Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

Sumer is icumen in

The climate here in Greater Parkdale, and Upper Canada beyond, is just as it has always been, for as long as I can remember — only more so. After a brutally cold winter, I see the weather girls (of all genders) are predicting temperatures in the next few days around one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, and some serious humidity to go with that. How the polar bears will suffer!

And here in Inner Parkdale I expect my neighbours, only some of whom live in halfway houses for the criminally insane, will be manifesting signs of global warming.

Meanwhile the roof of the building that hosts the High Doganate (just above me as I write) is scheduled for replacement, beginning Monday. My superintendress suggests keeping all balcony doors and windows tight shut, as the summer proceeds, presumably to contain things falling from the ceiling. And we should shut off air conditioners, too, lest they become clogged with dust. (Luckily enough, I do not own one.)

I notice from an article in the Toronto Scar, that a problem with walking in the city parks and ravines is now publicly acknowledged. This is caused by redwing blackbirds, who resumed egg-laying recently, in honour of the spring. There is a population explosion of them, and they are extremely aggressive towards anyone who passes within fifty yards or so of any one of their innumerable nests. Brave, too, considering their size. I call them “hairdresser birds,” for the delight they take in rearranging the hair styles of passers by. I noticed in scanning 63 comments in local media that all were on the side of the birds, and inclined to condemn people like me for failing to avoid their quickly expanding breeding ranges. This would be a good example of Canadian environmentalism. My countrymen are trained from birth always to take the side of another species. (I missed this brainwashing, somehow.)

On the other hand, the raccoon population appears to be dwindling. It would seem that the skunks — model liberals in the way they conduct an argument — are driving them away. Coyotes, I am told, are increasing. These help reduce the cat and dog populations. But I’m rooting for the crows, hawks, shrikes, and owls. (They all eat redwing fledglings, and acquit themselves well against their parents, too.)

The geese and swans along the Lakefront are again acting unionized, this summer, having long nursed a powerful dislike for the city’s other inhabitants. They are large, and forceful in expressing their opinions. Ditto, the trolley drivers. And the schoolchildren are about to be released from their cages, in time for what is now called “Canada Day.” Monstrous little creatures in the main, especially after they have shot up their drugs. (The older-looking ones are their teachers.)

More backwardness

Consider, if thou wilt, gentle reader, Engelonde, in the century of Chaucer, which was also the century of Richard Rolle, Walter Hinton, and Julian of Norwich. (The 14th.)

There are two kinds of ignorance, superficially opposite, but closely related. In the first, more commonly recognized, we pretend to know something that we don’t know. In the second, we pretend not to know something that we do know. By waddling back and forth, as it were, a man may present himself as an expert in any subject. It is important for him to be quick about it. Add a pretty face, and he can go on television. Or, she, as the case may well be.

Poetical ignorance is of another kind, and I welcome and encourage it. It partakes of neither of these “scientific” errors. The poet does not pretend to know anything. Neither does he pretend not to know anything. He searches for the phrase that will negotiate between the Scylla and the Charybdis. This takes some awareness of where they are, on either side. There is some necessary irony in each of his assertions of fact, and any of his Socratic poses. He is slippery like that. He says things that surely cannot be disproven. (Or she, as in some cases.)

The beauty in mathematics is that you are right or you are wrong. The same may be said for some assertions in logic, and first philosophy. The beauty is that, so far as they are right, the assertions will prove practically useless. I love these disciplines because they demonstrate by contrast the messiness of our world, but too, because they hint at its underlying order. At their most useless, they approach the condition of poetry.

Technology, I would say, is a dead loss. It is neither philosophical nor poetical, and the adept of technology is just a tradesman of some sort. I don’t reject his humanity on that account, but in Upper Canada we had a long tradition of front and back doors. A tradesman may be welcome in your house, but he should come to the back door. This used to include doctors on house calls. But a poet or philosopher rings the bell on the front verandah.

If, however, like Father Spadaro, darling of Pope Francis and self-appointed sage at the Court of the Vatican, he says that, in theology, “Two and two can make five,” he should not be let in by either entrance. He said this last year and I am still annoyed. There is no universe in which two and two make five, and there can be no such universe. This is something we can know.

But let us consider another theological assertion, known to those who live the contemplative life. It is, “Nothing and nothing make nothing.”

I am thinking about this not because I am a contemplative myself — I am in that respect a mental defective — but because I find myself once again coming to terms with the (14th-century) Cloud of Unknowing, and other mystical tracts by what is almost certainly the same anonymous (and very learned) author.

The statement happens to be mathematically sound. Mediaeval writers could generally do their sums.

Suppose, now, that gentle reader will consider the contemplative act of dismissing from his mind everything he knows and does not know about the attributes of things. And suppose that he will also dismiss what he knows and does not know about the attributes of God, so that both become to him, in effect, a nothing. Of course, he can at best only do this for a moment in this earthly life; at some point he will have to resume eating and sleeping and watching out for unicorns.

