Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

The wilful vegetable

The reader will understand that I am only writing this to prove (within reason) that I am still alive, and enjoying my new life as a vegetable. For this I must thank the surgeons who generously gave me a neurological condition, to replace the cardiac problem I approached them with. The stroke left me in a constant state of the dizzies, walking the streets as a common Parkdale inebriate, and forgetting things — for instance words, and names especially. Given enough time, however, specific vocables may suddenly return, and I may fill in the blanks of an abandoned composition.

A kind reviewer has told me that the result can be almost coherent, and you know, I am wilful and determined to persist.

Meanwhile, so far as I am able to judge, the world has entered a state somewhat similar to my own. I suspect even the leading statesmen wobble, when they try to walk. As the plurality of children are now aborted, and the sex of the survivors is frequently changed, and “Medical Assistance In Death” may be prescribed for the remainder, the population of the world might soon be running out.

For the transient inhabitants of this world are now obliged to “follow the science,” and the content of this science is murderously insane. We thus spill into an environmental anti-disaster, of a kind so appalling to make all the mega-disasters of the past seem merely frumpish by comparison. Ours will consist of industrial disintegration and collapse, general hypothermia, and famine, as all of our sources of energy and food are politically banned, in the general hysteria over “climate change.”

Already carbon dioxide and nitrogen are scheduled to be phased out, on the planetary scale, and I would imagine that oxygen and other objectionable gases will be added to the list. The object is “carbon neutrality” or death.

Ah well. Perhaps we will experience the contrary fashion, in the next season.

On my sins

While the prophets and sages of our Christian tendency — at least the Catholic ones — tend to resist morbidity, they are nevertheless acquainted with their personal share in what we call “Original Sin.” This is, for those who have never heard of it, the Sin of Adam, our most distant paternal ancestor. It is by extension the imperfection of the human race, including Eve, our most distant maternal ancestress.

Both Adam and Eve, in the course of being evicted from their “starter home” in the Garden of Eden, understood at least vaguely why this had come about. (The Lord made it plain to them.) They had done what they had been told not to do, and not done what they had been told to do.

I was going to admit that wondering whether a modern person has heard about this is itself rather baroque, and almost a pose; but I’m not sure it is an error.

Some Internet star just asked a set of contemporary university students if they had ever heard of the Holocaust, for instance, or of several other historical events, such as Kristallnacht, or the Normandy Landings. They were utterly confused — and “blanked out,” as I sometimes do, on names. I reflected that the Bible was not published until somewhat earlier in our collective history, than World War II. But who can say it has faded with distance, when much nearer events have quite disappeared?

Of course, the students could argue that they were never taught about these events, but then, they were never taught they could be missing anything, either. They seem to have learnt, as it were, nothing about nothing.

From what I can make out from correspondence, my own readers belong to the very cream of an élite, for I’d wager they have all heard of the Bible, and even of God. Even the non-Catholics among them have been told about sin, whether or not they took the teaching seriously. For this is the modern world. As Baudelaire says, “Everyone believes in God, although nobody loves Him; no one believes in the Devil, although his smell is everywhere.”

Baudelaire is often misunderstood. He is taken as almost the inventor of modernity in the arts, whereas, his concern was to confute it.

Many centuries before, Augustine anticipated Baudelaire’s simplification, and explained that the Devil cannot be blamed for all sin. In fact men (a term which used to include the women) sometimes committed sins which they had themselves devised. (This is what made them so Original.) He was among the first to openly resist the morbidity that endangers all Christian thought, on the subject of Sin. It is almost as bad as the opposite obsession, which we might characterize as psychotic: to feel no guilt at all.

This is a Christian challenge: to contemplate sin in the lightness of one’s being, finding it deeply implanted in oneself but neither in despair nor indifference.

I was reading Baudelaire, and also his mentor, Joseph de Maistre, author of Les Soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg — the most wonderful account of politics. These are “entretiens sur le gouvernement temporel de la providence.” (In my post-stroke neurological condition, I will not attempt to translate “entretiens.”)

They are a font of what is called Pessimism, in our post-Christian environment. For all of our worldly ambitions are — without exception — subverted by Original Sin. This universal and comprehensive subversion is the condition of our life in this world, to which, by now, we should have adapted. I, and my reader, are likewise constrained.

