Playing the Indian Card

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Thanks for the Dance

 

Leonard Cohen's posthumously-released "Thanks for the Dance" performed by his former lover Anjani Thomas.

Touching--although the lyrics work better if sung by an old man.




Thanks for the dance

I'm sorry you're tired

The evening has hardly begun

Thanks for the dance

Try to look inspired

One, two, three, one, two, three, one

There's a rose in your hair

Your shoulders are bare

You've been wearing this costume forever

So turn up the music

Pour out the wine

Stop at the surface

The surface is fine

We don't need to go any deeper

Thanks for the dance

I hear that we're married

One, two, three, one, two, three, one

Thanks for the dance

And the baby you carried

It was almost a daughter or a son

And there's nothing to do

But to wonder if you

Are as hopeless as me

And as decent

We're joined in the spirit

Joined at the hip

Joined in the panic

Wondering

If we've come to some sort of agreement

It was fine, it was fast

We were first, we were last

In line at the Temple of Pleasure

But the green was so green

And the blue was so blue

I was so I

And you were so you

The crisis was light

As a feather

Thanks for the dance

It was hell, it was swell

It was fun

Thanks for all the dances

One, two, three, one, two, three, one...


 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

History Begins to Rhyme

 

The original "black  bloc."

Is the US--and the world--going Fascist? The parallels are uncanny.

The Nazis wedged themselves into power in Germany largely because the establishment was distracted with fear of the Bolsheviks. Similarly, the modern left misdirects attention to a mostly fictional threat of insurrection from “white supremacists.” And throws their support behind Antifa and BLM.

In general, law enforcement and the judiciary—the establishment--are playing favourites instead of following the rules, going soft on Antifa or Black Lives Matter or Hunter Biden, throwing the book at rightist groups like the Proud Boys, or Donald Trump. This resembles the favoritism shown in Weimar Germany towards the Nazis, allowed to rule the streets, while Bolsheviks and other socialists were dealt with harshly.

The reaction by so many in government to the invasion of the capitol building by a mob on January 6 even looks strikingly like the Nazis’ exploitation of the Reichstag fire. Whether or not it was a “false flag” operation.

Old Joe Biden looks like a reassuring but easily controlled figurehead. This is a strategy the Nazis found effective in their last run: Hindenberg, Petain. Not sure why this should be a Nazi strategy in particular, but it has been. Perhaps nostalgia is a part of the Nazi appeal. Similarly, they resurrected the aged Peron for an encore in Argentina. 

The censorship and blacklisting of dissenting views is now blatant. 

The last US election looks fixed.

We see emerging a seamless coalition between government and big corporations, eliminating the free market. This is more or less the definition of Fascism in economic terms.

We also, if it needs to be said, see an ongoing holocaust, unrestricted abortion. I suspect it is guilt over this that is fueling the whole move to Fascism. But racism and discrimination is also being aggressively fomented against another targeted minority, straight “cisgender” white males. Who are accused of all the same things the Jews were accused of in the 1930s. There is even growing antisemitism.

And so it goes.

The last time it touched down, this all happened mostly in three medium-strength powers. Nevertheless, it took a lot to end it then. 

This time, it looks much stronger. Both China and the US look as though they are moving to Fascism. 

Are we all doomed? It took many years of struggle to achieve freedom and democracy. It may not be so easy to ever get it back if it is lost.

It may take another war, worse than the last. Just because both the US and China are Nazi, does not mean they will ally. Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia were virtually the same system, but fought to the death. In earlier years, Mussolini stood against Hitler’s annexation of Austria. There is no honour among Nazis. To the contrary, the logic of their beliefs will compel them to sooner or later fight one another. Nazism requires a hated enemy.

I have also seen the theory that, with the rise of a middle class, liberal democracy becomes inevitable. We have seen evidence in East Asia over the past few decades: once the GDP per capita hits about $10,000 US per annum, the system morphs into something more liberal. A prosperous middle class has the resources to resist an oppressive government, and the desire to do so. This theory, if correct, suggests that any movement to Nazism is temporary, pulling against the tide of history. It might work for a time, given the crisis and economic chaos produced by COVID; as it worked for a time in Germany and Italy under the strain of the Great Depression. But once prosperity returns, it cannot hold on. No government exists for long without at least the tacit consent of the governed. All it takes is for the common soldiers and the police to stop following orders…

But what if the concentration of power in a few big tech firms is killing the middle class? Many have actually been saying just this. A few on top, and everyone else on GAI? Now the existence of independent merchants or service providers or business owners of any kind seems dependent on the mercies of Amazon, Google, PayPal, or a few others. Amazon can refuse to carry your products or your storefront; Google can delete you from search results; PayPal can refuse to process payments...

Yet I think the inherent logic of the Internet is decentralizing. We have allowed power to be concentrated in a few silos so that people can put locks on the door, but this is artificial. Once America Online was the only visual interface to the Internet, and held close to a monopoly. Where are they now? MicroSoft used to have a near-monopoly on the Internet and even personal computing with the dominant browser and the dominant operating system. Now both monopolies got busted, by the market itself and the evolving technology. The tech companies will keep trying to build their silos—Apple’s introduction of the concept of apps was a blatant example. 

But this is like whack-a-mole. The monopolies work for a little while, until the public realizes their options. Because of the nature of the beast, putting a printing press in every home, a video camera in every pocket, it is not going to be possible over the long term to control and restrict the flow of either information or commerce. Trying to do so is going to require ever more extreme measures.

And that is perhaps what we are seeing now. Those holding power now are paranoid, and are acting as though they are desperate. CNN, the New York Times, Twitter, publishing companies, seem actually to be acting in ways that destroy their own brands. The online investment firm Robin Hood just did the same. Desperation could explain the overreaction to the capitol invasion, and the seemingly childish attempt to impeach Trump after leaving office. Or AOC claiming Ted Cruz is trying to murder her. It looks hysterical.

It could get very messy; but I suspect we are seeing the mad thrashing of a dying beast.


Friday, January 29, 2021

A Musical History of Canada

 

In the spirit of the stage play “Oh, What a Lovely War,” Here is a musical tour through Canada’s military history:

Begin with the Seven Years War. “Evangeline,” tells the story of the Acadiens:



An English soldier’s song from the same period: “The Girl I Left Behind Me”:

The Girl I Left Behind Me

“I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill,

And o'er the moor and valley,

Such grievous thoughts my heart do fill,

Since parting with my Sally.

I seek no more the fine or gay,

For each does but remind me,

How swift the hours did pass away,

With the girl I left behind me.


Oh, ne'er shall I forget the night

The stars were bright above me,

And gently lent their silvery light,

When first she vowed to love me.

