Essays in Idleness


All Hallows E’en

A dream I dreamt, four years ago, stays with me because it was so vivid, and perhaps because I wrote it down. It was of children with lanterns wandering the streets. They were of all sizes, the larger holding the smaller on their hips, or leading them by hand. Somehow I knew that all were orphans.

The children were dressed as priests and deacons, monks and canons, nuns and religious sisters. As I looked about, I spotted a wee bishop under his great mitre, an abbot standing in his oversized sandals, an abbess, a prioress; and many more, from curious eastern or perhaps ancient orders. And some were in sheepskins, and some in rags; a shepherd leading a little lamb; some dressed as brides, some dressed as grooms; some carrying tools, as carpenters or masons; and one a feudal lord, followed by his retainers, each with a cross. And they were carrying, too, many kinds of lanterns, and some of them staffs, and bells, sacks or purses; and one of them preceding a little group, swinging a censer. But all were children, come to beg alms.

They turned, it seemed, through every street, and in the manner of a dream I was both among them, and watching the sea of lanterns, from afar. On the ground, I could see them treading before, and around me. Try as I did I could not see the faces, uncannily shrouded in some way. I wanted to ask, “Who are you?” and “Who are you?” I wanted to hug the sweet little souls, but a voice was telling me, don’t touch them.

By many dark houses they walked, but at some there were adults, standing on their steps and porches, or in their open doorways. And when a child approached, each grown man or woman bowed, deeply and gravely. At which each child would solemnly bless him, and then be on his way.


From the start of modern, “American” Hallowe’en, the jack-o’-lantern was the reigning symbol. It originated in Irish folklore, and came to our shores with the poor immigrants. The tale is of quick-witted, drunken Jack, invited by the Devil to climb a tree, who first carves a cross in the bark so the Devil cannot get him. He’ll not go to Hell, but after a life of “sin, drink, and mendacity” he’ll not be getting into Heaven either. Dead, he is first refused there, then sent to the other place. But spotting Jack at the Gates of Hell, the Devil hurls a lighted coal at him, from the infernal fires. He was cold, our Jack, but being Irish and clever, he hollows out a rutabaga (the original for our pumpkin), placing the coal inside to keep it from blowing out. With this he to this day wanders about the cosmos, looking for a place to call home.


My dream ended in terror, as I woke, and my troubled mind began to interpret. These were not living children, I was somehow told, but rather the souls of the dead, walking in the costumage of holy saints. They were the spirits of all those little folk, massacred in the abortion clinics, restored mysteriously to flesh. And back from limbo they had come, prowling the city: in search of their own faces.

And so I had been watching their processions through the city, to the homes of their mothers and their fathers, asking to be recognized as their own.

Of love & marriage

Lechery is easily mistaken for love. This is a thought that afflicts me whenever my eyes stray into the pop tabloid reporting of current events; and when I review my own history of poor judgements, back in the days when there were two sexes.

Man is an animal. This has been known for some time. It could be known even in the Garden of Eden, from what I can make out, though science had not had the opportunity to advance at that time. He is more than an animal in the Christian teaching, not less; in particular let me mention he is higher than the monkeys. This could be taken for flattery, for there are monkeys who can be quite clever, including tool-users almost as adept as crows.

But the sex lives of the monkeys (I use the term broadly) is not nearly so romantic as we have been led to believe in e.g. documentaries of the BBC. I think of some nature documentary to which I was once exposed, and from which I learnt that bonobos “have sex all the time”; the females, indifferent to estrus, being more promiscuous than the males, and having sapphic tendencies in addition. Their communal life has been compared to that of California hippies in the ‘sixties; in contrast to that of the chimpanzees, who tend to marginalize their women. Er, females.

Perhaps I am unfair to the Beeb. As I recall, the documentary went on to demythologize the bonobo reputation, much though I was prepared to believe it from the appearances (of the bonobos, not the BBC presenters). I found them over-coiffed and prim. In human life, I try to avoid those who look like them; they seem constantly on the make, in one way or another.

Now, chimpanzees have a deserved reputation for “male chauvinism,” and for violence, which seems to come with that. But the bonobos can be quite violent, too, and it’s the women you have to watch out for. (Er, the females.) They administer beatings on each other, and especially on the males, according to my information. Their apparent lesbianism had a sociological explanation: they were actually competing for status.

I am not, I must warn the reader, an expert on the sexual activity of monkeys, but this much I will state confidently. They have much less fun than we assume. Whether they are inwardly joyous, is another question. They are certainly less imaginative than people, even those you meet in, e.g., downmarket pubs.

Except in season, they are not very lecherous. The economy of monkeys depends on hard work, for seldom is food in plentiful supply. Nature requires of her creatures a kind of working-class solidarity, for the desire of nutrition, and for survival, puts demands on them class by class. I notice this with e.g. the finches and sparrows that I sometimes feed. There are collective impulses, such as swarming a new source of food, but within that behaviour, notorious individualism. Some get to eat more than others, and in the competition, the shy seem to have no rights. But compared to the feeding frenzies, the sex lives of the animals are, overall, more discreet. (Well, I will make an exception for the mayflies.)

