Playing the Indian Card

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Devil Is a Gentleman

Our age views Adolf Hitler as the embodiment of human evil.

That is wrong, and dangerously misleading. Hitler was a very bad man; but there are worse men.

It is not just that Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot were guilty of Holocausts as awful. We damn Hitler in large part because it is safe to do so, because he lost the war and has no living followers. This does not make him a worse man; only an easier target.

But Hitler also lacks some possible vices, and had at least one virtue. There must be others who actually have all the vices, and none of the virtues.

Even among his coterie, compare Goering. Goering endorsed all that Hitler did. But Goering was more avaricious. Goering indulged the vice of gluttony: Hitler was a teetotaler and more or less a vegetarian. Nor was Hitler visibly lustful. Stalin’s henchman Beria was far worse on this score, or Hitler’s henchmen Ernst Rohm or Reinhard Heydrich.

And Hitler possessed, in more than usual measure, the virtue of courage or fortitude. Throughout his career, he dared to take risks and do dangerous things.

A worse person would be too timid to go around killing everyone. Their gluttony and sloth would produce addiction and inaction, not the energetic destruction of Hitler. They would actually be capable of less harm. And a worse man would do all his evil by stealth.

The worst person living or the worst person who ever lived could easily be among us now, in our neighbourhood, unsuspected, living an outwardly unexceptional life.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Guilty of Hate Speech?

This is interesting.

I posted my poem "An Aborigine Thinks of Leaving Home" here recently, and also on my book's Facebook feed.

The Facebook post has now been removed by Zuckerberg and Company, and my account has been flagged for "hate speech."

I repost it below--see what you think.

I guess it could be declared "hate speech" against non-aboriginals. If there really is such a thing as "hate speech." But the same poem won an award as one of the best Canadian poems of 1991.

Times have changed. And not for the better.

Anyone can now be guilty of a thought crime at any time.

An Aborigine Thinks of Leaving Home

The white man is lazy,
He dreams with his head
Except when he's asleep.
He lives all his life
In one place
And watches his penis make love. 
He looks with his eyes, he cannot hear;
He only listens with his ears, he cannot see. With his nose, he cannot remember.
His hands only touch solid things,
And he holds them in his grasp, not his palms.
Instead of making children
He makes stones move
Then rules them with fingers Instead of song. 
He does no more than he wants,
And what he wants, he does.
He dances only when drugged,
And only says things once.
He does not talk to the birds or lizards
 And he eats them without their permission.  
To understand, he cuts things apart;
Yet never opens the skin.
He finds death simpler than life,
And separation easier than choirsong.
When he dies, he goes straight to heaven,
Forgetting his children's campfires.
Dead, he leaves his body
Faster than he clung to it alive.
It would be good
To be white and do nothing but work all day long;
I grow young, and I weary of play.
It would be good to wake up one morning,
And not be surprised.
It would be good no more to hear this constant din
Of angels in my ears

We report. You decide.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Narcissism: Its Cause and Its Cure

Narcissism: Its Cause and Its Cure

Happy News

I hear that, in its second week of existence, Don Cherry's Grapevine is already the number 1 podcast on Apple iTunes.

It's soothing to think of all the revenue his ex-employers are losing.

I spend last weekend with a clan of suburbanites. These were not right-wingers. They were unanimous, for example, in despising Trump. Yet they were also unanimous in saying Cherry was unjustly fired.

An Aborigine Thinks of Leaving Home

The white man is lazy,
He dreams with his head
Except when he's asleep.
He lives all his life
In one place
And watches his penis make love.

He looks with his eyes, he cannot hear;
He only listens with his ears, he cannot see.
With his nose, he cannot remember.
His hands only touch solid things,
And he holds them in his grasp, not his palms.
Instead of making children
He makes stones move
Then rules them with fingers
Instead of song.
He does no more than he wants,
And what he wants, he does.
He dances only when drugged,
And only says things once.
He does not talk to the birds or lizards
And he eats them without their permission. 
To understand, he cuts things apart;
Yet never opens the skin.
He finds death simpler than life,
And separation easier than choirsong.
When he dies, he goes straight to heaven,
Forgetting his children's campfires.
Dead, he leaves his body
Faster than he clung to it alive.
It would be good
To be white and do nothing but work all day long;
I grow young, and I weary of play.
It would be good no longer to sleep
No longer to dream.
It would be good to wake up one morning,
And not be surprised.
It would be good no more to hear this constant din
Of angels in my ears.

-- Stephen K. Roney

Mrs. Warren's Impression

Elizabeth Warren’s support down in the Estados Unidos is visibly collapsing, and it seems to be because she rolled out the details of her health plan.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders’s support is steady and now stronger, with a more radical and expensive plan.

The problem seems to be that Warren’s plan now looks like a fudge. She’s delaying the costly part of it three years to mask the real expense. And, of course, she has resisted even saying that taxes would have to go up to pay for it.

This illustrates Andrew Scheer’s problem here in Canada. It is not that his rather mainstream views are too radical. It is that he seems to be fudging. He looks dishonest. Not a good look.

I’m tempted to say the electorate has become too smart for that. But really, they are not that smart. Elizabeth Warren’s dishonesty has been obvious to all at least since her DNA test results. Biden’s has been obvious since the 1980s. It usually takes a while.

This is a big reason for the Tories not to turn now to Peter MacKay. No politician has shown more blatant dishonesty than he, in his pact with David Orchard long ago to take the PC leadership. Electing him would be like grabbing at a grenade with the pin missing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Kinsella Tapes

CBC has apparently gotten hold of tapes of Warren Kinsella discussing his work on a backdoor social media campaign to smear Maxime Bernier,

Aside from any moral issues, this strikes me as evidence of gross political malpractice by Scheer's team.

First question: where do you suppose the CBC got the tapes?

Almost necessarily, from someone at Kinsella's firm, hoping to discredit the Conservatives.

It is as though the Scheer team handed a loaded revolver to a known enemy, and painted a target on their t-shirt. What did they expect?

Even apart from this, it makes dubious political sense to try to character assassinate the smaller party over to their right. Granted, the PPC might cause some vote splitting. At the same time, their presence forces the debate rightward, presenting the argument for policies near Scheer's on the spectrum, and making his own look more moderate. Slandering their views as "racist" risks tarring the Conservatives as well, by association. Just in case the adversary missed with that loaded pistol, Scheer's men had a loaded shotgun ready, pointed at their foot.

After all, Bernier a couple of years ago came within a few votes of becoming the Tory leader.

It's all so dumb it almost seems easier to believe Scheer is secretly a Liberal himself.

All Fears of the Forest Are Gone

Favourite song of the CeeGees, my brother's musical duet in the last few years before he died.

It suddenly seems so appropriate.

By the composer, Phil Ochs.


True Christianity


At my brother’s recent funeral (and PBOH, as the Muslims say), somebody spoke with a bit of a sneer of his “spirituality” --said as if in scare quotes -- presumably because he was not a Christian, and might have described himself as an atheist.

Here’s how that rolls out.

First Premise: the job of being human is the job of wholeheartedly seeking the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

This is necessarily so because these three qualities are of intrinsic value. Their value does not derive from elsewhere.

