Playing the Indian Card

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Song of the Stars





Another product of tour recent blackout. From the Algonkian, as collected on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, by Charles G. Leland in 1882. Freely recast.

We are the stars that sing;
We sing the light;
We are the birds of fire;
Circling above the night.
Hear our silence roar;
We blaze a path for the soul
Who must and who will soar.
Among us the almighty three
Who battle the terrible beast;
There was no time
We were not; let all else but us cease.
We look down upon mountains.
This is the Song of the Stars.

-- Stephen K. Roney

Abortion and Immigration


In the current and growing controversy in many Western countries over high levels of immigration, the link to abortion is perhaps overlooked. Those in favour of immigration argue that it is necessary to avoid economic stagnation and decline: we need an expanding population to keep the flywheels of industry spinning. And we need a constant feed of young people to finance the retirements of the old as life spans lengthen.

And were might we most naturally get such a steady stream of young people?

The numbers suggest it would not be a complete solution, but it would be a help, if we banned abortion. A quick check online suggests an abortion rate in the US of about 700,000 per year. That is not far below the annual immigration rate of about 1,000,000. In Canada, abortions account for about 70,000-100,000 deaths per year. Canada’s immigration rate is just under 300,000 per year; although some say this level is higher than is needed for economic growth, and the American comparison suggests this is so.

Combine an abortion ban with friendlier policies toward traditional marriage and child-rearing, and it might fill the gap.

This has nothing to do with thinking native-born Canadians are in any way “better” than people from other countries. Look at it either from a human rights perspective, or a purely economic perspective. It makes no sense to plough under a commodity we are producing, and then import it from elsewhere. Nor is it equal treatment to kill native people, in order to replace them with people from abroad.

And what about all those poor people wanting to immigrate to Canada? Those huddled masses, yearning to breathe free? Canada is, I believe, objectively, underpopulated, and we should open our doors to those in genuine need. This is a great good Canada can do. But with the exception of oppressed groups, a vital exception, there seems much logic in the position that we are doing no favours to the “Third World” by creaming off the most motivated and most skilled from other lands. If humans are the most valuable resource, and they are, and our financial need for immigration says they are, this actually looks like exploitation.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Peterson Principle





In an hour-long interview with Dennis Prager, Jordan Peterson nicely pinpointed the true roots of atheism. In doing so, being Jordan Peterson, he made it more complicated than it is. But he caught the essence.

Trying to explain why he always resists answering the question “Do you believe in God?” Peterson said:

"Who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God if they examined the way they lived? Who would dare say that?"

To believe, "means that you live it out fully and that's an unbearable task..."

The problem is not that there is any real dispute over whether God exists. That’s a dodge. Peterson sees that. It is that acknowledging God’s existence imposes moral obligations that people hate to accept.

Where that logic fails is in supposing that, by pretending God does not exist, we escape these moral obligations. That is the typical atheist thinking, I have no doubt, and it makes no sense. It is, again, hysterical denial. It is like trying to cure your cancer by denying cancer exists. It is whistling past the graveyard.

Accepting the existence of God of course does not require never having sinned. Peterson, as he often does, has that upside down. Accepting the existence of God requires admitting that one has indeed sinned. One is not God.

That, for so many mortals, is the sticking point.

Apparently it is for Peterson as well. He is just more honest about it and with himself than others.

But simply by being this honest, he seems necessarily to be circling very close to this divine flame. During the Prager interview, he burst into tears. He expressed a very dark view of human nature without God. And he said:

“I think that Catholicism — that's as sane as people can get."

He followed this with observing that the Catholic doctrine is "eerie, complex and surreal." “Eerie” here is a giveaway. It means, in effect, something in it speaks to him. “Surreal” seems to be a Petersonism for “supernatural.”

In sum, JP says he is not a Catholic, and so long as he is not a Catholic, he is insane.

What does that suggest, and where does that leave him?


Rhinoceros Spotted in the Wild


Ben Shapiro

I have perhaps stumbled on another example of left-wing psychosis.

I say perhaps, because it seems incredible. I first thought stupidity might be the explanation, but the author seems to have published at least one book.

His heading reads “No, Ben Shapiro, Science isn’t White.”

I guess it works as click bait. I clicked.

But of course, Ben Shapiro has not said that science is white. The piece actually links to the video clip it is discussing: the reader can see for themselves that Shapiro said nothing like this. So the intent must not have been to deceive, either.

If not stupidity, and not deceit, then the only possible remaining explanation seems to be hysterical delusion.

What Shapiro said is that, in its origins, “experimental science is unique to the West.”

Notice that “the West” is not a race; it is a place. It is Cole, the present author, not Shapiro, who is thinking in racial terms.

Shapiro goes on to explain why he thinks the West developed experimental science: a combination of Greek empiricism with the Hebrew proposition that God created and could be known through the physical world.

Nothing about race. Shapiro is talking about ideas. It is only too obviously Cole who is the racist. By inference, he is insisting that ideas, philosophies, and cultures are genetic. This is Nazi race theory.

More remarkably, he ignores the essence of Shapiro’s argument, as if he had not made it. Shapiro begins by distinguishing between science and technology. Of course, all cultures have invented things. This is not experimental science, which is a method of inquiry.

To which Cole responds, “Oh yeah? Well how about all the things the Muslim world invented?”

Assuming Cole is not deaf, or stupid, or lying, this can only be accounted for by delusion, in the usual psychological sense. He is “out of touch with reality”: he is not hearing the words spoken to him, and cannot distinguish the world he senses outside himself from his own thoughts.

What remains is how to account for this. 



It becomes clearer if we substitute “Judeo-Christian culture” for “the West” here. Shapiro himself is clearly using them as synonymous.

Cole is somehow emotionally invested, then, in belittling Judeo-Christian culture.

Judeo-Christian culture is also often referred to, accurately, as “ethical monotheism.” These are the two features that clearly distinguish it from other cultures: that it asserts worship of only one God, and that he gives ethics divine sanction.

And it seems to me it is the ethical side of that equation that most likely bothers Cole. Ethics implies guilt.

To be sure, Islam, which Cole appears here to defend, is also ethical monotheism. But Cole’s agenda is probably not to defend Islam. “Juan Cole” does not look like a Muslim name, and those who convert to Islam generally take Muslim names. His own belief system is cultural relativism, which would be anathema to Islam. Islam is only his means to an end: to the underlying assertion that ethics are relative.

If ethics are relative, then there is really no right or wrong. So we all have a right to do what we want.

Better yet, if all ideas are simply a matter of genetics, which is indeed clearly his underlying argument here, then not only is there no real right or wrong; we also have no free will. We cannot be held responsible for anything that we do.

Sounds liberating if you are conscious of having done wrong, in terms of traditional Judeo-Christian ethics. But it is not just that this leads to Nazism: this actually is Nazism, straight up. It is the core Nazi premise.

And there is no question that such insanity can spread. It is spreading. Mass hysteria is actually much more common than individual hysteria. Nazism was an example.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds






Most people are insane.

As we await the results of the British EU election, I am enjoying, sometimes in a perverse way, watching Carl Benjamin/Sargon of Akkad’s YouTube videos of himself campaigning. He engages interested passersby in an exchange of views.

Sargon has been branded by both the left and the Mainstream Media—if there is a distinction here—as “far right.” Yet his views seem, down the line, classically liberal. By any traditional measure, up until perhaps the last dozen years or less, he is on the moderate left. He is also a master of the admirable English tradition of polite political discourse with those with whom you disagree. I would never have his patience.

So why is he frequently attacked with milkshakes? More frequently, in fact, than the less moderate-mannered Tommy Robinson or Nigel Farage?

One guy he interviewed, initially intensely hostile, turned out to have views very similar to Sargon’s on every issue he heatedly raised. Right up until Sargon brought up the matter of Pakistani Muslim “grooming gangs” in the north of Britain. At which point the interviewee started ranting incoherently, would not let Sargon state his position, and stormed off. Another bystander, apparently a member of the town council, then came up and told Sargon he was not welcome in their town.

I'd like to link to the video, but, oddly, it seems to have been removed from YouTube. That may itself be telling.

