Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

General instruction

Bear with me, O gentle reader, while I suffer a general computer breakdown, in both its hardware and software aspects.

Bear with me, O gentle correspondents, as my “unanswered” pile grows deeper.

Bear with me, O gentle patrons, as I endeavour to fix the banking arrangements.

Bear with me, O Lord, for reasons Thou knowest too well.

As a general instruction to observers: bear with me.

As the world turns

A weaver woman will require five daughters; six if she is quick. This is the number of spinning wheels, to keep a loom busy. The information comes from my special correspondent, who qualifies it in an important way. Cloth-weaving methods have changed over the last two or three centuries, she tells me. (So the daughters can all be aborted now.) Truth to tell, the methods had “evolved” before that, and the spinning wheel itself was breaking news, to the hand-spinners of the thirteenth century. Too, it should be mentioned, there are different kinds, such as the charkas that enchanted me in my (Pakistani) childhood.

Well, that’s enough education for this morning, I can hardly keep up. The world of textile production is mostly closed to me, though my curiosity strays into unfamiliar places. Skills, I have none, as I was recently reminded, while trying to sew a button on a cardigan; a button that had only come off because I had put it on, the last time. Knitting — an admirable trait in a girl, I think, and a fascinating thing to watch — remains beyond my comprehension. The darning of a sock, which my mama once explained, now seems a matter of metaphysical complexity. By embroidery, I am utterly astounded.

Hence, perhaps, my views will be received with a grain of salt. I am of the opinion that the hand-crafts of home and “cottage industry” were a terrible loss.

They are certainly “inefficient” by the modern definition, which assumes a pure cash economy, and infinitesimal divisions of labour, the way they have in Hell.

Quite apart from the heartache of which she sings, to the mesmeric rhythm of wheel and treadle, Gretchen am Spinnrade is wasting her time. Her Faust is lost, and she with him, but really it doesn’t matter any more. Everything today is replaceable — partly because the easiest way to increase production is to sacrifice quality. Why should pleasure be found, in any of the works of human hands? It can’t be quantified.

We have today those who still knit, as a tension-reducing hobby. There are even those who still weave, or I met one from an art school, thirty years ago. None would claim to be cutting corners on a household budget; which, when one thinks about it, adds a dimension of meaning that is also lost. Anything you want can now be had for cheap from Walmart, and the tee-shirts can be “personalized” with a funny message.

I’m sure that the inventors and investors of what we call for short the Industrial Revolution were not, or not always, bad men. I read, for instance, A Memoir of Edmund Cartwright (1843), in which I found myself almost cheering for the fellow. The power machinery he designed for weaving and combing was done on a whim. Someone told him it couldn’t be done, so he set to work. He knew, to start, as little as I do about this “trade.” The destruction of a way of life, across the north of England and then around the world, was no part of his intention. But having achieved that, he lost interest, and moved on to his next invention.

Let me say that I am haunted by the ease of it, at every stage.

A great deal of false history was written, by people who never strayed north of London, about working-class hardship in those parts. Yes, there was plenty, but what we get from the entrepreneurs of socialism is twisted to their agitprop needs. Rewriting the history, to make it more true, makes another nice hobby; and in the course of it we discover that the ugliest of the capitalists often did less damage than the philanthropists.

But all were involved in the extraction of joy from life, merely for the sake of diminishing some sorrow.

____________

While writing this Idlepost, I could not help but hear four loud cracks. Gunshots, I reflected; one learns to distinguish them from firecrackers. And sure enough, the police eventually arrived. (Parkdale is not high in their priorities, alas.) Was just chatting with one of these gentlemen in the hallway: very polite, and diligent in making his notes. And more informative than most. They have the smoking gun, as it were, but seem to be missing both a shooter and a body — a serious inconvenience, I would think, when investigating a violent crime. Will have to check the hospitals, he supposes.

Not that any of this is directly relevant to what I wrote, above. But I do suspect an indirect relation.

O nach éisdeadh

My chief Clan Donald correspondent reminds me that, in addition to Shrove Tuesday, today is the 326th anniversary of the massacre of the Jacobites at Glencoe. British soldiers, billeted by force of law, but received with generous hospitality, rose in the night to murder their hosts; and many women and children then died of exposure when their cottages were torched and possessions impounded.

It was one of many similar incidents in Scotland and Ireland, as the illegitimate regime of William and Mary consolidated its power against the Stuart loyalists, but has been remembered as among the most satanic. There was some subsequent official inquiry, but this was limited when King William’s signature was discovered among the orders, and so the conclusion had to be that any Highland chieftains got what they deserved. They were “lawless,” by the official account, and although they had signed oaths of allegiance to the new Orange co-regency, they had not done so quickly enough. Moreover, most of those chieftains were Catholic, and thus held to be implicitly opposed to aggressive Protestant interlopers.

Of course, the story is told differently by the Orangemen of Ulster, and in the propaganda for that self-styled “Glorious Revolution” — to which I remain unalterably opposed, as to all worldly revolutions. But the facts speak for themselves, of the dark deeds by which the English-speaking world was put on the path to “democracy” and “progress” and all the other modernist fatuities.

The story of the Mort Ghlinne Comhann was revived in the spirit of Victorian romanticism, paradoxically in response to a cold retelling by that seedy old Whig, Thomas Babington Macauley — the primer of every raw English schoolboy, as Lord Acton called him. But I should like to depart at an angle from this.

The song I will flag instead this morning is that scarifying Gaelic number, O Nach Éisdeadh (performed rather jauntily, here). It conveys the frank “lawlessness” of the Highlands, most featly. Follow the words carefully, for they are of timely significance, and theological resonation — now, on the very eve of Lent.

