Playing the Indian Card

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Renaissance of the British Empire

Bigger than a breadbox.
The recent exclusion of the UK from the latest deal to rescue the Euro moves us a big step closer to seeing the Anglosphere reunite--Britain is visibly and definitively pulling back from the EU now.

But then, a guest on the BBC was just quoted as saying the Euro itself is now doomed; it is only a matter of time. And the EU itself is likely to break up when this happens.

England may then not be the only European country interested in chipping in instead with NAFTA. Among those shopping for some new association might well be Ireland, Spain, and Portugal--all turfed out of the Euro as bad financial risks. All three have powerful New World connections.

I can see a possible reunion, not just of the old British Empire plus the US, but this also combined with the old Spanish Empire plus the old Portuguese Empire, for a that much more formidable free trade area. This free trade area would be far stronger than the EU, because it would combine areas with a great diversity of resources and economic strengths, along with greater unity of language and culture. It could include two important emerging powerhouses, India and Brazil.

It would permanently dwarf China.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

During an air raid.

Here is the peroration of one of Churchill's most celebrated speeches, made in 1940:

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'”

I quote it because it makes clear what was understood as the two sides to the conflict at the time: on one side, the Allied side, “Christian civilization.” On the Nazi/Fascist side, “perverted science.” I think this is worth pointing out and remembering, because in recent years this has been falsified. Many fashionable writers have tried instead to claim that “Christian civilization,” (viz John Ralston Saul), or even, absurdly, the Catholic Church (viz Christopher Hitchens), was responsible for Nazism. But Nazism was openly anti-Christian, as Churchill notes.

The Karsh portrait

Nor was Fascism, as I have seen claimed, anti-science. No, science, or rather, scientism, as Churchill says, was at its core: Darwin and the theory of evolution was obviously and directly appealed to by Hitler as the essence of human life, and Einstein's Theory of Relativity was used by Mussolini to claim that all values were culturally relative. Nazism was not a conservative movement, in any sense, but a “progressive” creed. It appealed to science for its justification, and held, like the “progressives” of today, that science had superceded old moralities.

Those who do not study history are condemned to relive it. And not as the guys on top.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Fourteen Reasons to Homeschool

Bullying kids.

Bullying was always a problem at schools. It is quite possibly made worse by the current “self-esteem” movement.

Bullying teachers.
    The job of teacher is tailor-made for bullies, control freaks, and terminal bores who cannot otherwise get anyone to listen to them. Unfortunately, we have created no defenses against this. To the contrary, the culture of the public school seems to promote bullies and control freaks.

    Current public school teaching methods don't work.

    See “Operation (aka Project) Follow-Through,” for proof; and the many studies that show that both private schools and homeschooling produce better results on a number of measures. We are at best simply wasting our children's time by sending them to public school.

    Our system of public school teacher selection ensures the worst.

    We know that certain teachers can make a huge difference to scores on standardized tests, and we further know that the best teachers are those who are best at learning and who know the subject best. But our system of teacher certification values courses in education over subject knowledge. Further, we know that those who enter ed schools have lower SAT scores than for virtually any other subject, and almost nobody fails. We are selecting for those who are worst at learning and who know the subject least.

    The public school curriculum has been stripped of the culture. It has become culture-hostile.

    A solid grounding in one's culture—in the wisdom of one's ancestors--is almost the entire point of education. However, the current attitude in schools is that culture is oppression by “dead white males.” This amounts to a systematic attempt to prevent children from becoming educated.

    The public school curriculum has been stripped of essential skills.

    Besides culture, children need facility with certain useful life skills: the proverbial “reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic,” not to mention logic, foreign languages, and such. The problem, however, is that all such skill acquisition requires memorization. Current educational practice is actively prejudiced against memorization and drill as supposedly “uncreative.”

    The public school curriculum has been stripped of all religious references.

    So currently public schools don't teach any culture, and they don't teach basic skills. Is there anything left? Indeed there is. But they don't teach that either. Even more important than such basic skills for employability and cultural context, the core of any real education is religion. Religion is systematically banned from the public school classroom.

    The public school system does not teach any coherent set of morals.
      This goes with the last point. It is essential that children be taught the difference between right and wrong; the public school is not even prepared to accept that there is a right and a wrong. To the extent that there is a morality taught, in any public school class, it will conflict with any known moral code, confusing and subverting any child being raised with one.

      The public school system is designed to produce employees, not leaders or independent thinkers.

