Essays in Idleness


A quaint reflection

The distinction between a protest and a riot is a subtle one, as we see from a gallery of unsubtle remarks. Let me be Horatian: it is a matter of taste. I tend to prefer “protests” in Red China, and against totalitarian regimes generally, but not to see the point of them where civil discourse is permitted. Which is not to say that they should be illegal. But where the subtle line is crossed, so that policemen may be requested, to limit thuggery, looting, and so forth, distinctions disappear. At this point, “peaceful protesters” will uniformly absent themselves, leaving the troopers a free hand. In the colourful phrase of Canada’s Stephen Leacock, their task with the remainers is then to: “mow them down to marmalade.”

Surely gentle reader will agree. Too, he will doubt that this is a police function. For one thing, policemen should seldom be armed. Even to see them on the beat in pairs, instead of singly, is to wonder if their budget is too large. A few might need to congregate for a memorable bust, perhaps armed against armed customers; but it is hard to imagine an admirable civic polity wherein this sort of thing occurs.

It wouldn’t if the police were doing their job, to start with. In my view — which prevails in these Idleposts — the police constitute a local “intelligence” service, in several meanings of the term. Through their friendly foot patrols (vehicles are for the army), they become well-informed about potential causes of local crime. This in addition to other functions, such as entertaining children, helping old ladies across the street, and showing a lost visitor to an address. In Japan long ago, and in the brutishly large metropolis of Tokyo, I was once impressed: to see cops functioning as if they’d been employed by a small American town.

And in one of those, within the province of Ontario, I happily recall an “incident.” I was not being warned, let alone arrested: just invited for a chat, to the constable’s tiny office on Main Street. He wanted to advise me. He said other “youff” in the high school I was attending were copying my eccentricities, down to wearing corduroy jackets. This put me under a moral obligation to make a good example for them, as opposed to a bad one. He recommended that I think about this.

Even at the time, I was moved by his kindness and decency — he encouraged my independence — more than I was irritated by his invasion of my privacy. At this remove of time, I celebrate his memory.

He was not a social worker. That was a very small part of his calling. Besides, in the settled environment of a neighbourhood, whether urban or rural, there was precious little “social work” to do. Families took care of that. The biggest part of his job was simply “to be” — a respected figure, who could inspire a young lad to contemplate becoming a policeman when he grew up; or a young lass to dream of marrying one. In this small town, one would not commit a serious crime, for fear that one might hurt his feelings.

Too, one would be caught right away.

I see from the news that a different concept of police work has “evolved.” It isn’t the policeman’s fault that he has been miscast, usually. “Progress” has led, as it invariably does, to horrors. And now we need cops with tear gas, smoke bombs, automatic weapons, and other items more formidable than a gentleman will need for the deer season. Plus the handgun he better be carrying for street life.

On kneeling

One kneels to what one believes to be holy: Jesus Christ, in the case of faithful Catholics; or political correctness, in the case of those who deny Him. In the present circumstances, when the former are denied access to the Sacraments in many places, especially here in Canada, we may still kneel in prayer. This is a gesture also available to all non-Catholic Christians, which was, until recently, universally understood. If, as a Catholic, one kneels before a priest, one is not worshipping but acknowledging him to be In persona Christi capitis (“in the person of Christ the head”). The priest must be a real one, however, in the appointive descent from Our Lord, Christ the King.

Christians were, in the first centuries, willing to die rather than kneel to Caesar, so why should they be any more willing to kneel before the stinking race platitudes of today? Just to avoid being smeared in social media? Or more significantly, in the recent leftist race riots, when a radical demands that someone kneel before him (I have seen several videos), should he do so in order to avoid being beaten, maimed, possibly murdered?

Cowardice is always attractive, and not everyone is fit to be a martyr. But everyone should be capable of grasping that the radical is acting “in the person of Satan.” He is inviting his defenceless victim not only to abase himself, but to be received into Hell.

After that, the failing Catholic goes running to the Church, to confess a sin of great magnitude — the denial of Christ, when put to the test — only to find the church doors bolted against him.

I realize that a “modern” Catholic will consider this silly, and a “modern” priest would be too likely to assure the anxious penitent that what he did was no sin, “because you didn’t have a choice.” When he did, and his sin now goes unabsolved. And the priest had a choice, too, and he chose Hell.

When women were being massacred in the École Polytechnique at Montreal, the emasculated males in the corridors were eager to get out of Marc Lépine’s way. He was, as they quickly realized, only shooting women. Asked later why they didn’t intervene, they all said: “He had a gun.” This was given as their excuse, quite spontaneously.

When I wrote in a newspaper that they utterly disgusted me — not just their cowardice but their excuse for it — I became myself the target of execration, by self-proclaimed feminists as well as “general readers.” The former mocked my own masculinity, falsely claiming that I was boasting of my own bravery.

But I realized that, although probably depraved herself, the modern woman was justified in expecting the lowest possible behaviour in a man.

While this incident happened three decades ago — it was the inspiration for feminist “take back the night” demonstrations — I do not think young men in our culture have improved in this time. Their highest ideal remains personal safety, except when they are risking sports injuries, or overdosing on opiates, or looting and trashing the property of others.

