Essays in Idleness


The cruck of our freedom

“Ah, but you will not define this ‘freedom’ of which you speak, will you? O monster of tyranny!”

The words were courageously addressed by me, to an important public figure exhibiting bombast and pomposity — with whose challenge I was earnestly trying to compete. We had fallen into some sort of debate in his impressive mansion or palace; and his other guests were cheering him along.

Perhaps I should mention this was happening in the dream from which I woke this morning. My words seem still ringing in my ears, more than twelve hours later. I was quite pleased with them. On awakening, I struggled to write down what I could remember of our exchange, which I was losing to the filled stomachs of all those whom he had grandly fed. Their catcalls invited me to sit down. My host’s own words were mocking.

I dream; I seem to have extraordinary dreams sometimes, and this one was suitably set, in a rich architectural interior. It was the great hall of some resplendent Elizabethan or Jacobean noble house, with the sense of some intricate mazed garden outside, and a perfumed summer evening. My eyes had been drawn down from the high rafters; the words seemed to have been placed in my mouth, and spoken almost involuntarily. But mostly I was fixed upon the explosive debate, in an interior anachronistically upholstered. (Look at all these steatopygous retainers plump in their cushions, I thought.) My host, while he spoke, small and round to begin with, was inflating like a balloon.

Well, to be perfectly frank with you, gentle reader, he was the late Maurice Strong. Who “invented the environment,” as the silliest of our governors-general once said in his praise.

Let me not speak ill of the dead, just yet. I had once some encounters with the man, which were unpleasant, at least for me. But it would have been out of his character, I think, to confront anyone. That was a job for specialists.

The point of the dream, perhaps — were I Dante I would write it as an allegorical poem, then explain it in silken Italian prose — was to fix an idea in my mind for Saint Andrew’s Day; and by projection through the mysterious Advent season. Something to do with the natural law; with divine freedom and predestination. Something about the Apostle who was brother to Simon Peter, and his journey to the Scythian north. (Eusebius took this from Origen.) Or somehow, all of this was mixed together in my dream.

We do not have unrestricted freedom, or we could fly. We can by no contrivance win unrestricted freedom, for we die. We can have only the illusion of unrestricted freedom, in our pride, or in our dreams. And yet such freedom as we have is real, and is to be found in the path before us — along which not even God will compel us; not even God. And that because it was His part, in His perfect freedom, to grant us this right; together, should we choose, with this aloneness.

Men cannot free men, as it were, from their bondage to this freedom. We can set men free from manacles and chains, but not from the conditions in which men live. We must not promise what no man can deliver.

Advent marks the beginning of the road, before the Incarnation, to the meeting with our Guide in the Crèche at Bethlehem; then with Him to the Cross; finally to the Resurrection and the heraldic achievement of our freedom, from Death. Yet that death is no symbol.

In my dream, I was aware of the crossed beams of the Saltire in the hall above; of the maze long planted in the garden outside; and it seemed when I awakened that these were emblems of the crossroads and the journey ahead. How shall we be guided? And to what, or to Whom?

More than ever now or never

My title today is, if I’m not mistaken, a souvenir of “the ’Fifteen.” … Here, I have found it: Lord Bolingbroke to the exiled King James III, a.k.a. James Francis Edward Stuart, a.k.a. the Old Pretender. … Or maybe I have not. For upon adjusting my spectacles I see it is “James Rex” to the Duke of Berwick, the 23rd of August, 1715. … But I’d swear Bolingbroke had coined this excellent phrase. … Perhaps I am getting old.

Jacobites among my gentle readers will know the whole story. (And if you’re not a Jacobite, why are you here?) It did not end as well as could be hoped, and neither did “the ’Forty-five,” but hey. Not everything works out on this planet. Some strings still need tying, later on.

My own Jacobitism trails off, somewhere between the sublime and the ridiculous, with the Cardinal Duke of York — arguably King Henry IX and I, to his death in 1807, at Rome, there. His somewhat unreliable, predeceased brother, King Charles III (a.k.a. “Bonnie Prince Charlie”), produced no (legitimate) heir, and so we must bid a sad adieu to the Stuarts. Thereafter I will take the de facto, and so, God Save the Queen!

I was unhappy with the (ironically labelled) Glorious Revolution, of 1688; with the Bill of Rights, 1689; with the Act of Union, 1701; with the Act of Settlement, 1707; and with a few other things, gentle reader.  (And I condemn them thrice, on behalf of the Kingdom of Scotland, the Kingdom of Ireland, and the Kingdom of England. … Er, and on behalf of the Kingdom of Canada, too.) I’m still unhappy, but what can one do?

And where were we? Ah, yes: with Bolingbroke encouraging His Majesty King James III not to dawdle. He thought the time right to recover the British throne, now that poor “Queen” Anne was dead, and the Protties reduced to fetching some wretch from Hanover who could not even speak English. They’d had to go to the very bottom of the Stuart line to dig him out.

The route to Westminster lay through Scotland, aye Scotland, and it was time for him to book the trip. James did get there eventually.

Unfortunately, neither the rightful King, nor his general, Lord Mar, was quite ruthless enough when the shills of the Hanovers came hunting.

We had them by the numbers at one point. But aheu, we pulled our punches.

What can I say?


Here’s what.

Advent is upon us, and the Feast of Saint Andrew, too, and one full long year has dribbled by since, on a hopeful lark, I resolved to file these Idleposts daily. (Deciding more recently to leave Sundays to the priests.) Rent also falls, by coincidence, at the end of each month; and while my readership grows and grows, the contributions through PayPal have been ailing.

Gosh! do I hate begging. I’m not holy enough for that, just yet. And besides there are several who embarrass me, by sending too much or too often. You know who you are; so know that you’re excused.

But the rest of you, please, don’t pull punches.

Present in the past

Ah, “the gloopy ear, the screaming banshee moments.” (Mrs S.) My mama had them; I used to have them, too. And wish, now, that I could have them all back, only to have my wee childers again, back in my arms. For they are transformed, after less than twenty years.

Among my correspondents there are several mothers; one in particular (Mrs B), blest with a bag of small daughters, at least four of them I think, “growing like weeds.” I fear, sometimes, that she may be a Saint, for there is something about Saints that a sinner (such as I) finds rather terrifying. A reminder of how far I am from Heaven, perhaps.

And among her anomalies (in the field of the innumerable), is an ability to appreciate the present as the past, the past as the present, the future in the now. Though perhaps many, especially women, can do this.

She told me for instance of a moment looking upon her youngest, frightfully misbehaving. Suddenly, instead of shrieking at the sniffling, mischievous child, she became strangely calm. There came the vivid sense that she has this little one, now and not forever. Life will move on.

It was, as she described it, a nostalgia for the present. The wee child may one day have childers of her own; but then she won’t be wee any more. Take her in your arms now; hold onto the moment with all your heart. For in this moment you have returned — paradoxically, to the forever.


Some years ago in London — the middle of the Great Wen — I found myself standing in the future. Truly, I was standing in my old neighbourhood at Vauxhall. A quarter century had already slipped by, from the time when I had lived there. I had hesitated to return, knowing I would not find what I had left. I was right to hesitate.

