Playing the Indian Card

Monday, September 30, 2019

Reasons to Vote for Bernier

Maxime Bernier

The Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP are all running on the same platform. Of course, the NDP always says this of the other two parties; but it is true this time of the NDP as well. This is deadly for democracy—it withholds policy choices from the electorate, allowing all to be decided by some unaccountable elite. Aside from one’s position on the issues, it is important for the sake of Canadian democracy that we vote for Maxime Bernier. Vote for Bernier now, or forever hold your peace.

There is a concurrent effort by a faction of the population to prevent Bernier from being heard, and even by violent means. A recent event in Hamilton with Dave Rubin required police protection, and was almost cancelled. This again makes it vital for democrats to vote Bernier. Such tactics must not succeed.

Even leaving this aside, Bernier is the only candidate running who is qualified to be prime minister. It is as my friend says, of Scheer, Singh, and May: “can you imagine any of these representing Canada abroad?” As with Trudeau, none has done anything particularly impressive in either politics or any other field. No career in senior cabinet positions, no Nobel Prizes, no Canada Steamship Lines, no great battles over principle fought.

Bernier alone has held senior cabinet positions, including Foreign Affairs, often considered the number two spot in cabinet. He had a prominent career in business before entering politics. He led, alone, on the issue of supply management.

Bernier deserves support as well for showing principle: he came out against supply management in Quebec, home to much of the dairy industry, even though representing a riding in which dairy farming was a major business. He probably lost the Conservative leadership on this issue—the dairy lobby backed Scheer as a result.

If we want honest politicians, such commitment to principle must be rewarded, even regardless of the particular principle involved. If we want true leaders, we need someone who, like Bernier, shows the ability to lead on an issue.

With his free market creed, Bernier represents a promising trend in Quebec politics, away from the eternal and unproductive federalism-separatism issue, towards a more healthy liberal-conservative divide. The CAQ has risen provincially on this basis; only Bernier embodies it at the federal level. For the sake of Canadian unity, and for Quebec’s economic health, it would be a very good thing if this focus on practical rather than ethnic issues were to succeed. Accordingly, those who want Canadian unity and prosperity ought to vote Bernier.

All of this is without even considering the rights and wrongs of Bernier’s stands on the issues. Even if you disagree with him on these, you should vote PPC. But now let’s look at the issues.

Bernier, and only Bernier, wants to end the government-enforced cartel that forces up the price of milk, cheese, and eggs. Legally mandated cartels are intrinsically violations of human rights, giving special privileges to a favoured group. They also violate good economic principles, encouraging inefficiencies. These particular restraints on trade have been a stumbling block in negotiating better trade deals with other countries; other parts of our economy have had to suffer for it. Subsidizing the dairy and egg industry deprives us of the right to object to similar subsidies elsewhere, which prevent Canadians from entering those markets.

Most importantly, these particular price controls are a cruel imposition on the poor. The rich do not spend their surfeit on extra eggs or milk; these are staples. Eggs, milk, and cheese are in most places the cheapest protein sources. This is a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

And it is in particular babies who need milk to thrive.

Bernier, and only Bernier, also wants a values test on new immigrants. This caught a lot of hostile attention in the last Conservative leadership campaign; we all hate values any more. But it is obviously necessary. Canada is not based on ethnicity, as most states are. So what can it possibly be based on, what brings us together in this shared enterprise, if it is not shared values? Without a strong shared commitment here, Canada is not viable. It will fall apart at the next real stress.

Nor is it hard or should it be controversial to come up with such shared values. Shared values are plainly stated in the Canadian Constitution.

It ought to be self-evident that all new immigrants should sign on: this is the Canadian social contract.

Bernier, and only Bernier, wants to end funding for multiculturalism. Again, this is almost a no-brainer. A Canadian government should be supporting Canadian culture, not Icelandic or Somali or Vietnamese culture. A nation is a shared culture, by definition. Promoting cultural differences is promoting factionalism, tribalism, and mutual distrust, in opposition to the nation and its common interests. Nazism was multiculturalism: it believed there was an Aryan science, and a Jewish science. And was not keen on letting them mix.

On top of building a society of peace, order, and good government, the entire process of civilization is a process of mixing and merging cultures: one selects the best options available from all sources. The idea of artificially nurturing cultural differences is accordingly a deliberate descent into barbarism. It is to do the work of Babel.

I am not spontaneously enthusiastic about Bernier’s desire to lower levels of immigration. I agree with the argument that we need more immigrants for economic reasons: people are the prime economic resource, as well as being an end in themselves. Canada, moreover, is objectively underpopulated. As a Christian and a liberal, I endorse the view that people have an inherent, God-given right to freedom of movement. And the process of civilization should accelerate with the closer contact of cultures: it is the reason we once held World’s Fairs.

However, there can still be such a thing as too high a level of immigration. We are dangerously ignorant of the problem of culture shock. Immigrants to a very unfamiliar culture are likely to go more than a little mad and assume that here, anything goes. They can be hostile to the resident population. It can even take a few generations for this to settle down. For most of last century, the face of crime in America was Italian. Before that, the Irish went through a similar spell of “gangs of New York” and Tammany Hall corruption. Less well known, but there were also ethnically Polish criminal gangs, and ethnically Jewish criminal organizations, like Detroit’s “Purple gang,” and so forth. If some groups have been less of a problem, this can be accounted for pretty consistently by relative lack of initial cultural difference, smaller numbers, and greater initial dispersion.

We are currently striving for maximum initial cultural difference, maximum numbers, and everyone is settling in Toronto and Vancouver.

If the body of immigrants is too large, too distinct, too concentrated in urban centres, and going through culture shock, we have a big, expensive, and dangerous problem. People can get killed, towers may be toppled, and the system can be subverted.

Given this, Bernier’s limits on immigration, while favouring immigration that makes the most sense in economic terms, seem right.

Bernier wants to abolish the Indian Act. This is again almost self-evidently good. The Indian Act was passed as a transitory measure. It enshrines the improper notion that there are two classes of Canadians, with different rights and privileges. It obviously violates the fundamental moral principle of human equality. It had to be given a special exemption from the Charter of Rights. Indian leaders ever since have blamed almost everything on the Indian Act, and declared it paternalistic and racist. This seems to be one thing we can actually all agree on. Indians governed by the Act are demonstrably, objectively, doing worse than other Canadians.

Bernier notes that any existing treaties must be respected.

How could anyone object?

