Essays in Idleness


On the value of a human life

A lot of things happened, more than half a century ago; suddenly I’m among the shrinking number who recall this. For today’s Idlepost, I will remember an article I read in a popular science magazine, back then. I’ve forgotten both the title of the publication, and the date of the number. I can, however, say that I was in high school at the time; my fact-checkers may take it from there.

According to this article, the worth of a human being was 98 cents. The authors showed how their figure was arrived at. They had combined current market prices for the materials in an average human frame of 130 pounds. (Details like this I remember.) A sceptic, even then, I recall noting that they excluded hat, mid-season clothing, and shoes, from their total; and that they didn’t mention whether they were citing wholesale or retail values on the flesh and chemicals. Most pointedly, while accompanying my mother to a supermarket, I checked the prices for beef, pork, and broiler chicken, choosing the lowest grades. All were over 10 cents a pound; and so I concluded that the price of the meat alone, per human, would exceed their total estimate.

Given background inflation rates, I think the total value in 2020 may approach twenty dollars, or even twenty-five. I’d have to recheck chemical prices, to be sure. Though perhaps the total might be reduced, closer to one dollar again, for babies.

Now, I hate complicated statistical calculations, so here is an alternative approach.

Once, passing a second-hand bookstore, I spotted in its window a book I very much wanted to acquire. Knowing the bookseller, I dashed into his shop, grabbed the book in question and, clutching it tightly while advancing towards his counter, exclaimed that I had been willing to kill for it.

“How much?” I asked, catching my breath.

“Eighty dollars,” he replied, nonchalantly.

I told him I could not possibly pay that, and sadly released the book from my grip.

“Well,” the bookseller observed. “Thanks to this exercise, we know the value you place on a human life. Less than eighty dollars.”

In those days, I think I would have drawn the line at thirty. But to his moral credit and mine, the bookseller and I were finally able to agree on fifty-five dollars (plus sales tax).

This week, there is a “Virtual March for Life,” from and to virtual Parliament Hill, in virtual Ottawa. Owing to the Communist Chinese Batflu, the actual walk was cancelled — by far the largest annual protest march in the country, although for some obscure reason our progressive media always bury it on an inside page, in the rare instances when they cover it at all. To them, I suppose, the value of a human life is whatever it costs to typeset a paragraph, divided by 20,000 or so.

Call me reckless, but I’m willing to go higher.

Fear & freedom

Be afraid, be very afraid, gentle reader. Of volatile organic compounds! They’re gonna get your mama. Some scientist in Germany named Brasseur has done studies. So did another called Stavrakou somewhere else. And they have colleagues! At least one of those courageous people has spoken to the press. And while what they said may sound innocent enough, grab hold of your whisky. It is time to be terrified by another Unknown.

Since nitrogen dioxide, and all the tonnes of fine particulate matter, began falling out of our atmosphere (thanks to the the lockdowns that followed the Xi Batflu), surface pollutants have been piling up. Atmospheric gases have been interacting with those volatile compounds down below. And do you know what that means, my poor frightened soul?

It means that Ozone Levels — right here at the surface of our planet — have increased. And you know what Ozone did, in Antarctica. Remember that Ozone Hole? There’s hardly anything living in Antarctica today, but penguins. The Ozone must have fallen, and killed everything else. Now, down here on the surface of the planet, this Ozone may have grown by 2 percent. Or 200 percent: whichever is higher.

And worse, the summer is coming. As the sunshine increases — and it will, mark my words — there will be more and more complex reactions. You can count on it. Bwahaha!

Yes, our enemy is the clear skies! It is the invisible enemy, as Trump might say.

Call the United Nations! Demand action! Re-animate the corpus of Al Gore! We must educate the public. Only world government can save us! We need emergency task forces right away!

But while we’re waiting for the task forces to arrive, there are things that we can do. (“We’re all in this together!”) All of our household appliances are at fault. The fridge, the aircon, the coffee grinder, everything. Stovetops and ovens; hotplates too! Laptops, cellphones, personal computers: all contribute to this crisis. Cars, of course; trucks, trains, and aeroplanes: we must disable them all! Turn off all your lights, while you’re at it. Everything must be extinguished, now! And that includes candles. They’re emitting those volatile compounds for sure, snuff them out! Pour water over them!