      In response to the accusation that they fail to teach either important information (culture) or basic skills, I expet many defenders of public schools would claim that they instead teach students to think. That, at least, is supposed to be what the resistance to memorization is in favour of. But this is demonstrably false. To teach someone to think, you teach them formal logic, logical fallacies, philosophy, the rules of debate, and the rules of parliamentary procedure. Private schools teach this; public schools rarely do.

      And why not? There is a historical reason. The public schools were consciously designed at the beginning of the last century to produce reliable workers for industry, not leaders. This was a way to preserve the ascendancy of that class that could afford to send their children to private schools. Woodrow Wilson said as much.
      The public school system dehumanizes. It treats kids as objects to be molded to conformity, instead of individual souls.
        The modern school was more or less consciously designed on the model of the assembly line, to produce workers for industry. This is one reason for the elimination of the old one-room schoolhouse—it did not fit the factory model. The “scientific” approach to teaching necessarily objectifies the students.

        The public school system is hostile to boys.

        Boys and girls have very different interests and learn in different ways. Thanks to feminism, almost everything that might interest boys has been banned from the modern classsroom. Boys are commonly told they are no good. This is exacerbated by the fact that elementary teachers are almost overwhelmingly women, who think like women and give boys no role model. Indeed, few men dare teach, because it makes them sitting ducks for career-ending charges of sexual harassment or child abuse, from which women are largely exempt.

        The public school system is hostile to very intelligent kids.

        The system, in the name of “equality,” is invariably more interested in raising the achievement of the slow than in raising the achievement of the quick. Given big classes and big schools, one size must fit all, and the quick are the ones who end up round pegs. They can have little in common with teachers who are not themselves very bright, and may, being control freaks, resent children who are.

        The public school system indoctrinates into a specific political viewpoint.

        Departments of education are commonly hotbeds of radical left-wing politics; a lot of teachers are quite open about their main objective being to indoctrinate. This, of course, works directly counter to the objective of teaching students to think for themselves.

        The public school system is resistant to the new technology with which it is crucial for students to become familiar.

        Because they essentially cannot be fired, having tenure, and face no competition, there is nothing impelling public school teachers to adopt new technology or new methods, other than a personal sense of responsibility or personal desire. Unfortunately, matters are very different in the real world of work most students will face. There, it is essential to keep up with the latest technological innovations in order to compete. This disparity leaves schools lagging further and further behind.

        Sunday, December 04, 2011

        Revolution Truths

        Taking it to the streets.

        Denial is more than just as river in Egypt, they say. It may not be a popular thing to say in all the euphoria around the Arab Spring, but among the popular delusions of our day is the common notion that revolution is good. The cult of revolution is everywhere: on campus, and among the clerical class generally. It forms part of the national ideology of both America and France, not to mention China, Mexico, and on and on.

        But really, when has a revolution ever brought more good than evil? The Russian Revolution brought us Stalin. The Chinese Revolution brought us Mao. The French Revolution brought us Robespierre, then Napoleon. The English Revolution brought us Cromwell. The Iranian Revolution brought us Khomeini and Ahmadinejad. There is a pattern: power goes soon to a strongman, not to the people. There is less liberty, not more liberty; and despite Potemkin villages, there is relative economic stagnation, not greater wealth.

        This result is, moreover, perfectly logical and predictable. A full revolution more or less by definition kicks down the basic law, the nation's constitution, whatever it is. Everything is up for grabs in the street. Without law, what one has left is not freedom, but the law of nature: a natural struggle of all against all. And laws, in the end, are there to protect the weak. Inevitably, where there is no law, the strongest and most ruthless will benefit, and the weak will be crushed. Think "Lord of the Flies": after much spilling of blood, some organized group with weapons will emerge to dictate. They will have triumphed by sheer ruthlessness and lust for power. They are going to be in the mood to exercise it.

        Sounds like a good idea?
        Unfortunately, the American Revolution can be pointed to as a counterexample. Unfortunately, because it gives revolution a cachet of morality and progress. But to see the American struggle as a revolution, rather than a war of independence, seems arbitrary. At state and local level, those in power before the revolution, remained in power after the revolution, as did all the state laws. That makes a crucial difference. Government never descended into the street.

        And even then, did the American struggle for independence really produce more good than harm? For, besides the blood shed at the time, it surely set the precedent of a right to secession which then led directly to the American Civil War, not to mention that fuss over in France in 1789, and further tumult throughout the Americas. And for what, exactly? To avoid ending up like Canada? 

