Playing the Indian Card

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

House of Cards

The dam is bursting. Kevin Spacey now. Pity. A good actor.

My study of history suggests these things happen fast. Fast enough that a lot of people get caught out self-incriminating.

Another remarkable sign I just noticed. On Facebook, I follow groups of artists and writers. Always resolutely left-wing and political, which has long been discouraging. I do not think artists and writers are really all resolutely left-wing, but those who are not have for many years not dared to raise their heads above the parapet. It is hard enough making a living making art. They, along with students, are probably the one social group most vulnerable to bullying by those in power. Artists, especially in Canada, live on government grants, distributed by bureaucrats.

A recent meeting of writers was billed as “Writing in Dangerous Times: Survival, Resistance, Joy.” You just knew the “danger” was Trump.

But yesterday, for the first time I can remember, someone posted a right-wing illustration on the artists’ feed. It said that if you thought your gender was neither male nor female, your gender was in your imagination. Then another one popped up, less than a day later: a black artist calling out other blacks for blaming all their problems on “whites.”

I’ve never seen one such post on this feed before, let alone two.

I am not really all that surprised. The left had gone so far that you had to be insane to buy into what they were saying. Fifty-seven genders, "white supremacy," "cultural appropriation," and the like. You had to be against just about everything good or true. The remarkable thing is that it took this long.

Once the dam blows, everyone gets wet. A lot of people have probably been keeping a lot of things pent up, not daring to say them. Now, if they think they can, there will be passion and anger behind what they say.

But this is significant. Steve Bannon is quoted as having said "politics is downstream from culture," and he is right. This is where the turn will happen first: among the artist and writers. And it is happening. Next will come the young.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Lake of the Thousand Isles

The bard.

Evan MacColl, the Bard of Loch Fyne, is not well remembered. I see no reason to disagree with the judgment of time on this. In English—his poems in Gaelic I cannot evaluate—he was a competent versifier, no more. His poems are good, but generic, with nothing to distinguish them from the output of a hundred other poets of the day.

Still, if he was no more than a competent versifier, he was no less. He was a skilled craftsman, and there used to be a place for a competent craftsman of verse: as an occasional poet. Someone who could be counted on to write a poem to mark some special occasion: the opening of a new bridge, a visit by the Prince of Wales, the founding of the Engineers’ Society.

For that, MacColl was more than adequate. Consider his ode to the steam engine, “The Modern Hercules”:

Offspring renowned of Water and of Fire!
Thy triumphs, Steam, to sing I would aspire:
Let critics who would deem my numbers tame
Confess at least the greatness of my theme.
Power unmatched! what wonders hast thou wrought!
What feats sublime beyond the reach of thought!
In thee we gladly realize at length
The fabled Titans’ all- compelling strength —
A might that dwarfs what Grecian bards have told

Of deeds Herculean done in days of old.
The winged Mercury of their proud day
Were, matched with thee, a lagger on the way:
Scornful of distance, unfatigued by toil,
No task thy temper or thy strength can spoil, —
Whate’er thou doest doing with good will.
And at such speed as seems a miracle.
Man's mightiest ally upon land or sea.
He owns indeed a glorious gift in thee!
Not mine the skill to sing in fitting phrase
How science yokes thee to her car — the maze
Of tubes metallic, wondrous as a spell,
In which, like to a spirit, thou dost dwell —
A worker with a zeal that naught can tire,
Determined, prompt, impetuous as fire,—
Seeming as almost taught to think and feel
With that complex anatomy of steel!
To this let others fitting homage pay.
My task be thy achievements to portray.
Cliched and predictable, but seamless. My favourite line is “complex anatomy of steel.” That was a nice little verbal pirouette.

The only reason MacColl seems worthy of mention, even to me, is that he spent thirty years at the Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Customs House, and composed rhymes on his new home. Which happens also to be the area, more or less, where I largely grew up: the Thousand Islands.

I think the Thousand Islands are, legitimately, one of the more beautiful parts of the world. I say that having visited and lived in many parts of it now. At one time, many of America’s rich and mighty agreed, and built summer palaces on its banks.

Yet it has not been much celebrated in verse. And any verses I have seen have been awful.

To this task, MacColl is up:


Though Missouri’s tide may majestic glide, 
There's a curse on the soil it laves; 
The Ohio, too, may be fair, but who 
Would sojourn in a land of slaves? 
Be my prouder lot a Canadian cot 
And the bread of a freeman’s toils; 
Then hurrah for the land of the forests grand, 
And the Lake of the Thousand Isles! 

I would seek no wealth, at the cost of health, 
‘Mid the city’s din and strife; 
More I love the grace of fair nature’s face, 
And the calm of a woodland life; 
I would shun the road by ambition trod 
And the lore which the heart defiles; — 
Then hurrah for the land of the forests grand. 
And the Lake of the Thousand Isles! 

O, away, away! I would gladly stray 
Where the freedom I love is found; 
Where the pine and oak by the woodman’s stroke 
Are disturbed in their ancient bound; 
Where the gladsome swain reaps the golden grain. 
And the trout from the stream beguiles; 
Then hurrah for the land of the forests grand, 
And the Lake of the Thousand Isles!

I doubt the Thousand Islands were an untouched “forest grand” even in MacColl’s day. And I think the area was short on gladsome swains reaping grain. Or trout: pike and bass are more common. These are bits of his standard-issue romantic claptrap. But the thing is decently done, with a nice refrain to which one might hoist a glass.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Black Elk Prays

You might have heard of Black Elk. Especially if you were around in the Sixties. His supposed autobiography, Black Elk Speaks, was all the rage in the early Sixties, and may by itself have kicked off the New Age movement. It, along with Casteneda’s “Don Juan” books, gives us most of what we think we know about “native spirituality.”

Unfortunately, it is not true. Nicholas Black Elk disassociated himself from it, saying it was not representative of his own views or experience. It portrays him as a traditional Lakota Sioux shaman who laments the coming of Christianity and the white man. In real life, Nick Black Elk was a devout and influential Catholic catechist.

His local diocese has now opened his cause for sainthood.

No Irish Need Apply

Newsweek magazine has just published an openly racist anti-Irish article. The good news is that it is being pilloried across the Internet. Perhaps, in light of this, there is little need for me to comment. But still…

The piece laments the passing of the days when “the biggest names, faces, and voices on television” were “all sober, serious Americans—and all Protestants too.” “Why,” the author asks, “has the ascent of a bunch of people who in an earlier period might have been called Micks drawn no notice at all?”

“Micks,” after all, are not sober or serious. Right?

The author laments this, at the same time, as showing the supposed “collapse” of Irish-American culture, its “drying up and blowing away.”

Isn’t that odd? The fact that Irish Catholics have become more prominent is the death of Irish Catholic culture?

And his problem with Sean Hannity is that he “makes $29 million a year: his ilk care a lot about money, never a major priority of the older Irish America, where it was fatal to get above yourself.”

In other words, Irish culture is apparently supposed to be poor and powerless. It is not right to rise above your station.

Worse, in his eyes, the Irish have ceased to be reliably Democratic voters. It is their ethnic duty, it seems, to vote Democrat.

The author blames it all on Joe McCarthy. “All of them can be traced to Joe McCarthy’s rise to stardom.”

Joe McCarthy the leader of Irish America? My first reaction was to realize for the first time that, yes, Joe McCarthy must have been Irish.

Granted, he was ethnically Irish, and not the villain he is often painted on the left to be, but he was never seen in his day by the Irish or anyone else as an Irish political leader. He was a Midwestern farm boy; the Irish in the US were resolutely urban. His constituency was German-American. And he was Republican when most Irish Americans were Democrats.