____________

I append an interlinear translation, in case gentle reader’s Scotch Gaelic is rusty. The opening triplet repeats after each distich:

O nach éisdeadh tu ‘n sgeul le aire
— (Oh that you would listen to the tale attentively)
Dh’innse ‘n éifeachd tha’n réit’ na fal
— (To tell of the efficacy that is in atonement by blood)
O nach éisdeadh tu ‘n sgeul le aire
— (Oh that you would listen to the tale attentively)

Chuirinn impidh ort thu ghrad philltinn
— (I implore you to turn back quickly)
M’am bi thu millt, o gabh suim dha d’anam
— (Before you are destroyed, oh take care for your soul)

Sluagh gun chùram, tha’n dorus dùint’ orr’
— (Careless people, the door is closed on them)
‘S tha claidheamh rùisgt’ air a chùl dha’m faire
— (And there is a naked sword behind it to watch them)

Sluagh gun àireamh ‘nan seasamh làmh ris
— (People without number, standing near him)
Ach ‘s daor a thàinig thu ghràidh dha’n ceannach
— (But it was at great cost that you came, love, to redeem them)

Ni Nicodemus is a chéile
— (Nicodemus, and his partner)
‘S Manasseh féin fuil na réit a ghlanadh
— (And Manasseh himself can be washed in the blood of atonement)

(REEL)

Faic an t-óigear rinn ‘fhuil a dhòrtadh
— (See the young man who spilt his blood)
Do pheacaich mhór thainig beò tre ‘ghlanadh
— (For great sinners who came alive though his cleansing)

Cluinn thu tàirneanach beinn Shinài
— (Hear the thundering of Mount Sinai)
Tha bagraidh bàis ‘g iarraidh làn de pheanas
— (Death threatens, asking for full penance)

Ma tha thu ad’bhantraich, ‘s e féin is ceann ort
— (If you are widowed, he is at your head)
Cur séile teann ann am bonn a gheallaidh
— (Putting a firm seal on the trueness of his promise.)

(REEL)

How to do things

It is no secret, at least from me, that I have spent an unconscionable amount of time lately reading everything I could get my beady eyes upon, about the Uists. They are Isles from where such as my own maternal ancestors were launched upon the New World, in waves slapped by the Highland Clearances. The North American obsession with genealogy is not quite my thing. Rather it is an enchantment with these Isles themselves, which to this day aren’t entirely “modern.”

My (Presbyterian) people were from North Uist (as mentioned, here). Had they lived a few miles to the south — a short walk, but some of it across dangerous tidal quicksands — they would have been the other side of the Hebridean demographic frontier into Roman territory. And I, as a consequence, might have been a Cradle Catholic, instead of the Zealous Convert I became. Or rather, I couldn’t possibly have existed, nor my parents nor my children, so particular is the action of Providence.

On the faith-notion that anything which allowed me to exist were a Good Thing, I might as well take the history as it stands, and even the vicious Clearances as felix culpas. (Catholics were often targeted. The detested absentee landlady of South Uist, Emily Gordon Cathcart, prim Protestant of Aberdeen, when she ran out of sheep, had the Catholics of Askernish evicted for a golf course at the world’s end; others elsewhere cleared from family tenancies they had held since MacAdam to make hunting parks, where there was no game.)

Nothing can justify the evils of the past, let alone the fresh ones. Nor can history authoritatively guide us on how to do things, for the best.

Or perhaps it can. Perhaps there are good ways to put things in God’s order. Perhaps sometimes we get an example. For here is one that has come to my attention, thanks to my idle reading and correspondence.

In the ’fifties, the British Ministry of Defence proposed to turn most of the Hebridean Isle of South Uist into a missile testing range. This was naturally opposed by its Catholic inhabitants, who had resentments enough stored over the centuries, yet were only a couple thousand left, against the monstrous power of a centralized, bureaucratic State. They convened informally, in prayer and discussion, until they hit upon a response.

Putting all their small moneys together, they commissioned an immense granite statue (30 feet high) of Our Lady of the Isles, from the sculptor Hew Lorimer. … (Brilliant!)

The face he chose as his model for Our Lady was that of a local crofting woman: a magnificent face, conveying love, and defiance. And the baby Jesus rising in her arms, making a sign of peace which, from the rear, might be mistaken for a rude gesture. It was erected on the west slope of the mount, Rueval, to face down the site of the MoD barracks. … (Take that!)

We cannot know what the bureaucrats thought. We can only know what they did. The missile range was adjusted, to preserve ancient local villages and habitats, but still went ahead. Many soldiers were brought to the Isle (which had a man shortage, as many fishing communities do) for the missile testings. But many of these rough, unwanted tommies fell in love with Uist, and with its maidens. They married, settled, Poped, learnt the Gaelic (the Uist accent is exceptionally soft and musical).

They still test missiles there, but politely. And the word gets out so the people can gather, and watch, and have a big cèilidh. Everything turned out well for everyone.

In the words of my informant, “Our Lady did as she was asked.”

Jordan Peterson

Peter Hitchens is one of the few pundits to whom I am addicted. His backhanded praise, and forehanded dismissal of Jordan Peterson in the Spectator (here), is the best thing I’ve seen on Greater Parkdale’s now world-famous cult leader. He purports to envy Peterson’s many YouTube successes, and laments market failure in his own persona, as Prophet of Doom. I have long regretted the greater attention given to Peter’s late brother Christopher Hitchens, whose bestselling brand of Trotskyite Neoconservativism was remorselessly shallow. Peter has occasional depths.

I have been repeatedly asked for my own opinion of Peterson, and have repeatedly offered what I call “enthusiastically faint praise.” That is, I celebrate his courageous, in-yer-face resistance to the witches and warlocks at the local University, and love watching him destroy his enemies in electronic gladiator duels. I would gladly bestow a “KC” on him (my award for “kamikaze of the culture wars”). I would not call him a Reactionary, however: my highest decoration. (Below Saint and Martyr, but I leave those recognitions to Holy Church).

And this because, he is actually a liberal. A good old-fashioned one, to be sure, with much sensible advice I remember from my own late beloved father. Should we peel his outer porcupine layer, as we might shell a rambutan, we find soft and delectable meat inside — just the thing if, like a contemporary university student, one is lost in the woods and searching for a survival food. (Awkward to handle but easy to catch; I have a campfire recipe for porcupine, with chestnuts.)

He is not, and does not claim to be, Christian. His lectures on biblical texts are Jungian blather — the man was after all trained as a shrink — but not maliciously so. He is a diligent independent reader, however, of a shortlist of standard Western classics, who can be no more intimidated by the Lit majors than he is by the campus gestapo, and this is hugely to his credit. He is a man who sincerely seeks truth, wherever he finds it lurking, so I wouldn’t say he won’t end up Catholic; but for the foreseeable future he is a good old-fashioned liberal, fallen upon these evil days.

And a godsend to his students, if only for the example he puts before them of a man with brains and guts. My own impression, of the generation he is teaching, is of heartbreaking loss. Even those who don’t come from broken homes, give the impression that they do, and the few who come to higher education with any store of basic education were self-taught. Many are quite smart, of course, but that is a gift of nature. They can be outwardly annoying in their hormonal attraction to various activist lunacies, but if you get one separated from the mob, you may find some touching humility. Even the worst are often not really bad. Lost, rather. But by the time they are processed to the mortar board, too many have been found, by the devil.

