predecessors began. 33 Serpents! Brood of vipers! How shall ye escape being condemned to hell?


His words against the scribes and Pharisees are far and away the sternest words Jesus speaks about anyone. Though he does not like the Sadducees either, the Pharisees and scribes are clearly the great villains of slavation history. He more or less explicitly condemns them to hell in advance, without any hint of a chance for redemption.


Sounds right to me. Notice that Hitler's strongest support came from the universities and the ranks of the bureaucracy.

The great problem with bureaucrats, regulators, and leftists, is that they invert all values: by presenting a false appearance of righteousness and compassion, they lead people astray not just physically or politically, but morally. They destroy not just the body, but the soul. The Sadducees or the Roman occupiers, being openly in favour of a powerful elite, are less deceitful, and so less to be condemned.

The Horrors of Home Schooling

A friend sends along a newspaper piece, originally from AP, lamenting the tragic situation of homeschooling families who might inadvertently purchase a textbook for their child that does not endorse Darwinian evolution.

The story is most interesting as a typical example of the anti-religious bias of the mainstream media. The basic premise of the article, that it is difficult to find science texts for homeschooling that are not creationist, is simply, obviously, utter nonsense. There is, for example, a large Catholic homeschooling movement. Their textbooks would include Darwinian evolution, as the Catholic Church has never had any problem with it. And don't kid yourself--there is a huge constituency of parents who are homeschooling not for religious reasons, but out of concerns for the quality of the public schools; just as there are many non-religious private schools. Book publishers make little enough money; seven thousand copies in hardcover is a good run in Canada. And textbooks are their cash cow. You want to bet they're going to serve any niche market they can find. There are also many options to homeschool your kids using exactly the same curriculum and exactly the same books available in the public schools of a given jurisdiction, if that is your preference.

Anybody competent to do a simple web search can easily find homeschool textbooks suiting their own preferences. It is entirely in the interests of companies supplying a fundamentalist Christian market to make that clear--just as the author says, it is a large market--so mistakes are unlikely. Anyone who cannot manage to do this is probably not competent to homeschool their child.

The subtext of the article is that the writer of the article has problems with the concept of his neighbour being allowed to raise his child with a religious world-view. He sees religion as a kind of social contamination.

What happened to the supposed moral and educational value of “diversity”? What's more important, diversity in skin tone, or diversity in thought?

What happened to the vaunted "right to choose"? Does it only apply if your choices are pre-approved by the state?

Disraeli wrote over a hundred years ago, "whenever is found what is called paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to ensure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery."

Exactly so: state education is an opportunity for state indoctrination, and many—probably most--“educators” make no bones about this agenda. This is not the practice of a free people. Private schools and home schooling are a vital protection for our most fundamental liberties.

Steve the Roney

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Real World of Oppression and Abuse

It is not easy to tell just who is being abused or oppressed. Most often, most people get it backwards.

For example, if the government mandates discrimination in favour of a given group, as with “affirmative action,” that group is by definition not being socially discriminated against. Everyone else is. Indeed, the moment a given group is commonly understood to be discriminated against, it necessarily isn't. Otherwise the social consensus would be contradicting itself, believing both A and not-A at once—that the group is genuinely inferior or immoral, and that it is wrong to think this. Perfect Orwellian doublethink.

The group might have been discriminated against, as a group, in the past. But it certainly is not being discriminated against in the present.

Does discriminating in favour of a group now make up for discriminating against “them” in the past? Surely not, because the same people are no longer involved. It simply adds a second wrong to the first, and evey discrimination _for_ a given group is automatically and equally a new discrimination _against_ another.

It is even difficult, as Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out, to realize whether you yourself are being abused or oppressed. Nobody was more concerned about slight gradations in skin tone than blacks in the Jim Crow south; and it has always been easy to find Jewish anti-Semites. The problem is that, if you are really consistently oppressed and abused, you internalize it. Only when this discrimination or ill-treatment does not tally with previous experience are you likely to feel suddenly and urgently that there is something wrong. Consider the children's story of the Princess and the Pea.

