Essays in Idleness


Holy Saturday

“Security questions” were the reason so many Christian students were massacred in Kenya this week. This analysis dominates the headlines, as I write, of the BBC, CNN, and so forth.  Owing to “security questions,” Christian students were separated from Muslim students at the Garissa university campus (many of the former identified because they were praying). By some strange and unaccountable coincidence, only the former were slaughtered. But wait, but wait, there were Muslim victims, too! At least four of them: wearing suicide vests, who blew themselves up at the end.

All the dead died because of these “security questions,” which are raised by liberal journalists to deflect attention from the Muslim killers to the Kenyan government. In extenuation, it must be remembered that the typical liberal journalist is also, thanks partly to environmental influences beyond his immediate control, a malicious idiot. He has no clear idea what he is doing. In this case he probably thinks he is promoting multicultural harmony. He is not: Western Christians know perfectly well who is killing whom around the “bloody borders” of the Dar al-Islam, but do not habitually retaliate against harmless and defenceless Muslims in the West.

The truth is that the “liberal” mind (I am using the term in its current sense; or if gentle reader prefers, “progressive” means the same thing) spontaneously identifies more with the perpetrator than the victim, and thus devotes most of its cruelly limited wattage, like the criminal himself, to finding someone innocent or uninvolved to blame.

Of course the Kenyan security agencies are “incompetent.” So are all security agencies, by the standard of Omniscience. They had not yet increased the number of armed guards on that particular university campus, even though they had received intelligence (mostly in the form of threats) that there would be more attacks on Christians in Kenya. As intelligence of this nature is received constantly, today, and the attacks also continue, one may pretend that the security agencies are always to blame. Constant repetition of this vicious lie has conditioned much of the public to react in that way: to blame, without thinking, anyone but the perpetrator.

The secondary level, in the media analysis — that this hit was “payback” for Kenyan government attacks on Muslim terrorists in Somalia — notably cancels the first. For the Kenyan “security questions” are indeed doing what they can. They are tracing their problem of Muslim terrorism to its root cause, which is Muslim terrorists — in this case coming mostly from Somalia.

Godspeed to them in their task, which requires courage from the least of them, along with skill in the use of firearms.

Then we get to the third and most abstract level of this analysis, which takes us out of the direct news reporting, to the cloud cuckooland of liberal pundits and White House flacks. “Poverty and unemployment” accounts for this terrorism. This is fatuous to an extreme that beggars comprehension. It is opposite to the truth at so many points that I’m tempted to write an Idlepost simply listing them. Suffice to say, terrorists seldom come from impoverished families, and even if they did this would not explain why the impoverished, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, so seldom become terrorists. Or, why the ones who do are almost always Muslim.

I find this “media selectivity” — which is to say, constant semi-conscious lying and misrepresentation — almost annoying. Honest reporting in this case would shine light on al-Shabaab, and the explicitly Muslim ideology which accounts entirely for their choice of targets. But I’ve been a journalist myself, and have many years of aggregate experience in newsrooms, and I have observed the root cause of this problem. It is the liberal ideology, or in a word, liberals. They long for destruction of what remains of Western civilization in the same way al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda long for it, but being pant-wetted cowards they restrict their activity to what is within current law. Notwithstanding, at a deeper level, they share with the murderous an allegiance to the “culture of death,” and peristent opposition to the “culture of life.”

The liberal mind naturally identifies with the criminal. This is why, for liberals, freedom of speech and press means licence for pornographers, and human rights reduce invariably to permission for “the transgressive” against civilized norms. They instinctively identify with Muslim fanatics because they share a common enemy: Christians. But when the terrorists do things so utterly repulsive that even they are appalled, they do not attack the motivating Muslim ideology, or a Shariah which is simply a rotation of their own political correctness, but instead “religious fundamentalism” — intending to tar all faithful Christians with the same stinking brush.

We are not dealing here with “another point of view.” We are dealing instead with the satanic. It takes many forms, but when “Allah” is deemed to have commanded massacres of the harmless and defenceless, it may be seen that devil-worship is directly in play. For the poisonously befogged liberal mind, demonic service is less conscious. The liberal is not so much the Devil’s worshipper, as the Devil’s plaything. But this may be rationally demonstrated, by the consistency of his support for the more evil of any two rival causes — for whichever side promises the greater reduction of human life, up to the stage where it becomes so visibly icky that natural mechanisms are triggered, and he throws up.