How is it possible that such garbage (I am referring to the men) would have any higher regard for Our Saviour?

Problems that solve themselves

From a Twitter-fed video, I see that the Washington Monument took a direct lightning hit yesterday. It was more remarkable than my correspondent realized. Thanks to digital photography, we could trace the shape of the lightning bolt. It exactly duplicated the trend line on the American economy. Miraculi!

There is Hope, as I argue in my fortnightly column over at the Catholic Thing (here), making a Christian point that is entirely unoriginal — or I hope it is. My orthodox intentions are sometimes undermined by Wrath, and the like; but the notion that Truth cannot be wobbled by the passing events of the news cycle strikes me as irresistible.

I often wish our hierarchy would embrace this (the Truth), so that Catholics who haven’t yet found the time to read Scripture, or the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, might still be reliably informed.

Oddly, I consider this — what we sometimes call “theology” — to be a science. In a more rational age (such as the 13th century) it was known as “the queen of the sciences” because the lesser sciences converge in this apex. A modern person may not understand that the study of God should be top-of-the-pyramid. In fact, I have met self-styled “scientists” who omit the whole subject, truncating the pyramid in a most unsightly way.

Whereas, I proclaim that it is science indeed, leading up to the tip of Revelation. It can even be an empirical science, in the sense that discernible natural truths are lit from above. But the replacement, holus-bolus, of evidence-based science with theory-generated scientism — what I call the Triumph of the Charlatans — has contributed to what the cybernetic specialists call “a buggy mess.”

There are sciences downhill from theology, and many will be needed when or if we get around to re-installing Western Civ. In the meantime, perhaps things are improving, for when progressive forces destroy our teeming cities, obstacles to clear thinking are moved out of the way. (Their proposal to “defund the police,” and replace them with social-work “first responders,” would accelerate this process nicely.)

Then the only distraction will be the refugee crisis, as the “woke” urbanites try to break out, into the rural districts, hunting for food. (For a while, cannibalism might sustain them.) But if the “red state” types are well-enough armed, the perimeters will hold.

Alternatively, if it is bright enough, the urbanites might see the writing on the skies. Weirder things have happened.

But one way or the other, I remain hopeful.

The Father

Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory, indeed founder and provost of the Toronto Oratory, pastor in the two parishes it was given to serve, rector of Saint Philip’s Seminary, author of books, died yesterday morning at age ninety-one. Himself a convert (from Anglicanism), he had been for almost six decades a Catholic priest, and through the past four, an immigrant to Parkdale (from Quebec). This remarkable institution — our local Oratory, in conversation with holy cells around the world — was actually founded in 1975, at Montreal. The Father was himself known internationally, as thinker and writer. He had been prominent in Canadian Catholic life even before this; had been a respected professor of philosophy at McGill, and secretary to the late famous Cardinal Léger, before the Church sent him packing on his own impossible mission. In that, Our Lord granted him many improbable victories.

To his friends from near, he was a reliable guide, but too, a stalwart friend and gentle inspiration. I say this not in the manner of an obituarist, but from personal knowledge, being acutely aware of Father Robinson’s own distaste for flowery eulogies. As a homilist, and teacher, he was strict, and he instilled this quality in the priests he raised around him — saying from his own pulpit once, rather defiantly: “We don’t preach heresies here.” In a world gone crazy and alas, within a Church often thrown off balance by it, he was solid rock.

Father Robinson was incidentally the priest who received me into the Catholic Church; my spiritual director; and for the last seventeen years or so, the gentleman I met almost every week, until in March we were “legally separated” by the Batflu. (He was unimpressed by it.)

The picture of him approaching, down the corridor of a Saturday morning, is among the images I now carry to my own grave. For the moment, it leaves me at a loss.

May Our Lord receive His diligent servant to his rest, as I have faith He will.


While I cannot see the Natted States from here — only the Niagara Escarpment in Canada from my balconata, when looking across the Lake — I can go up onto the roof of my building. And from there, on a clear day, I can indeed see it. It wasn’t that clear, this morning; what I would describe as high overcast; but the Natted States was nevertheless in view. It was not in flames. I was squinting my eyes, to be sure.

This is why I don’t trust the media. By Messrs Fox News, I had just been told that it was in flames. This is not the first time they have lied to me.

Now, Fox News is less reliable than other media outlets. If I see something on Canada’s CBC, for instance, or in the Toronto Scar, I can be absolutely sure it is rubbish. But while this is normally the case with Fox, they create unnecessary confusion. About one item in twenty may be substantially true. It will, almost certainly, be the story they found most difficult to fit into their “narrative line.” Other networks never run stories like that.

Getting news from the original sources does not improve the odds on accuracy. Example: I have watched several press conferences, recently, from the White House. (Apparently not in flames.) But this is because the new press secretary is a very pretty blonde, from Florida. Too, I like to watch her humiliate the reporters. In these grim times, when most sporting events have been cancelled, it is something to cheer on.

As one of nature’s sceptics, however, I don’t accept her presentation, uncritically. Always, I want to know more. For instance: Is she really blonde?