For many things were changed, in that neighbourhood, which had not much changed the hundred years before: for instance the very streets of tenant-owned workmen’s cottages, dating back to the time before Victoria was Queen. And the independent baker, and butcher, and costermonger, who had served these people, as their predecessors had, through generations; and the “cafe” (one syllable) in the market of Wilcox Road, serving “beans egg and spam.” I knew they would be gone.

All my old neighbours would be gone, too, for the Borough of Lambeth had expropriated, then obliterated all these beautiful small houses — to build geometric anthills for the New Socialist Man. And the shops to serve them, were now avatar franchise operations. The old corner bakery and its “scone rounds” (fresh and warm, by six in the morning), to me almost a shrine, lost as the chapels after Henry VIII. Food now plasticized and dispensed from a miniature supermarket; a travel agent (inconceivable before), with big posters, offering the relief of brief translocation to some beach in Spain. I wanted to weep for the horrible evil that had been done to these people — to “my people,” as I remembered them — as I searched for decaying fragments of what had once been. There was no sense of “coming home”; only my own overbearing, righteous indignation.

Then walking to, and along the Thames Embankment, images of those old neighbours flashed into mind; and I could say a little Ave for each as in memory they fluttered by. Each, who would now be decades older; the old ones, probably dead. The living scattered as refugees by the progressive demons, now beyond tracking down. How I had wished to find the old pub, and in it the recognized; the hope of reunions.

The Sun, he was blazing that day.

I wandered to the threshold of the Tate Modern. (“Huh? What is this?”) … And all around the gleaming millennial monuments from the Age of Blair. … (Having stepped out of the shy Age Before Thatcher.)

Brother Sun, unBritishly blazing: on fresh metal and glass, and dappling the waves of that Strong Brown God, still flowing (“till I end my song”). And on all these shining young: so many. …

(“I had not thought death had undone so many.”)


We have little visions in our lives; I had one then. It was, “I am standing in the future.” It was, more completely, “I, Tiresias, have come back from the dead, and now I am standing in the future.” Of course I cannot hope to understand it, for I am from some former time. The world has moved, and buried all my kin, and now I am a Wraith. The living pass by, and do not see me. They could be walking through me.

And not the many changes, but Time itself, is the mystery within this mystery: time present and time past; time future. And all these shining young, once unconceived, now living in a variation of the “present perfect” that no grammarian can describe, and poets only try for. Look upon all these now living: Do they not know?

What a fool I had been, not to have known, then, in the present of the past, the past of the future. But only God can give this grace: to know that we are not elsewhere, but here. And the gift to cherish it.

Some ethic profiling

We may assume that Sponge-Bob and Snoopy overhead, for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York City, are fitted with cameras today. If not, there are drones enough to cover all the angles. Police sharp-shooters are set out on every roof; police dogs everywhere sniff for explosives. (I am copying the New York Times here, lacking my own newsroom.) From my Scotch genetic heritage, I wonder what it costs.

But to their credit the Yanks don’t just cancel the parade, the way the Belgians lock down Brussels. The Europeans are quicker to concede their daily lives to fear of Muslim killers — the enemy many of their politicians still dare not name. The fear is understandable, but the concession is foolish, cowardly, and shameful. (Foolish because it is rewarding the terrorists for their attack.)

It is what follows promptly on all those street signs reading, “We are not afraid!” In fact they are scared witless, as I can see from many reports. For there are few men left in Europe; or more precisely, few with chests. And only a few more left in North America, under constant attack from the politically correct, so that the terrorists need not even bother with them. The masses save their cojones for the Black Friday sales.

And now we watch the passive aggression of a Europe aroused by fear — lashing out by instinct at the blameless and defenceless. For it remains true, the great majority of Muslims have no intention to disturb the peace, whatever silly thoughts they may be secretly entertaining. For after all, they are cowards, too. The very people who might deserve some mercy, will be first to get it in the neck. By now, Europe has a long tradition of this; the whole wide world, for that matter, is included in this tradition, of punishing the defenceless for the crimes of their neighbours — who know where to hide.

To me, it seems, as it seemed to me also on the morning of 9/11, that we have essentially a police problem, made so much more expensive when we do not let them follow it to source.

It is unwise to allow unrestricted immigration anywhere, to a people unacculturated. It is asking for trouble, and it fetches trouble, not occasionally, but invariably. Refugees from anywhere must be held back at the frontier, generously treated, but admitted only a few at a time. It would be no different if they were Shintoists or Parsis: no settled people should be overrun. The more exotic they are, the more cautious the “we” should be. I put that in quotes because the “we” is universal; it is hardly “racism” except insofar as racialism is universal, too.

And this is true whether or not the refugees include potential terrorists. There is no population in the world dominated by psychopaths; that is not nature’s way. And we cannot tar the world’s billion Muslims with one administrative brush. We, who are Christians, must always take them case by case, and suffer the consequences of making a few mistakes.

Thus far, I must sound like a liberal.

But here I will not: It is to the disadvantage of the Muslims themselves to be walled in a camp of “political correctness,” exempt from focused search and challenge. It is to their ultimate cost that police dare not “ethnically profile,” in pursuit of their wrongdoers. For in the end they become interchangeable, and the “host” people turn against them every one. You do not pend up a dam, until it finally bursts. This is in itself among the oldest political principles.

The response to Islamic psychopaths should not be allowed to transform our lives. It is a police business, backed up by military only when necessity requires. The task is to track them down to source, and as the nice phrase has it, squash them like bugs — the malefactors, and not the harmless. And the more we succeed, the more the great majority of Muslims will account us just. For they, too, are threatened by the enemy within, and those of goodwill are already very likely to co-operate in the hunt.


But as it is USA Thanksgiving, my love to all gentle Stateside readers. “The Lord hath done great things for us; we offer thanks unto the Lord.”

And that grace having been said, in the heart, kill and eat a turkey for me!

Wars formerly by proxy

One could not wish to referee a pea-shoot between Erdogan and Putin. Indeed, one would not have wished to insert oneself, at any time in the last few centuries, between Russian and Turk. No one should be surprised, in the convoluted sky trails over Syria, that the two national leaders, both of whom seem to me “functioning psychotic,” are now engaged in a display of animal virility. I wish there were some peaceful way in which they could both lose.

For both sides are totally in the wrong. NATO membership tips Turkey to our favour, but only because she has not yet been expelled. When we complain that the Russians have been targeting not the Daesh, but only the few Syrians whom we are supporting, we should remember that the Turks’ principal target is our ally, the Kurds. And while the Russians might have no objection, in principle, to bombing the bejabers out of the Daesh, the Turks notice they are a Sunni stick in the eye of all the proxies by whom they like to feel surrounded. Even the Russians have a mild interest in preserving the Daesh as a taunt against the West, and a cuckoo within the (endlessly fractious) camp of the Sunnis, to whom the Russians are de facto opposed.

