Essays in Idleness


A rainbow nation

Like most observers, visiting from Mars, I have a hard time making sense of events on this planet. In particular, what caused: the death by violence of several hundred people; the looting of shopping malls and warehouses nationally; arrests and bumps in the night for prominent politicians (having naught to do with actual disorders); and general rioting and destruction. That about one-third of South Africans are unemployed, perhaps has some explanatory value, but there is no agreement on what caused that.

Or, we could examine the whole history of race relations — and all other interpersonal relations — that produced the explosively-packed supercharge of bullshit that generally passes for “political analysis” today. This could be summarized as “racial tension, communal mistrust, injustice, corruption and blah blah blah.”

“Corruption” is a rather vague term, for there are several thousand forms of corruption, or more, each of which can be justified in a pinch, and all of which are popular with their beneficiaries. There are heartfelt cries for “democracy,” which is irrelevant to the case, for it is at the root of every election, where the people are invited to vote for what they want. A large part of South Africa’s (racially diverse) population seems to want wide-screen TVs, cellphones, and a remarkably narrow list of other “consumer durables.”

I suppose that, in a state of anarchy, I might be tempted to loot scholarly, specialized bookshops. I say this to assure gentle reader that I am no different from everyone else, except — there are no high-class bookshops near where I live. By comparison, wide-screen TVs, cellphones, and the other electronic gizmos, have never appealed to me. This perhaps explains why I have no revolutionary inclinations (and am frequently criticized for my reactionary disposition.)

Returning to our political analysis of South Africa, after wading through the factional stresses in what amounts to a one-party state (the African National Congress is unassailable), I notice that a writer in the New York Times (William Shoki) has the power of seeing through many illusions. The bloguist, Glenn Reynolds, put his eyes on what we call the money quote:

“The state, rather than the market, became the main site for opportunity and enrichment.”

Read and absorb. For thirty years, or more to be accurate (for the apartheid system also enriched its loyal friends), this is what has been happening there. It has little to do with race, as we can see locally, for it is happening here, too. White people are equally adept at exploiting a system based on black or other “visible minority” favours. The suffering, impoverished minorities, or majorities it may well be, are equally liable to be cut out.

It’s very hard to do racism, efficiently. People don’t understand.

Mr Warren advises

This morning’s mail contains a shocking suggestion. A correspondent in remote Michigan asks, “Would not a ’13th century man’ have chosen to die rather than have heart surgery and all the care that followed?”

I was already preparing my answer when I realized it must be posted too late. I am often inconvenienced, or embarrassed, by my birth in the 20th century. But at least, it was before open-heart surgery, which I had the leisure to grow into, without a terrible rush. Many other medical adventures I omitted, together with the moral quandaries they would have set me in, to say nothing of the time I could have spent in hospitals.

As the driver of a three-wheeler in Delhi once explained, death is the solution to many, apparently intractable, problems. We were travelling around a traffic circus between two large transit buses at the time. Our three-wheeler was, by comparison, tiny and invisible. The buses were squeezing together.

My driver had just finished commenting on traffic conditions. “A path will emerge!” he said, brightly. Asked to review this opinion in light of the two buses, he said, “Death can be a path.”

True philosophers can perhaps only be found in Michigan and Delhi; plus Socrates in Athens.

My present correspondent added, I should mention, that he was asking this morning’s (first) question on behalf of himself. In the last decade or so, he has “gone to the ER with heart problems multiple times,” yet never had surgery because his cardiologist said he would probably die on the table.

Even so, he is sometimes tempted to throw all his medications in the garbage and chance it.

As I lack the qualifications to practise as a physician, I am unable to advise my elderly correspondent if this would be wise. Nevertheless, I have a settled prejudice against “Big Pharma,” which would incline me to the lower doses.

In my own case, I was rushed into the operating theatre so quickly, and with so little philosophical discussion, that it would have been impossible to consider all the implications. In this, and most other cases, “modern medicine” has decided on the course of action.

One watches the surgical team assembling. They are, like so many modern things, urgently efficient, but unimaginative. Verily, they would be punished if they used their imagination.

That is why people live so long today, although my information is that they lived almost as long, and stayed healthier, in the High Middle Ages. But this is to reduce the historical experience to arbitrary medical criteria (confirmed in the parish records). Surely there are better ways to judge human life.

Erasing a pope

Your correspondent is, perhaps not “uniquely,” at a loss. He is still somewhat addled, as the result of medical interventions and the diseases that caused them, but there is a more profound aching in his heart. The Catholic Church is being demolished by what appears to be its worst living enemy — by Jorges Bergoglio, and by his corrupt allies.