This is also necessarily so because a good and honourable God would ensure that the proper purpose of life would be apparent to all mankind, at all times. It cannot be concealed only in this or that book or community.

The value of truth, moral good, and beauty is, moreover, as a visible fact, recognized worldwide regardless of religions. All of mankind indeed understands these value as self-evident. We may disagree about what is true, or good, but not about the desirability of the truth, or good.

Perhaps, it is true, this is less clear for beauty than for the other two. Just as lower animals cannot appreciate moral issues, some humans seem incapable of appreciating beauty. It requires a more refined soul. However, just as the fact that pigs have no morality does not disprove morality, the fact that some humans cannot appreciate beauty does not discount its value—so long as it is felt by all those who do appreciate it.

Second premise: one is not saved by saying one is Christian and going to church. One is not saved by mouthing the name “Jesus” in prayer. One is saved by accepting the cosmic essence of Jesus, the Logos, which Jesus identifies: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” In other words, the moral path, the truth, and inspiration. The good, the true, the beautiful.

One can easily do this as a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Jew, or an atheist.

Jesus said “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice.” At the time, in context, he was no doubt speaking of non-Jews; but literally, he was speaking in general of people who had not yet heard of him. Until and unless all the world is nominally Christian, Jesus has sheep outside the nominally Christian fold.

If you claim to be a Christian, but do not sincerely believe Christian teachings, as in the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed, you are simply a Pharisee, a hypocrite. You are simply dishonest.

If anyone would assert that truth is a matter of exerting the will to believe, let him be anathema. He is not following God; he is declaring himself God.

It follows that, if you sincerely believe there is no God, and say and act so, you are a good Christian in the true sense of the word.

Similarly, if you claim to be a Christian, but do not practice the good as you see it--or do what Christianity teaches even though you do not believe it is good--you are simply a Pharisee, a hypocrite.

James 2: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”

And if you claim to be a Christian, are capable of appreciating beauty, and do not seek to nurture and sustain it, you are also a Pharisee and a hypocrite. This applies to both natural beauty and the beauty of art. It is the true basis of our ecological duties, for example.

The obligation to be Christian and to pray the name “Jesus Christ” simply follows from the fact that Christianity is true and a reliable moral guide. At the same time, if one is sincerely not personally convinced of that, to pretend otherwise would be deeply sinful.

It follows that my brother was, in fact, a very good Christian, and a far better Christian than one who would sneer at him and his values at his own funeral.

My brother lived his life seeking truth, and to be good, and, perhaps most of all, beauty.

A comment almost always heard from friends is about the utter sincerity of his smile and of his laugh. He was never deceitful, calculating, pretentious, or manipulative. He always lived the truth as he saw it.

Next, they always say what a gift he had for friendship. There are many stories of how much he would do for a friend. Throughout his life as I knew him, he never showed malice to anyone.

And last, he lived his life for beauty, both natural and artistic. His two great loves were music—he was a brilliant guitarist, and fostered other musicians far and wide—and the natural beauty of Canada’s Thousand Islands district, where he chose to live alone in the woods.

I believe my brother Gerry is a saint in heaven.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Criticism of Andrew Scheer from the Right

This new criticism of Andrew Scheer is at least on the mark. The problem was not that he held "social conservative" positions, but that he prevaricated and would not defend them.

Put another way he failed to show a capacity for leadership.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Why This Modern Idolatry?

Saturn eating his children.

It strikes me that much of the temptation to idolatry is from a desire to avoid moral obligations.

If you worship “nature,” you are implicitly reserving to yourself the right to do whatever is “natural,” that is, to follow your desires without moral scruple.

If you worship “peace,” you are denying your moral obligation to combat evil. And denying the right of anyone else to resist your own chosen evil.

If you worship “democracy,” you are claiming exemption from moral choice. Going along with the crowd is easier. It protects you from having to do anything that might cost you social position. Or cost you much of anything. You needn’t be any better than the next guy; and it is now in everyone’s interest to be no more moral than is strictly necessary. Raise the bar, and you are a bad person.

If you worship “science,” you are implicitly avoiding questions of value, in the name of scientific “objectivity.” Which is to say, you are avoiding morality. Moral concerns are incompatible with science.

Worshipping “diversity,” too, may be a matter of avoiding tough moral choices—it is implicitly an assertion of cultural relativism. If your neighbor claims his culture allows him to beat his child to death, you now have no moral obligation to intervene. You are yourself exempt from moral judgement so long as you are doing things others in your culture commonly do. Implicitly, further, so long as you are doing anything conceivably permissible in any other culture, you are not really doing anything morally wrong. At best, morality is merely social convention. Like washing your hands before you eat your firstborn.

Kind of all fits in, doesn’t it? Kind of looks like a common thread.

The same motive seems to me to be behind the great god “atheism.” “Atheists” do not, so far as I have ever seen, actually deny the existence of God. That may be impossible in rational terms. They just call it “science” or “nature.” Science and nature as they describe them, as idols, have all the attributes of God except personhood and morality.

An impersonal God will not care about morality. 

The New Polytheism

The Great God Nature.

“Peace” and “diversity” are becoming dangerous idolatries. Not that they are the only ones; they join many other false gods in the modern polytheistic pantheon, like “democracy,” “nature,” and “science.”

Both are, of course, conditionally good, both peace and diversity—that is, good depending on context. Diversity is good; lack of diversity is bad. But unity is also good, surely to an at least equal extent. And diversity is close to being the opposite of unity. Accordingly, there can be too much diversity without unity, and too much unity without diversity. This is lost once “diversity” becomes the idol. The US motto is good in this regard: “e pluribus unum”; roughly, “out of diversity, unity.” The Christian doctrine of the Trinity also seems to strike this balance.

So too with peace. Peace is always preferable to conflict, if these are the only two factors in the equation, and not even for moral reasons. It’s easier and more profitable for everyone. But these are never the only two factors. If they were, the issue would never come up. Everyone wants peace.

In truth, whenever there is a conflict, it is usually, in the normal course of things, because one party is in the right, and the other in the wrong. An honest person must assume this. Cases where it is all due to a “misunderstanding” are quite naturally in the minority; this is an intrinsically less probable reason for any disagreement to occur, let alone to come to blows. To pretend otherwise is both cowardly and dishonest. Because, after all, it is not true, and it is the easier path.

In cases in which morality is on one side in a conflict, most cases, demanding peace unconditionally is always acting in support of the aggressor or the party perpetrating injustice. One is then fully guilty as well of that injustice or aggression. None so guilty, someone said, as the “innocent bystander.” Especially if they are going to condemn the victim on grounds of false morality for resisting being knifed. This is then both participating in the knifing, adding a further assault, and debasing the moral currency generally.

Or, as Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Friday, November 22, 2019

Uber Uber Alles

Riot on Nevsky Prospect, Petrograd, 1917.

Richard Fernandez writes, for PJ Media, that the MSM are missing the big story while they fixate on Trump’s impeachment. The world is on fire: rioting in the streets of Hong Kong, Lebanon, Chile, Spain, France, Iraq, Sudan, Russia, Uganda, Peru, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and Iran. Something is going on.