Sargon’s point was that these particular Pakistani Muslims and their brand of Islam were intolerant and racist. The interviewees were apparently adamant that to call anyone who was not “white” racist was racist. An obvious logical contradiction, and an obviously racist attitude.

Sargon’s interlocutors abruptly ceased being rational. It was a plainly hysterical reaction. It was not simply that the two people could not follow Sargon’s argument, either; it was not stupidity. That could not account for refusing to hear it, or for the sudden rage. It was “denial,” in psycho lingo: knowing their own view was wrong, and refusing to accept this.

One of the great benefits of religion is that it teaches that most people are insane. That insight is most helpful in such cases.

This may sound odd. But it is fairly obviously so. Lots of people are now acting just like this guy in the video. It may well be a majority of the public, in the UK or in Canada. Many or most people are denying obvious realities on a variety of topics: not just on immigration, but on feminism, where Sargon is also attacked and not listened to, or on the half-dozen other subjects everyone knows will cause someone to become agitated or even violent if brought up in public: abortion, transsexualism, Donald Trump, and so forth.

Whenever this happens, this fairly obviously happens because one side knows they are wrong, and is consciously in denial. Inevitably, and self-evidently, this is the side that wants to shut talk down and resort to force.

A critical problem with modern psychology and psychology is that, not having any valid philosophical foundation, it denies this basic truth. It defines “sanity” as “thinking the same way most people think.” This is obviously wrong: it is the ad populum fallacy. Einstein thought very differently from his peers about relativity. By this logic, then, he was simply insane.

Religion in general, and Christianity and Buddhism in particular, teaches instead that most people are likely to be fundamentally wrong in their perceptions or assertions. And they explain why: guilty conscience; Buddhism would say “desire.”

Raising a second critical problem with modern psychiatry and psychology: that it ignores morals. A dehumanizing omission. As here, the denial and the hysteria seems always based on some implicit moral issue. Many if not most people are irrational on subjects where their conscience is troubled. Abortion is the obvious example. But it is people who are themselves clearly racist who seem most eager to accuse others of racism: it is a form of instinctive scapegoating. Feminism, too, is arguably best explained as a mask over a tacit awareness of female privilege, and guilt as a result; women have traditionally been placed on a pedestal, at least in the West. They did not have to go out and get killed in the World Wars, Korea, or Vietnam. They were exempt from the draft.

The New Testament has the straight goods:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

Jesus further suggests that this will commonly be the majority.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Buddhism’s claims on this are even more extreme.

If it is indeed the majority, the influence of modern psychiatry and psychology actually appears as pernicious. The appeal ad populum is an easy way to justify immorality, and so to sustain one’s personal madness.

This seems, in turn, the fatal error of modern mainstream Christianity: it has come to simply hold that whatever the majority of the congregation wants to assert as true and moral, is true and moral. This assumption is actually incompatible with religion; man does not create God. So that anyone who is religious will fall away.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Ane Ballat of Our Lady



A modern rendition of an icon reputedly originally by St. Luke.

A free translation from the Old Scots. Another product of the recent blackout.


Empress of peace, imperatrice
Bright polished precious stone
Victrix of vice, High genetrix
Of the crucified on his throne
 Protect our wits from enemies
Against the fiend’s parade
Oratrix, mediatrix, salvatrix
Godmaiden, swift to aid.
 Ave Maria, full of grace
Hail, stern meridian!
Fragrant bloom of paradise
That fruited the precious grain.


--Willie Dunbar; Stephen K. Roney, trans.


The Wolf Who Cried "Boy!"



All due to a lack of tolerance.

The American curriculum I teach my Chinese students surprised me last week by being almost sensible. The text was a retelling of Aesop’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” A useful bit of cultural context, and of course an important life lesson. The ending was sadly fudged: instead of having the wolf eat the sheep, they just ran off in fear, and were recovered the next day. No harm done. A typical bit of bowdlerization that weakened the interest of the story as narrative, and seriously weakened the moral. But at least the basic tale was still recognizable.

But it turns out that was only the setup for this week’s story. Which now told the fable from the wolf’s point of view: the “real” story. Herr Wolf, it turns out, ate only vegetables from his garden. (Everyone in these stories has a garden.) He thought to snatch a goat only because he was now too old and weak to weed his crop. But in the end, after striking a bargain with the shepherd boy, he found that the goat could weed his garden for him. So they both lived happily ever after.

The shepherd boy no doubt still learned somewhere in there that it was not a good idea to lie. That moral was more than a little clouded by the fact that, in this retelling, he was not lying. There really was a wolf present, although not visible to him. But the larger moral now seemed to be: never think badly of another, don’t be prejudiced against someone just because he is a wolf, and always try to make some agreement to accommodate their demands.

A lesson in tolerance, I suppose. The problem is that it denies the existence of real wolves. Real wolves are not vegetarians, do not reason very well, and any shepherd boy who approached one trying to seek an accommodation would simply be savaged.

A large part of the original point of having talking animals as the characters in fables is to avoid prejudice. Animals operate on instinct, and so their behavior is predictable. It is simply not prejudice to assume that wolves will eat sheep if given a chance.


Of course, in the real world, the same is true of some people. It is not prejudice to realize that there are bad people in the world. It is prejudice only if you associate this with their skin colour, national origin, sex, or some other unrelated characteristic. People are not animals, and do not work by inborn instinct. Using an animal example prevents this association from being formed.

Whereas the original fable, like many fables, was forearming and, if you like, “street-proofing” the child for the risks of life, the rewrites are always setting them up to be easily victimized by the first predator.

I fear this suggests that our current texts and curriculum are written by the predators.



Thursday, May 23, 2019

Lactose Intolerance



The New Republic has a bizarre article half-endorsing the new left-wing craze for “milkshaking” political candidates they disagree with. The author ends with:

“I personally oppose violence in all forms, so I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to throw a milkshake at the nearest racist I encounter. But I don’t need to believe in it to recognize how effective it is at shaming the far right.”

That is surely, praising with faint damn.

But more interesting than the moral depravity is the odd assertion that the act of throwing a milkshake at an opponent is “effective.”

We do not yet know the results of the British EU election. Voting is today. On what basis can the tactic already be declared “effective”?

This, I think, is a key to the mindset of the modern left. It does not even care what the general population thinks. “Effective” means that the tactic is popular among leftists.

They genuinely see themselves as a ruling elite, and only what they think matters.

They are perfectly clueless about other views: they do not know, because they do not want to know, because they do not care. A party that is leading the polls, or a policy choice that holds majority support, can nevertheless be branded, like Nigel Farage and Brexit, “far right.” By any measure other than obliviousness, this is a contradiction in terms.

It should be obvious we are dealing with a self-designated, self-aware, elite; roughly, the professional class. My friend Xerxes was once quite open about it with me. I pointed out the illogic of expecting American voters to obediently accept the proposition that others should decide things for them. His response was that of course we should be ruled by an elite. And it of course includes him.

Another leftist friend, a book publisher, warned me against going down the same road as Jordan Peterson with my book on psychology. Yes, sure, he’s now a bestselling author, rich, and perhaps the world’s most famous public intellectual. But, don’t you see, he’s lost the respect of his colleagues?

There is a conscious us-them divide here: the professionals are aware of themselves as a class apart, and are acting for class interests, not in the interests of the whole. They even openly dislike ordinary people. They are the enemy, the “deplorables,” the rednecks, with their guns and their religion, and must be kept in their place. Making common cause with them is class betrayal.

Which may explain by itself the hatred for Farage, Trump, Benjamin, Peterson, or Tommy Robinson. Damned uppity peons.

Marx, purposely or not, got the classes wrong. He saw the Industrial Revolution as a transfer of power from a ruling landowning class to the bourgeoisie, who would in turn be replaced by the proletariat .Yet the landowning class were never the ruling class. In France, for example, they were the Second, not the First, estate. The First Estate, the acknowledged ruling class, was the clergy. So too in India: the top of the caste system was never the Ksatriyas, the Rajas and the landowning nobles. It was the Brahmins, the priests. In China, there was not even a landowning class. Everything was simply run by the Confucian mandarins.

