Essays in Idleness



The latest Gallup poll shows that a clear majority of Americans rate “the state of moral values” to be poor, in America (they were not asked about elsewhere). And by an overwhelming majority (83 percent), they think that these moral values are getting worse. Among Republicans, this worsening is declared to be more or less total (97 percent), compared to Democrats (74 percent). If the Republicans were indisputably in power, nationally, I imagine these numbers might be reversed.

But note, the proportion of the despairing is the highest, in all categories, since Messrs Gallup first thought of measuring public attitudes in this (asinine) way.

In fact, public morals have always been low, as we might learn from reading some detailed history. My insertion of the word “despairing” in the last paragraph was illegitimate; the proportion of those who actually despair must be much smaller. The properly despairing kill themselves, and not all of these in response to the perceived decline in moral values.

One does not have to be a jolly soul, to think that the world is, over all, at its worst, — not bad. Indeed, being a jolly soul is an end in itself, quite regardless of social conditions. One of my (frequent) disputes with modernity is the notion that jolliness needs a cause, and that it can be identified by such as pollsters and scienticists. On the other hand, I think that it may positively exist, and that it works against suicide.

But jolliness, like a high state of moral values, is something only possible to the individual person. To assess it socially is to fall for a political presumption that has pestered us, and certain prominent philosophers, for the last few centuries. It is one of those dubious terms gliding from late Latin into mediaeval French, then twisted through “The Enlightenment” with mechanistic torque. It declares that there is such a thing as “humanity,” and that it can behave like a creature.

In reality, all creatures, including humans, are distinct.


Surely I’d be wiser to give up having any opinion about “world affairs.” It is one of my bad habits, acquired, as I remember, about the age of five; but becoming seriously debilitating later, about age eleven, when I acquired my first paper route. You see, by this time, I was actually reading the newspaper; my nose was inserted, straight in. It was, I suspect, an infection carried on the newsprint (rather like the addictive substances the capitalists put in junk food), and that is also transmissible through electronic hyperspace. The cure, as for everything, is genuine religion. But I’ve seldom seen a cure effected all at once, though I see hints of it in William James (see, The Varieties of Religious Experience).

And so, pending my cure, I will present my views on international political provocation. Professor John Mearsheimer holds the floor at the moment, with a theory I shall oversimplify by saying that he thinks the United States is responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for having provoked not only Vladimir Putin but all Russia by persistent interference in Ukrainian affairs.

My own view is a variant of this. I hold that Mr Putin must be an agent of the CIA (perhaps recruited by Donald Trump), because everything he does seems to advance American interests. Mr Putin’s invasiveness also assures Ukraine of membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and probably Georgia, too; as well as Finland, Sweden, &c.

Compare, if you will, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, which was a plausible cause of the Second World War, in the Pacific. Prof Meersheimer hasn’t actually argued that the Americans were responsible for that, but I’m willing to present Japanese friends who could list the many previous American provocations. The American (and British, and Dutch) oil embargoes on Japan were an obvious cause, though technically these were a response to previous Japanese provocations (in Manchuria, &c).

We all remember (at least us aged folk) the OPEC oil embargo of 1973, against the United States. It led inevitably to World War Three, and the American conquest of the entire Middle East. Or rather, it didn’t.

Provocations of this sort are generally accepted as casus belli, and in a fine intellectual debate, we can stay up all night suggesting provocations that were earlier, and earlier.

But again, genuine religion is the only cure. Given choice between “turning the other cheek,” and murdering someone who has annoyed you, the preferential option is usually the former.

Counter-revolutionary thought

The traditional argument, for tolerating intolerance in a liberal society, is that so long as there is freedom to expose and argue against intolerance, intolerance cannot succeed. It will instead perish in peaceful, open debate.

Like all liberal arguments, this one is quite naïve. Gentle reader would be unwise to count on it. But it used to work, and will generally work, where the freedom in society is robust. How sad, therefore, that it is not robust, around here, at present.

Indeed, the most shocking thing about “climate change,” and the many associated labels governing environment and health, is that, like Darwinist evolution, they are asserted to be scientific fact. And this, not jokingly, as I may sometimes assert it. Even more, “climate change” is stated confidently as a prediction of the future; and without convincing evidence to be progressing now. The whole of “settled science,” and “environmentalism” (as opposed to conservation policies), and popular medical beliefs are like that.