I do not wonder at the avalanche of fan mail under which Peterson groans. (He looks sleep-deprived.) He is playing father to thousands, especially of these orphan-boys, and sometimes also to the orphan-girls. They’d never seen a man before, and now that they have, they would like to meet another. This is all to the good.

He is a light, I gather, chiefly to the males; to the females less directly. The modern girl has little use for the modern boy, except to fetch things; she rightly condemns him for being both a wuss and an insensitive oaf (while remaining blind to her own deficiencies). She longs for something more like a knight, though may settle for a worm or a thug in frustration. She wants a man, and Professor Peterson is at least trying to increase the supply. God must love him for that.

____________

From a former Peterson groupie in California: “He is building a cargo cult. He looks at Christendom and wants meaning back. He is ignorant of where it came from. So he tries rebuilding the symptoms without the cause. He rejects nihilism but has nothing solid to put in its place. So bamboo runways and air traffic control towers spring up. Young men deprived of the civilization we have lost think it is great, but unless they turn to Christ, it will be as useless as a bamboo runway.”

Of Vatican cages

Among the more difficult acts for a contemporary Catholic is to pray for the betrayers of the Church, in places like Rome. Cardinal Zen, the retired bishop of Hong Kong — one of my living heroes, for his honesty and steadfastness — put this well in a statement about Cardinal Pietro Palorin, the Vatican secretary of state; and the papal press spokesman, Greg Burke. Both had glibly “spun” Cardinal Zen’s powerful words against the accommodation the Vatican is now making with the regime in Peking — in the course of which they defamed him.

“Yesterday not a few individuals came to see me or telephoned me to offer me some comfort, following the accusation made against me by the spokesman for the Vatican. But they have misunderstood, because I do not need to be comforted. It would have been better for them to have gone to comfort that spokesman. He is the one who is a caged bird, forced to perform such an embarrassing rôle.”

The Vatican is currently betraying its own faithful bishops of the clandestine Church in China. In order to improve relations with the Communist dictatorship, they are being publicly “retired” and replaced by appointees of the regime, who had been excommunicated under previous popes. Now, those faithful are instructed to bow before these sell-outs. This, in my view, is an obscenity. The excuse from Rome is that it will make life for Catholics in China more comfortable. True, they must live in a cage; but the cage will be larger.

Cardinal Zen asks: Who is in the cage? Is it the man who speaks the truth, and worships in freedom, at risk of arrest? Or the man who parrots sophistries, from a position of luxurious safety? (Zen called Parolin directly, “A man of little faith.”) Those who have never endured real suffering in this world, pretend that they are doing the persecuted a favour, when it is their own convenience they are serving.

It is not the sort of favour Christ ever did. He expected persecution, and told us to endure. “Before they hated you, they hated me.” He promised that the Comforter will come, in our hour of need: “Even the Spirit of Truth.”

From Rome, we must also listen to Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, who after a quick mainland tour as guest of the Chinese politburo, has praised the regime for implementing the social doctrine of the encyclical Laudato Si’, and supporting the Paris Climate Accord — drawing invidious comparisons to the USA where there are shantytowns, the young are on drugs, and President Trump is manipulated by multinational oil companies. One can only wonder if this comical stooge is on drugs himself.

Here is the Christian paradox: that real comfort comes from a clean conscience, and discomfort from a dirty one. And the greatest comfort, for a life well-lived, is to part it without the burden of grave sin. We pray to be relieved, ourselves, from temptation — something profound that is lost on the faithless. We do not pray to get away with sin, or be “accompanied” by priests in our wrongdoing.

And so it makes sense to pray for our enemies, particularly those within the Church. They need help which only Christ can give. Our condemnation of them is little use to the self-condemned. Pray rather, that they wake to their peril.

Should women have the vote?

It would seem there is a consensus, that after one hundred years, the question in my title has been settled in the affirmative. Of course women should have the vote. But I’m a Thomist by disposition. When an article begins, “It would seem,” you can bet I am itching to confute the proposition. So yes, to be sure, Emmeline Pankhurst won; and after her, Virginia Woolf; and then Betty Friedan; and now, Rosie O’Donnell. But as the old saying goes, “Who’s afraid of Emmeline Pankhurst?” … &c.

Why don’t we ask the question afresh, now that we have a century of empirical data on this radical innovation. Should women have the vote?

Should anyone?

My own answer will be, it depends on the woman. Surely, in most cases, the answer must be no. In my opinion, the answer should also be no for most men, but that would be an evasion. We’re only discussing the women’s vote today, whether here or in any of the centenary celebrations. Let’s leave men out of this.

A socialist of my vague acquaintance once brought the house down — on his own head, as it turned out — by mordantly observing that, “The problem with stereotypes is, they’re all true.” They are especially true of women. Thousands of stereotypes apply to them, and while there are innumerable contradictions between one stereotype and another, I’m sure there is a context for each. (The same could be said of men, but again, we’re not discussing them today.)

I have met some very impressive women. But I have met some unimpressive ones, too, and found they are the majority. I won’t comment on men, but I’ve noticed that most women vote according to their “feelings.” They know nothing about the policies at issue, and make remarks on the candidates that focus entirely on their externals. They empathize with the oddest things, and cannot detach themselves from strange and unaccountable follies. Subtract the women’s vote from all the elections in the last century, and we are retroactively spared some of the most irritating (i.e. liberal) public figures. Subtract it, and the “pretty boys” don’t stand a chance. On the other hand, we’d still get Margaret Thatcher.

There are masculine and feminine qualities, within each human being. This does not mean we’re all hermaphrodites. Nor can it mean that the qualities are equally useful, regardless of the matter at hand. For instance, a certain masculine range is of value, when considering the more vexing questions.

Thus, the sort of women who should be compelled to vote are, to my mind, the very sort who wonder if women should be voting.

It was the wisdom of our ancestors to attach property qualifications to the vote. This was not the wisdom of all our ancestors, though; only the ones with property. But since those with little or no property couldn’t vote, the system was relatively stable. Yes, they had gin riots and the like, but these would fold when the gin ran out. People — in this case mostly drunken men — would remember their place, and go home. A good sprinkling of rotten boroughs kept Parliament from becoming too imaginative. I’m with the Duke of Wellington on that one.

For years, I thought simply restoring the property qualifications might fix the mess, rather than tampering with the sex balance. But then I realized that rich people are as foolish as poor ones. Indeed, the rich get crazier as they get richer: we would need a maximum as well as a minimum cut-off. But then we’d be prey to the middle class.

Now, I must mention John Stuart Mill, a rogue male. He was not the usual violent kind, but a notorious wuss. (There was a woman behind him, who pushed him about.) He demanded equal voting rights for both sexes as early as 1867 — in his squeaky, fey little way. His other eccentric proposal was to get rid of the secret ballot. Let each voter sign, to validate his ballot, and thus each take responsibility for a consequential act.