In a region, too, where auld acquaintance is ne’er forgot, the present-day Turks recall every dönüm of the auld Ottoman estate. (That was a cute substitution for “acre.”) The auld rivalries with the Persians and others never became new rivalries; they continue, within the Islamic spiritual configuration, like fires in a coal seam. The fact that Russians and Persians have combined helps explain their trauma. And when the (Obamanative) Americans seek friends in Tehran — looking for love in all the wrong places — the Turkish paranoia becomes almost understandable.

And then, there are the Europeans, who once stopped them at Lepanto and Vienna. This deep history remains current event, at a time when they are happily hosing down the continent with Sunni Syrian refugees, and the many who pretend; and is why so many of “the people” cheer them on against Hollande and the New Franks.

We lack this tribal (to say nothing of historical) memory in the West. We cannot understand, after the zombification of public, secular education, why everyone can’t just get along. (“All you need is love,” et cetera.) And we pay, ever more, for our lack of understanding; and for having no masculinity ourselves — also needed in the good cause.

And one could go on drawing the overlapping and intersquiggling strands of relationship between false friends and real enemies throughout a larger Middle Eastern contest between Shia and Sunni Islam, a chart in three dimensions now beginning to resemble a bowl of spaghetti. That conflict was already in progress the day “Bush” landed in Iraq; without, incidentally, any voluntary Turkish co-operation. (They could see that Saddam Hussein was the Sunni between Ayatollahs and Assad; and they knew that “Al Qaeda in Iraq” — now evolved into “the Daesh” — was Saddam by another means.)

Thanks to rank idiocy in the White House, the Americans walked out of an uncomfortable situation in which they were holding up more than one pillar. As so often happens, it wasn’t the going in, but the coming out, that brought the roof down. For a brief and wonderful moment “Bush” had all national players confined within their own barracks, except the Persians with their “outreach” to Hezbollah and Hamas. And given the extraordinary throw-weight of the American ordnance on their doorstep, even they were outwardly behaving. Après lui, le déluge.

But I still don’t think World War Three is happening (or Five, if one counts like a neoconservative). So why worry?

My best reason this morning is because of “democracy.” UnWestern as both may be (and I am very slightly biased towards the nominal Christian), both Erdogan and Putin have been “elected” by franchised masses possibly more ignorant, and certainly more bloodthirsty than our own. Note that each leader was speaking more to his domestic audience, than to the world, in his “icy” remarks after the shootdown event. Both had been pushing their luck to impress their respective jingo trolls: Putin by his Syrian and international policy of aggressively buzzing NATO airspace; Erdogan by explicitly warning that the next time that happened, the Russians were going to lose a plane. Which of course, Putin took as a challenge, wanting Erdogan to lose face; Erdogan wanting to disfigure Putin’s. What I began by describing as a “display of animal virility” is conducted in the view of huge national electorates, before whom neither dares to back down, O Lord.

That is how, incidentally, the First World War started; with all the “democracy” made safe by that — politicians who had played the gallery, and thereby manoeuvred themselves up to, then over the brink.

Maxentius to his neighbours.


Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and of the broken wheel; Virgin and Martyr; patron of preachers and philosophers — whose body was flown by angels to Sinai — and whose Feast in the Holy Mass we celebrate today — pray for us, earthbound. And pray for those monkeys out there, in the middle, as the javelins fly.

And pray for all Saints: for they alone ever change anything. And thus I mean to include all Saints to come.

The mess through history

It is well, I reflect on this Feast of Saint John of the Cross, that there were no bloggers in sixteenth-century Spain. Saint John himself would never have been among them; nor Saint Teresa of Jesus, though the poor woman might have been sorely tempted. These two, among the three dozen or so Doctors of the Church — the whole Church — were, ignoring other things, at the spiritual heart of the “Discalced” Reform of the Carmelite Order. It was the kind of “reform” that deeply appeals to me, for in its nature it pulled the Order back to its regenerative roots. Ditto, I think, with the Mercedarians and other orders, being turned wonderfully backward in that age. For it was the century of the Reformation, across Europe; and thus the Counter-Reformation in which, whatever the Protestants were doing, the Catholic Church had become deadly serious about mending her ways, and ending the decadence that the Protestants had exposed. No such amendment is painless.

Somewhere up here in the High Doganate, in addition to the works of those two from Ávila, which are simply astounding and must be read by all, is a copy of the useful Handbook of the learned E. Allison Peers, to their lives and times (1954). I almost fear touching it again, from having once got migraines trying to follow a daily story through decades in which there are e.g. five distinct Graciáns, and innumerable Diegos, and bless me if I could tell them all apart. Especially as some wear black hats on one page, and white hats on another, and the excellent Peers is so oppressively fair-minded that one almost wants a blogger with a scythe. Some are coming and going from Rome, some are Bishops and Abbots, commanding in place, and some, of the Royal Court, are sometimes more religious than the professed. Except the Saints, who emerge as the only level-headed, we have a cast of thousands, or dozens at least of major players, any of whom may suddenly veer, from wild arrogance to obsequious contrition. Imagine if they all had blogs.

One might say none of it really matters any more. The Discalced Carmelites emerged, from the wreckage of an older Order that wasn’t about to surrender its interests to such holy upstarts; yet in the end, towards the end of the century, all was (reasonably) fitting and good. Or rather it does matter: to understand sometimes the infighting and human political nastiness, which is the background for sudden irruptions of the Holy. God knows what He is about, as Newman said in his prayers, and His Saints do His bidding, often without knowing what they are about. (‘Twas Newman, too, who said that we walk to Heaven backwards.)

The Church is not some sort of Edenic, whole-earth alternative to worldly strife. (That we find only in a well-sung Mass.) Sometimes it gets worse in here, than it is out there. Catholics should not fail to understand that, by reading a little history; and potential converts, too, should not let it get in their way. For in the end no Nuncio, no Prince, no King, no Abbot, no Bishop, and not even the Bishop at Rome, has charge of her. From them, except perhaps Saints and Martyrs, comes little not admixed with chaos.

But in the end, Christ rules. Okay?

The Wraith

Getting up in the middle of last night, for whatever reason, I could not help noticing a Wraith — for only thus would I describe it — fleeing down my little hallway out of sight, having emerged from a shelved doorless closet. Yes, definitely a Wraith, I concluded, from its Edward Gorey style and appearance, to say nothing of the way it preserved an angle as it flit, disturbing like a reverse italic. Did not pursue it; knew it would escape. At least, they always do in the literature.

What was a Wraith doing in the High Doganate, I naturally wondered. The tenant before me died in this place, but he was quite male, the Wraith seemed female. Or rather, something between a she and an it, and nightgown’d accordingly. The feet, I noticed, were bare and hardly moving as they dashed along an invisible platform, perhaps twelve inches above the floor. Perfectly silent. The height, after mentally straightening her angle, would be four foot at most. The face was distinctly angular in profile, and the shoulders seemed uneven. The left eye was twisted, though not towards me. There I must leave my police description for she, or it, went by me fairly quickly.