So it is with humans, even today. Promiscuity is common enough, but I doubt it is dominant, even in an orgy. Truth to tell, I’ve never been in an orgy, but outside, privacy is observed. Humans, being imaginative, also like to exhibit emotions, and the words “I love you” are flaunted about, at least until their object is secured.

What we have, and the other animals lack, is the capacity to imagine the future. I don’t mean mere instinct, to avoid a bad fate, but a conscious motive for discipline towards the far future. This, one might say, helps explain the ancestral custom of marriage. It is why lechery loses out to sustained, not-necessarily-gymnastic love, over the longer term.

The widening schism

Once, there was a cashier. She was very charming, pretty, talkative, and almost pruriently “caring.” Her one little foible appeared to be: no good at arithmetic. A small transaction she was likely to get right, but if it were large, or there were many items, a mistake was inevitable. A complicating factor was, she’d forget to print receipts.

Few people of generations after mine count their change (now they use cards) so there were few “issues” at the cash register. In the one memorable “scene” I witnessed, she apologized to the customer even before recounting, with a torrent of self-deprecation for her poor math skills. The complainer was boorishly suspicious; so much so, that he was berated by another customer, for being rude. Also, he was old, and ugly.

Being of the Scottish genetic persuasion, I always count my change. I am willing to correct even small mistakes, and as a consequence, soon found this young lady’s arithmetic improving. But before it had improved, I had noticed a pattern. Every mistake was in the store’s favour.

Myself characteristically suspicious, I began to think the girl was actually quite good with numbers — especially if she had to keep in her head a running tab of the amount to subtract from the till, at the end of her shift.

Does this sort of thing happen a lot in our commercial culture? I’m inclined to think, no, because thanks to technology, we raise kids who are genuinely innumerate, crippled without a calculator (sometimes even with one) and, because they are semi-aware of their limitations, not ambitious to cheat anyone. The exceptions, as I see from the meejah, are on the very large scale. (Perhaps those perpetrators were home-schooled.)


Sadly, I have developed the same suspicious attitude towards the Vatican, and the incumbent Bishop of Rome. He makes little mistakes in Catholic doctrine, and sometimes berates himself, or has a department “clarify” his statements. A dear old man, as we are frequently assured, some essential of Catholic teaching may have skipped his mind. But I notice that the errors, whether major or minor, are consistently on one side: the “progressive” one.

Perhaps he forgot that we do not pray to, or through, pagan idols. I am giving just one instance here, I could fill this antiblog with others. Wooden statues of something called a “Pachamama” — an old fertility goddess of the Inca from the Andes, now mass marketed in Latin America — somehow wound up in a Roman church. They had appeared in a pagan garden ceremony described (by an emeritus bishop of the Amazon) as a “demonic sacrilege.” There was toying with sacred “symbolism” throughout the egregious “Amazon Synod,” which ended yesterday. Further, perhaps forgetting that he is the “symbolic” head of the Catholic Church on Earth, our Roman bishop defended his Pachamamas, and apologized for the behaviour of the boors who had taken and dumped them in the Tiber River.

Surely gentle reader has read the whole story. As meejah reports go, it was fairly simple and straightforward, not complicated like the reasons the Roman Church insists on the unmarried chastity of her priests, on the maleness of them, and on the fact that the Church “phased out” anything resembling priestesses in ancient pagan Rome (where they were quite common, almost standard among the pagans). On each of these questions, it seemed to me, it was the solemn duty of a pope to defend the Church, and repeat the powerful biblical condemnations of pagan idols — even if that would make him unpopular with progressives.

Yes, it appears two men removed the Pachamamas that had polluted the Carmelite church of Santa Maria in Transponte, in fulfilment of divine law. They made a video of their intrepid operation. They did indeed push the statues off the railing of the Ponte St. Angelo into the Tiber. But the police quickly recovered them, alas.


Several correspondents have asked my opinion whether the theft of these idols was wrong. (Five of them by most reports.) Of course it breached human law. I reserved the weekend to think about it, and I have concluded that the thieves ought to be criticized in one important respect. I think, in future, before disposing of such pagan idols, they should be fed into a wood-chipper. I am open-minded on the question of whether the chips, thus produced, should be burned, or if it would be sufficient to recycle them at a composting facility.

Adam, meet Eve

A civil war begins, as I understand it, when there are two competing nexus (yes, that’s the plural) of governmental authority; two countries sharing the same space, if thou wilt. Since this is physically impossible, the space is soon divided between the warring factions. This can happen in any sort of commonwealth; it doesn’t have to be not a democracy.