Bernier’s views overall mesh notably better with those of Donald Trump’s administration in the US than those of any other candidate. Adolescent anti-Americanism aside, it is obviously in Canada’s extreme interest to be on good terms with America’s government. The US is our largest trading partner, and we depend more on trade than any other developed country. We could never defend this vast land mass, either, without the American guarantee. Anyone else would have long ago swallowed us up. We ought in good faith as well as in our interests to always seek common ground.

We are still in the middle of an election campaign. Calculations may change. But for now, it seems important to vote PPC and Bernier.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

How Do We Evaluate a Good School or a Good Education System?

PISA ranking of school systems by standardized test scores. Green is top third.
A lot of our opinions on what schools and school systems are best are based on the results of standardized tests. This is true of the PISA rankings of OECD countries, currently treated as the gold standard. On this measure, East Asian schools do particularly well.

But critics point out that this is artificial. Standardized tests are not real life. Striving for high test scores can mean teaching and studying to the test, and this may steal time and effort from more valuable learning.

Chinese and East Asian schools have their critics. Some complain that the Chinese method, heavy on memorization, which works so well for standard tests, does not teach independent thinking or creativity.

I agree with these criticisms. Standardized testing is a factory method. The acquisition of skills is not the primary goal of education. Traditional education has always considered it more important to teach morality, character, good judgement, and the ability to think independently.

But how then do we measure this?

There is actually a good and simple measure available: graduation rate.

The schools considered most successful should be those that have the fewest students dropping out short of completion.

To begin with, this is a measure of the value the actual consumer finds in them. We sell students outrageously short if we imagine they do not have any interest in or ability to evaluate their own education.

You might argue that it is easy enough for any school to lower academic standards so that nobody fails and everyone finds it easy and fun; and so everyone stays in school.

But I doubt this would work in practice. I did say dropout rate, not failure rate. I warrant that few students drop out because they find a school too tough academically. If they do, arguably, that school is not doing a good job of educating, only of weeding out. It would be like a doctor who accepted only healthy patients. In my experience, students drop out because they find school boring, or corrupt and dishonest, or disrespectful, or a waste of time.

But even if this issue of logrolling or grade inflation is a consideration, it is easily met by controlling for student scores on the standardized tests. Given, then, two groups of students who score in the same range on these tests, coming from different schools, which group has the better retention rate?

Surely, after all, a large part of a school’s or teacher’s job is to inspire.

And producing students who stick to the task of getting their high school graduation is a good quick measure of their morality, character, and good judgement.

Compare schools on this metric. The school that comes out higher is a better school.

Not incidentally, private and charter schools consistently score better than public schools on this metric.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The UK Supreme Court Recalls Parliament

Britain's last "man on a white horse." 

I get the idea that the British have made a terrible hash of their constitution. I find it disturbing, in the wake of its recent decision against Boris Johnson, to hear people refer to the UK Supreme Court, as “the highest court in the land.”

Until now, under the Westminster system, the highest court in the land was Parliament itself. The people’s will could not be overruled.

The danger, as was fully understood, was that effective control of government could be hijacked by an unelected elite pursuing its own class interests. This is increasingly happening in the US and Canada. Once it was large landowners; now it is judges.

This judgement now looks like a lunge for absolute power in the UK as well. The point seems to have been to put down a marker: the judges get the final say on any law. In this judgement, they asserted their primacy over both the executive—the monarchy—and the legislature, who choose the prime minister as their representative.

Or they used to. Under the true Westminster system, the prime minister and cabinet serve only so long as they have majority support in parliament; and that support can be withdrawn at any time.

Unfortunately, this too has been recently compromised. Leaving a dangerous power vacuum for the judiciary to rush in and fill, like the proverbial man on a white horse.

It has become a deepening quagmire. Perhaps it can be fixed if and when Britain Is permitted to go to the polls again. But what if a new government passes legislation to abolish the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court then declares it illegal?

Perhaps Canada has a better chance to escape this descent into oligarchy; although it is already further along the downward spiral. The Canadian Constitution is canny enough to include a “notwithstanding” clause, allowing the legislature to overrule the courts if necessary.

We need a leader with the will to use it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Fade to Black

Cultural appropriation.

I have been suspending judgement on whether the blackface scandal was going to sink Trudeau. A lot of commentators have been, it seems. Probably for the same reason I was: if the SNC-Lavalin scandal could not sink him, could anything? It looked as though his support might be invulnerable to scandal. Some politicians are like that: Bill Clinton, Doug Ford, Donald Trump.

But tracking the reaction since, I think he is sunk.

Not because the multiplying incidents shows he is a racist. They don’t; and as I have noted, it is arbitrary to see anything racist about blackface. And not because they show he is a hypocrite; although they do, and this does hurt him. Because they show he is a fool.

Not a clown. Donald Trump or Rob Ford or Ralph Klein are clowns. People like clowns. A clown makes us laugh.

A fool doesn't know he is funny. He is not in on the joke.

People do not like fools, especially self-important fools. Other examples: Dan Quayle; Kim Campbell; Joe Clark.

Fools are tiresome.

Trudeau is now being mocked by foreign commentators. I just typed "blackface" into Google images. The first five results were Justin Trudeau. Canadians care a lot how they are perceived abroad. My NDP friend who cannot vote for Singh was evaluating all the candidates on this one question: “Can you imagine them representing Canada abroad?”

Once you become a figure of fun, you're done.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Luke 16

The Parable of the Dishonest Steward
16 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “‘Nine hundred gallons[a] of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels[b] of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” 
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. (WEB) 

The Gospel of Luke is hostile to money. Matthew gives the first Beatitude as “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Luke says, “Blessed are the poor.”

You might suppose then that the Gospel of Luke is hostile to capitalism.

But this parable, which only Luke includes, suggests the opposite.

Marxists imagine that business in general is a matter of cheating and exploitation. Luke has no such illusions. In any free exchange—in, that is, a free market—any deal goes through if and only if all parties believe they benefit from it.

That is illustrated here. The manager benefits by making friends he will need when he loses his job. The debtors win by having their debts reduced. And, no, the manager is not cheating his master. He does not conceal his final dealings, and his master praises him for them. Just like a business owner offering his customers a sale price or a loss leader or a free gift, he is building goodwill among his customers. All businesses rely for success on developing the trust of customers that they will be given a good deal.

So in business everybody wins.

And this is why, if you happen to know a successful businessman, you will find that they are generally the first to help anyone in need.

In making the manager dishonest, Jesus is making the point that all this is going to happen even if everyone involved is acting only out of pure self-interest, rather than morality or love of their fellow man. This is exactly the point Adam Smith made: in a free market, if everyone pursues self-interest, the “invisible hand of God” will work to the general benefit.

