Playing the Indian Card

Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Colonizer's Forthright Manifesto


If Dante were writing today, I have to imagine he’d reserve a special place in hell for the ingratitude of people like Suketi Mehta. They step off the plane in comfort into a society in which they instantly qualify for all sorts of social benefits neither they nor their ancestors earned. Compare their experience with the experience of the ancestors of the “whites” who built Canada: the Scots and the Irish, primarily, who were driven off their lands and driven out of their home countries, died in droves of cholera and of typhus on the coffin ships coming over, often endured indentured servitude, term-limited slavery, for years before being dumped in the wilderness to survive or die. Knowing they could never see their homeland again.

We will rue the day we decided to allow mass immigration of corrupt foreign ruling classes.


Happy New Year


The true auld tune:

The modern American version:

And the traditional Canadian version:

It brings a tear.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Catholic Quiz


The questions asked in the "Catholic Face Offf" posted below seem to me not to be especially good. Some of them are only tangentially to do with being Catholic--Pele being named a national treasure in Brazil? Mel Gibson? So I've put together my own set of questions. NBothing that I think should be obscure to anyone who was genuinely raised Catholic: but also things I suspect non-Catholics would get wrong. 

Answers to come in my own good time. I don't want to lead you into the temptation of cheating...

Whose conception is celebrated in the Feast of the Immaculate Conception?

What are the three theological virtues?

What are the seven sacraments?

Where can you see actual relics of Santa Claus?

Who was the saint who met the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France?

Who is the patroness of North and South America?

What is the correct response to “Dominus vobiscum”?

What is the last word of the Lord’s Prayer?

What does the bishop do to you at Confirmation?

What colour are the priest’s vestments for a mass in ordinary time?

What does a light burning hear the altar signify?

Canada's China Lobby


Catholic Face Off


The Future of Farming

God Indicted


It’s time to put God in the dock. How has he allowed 2020? 

Perhaps we are just too used to having it too good. But then, how did he allow the Holocaust—the many holocausts of the 20th century? How does he allow the poverty of so many lands? How does he allow children to die of malaria and tuberculosis? Christopher Hitchens condemns God for allowing awful parasites to infect small children. Why make the innocent suffer?

Isn’t he ultimately responsible for all such evils? He could stop them. He does not. Can we overlook this?

I can accept that suffering is not itself evil. Suffering it seems to me has mysterious benefits. It builds soul. We are vaguely aware of this when we relish the pain from physical exertion. Or when we step off a roller coaster. Or go to see a horror movie. And God promises to compensate in the next life: blessed are those who mourn.

We do not want suffering, on the whole, beyond familiar limits. That does not make it evil.

More troubling to me is injustice; watching evil triumph over good. COVID itself troubles me less than the venal and self-interested reaction of so many: of the drug companies, the politicians, the “experts,” the government of China, Antifa, Black Lives Matter. Why doesn’t God intervene on behalf of his own? What message is he sending? 

Why does Anne Frank die in a concentration camp, and Stalin in his bed?

Jesus responds with the parable of the wheat and tares: the weeds will not be pulled up until the harvest, for fear good grain might be uprooted too.

The striking thing about that parable is how clearly it goes against good gardening advice. Of course one pulls up the weeds—they will stunt the growth of the grain.

It has to be that souls work differently: that weeds, suffering, improve the crop. “Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come.”

But has he left us without a sign? Without assurance that the universe itself will resolve towards the good?

In fact, the Bible, the Old Testament, insists that he has given us just such a sign: that God will intervene for his faithful on the battlefield. As he repeatedly did for the Israelites.

Perhaps he does. It does seem that the trajectory of history, as someone has said, arcs towards justice. Just not within each lifetime. Stalin may have died in his bed, but the Soviet Union eventually collapsed suddenly, as if a miracle. The Berlin Wall fell as abruptly as the walls of Jericho.

Nazi Germany collapsed in flames, and its name became infamous.

Leaving aside revisionist history, the Central Powers were the bad guys in World War I, and they lost. The North were unambiguously in the moral right in the US Civil War, and they won. The South held slaves, and the South fired the first shots. Rome, against the odds, won the Punic Wars. The Carthaginians practiced child sacrifice. The colonials, against the odds, achieved independence from the British Empire. The colonials were fighting under the banner of human equality and human rights.

Sometimes, no doubt, there is no clear moral superiority of one side over the other; but that is a rarity, for without some egregious act on one side or the other, why would things come to war?

Is there any clear example in history of an immoral society subjugating a clearly more moral one?

One can respond, of course, that “the winners get to write the history,” but that is not actually true. Historians almost by definition come by to do their work long after either side to a conflict has passed on. They may have their prejudices, but these will not be consistent historian to historian, and much of the point of history as a discipline is spotting and countering such biases when they appear.

No doubt there is a limit to divine intervention. God cannot be too obvious about it: he cannot intervene immediately to defend Jews from the Nazis, or the Irish from the British Empire, or the Jews from the Roman Empire. If he did, he would eliminate the opportunity to be moral. One would simply be moral out of immediate self-interest.

In other words, the spiritual grain needs weeds nearby in order to reach maturity.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A Case for Aristocracy


Reviewing images of the First World War, preparing to teach All Quiet on the Western Front, I am struck by an obvious fact: Eliot’s “Waste-Land,” and Beckett’s barren landscape in Waiting for Godot, are no-man’s land.

The modern meaningless, the slow suicide of civilization, rises from the trenches of the Great War.

And the thing that was shattered then was largely the old aristocracy:

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee 

With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,

And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,

And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,

My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,

And I was frightened. He said, Marie,

Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.

In the mountains, there you feel free.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

The First World War swept the active aristocracy from most of Europe: from Germany, from Austria-Hungary, from Russia, from Turkey. Not just titles and monarchs, but the functioning guts of the most aristocratic states. In those others that had retained kings, they were presiding over functioning democracies. Austria-Hungary and Russia were the models of autocracy.

It feels odd to realize that Eliot, and perhaps Beckett, laments their loss. It feels odder still that, in reading The Waste Land, or visiting the museums of Istanbul, I lament their loss too. This was the “ceremony of innocence” that Yeats saw drowned in a “blood-dimmed tide.” Now the falcon can no longer hear the falconer—a reference to the most aristocratic of sports.

There was a genuine beauty in the pageant and plumage of the old aristocracy; something is lost.

Yet it is aristocracy against which America was founded, and modern liberalism. As a Canadian, and indeed as a Christian, I have always scorned titles and class distinctions. Aristocracy violates the fundamental principle that all men are born equal, with equal protection before the law.