Fernandez does not say what it is, other than the people being fed up with the establishment. What I say is going on is the democratization of information flow thanks to the Internet. The ability of folks to organize through social media, and to access information online, makes the traditional establishment largely redundant. We have gone, for example, from the rigid organization of the traditional taxi company to the free form flow of Uber.

Structures are now more often than not getting in the way. Accordingly, people are less inclined to listen to their authority, to defer to them, and to pay for them.

The initial reaction of the establishment has been to try to batten down the hatches, and expand the role of government in order to squelch this perceived disorder. This, I think, is suicide.

The future is for less government. Whatever jurisdictions first realize this shall inherit the earth.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Don Cherry's Podcast

Happy news: Don Cherry is back, with his own podcast on Spotify. First episode is up, and has some great reminiscences of Rocket Richard.

I hope everyone will make a point of subscribing. Even if you don't actually listen, subscribe. Give it a listenership higher than the guys who fired him! Fight the cancel culture and save democracy.

Search on Spotify for "Don Cherry's Grapevine."

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Podcast Now on iTunes

The new "Truth about Dragons" podcast is now featured on iTunes, so you can easily download episodes for your iPhone or iPod.

Now the challenge for me will be to keep three podcasts supplied with new episodes. Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

No More Clowning Around

Unsurprisingly, my left-leaning friend Xerxes enthusiastically supports the firing of Don Cherry. “About time,” he writes.

I think Cherry was fired for doing his job.

Can anyone think Cherry was there just as a hockey commentator? Such a popular figure, voted one of the greatest Canadians, making so much money for his employers and sponsors, because of the quality of his hockey insights? People with the expertise for sports commentary are thick on the ground. There is really rarely much to say in that regard. It ain’t rocket science. Most after-game shows are deadly boring.

Don Cherry is an entertainer. People watched for his flamboyant act, his outrageousness. His recent comments about immigrants were entirely within this character and role. Just what he was there to do.

Don Cherry is a clown. He even wears motley, for goodness sake. He even has a straight man.

Humor requires the reversal of expectations—always. That’s what makes things funny. Accordingly, the job of a clown or comedian is always to say or do things that are superficially outrageous.

To fire a clown for clowning is unreasonable and unjust.

You might respond, “Don Cherry’s not funny.” Matter of taste. He does not make people laugh out loud. But he obviously entertained. His viewership numbers prove it. He made folks smile.

It is worse than bad form, bad manners, to be unable to take a joke. Joking also serves important social functions. For one, jokes and laughter allow us to let off steam, which otherwise will be expressed in more disruptive ways. Every clown also at least in part serves the traditional role of the court jester: gently and unthreateningly speaking truth to power. We always need this so as not to slip off the rails and be lost in our own delusions. There is not much authentic humour in a totalitarian state.

Firing Don Cherry is a strong indication that this is the way we are headed.

And any aggression here, any ‘bullying,’ is not by Don Cherry, but by the wider society. He has always said things like this; he has not changed. The rules have, without fair warning.

And there was nothing objectively wrong with what he said this time, for anyone, let alone a clown.

Xerxes cites the legal adage, “your right to swing your fist stops at the end of my nose.” This helpfully demonstrates why all ‘hate speech,’ let alone anything Cherry said, should be constitutionally protected. It is in the US. The Canadian Constitution matches the American in guaranteeing free speech; but in the US, this matter has come to the Supreme Court, and they have ruled so.

For words, after all, never come in contact with anyone’s nose.

Except in certain specific circumstances, words cause no material harm. The specific circumstances are well-defined in common law: libel, slander, fraud, incitement to violence. One can see the common thread: material harm. Upsetting someone does not count. Any such imagined harm is ultimately self-inflicted: nobody is obliged to watch Don Cherry.

Abandon this principle, and there is no free speech whatsoever. The term then means nothing.

But even were this not the case, Cherry’s recent remark was not “hate speech,” illegitimate as that term is.

It is one thing to criticize people as groups based on race, creed, or colour. That is, at best, morally wrong, even if it must not be illegal. The problem is that these are things over which no one has any control. (Religion fits here because, if one believes, one’s conscience puts the matter beyond free choice.) But “immigrants,” or rather, to use Cherry’s words, “you people that come here,” are defined only by a shared action, done freely, that of moving to Canada. It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that actions have or should have consequences, implying certain responsibilities. If it is discriminatory to make general unfavourable comments about such a group, defined only by a voluntary action, then it must, to be just, be considered equally discriminatory, and a firing offense, to make any criticism of lawyers, or politicians, or used car salesmen, or the rich, or the Toronto Maple Leafs, or Torontonians, and so forth. Theoretically, it would seem wrong even to say anything against, say, criminals.

Which may, I suspect, be the real reason behind the growing social intolerance. A lot of people have a guilty conscience, and so are invested in objecting to anyone pointing out anything wrong about anyone. This seems of a piece with the US Congress trying to impeach Donald Trump for asking for investigation of a possible crime by Hunter Biden, rather than investigating Hunter Biden. Or the US media suppressing the story of Jeffrey Epstein, and attacking in full outrage the supposed ‘whistle-blower’ who revealed that the story was suppressed. The crime now has become pointing out the crime.

Surely it is obvious that it will be impossible to run a democracy on that basis. Let alone tell jokes.

Another little bit in Xerxes’s column perhaps shows why clowns are needed.

He reports approvingly that “the United Church of Canada has policies that will not permit an unmarried minister to fall in love with a member of the congregation.”

Now, that statement is surely false. To begin with, falling in love is not something any authority can prevent from happening, or even know has happened. Moreover, it is an entirely good thing, and certainly not harmful to its object. See St. Paul on the nature of love. Surely any denomination should want its ministers to fall in love with all their congregants; it is the core of the Christian message.

What he or the United Church actually mean, surely, is that their ministers are prohibited from having sex with members of the congregation. They do not want to say this because it sounds unsettling. It requires the tacit admission that their ministers are otherwise free to have sex outside of marriage.

This is the sort of politically correct falsehood, meant to mislead, that we need clowns to call us on. Like John the Baptist in his day, they “make the paths straight for the Lord.”

Which is to say, aside from gravely harming our democracy, and social peace, the firing of Don Cherry does not speak well for our shared morality either.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

What Is Depression? Podcast Version...

What Is Depression?

Depression Video

So What Is Mental Illness?


To begin with, it is not illness.

People generally seem not to realize that calling these things “illnesses” is a metaphor or an analogy. It depends on seeing our souls as equivalent to our bodies.

Yet they are fundamentally different. Our bodies can be seen like a machine that we operate.

But our minds are ourselves. We do not use the mind. We are the mind.

Because we use the body like a machine, it is easy to understand its functions. Each part has proper operations we can recognize. Illness is when some part is not performing its function.

But do we know what the proper function is of a soul? Of a mind? Of a self?

If we do, that is a religious question, not one psychiatry can answer.

Freud proposed that the proper function of a human being is to work and have sex. This reduces the human person itself to a machine. Is that really all there is? If it is, who wouldn’t be depressed?

