Essays in Idleness


The law office

The ends send our mind reeling to beginnings, and for this reason my thoughts have returned this week to my first meeting with Gerald Owen. I had been told by a learned young wench, at some Eric McLuhan party, that I absolutely had to meet him, and in perfunctory obedience I had taken a trolley out to the farther limits of the Kingston Road. Gerald’s law office was upstairs from a very modest, recently bankrupted grocery shop. Its street sign advertised the notarization of wills, at 45 dollars a turn. Even forty years ago, this was inexpensive.

It was like the opening of a Raymond Chandler novel. Two other lawyers were listed on the cracked pane in the hallway, but it turned out that both were in gaol, or otherwise indisposed. At first I could find no sign of a third, but in searching, alarmed a rather Rubenesque, obviously blind girl, who was struggling with an electric braille typewriter. Both it and she had come with some government programme, she explained. She was startled because I might be an agent of the landlord, come to evict her.

Gerald, she added, was behind the office’s least imposing door.

And he was, as I’d been warned, dishevelled, on an oaken swivel chair, his feet in muddy hiking boots propped on an heroically disorganized desk. There was a copy on his lap of Payne-Smith’s Thesaurus Syriacus. The shelving around was groaning with books, few of them appropriate to a law office. That he was not a lawyer but an Aramaic scholar I could easily believe.

He had also a deep commanding voice that, I thought, would be convincing in a court of law, if he could get beyond the stage of writing downmarket wills.

It happened that I was about to start a literary magazine, and as the reader will guess, Gerald became my first employee — once I had found someone to pay him the very little he asked for. He was my deputy, and later my co-editor, at the Idler magazine, and always the brains of the outfit; I knew we would be needing brains. I have come to realize that, in such circumstances, God throws the necessary person in one’s way: but only fleetingly.

Alas, it would be hard to revive that publication. For you see, Gerald Owen died on Monday. … Eheu! fugaces labuntur anni!

Privileged speech

“If defending free speech doesn’t get you into trouble,” Peter Hitchens writes, “then you are not in fact defending free speech. The only speech worth defending is unpopular and very often it comes out of the mouths of people nobody likes.”

This is a view that, oddly, Hitchens was not stating for the first time in human history. But as John Milton adds, in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates:

“No man who knows aught can be so stupid to deny that all men were naturally born free, being the image and resemblance of God Himself, and were, by privilege above all the creatures, born to command, and not to obey.”

(The American founders were familiar with this text.)

The freedom of speech originates in the larger privilege of freedom, claimed by this famous white man on behalf of all the human creatures, “ere the base laws of servitude began,” among primitive savages. I hate the manoeuvres to put me on the side of these latter. (Does this make me guilty of a “hate crime”?)

And a certain lecturer in Königsberg: “Freedom is that faculty which enlarges the usefulness of all other faculties.”

I superadd this quote with some hesitation. As an Idler, I try to avoid arguments for usefulness.

The soft & the hard

“Hang on; which one of us is dead?”

This was my thought upon spying, among my donors, the name of a person I had actually said a prayer for, in the belief that he had died. I had received the most persuasive evidence, although in retrospect it was merely an electronic report. One should hesitate to believe anything that has appeared only on a computer screen.

Checking my own pulse, I confirmed that the alternatives (my own death, or both of us dead) could also be dismissed as an erring rumour.

Fritz, to misname him, is not a close or intimate friend, but a reliable friend nonetheless, and an easy person to like. I do not regret saying a prayer for him. As a (late) priest once told me, “We should also pray for the living.”

This was his suggestion when I discovered that a former girlfriend — whom I was told, during a chance encounter with her sister, had died — was very much alive. I had gone to much trouble to forgive this girl, whose infidelity had caused me much grief when I was young. But if she was, as it were, “still kicking,” I might have to go through it all over again. How irritating she could be (and her sister, too, now that I was thinking of it)!

The priest convinced me to “stick by my guns.” Yes, she should “remain forgiven,” even if scandalously quite alive. (“A firm act of forgiveness is like shooting someone.” He gave a homily on this.)

He went further, for he detected that my forgiveness had been an act of sentimentality. He proposed that I confirm it with an act of unsentimental, “hard” forgiveness.

Post scriptum

If yesterday was the eve of Black Friday, today must be the day itself; that day of the year when I once again pathetically beg for “subscriptions.” I trust yesterday’s Idlepost will have discouraged those, who doubt my serenity; especially those in America who have been most generous in the past.