This might at first strike gentle reader as barmy, but perhaps there is some promise in it.

Let us leave both men and women with the vote. But then, when they vote wrongly, let us quietly remove them from the lists — without prejudice to race, creed, colour, sex, magnetic polarity, or planetary origin. In the course of a couple of election cycles, we could whittle down the franchise to a handful of reliable Tory voters. Since half of those would probably be women, there could be no grounds for complaint.

Yes, I think that’s the answer.

Corned mutton hash

Dump one 12-oz can of Aussie or New Zealish corned mutton into fry-pan, then moosh in contents of one 19-oz can of “whole potatoes” (reserving potato water to cook rice in, later). Lace with chillies and garlic to taste. When all is sizzling nicely, make hole with spatula, to drop hen egg in. Do not overcook (yolk must be runny). Serve with Mitchell’s ketchup (Pakistan’s finest). Gobble with mug of Red Label tea, and you will be returned to my splendid childhood.

This makes a monstrous amount, incidentally. Up here in the High Doganate, we freeze leftovers on the balconata. This is one of the many advantages we enjoy, through the Canadian winter.

But is it really mutton? Yes, “with juices,” so far as I can determine, from the very short list of ingredients on the can, and the inspector’s mark. The other ingredients are water, salt, and (most important) sodium nitrate. The “halal” label doesn’t bother me, much. At least the can doesn’t say “organic.”

I’m not sure why I have opened an Idlepost in this way. Somehow it seemed the right thing to do. I was anyway able to patch most of the text from an email. This was attractive, because at the present time the keyboard on my fairly new (Samsung) laptop is disintegrating. This makes typing slow. For days now I have had to copy-and-paste the defunct letter, i. You might think this would make me less egotistical, less first-personal; but no. (My son will come to my rescue soon.)

Messrs PayPal have meanwhile been shutting me down, for reasons they are unable to explain coherently. Something to do with someone who pressed “send shipping label,” thus alerting them to the fact that I am a large multinational corporation. I may also be on their terrorist watch list: the robots that write their form letters aren’t sure. Too, they have mentioned the Internal Revenue Service of the Natted States Merica, which must want cutting in to all the money I’ve been laundering.

It is hard to sort out people who don’t know what they are doing, and don’t particularly care what the consequences are. But I shouldn’t be too tough on them: all Internet business is conducted in that way.

I do like corned mutton, however. There is something so solid about it.

Motherhood & peoplekind

One cannot keep up with the little events. While I was delivering the speech I texted yesterday, Justin Trudeau was addressing one of his obsequious “town halls.” A young lady asked him about Canada’s crippling regulation of religious charities, that limits the worldwide mission to which she belongs from doing the sort of charitable work here that has won them awards in other countries (such as the Queen’s Award in Britain).

In the video, our young prime minister is incurious, interrupting to hurry her question. But then we get a flash from him. This is when she uses an officially proscribed term. It is, “mankind.”

As in: “Maternal love is the love that’s going to change the future of mankind” — the sort of phrase Saint Teresa of Calcutta was in the habit of using. And as Mother Teresa would have done, even before an audience aggressively sterile.

“Peoplekind,” was Trudeau’s illiterate correction. This got him zombie applause from the other young people.

Then he added to his condescension: “We can all learn from each other.”

Young Justin, fresh from his latest accomplishment, which was changing the words of our national anthem (yet again), to make them (yet more) “gender inclusive,” can’t be helped. He listens only to those of his own ideological faction. This puts almost all human knowledge and history beyond his comprehension.

The same could be said for the college-aged kids in the audiences he feels most comfortable with. By the age of twenty or so, the average Canadian kid has been thoroughly brainwashed to use politically correct vocabulary, and strike the matching poses on demand, and to keep up with the latest ukases.

I do not mean “brainwashed” rhetorically. They rarely slip, and are mortified if they do. The world, as it has been these last ten thousand years and more, is a closed book to them. They are programmed to look only for ideological error, and are on guard against normal English usage — even while copulating, I should think. Any reminder of civilization, or of the natural order of mankind, has become offensive to them.

The defence of civilization requires us to offend them.

____________

Since I wrote this, first thing this morning, I see that the story has “acquired legs,” or “gone viral.” I just read versions in the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Fox News, &c, and the Twitterverse is having fun mocking the Trudeau lad. While this is satisfying, it does not help with our zombie problem, alas. I would compare it with the difficulties in restoring Gaelic. One may speak it to the “young adults,” but it does not follow they will understand a word. For that, they would have to have been caught younger. Advice to parents: save your children while they can still be saved. Get at them before the Enemy does. Do not leave them alone with the media, or other satanic external forces. Church them; Christianize; never give up. Verily, this is why mothers are so important, and fathers must set a masculine example: “No surrender!”

You don’t want your boys to turn into weenies.

And you don’t want your girls to do that, either.

News to a foreign country

Here are the thoughts I imparted to the Catholic Civil Rights League (of Canada) Friday, when they so kindly invited me to address their annual general meeting. It will perhaps be appreciated that these are my thoughts, not theirs. Indeed, their policies differ from my prescriptions in important respects, insofar as they are dealing with that “real world,” from which I keep a cautious distance. Notwithstanding, they heard me out, with a warmth I could have mistaken for approval.

*

“The past is a foreign country,” L. P. Hartley once wrote, “they do things differently there.” This was the opening sentence of his most popular novel, The Go-Between, published in the year of my birth. It is not quite forgotten now: the BBC did a television adaptation a few years ago. But I wonder if it can be understood.

It is about an old man who, through an old diary, begins to reconstruct what happened to him during a summer, when he was a naïve twelve year old, at the tail end of the Victorian era. He was used, to run messages between illicit lovers; then he was used, to track them down, still not understanding what was going on. The lovers get caught in flagrante, their affair ends in a suicide — the man, incidentally, not the woman, who goes on to marry the fellow she was engaged to all along. The old man returns to the scene. Is anyone still alive? He wants to know what happened, and what came of it.

The novel is complex, and cannot be summarized in a quick blurb — in other words, it is a good novel — but let me say that it stays true to its memorable opening line. The protagonist finds everything he wanted to know, yet still knows nothing.

There is a mystery, in the human heart, which like the mystery in nature, and of nature’s God, cannot be plumbed. And this is so, even when the facts are obvious, and everything is laid out clearly.

Why do people do what is wrong, and what they know is wrong? Now there is a question for you, and I bet you can’t answer it. I know I can’t, and yet I’ve seen it in myself.