But now I'm bound to Brighton Camp

Kind heaven, then, pray guide me,

And send me safely back again

To the girl I left behind me.”




Then “Brave Wolfe” for the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. 



A chorus of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and the flag of the incipient USA.

“The Rebels,” a Loyalist song of the time.

Ye brave honest subjects who dare to be loyal,

And have stood the brunt of every trial,

Of hunting shirts and rifle guns;

Come listen awhile and I'll tell you a song;

I'll show you those Yankees are all in the wrong,

Who, with blustering look and most awkward gait,

'Gainst their lawful sovereign dare for to prate,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns…




Cut the triumphalism with a round of “Barrett’s Privateers.”



Guns are heard. The voice of Thomas Jefferson: 

“The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching; & will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, & the final expulsion of England from the American continent.”

Segue to the War of 1812: “Come All Ye Bold Canadians,” 


and “The Lower Canadian Militia Song.” Can’t find the music.

Le matin, des le point du jour,

On entend ce maudit tambour,

Maudit tambour et maudit exercice,

Toi, pauvr' soldat, tu en as d'la fatigue.


Ils nous font mettre dans les rangs,

Les officiers et les sergents,

L'un dit: recule et l'autre dit: avance!

Toi, pauvr' soldat, t'en faut de la patience.


Nos sergents et nos officiers

Sont bien traites dan leurs quartiers,

Nos capitain' boiv' le vin et la biere

Toi, pauvr' soldat, va boire a la riviere.


Qu'en a compose la chanson

C'est un tambour du bataillon

C'est un tambour en battant sa retraite

Toujours regrettant sa joli' maitresse


“Over the Hills and Far Away” for the British Regulars:


The lyrics might be modified to fit Canada—instead of “Flanders, Portugal and Spain,” “Queenston, Montreal, and Maine.”

Here's one for Laura Secord:



Next, the rebellions of 1837. A few good songs came out of that rebellion. “I’ll be a Tory,” 


then “Up and War Them All, Willie!” Second song here.


Then “Un Canadien Errant.” 


“The Battle of the Windmill” was a popular folk song around Prescott for a century. 


Next, the Fenian Raids. For context, “The Bold Fenian Men.” 


A Fenian Song:



An Anti-Fenian song:



The Riel Rebellion: “C’est au Champs de Bataille.” Lyrics supposedly written by Riel himself. 


https://books.google.fr/books?id=ntkFn3f3OC8C&pg=PA467&lpg=PA467&dq=C%27est+au+champ+de+bataille,++louis+riel&source=bl&ots=XlhmfRl6Ka&sig=acdm4DFvI3Y2GednKtYrtmTaPPw&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=DqH4UvqMGMua0AXUz4C4DA#v=onepage&q=C'est%20au%20champ%20de%20bataille%2C%20%20louis%20riel&f=false

First World War: we have an embarrassment of riches. “Vive la Canadienne,” definitely. 


“Why Can’t a Girl be a Soldier” for the feminists. 

https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/915511363578/

"The Recruiting Sergeant":


"The Princess Pat.”


And here’s an authentic 1915 war song from a Canadian collection that would be nicely multiculti. No idea of the tune, though.



“They Say that in the Army.” Verses can be inserted to reflect the Indian soldiers who were present, if not in the Canadian regiments. For example, “You ask for a biryani, and they give you intes-tine.”


Balance it out with “Wo alle Strassen enden” for the Germans.



Second World War: there’s a nice bit by the Happy Gang, to the tune of Colonel Bogey’s March: “Good Luck—And the Same to You.”

https://wartimecanada.ca/sites/default/files/documents/Good%20Luck_0.pdf

The D-Day Dodgers:


“North Atlantic Squadron,”


Stompin Tom had a clean version:


Afghanistan: Bryan Adams’ “Ric-A-Dam-Do”


And end with “Highway of Heroes”





Tuesday, January 26, 2021

1984 in 2021

 

This famous old Apple commercial is now deeply ironic. This is what high-tech was in its early years; it has become the opposite.








Monday, January 25, 2021

The COVID Stress Test

 

Ibn Khaldun


There is a theory, by Sir John Glubb, that empires last about 250 years, then collapse from having overreached themselves. 

The idea is not new. Ibn Khaldun suggested in the 14th century that regimes have a lifespan; ruling elites grow lax and self-indulgent over time. Then some new tribe thunders in from the desert.

This thesis has been raised by several voices recently, because American civic society seems to be breaking down. And because the USA is now in the 245th year of its official existence.

Perhaps. I’m old enough to remember when the USA was about to be replaced by the Soviet Union, or eclipsed economically by Japan. The USA is also arguably not an empire, certainly not for its entire existence. 

Any empire runs primarily on prestige. No empire could exist on mere power; human abilities are not distributed that unequally. Prestige builds on prestige; as prestige grows, its jurisdiction expands increasingly beyond what it can maintain without prestige. Eventually, the bubble bursts. 

The bubble perhaps burst for the British Empire with the fall of Hong Kong and Singapore in World War Two. The Warsaw Pact simply ran out of other people’s money. 

The current COVID-19 pandemic is like a stress test: for America, and for all nations, so that perhaps we can see who is decadent and who is not. It is probably too soon to draw firm conclusions—winners one month look like losers the next—but who is gaining prestige from the epidemic, and who is being revealed as less competent?

The case for the US, to begin with, is unclear. Their infection rate has been high, and may shoot higher as newer variants spread. The strain has led to rioting in the streets of many cities. Americans have certainly not pulled together. There have been problems with the vaccination rollout. On the other hand, the USA was first with effective vaccines. The US system has always been designed to be shambolic without breaking.

The UK situation is similar, based on a similar system. A higher infection rate than many countries; but they were almost as fast with a vaccine, and are faster in inoculating. Their vaccine is cheaper and easier to transport; they are set to produce it worldwide at cost. They are liable to benefit massively in earned international prestige. It all follows the typical British model: disorder at the start, but swiftly pulling things together through improvisation; losing every battle but the last.

Australia and New Zealand have done themselves credit so far by almost avoiding the pandemic in the first place; aided, no doubt, by their isolation.

Overall, the Anglosphere looks sound.

What about possible replacement powers?

China, of course, must lose prestige on a massive scale for being the source of the pandemic, and failing to do what was necessary to prevent its spread. They seem to have efficiently limited the virus internally, but by using brutal measures. They have hoarded necessary supplies. They have now developed a vaccine, but without proper testing; and indications are that it is not very effective.

Russia did well by shutting their border early, and have developed a vaccine. But it too has not undergone proper testing, and Russia apparently lacks the capacity to produce it in large quantities.

