Playing the Indian Card

Monday, November 27, 2023

Will It Soon Be Illegal to Question the Official History of Residential Schools?


This is getting flat-out Orwellian.

Tried to post the link on Facebook, and immediately got the message, "this content is not available any more." More Trudeauvian censorship: cannot link on Facebook to any Canadian news...

Reminds me a lot of living in China back in the 90s.

Moral Force


The Erinyes hound Orestes

Comrade Xerxes writes recently that power corrupts. 

           “Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Government… Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu… In the U.S., white evangelical males… All lash out at perceived threats. All double down on preserving their own power, whatever it is.”

I find it interesting that he identifies “white evangelical males” as the power in the US, parallel to Vladimir Putin in Russia and Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. A white evangelical male is not in charge in the White House, as Putin is in the Kremlin, or Netanyahu in the Knesset. Nor has been, since Jimmy Carter. And before him? Can’t think of anyone. It is conspicuous fact that, even though it is America’s largest Protestant denomination, there have been few even nominally Baptist presidents. And none from any other “evangelical” denomination.

So why does he come to perceive “white evangelical males” as the real power in the US?

It is not that they are such a large voting bloc. They come in at 9% of the population, according to Pew Research; fewer than blacks or Hispanics, both at 11%. And they are less inclined to vote as a bloc.

It is not that they have overwhelming economic power, that might buy or command influence over policy. Evangelicals are disproportionately the rural poor—the “hillbillies.”

Is it because they are especially fierce in defending their power? Doesn’t work, if they don’t have significant power to begin with. What weapons do they have? Banjoes? Church organs?

Nor, speaking of church organs, are they overrepresented in the media or the arts, another way a minority might punch above its weight. There’s country and gospel music, and Christian fiction, but this is proverbially unpopular outside the ranks of the evangelicals themselves; there is little “crossover,” only preaching to the choir. Your typical current American journalist or artist is urban, middle or upper class, female, and irreligious.

So why Xerxes’s perception that white evangelical males wield great power in the culture?

And it is not just his perception. Everyone is aware of the evangelicals, and what they think about a given issue, and everyone talks about them as though they have influence and either must be taken into account—or resisted at all costs. Why?

This demonstrates what “soft power” is, also known as moral force. It is the weapon wielded so effectively by Martin Luther King Jr., or by Gandhi or O’Connell to defeat the military and economic might of the British Empire. It is what has given the Jews immense cultural influence, though a small minority, wherever they have lived. It is the tactic Jesus advised, in cases of facing overwhelming force, as “turn the other cheek.”

It is the spiritual authority that comes of being right, and in the right. 

Ultimately, everyone recognizes the difference between right and wrong. When they realize they are in the wrong, their conscience pursues them like the hounds of heaven. Subjectively, it feels to them like an overwhelming force.

Because it is. Over the longer term, it is indeed the strongest force of all.

Apocalypse Now?


We used to b so hopeful back in the 1960s. This, many of us felt sure, was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Which would be in every way better than the present age.

The mood has darkened significantly.

An interviewee on John Cleese’s Dinosaur Hour made an unsettling point. Increasingly, mankind is developing technologies that could put an end to mankind. We have been living with the threat of nuclear annihilation since the 1950s. We are now close to developing AI to a level at which it might act unpredictably. And then there is genetic manipulation, which might be used to create something rather worse than Covid-19 at almost any moment. A highly virulent, 100% fatal virus seems a possibility.

At the same time, technological improvements make such tools accessible, over time, to more people. 

How long will it take before one such tool is in the hands of a psychopath, the sort of mind that shoots up schools? Someone who wants to die, but also wants to take the whole world with them?

The commentator on the Dinosaur Hour thought it inevitable by the end of this century.

I can’t see, offhand, where his logic is wrong. Other than it is all, as it always was, in the hands of God. Perhaps he planned this for the end times.

This might also explain the frequency of reported alien visits in recent years. Either they are coming to save us, or to watch the fireworks.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Shall the Twain Meet?