It is also undeniable that the European aristocracy brought about their own ruin, along with untold suffering for the population at large. It was the most autocratic states that bore the greatest responsibility for the war: Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany.

Life in Austria-Hungary or Russia was also notably lacking in democracy and human rights; government was oppressive. Economies were underdeveloped. 

On the other hand, the successor governments, once these autocracies collapsed, were far worse: The Nazis, the Bolsheviks, the Young Turks, the Holocaust, the Holodomor, the Armenian genocide, the ethic cleansings of the Balkans. A blood-dimmed tide indeed. I had not thought death had undone so many.

And what passes for an upper class in Britain or America has often produced its best leaders: George Washington, Winston Churchill. What tends to mark them is a commitment to principle over either personal advantage or ideology. There is something to be said for that.

Perhaps these upper class twits, these preening peacocks, were necessary to European Civilization; perhaps with their collapse, it lost its ridgepole.

One advantage of an aristocracy is that it can be bred for power; as Plato recommended for his Republic. That is, to wield power responsibly. Because position comes with birth, aristocracy does not advantage either the ruthless or the egotistically ambitious. Because the charge is passed on generation to generation, one is able to educate and train for the function, inculcating essential values of chivalry, fair play, and sportsmanship. Because the charge is passed on within the family, there is incentive not to loot or overreach; one wants to pass on the family business in good order to one’s grandchildren.

An idle class—idle at least in times of peace—also has the time to devote to the finer things in life. They become sponsors and advocates of the culture. While much can be said for popular culture, the average man, forced to forge a living by his sweat, does not have the time to devote to poetry or to art. There is not the time to develop a truly discerning taste.

Lacking such aristocratic patrons, artists are required to rely either on popularity or on government largesse. Neither are going to be as discerning as an aristocrat.

Our arts have grown moribund since the aristocracies fell; perhaps as a direct result.

The aristocracy serves, as well, as a check on the enthusiasms of the mob. It stands as a bulwark of tradition. This was the idea behind the Canadian Senate or the British House of Lords: “chambers of sober second thought.” We have reduced their power, offended by their anti-democratic nature. Perhaps this has been a mistake.

The role that once was played by these bodies, of standing against the popular will, has increasingly been taken up by the courts, the press, and the academy. Yet the courts, the press, and the academy do not do nearly as good a job at it: rather than upholding precedent, they seem to be in the vanguard of overthrowing it. They emerge, after all, from the same class as did the Russian Bolsheviks or Robespierre. Perhaps, lacking the principle of inheritance, the incentive is overwhelmingly to leave their personal mark on history by initiating some great change.

I am not sure I have a solution. Perhaps it is to identify the most intelligent among us in infancy, something that could now be done by IQ testing, and educate them to aristocratic positions in a new Senate or House of Lords. Since IQ is largely hereditary, they might then still have the incentive to preserve things for their progeny.

This would more or less correspond to both the Platonic and the Confucian ideal. Of course, it would not be democratic and would not be egalitarian. But might it be better nevertheless, even for all concerned?

Happy St. Stephen's Day


Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas in the Drunk Tank


A Canadian Christmas


From Lucy Maud Mongomery.

Come to the Cabaret!


Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad) in a recent livestream hit upon several themes I too have been stressing, here and elsewhere:

1. That the current situation in the USA looks dangerously like the Weimar Republic

2. That the source of all our current civil strife is the loss of moral values.

3. That “scientific language” (I say scientism) has encouraged this loss of values.

He also makes reference to the transcendentals, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, as the source of all values.

I’d almost think he had been reading my notes; or that I had been reading his. But the explanation is that the problem has become obvious.

The Weimar Republic was a time of the dissolution of values. Think of the “Roaring Twenties”: Germany was their world epicentre. All established mores or assumptions were suddenly open to question. The chief lure, then as now, was free sex. Josephine Baker danced naked in Berlin and was declared an “erotic goddess.”

Why was Germany the centre? The war had swept away much of the political establishment, the old aristocracy. If the political order was open to question, what else might be? The aristocracy had also been the arbiters of culture, manners, style. Germany, as the loser in the war, must have felt this effect most powerfully, with perhaps the exception of Russia. And then there is the local legacy of Nietzsche, with his notion that God is dead and we are now free to do whatever we will. Add to this a strong local dose of incipient scientism, A Prussian and German infatuation with science that Kipling decried in “The Recessional” as “heathen heart that puts her trust/In reeking tube and iron shard.”

Mix it all together, and you get—Hitler and the triumph of the will.

The USA today does not have cataclysmic war as a motivator, but our scientism and our questioning of traditional values began to grow again after the Second World War, with the “Sexual Revolution,” and has grown steadily since. It has perhaps been accelerated recently by “future shock”: the rapid advance of computer technology has tended to upset many established assumptions. Rapid “globalization” and mass immigration has added culture shock.

This, back in the Weimar Republic and now in America, segued naturally into fighting by rival factions both in the streets and in the corridors of power. Society operates on a series of gentlemen’s agreements. When all values are questioned, it is adrift and subject to the winds. There are no longer any honest brokers or umpires: you can no longer trust the experts, the government, the police or the courts to be disinterested or apolitical. Everyone is out for self-interest or their preferred “narrative,” their chosen delusion. There are no more shared values to settle disputes. The rule becomes “might makes right.”

The advantage then goes to the most ruthless, the most prepared for violence, the least principled. In Weimar Germany, that was the Nazis. In the US currently, it looks as though it is the “progressive left,” Antifa, BLM and “the Squad.” To be frank, the parallels between Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Hitler are striking.

Worn down by the strife, the bulk of the population will meekly allow this worst element to take power, in vain and cowardly hopes of settling things down: by allowing the strongest force to ride roughshod on any dissent.

Scientism contributes by stripping out moral values. Science has no ethical dimension: it denies morality. This has generated both Marxism and Nazism, both claiming to be strictly scientific approaches to society and government. The modern left similarly wraps itself in the mantle of “follow the science.”

The rise of Hitler to power over the moral chaos of Weimar was prompted most directly by the Great Depression. COVID and its aftermath may be a comparable economic shock, leaving a lot of discontented and unemployed young available for organization into paramilitaries and for mayhem in the streets. As we have already seen, last summer.

Last time, it took a Churchill, emerging almost at the last possible minute, to save civilization. Trump might still be such a figure; but now it looks as though he is about to be sent, as Churchill was more than once, into exile.