“Priest” or “clerical” or “mandarin” here does not imply only religious office. Our term “clerical” best this ground: this was and is the educated class, the knowledge workers. In Biblical terms, the scribes and Pharisees. Other classes may or may not have had more material comforts, but the clerical class has always held the power. They have always run things, made and enforced the laws, run the businesses, and the schools and universities.

They have run things based on a monopoly, or rather, cartel, on information. Knowledge was their commodity, what they had to sell. Ideally, when the system was not corrupt, this knowledge was in principle available to all comers, and members of this class were admitted purely on their academic merit. But there is at all times a natural and inevitable incentive, among members of this class, to abuse their power, set their own prices for their labour, and to withhold knowledge from others in order to preserve their position.

To the extent that this has been a cartel, to the extent that this ruling group has been corrupt, the new information technology more or less blows that cartel apart.

There is no more cartel on raw knowledge. The information that once was the special preserve of a few is now generally available with a quick Google search. The “long tail” of the Internet also plays a part, revealing that what the “experts” now say is commonly the opposite of what they were saying a few years ago. In many professions, a striking lack of any real knowledge or expertise is being uncovered.

The more corrupt elements of the professional elite are reacting to this by circling the wagons. Realizing that the common people are growing suspicious, they are increasingly understanding the common people as the enemy. And more definitely seeing their own interests as against those of the common people. Hence the radicalization we are seeing on the left.

Their resulting utter disdain for others outside their group makes them peculiarly vulnerable to misjudgments. The New Republic author writes:

“Nothing animates the far right or shapes its worldview quite so much as the desire to humiliate others—and the fear of being humiliated themselves. It’s why alt-right trolls, projecting their own sexual insecurities, enjoy calling their opponents “cucks.” It’s why they rally around blustery authoritarian figures like Donald Trump who cast themselves as beyond embarrassment, shame, or ridicule.”

This is a magnificent example of projection. It is the leftist elite who so values social prestige. The left, like my publisher friend, is all about status, prestige, and being accepted as part of the group. It is the professional elite who fear humiliation, as they are exposed as having no special knowledge.

One of the keys if not the one key of Trump’s popularity is exactly that he seems impervious to humiliation. Marco Rubio tried, and died. Trump visibly just does not care what the elite thinks. Milkshakes? He’ll serve milkshakes and hamburgers at the White House. Humiliating news reports? He’ll just call the press out for “fake news.” He’ll say what he likes, and damn the tut-tuts from the tidy drawing rooms.

The left, in sum, is growing increasingly blustery and authoritarian, and Trump defies it—making him, despite his own wealthy background, a folk hero.

The same is true of Nigel Farage. The present author has the source of his appeal completely inverted; it is because, instead of putting on airs, he is shockingly frank. Benjamin and Robertson campaign in jeans and T-shirts; hardly pretending to be posher than they are. They make it the basis of their appeal that they are outsiders, ordinary working-class guys, not part of the establishment. So the left thinks the way to defeat them is to make it clear to the common yobs that they are ordinary guys, and not part of the establishment?

And those on the right do not call opponents “cucks.” Whether you think it right or not, they call others on the right “cucks,” for being too timid or obsequious to the elites, not ideological opponents.

Note too the uncanny lack of insight in not realizing for an instant that anyone else might just as easily use this milkshake tactic: so long as a single, solitary figure disagrees with any candidate, he can fling a milkshake at them. It is not just that the left does not seem to be listening to anyone else: they cannot even mentally acknowledge, it seems, that they exist. Not even one of them.

So flinging a milkshake says absolutely nothing about the candidate; it could happen to any candidate. It tells us something about the assailant, or their opposition, if it generally approves, and it is not a noble thing. It suggests that they feel they and their views are more important than anyone else’s and must be obeyed without question. The public must conform to their solitary views, or next time, they will vote them all out and elect a new general public.

The left, which is to say by and large the current professional elite, is committing suicide before our eyes.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Newfoundland and Beyond


He blew it.
The recent Newfoundland provincial election conforms in broad strokes to my theory that politics are getting more radical and more disaffected. In this heat, the middle-of-the-pavement Liberals beat back, barely, what might have been another in a recent string of Conservative provincial victories. The polls again were wrong. A Conservative win, however, would have been historic—Newfoundland and Labrador voters are not inclined to turf out governments quickly, and this one had been in for only one term. Even so, they were reduced to a minority. 

I think they did no worse because the Tories under Crosbie chose the wrong strategy. They fought the Liberals for the centre. “Vote for me! Nothing will change!”

This is a good strategy only if the electorate is simply tired of the government; or if they are corrupt. Not smart against a one-term government. There was as a result really nothing to choose in terms of policy or ideology between the Rouge and the Bleu. The disaffected had no ballot option, no way to “send a message” if they wanted change. This was the old cynical politics.

Instead, as a result, we had a surge in independents. We might have seen a surge in the NDP too, but for the fact that they were caught flat-footed, and did not run candidates in most ridings.

In other, related news, Drudge reports a recent Gallup poll finding that 40% of Americans now identify themselves as pro-socialism. It used to be around 25%, back in Stalin’s day. Greater polarization and radicalization, again.

This seems incompatible with the recent poll surge for Joe Biden as a “moderate” in the Democratic primary stakes.

Either poll may be wrong—polling has been wrong a lot lately. But if 40% of the American electorate is now socialist, that translates to 80% or so of Democrats. If Biden has 40% of the Democratic vote, that means that 50% of his vote must be pro-socialist, and ideologically more aligned with other candidates. They are probably only parking their votes, then, and can be easily stripped off. If they are supporting him now, it is not because he is a moderate. Perhaps they just don’t know what he or the other candidates stand for yet. His natural ideological ceiling, even if the only moderate in the race, is 20%. His current boom is probably a mirage.

Some, it is true, might just have as their first priority somehow stopping Trump, and be gravitating to Biden on those grounds. But that does not tend to be the usual reaction, even in the case of a President despised by the other side. The Dems ran the ideological Mondale against Reagan for his second term. They ran the ideological McGovern against Nixon for his.

Moving over to Britain, we again see evidence of growing polarization. Milkshakes have been flung now at Nigel Farage, Carl Benjamin, and Tommy Robinson. It’s becoming a thing. Heavier projectiles have been aimed at Benjamin and Robinson, and things seem to be escalating. For Britain, this seems shocking public rudeness.

While Farage, Benjamin, and Robinson represent a radicalization of politics on the right, it is the reaction on the left that seems truly extreme. These three have all been declared beyond the realm of permissible discourse, “racists,” “Nazis.” Yet their public positions are not at all extreme. Benjamin seems to simply be a liberal. Farage is concentrating at least for now only on the issue of leaving the EU, something a majority of Britons demonstrably support. Robinson is more radical: critical of Islam and Muslim immigration.

But if the left finds this last troublesome, they are being remarkably hypocritical. Until perhaps two minutes ago, by my watch, the left was loudly criticising Islam. They were demanding invasions to end female genital mutilation. They were protesting the US being in alliance with “intolerant” “fundamentalist” Saudi Arabia who oppressed women. They were insisting the burkha was oppressive; and so on.

Obviously, it is not opposition to Islam that troubles them about Robinson, or about UKIP.

It is the sense that they are losing their power. 

Storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1889.

Most often, these extremists on the left when unmasked turn out to be teachers and professors.

These are not a powerless or disenfranchised group. This is an elite. This is a group invested with a good deal of power, privilege, and material comfort. They simply feel they deserve more.

They expect to be respected and obeyed. Because they are supposedly superior. Increasingly, they are not.

That, it seems to me, is the source of all the radicalism on the left.

It looks like hysteria. And it is perfectly self-destructive. The growing radicalism of this "elite" is sure over time to shake the allegiance of remaining members of the general public still inclined to defer to their established authority.

Again, I think we are seeing a collapse of an ancien regime. 


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Dark Night of the Soul


St. John of the Cross

I've taken a stab at this before, but here's another product of the local blackout a few nights ago: my interpretation of St. John of the Cross's "Dark Night of the Soul." This is a less literal translation than my previous try, in order to make it work better, I think, in English.


In velvet night, on fire with violent longing—oh sweet chance—
I slipped away unseen; my household still and dumb, like smoke suspended.

