Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

Tsurezuregusa revisited

Respect for Ontario’s Blue Laws (repealed many decades ago) keeps me, usually, from publishing on Sundays. But I wish to flag the seventh anniversary of this nearly invisible website, which launched, as today, on Michaelmas, about 1,400 Idleposts ago (counting only the ones I haven’t repealed yet).

This happened just after my last “mainstream meejah” employer found enough money to make me go away. It hadn’t been their first offer; but as the money would be seized by competing government departments (long boring story) it was not the principal issue. Rather, I had tired of being ever on the defensive, against sleaze and liars; and having people promise to defend me, who would disappear when required. A break was needed.

I thought, perhaps I shouldn’t let the devils shut me up so easily; it seemed I still had many loyal readers. But then I thought again. My columns in Canadian newspapers were sometimes “politically incorrect” — I was frequently accused of expressing “conservative” views, and as one complainant to the Ontario Press Council alleged, I “openly admitted to being a Catholic.” (They let me off on that one, however.)

Over my last decade in the “respectable” meejah, I had attracted more than nine hundred formal complaints of one sort or another, tying my editors up in red tape. (This is a longstanding Leftist tactic: “the process is the punishment.”) Verily, I could understand why those editors would want to shake me off, even had they been on my side.

That they weren’t, could be guessed from the number of newspapers that carried my column. It shrank to just the one that was contractually stuck with me. But that was in Ottawa, where “liberals and progressives” are most lawyered up.

The world is as the world is, and one shouldn’t moan too often. The Lord’s task is to deal with it. Shrieking injustice, lewd wickedness, and vicious tyranny are commonplace, and it isn’t always possible to hide. In boxing terms, trying to resist is “leading with the chin.”

Curiously, my opposition to the way things are done down here includes opposition to the very idea that everything should be politicized. Two of the best ways to antagonize the Devil are, poetry and laughter. Such whimsicality triggers all of his efficiency experts.

As gentle reader might discover from the first Idlepost, I particularly enjoy triggering Satan’s little minions. The conceit of writing brief “Essays in Idleness,” as if with an Oriental brush, then posting them on the walls of a cabin in the mountains, was perhaps too ambitious. Too often I descend, downhill, as if actually drawn towards squalor.

Seven years later and yet again, I must try to climb back up the hill.

Encratites & Apotactics

Renunciators, we might call them in English, from what little we can know about life at the edge of the Christian communities, through the first century or two. They were ascetics who renounced private property, meat, wine, women, song, and what have you. Many also rejected the Epistles of Paul, and the Book of Acts, and might sift pick and choose through the Gospels, too, for they were above being told anything.

From what I can make out, these prototype “gnostics” did not wander in the deserts of Syria or Egypt, or form any regular orders, but went no farther than the suburbs of the town. The impression I first got of them (from Clement of Alexandria, I think) was “very proud,” and full of what we call today “virtue signalling.”

More generally, “full of it,” like our modern vegans, socialists, greenies, and health freaks — with their superior airs.

Someone else can devote his life to studying them, which means trying to reconstruct people and events that left no, or very little, trace of themselves, and are a speck on the horizon of Christian antiquity. The attitude of Fathers of the Church who mention them seems only to be mild irritation. But like our modern antinomians — those “free thinkers” who make up their own personal religions, as they go along — they were mere consumers.

They were consumers of radical ideas, who like the Puritans who came long after them, liked to dress up, and were possibly a godsend to cosmeticians and tailors, while pestering their neighbours to ban this and that.

Any attempt to confuse their works with the foundations of Christian monasticism, will err. For from their beginnings, monks and brothers, nuns and sisters, sought regulation and discipline. The Desert Fathers had no inclination to dissent from the Church; those who did soon left it, and abandoned their hardships. The course they had chosen was just too tough.

The desire of eremites and coenobites alike was to enter into the spirit of Our Lord, more deeply; those in the wilderness to live his Forty Days. Through century after century to the High Middle Ages, the recluse thought of himself more on the analogy of a soldier — often on guard at the frontier — than as any kind of revolutionist. In confusion they deferred to Central: the living authority of a divinely founded Church.

The Church, for her part, has counselled prudence — Prudentia, the highest cardinal virtue — with remarkable consistency through the ages. In breadth, it is a whole galaxy of virtues, known to the sages of other religions, as well as to our own. We paired it with justice — the goddess Justicia — and kept it enthroned. Christianity, as I like to put it, is the most prudent religion.