On the contrary, my hope in God is excited by this. It is at the root of all “spiritual optimism,” when we seek it aright.

Waving the flag

The latest trick in what we might call “eco-commie-perv agitprop,” emerged while shaming Canadian history and traditions. I’ll touch on it in a moment. It is a product chiefly of the Indian Wars of the last few years. The White Man, and more specifically when Catholic, has been accused of massacring the Native People in 20th-century residential schools, just as he did (according to “experts”) upon coming to the continent. He then ploughs the anonymous victims into mass graves, showing his affinity to, exempli gratia, the Nazis.

This propaganda campaign, which quickly reached the tedious stage, was founded on a series of oft-repeated unambiguous lies, driven into our susceptible children in our compulsory public schools, and throughout life by such agencies as the CBC. (All our significant media are now under government control, subsidy, and watch.) White men, especially the Catholics, contaminate Canadian history by their Satanic essence, according to this malicious fantasy. Goodness and innocence can be found only in their victims, the “visible minorities” (or majorities, as the case may be). Shame is inculcated among persons exhibiting the wrong race.

I write of Canada, but something similar is happening in the United States, and has been carried to Europe on the sails of Hollywood and popular “music.” Canada is, however, an extreme example — of brazen idiocy — and even to underprivileged (all-white) rural places the message is piped in. Disharmonious voices must expect state interference, and eventual arrest.

For Canada now has political prisoners, including many who participated in the Freedom Convoy of truck drivers. Tamara Lich, a prominent organizer of this demonstration, has been gratuitously jailed, though she didn’t even try to commit a plausible crime. This week she was gaoled again, apparently for receiving a freedom medal. (Persons it was in her bail conditions not to meet may have been in the audience.) She was put out of sight for “Canada Day” (the former Dominion celebration, yesterday). This manipulation of Canadian law is, sadly, no longer unprecedented. It seems to be ordered directly from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Liberal Government, and the NDP flunkeys who maintain it in power, use the police to do the dirty work, paradoxically while scumming the police in their publicity. Elections cannot so far be tampered with here, as they are open to corruption in the States. But as the majority of mostly urban Canadians (including whites) are Liberal-voting zombies, it is not really necessary. Their progress continues.

The latest trick is to identify those who wave the Red Ensign — the Canadian flag before the Liberals replaced it more than half a century ago — as racists and hate-mongers. Ditto with any national symbols of the past, before the Liberal strategy of discarding our ancient and proud traditions proceeded under Mike Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. These are now openly slandered as “fascist,” along with the people who prize memory of a Canada prior to ideological dystopia. The old flag. “Its usage denotes a desire to return to Canada’s demographics before 1967, when it was predominantly white.”

The current Canadian flag will, now that it has draped trucks and bridges in the Freedom Convoy, and other “Fuck Trudeau” protests, should soon be awarded the reputation of the Confederate banner, among Democrats in USA. Then I may finally take it out and wave it.

Status quo ante

I expected to die before “Roe v. Wade” was overturned, though it seemed it must be, eventually. Though it does not touch me personally (I hope), I am still discreetly overjoyed. I say discreetly because I could not wish to boast of my “pro-life” credentials, at this moment. The anti-life forces have expressed themselves in a day and night of rage, on urban streets all over — as the court decision successfully abraded “liberal” sensibilities around the world. We have come to expect such demented behaviour whenever this happens. Closer to home, policemen in the United States may have longer shifts for some time, containing the explosions of satanic violence.

The American legal and political establishment will not buckle, however. For they know that stronger passions, though more quietly expressed, wait on the other side. Most of the electorate skitters away from commitment to either side — neither entirely in favour of, nor opposed to, the murder of unborn children. Cowardly, unmanly avoidance makes of this “a woman’s issue” — as if only female children were aborted.

That it would be connected to questions of hygiene is a small anecdote, or sign of the times.

No matter of principle was addressed by the Supreme Court’s decision; life and death does not trouble the legalistic mind. They will not rule on whether abortion is right or wrong. They simply restore the arrangements in the United States Constitution, that put the matter, as others unforeseen, in the power of the States. They confirm the need for politics, in addition to laws; and for better or worse, the American States are all democracies.