In other words, Luke’s gospel actually endorses the free market, which Marxists prefer to call “capitalism.” “Capitalism” prevents the excessive love of money.

In the parable, of course, the rich man is God, and we are the dishonest manager. Any money, any material wealth we happen to have, is not ours; it is God’s, and we have it on loan. We are therefore obliged to deal generously with our debtors. We will be asked for an accounting on our death.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Send in the Clowns

I had a little epiphany recently while rummaging through old files.

I found there a weathered note from an old friend from grad school, dating to back in the 1980s. She was expressing her delight that I had tried to get back in touch; but at the same time warning me that she was “fragile,” and urging that we not discuss either politics or religion.

I think I may have uncovered here a very early example of the attitude of censorship that has now overtaken the left. This young woman was a canary in the mine—in the academy from which this has all sprung.

At the time, I recall, I found it odd, that she wanted to avoid all talk of religion. Since our graduate field had been religion. And we were of the same religion.

I took it then as expressing some very personal problem; and my friend did indeed seem “fragile,” as she said, always complaining of a bad back, and of a history of depression.

Because it is being expressed through political action, people tend to see the growing intolerance on the left as political. Jordan Peterson calls it “cultural Marxism.”

But perhaps my friend’s case indicates that the first cause is not political, but psychological and spiritual. Marx just offers a convenient political analogue.

And it may be a bit callous to scoff at such fragile people as “snowflakes.” They may be responding to some real spiritual anguish with their talk of “triggers.”

Better perhaps to blame not Marx, but Freud. What we are seeing now may be less cultural Marxism than political Freudianism.

Freud’s thesis, in an A-cup, was that mental illness was caused by repressing natural urges. “Civilization and its discontents” were the problem. Accordingly, if someone like my friend went to a psychiatrist or psychologist with emotional problems, perhaps originally caused by the torment of an aching back, the advice they would be given would be to throw off their “hangups” about conventional morality and start thinking seriously about having sex.

My friend was into that.

And rather than helping, this may well have led sufferers, especially those who like my friend had religious sentiments, into a downward spiral. Increasingly tormented by the voice of conscience, it came to the point that they, like she, could no longer bear any mention of religion.

It all makes you wonder.

But then, why politics too? She could not tolerate politics. And why has this mental illness now spread from individuals like my friend to the political left in general, seemingly a majority or almost a majority of the population?

Carl Rogers.

That may be thanks to Carl Rogers. Rogers was the dominant voice in American psychiatry during the 1960s. He followed Freud, Jung, and the rest of the field in holding that the solution to mental illness was to throw off the shackles of conventional morality and the demands of being civilized and satisfy your natural passions. But he expanded the possible clientele, arguing that we are all suffering from these oppressive influences: we would all be healthier and happier if we adopted psychiatry as our religion and reached our full “human potential,” by which he meant, getting whatever we wanted. This was the meaning of life: “Behavior is basically the goal-directed attempt of the organism to satisfy its needs as experienced.”

Surely this, perhaps best immortalized by Disney’s Baloo the Bear, was the essential doctrine of the Sixties. “Let it all hang out.” One was supposed to be ashamed only of having “hangups,” meaning moral scruples. The term itself comes from Kerouac; but Kerouac meant something very different. He meant simply things that hold our attention, as a hobby might. Nothing negative about it.

And note the Sixties slogan, “if it feels good, do it.” “Follow your bliss.” “Do your own thing.” “Don’t be judgmental.”

The premise, then, was that the natural man, man in the state of nature, our natural urges, were good; the restraints placed on them by morality, culture, and civilization, were bad. Morality was bad. Civilization was bad. We had to get “back to nature,” “back to the garden,” “back to the land.” Witness too the whole ecology thing.

This is awful advice, if conventional morality and civilization happen to be anything other than ignorant prejudice. And that is not a possible hypothesis. If ignorant prejudice, given original blessedness, where did they come from? If all our natural instincts are right and good how did sin and error, these hurtful demands of civilization, ever come into the world? It could not have come from humans. It must have been some outside agency, then: alien mind control?

Then too, if all preceding generations got it wrong, and we in the Sixties were the first to realize this, we must believe that all our ancestors were idiots.

Logically not credible, then; but fatally appealing. Natural urges are naturally seductive.

But because it was logical nonsense, this fact was bound to become obvious over time. The wheels were going to come off this handcart. What then?

Folks in the Sixties and in the human potential movement were not generally reckless enough to believe that you could always ignore morality in favour of satisfying your natural urges. Manson family aside, most hippies stopped short of murder. Or theft, despite feints like Abby Hoffman’s “Steal This Book,” and talk of “liberating” whatever you wanted. Theft might be good, but unlike most sex, there was the practical risk of being arrested.

This is where Marxism comes in. One could through it at least be working towards a solution: Marx’s communist cloud cuckoo land, in which everyone could just have whatever they wanted.

In the meantime, more immediately, the human potential revolution concentrated on the sexual urges. Sexual sins, we were assured, were “crimes with no victims.” So that any such laws or prohibitions were simply oppressive, and easily abolished.

It was actually obvious form the start that this was not so: abortion. It was never that there were no victims; it was that the victims were defenseless.

And over time, it has become apparent that there are lots more victims too; our ancestors were indeed not just prejudiced self-hating fools. The sexual revolution has been devastating for family life, which means devastating for children. But again, children are voiceless and vulnerable members of society.

Less obviously, it has been devastating for everyone else.

Gradually, the toll has mounted. But that is only the half of it. At the same time, the voice of conscience has become louder and louder, making those who bought in to the doctrine increasingly emotionally “fragile,” terrified of their own shadows, terrified of certain matters being raised.

As we now see all around us.

In Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, chronicling the beginnings of the hippie movement in Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and their van trip across America to meet Timothy Leary, he already reports the case of a female passenger who goes suddenly psychotic over thoughts of a child she had abandoned or aborted as a requirement of their free-love lifestyle. She is herself abandoned at the next stop. The van rolls on. 

Kesey's van.

Along with the need for censorship has grown the need to find scapegoats. The original and classic move in this regard was feminism: blame everything bad on men. Women’s urges were still all good: but men were all depraved and their urges immoral. Then whites have become scapegoats, for the obvious reason that they really did play a disproportionate role in forming our “oppressive” culture and civilization. So they are a fifth column that must be suppressed or eliminated. And, of course, the Catholic Church, the right, any memorials to shared history, anyone who will not openly endorse this or that given sexual perversion, anyone who retains the conventional faith in right and wrong.

