Essays in Idleness


Lives matter

Your death is only something that happens in the lives of others. This, according to Sherlock Holmes, but I am remembering it over a breach in time. As I recall, it led to an argument against suicide, by way of a neat leap into the supernatural. You “take your life,” but from whom?

My distant memory of this, came recently, when I was told that an old friend had killed himself. He swam out to sea from a beach in Thailand, my informant explained; and kept swimming.

Once upon a time he was a good Catholic boy, indeed lovable and inspiring in both his humility and his courage; reliably honest and conscientious. He left no note. The possibility that my informant got it wrong, I still entertain. That it was suicide, was something he assumed; but so did some coroner.

There are no more events in this Rob’s earthly life, but he continues to be an event in mine. My happy memories are dimmed, even “cancelled”; yet they could be revived. I know of many other puzzling deaths, on which the worst construction is placed — the poet, Randall Jarrell; the philosopher, Jean Daniélou SJ — who died leaving questions. Not all were suicides. Some died by accident, in unedifying circumstances.

The prevailing view, is that death doesn’t matter, except as a misfortune to be avoided. We should remember the happy times for themselves. But if death doesn’t matter, then life doesn’t matter. It is reduced to fragments; like a beetle, crushed. The whole person, when he “ceased to exist,” ceased ever to have existed. He was a biological epiphenomenon. His story was that of a bad novelist.

Whereas, Catholics (for instance) pray for “a good death.” On the concept itself, we are invited to meditate. Unlike those who adopt the prevailing view, we do not long for “closure.” That is a deletion; a suicide of mind. In thinking on this, we revisit a fissure that dates from the Reformation. Catholics continue to pray for the dead. Protestants were taught that this is a vanity: the fate of the dead is out of our hands. Think deeply on this, and light is cast upon the Catholic doctrine of “transubstantiation”; the difference between a little wafer being the body and blood of Christ, or being instead just a symbol.

A reason to believe that Rob — who in his time saved at least one human life, from a beach — never intended to kill himself, is that he understood the Catholic teaching. He came from a fine Catholic home; received a fine education at Notre Dame. He was not a “symbolist.” He had also endured much worse than the bad luck that had been recently afflicting him (involving a betrayal).

But who am I to guess the content of another human soul? Perhaps, he was medically depressed; and if so, he was probably inclined to hide it. Who knows, who knows? Perhaps he never committed the sin of Selbstmord (the candid German term), but was in effect murdered by psychotropic drugs? Perhaps he had “simply” lost his faith: in which case his lost faith also cost him his life. Perhaps it was an unexpected ocean current, that dragged him out of sight. I cannot know the answer, yet can know that the answer is important.

What we can do is pray. In the Catholic view, this makes a difference.

On making noise

Both in Communist China, and here in Canada, the Catholic Church is under tight control by a government that does not understand or like it. While in Canada we do not yet have to read homilies in praise of Justin Trudeau, sing hymns to celebrate his shoe polish, or watch when unheralded contractors come, to demolish our churches and monuments anyway — the Batflu regulations are much the same. Our statues are under unpredictable threat, and we must tolerate spray paint on Our Lady, &c.

But so far, the exponents of our Cultural Revolution are satisfied if we just keep the chapels bolted, and stained glass politely boarded where it could accommodate graffitoes. If we open a church for an hour or two, we promise to be discreet about it; to rope off pews and wear state-mandated batmasks. The regulations were not designed to prevent us from singing the Mass; only from singing anything.

In Quebec, the state pioneers stricter measures, against people who display a religious affiliation in their apparel, but generally the authorities can count on our docility. Our own bishops help to enforce their strictures.

None of the above can count as sarcastic, so long as sarcasm requires hyperbole.

In both cases — the Red Chinese, and that of the People’s Republic of Canada — we are assured that religion may be practised in the privacy of our own silent hearts. If we recognize the powers of our provincial and national overlords, meekly submit to their micromanaging instructions, and pay our taxes obediently on time, it is possible that their SWAT teams will not visit us at all. Individually, the secret Catholic may be left alone.

Okay, now I am beginning to get sarcastic. And, oh dear, I have used the term, “okay,” which according to the latest ukaz from the revolutionary mobs, is now racist — along with many, formerly innocuous, common words and phrases. When dealing with the insane, and psychotic, no term can remain innocuous, for long. Their paranoia is, like the Batflu, contagious. (Perhaps I should be wearing a mask against it.)