The current social convulsions were made inevitable by the original ruling, for its vacation was also inevitable. It flew in the face of established law, and mangled American jurisprudence, by creating a new regime of (arbitrary) “human rights.” Status quo ante has now been magically restored, but in a country changed even demographically by the lawlessness of fifty years.

For the Burger Court’s great imaginative try-on of 22 January 1973 — declaring the crime of abortion to be a “human right,” and a constitutional intention — will be tried again in due course. Those who care for life and liberty should be ready to defeat it.

Diversity, Inclusion, Equity

The arrest and incarceration of bureaucrats would seem, on casual examination, to be one of the unexplored great ideas whose time is always ripe. On more careful study, however, the matter is not so simple as the victims of bureaucracy might imagine.

To start with, what is a bureaucrat? and how should he (frequently, she) be distinguished from the other billions of the world’s demographic inheritance?

I have thought about this question often, and it returns to mind after almost every encounter with persons who have regular employment. That they are all bureaucrats, has crossed my mind; but occasionally I meet a person who is not. (Yesterday, it was a truly philosophical bus driver.) Usually, the non-bureaucrat is by conventional definition, unemployed, or there is some skill he is expressly paid to perform, not in every waking hour, but “sometimes.”

And, who is to say that the bureaucrat, however defined, is necessarily “good for nothing”? Before hatching any rehabilitation scheme, that would inevitably be designed and executed by bureaucrats, we must consider what would actually set him loose. My own emphasis would be on prayer; on preces privatae, and in the Mass.

Meanwhile, bureaucracy is the universal sponsor of “busy work,” as several dear to my memory indicated. This is that variety of pointless labour that appears to be done in a rush — awkwardly by habit, against an invisible deadline, to the end of no particular result. The purpose is to provide “full employment,” and it is considered virtuous for this quality alone.

For the masses require to be guided by a “work ethic,” or else they will be bored and apt to participate in a revolution. One requires busy work, as a matter of public safety.

Curiously most of the “slave economy” backwaters of modern, industrial, bureaucratic states, have the strongest work ethic, although they are the least productive regions. This ethic is the spiritual whip that keeps the labourers moving, when common sense would prescribe a siesta. They eat lots of sugars, get fat, and die young. There are franchise operations near every work plantation, dispensing carbohydrates; the staffs are also obviously dispensable. In fact, the whole economy is built around things that can be easily discarded.

One can understand why employers tire of paying these workers, to make something that, even when it is tangible, no non-bureaucrat, or person with elementary taste could wish to buy; until we realize that this employer is likely to be a bureaucrat himself (or herself, or itself, I hasten to add). And so the socialist principle of “you pretend to work and we pretend to pay you” comes to pertain also to our “capitalist” economy.

We have “human resources” departments which work by the same methods as livestock management, in the larger meat packaging firms, except, owing to bureaucratic convention, they aren’t allowed to kill or eat people; or not directly. That is a function more and more assumed by the government’s MAID (Medical Assistance In Dying) service.

The employers are limited to creating a theatrical impression, of death in life. “Employees” doing useless things, or radically counter-productive, are presented as free citizens and electors in a constitutional democracy under the rule of law. This was never a believable impression, even in ancient Greece. One may penetrate through it by reading Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol, or the novels of Dostoyevski.

Note, that people choose to be bureaucrats, and volunteer for the life sentence without thinking, upon graduation from the bureaucratic schools. They instantly look for a job; panicking if delayed. The job will include bureaucratic provisions for retirement, should they not require MAID service. Fear makes them take it. The only alternative would be to cultivate leisure, but this does not pay the prospective bureaucrat the equivalent of a pension.

Father’s Day

From out of the tangled past, we retrieve some holidays, and discount, or actually forget about others. Father’s Day is our example for today. It should, according to all educated Catholics, fall on March 19th. In fact, according to the usual unreliable sources (Wikipaedia, &c), even some Anglicans and Lutherans honour Saint Joseph on his day, which celebration was formally instituted at Rome (I think) about the time that they drifted away from us.