India will probably increase its prestige. The recorded rate of infection locally is relatively low. And India has most of the world’s actual vaccine production facilities. They are gearing up to produce the UK vaccine in bulk, and have at least one vaccine of their own in the works. They may be in a position to ship CARE packages abroad.

Brazil is doing notably poorly throughout the pandemic; so is Iran. Their initial responses to the virus were reckless, and their attempts to fight is seem riddled with corruption. So much for two other nations often cited as possible future powers.

The EC has also done poorly: things were terrible early in Italy and Spain, are now disastrous in Ireland and Portugal, the central commission has been slow to approve any vaccines, and France’s vaccine candidate seems to have failed its trials. Europe seems to have been suicidal since at least the 1920s. With the exception perhaps of the Nordic countries and the Central European nations that emerged from the Soviet Bloc. Denmark is doing notably well. Sweden may have chosen the wrong course early in not shutting down, but perhaps deserves admiration for trying something different, rather than going along with the crowd.

East Asia, outside mainland China, has also done well. Most notably, Taiwan has vastly increased its prestige. It was one of the first nations hit by the virus, and it effectively stopped it in its tracks. This is significant, because any prestige gained by Taiwan is in effect prestige subtracted from the regime in Beijing. This may bode well for China as a future superpower—but under new management.

South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia have also apparently reacted to the pandemic well at the outset. On the other hand, they do not seem to have been very aggressive in getting the vaccines; their record might look worse in the long term as a result.

Most impressive in the race to actually vaccinate, so far, have been Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Each, individually, is too small to make many waves in the wider world. And the fall in the price of oil is not helpful for the region. On the other hand, the recent peace deals among these very nations suggest the possibility of a new Middle East, under their joint management, that might indeed rise to world power status.

Ibn Khaldun theorized that the new power should emerge from just beyond the fringes of the old, as the Arabs arose from the desert between to overwhelm both the Persian and the Eastern Roman Empire. Just as Rome emerged from the fringes of the Hellenic Empires left by Alexander.

Who might that be? Might a new alliance of CANZUK count as the fringe of the American Empire? Might a new alliance of the Middle East count as the fringe of old Europe? Might the fringes of China--ASEAN, Japan, Korea--become a separate power through alliance? Might Taiwan, as fringe, take over China? Might India be the fringe successor to the old British Empire?


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Desecration of a Catholic Mass

 


Both right and left condemned the recent invasion of the US Capitol building. So can we expect the condemnation from all sides of this?

It does seem to me worse. Those who stormed the capitol might have reasoned it was their own property, as taxpayers and citizens. Some seem to have been invited in by guards. Here the intent was to deprive others--Catholics--of their civil rights. 

Worth noticing too here how vice typically says the opposite of the truth, and scapegoats the innocent for their own crimes. They claim the Catholic mass is "teaching hate" and violence. They are asserting hatred of Catholics and demanding the right to kill.

All evil is delusional.


Where Governors-General Come From

 

Lorne Cardinal

Canada’s Governor-General, Julie Payette, has been forced to resign in disgrace. This is shocking, since her sole role was ceremonial. Not a hard job.

This has raised questions about how Governors-General are selected. Traditionally, it has been purely at the whim of the Prime Minister. Stephen Harper set up an advisory committee. This seemed a better idea; but of course, it removed the opportunity for a patronage appointment, and so was abandoned.

The solution, it seems to me, is to put it into law. And give the responsibility to some established body, rather than to an ad hoc committee.

And I have a body in mind: the Order of Canada. 

The Order of Canada: more than just a snowflake?


At present, the Order of Canada is no more than a medal you get to wear on special occasions. But the medal is given to those “who make a major difference to Canada through lifelong contributions in every field of endeavor.” Granted, awards are somewhat political, but are chosen by committee, not by prime ministerial fiat. Passing the task on to them would put it at least arm’s length away from politics and patronage, and produce a Governor-General who might genuinely represent the nation as a whole, chosen by people who are commonly believed to have the best interests of the nation at heart.

Who would make a good Governor-General? I like Lorne Cardinal, who plays “Davis” on Corner Gas. An actor is ideal for the role; it is an acting role. Cardinal is known by all Canadians, and beloved. He is a big man, well-cast physically for the role. And it would not hurt, for the political correctness brigade, that he is aboriginal.




Saturday, January 23, 2021

A Smattering of Leftist Delusions

 

 I cannot be accused of being prejudiced against the left; after all, I am left-handed. Still, my gauchist chum Xerxes let me down this week by writing nothing controversial. 

On the other hand, some of his correspondents made some typically silly port-side comments.

JM suggested that evangelical Christians worshipped Trump as sent from God, because he promised to fight abortion and pursue and anti-LGBT agenda.

Trump is not anti-LGBT. He appointed the first-ever openly gay cabinet member. His use of “YMCA,” redubbed “MAGA,” as his re-election campaign song illustrates an outreach to the LBTQ community; although the song itself, with the new lyrics, seems to have been a spontaneous campaign contribution from the gay community.  Many prominent members of which seem to have supported him. 


It is a persistent leftist myth, or delusion, or item of disinformation, that the religious in general care much of a flip about homosexuality. Abortion matters. The left seems to want to change the subject.

Our correspondent JM also says some odd things about QAnon. I am far from an expert on that group—it seems to get more attention from the left than the right, and I only hear about it from the left. Nor am I curious; life is too short. But she claims that QAnon is directed against the Jews, and accuses them generally of killing and eating babies. That’s a little too improbable for my tastes. It sounds like a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory. 

After all, QAnon is passionately supportive of Trump, aren’t they? And Trump has been the most pro-Israel president since Truman. Trump has a Jewish daughter, a Jewish son-in-law, Jewish grandchildren. 

So I checked the Wikipedia entry. I gather the charge of antisemitism against QAnon is based on no more than the fact that they accuse George Soros of being in part behind most of the things they do not like which include pedophilia. And, as it happens, Soros is Jewish.

By that logic, anyone who did not vote for Bernie Sanders in the primaries might also be called antisemitic.

On the left side of the political spectrum, antisemitism seems to be a growing problem. It seems rare on the right. Indeed, the left is its natural home: resentment of “rich capitalists” easily segues, as in the Nazi case, into resentment of the generally successful Jews.

TW, another commentator, mischaracterizes the philosophy Josh Hawley, and of Pelagius. He writes that, in an article for Christianity Today, “Mr. Hawley denounced Pelagius for teaching that human beings have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and that grace comes to those who do good things, as opposed to those who believe the right doctrines.”


Pelagius--17th century Calvinist print, with the original caption, "Accurst Pelagius, with what false pretence Durst thou excuse Man's foul Concupiscence, Or cry down Sin Originall, or that The Love of GOD did Man predestinate."