If this is true, moreover, why listen to a psychiatrist? They are doing whatever they do only to get paid and get laid. This does not involve, notably, either telling the truth or doing anyone else any good. Should you trust them with your soul?

This sounds harsh, but this is what the logic boils down to.

Psychiatry and psychology in general have to rely on the goal of “being normal”; which is to say, being average. Being like everyone else. Again, not an inspiring goal. If mental health means simply conformity, it is a sinister thing: sinister to human freedom, and to human progress. Jews are not normal. Gandhi was not normal. Mandela was not normal. Einstein was not normal. Steve Jobs was not normal. Shakespeare was not normal.

It should be no surprise to us that people who have accomplished any great thing usually show the same symptoms the DSM lists in its descriptions of mental illness. This has become a commonplace recently, but it was already well understood by Plato and Aristotle.

Aristotle’s Problem XXX:

Why is it that all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the arts are clearly of a melancholic temperament, and some of them to such an extent as to be affected by diseases caused by black bile?

Psychiatry has no answer. Religion does. And I think it is possible here to speak for religions generally. What is the proper function of the human person? The proper function of the human soul is to seek truth and good. Many will add beauty.

On this definition, it is entirely possible that the symptoms psychiatry considers mental illness are actually signs of mental health.

Consider Buddhism.

Gautama reveals the Four Noble Truths in the deer park at Banares.

Buddhism’s first Noble Truth is that all existence is suffering, dukka, “ill-being.” That’s one symptom of depression: “depressed mood.”

Buddhism’s second Noble Truth is that suffering is caused by attachment. The third Noble Truth is that one ends suffering by ending all cravings, all attachments. That’s a second symptom of depression, according to the DSM: “Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities.”

The fourth Noble Truth is the eightfold path, which involves, essentially, withdrawing from the world and sitting still, meditating, practicing mindfulness: “A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement.” That’s a third symptom of depression.

Through such meditation, one comes to the critical insight of anatman, anatta: the self is an illusion, “no self.” That’s a fourth symptom of depression: “depersonalization.” “Feelings of worthlessness.”

The ultimate goal is “nirvana”: “cessation,” like the snuffing out of a candle. This sounds a lot like a fifth DSM symptom, “recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan.” More literally, in Buddhism, suicide is considered an honourable choice, more or less to be encouraged.

That’s five symptoms, meaning, according to the DSM, that any sincere Buddhist is suffering from depression.

Some will no doubt take this as evidence that the religious are insane. Some similarly argue that Muhammed was an epileptic, and the apostles in the upper room were hallucinating Jesus’s resurrection. Mad, all mad. But really, who are you going to believe, the acknowledged best minds of the world’s entire population over at least the past two millennia, or the relatively distinguished panel who came up with the DSM a few years ago?

It seems most reasonable on the evidence to posit that, suffering as they unquestionably are, the average “mentally ill” person is actually functioning better as a human being than the average person.

Religion does, it is true, recognize such a thing as spiritual or mental sickness. There are two forms: error, and sin. The first falls short of the truth; the second falls short of the good.

But religion is where these answers can be found.

Friday, November 15, 2019

So What Is Depression?

Edvard Munch, Melancholy

So what is depression?

It is not an illness, so far as we know. All we really have is a set of symptoms. See the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual to make this clear. It is a bulleted checklist. Check off five or more, and that’s your diagnosis.

And it may be an arbitrary list. What we call depression may, like fever, or a skin rash, have a variety of different underlying causes. Or it may be that one cause is behind both the symptom list we call “depression,” and another currently unassociated symptom list: “anxiety disorder,” or “narcissistic personality disorder,” or “autism,” or something else. Or all of them.

In fact, I submit that this is certainly the case. Depression can have a variety of causes, and it shares the same causes with other currently unrelated “mental illnesses.”

I think we can, however, talk about an essence of depression. It is not “sorrow.” The current label is misleading.

If you scan the official list of symptoms, it is not hard to guess. “Depressed mood.” “Diminished interest in activities.” “Loss of energy.” “Lack of movement.” “Indecisiveness.”

Bingo. The essence of depression is a lack of direction or meaning. One has lost one’s sense of purpose. One just can’t get that motor in gear. Or, one is in a kind of maze of thoughts, and cannot find the exit.

That tends to cause low spirits; not vice versa.

Cheering you up is not the issue, and is not going to work. You have to find direction.

You can actually see this happening to entire cultures. Jung observed it in Africa, and called it “loss of soul.” Back in the 19th century, when first contact with isolated cultures was still often recent, Darwin puzzled over it. He observed in The Descent of Man that when isolated cultures first encountered Europeans, they tended to stop marrying and having children. They stop working, whatever their work had been, and become deeply involved with alcohol or drugs. Their tightly integrated word view had been shattered by this intrusion of something vastly alien. They no longer understood the point of anything.

I have seen a similar reaction on a smaller scale among expatriates, on integrating with an unfamiliar culture. They retreat to their rooms, or to expat bars and alcohol. Some even begin to have fully delusional thoughts.

So the various symptoms we clump together as depression come from a feeling that nothing makes sense. We no longer know what to think.

Losing one’s sense of meaning can, in turn, have a variety of causes. It may be that some dramatic life experience, like going to war, or the arrival of aliens in some great ship, has challenged all our previous certainties, and we have found them not to be true. You can even get the effect from some sudden new idea, either something you learn or something you figure out for yourself. For a while, it can be deeply disorienting. This is one reason why, as Aristotle observed, learning is painful.

We generally derive a huge amount of our sense of meaning and purpose from our relationships: from family and social group, community and nation. We live for our lover, for our children, for our parents. We are prepared to die for our country.

So one inevitable major cause of depressive symptoms, probably the most common, is having come from a family in which one was rejected, devalued, unloved.

Psychiatry and psychology have been vaguely aware of this; but they see the critical factor as childhood abuse, usually physical or sexual. This is not the key; it is the devaluation of the person, or, conversely, the devaluation of the family or community relationship, however this is expressed.

This can explain another symptom labelled as depression in the DSM: a low sense of self-worth. You get this, most obviously, from living with others who tell you you are worthless.

But the same sorts of families or communities also tend to systematically lack or overturn more generally any sense of values. Parents with their own values in good order do not reject or abuse their children. This lack of values growing up may still be the most damaging thing.

If this is right, the cure is obvious. Pills aren’t going to do it. Pills can’t give you meaning. Many early psychiatrists themselves saw it, and said it: Frankl, Maslow, Jung. The solution for depression is to somehow find new meaning and direction.

Some find their new meaning and direction in psychology and psychotherapy. When it works, this is why it works. And this is why people today, who have been psychologized, tend to cling to their particular school with a fervor you would expect for religion.

But psychology and psychiatry are not very strong vessels for this. They are not intended for it, are new and untested, and are critically limited in scope.

The classical place to find meaning is, of course, religion.

The decline in organized religion in North America and Europe, not surprisingly, tracks exactly to a rise in depression and other psychiatric diagnoses. At the same time, people have tended to stop marrying and having children, they have become more inclined to retreat to drug use.