He, Joseph, is also the Patron Saint of Carpenters, as almost everyone knows, and of the Dominion of Canada, as many Canadians used to know. Also the Patron in the red-and-white national celebration of Poland, where he is rather more acknowledged. Too, he is the Patron of the Universal Church, East and West.

I am not a priest, nor the son of a priest, and should not be trusted on the conventions of the Church Calendar, but I think we are luckier than the Irish in this respect. For Saint Patrick’s, which generally falls in Lent, is not necessarily a holy day of obligation, conferring exemption from lenten customs, outside perhaps Ireland itself. But St Joseph’s is such a day of dispensation, on whatever day of the week it may fall — whether or not our holy priests have expressly declared it. Not only can we drink ale on the occasion, entirely without guilt, and eat walrus steaks or chunks of any other animal, but we needn’t colour them green with food dye.

Saint Joseph is the model for an earthly father, of a child who is not really his own, as all human children are not really one’s own. They come from their mother’s body, and are tangibly their mother’s possession, for a short time (until yanked away, by one method or another). That the father has (or had), however, a prominent place, in Christian or even pagan families, was fairly well established until recently.

In the Woke family he has no significance whatever, and mothers have none either, because there is no such thing as a woman — except among biologists, apparently. Of course, there being no women there can also be no men, so the question of fatherhood doesn’t arise.

It does nevertheless arrive, on this day, in mid-June or thereabouts, through North American commercial culture, in our present societal order. People buy things for what they naïvely accept as fathers of some sort. The current inflation may help to reduce this.

Natalya lost

More than forty years have passed since my last personal encounter with the international “jet set,” in the London (England) of the late ‘seventies. It was in the form of a ridiculously spoilt and gratuitously demanding little girl, not yet out of her teens.

I had no reason to know her. I was squatting peacefully in a modest stone workman’s cottage on a drab, once working-class street in Vauxhall, that was scheduled by the socialist borough council for replacement by glossy welfare stacks. But this building project was delayed by their bankruptcy. Meanwhile the neighbourhood was occupied by hippies. We were indeed encouraged by the (pre-Thatcher) socialist authorities to move in, for London had a “housing crisis,” and rows of empty working-class houses made for “poor optics.”

It was a simple life, with almost no modern services or appliances, in a tiny house then well into its second century of decline. Yet it was well-enough built to survive perhaps five, ten, or twenty centuries more, had the bureaucrats been persuaded to ignore it. Already, as a young man, ideologically opposed to all things glossy, I preferred “the margins” of 20th-century urban life. London was after all my Athens, my Peripatos, and for a moment I was left to explore it.

Cars, even taxis, never pulled up at the door of “65 Wilcox,” or did not until this one slightly fateful evening. The car contained trunks, suitcases, bags, unrolled clothing, hatboxes, loose feathered hats, and Natalya.

It was driven by an older, quite elegant lady whom I would have guessed was Natalya’s mother, but she identified only as a “friend of a friend,” aware of my “special situation.” (I lived rent-free.) This woman had a cultured accent, and a voice of confident authority. She presented Natalya as a daughter of the poet Robert Lowell, which she could not have been. Later I would place her as the daughter of Lady Caroline Blackwood, then the aging Lowell’s high-society mistress.

I was told, in effect, to take in this stray. I say, “told,” for I wasn’t asked for my opinion. One of the advantages of private property is that it (often) gives the owner the power to ban or evict people. But I now had an aristocratic tenant, with abject habits of dependency (in her cloud of marijuana), and expensive tastes. Had I realized that this little girl was probably an heir to the Guinness fortune in Ireland, the story could have been made more interesting, but at the time, I was not so corrupt.

As it happened, a writer also came to stay with me (let’s leave his name out, he is still alive), who needed just one evening to seduce my bored young charge. Then, in another flash, both of them were unaccountably gone — leaving me with the task of disposing of several outlandish headpieces.

Some weeks passed, before Natalya turned up in the tabloids. She was now a spread in the Evening Standard, for she had died while taking a heroin overdose in a (grade II listed) Kensington flat. She was news because of her relations, as I was then more systematically informed.