Some on the right have taken recently to calling this all “clown world.” That is to give it too much credit. It is pathological and objectively evil. Perhaps the beginning of a return to civilizational health is to say so.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Tom, We Hardly Knew Ye

Tom Mulcair

A friend who has voted NDP his entire life says he cannot vote this time for Jagmeet Singh.

Perhaps this gives some insight into why the NDP’s support has sagged.

My friend feels that Singh lacks gravitas. “I can't imagine him representing Canada abroad.”

He did not say how he would vote; he did say Scheer and May both also lacked gravitas. Of course, I feel the same way about Justin Trudeau, only much more so. He did not mention Trudeau, but surely because in this case the matter was obvious. I got the impression he was just going to stay home.

Then he mentioned Tom Mulcair—how wrong the NDP was to vote him out.

I think that may be important. Singh is being compared to Mulcair as much as to Trudeau. Mulcair had gravitas. Next to him, Singh looks and sounds like a student body president.

I think this is a fatal error indulged in by both the Tories and the NDP. Seeing Trudeau’s success, they did the boneheaded typical politico thing and voted in new leaders who were as similar as possible to Trudeau; young, good-looking, inexperienced. Giving the voters no alternative once they saw the problem with youth, inexperience, and lack of seriousness. (May may not have youth, but she surely lacks gravitas.) Mulcair could have torn up this field and left only embers.

On top of that, there is a festering sense that Mulcair was treated badly by the party. I think my friend resented that as a Quebecker—and NDP support in Quebec has collapsed.

If the NDP is decimated this election, Singh will almost certainly be obliged to resign. If that happens, intelligent NDPers not fond of extinction of their species should organize a Draft Mulcair movement as soon as possible.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Is the Genie Out of the Bottle?

Time's photo. Toga! Toga!.

How damaging is the Trudeau “blackface” scandal?

To me, it is trivial on its face, so to speak. It seems perfectly arbitrary to take offense at someone blackening their face; we see nothing wrong with people whitening their face, like the traditional clown, and then representing people with white faces as foolish. Why the double standard?

But initial indications are that others see it as a big deal. Time magazine first ran it; Drudge Report is headlining it—both American sources, not folks deeply interested in Canadian politics.

It shows Trudeau as a hypocrite: attacking Conservative candidates based on something in their distant past found on social media has been central thus far to the Liberal campaign. At the very least, they’re probably going to have to shut up about that stuff now. All of it backfires now. Can they quickly pivot to another strategy?

There were already signs of panic in Trudeau personally. Paul Wells has represented the Liberal campaign so far as a massive feint, in which Trudeau was largely irrelevant and ignored by his own team, making no major announcements. The real battle was the regular leaks against Conservative candidates. They may have been forced into such an odd approach in the first place because Trudeau was not up to carrying the ball; witness as well his strategically bizarre absence from the Maclean’s debate.

So what’s left if they cannot do this either?

Unfortunately, Trudeau’s expression in the photo looks slightly like a leer, as well, as he embraces some woman from behind. That it is from behind suggests visually, fairly or not, that the physical contact is uninvited.

This may evoke memories of previous accusations of groping against Trudeau. And his callous treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. It all may confirm the public impression that he is just a privileged frat boy who views women and minorities as useful tools or worse.

It even casts a worse light on his costumed clowning during his ill-remembered state visit to India. Wasn’t that a bit of blackface too, then?

It does not help Trudeau either that the leader of the NDP is rather spontaneously brown in the face. A lot of leftward thinkers may feel compelled now to virtue signal their commitment to anti-racism by voting Singh. And Singh naturally has the moral high ground to condemn Trudeau for this in the next debate. It could lead to a devastating exchange; and Trudeau already seems to fear debate. He may grow increasingly erratic now as he tries to medicate himself through the campaign—there is some video evidence that he is already doing so. Some wobbly-kneed public performances.

This sudden snapshot of the Trudeau shadow is exactly what the Tories needed to have a chance at winning the election: voters on the left moving in significant numbers from Liberal to NDP.

I feel sorriest for Pierre Trudeau, whose legacy is being damaged by the self-indulgent follies of his son—as it has been by his wife.

A Chronicle of China Dying

A longtime China blogger talks about how things have recently deteriorated.

I believe this is a reflection of tough economic times coming fast. The Chinese government is obsessed with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and are determined to do the opposite in China to what Gorbachev did in Russia.

Knowing that economic trouble is coming--is largely already here--they have been cracking down and going back to old ways rather than to Perestroika and Glasnost. The attempted crackdown in Hogn Kong is only what has been most visible abroad.

I expect it all to work rather less well than Gorbachev's approach. The difference will simply be that it is going to be violent, bloody, and chaotic when the revolt comes.

At the same time, officials who think that the end is near have growing incentive to grab whatever they can of the silverware on the way out.

And the potential for unrest to spread from Hong Kong inland seems to me high.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

How to Write Good

Just uncovered a cache of my old writings from high school, ages 12-16. Some good bits, but the prose was embarrassingly purple at times. And too much reliance on cheap thrills: sex and violence.

I could have used some guidance.

But I also noticed that, whenever there were markings in red from some teacher’s hand, they were wrong.

For example, I began one story:

“Mr. Bones watched the violent plaid socks silently follow each other down the stairs. He was in the habit of wearing socks to bed …”

And the teacher writes:

“opening is misleading at first reading – would be improved by changing the to his.” (Meaning the socks—“his violent plaid socks.”)

And that would 1) kill the little surprise or puzzle that lures the reader into the story; and 2) remove the introduction to the theme of the story--which is the protagonist’s detachment.

And wouldn’t anyone of average intelligence be able to grasp that I must have deliberately avoided “his”? And that there must be a reason?

And wouldn’t anyone of average intelligence have been able to work out what was actually happening by reading the second sentence? Did that really involve a great mental challenge?

Next teacher’s note: I had written

“He sat down in front of the window and placed his victim, a jar of pickles, on the counter before him.”

The teacher’s red hand had struck “victim” and inserted “target.”

That ought to do it—authors should always strive for the blander word, right? Avoid anything that might spark any mental images?

Exactly wrong, of course.

As a matter of accuracy of meaning, too, “target” is incorrect. You do not need to take aim to get a pickle in a jar. The image is absurdly wrong, like that of shooting fish in a barrel.