We have been looking at the essay questions assigned to get admission to Canadian university programs; specifically, at McMaster’s essay questions for admission to the department of medicine. They seem politically charged. Here’s one for today:

OPTION B: Thomas King gave the 2003 CBC Massey Lecture Series entitled The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. In it, he comments on the centrality of dichotomies (that is, a sharp binary distinction between two things understood to be opposites) in many Western narratives: We do love our dichotomies. Rich/poor, strong/weak, right/wrong... We trust easy opposites. We are suspicious of complexities, distrustful of contradictions, fearful of enigma.' What dichotomy do you find to be especially problematic, and why do you think it Is important to take a more complex view of that issue?

The question assumes that “Western narratives” are “problematic.” The question seems crafted to oblige the student to show consent to this proposition.

A clever response would be to point out that King himself is creating a dichotomy, between “Western” and “native,” and indeed between “dichotomies” and a “complex” perception. So his thesis is self-invalidating.

Dichotomy is the essence of all rational thought: Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction. Or ask any computer engineer: all logic is binary at its base.

Including all “Eastern” logic. 

Why this drive to deny logic, or thought itself? The present question is almost explicit in revealing motive: what is really problematic is the dichotomy between “right” and “wrong.” I suspect this is the answer it is fishing for. This is a consistent postmodern theme: one must not be “judgmental.” 

Of course, it is those in power, otherwise unrestrained, who will most chafe at any hint of ethical responsibility. They want to be sure they are not admitting any potential whistleblowers to the profession.

This is something of a shift in medical ethics. We used to have the Hippocratic Oath, which imposed specific moral responsibilities. Rights and wrongs.

Simple dichotomies can indeed be a problem. Not because they are dichotomies, but if they are wrong or ill-conceived. Ironically, a leading candidate for the most “problematic” dichotomy in our current culture is that between “Western” and “native.” It is unnecessary, divisive, existing only to discriminate; and both categories are incoherent. There is no such thing as “Western” logic, “Western” mathematics, “Western” science, or “Western” civilization. There is simply logic, mathematics, science, and civilization. A bridge built in India does not need or use different laws of physics or different mathematics in its construction than one built in London. 

Nor is it possible to coherently define “native” or “aboriginal” or “indigenous.” We are all literally native or aboriginal or indigenous to some place. All of us are equally native to the place where we were born. None of us are aboriginal or indigenous to that place. The current term “aboriginal” or “indigenous” is simply a euphemism that replaced, in recent times, the earlier anthropological term “primitive.” That is, it simply refers to less technologically advanced cultures.

Which tend, in brutal honesty, to have fewer lessons and insights to share with the rest of mankind.

A similarly divisive and useless dichotomy is that between “white” and “non-white” (or “racialized”). Both are purely social and political constructs that do not describe reality. People tend to intermarry, for one thing. For another, “non-white” as a category includes ethnic groups more closely related to “whites” than to other “non-white” groups. “White” itself masks a wide variety of ethnicities, whose sense of themselves has nothing to do with any “white/non-white” distinction. The social classification really works only in the US, since the 19th century. For most of modern European or Canadian history, the crucial ethnic dichotomy was instead Protestant/Catholic, and in Medieval times, it was Christian/Muslim. “White/non-white” is still hardly the major dividing line in Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Burma, or Northern Ireland.

Time we stopped obsessing over skin colour, or where our ancestors came from. But dichotomies in general are not the issue.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

How to Reognize Oppression


Amanda Gorman

Many Canadian universities now require an essay to apply for competitive programs. Most competitive of all, reputedly, is McMaster Medicine. And many of the essay topics assigned are concerning. They seem designed to elicit one’s political position; and could be used to select and exclude on this basis.

Here is one example from a recent intake:

OPTION A: In The Hill We Climb (2021), National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman wrote "...being American is more than a pride we inherit. It's the past we step into and how we repair it." What aspect of the past will you play a role in repairing?

It is not possible, of course, to either step into or change the past. If there are wrongs in the past, they cannot be “repaired.”