        Can one name a single nation that went directly and peacefully from a genuine revolution to a liberal democracy? For one can cite many who went from a military junta or absolute monarchy to a liberal democracy without internal conflict. 

        Of course, this is a bitter pill for those saddled with a genuinely oppressive and corrupt government—a Muammar Ghaddafi, for example; himself, note, the product of a prior revolution. One might argue that a truly bad government makes revolution necessary. But any glorification of revolution for its own sake? Be careful what you wish...

        Comrades in arms.

        Friday, November 11, 2011

        Britain's Choice

        The current “Eurozone” crisis really does seem to be moving in an interesting direction. The response of France and Germany seems to be to push for an “ever closer union,” but a more restricted one, to counter the sorts of stresses now apparent in the monetary union. This is fundamentally a plan to break up the EU.

        Britain now faces the choice of throwing in its lot with a monetary union that has so far looked like a very bad idea, and surrendering a good deal of its sovereignty, or being relegated to a second-tier status within Europe.

        Time to propose again my own preferred alternative: an Anglosphere union. Britain should instead leave Europe and join what is now called NAFTA. Trade ties would probably almost automatically bring Ireland with it, possibly some Scandinavian countries. Australia and New Zealand would find it hard then to stay out, given the cultural ties. Most of the English-speaking nations of the Caribbean would probably join in a flash if the opportunity was offered—they've ben seeking union with Canada, the US or Britain for some time anyway. Voila! More or less the union I've been speaking of.

        It makes sense not just on grounds of shared culture or shared trade, but a shared historic political and economic philosophy. The Anglosphere is the home of the social philosophies of John Locke and Adam Smith, not to mention the legal traditions of Common Law and Magna Carta. I think they would find it much easier and more comfortable to work together in a tighter economic or political union that Britain would with the rather different traditions of Europe.

        Thursday, November 10, 2011

        The Sidewalks of New York

        One of the great things about Irish music is that the songs keep getting picked up again and reinterpreted in new ways. We have mellow versions, punk versions, classical versions, rock versions.

        It's time someone went back and reinterpreted some of the songs of the fin de siecle up to the twenties in this way. There are some great songs with some great lyrics from that time, but they are only ever done as period pieces, which makes them sound like they are preserved in formaldehyde rather than being living songs, which I think they really could be.

        "The Sidewalks of New York" really jumps out at me in this regard. So does "After the Ball is Over." "Ol' Man River." "My Blue Heaven." "Sweet Georgia Brown."

        Note, I mean not done in repro style, but recast as modern songs.

        There's a huge market niche for a new musical act there.

        Monday, November 07, 2011

        Why the Beatles are Bound to Fail

        Rock and roll is dead. That is so fifties. Folk is what young people want to hear now.
        Nobody wants to listen to an ensemble. You need one human face on the act, for people to identify with. At least one obvious leader. 
        Neither McCartney nor Lennon can read music. How the heck can they write music?
        McCartney is left-handed. Where is he going to get a left-handed bass guitar? Left-handed guitars are expensive, and he is from a poor family.
        Lennon admits he has no sense of rhythm.
        Rock and roll is black American music and alien to the English experience. No white Englishman is going to be able to do it very competently.
        Nobody in America is going to listen to an Englishman playing American music.
        English music acts do not play well in the US. Ever heard of Cliff Richard?
        Nobody in their early twenties is going to be all that accomplished at their instrument, whatever it is.

        Need I go on? Anything everybody knows is sure to be wrong, and the next big thing will always be something that goes against what everybody knows.

        Thursday, November 03, 2011

        Oh, The Humanities!

        I recently downloaded to my iPod an episode from TVO featuring an award-winning lecturer speaking on W.B. Yeats.

        I'll grant that the talk was entertaining, but this guy did not know his stuff. Is this the best we get in university Humanities departments these days?

        For example: he referred to Michael Collins as President of Ireland. He was Minister of Finance. He spoke of Padraic Pearse being strapped to a board because of injuries in order to be shot. Pearse survived the Easter Uprising without major injuries; the lecturer is probably thinking of John Connolly, who was tied to a chair. Then he claimed that the Byzantine Empire was destroyed by Crusaders; it was overthrown by the Turks in 1453.

        Okay, so history is not his field—even history directly related to his field.