They do not come near to my faith, however, and in the longer run, I don’t merely hope but expect this institution of Our Lord will be set to rights; that her traditions will be restored — most likely, even in this world; and that the man who is the most contemptible pope in many centuries will become an unpleasant, but fading, smell.

What he has done is however a clever, though a very evil thing. He has performed the genuinely revolutionary act of overthrowing the valid Church legislation of a pope, his immediate predecessor. This was written with great caution to avoid overthrowing the next preceding. But by this act — founded on very shameful lies — he has put his survivors in a terrible fix. They cannot undo Bergoglio’s violent damage without further revolutionary acts, in which Bergoglio’s own Church legislation must be crassly overthrown.

That the unity of the Church should depend on the homogenization of her liturgy (though many languages). has now been established as the revolutionary ideal. Of course, like any revolutionary ideal, this is and will be impossible. It will only function as rhetorical cover for the destruction of the two thousand years of liturgy, that Bergoglio fails to appreciate or understand.

Judgement is being made over this liturgical tradition by what must be its most ignorant, prejudiced, and reckless, observer. It is a scandal of growing scale that such a man was able to become pope.

One wishes there were a formula, by which we could cancel all decisions and appointments of the Bergoglio regime, dating from his assumption of office, and calmly return to the Ratzinger papacy. There have been so many foolish and wicked acts since the sad day when it ended. But however desirable, this course is unavailable to men of reason.

Senior bureaucrat’s farewell

The remarkable thing, about the pope’s new Motu Proprio, strangely entitled Traditionis Custodes, is its degree of ignorance. Its entire argument is based on the fantasy that the liturgical changes of the 1960s were somehow made necessary by the commands of Vatican II, and that trying to resist them is the cause of divisions throughout the whole Church. This is obviously false, indeed laughable. The documents of Vatican II called for no such thing.

A great deal of brutality and cruelty towards faithful Catholics is hardly concealed within this. It is more than a falsehood. It glares through the “synodality,” “accompaniment,” “listening,” “dialogue,” “outreach to the margins,” which are methodically overlooked in the text, and the clericalism, rigidity, and force that replaces them.

Most explicitly, the very carefully expressed ruling of a former pope (still alive and in local residence), is contradicted, and the man insulted. This is among the unprecedented acts which mark this as an untypical action of the papacy, and a warning to Christians to ignore it. It is ultra vires.

The Catholic Liturgy had heretofore developed “organically.” It was not the plaything of clerics, as it became under Paul VI and Bugnini — by which new features of vulgarity and vileness were brought into it.

Of the Catholic Church generally, it could be said, that it is not a bureaucratic entity. Wise and necessary decisions (such as Summorum Pontificum) are favoured by the ages; foolish and arbitrary decisions are forgotten in the course of time. Popes may count for very much power, or for none. Saints count most of all. (A pope becomes interesting and important only when he is a Saint.)

We have passed through three generations. The first, the “baby boomers,” was the one the Novus Ordo was marketed to, and who responded by leaving the Church in their bulk. The “gen-X” generated few priests and the older ones began dying out. But in “generation alpha,” thanks to the rekindling of the traditional, Latin Mass, the seminaries and many churches were beginning to fill again, and life was returning.

Old men like Bergoglio — the aging “liberation theologians,” Marxists, relics, sex perverts and others — may try to resist. We should not damn, but mock them. For against them is the genius of the Catholic religion.

The importance of mockery

According to a widely-disseminated myth, mockery is not appropriate in all instances. It may be tried against all targets, and is sometimes used in an experimental blasphemy — but doesn’t work for this. And to fail at blasphemy marks one as an under-achiever. The experimentalist merely exposes himself as a jack-ass. Whether he is struck dead by lightning within the next minute will have ceased to interest an intelligent audience, for they have ceased to be entertained.

But I am speaking of real religion, and therefore of Christianity and the other religions, to the extent that they resemble Christianity (especially Orthodox Judaism). It has become quite impossible to blaspheme at the present day, as several illustrious writers have pointed out. To genuinely blaspheme requires a serious intent, like murder — even when it is spontaneous or, more accurately, sudden. The blasphemer must actually believe in what he pretends to take lightly. He is not a mere “disbeliever.” His is a conscious act of self-condemnation. It is suicidal. In a sense he is the Christian equivalent of a suicide bomber, for the ambition of the perpetrator is to take others with him, to Hell (wherever he may think he is going). But he leads the way.

