Playing the Indian Card

Friday, March 30, 2018

Pope Francis Abolishes Hell?

War in Heaven: Bosch
Pope Francis has gone and created another flurry of confusion with another off-the-cuff interview. This time he has been paraphrased as denying the existence of Hell.

The Vatican has issued a “correction,” but it is itself oddly ambiguous. It simply points out that the interview was not recorded, and the Pope’s words were not quoted verbatum. Therefore, it cannot be taken as an accurate transcript. This leaves open the possibility that, yes, the pope really did deny the existence of Hell. Indeed, if he did not, you would expect a clearer denial.

Above all else, we need clarity on such matters.

I understand very well that many people do not want to accept the reality of Hell. I was one of them, when I was younger. It is terrifying to contemplate, in the first place. It seems to violate the concept of divine mercy. And why would God create souls only for eternal torture?

But the issue, obvious as it is, came up early in the Church, and was debated and decided, and closed. Origen, the great Church Father, wanted to propose a doctrine of universal salvation: sooner or later, if after an era in purgatory, or perhaps several lifetimes on earth, each soul would eventually find its way to the divine glory. But despite the attractiveness of this proposition, and despite Origen’s considerable personal prestige, he lost the argument and was declared heretical on this point. As Francis would be, if he really said this. There is apparently no wiggle room here.

Like it or lump it, the matter is painfully unambiguous in the Bible. Jesus does not say that all people are basically good, but some become stray lambs. He divides people systematically into good and bad, sheep and goats.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.” (Matthew 25-31).

Again, at the beginning of John’s gospel:

“Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

That seems like a pretty clear division. We all sin, no doubt, but some of us are dedicated followers of evil. Some are children of darkness, and some are children of light.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbour as ourself. But then, when asked, “who is our neighbour?” he does not say “everyone.” He tells the story of the Good Samaritan. Our neighbour is the one who does good; and others in the tale are contrasted; they are not our neighbour. They do not stop to help the injured man.

And how many people would, in real life, have done what the Samaritan did? How many, finding a stranger bleeding in a ditch, would put him up at an inn or in hospital at his own expense? Would it be most people? Probably only a minority, actually. In the parable, it is only one of four, or fewer. There was, after all, at least one robber; then both a priest and a Levite pass by without helping.

Awkwardly, the Bible says this plainly as well:

Matthew 7:14:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
So we apparently cannot even use the old dodge that “there may be a Hell, but we cannot know if anyone is actually in there.”

Faust and Mephistopheles.

The Beatitudes are often quoted: “Blessed are the poor.” It is usually overlooked that they are paralleled by a list of condemnations:

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

There it is again. There are two kinds of people: the good and the bad. Those who listen to the shepherd, as it were, and those who follow their own wants.

There seems to be a class of people to whom Jesus does not even offer salvation.

Matthew 3: 7:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”
Jesus and John the Baptist don’t appear to hold back much in describing the scribes and Pharisees as evil in so many words. They are called “full of hypocrisy and wickedness,” and asked “How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Jesus blames them for “All the righteous blood that has been shed on earth,” and tells them “you do not enter the kingdom of heaven.” They are introduced as “children of hell” (Matthew 23:13).

Matthew 13: 10-15:

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: 
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”
Given that God is indeed infinite in his mercy, this must mean that some people have taken a basic position that they are never going to repent, no matter what. If so, Hell is necessary as a matter of divine justice. There is no point in making it temporary and corrective.

It is troubling, but nothing is gained by whistling past the graveyard. As St. Paul said, we must “work out our salvation in fear and trembling.”

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I'm Not Sorry

Re-enactment of events from the Chilcotin conflict. BC Archives.

In indigenous news today, Justin Trudeau has just apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the hanging of six Tsilhqot'in on the charge of murder in 1864. And Pope Francis has refused to apologize for the Catholic involvement in the aboriginal residential schools.

Pope Francis is right. Trudeau is wrong.

To begin with, notice that the incident for which Trudeau has just apologized took place in British Columbia in 1864—when Canada had not been formed and BC was an independent colony under the UK. Canada had nothing to do with it. And the BC government has already apologized.

But then, the BC government should probably not have apologized. The six Tsilhqot'in had killed fourteen men in cold blood. They were given a jury trial, following all the proper legal procedures, given full benefit of the law, as they say, and the jury found them guilty.

Their defense, then and now, was that this was not murder, but an act of war.

But if so, given that the attacks were surprise attacks on unarmed civilians, without hostilities having been declared, they plainly were war crimes, for which capital punishment was still the accepted remedy.

One might counter that such surprise attacks on civilians without a declaration of war were accepted practice in Indian warfare. Very well, if you wish to appeal to Indian rules of war, it is still entirely correct to have hanged the lot of them once captured, with or without torture.

From the point of view of any government of the time, their prime duty was to protect their citizens—all citizens—from being slaughtered in their beds. Whether the Indians considered this war is not relevant in this equation. There had to be stern action to prevent others from lightly doing likewise. To have extended clemency and then negotiated some deal with the killers in response to the massacre would have been to extend license for general slaughter.

So what exactly needs an apology from anyone? That something might have been done by the colonial authorities of the day to improve communication or understanding between the Tsilhqot'in and the whites before matters reached this point? Perhaps; such conflicts were mostly avoided elsewhere in what became Canada by the treaty-making process, which was not pursued in BC. That seems a mistake. 

Expeditionary party sent by the BC government to arrest the killers.

But that also seems to place a disproportionate moral burden on the whites. It is like blaming the US for Pearl Harbor, because they had not done enough beforehand to ensure good relations with Japan… It is, in the end, a colonialist attitude, making the Tsilhqot'in not responsible for their own decisions.

Were the Tsilhqot'in defending their land against trespassers? Were the whites the aggressors in this sense? That seems to be a modern reinterpretation. At the time, the Indians said they feared the white men bringing disease.

As to the papal non-apology, Father De Souza pointed out in the National Post when the present demand was made, by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that Benedict XVI had already formally apologized for the Catholic involvement in the residential schools, to a Canadian Indian delegation to Rome, in 2009. This apology was not even mentioned in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

In other words, the Catholic Church has apologized, and the TRC has refused to recognize the apology. In these circumstances, what would another apology accomplish?

But then again, as with the Chilcotin Massacre, it seems to me that the Catholic Church has nothing to apologize for. The TRC accuses them of “spiritual violence.” This is a nonsense concept. The church deserves credit, instead, for being almost the only people interested in educating Indians for centuries, and the only people interested in preserving the Indian culture.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Jordan Peterson and the Culture Hero

Jordan Peterson’s basic premise as a psychologist seems to be that life is a struggle between order and chaos: the subtitle of his recent book is “An Antidote to Chaos.” “Peterson’s big, unifying idea is that chaos and order, along with the processes that mediate the two, are the ‘primal constituents’ of ‘the world of experience’” (Dan Blazer, American Journal of Psychiatry).