To begin with, Hawley denounced Pelagianism, not Pelagius. The ad hominem fallacy is entirely TW’s, not Hawley’s. And Pelagius did not teach what TW claims. The idea that salvation came or did not come from believing the right doctrines was, arguably, Martin Luther’s position, but not Pelagius’s. The Pelagian heresy, against which Hawley argues, was the denial of original sin: that humans were innately good, could achieve salvation and an ideal world on their own merits, and did not need divine assistance.

An entirely unrelated issue. And a position that is widespread in the modern USA. 

Especially on the left.


Friday, January 22, 2021

Dirty Sex and the Bible

 




Whenever we read a news story dealing with a field or event with which we are familiar, we are astonished at how wrong they get it. I have long been appalled at how poorly journalists seem to get religion. We ought to realize that they are probably just as bad on fields we do not know.

A recent piece in the Daily Mail mocks Biden’s White House for showcasing Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during a memorial ceremony for those who have died of COVID. Trump also had the song performed at a recent White House event—I think it was for Thanksgiving. It is becoming a nondenominational religious standard.

But the Daily Mail objects:

“Jewish fans of late Canadian singer Leonard Cohen are pleading for his classic hit 'Hallelujah' to no longer be played at memorials and other somber events because of the ballad's sexual lyrics after it was performed at a COVID-19 memorial this week on the eve of Joe Biden's inauguration.”

“It's actually a sexual song - and people should stop trying to make it into something it's not.”

“'Yes, Christians, all Jewish people make fun of you when you sing the song about Jewish sex to celebrate your holidays and commemorate your lost. All of us'”

The author of the Mail piece, and his Jewish informants, are apparently unaware that the story of David and Bathsheba is word for word in the Christian as well as the Jewish Bible. There is no reason why the adulterous allusion would be apparent to Jews and not Evangelical Christians, who do have a bit of a reputation for reading their Bibles.

And suggesting that Cohen’s song is not religious because it describes this affair makes just as much sense as saying the Bible is not about religion because it describes this affair. Do they imagine that sex and the relationship between the sexes is not a part of God’s creation? Have they never read the Song of Songs?

Probably not. They would be shocked.

The Daily Mail piece helpfully quotes the lyrics, although not accurately.

There are actually several versions of the song. But just go with the lyrics published with this story. They end

“I'll stand before the Lord of Song 

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”

Who can the author and his Jewish informants imagine this “Lord of Song” might be? Donald Duck?

And don’t they know Hebrew? The word “Hallelujah” means “Praise God (Yahweh).” How subtle is that?

More on the meaning of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” here.

In similarly stupid recent articles elsewhere, Donald Trump is taken to task for having them play “Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’” as he departed the White House. They quote Mia Farrow and Nancy Sinatra saying Frank would have hated Trump. So how dare he take her father’s and her husband’s song?

Frank Sinatra had no rights to the song. The lyrics are by Paul Anka. Sinatra merely covered it. Trump has precisely as much right to it as Frank Sinatra did.


Monday, January 18, 2021

The Future

 



The surest evidence that an election was stolen is if, immediately after the election, it is forbidden to suggest that the election was stolen.

I had thought that the tech execs were only interested in making money, and that their censorship was a temporary bug, forced on them by advertisers and users. I was misled by economic theory. I should have been thinking psychology.

Now it occurs to me that if you are the type of restless spirit that sets about acquiring vast wealth, and you succeed, and a few billion more or less no longer seems to matter, and you inevitably find you are still not satisfied, you are naturally going to turn to other possible sources of satisfaction. Why not, say, try for power, if the opportunity is there? 

The internet looked at first like something that would decentralize power, as the invention of printing did. That seemed inherent in its architecture. Now everyone would have a printing press and a video camera. I overlooked the fact that those more open channels for communication went both ways: also allowing increased surveillance of everyone.

At this moment, I am almost prepared to indulge that luxury of the old, despair over the future. I think we have lost both democracy and free speech. That means the only way to resist oppression is with violence, and violence is both appalling in itself and leads to purely random results.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Music of My Life

 

A few years ago on Facebook, someone asked for a list of albums that meant a lot to you.

Here are mine, thrown at me today by Facebook’s “memories” feature.

Lightfoot! His first, and still his best, album. With great bass by Bill Lee. I was a bassist.



Songs of Leonard Cohen Hit me where I lived. I lived a couple of blocks away from Cohen’s boyhood home, and took the same route home from school. He was a local boy. Introduced to Cohen by Nick Economides, who was older and whom I looked up to for his sophistication.



Songs from a Room. Neither this nor his first are his best albums. But these are the ones from my teenage years. "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy," "Tonight Will Be Fine." I remember listening to "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes" on the porch with Violet Birch.



Byrds, Fifth Dimension. One of the first three albums I bought, in a batch. It wore better than the others. Bought all the Byrds albums following it too. Tempted to put some others on the list. They were probably better albums, but as my first exposure, 5D is the one that influenced me the most.



Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited. First got to know it because a neighbourhood kid, Bob White, held dances during which he used to play it. The strategy, all the guys knew, was to ask your favourite girl for “Desolation Row” for a long slow dance where you got to hold her close. Trying to dance to Dylan was ridiculous. Then I started listening to the lyrics. "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," was my favourite for a long time.



Bringing it All Back Home. I bought it after Highway 61. Almost as good.



Blonde on Blonde. Disappointed at first. But it grew and grew on me. "Visions of Johanna.""Just Like a Woman," "I Want You." Al Kooper's organ.



Peter Paul and Mary, See What Tomorrow Brings. A lot of great songs. Among other things, the album I listened to after my first girlfriend broke up with me. My sister and I used to sing harmony on "Betty and Dupree."



Joni Mitchell, Blue. Not my album. My brother was the bigger Joni Mitchell fan. But this one was supernaturally great. Humming “Carey” was the only thing that got me through one summer working in a plastics factory. “River” and “All I Want” were even better.



Planxty. Bought when I was living in Ottawa. Perhaps the greatest album ever recorded by anyone. I had "Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór" played at my wedding. The one that didn’t work out.



Steeleye Span Please to See the King. Picked up second hand in a bargain bin. Yow! I love those rough edges. A revelation after the sanitized folk of the early Sixties. 



The Band Music from Big Pink. Another album that seemed to change everything.



Moby Grape. Tipped off on this one by Hit Parader magazine—a great publication. Crazy good. Sadly, two of the band members later just went crazy. Few songs match the energy of Skip Spence’s “Omaha.” 