        But he also asserted that Yeats' poem “Down by the Salley Gardens” was autobiographical, and referred to an island be used to enjoy visiting. Yeats himself pointed out that the poem was a reconstruction of an old Irish poem, “Ye Rambling Boys of Pleasure,” in which the “salley gardens” already appear.

        The universities have somehow become isolated, stagnant pools of misinformation, rumour, and urban legend. Truth is more likely to be found on the Internet. I chalk this up to the free exchange of ideas and information.

        Wednesday, November 02, 2011

        The Second Coming

        What rough beast?

        I am interested in Yeats' “The Second Coming” currently as it illustrates my thesis that Western Civilization has never recovered from the First World War. It, along with Eliot's “The Wasteland,” is perhaps the great poetic statement of this in English—though there certainly are many others. “There Will Come Soft Rains” was also written in the year or two after the war ended.

        I gather the usual interpretation of “The Second Coming” is that it speaks of Yeats' concept of “The Great Year,” with the idea that after two thousand years Christianity has had its day and is about to be replaced by some new paganism. Fair enough; but there is no need to read it this way. After all, it is no suprise to any Christian that the Second Coming of Christ would involve first the appearance of a “rough beast”--that much is in the Book of Revelations. There is to be a period of tribulation, and it is to last as long as a thousand years. All quite orthodox, in fact.

        Durer's Apocalypse, with two rough beasts apparent.

        I imagine the notion that the poem is non-Christian, indeed somewhat anti-Christian, comes from the identification of the “rocking cradle” that “vexed to nightmare” “twenty centuries of stony sleep” with the birth of Jesus. This would then imply that Christianity, if only over millennia, actually caused the blood-dimmed tide now unleashed by the rough beast of mere anarchy. But there are multiple problems with this identification.

        First, the birth and infancy of Jesus is not, theologically speaking, as important as his death and resurrection. So the poem, if this is its focus, would have slightly misfired here. Second, it is common knowledge, and an essential element of the mythos, that Jesus was not born in a cradle, but in a manger. With Yeats' sensitivity to symbol, it seems incredible that he would have muddled this—to actually make the synecdoche of a cradle represent Jesus himself. This alone, I think, makes the identification impossible, and care has been taken to ensure that this is so.

        But it also makes no sense in terms of cause and effect to see the cradle referred to as the cause of both the “twenty centuries of stony sleep” and the “vexing to nightmare.” These are two different and quite disparate things. If the twenty centuries of stony sleep refers to Christianity, the vexing to nightmare cannot.

        Finally, Yeats himself elsewhere considers the height of civilization to have occurred in the Byzantine Empire—a resolutley Christian context, the paradigm of a time and place where Christianity ruled both the intellectual and the political world. If things started to go wrong, it must have happened sometime after 1000 AD.

        The essential question in the poem, therefore, the climax to which it all points, is the puzzle: who is the baby in that rocking cradle?

        Or, indeed, is there a baby in that rocking cradle? For only the cradle, not the baby, is mentioned, as if it were empty. Indeed, implicitly, it must be empty, in order to be filled by the “rough beast” slouching to Bethlehem “to be born.”

        If one wracks the good old Spiritus Mundi for some obvious and necessary referet for this rocking cradle, it seems to me the first and strongest reference is to the best-known English lullaby: “Rock-a-Bye Baby.” This nursery rhyme also refers, in a way, to a cradle that is empty—at least, the baby and cradle both fall. This feature of the rhyme is quite odd, and so conspicuous—for centuries, people in English-speaking countries have in fact lulled their babies to sleep with a story of some poor child coming to disaster.

        Bad parenting.

        But then who is the baby in ths nursery rhyme?

        There are a range of theories, and no agreed answer, but I thing the most valuable piece of evidence is the tune to which it is sung. It is a variant of an old Irish tune, as Yeats would surely have known, “Lilibullero.” And Lilibullero is a song about the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which overthrew James II of England and replaced him with King William of Orange, with historic consequences for both England and Ireland.

        It seems reasonable then to guess that the words of “Rock-a-Bye Baby” also refer to the same event. And such coded references were indeed commonly necessary in such turbulent times, and commonly used in Ireland. There are a lot of historical examples of satiric rhymes used as political weapons in Ireland.

        It seems to me the suspicion is reinforced by the perfect irony of using what was composed as a military march, a war song, as a baby's lullaby. This sounds like deliberate parody. It makes it all seem quite ominous.