This does not ring true to me.

Properly speaking, there is no such thing as chaos. Where man is not, God is. Any randomness is only apparent.

Accordingly, the struggle against chaos cannot be the core concern in life. Rather, in struggling against “chaos,” we may only be trying to impose our own will in preference to that of God.

And here again I find in Peterson disturbing echoes of Fascism. This would be Hitler’s “triumph of the will.”

Nor is there, in principle, any moral reason to prefer “order” over “chaos.” Why? Because it is tidier?

Peterson undoubtedly gets this, or finds this, idea of order versus chaos in a common creation myth, found in many parts of the Middle East, of a struggle between a sky god and a primordial monster. This has commonly been interpreted as a struggle between form (the sky god) and matter (the monster), or spirit and matter, or order and chaos. Certainly a plausible interpretation; but there is no room for such a motif in monotheism. God creates the universe not by imposing some form on preexisting matter—for then, where did matter come from?--but “ex nihilo,” out of nothing, form and matter together. “Chaos,” in the Judeo-Christian context, is simply non- being, the void.

According to a piece in the Financial Times, Peterson goes on to identify “chaos” with “the eternal feminine.” A smaller point, but this too is surely wrong. It is nonsensical. To impose one sex or the other on chaos is a contradiction in terms: it then has some order, a distinguishing feature, and so is not chaos.

The idea that there is a cosmic battle between spirit and matter (i.e., order and chaos) is an ancient Christian heresy. It is, to be more specific, Gnosticism. The Gnostics held that the material world was depraved, and the goal was for spirit to overcome it. Monotheists, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, hold that, because God created matter as well as form, matter too must be good, and is not to be vanquished or destroyed. Hence the resurrection of the body and the perfected new earth at the end of time.

For a Christian, the cosmic dragon battle, that between St. Michael and Lucifer, is not between order and chaos, but between good and evil.

A cosmic battle between order and chaos is a waste of a perfectly good universe.

And it seems to me the only reason anyone would embrace the concept would be as an excuse to do evil.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Editing Cohen

For all his mastery and for all his craftsmanship, Leonard Cohen does from time to time very oddly put a word wrong. Here are two examples:

Go By Brooks

Go by brooks, love
Where fish stare,
Go by brooks,
I will pass there.

Go by rivers,
Where eels throng,
Rivers, love,
I won’t be long.

Go by oceans,
Where whales sail,
Oceans, love,
I will not fail.

A line like “Where fish stare” is what is so great about Cohen. But “Where whales sail” is just not right. Whales do not sail; the image is cartoonish. Aside from that, it lacks the emotional pull of “stare” or “throng.” And easily fixed: “Where whales wail.” Preserves the rhyme, massive alliteration, whales really do wail, and it is emotionally evocative.

Dance Me to the End of Love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love 
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love 
Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love 
Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love 
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love.

This is a minor tour de force, because there are not many rhymes for “love” in English. That is one of the great things about lyrics. They force the poet to use rhyme. Rhyme is sadly out of fashion in modern poetry, and it is of great value for several reasons. One is that it forces craftsmanship; it is a great challenge to take an almost inevitable rhyme and keep it from looking forced.

Cohen pulls it off here. Including a truly magnificent line using the rhyme, “Show me slowly what I only know the limits of.” In fact, the problem is not with any of the rhymes. It is with that phrase “homeward dove.” You know what he means, but that is not the right adjective. And a better one seems easily at hand: “homing dove.” As in homing pigeon. Why not?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Best Canadian Lyricists

It has been said, and it is true, that the best Canadian lyricists are the best lyricists in the language. It seems to be a peculiarly Canadian art form. The one great name that we anomalously miss up north is Nobel laureate Bob Dylan. But perhaps his talent springs from a similar source. He grew up on Minnesota’s Iron Range. The wind, it sure blows cold way up there. Those long cold winters may foster the meditative state needed for poetry.

Leonard Cohen

The best new poet to emerge in English since Dylan Thomas and his body of work is more important. He is and will be remembered as Canada’s national poet. He sometimes gets a word wrong, but everything is polished like diamonds. In this, he differs from Dylan. A large proportion of what Dylan does is drek, although when he is good he seems to open doors on entire spiritual worlds. Cohen is consistent quality. That being so, it is hard to choose a sample. Everything is magnificent. One of his greatest talents is simplicity. He can say more in fewer words than anyone this side of Li Bai.

The sea so deep and blind
The sun, the wild regret
The club, the wheel, the mind,
O love, aren't you tired yet?

Joni Mitchell

She is, along with Cohen, one of the very few lyricists anywhere ever whose lyrics can stand alone as great poetry without the music. Leonard Cohen demonstrates by reciting “Jungle Line” as a poem in the clip shown. It is actually better without the music, which is a bit grating and conceals some of the words. Not that she isn’t great at the music as well—and at visual art. Graham Nash remarked that living with her was like living with Beethoven. She is a force of nature. I imagine she finds it difficult living in the world, because it really is all so beneath her.

Stan Rogers

His contribution was cut sadly short by a plane crash. But he was great at simple folk lyrics.

But I told that kid a hundred times "Don't take the Lakes for granted.
They go from calm to a hundred knots so fast they seem enchanted. "
And tonight some red-eyed Wiarton girl lies staring at the wall
And her lover’s gone into a white squall.

Ian Tyson

Everybody knows “Four Strong Winds.” But he has written gems almost past counting, almost always worth many listenings: “Four Rode By.” Magnificent understatement in “Irving Berlin is a Hundred Years Old Today.” “Summer Wages.” Like Rogers, he seems to capture real life.

In all the beer parlors
All down along Main Street
The dreams of the season
Are spilled down on the floor
All the big stands of timber
Wait there just for falling
The hookers standing watchfully
Waiting by the door…

Gordon Lightfoot

Lightfoot sometimes came up with lyrics that were painfully bad. It is hard to forgive

“John loves Mary; does anyone love me?”

But when he was paying attention, he was the best.

If I could read your mind love
What a tale your thoughts could tell
Just like a paperback novel
The kind the drugstore sells
When you reach the part where the heartaches come
The hero would be me
But heroes often fail
And you won't read that book again
Because the ending's just to hard to take.

Neil Young

Young gives the impression of stream of consciousness writing, with a lot of heart laid bare. No craftsmanship, but it works. Like a wolf in the night howling at the moon.