We must shut everything down until we find a vaccine! Or forever, because we have to be safe!

Meanwhile, we must burn as much coal as possible, to restore the atmosphere’s particulate supply. This dust was what was keeping our Ozone Levels steady. Open pit mining is only a start.

It will all be worth it, if we save just one life!


Everything written above is scientific. (“We must listen to the science!”) Note that it is also batshit insane. You may forget all about it now, for you might never hear about it again, for the rest of your life. Just concentrate on your whisky. Light another cigarette.

Alternatively, you might hear about it eighty times a day, for the next five decades.

I was, truth to tell, performing a mental exercise: trying to guess what the rats in labcoats could come up with next, together with their friends in the meejah and acadeemjah — when the trillions you are willing to pay for their advice shrinks to mere hundred billions.

For that would be a real environmental crisis, for them.

How to get rich

Among the more interesting human perversions is the desire to be lied to. The opposite is the desire to be told the truth, but this, to my mind, is not a perversion. I have met at least one fellow human, in possession of a philosophy degree, who speculated that there might be a third, “middle way,” between these extremes. He is dead now, but while he lived, he described himself as an “Antinomian.” (As an “Antediluvian,” I was on the other side.)

Let me stick with the perversion with which I started. There are many circumstances when even a “normal” person, if we could find such a being, wants to be told untruth. He does not want to believe it an untruth, however. I remember when my Antinomian friend died. I did not want to believe it, although the evidence conflicted with my fact preference. I could not imagine him not being alive because, theretofore, he had always seemed to be alive, even when absent. Perhaps it was a small thing, in the context of the whole world, but to me the world had radically changed, by his death. By dying, my Antinomian (who could be quite charming) had refuted his own philosophy, and my first instinct was to call him, and point this out. He was no longer taking calls, however.

Gentle reader will, if he has reached mature years, be aware of “the stages of grief,” whatever they are. This is because he will have experienced them. Let me suggest that, to some degree, these accompany all corrections. They may be inverted, or proceed very quickly, but consciousness itself has a pattern in the creature who must deal with the true/false dichotomy. For all I know other animals share it in their respective ways; I seem to have observed it in pets. There is a moment of transition in the more sentient animals — now I am thinking of cats — when they rearrange themselves, and seem to choose which instinct to favour. They don’t look happy.

And humans I have found, often, even more sentient than cats. Our responses may not be subtler, but they can be. The question, “How is this possible?” may be answered with impressive sophistication.

During this monotonous Batflu crisis, I have the luxury of observing contrary lies. In fact there is a range from, “Oh this is nothing, laugh it off,” to, “Omigod we’re all going to die.” Here I note an argument for something in the middle, however, and even for keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.

But what (mostly pseudo) scientists call “confirmation bias” is powerfully at work, in everything we do. Were it not, we would not be able to function. That taking things for granted, such as “gravity is still working,” is a forgivable inference, I’d be the first to admit.

What feels new, though it certainly isn’t, is the degree to which the global village’s informers, acting under political but also commercial impulses, exploit perversion. They know most people will believe a lie, no matter how unlikely, once their political beliefs have frozen — to the point of not wanting to hear any contrary information.

As the sage, Iowahawk, observed: “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.”

Find the people who want to be told lies — of commission or omission, it matters nought — and provide them with a regular supply. It is not the only way to get rich; but hooo, is it a good one.


This old Durkheim term emerged from that era, in the 19th century, when Europeans were discovering suicide statistics. They not only gathered suicide rates, but noticed that they were rapidly increasing wherever modern industrial life was extended — to all the backward places where pre-industrial life had hardly changed from one generation to another — suddenly, many times over.

Anomie the sociologists came to know as a product of conflict between belief systems. It is a breakdown, a disintegration, of long-established social bonds, which depended upon a common worldview (Christian, for instance). It is the disappearance of an ancient order, and its replacement with chaos. It is “fragmentation of social identity and rejection of values,” according to the Wicked Paedia.