Safe in the blanketing darkness, by unsuspected ladder, reflecting someone else—oh blissful chance—
Invisible and silent; our dead world sleeping still.

In the delirious void, unwhispered and unknown, disturbing no moonbeams
Naked with blindness, no wayfinder but the unsteady torch burning down my heart.

This flame a truer guide than gaudy noon
To the place where I remembered he had been
A place where no one was, and none appeared.

Darkness itself led me—night brighter than the dawn.
Brilliant night that interlaces lover and belov├ęd, two transformed.

Upon my restless breast, all his alone
He rested, sleeping; I caressed. A cedar detonation filled the room.

A gentle breath swept in from some high keep. I lost my fingers in his hair;
His fingers found and touched my neck: all senses fled.

One remained, forgetting everything. My head was somewhere on his breast.
Everything ended. Even me. All cares or caresses were lost among lilies.
-- Stephen K. Roney

Monday, May 20, 2019

Flags


I love symbols. Flags are a good example.

But some flags are beautiful, and others are ugly. 

The Union Jack is beautiful. 



The Stars and Stripes is truly ugly. Sorry, patriotic Americans. It looks like someone has run their laundry up the flagpole. Pajamas, clearly. And the symbolism is painfully lame: just numbers. 



The Canadian Maple Leaf is one of the finest. Officially, it all means nothing. Good idea: avoids any arguments. But the symbolism, as is ideal, is obvious without being said: the brilliant red maple leaf of the Canadian autumn. The colour white has obvious associations for any Canadian. What do we Canucks forever see that is white? And red: what colour have the Mounties always worn? Red in Canada naturally means government and rule of law. 



To any Canadian, such associations are probably instinctive, and need not be belaboured. That shows how strong the symbol is.

The flags of Quebec and Nova Scotia are also first rank, in international terms. Canada has a special talent here, and it is internationally recognized. You cannot beat the Canadian Heraldic Authority either. 



But on the other end of the spectrum, the flag of Alberta is about as lame as could be. Just the provincial crest on a blue background. The only thing worse would be a white banner with the letters “ALBERTA” in black. 



The flag of Montreal used to be one of the finest. Infinitely better than Toronto’s bland corporate logo. But the flag of Montreal has now been defaced. Without public input, City Hall under Coderre marred it by putting a yellow pine tree in a red circle at its centre. 

Montreal: old flag

Montreal: new flag.

This makes the design seem too cluttered, but, worse, it trashes the symbolism. The cross, which formerly formed a nice counterpoint with the provincial flag, has been obscured. And, of course, its significance as the Christian cross has also been obscured. In a fit of utter lamefootedness, symbolically, it is now a tree which has been crucified on the ancient tree. And it is a pine tree which we now worship.

One of the great glories of the Montreal flag, too, which again seemed to counterpoint the provincial flag, is how it expressed equality for all in cosmopolitan Montreal, the world city. It would have been easy, with their majority, and even historically accurate, to give priority to the fleur-de-lys, as in the provincial banner. Instead, generously, the four largest ethnicities were presented as equal. The Montreal mosaic.

The new design instead gives strong visual priority to a symbol of the “First Nations.” Destroying what was the central significance of the old flag.

One can see, of course, the argument that on the old flag the First Nations were not included. The designers of the original would probably be surprised by the claim—to them, the fleur de lys probably included the Indians, as part of the original French polity, indeed, as generally interbred and the same people. It replaced an original beaver, which more obviously did. If the Indians were not featured more specifically, the same complaint could be made by any number of other Montreal settlers. Especially those subsumed under the “allophone” label. Where were the Welsh? Where are the Italians? The Jews? You cannot say their contribution to Montreal has been insignificant. Jacques Cartier himself was Breton, not French. Where are the Basques? Probably over a hundred other communities might raise this same objection.

So why special treatment for one minority?

The response perhaps will be that the First Nations were there first. But this is simply not true. When Maisonneuve founded Montreal, there were no First Nations villages anywhere in the vicinity. The Algonquins were past Ottawa. The Iroquois were near Syracuse in upstate New York.

There had, it is true, been a native settlement on the island when Cartier first visited: Hochelaga. But when he returned a few years later, it was gone. The entire Indian culture it represented had disappeared by the time Montreal was founded. The Mohawks who now live in Caughnawaga came later from the present US, as immigrants, to be near the Catholic mission. Montreal is no more part of their ancestral lands than Paris is part of the Spanish ancestral lands.

And now the very reason for their original presence, the cross, has ironically been effaced, on the flag of Montreal. It is all, on top of anything else, utterly ahistorical.

Worse, the white pine itself has no pedigree as a symbol of anything. It was purely invented for the occasion. It does not even mean anything to any First Nation.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Ghazal of the Unwanted Dawn






We had a local power outage a few nights ago.

It was productive. What else could I do but work on poetry?

Here's one:


A Ghazal of the Unwanted Dawn

―after Hafiz

O barmaid, bear the bottle, fill the glass
I took love easy, but it took me hard.
I smell her night-black ringlets in the dawn
Hearts can be a cruel hand at cards.

If only she had left―but she did not.
Which means I must: the matins take their toll.
Since she has sobered, doused with wine, I go
Along the lonely backstreets of the soul.

Past heaps of trash, and tempest, and the pit
How can he know, who never launched a ship
Or never was the goat in gossips’ talk
Secrets are not kept by open lips
 And what seems night may only be eclipse.

Beware the dawn if you forget the dawn.

-- Stephen K. Roney



Saturday, May 18, 2019

Thanks, Sir Tim. You've Done Us a Solid



Suddenly I understand why the social media companies are seemingly going insane and acting in their own worst interests—aggressively “deplatforming” their most successful content providers.

As suggested last post, this is a sign that someone thinks their current position of power is doomed. They are going to get their licks in while they can. Because they understand there is no tomorrow.

First, notice that the one company most aggressively deplatforming seems to have been Twitter. The one who has been most financially shaky at the same time. Cause and effect might be murky, but this confirms that the behaviour is suicidal.

So what bright headlights do these guys see coming towards them?

Suddenly last night I realized.

Solid.

Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, has long been dissatisfied with the direction it has taken. Specifically, the Internet was born and bred to be decentralized. Lee laments how it has drifted from a liberating orgy of creativity to these corporate content silos. So he has been working on Solid; last fall, he released Inrupt (sounds like Disrupt) a first app based on it. 

I do not have a solid grip myself on Solid and its significance, but the men of Silicon Crevice surely do. I gather that with Solid, the user maintains control over both all their personal details, and all the content they produce and put up on the web. They hold it locally, and it can be pulled or moved at will.

There goes the underpinnings of all the web barons’ wealth: on the one hand, selling personal details to advertisers, on the other selling users and advertisers content created by other users, and on the other other, locking in users and advertisers with the strength of their established user base. They have always only been a middleman. And, like other middlemen, easily replaceable by computerization. Any pirate programmer now might supercede a Facebook or a Twitter or a PayPal within months.

The current reaction in Silicon Gulch suggests they know the Berners-Lee initiative is going to work. The Internet is soon going to go back to being the nervous system of freedom everywhere. And Sir Berners-Lee is about to become a culture hero of humanity for a second time.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Whom the Gods Would Destroy



Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad)

YouTubers Andrew Klavan and Tim Pool are both saying, as I have recently, that the contemporary left looks as though it is going mad. It actually no longer seems possible to have a rational conversation. The latest evidence is the bizarre way the BBC and others are going after Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad), as candidate for UKIP in the upcoming Euro elections. All they will talk about is how he is endorsing rape by having joked that he would not rape someone. His YouTube channel has just been “demonetized,” taking away his livelihood. On the same day, the NDP is making a public outcry because Jordan Peterson, internationally bestselling author and public intellectual, has been invited to appear before a Canadian Commons committee to express his views. In the US, YouTuber Gavin MacInnis reports that he must now stay up nights with a gun in his home, because of death threats. 

Yet these people are only making entirely reasonable—often humorous—comments on current politics. If it matters, if it justifies refusing to allow them to speak, there is not a whiff of racism or hate towards any identifiable group in anything they have said publicly. Unlike many other commentators on YouTube. But of course, refusing to allow them to speak ensures that nobody learns that what they are saying is reasonable. The approach, if it is not deeply dishonest, is insane.