        Edmund Burke

        If this is true, the tree in which the baby rocks is the tree of state, an image of the nation popularised by the Irish statesman Edmund Burke, and influential enough that it is still the logo of the British Conservative Party. The tree represents a society's natural hierarchy: at the top of the tree, “in the treetop,” is the royal family. This identification is in fact explicit in one version of a later verse of the lyrics of the nursery rhyme: “Rock-a-bye, baby, thy cradle is green, Father's a king, and mother's a queen...”

        British Conservative Party logo.

        The baby, therefore, is a new heir born to the royal family. And this is just what caused the Glorious Revolution in 1688. It was kicked off more or less immediately by the unexpected birth to King James II of a male heir, James Francis Edward. This caused great consternation in some quarters, because James II's wife was openly Catholic, and little James Francis was certain to be raised as a Catholic. The “wind” that blew this innocent child off the top of the tree of state, was then the famous “Protestant wind,” an unseasonably favourable wind that blew William of Orange's ships from Holland to England in 1688. This “Protestant wind,” a catch-phrase of the time, is referred to as well in one popular version of the lyrics to “Lillibulero.” Parliament cut a deal with William, naming him the new king in return for ceding a great deal of the royal prerogatives to Parliament, and James Francis Edward fled into exile.

        James Francis Edward Stuart

        This would seem to make Protestantism and the Reformation the true cause of the rough beast of the Apocalypse. This may be so; Yeats was nominally Protestant, but was not practicing, and was surrounded by an overwhelmingly Catholic mileu. While considerations of class may have prevented him from converting, a portion of his subconscious, at least, might have favoured the old church. Nevertheless, the religious angle does not quite fit. The Glorious Revolution and the deposing of James II was not in this regard an epochal event in the history of the world, only of the British Isles. If the Protestant Rebellion was the trigger for the apocalype, it should have far more naturally been traced back to something like the nailing of Luther's theses to the door of Wurms Cathedral.

        But something else about the Glorious Revolution was epochal. It effectively transferred British sovereignty from the king to the people; and this was a first for Europe and for the post-Byzantine world. Parliament, not the king, was now supreme, demonstrated by the ability of Parliament to depose a king. At the same time, the Glorious Revolution established the principle that the civil society was supreme over religion: the people could also depose a church, and dictate to the conscience of a king. This was both novel and revolutionary. The Glorious Revolution led in a straight line, and quite soon, to the political musings of Locke, and quite explicitly to the doctrine of “no taxation without representation” that triggered the later American Revolution, faounded on Lockean doctrine, which in turn triggered the French, which triggered the doctrine of Marx, the many revolutions of 1848, the ideal of nationalism, the Chinese Revolution beginning in 1911, the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the many revolutions, falls of monarchies, and general drowning in blood of all ceremonies of innocence following World War I, at the time that Yeats was writing this poem. Indeed, the doctrine of nationalism can also be blamed for the carnage of the Great War. Note that all the4se subsequent revolutions also shared the essential feature of believing that politics was and ought to be supreme over religion. This poison pill of “Liberalism” caused it to be oppsosed by the Church for many decades.

        Widening gyres all beginning with the gentle rocking of one cradle.

        The loss of the religious centre of a society, “the ceremonies of innocence,” is indeed a cause of social decline. It implies a fundamental failure of the social consensus which allows societies to function. This fact has been recognized almost everywhere and at all times. It was understood by the Romans to be the cause of the decline of the Roman Empire. Constantine then deliberately revived it for a further thousand years through the formal adoption of Christianity. It was the reason for the sudden rise of Islam in the seventh century. It was the reason for the decline of the Koryo dynasty in Korea; and on and on. A society must be united in its ideals.

        Constantine, founder of Byzantium

        The modern hope, which reached its apex in the nineteenth century, was that society could find a new centre around the doctrines of liberal democracy and science. New cathedrals were built, even higher than the early Christian ones: the Washington Monument, the Eiffel Tower. But this imagined centre has been losing mass rapidly since the First World War. The poets and artists saw it first, in the 1920s. The general population have taken a lot longer, busy destroying Christianity in the name of false science and a false liberalism for most of the years since, but are gradually coming, I think, to feel the same thing in their guts. Perhaps in another fifty or a hundred years, it will even occur to the academics, naturally the most conservative element of society.

        The whole darned thing, Western Civ, looks like it is winding down to its final whimper.