“From normlessness to gormlessness” was one of my attempts to encapsulate this “progress”; from shifting to sinking sand, as it were.  I was first reading about this phenomenon in works by T. G. Masaryk, nearly fifty years ago. (The future Czech president anticipated all of Durkheim’s insights.) As our hut of norms begins to crack and splinter, people become deeply confused. As it subsides and is crushed, they give up on it entirely, but they have nowhere to run. The suicide rate is a measure of this, by a plausible statistical inference.

This has recently been accelerating, radically, once more, especially in boys and men. One might call it a great victory for feminism, or argue from the myriad of other dislocations. But while the male suicide rate is currently many times higher, women are learning how to kill themselves, too.

The majority remain survivors, however. The great mass of men (now in the sense of “people”) are not philosophers, and have not the luxury of listening to the podcasts of the philosophers. The sky that is falling on them is no intellectual construction, or rather deconstruction. It is from their little isolated worlds of work and leisure, that meaning is vacuumed, from family and prayer to steady jobs. Opiates take their place, like cheap goods from China. The great achievement of “progress” is a growing despair. (“Trumpism” interests me, as a resisting source of the positive; in this sense I think it is genuinely backward.)

Of course, most people adapt to our brave new world, in which no one can afford to be honest, and therefore no one can be trusted. There is a form of escape in becoming deeply cynicized. That the collapse of Western Civ could be good for the economy, I first noticed a few decades ago. It is one of the paradoxes of our time. Such material problems as famine, and disease, were apparently being solved. Now we discover this was also an illusion: the extremes of consumer comfort melt away. Those who had to work for a living (unlike public and private bureaucrats, who can prattle to each other from home) suddenly found themselves locked into a nightmare.

In the end, even the bureaucrats will starve, unless the economy reopens. My neat, conventional, mindless rightwing view is the glib-libertarian one, that this is what happens when the masses lose their freedom, and the progress that was wrought by capitalism is destroyed. There is some truth in this, but it is shallow.

The world that is reopening is normless. This it has in common with the world that went before. For a moment it seems to have improved, because we can walk outside again, and if it is still Spring, there are flowers and songbirds. Paycheques may also possibly resume.

But “normal life” cannot possibly resume, because “normal” (normed, normative) is gone. Even the distinction between a man and a woman has been eliminated; systems of reward and punishment are reversed; words have changed their meaning. Left-satanist utopian agendas are what animate our political minders, who have now learnt how easy they are to impose. While we were sleeping, through the induced coma of the Batflu crisis, we proved our extraordinary capacity for prostration.

We might observe that the Batflu works through our economy as it does through our nursing homes. The old and feeble companies are killed off. The young and ruthless inherit their empty lots. Technology now makes general surveillance possible, and has provided an immediate excuse for it.

Progress has made another astounding leap. And with this, the cause of anomie advances.

On Mother’s Day

As my well-informed, gentle readers will know, the lady who invented Mother’s Day (this second Sunday in May) also campaigned for its abolition. Anna Jarvis (1864–1948), who had framed the original proposal for a holiday, inspired after the death of her own beloved mother, was appalled when she saw what she had encouraged. A sincere Methodist, and a fierce opponent of infant mortality, she had advocated for a devout, religious holiday — but saw it turned, almost instantly, into a crass commercial event.

As it remains to this day.

We are not against motherhood, incidentally, up here in the High Doganate. Nor are we necessarily against nursing and other “healthcare” vocations — although we are quite irritated by the daily clash of pots and pans, and the rest of the urban cacophony, including the flypast of the Snowbird aeroplanes that we just endured. All these disorders promote our socialist, ludicrously expensive, and largely counterproductive, hospital system.

There are good mothers and bad; good nurses and bad; I’m sure there are even a few good doctors. To celebrate them, or any tribe as a species, is too heavy a load of codswallop for me. I would go so far as to add that there are good florists and bad, and would insinuate that there are also bad flowers — not as God made them, but as they are bred, and arranged. Praise for certain classes of people, with the possible exception of the (biologically deceased) Saints, is an “identitarian” movement, whether superficially of the Left or Right. How often crass commercialism has “evolved” from vulgar and deceitful politics.