But in that moment he will have come as close as he can get (in this life) to the union of that nothing with that nothing. He will be with the uncreated God.

Trying to see wholes

A reader with “conventional” foreign policy training writes that he has no clew what may come of the Kim-Trump meeting in Singapore. It could end quite badly, as we may reasonably foresee — worse than, say, a real estate deal that goes sour — but what would success look like? The “real” nukes are over the border in China; what do we face if the Chinese allow their North Korean wild card to be taken off the table? What might be their motives in disposing of it?

Will Japan and South Korea become estranged from the West, and Taiwan be lost, once the Politburo and its President-for-Life sacrifice their puppet bogeyman, and change the subject from this game of nuclear chicken to a new kind of trade war, and a more direct form of regional hegemony? Having used Kim Jong-un to compromise South Korea, and as a bargaining chip to effect American retreat from the region? What other sort of geostrategic trap might they be, consciously, leading the West into, the like of which our foreign policy experts, reared on the Cold War, are ill-equipped to see?

When Trump boasts that the economy of USA is still twice the size of PRC’s, his Chinese listeners must be smiling wryly. That is just the mistake that the Soviets made, and which they are not planning to repeat. By strict old-fashioned socialism, the Russians kept themselves poor. Reagan could bankrupt them simply by engaging in a serious arms race. Communist China is playing a longer game, to build a military superpower that will be much more sustainable, and an internal Gulag more comfortable for its inmates.

I try to think like a Talleyrand about such things, but then, I have met Talleyrand (in books), and I am no Talleyrand. What is for the best in a world of superpowers? What might actually save lives? He was, at heart, a friend to endangered men, and sometime traitor to his own state. From within the apparatus of power, he could see outside. He was more than a representative of French state interests: a mind looking to the good of all Europe. At our best, in the politics of the West, we have engendered such minds.

How do we protect, or even advance, our own interests, while mindful of interests beyond our realm? How do we reciprocally advance the interests of our own actual people (not “the peeple” of political ideologies) in the flickering light of those “ignorant armies clashing in the night”?

It is a long time since I was reading Talleyrand, and about him, but from those days I carried an impression of his intellectual chastity. By this I mean, his nearly “Taoist” ability to participate in events without being emotionally swallowed by them. His marvellous sense of humour was among his chief weapons, both in comprehending his enemies and in restraining himself. He had sight as clear as a man can have, who is up to his nose in the world’s charnel. His very survival through the French Revolution showed an almost superhuman wit and tactical charm. We need men, or even women like him, to advise our leaders and guide them through their own mad vanities.

With appropriate deference to the President of the Natted States Merica, we need men who can see beyond the economic questions. Money is power, and vice versa: we live in an age of money and power gone wilding. The masses are caught up in it, in their daily lives, and manipulated to exclusively material ends. The challenge of statesmanship in our times is to subvert this satanic machinery; yet to do so while maintaining public safety, against focused evils and real monsters, both foreign and domestic. This is not so easy a task as may appear.

I do think nuclear war is worth avoiding. But we must not be distracted by it from the more pressing concerns, of our Christian salvation.

The boat song

The Isle of Mingulay, in the southern Hebrides where the Reformation never reached, is uninhabited today; owned by the Scottish National Trust and “protected” from human rehabitation by stringent environmental laws. It is less than three square miles, and for its scale, mountainous and bare. Yet in the outset of the 20th century it still had a village on one side, and a hamlet on the other, and perhaps thirty crofts. There was a Catholic chapel, a house for the priest, a mill and various outbuildings — for sheep, cattle, pigs, ponies, poultry. There was wool-waulking and peat-cutting as a way of life. Seabirds and their eggs were a significant part of its economy. Fishing was the mainstay.

I mention the place only because its name came up in my Internet browsing this morning. My personal obsession with the Uists and “Bishop’s Isles” is typically North American, and multicultist: my mama’s people came ultimately from Adam, but by way of the Hebrides (North Uist).  My feet have never stood on Mingulay, and I should think never will. If they did they would be the feet of a tourist, indulging a romantic dream.

This isle was continuously inhabited for thousands of years. It had been Catholic for the previous thousand or more; pagan before, back to the stone age. The people spoke Gaelic and Gaelic alone. They were not communal by some government legislation, but so because they had always been. The whole village would participate in landing and launching boats from its sandy beach; bad weather could cut it off for weeks. Yet under normal conditions it was very much part of western Scotland: its herring and shellfish (often gloriously peat-smoked) sold in the market at Glasgow.

What happened? Why did they all leave? There was no catastrophe, no plague, worse than had visited through the centuries before. The young began to leave for wage-paying jobs, then the old lost their confidence. In the years just before the Great War, they all went off; gave up everything, including who they were.