        Saturday, October 29, 2011

        Liberal Books

        It's all quite simple. One of my Arab students explained today that he loved reading, and he read both religious books and “liberal” books. “What are liberal books?” I asked. Another student explained: “books that believe that government and religion should be kept apart.” “Bad books,” another student elaborated.

        Nobody contradicted this assessment.

        There's the current conflict between the Muslim world and the West in a nutshell.

        Tunisia, a few days ago, given the opportunity to select its government democratically, gave a plurality of votes to an Islamist party. Get ready for this to happen everywhere else in the Arab world. The West is going to have to accept that this is what democracy will mean in a Muslim country.

        Let's get this clear. There is no contradiction between Islam and democracy. Islam is democratic to its core. There is no contradiction between Islam and human equality and human rights--both are profoundly Muslim concepts. The problem is right here--with secularism.

        The idea of the separation of church and state has no status in Muslim culture, founded as a political and military as well as a religious entity from the beginning. Islam cannot be happily positioned as just one more religious alternative under an umbrella of secular humanism on which everyone can agree—not without negating much of the spirit of Islam. While Christianity can cheerfully say “render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's,” Islam will not, but will insist that Caesar too is subject to God.

        I consider myself a liberal, but I am also troubled by secularism in the same way Muslims commonly are. Religious tolerance has in recent years been allowed to become in the West a radical religious intolerance, a denial of religion and indeed morality in public life, which is a recipe for both depravity and disaster.

        I think a solution both sides can live with is not hard to find. But we must understand what the sticking point is. No cant or rant or bigoted jive.

        Political Correctness

        The one thing to understand about “politically correct” speech is that it is systematic lying. Otherwise there would be no need to qualify the word “correct.” Conversely, if politically incorrect speech were merely incorrect, there would be no politics involved. If it were simply not true, nobody would get upset about it. If it were not true, it would be permissible to say it.

        It is, therefore, positively immoral to use politically correct terms, let alone to enforce its use by others.

        Friday, October 21, 2011

        The War of 1812

        Coupland's "War of 1812," Toronto

        I would have thought that commemorating the War of 1812 was a no-brainer. In fact, I have written in the past about my concern that it is not better commemorated. What future does any country have that will not celebrate its history?

        It seems, however, that there is real resistance to the idea in Canada today. Senator Grant Mitchell has posted a strong dissent on the Liberal Senate website (

        His first and main complaint is that remembering history is “dragging us back into the past.” This is an interesting variant of the usual politician's doublespeak that they are “leading us into the future.” Easy for anyone to say, but perfectly meaningless—time being one-dimensional, it is impossible to lead anywhere else but into the future. Conversely, it is nonsensical to speak of “going back into the past.” Except in the sense that all knowledge is necessarily a reach into the past, that is, into memory. To be against going back into the past in this sense is simply to be against knowledge. Which may suit some agendas perfectly, of course...

        Mitchell then gives his objections in point form:

        1. Given that the US is our friend, why would we want to remind them that they lost this war and that our forces set the White House on fire?
        Burn, baby, burn!

        First, let's clear up a common misconception. Canadian forces did not set the White House on fire. The British Navy did, and no Canadians were likely to have been involved. Time to put that old saw to rest.

        But as to the larger point, that Canada should not alienate a present friend by celebrating a past dispute: on this advice, Britain had better pull up all those columns with Nelson standing at the top, and rename all those Wellington Streets. After all, France has long been a good friend and important trading partner. And France in turn had best can those D-Day celebrations; Germany is now their closest ally.

        But of course, nobody worries about this. It is precisely because these nations are now friends and allies that such commemorations are not provocative. And it is the general course of history, and a good thing, that former enemies usually become friends later. This ought to be pointed out, and celebrated, not suppressed. If it is suppressed, moreover, just about all history is impossible.

        1. It bears no real relevance to the development of the Canadian nation.


        This claim is a radical bit of historical revisionism. More commonly, it has been felt by historians that the War of 1812 was the true birth of Canada as a nation. In the words of Pierre Burton and the Canadian Encyclopedia, “Canada owes its present shape to negotiations that grew out of the peace, while the war itself - or the myths created by the war - gave Canadians their first sense of community and laid the foundation for their future nationhood. “ By showing they were prepared to fight, even against overwhelming odds, to preserve their independence from the US, Canadians showed their commitment to Canada. Anglophones, Francophones, and aboriginals saw a common cause and fought as one, shoulder to shoulder. If this all bears no relevance to the development of the Canadian nation, one must ask urgently, what does Senator Mitchell imagine the Canadian nation to be? Was it invented by Pierre Trudeau in 1982?