Some people do have a good enough moral compass to see through a consistent oppression. But it takes more than that to speak out. If you are genuinely oppressed, you know that the consequences of doing so will be dire; and you have little reason to hope things could ever be any different. Accordingly, true oppression is rarely brought to public attention, at least until the perpetrators and victims are all dead.

It is the squeaking wheel, however, that get the grease. Necessarily, this is not going to the the group that deserves it. Accordingly, all government or social attempts to respond to them, to reward them for squeaking, are going to worsen the overall social problem of oppression and abuse. This extends necessarily, I think, even down to any kind of workplace committee to enforce “respect” or prevent “bullying.” These become ideal tools for bullies, and magnets for them; as witness, in Canada, Richard Warman, a classic bully. Or this recent news story, of a lobbyist against domestic violence who recently shot her husband dead on a street corner:

http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/woman-charged-with-killing-344266.html


Consider some historic examples. We can see well enough now that the Protestant English oppressed the Catholic Irish over hundreds of years. But notice that the leaders of the Irish protest against this, right up to 1916, were almost all Anglo-Irish and Protestant. They were landed gentry, people who were accustomed to, and expected privilege. Their noses went out of joint when they discovered, nonetheless, that they were discriminated against in England by association with the Catholic native Irish.

When independence came, they too found the association unfortunate, and split off into Ulster. Only then did we begin to hear Catholic voices.

Before, during, and after the American Civil War, with rare exceptions, it was not the blacks whose voices were heard demanding freedom: there were black slaves fighting for the Confederacy. It was the white Northern abolitionists, on the one hand, and the Southern slave-owners, the white gentry, on the other, who protested loudly that their human rights were being violated—the latter demanding “states' rights.” It was a hundred years past the war before the blacks themselves started loudly demanding civil rights.

South Africa is a close parallel. It was the Boers, the white settlers, who raised their voices in protest against ill-treatment, by the British and the Empire. It was not the blacks, up until the example of the civil rights movement in the US made some think there might be something wrong with the current state of affairs.

Nazi Germany? Hitler rose to power on a platform of “affirmative action” for the poor downtrodden Aryan German working man, cruelly oppressed by the unjust Treaty of Versailles, on the one hand, and the rich capitalist Jewish bankers on the other.

Canada's “First Nations”? When the Liberal government in the sixties proposed the obvious and then-thought-enlightened measure of desegregation and making native Indians full citizens like any other, as King was demanding at the time for blacks—human equality, in other words—the Indian lobby raised merry hell. The last thing in the world they wanted was to surrender their privileges. The modern “aboriginal” movement has risen from this fight against equality. Treaty rights had to be expressly written into the Canadian Bill of Rights—as an exception to the general doctrine of equal rights.

As these examples show, it is generally “affirmative action” in favour of the “officially oppressed” that produces the very worst oppressions, abuses, and violations of human rights: in history, and in our society today.

Consider, for one example, feminism. It is taken for granted by the social consensus, but it is far from obvious that women have ever been an oppressed class. It is at least as easy to make the argument that they have always been pampered, protected, and favoured. So what happened? They suffered some loss to their expected position of privilege, perhaps, due to the First and then Second World War, in which men rather dramatically showed how valuable they really were when the civilizational chips were down. The “Playboy philosophy” of the fifties and sixties was surely a bit of masculine triumphalism. At the same time, the progress in automation of housework reduced the importance of the woman's traditional role in the family. As Hugh Hefner himself pointed out, before he introduced the idea in the 1950's, the notion of a “bachelor pad” was unthinkable. Single men lived in boarding houses: the work of maintaining a home was just too great.

So, feminism: a traditionally privileged group raising merry hell over the sudden loss of their privilege.