This sounds as though one must embrace the current leftist call for “equity” in order to enter medical school. One must endorse and practice discrimination on the grounds of physical appearance or ethnic identity. 

In justice, granted, if harm is done to an individual, they deserve compensation--by whatever party or corporate entity caused the harm.

One cannot, however, simply look at someone—say, their skin colour--and know they have been mistreated; any more than you can look at their skin colour and know they are lazy, or avaricious. This is the essence of prejudice.

Nor can you rely on people self-reporting the matter. If saying you are abused gets you privileges or payouts, many who aren’t will claim to have been abused.

However, there actually is a way to tell—and doctors are best positioned to do so. 

The Center for Disease Control, official arm of the US government, notes that, “In one long-term study, as many as 80% of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21.”  Psychology Today maintains that “In almost every case of significant adult depression, some form of abuse was experienced in childhood, either physical, sexual, emotional or, often, a combination.”  

A recent study by Martin Teicher at Harvard, confirmed by other researchers,  demonstrates that childhood abuse causes permanent changes in the brain.  

The Wikipedia entry for “Depression” accordingly gives, at this writing, under “Causes”:

Adversity in childhood, such as bereavement, neglect, mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and unequal parental treatment of siblings can contribute to depression in adulthood. Childhood physical or sexual abuse in particular significantly correlates with the likelihood of experiencing depression over the life course.  

Childhood abuse has also been found also to correlate strongly with panic attacks, dissociation, dissociative identity disorder, bipolar disorder (manic depression), schizophrenia, alcoholism, addiction, drug abuse, and eating disorders.  

Childhood abuse has also been found to produce higher rates of cardiovascular disease (heart disease), lung and liver disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, asthma, and obesity.  

A summary meta-analysis by Judith Carroll and colleagues, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), concludes that the psychological damage resulting from childhood abuse and its effects on physical health are “well documented.”

Medical doctors are thus in a favourable position to diagnose abuse, from its established symptoms—not just current child abuse, but past abuse. This could be a genuinely just basis for determining compensation.

But if a student suggested this to McMaster, would he or she be permitted to become a doctor?

Friday, November 24, 2023

The Theology of Superman


Friend Xerxes has rejected monotheism in his latest column, on the grounds of that old saw about God logically not being able to create a stone too heavy for him to lift. Therefore, the concept of God as omnipotent is incoherent.

“Can God do anything?” the boy asked.

“Yes, dear,” said his mother.

“And God can make anything?”

“Yes, dear. That’s why we call him Creator.”

The boy asked, “So could God make a rock so big that even he can’t lift it?”

This is the “irresistible force meets immovable object” paradox. I remember it being the premise of a Superman comic as a child. Superman supposedly being both. It appears in China already in the 3rd century BC. 

Is it a problem for monotheism? No; there are two ancient responses.

It is a logical contradiction to posit that there can exist at the same time both an irresistible force and an immovable object. It is definitionally impossible. And the Christian response is that God is subject to logic, because logic is his own essence—the Logos. God cannot create a square circle, or a female male, or a married bachelor. So he cannot create both an irresistible force and an immovable object, existing at the same time. This is not a limit to his omnipotence, because if you abandon logic, “omnipotence” itself has no meaning.

If, on the other hand, you accept that God is not subject to logic, the problem or paradox still disappears. Then he could create a stone too heavy for him to lift, and lift it. This is only impossible if you accept the need to conform to logic, to Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction.

It is actually an argument for monotheism: if there cannot be both an immovable object and an irresistible  force, there can be only one God, one entity who is both immovable and irresistible.

The Christian belief, that God creates, abides in, and follows laws, gives birth in turn to science. Science is based on the premise that there is no such thing as chance, randomness, or coincidence. Everything has an explanation if we study it closely. As Einstein crudely put it, “God does not throw dice.” God creates and follows laws.

Xerxes then, predictably, raises the problem of evil: if there is a God, and God is good, why is there evil in this world?

And this question too is older than monotheism itself. With or without a God, why is there evil in the world?

The point is, monotheism provides an answer.