But Nazi Germany was a far smaller player, on the world stage, than would be a Nazi America. And Churchill was able to operate in freedom outside the reach of that Nazi government. If America falls, who can stand against her?

Not China. We already have, in effect, a Nazi China. The program of the Chinese Communist Party today is identical to that of the German Nazi Party in all but name: mass elimination of minority races, a seamless integration of government and industry, lack of human rights, corporatism, sacrifice of the individual citizen to the state, expansionism abroad.

What happens if we suddenly have a Pact of Steel between China and a USA?

Who indeed can stand against this?

Was Hitler only the opening act?

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Canticle of the Turning


O Come, Divine Messiah!


The League of Democracies


I have long advocated the formation of a League of Democracies, to do what the United Nations is not capable of doing. So who would be a member? I had a look at the latest Economist Intelligence Unit ranking of democracies. 

Interestingly, the United States would not qualify. It is listed as a “flawed democracy.”

The criteria The Economist uses are relatively opaque, but The Economist is no partisan rag; I broadly share its liberal bias; and those who have witnessed the recent US election are likely to agree. Yet this ranking was assigned before that election. The Economist faults the US primarily on government dysfunction and growing partisanship. The current tumult over passing a COVID relief bill is an indication. The bill passes at the last possible moment to prevent a government shutdown, and nobody gets to read it before they must vote on it.

Knowing how flawed Canada’s democracy is, by a lack of proper Parliamentary debate, a lack of free speech, and a lack of diversity in the media, I am hesitant to extend membership in a League of Democracies to any nation that cannot meet at least this meagre standard; yet Canada is solidly in the top rank. So I’d indeed exclude the US for now. Let them hold a couple of elections under League supervision first. Perhaps (being cheeky) they would do better to shift to a Westminster parliamentary system, in which more diverse opinions could be represented, and legislature and executive are never long at loggerheads.

Member states by this metric, then, are the CANZUK nations, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom; the Nordic countries, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland; Ireland, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Mauritius.

It is noticeable than most on the list do have a parliamentary system, rather than the American presidential system. And a surprising number of them are monarchies. Is this a British bias, the EIU being headquartered in London? If so, I suppose I share it.

Life under the Family Compact


y friend the literary immigrant laments that the Canadian literary scene is cliquish. This is a longstanding problem. It is a continuing Canadian problem; it is a burden of our colonial history. one can trace it back to the days of the Family Compact and the Chateau Clique. My literary friend is not equipped to understand, because she comes from Iran. Unlike Iran, at least in recent centuries, Canada has a history and a self-identity as a colony. This causes Canadians to undervalue anything domestic, and overvalue anything foreign: power and significance always comes from away. Ideally not from the United States, because we also define ourselves in contrast to the United States. One result is that anything “diverse,” that is, from abroad, is celebrated and admired. Including foreign governments, as bad as they might be. 

Another consequence is that the popular, the people, are undervalued. They are, after all, stupid colonials, far from the sources of metropolitan wisdom. Cliques form on the implicit premise that to be of any cultural value, to be worthy of power, one must be apart from the general herd. In Canada, this has usually been based on having been born abroad, or educated abroad, or making it abroad.

This is the foundation of “multiculturalism.” Recent immigrants like my friend blunder into this, and benefit from it, without generally finding any sense in it. They know things suck where they came from. They know things are oddly cliquish in Canada. But why bring that up, when, as a "minority," you are being treated like royalty?

This is a world in which it is hard to be honest.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Have to Get This in Before Christmas


Maintiens le Droit


A literary friend, an immigrant to Canada, laments that

“The biggest damage done by racism is that it has shut down critical enquiry and self-critique among minorities. In an attempt to salvage our identity, we paint a blameless picture of our identity, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, and community. ... Racism makes us afraid of self-critique for fear that it may be used against us.”

This take is wrong. Groups that are discriminated against do not close ranks and refuse to criticize one another. Just the reverse: individuals try to “pass,” often by condemning their own group. You get “Uncle Toms”; anti-Semitic Jews; or, as George Bernard Shaw once said, “the Irish are the most honest of all races; they never have anything good to say about each other.”

The fact that we see the exact opposite in Canada’s communities of recent immigrants informs us that the problem is not discrimination against “minorities.” As should be obvious: in contemporary Canada, minority status is celebrated by government. “Multiculturalism” and “diversity” is official government policy. The better comparison is with “professional courtesy”: a doctor is never supposed to criticize another doctor, a lawyer another lawyer, because it might threaten their shared prestige.

Indeed, given Canada’s “hate laws,” anyone criticizing multiculturalism, diversity, or any particular immigrant or foreign culture faces a possible prison term. It is therefore safer for any of us to say nothing against, for example, the rather less than admirable government of Iran, or China, for all that they may oppress their own people, or be opposed to individual rights and human equality. Someone might take offense, and our lives be ruined. It is perfectly fine, safe, and socially acceptable, on the other hand, as my friend notices, to criticize the government or the culture of Canada. Or other nations, like the US or the UK or France, that are friendly to Canada and share its values.

Sadly, my immigrant friend has not yet strayed off the plantation. She naïvely supposes that the left supports free speech. She is puzzled, therefore, that she cannot get literary magazines to publish anything she writes that is critical of the government of her home country.

But it is “the left” that has passed and aggressively supports restrictions on free speech such as those “hate laws.” It is the left that has advanced “deplatforming” opposing views, that has shown up to riot when the wrong speakers are invited to campus, that has engaged in widespread blacklisting, “political correctness,” legally required speech--forcing people to use designated gender pronouns--and so forth. Liberalism, the political philosophy that believes in human rights like freedom of speech, has been gradually forced to the right in North America. Perhaps it started with the rejection by the left of the right to life.

“The left” as such has no particular problem with dictatorships, and broadly supports intrusive government. 

Liberalism is also the philosophy that believes in human equality. It is not helpful to divide people up into “minorities,” as the left always does. Properly speaking, all Canadians are members of ethnic minorities within Canada, and all humans are members of ethnic minorities in global terms. And how we are divided into special interest groups is perfectly arbitrary: why, say, skin colour, and not height? Is a second-generation Chinese immigrant really more culturally like the Chinese of Beijing than like the kid on the next block?

Instead of accentuating our divisions, we ought to be working together to create one unified Canadian culture, and one world culture, open to all of us. That is the special opportunity that Canada, as a post-ethnic nation, offers us.

A K-Pop Christmas

A Brooklyn Christmas


A Leonard Cohen Christmas


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

For the Winter Solstice


The Whore of Babylon

My Jehovah’s Witness friend Hadassah is convinced the scarlet woman in the Book of Revelations, aka the Whore of Babylon, represents all religions except her own.