I think of a rugby crowd I saw on video. Scotland were in the final moments of beating England, last February — the Scots’ brutal defence slicing down the English momentum as they tried to recover from an unlucky first half. And the fans, so many face-painted in the blue of the Saltire, seeing victory near, broke into song. Ten-thousands of them singing “Flouer o Scotland,” recalling the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, but written a few decades ago. It is about men:

That focht an dee’d for
Yer wee bit Hill an Glen,
An stuid agin him,
Prood Edwart’s Airmie,
An sent him hamewart,
Tae think again. …

Now it is the anthem of the independence movement; a cheap piece of jingo to be sure, though I found myself singing along. And like that romantic twaddle, “The Mingulay Boat Song,” written a generation after the isle it celebrated had been abandoned. (The “flower of Scotland” is the thistle, by the way.)

I think too of the descendents of Mingulay, among that blue-painted crowd of conurbanized, post-modern savages, who buy packaged food in supermarkets, and live in rent-regulated flats, and have no notion, not only where they are going, but where they came from. Whose ancestors left the thatch to blow off their ancient stone blackhouses, for a vision of comfort and ease.

They have their reward, as Christ would tell them. They have their abortions, and their drug overdoses, their anxieties and night fears, now different in kind. They have crime their ancestors could never have imagined, behind their unlocked doors. Religion and family, hard work and permanent neighbours, are long behind them. It is true that we cannot go back. But it is also true that we will die out here.

Jack Straw

Since no one will read this, I might as well express myself plainly. Today’s Idlepost is about politics again — the international kind. I continue to be mildly curious about what is happening in our world, and amazed in my brief media perusals that no one is writing about it — with any sense of reality. Obsessed with small ideological points, like pebbles in the street, they do not notice what is falling on them. My comment applies to both Left and Right, for both have ideologues, but of course they are worse on the Left.

They want to take digs at Trump. I do, too, for I find him quite obnoxious sometimes, though not for the same reasons they do. For instance, I don’t mind his vulgarity so much, there are worse things in this world. Trump will be Trump, while he lives and breathes; get used to him. He is not conventional; his training was in the nasty trades of property and construction and hotel management. Say what you will about him, he is used to getting results from dark nefarious colleagues, by calling their bluffs. It turns out this has fitted him well for the job he has now, for Washington is a town that works on mafia-mob principles, and bluffing.

He just made an example of our Trudeau boy, for a purpose that ought to be obvious. It will be noted, I should think, on the other side of the world, where they don’t wear the “gliberal” blinkers. Kim Jong-un was meant to notice, along with the Chinese operators behind him. The Chinese, I should think, have been quickest off the mark, with the observation that “this guy means business.” And if you want to do some, you will have to be businesslike and stop mucking about.

Trump is such a mystery to the Jack Straws in the West (late mediaeval term for chests stuffed with hay), because he is so transparent. They’ve never dealt with a politician like that. From Canada’s CBC and other crap media up here it is evident that the Trudeau lad does not know what knocked his eyebrows off (see viral video). He was just doing a little tease for the cameras, and then this tweet-missile came down from Air Force One. The idea that, if he wanted to, Trump could destroy the Canadian economy, has not yet sunk in. With that, the curious idea that there could be consequences to seriously aggravating him. It isn’t something that occurred to them before, because they are used to mouthing off freely, against cowards too wussy to reply.

Natted States Merica is in a strong position on tariffs. They have a yuge domestic market, and while jobs would be lost in a trade war, jobs would also be created, and companies facing constriction would move to where their biggest market is. Angela Merkel, who is a reasonably adept politician, gets this well enough to mind what she is saying, and the Europeans generally are doing only token “retaliations” while their fairy dust clears. The little Trudeau fellow, threatening big retaliations that would play politics by explicitly targeting Red States, is not, shall we say, playing this wisely. (At the Quebec summit, he got played by both the Americans, and the Europeans: the latter set him up to be out-man on the limb.)

But none of his adversaries yet grasp the character of Trump himself. He is actually a capitalist: a “free-trader.” They have quietly built tariff dams against American exports, and Trump wants them busted. They think he just likes walls, but he doesn’t. He’ll use walls to defeat walls, but what he likes is highways and airports. It happens I don’t like such things, myself, but can at least see what he is doing: pushing actual free trade down foreign throats, and thus compelling them to replace big politics with big business. They worry they’ll get creamed by the American juggernaut, now fracking enough oil to fuel itself, and rightly so. But there’s a substantial price to dodge it, and none of them are willing to pay. Trump will make them. He probably can.

In the same way, Trump is willing to militarize the Korean peninsula, in order to demilitarize it; and surround Persia with enough reasons to actually take its nose out of its neighbours’ affairs. To caricature the man as a warmonger or protectionist is to get him backwards. He is pushing “America First” and trying to communicate that if we, for instance, want to put Canada First, he’ll deal. But he isn’t going to deal with what he might characterize as a bunch of wankers.