This is not a coincidence.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Credo in Deum Patrem

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

A social group to which I belong recently took in a Catholic mass. Discussing it afterward, one participant preemptively announced she was Catholic, and disavowed the Creed, recited at this as at every mass.

“Most Catholics,” she said, “just say the words, but we don’t believe all that stuff.”

I could not contradict her. She may be right. But this is troubling, since the original point of the Creed was to establish who is a Christian and who is not.

My friend Xerxes, a pillar of the United Church, also dismisses God as depicted in the Creed as a “fairy-tale God.”

They seem to take the claims as self-evidently improbable.

The same notion for years powered the “Jesus seminar.” But the logic of it is obviously wrong on the most fundamental level.

First, it takes no leap of faith to assert that a Supreme Being necessarily exists. This various major philosophers have demonstrated seven ways to Sunday.

A Supreme Being is, by definition, all powerful.

It follows that he is perfectly capable of everything in the Creed. There is nothing improbable about any of it. The only question is, would he want to do these things?

Xerxes dislikes the idea of God as a person, who might then so will. He likes to think of God as a force like gravity, or a kind of network.

But this concept too fails right out of the gate. Surely we can agree that a conscious, self-aware being with intent exists in a more complete sense than something unconscious: that, say, a human is a higher state of being than a rock. It is also hard to be omniscient without being conscious; lacking consciousness, God could not be God. A conscious, self-aware being with intent, is what we call a person.

Now, would he will to do these things, or something like them?

A Supreme Being, as Descartes, for one, demonstrated, must necessarily be good, and all-good. Evil is a flaw, a deficiency.

An all-good being would want to do good to man. He would love us, with a perfect love. Accordingly, he would want to reveal himself to us, and lead us to higher perfection.

And so it ought even to be logically expected that God would appear in history at some point. Obvious enough that it is found in Hinduism as well, in the concept of the avatar. Or, in effect, leaving aside some important theological differences, in Buddhism, in the concept of the Bodhisattva.

The only question then is when and where. 

Was it Jesus, or Krishna, or Kwan Yin, or some other, or someone yet to come?

To help us decide, there are also specific empirical facts asserted in the Creed. Christianity is actually to some extent falsifiable, meeting Popper’s criterion for scientific knowledge. It is not a matter of arbitrary belief.

If, for example, it could be shown that Pontius Pilate was not an authority in Palestine at about the time of Jesus, Christianity would be disproven. If a corpse of Jesus were recovered, or there were credible records of one, Christianity would be disproven.

Conversely, the fact that what historical records we have conform with these facts, tends to make the whole more probable than not. The disappearance of the corpse—something attested implicitly by ancient non-Christian sources, which had every reason to wish to debunk Christianity—being the most important.

The same is obviously not true of fairy tales. The existence of fairies is not logically necessary, and fairy tales make no historic claims.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Another Petition to Sign

Now Is the Time for All Good People ...

I certainly can’t say for sure, because Google’s sinister algorithms pre-screen everything so that it conforms to what it thinks are our pre-existing prejudices. But it seems the coverage of the Don Cherry firing has changed.

For the first day or two, it was all, “why did it take so long to fire Don Cherry?” And “Canada has at last outgrown Don Cherry.”

Now the story seems to have shifted to “the Don Cherry controversy.” And “the Don Cherry controversy just won’t die.” One online petition is nearing 200,000 signatures, and apparently there was a demonstration this afternoon in front of the SportsNet offices.

I gather the media expected the public to take this sitting down. Seems awfully na├»ve of them. But it has been clear for some time that they don’t get out much.

Surely a Revelation Is at Hand ...

Why was I thinking last night of Lee Harvey Oswald... along with Don Cherry?

It was almost the same time of year, as darkness was asserting dominance in the skies; and it seemed as epochal a disturbance in our shared lives.

To anyone of about my age, the Kennedy assassination was a revelation. We had innocently assumed that the world was good. The obvious empire of evil had been destroyed, a couple of decades ago, and the future could only be brighter than the past. The death of JFK was, to us, the discovery that evil had spontaneously resurrected itself. Nothing was ever the same again.

Although it seemed so improbable that we could not process it, Kennedy seems to have been killed by one lone demoniac. Oswald killed him for one simple reason: because Kennedy was a better man than he was, and so could not be permitted to exist.

The revelation that comes with this sudden career assassination of Don Cherry is that, over the intervening years, we have all become Oswalds. Now Oswald’s voice is coming from not just from the grassy knoll, but from all sides, from the observing crowd.

Or at least, the Oswalds have taken charge.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Walk in Toronto

Yesterday, out walking, I passed a woman waiting at the bus stop. She gave me a concerned look. I could not tell why.

Buses do not come often on route 70C. Some minutes later, I was walking back the same way, and the same woman was still waiting. This time she addressed me.

“How do you keep it on?”

I could not place it, but she had a foreign accent.

I did not know what she was referring to. “You mean my toque?”

“No, the poppy. I’ve bought three, but they keep falling off.”

I actually had a few suggestions. I have a video on the subject up on this blog.

Try sticking an eraser end on the pin. Try taping it.

“I’ll do that when I get home.”

“Next year. This is the last day we wear them.”

She obviously did not know. But she had seen my poppy, and felt guilty.

Strikes me this was the immediate result of Don Cherry’s complaint on Coach’s Corner.

He may have gotten fired for it, but he made a good point, and some immigrants are listening.

The shame of it is, nobody is telling them about these Canadian traditions, and why Canadians care about them. Nobody is telling them anything about this new culture they have signed on for. They may very well want to know, want to assimilate and contribute. From my own experience, most of them do, and badly. There is a reason why they left their former country; there is a reason why they chose Canada.

But the government is actively discouraging them, and nobody else dares bring the topic up. Because if they do, they will be berated for it. They may even lose their job.

That is our real problem here: multiculturalism.

This Blog's Apple iTunes Podcast

I am informed by Apple that this blog's podcast is now also live in iTunes. You can subscribe and keep in touch.

As with the book, so far there is only one episode--had to see first if this was going to work--but I plan for more to follow.

So now you can listen on your way to work.

Apple iTunes Podcast

The Playing the Indian Card podcast is now available, I am informed, on iTunes.

Only one episode so far, but subscribe and stay tunes. I plan for there to be more.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Vote in the Poll

Should Don Cherry have been fired?

You know what to do.

Sign the Petition.

Sign the Petition

Rebel media has launched a petition to support Don Cherry.

Sign here.

For details, read the post below.


Demands are suddenly loud for the CBC to fire Don Cherry, because of the following on-air comment:

“You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

There are also calls for the head of co-host Ron MacLean, for seeming to agree instead of objecting.

MacLean has now publicly apologized and condemned Cherry’s remarks.

If this transcript is accurate, these calls are, in the literal sense, insane. They are out of touch with the reality of what Cherry said. All he said is that not buying and wearing a poppy is ungrateful. It surely is. To top it off, it seems in context as though he might be quoting someone else, not expressing his own sentiments.

He seemed specifically to be referring, when he used the term “you people,” to the people in downtown Toronto.