I respond: the great harlot has to be identified firstly with the city of Babylon, because the Bible says that expressly. She is named. “On her forehead a name was written, ‘MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.’" “The kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived wantonly with her, will weep and wail over her, when they look at the smoke of her burning, standing far away for the fear of her torment, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city!’” Revelations 17: 18: “The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth."

But the passage was written in the time of the Roman Empire, and the woman sits on seven mountains—the seven hills of Rome.

She therefore represents temporal power in general—the urge for power, the urge to dominate. She declares herself “Queen,” and all kings fornicate with her: she is the consort of all kings, the thing they lust after—power.

She is adorned with gold and precious jewels—the urge for material wealth. When she falls, she is mourned by merchants and traders; she also represents then what they most desire or lust after—wealth, worldly goods, material possessions. 

As a prostitute, she also represents the sexual urge. 

The beast on which she rides “was, and is not, and shall be present.” This is not a vision of the future, then, but of something present in both past and future. The mystery is why John says the beast “is not,” although he is writing during the Roman Empire, and the beast appears before him.

I suspect his meaning is that the beast is only temporarily obscured by the prostitute, her diadems, her beauty, the city. That beneath all these seemingly desirable and sophisticated and “civilized” things, is the beast, man’s bestial nature. If one pursues these things, the beast will emerge. For they are founded on the beast; they ride it.

Hadassah associates the scarlet woman instead with religion on the strength of one passage, Revelation 18:23, which she reads as “by her spiritistic practice all the nations were misled.” “Spiritistic practice”? Does that sound a little contrived? The NIV gives that as “magic spell.” Most other English translations have “sorcery.” But the actual word in the original Greek is “pharmakeia.” You may note the similarity with the English “pharmacy,” the preparation and administration of drugs, medicines. And notice that she is holding a poisoned cup: “a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication.” 

The simplest interpretation is that physical lusts are like a drug, like wine or some stronger hallucinogen, clouding our perception of reality, poisoning us spiritually. All major religions are opposed to sorcery and casting spells; certainly including orthodox Christianity. None are keen on drunkenness. Instead, it is actually what we now call science that emerges directly from the magical or spellcasting tradition, and from the Babylonian tradition of astrology, mages, and “magic.” “Scientist” literally means the same thing as “mage.” The earliest “scientists” or “empiricists” of Europe were physicians who claimed to be able to heal illnesses with potions. Chemistry, in turn, emerged from alchemy. And one of its first successful products was the distillation of alcohol.

This raises the interesting possibility that the scarlet woman can be interpreted to represent, inter alia, modern scientism: the pseudo-religious creed that science can explain all things and accomplish all things. Which is pretty much shared these days by all nations.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

O Holy Night


One of my favourites, and you can't sing it better.

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck is generally understood to be a man of the left. Of Mice and Men is commonly believed to be about the inequities of the capitalist system and the falsity of the American dream of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

Yet the novel can actually be read as a condemnation of Marxism.

The novel is commonly said to be about the Great Depression. This fits the Marxist narrative; the Great Depression is supposedly a failure of capitalism. But in fact, there is nothing in the novel that refers to it, or could not have happened at any time before or since. The West has always been full of itinerant laboring men, ranch hands: cowboys. Some say it has to do with the evils of property ownership; but nobody in the novel actually owns any property, and the prospect of ever owning any is presented as something that never really happens. Even “the boss,” Curley’s father, is not the owner of the ranch, but its manager. The situation is not capitalism, but precisely the situation in a Communist/socialist country.

Lennie’s and George’s well-laid plan, the plan of the title, that gangs agley, of owning a little farm and “living off the fat of the land” sounds suspiciously like Marx’s earthly utopia, in which work would always be voluntary. They are even to achieve it by something resembling a “five-year plan.” Involving Candy putting up a disproportionate share of the purchase price: from each according to his means. The rich must pay their “fair share.” And it is, in the end, only a fantasy, unattainable—the Marxist dream is a fantasy. Or rather, it is attainable only after death. It is a vision of the Christian heaven. This is the whole point of Lennie’s death at the end of the book: he gets to “cross the river,” and his life of soft fur is on the other side. This inverts Marxism, which rejects religion as “pie in the sky when you die.” Steinbeck is countering this, calling Marxism the opiate.

Curley’s wife has a fantasy similar to that of the two ranch hands, of being a showgirl or a Hollywood star. And what impresses her most about the idea is, she notes, that she would no longer have to pay for things. “When they had them previews, I could have went to them, and spoke in the radio, and it woulldna cost me a cent, cause I was in the pitcher.” A specifically socialist image, of no longer needing money. But her low-class speech and malapropisms makes it clear to the reader that her dream is improbable, especially in those early days of the “talkie.” She has been conned by men of a higher social class looking for some quick sex. 

Doesn’t her experience here suggest the experience of the proletariat, offered promises of stardom and an easy life from the Marxist intellectuals generally? They, of course, were never going to be allowed the levels of power. They didn’t have the education for it, did they? That would be left to a “vanguard” of experts. It all amounts to a sordid rape.

Everyone in the book has such a fantasy, with the sole exception of Slim, the artist. Everyone is in denial of reality, in favour of some utopian fantasy. At one point, Candy literally puts his arm over his eyes so as not to see; George or Lennie pull their hat brims down. A secondary theme of the novel, taking place just outside of Soledad, “loneliness,” is the need for companionship. But they crave companionship primarily because they need someone else to believe in their fantasy, in order to convince themselves that it is real. This is why George needs Lennie, and why, with Lennie out of the fantasy, he immediately sees the dream of owning a farm as impossible. 

But conversely, and not to be missed, if someone seems to stand in the way of their fantasy, they spontaneously hate them. Lennie curses the dead puppy for dying, because this threatens his fantasy of tending rabbits on a farm. He feels no remorse for the puppy. Candy curses the girl Lennie has just killed, because her death threatens his fantasy of the farm. He seems to have no thought for her as a fellow human. Curley’s wife despises him because being married to him cannot be reconciled with her dream of becoming a movie star. Curley wants to fight any tall man, because they threaten his fantasy of being the alpha male.

This looks like an analysis of the dynamics of the communist movement, and leftist movements generally. They crave collectivism because they need it to confirm some fantasy which otherwise they as individuals would find hard to believe. Not just the fantasy of a work-free life of abundance on this Earth, living off “the fat of the land,” but fantasies of being a “master race,” or things like slavery being morally okay, abortion being morally okay, casual sex and walking out of marriages being okay. Leftism is a form of what psychologists call “denial.” Denial requires collectivism.