        1. It glorifies war when the war was not necessary or justifiable (to the extent that any war ever is).

        Is pacifism ever justifiable? It glorifies moral cowardice. The greatest sin of all is to stand idly by and let evil triumph. God forbid that this should ever become the Canadian way, for it never has been.

        As to the War of 1812 specifically, from the Canadian perspective, it was a perfect example of a just war. The US declared war on Britain; Britain did not declare war on the US. The US might or might not have had legitimate grievances against Britain that justified this aggression, but if so, these had nothing to do with Canada. The US invaded Canada; Canada did not invade the US. The Canadian strategy at the beginning of the war was purely defensive. If Canadians had refused to fight, the likely result would have been, quite simply, the end of Canada.

        Senator Mitchell is saying, in sum, that the existence of Canada is not necessary or justifiable.

        1. If it means anything to anyone, it certainly does not have a national resonance of any kind, being pretty much irrelevant to the West.

        The two-thousand-mile-wide battlefield (part)

        Right. By that logic, the US similarly has no business commemorating its War of Independence, which involved, after all, only 13 of the present 50 states. We should also chuck out Canada Day and all this fuss about commemorating Confederation in 1867, since it involved only 4 provinces.

        Nice to see the Liberals finally acknowledging that Canada has a West, and that America is our ally, though. This could be a breakthrough.

        Sigmund Freud Was in Denial

        Sigmund Freud was in denial about the central drama of family life, and perhaps the dirtiest secret of human civilization. Freud claimed that children essentially all wanted to kill their parents—kill Dad, sleep with Mum, or kill Mum, sleep with Dad. But the plain message of both history and story is just the reverse: parents essentially all want to kill their children.

        Goya: Saturn devours his children.

        Freud missed this even in the Oedipus cycle. In the story, after all, Oedipus has no desire whatever to either kill his father or sleep with his mother. Both happen by mistake, and he is utterly appalled. But Freud entirely glosses over the fact that Oedipus's father deliberately tried to kill Oedipus in the first place—leaving him exposed to die on a mountainside.

        And, while parricide was essentially unheard of, then or now, and considered unspeakably evil, the exposure of unwanted infants was perfectly acceptable, then and, in the form of abortion, now. It was standard practice not only in Greece, but in pre-modern China and Japan. The ritual killing of children was everywhere among the nations surrounding Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures; the Romans report is as prevalent later in Carthage. It seems to have been the standard everywhere before the advent of ethical monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). We see survivals and echoes in the story of Abraham and Isaac, or indeed of Jesus as the sacrificed Son of God.

        Rembrandt: Abraham and Isaac

        In Greek mythology, the motif is absolutely primordial: Kronos/Saturn devoured his children. Tantalos sacrificially killed his son Pelops. Jews were suspected of killing Christian children in order to make their Passover matzohs. Herod killed all the male children; and so did Pharaoh. Atreus murdered the children of Thyestes and fed them to him. Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia. Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, were left exposed to die, but rescued by a she-wolf. Everywhere, the motif of child-killing is present, and primordial, at the beginning of every story.


        We are all looking the other way on this, and have been most of the time for millennia. But it simply makes sense. It is not just that we all want unrestricted access to sex without having to worry about the responsibility and expense of children. It is not just that children can sometimes be annoying. The child represents the mortality of the parent—it represents life going on without him or her. And so there is a kind of sympathetic magic that says, if you kill the child, you will live forever. If the child lives, his life replaces yours. This is a sort of existential truth, and so ever in the back of our minds. And it is explicitly the math propounded by Gilles de Rais,who killed an uncounted number of children in late Medieval France.

        Gilles de Rais, Satanist.

        It is perhaps also behind the many “hazing” or “coming of age” rituals of many cultures, which seem unnecessarily cruel. Circumcision is the least of them. The long years of schooling are perhaps the worst. If they do not kill and eat them, adults at least seek to punish the young for their existence, to get a bit of their own back.

        To be clear, most parents are good to their children, and self-sacrificing. There are maternal and paternal instincts, thankfully, that work against this dark urge, not to mention the influence of religion and conscience. But I would feel a great deal more confident about our treatment of children generally if we openly acknowledged this dark history and tradition. It seems sinister in itself that we do not. It is perhaps the great cause, not only of our time, but of all time.