Let me note, in a neighbouring country, the emergence of what appear to be two massive criminal investigations, both of which could be constitutionally legitimate, though only one has been made so. One is impeachment proceedings against a certain President Trump. This is being done in an entirely partisan spirit, by the majority party in the nation’s lower house. The other party has been shut out of the proceedings, which are being held in secret. There has been no formal legislative vote for this impeachment, and no criminal charges (“high crimes and misdemeanors”) have been legally substantiated. Nonetheless, subpoenas are being attempted, or in the jargon of our times, “tried on.”

Under normal circumstances, fanciful charges are either dropped, or themselves tried and, where appropriate, punished. But this kangaroo court is supported by a large section of the public, according to highly unreliable polls; and by almost all of the national media, which have gotten into the habit of publishing wild speculations as if they were proven facts.

On the other side, there are now formal criminal investigations into the characters who are the ultimate source of those rumours (search “Durham”), which began circulating even before that Trump gentleman took office. The media will try to ignore those proceedings, but will soon discover they can’t. They will then try to demonize the investigators, and declare their efforts illegitimate, “because shut up.”

Having myself worked inside newspapers and the like, I know how to make safe predictions about them. They implicitly accept the old Marxist dictum that nothing is true, except insofar as it advances the interest of The Party.

What began as a perpetual electoral contest between two political parties, is quickly degenerating into something else. I noticed one poll in which 70 percent of respondents from both parties anticipated some kind of civil war.  I should think that, unless the next presidential election is a landslide, their prediction will be tested.

“Mommy, daddy, please don’t fight,” as some little girl once pleaded. She didn’t care who was in the right. She only wanted a return to what Warren G. Harding called “normalcy.” As I understand, normalcy involves accepting decisions, when they have been legitimately made (in an impartially-conducted election, for instance). It becomes impossible when neither side accepts the legitimacy of the other.

Humour me. Accept my right to the opinion that the Trumpistas have the weight of legitimacy overwhelmingly on their side. It does not follow that they will win the battle. It never does on this planet, once passions are engaged.

In my increasingly Catholic view of the matter, we cannot know the future (although in retrospect it will seem to have been dead obvious). We can only know some aspects of the past. In the present circumstances, the best we can hope is that this “ongoing past” will be properly recorded, but given who is recording the first draught of this history, I doubt that can be assured. Both parties now have a motive for toying with it.

But why should we want security? Insecurity seems to breed more Saints.

Coffee or tea?

Let us love them both, as Baudelaire said of Delacroix and Ingres. Coffee and tea are different beverages in kind, and our modern mental habit of mooshing them under the banner of Caffeine, is like all our other pharmaceutical excesses. Coffee will admit cream and honey, or so the girly boys (like me) insist. It is, I say, really a bitter dessert, analogous to chocolate (which real men of the Aztec age never thought to sweeten).

Whereas, tea in its splendour is sipped with an attitude less buzzcut Merican than anciently Sinitic. The only exception I can countenance is when the tea is brewed in the Punjabi or Bengali manner, very strong with hot skim milk, cardamom and other southern Oriental spices, and even cane sugar may be dumped in (if you are girly). To apply the term chai, to this, is criminally misleading, for chai means “tea,” almost everywhere. It is “spiced tea,” and only thus described can bear any relation to the fecund choco-coffee-chicory family, to which I will happily consign bubble and matcha.

Now, coffee is a bean, roasted and crushed; quickly mulled, not infused. Tea is rather an angelic leaf. What sinks in the cup should resemble autumn.

Some kindly soul has provided me, as a curiosity, a “black-face” tea grown in the Portuguese Azores — “the only tea plantation in Europe” they claim. It reminds me of my beloved Keemun, from the west of China, just over a few mountain folds from Darjeeling — a tea whose perfume is innate and sublime, not crass and wickedly exaggerated.

I am a tolerant as well as adventurous person, and am actually enjoying this tea as I write. God bless Portugal; God bless the Chá Preto dos Açores.


My Chief Texas Correspondent, who shows an unhealthy interest in Canadian politics, wrote this morning to say I would like the result of our election because, with a hung Parliament, “progress” would be slow. He, and his Fellow Mericans, have been underestimating the ingenuity of the Westminster system, these last three centuries. It took more centuries for lowlife, such as Blair and Cameron, to come along and spanner its essentials in Britain itself — to the degree of the current Brexit mess, in which all the traditionally impartial offices (with the possible exception of the Monarchy) have been politicized into stupefaction.

The wise have always left Constitutions alone; or at least tried not to molest them. They should be avoided like the polar bears, up here, which since the intervention of “well-intended” environmentalcases, have increased in number six times. There is an allegory to be written on this.