Far more significant as Irish political leaders in the 20th century were Al Smith, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. In the second tier, maybe Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Eugene McCarthy, and a selection of longtime big city mayors. Joe McCarthy, by comparison, is barely a blip. If you want to point to a leader of Irish conservatism, the obvious figure, next to Reagan, is William F. Buckley Jr., often considered the father of the modern American right.

There is an obvious reason why Irish Catholics in the US have moved from left to right over the past fifty or sixty years. Remarkably, the author does not mention it. Over the last fifty or sixty years, the left has turned against the Catholic Church and its values; most notably on the issue of abortion. Why is it surprising if, in reaction, many Catholics turned against the left? It is not just the Irish: you see the same movement among Italians, and there is a fair representation of Italian-Americans as well as Irish-Americans on Fox News: Neil Cavuto, Andrew Napolitano, Jeanine Pirro.

The author equates being Irish with “a talent for invective,” and accuses Irish commentators of a “sneering, baiting, biting style.” Yet he calls Bill O’Reilly a “beady-eyed Grand Inquisitor” and refers to “Beefy Hannity.” Steve Bannon is "dissolute but scary." I guess it is just the Irish who must not use invective, then?

Not that I have ever heard such invective from Bill O’Reilly or Megyn Kelly or Steve Bannon. Possibly Sean Hannity.

Friday, October 27, 2017

There is No Dog

Proportion of atheists by country. Eurobarometer poll, 2005.

"New atheists” always want to make the point that religion is not necessary to lead a moral life—that atheists can be just as moral as Christians.

This is a straw man argument: religion does not claim that morality comes from religion. Morality is equally binding on everyone, religious or non-religious. Whether or not you are Catholic, it is still wrong to murder someone.

Methinks they do protest too much.

To atheists, by their own admission, God is a reason for worry.

This, not incidentally, is why it is false to claim that those who oppose abortion, for example, are “trying to impose their own religion on others.”

Religion, rather than being the source of morality, offers a reliable moral guide. In the end, it is always up to your own conscience; but committing yourself to some established moral code, be it Confucian or Catholic, is an important check against rationalizing. Otherwise, you may, by casuistry, manage to justify almost anything, and sashay down the primrose path until return becomes quite painful.

The existence of God, moreover, is our guarantee that moral values are real and absolute. Without God, how do we know that our morality is correct, or whether it is all just a matter of some arbitrary “social construct”? If the latter, there is no real morality in the end: we merely do what we are accustomed to do, or programmed to do, no more. There is no moral value in that.

Cover to a Soviet atheist journal of the 1930s.

And then there is a further consideration. Sorry to say it, but if someone declares himself an atheist, especially if he does so publicly and aggressively, this is reason to believe he is not a moral person.

I do not believe it is possible to sincerely disbelieve in the existence of God. There are too many solid rational proofs out there, for anyone who takes the care to look. Even for anyone who does not, the evidence from design is too obvious and in all of our faces. The experienced universe is regular and patterned; it follows a design. Even atheists always assume it, and tend to personify “Nature” or “Evolution” or “Earth” or “Science.” They still have a god—it is just that they do not want to accept his moral nature. It is expressly this that they are rejecting. The rest of the concept, in one way or another, they keep.

Accordingly, when someone says they do not believe in God, I think they usually mean either one of two things: 1) they are angry at God; or 2) they are afraid of God. And of these two, the second is far more likely. Being angry is not a common reason to claim something does not exist. Being afraid is. It is the familiar human reaction of “whistling past the graveyard.” If you are afraid of something, it is natural to not want to talk or to think about it—to tell yourself it is not really happening.

This pretty plainly indicates someone who has a guilty conscience.

The worse one/s conscience, the more aggressive one is likely to become in one’s atheism.

Bad enough, and you are going to lash out at religion and the religious. Their very existence becomes a problem for you. It makes you feel guilty.

This is what we are seeing now in Western Europe and North America. A growing proportion of the population has done evil, knows they have done evil, suffer from a guilty conscience, and so are turning away from religion. 

How is one militant about not knowing something?

The same factor explains as well why we in the “West” have stopped having children; this is a clear sign of self-hate. It explains why so many of us have started hating our own “Western” heritage in general—like hose Dalhousie students who now refuse to celebrate Canada Day. It is all a projection of our own guilt. Rather than admit the sin, we blame the messenger who says it is a sin: the church, the culture, tradition, civilization. And so we come to want to tear it all down, “by whatever means necessary.”

The bottom line is, I think, the “sexual revolution.” This die was cast in the 1950s. The abortion issue is the most critical, and what made it only too obviously wrong, but the whole concept was wrong and brutal.

I have hopes. There may be something finally happening, at this Harvey Weinstein moment. There are rumours that the dam is about to burst, and worse is about to come out about Hollywood pedophilia. The culture may wake up and turn. It has happened before. Pendulums swing.

It almost has to happen; because people have a conscience, and conscience cannot be denied indefinitely. The real question is whether what we see will be a restoration of “Western civ” more or less as it was, as happened after the English Restoration, or so often in the Chinese or Korean changes of dynasty; or something new, as when the Roman Empire went from paganism to Christianity.

And how bloody things are still going to get before the page is turned. The forces of evil are getting more violent all the time, as they are backed by their consciences further into a corner.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Saudi Arabia Opens to the World

Crown Prince with US Secretary of Defense Mattis

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has caused a stir with a speech saying Saudi Arabia plans to become more moderate in its Islam and open to the world. This follows soon after the announcement that women will now be allowed to drive.

Having only rather recently left, after five years in Saudi Arabia, my own insights might be of value.

My immediate reaction is to remember Perestroika. This is reminiscent of Gorbachev and the Soviet Union back in the Eighties, and comes from the same point of origin: the money is running out. Understanding that the current model is now unsustainable, with the drop in the price of oil, the Saudi government is seeking some alternative, and clothing it as reform in hopes of getting popular support behind it.

It makes sense, too, to open to the world. Keeping the doors shut has cost Saudi Arabia a lot of money, and was supportable only while subsidized by oil. For example, Saudi has great tourist potential. The United Arab Emirates has been doing pretty well from tourism. But Saudi Arabia has waived this income by making it almost impossible to get a tourist visa, in the interests of preserving the purity of its Muslim culture. I have no doubt much else could be done to make the Saudi system conform better to the rest of the world, in order to encourage other industries and economic diversification. Dubai has done well without oil. Bahrain has done well. Much of their success was built on doing for Saudi Arabia what Saudi Arabia would not do.

I can also attest to a craving among young Saudis to relax current social restrictions and be more like everywhere else. Young Saudis are about the same in their thinking as young people everywhere; there is no real cultural difference any longer to preserve. The Internet has seen to that.

On the other hand, although those on the left may hate to hear it, the truth is that Saudi Arabia has been a more pleasant and secure place to live, under the current regime, than just about anywhere else in the Middle East, the Gulf Emirates excluded. The government is bureaucratic and autocratic, but not repressive. Compare recent life in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, or Iran.

Actually, I am not sure what the left thinks of Saudi Arabia any more. Saudi Arabia used to be their go-to example of a “repressive” regime. But that was up to about six months ago, when they all decided they liked radical Islam. Shades of the Hitler-Stalin pact.

But the Saudis never were either Hitler or Stalin. The Saudi government has been both held together and kept honest by the alliance with Muslim clerics. Without this check, other governments in the region have done far worse. Cutting that cord is risky.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Great God Earth

Wherever you work in ESL, quite properly, you have to promise not to teach your religion. But then, wherever you work, you turn out to be required to teach someone else’s religion. And not that of the students. You must evangelize for environmentalism, if not feminism and so forth.

A case in point, a current lesson for my Chinese students includes the questions:

“What can harm Earth?”


“What are you going to do to protect Earth?”