To begin with, how do you define evil? How do you know that a thing is evil?

Xerxes’s example is “a logging truck … crushing your daughter’s car.”

This is evil if you define evil as something you do not want. This is obviously a thing you do not want, and something your daughter did not want. 

But does that demonstrate that it is evil? Consider a small child wanting another chocolate before supper. Is it evil that his parents refuse it?

No; to simply define “good” as “getting what we want” is puerile. It also does not work if, say, what we want is something someone else has. Good instead means something like “justice” and what is best for all concerned.

Now, while we know that our daughter does not want to be hit b a logging truck and killed, do we know that it is best for her not to die?

We do not, because we do not know what comes after death. For all we know, death releases her from bonding into a much better life.

We also know we do not want suffering, either the physical pain she might experience in the crash, or our own loneliness at her sudden absence. But do we know that suffering is evil, in the sense of not being in our best interests?

The parent who refuses the child a chocolate makes him suffer. The parent who takes his child to the dentist makes him suffer.

What about the muscle strain and bruising you feel as you win the Grey Cup, or the intense soreness after? Seriously, would the win be as sweet if you had done it without any pain or effort? Is a film fun to watch if nothing bad or scary ever happens to the heroine throughout?

Suppose that ignorance is bliss, and beauty only comes with suffering. Would you rather have a frontal lobotomy and be ignorantly happy? To remain in a childlike or vegetative state? Or is it worthwhile to grow up into wisdom, responsibility, and creativity?

To be, with God, a co-creator?

To embrace logic, justice, and beauty?

Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Master


Michael Voris Resigns at Church Militant


Michael Voris

I am deeply troubled by the resignation of Michael Voris at Church Militant. It just does not feel right; at this time when so much else seems to be falling down around us, we need his voice.

He has been forced to resign for violating a “morals clause” in his terms of employment. We have no more details, but I have a guess that it has to do with homosexuality. He has said publicly he used to be gay; but said he had beaten it.

The annoying thing is, nobody cares. Yes, homosexual sex is a sin; but we all sin. You confess, you try to do better, you move on. Why can’t he? The church is not for saints; it is for sinners.

No doubt, like alcohol, it is an addiction. So for the time being he will continue to sin, until and unless he can again get the cravings under control.

Which I suspect he can, so long as he confronts it and admits it is a sin; which he now publicly has, by resigning. As in AA, the first step is to admit you have a problem.

Because of his public position, and public persona, there is, it must be admitted, the problem of scandal. A bad “role model.” But how big a problem is that? Wasn’t Milo Yiannopoulos able to be an effective voice for Catholicism and morality while still an open homosexual?

That stance is familiar enough: it is as old as Saint Augustine. Who hasn’t been through it?

“Oh, Master, make me chaste and celibate—but not yet!”

I say, a Michael Voris who is transparent and open about his own struggles will be a far more compelling witness than the image of bronzed blonde perfection we have tended to see until now.

Bring back Michael Voris.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Bigger Beating Up the Lesser


The good guy?

Friend Xerxes, in a recent private conversation, made guilelessly clear why the far left is generally in support of Hamas in the current Gaza struggle: because Israel is “the bigger beating up the lesser.”

Obvious enough, but also revelatory. This would seem to be, to the left, the only thing that matters: whoever is judged to be weaker, to have less power, is automatically in the right.

Consider intersectionality. Nobody in a designated “oppressed” group can be accused of being racist or oppressive. “Whites,” however, are racist and oppressive no matter what they think or do or have done, because they are supposedly in power: “privileged.”

It is not necessarily the correct perception in this case that Israel is the stronger, and Hamas the weaker. It is foolish for a weaker party to attack a stronger one; and Hamas attacked Israel. But the Arabs are all one ethnicity, by any traditional measure: the same language, the same religion, the same government until divided recently by European powers. Hamas no doubt hoped that the rest of the Arab world would come to their assistance, should hostilities begin, as they did in 1967 or 1973--not to mention the rest of the Muslim world, which is, in principle, supposed to be one political entity, Dar al Islam. In this wider context, Israel is a little sliver of land and a local population surrounded by powerful enemies.