And “victim” foreshadows what happens next—looking through the pickle jar, Bones witnesses a rape outside the window—as if it were happening in the jar. So “victim” here conveys the idea that the rapist is treating his victim just as Bones does the pickle. “Target” breaks this careful thread.

All frustratingly lost on this reader.

I can only remember two teachers at any level who ever gave me useful guidance in writing. I adored both of them, perhaps for this reason.

Dr. Smith, in grad school, caught me mixing metaphors.

Mr. More, in grade 6, wrote “stop using big words just to show you know them.”

Great advice, which I have never forgotten, and which I still struggle to follow.

But there is obviously something fundamentally wrong here. We are hiring people to teach our children to write who instead mislead them. It is like hiring French teachers who cannot speak French.

But then again, come to think of it, I had that too.

This is a notorious problem among editors, who spend much of their careers fixing the result. There is a stock phrase among editors, also the title of a book, “Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins,” to describe the many writing “rules” people are taught in school that make their writing bad.

We need to do a better job at hiring teachers.

In the meantime, as the reader has perhaps also noticed, there is a huge market for remedial writing courses.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Bernier's In; The Games Begin

I am joyful to hear that the Independent Leaders’ Debate Commission has agreed to let Maxime Bernier into its two debates. The ones that Justin Trudeau, too, has agreed to. Now we get to hear all sides.

To be sure, the big winner here is in theory Justin Trudeau, as it splits his opposition on the right. But that is not a legitimate consideration.

The important thing is that Bernier represents a distinct point of view which would otherwise have been excluded from consideration. That is profoundly bad for democracy. Objectively, I believe his People’s Party did meet the criteria set: candidates running in 90% of ridings, and at least two candidates with a legitimate shot at winning. If this can even be judged this far out.

To be honest, I personally agree with his views. But aside from that, Jagmeet Singh had actually publicly demanded that Bernier be suppressed: that he should be kept out of the debate whether he met the criteria or not, on the grounds that his views were “divisive and hateful.”

This cannot be tolerated in a democracy or a free country. Under these circumstances, excluding Bernier would have looked like endorsing this poisonous view.

Nobody has the right to decide for the general public what they should or should not think. But for the record, to any reasonable person, there is nothing either divisive or hateful in Bernier’s public positions; he came within a whisker, after all, of heading the Conservatives, Canada’s founding party. It would be profoundly sinister to ban him from the debates on these grounds.

And, not incidentally, Singh’s NDP, by contrast, regularly promotes hatred towards identifiable groups: independent businessmen, the well-off, white males, Americans, Trump supporters, and so on. In doing so, it is also deliberately divisive: its pitch is to sectarian interests as a matter of standard policy: “identity politics.”

In all fairness, Singh ought thereby to have excluded himself from the debates. His dishonesty or lack of self-awareness here is staggering.

Now that Bernier is in the debates, I think he has real breakout potential. Although this may help Trudeau, I think Trudeau is the probable winner in any case. When SNC-Lavalin broke, I was sure petite patate was finished. But God seems to have wanted otherwise, splitting the vote on his left between the NDP and the Greens. That should hand the Rouge a fistful of extra seats.

Scheer presented well at the Maclean’s debate. Yet I think his middle-of-the-road approach is ineffective in elections any more. If you dislike Trudeau’s policies, why vote for the Tories, if they offer the same policies? If you find Trudeau incompetent, why turn to someone less experienced? It is a great pity Bernier is not the Tory leader. The one angle on which Scheer can run is on the impression that Trudeau and the Liberals are corrupt. I think that is a tough sell; JT looks incompetent and panicked rather than corrupt.

In any case, for the sake of a full debate, we need to hear from Mad Max.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Golden Calf

Xerxes wants to declare water sacred, because it is so important to life. “Water needs to be treated as sacred -- a gift, and a holy responsibility.”

I heard something similar from David Suzuki in a lecture once: he wanted us to worship the four classical elements, earth, air, fire, and water.

This idea does not appeal to me. If being important to our physical life is the standard of holiness, it would be just as proper to say that we ought to worship money. Does that sound right?

If not, is it because money is invented by man, and water comes from God (or nature)? Fine. Then at least, we ought to worship sex.

Or try this one. No form of life could survive without some form of waste elimination. These wastes then become the staff of life to other beings, which feed other beings, throughout the chain; the “great circle of life.” So surely by this same standard we should worship—er, excretions.

Does that sound right?

The first Bible reading at mass last Sunday seems to address the issue. It is Exodus 32, the story of the Hebrews casting a golden calf “to go before them”; against which Moses, in rage, broke the tablets of the law.

Why were the Hebrews wrong to bow before a golden calf? Because it was a graven image? But they have not yet heard that commandment. Moreover, the passage actually takes the trouble to note that the tablets of the law were also “graven” (Exodus 32:16): also graven images. Exodus is obviously contrasting the two, the tablets of the law and the golden calf, smashing one against the other, as opposite representations of the sacred. The tablets proper, the statue improper. And this should be evident without having read the tablets.

It is not because the statue is a graven image, then, but because the statue is an image from nature. The full commandment is “you shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath.” It is a prohibition specifically against worshipping nature, or any part of nature, as sacred.

And the passage seems to illustrate why. Moses burns the statue, spreads the ashes on the waters, and forces the Hebrews to drink it. This is striking, because the statue was made of gold. Gold does not burn, does not form ash, and does on float on water. In other words, this must be symbolic, metaphoric. The point is nature’s destructibility. Nature is all that passes into non-being. It burns, dissolves, is devoured, one way or another is ultimately gone. By smashing the tablets of the law, then getting a replacement set, Moses is demonstrating the perfect indestructability, by contrast, of spiritual things. Breaking the tablets cannot break the law. Only such eternal things are to be worshipped.

The moral law, the Good, is sacred. Cows aren’t. Even gold isn’t.

Worshipping water is the essential idolatry here condemned-- which is, in a word, materialism.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Collegiate Caber Tossing?

I used to enjoy watching (gridiron) football. I became addicted in grad school at Syracuse. I am still disappointed that their current season is now 1-2. Crushed yesterday, no surprise, by Clemson.

But it is past time to note the anomaly: centres of higher learning promoting their students playing a sport now known to regularly cause brain damage. Varsity football coaches are commonly paid more than the college president.

It is odd that this is not a scandal.

I understand its attraction as a collegiate sport: the role strategy plays in the game.

But surely, on the same grounds, the better idea would be to make it a competition among robots designed by the student bodies.  Robot soccer is already a thing.