The first question essentially treats “Earth” (sometimes it is called “the environment”) as a god. We do not ask “What can harm your house” or “What can harm a rock?” The word “harm” implies the Earth has personhood. We should say, “What can damage Earth?” But even this seems odd. Just what is supposed to be the Earth’s condition, and who decides? When we cut a rock into diamonds, say, do we say the rock was damaged?

It would make sense to speak of the wise or equitable use of limited resources—for the sake of our fellow man, now and in the future. We might or might not agree on the value of having the greatest possible diversity of species around us. But that is not what we are obliged to say. “The Earth” seems to be raised here to an importance above and apart from human beings, or other creatures.

And then the demand that the student and the teacher must not just agree with this, but claim to be doing something as a result. We must be making sacrifices to this god.

Aside from the violation of freedom of conscience and of religion, this stuff betrays a colonialist attitude. In the wealthy West, we have the leisure to trouble ourselves about things. And we can scold poorer countries like China for their greater pollution, and feel superior. This is inhumane. For many, the choice is to burn dirty coal, or freeze. To have a dirty factory in town, or have no job, and starve.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Weinstein and Trump

Anti-semitic Nazi cartoon: the Jewish doctor and the defenseless Aryan woman..

Why, I see some are asking, is Harvey Weinstein being given such a bad time over the sexual exploitation of women, but Donald Trump seems to be given a pass?

But any suggestion that the charges against Weinstein are politically motivated is absurd. Many right-wing figures have only recently been felled by similar accusations: Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly at Fox News; Bill Cosby. Until Weinstein it was looking as though it was left-wing figures who were being protected, and only those on the right taken to task.

We do not know, in fact, whether the charges against Weinstein are true. None have been tested in court. Nevertheless, the sheer volume and the many claims by others to have “always known” make it look convincing.

We do not have anything like this for Donald Trump. For Trump, according to the linked article, we have three women who are prepared to speak out; and perhaps a total of ten overall. One charges him only with kissing her. Another says he “aggressively propositioned her.” These charges themselves do not seem to meet the bar for a charge of assault. Another’s claims are refuted by a third party who claims to have been present.

Leaving aside prejudice against Trump, it doesn’t give us much to go on.

Hillary Clinton called Trump an “admitted sexual assaulter.” That is probably libelous, or would be in Canada or the UK. Presumably she is referring to the famous tape of him talking to Billy Bush. I read the transcript. The most he admits to is kissing women, and nothing implies this is clearly without consent. In the real world, of course, it is always difficult, when a man kisses a woman, to know whether she is fully in consent or not. But it is considered his obligation to make this first move. Ther is no way around this.

By contrast, it would not be libel to call Clinton’s husband a “known sexual predator.”

What Trump said to Bush on the secretly—and surely illegally—recorded conversation was boorish and crude. But there is no law against saying boorish things. Such matters are properly dealt with by social stigma. In Trump’s case, he faced a jury of 300 million of his peers. One may disagree with the verdict, but the matter has been dealt as such matters ought to be dealt with. He was exposed, and we have the result.

Anti-black cartoon, US, 1954.

There is an obvious problem here: first, any such accusations of sexual impropriety are almost inevitably the word of one person against another. Such things are done in private. So how can we tell who is speaking the truth? Second, if a man has a lot of money, or has an important public reputation, let alone both, there is a huge motive for just about anyone to bring a false charge. There might well be money in it, or fame. Third, because they can be so easily made, charges of sexual assault and rape have been the traditional weapon to use against prejudiced groups: Jews in Nazi Germany were commonly held to rape and seduce good Aryan girls; blacks in the US South were usually lynched on the same charge.

Accordingly, we should assume such charges are false unless there is some corroboration. Like Monica Lewinsky’s semen-stained dress.

I see one comment a lot: about how all men are to blame for allowing such things to go on. In the Guardian piece, the woman whose charges have been contradicted by another witness says “men needed to make it clear that Trump’s brand of ‘locker-room talk’ is unacceptable. It would be nice at this point if we started hearing from men on this issue, because it’s not one-sided.”

This is a statement of just such prejudice as is traditionally supported by the rape or sexual assault charge. I am guilty of what someone else did, because he is a man, and I am a man? That there is such obvious prejudice against men abroad in the land is a further important reason why we should doubt any such accusations.

From the Nazi press.

I suspect there is indeed a lot of real sexual exploitation going on. Sometimes it may be a matter of a man exploiting his power over women. Sometimes it may be a matter of a woman exploiting her power over men: an attractive woman, for example, offering her sexual favours to a boss for special preferment. Hard to guess, even if there is evidence of a sexual encounter, where the rights and wrongs fall. Avoiding such stuff is no doubt why, in many more traditional societies, and in ours until fairly recently, men and women were generally kept apart in the public square.

If some group is ultimately to blame for all this, then, it is surely those who have ended this segregation: the feminists. There was a reason for it all along. Surely they knew this?

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Canadian Genocide

My friend Xerxes recently wrote a column suggesting the NDP did something risky by electing a new leader with a darker than average skin tone, and of a minority religion. I scoffed: Canada has a good record of not voting along religious lines. And, I asked rhetorically, “When has skin colour ever been an issue here?”

Perhaps predictably, a SJW wrote back. To her, at least, skin colour is important.

“Since Europeans first arrived here, and right down to today. Early settlers deemed indigenous people fair game or enslaved them. Black people were imported to be slaves―more than most Canadians know― through the 17th and 18th centuries, and some were not freed until the 19th. Some Canadians may have espoused the abolitionist cause but that doesn’t mean racism vanished. Quite the contrary: blacks were effectively ghettoized (e.g., Africville in Halifax) and restricted as to employment (e.g., railway porter was about the best work for a black man) well into the 20th century.

“Indigenous people and people of colour still face discrimination in housing, hiring, and even medical treatment in our hospitals. And it’s not as if these facts are hidden from anyone who reads newspapers, watches TV news, or even shops at an average mall.”

In related news, the Dalhousie University students’ union has banned all celebrations of Canada Day for Canada’s 150th anniversary. “Canada Day,” they say, is “an act of ongoing colonialism.” A student council VP wrote on Facebook that “she would not stand with ‘privileged white people,’ or be proud of a country that is responsible for ‘over 400 years of genocide’ and ‘the stealing of land.’”

I oppose hate speech legislation. But if we are going to have it, this should be prosecuted as hate speech. The fact that it won’t be is an illustration of why hate speech laws are an awful idea. They are always going to be used as a club against groups already facing discrimination, not to protect them. They will only protect the already privileged.

In this case, the victims are “white people.”

Let us look at the claims in turn.

“Early settlers deemed indigenous people fair game or enslaved them.”

Early settlers came to trade with the Indians. You do not get far by killing or enslaving your suppliers or your customers.

Slavery was endemic to native cultures. The early European settlers stood apart in not practicing it.

Indian warfare was nearly constant, and there was no such thing as a non-combatant or a civilian. The arrival of European civil society in any area ended the killing and brought peace.

“Black people were imported to be slaves―more than most Canadians know―through the 17th and 18th centuries.”

No slave ship ever landed at a Canadian port.

There were been a handful of domestic slaves in Canada before the 19th century, but then, at that time, there had always been slavery everywhere. Even then, European Canada would have stood out as a place in which slavery was almost unknown. That is, among the European population. Slavery was always common among the indigenous people. When the Europeans extended their jurisdiction, it was banned.

In 1793, Upper Canada (Ontario) distinguished itself as the first British colony anywhere to outlaw slavery. And in this, the British Empire as a whole was ahead of the rest of the world. The colonies of British North America were, from then onward, the great refuge for slaves from the USA. The original black population of Nova Scotia was American slaves freed by the British during the American Revolution, and given land.

“Blacks were effectively ghettoized (e.g., Africville in Halifax) and restricted as to employment (e.g., railway porter was about the best work for a black man) well into the 20th century.”

