Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

The power of dreams

By way of making a long Idlepost short, dreams — whether good ones or bad ones — are quite powerless. Work is what gets things done on this planet. Pharaoh didn’t get the Pyramids built on dreams. He employed, or more pointedly enslaved one hundred thousand of his worker bees, according to Herodotus. It is the same for our modern, democratically-elected “nation builders,” raising monuments to themselves. Someone has to do the work, someone has to pay.

There is no free lunch, and there are no free pyramids.

I was dreaming this morning as I woke of some vast white elephant scheme for which I, apparently, was responsible. Needless to say it was turning belly up, and I was in receipt of criticism for my tendency to ruthless incompetence. There was something in the air about a Moon shot, easily explained by today’s anniversary.

John F. Kennedy had a dream — plus the power to commandeer huge resources. Martin L. King had a dream — that hasn’t quite worked out yet, so far as I can judge from the American meejah. Someone else had a dream, according to an old snake-oil pamphlet I consulted yesterday. There are multiple dreamers in this morning’s news — all expecting someone else to pay. I predict, when they don’t, each dreamer will get very stroppy.

That’s why taxes were invented — to make the worker bees work, or pay for things they would never support, voluntarily. Some of those things might actually be for their own good, but such endeavours almost always consist of stopping someone else’s dream from happening. In retrospect, they are never appreciated, for no one gives points when something doesn’t happen. Alas, only the fully grown are likely to comprehend this.

Are there any grown-ups, today?

The manned landing on the Moon made a fine entertainment, and a poignant memory. (See here.) What it cost has now washed under the bridge. I would not dream of trying to change the past. At most I might wish to change the future: put some screeching breaks on it, perhaps.

I have no objection to anyone who would send astronauts to distant orbs, so long as his recruits know what they’re doing, and the entrepreneur has the means to pay. I particularly approve of launching less sexy, high-tech little unmanned probes, “to see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.”

But if you want to spend fifty or five hundred or five thousand times more to put a man down there (and a woman won’t be any cheaper), I’m not standing in your way. Who knows what the return might be on an investment like that? The prospective space pioneer could do a whip-round at ye pub to collect his first billion or two; then see if the banks will accept his collateral.

Our own world will show some modest sign of maturity when the banks decline. Or later, when they foreclose on him.

On a lump of coal

The most beautiful coal mine in the world is, by general consensus, shaft 12 of the Zollverein works in Essen, Germany. Alas, it is no longer in production — the do-gooders closed it in 1993 — but now even Unesco counts it among “World Heritage Sites.” In 1932, near the end of the Weimar Republic, the architects Schupp and Kremmer achieved a glorious vindication of the “objective functional” design ethic, in poured concrete and tiles, red steel and trusses; the unforgettable façade of the Boiler House, and the sublime Winding Tower which became an international symbol of German engineering.

Gentle reader could, were he interested, dig out of the Internet (with some help from Google Translate if necessary) the whole history of industrial production along the Ruhr, going back deep into the Middle Ages; and centuries later, of the coal, coking, and steel-making enterprise “Zollverein,” named to celebrate the German customs union of 1834. (It helps if you were the son of an industrial designer, raised in appreciation of such things; and your mother was from the coalfields of Cape Breton. More still, if your first love was for a girl from Essen.)

Coal is a metal, and it is not a metal; both points can be decisively proved. Because it has been used almost exclusively as a fuel, through the centuries, becoming a cheap commodity associated with dismal work conditions and pollution, it is not held in much esteem. Too, since the strength and skills required to mine, refine, distribute and use this substance are unambiguously masculine, it is disparaged in our toxically feminist culture. It is considered “unclean” not only physically but new-age spiritually. The many millions of unambiguous males who still work in the coal-centred industries — for instance “stoking” a form of electricity generation that provides several hundred times more power than the output of our bird-slaughtering windmills — are themselves trolled by all progressive politicians, who gloat at every prospect of putting them and their families out of their livelihoods.

I love coal, as a material in itself, and long treasured a lustrous black nugget of nearly pure carbon polished anthracite, that came to me in a Christmas stocking — hung by a fireplace nearly sixty years ago. It was a lasting reminder to me that coal is an extremely precious thing; a divine gift. In chemical and physical analysis we are only beginning to understand its remarkable properties, and its potential for use far beyond building water heat to spin turbines. Notwithstanding, sans sulphur and the more immediate volatiles, slow-burned at high temperatures, it can indeed spin those turbines smokelessly; and can itself be spun in extraordinary carbon-fibrous ways.