There’s some “pushback” (racist?) in the Natted States, according to rumour; but no sign of any here. Even friends advise to be careful what I say, and one who now disavows my acquaintance, recommended that I “just shut up.”

But as there is nothing that a faithful Catholic can say, that will not contradict the demons, I think that we are under a special obligation to speak up.

Malign fiesta

I do not suppose it makes any practical difference what I have to say about a public health problem that invades the lives of billions; nor that readers will take me for a reliable epidemiologist when I say that the worst danger of that Batflu has now passed. (Infection rates spike, but the power of the virus to torture and kill has relented. The death rates continue downward.)

Nevertheless, I think there is some value in stating, even restating, the obvious — when what is obvious is in conflict with sensational reports, and the aggressive distortions of mass media, profiting from panic.

This Batflu became — more than any previous epidemic — a political issue, instantaneously. This is evident in the way it was spread, quite intentionally, by the Communist Party of China. (They shut down everything in Wuhan, except flights to Europe and America.) In all countries with democratic institutions, the disease became the centre of political attention, and unprecedented lockdowns were ordered. Likewise, unprecedented schemes of surveillance have significantly changed the relation between governments and governed, entirely for the worse. By means of current technology, the former will be able to perpetuate these changes, leaving those who wish to recover old liberties nowhere to hide.

Moreover, this is done with public support. “The peeple” are easy to manipulate, once they have been frightened. The great majority of men, now and through the past, never cared about freedom. It has always been a minority concern, “for the intellectuals.” The “silent majority” will take their freedom, but only after their comfort and safety have been assured. The right to choose among consumer products is enough for them.

There are revolutions, such as the “cultural revolution” that is now being attempted by the Left, but these never last. Either they are extinguished, under the wet blanket of public apathy, where law and order are able to prevail, or the revolutionists succeed in installing a truly monstrous regime. Only thus, can they prolong their evil. Two generations of the Left-indoctrinated — half-educated university grads and students — favour a doctrinal dictatorship. Their powers grow as they age. Those still young are full of malign energy.

The riots that have been engendered in cities around the world, are a natural consequence of the lockdowns. The anger and suffering directly caused by them, even more than by the Batflu, have been exploited, almost brilliantly, by the force now organized by the platitude, “Black Lives Matter.” This was the “sales pitch” that animated huge numbers of coddled children to revolt, in the globe’s least racist societies — including those who haven’t even demonstrated, yet. They are prepared to believe things that are ridiculous, and they demand radical action on a massive scale.

None of this has anything to do with “Trump,” or any other demonized politician “of the right,” with dreams of restoring the status quo ante. By an agreement among the media and progressive elites, any appeal to “mom and apple pie” is now condemned as dark, very dark. Such appeals are only heard in the boondocks, by the hicks who do the “essential labour,” while being actively disenfranchised, by the fundamentally inessential who “work from home.”

Our whole world is now demographically urban. Not small cities, limited by their finite hinterlands, as of old, but vast inescapable world-trading conurbations. Those dwelling within are artificially isolated from the facts of nature, and from the fact of nature’s God. They become confused even about their own comfort and safety, and eagerly appease disruptive agents. The politicians use their tax money to buy radicals off.

I do not think any of these background conditions will change, short of disaster. And I do not think disaster is something to hope for. Rather, the very scale of our “problem” is, paradoxically, the best reason to hope — that we might retrieve such truth and justice as this world can afford.

For in the last analysis, we can turn to God. Our “problem” is very clearly “in his court,” and the God that we have worshipped through the centuries is not complacent. As Christians know, He showed this by His judicially murdered Son. Our light still shines in His Resurrection.

The rockin’ chronicles

Perhaps there is a “culture clash,” between the hippies and me. I am thinking of Mr Neil Young at the moment, but he could stand in for the rest. Mr Donald Trump used his song, “Keep on rockin’ in the free world,” at his (Mr Trump’s) patriotic rally last night, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The commies were slashing the tires of trucks on the road leading in, to prevent the audience from getting to the show by Mount Rushmore; but from what I could see, enough made it through. They also couldn’t stop the jets flying over. It was “summer of love” in suits, with firecrackers. (Many waited in their seats for hours, while the temperature topped out at 125 degrees of F.) … Mr Young wasn’t there.

But look what they did to his song. They played it. And not for the first time at a Trump rally. You see, the campaign paid for the privilege. Mr Young was happy to take the money, through his agents. Now he is Twittering his Rage that the Trumpistas actually used what they paid for.