The BBC seems to be getting aggressively more partisan. This almost looks suicidal in a public broadcaster committed to being non-partisan, and entirely reliant on tax dollars. See the recent shenanigans with Nigel Farage. Imagine a state broadcaster publicly dismissing a political candidate as an extremist just as he seems poised to win a nation-wide election. They are in open rebellion, it seems, against their viewership. They seem to be actually forcing their own demise.

CNN in the USA seems to have been behaving similarly. Facing stiffer competition every ratings period from Fox News and now MSNBC, in addition to the new media, they are getting less reliable on the news. They are doing this just as consumers can quickly double-check for themselves and see when they are lying. Chris Cuomo, for example, supposedly the neutral reporter, recently tried to shout down his guest Rick Santorum with the charge that he lied about something easily proved by anyone with access to YouTube. Again, this seems suicidal.

The same might be said of the mainstream press, the NY Times or Wapost. They are becoming less reliable on the news, more reckless about traditional journalistic ethics, and more overtly partisan, just as their audiences are shrinking through online competition, as they are losing ad revenue to online agents, and as their accuracy can be double-checked online with increasing ease. It looks like a death wish.

As for the left more generally, their recent priorities, supporting Islam and transgenderism, seem to be similarly self-destructive. It is not just that transgenderism literally requires the denial of external reality—the physical and biological differences between male and female. They also seem to demand that leftists take the reverse of stands they were expected to embrace only recently. It was the left, scant years ago, that was anti-Muslim, against the hijab, against supposed patriarchy, and against female genital mutilation. It was the left that, scant years ago, defended homosexuality with the slogan “born this way.” Transgenderism denies the validity of that premise directly, almost as though it were calculated to do so. It is as though being sane disqualifies you from the club.

Cognitive dissonance, illustrated.


At the same time, these two new causes, Islam and transgenderism, look like a direct assault on the left’s prior largest constituencies. Most obviously, and largest, women. Not to mention Jews—the left is now often openly anti-Semitic—and Catholics, who used to be loyally leftist, now openly treated with contempt. It is as though the left is daring their supporters to abandon them.

Why are they acting so irrationally? With transgenderism, for example, we are at the point at which the left is in full denial of obvious reality. That’s insanity by definition. It looks a lot like what used to be called hysteria.

We see it again on the abortion  issue. Just as soon as Trump successfully appointed Kavanaugh, giving the Supreme Court a possible majority to overturn Roe v. Wade, the pro-abortionist lobby doubled down by pushing legislation in New York and Virginia declaring a right to unrestricted abortion up to the moment of birth. It is as though they were daring someone to call them on it.

The image that comes to mind is that of a spoiled child. Called out, caught doing something naughty, as the MSM and the left are increasingly now by new media and newly heard conservative voices, instead of accepting their fault and striving to do better, they throw a tantrum. They start breaking anything in reach. Often their own toys.

But why does a spoiled child act like this?

It is, I think, the voice of conscience. A healthy conscience would accept fault, amend, and be better for the experience. Because a spoiled child has developed such a huge sense of privilege, they cannot find it in themselves to do this. They are perfect. To admit the slightest fault is unthinkable. It is reality that is being unfair. As a result, their conscience drives them to self-destruction. Their thought is no doubt to destroy the world, for not doing as they wish, but the practical effect is going to be self-destruction. And at some level they seem aware of this. It is like the serial killer who left the message in lipstick at the scene of one rape-murder, “For God’s sake, stop me before I kill again!”

We are watching an irresponsible, privileged elite in emotional meltdown. They are thrashing about madly, and the collateral damage may be awful.

Images of supposed hysterics
By watching for the signs of such hysteria, we can perhaps predict which current institution will be next to circle down the drain. They will start to act loony as they see the first signs of trouble appear. And then they will insist on dying.

We are now seeing such obvious insanity in the academy. They know they are doomed. With new technology, the traditional model of the academy is unsustainable. So they are all partying like there is no tomorrow on their arbitrary power, because there is no tomorrow. The Dean of the Harvard Law School was just fired by his university for doing his professional duty as a lawyer and defending the unpopular Harvey Weinstein. Lindsay Shepherd was censured by her department for showing her class a clip from public TV--without comment.

It ten or twenty years, it will all be gone. Now we know. Prepare accordingly.

We are seeing it too in the public schools. The now-abandoned new Ontario sex ed curriculum was an example. They know the el-hi model is also no longer justifiable. It can all be done better online by Khan Academy and the like. So it is time to pull out all the stops, riot, and smash windows on the way out.

Who’s next?

Does the most recent madness emerging from Silicon Valley, the fit of arbitrary deplatforming, mean they know something we don't know? Are corporate critters like Facebook, Twitter, Patreon, PayPal, and Google also seeking dazzling lights in the tunnel heading towards them? It may well be--they are in the best position to know first what new technologies are imminent, and the life cycle of a high-tech company can be especially short as new technology appears. I'd sell.




Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Politics of the Public School


Early to mid 20th century school.

The Foundation for Economic Education has published a piece arguing on historical evidence that the American public school system has always been a mechanism for indoctrination.

It was based, the author asserts, on the Prussian system formed in the early nineteenth century by Fichte. And he includes some killer quotes from Fichte:

“Then, in order to define more clearly the new education which I propose, I should reply that that very recognition of, and reliance upon, free will in the pupil is the first mistake of the old system and the clear confession of its impotence and futility.”

“[Y]ou must do more than merely talk to him; you must fashion him, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than you wish him to will.”

“Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished ... When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for more than one generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen.”

That’s pretty shocking; but it seems to explain what is taught, and not taught, in the public schools. It is the obvious way to go if you want to subvert a democracy, and retain a de facto oligarchy despite democratic trappings. Whoever controls the education of children can hope to manufacture the social consensus for the next generation.

Early to mid 20th century factory.

This, incidentally, has always been the great advantage of mothers, and of women: that they have overwhelming influence over children in their formative years. Ensuring, in fact, that as a sex women could never have been genuinely oppressed by their society. Without overlooking this, feminism would never have been credible. We have been missing it in the case of the schools too.

Mostly, I suspect, because most of us grown-ups don’t really give a damn about children.

Public schools seem designed, despite lip service to the contrary, never to teach leadership, and never to teach how to think. They seem designed to turn out passive cogs for industry, human tools—the exact opposite of the intent of education in either Confucian or the Western classical tradition. The modern public school seems built on the model of the factory. 

Plato, Confucius, Aristotle.


Government does have a legitimate interest in the schools, to train for good citizenship and to encourage all to pull together in the civic enterprise. It is shared values that make a community. If you do not have them, no police force of any size or level of armament can substitute.

But to ensure and preserve a free and democratic country, it is also important that government not be the only authority with input. That is totalitarian. There is far too much opportunity here for those in power to indoctrinate suit their own interests. He who controls the schools controls the future.

Better, to begin with, if schools were run at the most local level possible. The tendency, however, has been relentlessly in the opposite direction, to greater provincial or state control, and greater federal control. Better still to give them to the various churches to administer, with some government input. Better still to allow any private corporation, in the broad sense of that term, to open a school, on a level basis in terms of tax funding—vouchers, say. Foolishly, instead, we have been moving systematically to remove all influences that might check or balance government.

I have some immediate sense of the result for American schools. I am teaching Chinese students a current American reading curriculum. Their parents, very sensibly, want them to get an immersion in American culture.

It seems obvious to them that an American reading curriculum would be built around the classics of American literature. This is of course what my Chinese students and their parents would want and need. But it is at least as important that this be so for American students, for several reasons.

First, selecting the classics more or less automatically means the best writing available. Second, classics are arrived at more or less by popular and scholarly consensus over time, a safely neutral party in terms of present politics. So they and the curriculum would be free from political manipulation. Third, a curriculum of classics would automatically select for the most interesting and most important themes, subjects, and issues, best calculated to most interest students, and so get them committed to the reading enterprise. Fourth, it would be the best model for students in how to write well. Fifth, it would give them the body of cultural allusions, of shared knowledge, they will need to read fluently—because authors will always assume a certain body of cultural knowledge in their audience. “I struck out” can mean nothing to someone who did not grow up watching or playing baseball. Sixth, the same cultural allusions are just what make up the very fabric of the American community—they are what binds any nation together. They are exactly the things a public school should be there to teach. They are just what any American needs to become, in turn, a contributor to the culture.