I remember Africville. It was torn down, on the grounds that it was a ghetto, in the 60s, during the civil rights movement in the US, and its residents given new, purportedly better, housing throughout Halifax. In those days, this was supposed to be the progressive thing. Segregation was an evil. And Africville lacked amenities.

More recently, the descendants of the residents of Africville have demanded, and gotten, a formal apology and financial compensation for this effort. They now say they actually wanted to all live together in Africville. Segregation, they now say, was their preference. I note our correspondent is a bit behind on the official line here.

As to railway porter being the best work for a black man, there were never laws restricting employment of blacks in Canada. That was in the US South. In the absence of law, such discrimination in employment is not plausible. The free market would fairly soon put anyone who discriminates out of business, unless it was by mutual consent. It is simply unwise to turn away customers, and unwise not to hire the best person for a job. It will cost you money. If railway porters tended to be black, I also note that jewellers and travel agents in Canada have tended to be Dutch; restaurants tended to be Chinese or Italian; policemen and journalists tended to be Irish. Surely this is just as much, or as little, proof of discrimination.

“Indigenous people and people of colour still face discrimination in housing, hiring, and even medical treatment in our hospitals.”

It is indeed a blot on our record that we pay attention to ethnicity here, and discriminate, but we discriminate in favour of aboriginal people, not against them. Treaty Indians get free health care, free post-secondary education, tax breaks, are exempt from hunting and fishing regulations, and so forth. There are legal requirements to discriminate in their favour in employment. This is wrong, but it is in favour of indigenous people, not against them. The government wanted to eliminate all these distinctions back in 1969, and the indigenous leaders rose up and refused.

It is true that indigenous people do less well on measures of income, education, and health than the general population. This does not mean they have been discriminated against by some other ethnic group.

“Canada Day is an act of ongoing colonialism.”

It is the reverse: it marks a moment when we Canadians chose to take more of our own affairs in hand, rather than leaving them to our colonial masters. Confederation was not independence from Britain, but at the time and long before, many understood that it had this eventual implication. The new federal government was taking upon itself powers that previously had resided in London.

How can this possibly be construed as colonialism?

“she would not stand with ‘privileged white people.’”

What she is saying is that, to be Canadian, to her, is to be “white.” And she refuses to associate with “white” people. The quote marks, to be clear, are there because this woman called Canadians “white people” and “privileged.” This is a racist viewpoint, and it is hers. She has no right to ascribe it to her fellow Canadians. She is demanding segregation and demanding that she not be considered Canadian. Let’s be clear on where the discrimination and the racism is coming from.

“A country that is responsible for ‘over 400 years of genocide’”

Genocide was the usual form of war among aboriginal groups: the elimination of the Huron by the Iroquois is one well-known and well-documented example. But as far as Canada goes as a political jurisdiction, or British North America or New France before it, there has never been a genocide towards any group, before or after Confederation. Let’s hope that record holds. I have my concerns, because the attitude we see more and more of about “white people” is similar to the things said about Jews back in early-20th century Europe.

“‘The stealing of land.’”

This again is the opposite of the truth. Whether native groups had any legal title to land is dubious: they did not, by any established standards of European law or British common law; and land ownership was not a concept known to aboriginal societies. Nevertheless, the British created this right, and were scrupulous about buying out their hypothetical interests in the land at an agreed-upon price in Canada. They deserve credit for this act of altruism. They could, of course, have simply taken the land. They did not.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Le Musée de Cire Historique Canadien

When I was a kid in Montreal, the city featured a great private history museum, “Le Musée de Cire Historique Canadien.” “The Wax Museum of Canadian History.”

It was a great idea for teaching history, and I feel it is a pity that it is gone. The problem with museums often is that it is just not that interesting to look at some artifact in a glass case. And it does not tell you much of anything. This was probably a less expensive way to go—the museum was run as a profitable private enterprise—and was more useful.

This museum, instead, was well designed to be memorable. No doubt this was done primarily to pull in paying customers, not to be pedagogical about things—but as it turns out, the customer is usually right. The wax figures brought history to life, left you with a vivid image in the mind’s eye of some event. This could then became a hook on which to hang your otherwise perhaps dry historical facts.

Most wax museums are mostly portraits in wax of famous people. This, to me, makes them boring and useless. If they are currently famous, you already have a good image in your mind of what these people look like. So you are learning nothing, seeing nothing new, by seeing their portrait in wax. All you get is a sense of how close the resemblance is. Big deal. A test of skill, I suppose. And usually the resemblance falls well short of being convincing, leaving only a sense of disappointment. An “uncanny valley” effect leaves many figures looking ghoulish, zombie-like. You feel as though you are looking at someone’s cadaver.

I went to the wax museum in Dublin a few years ago. Mostly wax figures of famous writers and politicians, sitting around in chairs, which is about all a famous writer or politician ever does, moderately well done. Nothing visually interesting there. There was no chance to suspend disbelief: what is the thrill in seeing James Joyce done as a wax dummy? And certainly the wax dummy left no clearer image in your mind than the photos in the history books or on the dustcovers. With one exception: an image of Grace O’Malley, the 16th century Irish pirate, standing and pointing a finger at the horizon, really looked shockingly alive, and has burned itself into my memory.

Statue of Grace O'Malley, Mayo, Ireland.

Here, the trick was in the choice of subject. The artist was not constrained to compete with the camera. Neither I nor the sculptor had any idea what the breathing Grace O’Malley looked like. So he was free to create something really lifelike and striking.

This was the approach taken throughout the Musée de Cire Historique. No attempts to reproduce famous people whose features were already familiar to anyone, except perhaps Saint Andre Bessette. Creating something far more interesting, compelling, and worthwhile.

The other thing the Musée de Cire Historique did right was to put in lots of blood and gore; lots of drama. Most scenes implied action. This is just the sort of thing that gets carefully cut out of our schoolbooks and our stories for children, ensuring that they are boring and the kids will remember nothing. Instead, we throw all the blood and gore into things we present to parents, who at least ought to have grown out of such stuff.

Here is a sample of some of the dioramas that fixed themselves in my memory. I recently found them shown on a web site ( These are the ones I instantly recalled. I was probably not older than 12 or 13 the last time I saw them.

A rather interesting experiment, then, in what is mnemonically, meaning educationally, sound:

The funeral of a dead child in the early Christian community. This is obviously going to be gripping to a child—seeing a child about their own age dead. The palm implies martyrdom: a story is evoked.

Christians waiting to be fed to the lions. Note the children included.

Roman gladiators. For what it is worth, this, with the previous diorama, are the two I seem to best recall.

Cartier lands at Gaspe: the discovery of Canada.

Note that the event is shown from the Indian perspective. This informs us, I think, of an important truth. Contrary to what you often hear, Canadians have never considered Indians some despised foreign “other.” In our hearts, we have always thought of ourselves as the Indians.

Americans are the same.

Saint Marguerite d’Youville conceals an English officer and misdirects an Indian warrior looking for him.

You might see this as a negative portrayal of Indians. The Indian certainly looks scary and threatening. But that is historically accurate. The whole point of Indian war paint was to look scary and threatening. And the women are plainly not afraid. There is no visible concern here that the Indian might massacre unarmed women. Rather bad form, if he is indeed a bloodthirsty savage.

The women are showing mercy by protecting their sworn enemy, the Englishman, against their ally, the Indian.

Ever wax museum I have been to ever since has been, by comparison, a disappointment.

These pictures are taken from and I hope count as fair dealing for review purposes. Please do go to the link to see more. The original page is in French, but remember, if your French is rusty or nonexistent, there is always Google translate.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fatty Weinstein

Roscoe Arbuckle

I have not been following the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I try to make a point of avoiding Hollywood gossip. It is the sin of calumny. And usually cruel and unfair to the celebrities involved, who have a right to their private lives, which right is consistently violated in modern America. Nevertheless, it has been hard to miss headlines saying 35 women have now made accusations of sexual impropriety against Weinstein.