Mr Young is a Canadian citizen, incidentally; and also a Natted States citizen, since January, when the authorities there finally agreed to overlook his drug offences. He does like to have things both ways. He even sounds like a girl. But Mr Trump loves him, even if they are differently politicked, according to a response from the other side. Do we care? Of course not.

I wish they could choose some other music at these Trumpfests. Something more Baroque. Handel would be nice. Or some Samuel Barber, and some N’Orlins jazz. At seventy-four, I don’t think Mr Young is old enough.

But meanwhile, I favour good old-fashioned contractual law. (I wish it applied to everything it used to, such as marriage, for instance.) I’m gung-ho for property rights. I’d even grant them to millionaires.

The hippies only understand money, unfortunately. They’re not up to principles. Things like, “One nation under God,” tend to go over their heads. Or even, “God bless America.”

Greetings to my Natted States readers, by the way, on this Fourth of July. And thanks — for housing Mr Young in Los Angeles these last fifty-something years. (There seem to be a lot of Canadian hippies in that town.) Though if I were you, I would have kept him moving on to Mexico.

Cue, the “Adagio for strings.”

Blue skies

It depends what you mean by an “activist,” gentle reader. I would hope that all Catholics (and uncatholic Christians, too) were activists, as each was called to be, in the Sacrament of Baptism. Each was fortified for his fight — it can be quite a rumble — against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. It would be a sad, distressing thing were any declared Christian to become instead a wuss, and desert us. He should see the battle through. For like old age, being a Christian is not for cissies.

Yet I am reliably informed that many are under-instructed, and even among those of adequate education, there are some hard cases — of Christians who have, apparently, given up on the holy cause. If not to say, betrayed it.

There are other kinds of activists, too, as I might read in the papers, were there any plausible papers left to read. They are militant supporters of the other side, and very fiends, in my view. Let me exempt some members of the Monarchist League, and others I find usually harmless. (I don’t think the Monarchist League has been taken over by the commies yet.) But an activist who imagines that any other cause could be, while nice enough in itself, unsubsidiary to The Faith, would be an unreliable ally.

That all “allies” are unreliable, is a point worth pointing on the fly. A friend is a friend, and will prove it to you, with his life should it come to that.

Having allies is just a tactical matter. They come and go. They will consult their own passing interests, and remain by your side only for as long as those interests coincide with yours. Don’t count on them. I’ve known men actually to marry their allies! (Big mistake.) Or form other partnerships.

Being a stiff, grizzled, unimaginative northerner, I am almost allergic to people who address me as, “My friend.” Perhaps had I spent more time in the Mediterranean I’d be more tolerant of this. But I found it too deep and salty, and too many of the fish had venomous spines.

It is almost amusing, but not quite, to see men treat allies as if they were friends, right up to the moment when they abandon each other. Believe me, I speak from personal experience. There is plenty to be had, for the World is like that.

Which leaves us with the Flesh, and the Devil. Neither are friends.

How to defeat leftists

The opinions expressed in these Idleposts may be freely disputed, as they are freely expressed; I will even change them if I come to think they’re wrong. The threats I sometimes receive — as anyone not a leftist thug is now receiving — are and should be casually ignored. Or, “honey-badgered” when they are repeated. My papa taught me to “stand my ground,” and I hope gentle reader will not call me a Lutheran when “here I stand” is my theatrical response.

At the moment the people I would characterize as “leftist filth” (or sometimes, “Gadarene swine”) are in the full bluster of intimidation, and those they confront are in cowardly retreat. Whether from the Left, or arguably from the Right (a label assigned to socialists long-since defeated), political ideologues and fanatics are “progressing,” along with their criminal friends. They now feel no further need to argue. Rather they wish to legislate, from the streets.

They were fuelled, from the beginning, by the Big Lie. It is buttressed in a cloud of lesser lies. It comes as no surprise to me, that almost every leftward cause célèbre turns out to be a hoax. George Orwell gave as good an account of this, as any soi-disant “conservative.” At his best, he was not criticizing specific acts of communist subversion, but a habit of mind, common to the ungodly.

What is this Big Lie? To my mind, it is the godlessness itself. It is the denial of God, and by extension therefore, of all the truths that follow from this acknowledgement. The “reasoning” of atheism is, by necessity, a series of negations. Eventually, everything must be deleted, to what can only be a nihilistic end. The “progress” is inevitably from the caterwaul of lies, to the general censorship, and physical silencing, of all who might resist. It ends in the self-destruction even of the nihilist State, after the innumerable casualties it has caused. Only then does the bloodletting cease.