But the classics are not the readings taught. The texts are all recent, indifferently written, and with a dull sameness in detail. They seem always about some young girl (never a boy) who has just moved to a new school and feels anxious about fitting in. Usually, she is an immigrant. She manages to fit in by “sharing” something about her foreign culture. Something corny and touristy. This week a Japanese girl showed her new friend how to make Japanese macha tea, and her parents showed their parents how to make a (Japanese) garden. Last week a Korean girl showed her new prospective friend a jade bracelet, with her name on it in Korean characters. The week before a Brazilian girl “shared” her costume and dance routine for Carnival. And so on and on. Always something that seems pulled from some standard tourist guidebook. Gardens are a recurrent theme, perhaps because they suggest nature: this week, the supposed Japanese community garden; the week before last, a girl was helping an elderly neighbour make a garden. 

Samba dancers, Rio Carnival.

These stories are never written by an author of the ethnicity portrayed. Unsurprisingly; a real Korean or a real Brazilian would wince at the cartoonish otherness of it. Carnival? The immigrant Korean girl, for example, is named “Yoon.” Koreans speaking English invariably take an “English” name, and “Yoon” is not even plausible as a Korean name. It is a family name, not a personal name. It looks as though the author and his editors and the levels of bureaucrats who approved the text all made the common foreigner’s mistake of confusing this issue, since Korean family names come first. It would be like calling your daughter “Jones.” A real immigrant Korean would more likely call herself “Sophia” or “Meg.”

And, inevitably, the Brazilian girl is named “Maria.” She is generic.

It is all at the level of the old stage Irishman with his clay pipe, or the old musician in blackface.

Well-meaning, but wince-inducing.


In sum, these immigrants are not seen or realized as human. We are on a visit to the human zoo.

In the meantime, the reader learns nothing about American culture, and are given only a false and trivializing vision of some foreign one. My Chinese students spend their class hours learning falsehoods about Korean or Japanese culture, and nothing about the USA or any other English-speaking culture.

It is all at the same time drearily repetitive, unimaginative, trite, and boring. The range of issues and thoughts it deals with are tightly circumscribed. What one is supposed to think about them is usually clearly indicated. It is, in a word, crude propaganda. Any bright student is going to be alienated from reading.

“Culture” is stressed often as a concept, lesson after lesson. But it is defined wrongly. Culture, the textbook explains, is made up of “food, clothing, music, language, customs, holidays, sports, and symbols.”

Something obvious is missing from that list.

Merriam-Webster defines culture as: “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.”

But in these texts and their definition culture is reduced to only this last item, material traits. Beliefs, the essence of any culture, are not mentioned: religion, values. Neither are social forms: legal principles, family structures, political concepts, ethics. Confucianism, sharia, liberal democracy, the Mosaic law, rabbinical tradition, common law: not to be considered culture. “Culture” is reduced to a materialistic and superficial affair. It is just something we do for amusement in our spare time.

The text then asks the payoff question: “how do people from different cultures contribute to a community?” Demanding, by how it is phrased, that one not dissent from the more fundamental question. Indoctrination is only thinly masked as inquiry.

This question is awkward, given a proper understanding of culture, because almost by definition a community means a shared culture. Culture is the social forms and social norms of a social group. The students are being required to assert something self-contradictory. This becomes obvious to a Chinese student.

It is immediately obvious why the texts do this, and ignore most of culture: because if it was included, the problems with multiculturalism would be apparent. And its political agenda is to promote multiculturalism. But by this approach, real social problems are not just being papered over, with possibly dire consequences. Everyone is, in effect, stripped of their culture, and their humanity, and left without anything but transitory material self-interest, if that, to bring them together. And no meaning to their lives.

The question is, is stripping the curriculum of all values made necessary by multiculturalism, or is multiculturalism made necessary to strip society of all values? I suspect the latter. Multiculturalism here aligns with postmodernism.

It all might seem superficially reasonable on the grounds of “religious freedom” and avoiding controversy. The moment we start in on deeper issues about human life, ethics, or even good manners, we risk ruffling feathers; we might violate somebody’s beliefs, right? Some parent is going to get upset. So we just take it all out. Right?

But that is not neutral. Instead, it has us sending a clear and insistent message to the young that values are not important, that there are no values, or they ought to be ignored, that life is best without them, that only material things matter. Life is all just about stuff: clothing, food, entertainment, holidays.

No wonder rates of depression are probing the stratosphere. And no longer in radio contact with Houston.

And we have clearly gone well beyond that justification, to an actual deliberate attack on values and meaning as such. That seems to be the real engine driving multiculturalism, postmodernism, transgenderism, and things like the recent attempt in Ontario to force through a controversial sex education curriculum. Obviously, the concern there was not to avoid offending anyone’s values or beliefs. Values and beliefs are the things under attack. Even basic things like the distinction between male and female.

The likeliest reason why this is happening, sadly, is that any established values or meanings serve as an inevitable objective check on people satisfying their immediate desires. Put a group in power who have a guilty conscience, or who have not themselves been deeply instilled with the need for moral values, and their natural tendency is going to be to want to get rid of them all. Values, moral values, and cultural norms generally protect the weak against the strong, and give meaning to life to the poor and the socially vulnerable. They are checks and balances against raw power.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Biden Bump



What are those bright lights? They seem to be coming towards me...


Defying my prediction, and my thesis that the general public is radicalizing, Joe Biden’s poll numbers have gone up since he announced his candidacy for the US presidency. He’s now at 40%, well ahead of Sanders in second place at 16% or so. I had predicted that his numbers would be highest when he first declared.

I still think Biden will not be the Democratic nominee. If he is, he will be easily beaten.

Biden has the name recognition. The rest of the field is mostly utter unknowns. It would be odd, in these circumstances, if Biden were not way ahead. A lot of people will be choosing Biden now because he is the only candidate about which they yet have an opinion.

Granted, they probably also know Sanders. But Biden is also the only candidate who seems to be running as a moderate, perhaps with the exception of the unknown and suppressed Tulsi Gabbard. He has that ideological turf staked out, for now. Sanders is sharing the left lane with everyone else in the race, some of whom do have at least some local name recognition.

So Biden’s current numbers are probably his theoretical ceiling. Anyone who finds him an acceptable nominee is probably backing him now. And it is less than fifty percent.

Biden still runs a real risk of being swallowed in a sudden wave of Gabbardmania. Some other anonymous insurgent could restyle himself or herself, being unknown, to poach the ideologically moderate vote. Even if that never happens, even if Biden wins Iowa and New Hampshire, where such hurricanes often happen, what matters is what leftward candidate comes closest to Biden then. The leftist vote will start converging, as others drop out, and the last red standing should overtake Old White Joe.

This did not work with the Republicans last time, because the other candidates did not drop out quickly enough to break Trump’s early momentum. But the way the Democrats have it all set up, this factor may not even matter. They have killed the “winner-take-all” primaries. So no early and insurmountable delegate lead seems possible.

This does not even take into account the likelihood that Biden, on past performance, will make major gaffes while campaigning. Nor the probable effects of opposition research on his dangerously long tail of past and currently intolerable positions, gaffes, and gropes. Nor does it factor in the Democratic love for dark horses, and their tendency to get bored with any early front runner.

So why have Biden’s numbers gone up after announcing?

I think this may have to do with the popping of the Buttigieg bubble, which was bound to happen whether or not Biden entered the race. For a time, Mayor Pete was the grinning face on every magazine cover, notably, Trump has pointed out, Mad magazine. Just like O’Rourke before him. Regrettably, though, the impression has now gotten around that he is mortal. Zits have been sighted. His prior supporters needed some new place to idle their vote. He also looked to many at first as though he was taking a moderate line; then he veered left. Probably making the same calculation that we have, that the moderate ceiling was too low within the party. So Biden became the obvious alternative. For now. Until someone else as improbable emerges from the pack.