I should mention, too, (your honour,) that I’ve seen something like this before, but not often, and only once in this country. Perhaps it is because not enough people have died here yet, and only one in a million leaves a Wraith. But that is just theory; we must deal with facts. Theories only make the facts disappear.

Do I believe in ghosts? Of course not. What do you take me for, a Pagan? Ditto gnomes, elves, dwarfs, fairies, hobgoblins, leprechauns, pixies, and — well, I’m not sure about witches (but we won’t go there).

Perhaps I should specify the lights were still out, and my Wraith was quite visible notwithstanding, yet did not appear self-illuminated. (I live in a city, there is ambient streetlight.) Nor was she a creature of my sleepy eyes, or rather, the sharpness with which she appeared and disappeared was noteworthy. I might also mention that for some reason, fear did not enter into the experience, though I must say my alertness was raised. And when I considered her — now under full electric lighting, with a cup of strong tea — I could not think of anything in recent experience, including my diet of the previous day, to account for such a phantasm.

It is anyway a mistake, in my judgement, to become immediately “subjective” in such things, as modern science insists in the cause of its false “objectivity.” A good old-fashioned police witness, ideally formed in the Sacrament of Penance, knows to separate what he saw from his inferences upon it. (Which does not mean he suppresses those inferences, only that he flags them as his own.)

For the real method of modern science, or more precisely scientism, is to deny whatever it can’t explain. Then affirm what it previously denied, once it thinks of a plausible explanation.

I simply saw what I saw, and can’t begin to explain it.

My paternal grandmother, from Torquay in Devonshire, and raised by Anglican nuns (she was the unwanted daughter of a Torquay prostitute, in a brothel with a French clientele, hence my proud assertion of French ancestry), often saw ghosts, and said they sometimes followed her around, as, for instance, to the New World from the Old, when the nuns sent her on her way. She was not even slightly mad; only half English. I do now suddenly remember that she told me in childhood there is a species of Wraith that inhabit such as large closets, and are loath to stray very far from them. Perhaps I had disturbed one of those.

Her husband (my grandpa) never listened to her on such matters, and neither, much, did anyone else, but I was a curious child, so she told me everything. I would not go so far as to say that any of her stories were probable; but I think she believed them herself. She claimed, too, the ability to communicate, not with all ghosts, but certainly a broad selection of them. She was also, by claim, somewhat clairvoyant, and especially so on her deathbed, by which I sat on her last night, now forty-six years ago. But all that for some other occasion, I am running late on this Idlepost today.

Make perfect thy will

An item linked by my Chief Indianapolis Correspondent (this one) caught my attention last night, and gave me something to pray on. The essay, by a wise Evangelical, is on the lust for respectability. I know it so well. Embraced, this lust consumes us; rejected it returns again and again, and I would play the Pharisee if I denied its attraction.

The storms seemed worse in my youth, though perhaps only because I still stood a chance of becoming a respectable person. I think back to a time when all I wanted was a lot of income, a pretty girl, and people to take me seriously. It was fortunate for me that the little angel, who has ever ridden on my right shoulder, and sometimes speaks into my right ear, is a mischievous little thing. Not from my own will, but the angel’s, have I been saved from various grave temptations, from time to time. (And sometimes not.) The angel puts an idea in my head, for something clever to say or do, and the consequence is, that I don’t get the prize. (Who knew that God employs mischievous spirits?)

Allen Guelzo’s article reviews the capture of Evangelical Christianity in those USA, by the forces of politically correct respectability, in the course of the last generation. It explains why they are no longer “an embarrassment,” having learnt how to remain silent when called to the service of Our Lord. For contrast he recalls, from his own youth, a certain retired Professor of Apologetics, into whose motives he had inquired. Why had he recklessly devoted his whole life to philosophy, and Christian teaching?

“Why, to protect Christ’s little ones,” the old man replied.

The young Guelzo was gobsmacked, and remains so still; and I, too, am impressed by the profound simplicity of the answer. Here was that rarest imaginable thing: a man teaching in a university, disposed to truth and light. What a scandal! … But of course, it happened a long time ago.

And of course, such a man was hardly respectable, even then. Today, like Saint Paul, he’d likely as not be run out of town. There is no secular university on this continent that would dream of giving such a man a job, let alone tenure. He could learn to shut up, or he could seek another trade. (Fireman, for instance: Christians seem welcome wherever there is a fire.) And how I know the envy of the “tenured,” and of the prizes that could be won, if only I wasn’t so ashamed, in the presence of my Maker.

How often one is offered a reward, if one will just shut up about Jesus. It is the price of admission, even into the rightwing media. I was asked if I would pay it, just the other day. But by now I prefer braying at the Moon.

“In every example where the courts, the celebrities, or the culture-makers, have trampled heedlessly on biblical norms, there are some initially robust outbursts of resistance, then a nervous glancing around to see whether anyone has joined the resistance.” O Lord, have I noticed this phenomenon myself: the case of the disappearing allies.

Governor Winthrop is cited, addressing the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay. After much rhetoric on Truth, and suchlike, he concludes: “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”

As Guelzo puts it: “Winthrop and his fellow exiles gave themselves over hostage to applause.”

Christ Himself was leery of large audiences, and did not seek any of the forms of respectability then available in Roman provincial society, including that of the Pharisee preacher. He ended not with laurels, but tacked to a Cross, wearing the crown of thorns that is the ultimate award for moral and spiritual perfection. And his final homily was from that Cross, and in those startling words echoed from a Psalm through His torment: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” …

Before, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (At which Jesus died; but the Psalmist continues: “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord.”)

Words not addressed to the crowd; and not at all in fashionable garments. Christ our exemplar has turned His attention entirely to the Father, as he leaves our world, having done nothing but the Father’s will through the length of his sojourn. We saw him “respectable” in society, only in a moment riding on an ass, the palm fronds thrown before him: entering Jerusalem by the humble eastern gate. (Well, this wasn’t very respectable, either.)

There is the, usually droll, question, “What would Jesus do?” Right question, perhaps, but in the wrong tone. Better would be, “What would Christ have me do?” For his Life was not a catalogue of situations and responses, and God did not create us to do what has already been done. He did not make us for statistical purposes. Instead He made each to be a new Saint, providing each with the light to show his steps forward, like the lantern on a miner’s hat — not towards, but away from the light of this world, by which we are dazzled.

But of course, this is a “counsel of perfection,” as I notice all of Christ’s counsels were. No one, among us sinners, can be completely free of the desire to avoid the embarrassment that comes from standing alone; only the saints and martyrs overcome it.

Even in death, we want to make a show, so that even if we failed to make tenure, we might still be respectable in the eye of Fame. Guelzo here cites Thomas of Canterbury, in T.S. Eliot’s play, who is surprised by his final temptation — which is to Martyrdom itself. We want a crowd when they carry us away; we want to know our last words will be recorded; so people may finally learn that we were right all along. We hardly want to go through all this, and not get credit. Not with our reputation at stake.

What a comedown, to have spent one’s life preparing for this final act, and no one there to see it. To find that the audience has all gone away. It is the last and most terrible temptation, to do other than God’s will.