Not prudence, as a balance to the transcendent Gloria, though it is an anchor for mystical flights; but prudence in Christ, whose very parables “concede” so often to reason and common sense, even while they dramatize a paradox. And, a very conventional prudence, to start from, which in its fully human form, stops to think always, “Where is this leading?”

The fast in season, or the fast for life, is to a purpose. It will never be an end in itself. The same pertains to all Christian asceticism. Our vegetarianisms are not for the sake of the animals, just as Saint Francis’s kindness to animals was not meant as cute sentimentality.

Our husbandry of nature is among God’s assignments, from the beginning of Genesis; it expresses thankfulness for a very precious gift, that has accompanied the gift of life. There is no ecological “instruction manual,” because it explains itself to our native instincts. We look around, and find everything we need, when we come to look for it.

We do not place ourselves above receiving this gift from the highest: as it were, we do not look the gift-horse in the mouth. We are not the judges of God, who gave it, but quite the contrary.

To a Christian mind, we must do His Commandments, which are basic, and tell us how to live. “Beyond” them lies the road home. We are called, we go there, earnestly seeking the way.

Or, we go our own way, like the forgotten Encratites and Apotactics.

Amazonian proceedings

“Agro-industrial mono-cultivation, … ideological colonialisms, … neo-colonialism of the extractive industries, … mercantilist vision, … colonizing mentalities, … networks of solidarity and inter-culturality, … xenophobia and criminalization of migrants and displaced persons, … victims of a ferocious neocolonialism, … colonizing project, … ferocious neocolonialism.” All of this going down “the Amazon, the mother and father river of all.”

I jotted down these phrases scattered through the preparatory document for the Church’s “Amazon Synod,” which will fill half of next month in Rome. I merely skimmed the 10,000 words, for reading such poisonous garbage at full attention can be dangerous to one’s health. To say that this is neo-Marxist drivel, is almost to flatter it. The tone throughout is openly demonic.

Yet it is written by bishops, or with their approval, for an event fully endorsed by our current pope. All Catholics must weather the shame, that for our sins this invasion of our Church has been somehow tolerated.

The invaders don’t give a fig for the peoples of the Amazon. If they did, they could not write such barely grammatical banter, wherein human souls, in all of their variety, are reduced to convenient Marxist classes.

The event has more twisted motives. Incidental proposals, such as that for married priests to supply priest shortages in remote locations, stalk for the abandonment of priestly celibacy in the spiritual jungles of remote Europe, where “the spirit of Vatican II” has driven priests and parishioners alike almost to extinction. And why not parallel “exceptions” for women and gender-bent priests, too? What starts as a minor, local quick fix, is fully intended to create an enduring precedent.

Leftist or environmentalist confabulations are likely to start in obscure regions which hardly anyone has visited, and few would willingly go. They need a place hidden in a steam of ignorance. “The Amazon” is ideal. Clichés about it can be endlessly repeated. Make up any lie you want, and only the obscure can contradict you. By increments, the clichés are then extended, until they will be accepted without thought, by people who should know much better. Eventually, the whole planet is caricatured, as a place where innocent leftwing natives are exploited by greedy rightwing capitalists. Horseshit is the fuel of The Revolution.

To present it as the teaching of Christ and His Church, utterly stinks with evil.

*

[See also my Thing, here.]

The cure for consumerism

One of the consumer’s little-known rights is, not to buy stuff. This is easier than may appear. He (or even she) may be, in some sense, suffering from an addiction. But I’ve been told by the experts, this can be overcome. Take up reading, instead. Whenever the urge to shop afflicts you, open a book. Make a pot of tea, and relax somewhere. Think about things.

In Canada, today, you are even allowed to think officially disapproved thoughts, so long as you don’t tell anyone what they were.

You might also wish to take up smoking, or some other harmless pleasure. When you feel the need to buy something, light a cigarette. It will help calm your nerves.

An exception might be made for grocery shopping. But eat, first. It is dangerous to shop for the pantry when one is hungry. It can conversely be more satisfying to grow your own food. But growing your own tobacco is illegal.

My great-grandmother was quoted as saying, never buy what you can make for yourself. And as Chesterton said, anything worth doing is worth doing badly. (To which Emma, that great-grandma, would have replied, “At first.”) Even in her time, the principle of self-sufficiency was being sharply reversed. But all we need do is reverse it again.

Another tip is to take up a religion. I especially recommend the Roman Catholic one. The cycle of feasts and fasts helps build self-control. As my old friend Pascal argued, acting just as if you were a Catholic can contribute to becoming one. Then, only holiness needs to be added, and all your problems are solved. Well, except for being persecuted, but you can learn through practice how to take that in stride.