*

Sorry to hear that Charles Krauthammer is dying. I admired him as a political realist, which he has been to the best of his ability and knowledge. He was also (privately) a rather decent and kindly man. Hard-boiled (in public), but a genuine egg. There is a shortage of hack journalists like that, as I hinted above — those the hack politicos must read, in order to know what is going on; men who try to squint through their own illusions. I began to miss him from the moment he went silent, ten months ago.

Of sweet & sour

My hankerings for citrus run to grapefruit and lime, though I do not sneer at lemons. Nor would I discount oranges, though my favourites are the bitter “bigarades” (Seville), and I want the shredded peels to be seen in a marmalade. I should like to put a good word in for the Muslims in this connexion, who first bred the delicious hybrid of Citrus maxima and Citrus reticula in mediaeval Spain, though I’d say they were the frugal Scots of Aberdeen who put the offspring to best use. A salute, too, this morning, to the Hindoos, and their genius for pickling every available variety of citrus, starting with lime. Verily: lime on lime for some of these pickles. That is, slaked lime as a pickling agent for the merry green nimbu (the lime fruit).

Here in the far West our inclinations run more to candied peels, and I raise no objection. Sweet and sour can go deliciously together, and the inhabitants of the Subcontinent have long run the range to both extremes. I mentioned the beautiful coiled jalebi in my Thing column for today (see here); it takes a real man to handle the immoderate Bengali confections, which I take for the sweetest in the world.

As a young man I could gobble jalebi to make myself sick, and some of the old can still do it. I carry the most restorative memory of a visit to a Calcutta sweets stall, with an elderly intellectual of that city who had taken me under his wing. Of the joyful shine in his eyes as he led me to what he believed the sweet stall of stalls in the old “New Market” (that of Sir Stuart Hogg) — exquisite pastries prepared in the finest butter ghee, many decorated with gold and silver foils. Of the sharpness of his elbows as he poked for us a route through the crowd of rival customers. I, for all my youth, could not hope to keep up with him, but like a gull behind a trawler, could prosper in his wake.

Happiness, true material happiness and thanksgiving, is something wonderful to see. God bless the memory of Mr Ghosh, who has surely found the finest sweet shop in Heaven.

But as I hint in my morning Thing, there is also a spiritual dimension to life, which must not be omitted.

*

My Chief Texas Correspondent leaps naturally upon the result of yesterday’s Ontario provincial election, in which our governing Liberals were annihilated. He sees this as a conventional “shift to the Right,” in Merican party terms, and celebrates it as such.

To which I reply: that the moronic city voters went not Right but over to the NDPee, which promised more spending than even the Liberals could imagine, and various grand new welfare schemes. (They are a zoological garden of various activist nutjobs.) Our outgoing premier’s personal charmlessness factored into the result. The winning Doug Ford is a total clown, and the media will have him for breakfast and snacks, yet for one brief glorious moment the Leftoids are in disarray. Ford is no Trump, though he might be able to match your esteemed President in straightforward vulgarity. He cannot have the fondest clew what he will do with the mess he has inherited, now that he is in power. He will have to betray that half of his constituency to which he promised the opposite of what he pledged to the other half, with unstudied vagueness. His caucus will be crawling with Suburban Saracens and other multicultural eccentrics — not the old solid Tory phalanx of white, Presbo-Methodist, rural hicks. Alas, though the ride may be wild, it won’t be fun to watch.

Have women peaked?

Whether the issue be American swimsuit competitions, or Ontario provincial elections, it is hard to decide sometimes which one hates more. I suppose this makes me a hater — “a hater, a hater, a hate hate hater” as one gentle critic called me in my hack newspaper days; and it is true, I hate a lot of things.

Let us start with the removal of the swimsuit portion from the Miss America Pageant. “We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance,” we are told in the release to Good Morning America.

I doubt that I am the only person who wonders what the ladies will be judged by, now. Strictly cooking and knitting? Perhaps a spelling bee? Or will it be spiritual depth, in which case, we might hope to see some nuns for a change. But instead there might be a row of Social Justice Warriorettes vying for the prize, by uttering the most asinine, politically-correct remarks. If so, I would vote for the blonde with the longest hair and the biggest boobs.

Except, I’ve never been asked to judge such a competition, even in a Third World country, where Miss National contests are taken very seriously, and the principle of selection seems to be the whitest-looking girl they can find. (The West opts for the most obvious visible minority.)

Are women depreciated by swimsuit displays? Not as much as the men in police line-ups, called in for ogling them. We’re in the twenty-first century, as the progressives like to point out. (It is the only thing they know.) The old crimes are no longer prosecuted. Harvey Weinstein is the “Hitler” for our times. Yet the reality continues to be that young women who look fetching in bikinis have real clout. They turn heads faster than famous politicians, and may have, generally, whatever they want. To my mind, the swimsuit competition was a celebration of female power.

