Marketplace of ideas

The first thing to know about the Church, is that she’s not for sale. So, too, the principles upon which Western Civilization was erected. We aren’t in a “marketplace of ideas.” If they are true, they are not fungible; if they are false, they are worthless.

I don’t just mean, sold for money. Many currencies are used to obtain things in this world, and money is among the cleanest: it can be seen, quantified, and accepted or rejected. Most financial corruption is straightforward. There is no difficulty in discovering the motive. The people who do it may lead otherwise commendable lives. That is, if you think bourgeois is commendable.

And the poor often make good, honest thieves. I was reminded of this by a wallet thief in Parkdale, recently — or “cutpurse,” as we would have called him, a couple of centuries ago, when the craft standards in this trade were higher. All he wanted was the cash. The cards he couldn’t use: they were cancelled too quickly, and those with pictures on them a waste of his precious time. So he left the wallet where it was likely to be returned to its owner. I’m sure he thinks himself a fine, decent, conscientious fellow for having done this. The hippies always taught, “Take only what you need.” Though had he been more of an antiquarian, he might have realized the wallet itself was worth more than the cash it contained.

Violence is also a currency, as Messrs Daish, Qaeda, Boko Haram, &c, remind us every day. It can be more efficient than money in getting what you want, and is quicker than queueing, though like money it requires good management to get the best results. Which is just where psychopaths most frequently go wrong: they do not think ahead.

Even violence may seem clean compared to other twists. I have come to think moral posturing is the dirtiest of all currencies or persuaders. It has the largest fallout. By mimicking the good, and providing cover for bad behaviour, it spreads. Hypocrisy comes into this: most, if not all who present themselves as moral exemplars are hypocrites, indeed: but hypocrisies can be exposed and derided. Rather, I think, the moral exhibitionism is the primary evil. It invites applause, and with applause, imitation.

In the world of media and politics I have passed through, the biggest rewards were available almost exclusively to stuntmen (and stuntwomen) of this kind. Few of the most successful, it seemed to me, were in it for money alone; though few failed to see the main chances. Often, vanity got the better of them: they did not see the shoals in the course of self-promotion. For many, it was a short journey, to where something more mephitic came into play; something like a desire to be worshipped. Causes they might think they served, but they weren’t much moved by the consequences.

This is what was on display in Baltimore last week, and has been in many American inner cities. The looting and rioting is done by small people who “don’t know any better” when an opportunity comes to hand. The cost is much less in immediate property damage, than in the loss of order over time, which will be theirs to pay. They are not manipulators, but manipulees.

Like most inner cities, Baltimore has been governed by moral exhibitionists for generations, now. One may watch the city’s current progressive lords performing for the television cameras, delivering their scapegoats for prosecution and trial. It isn’t really necessary to name names, when one is referring to a whole political class, of progressive Democrats (and the occasional progressive Republican for variety) who create and keep the underclass in their places, cultivating their envies and resentments, and then directing them for use as voting fodder.

If these people — the looters and rioters — had genuine friends, they would be told to get a life, by adage and example. The lessons would correspond roughly with the Ten Commandments. They should be told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; that God is not merciful with liars and thieves and other malefactors. That God is the worst enemy you can have; or should you choose, the most reliable friend.

They should be told a good start would be: cut yourself off welfare. I am not being empirical here: welfare is not extrinsic but intrinsic to the spread of crime. This is not only because it makes you fat and lazy, though it usually does that. It is instead because welfare is evil in itself: it is organized looting by political means. It is what keeps evil men in power.

Note that these prescriptions are moral, not economic. That they happen to be more consonant with economic nature, than the prescriptions they contradict, is hardly a coincidence — as will be seen from the moment that nature’s God is solemnly acknowledged, and begins to be obeyed. For in the end, they are His prescriptions, and in the end, they make sense.


As postscript, I feel the same disappointment in Michael Coren’s widely publicized defection from the Catholic Church, as I do in progressive politicians. He told us Why Catholics Are Right in a recent book, was a popular parish speaker, an effective TV host, and far my superior in the art of nurturing a sympathetic audience. But now he has “moved on.”

He will now tell a new audience what they want to hear: that acts like sodomy are “loving” and okay; that religious opposition to sins of the flesh, ranging from contraception to same-sex marriage, is mean and antiquated; that those who, often at great personal cost, still try to uphold received doctrines that have animated Christendom through twenty centuries, may be despised as “haters.” He rightly judges that the Catholic Church is set in her ways: that she will never change her principles. Therefore he goes to those who will keep their principles up to date.

To some, this stasis — this insistence on a moral and spiritual order that cannot be altered by men, nor by a God who is self-consistent — makes the Catholic Church a dead end. To others, it is actually liberating, to stand for the right, regardless of the numbers; regardless, finally, even of the cost.

Pray please for Michael, whom I have known for thirty years. Reliable Catholic he may not be, but he is sincerely God-haunted, for better and for worse. Pray also for those who put their trust in him.

And let us, too, with Saint Thomas More, pray that we may yet, “hereafter in Heaven, merrily all meet together, to our everlasting salvation.”