For some years now, I have honoured Anna Jarvis by ignoring Mother’s Day.

Instead, let us address our prayers to that most Holy Virgin, and present our flowers at her shrine. And if there is a mother whom we especially prize, let us lay them at her tomb where her arms are folded, or in the living arms that once enfolded us.

Be safe, or you will be shot!

My title this morning is borrowed from an email by a dear friend. He’d ping’d along some meejah item on a firearms incident. Whatever. Perhaps we should praise the moderation of Judge Moye of Dallas County, for even though capital punishment is available in Texas, he did not order Shelley the hair salon owner to be shot. And this, although Shelley had ignored an order from the Health Gestapo to close her shop. (He is so liberal!)

Perhaps gentle reader will suspect I’m being “ironical” here. My email correspondent is one of several who forward items from across the continent about local officials, “dressed in a little authority,” over-enforcing lockdown orders when mere citizens show insufficient respect for them. Another item, that came in at the same time, showed a jogger on a California beach easily outrunning a fat, winded policeman, with background music from Chariots of Fire. I think it was the first time in my life that I cheered on a jogger.

Shelley Luther is the full name of that Texas beautician, now my latest heart-throb. I went out of my way to keystroke her release from prison by an Attorney-General — now as you might expect under criticism from various Texas Democrats and other unspeakable swamp-life.

Though a United Empire Loyalist myself, I was delighted to hear some of Shelley’s supporters singing: “Stand beside her, and guide her — Through the Night with a Light from Above.” (As I write, I am singing this to myself.)

Alas, my own beautician — who has been doing really cheap haircuts for me since my little sister gave up the practice — has not stood up to Ontario’s Health Nazis. Another of my heart-throbs (I have thousands of them), her shop in Toronto’s Chinatown is more closed than Wuhan. So is the ethnic supermarket nearby, full of tanks and flopping fish, where I’d go to pretend that I was in an Asiatic wet market.

We don’t have a world-class virology lab in Toronto, I’m sorry to say. That’s because we’re not really a world-class city, I fear. The best we could offer was a world-class loony bin, but that has been diminished since our Health Fascists started to apply euphemisms to it, and turned all the inmates into outpatients. They are the closest we still get to genuine diversity; though of course they all vote Liberal.


I was going to write about economics this morning, but got distracted somehow. I once read a paperback on this topic (along with a few hardcovers), and I’m curious about where the many trillions come from that our guvmints have been distributing as pogey.

Yairs: I vaguely remember someone named Bernanke, bailing the banks out during the financial crisis of ’08, explaining in an unguarded moment that the process is “less like borrowing and more like printing money.” Today it can all be done electronically, so they don’t have the fiendish printing costs they used to have in Weimar Germany.

From that paperback I learnt that money is only useful if you can buy stuff with it. And who would make anything to sell if, as a rude child on Edith Street once said, “you only get paid with farties.” Formerly, you could at least collect the old coins, after they had been “demonetized.” I used to have a little collection of these demonetized trinkets from Greece, Rome, Byzantium, ancient Japan and so forth, until a burglar cured me of the miserly habit of looking at them. But here in post-modernity, only the keystrokes remain, thanks to wonderful improvements in technology.

Except, I’ve overlooked the pretty card my bank gave me, with a picture on it of the great outdoors. Once I’ve got into the grocery store (you have to line up), I just help myself to anything I want, and then tap this card on the way out. The machine makes a noise like, “jin-ping!” — and then I’m on my way.

On paint-by-numbers

At some point — but it is seldom a discrete moment in space or time — the weight of the anecdotal in science, or that of the circumstantial in law, becomes overwhelming. This is the opposite of a statistical fact, in part because there are no statistical facts. I am reminded of this whenever the “scientific” control freaks of statistics lay down some law, indifferent to the Law in nature. The difference between 999,999 and one million is, in any imaginable situation, not a difference at all. Where it is made the basis for a decision, that decision is arbitrary, and not infrequently, cruel. By contrast, such differences as those between pregnant and not pregnant, dead and not dead, are unchallengeably significant. They are in the realm of meaning.