Assuming it is all true, and even if it is not, but is not disproven, might this not have a serious effect on the Hollywood culture? Especially since it conforms to a longstanding popular suspicion about “show people”? A prejudice that stretches back at least to the Middle Ages?

Since the 1960s, Hollywood movies generally have been wildly immoral in any conventional sexual terms. Lots of sex scenes. A larger message, I think, that it is simply right and proper to drop your drawers and satisfy your urges at will. Hey, doesn’t everyone? I cannot speak authoritatively on this, because for the past sixteen years or so, I have been raising kids, and my movie-going has been pretty much limited to films with family ratings. But I have to say I did not feel I was missing anything. Hollywood lost me in the 60s. I think it was 1970, and M*A*S*H that did it. It was the ugly, unsympathetic portrayal of Major Frank Burns by Robert Duvall, as a religious nut, while “Hawkeye,” a callous womanizer, was the hero we were all supposed to identify with. Then and since then, any thought of sexual morality seems to have been treated by Hollywood with contempt. 

And that was a long time ago.

When I was single, I only went to foreign, indie, and art house films. Most of which, yeah, were awful, but if there were going to be any gems, they were going to be here.

There have been indications for years that the public is fed up with this. Note, for example, the unexpected success of The Passion of the Christ. Note the sagging movie attendance over the past year, that was already news when the Weinstein thing broke.

This bubble may be bursting before out eyes. Now people will now see a sex scene on screen, and think “Ick! I wonder who she had to perform some sex act with to get this role? And I wonder what sex act it was?” And when they look at the male partner, they will see I nthe back of their minds a corpulant, grizzled Harvey Weinstein in the nude.

It kind of tarnishes the tinsel. It makes the willing suspension of disbelief seem tawdry and itself a disgusting act.

It may no longer be possible, or profitable, for Hollywood to be so casual about sex in film.

This, after all, has happened before. Fatty Arbuckle. The specific charges were not true, Arbuckle was acquitted in a court of law, but the mental image of Fatty Arbuckle crushing some starlet with his naked bulk was too powerful in the public mind. That scandal ushered in the prudish Hays Code.

And this presents a similar image.

I, for one, certainly do not lament this. Regardless of any moral issues, and there certainly are moral issues, putting an explicit sex scene, or blood and gore, in a film is just cheap thrills. Far better if the scriptwriters and directors have to invest in putting together a better story.

This is also why I believe that writing for children is almost always the best writing. You cannot fake it. The story and the characters have to be worth it on their own.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Conquering White Supremacy: What Whitey Can Do

Fighting racism since 1922

Here is a helpful article by a black writer advising “Five Ways White People Can Fight White Supremacy.”

It makes clear that when those on the left say “white supremacy,” what they mean is the current situation, the stuff in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, for example, in which, nominally, all are equal before the law, regardless of race; and despite that, there are specific laws favouring people whose skin colour is of a darker hue, such as “affirmative action” programmes. This is all “white supremacy.”

In other words, like so many terms on the left, “white supremacy” does not mean white supremacy. It is a euphemism. It means not being racist in favour of blacks. War is peace, freedom is slavery, and equality is supremacy.

The author goes on to say: “Black people cannot cure racism. It is a contagion carried and spread by white people among white people.” So only white people can be racist. What could be more racist than such an assertion? He goes on to point out that white people can be racists even if they have never had a racist thought in their lives. So it is not just that white people can be racist, and black people cannot. It is that being white makes you racist. “Racist,” it seems, now means being white.

The writer also says that, in order not to be racist, you must always treat people differently on the basis of their skin color. He objects to the assumption that “everyone is the same.” Human equality? A racist idea!

“After your uncle has had a few glasses of Wild Turkey at Thanksgiving, or your homeboy has had a few too many shots of ... ummm ... Wild Turkey, and says something that sounds like an excerpt from an “alt-right” speech, you should say something.”

He has a remarkable insight into the true dynamics of a typical “white” family, does he not? What gives him this insight? I’m sure everyone in America of European ancestry sees themselves here.

Or not. Sounds pretty racist, actually. All white people, or at least one person in every white family, drinks Wild Turkey, drinks too much of it, and says racist things when he is drunk? The writer is self-conscious enough to “apologize for the stereotype,” but not really—he is actually apologizing for it being true. It is okay to stereotype “white” people, however outrageously.

He then goes on to insist that one’s culture is a part of one’s race: “What if they understood that African Americans, Mexicans, Muslims and others deserve freedom and equality without having their heritage and culture separated from their humanity?” Here we see why measures like Canada’s recent M-103 resolution are so dangerous. It is now commonly asserted on the left, as here, that culture is genetic.

People now belong to their particular culture, and it is part of their “humanity,” their essential being.

This is the fundamental assertion on which Fascism was based. Not an obvious model of anti-racism.

It also argues strongly against immigration, doesn’t it? People coming from another culture are not going to fit in. Indeed, it seems obviously impractical to expect “whites” to live cheek-by-jowl with these culturally different blacks. Of course they are not going to want to eat in the same restaurants, watch the same movies in the same theatres, or drink from the same water fountains. Segregation forever?

And how dare you, then, protest what Hitler did to the Jews? It was just a part of the Nazi culture, after all. Jews were cultural pollutants. The did not belong.

How dare you object if this or that group refuses to treat outsiders equally, rejects freedom and equality for others? It is a part of their culture!

How dare you object to slavery? It was a part of antebellum Southern culture.

The author then writes, bizarrely:

“There is no need for safety pins or self-congratulatory pats on the back if you are truly “about that life,” because the truth is, there is not a “that life.” It is just a life. Your life. Our lives.”

Does he realize that he is speaking here directly against the “Black Lives Matter” movement? This is the very assertion that they have been regularly shouting down. So obviously they are racist, right?

But no, they cannot be, because they are black. The writer shows no awareness of this contradiction, in any case.

Indeed, he is speaking against what he himself has just said, only a few paragraphs up: that you have to make a distinction at all times among people on the basis of their race and their culture. So which is it? Even if there are always different rules and standards based on your skin colour, who is he talking to? He seems in both cases to be talking to “whites,” and the piece is addressed to them.

He writes, in a moving summation:

“It is remarkable to witness how children don’t care about race, color, religion or nationality when they are young. But at some point, it seeps into their souls and they inherit the generational curse of racism.”
“Every single prejudice and fear we have was acquired from someone else.”
This is the opposite of the truth, and the truth is pretty obvious. As anyone knows who has lived in a foreign country visibly ethnically distinct from their own, children are instinctively racist. They will always be afraid at first, or cry at, the scary-looking foreigner. A little older, and they may run after him in groups and taunt him.

It is the herd instinct. People are herd animals. It is almost self-evident that this should be so, in evolutionary terms. A child is vulnerable, and has good reason to cling to familiar-looking folks.

It is this that has to be educated, or familiarized, out. Educating people out of it is one of the great triumphs of civilization.

But I think this writer is on the other side. Civilization is “white supremacy.”

Friday, October 13, 2017


The Toronto School Board, we read, has banned the term “chief” in its organizational charts. The reason is that it refers to First Nations people.

It does not, of course. Oxford gives the first meaning as “A leader or ruler of a people or clan.”

This, however, would not be how the Toronto School Board organizational chart would be using it. For them, it would be Oxford’s meaning two: “The head of an organization.”

Nothing to do with Canadian First Nations.

A school board spokesperson explains, “every Aboriginal person has been referred to as ‘chief’ in a derogatory way at some point in his or her life.”

Is chief in such a context an insult? Oxford goes on to give a third definition for such use in informal address: “An informal form of address to a man, especially one of superior rank or status. ‘it's quite simple, chief.’”