And this collectivism turns into discrimination, cruelty, violence and mass murder of anyone who stands, intentionally or inadvertently, in the way of the dream. Kulaks will be killed, or Jews, or priests, or Christians, or blacks, and so forth. The next big guy who shows up will be attacked. A puppy, or a lonely young girl, or a black man, will be scapegoated.

This is, in itself, perhaps a full explanation of human evil. The water snakes, with their periscope eyes, will just keep coming down the Salinas River.

At very least, if Steinbeck had set out deliberately to criticize socialism and leftism with a novel, he could not have done a better job of it.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Angels We Have Heard on High


The Salmon-Falls, The Mackerel-Crowded Seas


the saloFriend Xerxes recently summarized the common contemporary nature ethic: the Gospel of Pachamama. “Let’s be consistent. If God created life, then every form of life is sacred. Holy. Valued for its own sake.”

By that premise, not just salmon runs and butterflies, but mosquitos, fleas, lice, rats and cockroaches must be also celebrated. And God created COVID-19, and cancer. It too must have a right to exist and flourish. It must be valued for its own sake, not murdered with vaccines or radiation.

Xerxes misses an essential, a transcendent thing. We value some elements of nature, only some elements, for their beauty. The value of a salmon run, for example, aside from preserving a food source, is aesthetic. A river running red with salmon is a beautiful thing, as is a sunset, a mature male lion, or a waterfall. Beauty, along with Truth and the Good, is of intrinsic value.

But if and only if there are human beings around to see it.

Xerxes predictably trots out Genesis 1:26, in order to condemn Christianity. 

“God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 

It is Christianity’s fault, therefore, that so many wonderful animals are getting killed. The Judeo-Christian God gave us permission, “dominion.” Without that sanction, of course, nobody would think of killing an animal. After all, animals don’t kill each other, do they? After all, anyone can see that there is far less pollution in non-Christian countries like China, or the old Soviet Union, or India. Right?


Bueller? Anybody?


What does “dominion” mean? Here’s a hint: Canada is a dominion, and this has not often involved the government killing its citizens wholesale. Like everything in the Bible, one must read Genesis 1:26 in context of other nearby verses. In this case, Genesis 2:15 clarifies what “dominion” means. “Yahweh God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.” We are to cultivate and keep nature: not destroy it, and not leave it alone. Make it beautiful. To turn the wilderness into a garden.

Broadly, this is what we do when we create art.

Without man, nature is barren.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

A Bit of Christmas Music


A Blood Libel and a Public Lynching


The freshly-minted leader of the Canadian Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole, is suddenly in serious trouble. People are calling for his resignation. Unfortunately, he came dangerously close to semi-publicly telling the truth about Indian residential schools.

Of course, once found out, he quickly walked it back and denied everything. But in such cases, repentance is not enough. There can be no forgiveness or reconciliation. Ever. 

The now-exposed racist actually said that the schools were intended to educate the Indians.

Imagine that—schools intended to educate. Who could have imagined such a lie?

No, in Canada, on pain of losing your job or even imprisonment, one must believe an elaborate conspiracy theory: that the Indian schools were actually always and solely, if secretly, intended for genocide—the term used repeatedly and insistently by one panelist in reaction to O’Toole’s blasphemy.

An odd sort of genocide, of course, considering that there are far more Indians in Canada now than there have ever been. They are the fastest-growing segment of the Canadian population.

And the founding document O’Toole was referring to, written by Egerton Ryerson, explicitly states that the students in the proposed residential schools were to be taught reading, arithmetic, geometry, history, chemistry, writing, drawing, music, bookkeeping, religion, and morals. That does sound rather like an education.

The “genocide” is supposedly “cultural genocide.” Nobody dies in this sort of genocide; a seeming contradiction in terms. That is, the schools were supposedly an effort to destroy Indian culture. To support this claim, the old quote was wheeled out by a panelist, that they were intended by “some politician” to “kill the Indian in the man.” 

No Canadian politician ever said anything close to this. It is a misquotation instead of US General Richard Henry Pratt, the founder of Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. What he actually said was “kill the Indian; save the man.” And in the speech where he said this, he pointed out that residential schools would not do this.

If the intent were ever to destroy Indian culture, fairly obviously, it would not have been the Indian bands themselves who demanded and partly funded them. The obvious way to do that, as Pratt pointed out, would not have been to set up separate schools for Indians; it would have been to integrate the Indians and have them attend the public schools. Rather, the residential schools were an attempt to retain a distinct Indian culture. It was taken for granted from the start that, having graduated, the students would remain on the reserves and live apart. That may have been a mistake; but it was the opposite to the common claim.

Modern radical leftists may be upset that the schools taught religion and morals. They may assert that this at least was an attempt to subvert Indian culture. Apparently they think Indian culture had no morals, and morals are a bad thing. This is both depraved and historically ignorant. Ryerson, in the founding document, specified that pupils attend the church of their own denomination, not that of the official denomination of each residential school. He could take it for granted, rightly, that Indians were Christian. Indeed, when the British took possession of Canada after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, their first act in order to ensure peace with the Indians was to formally guarantee them the right to keep their Catholic priests. The first Protestant church in Ontario, in turn, was probably that built in Brantford by Mohawks emigrating from New York State. Without benefit, at the time, of clergy.

The current delusional attitude towards our history is profoundly prejudicial to Indians, and, at the same time, an extreme example of hate speech against Canadians of European extraction.

And the CBC, taxpayer-funded to provide information and sustain public discourse, is instead openly censoring and suppressing public discourse.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Dominion of Nice

 Kathy Shaidle calls it the Tyranny of Nice.

Time for Some Christmas Music


Apocalypse Maybe Later


My Jehovah’s Witness friend Hadassah is of course convinced the world is about to end. She cites, for example, 2 Timothy:

“But know this: that in the last days, grievous times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, not lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of godliness, but having denied its power. Turn away from these, also. For some of these are people who creep into houses and take captive gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. … Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

It does sound like the current situation.

 But people who try to predict the end of days are going against the Bible itself. Jesus says “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” He will come, when he comes again “like a thief in the night.” Of such times of universal tumult as are cited in 2 Timothy, he says “See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24). In other words, general chaos and the breakdown of order and morality are NOT signs of the end.

Jesus also said that those listening to him would not die before the End Times came: “Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste of death, until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.” And Paul wrote 2 Timothy not for a distant future, but to someone alive in his day.