Jesus was not a conservative, incidentally. He was, and He remains, very purposefully, off the political chart. The true opposite of liberalism is not conservatism, but instead the apolitical — the taking personal responsibility instead of assigning it to others. The trap of liberalism is that only through politics can the political agenda be fought.

And as for Jesus: He is dead at this liturgical moment, the Nietzschean position in the Christian calendar, when one might even say that, “God is dead.” This gives us a chance to consider what is implicit in that proposition. We are in mourning for a Christ who has been judicially murdered. But, too, for a Christ who caught even His own Apostles by surprise, as we will recollect tonight.

If liberals did not love death, they would not so consistently encourage it.

If God did not hate death, He would not have defeated it.

Remember that, and remember that the latest Christian martyrs in Kenya are not dead, despite the terrorists’ best efforts. Like the good thief, they will rise with Our Lord.

Good Friday

Looking through old files, for anything I ever wrote on the subject of Good Friday that might still have some value, however slight, I discovered nothing. Or rather, I discovered there is nothing I can say, worthy of Good Friday.

Here is something to add.

A neighbour, in his late eighties, coming to pieces in an almost literal sense from dysfunctional body parts, has been for the last decade or more cared for by his young wife. She, a spring chicken of seventy-five, has been through all this time in the pink of health. Jutta, let us call her, even Jutta Krueger: a discreetly ebullient woman, with humour to carry her nearly through any disaster, and patience for when the humour runs out, seeing her beloved husband through countless medical emergencies. How many times she had expected to lose him! But by some miracle of will, or grace, often unassisted by modern medicine, he kept coming home again, the odds beaten, and only a little the worse for wear. And his wife still — well, not smiling, for she a Berliner and her humour too dry for that. It is instead in the eyes.

I have seen pictures of those Berliners from the War. They were a bit like Londoners. Their houses would be bombed out — whether by the Luftwaffe, or by the RAF, the result was the same — and next morning they’d be tidying it up. Making a little “brick garden” out of the rubble. Tiles stacked here, beams stacked there, charred miscellaneous fragments organized. “The walls do not fall,” but they do shrink lower when the roofs cave in; at least make it neat. Jutta had a mother who could tell you the stories: but wouldn’t because she didn’t want to talk about it. Jutta herself remembered how things were, from when she was five. Das Leben geht weiter, I think they say. “Life goes on.”

And there is work to do. Jutta, taking care of her husband, keeping things neat, in a world that can become untidy — entropy, I think they call it — tending that brick garden of old age. The walls do not fall: but they provide nice borders.

And now, Jutta has dropped dead from a brain aneurysm. … No warning, just like that.

What can one say besides, “These things happen.” Or, “Lord have mercy.” Or as her husband must be thinking: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?

Maundy Thursday

My relationship with watercolour goes back to early childhood. My papa wanted to be a painter, but had to give it up for war, family, and other common distractions. Once he had a boy of his own, however, out came the paints. I was a Winsor & Newton baby, and until the age of nine or ten — given the sort of people my parents naturally hung out with — was under the impression everyone was an artist. I considered myself a great authority on the drawing and colouring of trees. My little sister focused on portraiture: men in suits, from the waist up, almost entirely in the medium of ballpoint.

The end came — “reality” if you will — when I was parachuted briefly into a Canadian public school, from my earlier life in Asia (and before returning to Asia again). Canadian school came as a shock; quite unlike what I was used to. I had difficulty at first adapting to the sudden disappearance of anything resembling academic standards. Later, parachuted again, I was better prepared for life in the perpetual kindergarten. I found myself in something called a “high school,” with a curriculum that seemed especially designed for children with learning disabilities. Oddly, it considered itself to be an elite high school, which perhaps it was by Canadian standards. I bid my time until age sixteen, when I could legally drop out. For in my humble but unalterable opinion, these public “schools” are great crushers of the human spirit. No responsible parent will allow a child to be exposed to them. Ditto, no aspiring teacher should work in one, even if the alternative is starvation. The administrators should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

In my case, perhaps the greatest traumatic event of childhood came from a teacher having a bad day. Let us call her Miss Gangruel, for that was not her name. I met her again by chance in later life, when she was no longer implicated in public schooling, and found her to be a very charming woman. I was further surprised to discover that she now had two eyes. For when I first met her, she’d had only one, plus an eye-patch like a female pirate, owing to some medical issue. I didn’t, at first, hold this against her.

One dark afternoon she had her “art class” covering paper with layer over layer of thick crayon in different colours, perhaps with the intention that we do something with the product, eventually. I considered this to be an unconscionable waste of my time and, seeing a wonderful elm outside the classroom’s industrial window (not yet felled by Dutch elm disease), used my crayons to draw that, instead.