Recommending treason

Undeserved pride is a formidable killer. It begins with the family vendetta, which has particular traditions in every culture we have known, East and West. But sometimes this pride is partially deserved, as when the family member lives and works within the creative family enterprise, contributing his modest part to the achievement of the whole. Taking pride in this, can be reasonable.

Pride in a city, or a town or district, or even the district within a town, can take on something of this contributory pride; if the person who is part of this more abstract “family” is actually contributing. Or at least, not getting in the way.

In nationalism, or what I call chauvinism, we go “full pride,” as we also do in the Church, congratulating ourselves upon being Catholics (or with whatever denomination we are badged). Here, it is unlikely that any individual brings honour to his nation or religion, or can make any other “mystical” ownership claim. You were born into it, or perhaps were assimilated; it existed before you and will exist after.

These things simply are, and at the large scale one cannot build or demolish, except with a regiment of soldiers, and luck. But the credit goes to the revolutionary act, whether of creation or destruction, beyond the power of any single assailant. Yet whether positive or negative, it tends towards evil. For God is, and will be, the author of every holy thing to happen beyond our human compass.

The present almost universal belief in tech scientism denies this inextinguishable fact. We wish to take credit, alone or among some team of scienticists, for making the world better in some way. But we cannot even know what makes the world better, in the long run; or what makes it worse. Such questions are “above our pay grade,” as a certain contemptible president liked to say.

But pride invested in one’s part of “research,” “development,” “technology,” and the rest of the bureaucracy of supposed “science,” is innocent compared to the claims of nationalism. For, national pride demands a war.

This is perhaps best expressed by the missiles flung (by both sides) into Ukrainian neighbourhoods. The recipients must concede the rule of the missile-hurling aggressor of the moment. Should they surrender, they might still be killed, for pride takes enthusiasm in killing. It does not turn itself promptly off.

Of course, the argument for a peaceful nationalism has been made, many times since the world began. I love my country, and can thus appreciate that you love yours; as a passive thing, when presented in stills. We — your nation and mine — are allies at the deepest level, and flourish there. Trade, which is to say voluntary trade within fairly free markets, is how we choose to deal with each other.

Yet, trade, too, is finally captured by the national bureaucracies, who compete for power in a numerical game; and politicians make trade into a semblance of war.

Pride commands the acts of cruelty, leading to torture and murder, that are rhetorically suggested by our national leaders. By the rules of democracy, every voter buys in. The person who will not participate in the mental illness at the surface of public life, is quickly labelled as a “traitor” or “apostate.” For pride is ever looking for traitors.

The beauty of a world in confusion

That the world is in a state of confusion, in any event to the perception of men (a term that still includes women and trans), can almost go without saying. The recent Batflu epidemic came as redundant proof.

“Follow the science,” as we were repeatedly told by those who had embraced the ideology of scientism, as if this would provide a rational or even comprehensive understanding of what was going on. But the Batflu defied every strategy to defeat it, along with every dictatorial proposal for limitation. You could not get it right.

This, to my mind, was the best evidence that the virus was not designed in a Red Chinese laboratory. Had it been so, we could have guessed that its course through the world would not be so whimsically accidental, and both death and survival more predictable within it. Instead, it has acted as spontaneously as a natural virus, and as indifferently to the human will; it is a typical natural disaster.

Note, I do not say it did not come out of the labs at Wuhan. Instead, it was not designed in there. It was designed by the usual principles, powers, and rulers of darkness, that constantly work through humans, animals, and inanimate objects, and would be rendered powerless without them. So long as we occupy this world, they are there.

Nor should we be inspired to reform, by these rulers, since it is not in our power to influence dark spirits. They may do what they wish intentionally to spite us. We have a rather limited ability to merely interact with them, so that, for instance, by stopping them from doing something inconvenient and annoying, they simply switch their attention habitually to another.

The world will always be full of problems, but there is variation in their kind. As one problem is solved, inevitably, several others will be created by the solution, &c. When we are exceedingly clever, we will discover that we have played into the Enemy’s hands.

I am radically opposed to technology (it goes without saying), but also against politics and social reform. These oppressive disciplines have been invented by do-gooders, seeking the perfection of the world. They are, characteristically, in league with devils.