They are, like Darwinism — or perhaps I could more accurately call it “Neo-Darwinism,” since the original Darwinism was presented only as an hypothesis — a clutter of “just so” stories, which is to say, a pseudo-scientific ideology, defended by (as we might say, informally) “a bottomless moat of bullshit.”

But legal institutions have been, and are being, set up to enforce this determinist worldview; as they were in Communist Russia, Nazi Germany, and a few other places. They are at the cutting edge of what we might call “Woke Fascism.”

To be fair to Darwin, he acknowledged that his Theory of Evolution was falsifiable (as Karl Popper would later put it; or “fallibilist,” as Charles Pierce expressed it, reverting more correctly to scholastic Latin). There were ways to prove it wasn’t true, and Deus laudetur, they were found and the theory was sunk. But not yet in our schools and universities, where the rule of “Neo-Superstition” still prevails.

The difference between science and superstition is, by the way, surprisingly simple. In science, things may only be accepted as true until they are proven false (and may be so proved by a single exception). Whereas, in superstition they may be perpetually “settled.” We have, for instance, a phrase that shrieks moronic ignorance: “it is settled science.”

But the imposition, by political means in contradiction to previously recognized human freedoms (the vast quantity of things that a citizen could do if he wants), has created conditions where intolerance cannot be peacefully resisted. I think this is our current misfortune. For there must eventually be a fight, unless the forces of intolerance evaporate.


Vandalism is among our expressions of democracy. I am opposed to it, on behalf of the aristocratic party. It is not that the people are ugly. They haven’t all voted to be ugly yet. It is that in democratic arrangements, the worst and most unsightly features of society go on display.

This is true from the sides of buildings to the tattoos that are inscribed on human flesh.

As Christians, it is important for us to realize that one thing leads to another. The vandalism is a response to a brutally ugly urban environment. The urban vandals show a sensitivity to the most modern and gleaming “incidents” in that environment. Smooth metal is the preferred medium for their “artistic” self-expressions, and anything new and clean that is given to them (such as public housing) will soon be touched up. The modern city — the radiant city of “Le Corbu” and “Mies” — increased demand for this kind of art.

For over the centuries, vandalism had been contained. This was because the inhabitants took pride in their cities, and would not tolerate the application of filth.

The same is true of “environmentalism,” for that matter. The essentially fascist government edicts that ban, for instance, the use of nitrogen fertilizers on farms, are a development from the promotion of nitrogen fertilizers — by progressive chemical investors in the previous generation, to create “efficient” monocultural agriculture. In this sense, the destruction of the once-beautiful countryside was a two-step process, or rather, on closer view, it required many stages of “progress.”

I have argued, perhaps pointlessly, that urban ugliness was invented in Renaissance and Mannerist Italy. It was a style innovation, not yet requiring technological advance. We do not recognize this ugliness by comparison to the urban toilets in which we now swim. It was in its context a fashionable novelty, in the pursuit of personal attention.

In the preceding “Middle Ages,” urban ugliness had not been developed, although poverty was certainly common. But no one was inspired to make anything provocatively ugly. I think modernity first appears in the Italian streets, where extravagance and “conspicuous consumption” are becoming “socially acceptable.”

Similarly, in England, at the dissolution of the monasteries, the profound religious architecture is replaced by vacuous secular domesticity. People want to display how much wealth they have obtained by the plunder of the Catholic Church. We have the first explosion of ugliness from “the people,” when they are freed by politics from their ancient inhibitions.

What we see, from our modern beginnings in the New Age of the 15th and 16th centuries, to the abounding vandalism in our urban life today, is one continuous event. It is the historical triumph of the idea of progress.


The general consensus, in the rightwing circles that I electronically haunt, is that the world went permanently and methodically mad, a decade ago — coincidentally, about the time these Essays in Idleness were begun. It would be narcissistic for me to dwell on this relation; which, anyway, does not admit of an efficient cause. I suppose my “cancellation” by formerly bourgeois media employers, just prior to the launch of these Essays, could, after all, be mentioned. But this, too, would only be an effect of the descent into madness. I was “let go” from the Canadian press in the cause of Diversity, for I was the only remaining opinion columnist who did not agree with Diverse views.

Today, Canadian “bourgeois journalism” is a closed camp for the mentally ill. The same seems to be true in the other Western countries. It is impossible to buy a publication containing anything that resembles “news,” or opinions that deviate from the enforced Diversity standard. Some of these views are still uttered, however, elsewhere on the Internet. A test that sanity is returning might be, we suppose, the sudden return of bourgeois reporting.