What emerges from this book, according to me, is a wonderful paradox. On the surface it seems to promise an exposé of nineteenth-century class and sexual hypocrisy. That would be what the reader is expecting, and I think the reviewers mostly fell into that trap. But really it is an indictment, not of the nineteenth but of the twentieth century.

With the passage of years, and for reasons that are tellingly hinted, the capacity of society to appreciate the moral dimension of life — of its dark corners, and irretrievable mistakes — is being lost. Small horrors are replaced with larger, and larger, to which we learn to be indifferent. And what is lost is lost to a kind of glibness, and jadedness. We turn our attention away from the sometimes traumatic facts of life, more easily and spontaneously than any Victorian, trying to avert his eyes from scandal. And all this is carried in the texture of the novel.

These last few years I have been teaching “literature” to Catholic seminarians; Shakespeare, among other writers. I am trying to teach two kinds of things: what is subtle, and what is obvious. Both tend to be missed by young people today. I have some marvellous students, yet many are, in their own ways, trying to recover from the stupefying effect of a childhood in our new Internet cloud, and from the cynical waste of public education.

That novel by Hartley is not on the course, yet I mention it because like others that are, it tells a story we don’t begin to understand until we shed our shallowest, temporal illusions. We are, after all, creatures of our own generation. In reading, we become lost in worlds much different from our own; yet which nevertheless hold up a comparison. In many ways, we live in a time, and raise children in a time, unlike that of any ancestors; in a world that has broken with history in an unprecedented way. We have entered a cultural blind alley. In order to go forward, we must first go back, and try to understand what has happened.

Nineteen fifty-three was the year in which that novel was published; a past which now seems itself to be a foreign country. Viewed from the present day, so much has changed that the world of the late nineteenth century, and that of the mid-twentieth century, seem equally distant to us. So-called “progress” continues to unfold, but has been accelerating, like a very tall building coming down.

The most recent notice I have read of this old novel presents it as a homosexual coming-of-age story. It is quite possible the author, Hartley, was a homosexual; but if so, discreet about it. Were he still alive, he would laugh or cry. All his efforts to compose a symphonic picture of lives and times are reduced to this one note, obsessively repeated.

*

Being from an artsy family, I’ve known homosexuals all my life. Each was or is his own case. Yet thinking back, I cannot remember one who defined himself by his sexual orientation. He was first a man, or she was first a woman. Now, as many homosexuals lament, they are all of a kind, defined by what makes them horny. And this is supposedly done for their own sakes.

Justin Trudeau’s latest edict on summer jobs is like this. It is an essay in cheap reductionism. I want to emphasize this at the outset, as he advances and we resist his ideological agenda. That agenda is worse than wrong: it is glib. It reduces the whole panoply of human life to a monotone, to one very dull political pitch, endlessly repeated.

This, to my mind, is important. I would almost say it is more important than the foolish and destructive measure he is taking. It pulls us all down, into a kind of earthly hell, in which we must spend our days dealing with the latest affront to our civilization. It is, when you think it through, the exact opposite of “inclusiveness.”

Anything not on the progressive agenda must be shut down; and yet that agenda itself is a black hole. It offers nothing positive, nothing that can be enjoyed or exalted except — arguably — fornication and perversions. It amazes me sometimes that its own supporters don’t get bored with it; or even rebel, from the whole idea that “human rights” can be reduced to this glibness.

*

The Dominion of Canada into which I was born — in that same year, 1953 — was then governed by the Liberal Party, and “Uncle Louis” St-Laurent, prime minister of the day. Its electoral base was in the unambiguously Catholic province of Quebec, and its operatives were very careful to avoid offending Quebec sensibilities. Yet it had long had electoral outreach to labouring Methodists in Ontario, to immigrant and co-op farmers in the West, and other select constituencies, as well as enjoying the reflexive vote of the Catholic minority across English Canada. It tried to play both sides of every aisle. Too, it was the party of business, private investment and free trade.

It was a government whose idea of an ecumenical gesture was to build “Ad Pastores” — a little chapel for the shepherds on the slopes by Bethlehem, in the Holy Land — with a plaque on the side explaining that it was a gift, “from Canada, a Christian country.”

That was how they blew the taxpayers’ money, in those days. Twenty thousand dollars. Except, some private patrons kicked in.

For more than half a century, the Liberals had been the natural party of government, and the Conservative Party that of often rather strident Protestant opposition. The “Prairie Fire” of Diefenbaker had not yet ignited to singe the Liberals’ wings.

Were it not for my own direct memories, I might find many aspects of the Canada into which I was born impossible to believe. Its Britishness, for instance. Or the visible presence of our armed forces, retasked from the Second World War to NATO. Or what we would now call “social conservatism” — from Avalon to Vancouver Island. Most of all, and most visibly, its Christianity. This was sectarian and regional, of course, but everywhere serious.

Here in “Toronto the blue,” Sundays were quite dead, and there were elaborate by-laws to discourage the consumption of liquor. Any old-timer can tell you that. Freedom was a city called Montreal. Ottawa meant Parliament Hill, and beyond that, the almost antediluvian Ottawa Valley where, like the Maritimes, fiddles and country were normative. And so much more that is now inconceivable.

I remember the general pilgrimage to church, in small-town Ontario every Sunday morning. I was myself raised by sincere “agnostics” — yet taught right and wrong in no uncertain terms on a scheme that now seems unmistakably Christian. Still, I was conscious of not being part of those Sunday pilgrimages.

In many ways that society was narrow; in many different ways, in different places. But nothing to approach the narrowness of today, in which everything that binds families and a society together is under acid attack. We could satirize our own provincialism; we often did. “Hewers of wood and drawers of water.” But I have always preferred something to nothing.

The idea that the Dominion government would fund private summer employment schemes would itself have boggled minds; let alone that it should now be imposing religious and ideological tests to restrict eligibility. The idea that these tests would be devised to exclude opponents of abortion, or same-sex marriage, or a freshly-invented kaleidoscope of transgenders, would go beyond disbelief. These are things that were once genuinely inconceivable, for all they are commonplace today. Each came out of nowhere, to the top of the progressive agenda, until that agenda “moved on.”

*

I have a long history of not ticking boxes on government forms. More generally, I have tried to avoid government forms altogether, whenever that is legally and morally possible, for what seems like centuries now, though it is only decades.

There is a reason for this. I am the sort of person — the sort of old-fashioned person — who thinks that if I’m not plausibly suspected of a criminal offence, and there’s no war on, the government has no business with me.