But examined more thoughtfully, the world is already perfect in its kind. Human lives can be made individually more gracious — by contrivance of the specific individuals themselves — but there is no general improvement they can have anything to do with.

Fools: they just formulate problems, that can’t be solved.

The shooter’s guide

There is gun violence in our schools, but it isn’t prompt enough. I gather this from news reports originating in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas; especially from the latter, where the (late) Accused, one Salvador Ramos, age eighteen, had twelve minutes of leisure to shoot randomly outside the school building, without being bothered. He then entered the Robb Elementary School, uncontested; to spend an hour with the children and their teachers — still firing rounds, now into them.

I understand that he murdered 22 in all, including, constructively, himself, for he eventually attracted the attention of another gunman, in the fullness of time. A couple dozen more were maimed or otherwise injured. But the interceding gunman, who had experience with “Border Patrol,” finally blew the Accused away; whereas local officers, who had already congregated outside for more than an hour, were trying to make up their minds, whether to storm the building. While they idled, a number of still-living children, trapped inside, begged to be rescued, on their cellphones.

“Safety is our highest priority,” we often hear in public propaganda. The safety of police officers was the absolute priority in this case.

The best thing to do, when you find a stranger (or even a familiar) shooting children (whether your own, or others’) is to gun him down, promptly. I know this will not look like the most charitable reaction, and that we live in times and places that are governed by shallow appearances. But, in the greater scheme of things, it will usually be the only merciful course. Preparing our citizens to act in emergencies, cultivating the capacity to do so, and the courage to act in defiance of cowardly instinct, is further required.

New laws, administering “gun control,” depend on appearances instead, on a concept like “niceness,” and on the emotionalism and low intelligence in society at large. “Guns cause violence and fewer guns will mean less violence” is reasoning on the moron level.

It is a scandal when such people are allowed to vote.

An open mind on nukes

We have, at present — while less than I would expect — much higgledy-piggledy “concern” about the prospects of a nuclear war. The Russian rape of Ukraine has escalated to conflict with NATO, of the sort which might become formalized in “total war.” This would naturally involve both tactical and strategic (intercontinental) missiles, which — for all the flaws in Russian technology — may work in some instances.

NATO members are accused of risking war by resisting Moscow’s decision to start one. Already the ex-Soviet “weapons of mass destruction” have been put on alert. Our (I am taking sides here) attempts to arm the Ukrainians for self-defence against the Russian invader must inevitably cross various red lines, and satisfy most definitions of aggressive acts. At what point do the goons in the Kremlin lose their patience? Can we even guess when they might snap, and go for Armageddon? But should we be cowardly ninnies instead?

“Tsar Vladimir” Putin’s ego is on the line, and he has already achieved a reputation as an ignominious loser — and will, even with his own people, should he keep stoking his psychotic rage. He faces an enthusiastically sanctioning and censorious West. Russia will be reduced to starvation, though Eastern Slavs are, by reputation, indifferent to this. Putin may discern that nukes are his only way out, and resolve to play the hero, with them. For like most politicians, East and West, Mr Putin is in possession of an inferior mind, which has not matured in the way humans can mature (with effort).

We assume a nuclear war would be a Bad Thing, and I admit there would be many inconveniences, including massive explosions and radiation fallout. For even with Russian oversights — the low standard of their upkeep and repairs — five thousand or so missiles have been pointed at us for a long time. We must expect to lose a few cities. The complete and permanent annihilation of Russia would not really compensate for this.

But perhaps it is just what the West — and more broadly, human civilization — needs. It would, as the leftists used to argue, cure us of our decadence, and there are many advantages an environmentalist might espy. The landscape around Chernobyl is now a more attractive wildlife preserve than it was when cluttered with generators and power lines. “Nuclear winter” may even be the remedy for “global warming.”

True, I might myself be among the victims, but I must not let this errant fact interfere with my objective judgement. On the planetary scale, there would be miscellaneous survivors, and we could anticipate the usual “baby boom,” that accompanies major wars. For the consequences have been much exaggerated by the media’s nervous Nellies, who predict the loss of life will be total. Yet from what we can know, thanks to science, there is doubt it would much exceed 90 percent. Tough, to be sure; but hardly an extinction.