But we were discussing the politics in Canucktituck, were we not? In my characteristic tone (to my CTC) I replied:

“Little Trudy will need votes of the NDPee (which also lost seats) to pass anything; but they promised in advance to service him, so long as he lurched to the Left. …

“A Canucktituckian observation. Saskatchewan is now Alberta: every seat Tory, even in Regina. Also sprach Manitoba, outside auld commie Winnipeg, and Bee Cee, except Funcouver and up the Left Coast. The Gliberals, as ever, swept Toto, Tottawa, Montreal Island, and all the pogey-imbibing districts of Newfishland and the Maritimes. …

“Note that the Tories retain a near monopoly on all the parts of Canucktituck that produce food. …

“The Gliberals, by contrast, control all the parts that produce hype. …

“Our hype-r-sonic Meejah are beside themselves with relief.”

My fellow Canucktitucks …

How should I vote on Monday? Several Canadian readers have asked me this question, verily several times several, and rather than be tedious with each of you in turn, let me present this boilerplate. For I, too, will hesitantly vote. It will be for a candidate of the Conservative Party — even though I find that Party, as usual, spineless and disgusting.

By some absurd coincidence, the Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, is the son of an old buddy of mine. I’ve seen enough of him since childhood (not so long ago), and followed his career in a desultory way. I would declare before a court of law that I don’t believe he stews in corruption (alas no payoff to me if he wins); that he is not pathologically dishonest; and whether or not robust in temperament, he is good-willed. (Another old friend reminds us to consult Augustine’s “Grace and Free Will” on this.) Scheer is also a quick study, impressively well informed, not so easily intimidated, emotionally uncommunicative, capable of dry humour, calm and of sound, common-sensical judgement. He has no “charisma.” (I can swear to that.) God save us from politicians with “charisma.”

Readers of my Idlepost last Saturday may be assured that it was entirely fanciful. I was not actually proposing to launch a “Christian Party,” myself. Notwithstanding, several promised to support me if I did. Not only am I not the type, I would say the wrong thing on every public occasion — what I believe as opposed to what the zombies came to hear. For my inclination is not to flatter an electorate. Moreover, the life of a politician in a democracy, while perhaps happier than the average station in Hell, doth still displease me. I don’t get a thrill out of being the football; I get all the abuse I need just by writing this antiblog.

If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve, &c.

So that leaves Scheer. All the other party leaders are, to my mind, obviously unsuited, to the laughing gas extreme. My only pleasure is to watch them split each other’s votes, riding by riding. Imagine, someone like Justin Trudeau being given a serious job? The mind reels. In addition to the Greenies and the NDPee, there are other little parties. Most are Left-Lunatick, including the separatist Bloc-heads, and besides, none of them could possibly win. There are really only two choices — Scheer or Trudeau — and anyone with a Troy Ounce of brains, or even an Ounce Avoirdupois, will know which to pick.

So why vote at all? Out of public duty. It is our public duty to keep mudwater creatures such as Trudeau Junior out of power, together with his self-serving Liberal Party. This is the only purpose that the Conservative Party serves: to bounce them out whenever possible, thus slowing the national descent into barbarism. We may not know what we have been spared, during a term when the Liberals are not in office; but we’re better off not knowing. The Conservatives will meanwhile feed the Zeitgeist the minimum it will take — but I’m for feeding fewer Christians to the lions. It is beyond our power to stop the process entirely, in immediately foreseeable generations. This goes for several dozen policy areas that gentle reader may list for himself.

I will feel sullied by the experience of voting. I always do. I fear that I am encouraging the politicians in some way. But sometimes we must make contact with the mud; then go home and shower. We have a moral duty to remove the current government if we can, and shouldn’t miss the chance.

Be brave, be water, be ready

The motto of the resistance in Hong Kong is on my lips much lately, though often I am not applying it to Hong Kong. Nor am I not. I look at this “Oriental entrepôt” (as we used to say before political correctness), where once I lived for a couple of months, from a great and widening distance. The people there are quite another generation from that which I remember; of course they seem much younger. The idea of the inhabitants of Hong Kong nearly closing the city with demonstrations, week after week, was not formerly possible to imagine. But their enthusiasm for the personal freedom they once enjoyed (under the aegis of British imperialism and colonialism, descending from opium wars), hardly surprises me.

The British approach was finally, live and let live; but it had an administrative basis. From the 1950s, Hong Kong was an experiment. What would happen if they deregulated almost everything, and cut taxes to match? If they consciously de-politicized the colonial administration? If they shrank police functions to what was needed only to direct traffic, and defeat crime? The result was, as ever, unprecedented prosperity, but more: a people who forgot the habit even of kow-towing to men “dress’d in a little brief authority.”

People were transformed, from indifferent parts in a rusting machine, to free agents. (Unfortunately, in a broader view, prosperity also kills, as people use their freedom only for material gain, and a new jackboot state grows around the need to protect against the consequences.)

Hong Kong is a city now of seven million souls. It has, as it had, economic and social classes — plenty of them — yet the present “troubles” have nought to do with class. Opposition to the Communist government is as broad as it was in all ex-Soviet states, as we discovered when the Berlin Wall fell, and nearly discovered across China in the moment of Tiananmen. Rebellion, to start, is an urban phenomenon; it begins with a sudden collective sense that “we have the numbers.” The fear, upon which all tyrannical regimes depend, evaporates. What happens next is anyone’s guess, except, we can know the regime is doomed.