In other words, even in informal use, it suggests superior status. Was it demeaning when folks used to refer to Diefenbaker as “Dief the Chief”? Or in the old “Get Smart” TV show, when the leader of the spy organization was always referred to as chief? Does one normally insult one’s boss?

What does it mean, then, if even a strong compliment is considered insulting if it might, even remotely, imply that you are of aboriginal heritage?

Isn’t this the most extreme racism?

It's a Duck


The latest idea from the professionals in the field of mental illness is that mental illness is the result of abusive treatment. This notion probably first caught their attention because we are seeing a lot of PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder—in the US these days from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the obvious similarity between the symptoms of PTSD and what is usually called depression or anxiety disorder is apparent to the doctors. Moreover, the standard anti-depressants usually work on PTSD.

If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck…

This means that depression, and perhaps mental illness in general, can be assumed to be most often the consequence of a traumatic childhood. A childhood about as frightening as living through a war on the front lines.

Recent studies seem to confirm this insight. A lot of recent studies, it turns out.

The Center for Disease Control, official arm of the US government, takes it as proven.i They note 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.”ii Given the relative inaccuracy of psychiatric diagnosis, the real figure may be 100%. Or it may be 100% if the same group were to be surveyed a few years later. Psychology Today writes, “In almost every case of significant adult depression, some form of abuse was experienced in childhood, either physical, sexual, emotional or, often, a combination.”iii A recent study by Dr. Martin Teicher of Harvard demonstrates that childhood abuse even causes definite and permanent changes in the brain.iv Brain damage, you could say.

The Wikipedia entry for “Depression” accordingly currently gives, 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.”

And it is not just depression. Childhood abuse has also been found to correlate strongly with panic attacks, dissociation, dissociative identity disorder, bipolar disorder (manic depression), schizophrenia, alcoholism, addiction and drug abuse, and eating disorders.v That’s pretty much the entire range of what we call “mental illness”--notably excluding narcissism.

Nor is it just mental illness. 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

At the website Psych Central, Rick Nauert writes, “Historically, the psychological damage resulting from childhood abuse and the effects on physical health have been well documented.”vii

Psychiatry and psychology does not have a great track record. It has led us down the garden path several times before. Wasn’t it only yesterday that the popular consensus seemed to be that mental illness was caused by a “chemical imbalance,” presumably hereditary? And we were on the verge of finding a “gene for schizophrenia”? And not long before that, weren’t the Freudians all telling us it was about an unresolved Oedipus complex?

But this time, at least, modern psychiatry has found itself in synch with not just physical medicine—the brain scans, the links with stress-related physical ailments—but also with the ancient wisdom. The Dymphna legend suggests that many people, not least among the mentally ill themselves, have understood for a millennium or more that child abuse was the cause of mental illness. We may at last be on to something.

Or back on to something. Frustratingly, it looks as if that this was something everyone knew, or many people knew, until Freud showed up.


i“Long Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect,” Child Welfare Information Gateway, July, 2013, p. 5.

iiA. Silverman, H. Reinherz, R. Giaconia, “The Long-Term Sequelae of Child and Adolescent Abuse: A Longitudinal Community Study,” Child Abuse Negl.1996 ; 20 (8): pp. 709–723.

iiiEllen McGrath, “Child Abuse and Depression,” Psychology Today,

ivMaia Salavitz, “How Child Abuse Primes the Brain for Future Mental Illness,” Time magazine, February 15, 2012,


viAnnie Kolodziej, “Does Child Abuse Predict Poor Mental Health?” AllPsych, July 2015,

viiRick Nauert, “Childhood Abuse & Neglect Linked to Adult Health Risks,” Psych Central,

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Too Fat for Me

I need help with this. This article has been spreading online, about a guy who sent his date a “disgraceful” text message. “Her blog post went viral, and people everywhere applauded Michelle for her inspiring words to women everywhere.”

I must be missing something. It seems to me that the guy behaved admirably, was both honest and kind, and the woman’s behaviour is appalling.

The guy praises her to the skies, but says he will not date her again because it would be leading her on. He just cannot become physically attracted by someone of a different body type. This, he explains, quite honestly and truthfully, is not a matter of choice. In order to have sex, a man’s body must cooperate. You cannot will yourself into an erection.

He does not, I note, call her fat, or criticize her physique in any way. No, he makes it entirely his own problem. He says he is attracted by “a slip of a girl.”

What a decent guy.

She soon “put him in his place.” She calls him “sadistic.” His message is “grotesque.” He is “A disgrace to your gender.” “The only possible reason for writing it,” she says, “is to wound me.” She says he “targeted” her. She says her friends want to do him physical harm—that sounds like a threat.

And this has met with widespread public support.

Seriously, what could the poor guy have done to avoid being attacked like this? I guess he could have just never contacted her again.

I’m sure he thought, though, that he was being kind in doing more than this for her. And he probably was. After all, it may be a tough problem, but being overweight is something you can do something about. At worst, he was just too honest. A nice guy mistake.

In any case, it sure looks like he misjudged her. He really dodged a bullet in not getting involved.

It just does not seem to be safe for men to have anything to do with North American or European women any more. You are just setting yourself up for abuse.

Monday, October 09, 2017

The Left Finds Religion

A couple of silly posts are circulating on Facebook at the moment. Leftists are claiming Jesus as one of their own.

This may be a good sign. In recent years the left has had nothing good to say about Jesus. It seems like a defensive move; as though they feel a need either for outreach or to justify themselves. It beats just calling all Christians “deplorable.”

But they sure do get things garbled. Let us assume they do this honestly. I guess such misapprehensions are possible, if you never read the Bible.

Taking the claims one by one:

“Homeless”: yes, Jesus was homeless. But this was a matter of religious observance, like a mendicant Buddhist monk, so it is probably not fairly comparable with the situation of people who are homeless due to poverty. He certainly did make clear, on the other hand, his concern for the poor.

“Palestinian”? This is a worse howler than, say, calling St. Nicholas “Turkish,” or St. Patrick “English.” There was not such place as “Palestine” in Jesus’s time, and the people we currently call “Palestinians”—Palestinian Arabs—were not in the area. Jesus was a Jew who lived in what is now Israel. You want to call Netanyahu a “Palestinian”?

“Anarchist”? Jesus was asked about paying taxes, and said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Showing, at the same time, a coin with Caesar’s face on it. He said “My kingdom is not of this world.” He was not a political figure. He accepted the civil authority of his day as given. There were political radicals, although not anarchists, in Jesus’s place and time—the Zealots. Jesus could have endorsed them, or joined them, if that was what he was about.

“Held protests at oppressive temples”? Jesus did not consider the temple in Jerusalem oppressive. His concern was the opposite, to keep it holy. Nor did he “hold a protest.” This suggests an organized political action.

“Advocated for universal health care”? This is invention. Do they get this from the fact that he went around healing people? Do doctors necessarily endorse, let alone advocate, universal health care?

“Advocated for redistribution of wealth.” I suspect they get this from his advice to a rich young man to give all he had to the poor.

But look at the passage. Jesus does not call for redistribution of wealth here. A rich young man comes to him and asks what he must do to enter heaven. And Jesus says, keep the commandments. That’s what is needed to enter heaven. The young man says he already does that. Is there anything more he can do? Then Jesus says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasures in heaven.”

The passage is clear, then, that nobody is under any moral obligation to give their possessions to the poor. This earns extra merit.

Of course, no such merit is earned if the giving is legally required by government. Although we might very well want to do this. Giving to the poor is a moral act. Voting that everyone should give to the poor is not a moral act. It is as likely to be a way to avoid guilt over your own moral choices.

If leftists indeed want to follow Jesus on this, government does not prevent them from giving all they have to charity.