The “cancel culture” of our current Left reveals a transition. It now overlooks every constructive proposal it once entertained, in passing. Its new singular demand is to shut up all the voices — even those that might be expressed by statues; and including any of its own that it now finds too mild. Its slogans alone may be tolerated, under ruthless supervision. It seeks power for the sake of power: it demands that the subjected fall on their knees.

My suggested response to its enfeebled victims would be, to “grow some.” Rather than attempt compromise with the latest demand, we should reverse it sharply. For each outrage with which we are presented, let us withdraw some concession granted in the past. At best, perhaps, this could be a frank policy, although I see some merit in letting it gradually sink in.

Roll back the history of “progressive reform,” patiently and thoroughly, until the Left is pleading for the status quo.

He shall have Dominion

It is our national day once again, up here in the Great White North, unless it has been rebranded. In the past I might have added, “it cannot be avoided,” but this year there is something new. We may start by thanking the Red Chinese Xi Jinpeng CCP Batflu (also known as the Wuhan Kung Flu). But then we must nod to the Americans, whose lockdowns and riots we mindlessly copied. This includes the current trend to national self-abasement. We are told to express our shame for every misdeed of a Canadian in the past; especially those of which we were naturally proud. And we are shown examples of how to piss on our flag. The media have all joined in, or rather they lead the infernal, racialist din. We’re damned if we’ll let the Yankees out white-guilt us, and had we more energy we’d pull all our statues down.

For fifty-something years I have declared that the new Canadian flag is not the embarrassment so many took it for, but a superior example of Liberal Party ad-agency graphics from the ‘sixties. Dated it may be, but perhaps this will be the first year I wave it around. On second thought, stick to the Red Ensign.

As I have also long observed, Canadians as a class are very, very stupid, and while those who vote Liberal may be beyond hope, the retardation isn’t limited to them. The same could be said for all the other Western democracies, though I take no satisfaction from it, because I am not a relativist. By now, there is little left to celebrate (which does not stop the punks with fireworks), and what there is happened only in the past.

It isn’t even called Dominion Day, any more, except, I do things voluntarily. I propose that others act voluntarily, too, to commemorate that Canada which used to be strong and free. Let us revive the term. And let it stand, once more, for what it once did:

Et dominatibur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae.

Canada was incidentally a Christian country — unashamedly — whose loyalty extended beyond our earthly monarch to God most high. Those who are Christian, along with those at peace with them, are in their dignity entitled to retain this heritage. Those who aren’t, can only covet it. The country seems to be populated by pagan savages today, but the land remains in the warmth of hindsight.


APPENDED, from Edward William Thomson (Old Man Savarin Stories, 1917):

When the croon of a rapid is heard on the breeze
With the scent of a pine-forest gloom,
Or the edge of the sky is of steeple-top trees,
Set in hazes of blueberry bloom,
Or a song-sparrow sudden from quietness trills
His delicate anthem to me,
Then my heart hurries home to the Ottawa hills,
Wherever I happen to be.

When the veils of a shining lake vista unfold,
Or the mist towers dim from a fall,
Or a woodland is blazing in crimson and gold,
Or a snow-shroud is covering all,
Or there’s honking of geese in the darkening sky
When the spring sets hepatica free,
Then my heart’s winging north as they never can fly,
Wherever I happen to be.

When the swallows slant curves of bewildering joy
As the cool of the twilight descends,
And rosy-cheek maiden and hazel-hue boy
Listen grave while the Angelus ends
In a tremulous flow from the bell of a shrine,
Then a faraway mountain I see,
And my soul is in Canada’s evening shine,
Wherever my body may be.

Thomas Sowell at four score & ten

A happy birthday to Thomas Sowell, who completes his ninetieth year. For about half that time I have been reading him, and much of my own good sense — the soundness of my reasoning in matters social and economic — can be attributed to him. Still, he has written more than I have read, as it were. His three dozen books are a small part of a volume of work that has touched current events through the years, but only as points of departure towards how things work, and why. Beyond journalism, his academic researches — in many prestigious institutions, going back to when their prestige was deserved — have been outstanding. His calm and gently humorous temperament makes him to this day a voice of sanity in public places. He has graced the world by his humility and honesty; by the good faith that has become so rare.