Truth to tell, I am opposed even to the income tax, except in wartime. Many once were totally opposed, but the opposition eventually died away, as a war measure was gradually extended into peacetime and then, into perpetuity. I am, as they were, opposed, not principally to a revenue measure, but because the income tax enables the government to intrude into our intimate daily lives. We didn’t want that in a free country.

Yet I am no libertarian. I am today a Catholic, and a “traditional” one at that, but long before I was received into Holy Church, I subscribed to the idea of an objective moral and spiritual order. Though opposed to any intervention by the State in non-political matters, I have always thought the State had not only the right, but the duty, to uphold what I’ll call in shorthand, “Motherhood and apple pie.” Important things: like the recognition of marriages.

On the other hand, the State once had, and should still have, no rôle at all in directing “the evolution of society.” Its job is to reflect received attitudes and long-established public opinion; not to create such things. It is there to conduct public business: to enforce laws and defend our borders. It is not there to be the vanguard of a social revolution. That is what totalitarian governments do. Whereas, Canada was a free country.

I never, for instance, thought that abortion could be justified, in anything less than the most extreme and therefore extremely rare cases, for the simple and easily-understood reason that, “Thou shalt do no murder.” Though often rather dim, I was never so stupid as to believe that the child in its mother’s womb was “foetal tissue” — for after all, women don’t give birth to cats. If the State cannot intervene against the wanton killing of human beings, what is it good for?

Only to intrude in other areas, which are none of its business.

I should think 99 percent of the adult population would agree with me — were we now in 1953. It took a very Long March through the institutions, by the progressive Left, to reduce that to 50. It took a tremendous advance, through media and the schools, to every public aspect of our culture — of glibness.

For here I cannot pretend to be naïve. Times have changed, with great certainty. We confront today a State which has taken upon itself an interventionist rôle in every aspect of daily life; which claims an authority far beyond that of the Church in the most remote theocratic corner of the Dark Ages. And through modern technology, neutral in itself, the State has acquired absolute power to enforce its authority and its whims.

We have what I now call the State as Twisted Nanny, imposing her insatiable will on the motherless children of our post-modern orphanage, now that the traditional family is largely destroyed. Twisted Nanny treats her “clients” as wayward children, of no individual significance, and with “rights” only insofar as they are organized in groups for whining, and need to be bought off.

*

This Catholic Civil Rights League, founded as recently as 1985, exists, one might say, to organize some Catholic whining. You protest the defamation of Catholic people and causes, and represent the Catholic teaching in quarters where it is utterly despised. The League came into being after 1982, the year in which Pierre Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms was legislated. The CCRL was a necessary response in a political environment where indifference to Catholics was being progressively replaced by something else — thanks partly, I think, to what was achieved by that very Charter.

I was among a fairly small minority which opposed the thing, in principle, for many reasons I will not review, except to say that I clearly foresaw the consequences of redefining “human rights” as group entitlements, in contradiction to many centuries of British Common Law, from roots planted long before the Reformation.

Henceforth, I argued, we would have the opposite of what we had before. We would have an essentially Napoleonic system, in which a citizen has such rights as the State confers, and no longer intrinsically as a human being. It was, to my mind, the equivalent in the realm of the soul to what abortion was in the realm of the body — new liberties to cancel the old. Grown men and women were now the spiritual equivalent of that “foetal tissue,” which the State and its courts could effectively “overrule,” for reasons so vague that there must finally be no definable limitations on Twisted Nanny’s arbitrary powers.

This may strike my audience as a very radical view, and be dismissed by some as fanatical. It is true, I even call myself a reactionary. But it is founded in the observation from which I began: that the past is a foreign country. And call me if you wish a ghost from that past, for this has become a foreign country to me.

Forget, for just one moment, that as a Catholic Christian I owe my highest allegiance to an agency far above any human government — to Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and not to some bureaucrats in Ottawa. My loyalty to the Canada into which I was born is itself inconsistent with loyalty to the Canada of today. That Twisted Nanny may compel me by her irresistible physical power. She could take away my livelihood or even my life. But she has no claims whatever on my heart.

This is not to say that I am unpatriotic. My love for the country in itself continues. Rather I am saying that my Canada is not restricted to the living and the glib; that it includes, as it were, every dead Canadian turning in his grave, and all the children of our future. Ours was from the start — from Cartier and Champlain, from Cabot and Frobisher — an explicitly Christian country. I do not accept its de-Christianization. (There are many non-Christians who don’t accept it, either.) I do not agree that what fundamentally defined us, as a nation, can be legislated away. I have not deserted my country; I merely note that my country has deserted me.

*

Now the strange thing is, Twisted Nanny knows this. Part of the reason faithful Catholics are defamed, is that she knows we are basically errant to her wishes. We believe in original sin; she doesn’t, and is out to fix us. She believes in what the anciently persecuted Irish and Scots Catholics called, “The Religion of the Yellow Stick.” This was the facetious expression the peasants used for the landlords, with their gold-handled canes, who would beat them for going to the Catholic Mass; or force them to attend services in the State’s new spic-and-span Protestant chapels. All the cowards were converted in that way — by the Yellow Stick — and as I have come to learn, the majority in every society are cowards.

The landlords in question were not so dumb as to think they were loved for offering their corrections. I should think they were reasonably aware of the fact that they were hated. But it wasn’t love they were after, it was control — just as it is in the post-Christian “Reformation” of today. And backed, today as then, with an overwhelming national propaganda.

I have inserted this historical aside to suggest that while our world has outwardly changed in quite spectacular ways, in the course of the last generation or two, the changes have deep historical antecedents. For while the Protestant Reformation is no longer in vogue, the tyranny of the State has outlived it. The State appropriating the functions of the Church, is not something new.

Rather it is a theme of history, through all generations, times and places. The pagan Romans took the same attitude towards the early Christians; the Muslim conquerors of our Byzantine Christian East imposed their Shariah; and we ourselves have sometimes forced our own Catholic religion on subjects of another one, through the medium of State power. In this sense, what seems very new is rather very old.

I would not even call this a lapse of “tolerance” — an old word redefined to its opposite, like so many others in the Newspeak of today, bent to serve the purposes of “progress.” No State really cares what its people believe, so long as they keep it to themselves, and salute the State’s gods on all State occasions. The State’s gods today may be Abortion and Sodomy and Gender Metamorphosis. We might want to laugh at the idiocy of it. But they are gods, State gods, and every citizen must salute, as we see in this form-ticking exercise. Those who refuse must confront the State’s high opinion of itself.

This does not mean you can’t be a Catholic — so long as you keep it in the privacy of your own mind. It is only when you act as a Catholic, that you deliver yourself into the State’s hands.