I doubt even a high-tech “surveillance state,” as Red China now is, or countries throughout the West are becoming, can survive a general uprising. This is not merely a question of numbers. The surveillance state must necessarily depend on data processing and artificial intelligence; human beings (“citizens”) do not. They think conceptually. At this level, machines cannot “think” at all, and will never.

This is important to grasp, tactically and strategically. While the obscene, glassy-eyed technocrats who rule Red China can, as Xi Jinping boasts, “crush bodies and shatter bones,” they can only give orders. The orders, however, must go to people, which is why the tyrants, also, live in fear. If they had only automatons to rule, there could be quick fixes.

We forget this, partly because we are no longer Christian. I mean this very seriously. For two thousand years, people have been “conditioned,” directly and also indirectly, to realize that death, pain, poverty and all other distresses, need not rule them; that one may “know the truth, and be freed.” Few have the courage to step forward at the start, but those few can be tremendously effective, because they are surrounded by others who know that this courage is good. From the tyrant’s view, it is like the plague: in remission for a long time, but suddenly, explosively contagious.

Restricting the contagion to the streets of Hong Kong is Xi’s current mission. This will require him to isolate the Territory, with radical measures. His only other option is a general massacre, on a scale to re-instil fear, but that might not work either. He can be feared; he can never be respected. He will never be voluntarily obeyed. And his slaves — more than a billion of them — have had a chance to see the fear in him, too.

A saint for our times

In the wee hours of yesterday, at Rome, John Henry Newman, who had been elevated from “Cardinal,” to “Blessed,” was further elevated to “Saint.” Gentle reader who is not a Catholic may nevertheless vaguely intuit what is involved. Saints are neither born, nor made, in human terms. By granting this title, Holy Church declares that she has come to recognize a fact, and must acknowledge it from this time forward. By miracles she has, so to say, got the memo from Heaven. There is a bureaucratic process down here on Earth. It will normally take many years to get through the paperwork. Benedict XVI, whose interest in Newman was never casual, began the formal process in 2010. Newman’s “cause” is now completed.

It can be argued that Newman was the greatest theological and philosophical mind since Thomas Aquinas. (He considered himself neither theologian nor philosopher.) As English-speakers, we may notice that he was among our greatest writers of prose, and also, like Thomas Aquinas in Latin, of verse. He was instrumental in reviving Catholicism as a living, thinking force throughout the Anglosphere. But beyond it, he decisively influenced men like Ratzinger — among the most brilliant in Europe and beyond.

Far from revealing or contributing to a breach between ancient and modern, his Development of Christian Doctrine perfectly reconciled them — to that development from acorn to oak, in which we do not find contradictions. In each of Newman’s many other books (I count thirty-four currently on the shelves in the High Doganate), he wrestled with the beast of our “modernity,” which can only embrace “reason” by eschewing depth and faith. Newman’s own conversion extends beyond its moment in time. One might say his whole life was Conversion, implicating that Anglosphere.

For in the dance of history, taking the long view, it may even be the English-speaking turn to lead a return to the faith of our far Catholic ancestors, now that we have exhausted the possibilities of our schismatic spirit.

One might instead observe Newman’s many continuities: that, for instance, through decades when he was for all practical purposes banned from the place, he remained the quintessential Oxford man, the perpetual earnest scholar under her dreaming spires. He was, at his core, citizen of an England not national but timeless.

He was a man who aspired to Truth, and lived it. The man’s courage in exchanging all of his dignity and social standing as a treasured member of the British establishment, for the title of “traitor” and the wayfaring life of a despised Catholic, equivalent to a peasant Irishman, inspired others to take courage. He was creating a path, through his own person — a temporal wormhole, as it were — back to behind the premisses of the Northern Reformation. Yet he was no mere curmudgeon or controversialist. He desired to recover Christianity, whole, for himself and for others. With genius he found what he was seeking, in a renewed understanding of what, with all her newsy, passing flaws, the Church … Is.

In person he was shy, and hated fame and spectacle, and only his high sincerity could move him to play his crucial worldly rôle. I am struck by accounts of his demeanour; by memoirs of his style in delivering Oxford homilies, celebrated later as if they were oratory. He would write them out, carefully, then read them at the pulpit in a monotone, for up to an hour, while fidgeting with his glasses. Their splendour is better appreciated by the leisured reader.

For many years I did not read him, because I was afraid. I “knew,” to use no stronger term, that he threatened my own comfortable life as an Anglican. Simply glancing, through the book mentioned above, had already damaged my complacency. I avoided contact, though leaving several of Newman’s books to torment me in plain sight. I invite others who may not be Catholic to surrender as I eventually did. Read them and stop pretending that they can be bracketed.