I am reminded of this hourly or better, these days, when consulting the news. All readers of the mass media (accurately described by Trump as “fake news”) are being covered, constantly, by the vomit of statistics — few with any context, and many knowingly false. They “look scientific,” which is to say, they answer to the moron’s conception of science. In “disciplines” like economics, today, and throughout the other social sciences, the participants sleepwalk. Nobel prizes are given out for numerical sludge, presented to the purpose of selling one destructive “policy” or another, that will be imposed on real, live, particular human beings. The same is true of the “mathematical biology” that has disinformed all our public health “professionals.”

The Red Chinese Batflu, now transforming our world, is a spectacular case in point. Not only the epidemiological projections, but even the counts of dead and wounded, are taken on faith — from people who are characteristically faithless. Information on prevention and cures is hostage to the work of statisticians. “Double blind tests,” which would be absolutely immoral — wicked — on human subjects facing life or death — are demanded by our medical apes.

Let us consider Hydroxychloroquine, for one passing example. Administered promptly, it has “apparently” saved the lives of thousands, in nursing homes all over the world, and outside them. The doctors and nurses on our actual front lines are using it, on the strength of their actual experience. The dangers in its use are real, as they are in all drugs, and all food and drink for that matter; but in this case they are remarkably slight. Yet the drug has been put under a cloud by one, obviously politicized, statistical study — in which it was administered, or not administered, to patients already beyond hope of recovery. Surprise! Hydroxycholoquine didn’t work on them. The malicious idiots of the press then went to work on this, for an unambiguously political purpose.

No artist, not even the geometrically obsessed Piero della Francesca, or the over-domesticated Johannes Vermeer, ever painted by numbers. Both were fascinated by the patterns they had the genius to observe in nature, and both sought to reproduce these patterns within the structure of their paintings. Ratios have been contemplated, and applied, through the known histories of art, architecture, music, even poetry, since very ancient times. They are likewise of interest, and use, within the sciences. But these are never statistical, except where some mediocrity is trying to demonstrate some point that is irresistibly precise, by a means that is approximate. The Golden Section, the value of Pi — are true absolutely, not by the compilation of averages.

But modern, godless man, cannot cope with Absoluteness. (See here.)

Cause and effect may be masked, by many variables, but that great principle of our universe, that two and two make four, regardless of what some fool in the Vatican may proclaim, is at the root of all discovery. It makes the difference between truth and (let me try to be polite for a change:) error. We know by experience, and in moments we home in upon, what our Creator has Created. Or we babble, having dressed up as the Judge.

Rats in labcoats

Gentlemen! A word of warning! “Carrying on” (i.e. fornicating) with a married woman other than your wife (i.e. adultery) could still cost you your job! For you might be in violation of social distancing rules.

Let’s make the disapproval stronger. You will certainly be in violation, and not only of her chastity. For there are some things that can’t be done by Zoom or Skype, as even progressives will admit, until they have reconsidered the matter, as they have with the distinction between female and male.

The man I think of as the father of our lockdowns — Professor Neil Ferguson, who persuaded the world that the Batflu would kill millions, with his computer model at Imperial College London — has now discovered that the revolution eats its own. His “squeeze,” a meejah environmentalist performer — who is “committed to an open marriage” — had been “visiting” him, as it were. By doing so she was leaving one house, and entering another. Someone must have snitched. So now we have a holiday from them both.

Prof Ferguson, famed “mathematical biologist,” could, to my mind, have been classified as an infectious disease in his own right. The curious may find that he has been behind a succession of wildly exaggerated epidemiological prognostications: from Mad Cow, to Swine Flu, Ebola, Zika, Dengue, the last SARS. Check them out. I don’t mean a little on the high side, but consistently orders of magnitude over the top. He has cost British and foreign taxpayers many, many millions thereby, but would have cost much more had any previous government taken his advice more seriously. For he habitually recommends nationwide lockdowns.

At last they have listened! (Yes, that was sarcasm.) His thoughts on “global warming” are of a piece: simply close everything down.

But while incredibly influential, Prof Ferguson was never unique. Since January, my respect for epidemiologists may have dropped lower than my respect for leftwing journalists. If gentle reader is aware of one who ever failed to increase the sum of human misery, he may reach me by email.

