Essays in Idleness


Status quo ante

I expected to die before “Roe v. Wade” was overturned, though it seemed it must be, eventually. Though it does not touch me personally (I hope), I am still discreetly overjoyed. I say discreetly because I could not wish to boast of my “pro-life” credentials, at this moment. The anti-life forces have expressed themselves in a day and night of rage, on urban streets all over — as the court decision successfully abraded “liberal” sensibilities around the world. We have come to expect such demented behaviour whenever this happens. Closer to home, policemen in the United States may have longer shifts for some time, containing the explosions of satanic violence.

The American legal and political establishment will not buckle, however. For they know that stronger passions, though more quietly expressed, wait on the other side. Most of the electorate skitters away from commitment to either side — neither entirely in favour of, nor opposed to, the murder of unborn children. Cowardly, unmanly avoidance makes of this “a woman’s issue” — as if only female children were aborted.

That it would be connected to questions of hygiene is a small anecdote, or sign of the times.

No matter of principle was addressed by the Supreme Court’s decision; life and death does not trouble the legalistic mind. They will not rule on whether abortion is right or wrong. They simply restore the arrangements in the United States Constitution, that put the matter, as others unforeseen, in the power of the States. They confirm the need for politics, in addition to laws; and for better or worse, the American States are all democracies.

The current social convulsions were made inevitable by the original ruling, for its vacation was also inevitable. It flew in the face of established law, and mangled American jurisprudence, by creating a new regime of (arbitrary) “human rights.” Status quo ante has now been magically restored, but in a country changed even demographically by the lawlessness of fifty years.

For the Burger Court’s great imaginative try-on of 22 January 1973 — declaring the crime of abortion to be a “human right,” and a constitutional intention — will be tried again in due course. Those who care for life and liberty should be ready to defeat it.

Diversity, Inclusion, Equity

The arrest and incarceration of bureaucrats would seem, on casual examination, to be one of the unexplored great ideas whose time is always ripe. On more careful study, however, the matter is not so simple as the victims of bureaucracy might imagine.

To start with, what is a bureaucrat? and how should he (frequently, she) be distinguished from the other billions of the world’s demographic inheritance?

I have thought about this question often, and it returns to mind after almost every encounter with persons who have regular employment. That they are all bureaucrats, has crossed my mind; but occasionally I meet a person who is not. (Yesterday, it was a truly philosophical bus driver.) Usually, the non-bureaucrat is by conventional definition, unemployed, or there is some skill he is expressly paid to perform, not in every waking hour, but “sometimes.”

And, who is to say that the bureaucrat, however defined, is necessarily “good for nothing”? Before hatching any rehabilitation scheme, that would inevitably be designed and executed by bureaucrats, we must consider what would actually set him loose. My own emphasis would be on prayer; on preces privatae, and in the Mass.

Meanwhile, bureaucracy is the universal sponsor of “busy work,” as several dear to my memory indicated. This is that variety of pointless labour that appears to be done in a rush — awkwardly by habit, against an invisible deadline, to the end of no particular result. The purpose is to provide “full employment,” and it is considered virtuous for this quality alone.

For the masses require to be guided by a “work ethic,” or else they will be bored and apt to participate in a revolution. One requires busy work, as a matter of public safety.

Curiously most of the “slave economy” backwaters of modern, industrial, bureaucratic states, have the strongest work ethic, although they are the least productive regions. This ethic is the spiritual whip that keeps the labourers moving, when common sense would prescribe a siesta. They eat lots of sugars, get fat, and die young. There are franchise operations near every work plantation, dispensing carbohydrates; the staffs are also obviously dispensable. In fact, the whole economy is built around things that can be easily discarded.

One can understand why employers tire of paying these workers, to make something that, even when it is tangible, no non-bureaucrat, or person with elementary taste could wish to buy; until we realize that this employer is likely to be a bureaucrat himself (or herself, or itself, I hasten to add). And so the socialist principle of “you pretend to work and we pretend to pay you” comes to pertain also to our “capitalist” economy.

We have “human resources” departments which work by the same methods as livestock management, in the larger meat packaging firms, except, owing to bureaucratic convention, they aren’t allowed to kill or eat people; or not directly. That is a function more and more assumed by the government’s MAID (Medical Assistance In Dying) service.

The employers are limited to creating a theatrical impression, of death in life. “Employees” doing useless things, or radically counter-productive, are presented as free citizens and electors in a constitutional democracy under the rule of law. This was never a believable impression, even in ancient Greece. One may penetrate through it by reading Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol, or the novels of Dostoyevski.