Which is to throw that bag of swag away; to discard the lust that fondles it, and the fear of life without it at one’s side.

No-go & safe zones

On this planet, there are no permanent “safe zones,” for Catholics or others of the Christian persuasion. Or anyone. But that’s not something to wring hands over. There never were, there will never be — till God pulls the curtains on our sordid drama. We have the advantage over other communities of barely stable human beings, in having been taught to expect invasion, these last two thousand years. Christ spoke to adults, not children; we should be teaching children in our turn. (First, of course, we have to beget them.)

Grown-ups should know they have what they can defend, individually and collectively. Graced with basic intelligence, we can also begin to appreciate that “defence” is required on many levels: some very plain, others rather subtle.

The idea of retiring from the world, to the monastery or the hermitage, has, approximately, nothing to do with the “no-go” and safe zones demanded by Muslim psychopaths and campus liberals. Those a little acquainted with history will know there is no mountain so high, no desert so wide, to keep off the Devil. He is familiar with our earthly geography, and has that spirit of enterprise that progressive folk so honour. He’s comin’ ta get ya, and only those already got will fail to discern his approach.

We have been invaded, we are going to be invaded: stop whining about it. We are under spiritual attack, every day, and what is more we may be under physical attack, too. Christ did not even bother to teach about the “kill or be killed” situations. I think this is because they were too simple to be worth His time. The human organism is anyway endowed with the capacity to suss out the advantages of self-preservation. Even in Parkdale, the pigeons have figured that out, and keep their “safe zones” moving. (I have, incidentally, an excellent Egyptian recipe for squab.)

On campuses such as that of the University of Missouri — where the law of non-contradiction has been abrogated, and the norms of civilization no longer apply — we have by contrast the demand for stationary safe zones. And from the Muslims in recent immigrant ghettos across Western Europe, we have not merely the demand, but the actual establishment of “no go” areas, where the police and other public services — including fire trucks and ambulances — will be met with rocks. To wander in, improperly dressed for Shariah, would be like taking an evening stroll into Palestine, for a skull-capped Jew. Which is to say, extremely inadvisable.

There are, to any reasonably intelligent young woman, wishing to forego molestation, parts of many cities best avoided. This is a fact of life, and not an acceptable one, either. Such women may want “safe zones” for themselves, but are insufficiently ambitious. The job of the cops is, on the contrary, to remove the safe zones for rapists and muggers — regardless of the local ethnicity. (This is also a task for any healthy young man.)

I am encouraged, for at least a moment, by the official reaction to the shootings in Paris, even if discouraged by the popular reaction, that will eventually tell in the polls. Notwithstanding the hand-wringing, and candlelight displays, Hollande and the more than one hundred thousand troops he has now requisitioned, seem ready to rumble. His aubergines (I love this old French slang for gendarmes, that sadly passed away with their puffy black raincoats) sprinkled five thousand bullets around the safest of the Jihadi safe places within Saint-Denis, and I think this was about the right number. Better still to test the next barrier with a tank.

Why should the adepts of Jihad be made to feel any more comfortable in the West, than we do? Especially when they are the principal source of our discomfort. My mediaeval conception of “rights” does not extend to ethnic factions. What does not further provide for all human beings from the moment of conception, should rather be considered case by case.

Unfortunately we no longer have that class of politicians, which I am persuaded we once had in both “conservative” and “liberal” ranks, who understood well and quickly that intimidation requires a virile response; and who would turn even upon their own supporters when unreasonable demands were shoved forward. Alas, I am referring mostly to times before the First World War. But the sense of irreducible public responsibility can, in principle, be stirred from slumber; and if those “Syrian refugees” with Kalashnikovs will keep it up, who knows what they may awaken. We can only hope for politicians who will not only rise, but shine.

“Comfort zones” is another term, for what Muslim psychopaths and campus hotshots think should be provided, at the expense of others. The liberals, as usual, were late to the discovery; the Muslims have many centuries on them, with their concept of the Dar al-Islam. It goes back to the Koran. In English it is conveyed by the phrase: “Mine is mine, and yours is for sharing.”

Too: the concept of constant progress, in a sense unknown to the classical world. (I am uttering an opinion with which, I admit, some classical scholars might disagree.) For the religious idea that this Dar al-Islam, or gigantic “safe zone,” must be constantly expanding, against neighbours who have only such rights as Muslims are in a mood to confer, is also an Islamic invention. Congratulate them at least for their originality; our liberals came to the “ratcheting principle” rather late in the day.

Charles Martel was the Western refutation: “So what happens when your frontiers contract?”

A shark, if I may revert to my earlier mention of animal life, is rather different from a pigeon. (Trust me on this, I was a science kid.) There are many kinds of shark, some of which (like Sufis) are habitually peaceful; but most sharks, from viviparous birth, are endowed with a system of respiration that requires them to ceaselessly swim forward. Stall, or push them backwards, and they asphyxiate. Their aggressive hunting customs are of a piece, reflecting this “progressive” need.

Sharks are sharks and will be, whether from the East, or from the West. Who am I to judge their nature? But it is not their nature that I oppose. Rather, it is the idea that we should keep backing off, so their comfort zones will not be impeded, when some kind of wall would be much more effective.

Call it, if you will, our own “comfort zone,” and grow it. Or as the feminists like to put it: “Take back the night.”

Silence of the lambs

In principle, I am against hotheads. Indeed, I am somewhat hothead on the issue, for in truth, I am one of nature’s hotheads myself — a loud, fanatic, combustible advocate for quiet and moderation. A day hardly passes when I do not contemplate numerous homicides; though I try not to act on them. My little sister could perhaps testify to the continuities in my personhood, through six decades. Among her gifts, and the pleasures of her childhood, was an instinctive knowledge of how to provoke me — though without malice, of course, and strictly for her own entertainment. (Oh yes, I remember, my darling.) I co-habited with a woman in the state of marriage for some eighteen years; she could perhaps provide the most thorough inventory of my little foibles. And over the years I have fallen out with various other partners, in my farcically unsuccessful professional “career” — firing those below me; quitting (or being quitted of) when they were above me in rank.

These, I would say, in quiet reflection, are marks of a hothead.

My beloved papa, the seventh anniversary of whose death I observed the other day, was a great destroyer of teapots. And my mama was of the Gaelic genetic disposition; though strangely enough, a peace-maker. The two of them never fought; but my father sure took it out on the world, and on himself.

And too, on teapots. …

He would come home steaming from some unpleasant encounter with Power in some animate form. Or inanimate, as was sometimes the case. One could feel what were called in the ’sixties, “the vibrations.” For some reason it seemed often the sight of a harmless, silent teapot that triggered the final explosion. He’d be invariably sitting alone with it, so that apart from the pot, only he was ever scalded. Yet within ten minutes, he would apologize profusely, for being in such a temper, then become rather saintly again.

On one occasion, he returned from a battle royal with the (malicious) idiot who was the “chairman” of his “department,” out there in the world. Those vibrations were detected as he passed. He sensibly conducted himself down the stairs to the basement, where he had his workshop. Perhaps he would just hammer some nails into firewood today.