But then too, those designated by the left as oppressed and weak minorities is also arbitrary: women, although the majority of the population is female; non-whites, although the majority of the world is non-white; and so on.

I think it was always objectively improbable, since the Abraham Accords, that Hamas would have received direct and immediate military support. But they might have hoped to flip the growing consensus for peace for the future.

But, not to get bogged down in this one case, if the left’s overall moral logic is correct, Al Qaeda was also in the right to strike the World Trade Centre: after all, Osama Bin Laden’s resources were less than America’s. But then, the left actually is currently thinking better of Osama and his justifications.

Japan was also, apparently, in the right to bomb Pearl Harbor: the USA was the bigger country. They were, therefore, the bullies.

But the idea that the weaker party is always in the right is moral nonsense. It certainly wouldn’t do, for example, as a parenting principle. The child is always right, then, and the parent always wrong?

Nevertheless, you see it in the left’s call a couple of years ago to defund the police: since the police have more power than the criminals, it is the police who are at fault, not the criminals.

Yet it is simply the doctrine of “might makes right” inverted. And it is self-defeating: if you support the weaker party to win, then, if it wins, you must oppose it as the stronger party. And so the wheel spins eternally, in constant blood and strife.

So why, since it is so destructive and nonsensical, does the left want to apply so assiduously?

Because it is an alibi for the sin of envy. 

If you are not morally developed, you will naturally resent anyone who seems to be doing better than you are, or does things better than you. You want to pull them down.

Like the desire to pull down statues of any recognized heroes.

Envy is the sin of Cain against Abel: if another seems favoured by fortune or by God, you resent them and seek their harm. It helps if you can declare them a “bully,” or “arrogant,” or rapacious, or greedy, simply for revealing their talents.

That would, for example, explain why the left calls Trump a bully. He skewers his opponents too well.

That explains why Bin Laden targeted the World Trade Center. It was too impressive a structure.

That explains antisemitism. The Jews are objectively highly accomplished as an ethnicity. 

That explains anti-white hatred; the same observation applies. They have accomplished too much to be allowed to live in peace.

And that is the way of the world.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Parable of the Talents


Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.
“After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”

Like all parables, last Sunday’s gospel reading includes a detail making a literal reading impossible.

For Jews and Christians, usury, lending money at interest, was considered sinful. Yet here the master praises two servants for lending money at interest—a 100% rate of interest.

Obviously, the “talents” being referred to cannot be money. Indeed, the English word “talent” comes from this parable. It means spiritual gifts.

Don’t be misled here by the crass and literalistic “prosperity gospel.” God does not pay cash.

We are given what talents we have by God at birth. We are not all given either equal or equivalent talents; the idea of “multiple intelligences” is a transparent cope. Some are given two talents, some five, some only one. “To each according to his ability”; God knows us before birth, and gives talents to those most likely to use them wisely.

It is our responsibility, then, just as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, not to hide our light under a bushel, not to hide our talents in a hole, but to “let our light shine.” If we do, our talent will increase.

Many do not do this, the parable says, out of fear. It is always frightening to show a drawing or a poem, or to perform on stage. One feels vulnerable. Rightly so: you will be criticized, attacked, meant harm, especially if you’re good.

So those to whom God gives more talent have greater responsibility, and will have a more difficult path through life. The suffering of the artist is axiomatic. The sufferings of the Jews is the paradigm. They are here to be “a light unto the nations.” Evil people fear and hate the light.

Then at the end of life, we will be judged on what we have done with what we have been given.

According to the parable, at this point, when the master returns, those who have used their talents well will be given greater responsibility. 

This tells us there will be more important work to do in heaven. We will not just sit around playing video games. This work is the entire point of life.

Why? Because God made us, in the beginning, as a potter, in his image. Meaning, to be, like him, creators, makers. In creating, we collaborate with him in building the intended world, the New Jerusalem. It is a work of art, a city, not the natural world into which we are born naked.