And conservatives as a group give more to charity than leftists do.

Note Matthew 26:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”

A general redistribution of wealth? Hardly a clear mandate for it here.

“Arrested for terrorism”: this is completely fabricated. Jesus was not arrested for terrorism, was not charged with terrorism, was not executed for terrorism, and there is nothing anywhere in the Bible that hints he engaged in terrorism.

Including this in the evidence that Jesus was a left-wingert and not a right-winger, even at the cost of making it up, tells us something important about the left. They are, here, implicitly saying terrorists are on their side. They support terrorism.

This indeed explains why the left has recently found fierce common cause with “Islam,” even though all the values of Islam run directly counter to leftist beliefs, far more than do those of Christianity, which they despise. The key here has to be that they do not support Islam: they support terrorism. They support Islam only to the extent that they think it leads to terrorism.

Really: think about it. They used to support the IRA for the same reason. It was masked as a concern for the rights of Catholics, but seriously: does the left otherwise support Catholics or Catholicism?

Yeah, Jesus would be entirely down with that: destroying things and killing innocent people.

“Executed for crimes against the state.” Technically true, but according to the Bible this was a bogus charge that even the Roman prefect, Pilate, did not believe.

The next image claims that Jesus was “Everything Conservatives hate.”

“Bleeding heart.” The tone of the post is very old-fashioned, and I guess maybe back in the Sixties “bleeding heart” really was a term that was often used. It is not something you see contemporary conservative saying, so it is not evidence, if true, that contemporary conservatives would have disagreed with Jesus in the first place.

But was Jesus a “bleeding heart”? The Urban dictionary gives the top meaning of “bleeding heart” as “Feeling sorry for everything and everyone and giving in to emotions quickly.” If this is the correct definition, Jesus was clearly not one, and to call him such is necessarily a criticism. He did not feel sorrow for the scribes and the Pharisees. He showed himself to be calm, as in the storm on Galilee, or when seized in Gethsemane, when those about him were emotional. Somebody here is simply imagining Jesus to be as they want him to be.

“Long-haired”: Jesus did indeed, in the traditional depiction, wear his hair long. A reasonable argument can be made that he did not do so in imitation of the hippies of the 1960s. More likely, they wore their hair long in imitation of him. Nor is wearing long hair an indication of left-wing politics. Ever watch “Duck Dynasty”? The left can get upset about people wearing corn rolls, but the right could not care less how you wear your hair.

“Peace-loving”: Jesus was peace-loving, as are most of us, but not a pacifist. He said, for example,

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

Peace a good, but it is not the ultimate value. Nor is it clear, currently, whether the left or the right is more concerned with maintaining the peace. Who, currently, is more inclined to riot? Who is more supportive of the police?

“Anti-establishment”: yes, Jesus was anti-establishment. But let us be clear: what establishment? He said nothing against the civil or political establishment. He said nothing against Roman rule. Jesus refused to condemn publicans or tax collectors. He was opposed to the scribes and Pharisees: the intellectual establishment of his day.

Who is the intellectual establishment of today? Who are the scribes and Pharisees? Most literally, most directly, the media and the academy. Scribes were professional writers, Pharisees were professional teachers. Both groups lean overwhelmingly to the left currently. And are heartily disliked on the right.

“Liberal.” Properly speaking, “liberal” means believing in human rights, civil liberties. Which means, on the whole, small government. I think a good argument can be made that Jesus was indeed liberal in this sense: he carved out a religious sphere independent of the state. But it would be more accurate to say that liberalism is largely founded on his teachings: the equality of man, the separation of church and state. But while Jesus seems plainly liberal, the modern left plainly is not. It is all about big government and group rights.

“Hippie freak”: again, this is a case of the hippies imitating Jesus, not Jesus imitating the hippies. But there is something to this: the hippies were at least in part a spiritual movement, and did appeal to Christian values. Unfortunately, just about everyone sold out except the Jesus Freaks, the Hare Krishnas, and George Harrison. For most of them, the imitation was sadly superficial, and only about appearances and material things. Jesus was not that big on sex, drugs, or rock and roll.

“With strange ideas”: this one is the dead giveaway. Strange to whom? Presumably, to whoever is making the meme.

In other words, they do not actually share Jesus’s views at all. They find them strange.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

What the Bodhisattvas Taught

Guan Yin.

Saint Dymphna, as patronness of the mentally ill, has a colleague in the Far East. And she is not obscure.

Recall that the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, on which all else is based, is that “all existence is dukkha (suffering, ill-being).” This surely is an appeal to the depressed, like Jesus’s Beatitudes. Although Buddhism holds that the depressed see the world as it really is. Everyone else is deluded.

The objective of Mahayana Buddhism, the form of Buddhism practiced in China, Korea, and Japan, is not to become a Buddha. That is an admirable, but a lesser, goal. It is to become a Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva is a soul who has earned all the merit necessary to become an enlightened Buddha, but nevertheless refuses this until they can first, through their merits, bring enlightenment to every other existing soul. This is, morally, a higher achievement; it shows perfect selflessness.

And it is just the sort of goal a depressed person might aspire to.

Walpola Rahula, the eminent Theravada Buddhist scholar and monk, asserts that the Bodhisattva ideal is also the highest goal of the Southern school of Buddhism, found in Sri Lanka and Thailand. He writes, “both the Theravada and the Mahayana unanimously accept the Bodhisattva ideal as the highest” (Rahula, The Bodhisattva Ideal in Buddhism, Buddhist Missionary Society, 1996).

Among named Bodhisattvas honoured by Buddhists, one is preeminent: the being called Guan Yin in China, Kwannon in Japan, Kwanseum in Korea, or Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit.

Who is Guan Yin?

For one thing, she makes good cameras.

Once upon a time she was, like Dymphna, a beautiful princess. In China, even today, when a child is exceptionally pretty, she is compared to Guan Yin: “To say a lady or a little girl is a ‘Kuan Yin’ is the highest compliment that can be paid to grace and loveliness.” Guan Yin, or Miao Shan, as she was known in this earthly life, was also exceptionally moral in her conduct, “naturally kind and gentle.” The gods themselves say, “there is none in the west so noble as this Princess” (Edward Werner, Myths and Legends of China, 1922). And she was born with the distinguishing marks that predicted she would become a Buddha.

Nevertheless—or perhaps because of this; the legend is unclear—her parents despised her. The locus classicus for the basic story is Tsu-hsiu, Lung-hsing fo-chiao pien-nien t'ung-lun, written around 1164 AD.

When Miao Shan/Guan Yin reached adolescence, her father demanded that she marry. This is a reversal of the usual story in the West, in which the king prevents his daughter from meeting any men; but the essential issue is the same. The king will not permit his daughter her own life. He is demanding her desires be sacrificed to his.

He had seized his kingdom by force, and was concerned about the succession. Miao Shan had two older sisters, also lovely, who had already married the kingdom’s top scholar and its top general; but this was not enough for Miao Shan’s father. He wanted a third line with backup heirs in case of need. When she told him she would prefer solitary meditation, as a Buddhist nun, he would not permit it.

To punish his daughter for intransigence, the king banishes her to the green world—to the Queen’s private garden. This is what usually happens to heroines at adolescence. Predictably, however, Miao Shan is content there. So her father banishes her to the Nunnery of the White Bird, with instructions to make her life difficult. “The nuns were intimidated and gave her the heaviest tasks to do--fetching wood and water, working with pestle and mortar, and running the kitchen garden.”

Miao Shan arriving at the Nunnery of the White Bird

Here she undergoes a trial, like Cinderella, or Psyche, or Doralice, or All-Kinds-of-Fur. As with Cinderella and Psyche, the spirit world comes to her aid, and she is able to succeed in all that is demanded.

Enraged, the king sends his army to burn down the nunnery and kill the nuns.