His “backstory” can inspire persons of any race or class. Born into rural poverty in Carolina backwoods, and raised by an aunt with two grown daughters, his luck was to be taken to Harlem during the northward black migration of the Depression years. Abnormally smart, he won a scholarship to an elite high school, but had to quit when the money ran out. From delivery boy, he found his way to a machine shop; athletic, he tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Drafted to be a grunt, he made the Natted States Marines, who noticed his gift for photography during the Korean War.

By his gift for using libraries he then shone his way to Harvard, graduating magnum cum laude; then to a masters at Columbia and a doctorate at Chicago — where he came in contact with some of the world’s finest economic minds, including that of Milton Friedman. His youthful Marxism was tolerated there, and helped him into the labour department at Washington, DC. There he discovered for himself that the minimum-wage bureaucracy seriously impeded the interests of the poor. Too, that progressive bureaucrats did not care what their policies did to poor people, only for their own comfortable positions. His socialism was cured.

The autobiography (A  Personal Odyssey), written when he was still a young man of seventy, will fill in all the rest. I read it craving information on his religious outlook, finding not for the first time a wonderful soul, who seems to lack a religious sensibility — though plainly he was driven by old-fashioned Christian traits. (Praise be to God.)

Today, the man is a senior fellow in the Hoover, at Stanford. He has nominally retired as pundit, but remains a font of creative energy. His recent books on Intellectuals and Race, and drawn from his fascinating delve into Late-Talking Children, prove him mind alive. Each can blow away the tired clichés of our stultifying ignorance.

Sowell’s views, through the years, have stood in bold, direct contradiction to those clichés; they are built on a foundation of demonstrated fact. He reminds, systematically, that our social catastrophes depend upon the “progressive” vanities by which we have been suckered. In his person, Sowell reminds how much can be achieved when a man focuses upon his craft and calling, rather than on worldly “success.” This came to him as a bonus.

He has not stooped or deviated into the sleaze that is required for electoral politics. There has been no peacock display of pretended virtues. He is the genuine article.

The triumph of Dullness

A platitude, widely circulated in my youth, held that “ideas have consequences.” It is true, after a fashion. It is especially true of stupid ideas. Already, half a century ago, in the universities I was determined to avoid (except their libraries, and interesting professors), it seemed to me that “Dullness” reigned. This is the goddess who presides over The Dunciad, of Alexander Pope. According to my diagnosis at the time, the intellectual life of Canada, at least, was governed by malice, borne of mediocrity, or worse — conveyed in a (sickeningly sweet) syrup medium of affected niceness. But was this ever not so?

Looking back, I see how I overestimated my own intelligence, and underestimated my arrogance. For I was, like many others, a wilful child; just other-willed from most. Nonetheless, I was aware that a generation of American draft dodgers were infiltrating our schools, and linking up with our native “commies,” who likewise had no taste for learning. Rather their ideal of education was agitprop: not the thing itself, but protesting the thing.

At an early age (sixteen) I resolved to quit high school, leave the country, and see the world. Foolishly, I migrated into journalism, especially in Asia where the alternatives were teaching English at the lowest possible level, or selling my blood. In retrospect, I could have done better, had my ambitions themselves been better disciplined by an apprenticeship of some kind, or had I been taught a few elementary things against my will.

Soon, I was discovering that Canada was no special case; and that an Age of Lead was advancing, such as Pope describes — from the east over a darkening Western World. It was the genius of Pope (a wilful Catholic) to associate this encroaching “oriental tyranny” not with any perverse eastern religion, but with the proud Enlightenment we were gathering for ourselves. It was his particular insight that this Dullness, and the Chaos it engendered, was not inspired by malice, but instead by a strange, fatalistic glibness. We were losing our (Christian civilizational) capacity for shame. Skipping several centuries forward, we might observe that we have lost it.

In a generation before Edmund Burke’s, the conservative instinct of resistance to catastrophic Whiggery was being articulated by Queen Anne Tories. But this is an aside.

We have lost not so much belief in God, as an informed belief; or if my gentle reader will, the awe or even the fear of God, which had once prevented some of our excesses, but also quickened us in mind and spirit. This faith a-draining, we became by increments more cocky in our dullness.

Ideas have consequences, it is said, and the current riots, lootings, shootings and so forth, are the consequence of the rot that has been taught, to the children in our schools and universities; touched off by restlessness from the Batflu lockdowns. That an idea as criminally obtuse as “defund the police” could be entertained, tells us much; but beyond this we might look through other demands of that most recent ideological movement, Black Lives Matter (with sixty affiliated organizations). For instance, we are instructed to disrupt the “white” nuclear family structure; to decarcerate prison convicts; to apply laws according to skin colour, &c.