I recall a bishop once saying that all millennial movements are manifestations of the Antichrist. I think this is true. Marxism is such a millennial movement. So is "climate change" environmentalism.

I think it is natural for the righteous among us, as we grow older, to develop the impression that the world is falling apart around us. This is largely because the world is always falling apart around us. Any serious study of history must realize this is so. 

In our younger years, we refuse to see this. We must, after all, live in this world for a human lifetime or so, and so we are in denial. As we age, it becomes easier to accept that things are not getting a lot better. Although they are probably not really getting worse, the growing realization of how bad they are gives us this subjective impression. And so old men and women are inclined to see the world as going to hell. It is perhaps a part of the process of letting go.

The End Times are always with us. Although there will necessarily be an end of the world, just as there was a beginning, this is not of great significance to any one of us. The End of Days and the Second Coming that Jesus and Paul refer to in the Bible is our own physical deaths.

Children are Getting Shot in China


I teach some Chinese students online. This gives me a bit of a window on China. 

Last week, one of my students did not appear for class. When I asked him about it this morning, he explained that he was sick from being vaccinated.

For Covid?


Sick for how long?

A week.

He is eight years old.

Unless he is confused, this suggests that vaccination has become remarkably widespread in China--they are at the point of vaccinating eight-year-olds. Also, if an eight-year-old is sick for a week as a result, that's a pretty rough vaccination--considering eight-year-olds usually get little or no symptoms from the virus itself.

Why would they be vaccinating kids, if this is so? No doubt, to achieve herd immunity. Children could be carriers. Or little Adam may have the honour of being part of a test group to determine how children tolerate the vaccine.

It seems possible he has it wrong, and the vaccination was for something else. But this is a surprisingly strong reaction to a familiar and common vaccine.

"An Easy COVID cure"


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Shape of Things to Come


My Austrian Jehovah’s Witness friend Hadassah is convinced we are in the End Times. And I must admit, things are looking rather apocalyptic recently. Last night, learning of William Barr’s resignation as US attorney-general, I sensed this might be a first shoe dropping. It seems otherwise odd for Barr to leave so soon before the (presumed) end of Trump’s administration. Why not stick around for one more month?

Unless something is about to happen in the next month.

Especially since Barr is not leaving in anger, to make a point, and Trump is not asking him to resign in anger, to make a point. It seems, therefore, as though the point comes later.

Might Barr be resigning because Trump wants his AG in the near future to do something that Barr does not want to do? 

The situation in the US is now so disordered that almost nothing seems off the table.

By now, the results of the recent election are surely not credible; at least to roughly half of the US population. Also yesterday, the results of a local Michigan audit of the Dominion voting machines, now made public, claimed that they seemed deliberately designed to allow for fraud. They are used in 28 to 44 states (I see different figures). We have video from Atlanta of ballot stuffing, or something that defies any other explanation. We have expert claims that the election results are statistically improbable to the point of practical impossibility.

That profoundly undermines the social contract, profoundly undermines what holds the USA together. If free speech is no longer permitted, and one cannot any longer vote a government in or out, only one resort is left for the disaffected: group violence.

At the same time, evidence is suddenly—and mysteriously—flooding in that Chinese influence in the US is pervasive. The names of two million Chinese spies have suddenly been discovered. McCarthy himself could not have dreamt of such a figure: I recall his high number as around 200. A video surfaces of a Chinese academic, speaking in China, boasting that they can easily influence US government policy and Wall Street through their connections. A spy is outed who has been sleeping with mayors and congressmen. We suddenly learn that a vital piece of software, Solar Wind, has been hacked and open to unknown parties for the past six months. Solar Wind is used by the US military--and by Dominion Voting Systems. We suddenly learn that Hunter Biden, and James Biden, have been under investigation for possible criminal charges for the past two years, and their relations with China are at the centre of it. Everything seems to be converging.

This all looks strangely coordinated. As if some hidden power first fixed the election for Joe Biden, and then some hidden power moved to discredit him and raise the alarm. 

People who scoff at conspiracy theories, and insist they must not be true, have never lived in China. In China, conspiracies are a national sport. Something is always going on.

The pattern suggests that two powers are at war here: presumably the CCP does not want Chinese spies exposed, and whoever exposed the Chinese spying did not want Biden elected. Unless the point was just to foment chaos; but that seems too clever by half. I wonder if we are seeing a covert war not so much between the US and China, as between the CCP and Falun Gong, over the relatively ignorant and blundering USA. It is the Falun Gong, for example, which would have the resources to expose that video of a Chinese academic speaking inside China. The Falun Gong seems strikingly well organized and active above ground currently, with The Epoch Times, the NTD network, regular public protests, and other initiatives. They may amount to a Chinese government in exile.

The mood in the US is now, I suspect, pre-revolutionary. Until now, the Antifa thugs and Black Lives Matter have been able to rule the streets. I think it is a given that they are being backed behind the scene by Chinese interests, among others. But if Biden takes office, it is hard to believe the Proud Boys and others on the right will continue to “stand back and stand down.” Instead, we are going to have competing organized groups squaring off. The violence will probably quickly escalate. Weimar Germany again.

There is currently a visible, audible, palpable push towards radicalism and action on the right. Fox News and Drudge Report are rapidly losing audience to more strident voices: One American News, Newsmax, Citizen Free Press. Barr is too moderate now; the Supreme Court is too moderate now; following the rules and staying polite is too moderate now; there are chants to boycott the Republican Party, and form a new one. The thirst, the demand, is for decisive action.

I suspect Trump is getting ready to invoke his 2018 Executive Order on Foreign Interference. This might also justify, in turn, declaring martial law. Which might be necessary now to maintain order. This might be what prompts Barr’s resignation, as this would require authorization by the Attorney-General. In a sense, I suspect Trump is forced into this; aside from the danger of civil society collapsing into street violence, if he does not, at this point, he is likely to himself be abandoned by his former supporters as just one more squish who has let them down. Some new leader may then may emerge from the streets, the shadows, or the beer halls. Some little corporal.

The left, of course, already has such figures.

It is no doubt not the end of the world. But revolutions are not good times for all non-psychopaths.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Happy Gaudete Sunday!


Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete.
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete.
Tempus ad est gratiae hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus.
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete.
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete.
Deus homo factus est naturam erante,
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante.
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete.
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete.
Ezecheelis porta clausa per transitor
Unde lux est orta sallus invenitor.
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus

The Magnificat


My celebrated interlocutor Xerxes has written a column praising Mary for the Magnificat as a declaration of female empowerment:

“This is no gentle maid, meek and mild. She speaks of ‘scattering the proud… bringing down the powerful… lifting up the lowly, and filling the hungry, sending the rich away empty…’

            This is one tough woman. ‘I am woman,’ she would sing, like Helen Reddy. ‘Hear me roar!’”

I have some trouble hearing the Virgin Mary roar. Here is the Magnificat, in English translation. As it happens, it is the responsorial for today's mass:

My soul magnifies the Lord 

And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;

For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;

Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is His name;

And His mercy is from generation to generation

on those who fear Him.

He has shown might with His arm,

He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

and has exalted the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich He has sent away empty.

He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy

Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

Note that Xerxes has it pretty much backwards. Mary is not saying she will scatter the proud or bring down the powerful. She says God has already done this.

One presumes from this that she is not talking political power, not talking politics at all. 

And the tone is the polar opposite of Helen Reddy’s in “I Am Woman.” Reddy is aggressively boastful, saying, in essence, “I am God”:

“If I have to, I can do anything

I am strong

I am invincible.”

 Mary by contrast says her soul magnifies the Lord, rather than herself; she then refers to herself in the third person, to “the lowliness of His handmaid.

Mary’s attitude is the religious attitude. Helen Reddy’s attitude is the antithesis of the religious attitude.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Voice of one Small Business Owner


On Being Born Again

A Jewish friend explains that, according to her brand of Judaism, the sufferings and injustices we encounter in life are “chosen just for us, to help our souls grow.” She asks if this is compatible with Christianity.

It is not.

It is a possible explanation for her because her form of Judaism believes in reincarnation. Without reincarnation, the formula does not always work: innocent children often suffer, while obviously vicious people often do not. Stalin died in his bed of natural causes. With reincarnation, when bad things happen to good people, we can suppose it is for something they did in a past life. This is the familiar doctrine of karma.

One obvious criticism is that it leads to passivity and acceptance in the face of evil; there is now no sense of need to try to make things better in the world. Indeed, to do so might seem impertinent, or impossible. This is not merely a Christian criticism; it is a common secularist one.

Worse, the doctrine of karma leads to blaming the unfortunate for their own misfortune. If he’s a blind beggar, it must be somehow his own damned fault. He is to be despised, not helped.

Reincarnation would be convenient for Christian theology; besides accounting for the suffering of the innocent, it could resolve the problem of “limbo.” That is, what happens to children who die before baptism, or before the age of reason? They have not merited either heaven or hell; they have not been morally tested. It is obviously unfair if they are now denied forever the possibility of heaven. Where else can they go, then, if not to another life for a second chance?

Reincarnation could also neatly reconcile Christian with Buddhist or Hindu cosmology. It might be that any soul keeps being reincarnated until born into a Christian cultural context, so that they get an equal opportunity to hear the full Christian message and either accept or reject it. Buddhist or Hindu lifetimes, then, are indeed necessarily reincarnations; Christian lifetimes are for keeps.

But this comes up against Paul’s pronouncement in Hebrews 9: “It is given to man once to die, and then the judgement.” Reincarnation was a familiar belief in the Hellenic world of the time; Plato and Socrates believed in it. The fact that Jesus and the Gospel writers do not refer to the possibility is also illustrative. It was an option they ignored, or did not consider.

Accordingly, suffering, for Christians, is not a matter of making up for some personal deficit. Suffering builds soul: suffering brings you closer to God. But you do not suffer because you deserve it.

“Now there were some present at the same time who told him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way. 4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them; do you think that they were worse offenders than all the men who dwell in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way.” (Luke 13)

Besides bringing us closer to God, suffering can be redemptive for others: the great model being the suffering and death of Jesus himself. He died for our sins. In the same way, in Catholic understanding, we can consecrate our own sufferings to help others, such as the souls in purgatory.

Those who suffer now are also to be compensated for this in the next life.

“Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. 20 A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was taken to his gate, full of sores, 21 and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The beggar died, and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. 23 In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. 24 He cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.’

25 “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But here he is now comforted, and you are in anguish.’” (Luke 16).

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says “blessed are the poor in spirit”; “blessed are those who mourn”; and blessed are the persecuted. In the Gospel of Luke, he immediately follows these Beatitudes with a parallel set of curses, or warnings:

“But woe to you who are rich!
For you have received your consolation.
25 Woe to you, you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe, when men speak well of you,
for their fathers did the same thing to the false prophets.”

Suffering in a bad world is warrant that one is a good person. Being happy in a bad world is alarming.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Civil War? Nothing Civil about It

Signatories to the Texas suit.

 Things are getting crazier in the US. YouTube has announced that, as of today, they will take down any comment that the recently-completed US presidential election was illegitimate. Even though there are court cases pending making that argument. This is censorship at the totalitarian level.

One such court case has Texas and seventeen other states—at latest count—suing Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Michigan to prevent them from certifying electors. A war between the states.

At this point, Giuliani, Powell, and others seem to have demonstrated convincingly at least to the public who have been watching that there was indeed widespread fraud. As of the latest poll, almost half of the US population now believe the election was fraudulent. And that poll was taken before some of the strongest evidence was produced: the “smoking gun” video of the Atlanta counting station, and statistical analyses suggesting the odds of Biden pulling out a win given the count at 10 PM on election night was about as likely as a rhesus monkey spontaneously writing the Bible. In Aramaic.

Meantime, revelations that China has subverted politicians in the US, and has been able to count on this network to advance their interests; and that they lost this influence when Trump was elected. And that Hunter Biden is being investigated for serious financial crimes—a story that seems to have been suppressed by the news media until after the election.

If the Supreme Court does not accept the Texas suit, and overturn the election, Rush Limbaugh is suggesting secession and civil war. Other right-wing commentators, who previously scoffed at such talk, are now speaking of the need for violent resistance: Dave Rubin, Scott Adams, Andrew Klavan. Rising against the inauguration of Biden has to begin to look to a significant portion of the American public like a civic duty.

Lie down, shut up, and take it, at this point, feels and looks like craven surrender.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

E Pluribus Multis


Here is an interesting and important op-ed by a Mount Royal University professor, that appeared in the Vancouver Sun, but reportedly was soon pulled down. True North further claims that ,because he wrote it, the author was refused entry into the Canadian Armed Forces.

Perhaps the most important passage:

social trust corresponds more closely than any other factor to predicting economic prosperity. Harvard economists Alberto Alesina and co-authors from a paper titled, Fractionalization, argued that greater diversity leads to stunted economic growth. In other words, diversity is a weakness as far as the economy is concerned.