The greatest disaster in education today, is the loss of that explicitly Christian conception of a God-created universe and planet. It enhanced the merely empirical reason, directing our attention to the very miracles that the modern, post-humanized world denies, and mocks. It provided a vision of the bottomlessly precious, from the smallest atomic scale to the farthest we can see, and was unquestionably the reason Christian, Western man took his commanding place in the world’s transformation. This had nothing whatever to do with geography or race. It had everything to do with a way of looking upon Creation — in Plato’s transcendental terms of the good, the true, and the beautiful; in Aristotle’s glimmering of a prime mover over-pinning logic; in the ancient Hebrew meeting-place of God and Man.

Let it be understood that coal is precious; that the ancient bio-matter compacted into coal was, and actually remains, precious; that all matter and much beyond matter, all life, is precious here below — under the titanic furnace of the sun. Then can we begin to see how precious is that Special Creation, beyond miracle, of every human soul.

Omigod chronicles

Having been told many times that I’m not welcome here; that I should go back where I came from; that if I came from here I should nevertheless leave the country; or that I should recede in time, and go fix the problems of the 13th century; or move to any other century that will have me; … hooo, do I empathize with “The Squad.” They, too, were told they should go home (to Somalia, or the Bronx, or wherever) and fix the problems there. It was a very hurtful comment. And made by Donald Trump, on Twitter. He is worse than Hitler.

Me, too, was a victim of racism; including chrono-racism, the worst kind. (There has been a genocide against all those born before the 20th century. They’re all dead now.) I was utterly traumatized, let me tell you — so much that, in several cases, I attempted a witty rejoinder. In others, I didn’t react at all. I waited for my fellow panelists to defend me. But they didn’t have the courage. They just sat there, like grinning idiots, pretending that nothing important had happened.

I get so outraged by Donald Trump, when he tweets what most of the population are thinking; until he says it and they line up to condemn him. He is such a racist. An anti-Semite, and what makes it worse, a Zionist and an Israel-lover. A guy making jobs more plentiful for Blacks and Hispanics, just to buy them off. (What a corrupt person!) An Orange Supremacist. He even has an estate in Florida.

A Fascist, who wants to enforce immigration laws. There are concentration camps all along the Mexican border now, with millions of people trying to get into them.

Why do you think people elected Trump? Because Vladimir Putin told them to do so. That’s what made them think he’d be okay. But he’s a Russian agent. Probably an Iranian agent, too.

Trump is putting tariffs on the poor, innocent, defenceless Red Chinese, so that we can’t buy them at Walmart any more. His wife is from Slovenia. He must have bought her in the slave market at Ljubljana, and smuggled her in Air Force One.

Time to impeach him: before he wins another election. And don’t wait another minute! For it could be a landslide next time.

Factory work

In the factories that I own — all of which happen to be imaginary — the managers are instructed never to pay our workers more than they could make if they quit. Not much less, however, and we do after all pay bonuses to, e.g., those who have lots of children, and modest extras to those experiencing bad luck, too. There are also worker dividends at year-end. But, “paying attention” is what we try to do better than other employers. Alas, all this is complicated by our endless fights with the guvmint Tax and Labour Departments, and the Regulatory Administrators from the Department of Redundancy Department. In principle, however, we try to pay less.

This is to be sure that our staff are loyal. Which means, we have to be loyal to them.

We pay monthly, on the nail, never hourly; salaries not wages, as the accountants say. Some of the jobs are in effect piecework, but this is for work contracted out. Inside, work is performed by teams. No team has more than a dozen people, and each has a captain or foreman, often as not elected by his mates. They, in turn, form teams at the next level up, and so on hierarchically. But the focus is on the factory floor, for that’s where production actually happens, as opposed to ventilation and careerism. Working hours are approximate, and shifts are exchanged informally, but deadlines must be met, and persistent slackers can of course be fired. We do expect our foremen to be a little inspiring, though, and paternal in just the right way.

No enterprise is without internal strife, but I’ve found that this can be minimized if morale is kept high. Hence, the elimination of “production lines,” and the emphasis we place on the design not only of our products, but on the physical surroundings in which they are made. It is a little known fact that there is a trade-off between quality and “efficiency” (as statistically defined). As nothing we make is for the low, mass market, and nothing is ever marked down in price, we reverse the usual assumptions about economies of scale. That which hasn’t sold is withdrawn, shipped elsewhere or broken up for recycling. A lot of thought has gone into eliminating waste, especially the human waste of boredom.