Miss Gangruel had had perhaps one too many discipline problems that day. When she found me (characteristically) ignoring her instructions, she freaked. Being unable in that moment to communicate her displeasure in rational terms, she began shrieking, “That’s ugly! That’s an ugly tree! That’s the ugliest tree I’ve ever seen!”

I stood in what dignity I could summon. Then shouted back: “Miss Gangruel, you have only One Eye!”

Soon after, in the principal’s office, I found myself having to explain this remark. But how does one explain what is self-evident? It was perhaps my earliest encounter with political correctness. The old British legal principle, that the truth is an absolute defence against a charge of libel, was already in retreat. Indeed, liberalism must have been spreading fast in Canada, about 1963, for this principal had not even the guts to whip me. (Brother Berg at Saint Anthony’s School in Lahore would have whipped me first, and asked questions after.) All he could do is tell me I’d done a Bad Thing. “What a wimp,” I was left thinking, as I returned to the hated classroom.

Later, at home, mentioning nothing of what had happened in school that day, I retired to my bedroom for morbid contemplation. (Canadian children are assigned separate bedrooms: another grievous moral oversight.) Before sleeping that night, I ripped up every drawing or painting I had ever made. I resolved, solemnly, “Never again.” And for the rest of my childhood, I never touched any art material voluntarily.

Yet here I am, half a century later, wasting more paper, and paint. But quietly, privately. I do it only because it makes me absurdly happy, and because I recover my native ability to see. Incompetently, I render botanicals and landscapes. Ironically, I sometimes play with plain colours. To this day, from the event described and from other incidents in Canadian schooling, I carry an irrational fear that someone will discover me drawing, or see what I have drawn. From another incident — this one with the town librarian, who caught me trying to borrow a book that was deemed “above my age level” — I also fear discovery of what I am reading, and must fight a powerful desire to conceal any elevated work behind, say, a comic book or pornographic magazine, so my fellow Canadians will not be affronted.

So far as I can see the purpose of the Canadian education system, or modern public education in general, is to suppress curiosity and enterprise in children; to cripple them morally, aesthetically, and intellectually; and make them identical on a bed of Procrustes. Hilda Neatby spelt this out in her remarkable survey, So Little for the Mind, published at Toronto in 1953. One must read it to realize that the demonic ideas of John Dewey, the American “philosopher of democratic education,” had already far advanced in Canadian schools by that year; and that as a result, standards once achieved and maintained through the later nineteenth and earlier twentieth century, had already collapsed. It is a myth they collapsed in the 1960s. Look at the schoolbooks for the Province of Ontario from that earlier period, and compare them with those introduced after the Second World War (we once did this for an article in the Idler magazine). The declination is obvious. The hippie generation was not the cause of this catastrophe. They were instead the effect.


For part two of today’s sermon, I will simply quote from some remarks by a fine art teacher, Bruce MacEvoy of California, whose Handprint website is, to my knowledge, the most reliable source of hard information on art materials and techniques (especially pigments for watercolour) on the entire Internet:

“The traditional method of teaching painters how to use paints emphasizes the map — the colour theory map. ‘Colour theory’ does not define the laws of nature that determine the behaviour of paints, it’s just a story about colour contrived in the 18th century — when it was stylish to stuff tobacco up your nose and lace hankies up your sleeve.

“The facts of colour are learned by hiking through the landscape — that is, by actually using materials and experiencing how they perform in different situations or applications. So the first guiding principle is to rely on your senses: to learn colour with your eyes and hands rather than with your mind.

“This sensory, hands on awareness helps you to appreciate that paints do what they do as unique material substances, not as interchangeable ‘colours’. Paint mixtures do not conform to an abstract ‘colour wheel’ geometry, not because paints are impure or tainted, but because they are real. Each paint has a unique personality. Colour theory abstractions either fail to describe the actual colour mixtures of these unique personalities (leaving the student even more confused than before), or they encourage the student to think in terms of colour stereotypes, and paint with dogmatic concepts in place of living eyes.”

Right on.

Mr MacEvoy is rejecting, whether or not he fully realizes, the heritage of the Enlightenment, in which precedence was given to the abstract, and withdrawn from the concrete. That vicious assault on the human soul, known as “liberal education,” is by now the dry wharks of that heritage. From kindergarten through post-graduate studies, students are taught to be abstract, to take everything as fungible, to eliminate anomalies, to interpret each fact in the light of “theory.” And these theories, although usually false, are not necessarily so, for e.g. the colour wheel does abstractly represent certain miraculous prismatic qualities of sunlight. But when imposed upon the extraordinary breadth and variety of pigmentation not only in paints, but in every creature and object in nature, this theory becomes fatuous. Like Darwinism, or Marxism, it explains everything by explaining nothing.