There is a town in North Ontario
Dream comfort memory to spare
And in my mind I still need a place to go
All my changes were there.

Robbie Robertson

Lyricist for The Band. Pretty good at narrative and atmosphere. He would be appreciated more in Canada if the atmosphere he evokes were not so classically American rather than Canadian.

I picked up my bags, I went looking for a place to hide
When I saw old Carmen and the Devil, walking side by side
I said, "Hey, Carmen, c'mon, let's go downtown"
She said, "I gotta go, but my friend can stick around"
“Somewhere Down This Crazy River” is pure beat poetry:
I followed the sound of a jukebox coming from up the levee
All of a sudden, I could hear somebody whistling from right behind me
I turned around, and she said
"Why do you always end up down at Nick's Cafe?"
I said, "Uh, I don't know, the wind just kinda pushed me this way"
She said, "Hang the rich"

Buffy Ste. Marie
She can do anything. What comes across to me most strongly is her amazing sense of taste, of “just right.” Rarely any kind of misstep. Her voice is like that too.

Guess who I saw in Paris
Standing in the street with his thumbs hooked in his belt
Standing with his thumbs hooked in his belt
Standing in the street with his thumbs hooked in his belt
Looking all of seventeen

Guess who invited him up to her room
Guess who made him some tea
Guess who got spaced with him, played his guitar
Guess who fell asleep on his arm.
Stompin’ Tom Connors

His muse is the comic muse, which generally does not get the respect that more solemn muses get. But comedy too knows truth. And it is an essentially Canadian genre, stretching from Thomas Chandler Haliburton through Leacock and Robert W. Service to Michael Myers, Lorne Michaels, and the lot. Lots of funny, clever rhymes.

Not PC, but one of his earliest songs is still one of his most memorable:

She came a long, long way from Frobisher Bay
People, don’cha know now what I mean
She had the boys all cryin' on the Distant Early Warning Line
Old Muk-Tuk Annie could really make the scene.

And one of the most famous rhymes in Canadian history:
The girls are out to Bingo and the boys are gettin' stinko,
And we think no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday night.

Gord Downie

Meh. So I’m told. I’ve mostly missed the Tragically Hip phenomenon, being out of the country for most of it. Tragically Hip is unknown outside of Canada. I have not seen lyrics of his that I like that much, but I am a tyro here.

There are other great Canadian lyricists: too many, actually, to mention. You have to love “Superman’s Song,” for example, or some of the lyrics to Rita McNeil’s “Working Man.

And there are other great Canadian songwriters. Randy Bachmann, for example, with and without Burton Cummings, or Bryan Adams. But these guys are more in the Tin Pan Alley mold: they can crank out great pop songs with great hooks, well-composed confections. But not poetry, as lyrics, and more craft than art. You do not feel them in your gut. And some of Cummings’ lyrics are unforgivably awful: “Talisman, grace my hand.” “American Woman.”

It is also worth noting that Canadian lyrical excellence extends also to the French. Robert Charlebois and Gilles Villeneuve belong in the same rank as our English examples.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Case for Colonialism

Former Queen’s prof (now at Portland State) Dr. Bruce Gilley has been summarily removed from Queens’ Centre for International and Defense Policy for publishing a paper titled “The Case for Colonialism.” Apparently arguing that colonialism can be moral in some circumstances is now intolerable.

But of course it can, or at least a reasonable argument can be made. Kosovo, for example, was a colonialist intervention. Bosnia was. Such interventions to prevent human rights abuses are not rare in the annals of European 19th century colonialism. More often than we are told, the intervention of the European power was largely humanitarian in intent. It was a matter of peacekeeping, or of preventing a holocaust.

Even when this is not the case, much colonialism can be compared to the sound corporate policy, when a business is not doing well, of bringing in new management from outside. It works in business; it works as well in government.

Of course, at the time that Europe was colonizing the rest of the world, European culture was also significantly more technologically advanced than any of its colonies. The colonial authority introduced this new technology, improving living standards: railroads were laid, canals dug, new industries developed, schools and hospitals founded. Sure, European firms profited in building and managing these things; but so did the local inhabitants.

The case against colonialism is that it infantilizes people; makes the colonized dependent and strips them of initiative. And this is an important issue.

But really—the idea that different ethnicities should be sovereign and govern themselves is a new idea, dating from about 1917 or so and Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Before that, everywhere, colonization was the universal norm. It is, moreover, arguably racist to insist that there is something wrong with it—that government ought always to be on the basis of race or ethnicity. And this position that governments must be ethnically-based is disastrous for minorities everywhere.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Moral Abuse in King Lear

Lear's three daughters. Pope.

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Cordelia is obviously exceptionally honest. She refuses to exaggerate her love for her father. She could, after all, have lied, as her sisters did. She could almost have said “Me too”; this is about what Regan does. She could have come up with the words; if necessary, they were provided for her.

Moreover, the fact that Lear has already divided up the kingdom without allowing for her share suggests that her honesty was a well-known part of her character. He could predict that she would not flatter.

Cordelia here is faced with a moral dilemma. Granted that any answer was intended to prevent her marriage, had she flattered, she would have been single, but queen of one third of Britain. Honesty was likely to cost her both husband and livelihood.

The same pre-existent passion for honesty is characteristic of Edgar, also abused in the play. Edmund testifies to it:

“… and a brother noble,
Whose nature is so far from doing harms
That he suspects none: on whose foolish) honesty
My practises ride easy.” (Act 1, Scene 2)
Given that King Lear is a study of mental illness, this test of honesty seems important. Yet the issue of honesty seems invisible to psychiatry and psychology. Ferenczi, it is true, saw it; but Freud, by contrast, and with him the psychoanalytic establishment, essentially viewed all neurotics as liars. 

Lear's rage. Brown

Shakespeare, on the other hand, features this moral trial as his first act, from which all else follows—broadly, all mental illness. Lear has deliberately set up a test of Cordelia’s truthfulness, so that she must suffer for it.

Why is such a trial of virtue a critical element in our story?

View things from the perspective of a narcissist. Everyone seems to agree that Lear is a narcissist: that is why he wants lavish praise from his daughters. But calling people “narcissists” is really a euphemism. What that really means is that they are immoral. A narcissist wants to follow his own desires, as opposed to moral duty. Eve was a narcissist in taking the apple, on the promise that she would “become as God.” Lucifer was a narcissist in choosing himself over God. Morality is an impediment to doing whatever you want. Morality, therefore, is the great enemy. That is the essence of being a narcissist.