True, our competitors hate us. That is because everything we make is the best of its kind — “twice the price but lasts ten times longer; classic style that won’t go out of date.” People told us this was a self-defeating economic strategy, but I’m here to tell you it works. (In my imagination.)

It further helps that we are not trying to dominate any of the markets in which we compete, only to hold our own. The intention is to cultivate steady, really satisfied customers, who trust our workmanship and integrity, and will stick with our goods from generation to generation; who “buy into the brand,” as it were.

The reason I’m so rich (in spirit) is that I learnt, early in life, that hardly anyone works just for the money, unless he is psychotically greedy, or desperate. Most wish to be around friends, who value them for what they do and are. Most would prefer a workplace that is beautiful, and joyous, to say nothing of safe. These are among the perqs we try to provide in all our firms, at Dominion Holdings.

“Community” is often advertised, but seldom delivered in modern life. I think, for instance, of our big car assembly plant, at Lakebottom, Ontario. It has a choir and orchestra. There are several field clubs, the gastronomical workshop in a company cafeteria, the factory gardens with so many volunteers. We have a gym and the rooftop race track, our hockey and baseball teams, the reading circles that meet in our library. There is the med clinic that can handle anything, with its free pharmacy.

A factory is also a school, according to some corporate adage, and gentle reader should see our in-house nursery and kindergarten, our night and apprenticeship classes, the exhibits of models and drawings and even fine art that are scattered about. There are research facilities within the factory “campus,” and workers with bright ideas are quite welcome there (we have a very busy patent lawyer). Many are drawn to the attached garage, in which we restore old cars and trucks for a hobby, while rediscovering lost craft skills. The finest interior in the whole complex, according to me, is the Latin-mass church, dedicated to Saint Eloi (after whom the company was named); though some prefer the smaller meditative “non-denom” chapel for our Protestant, Buddhist, and Novus Ordo staff. One of our managers is also a rabbi.

It is not true that, if you build a better mouse-trap, the world will beat a path to your door. But neither is it true that advertising can save the inferior mouse-trap manufacturer. As any Trump could tell you, the trick is to get people talking, and the less it costs you, the more it pays back. Good faith, good will, and good humour are the watchwords of our publicity operation, and (in my imagination) it seems to be working well enough.

Full retro

My readings in mediaeval economic history peaked when I was given an assignment, a few years ago, by some newspaper chain that happened to be employing me. They were planning a celebration of Capitalism to delight their pro-business readers, and wanted to regurgitate the cliché iteration of a much-disproved thesis about the “Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” that Max Weber (1864–1920) never held. I, on the contrary, wanted to resist it. I sent in a draught manuscript on the development of trade finance, double-entry bookkeeping, brand management, and industrial production in mediaeval Florence and across pre-modern Europe, to make clear that this thesis, associating the birth of “capitalism” with the Protestant Reformation, was fanciful diddly-squat. My manuscript was neither returned, nor published. It was off-message.

A ludicrous belief in “modern progress” is shared by ideologues both Left and Right, and has been since the European Enlightenment. Both assume that “business,” and “science,” were inventions of modern people — freethinking, self-starting, emancipated — casting off the shackles of religious tyranny and dark superstition that had constrained all generations before. People much like themselves. By simply ignoring the evidence of history — rather as modern media simply ignore news unless it fits their agenda — an alternative world can be constructed. This is a world in which the heroes are all “liberators” of one kind or another, setting their necks against the ignorant, malevolent, self-serving villains, trying to sustain feudalism, slavery, tradition.

The end justifies the means, in progressive pedagogy, and so the endless repetition of bald yet mediocre lies can be justified. The progressive is by definition “on the side of history,” a cause so irreproachably good that pious fraud may be used to advance it. Naturally, the spokesman for progress accuses his opponents of doing exactly what he would do. Over time, realities are forgotten, progress triumphs over its foes, and a brave new world prevails until the catastrophe in which it collapses.

We are governed by superstition today. I realize this at each appearance of a new diet fad, each vomit of statistics, each announcement of the latest findings of one branch of scientism or another — that another progressive embolism has ensconced itself in a vein of the human body politic. A new witch-hunt is about to launch, against a new villain who deserves “zero tolerance.”

Our safety depends on the immediate rejection of anything that is presented as progressive. Suppress the contagion of Progress, before it kills us all.