It is not only watercolour we are discussing here. For every other discipline, students are taught “the theory.” The systems of tutoring and apprenticeship by which concrete knowledge was once imparted were systematically replaced, over time, by the schools and colleges of the Nanny State, in the name of “democracy.” The result gentle reader may see all around him.

Christianity does not flourish in such an environment, for this religion speaks to actual men and women, not to “people” in the abstract. In order to become a Christian, a person must today begin to disengage himself from this “culture of theory,” and — given the refusal of the post-conciliar Church to teach the Faith — usually on his own. To some degree the scattered Christian communities offer mentoring or advice, but the novice must make his own stand against the current demands for Sovietization. He will need a supernatural courage; which is to say, abandonment to divine grace.

It is for instance “theory” that now requires Nanny State to lower the jackboot on the human face of marriage. For humans have been systematically reduced in “rights theory” to interchangeable “persons.” Such particular expressions as husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, uncle, aunt, have been struck out of all laws in the Province of Ontario, and many other jurisdictions. They were an embarrassment because they showed that human beings are particular, in ways defined by nature and her God, and not by theory. Similarly across the whole range of social issues, in every one of which “theory” now prevails.

It is the cyclopean vision, conducting us into the maw of Cyclops.


In my old Anglican days, when I was a parishioner in an extremely High church, the Tenebrae was sung on Maundy Thursday. It was, for an unedifying reason, a liturgical event I looked forward to. The lights were extinguished one by one; and then the strepitus sounded in a tremendous clash, as the last candle in the sanctuary was extinguished. On this one day in the year, polite Anglican people — who queue so nicely for Communion row by row — were instructed to leave the church “in disorder.” In the darkness, the parishioners would collide, shove, step on each other’s toes — all in the proper liturgical spirit. One might wait all year for one’s opportunities.

The symbolism is plain. Christ is no longer with us. Through the hours of Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, to the Easter Vigil when the lights come suddenly up again, and the full Gloria is sounded — we contemplate a world in which there is no Christ; and no salvation; and no absolution for our sins, and indeed, no sins: only departure from theory. A world in which we are abandoned to the ministrations of Nanny State, in which Christians are already mocked, and will soon be punished unless they bow before the public gods (sodomy; infanticide; self-murder).

And since God is dead, or has at least gone Gnostic, we can no longer be in His image. The whole race is reduced to animals — to roadkill in the passage of time. We are, according to the latest teaching of the “deep ecologists,” one of more than 8,400,000 species on Gaia; our own too numerous, taking more than our share of the planetary resources, and thus due for a radical culling. The apes and dolphins and whales cannot rule; they haven’t the equipment for it. And so they must wait patiently for what Christians call the Antichrist — whose reign of terror will free them from subservience to the humans, and grant them their (theoretically) equal rights.

Even within quite “mainstream” Christian folds, Christ is being reduced to an abstraction. The Gospel Jesus is too particular, the times call for a generic Christ, who will treat everyone the same. For a Christ who will not be objectionable to the authorities; who will mind his own business and not create a scene. A democratic Christ, who will bless everyone equally, and preach multicultural homogeneity if he must preach at all. A Christ who would not have to be crucified, whose case would never come before the courts, because he would never offend anyone. A nice Christ, who embodies our own frequently proclaimed niceness, and looks faithfully the other way whenever something he doesn’t like is happening. Not man in the image of God, but God in the image of a deracinated “humanity.”A Christ who has received a liberal education, so that he does not speak of demons but only of scientific theory. For we are nice people, and we do not want to hear about demons. Our science is settled: we have no theory for that.

And please, would this Christ not rise from the dead. For that is disruptive.


Against which, what can we say?

What John said, to the seven churches that are in Asia:

“And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last. I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore; and have the keys of Hell and of Death.”

The false note

The re-run below has been pulled up from “Spy Wednesday” only last year. Liturgically, we are in the calm before the storm, on this day when Judas quietly dropped by the house of Caiaphas. Most likely it was Wednesday, 1st April, 33 AD. The high priest had invited, along with other members of his Jerusalem establishment, several of the Pharisee elders, too, in a gesture of ecumenism: the Pharisees sharing their desire to see Jesus dead. Their problem was to seize Him in a moment when he was separated from His numerous admirers, and this is where Judas came in. His services were also fairly priced: for 30 denarii was merely the bargain-house rate for an unskilled slave.