I understand the argument for “a sound mind in a sound body.” Yet football does not offer this. Aside from the possibility of damaging both body and mind, it does not promote balanced physical development. Football players specialize. A lineman, for example, benefits from being seriously overweight. A running back from having a low centre of gravity—from being short.

This also, I think, makes basketball dubious. Height is too important. Overall health is not the principle factor.

Baseball is my personal favourite; but lacks the attraction of coordinated teamwork and strategy. Perhaps for that reason, it has always been a working man’s sport, not a collegiate one. Same with hockey or lacrosse—which are also dangerous.

You know what might be best? Volleyball.

It is a big ticket on Filipino campuses already; suggesting it can have wide popular appeal. And it is just as popular with women as with men.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Maclean's Debate

The Maclean’s/CityTV leaders’ debate was painful to watch; it was, of course, all cant crafted to mislead, not a true debate. One never heard a new idea: just slogans like “more money in the pockets of…” “tax cuts are only for the rich,” “we must invest in …” and so forth. But that is a given in Canadian politics; these events are beauty contests, not debates. Who do you think would be more welcome in your living room every evening, via TV or YouTube? That is the issue.

On that score, it may have been a big win for Andrew Scheer. His consistent, calm tone came across well. At the same time, he did not look like a pushover, as I feared. “I listened to you,” objected Singh at one point. “Now let me speak.” “I wasn’t telling lies,” Scheer responded. Just enough iron under the velvet. By comparison, Singh or May seemed a bit like yapping puppies. May broke through with flashes of sincerity; she sounded real, for example, when she said she could not find any way to pay for a promise of universal dental care. But she was also heavy on the cornball slogans: “let’s all sing kumbaya!” “Like Charlie McCarthy to Donald Trump.” Maybe corny enough to be a bit endearing, actually. A bit like Biden’s appeal as everybody’s dotty uncle; May is everybody’s dotty aunt.

It is surprising, on its face, that Trudeau did not show. As Andrew Coyne has pointed out, that is a strategy that makes sense for a clear front-runner—why risk making a mistake, and why give the others the exposure?

But that does not apply here. The polls show Trudeau and Scheer neck and neck. And Twitter trends suggest a lot of people were watching.

I suspect the true answer is that Trudeau, personally, has lost his nerve. I have suspected this in his other recent decisions, since the SNC-Lavalin affair broke. He is just holding himself together.

Friday, September 13, 2019

An Early Thanksgiving

Irish ancestors, 180 years ago--the 1840s.

I have recently been despairing about the lack of truth in the world today. But that is not the whole story, and I ought to acknowledge this. Thanksgiving is almost here. It is worth remembering that a lot of things have gotten better in the world. I should be grateful.

When I was young, Ireland was dirt poor. Ireland had always been dirt poor. All of Southern Europe was poor. Even Scandinavia was poor. Mass starvation was more or less normal in India, Africa, or China. We were told the world was running out of food. It was only going to get worse.

Famines are now increasingly rare, the side-effects of war: there has been a “green revolution.” India has been exporting food for some time; that would have been unthinkable not long ago. Ditto China, Thailand. The possibilities of GMO suggest greater abundance still is coming. Returning to Toronto after 25 years, it seems to me that, while the prices of some things have risen astronomically, the cost of food is not that different. We are evidently getting more efficient at agriculture, even in the developed world.

When I was young, a third of the world, by conventional reckoning, was behind the “iron curtain,” unfree, and a civilization-ending nuclear war seemed possible at any moment. Families built bomb shelters in their back yards. I remember the air raid system being tested in Montreal. That entire complex of concerns evaporated in about 1990, as though it had all been a dream—something almost nobody had imagined to be possible a few years earlier. Poland, Latvia, Bulgaria—all members of NATO and the EU.

Aside from the Communist world, when I was young, democracy was rare. Even in Europe, Spain, Portugal, and Greece were run by dictators. So was most of Latin America, and East Asia. Now most of these countries are functioning democracies, and the freedom tide seems to keep rising. We more or less assume now that it must eventually triumph everywhere.

Even a decade ago, we were supposed to be rapidly running out of oil. After which all the lights would go out. Tankerloads of cash were being floated annually from the West to dubious governments and unproductive economies mostly in the Middle East, much of it probably funding terrorism. And the Middle East was not a promising place to which to mortgage our future.

Now the US is the world’s largest oil exporter. Followed by Canada, with the fracking revolution barely begun elsewhere.

A lot of strategic headaches are therefore gone. If Iran were now to try to close the Straits of Hormuz, the old fear, the main loser would be Iran. Anti-American Venezuela is in economic freefall. Putin cannot count on the cash to fund his military adventurism to continue.

I remember back during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis, Red Buttons did an over-the-top patriotic turn on American TV insisting that good old American ingenuity would someday solve the oil crisis. It looked then like vapid jingoism, wince-worthy; and it turned out to be exactly right.

In real terms, we are all clearly growing wealthier. Aside from food, I note that the price of cheap manufactured items, those little things you need around the house, is lower. I do not need to count the cost as my parents did before buying a new toaster. Improved technology, improved transportation, globalization—a lot of things are now made more cheaply in China, or India, or Southeast Asia.

Riding the bus today—and may I say, buses and streetcars are much more comfortable than they were in my childhood—I overheard a kid talking about her school’s recent trip to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica? When we had school trips, it was Ottawa or Quebec City. My grandparents’ idea of a big vacation was to get in the car and drive. Maybe as far as Virginia. If you ever made it across the ocean, you had made it, full stop.

In terms of entertainment and far more, the internet has improved our lives incalculably. They had radio and cinema and a phonograph, later black and white TV. With three channels to choose from. Now, whenever I need to know anything, instead of rummaging through libraries, perhaps even having to take an advanced degree, I can Google it up instantly. More often than not, I can even watch an instructional video—all free. It blew my mind the first time I was able to send an email to someone in Tokyo. Now I can move anywhere and remain in instant contact with friends everywhere. I can read or watch the news from any given city, generally free. I can also publish directly anything I choose to, in print or image or video, free. If anything happened anywhere, now, someone has a cell phone and is recording it, and it is quickly up online.

My kids cannot get interested in any toys or games or sports equipment we buy them; they sit in an unused pile, and we have learned to stop adding items. There is too much entertainment of all kinds on the Internet, free. We complain about their lack of activity, but really, the bottom line is that they have infinitely more options than we did. We were often bored. And beyond an internet connection, all this is equally available to poor kids.

The internet is also rapidly reducing the cost of many services; replacing older, more complicated systems. Uber makes transportation cheaper; AirBnB makes staying overnight in some new city cheaper. It has become dead easy and convenient to find a dentist. We probably no longer need such middlemen as real estate agents.