Cherry is being accused of “racism.” Yet he did not mention any race. If someone wants to read some specific race into the words “you people,” then any racism is clearly in their own minds, not, so far as we know, in Cherry’s.

It is more plausible to infer that Cherry was criticizing immigrants. If he was, “immigrant” is not a race. To make it about race is still a stretch. And even this much is inference. He might plausibly have been referring to young people, who predominate in the Toronto downtown. Or perhaps young immigrants, but disrespectful because they are young, not because they are immigrants. Or perhaps just urbanites, who think it unsophisticated to wear a poppy.

But even if he were thinking of race, should even this matter? Let’s stop and think for a moment. Why is it fine to criticize young people for being disrespectful of traditions, or to criticize Torontonians, but not immigrants, and not racial minorities? If nobody chooses their race, nobody chooses to be young either. People choose to live in Toronto in the same sense immigrants choose to live in Canada. The cases seem parallel. Yet criticisms of the young, and of Torontonians, are commonplace and considered witty and wise. Obviously, this is not equality: this is giving special privileges to immigrants and on the basis of race.

Criticism of anyone, including any group, must be in bounds. If not, we fundamentally lack freedom of speech, and automatically also equality before the law.

On top of this, this furor is all shockingly disrespectful of Don Cherry, a man who has made a significant contribution to our culture, intimately bound up with hockey as it is. He was, after all, a finalist when the CBC ran a popular vote on “the greatest Canadian.”

And the attack on him is an attack on Canadian culture. Surely a deliberate one.

If it is not simply stark raving mad.

Remembrance Day 2019

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Sky Is Always Falling-- podcast

The Sky Is Always Falling

The Sky Is Always Falling

The Sky Is Always Falling

The well-educated will recognize the story illustrated immediately.

My columnist buddy Xerxes argues that the experts have been warning us of dire global consequences, from overpopulation, climate change, and the depletion of natural resources, for centuries. Since the time of Malthus. Just the other day, a new battalion of 11,000 scientists warned of dire imminent consequences from global warming. “Planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”

He suggests it is high time to start listening.

He is right: we have been hearing this for decades, centuries. When I was finishing high school, our Biology teacher made us all buy and read Erlich’s The Population Bomb. It warned us of a catastrophic world famine coming in the 80s. Since this was our own near future, we had better be prepared for it. Time magazine was warning, at about the same time, of the impending Ice Age. My best friend’s life plan was to emigrate to New Zealand. He figured that would be the last place for the global cataclysm to reach. For we would soon all be killing each other over access to water.

Cut to the chase: every single such prediction of pending doom precise enough to be scientifically tested, since the time of Malthus, has been proven wrong. Instead, the world is substantially wealthier, on the whole, than it was in Malthus’s time, or even Erlich’s.

So why would we believe the experts?

The problem is the problem of the boy who cried wolf.

Heard a podcast from Levitt and Dubner, the folks who wrote Freakonomics, a while ago. Highly recommended podcast. Studies they cite find that expert predictions in any field are usually wrong. They are less accurate than chance, and less accurate than if you asked the average man in the street.

The reason for this is explained in Aesop’s fable. Most times, for most things, in most ways, the future is going to be continuous with the past. Dramatic change is rare; if it were not, it would not be dramatic. But more of the same is not interesting or newsworthy. And it is hard to convince us that we need experts to tell us things are fine as they are.

So every expert has a vested interest in predicting dramatic change; ideally, a doomsday scenario, requiring their urgent help. If they do this, they get the media, they get the grants, they get the academic chair, they get fame and fortune. If they do not, they risk losing their livelihood.

You would think over time expert advice would be discredited for usually being wrong. But here’s another little psychological quirk: people tend to forget false predictions, and remember successes. Again, predictions of dramatic change that did not come true are not very newsworthy or exciting. Predictions that did, if of some dramatic change, are memorable and striking. Astrology, fortune telling, and witch doctoring have succeeded for millennia on this basis.

The moral: we need to spend less time listening to the experts, and more time reading the ancient wisdom.

For example, “Chicken Little” might also apply here.


Saturday, November 09, 2019

Night in the City

As a onetime bassist, I have always loved this Joni Mitchel track for its bass run. Just so fine.

And guess who the bassist is?

Steve Stills.

Had he taken up the instrument, he might have been the greatest ever.

A Glimpse into the Future

An interesting study just published in Science concludes:

“countries with longer historical exposure to the medieval Western Church or less intensive kinship (e.g., lower rates of cousin marriage) are more individualistic and independent, less conforming and obedient, and more inclined toward trust and cooperation with strangers. Focusing on Europe, where we compare regions within countries, we show that longer exposure to the Western Church is associated with less intensive kinship, greater individualism, less conformity, and more fairness and trust toward strangers. Finally, comparing only the adult children of immigrants in European countries, we show that those whose parents come from countries or ethnic groups that historically experienced more centuries under the Western Church or had less intensive kinship tend to be more individualistic, less conforming, and more inclined toward fairness and trust with strangers.”

Put more simply, our high levels of social trust, which allow for individual freedom, democratic institutions, relative social peace, and an efficient economy, are based on historic Christian values.

If the study is right, it follows that:

  1. Undercutting or discarding traditional Christian values will probably lead to a loss of freedom, social order, and prosperity.
  2. Importing large numbers of immigrants from historically non-Christian countries threatens social peace, prosperity, and democratic institutions. Especially if they are encouraged to preserve their previous traditions, as with “multiculturalism” and a stigma against “cultural appropriation.”

All social science studies are dubious. But this one ought at least to prompt some debate.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Politics

And if you don't like this face, I have another one...

It is alarming how everyone in the media is going after Andrew Scheer for being Catholic. This injection of religious prejudice is something Canada has not seen before—at least until they went after Stockwell Day. And for good reason. In a nation nominally divided about 50/50 Protestant/Catholic, it is profoundly dangerous to civil peace.

The Canadian balancing act.

Not to mention being discriminatory. JJ McCullough makes a good point: imagine the blowback if the media similarly went after Singh for his Sikh beliefs. Indeed, if Scheer were Muslim, this line of criticism would violate the notorious M-103, prohibiting “Islamophobia.”

It also seems to me that this attack encapsulates, quite probably intentionally, terrible practical advice to the Tory party. There is a substantial part of the public who agree with Scheer and the Catholic Church on these issues, roughly 50%, quite aside from the 50% who are nominally Catholic, and may be poked awake to that allegiance. And they are being represented by no other party. A fifty percent vote in Canada guarantees a perpetual majority. The last thing the left should want is for the Conservatives to run on being conservative.

Unfortunately, we cannot count on either the Canadian Conservatives or Andrew Scheer showing either courage or common sense on this matter. Class allegiances seem to trump either self- or public interests.

Scheer was recently asked, not for the first time, “Do you believe that being gay is a sin?”

And he answered:

“We made it very clear during the election, in the last few months and years, that our party is inclusive. We believe in equality of the rights of all Canadians. My personal opinion is that I respect the rights of every single Canadian. And my personal commitment is to stand up — that is my personal opinion — my personal commitment to Canadians is to always fight for the rights of all Canadians, including LGBTQ Canadians.”