That every proposition of this “BLM” will, and will obviously, worsen the plight of any disadvantaged “blacks and browns,” is among topics now forbidden. Unthinking, ruthless mobs will “cancel” the discussion, often violently. Yet the chaos they engender is not the intention — of any but the hardest, psychopathic Dullards.

The Chaos follows from the Dullness, rather than vice versa. The ancient Oriental Tyranny then follows from that.

Enforcing whiteness

“Bye, bye, Eskimo Pie,” declares a blog headline that I earnestly wish I had got to, first. One year short of its centenary, this popular ice cream product must be removed from the supermarkets, as part of the insane racist campaign to remove all reference to minorities from their shelves. First they came for Aunt Jemima (an American black woman who rose from slave to millionaire), and now they are coming for the rest. The scheme of the race baiters, of course, spreads much wider than to commercial brand names. As Donald Trump predicted, they are now even toppling the statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; and naturally, those of Abraham Lincoln, “who freed the slaves.”

That the “social justice warriors” are doing exactly what the Ku Klux Klan did, right down to lynching black people who don’t know their place on the Democrat plantation, is a proof that the world does not necessarily change for the better. Once upon a time the men in white bedsheets (American version) were only after Catholics; then they went after the coloured people; today, their targets apparently include the innocent denizens of Canada’s far north; and according to polls, half the voters in Natted States Merica support them.

Finally, my gentle Yankee readers will understand why my Loyalist ancestors fled to Canada. They had property down there, but it was getting too crazy.

General Washington was an admirable man, in many respects; a great believer in British freedom. (“Which to the open sea / Of the world’s praise from dark antiquity / Hath flowed, ‘with pomp of waters, unwithstood’.”) Everyone has flaws, though everyone has excuses, if you read your history books long enough. Some of these excuses are not very good, but history’s like that. If we are to concede to the Democrat Party belief that people can be property — especially black people; voting fodder, if they cannot be aborted — some incidents of history don’t look so bad. Only a sane person would be repelled.

(Oddly, when I first heard the name “Black Lives Matter,” I thought it must be a pro-life group.)

When the Royal Navy was collecting refugees from New York, back there in 1783, the dispossessed included many thousand slaves, who had won their freedom by fighting in the British colonial ranks. They were to be carried off to freedom in other colonies.

Sir Guy Carleton (1st Baron Dorchester) was negotiating with this Washington gentleman over who would be allowed to leave. To the credit of the latter, he didn’t butcher everyone, as he was then nearly in a position to do. But he did throw a hissy fit on Carleton. This was because a number of Washington’s personal slaves were among the runaways who had, by then, retreated to New York. They were his personal property, and dammit, he wanted them back. (Carleton told him that he could do something with himself: these blacks were unalienated British subjects.)

If I were the prime minister of Canada, instead of Pierre Trudeau’s pathetic child, I would be reminding my fellow Canadians now, in my characteristically mischievous manner, of some historical reasons to gloat. We have, it is true, committed a few of our own enormities; but the good thing about being the smaller country, is that they were on a smaller scale. I’d be introducing a Bill in Parliament right away, defending the honour of our most northern peoples, and if it passed, handing out Eskimo Pies.


LYING DOGGO. I have decided to get off this Internet thingy for a week or so. While I am a Reactionary in my preferred sense, I am at risk of becoming a reactionary in another: a person who merely reacts to the news headlines. This is all very well, to fill space sometimes, but if one doesn’t watch oneself, one will degenerate into a pundit. (Been there; done that.) Whereas, I aspire to be something more effete. These Essays in Idleness will resume, however, by Dominion Day I should think, always provided that I am still alive. … Parting thought from B-16: “The truth always has a future.”

A note on sternutation

Should some sort of post-mortem ever be conducted on the catastrophic failure of all computer models, it will be done with the help of a computer model, that will cost billions in whatever currency to assemble. It will show the need for more computer studies. And therefore, it will be catastrophically wrong.

But note: for 100 dollars or negotiable, I will produce a minority report that will explain everything, infallibly. I will not preview the report in this Idlepost, however, because it might be worth money to me.

Aw, heck. Since I am rich beyond the dreams of avarice, let me just go ahead and blow all the beans. Let me recklessly tell gentle reader why computer models are always mistaken.

It is because their makers decide the result, before they design the model.

This does not mean they are self-interested phanatics, consciously preying on the gullibility of a drooling, ignorant public; although usually it does. For even if, by disposition, they are lofty, objective types, they will need, objectively, a lofty budget to perform a “credible” study. This means they must beg huge sums of money, and this will only be available from a source with an unhealthy interest in the result.