But know, there were shelves on the way down the stairs, on which crockery was set. He spied not one, but four identical teapots, which my mother had recently purchased on sale, in order, I suppose, to have one always in reserve. One, two, three, four: he smashed them all in succession. Then emerged from the basement within the usual ten minutes, looking rather sheepish; to find mama not weeping as he may have feared, but instead, still laughing.

It was only when reading his diaries, after his death, that I realized how much he had depended upon his wife’s good humour, good sense, iron loyalty, and forbearance; always, “My pillar of strength.” Notwithstanding, she would sometimes kick his shin, gently, under a table. And here I had always thought him the strength in that union. (No one outside, I observed, not even the children, can see inside a marriage.)

I think even the jolly, astoundingly well-adapted, and wonderfully caped G.K. Chesterton, may have had his inner asymmetries. Reading a biography of him, last week (by Ian Ker, and quite good, published 2011), I noticed that not only G.K.’s passing hackwork, but his books, were dictated to secretaries. And seldom corrected before the copy was rushed off to an editor somewhere; for like the rest of us the great man was working towards tight deadlines. And tended to put off, until each deadline was at hand.

Now, all these secretaries seem to have affirmed that he was the perfect knight and gentleman; a man of extraordinary thoughtfulness and kindness, though sometimes obtuse about the hour of day. These would include the mild feminist who thought his wife, Frances, rather weak for always taking her husband’s side, when surely he must be wrong, sometimes. This is just an aside (like everything I write), but I began to notice that the outward “weakness” of Frances (an interesting authoress on her own) was feint to an inner strength. She knew her husband drew enough nastiness from his assailants in the opinion trenches, to need any more at home.

Rather, I wanted only to suggest that the cause for sainthood, of both, could be more aggressively pursued.

G.K. liked to play with weapons while he dictated: a sword, dagger, or whatever, that he would twirl about. (I gather he collected fine examples.) Sometimes he would seize a bow, for instance, and fire an arrow through an open window (alas once to the surprise of a dog, whom we are assured was more shocked than injured). He may also have alarmed a secretary, or two, before she was broken in.

Let me not say that we live now in a world where people like G.K. Chesterton could be prosecuted; gentle reader will know this already. My father, on the other hand, lived in a world more “democratic,” where a man could be casually fired for speaking some self-evident Truth, to Power. Or to some other, who goes running to Power to settle his score. (Papa was fired often.)

The Truth I was intending to speak, this morning, was to some Power in Rome. But I’ve erased it all. For, being a hothead, I went immediately overboard. And after all, I now lack a mistress, to kick me under the table, so must try to administer such medicine to myself; or look for admonition elsewhere.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us. She whose strength and patience, the world could not explain.


POSTSCRIPTUM. Perhaps, instead of me, one might read another hothead, whose remarks appear to be correct in every particular. (Here.)

Mewling & the lie

The tide has turned, and I am now assured that the plurality of my female correspondents took no offence from my recent diatribes on Paris, but rather were quietly cheering me on. This, now balanced against a single instance of condemnation by a male; but he sounded like a wuss to me. Hereunder I post another item, in which I triple down on my original position, designed to test for bad nerves. I am determined to make myself tedious on this topic.


Through that unimpeachable news source, The Drudge Report, I learnt this morning not only of the latest blasts and shoot-outs, in what was once the holy quarter of Saint-Denis (north of Paris in the old Catholic France), but of football news. There is a link to one of those stories the “mainstream” media omit, since it interferes with their liberal “narrative.”

When a minute’s silence was called, to commemorate the dead in Paris, before a “friendly” match between the national soccer teams of Greece and Turkey in Istanbul, the fans booed. But this was only for a moment. For then a chant of “Allahu Akbar!” broke out through the crowd. It is moot how many were chanting this: it could be heard outside the Basaksehir Stadium. Soundtrack and video were supplied, along with a link to a tamer, originating Reuters story, which has already been removed from their thread. (Go there and it now says, “Page Not Found.”)

Not just a few disaffected psychos, but resounding through the stadium. The (famed) Turkish footballer and now coach, Fatih Terim, went on record after the match to criticize his own fans. I’m sure many other Turks were and are ashamed. But again, this is moot. They have something to be ashamed of.

I note as ironical this use of the term “friendly”; especially when applied to a match between Turkey and Greece. For even in unexceptional circumstances, there is nothing less friendly than a soccer match between rival national teams. The modern worship of the state, as the source of human identity, assures this. Professional sporting activities are justified as a proxy for war. It is suggested that casualties may be lowered that way, and property damage contained. I think this is often the case. Too, the games please the masses, as the bread and circuses of ancient Rome. (The distribution of free bread being the Roman equivalent of food stamps.)

The “narrative,” supported by President Obama in the States, and by the fellow we just elected in Canada, whom I will not stoop to describing as, “Pierre Trudeau’s idiot child,” is that the world shares our Western, post-Christian values, with perhaps the exception of a tiny minority who practice a religion called “Extremism,” which is understood to be in no way related to Islam. These values include the need, after every reasonably large terror attack, to go all soppy, with a tenderness that is a tendresse for Death.

How embarrassing, in retrospect, those Londoners during the last World War, who failed to bring flowers or to light their “candles in the wind,” in response to the Blitz. Who instead went all gritty and determined. Who did not demand retaliation, because they could rely on it; and in thinking of it, had something to which they could look forward. I’m not saying their attitude was especially Christian. But at least it was normal. Dresden was the reply to Coventry, and so forth: one mediaeval city centre for another. (It is a little known fact that “an eye for an eye” is a counsel of moderation.)

It is incidentally a lie that Coventry was targeted as an industrial centre. St Paul’s in London and Canterbury Cathedral were also targeted, but survived by miracle, in raids that left a great ring or halo of fire burning around each shrine; and it was the centre of Coventry that was X’d on Hitler’s map, not the suburbs where all the big factories were. It is instructive that the liberal account, that decries the “gratuitous” bombing of Dresden, is fixated on excusing Hitler.

Little lies, supporting bigger ones; lies as huge as the mantra that, “Islam is a religion of peace.” It would be unreasonable, in the light of fourteen centuries of cultural as well as political history, to say Islam is a religion of violence, only; though perfectly reasonable to observe that the recommendation of violence begins in the Koran.

But neither is Christianity, nor has it ever been, “a religion of peace.”

“Do you think I came to bring Peace on Earth?” … I am quoting Our Lord: check the gospels for the answer. There, if one is attentive, and has the requisite brains, one will discover that “the peace which passeth all understanding” is different from “Peace on Earth”; and that the two may at times be in direct conflict.

For now that gentle reader has found, for instance, Matthew 10:34 and Luke 12:51, he has also found, in the original or a good translation, the curious word “separation.” Among other things, Christ is separating the concepts. On Earth, as He makes very clear, the peace of heaven does not prevail, and cannot prevail in the shadow of Adam. The truth is that sanctity invites persecution; and that the worse take the better for suckers. And that, as Nehemiah projected, the walls of Jerusalem must be built with one hand on the trowel, and one on the sword. (In T.S. Eliot’s paraphrase: “The trowel in hand, and the gun rather loose in the holster.”)