The correct answer, for a faithful Catholic, would be a simple “no.”

It is hard to believe Scheer does not know this. 

No, the Catholic Church does not believe, and has never believed, that being attracted to the same sex, “being gay,” is a sin. Homosexual ACTS are sins; the distinction is fundamental.

Nor does believing that homosexual acts are sins mean that, in the words of a recent Global story, “you believe that a significant number of your fellow citizens — even some whom are legislators — are morally deficient, defective.”

This is a gross misunderstanding not only of Catholicism, but of morality itself. Homosexual acts are sinful; so are fornication, masturbation, or using most forms of birth control. So is gossiping, or swearing, or getting drunk. And so on. All of which puts the average person with homosexual inclinations pretty much in the same boat as the average person generally. Nothing very special here about being gay. We all have temptations to sin. The greatest sin, to Catholicism, would be asserting that one is without sin.

It is worth noting that prominent homosexuals have historically most often found the Catholic Church their spiritual home: Andy Warhol, Oscar Wilde, Milo Yiannopoulos, Tennessee Williams, Evelyn Waugh.

Equally obviously, believing that homosexual acts are sinful does not require making them crimes. Nobody is calling for laws against masturbation, or gossip. Crime and sin are very different issues, and this is obvious as can be from the Biblical outset: Jesus was crucified by the state as a criminal. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, unto God what is God’s.”

All of this is no doubt too complicated to go into in a scrum outside a committee room; but why could Scheer not have simply and accurately answered “no”?

The real problem with Scheer is not his beliefs, but that he cannot be honest and straightforward. Even when it is to his benefit. He gives the constant impression of having a hidden agenda; because he has a hidden agenda. In his own mind, he is in the business of conning the people. That is what is hurting him.

We see something similar emerging in the US Democratic primaries. It took far longer than I thought it would, but Elizabeth Warren seems now to be slipping, and Bernie Sanders gaining, on this issue. Asked about her health care plans requiring higher taxes, Warren keeps giving evasive answers. Sanders responds, “of course they will. Nothing is free. But …”

This is the secret of Sanders’ remarkable impact last cycle, and also of Trump’s success. They don’t show contempt for the public. They don’t try to con. “I’m a socialist.” "What's bad about being friends with Russia?"

This is something of which Scheer seems incapable. And he is of course not alone; most of the politicos and the political commentators think along the same lines. They are uniformly urging him and the Conservatives to either change principles or lie more strenuously. Seeing Biden’s prospects fade further south, Michael Bloomberg is putting himself forward. The idea is that, as a “moderate,” he would have the best chance against Trump. 

I suspect that calculation is no longer going to work. If people do not remember what you used to say, they can now look it up. Flips are flops. Principles matter.

Not at all incidentally, this is largely the same problem causing such turbulence for Pope Francis. He always prevaricates, no doubt thinking this is the smart thing to do to keep everyone happy. Instead, this is leading to growing rifts within the Church.

Compare the Catechism of the Catholic Church, produced by popes JPII and Benedict. We can go to it and see exactly what the teaching of the church is on homosexuality. Without it, how would we have countered the false charge that Catholics think being gay is a sin?

Ambiguity on principle is a principal tool of the Devil. It is why John the Baptist came, “to make the ways straight for the Lord.”

St. John the Baptist

Friday, November 08, 2019

On the Giving of Alms

Walking through Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood today, I was buttonholed twice by people asking for charity.

It reflects well on human nature at least that there is a market for this.

On the other hand. I found it troubling, because I doubt either charity was actually doing anyone any good. And that money they are taking could be so useful to so many people.

The first charity was CAMH. It was asking for funds to send people into the high schools, to staunch the growing crisis of suicide among the young.

The problem here is that our current psychiatry/psychology approach has no idea how to prevent suicides. If psychiatry and psychology were effective, suicides should be declining, not growing. The rate of depression and of suicide has grown in tandem with the growth of psychiatric funding.

Someone—Einstein is usually credited—once said that madness is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. By that standard, spending money on more psychiatry is insane: unless it can offer some revolutionary new approach.

The second charity was collecting money to end child marriage, by educating girls in the Third World.

First, there is nothing wrong with “child marriages.” They used to be the norm in Canada too, as in the rest of the world, until a few generations ago. When we began to postpone marriage past the teenage years, we created teen angst. We keep young people all dressed up and with nowhere to go for what seems, at such a young age, an eternity. Leading them to resort to all kinds of unfortunate things: drugs, casual sex, violence, crime, mental illness … and suicide.

One charity here is causing the need for the other.

Second, there is a problem with funding girls and not boys. It is not just discriminatory: it tends to render males useless within the society. The result will be unwed motherhood and families breaking up, and this leads to poverty and worse in the next generation. Along with a lot of angry, idle, desperate young men wanting to break things or kill themselves.

All this is depressing, but there is a deeper issue too. Are people who give money to such charities, which then use it to do harm to those in need of help, praiseworthy for their good intentions? Or are they actually committing another sin?

I think the answer has to be the latter: it is sinful to give to such charities. The motive, in the first place, for doing so is generally cheap absolution. “I’m not a bad guy. I give to charity.” Kind of like going to church on Sunday, then slitting throats in good conscience the rest of the week. That kind of charity seems like buying God off.

It is a moral responsibility to educate your conscience. You need to make an honest effort to determine the likely results of your actions. If you do not, that is a sin of omission, and sins of omission count just as heavily as sins of commission. As it says in the Confiteor:

“In what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.”

There is a reason why it is sometimes said that charity begins at home. It is among those you know the best that you are best able to judge whether your efforts are actually helping or doing harm.

Beyond that, it seems wisest to concentrate on religious charities. They in general stand within a tried and proven tradition of what does and does not genuinely help.

Liverpool Lullaby

A touching lyric about a dysfunctional family

Author: Stan Kelly

Oh you are a mucky kid,
Dirty as a dustbin lid
When he finds out the things you did
You'll get a belt from your da 
Oh you have your father's nose
So crimson in the dark, it glows
If you're not asleep when the boozers close
You'll get a belt from your da 
You look so scruffy lying there
Strawberry jam tufts in your hair
Though in the world you haven't a care
And I have got so many 
It's quite a struggle everyday
Living on your father's pay
'cause the bugger drinks it all away
And leaves me without any 
Although we have no silver spoon
Better days are coming soon
Now Nellie's working at the Lune
And she gets paid on Friday 
Perhaps one day we'll have a bash
When Little ones provide the cash
We'll get a house in Knotty Ash
And buy your dad a brewery 
Oh you are a mucky kid,
Dirty as a dustbin lid
When he finds out the things you did
You'll get a belt from your da 
Oh you have your father's face
You're growing up a real hard case
But there's no one can take your place
Go fast asleep for Mammy

Don 't miss the subtext; the lyricist gets this right. The Mother portrays herself as the hapless victim, but she is as abusive, and "co-dependent." Such families are always tag teams. If she is a good mother, why is the child sent to sleep with "strawberry jam tufts in his hair"?