In 1981 The World Values Survey began an investigation into cross-cultural beliefs, values and motivations, and has since shown that societies with high social trust are not only more economically productive but also happier. The most successful are homogeneous countries, not the diverse ones.

The bigger problem is not immigration, but multiculturalism. The goal must be to form a unified Canadian culture.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020


Of Fig Trees and the Banality of Evil


Now in the morning, as he returned to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he came to it and found nothing on it but leaves. He said to it, “Let there be no fruit from you forever!”

Immediately the fig tree withered away.

- Matthew 21, WEB

Many find this passage odd; yet versions appears in three of four Gospels. What does Jesus have against an innocent fig tree?

Perhaps it is meant to repeat and reinforce a message found often elsewhere in the gospels, in different ways: by their fruits you will know them.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree produces good fruit, but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. A good tree can’t produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

--Matthew 7, WEB.

The traditional understanding of “fruits” here, especially for Catholics, is of course “good deeds.” Moral behavior. 

This does not work well, however; because Jesus elsewhere says we should perform our good deeds in secret. And any clever con artist knows enough to perform good deeds in order to deceive--what else does “wolf in sheep’s clothing” mean?

So what then are our fruits?

Fruits may instead mean works of art or craft. This may then be what Jesus means when he tells us to “let our light shine,” “be like a city on a hill.” A city is, after all, a massive work of art or craft.

But then the image is not perfect; since fruit suggests nature rather than handicraft or manufacture.

The most obvious, literal meaning is simply that we can judge a person by looking at their children.

I think that is right.

If some young person is in turmoil, engaging in self-destructive behavior, seems spiritless, or acts immorally, the parent is probably at least in part to blame. If a child’s life seems significantly less successful than their parents, then the parent is liable to be at least in part to blame.

And this is in turn the surest way to spot a bad person. For it is difficult otherwise. Bad people who are at least halfway intelligent are going to wear sheep’s clothing; their malice will be carefully hidden from view. But their children are defenseless, their power over them, when young, absolute. Everything is literally behind closed doors. Their own children are the perfect victims.

Which brings us to Hunter Biden, and his spectacularly self-destructive behavior.

You might object that the son or daughter of any very prominent person might suffer as a result of living in their shadow, and so be tempted to such errant behavior.

Yet this is demonstrably not so. Compare Donald Trump’s children. They all seem to be doing well. Notably, Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, is himself a successful businessman with a prominent role in her father’s administration. This is striking, because any narcissistic father will resent the spouses of their children, especially their daughter. George H.W. Bush’s sons also obviously did quite well.

Hunter is acting out the classic role of black sheep, familiar in almost any dysfunctional family. His father is a monster. Joe Biden is the banal, congenial, classical mask of evil.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Canada Frog-Marches on to Progressive Hell

Call me Ishmael.

My gauche columnist pal Xerxes is currently celebrating Canadian Bill C-6, “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy).” He endorses it as a breakthrough in recognizing human rights, and titles his column “Conversion therapy is criminal coercion.”

In charity, I can only say that he has been misinformed. Bill C-6 is not about therapy done, in Xerxes’s words, “against a person’s will.” That would already be a serious crime: kidnapping. No need for any new law.

Rather, the law bans conversion therapy as such: defined as “a practice that seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation to heterosexual, to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviours, or to change an individual's gender identity to match the sex they were assigned at birth.” It prohibits advertising or profiting from such a service.

This is discriminatory: it bars homosexuals from a treatment they might desire. And not only for religious or ethical reasons. Think about it from their perspective. Imagine the situation if perhaps 98% of those to whom you are physically attracted are uninterested in a relationship at best. And you usually do not know which ones. Only once you get past those overwhelming odds do you begin to encounter the level of failure in love that makes all the rest of us suffer so much; that caused the suicide of sorrowful young Werther. The constant rejection, the constant unrequited eros, must be crippling to one’s self-image and emotional well-being.

But now any escape from this situation, if possible, is prohibited.

It also opens any religious group to prosecution and suppression. For all major established religions preach that homosexual sex is sinful, and that one should resist such temptations. Doesn’t this make religion per se a “service that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation”?

Far from advancing human rights, this directly violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

This is without getting in to the issue of seeking to realign one’s “gender identity” with one’s biology, one’s actual sex. If we accept this logic, we would have to make all psychiatry illegal as discriminatory: its entire purpose is to align our thoughts with external, physical reality.

Perhaps there is an argument to be made, that psychiatry in all cases violates our freedom of thought. Perhaps we want to argue, too, that psychiatry must never be permitted, as it is now, to impose treatments against a patient’s will. But that is another discussion.

Merriam-Webster defines “delusion” in its psychological sense as: “a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary.”

To prohibit care to anyone with this particular delusion, that although they are biologically male, they are “really” a woman, or vice versa, is discriminatory; we would not refuse treatment for any other psychosis. And the suicide rate for those with this condition is extremely high.

Not to mention that this delusion, or belief, regularly leads to self-mutilation and other behaviours dangerous to health: hormone treatments and cutting off portions of one’s anatomy.

Your response, gentle reader, might be that such therapies do not work, and so, like fortune-telling, they can be prohibited as a form of fraud. However, Canada’s criminal code needs to be consistent: the laws against witchcraft and fortune-telling have been removed. Nor do we ban chiropractic, or herbalism, or any number of medical and psychiatric practices that have no scientific proof of efficacy.

Does conversion therapy work? While any given approach might or might not, the proposition that one’s ideas cannot be changed with regard to either one’s perceived gender or one’s sexual orientation is obviously untrue. We are not robots; we can change our minds, and it is dehumanizing to suggest we cannot. Many people do attest to having changed their minds about either their sexuality or their gender. We hear frequently enough of people who have been living as a heterosexual declaring themselves homosexual, or as a man declaring themselves a woman. It is inconsistent to assume that all such transitions can only be in one direction, away from biological reality. And probably you, like I, know some personally whose convictions have indeed moved in the opposite direction. Although such contrary movements are never reported in the media.

Human rights are now subverted wholesale.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

The Manchurian Candidate

Biden His Time?

A big point of having a democracy is that the leaders are beholden to the people. The problem with letting Biden become president is that he apparently is not. He is beholden so some unknown person or persons who engineered his nomination and election.

We do not know who they are; we do not know what they want. But they will have their demands, it must be something important, it must be something they cannot afford to let the rest of us know about,  and he will have to accede.