I should like to take this opportunity to mention that Judas is in Hell. This is very clear from Scripture, Tradition, and general Catholic instruction through twenty centuries down to “the spirit of Vatican II,” when this hard teaching was itself betrayed. I should also like to mention that he isn’t in Hell for betraying Christ. It is instead for refusing divine forgiveness. Here we are staring directly into the Mystery of Iniquity, for having as all men been offered an escape, Judas chose Hell. And there he is: dangling from the tree, by his own hand. It was his final betrayal. We have no right to judge for ourselves whether any human soul is damned. But in this case we aren’t doing that. We are told as much. Christ will forgive us anything, even murdering Him, if we beg forgiveness humbly and sincerely, promising, without guile, to amend. Therefore if you haven’t been, gentle reader, get thee to the Confessional today.

The piece below has nothing to do with this. Its point might be dimly discerned with reference to my piece on “Saint Luke’s Passion,” posted today at Catholic Thing (here). Somewhere in the interstices I have something said on the nature of Christian music — both inside and outside the Liturgy. In the course of revising I have discarded some tedious ranting against Beethoven. It was getting too personal.


Perhaps I should be telling a priest instead of a general audience, but I broke down this morning and did something bad.

You see, I had been weeding my inventory of recorded music, through Lent — decimating it at first, in the strict sense, with about every tenth disc going on the trash pile of history (or more precisely, to a used CD store). More: novemating, octimating, septimating, sextimating, quintimating, finally quadrimating or even tertimating my collection of CDs, too many of which were acquired irresponsibly, back in the day when I was filthy stinking rich, and more dissolute even than I am now. Symphonies, operas, histrionic performances — the whole “Romantic Era” had to be cleared out. … (Why?) … Because I can’t stand it any more.

It’s not just Wagner, whom I have always loathed; but every composition in which old Ludwig Van is shaking his fist, or Brahms is going programmatic. It was all a mistake, cloning those violins, building those immense orchestras, those Mormonesque tabernacle choirs; fronted by those gesticulating übermenschen, playing with the volume, and breaking up an unholy dulcet smoothness with these infernal crashing sounds. I have come to despise grandiosity in music, whether it is outwardly sacred or profane. For two centuries now, in an alarming way, the profane has been invading the sacred. Conversely, a false, gnostic, “humanist” spirituality has been invading the profane. Verily, to my mind, most of the nineteenth century has to go, and everything in the twentieth that followed from it. Because it is loud, ruthless, rebellious, and noisome.

Necessarily, I play snippets as I go along, rather as one glances through a rifle scope, to check one has the right target. Or to increase the pleasure of waving adieu. Ah, the sinless delight of purgation!

But then, as I was going through composers, about to the end of the letter R, I came to “Ryba”: Jakub Jan Ryba, the Czech (1765–1815). I found one disc only of this gentleman’s works, recorded by a small orchestra and choir of blameless madrigalists in Prague. It contained two settings for the Mass, in a style I would describe as àpres-baroque. The first alone is famous. It is known as Hej, mistře! — which, to those shamefully unacquainted with Czech, does not translate “Hey mister!” but rather: “Hail, Master!” It is plainly a Christmas, not a Lenten Mass. Indeed, they play it at Christmas in Czecho the way we do Handel’s Messiah here, or as we intone Dickens’s mawkish reflections on Scrooge.

Ryba’s Kyrie sounds like a Gloria. The Gloria sounds like a Gloria. The Gradual sounds like a Gloria. The Credo, Offertorium, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnes Dei, — all sound like Glorias. And there is a recessional attached, a final choral exposition, which sounds very much like a Gloria.

I listened to the whole thing; aware, throughout, that it is not Christmas. I couldn’t stop myself. I was totally uplifted. (“Faith is not feeling.”) And at what is, seasonally and liturgically, nearly the worst moment possible. It was appalling behaviour on my part. Bless me, general audience, for I have sinned.

True, a priest had given me a dispensation to drink a glass of whisky, even in Lent, at such moment as might seem advisable for medicinal purposes, in view of my affairs. Whisky is better than lithium, he conceded. But I doubt we are allowed to substitute dispensations by analogy.

It has been “a good Lent,” otherwise, if you know what I mean. No stone left unturned in this spiritual mansion. Now back to the narrow path, which should consist of silence, the darkness, and from out of the darkness, Chant.