Chronicles of Gadara

That, “a gentleman never unintentionally gives offence,” is something I first heard from my mother. The barb was not placed unintentionally in the bait: a gentleman only gives offence on purpose. Taken not as a moral injunction, but as a sociological observation, there is, or there was, some truth in this. In higher British society, so far as I could be acquainted with it some decades ago, I saw this principle in action. It was what distinguished the hayseed old squires from the urbane young fogeys. The former could fire a shot across your bow that was unmistakable. They could do it in one sentence or less, uttered softly. The latter would blunder into you like an iceberg, and with as much thought.

And the loss of this ability — to send and receive warnings — has much to do with our current environmental decay. (I speak of the spiritual environment.) Let me employ the V-word now. We have all become impossibly Vulgar. I see this on the sidewalks in the Greater Parkdale Area; I bet it is the same in a conurbation near you, gentle reader. It is not that people want to be rude. Rather, they lack any other way of being.

It is the same among the criminal class, I am sorry to say. My Chief Buncombe Correspondent (it is a county in western North Carolina) was reflecting on this in email. He mentioned several recent, high-profile crimes, including general slaughters. In the old days, you’d have a St Valentine’s massacre in Chicago, and there’d be a reason for it. Perhaps the reason wasn’t good enough, but it was at least comprehensible. Even the pettiest crimes — shoplifting for instance — might be for food or some other household need. These criminals today are so lazy: sometimes they forget even to have a motive.

I don’t think we can blame it all on the Arabs (which is not to forget the Persians, &c), who have lowered the bar on terrorism. True, many of the body-bomb hits seem quite pointless. How are you going to win friends and influence people, with that? And what, pray, was the score you were trying to settle? And explain, please, the “symbolism” of the target; we just don’t get it.

If there were not one Muslim living today in America, or Europe, we would still have to class most violent crime, and much of the rest, as “senseless” below the Baghdad standard. Yet in a strange way, it is also “tolerated”: taken for granted that “things like that” happen every day. (There was actually a time when they didn’t; when even suicides were performed, discreetly.)

On this, I have spoken with a judge. It is something that bothers him, too. In the traditional courtroom, anywhere in the Western world, the malefactor had his day. Though guilty as charged, he had a chance to explain himself; to provide any possible extenuation. Perhaps he would be hanged all the same, but as a human being he had, before that, some mysterious right to speak, even in the face of his accusers. It was the right, somehow, to vindicate his own claim to a human status, even if all he could do was express his regret.

This is disappearing. The judge said a whole trial goes by, when the question of motive hardly arises. It doesn’t seem important. The accused himself has nothing to explain, and the accusers expect nothing of him. If found guilty, on the weight of (usually easy) evidence, he is merely “processed” into the designated high-tech dungeon; and barring some administrative error, the paperwork follows its parallel course.

Let me put this more plainly. The very idea of “justice” is abstracted from this process, no matter what the law says — written often in another time, by another generation, in other circumstances, back in the day: when the Fact of Evil was intelligently acknowledged.

And with it, so many other coherent things.


I do not expect people to be shocked by evil. I only expect them to see when it is there. The calm mind can assimilate the Fact, and still maintain its equilibrium. It is trained to harmony with a moral order, beyond itself. This hardly makes disharmony impossible. One cultivates the ability to sense when something is wrong, or perhaps, very wrong. Or one does not cultivate this, in which case one becomes, not in an “aesthetic” but a moral sense, more and more Vulgar.

Consider, as an example for this morning, the case of the abortionist “Doctor” Kermit Gosnell, mentioned in a (rightly) tasteless column by Mark Steyn (entitled, “I’ve got a crush on you baby”). He’d snip the baby’s spinal column with scissors, which you’d think would be enough. (The child dies in excruciating pain.) But then he’d suck out the brains, and smash the skull. And keep severed hands and feet in pickle jars. I will grant he may have been “mentally unstable.”

But here is the point: many, many people knew what he was doing, and did nothing about this “women’s health care provider.” All this came out before the Grand Jury: a serial murderer on an extraordinary scale (not dozens: thousands of butchered victims); a sadist killing babies who were, in fact, live-born. And so many people had let it pass.

Including the mass media — happy to report on other ghastly, “senseless” crimes; and blame them on such stuff as “guns” (which not only don’t, but can’t have motives). They, too, turned the other way, burying the story; focusing all their cameras, at the time, on the trial of a certain Jodi Arias, an odd woman who had killed only one man.

Not on Gosnell. A sick, serial murderer; and serial people, supposedly not sick, who let him get on with it. How does one explain these people?

It does not seem adequate to say that they are “typical liberals,” looking the other way, on a par with the “typical conservatives” in Hitler’s Germany who saw things happening to the Jews, but chose silence. For no, they are much worse. A German who stood up to the Nazis was probably a dead man. An American who stands up to the unspeakable evil of an abortionist will merely be ignored by the New York Times.