If 40% of the Democratic electorate is still moderate enough to be considered sane, that figure will not hold for those most likely to volunteer, caucus, or vote in the primaries. Those who get engaged will be the all fired up. Folks who are driven by policy concerns, which is to say, ideology, or folks who feel mad as hell and are not going to take it any more. Giving more radical or insurgent candidates, that look like a poke in some establishment’s eye, more traction.

We can see such party activists thinking, generally, “We bit our tongues, we did not go with socialism, we did what the party bigwigs wanted last time, we nominated Clinton and not Sanders. How did that turn out? Where did it get us? Now it is our turn.”

This tends to be a strong sentiment after a party has lost a close election, especially one they expected to win. After Kennedy squeaked past Nixon back in 1960, the Republicans turned against the party’s pragmatists and placeholders, and nominated Goldwater. Having lost incumbency to Nixon in 1968, with the conventional and party establishment choice, Humphrey, instead of one of the charismatic insurgents, McCarthy or Kennedy, the Dems turned to the goofy ideologue McGovern next. Losing to Carter with grey incumbent Ford in 1976, the Republicans turned next to Reagan the radical cowboy. You see the same dynamic elsewhere; albeit not in Canada, where everyone is more obedient.

It would be against human nature for the Democratic pack mules to fall in line again behind a candidate backed by the party establishment, and ideologically more moderate than the rest of the field. Even if they nominate someone like that, everyone stays home instead to work on IEDs.

The only Democratic candidate who would have a chance next time against Trump would be a Democratic candidate who looked more anti-establishment than Trump. Not necessarily further to the left—that is not the same thing. And that seems like a tall order.


Monday, May 13, 2019

BBC vs. Nigel Farage




Now another BBC interviewer has tried exactly the same character assassination technique against Nigel Farage that Andrew Neil used a couple of days ago against Ben Shapiro. Dredging up old quotes instead of addressing the current issue or his arguments. Farage reacts in a similar fashion, although more temperately.

This blog has been very active recently. More active than I would like; I have other things to do. But it seems to me we are witnessing a revolution, and matters are changing now almost moment by moment. The real establishment, the professional elite, the "deep state," the ancien regime, is panicked, and is discarding any pretense of ethics or good will. We are more or less at the moment at which the Czar's troops fire on the crowd.

How bad is it going to get before the inevitable collapse?

Latest polls suggest Farage's newly created "Brexit" Party may blow away both Conservatives and Labour at the upcoming EU vote. A party only weeks old. If a national election were held today, polls suggest he might even defeat them both and become PM. It looks as though the Tories could not even salvage the situation by quickly turning to Boris Johnson. Too late. There is no more patience for such a moderate.

At the same time the establishment has been declaring Farage a "racist," a "Nazi," an "extremist," and so on, the majority of the people support him. At the same time they have been demanding he be silenced, and deplatforming and even jailing people with similar opinions left and right. Or rather, right to moderate left. But such labels hardly even matter any more.

The ruling class have, in other words, lost the confidence of the people. The BBC has lost the confidence of the people. The Conservative Party has lost the confidence of the people. The Labour Party has lost the confidence of  the people. The academy has lost the confidence of the people. The schools have lost the confidence of the people. They are locked in their palace, talking only to themselves. Nobody else is listening.

The rise of Farage's Brexit Party is a sudden and dramatic, even historically unprecedented, turn. When Brexit passed, it was a surprise to almost everyone. It passed by only a thin margin.

But now the lines seem to have emerged plainly: it is not "left" vs. "right." There is no "alt-right." That was always a fraud. It is the people vs. the government and the grey elite.

Let's just hope Britain ends up being run by someone as responsible as Nigel Farage. Revolutions rarely end well.

But the fault lies, in the beginning and the end, with the corrupt establishment which forces things to such a pass rather than surrender power.














Sunday, May 12, 2019

Vox Interviews Shapiro



Ben Shapiro

To cleanse the palate of the sour taste of the recent BBC Ben Shapiro interview, it is perhaps worth looking at an interview of Shapiro done at almost the same time by Sean Illing of Vox. Here, at least, we get to hear the arguments Shapiro makes.

I would not have thought Ben Shapiro would need my help to defend the Judeo-Christian world view. But actually, I think he does a disturbingly and dangerously tepid job of it.

Illing begins by suggesting that the real cause of America’s social turmoil is economic, not, as Shapiro argues, moral. It is because the poor and middle class are being left behind by the current prosperity.

This is often said. I think it is an example of what Jordan Peterson calls “cultural Marxism.” Marx, of course, thought everything in politics, society, and life had its origin in economics. This conditions us to miss far more important factors.

It is actually unclear whether the economic situation of the American lower or middle class has been stagnating, declining, or improving in recent years. Over the longer term, of course, it has been improving. The experts themselves disagree. That being so, the matter is almost certainly not evident to the middle or lower classes themselves, as a Marxian imaginary unitary consciousness. And so it cannot explain their behavior.

People are not robots. They are driven by moral codes and moral choice.

Illing next argues that America is not, in fact, as Shapiro assumes, founded on Christian values in the first place:

“America is a secular republic. The word ‘Christianity’ does not appear in our founding documents. Thomas Jefferson’s version of the New Testament erased all references to the divinity of Jesus.
To say that America is a product of religion and ancient Greece is at the very least woefully incomplete. We’re much more the product of Roman law and secular Enlightenment philosophy.”

This is a familiar error, and so worth addressing. I don’t think Shapiro really properly does. He concedes too much too readily.

In grad school, I took a course titled “American as Theocracy.” I thought the claim was a bit over the top myself, but the two professors who team-taught the course contended that America is a uniquely Christian nation. This is a common claim among historians. The Pilgrim Fathers, and all that. I have heard America referred to as “The Protestant Empire.”

So on what grounds does Illing instead declare America “secular” in its founding?

The French Republic was secular. It sought to close the churches. The American Republic was non-denominational. A huge difference. And the secular republic came to bloodbath and genocide, while the non-denominational one was prosperous, mostly peaceful, and successful. Freedom OF religion is the polar opposite to freedom FROM religion. It makes quite a difference.

A contemporary cartoon of Robespierre personally executing the last surviving Frenchman, the executioner. Monument to Reason in the background.

It is true that the word “Christianity” does not appear in America’s founding documents. It was not then in common use. The word “God,” on the other hand, occurs in the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence. So, soon after, do “Creator” and “Providence”; this is a Creator God who works through history. The Declaration appeals to God over human law as its authority. The first rebel flags bore the inscription “Appeal to Heaven.”

No God, no American nation. Simple as that. Illing is falsifying things here, and Shapiro does not call him out.

Illing also falsifies Thomas Jefferson’s religion. Jefferson was not non-religious, nor a secularist. He was a Unitarian; not the same thing. In Jefferson’s own words, “I am a real Christian, that is, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”

America is indeed a product of the Enlightenment as well as of the Christian tradition. And, to be fair, Illing is not alone in maintaining that the Enlightenment is somehow separate from and even a rejection of Christianity. This seems to be a common opinion, even among Christians. Shapiro too seems to half-endorse it.

But it makes no sense to me.

Bertrand Russell saw the Enlightenment as the logical continuation of the Protestant Reformation. I think he is obviously right. Calling the Enlightenment a rejection of Christianity is therefore very much equivalent to calling Protestantism a rejection of Christianity. I guess you could do it, but Luther and Protestants generally would violently disagree: no, Protestantism is the REAL Christianity. Most Enlightenment thinkers would say exactly the same thing. Thomas Jefferson did above: no, our faith is the REAL Christianity.

Both movements, Reformation and Enlightenment, were a rejection of established authority. Luther and his hoodies questioned the authority of Church tradition and the clerical establishment, in favour of returning to the Bible, to the tangible evidence. Bacon’s call to experiment, which founded the scientific method, was exactly the same move: dismissing authority in favour of examining the physical evidence for ourselves. Descartes’ call to rely only on mathematical deduction from first principles instead of received authority was the same move. Aka, "The Enlightenment."

The result was an anti-authoritarian movement, on, as far as I can see, Christian principles. It was, after all, in the very original spirit of Christ, who uncompromisingly challenged the authorities of his day. The separation of church and state, non-denominationalism, was instituted by Christ himself: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; render unto God what is God’s.”