Such a person cannot tolerate an exceptional child, because a child with special gifts may draw attention from himself or herself. But he also cannot, above all, tolerate an exceptionally moral child. First, a moral child stands as an implicit condemnation of himself, a silent testimony to his guilt. Second, a moral child is likely sooner or later to notice and object to his behavior. Third, a moral child will never totally submit to his will. They follow, in the end, another master, and this is subversive to the narcissist’s desires. There can in the end be only one centre of the universe.

Accordingly, any narcissistic parent will probably feel impelled, before all else, to lead all their children into moral temptation. They will then bully and cajole them to choose the wrong.

The Adult Children of Alcoholics / Dysfunctional Families literature says that dysfunctional families almost always assign children to one of two groups: either “golden children” who can do no wrong, or “black sheep” (better, “scapegoats”) who can do no right.

It is easy to see how this comes about. Shakespeare demonstrates. Each child of the narcissist is whenever possible placed in a moral dilemma, as Cordelia, Regan, and Goneril are; or as Dymphna is in the legend of that saint. If they submit and choose the moral wrong, as their parent demands, they are rewarded and may become the “golden children.” If they insist on acting morally, they may become the scapegoat. And a moral is presented here for the benefit of the whole family: good is evil, and evil is good. 

Cordelia's trial. Gilbert

This is not sufficient to determine which child is designated as “golden” and which as scapegoat; for this almost always happens long before the children reach the age of reason, and are responsible for their own acts. Rather, the designation of some children as one or the other is itself set up to morally subvert the children. Both golden child and scapegoat are learning that rewards have nothing to do with morals or justice: the pampered child is rewarded no matter what they do, and the abused child is punished no matter what they do. Ethics are thus shown to be of no practical significance.

But then, at about adolescence, or about the age of reason, it may well be that such a trial is often set. And as a result, positions might even be reversed. We see just this with Cordelia, heretofore supposedly favoured. Hence perhaps too the motif, as in the Dymphna legend—Freudians sometimes say it is a subtext here in Lear as well—of attempting to “seduce” the child into an incestuous marriage at adolescence. This perhaps stands as an image for seduction into shared guilt generally.

Accordingly, moral abuse is perhaps the key and most important form of child abuse. Other forms of child abuse can often be its expression; and it is the one form of abuse experienced by both “golden children,” pampered favourites, and “scapegoats,” the more conventionally abused.

This arguably most important form of abuse, is almost inevitably overlooked by conventional psychiatry and psychology, because they avoid all reference to morality. How crucial is that, should the essential issue in all mental illness turn out to be a moral one?

And how important is moral abuse in the broader scheme of things? Apparently, among the worst of sins. According to Christianity, according to Jesus in the Gospels:

“If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42, NIV).

If you believe in eternity, this stands to reason. It is leading another to hell—eternal damnation. That is a far more important consideration than mental illness. Depression might not be so much an illness as a war wound, to be worn with honour. It shows a conscience that survived this onslaught.

Shakespeare also shows, in his play, that narcissistic parents are ultimately foolish to corrupt their children in this way—even if they are thoroughgoing materialists concerned only with their own self-interest. Once a child is stripped of any morals, after all, as are Goneril and Regan, what will guide their actions? It is unlikely to be absolute obedience to the desires of their parent. It is far more likely that they will replace their conscience, just as the parent has, with their own ego and their own desires. Thieves can never rely upon honour among thieves.

It is, accordingly, in the play, Cordelia and Edgar, the moral but abused children, who stand firm in defense of their abusive parent. Cordelia cares more for her father than for herself:

“For thee, oppressed king, am I cast down;
Myself could else out-frown false fortune’s frown.” (Act 5, Scene 3).
She goes to war in his behalf. Edgar, put in a position where he might take any revenge he likes on the father who wanted to kill him, instead does everything he can in his father’s interest, battling Oswald to the death in his defense. 

Act 1. Scene 1. Abbey

At the same time the play makes clear with Lear and Gloucester that an honest conscience can be a consequence as much as a cause of being abused. The experience of being abused naturally makes you more sensitive and sympathetic to the sufferings of others. If love, as Jesus attests, is the root of morality, this will make you moral.

It all comes close to justifying the existence of evil in the universe.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Dollard des Ormeaux

One of the great Canadian hero tales is how young Adam Dollard des Ormeaux and 21 Canadiens held out for five days without food or supplies against a force of 700 Iroquois warriors at Long Sault.

Many will hasten to point out that there were also 40 Huron and a few Algonquins in the battle. But their role is ambiguous. They started the fight on the side of the French, but apparently most deserted to the Iroquois during the battle, leaving the Canadiens almost entirely on their own. Dollard and all his men were killed in the battle.

Some question the sense of Dollard in venturing up the Ottawa for battle in the first place. It looks like a suicide mission. Nevertheless, his expedition had the official approval of Governor Chomedey, so it was not a case of some brash young officer going off half-cocked. The strategic goal seems to have been to prevent two separate groups of Iroquois from joining forces for an attack on Montreal. Some too say Dollard had no idea that the opposing force would be so large.

If the intent was to forestall an attack on Montreal, it worked. The two Iroquois parties did join up, at Long Sault, but the punishment they took from Dollard and his little band was apparently enough that the attack on Montreal was called off. So some Iroquois themselves later testified.

And no, this was not some colonizer attacking a local indigenous population. The Iroquois were a war party invading from their home south of Lake Ontario in New York State.

It was the summer of 1660.