Thus, “freedom of conscience” does not really come into this, either. The State has its religion, we have ours. So long as we remain meek and obedient, to anything we are required to sign, the Antichrist himself wouldn’t care what we think. The trouble arises only when we fail to sign, salute, or check the right boxes. That is, from the Antichrist’s point of view, a form of defiance that requires punishment — a punishment that we have brought upon ourselves, as will be condescendingly explained.

The ancient Christian position was, “bring it on.” That’s how we made converts, even among our executioners, who saw the face of the Crucified Christ in our sufferings, and became Christian martyrs in their turn. Our liturgy is filled with saints and martyrs.

But another truth is that most apostatize under pressure, and I think this has always been so. God bestows such Grace that we could all be martyrs, but in practice we don’t want to receive it. The courage that we don’t have is not something we’re inclined to pray for — and when I say “we” I do not only mean people at the present day. The history of earthly tyranny corresponds to the human search for the path of least resistance. As Alexander Solzhnitsyn used to say, if everyone in Soviet Russia would get up one morning, resolved to speak only the truth, the Communist Party would collapse by noon. Yet through seventy-five years, that never happened.

I don’t expect it to happen today, even though the tyranny we now face is minor in comparison, and still fairly early in its development. It is growing fast, however.

*

What struck me hardest about the job-forms outrage was not that Justin Trudeau tried it on. Our prime minister is a man whose preparation for high office was, after all, as a high school gym instructor, and a nightclub bouncer. I expect him to do stupid things. What struck me was the way he and his equally ditzy cabinet doubled down — after even progressive talking heads and pundits called them on what they could see was a frightful imposture. This indicates how far things have gone. They really think they can do things like this, and perhaps they can.

For the truth is, that we are facing not something deep, but something glib; the “banality of evil” if you like. That is the most one can say for the ideological checklist for these summer jobs.

It seems a minor issue to the public, the great majority of whom won’t be hiring anyone this summer anyway. Who will never appreciate that history can turn on buzzfly irritations — on very minor issues we wish would go away. The path of least resistance dictates that even the majority of self-styled Catholics including bishops will cover their faces, or make meaningless fly-swatting gestures, or just ignore the whole thing. Checking off a few boxes, by way of declaring oneself a Catholic apostate, is such a small price to pay in return for remunerative government support. Let us scratch each other’s backs and get on with it.

Young Justin is himself an example of the kind. For all his faults, his father was at least an educated man. He was educated by the Jesuits; he could read Latin. He was an apostate himself, accordng to me, but knew enough about the Church to offer her some respect. He had some idea of the twenty centuries of Church teaching and history, and the many centuries of Hebrew faith underlying that.

And his son calls himself a Catholic, too, of which he speaks as some kind of quaint ethnicity, perhaps still good for a couple million habitual votes.

We might wish to explain our position to him, but I don’t see how it can be done. How do you explain something complex yet intellectually coherent, to a man like that? He does not have the equipment. You can’t teach catechism to a soap bubble. The most you can do is, wait for it to pop.

We are, for the most part, silent now about a few disturbing things; our children will, as a consequence of our silence, be silent about much more. They will be less like persons of character and more like soap bubbles; except the many who already are.

*

It’s a pity our gliberal media do not report any substantial opposition to their Liberal Party, even from within Parliament. To them it’s just not news. They leave the impression of a national closed camp, in which everyone is onside with progress, and the Liberals are delivering it, when in fact at least half the population are not onside, and never were. As a former hack journalist myself, indeed as someone driven out of our mainstream media for persisting in my non-progressive views, I am more aware than most of “media bias.”

But I would call very few of my former colleagues Leftists or fanatics of any kind, or even uncritical supporters of the mainstream progressive agenda. In private, many will utter things that would explode the heads of the politically correct — if they were listening. But first they look around to see who is listening. That caution, about being overheard, is a sign of our times.

They aren’t, for the most part, radicals themselves, but they follow the playbook. Instead, I would call them “bought,” but have to qualify this by noting that the purchase comes in many currencies: good job, good pay, career advancement, personal prestige, sexual favours; a chance to rise in the pecking order, or at least, don’t lose your place. Essentially, it is the path of least resistance. A happy life is believed to require little or no serious thinking; indeed, thinking can often be a source of pain. In the modern newsroom, one goes with the flow. Stay away from topics that interrupt that flow; ride the raft to safety.

If off-agenda items should force themselves on public attention, they know how to paddle round. Attribute any discordant voice to “rightwing influences from the USA,” and it can be dealt with smoothly. If you happen to be working for one of the more consciously Leftish outlets, such as the CBC or the Toronto Scar, mention neo-Nazis and the KKK. Everyone will know what you mean, and shelter from the smears that are flying. There are days when I find this sort of complacency almost annoying.

But in the end, without newsworthy confrontation, no one will ever hear contrary views. Mere protests are meaningless, and will be deflected. It is when Catholics and other Christians actually refuse to do as they are told, that the coverage begins — overwhelmingly negative. Of course, confrontation requires some God-given nerve, and will benefit from some tactical preparation. But don’t mince words.

Never expect the agents of publicity to be on your side; think one step ahead of them, instead. They won’t be on your side today or tomorrow, or until the day that you win everything, and even then, they won’t be on your side. For they will be on the side of power and comfort, as they always were. If the whole country turned Mediaeval Catholic, tomorrow morning, they would kneel and take up their Rosaries; and have as much faith as they had the day before.

I am saying that we must accommodate reality; which requires real toughness of spirit. And we have not been doing a good job of that. If there is one thing I might hope, arising from the present controversy, it is that more faithful Catholics will realize that Twisted Nanny is not their friend.

Though I think we are right to state our grievances plainly, I do not think it will do much good. Nor, as I’ve hinted, do I seriously believe the majority of nominal Catholics in this country will rise to the banner. Polls indicate they much prefer Mammon.

This is from many causes, originating ultimately in failures within the Church herself — which was already retreating before Vatican II. The majority of Catholics now go with the flow. How, anyway, can they defend Catholic principles they were never taught? They more or less accept Twisted Nanny’s moral instruction, even when it directly violates that of their Church.

Pray for their souls, but don’t worry about them, on the practical level: for they will disappear. They have no foundations, no real opinions, and they don’t breed. The generation that follows “nominal Catholics” are not even nominal. The generation after that does not even get born. Over time, only the faithful remain.

Focus on what is within our power, which starts not with “outreach” and “dialogue” but with rebuilding our Church. For she is very weak, and we must make her strong.