I don’t recommend blasphemy. It would be counter-productive to “get it right.” Even humourously damning someone to Hell can present some awkward moments.

But mockery is comparatively clean. Note that, when it is honest — and I have found satirists to be among the world’s more honest people — only the target is annihilated. This is a matter of military honour, that the innocent are not swept into the (literary or artistic) carnage. This makes it different from open warfare, when they are often slain in huge numbers. (The leading cause of this is “peace talks,” incidentally. When I hear that the warring sides have agreed to “peace talks,” I flinch.)

The trick is to make one’s opponent wish he were dead, rather than actually killing him. This, naturally, requires more subtlety than simply blowing him away. Moreover, one can leave less doubt that the mocked were “asking for it,” for mockery gives the aggressor a chance to review the “chargesheet” (as they say in India). It allows him to build a rhythmic Hyperbaton, to employ reckless Pleonasms, a wicked Paraleipsis, Litotes and Meiosis, to fire machine-gun Anadiploses, or use Anacoluthon after a long parenthesis, then Brachylogy ending with Zeugma.

In war, one will almost never see that.

“Every death a willing death” strikes me as an improvement on “every child a wanted child” in this age of casual, or recreational, abortions. At the risk of being charged with pacifism, I am generally in favour of reducing violent weapons for soldiering and police work, and increasing the use of Greek rhetorical figures.

Still, some enemies have no sense of shame or humour, and will just have to be shot.

A young country

The Dictatorship of Niceness is being secured in Canada, just as it is being imposed in the United States and (from what I hear) in Europe. It promises to be a violent dictatorship, free of the customs of law; but nevertheless a popular one, at least at first. Canadians, in particular, seem to deeply resent freedom, and are unable to cope with a world that allows more than one official (and simplistic) political creed.

The Ottawa government, under its child leader, Justin Trudeau, is about to pass Bill C-36, which will establish a $50,000 fine for “Hate Speech” (payable to the Registrar-General). This will be decided by a committee of leftwing activists, called a Human Rights Tribunal. It will be free of the conventions that restrain our courts, such as the aspiration to due process.

No legal jurisdiction has ever succeeded in defining “Hate Speech” to anyone’s satisfaction. Laws were long since written against every crime it could possibly pertain to. It is a malicious propaganda term: designed to contradict and eliminate free speech.

This is for the future, but for the present, Catholic and some other Christian churches are being torched and vandalized, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia — largely without legal consequences. It is quite impossible to find out what is the extent of the destruction, because it is for the most part unreported. The media instead dwell upon the long and by now tedious history of the Indian reservation schools in Canada — a story which for good or evil cannot be understood, given contemporary illusions and fantasies about the past.

Another Tribunal was set up to milk this issue — the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Its media equivalent might be the BBC, whose brief encapsulation consists of a dozen quick emotional statements, every one of which is demonstrably false. But so effectively have the emotions been managed, that no one dares to contradict the official party line, and even a Catholic archbishop suspended a priest for suggesting that the Catholic role in the schools was not exclusively wicked.

In the latest rewriting of Canadian history, the National Archives have a programme to “unperson” Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. He is now officially a bad man. Take note.

The real disappointment is to find that the country does not contain enough adults to bring a prompt and memorable end to these absurdities.

Dominion Day

While I am comprehensively ashamed of Canada — “my home and native land” — that does not mean I fail to love it, and indeed to love the people I find here, including the most shameful. Moreover, I find that for the first time in many years I am feeling slightly merry on this Dominion Day (as I still call it), and this despite the cardiac specialist at Toronto General who tells me I must avoid alcohol. (Of course I would only drink it to spite him.)

Shame is a more reliable indication of love than any form of pleasure. It means that you really care about the creature (“Canada” at large) in question. An honest pride might be another. Note, a dishonest pride, or as I like to think an “ideological pride,” is one of those false things of which we should be more methodically ashamed.

The past of Canada is, to tell the truth as we always ought to do, a mixed bag. Canadians have, like everyone’s countrymen, not behaved in a consistent manner, though on occasion (especially wartime) fairly well. Most, so far as I can see, are downright mediocre, and why they should be collectively celebrated is lost on me. But I don’t think they should be collectively shot, either. At worst, we must put up with them, in the hope that some will be amusing.

History is anyway a fraud. Most of it was being misrepresented even while it was happening. However, because people are rarely as evil as their enemies paint them, much of it was comparatively innocent.