Dr Fauci, on this side of Lake Atlantic, has my attention again since I learnt that he was instrumental within the Obama administration, in directing huge American grants to the Batflu incubator at Wuhan in Red China. That he now denies our pandemic could possibly have spread from there, thus strikes me as uninteresting. President Obama was the genius who shut down potentially lethal American “gain-of-function” research, which was then redoubled in China with American help.

It is hard to find this stuff in Google, because it is being actively censored. This is another feature of the progressive rhetorical approach. My Idleposts themselves would be banned, I suspect, if anyone ever read them. This is my principal advantage: so long as no one hears us, we have free speech. And my pleasure lately is to be the sort of paranoid schizophrenic dog, who was trained to smell out rats, in labcoats.

On celebrating “identity”

My interest in Mexican history is like the Mexican interest in Mexican history: very tame. That third federal republic, and its predecessors, has many interesting and even noble features. Mexico was once, more than the Natted States, a great world power — the original seat of the almighty dollar, and globalist trade — generations before the English-speaking were a credible presence on this continent. She was also a cultural superpower. To this day she is what remains of the still-beating heart of Catholicism in the Americas, and the papist who does not rise to the cry ¡Viva Cristo Rey! must be brain dead. For even under the oppression of the sick and perverted secular tyranny that impoverished Mexico, that heart throbbed.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the First Battle of Puebla on the 5th of May, 1862, when a smaller Mexican force under the possibly brilliant General Zaragoza whipped an awkward French squad, that was a long way from home. It ignores the Second Battle of Puebla, when the French returned and pulverized the Mexicans. I should like to get into the history of the destruction of Mexico by secular progressives, some other day. We are being torn apart ourselves, now, by their triumphs. Satan invariably wins in those conflicts, but never for keeps.

As a cultural event, however, among Mexican exiles in places like California, that First Battle of Puebla was an occasion to remember, starting the next year. In Mexico itself it faded, but up here in the North of North America it has become Mexican Ethnic Day, when we like to drink lots of tequila. It became very popular thanks to beer and licker advertising campaigns in the 1980s, and as this year’s Batflu scenario is an indoor affair, the focus is on tequila-drinking while socially-spaced. Perhaps gentle reader has already obtained his bottle, in the time he has saved from having his church closed down. I understand the supply chain for this beverage is robust.

In the view of P. G. Wodehouse (not a Mexican), “It’s a funny old world.” Or it was Margaret Thatcher who said that (not a Mexican, either): I’ve never checked it out. Thanks to a globalized crass commercialism, I see that the holiday is finally catching on in Mexico itself; the way the celebration of Saint Patrick’s with green food dye has caught on in Ireland. I like fake things to look fake, so as not to spread confusion.

The self-celebration of an ethnicity has always been, as it were, authentically false. When, for instance, “Canada Day” replaced “Dominion Day” it was, arguably, a welcome acknowledgement that a genuine commemoration was being replaced by an expression of our vacuous national pride. Our fair Dominion need no longer be desecrated, for it was now entirely in the past. The kids as well as their elders could paint red maples all over their faces, and feel giddy good about themselves, while hopping up and down. Any deeper patriotism could be warned, to hide.

In the Old World, celebrations were directed away from the people, chiefly towards God. Historical events were commemorated for themselves, not as a reflection of “our niceness.” Ladies, gentlemen, or the civilized, generally, did not self-celebrate. That was for savages and barbarians, or so we assumed. This was unfair, however, for savages and barbarians have more dignity than that.

Being made ill

The daily count of deaths from the Red Chinese Batflu is among the prized, scare-mongering features of our mass media. I am among those who consider these numbers to be significantly overstated, for a reason that Nikolai Gogol would understand. Each corpse is worth cash to some public authority, usually from a higher authority; and as always, finally from the taxpayers. Each also saves money for government programmes, that can be reallocated to the purchase of new votes. As the corpse providers from this virus are very old, and suffering from other life-threatening conditions, in almost every case, this statistical inflation is easy to perform. Death certificates are issued for any who died with “Covid-19,” whether or not they died from it, and more are then added of those who were never tested. Anything respiratory will do. It’s all judgement calls — on which side of the bread is buttered.