Note, that people choose to be bureaucrats, and volunteer for the life sentence without thinking, upon graduation from the bureaucratic schools. They instantly look for a job; panicking if delayed. The job will include bureaucratic provisions for retirement, should they not require MAID service. Fear makes them take it. The only alternative would be to cultivate leisure, but this does not pay the prospective bureaucrat the equivalent of a pension.

Father’s Day

From out of the tangled past, we retrieve some holidays, and discount, or actually forget about others. Father’s Day is our example for today. It should, according to all educated Catholics, fall on March 19th. In fact, according to the usual unreliable sources (Wikipaedia, &c), even some Anglicans and Lutherans honour Saint Joseph on his day, which celebration was formally instituted at Rome (I think) about the time that they drifted away from us.

He, Joseph, is also the Patron Saint of Carpenters, as almost everyone knows, and of the Dominion of Canada, as many Canadians used to know. Also the Patron in the red-and-white national celebration of Poland, where he is rather more acknowledged. Too, he is the Patron of the Universal Church, East and West.

I am not a priest, nor the son of a priest, and should not be trusted on the conventions of the Church Calendar, but I think we are luckier than the Irish in this respect. For Saint Patrick’s, which generally falls in Lent, is not necessarily a holy day of obligation, conferring exemption from lenten customs, outside perhaps Ireland itself. But St Joseph’s is such a day of dispensation, on whatever day of the week it may fall — whether or not our holy priests have expressly declared it. Not only can we drink ale on the occasion, entirely without guilt, and eat walrus steaks or chunks of any other animal, but we needn’t colour them green with food dye.

Saint Joseph is the model for an earthly father, of a child who is not really his own, as all human children are not really one’s own. They come from their mother’s body, and are tangibly their mother’s possession, for a short time (until yanked away, by one method or another). That the father has (or had), however, a prominent place, in Christian or even pagan families, was fairly well established until recently.

In the Woke family he has no significance whatever, and mothers have none either, because there is no such thing as a woman — except among biologists, apparently. Of course, there being no women there can also be no men, so the question of fatherhood doesn’t arise.

It does nevertheless arrive, on this day, in mid-June or thereabouts, through North American commercial culture, in our present societal order. People buy things for what they naïvely accept as fathers of some sort. The current inflation may help to reduce this.

Natalya lost

More than forty years have passed since my last personal encounter with the international “jet set,” in the London (England) of the late ‘seventies. It was in the form of a ridiculously spoilt and gratuitously demanding little girl, not yet out of her teens.

I had no reason to know her. I was squatting peacefully in a modest stone workman’s cottage on a drab, once working-class street in Vauxhall, that was scheduled by the socialist borough council for replacement by glossy welfare stacks. But this building project was delayed by their bankruptcy. Meanwhile the neighbourhood was occupied by hippies. We were indeed encouraged by the (pre-Thatcher) socialist authorities to move in, for London had a “housing crisis,” and rows of empty working-class houses made for “poor optics.”

It was a simple life, with almost no modern services or appliances, in a tiny house then well into its second century of decline. Yet it was well-enough built to survive perhaps five, ten, or twenty centuries more, had the bureaucrats been persuaded to ignore it. Already, as a young man, ideologically opposed to all things glossy, I preferred “the margins” of 20th-century urban life. London was after all my Athens, my Peripatos, and for a moment I was left to explore it.

Cars, even taxis, never pulled up at the door of “65 Wilcox,” or did not until this one slightly fateful evening. The car contained trunks, suitcases, bags, unrolled clothing, hatboxes, loose feathered hats, and Natalya.

It was driven by an older, quite elegant lady whom I would have guessed was Natalya’s mother, but she identified only as a “friend of a friend,” aware of my “special situation.” (I lived rent-free.) This woman had a cultured accent, and a voice of confident authority. She presented Natalya as a daughter of the poet Robert Lowell, which she could not have been. Later I would place her as the daughter of Lady Caroline Blackwood, then the aging Lowell’s high-society mistress.

I was told, in effect, to take in this stray. I say, “told,” for I wasn’t asked for my opinion. One of the advantages of private property is that it (often) gives the owner the power to ban or evict people. But I now had an aristocratic tenant, with abject habits of dependency (in her cloud of marijuana), and expensive tastes. Had I realized that this little girl was probably an heir to the Guinness fortune in Ireland, the story could have been made more interesting, but at the time, I was not so corrupt.

As it happened, a writer also came to stay with me (let’s leave his name out, he is still alive), who needed just one evening to seduce my bored young charge. Then, in another flash, both of them were unaccountably gone — leaving me with the task of disposing of several outlandish headpieces.