And I have caught her in at least one lie. She said journalism is a noble profession.

Some years ago, when we yet had no “Internet” — I’m still not convinced it exists; I think it might be a myth, like California — we had to get our lies from the newspapers. I used to write for them, and noticed that I would only get in trouble if I tried to tell the truth. An editor once said I was a sucker for punishment. If I got lucky, I might be misinformed, and the letters would be flattering for a change. Outwardly, nothing has changed; inwardly, there has been a decline in aesthetics.

My principal source of expertise was a Czech gentleman, who lives today, although he is older. One day, I was telling him about a ripe, juicy scandal. I was reading directly from the Times of India.

He looked bored.

“Warren,” he explained. “Always, there is something going on. For this I do not need a newspaper.”


MORE SERIOUSLY. I regret that an email correspondent (who used to work with me on the same newspaper) has not followed through on his promise to deliver a three-hour lecture on the metaphysics of journalism as a species of sola scriptura. But everything today must be reduced to seven inches; he’s probably still making cuts.

They (the filthy rags) reflect the universal anti-Church. It interests me that there is NO competition among them whatsoever, and thus no variety. We saw this when, almost instantaneously, ALL dailies switched to the narrow page format. It was the latest fashion, masquerading as an economic imperative (they could as easily have retained full broadsheet, and in the absence of advertising, reduced the number of pages to four). The replacement of the pretence of news reporting with random patches of copytext from Virgil also happened simultaneously, across the board. (Necessary because they’d laid off staff.) That they ALL exchanged their politics, from left, or right, to left-lunatic bafflegab, was among the other giveaways.

I attribute the format revision to the sudden discovery that parrot cages had shrunk by one-third of a cubit in each dimension, and were now square in plan. I would hold the designers of parrot cages entirely responsible, except that, they were responding to the redesign of parrots by the Apple Corporation. All of this complicated by the invention of “Green New Deal” toilets, so you can’t flush newsprint any more.

The sewer pipe

There is a Sanskrit proverb, that if you are facing total loss and ruin, you should give up half. While I doubt they have it from this Indian source, the attitude of most self-styled “conservatives” is to accept this policy of appeasement. Over the course of my adult life (let’s say, fifty years) I have watched them act as if bailing from a sinking ship. Those who live in locales where “conservatism” is being made illegal — one thinks of the drive-in university campuses — need more robust defences.

One’s life is short. From what I can make out, the specific mental injury with which we are now dealing can be traced beyond fifty years; beyond the profligate ‘sixties; and back to the dramatic expansion of miseducation, as a conscious social measure, post-War. Moreover, the demand to accelerate miseducation continues, from its material beneficiaries. For, like any liberal measure, this act of debilitation was and is “done with the best intentions.”

(And deeper still lies the Trahison des clercs; and in layers beneath that, our secularization. …)

Now, you can’t say any place has been “intellectually ruined,” that was an intellectual vacuum to start with, so in that sense I think many of our criticisms of universities may be unfair. The loss is only detectable in the older institutions of the “Ivy League.” It is here that the humanities, which were the core of classical learning, have been trashed, desecrated, submerged, in a swirling tide of malicious idiocies.

The destruction is compounded by the assimilation of topics into university study that do not belong there. By this I don’t mean the rabid insanities of gender, race, and “intersectional” courses, which need annihilation, but studies that ought to be offloaded into “community colleges,” and vocational schools. Indirectly, the importation of things which may have value in themselves, but are not philosophical, have contributed to the capsizing overburden. But this is made less obvious by the fact that the standards in, say, engineering and computer programming, put the “lit” and “phil” courses to shame.

In light of the riots now proceeding through most Democrat jurisdictions in the Natted States, and which are starting to spread like Batflu through susceptibly “liberal” jurisdictions abroad, it becomes necessary to correct my Sanskrit proverb. Rather than continue bailing, sane people must retain their possessions, including, especially, their minds. These are even more lethal weapons than the “military-style” firearms that progressives seek to ban, although guns are also important.

Perhaps the most lethal weapon on the other side, of this rapidly degenerating “cold civil war,” is the bull-crap that is taught, or rather flung, on “diversity.” It has become the staple product of all our left-contaminated institutions. Public bigotry, that had happily become socially indefensible, is being reinstalled, in campaigns to reignite racial conflicts.

The attempts, for example to revive the slavery issue in our public life, when it was long since settled, shriek of this. The victims of it are, inevitably, mostly black. The destruction of black enterprise, both material and spiritual is, like the destruction of the black family by liberal welfare policy, not an accident; it is what these progressives think will serve their interests. There is no difference, today, between Antifa and (if we can find any) “neo-Nazis.” The tactics are the same; the effect is the same, across the range of provocateurs. Most learnt their sordid trades directly through “higher education”; the rest, indirectly.

Their anarchic thinking depends upon the vicious sludge that has accumulated in our universities, through generations of grade inflation. By now, our weaker young minds can’t breathe, because they are drowning in it.

Are you, gentle reader, a racist, sexist, homophobe, or what? These are unambiguously evil slanders, and yet we half concede to them. Do not pull punches when responding to these falsehoods.