To me it has by now long seemed quite obvious that Newman was (and is) a Saint. But I do not like getting ahead of the Church in these matters. As of yesterday, the Church has caught up. Yes, Newman has come home.

The would pile

An (unapologetically) Christian Party would lose elections. Perhaps that would be the point of it. The intention would be to make a good showing, and here and there, actually to get someone credible elected to some public office. Beyond that, set a good example, of characteristic civility and charm. It would inevitably be the party of religious freedom, especially for Christians. It would naturally oppose abortion and “euthanasia,” and the Culture of Death in its many other manifestations. Indeed, it would be thoroughly anti-choice in all matters of fundamental morality, on which Our Lord and His appointed heirs have clearly spoken. It would accept every plank of the Ten Commandments, without the slightest sophistical demur.

It would not attract only Christian voters, but they would be the core. Permanent and active riding associations would be the means of operation. Talks, studies, debates would be sponsored, to help members candidly explore current political questions. These local “clubs” would even arrange picnics, “youth outings” (the old-fashioned kind), history tours, civic events. Protests and demonstrations would not be sponsored.

The party would probably need a charter to state its permanent principles, and what they were not: a Founding Manifesto, if thou wilt. That it would not aspire to be a revolutionary vanguard, let alone a church; but expressly a formal political party; would be memorably asserted. The document would also be very forthcoming  about the need to restore a Christian society, and regenerate lapsed Christian souls.

“Conservatives” would complain that this party was splitting the Conservative vote. “Yes, we probably are,” would come the answer.

They would say, “How dare you appropriate the word ‘Christian’, as if our party were not also Christian?” But it’s not. (Did the “Christian Democrats” in Europe claim a monopoly on anything?) The right of all Conservatives to moan, whine, cavil, and snivel, would always be recognized. Too, their right to sell out, on all matters of importance.

“Liberals” would call us fascists, racists, misogynists, &c. But what’s new?

To the usual fuss about “the separation of Church and State,” the Christian Party would contribute moments of clarity, explaining what the difference is between one and the other, why each must be independent of the other, and why it would be better if both were Christian.

A large part of the party’s function would consist of keeping Christian social ideas in circulation, defending them against misrepresentation, defending the citizen’s right to maintain them, and his right to practice Christianity openly — whether here or in any other country. This might require an effective, even ingenious, information and publicity arm. By all means use mockery and humour to humiliate “progressive” anti-Christian leaders; but also tirelessly expose their lies and hypocrisy.

All other parties would be granted the right to steal from the Christian Party platform, with or without attribution. Indeed even Liberal, Progressive, Green, Socialist, and miscellaneous commie-pervert parties would be encouraged to buy in, to whatever the Christian Party advocated. In practice, however, I would not expect plagiarism to present much of a problem.

Puf the tragic dragon

That Samuel von Pufendorf (1632–94) was some kind of liberal one might take from the company he kept (especially after his death), and from his generally bad attitude towards Hapsburgs.

Should gentle reader be a Yankee constitutional scholar, he will be familiar with Pufendorf because he will have heard that the Fathers of the U.S.A. Constitution were reading him (in the original Latin). Their advanced views on the law of nations, and thus of what constitutes a nation, owed much to him. (They had a bad attitude towards Hapsburgs, too.)

Jefferson had probably been reading him in the bath the night before he wrote the Declaration of Independence. (This is pure speculation on my part, incidentally.) His rival Alexander Hamilton was equally familiar with this territory, to say nothing of little Madison and the rest. Jefferson’s mental map of the intersection between the natural law, and international law, strikes me as Pufendorfian to a fault.

I was reading P. back when all the cool kids were reading Locke and Hobbes; unfortunately in that wet-first order. They were also reading philosophical pornographers, such as Hume, but that is another story. …

The English-speaking “enlightenment” has since lost contact with the earlier German, though alas not with the later German and French enlightenmenti, and thus the history of nationhood and statecraft emerging from the Thirty Years’ War has been gradually obscured. The treason of the French monarchy, siding with the Protestants against the Hapsburgs — one of history’s great cosmic powerplays, in my view — was overwritten by the glib flippancies of Kant and Voltaire.  The horrible Rousseau would fill public space in the mind of France, during the slide downhill to the French Revolution. But that came later to west Atlantic shores. The American Founders were more stolidly Prusso-German than fashionably Parisian, and their boots had sunk deeper in the mud of history. Indeed, they’d slap on olive-face and dress up as Romans.

We cannot understand our English-speaking intellectual ancestors if we narrow our view through anachronism. The fact that the American Revolution starts bubbling nearly a generation before the French is of huge chronological significance. It succeeded because it was grounded in an older, more generous, explicitly Christian soil, however much blood had been shed into it.

Today’s national ideas and ideals are products of a fundamentally Protestant, and I would say Lutheran conception of how to organize the world, in light of certain hard facts, such as the survival of Catholicism. The earlier modern thinking was still consciously Christian. It aspired to maintain moral conventions that the French revolutionists would seek to overthrow. These northerners wished only to transplant those conventions from southern to northern gardens. Some withering was inevitable.