There were, for instance, queries about my assertion that, in effect, to vote Democrat is to vote for the Devil (as voting Liberal or NDP would be up here in Canada). Hardly anyone does this, however — votes for the Devil, consciously. Humans instinctively deny such behaviour, even when they are doing it.

But note, I say the Democrats have now permanently married the Left, which makes my assertion much more plausible. The individual, free-standing Democrat may be entirely beyond criminal prosecution, but is, as it were, Satan’s bride.

“The Left” has advanced unambiguous evil in human affairs throughout the Enlightened age, and caused many millions to be deceased, prematurely. This “Enlightenment” has lasted for several centuries. I would not say that “The Right” is better, for what “The Left” tags “The Right” are rival factions of “The Left” (e.g. Nazis, Fascists). For the alternative to The Left is not really The Right; it is rather old-fashioned mediocrity, with liberal and conservative tendencies; and an instinctive acknowledgement of God.

The reactionary, of course, is explicitly opposed to political Left/Right, including “democracy” in its several impractical forms. That is why I am a theocratic monarchist, and a reactionary.

I also enjoy peripheral neuropathy, and a few other things my pro-Hamas general practitioner may have diagnosed. This means I am not a reliable word-manufacturer, in the long-run; and provides a good reason to praise my unselfish donors; hurry before your time is up!

American Thanksgiving

It is again the fourth Thursday in November, which is to say, the very eve of Black Friday — the modern American custom of dishonouring (or, “cancelling”) Thanksgiving. The American economy may be in serious inflationary decline, and choking on the usury that apparently all have chosen for themselves; American freedom (not unlike American enterprise) is being abandoned, without much fight. But these are not reasons to despair. They would be only if the losses were “definitive”; but of course they are not. We have merely “opted” to make the good unlawful, and evil mandatory, in our public policies. This can last only for a time.

America’s universities, media, bureaucracies, and increasing proportions of her courts and military have been surrendered to the Left. Satanic demonstrations roll through the streets — currently for “Palestinian” terrorists and murderers. It is a dark, irreligious political extravaganza, reversing every principle that had once defined American federalism.

But politics will not provide the answers to this. It never has. The Democrats will not lose any foreseeable election, now that they are permanently married with the Left, and thus explicitly with the source of all worldly corruption. Old-school Americans will get used to defeat, and must expect it, until the Democrats have been uprooted and destroyed. There are tiny signs of hope, abroad in Argentina and Holland, I will grant; but in America the FBI, State Department, and Homeland Security are vigilant against recovery. Having a man of the calibre of Biden as president is a kind of guarantee that the America we once knew, is finished. We have hobbled into a post-America.

But thanks to God, there is still much for which we can be thankful. There is truth, and it will withstand every ideological lie; there is the possibility of goodness in every aspect of human life; and there is beauty in all things that God has created, and is still creating, in counterpoint to everything that He has not. Men continue to have marvellous options.

That they may be punished for choosing them should not surprise us. Christ was crucified, after all. And yet, even in the face of this setback, Christ is King.


I would not say a word against flinching from some evil, but a long scholastic treatise might be incaminated against flinching from some good. This struck me last evening while checking for news from Argentina. Having read that Mr Javier Milei — a run-off candidate in their presidential election who was not simply another Peronist, but according to the media “far-right,” and some kind of “libertarian,” and was “threatening” to make the result close — I was curious to see what happened. I was delighted to learn that he had in fact won, by such a landslide that the BBC was now flinching from reporting it.

This morning my Chief Argentine Correspondent has provided some necessary details. Mr Milei not only swept the “youth” vote, but he did that while declaring: “Killing children is not a human right!” He mocked an accumulation of political corrections, while dropping a few more “flinch bombs” worthy of the XVIIth-century bishops who evangelized that country.

The outgoing president, another tedious Peronist like our pope, shared the old presidential palace with decorative plants. Carlos, my correspondent, claims that he could make Justin Trudeau look intelligent. If true, this would be an extraordinary accomplishment. He also leaves an amazing national debt, hyperinflation, energy shortages, &c.

Mr Milei seems to have won as Mr Trump once did in the United States: by not flinching. A point may be reached in national decline when even the young will pitch out the Peronistas. Godspeed to them, when they reach this point.

Nevertheless, one must continue to despise politics. Carlos echoes Borges: “No matter how bad an Argentine government is, the next will be worse.”

To the sea

Ahmad Shukeiri, founding chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964, was kind enough to explain the saying “from the river to the sea” that has been uttered by every subsequent chairman and such organizations as Hamas and Hezbollah. The river in question is the Jordan, and the sea is the Mediterranean.