On which grounds, I was against it.

As Doctor Johnson wrote to John Taylor, “Nature has given women so much power that the law has wisely given them little.” (Alas, that was then, and this is now.) Donald DeMarco said that he had known men face certain death in acts of bravery on the battlefield; but never a man who could stand up to a roomful of screaming women. (And ain’t that the truth.) During his losing campaigns against the suffragettes and temperance crusaders, Canada’s Stephen Leacock declared that women are, even for business, too crooked; and too violent, even for war. (His views have been deleted from the national consciousness.) Why go so far as to grant them swimsuit competitions?

Today, we have the phenomenon of men pretending to be women, or at least acting like women, in order to empower themselves. Men pretending only to be men are pounded into submission with such phrases as “toxic masculinity,” and “manspreading.” (No one would dare say, “toxic femininity.”) Quotas, both formal and genteel, are set to limit male access to the better-paying jobs.

It is true that men still dominate such fields as garbage collection, and fire fighting, where brute strength and a willingness to be injured are imagined to be the criteria for employment. Those who try to become policemen or soldiers are routinely emasculated with “sensitivity training.”

So let us hope that the ban on these jingo swimsuit performances is the first hint of a turning tide, and that women will by some new, unsuspected, and characteristically devious route, find their ways home.

As for tomorrow’s Provincial Election, I live in dread that some party may win. I freely admit that the leader of the so-called “conservative” party is a malignant, incompetent jackass. But he’s the only male in the field and so, my fellow Ontarians, we must vote for him.

Waltzing

We (in the sense of, “I”) have returned to the High Doganate after our adventures in Civitas Silva, Idlerton, and Birr. The most extravagant of these adventures was in Birr, for it contains a fairly Catholic and substantial used bookshop named “Cardinal Books,” whose proprietor has only one wife, and nine children — all of them acquiring the bibliographical arts, which may be of great utility in the future. Or may not, we’ll see. His name is Philip Prins (or, “Cardinal Prins” as we’re apt to call him) and I recommend his services without qualification for all your book-purchasing needs, by mail or otherwise. And I do not say this in the hope of getting discounts, for I am incorruptible.

The (very) small town of Idlerton, nearby, is notable for an excellent steakhouse and pub, with modest, pretty waitresses. Oddly, the painter who inscribed the sign at the entrance to this (medium-sized) hamlet made a spelling error, “Ilderton,” which seems to have been repeated on the maps.

A more egregious error was made on the signs for Civitas Silva, or “Forest City” for those Novus Ordo types who prefer English, and are willing to confuse it with Cleveland, Ohio. The inhabitants persist in calling it “London,” however — a town which is actually more than three thousand nautical miles away. My parents lived there for a score of years (after I left home), and several good buddies still live in and around. Indeed, they have formed a secret society, called the Wrinklings, brother to the venerable Borborygmatic Society of Greater Parkdale, also known as the Old Farts Club, or in reference to contemporary political correctness, as the Gentleman Commissioners of Crimes Against Humanity. As I say, these are secret societies, which may contain tobacco smokers, so please never mention them, gentle reader.

It is necessary to form such societies for mutual linguistic aid and protection, the identification of good books, the discussion of poetry, art, music, philosophy, and other subversive activities. Too, they help to organize a “third force” within our postmodern conurbations, in addition to the silent majority of sterile, godless, bourgeois people, and the growing minority of criminals, drug addicts, and the openly insane. Normally, I’m against any sort of “third way,” but there are times when neither of two clear alternatives is quite acceptable.

Indeed (that makes this a two-indeed Idlepost, three if we count this parenthesis), I have sometimes proposed the foundation of a “Christian Party,” to intrude between existing “progressive-conservative” and “liberal-progressive” parties, for the purpose of losing elections. It would run on an unapologetically reactionary platform, of consistent backwardness. We would be for disassembling everything the other parties have assembled — and thereby restoring Western Civ.

On the positive side, we would advocate the replacement of our reflexive atheistic populism with authentic theocracy. It would be a responsible party, of course, for we would replace any necessary social services, beyond the means of local voluntary efforts, with the eleemosynary agencies of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. (With tithing to replace the income tax, and assist in the restoration of the monasteries.)

And it would be forward-thinking, for we’d be preparing what to do when each hollow shell of a “democracy” finishes collapsing.

I have already proposed a slogan for the USA: “Make America Christian Again.” For Canada I suggest: “Back to Champlain.” In England, perhaps: “Three Acres and a Cow.”

Strictly non-violent, except during formal Crusades.