And smart phones. We forget how recently they arrived in our lives. Over just the last few years, smart phones have put all the world in our pockets, available at all times. Consider only the increased safety: lost? GPS. Fallen on a mountain hike in the wild and broken a leg? Call home; call emergency. Calculator, map, flashlight, translator, camera, video camera, always in your pocket. In China, you can make payments with your phone. In North America, debit cards serve pretty well; it was not long ago that I had to go to the bank weekly, stand in line, and withdraw the amount I thought I would need for the next seven days. While everyone else in town was doing the same.

And tablets. I did not at first see the point. Steve Jobs did. Tablets have vastly improved my own life. My daughter came to refer to my first ebook reader, which first allowed me to devour print from the net offline, as “Daddy’s toy.” Big enough to read on, small enough to curl up with, I am inseparable now from one tablet or another. So are the wife and kids.

When I was a kid, we still had the March of Dimes and Easter Seals, fighting for a cure for tuberculosis and polio. We kids all suffered through measles red and German, mumps, chicken pox, whooping cough, maybe three or four less common afflictions. My kids never had to bear any of that.

It is rather common suddenly for people to live into their nineties. We never expected this: seventy was a good run. My grandfather died at 61. And it may be uncool to mention it, but is how much better have some retirements become since Viagra appeared? It seems still only a few years ago. Nobody expected that one. In the nineties, everyone was terrified of AIDS: a rapidly growing plague, and a death sentence. Now we hardly hear of AIDS any longer; instead, of people “living with HIV.”

Despite the voices of doom that we always hear, and that we have always heard, the truth is that in material terms and in terms of comfort, life has been getting better and better for more and more people since the awful disruptions of the earlier 20th century. Which were themselves it seems only a temporary detour on a longer path of human progress that most of us used to believe in, and probably ought to again.

The downside, however, I think, is that as life gets easier and more comfortable, we all tend to forget the spiritual values. And in the end, we need them more than any material things. And suffer more from their lack.

Lord God of hosts, be with us yet--
Lest we forget. Lest we forget.

Thursday, September 12, 2019


It remains remarkable to me that Tulsi Gabbard has not gotten more traction yet in the Democratic presidential race.

I had formerly expected Kamala Harris to become the nominee. Gabbard seems to have derailed her campaign altogether with one choice exchange—perhaps the most powerful sound bite ever to emerge from a presidential debate in the US. While it showed Harris was not really read for the spotlight, it showed Gabbard to be strikingly poised.

Yet Gabbard herself remains mostly overlooked. Despite the fact that, on paper, her positions ought to be extremely appealing. She is a little more moderate than the bulk of the Dem pack; Biden has done well on taking the slightly moderate route. And she is attractively intersectional, to Democrats, as Biden is not. Her emphasis on staying out of foreign wars speaks to a deep current of American sentiment that has served Donald Trump well, and not long ago was key to the Democratic world view.

The only explanation, it seems to me, is that Democrats are almost to a man and a woman low-information voters. They do not see Gabbard because their masters say not to. They follow the lead of their media and party superiors, who tell them who to support. Now they want Warren. Who looks and sounds disconcertingly like a second Hillary Clinton.

This contrasts starkly with Republicans, who bucked the media and the party establishment emphatically in choosing Trump last cycle. They at least think for themselves.

In Canada, I am similarly surprised by Bernier’s lack of traction. He did, after all, come within a whisker of being Conservative leader. His platform on multiculturalism and immigration is, according to opinion polls, in closer accord with the views of most Canadians than all the other parties. I suspect the same is true of his views on price supports, interprovincial trade, and equalization payments. Even if these positions do not accord with a majority of Canadians, they speak to a large portion of them, not represented by any other party. If Trudeau is the government, Bernier and May are the real opposition. Singh and Scheer just sound like Trudeau.

I must assume that, like Democrats in the US, nearly all Canadians are low-information voters, who mostly just do as instructed by their supposed betters.

This makes sense within the larger premise that “the left” in modern North America equals the elites and their acolytes, the professions and the various bureaucracies and centres of social power; upheld by what was once called in Britain the “cap-doffing syndrome.” One loyally comes out to do battle when summoned by the family in the “big house.” While “the right” reflects the interests and views of ordinary people who think for themselves.

If I am right, both Gabbard and Bernier still have huge upside potential as the campaigns develop and more people start to pay more attention.

So what the heck: I recklessly predict that Gabbard emerges to get the Dem nomination, or else end as runner-up. And Bernier comes third in Canada. Depending on a lot of circumstances, but it seems more likely than not.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Wasteland

Eliot: "Man can only take so much truth."

We are, collectively, passing through a desert of meaninglessness.

We have been since the early 20th century; but it has recently been getting worse.

There used to be prominent voices, at least, who spoke truth: T.S. Eliot, Winston Churchill; in my youth, Buckminster Fuller, Margaret Thatcher, Milton Friedman, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The hallmark of truth is its simplicity. Once said, it seems obvious. It is lies that are complicated, ambiguous, “ironic,” “nuanced.” Liars need the cover of deniability.

So, it is true, do some truth tellers at some times; Jesus himself spoke in parables. This is so of artists generally. But when truth is covert in this way, it can be easily missed or misunderstood.

The Vatican, especially under John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, then Benedict XVI, was the great redoubt of plain truth; perhaps the last redoubt. But under Pope Francis, it too has gone all ambiguity and nuance, barely distinguishable from the rest of the culture.

This leaves a terrible lack of meaning emerging from any commanding voices in high places.

And even the artists seem to have fallen silent.

Under this regime of political correctness, speaking truth seems only dangerously naive.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

The Brotherhood of Man?

I caught Blaze coverage of the “Straight Pride” parade in Boston. One incident it caught illustrated how bad racism has now become on the North American left. Two guys, both avowedly of European ancestry, were arguing, left vs. right. See the video above starting around the 13:45 mark. The leftist, apparently a visitor from France, having called the rightist a Fascist, stormed off, shouting “Go home!” The rightist, a Bostonian, answered “I am home, brother.”

And then a black woman behind him took loud offense to him calling anyone “brother”--because he was not “African-American.”

In her mind, it was not only that only other people with black skin were her brothers. Worse, nobody who was not black even had brothers. Implicitly, only African-Americans had the right to such solidarity. Only African-Americans were human.