Not-shopping can be a participatory sport. It is fun to do with friends. It can even be played during election campaigns. One need not vote for any party that is promising stuff for free. They lie: for nothing on this Earth is gratis, except genuine love, for which there is no market. What comes without strings is shipped only from God. Everything advertised as “costless,” will prove very expensive in fact. I was taught this in childhood; alas, some people weren’t.

Eventually, you can wean yourself off voting entirely, but start by noticing who is making the bigger promises, then vote for the other guy. Never shop for a politician.

And never count the savings. They will be taken away from you, one way or another. Governments hate people who save money: it’s bad for the economic statistics, and it reduces the control they have over you. So they will do something about it. Sadly, now as in ages past, nothing can be done about highwaymen (that doesn’t involve a rifle).

Incidentally, pillows are among the safest places to hide gold. But don’t hide too much, or the pillow will become uncomfortable. Fiat currency — “cash” — is especially not worth hiding. It is already too bulky, and sure to inflate.

There are safer places than pillows, however; and safer stores of wealth than gold. Books, for instance, can be hidden in plain view. I’ve had my own place broken into, and the evil-doer didn’t touch my books. They make a very clever investment, which lasts even longer than a pack of cigarettes.

An even better suggestion comes from Jesus, of all people. Store up your treasure in Heaven, where it will be safe from moths, rust, and tax auditors. (I’m just trying to be practical, here.)

Several of my gentle readers have noted that my views on e.g. energy conservation sound much like those of the various eco-politicians, who could be criticized on the ground that they are batshit insane. I am unconvinced, however. The noisome politicians want your vote so they can impose their whims with a totalitarian lash. Whereas, my whims can be advanced by entirely voluntary action, quietly and with stealth.

Horn of plenty

Which is more “efficient” at capturing the energy in sunlight and storing it for practical use: A large field array of photovoltaic panels, or the same area of plants from the vegetable kingdom? I love to compare apples to oranges; or in this case apples, oranges, weeds, &c, to high-tech human manufactures. At first glance the latter win, even with today’s “developing” technology. This is because the comparison ignores many dimensions of the issue, starting with the storage. As gentle reader will know from the pop science magazines, our batteries are extremely inefficient, big heavy clunky things, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Photosynthesis in living plants is comparatively modest. A much smaller proportion of sunlight is harvested, across a narrower electromagnetic range, than what we can easily conceive. But this is because, typically of nature, the creatures only take what they need. The technological sophistication with which a plant uses a wee twinkle of sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water into usable carbohydrates is beyond what we can do for trillions of dollars. And when it dies, the plant contributes to the cornucopia of hydrocarbons that were waiting in the ground for human use. All it took was a few million years. And we can make more by (“biofuel”) shortcuts; and hardly need much of what is obviously available.

Meanwhile, consider the lilies of the field, which do not labour or spin. Solomon in all his glory was not adorned as one of these.

Taking only one part of the (highly visible) transport sector in view, I have observed: that not one in ten should need a car, almost all of whom live in the country; and those who do need one need less than one-tenth the horsepower. (Check out tractors.) But we have created instead an economy that is extremely wasteful, especially of human intellect and souls.

There, I have solved the energy problem, in a way that should be popular in California. The question is not how to move the maximum of electrons, but how to live. I don’t own a car myself. I can still walk, without even a cane. And when I can’t, canes are cheap. Luckily for me I have inherited two!

Unfortunately my co-habitants on this planet are a wilful species. Unless you impoverish them, they will buy cars that are bigger and more powerful every year, enfibrillating both urban and rural landscapes. Anything that makes energy cheaper will encourage them. We should try to make it more expensive. Alas, we have got beyond the point where even a good war in the Middle East would be very helpful.

More could be said, I know, about the other transport sectors and the rest of modern industry, but I try to restrict myself to a few hundred words.

A photovoltaic tile is an ugly thing. True, it can pay for itself in thirty years, but it will break after twenty or less, and often in the first hailstorm. And then, rather than hydrocarbons, it leaves an array of hideous poisons that will eventually cost even more to clean up, than it cost to assemble in the first place. Verily, solar power is among the most environmentally toxic methods of generating energy that man has yet invented. Advanced wind turbines run it a close second. If we had any environmental conscience, we would ban both of these technologies, for starters.