The loss

I was expecting the “pro-life” side to lose the Irish referendum to the slick “pro-death” media campaign, but I was not expecting such a blowout. The losers conceded even before the vote was counted, after looking at media exit polls that showed a “Yes” plurality of more than two to one. Of further interest, to those inclined to desolation and despair, are the rural results. We all knew Dublin had gone to hell decades ago; but even in the countryside it appears that a majority of the Irish unambiguously favour terminating their country’s Catholic heritage, and replacing it with the passing diktats of post-modernity. The whole nation will be as Dublin became.

There was a time when I could, to a point, trust my gut on election campaigns. If the polls said one thing and my gut said another, in any jurisdiction with which I was familiar as a journalist, my gut would usually prove right. As recently as 2016, for instance, I knew Trump was going to win the USA election. But now, I cannot even be sure who is going to win the upcoming election in my native Ontario. The polls swing wildly day to day, between the two socialist parties and the so-called “conservative” one.

Part of the reason for my thread-loss is, living in the big city myself. I fall out of touch with upcountry realities. I assume that what was true of small towns and villages a generation ago, must still be true, in the main. I underestimate the degree of change in social conditions, from many causes.

Not only here, but everywhere, big-city notions have been making their advance, and it shows nowhere better than in the collapse of birth rates and all related social indicators. The glue that held societies together has dried and crumbled. There was no weak point, no single breach, through which The Enemy came pouring. Instead, multiple breaches, and now the whole wall against what Pope Benedict called “the dictatorship of relativism” is become rubble. In a generation or two of cultural upheaval, we have watched many centuries of “social conditioning” on Christian principles disintegrate.

What will replace it?

A good answer may be found by glancing down the index page of the Irish Times, to stories below their huge headline story. There was a feature article about the skyrocketing numbers of the Irish young who seek psychological counselling. Why don’t I just quote:

“Treasa Fox, a spokeswoman for Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education, said most students seek help when they face issues such as social anxiety, panic attacks, acute stress, persistent worrying, phobias, withdrawal and isolation. An inability to problem-solve or cope with normal life challenges, alcohol and substance misuse, acting out in class or with peers, along with self-harm or suicidal thoughts or actions are also common issues. ‘Anxiety issues are showing more in lecture theatres and in practicals, so another substantial part of our work is to provide consultation and guidance to academic staff who encounter this in their daily interface with students’, she said.”

Or let me put this another way. When a social order collapses, and “conventional” ideas are overturned — of what is right and wrong, of what is reasonable and unreasonable, of what is true and false, of what is sane and insane — we do not promptly get an alternative social order. Instead we get a world turned upside down: the tyranny of the mad, under the direction of those drunk on power.

They were celebrating their victory in Dublin last night. They are celebrating everywhere.

*

I am retreating through the next week, to an obscure location.
I will resume these despatches on the 4th of June.

The referendum

Those not in Ireland — quite possibly a majority of my readers — are denied the vote under Irish law, but may nevertheless participate with our prayers. No technology has yet been designed to stop us. The international “social media” companies have done their best to stop the “No” side from advertising, in response to the overwhelming “Yes” campaign by Irish mainstream media. They are outraged because it hasn’t entirely worked, and the vote may still be close. George Soros apparently didn’t get the monopoly on illicit foreign financial contributions.

But of course, it did not occur to the Meeja Masters that some Irish themselves might prefer not to have Irish babies murdered. It is assumed, in the worldview of progressive politicians, that they can only lose through foreign interference. This is even the view in the Natted States, where Trump is held to have won his election with nefarious Russian support — so subtle, that no evidence has emerged after exhaustive and interminable investigations. Likewise, in every European country, the rise in support for non-progressive parties is attributed in each case to some mysterious external force.

Might it be extraterrestrial, I wonder? Perhaps the Holy Spirit?

Who knows what strange and unaccountable Interest seeks to pull us back from collective self-destruction. But whatever it is, it has proved a terrible annoyance to progressives, everywhere.

I need not advise my Irish correspondents to vote “No.” This is because, so far as I can see, every one of them is doing all in his power to fight the baby-killing measure, already. And doing so with very little support from his own Church hierarchs, still licking their self-inflicted wounds from ghastly sex scandals. I pity them, for the accounts they must give of their own actions, to their Maker.

There is no good cause in this world that is not betrayed, however. Our Lord not only preached, but showed, that this must be the case. Notwithstanding, He told us not to give up, so long as the breath remains in us. The battle may be won or lost in any moment of time. But it is part of a “War in Heaven” whose conclusion can be foreseen. That which is good will be retrieved and purified; that which is evil will burn in everlasting hellfire. We’ve been told this plainly, and I for one believe it.

*

Eric McLuhan, who died last Friday while on visit to Colombia, was a good friend of long standing. See my piece in Catholic Thing today (here). The Mass for him is in Picton, Ontario this morning. Please subjoin your prayers, wherever you may be.