The licentia chronicles

We (in the sense of “I”) drop hints from time to time that we are “reactionary,” or otherwise indisposed to the contemporary social, economic, and political order. (There are local variations, but it’s basically all the same.) Sometimes we even explain ourself. There was an example the other day when we extolled discipline over the pigsty consumerism that passes for freedom in what is described as an “open society,” … and duty over “human rights.” Indeed, our rights, if any, must be dependent upon our duties, and not vice versa. Or so we hold: a typically reactionary position.

Verily, I recently confronted a kindly, well-educated, dreamy liberal, by declaring that, “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your axiology.”

He replied, smartly, “So now who is the totalitarian dreamer?”

Enflamed, I accused him of being a Kantian deontological goody-two-shoes.

He then rudely accused me of consequentialism. The matter was resolved by ordering another pint.

But will the ceasefire last? For while I’m counting neglected values, I am reminded that so many, buried since the time of the Second World War, must, like Elvis, have secretly survived. Today’s radically progressive factions have gone to the trouble of digging them up for posthumous execution again and again, as if they were the corpse of Pope Formosus. Dead, perhaps, but one can hardly say forgotten.

One might think, for instance, that such sanctities as those of life, and of the family, had been sufficiently slain by the overthrow of laws against e.g. abortion and sexual perversion, half a century ago. Nothing, or hardly anything was left to discourage open living on the wild side. But the body of Western Civ is now disinterred at intervals of a decade or less, to be freshly dismembered. We progress from tolerance of these evils, to “zero tolerance” for any who refuse to affirm them.

I read in the e-papers that a fourteen-year-old child in Scotland can now be expelled from school for maintaining that there are only two sexes. There are at least ten items like this every morning I descend into “the news”; for some reason this one struck me as memorable.

Perhaps it was nostalgia. I was almost hounded out of school myself, at that age — and by my fellow students — for arguing that children ought to be spawned in test tubes, checked for eugenic quality before hatching, and raised in state-of-the-art child factories. My colleagues in learning did not realize that I was attempting satire. My point was, this is the way the world is going. I did not yet realize that drollness is against the law in Canada. I was called down to see a vice-principal and asked to explain my views, and how they could not be a challenge to peace, order, and good government. But I was not expelled. The downside was that I wanted to be, for the school was very boring.

There are now government quizzes in Canada to expose “two-sex” believers. I recommend that those beaded try a pseudo-Jesuitical subterfuge. Rather than admitting the charge, say: “Yes, there must be as many sexual orientations as there are people, but still I have some difficulty with this, because I can only count to two.”

In praise of deference

After rereading this, I rewrote it entirely.

*

Man the Rebel often complains that he don’t get no respect. This is the theme of innumerable stories in the mainstream meejah: demand for laws that will force silence on the critics of the Great Rebellion, and more, make them praise and give deference to the revolutionary vanguard, and their latest innovations. This is the deference of command, the Deference of Fear: show me respect because I can hurt you. Verily, Comrade must show the right attitude towards his progressive betters. Gentle reader will guess that I don’t approve of it or him.

To this I would juxtapose the Deference of Love, which is respect freely given. The recipient of this complaisance, “submission,” or in the old sense, condescension, is judged to be worthy. He does not become worthy for something that he does, such as expressing the correct political opinions. Rather he is worthy in himself, for what he is — say, a creature made in the image of God.

The appreciation of a relation between deference and condescension has been, so far as I can see, abandoned. It assumed hierarchy, which always exists in nature, including human nature. To the rebel against the Creator of nature, however, this cannot be right. Humans must be the product of social construction, or human engineering, so that by reverse engineering we can be taken back to zero, or re-purposed. Our ruler can make us, for instance, interchangeably “equal,” each one with each other. Through biological improvement, he can remove any impediment to our doing his will. We can become what Stalin called the “New Soviet Man,” except, the distinction between male and female has also been erased in the new party line, and those who still insist upon it are now eligible for legal punishments.

But as gentle reader may recall, I am a backward and regressive beast, who still recognizes things like “up” and “down”; and I retain the notion of a kindly regard towards my social inferiors, if I can find any. It was, according to the old system of consciousness, possible to show deference even to one’s servant, or a used car salesman. One did not have to elevate one’s inferior, or change him in any way. One had only to acknowledge a fellow human being.