Compare if you will the Hong Kong Flu of 1968 and 1969. I was just reading a memoir, from down that memory hole. The death toll was actually higher then, than ours is now, and from within a smaller population; the victims included children and the young. Yet there were no interruptions in economic life; no public emergency theatricals; and at the height of the second wave of that scourge, we had events like Woodstock. (Those were the days, my friend.)

A neat way to correct for all our “judgement calls” might be to look at overall death rates, and see if they have risen or fallen. It is too early to get a clear view, but soon it may be too late, for vested interests will have tampered with them. All my life I have been learning to trust statistics, less — especially from those who dress in labcoats and affect that earnest look. Sometimes an exception must be considered, however. An unpredictable minority may be honest; some others might get numbers right by mistake.

But in judging the “impact” of our pandemic, my standard of comparison is the iatrogenic toll. That is, the aggregate dead from medical errors (which are of many different kinds). The number per year in USA is estimated by their respected National Academy of Medicine (who have no motive for overestimating) at well over 200,000. Their definitions are narrow; the truth could be that the doctors (and their assistants) kill off twice that. One may add another four times for abortions, which takes us to a million at least. These are all people who might have lived, had they been spared medical attention. Except the abortions, few are intentionally murdered, of course. And balancing this, I admit, lives are also saved, even in the ICUs.

So currently we are at about one-twentieth of the iatrogenic toll.

My own suspicion is that the ratio, of those killed to those saved by medical intervention, has remained fairly constant over the years, since distant antiquity. I would include witch-doctoring and the like, were I researching figures. As a general rule, I think pseudo-scientific arrogance cancels gains from technical innovations, unless we count soap and water as high-tech.

The numbers are confused by the medicalization of modern life, with its many layers of unintended consequences. People do get sick, and even die, in the state of nature; but the pre-modern means of coping with this were better. They were not made sick by constant suggestion; they had nothing like the modern states of depression, with their terrible fallout in suicide, hypochondria, and addictions.

I was not surprised to learn, years ago, that during the Saskatchewan doctors’ strike of 1962 (against the imposition of “socialized” medicine), the death rate actually fell. I will not be surprised when I learn that it did so during this pandemic, too — wherever medical treatment was denied for any other illness than the Batflu.

“Listen to the science,” the unctuous have said. I think we might live longer if we didn’t.

Sharp words

My Chief Michigan Birding Correspondent, who reports the arrival of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks this morning, at his black oil sunflower feeder — a week or more in advance of their usual appearance — also mentions that I have used sharp words in my Idleposts several times recently. A submarine sailor in one of his own past lives, he admits to having thrown off colourful language himself, “especially when overly fatigued by the stupidity of the overall situation.” But perhaps I have been taking the news too seriously.

Naturally, I consult the housefinches on my balconata, who must themselves be well informed, as they persist in maintaining six feet of distance from me, whether I’m proposing to feed them or not. Alas, none of them confess to having read my Idleposts lately, or having an opinion, on anything, really. Others have commented this last week — but these not housefinches but Australians. Canada’s only surviving reactionary poet (now that the other one has migrated to the States) took the contrary view, and cited the comportment of Saint Michael, when debating with the Great Serpent. (His attitude towards e.g. Justin Trudeau is less sympathetic than mine. I did not think that was possible.)

My own view is that one should try always to use the mot juste, and if that happens to be, for instance, “bullshit,” then so it goes. But my Michigander is right. One should not take the news too seriously. More often one should inquire of a grosbeak, or grosbec as the French more elegantly call them, not for his political views, but to hear his song, which has been likened to that of a robin who has taken singing lessons. I, to be honest, have never heard a grosbeak swear. On the other hand, I’ve never met a grosbeak in a submarine.

Many of these grosbeaks wear blackface, incidentally. But none is so low as, say, the Governor of Virginia.

Forever Saigon

Forty-five years since the fall of Saigon, seventy-five since the fall of Berlin, six hundred and forty since the death of Catherine of Siena — the anniversaries have been falling thick and fast this week. For an Idleblogger it has been an embarras de richesses. The first two of those events fill my head with the images of so many long dead, and perpetually beloved; and too, with so much business unfinished, that will never be finished in this world. One thing follows another, downhill, as we recall each catastrophe, and with it the miracle that some of us have lived.