The use of the greeting “Brother,” to a non-relative, and the idea that all men are brothers, comes of course from Christian, Muslim, and monotheistic tradition. It acknowledges that we are all children of the same Father, God. No doubt it is from Christian usage that it has come to be common in the US black community, as it is with devout Christians or Muslims everywhere. A fact of which this woman seems to entirely ignorant.

Perhaps the lesson here is that our faith in human equality and in human rights is built on the bedrock of Judeo-Christian principles. Forget them, and we devolve quickly into racism and tribalism; and the opposite of brotherhood.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Maybe He Should Do What Boris Yeltsin Did

Purely a ceremonial office, like the Queen.

The UK is now in a constitutional crisis. It is hard to see how they can get out of it.

This bears out my observation that the problem with the Brexit process was never Theresa May. Dumping her did nothing. There are two problems here, both systemic.

First, there is simply no incentive for the EU to give Britain better terms for leaving the organization than they get by crashing out. No federation can reward a member for leaving. A no-deal Brexit is necessarily Britain’s best option, and the only factor limiting what the EU will demand. After leaving, the calculations change, and a deal may well be possible.

No better deal can come, and those who are refusing no deal to demand a better deal are delusional. Or this is only cover for forcing Britain to stay with the EU.

Unfortunately, the British parliament insists on ruling out no deal. Parliament has now repeatedly ruled out staying in the EU, ruled out the deal on offer, and ruled out leaving without a deal. There are no other options, except either electing a new parliament or mass suicide.

The next problem is that Britain cannot elect a new parliament. The Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2011 has stripped the executive, the cabinet, of necessary powers. Under the prior Westminster system, if nobody in a parliament could command a majority, the Queen, or really, the prime minister, would call an election. Now Boris Johnson cannot. This leaves Britain in the absurd situation of having no government, and no way to get one for the next four years. Only parliament itself can now call an election, and only by a two-thirds majority. Only, in short, if a super-majority of its members do not care to keep their jobs.

Just as it will permit neither leaving nor staying in the EU, this parliament will not support the cabinet, would not support the previous cabinet, will not support any other leadership currently available, and will not allow an election to break the deadlock.

The 2011 act was a remarkably dumb idea. Giving all power to the legislature makes responsibility too diffuse. Each member is free to act irresponsibly and in their own interest, avoid hard choices, and blame everyone else for the results.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

The Madness of Crowds


Given that people in groups are prone to madness, how can we prevent this and stay sane? It becomes an urgent issue. Perhaps the most important issue for any culture or civilization.

Freedom of speech. If someone sees the delusion, he or she must be free to announce it to others.

Ancient Israel had the tradition of prophecy. The system was not perfect, but the office of prophet was recognized: the individual could speak truth in against the social authority. And a Hebrew prophet was not without honour.

It is troubling therefore that we no longer recognize prophets.

Ancient Greece had a more accidental system. It had professional philosophers. Broken into city states, it was easy for a thoughtful individual who alienated the consensus in one city to escape to the next for asylum. Socrates was famously put to death for dissent—but in Plato’s account, he did have the option of instead slipping off to Thebes.

I suspect it was these two systems allowing perceptive and sane individuals to openly call out the mass delusions and popular sins that gave Judea and Greece, tiny nations, their overwhelming cultural and intellectual dominance over the ancient world; a dominance that persists into the present.

More recently, the British and American legal traditions of freedom of speech, imperfect as they are, are surely what has led to the modern global cultural and intellectual dominance of the Anglosphere.

Perhaps, it is true, a chicken is here in hot pursuit of a hypothetical egg. An honest group will naturally be more open to freedom of speech. A polity that is aware it has something to hide will naturally suppress it.

Either way, it is obviously ominous that free speech is now under attack. To believe in free speech is now automatically “racist.” It is not just the formal legal assault of “hate laws,” but “political correctness” and the social shunning of those whose opinions differ. Amplified and abetted by the cult of psychiatry, which essentially holds, in Orwell’s words, that “lunacy is a minority of one”—whatever the majority believes is necessarily true, and anyone who thinks otherwise necessarily mad. If some bearded, hair-shirted senior declares today in the street that we all risk divine retribution for our wrongs and errors, we do not respect him as prophet. We silence him as insane. Psychiatry is a tremendously effective tool for the matrix.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Religion Is the Red Pill

The popular opinion on the film “The Matrix,” is surely that it is a bit of wild speculative fiction; an acid trip. 

Actually, though, its essential thesis, that the world as it appears to us is purely an illusion, is one of the oldest and most basic insights known to man.

This is Plato’s cave: the physical and social world is no more than the shadows of puppets cast on dark cavern walls. The real is elsewhere.

This is also the basic insight of Buddhism, or of Hinduism: nothing in the physical or the social world is real. It is all a dream of Vishnu, asleep on the cosmic sea; or it is a delusion caused by desire. In Taoism, Chuang Tsu awoke from a dream of being a butterfly, and asked: “How do I know whether I am Chuang Tsu, who dreamt I was a butterfly, or a butterfly who is dreaming I am Chuang Tsu?”

Christianity and Judaism partly depart from this ancestral consensus by accepting that the physical world, at least, is real. It, after all, is created by God; and God would not deceive. They continue, however, to maintain that the social consensus is false. The social reality, after all, is created by man. God himself appears on Earth--and is put to death by the social authorities and the popular consensus as a common criminal. The social is opposed to the true; only the narrow gate leads to the kingdom of heaven.

In Judaism, the matter is less emphatic. Nevertheless, formulaically, the prophets, who speak for God and truth, are driven into the wilderness. In Kabbalah, the physical world as well is seen as a series of shells concealing the shekhinah, the divine glory: like Shelley’s “painted veil, that those who live call life.”

Islam is the one major faith that seems to lack this core insight, that the social world falsifies the real world. Muhammed is called a prophet, but he differs utterly from the Biblical prophets in being a ruler and presented as the ultimate moral authority: his kingdom is very much of this world. Granted that David or Solomon in the Bible were also rulers—they were also shown as deeply morally flawed, and confessed to this. Within Islam, Sufism preserves the essential insight that the visible and social world is not real; but Sufism is a minority tradition. This, to my mind, is an insurmountable flaw in Islam, and leads to all the problems of “political Islam.”

Take the social as the real, as authority for truth, as political Islam does, and you inevitably get mass murder; Satan is the ruler of this world, and Satan is thereby in command. You get Nazism, Marxism, Jonestown, and similar movements.

This, of course, is exactly what we are doing currently with postmodernism. Postmodernism holds, in so many words, that “reality is a social construct.” No statement could be more false, poisonous or supportive of the Matrix.