The reason civic freedom was the unique invention of “western,” Christian society, is this peculiar notion that all humans are not equal, but immortal. There is much to be said for caste systems, but in principle we have no untouchable, or subhuman classes. For Christ is all in all, and as He indicated, what ye have done to the least of the brethren, “ye have done it unto me.” This was a very shocking view, to the ancients, though it did follow naturally from the older, Hebrew teaching. The Pagans generally thought it was crazy; and they’re beginning to think it is crazy again.

So very well, we’re crazy. The arrogance with which we appropriate from the least of these brethren counts not against them, but against us. Deference to persons necessarily extends to what belongs to them. (This is why, exempli gratia, “planning authorities,” with the power to expropriate, are an unmitigable evil; at least according to me.)

Deference, I think, has been dying in our society, to the degree that we recognize only the deference of command — saluting our superiors in worldly power, and that out of Fear. But our command from Christ was actually, “Fear not.” For rather it is the Deference of Love, that underlies all harmonious order.

Problems we don’t have

Speaking with a gentleman who vends in a neighbourhood farmers’ market, I learnt something interesting, and probably true. Surviving family farms usually lack “organic” credentials. This is because getting them, from the bureaucracies that dispense them, is an immensely time-consuming process, and involves costs that would erase most of the little farmer’s profits. You have to be a big, faceless, industrial concern to afford the official “organic” labels that sucker big city consumers into paying double for essentially the same goods. That the whole system is massively corrupt, can almost go without saying. It was designed to be.

By coincidence, the same day my eye caught, by accident on the Internet, the announcement of a Green Award to a big car assembly “park.” They had changed all the light bulbs in their factory buildings, thus saving themselves a few thousand dollars on their multi-million electric bill, and seem to have installed new toilets, too. This sprawling high-tech carriage works remains three hundred acres of unspeakable aesthetic horror, in which human beings are enslaved to machines. But now it is “Green.”

Gentle reader may find his own examples of this sort of systemic fraud: they are everywhere. Conversely, he may look for integrity under every stone, and sometimes I hope he will find it. But big business and its enabling big guvmint are a cynical affair.

The environmental business — currently buoyed by unprovable, often fatuous claims of anthropogenic global warming — is perhaps the most cynical. It has spawned vested interests on a global scale, that will not be overturned by occasional exposure. At its heart is the manipulation of statistics, and scare-mongering through compliant mass media. The general public are hypnotized by repetition. I have noticed in desultory dips into the news that e.g. anomalous weather will invariably be attributed to “climate change,” when more plausible explanations are easily at hand.

This zombification extends to most other areas of reportage: invisible bogeys blamed for imaginary trends. Solutions to “environmental problems” are proposed that will not make the slightest dent in them.

A leading example is electrification. It is true that fossil-fuel burning contributes significantly to whatever — chiefly plant growth through increase in planetary carbon dioxide. We want “clean energy” instead, and propose to get it through megaproject, bird-killing solar and wind arrays. To date, these virtue-signalling technologies have contributed a share to the world’s electricity generation that works out to well under 1 percent. With technical improvements, by the end of the century, perhaps this may rise to 2 percent, though on the face of things I doubt it.

But nuclear power, most easily in the form of molten salt reactors (on which research was killed fifty years ago), could replace most uses of coal, oil, and gas within a decade, through much smaller facilities eliminating huge transmission costs. It would be the cheaper because the fuels are readily available to start in the form of recycled nuclear waste, and the raw materials would be abundantly available thereafter.

On the question of safety, the death toll from mining, drilling, hydro dams, &c, is quite considerable — in the tens of thousands at least, post-War. Except for Chernobyl (one of many Soviet-era environmental disasters), the death toll from nuclear accidents remains about nil. No one died at Three Mile Island. Not one death was caused by the flooded Fukushima reactors (though well over twenty thousand were killed by the tsunami that caused the difficulty there).

In short, “clean energy” is not a problem. It had to be made into one by the fright campaigns of the environmentalcases, whose own power and income depends on sustaining the problem, and preventing the most obvious solutions.

Dominion Day

Notice that I have shut up this year for Dominion Day. One might know what I think of the splendid anniversary, since it was shallowly renamed “Canada Day,” by reading any of the dozen or more items I wrote for appearance on the 1st of July, over the last few decades. Or go read George Grant’s Lament for a Nation (1965), which still approximates to my point de vue, and will likely approximate to it forever.

And my heart will leap for the Canada into which I was born — a decent, Christian country — et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae — from the days before it was occupied by aliens from some passing asteroid.

God save the Queen.