Rolling Stones, High Tide and Green Grass. Not my album. Was playing in a kid rock and roll band, and a couple of my bandmates were wild about the Stones. I think Louis Lapierre owned the album. Did not especially like the music then—it was just the most fun to play on stage. But it has grown on me ever since. The Stones get better with time.



Ian & Sylvia Four Strong Winds. I love all their stuff, and Ian Tyson solo, but this I think was where I came in. I cannot ever get “V’la le Bon Vent” out of my mind. Nor would I ever want to. Let alone the title track. Or “Royal Canal,” which oddly always reminds me of Kingston, with the canal and the penitentiary.



Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed and Beggar's Banquet. The soundtrack at Inscape, the teen drop in coffee house in Gananoque, brain child of Father Ed Shea. "Gimme Shelter." Yeah, I love rock and roll.




Saturday, January 16, 2021

Corner Gas

 



Being out of the country for many years, I have just discovered “Corner Gas,” a longtime runaway hit on Canadian TV. I believe it is the most popular Canadian scripted show of all time. Launched in 2004, it is still running as an animated series.

Brent Butt, creator and star, says he does not know why it was and is so popular. What is it about this particular troupe of eight characters? Butt is a brilliant writer, and has done several other projects, but none have approached the success of Corner Gas. What was the magic formula?

I think it is obvious; but a thing long forgotten. Comedies work best in a rural setting. This was something the ancient Greeks knew already. Comic characters, for them, were formulaically rural folk; the word “clown” literally means “rustic.” 

The reason, I believe, is that comedy works by releasing tensions; the punch line is a spring abruptly unsprung. More broadly it works by allowing us escape from our worries. A rural life implies that: a simple life away from our troubles. Most Shakespearean comedies involve retreat into a forest or wilderness, a “green world,” as Northrop Fry noted, which somehow resolves the problems of the protagonist.

For a time, American television conformed, perhaps by accident, to the old formula, and had a run of huge comedic hits based on rural life: Beverley Hillbillies, Hee Haw, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction. Then the marketing mavens realized with alarm that they were not appealing to the most desirable market. Most Americans lived in cities, after all. Especially most Americans with money to spend. So the geniuses, in lock step, cancelled all the hillbilly opreys, though still the most popular shows, to reflect the real lives of their desired audience. The replacement sitcoms were all set relentlessly in suburbs or the city. Mary Tyler Moore was going to make it after all. 

They did fine; some were great. But they ran against no rural competition. If there was a thirst in the audience for such an escape from their dreary daily lives, it was not satisfied.

One notable exception: Gilligan’s Island. A show with a puerile premise and without good writing. Nevertheless, the escapist setting alone seems to have gained it, in the absence of any other non-urban competition, cultural immortality.

Overall, nobody in Hollywood seems to understand how comedy works. At least, nobody with money to fund a TV show. But here in Canada, Corner Gas hit upon that same ancient formula. Everyone in Toronto wanted to imagine themselves living in Dog River.

It is also the old Canadian formula. Dog River is a colony of Mariposa. Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town is, along with Anne of Green Gables and Songs of a Sourdough, one of the three founding documents of English Canadian literature. All three are about people living in isolated communities. It is the shared Canadian literary experience. Largely as a result, the soul of Canada is in its small towns. Largely as a result, the soul of Canada is comic, so that Canada keeps generating brilliant comics and comic writers like Brent Butt.


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Mexican Standoff?

 

Tim Pool makes a good point about Twitter banning President Trump. It does not matter that they have, shockingly, been able to shut down their competition. Competition is not necessary; nobody needs Twitter. The main attraction to Twitter was the entertainment value of Donald Trump. Without interesting content, Twitter is probably doomed. If only a narrow band of views are tolerated, everyone will lose interest.

This will probably be a case study in business school texts in future.


Monday, January 11, 2021

Trump's Incendiary Speech

 

Why is it that, with all the claims that President Trump incited an insurrection a few days ago, nobody shows the video clip of him doing so?

For the obvious reason: they can't; he didn't. I've read the transcript of his speech.

It's a perfect example of gaslighting. Real gaslighting.



The World in Winter

 

Art thrives when the world has fallen apart. Art is the attempt to put it back together.

The US seems now gone fascist, following China.

It is time for poetry.


Four walls a door a window

Without, the face-full sea.

Was life ever more than this?

I hear the sirens in the night

I see the weary parade of morning

Rare times the lark sings mad above the snow

Again in the calliope dawn

With a timpani bang and a tin whistle

The shuffling symphony that becomes the carnival day begins.


-- Stephen K. Roney

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Whom the Gods Would Destroy...

 


Not Icarus, but the same old story.

The current general pogrom against conservative voices is nothing I would have predicted. On the face of it, people on the left seem to be acting not just irrationally, but against their own self-interest.

Take Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats launching articles of impeachment against Trump. There are only eleven days left in his term, at this writing. It is improbable that the process could be completed before his last day of office. If it were, what is the urgency of having him step down a day or two earlier? And in the meantime, tying up the US Government to do so? At a time of general crisis?

If the measure passed the House, moreover, it would take a two-thirds majority in the Senate to have him removed. Since the Senate is 50% Republican, there seems no chance of that. So Pelosi is tying up the machinery of government for nothing.

If he were impeached and removed, this would apparently bar Trump from running again. But if this is Pelosi’s hope, it makes no sense on another level. When Trump was nominated in 2016, I thought the Republicans were making a mistake: Trump was a loose cannon, and many of their other possible candidates looked stronger electorally. The fact that Trump could not cleanly beat Biden bears me out: Biden was hardly a strong candidate. Again, the Democrats seemed suicidal in picking him, against the will of their own supporters and despite his obvious cognitive decline. If Pelosi were to prevent Trump from running again, this looks as likely as not to be a gift to the Republicans: they can now nominate a candidate with wider appeal, without alienating the Trumpists.

In the meantime, Pelosi is doing a thorough job of alienating Trump supporters from the Democratic Party. As is Joe Biden. Instead of calling for reconciliation, as any sane politician would do, they are demonizing anyone who supported Trump. This is significant, and an obvious case of self-harm, because many of them were Democrats before Trump came along.

It looks like a shotgun blast to the face. It looks like attempted suicide.

It looks the same to me with regard to the censorship by Silicon Valley. Especially Jack Dorsey, who seems to have been the most aggressive. Twitter is a limited platform that, before Trump came along, looked as though it were dying. Trump’s love of tweeting has made it the place to be; one third of all their subscribers are following Trump. Throwing Trump off is like refusing to serve at least one third of their customers. It is alienating at least half of their potential customers, the half who voted for Trump. It is forcing the action to a rival platform, which is then almost certain to eclipse Twitter. 