Miao Shan takes responsibility for the trouble she has supposedly brought on them—the abused child unreasonably assuming to herself the guilt of the parents. “It is true,” she says, “I alone am the cause of your destruction” (Edward Werner, Myths and Legends of China, 1922).

She is able, however, by piercing the roof of her mouth with a hairpin and spitting out blood, to bring rain to put out the flames and save the nuns.

So her father has her seized and strangled with a silken cord.

A tiger takes the corpse of Miao Shan away to the pine woods.

A tiger appears and spirits away her corpse to the green world. In the meantime, her spirit, like that of Psyche, descends to the land of the dead. There, all the kings of hell greet her respectfully. She, however, is still self-deprecating.

“Who am I,” asked Miao Shan, “that you should deign to take the trouble to show me such respect?” (Werner)

She is then returned to her body, being too pure for hell, and finds herself alone in the pine forest. Another tiger appears. Miao Shan, as one might expect from someone depressed, is ready to die for assumed guilt:

“‘I am a poor girl devoid of filial piety,’ said Miao Shan when she came up. ‘I have disobeyed my father’s commands; devour me, and make an end of me.’”

The tiger, however, transports her the many miles to the island of Pu-tuo, where, after nine years in meditation, she achieves the merit to become enlightened.

In the meantime, her father falls ill. He is told that only the eyes and hands of another, ground up as a salve, will cure him.

Miao Shan offers hers, both hands and both eyes; and he is cured.

Many may disagree, but for my money, nobody does Kwanseum better than the Koreans.

Although in this case voluntary, here is an image comparable to that of the parent eating the child. The child is sacrificed for the parent’s benefit.

At the same time, it is dramatic proof of selfless love on Miao Shan’s part.

However, the story is not yet over. As in the Western fairy tales, the heroine also has to experience selfless love from another.

Miao Shan’s “Prince Charming” is named Shancai (Shan Ts’ai; Sudhana in Sanskrit), a young crippled orphan who has also sought solitude as a Buddhist monk. He comes to her island retreat—his green world—seeking instruction. Asked to identify himself, he says, as one might expect from a depressed person, “I am a poor orphan priest of no merit.”

Guan Yin/Miao Shan then sets him a test of devotion. She stages a raid by pirates, in which her life appears to be threatened. The pirates chase her to the edge of a cliff, and she jumps off.

Shancai, the supplicant, meets the test. He leaps after her, hoping to save her, proves his true love, and dies. At this moment, Shancai loses his disability, is able to walk, and becomes handsome. Although they do not kiss, both Miao Shan and Shancai dissolve in tears. The curse, or the mental illness, is lifted. They meditate happily ever after.

Shancai is often shown in iconography as a small child cradled by Guan Yin: she is seen, apparently on the basis of this legend, as the protector, especially, of small children.

Guan Yin with Shancai

Miao Shan thus became Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of infinite compassion, who listens for the cries of the suffering, and will extend a hand to help. Through her merits, her two sisters also became Bodhisattvas, Samantabadhra and Manjusri.

There are other traditions of Guan Yin. In one, the son of the dragon king, disguised as a carp, is caught by fishermen. The fish, being magical, does not die when it is brought ashore and to market. This causes a great deal of interest: people offer huge sums for this immortal fish, because they assume that by eating it they can obtain eternal life. Guan Yin sends Shancai to buy the fish instead, in order to set it free.

He cannot match the sums being offered. Nevertheless, Guan Yin herself intervenes by declaring from aloft in a loud voice that “a life belongs to the one who wants to save it, not to take it.” Which settles the matter—and offers a parable of the good parent and true love similar to the story of Solomon’s judgement in the Bible.

Together, Guan Yin and her sisters Manjusri and Samantabadhra, whose merit is a reflection of hers, are three of best-known Bodhisattvas. The fourth is Ksitigarbha (Sanskrit) / Dizang or Ti Tsang (Chinese) / Chi jiang (Korean) / Jizo (Japanese). He too was once a mortal woman, a Brahmin child in India named Sacred Girl. He is usually, unlike Guan Yin, portrayed as male. But souls are neither male nor female, and are only arbitrarily portrayed as one or the other, depending on the legends of their incarnations.

Sacred Girl’s mother, according to the sutras, was a great sinner. Perhaps her sins included abuse of her child; this is not said. She then died and went straight to hell. Sacred Girl, however, did great penances, ultimately descended herself, like Psyche and Guan Yin, into hell, and, by her own merits, rescued her mother (M. W. De Visser, The Bodhisattva Ti Tsang [Jizo] in China and Japan, Berlin, 1914, pp. 9-10).

She then vowed to do the same for all comers; everyone in hell. Interestingly, however—and this hints at some unspoken back-story—she/he is appealed to especially to protect children who have died.

According to Japanese tradition, children who die are confronted on a beach in the underworld by a malicious female demon, who requires them to pile up stones before they are allowed to move on to the next life. Demons then come and knock down the stone towers, requiring them to do it all over again, eternally. “Devils strike those stüpas with iron sticks. Then the boys slowly go back again and pile the pebbles up, but the devils reappear and again destroy the stüpas, so that the work is never finished” (de Visser, p. 119). Jizo, however, descends and allows them to escape this.

Might this be an image of mental illness? Is “death” here a metaphor for a spiritual death? It sounds like the trials of tidiness faced by heroines in fairy tales.

Indeed, Ksitigarbha / Jizo is said to help not only those in hell, but “those who are troubled by spirits and nightmares.”

There are other legends, specifically of Jizo helping abused children. The tale is told in Kochima, for example, of a boy whose mother died, and whose stepmother despised him. While his father was absent, she seized him and threw him in the cooking pot to boil him for soup.

In the meantime, the father, travelling along a road, encountered an old monk with a little boy on his back. It was, he realized, his own son! The monk handed him the boy, telling him to put him in another’s care, because his mother wanted to kill him.

The father rushed home, pulled off the lid of the cooking pot, and saw the family’s statue of Ksitigarbha, boiling away. Ksitigarbha had offered himself in place of the child; and had then appeared to him as the old monk on the road (de Visser, p. 134).

In another tale, from the Kwösekishü, a 17th century compilation, a cruel and abusive stepmother requires her son to put an offering of rice in the hands of the family statue of Jizo / Ksitigarbha. She knows he is too small to reach the statue’s hands, but will not feed him until he does. This is a typical bit of gaslighting: making the child take the blame for the cruelty committed by the parent.

The statue, however, comes alive, reaches down, and takes the rice.

The child returns, saying he has accomplished the mission. The mother beats him for lying.

This is an illustration of a typical “double-bind,” to use R.D. Laing’s term: whatever the abused child does, must have been the wrong thing.

But after the child begs her to go and look for herself, she sees that the statue is indeed holding the rice. Not only that: there are grains sticking near his mouth indicating he has eaten some.

She is shocked by this out of treating the boy so badly (de Visser, p. 169).

In Japan today, women who have had abortions will buy baby clothing, toys and candies, and present them to a statue of Jizo as a penitential offering.

Jizo wearing knit offerings.

More obscure, but still known from India to Japan, is the figure of Hariti, considered a goddess by both Hindus and Buddhists. She was originally a rakshini, a demon or evil spirit, who had 500 children, and ate all of them but the last. The Buddha himself rescued her last child by hiding him under his alms bowl, then converted her, and she became instead a protectoress of children (Alice Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, Oxford, 1914, p. 75).


Surely this is evidence enough that the issue of child abuse is a traditional concern in the East as well as in the West; and is understood in essentially the same terms. An abused or neglected childhood causes depression, which causes a need for solitude. The depression is cured by trials of virtue and then by expressions of selfless love. The selfless love, which in the West comes from Jesus, can come here instead from Guan Yin or Ksitigarbha.