The hippies of half a century ago had a few things right. Unfortunately, they had most things wrong. But the notion that we should adapt peacefully to the rhythms of nature is an old, old one, and can be easily achieved if we all become Catholic mystics. Or even if most of us do. Let us spend our surpluses on shrines and monasteries, and our free moments in prayer.

And rather than on moving about faster and faster, we should consider the lilies. They do not move at all.

Hippocratic conservatism

Whether in medicine or statecraft, or in the manufacture of catfood, the principle of Hippocrates should generally be observed: “First, do no harm.” We cannot actually know whether Hippocrates said this — the words don’t appear  in his received texts, in precisely that order — but have no indication that anyone else said them first, so let me propose the harmless policy of leaving that attribution alone.

Well, we might want to do some harm in warfare. There are moments, you know, for everything. Perhaps one might nod: “everything in its season.” But let us consider specifically the benign notion, that one should try to avoid gratuitous destruction, even of one’s declared and rather active enemies. Having, for instance, killed all the men, we might want to go lightly on the women and children.

There is a Christian conception of right in warfare. It has, incidentally, been carefully thought through. We are not supposed, for instance, to kill maim or torture, just to settle a score, or because our opponents have put us in a bad mood. More broadly, the whole idea of solving one’s problems by killing people, ought to be resisted — even when the temptation is fairly strong. (As, for example, during an unwanted pregnancy.)

Not all harm results in deaths, however. Consider, gentle reader,  that there are people who have made a lot of money, crassly. I’ve known several. Allow me to think of one in particular. Can’t say he broke any laws while amassing his fortune, or that his products were worse than gross errors of taste. He committed other sins, but then, so did I. (We’re both still doing it.)

Don’t tell anyone, but I would sometimes like to hurt him. I wouldn’t risk doing anything direct, from the cowardly fear of getting caught, and perhaps the knowledge that God is still watching, even while my enemy is off guard. But were I, say, some sort of progressive activist, I would want to tax him, as ruinously as possible.

Yet by the (perfectly “secular”) principle that Hippocrates apparently espoused, I have no reason to hurt him, even in the moment when he is too much in my face. Moreover, my resentment does me no good. By inventing a tax only “bad people” would pay, I hurt many people I know nothing about. This is not a “might” but a certainty, as many Leftists have discovered, after the laws they advocated were turned against them. (My head is replete with delicious examples.)

I want him to give his money to good, charitable causes, but he wouldn’t dream of it, because he is a hard-boiled selfish skunk. But why do I have to do anything about that? God will deal with him at His leisure.

In the meanwhile I would be content to stop him from opening a store in my neighbourhood, to further corrupt the local kids. That might be legitimate.

What strikes me about current political debate, is that doing harm is taken for granted. Candidates for public office quite casually suggest acts of malignity towards their chosen foes, to large cheering sections of their friends. They would impose what, by the rules of civility, ought to be done voluntarily. They would take away rights which, in the long view of history, people long had; by acts which, in the same long view, never ended well.

Or to put this another way: slow down, hang back, don’t go there. Let us support doctors and politicians and petfood suppliers who will do no harm, unless they absolutely have to.

Austrian schoolboy

There is, and there has always been, little overlap between the world of politics and the world of truth. This is something to bear in mind during a season of voting, as the politicians stake their claims and give their prescriptions for all that ails us.

Example: a large bureaucracy will, in approximately 100 percent of cases, become extremely wasteful, and essentially corrupt. It will perpetuate the “problem” that it was founded to solve, and at its most creative, invent new and quite imaginative evils. It will become a vested interest — an “economic player” in its own right — and spread, like a cancer, well beyond the flesh it first inhabited. Any attempt to restrain it will then engender new bureaucracies. The idea of a “humane” bureaucracy is a contradiction of terms. There is no such thing.

Gentle reader must understand that I am not speaking only of “guvmint,” but of bureaucracy, at large. The thing is not necessarily a government department. Any big corporation will quickly show symptoms. The only difference between “public” and “private” is in longevity. A private bureaucracy will kill its host, but thanks to the power of taxation, a public bureaucracy can be long sustained. It is also backed by law and police action, which even today is more effective than mere pointless rules and regulations. The latter, however, are more nimble in expansion, and prepare the ground for law — the full spiritual stasis.