You see, the problem has nothing to do with computers. Even among humans, the phenomenon of “garbage in, garbage out” is well attested. The intention of following the evidence where it leads, is transient. I should think only a saint could sustain it, for longer than he could hold his breath under water.

By the way, I have “seen” a computer model that incorporates all facts about Roman Palestine, in order to predict the resurrection of Jesus. I put the word “seen” in goof quotes, because, in fact, I “saw” it in the dream, from which I woke this morning. Many of my dreams are satirical; this one would take a cupcake, at least. I was turning page after page of print-out, from computer-generated numbers. Many of my satirical dreams are nightmares.

“Scientists” tell us, that in order to arrive at a secure result, we must know everything that will, or even might, contribute to it. Only then can we predict with confidence.

But supposing, for the sake of having an argument, that everything could be known, about anything, the prediction will still be wrong. That is because, “everything being equal,” everything won’t be equal. Statisticians have gone some way to proving, repeatedly, that there will be disparities between any two groups, no matter how identical they are. What they call “randomness” will sneak into some tiny movement, and tamper with everything that succeeds it, growing until the result is overawed. (Actually, it is worse than they think, but I am trying to keep this simple.)

The “butterfly sneeze” principle attempts to account for this. A butterfly sneezes in north-western Uganda, and there goes the history of the world. One thing leads to another. “For want of a nail, … the kingdom was lost,” according to a pre-scientific proverb I learnt as a child.

But here I am temporarily with the Hegelians. Butterfly sneezes do not determine the history of the world, or even the weather in Brazil. I can know this even without knowing how butterflies sneeze (presumably through their spiracles). For complex events are necessarily too complicated for human comprehension — given the time remaining in the universe. We cannot even know what we mean by “determined.”

A sneeze may however change the course of a computer model. That is why the modeller must insert however many sneezes it takes, until he gets the result he was paid for.


SEE ALSO, my Thing column for today (here). It also reflects on public statuary.

Answering to a “need”

The Batflu virus isn’t much use to society, according to unspoken consensus. In pragmatic terms, it doesn’t do anything productive. Rather it prevents us from doing things; such as breathing, in extreme cases. But then I don’t think Pragmatism has much use, either. It isn’t good at accounting for paradox, whereas, the use of things is often paradoxical. A contagion might kill off what “needed killin’,” in that fine old Texas phrase. One thinks of the tourist industry, for example. Yet having only very partial views, we may not know what most needs killin’, and often we jump to unfortunate conclusions.

A parallel case may be found in the “civil” services, regulating authorities, non-profits, &c. Jobs in these areas, which command high salaries and pensions, and present delicious opportunities for graft, are outwardly the opposite of productive. They parasitically consume, on a colossal scale,  the resources of the productive.

Look into almost any kind of “charitable” activity, such as social work, and one will find that only a tiny proportion of the cash “trickles down” to the characteristically desperate “clients.” And when it does, they use it to buy not only drugs and licker, but truly useless things, such as lottery tickets.

“Education” systems, in the modern West, exist chiefly to enrich semi-literate, unionized schoolteachers. In many parts of Ontario, for instance, a teacher will make at least double what the average parents make, and therefore feel justified in sneering. The teachers naturally consider that the little ones belong to them, for they are the necessary source of their income. What rights should parents have to interfere in their upbringing?

My best argument for the parasite class (always granting that some may be sincere), is that they protect society from gathering excessive wealth, or living lives of too much ease. Without them, we might easily suffer from the vices associated with too much freedom.

How I preferred the deadbeat, layabout, very English London of the Labour Party, when I lived there in the ‘seventies — to the cosmopolitan, rich, over-swept London of the Thatcher years. There are some advantages to socialism.

And there are other arguments, too, for putting depraved Leftists in power, though on examination they reveal special pleading. For instance, teachers may claim to offer child-minding services, so that mothers, especially, can go to work. But it is because heavy taxation requires the dual income, or women to do horrible and demeaning paid work when their husbands run away, that these services were ever made necessary.

The government does, arguably, “create” employment. Among the most farcical examples are the tax lawyers and consultants. Taxpayers need these to navigate incredibly elaborate tax codes, for their own protection. Only a professional can find the loopholes. Whereas, a comprehensible, flat tax system would put all these “experts” out of business. It would shrink revenue departments spectacularly, and by extension, threaten to shrink taxes. To a professional politician, this would never do. It would shrink his power.