What once pleased me about Pufendorf was how he balanced or even corrected Hobbes (whose sonorous prose rhetoric had tended to hypnotize me). In the place of a nature “red in tooth and claw,” in a state of perpetual war, Pufendorf postulated a nature at peace, but always insecure and needing legal signposts. Which one, I asked myself, will be the instinctive enemy of tyranny? Or more maturely, now that we know the answer, is there nevertheless something about “liberalism,” in the finest sense, that engenders tyranny, even while proclaiming resistance to it?

It is not so much Pufendorf himself for whom I am shilling, as an immersion into the formative period of modern political thought; not least because this takes us back to the age when a coherent Catholic response to it was also in formation, descending from the Council of Trent.

Today, of course, it has gone into hiding.

Looking forward, cont.

The French Revolution (remember that?) was, in some reckonings, the Extinction Event for Western Christendom. There have been quite a few since, but that one was memorable for heralding “populism”: the manipulation of great masses of The Peeple, chiefly through well-publicized lies, to form battering rams in support of small parties of Paris intellectuals. A national state (“France” with all her diverse regions) “progressed,” in a blink of historical time, from a constitution which balanced monarchy, aristocracy, and the commons, to one in which the Leftists of the day could order massacres of their more conservative rivals.

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,” as young Wordsworth declared. Young intellectuals across Europe were inspired, though most, like him, lapsed into reaction as they grew and matured, and as the consequences of this “progress” became clearer, in the Reign of Terror, then the Napoleonic Wars that engulfed Europe. With Nappie’s narrow defeat, however, a century of more-or-less peace befell the Continent: 1815 to 1914.

Politics continued, of course: war by other means. Stability returned where monarchies could be restored, but elsewhere, The Peeple were sometimes led to triumph in the establishment of “pure” if temporary democracies, governed by the lowest orders of society, with the passing support of the most gullible. Atheism was everywhere advancing. Christianity was also recovering, as it is wont to do. Contradictions were abounding.

We’ll leave later progress to another day: Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Maoism, and the succession of other “popular” socialist movements in the century since. Today this is all old hat, for the most part unknown to the half-educated and maleducated. The contemporary university student has, typically, no knowledge of history or historical time, and is a moral and spiritual vacuum, inflamed by passions he also does not understand.

My own view is not that it’s the end of the world; rather that we are entering, internationally, another of these progressive “dawns.” The latest ideology is Environmentalism, or we might call it Deep Ecology (a rejection of humanity itself, but using the conceits of a superannuated humanism). It is the new promise of a “liberty” detached from such old-fashioned restraints as human decency, and the sane. The century ahead should be very interesting, in the sense of the old Chinese proverb.

I watch today’s international “Extinction” marches with fairly lively contempt. It is a demonstration for — What? The young (including the compulsively senile) declare what they are against, but can never coherently explain what they are for. They will let Fate take care of that, meanwhile they make, once again, their quickly developing abstract demands, in little irruptions of malignity, currently symbolized by a strident Swedish teenager with Asperger’s syndrome. (Pray she will be cured!)

This overwhelmingly white “rebellion,” whose participants are inclined to accuse all opponents of “white supremacy,” is defined more generally by the abandonment of Reason. This follows universally from the abandonment of Faith: it is an old story.

As in the past, those responsible for public order look on with growing cowardice. This was my own second formative political experience: watching the custodians of order retreat and dissolve during the riots of 1968. (The first, was being caught in a bloody riot at Lahore, as a younger child, trying to get home from school.)

An auld acquaintance, with a gift for irritating me, tells me he is making (another) “documentary” with my tax money — a film about how the world is coming to an end, and how this is making people in Montreal unhappy. I imagine the Capitalists will be the culprits. They invariably are.

The world, as I mentioned, is not coming to an end, until God wills it. We are merely making it more miserable for ourselves to live and die here.

Perhaps gentle reader is already aware that I am a fervent Reactionary, and an enemy of all Change and Revolution that cannot lead to Heaven. A Reactionary must, after all, “accentuate the positive.”

The paradox is that these people can only be defeated by joy, and a love that cannot be reduced to lubricity. I invite gentle reader to look on joyfully: for notwithstanding the occasional inconvenience, the Kingdom of God is always at hand, today as yesterday and forever.

Adam & Eve & science

We are, up here in the High Doganate, rather sceptical of the claims of Modern Science, and inclined to mock its self-important practitioners, often in rather whimsical ways. The effort to debunk specific “settled” conclusions — from Darwinoid ape-man evolutionism to the dark euphoric squeals of Global Warming — is time-consuming, of course. Yet we can know, even without debunking, that certain things are not going to happen, soon or ever.