She calls him "mucky" and "dirty": her own responsibility. In other words, she is scapegoating--scapegoating him too for his father, insisting on improbable similarities. And she is leaning on him emotionally, expecting him, the child, to fix things fer her, the adult: "When Little ones provide the cash."

An insightful take.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

New Podcast

Starting a new podcast based on the book, Playing the Indian Card.

Sign up and subscribe!

The Guns of August

On the theme of Remembrance Day, Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August is perhaps the finest history book ever written, in terms of prose style.

I recommend it for a sense of the opening moves of the Great War.

Conspiracy Theory and Practice

Francis Dashwood, a leader of the Hellfire Club, by Hogarth.

I hate to comment on the Jeffrey Epstein case, because anything about it is a conspiracy theory. Conspiracies are inherently rare, and it is easy to go off quarter-cocked.

But sometimes conspiracies are real. There really was a Bavarian Illuminati. There really was a Hellfire Club.

There is an alternate danger, too. That, faced with evidence of evil, we avert our eyes and walk away. It is the more comfortable thing to do. And Edmund Burke’s advice still holds: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

It is pretty definite that Epstein was murdered. The known circumstances put the claim of suicide beyond reasonable belief. We now also have the public testimony of a highly respected coroner who was at the autopsy; although couched in typical legal-medicalese. The results were “consistent” with homicide. They were not “consistent” with suicide.

And the murder of Epstein requires a conspiracy.

Moreover, the official autopsy report did not say homicide, and, according to the coroner who has now come forward, failed to include obvious things like a test for DNA. That too seems to require a conspiracy.

Now Project Veritas has come out with a “hot mic” video of an ABC news anchor lamenting that she had all the goods on Epstein and his Fantasy Island three years ago, and the story was spiked by the network. Fear of litigation by powerful people might explain it; but such fears did not stop the networks from reporting quite wild allegations against Brett Kavanaugh or Donald Trump, without much or any corroboration.

Owl of Minerva, crest of the Bavarian Illuminati

Three years ago—that would mean the story was spiked during the last presidential election, more or less. Might have been relevant. Again begins to look conspiratorial.

But then, we already know that the mainstream media is involved in a political conspiracy. That cover was blown years ago, by “Journolist.”

All of this in turn tends to prove the basic truth of the wild allegations regarding what was going on with Epstein’s pedophile ring. There obviously must be some very powerful people who risk some very grave consequences if the full truth comes out. Powerful enough to reach in and control the US Prison Service, ABC, or the NY coroner’s office, as needed. Consequences grave enough to prompt them to murder almost openly—to take such a risk.

Now we must also worry—is it possible to ever get this properly investigated? We no longer know who’s in on the fix, and who is clean. It seems to me too there are other troubling matters in recent years that have been more or less ignored—the matter of Hillary Clinton’s emails, for example. I find it hard to believe that mere incompetence can account for it. More likely, Clinton was deliberately feeding information to some foreign power. The matter of Hunter Biden, China, and the Ukraine looks pretty outrageous, now that Trump has raised it—yet the damning basic facts have been in public view for years. And when Trump calls for an investigation, the Democrats act as though he has done something wrong, not Biden. Then there are longstanding unanswered questions about Juanita Broderick’s rape charges and the “Clinton death list.”

Perhaps sordid things have been going on among the upper crust at all times. Perhaps what is different now is that we have the democratization of information flow thanks to the Internet. No doubt that is at least partly true. On the other hand, the democratization of information has recently been very drastically throttled in again by Silicon Valley overlords.

These sorts of revelations may explain why.

The malfeasance does seem to fall heavily on the left side of the political spectrum. I don’t think I am being partisan here; it’s pretty obvious. If there is the slightest charge, moreover, against a Republican, it is more than thoroughly aired.

This moral imbalance between the sides seems to me to stand to reason: it is the left that has embraced “moral relativism” and postmodernism, in which you get to say or do whatever you decide is in your interest, regardless of truth or morals. Leaving aside Trump, who is at best hard to read, many leading Republicans do tend to at least publicly commit to moral traditions: Pence, Romney, Ryan, Cruz, Huckabee, Perry, Jindal, and so on.

Or, in Canada, Scheer.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Smile or Die

"Mother told me to always smile."

You often hear the advice that you ought to have a positive attitude.

Advice to face the world with optimism is often, in small matters, no doubt good advice. We should meet anyone new with a smile, assuming their good intentions. To do otherwise is prejudice. But that is not the whole truth. Ronald Reagan used to say, “trust, but verify.” Former US Defense Secretary Mattis went further. “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody that you meet.”

This “positive attitude” business easily segues into the current postmodern idea that truth is subjective: talk of “narratives” and “my truth,” and the idea that you can create your own reality.
It goes further back than that, of course—“the power of positive thinking,” beloved by so many salesmen. “Think and grow rich.”

But being unrealistically optimistic is as harmful as being unrealistically pessimistic. The goal should not be optimism or pessimism, but realism.

An example from modern history: the Munich Agreement. Chamberlain was the determined optimist, and insisted on assuming good intentions.

Chamberlain’s approach was wildly popular, and Churchill’s was not. Churchill was dismissed as a warmonger.

This suggests that unrealistic optimism may be a more common human problem than unrealistic pessimism. People naturally WANT to be optimistic, and to believe good things will happen. Nobody WANTS to be pessimistic. And so this is the side on which we are more likely to err.

This is why we need to streetproof children, for example. The instinct is to be too trusting.

Other examples of unrealistic optimism leading to disaster can be easily found in history. The story of the Titanic is that same story. The story of Austria-Hungary starting the First World War by invading Serbia. The story of Japan bombing Pearl Harbor. Both were obviously over-optimistic about their own abilities. So was Germany in invading the USSR in WWII. Or Napoleon in invading Russia the previous century. So was the US in going in to Vietnam, or Afghanistan, or Iraq. Probably every economic collapse ever has been caused by a preceding period of unreasonable investor optimism.

Canadian history? Laurier promised to solve the Manitoba Schools question with “sunny ways.” Everybody bought it at the time. The actual result: no more French or Catholic schools in Manitoba.

Unrealistic optimism is a recurring theme in the Old Testament: a prophet appears and warns of disaster to come, unless the government’s direction changes. And he is ignored as an annoying pessimist. And disaster comes. You’d think we’d been told this often enough to have learned the lesson.

The same theme is in the Greek: Cassandra and Laocoon in the Iliad. Nobody wants to hear anything upsetting.

Unrealistic optimism would seem to be the greater human danger, not unrealistic pessimism. But the real danger is unrealism. Realism is the proper goal.

The notion that we can critically affect by our own attitude whether good or bad befalls us, also has the awful side effect of ending up in blaming the sufferer or victim whenever someone does encounter trouble. It must be their own fault; they had the wrong attitude. If a woman is raped, she must by her attitude have deserved it. And the Jews must have provoked Hitler somehow.

Pushed a little, believing that we can control our own destinies with the right attitude also amounts to assuming godlike powers.

Which is close to Eve’s fatal error—“you will become as Gods.” Or Lucifer’s.

I say not “smile,” but “pay attention.” Look, listen, discern, and decide. This, use an often misused Buddhist term, is the true “mindfulness.”