This was, anyway, the view of that “Austrian school economist,” Ludwig von Mises, proponent like the rest in that school of “classical liberalism.” His hatred of bureaucracy was a wonderful, animated thing. In his great book, Human Action, and many others, he could become almost boring on the topic. What distinguishes the Austrian school from, say, the famous Chicago school of Milton Friedman and his ilk, was its European origin. (They were, however, consciously allied.) The “Austrians” go back, to Catholic antecedents, and their interests are not reducible to “pure economics” (scare quotes because there is no such thing). Over time it extended to broad social questions, and through a constant interest in the history of ideas. These were multilingual and multicultural, in the manner of the old Habsburg empire; where our American classical liberalism has been almost unilingually English, provincially distrustful of foreign thinkers, and buzzing with statistics. (You’ll need a degree in math.)

War propelled the “Austrian” thinkers westward, and the fall of the Berlin wall propelled the “Chicago” school east. The terms no longer have geographical significance.

What all classical liberals have in common is the passionate vindication and defence of human freedom. That is what makes them, unlike progressives, readable in subsequent generations. Their subject matter cannot become dated. The “Austrians” are also necessary to understand modern history, positively as well as negatively, in the evolution of, for instance, the Christian Democratic movement that conceived a peaceful post-war Europe, in defiance of secularizing bureaucratic trends and mass-man “ideals.” Alas, this was overall defeated by the Eurocratic trend-setters, determined to build a magnificent autocratic monument to themselves.

I have the most enchanting memory of opening the box that contained an American reprint of Human Action (big thick book), which I had ordered at the age of fifteen. I no longer own a copy, but gather it still stands as a monument to the resistance — a study of “praxeology,” or purposeful human choices, stretching so wide that even religion and morality could be touched. (Conventional economics has no time for either.) A half-century later, I can even remember the construction of an earnest reading list, that was soon abandoned when I went on the road.

One may see the great division in Western thought and politics, which the Austrian-school Friedrich Hayek traced back to Bacon and Descartes, and can be traced farther to the Nominalists of the later Middle Ages. Humans live in freedom and make choices, to be restrained only by the plainest moral codes. Or, by the alternative thesis, we are components of a machine, which the man with Power can monkey with, by implanting stimuli here and there.

We are creatures of God, or — we are replaceable parts in a bureaucracy.

Philosophy: faster, please

A correspondent tells me I’ve been writing too much about Canada. I can see what he means. He is writing from the Natted States Merica. The centre of my world (at present) is Parkdale. Beyond this there is Greater Parkdale, then America (which includes the NSM), then Christendom (I’m not sure what this includes any more), then The Human World and then, to be as inclusive as possible, The Creation, in which we find God and Man. Others, I see, write from other places.

Well, we’re having an election up here. These happen every four years or so, at the Dominion level. Politicians have been tampering with the intervals, trying to make them regular, like in the Natted States. Their tampering has added considerably to the chaos.

Elections make politicians anxious, which is why I suppose they want fewer of them. In Britain, just now, the political class has decided that, as there is a very big question that must be answered, they mustn’t have an election. That would be undemocratic. Democracy (for them) means that the people mustn’t get in the way of the politicians, especially during a crisis, after the politicians have made a hideously embarrassing botch of … everything.

I’m with them in their view of The People. I’m with The People in my view of them.

But getting back to this question of location. I can’t see how Parkdale is not the centre of the universe. My Chief Texas Correspondent says it is instead Montgomery County, and I can see his point, too. I would concede that the world has multiple centres, were it not that I’d appear to be conceding to the Dictatorship of Relativism, and I try to avoid that. So I’ll stick with Parkdale. Indeed, I could narrow this to the High Doganate, which has a population of one. I can find everything that’s wrong in Christendom within this space, and all its moral flaws within its single inhabitant. C’est la vie.

However, as other people are involved in this mess, which seems to extend beyond the horizon, my attempts at inclusiveness may continue.

Another correspondent — and this one from Canada — asks how he should vote. My advice was to figure it out for himself. Either don’t vote, if you are a man of principle (or I should mention women, since they are now armed with the vote, too). Or if you are more pragmatic, vote Conservative to get the Liberals out of power. For surely the argument that the Conservatives have no principles is a nugatory point, if you have none either.

I have come to find it almost irritating when (self-styled) conservatives talk about their principles, as if they had their own set. There can be, by my count, only one set of political principles. These can only be multiplied when all the rest are false. If we are going to discuss political principles, then we are going to discuss political philosophy (or “science,” in the old sense), and for starters, get thee to Plato and Aristotle. Then advance, slowly by reason, to the Scholastics — and eventually to the moderns, if you have the stomach for them. All the questions raised in politics have been seriously discussed already, in such quarters as these.

The principles are not local, although their application can be — and must necessarily be, under present conditions of space and time. It is only in that sense that “all politics are local.”