At the Long Sault
Under the day-long sun there is life and mirth  In the working earth, And the wonderful moon shines bright  Through the soft spring night,  The innocent flowers in the limitless woods are springing  Far and away  With the sound and the perfume of May,  And ever up from the south the happy birds are winging, The waters glitter and leap and play  While the grey hawk soars. 
But far in an open glade of the forest set  Where the rapid plunges and roars,  Is a ruined fort with a name that men forget,-- A shelterless pen  With its broken palisade,  Behind it, musket in hand,  Beyond message or aid  In this savage heart of the wild,  Mere youngsters, grown in a moment to men,  Grim and alert and arrayed,  The comrades of Daulac stand.  Ever before them, night and day,  The rush and skulk and cry  Of foes, not men but devils, panting for prey; Behind them the sleepless dream Of the little frail-walled town, far away by the plunging stream, Of maiden and matron and child,  With ruin and murder impending, and none but they  To beat back the gathering horror  Deal death while they may,  And then die. 
Day and night they have watched while the little plain  Grew dark with the rush of the foe, but their host  Broke ever and melted away, with no boast  But to number their slain;  And now as the days renew  Hunger and thirst and care  Were they never so stout, so true,  Press at their hearts; but none  Falters or shrinks or utters a coward word,  Though each setting sun  Brings from the pitiless wild new hands to the Iroquois horde,  And only to them despair. 
Silent, white-faced, again and again  Charged and hemmed round by furious hands,  Each for a moment faces them all and stands  In his little desperate ring; like a tired bull moose  Whom scores of sleepless wolves, a ravening pack,  Have chased all night, all day  Through the snow-laden woods, like famine let loose;  And he turns at last in his track  Against a wall of rock and stands at bay;  Round him with terrible sinews and teeth of steel  They charge and recharge; but with many a furious plunge and wheel,  Hither and thither over the trampled snow,  He tosses them bleeding and torn;  Till, driven, and ever to and fro  Harried, wounded, and weary grown,  His mighty strength gives way  And all together they fasten upon him and drag him down. 
So Daulac turned him anew With a ringing cry to his men In the little raging forest glen, And his terrible sword in the twilight whistled and slew. And all his comrades stood With their backs to the pales, and fought Till their strength was done; The thews that were only mortal flagged and broke Each struck his last wild stroke, And they fell one by one, And the world that had seemed so good Passed like a dream and was naught. 
And then the great night came With the triumph-songs of the foe and the flame Of the camp-fires. Out of the dark the soft wind woke, The song of the rapid rose alway And came to the spot where the comrades lay, Beyond help or care, With none but the red men round them To gnash their teeth and stare. 
All night by the foot of the mountain The little town lieth at rest, The sentries are peacefully pacing; And neither from East nor from West 
Is there rumour of death or of danger; None dreameth tonight in his bed That ruin was near and the heroes That met it and stemmed it are dead. 
But afar in the ring of the forest, Where the air is so tender with May And the waters are wild in the moonlight, They lie in their silence of clay. 
The numberless stars out of heaven Look down with a pitiful glance; And the lilies asleep in the forest Are closed like the lilies of France. 

-- Archibald Lampman

Sunday, March 18, 2018

About Those US Steel Tariffs

I am and have always been a liberal, in the true sense of the word. I believe in free trade. It is the issue on which I parted company with the Canadian Liberal Party, which shockingly came out against it in the 1980s. Violating their oldest principles.

On this issue, free trade, Donald Trump, with his protectionist talk, is not my man.

However, I see the logic in his recent imposition of stiff tariffs on imported aluminium and steel.

A lot of people are missing the point. This is not about trade or protectionism.

This is about national defense.

Suppose there is a long general war. Without ready supplies of steel and aluminium for munitions, any nation will soon be dead in the water.

Accordingly, it is only prudent for the US to sustain, artificially if necessary, a healthy steel and aluminium industry.

It is not just the issue of possibly being at war with your supplier. It is also the issue of having to transport supplies across vast oceans, vulnerable to disruption at sea.

Accordingly, it also makes sense that Trump has exempted Canada and Mexico from these tariffs. Land transportation is much more reliable, and it is hard to conceive of either being a future enemy. Even if they were, the US could probably overrun them before supplies of materiel even became an issue. 

Playing the Indian Card

My book Playing the Indian Card is now officially published, and available in ebook formats at the ridiculously low price of $4.99 US. Unfortunately, the publication of the paper version is still delayed by red tape with the US tax dudes.

Click on the links at top or left to buy your copy!

You will be amazed when you read the real story of Canada's "First Nations." It is not at all as we have been told.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Case for Kings

A friend in Japan wants to launch a letter writing campaign to urge the Japanese government to let in more Syrian refugees.

I think that is a bad idea, and have told him so. The Syrian civil war will one day end, and those who are refugees now will want to return home. And they should return home. Their country will need them to rebuild. Syrian Christians, Yazidis, Jews, and Kurds have a case to be taken in as permanent refugees; but not other Syrians.

Granted that there is a refugee problem in Syria right now. But the best thing is to keep the refugees as close as possible to their homes. Moving them halfway around the world complicates things.

If foreign governments want to help, right now, they can help fund the refugee settlements in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. My friend says there are too many people there to be supportable. I say there is no such thing as “too many people.” There are a heck of a lot of people living in downtown Tokyo, and they make out okay.

But the best help would be to go in with guns blazing, as part of an international force, and end the war. Then everyone could return home.

Understandably, everyone is trigger shy. Everyone always thinks of the last war. After Rwanda, the international community decided the best thing was to move in militarily to end local bloodbaths. That worked in Bosnia and Kosovo. Then it did not work in Iraq and Afghanistan. So everyone became afraid of “regime change.” But then, just going in and taking out the dictator failed to work in Libya.

So now the international community does not dare to do anything. And we are back to the situation of Rwanda.

Worse, the vacuum has enticed smaller powers to get involved on their own behalf, none of them strong enough to end the conflict, but each able to make it worse: Russia, Turkey, Iran.

We need the UN to go in; or, if the UN is too divided to do it, we need a coalition of NATO, basically representing the world’s democracies, and the Arab League. Failing that, NATO alone.

Easy enough for them to end the war. But, my friend counters, what chaos may ensue? How to avoid another Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya?

The US’s error there, I believe, was naive belief in democracy. By its nature, democracy cannot be imposed. The objective should simply be to establish a stable government, able to reestablish order. And it might have fairly simply been done, in Iraq, by reestablishing the Iraqi monarchy. There was even an available candidate, the uncle of the present ruler of Jordan. He was in the royal line.

The same might be done, if a little less easily, for Syria. It has been done many times before, for many other countries: choose a member of a cadet branch of some other nation’s monarchy, and establish a new royal line.

Look around, at the rest of the Arab world. Who in MENA has good and stable government? The monarchies, all the monarchies, and only the monarchies: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Oman, Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait. Republics are always disasters. Even Afghanistan, otherwise seemingly ungovernable, ticked away reasonably well for many years so long as it had a monarchy.

For reasons of historical prejudice, the US cannot accept monarchy. But it is the best government available in many cases, when a full democracy is not available, is perfectly compatible with democracy, and is he best government to segue peacefully into a full democracy. Working democracy usually requires an independent, prosperous middle class, and that requires a certain level of economic development.

There are fairly simple reasons for monarchy being successful. Firstly, because the nation is seen as a family possession, corruption is less likely. Each ruler wants to preserve and even improve the state of the nation in order to pass it down to his children, whom he normally cares about. A republic has no such checks on kleptocracy. Secondly, a monarchy has a human face. People can identify with the royal family, and this inspires them to pull together. Especially in a nation that is ethnically diverse, there may be no ready alternative unifying principle. Thirdly, in terms of temperament, a monarchy throws up average people randomly as rulers. A republic in which leadership is up for grabs, without strong rules and traditions, will instead tend to throw up those with the greatest thirst for power, and those most ruthless in obtaining it. It is, therefore, far more likely to end in oppressive totalitarian dictatorship. Fourthly, when civil structures are weak, a monarchy has the advantage of making the succession clear. In a republic, if democracy is not well established and respected, any change of power devolves into civil war. As, indeed, we see in Syria now.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Fording the Jordan

The Ontario PC Party, and the people of Ontario, are lucky that Doug Ford just won the Tory leadership. This was the only good possible outcome.