Serious Christians have always understood this. (Saint Francis of Assisi, for example.) We have public record through twenty centuries of Christians who were not wimps. This is true of Christians both East and West, though I observe that the lands of Eastern Christendom all fell under the Islamic sword. Thanks to such men as Charles Martel, and his many successors, Western Christendom did not. We showed ourselves, even in the Crusades and the (several) Reconquistas, to be more pro-active. We did not accept the inevitability of retreat. Decadent as it may now be, that is why there still is a Europe. Because it did not fall through the centuries and centuries of previous Islamic invasions.

The vision of Christ turning the tables on the merchants of the Temple compound, is not that of “a nice man,” but of One divinely “good.” Likewise, there are real consequences when “men of goodwill” is altered to “all men” in the annunciation to the shepherds. It is, “Peace on earth to men of goodwill.” It is not, “Peace on earth, goodwill to all men.” Again, the “modern” translation is not a mere variant. It is a lie.

At the heart of all this mewling and soppiness over the most recent massacre is thus a big lie. It is moreover a big pharisaic lie, resting on the unshriven idea that, “We are all nice people, innocent victims.” Much is made of the fact that the victims were merely out enjoying themselves: listening to rock music; sitting in cafés; attending a football game. They were “innocent bystanders.”

For sure, they did not “deserve” to be murdered. No one “deserves” murder, though many may deserve hanging. But people get murdered anyway. There are devils in this world, and to mewl about the unfairness of it all, and whimper, “peace, peace,” does nothing more than to excite more chants of “Allahu akbar.”

The paradox here is that weakness invites attack. Strength and resolution discourage it. The Enemy needs to be assured that he can’t win; that every attempt he makes to push his infernal envelope will result in more lost fingers. (And yes there will be “collateral damage,” no matter how we try to avoid it; for we are not playing touch football here.) That is how “Peace on Earth” is actually kept, or restored.

On balance, I think President Hollande has the right general idea, for the moment. It is to escalate against the Daesh in Syria, and send the cops into such suburbs as Saint-Denis, backed up by troops if necessary. France, as all Western countries, needs to mind her borders more carefully; to stop and then reverse the flow of Muslim migrants, as humanely as possible; to accept only those whose willingness to accept us can be tested. (This is Lockean, too: that tolerance must never be extended to those who will not tolerate us.)

But these are only half measures. We cannot even trust our politicians to do the minimum necessary: for like “global warming” they have found Muslim terrorism useful. It is a way to increase their power, and expand the supervision of Nanny State. In the end, only by the faith, of men of goodwill, can a society stand against barbarism.

More deeply, we must rekindle the Christian faith, among people who no longer reproduce, and are slipping into the fear and despair natural to those who have abandoned their heritage; who have become empty husks. For that is the background against which Islam is advancing.

Blow blow thou winter wind

I have much to do today, and cannot think of a topic I wish to take up, given the time available. Therefore I will present gentle reader with items I transcribe from random pages of my scratch pad. This will have the further advantage of relieving me from the need to reply to various emotive critics of my last two Idleposts, almost all of whom, I notice, are women. (Or deflect such praise as came, coincidentally, only from a few men.) Gentle reader, by now familiar with my style, may simply add water to any of the following, to fluff them out to the usual Idlepost dimensions.


If we must have a government, and I think we probably must, I want a Tory government, peopled by geriatrics of sufficient number that one may stand in for another when he is ill. The electorate (which should be reduced as much as possible) should be promised, in every party manifesto, a policy of “no excitement at all.” Perhaps, as a compromise, to alleviate populist pressures, pretty much everyone could be allowed to vote; but then, most of the ballots would be quietly discarded.


“What is the first business of philosophy? To part with self-conceit. … It is impossible for anyone to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.” (Epictetus, Book II of the Discourses, chapter 17.)


Thomas Aquinas opposes the cardinal virtue of Prudence, to its counterfeit, “craftiness.” (Summa II-II, q. 53, a. 1 & q. 55, a. 3.) … Cites adultery as one of those acts deformed, incompatible with the life of sanctifying grace, and always wrong. (Quaestiones Quodlibetales IX, q. 7, a. 2; Summa II-II, q. 154, a. 8.) … Mentions that the guilt of mortal sin is aggravated if the unrepentant sinner receives the Eucharist. (Summa III, q. 80, a. 4.) … Notes from scripture, that in this case the Eucharist becomes not a spiritual medicine, but a poison. (In I Cor. c. 11, lect. 7.) … Adds, that the Sacraments do not work “like magic,” for even Confession fails if the penitent intends to sin again. (Summa III, q. 86, a. 2.)


“Sacrilege is a grave sin, especially when committed against the Eucharist.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2120.)


Like most retired bomber pilots, of Thomist and Aristotelian views, he is of a phlegmatic disposition.


I, my father, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather, all collected stamps; my boys, I am sorry to say, not so much, from being born into email. For most, stamps provided lessons in geography. But for each of us elders — weird artists in one kind or another — they provided lessons in aesthetics and craft. I see that my files contain notes on fifty-two postage stamp engravers, from the Madagascar Frenchman, Pierre Albuisson, master alike of copper and steel engraving, to the late Viennese, Rudolf Zenziger, whose rather hasty work for Nazi postal authorities was redeemed by the beautiful etched bookplates and portrait engravings he contributed to the post-War Austrian reconstruction.


With its freedom from moral, intellectual, or spiritual content, the newborn baby has a truly open mind.


A last passing word in defence of René Descartes, whom I’ve been known to troll. His “mind and body” distinction is not nearly so glib as his naturalist descendants imagine. The man who may well have converted Queen Christina of Sweden to Roman Catholicism (he was the only Catholic she had ever had serious conversations with), so that she abdicated her Protestant throne, took a view of “mind and body” that was necessarily interactive. Pascal’s depreciation of Descartes is not fair: he was not trying to dispense with “God” nor “soul” nor “spirit,” but to understand them in terms that could escape late, decadent, scholastic befuddlement. He may have been profoundly in error, but he was also brilliantly and sincerely in error. Let us not blame him for progeny who had and have nothing of his passion for Truth, and sire notions upon him that would only have aroused his contempt.


Our gross, gross domestic product.


“Price, quality, speed: pick any two.” (Old saying in the printing trade.)


From the gallery of my favoured politicians, Arthur Balfour (1848–1930), who served as prime minister of the UK from 1902, to 1905, when he had to be removed. Got the job in the first place because Lord Salisbury was his uncle. If we omit the unfortunate “Balfour Declaration,” he seems to have been perfectly effete. Trained in philosophy, his wonderful intellect was able to discover an argument to prove that human reason is of no use to anyone. (See his Defence of Philosophical Doubt, 1879.) He then applied this to politics by the formula, “Nothing matters very much, and few things matter at all.” Sexless, by all contemporary accounts (lascivious lords were at the time a problem), except Beaverbrook thought he might be an hermaphrodite. As leader of a quickly shrinking Conservative Party, he could put the House to sleep with long, abstract, rambling disquisitions, on topics of no pressing interest. These would end, abruptly, when his opponents shouted, “Enough of this nonsense!”