The misery of life

The chief “cause” of the misery in life, is the refusal to face death, with equanimity.

Now, everyone knows that death must be faced, sooner or later; and a surprisingly large minority remain happy, even during their periods of trial and pain. I am not inclined to doubt those people, for I have met several whom I found quite “real.” In other cases, such as, unfortunately, in mine, equanimity in the face of death is a pose, merely.

I worry: that this pose may slip, when it is put to the test. And if (God help me), I should live through the test, my panic and shrieking and hysteria would prove most embarrassing. Better to face death than to have to face that.

Death is fearsome, to some and perhaps to any in a moment of disequilibrium; but it is also exciting. My father, for instance, told me several times, at long intervals, that he looked forward to death. All his “reading” (of books, and being) had confirmed the existence of an afterlife, and he wondered about what went on there. He did not speculate, but heard speculations; he was not religious, but by nature not irreligious either. He was simply open to a new experience, and instinctively welcoming. I have found this quality to be rare.

For papa was a happy man, who never expressed regrets, even in prospect for the apparent loss of his past, that might accompany biological retirement. He was not given to nostalgia, and did not collect things, except as he found them useful. In fact this healthy attitude seems to have flourished in his family, for his brothers and sisters are (or were) also quite cheerful in the face of death. Much in their lives we would generally account as miserable, but it did not touch them.

Papa went to his death benignly smiling, his curiosity about events around him undiminished by dysfunctions of his brain, and whatever drugs the doctors were putting into him during his concluding pneumonia. He had a remarkable mind, but had trained himself to do without anything that was taken away.

Except, he had an explosive temper, and his way of restoring happiness and contentment was to let it erupt. (His contemporaries did not realize that he could not hold a grudge; this is how he launched grudges into interstellar space.)

As he explained: misery is a choice.

National distancing

While, judging from the configuration of his tables and chairs, Vladimir Putin is an adept practitioner of “social distancing,” he seems unable to extend the practice to politics and diplomacy. The catastrophe in Ukraine would, for instance, never have occurred had he ordered his military to keep at least six feet (two metres) away from the Ukrainian border; and also not to project shells and missiles over it.

This last is an important detail. I myself like to keep some social distance from my neighbours — here in Parkdale — but have made it my strict policy never to hurl rocks or other trajectiles at them, or at their pets; even when they tempt me.

National distancing is a concept perhaps as venerable as social distancing, and as useful to public health and longevity. Its modern rules, norms, and standards were established in the two treaties of Westphalia, that concluded the Thirty Years’ War; but instinctively the more civilized peoples understood the principle beforehand.

Where a comprehensible sovereignty exists, it is not for the powers within one nation to interfere with those in another. Instead, they must content themselves with squawking, and expressions of disgust. For, “mind your own business” is a workable rule of thumb for individuals and nations alike.

It is a problem when nations grow large and aggressive: usually by failing to observe the proprieties of national distancing over time. Russia, the successor regime to the Soviet Union, which succeeded the Tsars, and so forth to the Mongols, has been one of the most disagreeable transgressors over the last millennia or more, and little countries have had need to form alliances against it.

My own subscription to the division of that incomparably bloated state into eighty-five constituent ethnic pieces, plus a dozen or so nominally Russian-speaking ones, plus whatever can be melted out of Siberia, I have placed on the record. It strikes me that the former Jewish Autonomous Oblast, somewhere near the Amur River in the wilderness beyond the Chinese province of Heilungkiang, would make an appropriate successor state to the “Rossiyan” federation. Stalin’s administrative creation was a wasteland and Gulag for imprisoning Jews, but he never sent that many, and surely they have all got away by now, leaving space to put Stalinists.

The same principle might work in the United States, which even when it had a Civil War, conducted it on too large a scale. The controversy about the country’s abortion laws could surely benefit from distancing, and if the country were divided into at least fifty fully sovereign states, I daresay the violent rages would smooth over. Let New York continue to be ruled by savages, and California by worse; but let South Dakota promise not to invade them. Let Florida be freed of Disneyland.

Indeed, that was the original scheme of the American Constitution: a (growing) number of quite independent states, gathered in one practical alliance against the meddlesome nations of Europe. Each could have its own laws on, say, abortion.