The same case can be made for all the other social media platforms censoring conservative voices: they are shutting out and alienating half their potential audience, and opening up a huge advantage for any competitor. Why would they be doing this?

Are they forced to it by the demands of advertisers, who do not want their ads run next to controversial content? No: there is no parallel drive to censor the left; it would be trivial to set algorithms to let advertisers steer clear of political speech case-by-case; and advertisers are not involved in the case of Patreon, or Amazon’s cloud services, and others who have been joining in the censorship.

Major advertisers themselves seem to have gone “woke” in self-destructive ways: like Gillette paying huge sums to deliberately insult men.

The “mainstream media” are also on an apparent path to self-destruction. Fox News, with their right-wing slant, was consistently beating CNN, MSNBC, and the old networks in the ratings. CNN’s response? To go further left. Then Fox News, too, seemed to veer left, and Drudge Report. And their audience was handed over, as if deliberately, to upstarts like OAN, Newsmax, Citizen Free Press, and so forth.

The large established tech firms are obviously aware that they are threatening their own businesses with their political stance. They are actively colluding to prevent this from happening: targeting upstarts like Parler, or SubscribeStar in restraint of trade. In doing so, however, they are in violation of anti-trust laws, and obviously risk bringing down legal action against themselves. 

And any such attempts are, in the new world of the Internet age, like whack-a-mole. There are too many people out there with access to cameras, microphones, and, in effect, printing presses now. 

My guess is that “they” are showing the terminal stages of what the Greeks called hubris, and we call narcissism. “They” meaning, in general, the educated and economic elite of our culture. The gang we used to call the yuppies. Having gotten away with a lot, and knowing they have gotten away with it, their conscience, in part, drives them to it. There is in every serial killer an unconscious craving for justice. The tension of a guilty conscience becomes over time unbearable; they will keep acting more erratically and uncompromisingly until at last someone catches them, or calls them out. If necessary, they will leave notes with clues for the police.

When it happens, when at last they are caught, they will sleep like a baby.


Saturday, January 09, 2021

The Progress of America's Social Disease

 




What is happening now in the USA tracks closely the dynamics of a dysfunctional family.

1. Someone gives in to temptation and sins. In this case, we are talking about the “sexual revolution.”

2. Rather than repent, they allow this to develop into a settled vice. The legalization of abortion probably marks that social threshold. Instead of realizing the original idea was wrong, once confronted with its consequences, Americans moved on from lust to murder.

3. As guilt feelings grow, the guilty party begins to construct a “narrative” instead of facing the truth; a pleasant fiction, in which they are guilty of nothing. They become insane in the proper sense of the term: their thinking and their claims are no longer in accord with what is real. We see this in postmodernism: there is no truth. We can simply “construct” any truth we want.

4. In the next phase, the pretense that truth is random and arbitrary is replaced with the conviction that truth is the enemy. Rather than having the right to choose one’s own truth, one must deny objective truth. Here is where Trump Derangement Syndrome begins: he was too prone to bluntly say what he thought.

5. Now comes the scapegoating phase: anyone not in step with the general denial of reality will be accused of the sin of which the guilty party feels guilty. Trump’s supposed sin, for example, is that he is a “liar.” Within a family, this becomes the habitual scapegoating of one or more children.

6. Over time, as the situation grows more extreme and the truth risks becoming obvious to all, the insane party will then accuse the scapegoated party of themselves being insane. We are seeing this now with the drive to have Trump removed from power with eleven days to go, by declaring him mentally incompetent. The demand is in itself obviously insane.

Within a dysfunctional family, this is generally where it ends. By general consent, the one member of the dysfunctional family who is not, or is least, insane, will be declared insane, and sent off for psychiatric treatment. So the family can go on as always. The child themselves will accept the diagnosis as necessary for survival. 

But where does it end when it happens to a whole society?

Nazi Germany perhaps gives us our most obvious model.


Friday, January 08, 2021

2020, Hold My Beer

 

A German representative has reportedly compared the storming of the Capitol building two days ago to the Reichstag fire. 

The analogy seems eerily apt.

The historical suspicion, of course, is that the Reichstag fire was set by the Nazis themselves to give Hitler the excuse to seize absolute power. Which he did.

So, if you want to call the current rumors and claims that agents provocateurs were involved in the storming of the Capitol, and, for that matter, in the Black Lives Matter riots last summer, a conspiracy theory, you need to acknowledge that similar conspiracies have been real, and successful, in the past. And indeed there are videos of the crowd trying to restrain people breaking windows, and of the police seeming to deliberately open a barrier to let protestors in.



Whether or not they were complicit, voices on the left seem to be responding aggressively. We hear immediate demands for a more authoritarian regime. Trump has been thrown off Twitter and other social media. Many are calling the storming of Congress “treason,” and “an attempted coup.” Implying the death penalty for all involved. Others are demanding the arrest of Trump’s lawyers. Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez has demanded that any supporters of Trump be expelled from the House and Senate. Just as Hitler used the Reichstag fire to have the Communist deputies expelled to secure his majority.

China has already gone Fascist. The US seems to be close behind. 

China and the US are infinitely more significant military, economic, and cultural powers than Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. It begins to look as though the 1930s were just a dress rehearsal for the main event.



Thursday, January 07, 2021

Not With a Bang, But a Whimper

 

The situation in the USA seems less dire today than yesterday. The crowd that stormed the Capitol seems not to have been organized, and they left once they had made a demonstration.

Unfortunately, it all took attention away from the claim that the election was stolen, rather than making the intended point.

And it now makes Trump's exit from office look tawdry.

He deserved better.



Wednesday, January 06, 2021

The Second American Revolution?

 

At this moment, it looks as though the USA may be at the beginning of either a revolution or a civil war. The action of invading the Capitol Building is extreme enough that those involved may decide it is safer to press on than to stand down.

The returns from the Georgia Senate runoff, at the same time, look like a parallel attempted coup. Had the Republicans won that election, as Republicans have always won in Georgia before, it would have stood as evidence that the prior presidential election was legitimate after all. That the results seemed to mimic precisely those of the presidential election suggests instead that the prior election was stolen, and that, unless something dramatic is done quickly, all future elections will be similarly stolen.

I cannot foresee this all ending peacefully. I question whether democracy can survive in the US.



Tuesday, January 05, 2021

The Devil and Ravi Zacharias



Scandal has engulfed the memory of Ravi Zacharias, the popular Christian apologist who died last May. He has been accused of several ethical lapses: of having falsified qualifications, of having an affair with a married woman, of having made sexual advances to employees at two massage parlours he owned. More may emerge. His own organization, after an interim report from an independent review, says they find the charges credible.