An article in the New-York Post (here) brings one historical event back into view, with a bitterness I haven’t yet overcome. It is only an aside on an old photo-caption, which like so many others from the Vietnam War was, shall we say, inaccurate. Taken for a symbol, it has passed into our electronic folk memory, as one of innumerable lies it contains. I wasn’t there, of course, but I had visited that country, and once, too briefly, lived in Saigon. The (very consequential) deceit, dishonesty, and faithlessness of “the mainstream media” was among the lessons I took from my apprenticeship. My ludicrous ambition, to “correct it” some day, will never be fulfilled. But to the link: my praise to one writer who did his homework. Let me be grand and say, the truth has set him free.

It will soon be fifty years since I first attended the “Five O’Clock Follies” at “MAC-V,” where the best hamburger in South-east Asia could be obtained for the price of a chocolate bar. This press conference format — bluster and counter-bluster — has not changed in all this time. Everything in that vast sprawling compound of military administration was sprayed, swept, and polished; I always entered with wide eyes. There, and in bars along Tu-Do Street (the old rue Catinat, once an exquisite ribbon from the Cathedral down lines of fragrant tamarinds), was where I first fell in with “real professional journalists,” practising their trade.

Those I met were, by and large, pathological liars, and extremely vain. They were also coarsely disrespectful, much like our journalists today: rudely cynical and sarcastic. The only serious exceptions I came to know were a couple of religious weirdos — one a Lutheran ex-pastor from West Germany, the other a reject from a Catholic seminary in southern France. They, like me, had strayed into the field, from a misplaced sense of adventure.

At all levels, and on all sides, I was witnessing a freak show — there and wherever I wandered outside the Unreal City. I owned a reliable Nikkormat camera, that would sometimes earn me much-needed cash, but was quite unsuccessful as a print journalist. My earnest despatches, sent to newspapers on spec, were routinely “spiked” — not, I think, because I was so young (they didn’t know that), but because I kept, often unknowingly, writing things that contradicted what the New York Times and CBS were reporting.

Not only was I learning that the “mainstream” was all lies, but too, that it invariably followed an agenda. The self-appointed purpose of the press was to sabotage the American war effort. (That of the life-or-death desperate Viets was, at best, ignored.)

But then, I was deceitful, too. I was pretending to be over 18 when I was still only 17, in order to get a press pass.

War zones can be grim, but they can also be the happiest and most uplifting places, and I have the fondest memories of people, especially brave GIs, who were caught up in that one. Seldom will there ever be a seriously difficult human situation to which one of the humans does not rise, and that includes the Mekong Delta. I have names to visit on that monument in Washington, DC. Indefensibly, I also have names that I have forgotten.

I lived with friends, for a time, in a magnificently decaying French colonial mansion, out Tan Binh way, almost to the Tan Son Nhut air base; my bedroom directly above a little arms cache. (I was the lowest-ranking member of the household.) It had been overrun during the Tet Offensive, and was therefore surrounded, above one storey of garden wall, with two storeys of barbed wire. Very loud C&W music could be heard from a USO juke box next door. In the evenings, from the flat roof, one could smoke ganja and watch the Phantom jets light up rice fields around the city with their flares, for the pilots were curious about Viet Cong movements.

One day I had the honour of being picked up in a jeep, by military police, on the suspicion that I was AWOL from the army. I finally agreed to show my passport, with the lion and unicorn gilded on the front. That farce, and many others, including thrilling rides in helicopters upcountry (at the expense of the American taxpayer), and nearly-free misordered stuff at the Cholon “PX,” was my vantage into an extremely populous bureaucracy that, with resources beyond imagining, was assiduously losing the war.

But I was very young, and by nature and upbringing an anti-communist; more broadly, against murder and massacre, as young idealists sometimes are. I never fell for the anti-war bullshit. I had indeed arrived in Saigon, gung-ho for the Yankees; and left, still believing that they should change their minds, and win.