On the Canadian election, incidentally, this time I’m inclined to be pragmatic.

On quaintness

We do many things we shouldn’t have done, not, I think, because we are psychopathic, but because of a deficiency of thought. The other day — mea culpa — I used the word “quaint” in a dismissive way. It was a habit from my distant past. On finally thinking about it, I realized that I was using a propaganda term of the progressives. Something that is “quaint” must be “past its time.” Today, almost anything that was humane can be dismissed as quaintness.

My voice carried back to my ears. I realized that, on uttering this word, it had even taken on that smug, obnoxiously progressive tone. There you have it. I sounded, to my own ears, like one of those people I affectionately call “commies and perverts.” I had employed insufficient irony.

Later, I entered a Public Library. This was only in hope of finding the “washroom.” (We used to say “toilet”; even that was a euphemism.) Our library, here in Inner Parkdale, is named after our sitting municipal councillor (once called an “alderman,” before the feminasties struck). It does physically resemble a sprawling latrine, even more now that it has been expensively re-upholstered. The councillor is a socialist, multisexualist, environmentalist, and narcissist of the first water, of course, and thus a big spender (of other people’s money). The library named after himself began looking “used” when it was first built, just a few years ago. It was time to flush another few million, down the vestibule.

I looked around. They still have books in there, improbably, but fewer. More tech apparatus, and the ambiance of a social service centre. This is Parkdale after all. The “clients,” as the social workers call them, seem to consist only of rubby-dubs. (This Canadianism is derived from rubbing alcohol, a traditional local beverage.) Though a poignant symbol of civilizational decline, Gordon Perks Library will never be “quaint.”

But outside I found a stylish car; parked before a recently-opened, vegetabletarian grocery. The style of both was spanking new “retro.” All goods in the store were “organic,” a label that is used to quadruple prices. I further observed that all the labels were retro.

At first glance, I approved. They were fake, but they were something. Nothing in the library had even that. It is an aggressively boring, brick utility, useful enough for my purpose, but with none of that quaint architectural, municipal pride. Even the books are covered in plastic, an indication that all might be obscene. By contrast, my books at home are quaint. A visitor will see immediately that very few were printed in the current century; too much “patina” for that. Public and private libraries alike once had character. All I can remember were quaint.

More generally, as I look about town, I realize one thing I love about Parkdale. It is full of quaintness — mostly unintended survivals of old things, only partially molested. People were too poor to replace them; and so some beauty stayed. A lot of money, however, is finally steamrolling in. The arrival of funky, mostly talentless, (subsidized) artists was the signal. Time to go upmarket, developers realized, and to install new quaint — but in steel, glass, plastic, and not ambiguously, but explicitly fake.

Money buys style. It also buys cleanliness, to the point of sterility. A new class is invented, to displace the old. The nouveau fairly riche are arriving. They will annihilate anything that reminds them of their past, unless it can be used for sales purposes. Then it becomes appropriated charm, to be cleaned up, washed down, sandblasted — sterilized. (A dumpy old apartment visible from my balcony is being noisily tarted up as I write. When the workmen are finished, it won’t be recognizable. Neither will the rents.)

Looking about for the latest style, I notice one feature. Wherever there is visible success, the new style is “retro.” Perhaps that is an historical constant: for every new style is essentially retro, and must be, to sell.

All is well

“This is not going to last much longer. Hold on fast to Christ and Mary.”

It is good advice from my sometime Argentine correspondent, Carlos Caso-Rosendi. He has been patiently reviewing that “Amazon Summit,” in which all kinds of ecclesiastical enormities are being committed by the amateur Rousseauians and neo-Marxists in the pope’s “progressive” entourage. We have seen “liberation theology” in action before. It will burn out eventually.

The same could be said for all the world’s ideologies. New ones come along in their course. Each burns out, after having done a great deal of harm in human lives and souls. Modern resistance tends to focus on the material wreckage, alone, but as Flannery O’Connor observed, “You can’t be any poorer than dead.” I mentioned Zimbabwe and Venezuela last week, but proceeding backwards through the alphabet, we could list innumerable cases — in nations, but alas, too, in Holy Church by the fiends who would capture her to advance their own, very worldly ambitions. I can’t think of a century, among the last twenty, without ecclesiastical disasters; of one in which appropriations have not been attempted — invariably accompanied by a new heresy which, on closer examination, turns out to be an old one. Read Ecclesiastes again.