Tempus fugit. It seems yesterday we, so much younger, were in his living room in Toronto’s Beach district, attending to the launch of The Interim, Canada’s pro-life paper. Suddenly that periodical is thirty-five years old. Sabina McLuhan, the English girl Eric brought home from his travels, was the brains and energy and for some time the editor of The Interim. She retired from it to focus upon raising a magnificent family. My heart goes out to her, and to them, in this poignant moment of leave-taking.

Estimable men

The grim reaper has had rich pickings among famous writers, octogenarian and up — Philip Roth, Bernard Lewis, Tom Wolfe in the last few days. I mention them together for in their different ways they were three of the saner navigators — into the shoals of our fin-de-millénaire, our hyper-décadence. Only two were conscious writers of fiction, but I think that I would count all three as exponents of “the new journalism,” in which the author becomes gonzo of his own chronicle: a kind of roman-fleuve, spilling over its literary banks into the fields of entertainment and “Meeja.”

“Show don’t tell” was the principle behind that new journalism, which I first encountered as a young aspirant, before it began to bore me. Perhaps the true founder was the painter, Cézanne, who could build a picture with small appliqués of pigment: little drybrush squibs of nothing, that gradually add into something there. But nowhere, or never in sight, the betrayal of a grand intention. Roth “putting the id in yid,” Wolfe “the oy in goy,” one might say. Lewis attempting a thorough, scholarly, external depiction of the modern history of a huge religion, without having religious feelings himself. All good, honest, decent men, from a background culture of honest decency, unrolling a canvas of something from nothing.

Do not misunderstand: I think all three were and remain giants in their kind, worth reading. Two (Wolfe and Lewis) I personally glimpsed in passing, and was impressed with what I thought a good act: privatized public figures in a sense, warm and unknowable. All three struck me as advisers, for how to cope with the contemporary world, who had no advice to offer, beyond presenting a wonderful still-life of how it looks in decay on the eve of disintegration.

The good, the true, the beautiful: I keep going on about these Platonic transcendentals, which take us beyond the parameters of workaday earthly life. Doing this, they cannot be restricted to formal compositions. I think of them as aspects of the Gloria — of a greater beauty that “contains” all three; what “enlightened” men of a previous century attempted to call “the sublime.” But they are not art; art at its highest is a means to them. By “highest” I think, for example, of Dante, infusing meaning into all he draws. There is nothing like this in our contemporary world, and could be nothing like it. We do not share a language that would make that possible, as men did in earlier times. We live in “modern” times when meaning is rejected, when “God is dead” for all practical purposes. The good, the true, and the beautiful craze us. We want to embrace them, but they “don’t fit.”

For Bernard Lewis I had considerable respect: a scholar whose information was hard-earned, and a writer who was bravely coherent. I have views myself of that Muslim realm on which he built his expertise; he was the last of the old-school Orientalists, who knew what they were talking about; could prove and demonstrate everything they said. (Not a fraud, like his antagonist, Edward Said.) Yet to my mind he was missing something vital, something living, something unaccounted in that Muslim realm; for want of better word, the “spiritual” component. He seemed to me tone-deaf in that respect.

Without that component, “the other” remains impossibly “exotic.” While Lewis was, one might almost say, perfectly informed about conditions on the ground in the Middle East — and on the ground in Washington and New York for that matter — he could miss conditions only slightly above.

The same, generally, for all the famed literati of my generation and that immediately before, if I may swing a broad tar brush. The talented depict a world without God, without meaning, whether they intend to or not. They present themselves as “outsiders,” yet entirely on stage. It is as if signlessness were the sign of our times.

Saint Dymphna pray for us

Somehow, I missed the Feast of Saint Dymphna on this day last week — Irishwoman of the seventh century, celebrated in missals of both Latin West and Greek East, though not very boldly in recent centuries. She is the patron saint of the insane.

I could of course have waited upon the latest recension of the Martyrologium Romanum, which moved her feast to the 30th of May, for no intelligible reason. Why the Roman authorities should wish to keep saints’ days in movement I have yet to understand. St Dymphna’s hagiography was formally gathered and committed to writing in the thirteenth century; it was the product of a strong oral tradition that had spread through Christendom, encouraged by many miracles.

We little appreciate today the empirical and rational aspects of mediaeval and byzantine saint-worship. Saints rose in stature not because of some administrative decision in Rome, but because praying to them worked. This is secretly why some saints enjoy special favour to this day, among the common people in the surviving ghettoes of “traditional” Christianity, and also among the sophisticated in there. The modern mind, however, which is both atheist and superstitious, would not dare try the experiment of believing.

The beautiful daughter of a beautiful Christian mother, and a pagan Irish king, Dymphna consecrated herself to Jesus and to a life of purity at an early age. When her mother died, her father, whose madness was perhaps accentuated by grief, fell upon the incestuous idea of marrying his daughter as a replacement for his wife. She fled, to Gheel in what is now Belgium, along with several others including the court jester. His pagan majesty pursued, eventually tracking her to Gheel, where she had already established a reputation for the care and cure of difficult cases. She was martyred when he found her.