This is not even about who would, in the abstract, make the best leader.

There was chaos in the voting. By many accounts, a large number of party members were disenfranchised. People were, properly, upset. It looked awful, intentional or not, especially after all the irregularities of unseating Patrick Brown, and all the irregularities under his watch as leader.

The only other candidate with a shot at winning, according to the polls, was Christine Elliott. Elliott had, foolishly or selfishly or both, been the only candidate who had opposed calls to extend the voting in order to let everyone vote. This automatically made her winning, had it unfortunately happened, look illegitimate. It certainly reinforced the impression that the fix was in. Everyone already saw her as the establishment’s candidate.

Had she won, there is no way the party could have come together. The public impression would have been that the crooks and incompetents are still in charge. Had the party not split, they would at a minimum have lost the contributions of all their best activists.

Elliott’s refusal to concede now may help rather than hurt the party. It reinforces the message that the corrupt and incompetent elite is no longer in charge. They lost. And probably also that they are not coming back any time soon. For this probably makes a fourth run by Elliott impossible. It confirms the sense that a new leaf has been turned over.

Many lament, it is true, that the PCs would have had a better chance of winning the next election with a more moderate, less polarizing figure than Ford.

That would be the conventional, cynical political wisdom: always tack towards the centre, and you get more of the ideological spectrum on your side, therefore more votes.

But that conventional wisdom does not always hold. Trump, recently, has demonstrated that. As did Reagan in his day, or Mike Harris. Trump won when McCain or Romney, following the conventional strategy, lost. Not to mention Kasich, Rubio, Jeb Bush, and the rest of his primary competitors.

The conventional wisdom holds when civil discourse holds; and there is no general sense that the system itself is broken. But if the state of politics, and of discourse, descends to real conflict, or visible incompetence, it no longer works. Any more than it is the best strategy in war to pick the general who will be nicest to the enemy and least likely to attack.

In the US, the election of Trump demonstrates, if it were not already clear, that civil discourse no longer holds. The system is broken. The left systematically broke it over the last several decades.

And the same seems true now of Ontario. I just saw video of the riot at Queen’s University when Jordan Peterson was invited to speak. Such a scene would have been unthinkable at Queen’s back when I attended—hardly a politically charged campus, ever. It reminded me of the opening scene of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. A disorganized rabble of apes attacking a rival troupe. It was dramatic visual proof that civil discourse is over, and we are de facto in Ontario in a state of civil war.

In such a context, electing a compromiser is only unnecessarily yielding ground to the enemy. It is only appeasement.

Ford has been dignified and managerial in the campaign. I think he is legitimately the Tories’ best hope.

And I expect him to win.

It seems to me that, purely objectively, Wynne’s government has shown itself to be both terminally incompetent and socially divisive. Ontarians are going to be in the mood for a change, and would feel better about a dramatic one, just as they turned to Mike Harris after the disaster of Bob Rae.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Misrule for Radicals

Saul Alinsky

My left-leaning friend Xerxes has surprised me by declaring that he no longer idolizes Saul Alinsky. 

The shock, of course, is that he ever did.

Indeed, he says the only reason he does not now is because Alinsky’s tactics were adopted by the Tea Party.

After all, Alinsky’s methods were supposed to help the poor and powerless against the rich and powerful, right? (And, it seems, the Tea Party is supposed to represent the rich and powerful?)

But surely anyone could see all along that the fact, or claim, that the tactics Alinsky proposed were to help the poor and powerless is boilerplate. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or the Kims made exactly the same claim. Julius Caesar made the same claim; so did Napoleon. Anyone out for raw unfettered personal power is going to make that claim.

Moreover, since Alinsky’s contribution was purely tactical, it is self-evident that the tactics can be used for any purpose, whether in itself good or ill. It is hardly relevant whether his own use was supposedly benign. Once anyone starts using Alinsky’s rules, just as when the Germans started in with poison gas in World War One, then everyone is both morally justified and practically obliged to use them as well. It becomes, if the rules are not themselves moral, an ugly free-for-all with eyes getting gouged out and widows raped all round.

And, of course, in any free for all, might makes right. It is not the poor or powerless who are going to end up on top.

No pious words about his original intent can excuse that. Nor is it plausible to maintain Alinsky was himself so stupid that he did not see it. He was a canny fellow; even William F. Buckley called him a near-genius in terms of organizational ability. If he had had the interest of the poor or disenfranchised in mind or at heart, he would not have published the book. It is purely a manual for any dictator on how to seize local, and perhaps wider, power. Today, Chicago’s South Side; tomorrow, the world!

So the question has to be whether the tactics are, in themselves, moral. Purely on that basis he, and they, must be judged.

And they clearly are not. In their very essence, they are not. His essential idea is that an enemy must be created, a tribal “us-them” mentality created, the enemy must be demonized, and conflict must be initiated or provoked.

This is straighforwardly Satanic. It is just what Hitler did, with the Jews. Or Stalin with the kulaks or the Ukranians, or the Young Turks with the Armenians, the Hutus with the Tutsis, the Serbs with the Croats and the Bosnians, and so on. Not to mention that it justifies starting a war. There is no moral issue here for Alinsky. Hitler could have used it to justify invading Poland.

“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

This is true, as a tactical consideration, but most often immoral. It destroys reasoned debate and a reasoned discussion of the issues. It also violates the most basic rule of morality: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We owe each other basic respect.

It is valid and proper only if normal paths of debate have been cut off—in an authoritarian or totalitarian society. Or as a polite measure to avoid accusing the opposition straightforwardly of something heinous. I think in this regard, for example, of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” It is better to accuse the opposition of folly than of deliberate evil, if those are the choices you are faced with.

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.῎

In other words, go ad hominem. Attack the man, not the idea. Exactly wrong, morally. And exactly wrong if your intention is to produce either the best policy or the best government.

A GoodReads-style suggestion: if you liked Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, you will probably also enjoy reading Machiavelli’s The Prince and Hitler’s Mein Kampf. They are similar books with similar content and a similar view of the world.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

"Race Science" and IQ

This recent article from The Guardian bemoans the idea that IQ varies with race, and calls it “bogus” and “debunked.”

I am no biologist, but I was under the impression this was actually generally accepted as fact by biologists; just not often talked about, because it is a political minefield.

So let’s see if we can grasp and accept the argument of the article.