Ahmad: “This is a fight for the homeland; it is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road. The Jews of Palestine will have to leave. … Any of the old Palestine Jewish population who survive may stay, but it is my impression that none of them will survive.”

Other chairmen, such as the current one, Mahmoud Abbas, have stated that there must be, apart from diplomacy, a “final solution” in which the Jews will cease to exist. When he or his predecessor Yasser Arafat were quizzed on such statements by sympathetic Western journalists, they explained that they could not possibly remain in politics if they put it any other way. The “Palestinian people” wouldn’t have it.

But the “Palestinian people” (i.e. the Arabs living now or once-upon-a-time between “the river and the sea”) are not all of one mind. More than live in Gaza are, for instance, Israeli citizens, who have proved loyal to the “colonialist” regime. They did not make themselves into refugees when Israel was founded, and they have flourished within the Israeli state. That there are more than two million of them (fairly represented in the Israeli Knesset) is worth noting: for there are zero Jews living under the PLO, and almost zero in all the other Arab countries combined, from which Jews were essentially evicted when Israeli independence was declared.

These are facts worth remembering on this Remembrance Day, when “Palestinians” and their supporters will be demonstrating for the sixth consecutive Saturday around the world, shouting slogans such as, “Gas the Jews!” Nearly eight decades after the defeat of the Nazis, we have, as it were, a worthy successor.

Curiously, I think Ahmad Shukeiri was right. There is no room between the river and the sea for two states, as a consequence of the way Arab leaders have behaved, through eight decades. Arabs in this location should be given a path to Israeli citizenship, if they want it and will choose fidelity to the Israeli state. But many of them, perhaps a few million, would refuse such an offer.

That they are not wanted in Egypt, Jordan, or any other Arab country, has been made plain, repeatedly, by each of the respective governments.

But they have to go somewhere, and I would suggest Yemen, which has plenty of open space. It is ruled as an Iranian proxy, and the arrival of several million “Palestinian” refugees (presumably by sea from Eilat to Aden, avoiding a controversial passage through the Suez Canal, or the waste of fuel circumnavigating Africa) would keep the ruling Houthis busy for a while. The various aid organizations could redirect their supplies for the “Palestinians” to their new home.


POST SCRIPTUM — The “Palestinian” motto is, incidentally, more or less identical to Canada’s. Ours was extracted from Psalm 72:8 (or 71:8, in Catholic), which promised Dominion from sea to sea — et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae. That is to say (to cite the King James Version) “from the river unto the ends of the earth.” Now, our river was the Saint Lawrence, which we have meanwhile more or less surrounded; and our seas are not limited to just the one.


There were accredited journalists, including certain Hamas propagandists working for the Associated Press and Reuters, who were embedded with the forces that invaded south Israel on October 7th — killing outright approximately 1,500 civilian non-combatants, then raping, torturing, and kidnapping hundreds upon hundreds more, and desecrating the corpses. They took photographs and videos of the Hamas atrocities, which they proudly distributed through the “Palestinian” community, and (lucratively) to Leftists and Muslims worldwide. Many were also sent, via “social media,” directly to the friends and relatives of their victims, and haphazardly throughout Israel by way of intimidation.

Many of these journalists were, at the very least, carrying weapons for the terrorists, which makes them complicit under international law. Israel, happily, has a tradition of hunting down every war criminal who has contributed to the extermination of Jews; and godspeed to them as they search for these “flacks.”

I have often been ashamed of my participation in journalism, which by the dawn of this century was deeply degraded. The average journalist is, at his most honourable, a prostitute, or rather something worse, for poor prostitutes engage in reprehensible acts to support their families. Journalists commonly circulate knowing lies, gratuitously, to advance their political causes, or to smear their ideological opponents. In my experience, they often do it for sport.

Moreover, this is what we must consistently expect of them. Only a fool will trust the news. While not all journalists are viciously evil, in their private lives, the great majority have been debauched by their profession. I would not make an exception for anyone employed in the  “mainstream.” The few honest are hidden away, “professionally” cancelled.

But very well, for the rest. At last, we have a pretext to begin hanging them.

El clero moderno …

“The modernists in the Church believe that they can bring man closer to Christ by insisting on Christ’s humanity. They have forgotten that we do not trust in Christ because He is man, but because He is God.”