Our contemporary “humanists” would laugh, I suppose, at the claims made for St Dymphna in her shrine at Gheel, and in several others dedicated to St Dymphna now scattered around the world. Obviously, those drawn as pilgrims to such places are deluded. Indeed, this is precisely why they have come: to be freed from their delusions.

It is one of the dirty secrets of medicine that “miracle cures” often work. It begins, I should think, when the afflicted soul desires to be rescued; when by grace he or she dimly begins to appreciate that neither the pharmaceutical nor the surgical industries can offer much help. Drugs may induce artificial mood changes, and a frontal lobotomy might reduce one to an even less harmful turnip, but neither can offer a cure. Even electro-shocks, when they seemed to work (as they did when they were practised), brought only temporary relief. The afflicted is seeking something more permanent, and looks in the only place it could possibly be found.

Those who happen to have read the Gospels with any attention, will have observed that Our Lord was a practitioner of faith cures. He was also very clear on demonic manifestations. Modern churchmen are embarrassed by this, and as they do with the Sacraments, take what is an action for a kind of lame symbol, to be saluted in passing by members of their club. We do the ceremonial, when we do it at all, “in remembrance of” something we in fact can’t remember.

A real Christian would notice that this is quite mad.

Bells & whistles

I have been doing my best to antagonize my Chief Texas Correspondent by forwarding media items to him on tomorrow’s Royal Wedding. The latest had the subject line, “Only 24 hours OMG!” and flagged this item from the BBC. I had already sent him a countdown timer so he could set his clocks to it.

As a postscript I mentioned the nice reply of “one of them heavily-dressed full-colour guards” to a media ditz, who asked how he would be coping with the very hot weather predicted for Windsor tomorrow.

“It was warmer in Afghanistan and Iraq, ma’am.”

My CTC is a dogged Republican of the old Yanqui school. Over the years since Vietnam or whenever we have been discussing politics in light of this fact. He is under the illusion that hereditary monarchs are responsible for all the foibles of the world, which aggregated into Twisted Nanny State, and led to The Obama that Makes Desolate, playing King.

I’m afraid these Americans still don’t get it. Some things have nothing to do with each other, except that they may be found within the same Universe, dating from the Big Bang. Twisted Nanny Statehood has prevailed in every single country in the West, and now the World, regardless of its constitutional status. This even includes Natted States Merica. It is not the work of kings and queens. Rather it is the work of the Devil.

It wasn’t the fond idea of those Protestant royals, when they hatched the Divine Right of Kings; for when they tried that on, the power of Nanny was inconceivable. We had not yet had the Industrial Revolution, let alone the French and Russian ones. The Divine Right of Bureaucrats knows no practical restraints.

Had Obama only been a constitutional monarch, he would have been harmless. Indeed, he would have looked good in that rôle. Ditto Pierre Trudeau, of unhappy memory. They knew how to dress the part, and utter occasionally mischievous platitudes. They were comfortable at the centres of their respective courts, and that is all we require. Put their portraits on the coins and spend them. Even Justin Trudeau would be harmless, were he properly supervised by adults. If not, we need arrange only one accident.

As I was explaining to my CTC, I don’t propose to increase the power of our Queen; only to reduce the power of the Guvmint to the point where she looks like something. Parliament can stay, too. So long as it is deferential to the Queen, and keeps the Royal Navy funded and floating. Princes may still fly helicopters, as before. Army, Air Force, and Marines, stet. And the Ordnance Survey, perhaps; and the Heraldry College, sustained by rich sods who like that sort of thing. And some bobbies and Common Law judges in wigs. But the Home Office will be for the bonfire, and the Department of Environment for the fishes.

Won’t this leave the power of big nasty corporations unchecked? The heck it will. They depend on Twisted Nanny. They could not exist without the complex regulatory apparatus that is blindly imposed over entire nations, and without which they would have to seek permissions for each franchise, in ten thousand municipalities; in each of which local businessmen would have the mayor’s personal phone number. And no welfare state will flourish, when taxpayers can see where their money is going.

But everyone loves a parade. God Save the Queen! Cheers to Meghan and Harry!

___________

Sunday morning clarifying footnote. I’m not saying the marriage was valid, of course. The Windsor wedding of our lively junior prince to a divorced, nominally-Catholic commoner could not possibly be, any more than Prince Charles’s last wedding. But it was perhaps the most impressive display of elegant ladies’ hats of which I have ever seen pictures. And the grand procession of Hollywood celebrities and sports stars into the once-Catholic pilgrim chapel of Saint Edward the Confessor (former Patron of England, and still of difficult marriages) made a merry show. Indeed, the English now have a five-century tradition, of spectacular celebration of invalid rites.

A blessed Pentecost to all my gentle readers!