Still, I cannot reasonably criticize those who today, like the CCRL, did not make the bargain, but inherit its effects; just as I can hardly blame Protestants for their inheritance of five hundred years. We must deal with the fallout from all historical mistakes. Yet we must try to understand what they were.

The Catholics of a previous generation, who welcomed financial dependence on the State, and eagerly accepted funding for Catholic schools and all of our declining charitable institutions, did not appreciate the full significance of their Faustian bargain. The paperwork of the secular bureaucracies now reaches through every rectory. The State’s priorities displace our own. From being our civil servants, we have become theirs. We serve the State’s very secular agenda, hop and bow to fulfil the conditions, haplessly beg for another State dime.

This is not something that I am predicting, rather something that already is. If the power of the State were reduced to a tenth, and the power of the Church increased ten times, we would still be their insignificant other.

*

“News from a foreign country came, as if my treasures and my joys lay there.”

I am quoting from the seventeenth-century mystic Thomas Traherne, who understood what L. P. Hartley understood, but at a level more profound. The past is a foreign country to be sure, one to which we can now return only in our imagination. The past is irrecoverably the past.

But: “There’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago, most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know.”

It does not follow from what I have said that we must go underground, as Catholics often did in previous centuries. I think that we are already there. And so I think it is time we started playing our glow-worm part. If we want to avoid State interference and dictation, we must eventually stop even asking for the State’s help, and pay our own way, every penny. And by pay, I do not only mean with what money Twisted Nanny happens to leave in our own pockets.

For the Cross will remind us what the fees are.

In God we don’t trust

Up here in the High Doganate, we have long been inclined to delegate the study and analysis of Congressional documents touching on Merican spy agencies to our Chief Texas Correspondent. He is a shrewd lawyer and close observer of the Natted States political process (though a little weak on Catholic theology). From his reports I am now convinced that some dirty pool has been played, and is beginning to be exposed — notwithstanding the usual partisan gibber from all sides, and the fact that nothing has yet risen to the evidentiary standard of surprising me.

By other methods — facial gestures, vocal tone, overall smugness and content of tweets — I had already concluded that the former FBI director, Mr Comey, is a Bad Guy. In the last USA election, I couldn’t tell what game he was playing, but could tell he was playing a game. That we heard from him at all, was suspicious.

Partisanship conceals more than the obvious. At the lowest intellectual level, it is plain enough why the progressive media, normally shrieking for “transparency,” are now outraged by the declassification of departmental secrets; or why those who want police and intelligence agencies kept on a very short leash, now demand they be allowed free-range. As my CTC likes to remind, “If they didn’t have double standards, they’d have no standards at all.”

To be fair to them, however, few in the media can remember what happened more than five minutes ago, and this tends to make conscious hypocrisy impossible for them. We can hardly expect them to remember, say, the extra-legal eccentricities of J. Edgar Hoover; nor their own methods, both legal and not, when inquiring into Watergate, or the Pentagon Papers. It all makes sense, however, once we discern their consistent purpose, which is, lynching Republicans. Something that now focuses cold and penetrating light into the interior of the Obama administration, makes them instead glowering old maids of rule adherence.

The inability to see beyond one’s own partisan position is the easier to understand in a world that has been so intensely politicized. It appears, to the partisans of the moment, that everything is at stake: “No price too high!”

But that, I think, is the clue to what has happened beneath the intense partisanship: a terrible loss of Christian faith. Particularly: faith in providence.

One must do, consistently, not what is convenient to one’s party, but what is right. If there is conflict, then, it is the party that needs adjusting, and not the moral law. For as Lord Marmion of Fontenaye discovered: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!”

Having done what is right, trust things will work out – remembering that your own destruction may be part of God’s plan. He, however, will take care of things, in the long view; the final result is not up to you. Even the ultimate consequences of your own actions, are not in your hands. Prudence can compass only what is humanly foreseeable.

This, or rather the ignorance of this, is what I dislike about Comey (and the rest of them). It explains why he made such a hash, during the last election campaign, with his theatrical announcements of FBI investigations, called on and off. It explains why both Hillary and Donald detested him.

It was not partisanship, that provoked his actions. I’m sure he thought himself above that. Rather, he felt the need to decide, “Who should win in America’s best interest?” I do not doubt he is sincere, in believing himself a patriot.

Vanity always thinks it knows best.

And it thinks the end justifies the means.

Verily, the Twisted Nanny State is built on this premiss: “In God we don’t trust.”

Scared yet?

Every million years or less, our poles flip over. The Earth’s North Pole becomes the South Pole, and vice versa. This is not news, though it seems to be making news at the moment, among alarmists who are starting to abandon their hopes for “global warming.” Clearly, trillions of dollars will have to be spent studying this (unusually straightforward) phenomenon, and preparing the planet for Armagneticon.

Sometimes the poles almost flip, then don’t. This would seem to be much more common, the last such event having apparently occurred almost within human history. That in itself could send everyone’s electronic infrastructure on a wild ride.

According to every compass in the world, not currently near the Isle of Canna,* the North Magnetic Pole has been shifting fairly quickly in recent decades, south and in the direction of Parkdale. That might be a hint. (I should perhaps explain that owing to igneous Tertiary intrusion, Canna has a mountain which has been described as the world’s largest fridge magnet. Bear this in mind whenever sailing by.)

Anything might happen, for all we know, and after that, anything might follow. According to satellite readings, a war is currently in progress, around the edges of the Earth’s molten core, with iron and nickel clustering in strength to drain the dipole. But since the satellites that can detect this were only launched in 2014, we have, really, no idea if this sort of thing happens all the time. (For just one billion dollars — hell, for a thousand and a case of good Scotch — I’ll flip a coin and tell you the answer.)

Okay, I just flipped it, and my research tells me the dipole will soon be fighting back, don’t worry about it. (Now, where’s my money?)

And, did you know? That if the poles suddenly flipped, every electronic device in the world might (or might not) be fritzed? Same from a variety of other cosmic causes. I’m so old now, I can remember when I first read all about this, as a schoolboy in the 1960s. And, saw the movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951; not some glitzy remake). It was fun then, I’m getting tired of it now.

Oh, go ahead, Poles. Flip. I want to see it. And if the event prevents me from uploading my Idleposts, so it goes. I’ll just catch up on my sleep instead.

____________

* I deeply regret that in the original recension, I confused Canna (one of the Small Isles) with Mull (that much larger isle well to its south, which offers magnetic anomalies of its own, but not to compare with Compass Hill on Canna). Fortunately, I now have Western Scottish correspondents to correct me, on such grave matters. Should my post have contributed to a shipwreck on either isle, I apologize and condole.