My favourite Canadian politician was of course John Abbott (1821–93), an Anglican cleric’s son from rural Quebec, who accidentally became a successful Montreal corporate lawyer. The man was repeatedly elected to public office against his will, and often active resistance; to ever higher positions, until finally he was made our first native-born prime minister. This because the only alternative was a Catholic (whom Abbott himself was trying to support). Tried repeatedly to resign, but it took months before anyone would accept it. His most memorable quote was first heard from within a vexed caucus meeting, over which he was presiding, having been compelled to attend. … “I hate politics!” he bellowed.


Fact: Alexander Graham Bell refused to have a telephone in his study.


Parishes within the imaginary township of Esquesan: … Glenwil, Norval, Stelwar, Lime, Teracot, Balinafal, Domiris, Horn, Ashgal, Rockwil, Craik, Snel.


People who live alone are a danger to society, and to themselves.

On candlelight vigils

The refusal to deal with reality — and I mean hard-tack, material, worldly reality here — is paradoxically the consequence of refusing to deal with spiritual realities. It comes home to us again as the fatuous displays of an affected grief continue in Paris, and sympathetically all over the West, as also in the cells of secular Westernization, elsewhere. Of course, many in the Islamic world are not soi-disant “grieving” at all. They are quietly, and in some places noisily, exulting.

Our media do not like to report that: it contradicts the narrative of “universal values” that, for instance, President Obama was supporting, when he managed to deliver an address on the occasion of the massacre in which, so far as I can count, every single statement was demonstrably false. He is a more extreme case of ideologically-based mental dysfunction; though to be fair to him, President Bush shared many of his delusions, being possessed by the idea that Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries could be pacified, by means of these same “universal values.” (I notice that, in his moment of shell-shock, President Hollande of France is temporarily freed of them, his mind wandering instead to the promise of some perpetual state of emergency.)

There is such a thing as human nature, and one might say that it is universal to our species. But “universal human values” are another thing entirely.

For no: down here on Earth the human values are invariably contested. We who live in anno 2015 should be — though we are not — especially familiar with this, having witnessed a radical transformation of values within our own societies over the last few decades. We are not, however, because our new “multicultural” values forbid us to think about such things. As Obama was demonstrating, “we” (I exclude a certain shrinking proportion of the general population) have become immune to the factual.

But I would be delusionary myself, if I were to suggest there is anything an individual can do, to divert the course of history. We can — and here I am reverting to the “Reason and Revelation” upon which our civilization was founded — most certainly do things to help God save us, and to save those we truly love, in the face of Eternity. But the course of history, including wars, will always remain “above the pay grade” of any particular human beings.

This is the answer to all the “what if?” questions at the root of our current politics; all premissed on the idea that “we,” the enfranchised voters of America or wherever, are as gods. It is what got us evicted from Eden in the first place. We try to exercise a power we do not have, in the course of which we “make a lío” of everything we touch.

Of wars, for instance. We think, par example, “What if Winston Churchill had prevailed sooner, and stopped Hitler in time?” Or anyone else for that matter: say, an assassin in the Munich beer hall. (I give the “or” because the belief that Churchill understood what was happening in the 1930s was a myth of his own invention, constructed in the decade after. Check the records and one finds that he wobbled like everyone else between believing this, and believing that; there were even moments when he was recommending defence cuts.)

For no: great wars do not happen because nameable individuals have made “mistakes”; nor can be avoided by making the right calls. This is something only the worshippers of technology are capable of believing. Instead, wars happen when, as a consequence of the aggregate “mistakes” of many million people, circumstances emerge that are truly beyond the possibility of sane, or insane, human control.

I fear that, with respect to the next war that will engulf Europe, and cause catastrophes still unimaginable, we have again reached that point. As I watch the great masses outpouring their fake grief in fits of populist emotion, I realize that they, much more than any Muslim fanatics, have determined what that future will be. They are, in the strictest sense, de-moralized. The fact that they indulge in the sacrilege of godless “candlelight vigils” is an indication of how far gone they are: to a mess no longer within the human capacity to repair. They are — and have been for some time — completely incapable of defending what remains of our civilization, against a quite straightforward threat. They no longer even belong to what is, for them, only a museum relic.

But in saying this I am no Cassandra. The most of which I can be accused is parody of some wizened, minor, Old Testament prophet: for the prophets of Israel did not consciously predict anything. Rather they understood the present, thanks to God-widened eyes. They described the horror that was plainly before them, in the souls of men. They did not prescribe happyface political solutions. Their message was instead: Repent!

Which is something each of us can do, and no one can do for another, except through Love. And by capitalizing that word I mean to distinguish it from what is trite and comforting and charming.

Our civilization was able to flourish, for all its sins, because God permitted it to flourish; because the Holy Spirit persistently intervened in response to the calling of real Faith. But where there is no Faith, there is nothing for Him to respond to. At least, that is my cruelly limited, but sincerely Christian understanding of how things are.

Let me bring that up to date. Wars are not won and lost by the number of soldiers, nor the calibre of their weapons. The godless believe that, but they are wrong. With every possible material advantage, the United States lost wars in, successively, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

My views have changed over the years. Once I thought that “ideas have consequences” — which they do, perhaps, but only within human souls. They do not, and cannot, “fix” anything. In the face of reality, no human five-year plan is ever going to work. There are consequences, I have come to think, deep within the ocean of human history, not of ideas but of human Faith, and of its failure. We work with Christ or — God help us — we work against Him.

“Sacrilege” was the word — I am trying once again to be “insensitive,” as I was doing in my last Idlepost — for these candlelight vigils, and this foolish little inverted-crucifix peace sign, overbrushed with an image of the Eiffel Tower. What the masses are proclaiming is their faith in the efficacy of human emotion. It is the faith of Peter Pan.

But it is worse than that. They are using a means long hallowed within the Church, and adapting it to the worship of some other God than Our Saviour. Their only defence is the bottomless, “invincible” ignorance in which they live, as a consequence of Europe’s abandonment of the Faith. They are not projecting, but rather exhibiting, the collapse of our Western, and once unambiguously Christian, civilization — into the hands of the very people who have been murdering them.

As some other strange Catholic observer recently remarked (I’ve lost the link), we did not win the Battle of Lepanto with superior force. We had just enough to make it physically possible; hardly enough to make it likely. What tilted that playing field was many millions of humble peasants, praying their Rosaries that God would help us. He heard them, and did.

To the masses of today in their candlelight vigils, this remark will seem utterly absurd. But I believe it to be the truth; and that, because we can no longer grasp it, we can no longer understand more mundane realities, either. They — we — do not know where to turn for help.

Sainte vierge Marie, Reine de France, priez pour nous!