Looking only in my electronic inbox, I find several more attempts, by the sub-intellectual busybodies of today. One correspondent is selling “veganism.” He asks me to respond to multiple assertions that his dietary code is redemptive, and compatible with Catholicism. Another forwards an article from the poisonous Washington Post, asserting that Africa is transforming the Church, into a new “post-colonial” entity. At the current episcopal Summit we are told that we must take moral and spiritual instruction from the Amazon jungle tribes.

The truth in each argument has been inverted. A substitute has been inserted for the premiss of Christ; everything goes belly up from there.

Hold on fast to Christ, and to Mary, who points always to Him; hold on fast through the latest wild rides. Eventually each reckless vehicle will crash. Then another will come along to take its place, until it, too, crashes with all aboard. Again, we will be offered some eye-catching novelties. Those with some genuine learning will note, again, that we’ve seen it all before. We know how the next wild ride will end: also very badly. We know that all is not right with this world, and if our faith holds, or even when it is shaken, we can know what common sense is singing. “There is a crack, a crack, in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” Even Leonard Cohen got this.

The sound teaching of the Church, through the centuries, has been the constant teaching of Christ. It is often subject to misinterpretation, but never for long. The light gets through. All the garbage left by Power in our world, will be recycled. Men whose power seems irresistible one day, are themselves cleared away on another — whether or not we ever found a way to overthrow them. The fate of the Earth is not in human hands.

Joy, not despair, is at the heart of the Creation. “Fear not,” we are repeatedly told. All is well, all will be well, all manner of thing shall be well. Hold fast!

Or as I like to say in the colloquial: “Don’t let the bastards drive you out of the Church.”

How & when to apologize

We are very proud, up here in Greater Parkdale at the moment, for one of ours with a name from Transylvania has won some big tennis championship in the Natted States Merica, defeating some long-time ladies’ tennis champion. I’d heard of the latter, Serena Williams. Her victorious challenger, Bianca Andreescu, I had to look up in the Wicked Paedia. From this I learnt that she is still a teenager.

I don’t follow tennis myself, never did, and only played under duress. (Whipped every set.) The last time was nearly forty years ago, I believe. On this I stake my claim to journalistic expertise. (I assume we are discussing lawn tennis, with all the players dressed appropriately.)

Beating “Serena” would be difficult, I suppose, even for a boy. But apologizing to her numerous, disappointed fans after the match, for having won it, was Miss Andreescu’s peculiarly Canadian innovation.

We do several things up here, which the world finds eccentric. For instance, should one of our drunks collide with a lamp post, he may ask it to excuse him. And according to one of my American visitors, some years ago, if a Canadian pedestrian were bisected by a car, the still-animate top half of him might pull itself up to the driver’s window and exclaim, “Watch where you’re goin’, eh?”

(The kill rate for pedestrians in Toronto is, I have noticed, quite high. But we can always apologize to the corpses.)

My Chief Texas Correspondent, who alerted me to the result of the Natted States Open, tells me that humility is against the law in the Lone Star State. Compare Canada, where everything is against the law, and the citizens are encouraged to rat one another out, because the bureaucrats can’t keep up with the surveillance cameras.

Do I exaggerate? Probably. As I’ve been reminded by several of my Canadian readers, even one in Alberta, exaggeration is against the law in Canada. I try to keep it within tennis-court bounds.

Among the Beatitudes is what the meejah call a “shout out” to the meek, promising that they will inherit the Earth, though not, I expect, today or tomorrow. It is a charming quality which I, too, applaud (at least in others). There should be more elements in the composition of a human character — ambition and bravery come to mind, to start the alphabet of secular virtues — but each requires careful qualification. Meekness is a virtue that can stand on its own.

The best thing about it, is that you don’t have to apologize very often. I wouldn’t say meekness means never having to say you’re sorry. But it’s nice when it’s optional.

Mugabe

Only God could remove Robert Mugabe from office, according to Robert Mugabe. It should be evident to students of history by now, that this is not among the tasks that Our Lord assigns Himself. He may let a tyrant live to the age of ninety-five. God leaves men to do what men must do, which is part of the reason we must never expect justice, in this fallen world — where men who would remove tyrants are balanced by men who would secure them in power, having worshiped them as “liberators.” Monsters will rule so long as little monsters are willing to support them, in power but also in retrospect. Even they are limited by their own self-interests, however, and Mugabe was deposed by members of his own totalitarian ZANU party when it appeared that he had chosen his much younger wife Grace to succeed him. She promised to be worse than Mugabe. This was too hard for the senior party hacks to imagine.