It has resulted, not in equality, but in systematic favoritism towards women, and discrimination against men, in every aspect of the working world, as has always been true in the home.

But it is not men who have suffered the most. Consider children. They have lost their very right to life—abortion is now, in Canada, both unrestricted and fully paid for by the state. All the hue and cry about “child abuse” actually systematically promotes child abuse: studies consistently show that the mother is the one individual most likely to abuse a child, and yet the “child abuse” lobby works feverishly to separate children whenever possible from their fathers and from the extended family, giving any abusive woman who cares for it a completely free hand.

And everywhere, children are restricted, repressed, regulated, and generally frowned upon as social undesirables. Especially boys; but girls too.

Consider the “diversity” quotas in universities that favour black or Hispanic students with lower grades. Do they help blacks and Hispanics? Quite possibly not—they simply ghettoize their degrees. On the other hand, they severely discriminate against Asian Americans and Jews, who score disproportionately high in academic testing. In doing this, the new quotas replicate pretty exactly the old quotas on the number of Jews admitted to universities. Society as a whole also suffers, of course, by having less-qualified doctors, lawyers, teachers, and so forth.

“Diversity” quotas also still favour women, insanely, even though women are a clear majority of the students at universities.

So, in the midst of all this misdirection, how does one figure out who is oppressed and who is not?

There are a few simple tests.

Consider the following statement:

“All X are violent.”

Now substitute quantities for X. Would this be socially acceptable if the word were “blacks”? How about “men”? “All men are violent?” Hmm-suddenly, no problem. When the answer is not the same, group A is plainly socially privileged, and group B is oppressed. Go ahead and do the test with assorted groups.

Of course, it only works when “violence” is part of the stereotype of the target oppressed group. To make the test complete, you have to try it with an assortment of socially disapproved attributes.

“All X are stupid.”

“All X are greedy.”

“All X are selfish.”

“All X are lazy.”

If the same group sounds okay when used in a number of different sentences like this, that is a meaure that they are particularly badly oppressed. If the same groups sounds scandalous when used with a number of different sentences like this, that is a measure that they are particularly highly privileged. Note that just sounding odd is not the same as sounding scandalous; consider whether you might get in trouble for saying X at a society cocktail party, or in print.

Following this procedure, you can come up with a point score. You might even make it pretty scientific and objective, by summoning a cocktail party of people who do not know one another as a focus group, and sticking to the Seven Deadly Sins.

You can also do something like this whenever you hear a general comment about a group.

“All heterosexual sex is rape.” Many argue Andrea Dworkin never really said this, and many mock it, but it seems to be socially okay to say it.

But how about “All homosexual sex is rape”?

See those red flags going up?


A second test, specifically for abuse, is to apply Aristotle's law of non-contradiction: if a group or individual is blamed both for doing A and for not doing A, you have clear proof that there is nothing wrong with their actions: the problem is who they are. In other words, classic, textbook abuse or oppression.

So, if America was wrong to the left for not going in to Afghanistan to save Afghan women from the oppression of the Taliban back in the nineties, and then wrong to go into Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban in the oughts, the problem is not America, but anti-American prejudice on the left. If the government was supposed to desegregate schools back in the fifties, to end oppression of blacks, and supposed to create special schools for black children in the 'oughts, to end oppression of blacks, the problem here is not oppression of blacks. If, when a man has four wives, it is oppression of women, but when a woman has four husbands, it is oppression of women, woman are not being oppressed.

You can even try this in your own life; and you may be surprised what you discover. Are you commonly put into such double binds, in which you know that no matter which of the available choices you make, you will be blamed either way? “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

Then you are being abused, and that person is your abuser.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Jesus's Politics

My old friend the left-wing columnist, to whom I have referred here from time to time, recently ran a piece in which he noted without explanation that the free market was incompatible with Jesus's teachings.