Fellow Christians are generally understanding. Most see him as a good man who fell to temptation. Who hasn’t? Did he really hurt more people than he helped? And the temptations must have been great.

This overlooks an essential point: Zacharias never admitted to any of it, and never showed any remorse.

This is what separates the sheep from the goats, and makes Zacharias a goat. It is the essential element of what we call “narcissism,” and what used to be more accurately called vice.

One sympathetic therapist suggested poor Zacharias perhaps suffered from “sex addiction.” Probably right: this is what vice is. It is an addiction to sin. This does not excuse it. This means one has thrown in one’s lot with sin. One has chosen the path downward.

Looking at Zacharias and his career give us a portrait of the narcissist. Of course he presented himself as a holy man. The narcissist always will: he will claim to be flawless. It is especially useful to contrast Zacharias’s behavior with that of Donald Trump, since so many falsely accuse Trump of narcissism.

Trump never claimed to be holy. But the biggest contrast between the two is that everyone seems to want to minimize what Zacharias did, and few seem to bear him ill will. The reaction is more sorrow than anger. By contrast, Trump provokes deep hatred, as well as strong affection. 

This is narcissism. The narcissist is concerned above all else with how he or she appears to the world. They do not, as often charged, have “delusions of grandeur.” They just want to appear better than they are; they will falsify credentials. They will hide any imperfection, and do whatever they think will please whoever is present. This is the opposite of Trump, who seems to delight in mixing it up. They are skilled manipulators. They are charming; the devil is a gentleman. This subverts just about everyone around them into enablers and flying monkeys. So the narcissist, unlike Trump, rarely has enemies. 

This illustrates the wisdom of Confucius’s observation: if a person has no friends, it is necessary to make enquiries. If a person has no enemies, it is necessary to make enquiries.

Trump, obviously, is the opposite of this. His friends are fiercely for him, and his enemies fiercely against him.

This is the mark of an honest man.


Sunday, January 03, 2021

2021 Predictions


 

I seem to have missed making my usual annual predictions last year. Just as well; they would all have been wrong. My predictions, like everyone’s, are always wrong, and this past year was utterly implausible. 


It was as though the world was one big roulette wheel given a reckless spin, and the ball is still bouncing.

I might as well go nuts with my wildest predictions. Now anything is as likely as anything else.

I predict COVID will fade from consciousness in Canada, the US, and Europe by about April. If the vaccinations are done intelligently and efficiently, starting with the most vulnerable, the actual death rate but that time will have dropped enough that the coronavirus will no longer feel frightening. I also hope that rapid testing and therapeutics will be making a significant difference by then: ivormectin, monoclonal antibodies, sniffing dogs. And spring will bring a natural reduction as well.

I predict that Operation Warp Speed and the novel vaccine techniques it encouraged will soon bring unexpected benefits in treating other disease. Perhaps the common cold, perhaps cancer.

I predict that Trump will remain in office for the next four years. I know this is crazy, that the odds against this look astronomical. I am going with a gut instinct. I am convinced from what I have heard that the election really was stolen; and that Biden has been bought by China. So far, people in authority have been going along with the fixed election results for fear of civil unrest and upsetting apple carts; if the risk of unrest becomes greater with Biden than with Trump, their support may flip suddenly. I sense movement in that direction.

Not only may Trump retain power: the Democratic Party as it now exists may be generally discredited. It may then be taken over by the “progressive” left, by AOC and her fans.

I think China, even before the virus, was close to hitting an economic wall. It is in effect a Nazi regime, a Ponzi economy, and probably unsustainable over the long term. Before the virus, they probably seized Hong Kong because they needed to loot it to stay afloat. The virus and its aftereffects, and the strange weather, may be a larger strain than the system can bear. I imagine the Chinese leadership trying to recoup and rally the population with some military adventure; and they may be driven as well by the need to plunder.

This suggests a coming war; most probably an attempt on Taiwan. I expect the other side to win, probably with muscular US involvement. China can count on no allies. The government of China will fall as a result.

In the meantime, the war with China may unite the US, which otherwise looked headed towards civil war. The mad left will not be pleased with Trump staying in office. On the other hand, the riots are not going to get going until the weather is warmer. By that time, they may be preempted by the war. If they do start, the war will rob them of popular support and give cause to suppress them.

When the Chinese government falls, I foresee a period of chaos. China has a tendency to fall apart, and the CCP has deliberately suppressed any possible alternative social organizations who might be able to step in and preserve order. Ordinary Chinese will flock to the Christian churches and to Falun Gong; one or the other or both will become the kernel of a new order, but it will take time. And perhaps a civil war or two.

In the meantime, to escape this, Hong Kong will attempt to shear away and to restore ties with the UK. This, together with the UK’s departure from the EU, will give an added impetus to a preliminary CANZUK agreement: a loose military, free trade, and free movement association among Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and now also Hong Kong. Singapore may well express interest in joining as well, fearing to be eclipsed as a banking and trading centre by Hong Kong. 




Everyone expects a Canadian election this year, once the pandemic abates. I do not. The Liberals would be foolhardy to call one so soon into their term, and the NDP would probably suffer if they provoked an election without some good reason. If it comes, I expect the NDP to suffer badly, because they have been propping up the Liberals despite scandal, and because they have not distinguished themselves from the Liberals in policy terms.

I would venture that the Conservatives would win that election. If China attacks Taiwan, or is otherwise in the news, the close ties and friendship of the Liberals to the CCP may become the main issue, and sink them. If they want to run on how well they handled the pandemic, much depends on how well the inoculations go. It does not look promising so far. Canada lags the US and the UK, and that is how Canadians will evaluate the matter.

I expect there will have to be a rash of retail bankruptcies in Canada, the US, and everywhere else as a result of the pandemic, hastening a move to online shopping that was already underway. Similarly, a lot of universities and colleges in the US are going to start declaring bankruptcy. This may be the beginning of a general shift to learning online, now that everybody is familiar with the tools. The economics are hard to beat.

We should see a definite demographic movement now away from the big cities. There is no longer any reason to live in a big city for shopping; many of us have learned to work remotely, so it is less important to be there for work. Rental and real estate prices have become unsupportable. With the internet, there is far less reason to be there for either entertainment or education. The riots have demonstrated that they are dangerous due to crime, and the virus has demonstrated that they are dangerous because of disease. The flight from the cities should be a major theme in the new year.

Legacy media have been kept alive on ventilators by anti-Trump rhetoric and the systematic censorship and deplatforming of alternative sources online. But the systematic censorship, at worst, is self-limiting. It forces the creation of new competing platforms to serve the demand. I expect the rise of new social media platforms in the upcoming year, and the decline of established players like Facebook, YouTube, Patreon, PayPal, AirBnB, and Twitter, who have become politically partisan, against their business interests. We are already beginning to see this.