To begin with, we have to read it halfway trough before we get to any actual factual statements on the issue. The first half of the article is all ad hominem, branding anyone who believes in a link between race and IQ as racist and “alt-right.” This does not inspire confidence in the political neutrality or scientific objectivity of the piece. But at last, we come to this:

“The first claim is that when white Europeans’ Cro-Magnon ancestors arrived on the continent 45,000 years ago, they faced more trying conditions than in Africa. Greater environmental challenges led to the evolution of higher intelligence. Faced with the icy climate of the north, Richard Lynn wrote in 2006, ‘less intelligent individuals and tribes would have died out, leaving as survivors the more intelligent.’”
The piece then argues that this is not a plausible explanation for the difference in IQ; on the grounds that agriculture, writing, and cities first appeared in Mesopotamia, which is not a cold country. And on the grounds that some prehistoric paint, fish hooks, and arrows have been found in Africa.

There are several non sequitors here. First, this or that particular theory as to why there is a racial difference in IQ does not really bear on the issue of whether there is a racial difference in IQ. Second, while Mesopotamia is not cold in winter, it is dry, and suffers periodic drought. This is an environmental challenge at least equivalent to that of a cold winter. Third, it is meaningless that there were fishhooks and arrows in prehistoric Africa. There is necessarily going to be some level of technology wherever humans are found. Or wicker birds, for that matter. What developed in Africa must be measured against what developed in other areas of comparable population over a comparable span of time.

“A second plank of the race science [sic] case goes like this: human bodies continued to evolve, at least until recently – with different groups developing different skin colours, predispositions to certain diseases, and things such as lactose tolerance. So why wouldn’t human brains continue evolving, too?”

The argument of the piece is that this is not good evidence, because the genetics underlying brain structure is far more complex than that underlying physical traits. So there may not have been enough time for the structure of the brain to diverge similarly.

This is certainly not disproof. It does nothing to show that there are NOT mental differences, only that we need not assume there are, based on this evidence.

And even at that, it does not seem to be right. Surely everyone can think, offhand, of at least one single mutation, not uncommon, that dramatically affects mental functioning: Down’s syndrome. And there are others. If then, just one mutation can affect mental functioning, it seems to follow that such differences would not have needed any greater length of time than skin colour, and so forth, to evolve.

The piece’s next argument is the familiar one that IQ tests do not reliably measure anything. This has some merit. Nothing in the social sciences is reliable. But, having said that, IQ seems to be about the most substantial thing we have in that field, in that it correlates so well with so many other factors. It makes no sense to go after IQ on these grounds, and not everything else in the social sciences.

Next the piece cites a Swiss study in which students were able to improve their IQ through swotting to the test. This would be interesting only if the improvements were great enough to account for the observed racial differences. But the present piece gives no figures. As a matter of course, those who develop IQ tests always do their level best to make the tests resistant to this.

The article does give two figures for a Minneapolis-based study of identical twins separated at birth, and the spread does indeed look very significant: 20 to 29 points. Since identical twins are identical genetically, any such variation must be accounted for by some other factor. But what the article does not note is that its own conclusion is the opposite of the conclusion of the study it is citing. The study found IQ to be 70% inherited ( The present article seems to be cherry-picking from the data to find individual cases that go furthest against the statistical norm. That does no more than to confirm the bare possibility that IQ differences of this magnitude are not genetic. And if you check Wikipedia on twin studies and IQ, it suggests the weight of evidence from twin studies remains that intelligence is mostly hereditary. Wikipedia, because of its open editing system, can presumably be taken as a neutral source fairly reflecting the consensus in a field. If anyone inserted anything controversial, someone else who was a specialist would be bound to be upset enough to soon edit it out.

The article’s net objection seems more substantial: the Flynn effect. Flynn found that in a variety of advanced countries, IQs have been rising steadily over the past 100 years, maybe thirty points on average over that century. Three points a decade. Cumulatively, that is certainly enough to account for any interracial difference in IQ, and it cannot be genetic. Nobody has a clear explanation for why it is happening, but the data seem clear.

Still, this is not a clincher. It is another negative argument: it shows that race and genetics are not a necessary, but still a sufficient, explanation for racial IQ differences.

Next, the piece tackles the common claim that Ashkenazi Jews have a higher average IQ than the general population. “Tests conducted in the first two decades of the 20th century routinely showed Ashkenazi Jewish Americans scoring below average.” Aha—so this difference cannot be genetic. It must be--????

On this one, the Guardian piece seems to be plain wrong. Apparently this is a common misrepresentation of what one early 20th century study was about. It was of people of all races pre-screened as having below average intelligence, and it only remarked, with surprise, that there were Askhenazi Jews among this number, Despite the common perception, even then, that they were unusually intelligent. The piece goes on to quote psychologist Carl Brigham saying Jews are no brighter than the rest of us back in 1923. Without noting that Brigham himself recanted his position and his paper by 1930. He said it “collapsed entirely” due to methodological errors.

So there we are. It seems it is not proven that IQ differs among races genetically. This is, on the other hand, both a perfectly reasonable, and, more than that, the most likely hypothesis.

Surely the reader has noticed how disproportionately often South American women win the big international beauty pageants. Why would that be? There are a lot more women in China and India.

Latin cultures put an unusually high premium on beauty. Doubt it, anyone who has not visited a Romance country. As a result, unusually beautiful women will have better marriage prospects there than elsewhere, will tend to marry more prosperous and more faithful husbands and so have more children. And so, over time, the culture naturally selects for feminine beauty. Why would this not be so?

Chinese culture distrusts beauty. So Chinese women are less likely to be beautiful.

If a culture values X, it will breed for X. It might be athleticism (Africa), musical ability (Ireland, Africa), ability with language (Ireland), martial valour (Greece), calm disposition (England), kindness (Philippines), or something else.

Deal with it: racial differences.

And so, as well, with intelligence and scholarship. If you want a good wife in China or among Eastern European Jews, you demonstrate your scholarship. Women will swoon, as will their parents. These cultures have for a couple of millennia been breeding for intelligence.

My students back in Korea, given the choice between becoming a professor or the president of a large corporation, thought it was a no-brainer. Be (or marry) a professor.

There seems nothing surprising about this.

People panic, because they feel it violates the sacred principle of human equality.

He do not understand the sacred principle of human equality.

No sane person ever, until recently, surely thought that everyone was equal in their abilities. How could that possibly be, any more than that all people must have red hair?

Human equality is equality in moral worth. We are all of equal moral value, and so have the right to be treated equally by one another and by government.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Author Interview at Smashwords

Dear loyal fans--and there do seem to be a fair number of you now.