I challenged him, of course. I do not think the Gospel can really be legitimately used to decide between economic systems; the question is what works to generate wealth. But economic systems are also bound up with politics, and the Bible does have something to say about politics. Notably, on the issue of paying taxes, Jesus sets up the basic concept of separation of church and state that has served the Western world so well: “render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's.”

This implies that government has a legitimate role. But it also significantly reduces the role of government, in the context of traditional Jewish teachings or the classical understanding. It declares government to be profane, and a creation of man, not part of the divine order.

In other words, the general spirit of Christianity seems to lean towards small government. On what is the fundamental point at issue, that makes Jesus a man much more of the modern right, than of the left.

Trust government? Basic reality check here: how was Jesus, God incarnate, treated by government in the Gospels? It tired to kill him in infancy, massacring thousands in the attempt. At maturity, it tortured and executed him as a common criminal. Government also did in John the Baptist, St. Paul, and the rest of the apostles, of course.

But of a stark choice, actually. More or less the choice between good and evil. God is good, and government is evil.

My friend, challenged, pointed primarily to the advice to a rich young man to sell all he had and give the money to the poor. He might also have mentioned, but did not, the fact that the early Christian community as described in Acts held their property in common. Gorbachev referred to Jesus as “the first communist.”

However, this is false. Jesus did not tell the rich young man to take someone _else's_ money and give it to the poor; he meant his own. Expressing charity stands in an inverse relationship with government redistribution of wealth: if government takes the money from the rich young man without his consent, and gives it to the poor, nobody earns merit from the act; there is no choice, no free will. One is merely poorer, and the other richer.

As we know, charity is the thing Jesus wants: it is the greatest of the three virtues, the prime commandment. Government redistribution of wealth prevents this; and is therefore a moral evil.

Merely making the poor richer is not the prime concern: as Jesus says, “the poor you shall have always with you.” He also says, “blessed are the poor,” which surely implies that poverty itself is not an entirely bad thing. His point is that riches on earth distract us form the riches of heaven.

As to the early Christian tradition of shared property, the same objection applies: if this is not voluntary on the part of all participants, it loses all moral significance. If it is voluntary on the part of all participants, it becomes what it has always been: the Catholic religious life, as practiced in any convent or monastery. It cannot be voluntary if enforced by the state.

Even if overlooked by the US or Canadian constitution, both Jesus and the ten commandments represent private property as a moral right. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods.” Note too the parable of the workers in the vineyard:

“'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money?'”

Under a pure free market system, yes. Under a socialist or even heavily regulated or unionized system, no. Under “affirmative action,” again, no.

The parable of the three servants, each of whom was given a sum to invest by their master, makes plain as well that earning actual profits from the investment of capital is perfectly proper and commendable for a Christian. “Well done, O good and faithful servant!”

Jesus's, and God's, kingdom, by contrast, is “not of this world.” All attempts by man, therefore, to make some earthly paradise, are as doomed as the Tower of Babel. It will come, when it comes, only at the end of time, and mostly by divine fiat. Any efforts to do it ourselves are the work of the Antichrist. Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il-Sung, the Taiping Rebellion, Jim Jones... do we really need to repeat the experiment?

“All the kingdoms of the world,” the devil says to Jesus, who would know the truth, and pointedly does not contradict him, “all this power ... has been handed over to me, for me to give it to anyone I choose.”

Any kingdom in this social, material world, and any king or leader, is ipso facto of the devil's party. Satan runs this social, political world.

While some government is necessary, big government is accordingly the worst possible idea.

How do I know? Because the Bible tells us so.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Another foreign view of Canada

This piece from the London Sunday Telegraph was posted on the bulletin board at my (all-Canadian) workplace in the Middle East. Some anonymous co-worker scrawled at the bottom of the printed piece,

"This nonsense does NOT belong on this information posting board."

I wonder where this self-hate comes from...?

Another American View of Canada

O wad powr, the gift he gie us
To see oursels as others see us.