I do not expect Muslim terrorism to be much in the news. Remember Muslim terrorism? With the collapse in the price of oil, their revenue sources in the Middle East have dried up. Just as when the IRA lost its funding from the Soviet Union, and then from Libya, peace is breaking out all over, and this will spread. As with China, the virus’s effects are likely, on top of the decline in oil prices, to topple the Iranian regime. When it falls, a large proportion of the Iranian population will publicly apostasize, in reaction to the regime having so closely identified itself with Islam. This will produce a ripple effect throughout the Muslim world: it may become less fashionable to be aggressively Muslim.

The reaction will probably be to want to Westernize and to secularize, as this was the tone under the Shah.

We will see, in a year, how close I am to seeing the shape of things to come.


Saturday, January 02, 2021

There Is a War

 

Ethical monkeys.


Truth is a thing of infinite value. It is also very rare. Our social lives are precariously suspended on a web of lies.

As an example of the usual social morality, consider the Rotary "Four Way Test":

Is it the TRUTH?

Is it FAIR to all concerned?

Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?

Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

While that sounds honourable, note that the truth is to be limited to what will preserve general goodwill and social relationships. One should tell the truth, but not the whole truth.

Lines from Emily Dickenson have long troubled my imagination:


Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —


The truth of which she speaks is something frightening—like lightning to a child.

Why are so many afraid of truth?

Possibly relevant: Jesus said he was the truth, and the truth would set us free. Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?” and crucified him.

These are perhaps the two warring sides defined.

Every now and again, someone arises who speaks the truth publicly, and it is electrifying—at least to me, but I think to others as well. This is what prophecy is, and prophets keep arising. 

“Prophets, in the modern sense of the word, have never existed. Jonah was no prophet in the modern sense, for his prophecy of Nineveh failed. Every honest man is a Prophet; he utters his opinion both of private & public matters.” – William Blake

When I first read Milton Friedman, I got that sense: the shock of truth. The simple logic of what he said contrasted so clearly with the improbable convolutions of Keynesianism. Truth is straight, simple, and drawn in clear lines; lies are serpentine, nuanced, sophisticated, vague. John the Baptist arose to “make the paths straight.”

I got that shock of truth again from Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. The world, including most Christian denominations, had surrendered to the idea of free sex and even abortion. Everyone expected the prevaricator, Paul, to add his seal of approval. Instead he stood up and said what no one wanted to hear, those who wanted the reassuring rationalization that children did not matter, the marriage bond did not matter, and the foetus was not a human life.

I got the same shock of truth from reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as sanctioned by John Paul II and primarily composed by Joseph Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI.

Sadly, I get the opposite from their successor, Francis. Everything he says seems deliberately vague and ambiguous.

For a time, I trusted The Economist to speak truth; that is, while of course not infallible, to represent a consistently principled liberal view; to speak truth as they perceived it. I miss that illusion. I stopped reading  when they referred to Jean-Marie LePen, previously always “that thug,” as “that wily ex-paratrooper.” He had qualified for the run-off; he stood a real chance of being elected French president. It was time to prevaricate. The Economist was playing politics and spinning narratives like everyone else. Truth was to be honoured only as it served self-interest.

Of course, this illness has long infected the rest of the press. In the old days, when journalists only graduated from high school, they were there because they were prophets, determined to find the truth. Now it's a job, a career.

The secret to the fierce loyalty to Donald Trump among his supporters is that he, unlike practiced politicians, speaks the blunt truth. He tweets whatever he thinks. 

He is, perversely, most often accused by his opponents of lying: the very opposite thing. Trump, like John the Baptist, is blunt and undiplomatic. This, if perhaps not always desirable, is the reverse of lying.

And whom do the anti-Trumpers rally behind as a result? Joe Biden. Not just any politician, but probably the most consistently untruthful active politician in America. The personified stereotype of the gladhanding glib talker who will say anything to get elected. That obviously puts the lie to their lie; the ultimate lie, but the automatic, spontaneous lie used by habitual liars, is to declare truth itself a lie.

Who else, in our times, is a voice for the truth?

The two people I have known personally who seemed most honest, most sincere, were Larry F. and Kathy M. Larry F soon after I met him committed suicide. Kathy M. was schizophrenic.

Someone had convinced them that truth itself was a lie. So where were they to go?

Emily Dickenson, for her part, was obviously mentally ill, by the standards of her time or ours—“melancholic.” She lived most of her life in her bedroom, pursuing truth.

So was Leonard Cohen, of whom those who knew him well will say he was the most honest person they had ever met. 

This seems to be a common theme with many artists. They seem trusting and naïve, unable to play social politics, and deeply sincere.

George Orwell was another obviously depressive artist. He wrote:

“Intellectual honesty is a crime in any totalitarian country; but even in England it is not exactly profitable to speak and write the truth.”

Just as it has recently become unprofitable and a career risk to speak or write the truth in Canada or the USA.

“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

But telling people anything they do not want to hear is now a criminal offense, a “hate crime.”

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”

So the open hatred for Trump; this explains “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

The entire culture is now in deep denial, and the deeper they go into denial, and the closer anyone comes to speaking the truth, the more violently they are liable to react; up to the point of crucifixion.

Orwell believed that his one true talent was the ability to face the truth when all others were in such denial.

The same might be said of Churchill, who credited his own ability to see the gathering storm of Nazism in the 1930s to his depression. Depression sees truth that most deny. “Depressive realism” is even recognized by the psychologists; it has been measured. Far from being deluded, the depressed are generally in closer contact with reality than the rest of us. It is the rest of us who are insane. 

Churchill is credited with the remark

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

One might posit that there are two kinds of people in the world: people who hunger and thirst after truth, and people in open rebellion against it. These are the sheep and the goats.

Those in denial, those who flee from truth, and who hate those who speak it, do so because they are conscious of having sinned—and are unrepentant.

John 3: 19-21:

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


… To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

Although it sets them free, those who have sinned fear truth. They will call anyone who speaks truth a liar, or insane. If they fear exposure, they can become violent. They can behead or crucify.

Dickenson’s solution is to tell the truth “slant.” It is a tactic used by Jesus too. It is, he explains, why he speaks in parables. One does not cast pearls before swine: they will turn on you and tear you apart. This is the charter of the artist.

The problem with this approach is that parables and slanted tellings are easily misinterpreted and misunderstood. They can actually be used to reinforce the lies.

Perhaps the best response for the truth tellers is to tell the truth loudly, as the prophets do: to let their light shine. 

There are no easy options here. But we are at war, a war of good and evil. If you are in the trenches, you will draw fire.