It is a bore demonstrating, for instance, that no one’s gonna drown in Manhattan (or even in Miami) because of atmospheric CO2 levels; or that men will never (successfully) colonize Mars. Time spent in discussing such things (except for the purpose of satirical entertainment) is time wasted. The onus of proof is, anyway, not on our side. The more one goes into detail, the more risible the argument becomes, but also the angrier “settled scientists” become, whose livelihoods depend on our credulity — a proof, perhaps, of causal links between humour and intelligence.

Should we refute scientific claims by scientific method? No, because there is no such thing; and beyond that, no inference that is entirely reliable. As I suggested in a previous Idlepost, not even the existence of atoms can be taken for granted. The method to be pursued depends on what is being investigated, as Aristotle knew a couple dozen centuries ago. Unlike a later philosopher, he did not write a Discourse on Method.

We should instead refute nonsense with sharp logic, which begins and ends with the cautious application of common sense, turning upon the law of non-contradiction. Nothing in this universe, discoverable by men, can be A and not-A at the same time. This is not a theory but a premiss — an act of faith. Wisdom begins with recognition of our limitations — faith in them, as it were. That is why it is more likely to be acquired from religion, than from playing games with numbers.

Science is knowledge; nothing more. It is not acquired thanks to abstract method, and no method determines what can be acquired. Trial and error is never such a smooth process. Knowledge is a relationship with the world, and with its Creator. It can be true or false. Either way, it is internalized: our knowledge becomes a part of us. We eagerly embrace convenient error. We awkwardly flounder towards truth. The first is full of plausibilities, the second full of paradoxes. C’est la vie.

The arrogance, together with the ignorance in Modern Science, is founded upon the confidently false belief that we must accept what is “scientific,” in flavour, and reject what is “unscientific,” according to arbitrary rules fixed by “scientists.” But no: we must be predisposed to truth in every form, and flee error on all fronts.

There is nothing smug in this. “True” and “false” are absolutely exclusive categories, and the method of distinguishing them is not through a set of lab rules, but by humility and sincerity and the honesty that follows. The questions to be answered will always have moral and spiritual dimensions, as well as physical ones, and the person whose conscience is alive, will be vividly aware of this.

An inquirer should be sceptical not only of the results of his inquiry, when they “feel wrong,” but more fundamentally, of himself. Here is a possible first question for anyone who wants to know something:

Why do I want to know?

Do not simply assume that your inquiry is innocent or harmless. The first truly “scientific” experiment was, after all, that conducted by Adam and Eve.

Thought experiments

In laboratory experiments, white rats fed on a diet of pure smoke from tobacco, all died. A parallel group, however, fed instead on tofu, lived several hours longer, and some of them for days. A third group, subjected to recordings of Gregorian Chant, lived longest of all. (Those were allowed to eat whatever they wanted.)

To tell the truth, gentle reader, I did not physically do these experiments. I just guessed at the results. Up here in the High Doganate Academy of Sciences, we get all of our results this way. We (or “I,” if you prefer) are thus able to keep within a tight budget, and our apartment remains uncluttered by scientific gear (without expensive advice from any small Japanese wench, or being fry-panned by a mistress). The landlord arguably discourages rats in the building, so that our scientific methods help us to avoid litigation, too.

The experiments were performed this morning over coffee. I’ve forgotten, now, what was to be the point of them. Perhaps I was hoping to break into Drudge, or some other prominent, online scientific periodical. Properly worded, I’m sure the manuscript could skip by the referees in any distinguished climate or sociological journal.

On environmental consideration, I recommend my innovations. So many old-fashioned tests release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which, in addition to being plant food, necessary for the plants to produce oxygen, is also said to be a lethal poison. According to some of the men (and women!) in lab coats, it will contribute to a planetary extinction event in another 11 years, 7 months, and ticking. (I also wear a lab coat of sorts, sometimes, but it doubles as my kitchen apron.) Cows also release methane, which is why some experts give us less that ten years. But that’s not my fault. I have never kept cattle up here, or even goats, although their milk-to-methane ratio is much better. (One of my experiments confirmed this.) Well, I suppose I could be criticized for my failure to develop lactose intolerance.

Did I mention my advance in cold fusion? I’ve invented an engine that can generate 100 kilowatts perpetually, in a cell the size of an AA battery. It is still at the design stage, however, and might take centuries to license. Unfortunately, I’ll be unable to assemble a prototype in the foreseeable future, because the parts are not available at the local Home Hardware, and even if they were, Marie Kondo would almost certainly disapprove the mess they would make. (I understand she is now recommending “getaway cozy cabins in the woods” to let you stay off the Internet. What an ingenious solution!)

My own “read a book” strategy is actually more portable, and requires less wood. Alas, this involves clutter for the man of more than one book, and if you buy a Kindle to get around this, you may be tempted back on the Internet again.

But fact-rich “thought experiments” should be beyond criticism, whether or not the facts happen to be true. And they will solve almost all of your physical and even metaphysical quandaries, although some of them require a second cup of coffee. Think how much, as a society, we could save!