This was no doubt why the Enlightenment occurred in Christian Europe, and not some other place. The principle was inherent in Christianity.

Some Enlightenment figures, it is true, went on to question Christianity itself. But most did not: this was hardly the philosophical essence of the movement. Descartes, Newton, Burke, Berkeley, Pascal, Locke, Pope, Dryden, were all religious men.

And if you are going to see the Enlightenment as a thing apart from Christianity, you cannot then claim, as Illing does, that it origin is instead the classical model, the Roman law.

Enlightenment thinkers challenged Classical authorities far more clearly and directly than any of them challenged Christianity. Descartes or Bacon or Kant were arguing against the authority of Aristotle and Plato, not against Christianity or the Bible. Hume was arguing not against religion or the existence of God, but against cause and effect, which means against both the scientific and the philosophical method.

For Descartes or for later Romantics, in fact, Christianity was the one thing that remained.

America based on the Roman law? This is literally false. The French Republic was based on the Roman law. The American Republic based itself on the English common law, evolved on Christian principles; and appealed to it in the Declaration of Independence.

Illing later points out that most Germans who elected the Nazis were Christians. “Whatever it was that sent that Nazis over the moral abyss, it wasn’t a lack of Christianity.”

I think it was exactly that: a lack of Christianity. Whatever else the Enlightenment might be argued to be, it was definitely not a rejection of traditional Judeo-Christian moral values. Instead, it spawned Latitudinarianism, which made ethics its primary concern. Kant took the same tack. Nazism, by contrast, was explicitly that: a conscious rejection of Judeo-Christian values. They were, following Nietzsche, declared a ”slave morality,” not fitting for a “master race.” Its new “morality” was based on a “scientific” viewpoint: Darwin’s survival of the fittest.

Some Nazis called for a return to paganism, which they falsely equated with “nature-worship.”
The Nazi revulsion towards Judeo-Christian ethics was expressed in large part by exterminating Jews. This was the poison they had supposedly introduced into Aryan culture.

The Nazi holocaust was a barbaric horror in the context of Christian civilization. It more or less reflected the norm in any pagan tribal society. Tribal conflicts are almost always total and genocidal. Far from being caused by Judeo-Christian ethics, or happening despite Christian ethics, Nazism is a graphic illustration of how essential to our civilization Judeo-Christian ethics are. Take them away, and things devolve to Hobbesian terms very quickly. Just as they did at almost the same time a little further east, in the Soviet Union.

Illing:

“The original European fascism (Mussolini in particular) was largely a phenomenon of the Catholic right wing.”

Christopher Hitchens used to say this, but this is slanderous codswallop. Mussolini was openly and aggressively atheist, as was his Fascist movement. He merely sought accommodation with the Church after taking power, and only for political reasons.

More or less the same political reasons caused many Catholics and other Christians to make common cause with Fascists elsewhere at the time, notably in Spain. But not from any natural affinity for Fascism. This was in the context of a clear and present threat from more aggressively atheist Bolshevism, which was in the habit of burning down churches and summarily executing priests and nuns. It simply was the lesser of two evils. In that, their judgement is still very arguably correct. Stalin or Mao, after all, killed more innocents than Hitler.

All morality is a choice between two goods or two evils. Outside of heaven, moral choices never happen in a vacuum.

Illing:

“From my point of view, whether crime is in the name or God or reason or history, it’s the totalizing impulse behind it that we should worry about; it’s the blinding commitment to ideas over people, abstractions over experience.”
“The problem is movements based on unchallengeable assumptions about the way the world is, and how we should behave in it. This is something religion brought into the world, and political ideologies have replicated it.”

Here Shapiro actually agrees. I emphatically do not. This is illogical.

Imagine you are confident that you know the truth. You then can have no problem at all with allowing others to dissent. Nobody wants to punish anyone, for example, for insisting that the world is flat, do they? Or that the moon is made of Stilton cheese? It is merely amusing. You are merely entertained.

If it comes to a debate, you know you can easily win that argument, so you want to have it, and in good humour. You get to show how clever you are.

If you even believe in or care about truth in the first place, you want to hear all views out. You do not want to fight them. If you are wrong, you need to know.

If you or anyone wants to force “your truth” or “their truth” on others, it can only mean one thing: either they do not believe in truth, or they are certain of the truth, but are certain that whatever they themselves are asserting is not true.

This is the opposite of the religious stance. It is the postmodernist stance; it is the relativist stance. You can call it religion, but you are simply lying.

Relativism, not supposed certainty about anything, was, for example, at the core of Nazism. What else does Illing or Shapiro think it meant when Nazis talked about “Jewish science” and “Aryan science”? For them, there was no objective truth in science; that was their starting assumption. Truth was whatever this or that person or group wanted it to be, and they would then if possible impose their “truth” on others.

Mussolini said in so many words: “Fascism is relativism.”

Illing:

“The history of religion is the history of human beings using their faith as an unchallengeable excuse for the worst crimes imaginable. Slavery, conquest, misogyny, child slaughter — these all receive divine sanction in the Bible.”

Again, shockingly, Shapiro agrees. He even says “of course that’s true.” I emphatically dissent.
The Devil, of course, can quote Scripture for his own purposes. But for this assertion to be true, you would have to believe there would be fewer sins if there were no moral codes, or fewer violations of the rights of others if there were no government and no laws.


How crazy is that? Want to try that in your town?

Illing further misrepresents the Bible, which expressly prohibits child slaughter. And for a good reason: because it was the norm in every other society at the time. That’s what you get if you reject Judeo-Christian values. Illing is blaming Judeo-Christian ethics for the very thing it opposes.

As to slavery, conquest, and misogyny: the Bible and Christianity has indeed traditionally been read and understood to prohibit wars of conquest. It was also traditionally understood to prohibit slavery. Christianity stands alone in the world, historically, in opposing that institution; it was an appeal to Christianity that abolished it everywhere. Women’s position in society has almost always been markedly better in Christian cultures than in any other known to man.

No doubt, Illing imagines that if we dropped Judeo-Christian morality, we could do even better. Possibly. Based on what alternative moral code? On none? We’d better know clearly what our substitute is, and all sign on, before we knock down the structure we have built. Otherwise, we are just acting like spoiled children.

Illing:

“there’s nothing about science or the scientific method that requires religious presuppositions.”

Shapiro responds that this is a “pretty good argument.” Again, I do not agree.

Science absolutely requires the prior assumption that the physical universe is ordered, meaningful, and has a design. It must accept or assume that 2 plus 2 will always equal 4, and causes have effects, or no experiment means anything. It must accept that our sense perceptions correspond in a meaningful way to some external reality. That is, it requires the assumption of a designer, a Creator God; as Descartes demonstrates, it must further assume a Creator God who is morally good, or our sense perceptions cannot be trusted.

It was this presupposition, historically, of a Creator God who speaks to us through his creation, that led to the development of science and the scientific method. This is the reason why science emerged in Christian Europe, and not in some other part of the globe. Most other cultures, non-monotheistic cultures, consider the physical world an illusion.

Even had it not been so, and so purely as a historic fact, nevertheless, the success of science in practical terms would prove that a benevolent Creator God indeed exists.

Illing:

“You write: ‘Contrary to popular opinion, new discoveries weren’t invariably seen as heretical or dangerous to the dominion of the Church; in fact, the Church often supported scientific investigation.’ But that’s a strange claim since many scientists were burned at the stake.”

Shapiro answers, “No, I don’t disagree with that.”

By thunder, I do. Can Illing or anyone else name even one scientist who was ever burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for their scientific inquiries?

Not Galileo. He was not burned at the stake, to begin with. He was put under house arrest. And not for any scientific speculation, but for theological speculations arising from them. Copernicus, after all, proposed the same scientific theory, and was lauded by the Church.

Not Giordano Bruno. He was burned at the stake for a clearly heretical theology; for saying there was no Trinity, no creation, no creator God, and no heaven or hell at death. It is a painful stretch to characterize him as a scientist, or these views as scientific.

And not anyone else.

The Catholic Church has always been the patron of science. All else is Black Legend.