Smashwords has just published an "author interview" with me, tied to the upcoming publication of my book, Playing the Indian Card.

If you happen to be curious to know more about me--based on questions they chose to ask--go and have a look at

For what it is worth, through the power of the Internet, I am able to add my own questions and answers there if I'd like.

So--is there something you would like to know, that you think others might like to know as well? Tell me in the comments here, and I can add it to the interview.

Give Me Your Huddled Masses

Grosse Ile Celtic Cross.

Canada’s current immigration policy gets a lot of praise in the US and the UK, where politicians now propose it as a model. But I think Canada has it wrong.

Briefly, Canada lets in immigrants on the basis of being well educated and highly skilled, on the premise that they will be net contributors instead of a net drain on the economy.

But this has several unfortunate consequences.

In the first place, it strips poorer countries of their skilled workforce. Presumably this is a net minus for the welfare of mankind.

In the second place, Canada is importing, by and large, the Third World’s upper class. There is one reason, and only one reason, why the underdeveloped world is underdeveloped: a corrupt ruling class. These are the people we are bringing in, and, to the extent that they enter the upper class in Canada, they will bring this corruption with them.

Third, if it is a problem to have low-wage foreign workers taking jobs and opportunities away from native-born citizens, why is it not a bigger problem to have foreign workers taking higher-wage jobs away from native-born citizens? In effect, we are voluntarily turning Canada into a colony with a foreign ruling class.

Fourth, since these people by and large had it pretty good where they came from, they will not appreciate the opportunity to be Canadian, will not prize it, and will not feel committed to making things better here (there). If things do not go well, they can just go home. They have no skin in the game.

Fifth, because they had things pretty good where they came from, they will want to change Canada to make it more like where they came from. And they will complain about everything, and be discontented, and inclined to subversion.

In sum, a lousy policy.

I think we would do far better even in a practical sense with a more purely humanitarian immigration policy. As well as being more moral. In principle, all immigrants should be refugees; all refugees should be potential immigrants.

I know, this is currently an unpopular idea in many quarters. Canada, and Europe, are facing a flood of “Middle Eastern refugees,” and everyone fears demographic death. Everybody worries about ISIS infiltration through Syrian refugees. Fair and proper concern. But hear me out.

To begin with, Canada is a nation of refugees. It is our national identity and the essence of our being. Accordingly, new refugee populations would fit right in. English Canada began with the flood of refugees leaving the US after the American Revolution. Nova Scotia and parts of Ontario were populated with refugees from the Highland Clearances. Throughout the nineteenth century, the largest immigrant group was refugees from the awful situation in Ireland, and they have proved the most committed of Canadians. They have been joined now by refugee populations, notably, from Poland, the Ukraine, Swabian Germans, Sikhs, Russian Jews, Vietnamese boat people, and so forth. Each of these groups, I submit, have shown themselves to be model Canadians. It is these refugee groups that make the best Canadian citizens.

It stands to reason that they would. They have nowhere to go back to. All the bridges are burning; for them, it is do or die. And, by contrast with the situation they have left, they have reason to love and bless Canada. They are all in.

I submit that this is also Canada’s manifest destiny. It is what God put this land here for. Canada is vast and still, in world terms, underpopulated. In the rest of the world, there are always populations of people who are hated and in danger of extermination. By welcoming them here, we can save their lives, defuse the tensions where they came from, and preserve cultures and traditions otherwise in danger of dying.

Consider, for example, how much might have been different had Canada swung its doors wide to Jews seeking to leave Germany in the 1930s. There might have been no Holocaust. And can anyone doubt that Canada itself would have ended up much better off?

So what then about these Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees?

For the most part, I do not think they legitimately qualify. They are not real refugees, not in the sense of the term I am using. Regardless of what the UN, or someone else, says.

If a group is simply fleeing a bad government or a civil war, they do not need refugee status, and will not benefit from it. Soon, that civil war will end, that bad government will fall, and they will want to return to their homes. And they ought to return to their homes. Their home country needs them. Their refugee status is only temporary.

At the same time, if we bring in refugees from both sides of a civil war, we are obviously asking for trouble to be transported with them. An obviously awful idea.

No, real refugees are identifiable as either an oppressed or endangered distinct ethnic minority where they come from, or an ethnic group being ruled by some foreign power and with no realistic prospect of self-government in the foreseeable future.

I don’t think that is a difficult distinction to make.

In the current Middle Eastern turmoil, by this standard, we have warrant to open the doors wide to Syrian Christians, Syrian Jews, Syrian Yazidis, Kurds, Assyrians, Druze. We have no warrant to let in Syrian Shia Arab Muslims—currently in power—or Syrian Sunni Arab Muslims—a majority of the population, and quite likely to hold power soon. Just about the same calculation applies to Iraq. We have no warrant to let in Libyans, Yemenis or Somalis as refugees—these countries are basket cases currently due to civil war, not systemic oppression of a minority by a majority, and it is not clear who will hold power in a few years.

There is again no warrant to accept large numbers of Mexicans, or South or Central Americans, as refugees, if they happen to come knocking on our door. These are economic migrants. Things may be awful in Venezuela right now, but they are likely to get better sometime soon. The same seems generally true of “refugees” from sub-Saharan Africa. That continent is a patchwork of ethnicities, and these bear little or no relation to national boundaries; at the same time, in most cases it is impossible to foresee who will be in power and oppressing whom in a few years time. Which group is oppressed, and which oppressor, seems transitory. This year it is Tutsis; next year it is Hutus. Let in the Tutsis this year, let in the Hutus next year, and in the third year you may have an imported civil war.

There are probably a few exceptions. I think there is good reason to see “white” minorities in Africa as now endangered and unlikely soon again to come to power. The South African parliament has just voted overwhelmingly to confiscate land owned by “whites” without compensation. South Asians living in Uganda certainly qualified under Idi Amin, and perhaps elsewhere.

An interesting case is that of “indigenous people”: do they fit our definition? “Either an oppressed or endangered distinct ethnic minority where they come from, or an ethnic group being ruled by some foreign power and with no realistic prospect of self-government in the foreseeable future.”

So, should we make a special point of letting in Australian aborigines, or Sami from Norway, or Bushmen?

No; these groups more or less by definition would not benefit from refugee status. To be clear, what we are really talking about when we refer to a group as “indigenous” is to a culture that is dramatically technically behind the surrounding culture. In such a case, while their culture is endangered, it is not because they are being oppressed or discriminated against by the surrounding culture. It is because their culture by its nature cannot survive much contact with another culture. In such a case, emigrating to an entirely new milieu would make their problem vastly worse. Moreover, by the nature of the culture, they would be lousy immigrants, doing their best to stay apart and separate.