I have come to think of the Batflu lockdowns, and the race riots, as two heads upon a single revolutionary beast, the object of whom is to gain state power. The lockdowns were and are based on fraudulent, scientistic claims; they are by now too obviously a power trip by increasingly demented control freaks, not only at the governor level, but throughout the bureaucracies. Wild efforts must be made to sustain them. Somehow they must, with the help of the media trolls, keep the general public scared — lest they think for themselves, and become disobedient. But the panic of governments is overdone. So long as “the peeple” are still wearing masks, their message is working.

Meanwhile, the majority of those who populate the Black-Lives-Matter “peaceful demonstrations” (i.e. race riots with looting, arson, and gunplay), are young and lily white. They, and their political patrons, can hardly be demonstrating for the black people, whose economic and social interests are being intentionally hurt. The young, and radicalized in our universities, look forward to paying off their crippling student debts with careers in a much expanded nomenklatura, that will enforce the rioters’ demands. For the moment all they have to do is terrorize and demoralize an electorate that stands in their way — and hope that their riots don’t backfire.

Think of all the jobs to be created, simply for censoring the comments in rightwing blogs.

To hell with liberals & conservatives

At different angles, from Tocqueville to Schumpeter to a thousand reporters on the ground, it has been observed that liberalism defeats itself. I mean by this real liberalism, not the poison candy version that is offered to children by our academic Left. The real thing celebrates liberty as the central political good; and equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of result. It frees up economies and societies, by cancelling hidebound rules and regulations.

When much younger and under the influence of my father and his war-veteran generation (his was World War II), I considered myself a “liberal,” for views that activist mobs would now consider to be “conservative,” or as they label them, “fascist,” “racist,” “white supremacist,” and with other smears, both filthy and consistently vicious.

Opposition to totalitarianism was a key to that elder generation. They weren’t shy about using arms. A true liberal was an enthusiast for the War in Vietnam, and other global initiatives. Liberals were “open society” in an explicitly anti-communist, 1950s way. They loved “civil rights,” and opposed the Nanny State, although incoherently. They wished to accommodate the women’s movement. Their instinctive suspicion of social programmes, and revulsion for “ideology,” were slipping away; or had already slipped, to a longer historical view.

To be tediously economic, they were intoxicated by the view that, “now we are rich we can afford to have some fun.” They had long been bored with the absolute moral judgements that their ancestors (to whom neither divorce nor contraception were thinkable) took for granted — based on a Protestant Christianity that had been abandoned by sophisticated intellectuals a century before. “Church versus State” was no longer an issue, and because it wasn’t, morality became a statist “construct,” even without action from the Marxists.

When Ross Douthat writes a book on “decadence,” he is treating it as a temporal trend: something that comes and goes through the decades. His arguments are themselves decadent: something for the chattering classes to play, in the spirit of badminton. It is a topic for upmarket wit; no horror lurks beneath it. The old Gibbonesque “decline and fall” narrative has evaporated with classical culture, and been replaced by a dry happyface from which the wrinkles of serious history are botoxed. The “whig view of history” survives, but only by cliché.

(In private life, Douthat is a timid but not nominal Catholic.)

What isn’t defended, is soon killed off, in nature but also in metaphysics. Leftism flourishes today, not because it has won any argument, but by eating everything on the liberal side. Even the word, “liberal,” went down with a soft burp. It now represents the denial, or reversal, of everything that liberals once stood for. Gentle reader may prove this to himself, by reading old magazines.

Today, conservatism is disappearing, too, into the belly of the beast. It has been reduced to a few defunct liberal principles, such as “freedom of religion” (whatever that means). The conservative defends the last round of revolution against the next round, in a mush of moderations. He draws the line, at a moderate death wish. It is why I came to call myself not a conservative but a Tory, and now call myself a Reactionary to be clearer. We do not, as it were, “stand athwart history, yelling Stop,” but are the knights who say, “Backwards!”

And not to any particular point in time, such as the American Constitution or Magna Carta, but to the “originalist” salvific, Christological manifesto, in all its love and defiance. It is an absolutist, cosmological conception, of a relation between God and man, unrevised and unrepented. Evil must be opposed because it is evil, good must be advanced because it is good, and the wise can know the difference. There can be no glib, superficial “progress”; only a way to Heaven, and a way to Hell. “We walk to heaven backwards.” (Newman.)

Is this position unpopular at the moment?

Who effing cares?