This is from the Scholia (to an Implicit Text) of Nicolás Gómez Dávila, 1913–1994, the incomparable Colombian reactionary, previously mentioned in these Idleposts. I am just reading him again, for he is always topical, and better, he can be topical without ever referring to the news. He is habitual in stating the truth, plainly and persistently in a few words. That was the length of his ambition: he did not try for any kind of fame, and would not have been published, even in the few copies he had printed, had he not inherited considerable wealth, and had just the tiniest wee hint of narcissism. (Like me, except for the inheritance.) He never found the time to attend a university, though he helped to found one. He lived in a house wherein he collected a few tens of thousands of books, and for his research, he read them — in most of the modern European languages, and Latin and Greek.

The quotation above is rattling through my head, almost painfully. It explains, for instance, what is happening in Rome. We live in a time when the Christianity that influenced our minds through recent generations, has slipped almost out of circulation. Our clerisy has, at its best and most inspiring, even at its most sincere, discovered a method by which Christianity will not recover.

The human Christ; the biological, fleshly Christ, who isn’t there: We cannot “recover” what was always beyond our knowledge.

But it will recover, for the reality is, Christ is God. Secretly, we still know this.

Totally war

It will be a pity if we have to fight a war against everyone outside NATO, the EU, and the OECD (which are pretty much the blended “white” bureaucracy). Had it happened in the “good old days,” when our enemy was just the Communists, we might have hoped for the best. The Commies were technologically somewhat inferior, having spent the better part of a century making economic mistakes. It is true that nuclear weapons are bad (remember “Nuclear Winter”?) but not nearly so erasing as an asteroid hit, and as I was once mocked for observing, there are other worse things. Death is generally overstated in our materialist, neo-pagan culture; but in various situations, including what I was then reporting from India, death is the only way forward. And in the West, we insist on advance.

But bona fide Communists are no longer well enough organized to conduct a plausible war. Primitive and yet adaptable prejudices have returned to the fore, and politics everywhere provides the satanic leadership that the people in this world tend to ask for (whether democratically, or not). The alliances are based on the “make The Other pay” principle — which is the opposite of religious teaching in the world’s ten leading faiths.

This is how things have usually been; it is the condition that we are returning to, and the only thing that distinguishes our time is the marvellous efficiency of the weapons. For a few generations one might have said “our” weapons, but the diffusion has become more broad, and with the terrorist tactic of surprise (like the famous Welsh art of self-defence: hit him before he has even thought of hitting you), our “natural advantages” have fallen into decline.

Which makes it more frustrating that the prevailing “ideology” in the West has become the “woke” ideology, dedicated to the destruction of our economic order on environmental whims, including the reduction of every form of production. As Ukraine, and Israel (and soon, Taiwan) will find, as they face enemies designed for perpetual war, we are running out of ammunition.

That is why we might pine for the good old days, for with nuclear missiles we would never run out. The world would run out of targets first.

All Souls

All Souls, as my more careful readers may realize, has been, for me, the anniversary of my first visiting a church, as a knowing Christian — forty-seven years ago. The good friend to whom I admitted this at the time (a great giant, red-haired atheist, with an Edinburgh education), died recently. Beloved Michael Berry, eight years older and in many ways wiser, had also listened in some amazement to my earlier account, of conversion; to my assertion that Christ had answered me when I pleaded with Him for a response, on Hungerford Bridge over the Thames, in London. I had now entered an Anglican church, and seemed to be relaxing into the polite, bourgeois life of the Church of England.

Mike, however, saw things differently. “If I had had your experience,” he said, “I wouldn’t be screwing about. I’d go straight to Rome.”

Well, this I did, but it was a quarter-century later. But Mike was right, rather as usual. Christianity, par excellence, is Catholic, and that is where the Christian is sure to end up, though perhaps not in this life. It is necessary, sometimes, to take a long view, when one is starting “a journey of a thousand miles,” or more: a dimensional change from what is temporal, to what is immortal.

To mark yesterday’s Feast of All Saints, Pope Francis published his latest denial of Catholic teaching, Ad Theologiam Promovendam (“to promote theology”). It proposes yet more of his “profound cultural transformations,” indeed a “paradigm shift,” that revises the statutes of the Pontifical Academy of Theology “to make them more suitable for the mission that our time imposes on theology.” It announces, in other words, an alternative dimensional change, from the eternal to the glibly temporal.

Patient Catholics must take the long view. Eventually this shameful pope will be gone, and Christ will yet again right the many inversions that revolutionists in His Church have effected; and we will formally return to Faith and Reason.