Some weeks passed, before Natalya turned up in the tabloids. She was now a spread in the Evening Standard, for she had died while taking a heroin overdose in a (grade II listed) Kensington flat. She was news because of her relations, as I was then more systematically informed.

Recommending treason

Undeserved pride is a formidable killer. It begins with the family vendetta, which has particular traditions in every culture we have known, East and West. But sometimes this pride is partially deserved, as when the family member lives and works within the creative family enterprise, contributing his modest part to the achievement of the whole. Taking pride in this, can be reasonable.

Pride in a city, or a town or district, or even the district within a town, can take on something of this contributory pride; if the person who is part of this more abstract “family” is actually contributing. Or at least, not getting in the way.

In nationalism, or what I call chauvinism, we go “full pride,” as we also do in the Church, congratulating ourselves upon being Catholics (or with whatever denomination we are badged). Here, it is unlikely that any individual brings honour to his nation or religion, or can make any other “mystical” ownership claim. You were born into it, or perhaps were assimilated; it existed before you and will exist after.

These things simply are, and at the large scale one cannot build or demolish, except with a regiment of soldiers, and luck. But the credit goes to the revolutionary act, whether of creation or destruction, beyond the power of any single assailant. Yet whether positive or negative, it tends towards evil. For God is, and will be, the author of every holy thing to happen beyond our human compass.

The present almost universal belief in tech scientism denies this inextinguishable fact. We wish to take credit, alone or among some team of scienticists, for making the world better in some way. But we cannot even know what makes the world better, in the long run; or what makes it worse. Such questions are “above our pay grade,” as a certain contemptible president liked to say.

But pride invested in one’s part of “research,” “development,” “technology,” and the rest of the bureaucracy of supposed “science,” is innocent compared to the claims of nationalism. For, national pride demands a war.

This is perhaps best expressed by the missiles flung (by both sides) into Ukrainian neighbourhoods. The recipients must concede the rule of the missile-hurling aggressor of the moment. Should they surrender, they might still be killed, for pride takes enthusiasm in killing. It does not turn itself promptly off.

Of course, the argument for a peaceful nationalism has been made, many times since the world began. I love my country, and can thus appreciate that you love yours; as a passive thing, when presented in stills. We — your nation and mine — are allies at the deepest level, and flourish there. Trade, which is to say voluntary trade within fairly free markets, is how we choose to deal with each other.

Yet, trade, too, is finally captured by the national bureaucracies, who compete for power in a numerical game; and politicians make trade into a semblance of war.

Pride commands the acts of cruelty, leading to torture and murder, that are rhetorically suggested by our national leaders. By the rules of democracy, every voter buys in. The person who will not participate in the mental illness at the surface of public life, is quickly labelled as a “traitor” or “apostate.” For pride is ever looking for traitors.

The beauty of a world in confusion

That the world is in a state of confusion, in any event to the perception of men (a term that still includes women and trans), can almost go without saying. The recent Batflu epidemic came as redundant proof.

“Follow the science,” as we were repeatedly told by those who had embraced the ideology of scientism, as if this would provide a rational or even comprehensive understanding of what was going on. But the Batflu defied every strategy to defeat it, along with every dictatorial proposal for limitation. You could not get it right.

This, to my mind, was the best evidence that the virus was not designed in a Red Chinese laboratory. Had it been so, we could have guessed that its course through the world would not be so whimsically accidental, and both death and survival more predictable within it. Instead, it has acted as spontaneously as a natural virus, and as indifferently to the human will; it is a typical natural disaster.

Note, I do not say it did not come out of the labs at Wuhan. Instead, it was not designed in there. It was designed by the usual principles, powers, and rulers of darkness, that constantly work through humans, animals, and inanimate objects, and would be rendered powerless without them. So long as we occupy this world, they are there.

Nor should we be inspired to reform, by these rulers, since it is not in our power to influence dark spirits. They may do what they wish intentionally to spite us. We have a rather limited ability to merely interact with them, so that, for instance, by stopping them from doing something inconvenient and annoying, they simply switch their attention habitually to another.

The world will always be full of problems, but there is variation in their kind. As one problem is solved, inevitably, several others will be created by the solution, &c. When we are exceedingly clever, we will discover that we have played into the Enemy’s hands.

I am radically opposed to technology (it goes without saying), but also against politics and social reform. These oppressive disciplines have been invented by do-gooders, seeking the perfection of the world. They are, characteristically, in league with devils.

But examined more thoughtfully, the world is already perfect in its kind. Human lives can be made individually more gracious — by contrivance of the specific individuals themselves — but there is no general improvement they can have anything to do with.

Fools: they just formulate problems, that can’t be solved.