Gratuitous violence, personal and autocratic rule, arbitrary seizures of farms and property, hyperinflation, and so forth, are the legacy of Mugabe’s decades in power, as Zimbabwe descended from relative prosperity, and some common law, to the basket case we observe today. It was woven out of Africa’s most prosperous and promising country.

A disaster from the start, Mugabe’s rule began with huge popularity, and public elation. British Colonialism had been overthrown — by decisions made at Lancaster House in London. When Mugabe’s own popularity declined, to the point where he could lose an election, something had to go. Can gentle reader guess what went?

But from the start of his regime and long before, Mugabe himself had been a man of violence, and implacable hatreds. Also of great charm, when there was something he could obtain in no other way; and populist charisma. He was in these respects the boilerplate of a revolutionary hero.

It is a sad story, made sadder when we realize that it will often be repeated. Nothing is learnt from great national misadventures. Histories are quickly forgotten. I notice for instance an entire field of presidential candidates in USA who are promising exactly the sort of policies that led, quite directly, to such tragedies as Zimbabwe, and Venezuela, and dozens more through the last century.

The dream of equality through redistribution of wealth, and the reparation of historical injustice, will always be attractive to the little man. While Joe Biden may merely be senile, candidates such as Sanders, Warren, Harris, O’Rourke, bid up the possibilities for disaster. (Whereas, Trump is the much lesser disaster we know.)

Mugabe died in a hospital in Singapore. He would have died more promptly had he trusted the best hospital in Harare — this man celebrated for advances in “education” and “health care” for the masses. One could spend years examining the horrors, the mountains of the unnecessarily dead, but would be no farther ahead by this exercise. People believe what they want to believe, and there will always be people to believe in a Mugabe.

 

Against “education”

Children, in my sadly limited experience, are one of nature’s conservative forces. Or, they can be. Only after puberty are they likely, in the course of nature, to embrace change. One may glimpse what nature intended by this. Even adolescence has its function. As the child transforms into woman or man, by chemical processes I’d rather not mention, his outlook also changes. He will go out in the world. He still needs protection, but is beginning to forget. He is trying new spiritual garments on for size. He is trying things on, more generally; graduating, perhaps, from mischievous child to the full glory of juvenile delinquency. Or, from obedient and thoughtful child, to discerning and responsible adult.

In the old days, of course (in every culture), adulthood came earlier, and adolescence was merely its apprentice form. Now thanks to an extended, debilitating system of “education,” bureaucratically controlled, adolescence itself, or the semblance of it, may be extended past the age of thirty; and with the further interventions of what I call Twisted Nanny State, from birth (when permitted) to death (however caused). The old notion that one must take responsibility for oneself and in one’s neighbourhood (whatever that may be) has come to be replaced by the new notion that one is the member of a demographic group, to be assigned responsibilities by one’s progressive betters.

My humble post yesterday was inspired by a friend who told me of the latest school board experiment. The last but three vestiges of a dress code for students has been ceremoniously stripped away. Children must still cover their genitals in class, and (girls not specified) their nipples. Too, it would seem, all must cover their asses. It is argued that any further limitation would impair their “self-expression.”

The administrators have ruled, against discipline, once again. (Half the staff in our “public” schools are administrators today; the teachers are their servants.) The preferential option for barbarism and savagery was already well established — in particular the barbarism and savagery of trends. The new dress code “frees” the little snowflakes to climb aboard the latest that peer pressure will enforce. The child’s natural resistance to change, and instinct to conformity, is being scrambled towards unknown and thus unspoken, but consistently Leftist political ends.

Sex comes very much into this. From the age of five, children in the Province of Ontario are now, by administrative edict, exposed to “sex education” by a regime that officially denies the existence of nature’s two sexes. (The use, instead, of the grammatical jargon “gender” makes clear that nature has been overruled.) The new “undress code” should, or rather will, compound this consequentially. Children are being consciously encouraged to experiment with their still immature sexuality. What the result will be of this revolutionary experiment — contra naturam — does not interest the authorities. That is and will be, after all, a problem for police and the courts.

From what I know, Ontario is not the only jurisdiction in which this is being tried on. It is interesting, however, that its (“Progressive Conservative”) government is powerless to do one of the things it solemnly promised in the last election, which it convincingly won: to put an end to what is now proceeding in the schools, at an accelerating pace. Citizens must pay for “public education,” and its multiplying extravagances; but parents, especially, are denied any say in how it works.

Resistance is indicated, as a lawyer might say. I think the intentional perversion of children is the largest environmental problem our society now faces.