Those confined in what we used to call (informally) “loony bins” will not be expecting things to improve. No efficient cause is conceivable. Myself, I look to divine intervention, which has been the normal means of our survival and endurance in the past (whether or not acknowledged). My reasoning is that, in the creation of the world, God equipped man with all that was necessary to become a reasonable creature. Thus random changes must eventually return us to the “old normal.”

Now, according to Paul Kingsnorth, “Western Civ” is not “declining, collapsing, dying or even committing suicide.” Rather, says Peter J. Leithart explicitly, it is dead. “The chickens of modernity (says Kingsnorth) “which the West created and exported, have come home to roost, and we are all increasingly covered in their guano.” But what if it is not “some chicken, some neck” (Winston Churchill) that we are greeting, but rather a dead parrot?

Hope may be invested in either of these points of view. The future does not depend on whether Western Civ is dead or alive, now or in time to come. Rather it depends on whether there is God behind everything. If there is, I should think, Christianity will resurface.

Against fucking

As I write, from my flat in Toronto’s Parkdale, my neighbour is criticizing his imaginary flatmate.  He, though sometimes she, is loudly, indeed explosively, accused of ruining his life. His vocabulary is mostly restricted to the word, “fuck,” but occasionally extended to the phrase, “leave me fucking alone.” Several times a day, and night, these declarations ring through my walls. An actual person who lives on the next floor, tells me he thinks the man could be dangerous. But I think he will remain physically harmless, so long as he has no encounter with another human being. If that happens, of course, all bets are off.

By coincidence, one of the many half-way house residents across the street is beating against a window, just short of smashing it. He, contrastingly, demands to be let in. The person he assumes is preventing him, is obsessively denounced, with variations on the word “fucking.”

A young derelict is also shouting this word, farther down the street, but apparently to no one except, perhaps, a dog that may be barking at him.

Earlier today, I heard several other instances of “fucking.” The word seems to indicate some (otherwise unspecified) tiresome behaviour. … And ho! Another person is now shouting “fuck,” and “fuck you,” somewhat rhythmically with the dog that is barking. That makes four, and the dog, five.

“In our age there is no such thing as keeping out of politics,” George Orwell says. “All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.”

To which I would add, fucking. Orwell noted the “gramophone mind,” that mechanically repeats the prevailing “smelly little orthodoxies,” in political life, generally using the same clichés. But this has become too challenging in these liberal, progressive, low-intelligence times, and now we just repeat the term “fucking.”

Inflammation & swelling

There is no future in big. I say this with my usual authority. It is a point I have been making in a desultory way, for the last fifty years or so, along with my increasingly violent opposition to progress, and revulsion for technological innovation.

I suppose this gestalt has become slightly more popular, as I discern from YouTube, where for instance Mary Harrington declares that she is a reactionary feminist, consciously opposed to progress; and the late Colombian aphorist, Nicolás Gómez Dávila, is more frequently mentioned in Facebook and Twitter. I do not count this as progress of the progressive sort; but rather as illustrious movement, backwards. For I don’t think history is like an automobile, that may be put into reverse by dancing with one’s toes. Like birds, instead, history moves persistently forward, merely turning this way and that; for like birds it is flighty. Even the victims of the birds of prey are nudged continually forward.

Death of course cannot be avoided — it seems that it is built into every finite model, and put at the end of every successful chase. All progress must end in extinction. This includes the progress that is tallied as expansion, whether of nations, businesses, or waistlines. How foolish to be a politician, or other “activist” or “patriot,” who extends his national frontiers or GNP or dining by his aggressive manoeuvres. He makes more room for other men to hate him, and will be despised wherever he impinges. He may find allies, too, but these will first consult their own interest and soon flee his clawing, imperial embrace.

Growth itself is an illusion, whether or not it is done at the expense of competitors, and indeed mere longevity is an empty accomplishment, in view of the subsequent everlasting death. Temporal infinity can be no friend to the living.

History offers brief fame to only a few, but not after consulting them, or for anything they designed. Indeed, a frank survey of the famous, beyond revealing that each ends in demise, reveals that in life it is an unattractive station: for the larger the reputation the more easily it is assailed. Reputations would better be preserved by hiding.

In each of these categories, bigness must prove a disaster, for the person who contrives to be big, as for the subjects on which he will confer bigness. For all those around, it is also a terrible inconvenience. For whether or not “small is beautiful,” it is always selected by the wise.

Burmese noodles

I swear — and whenever I use this phrase, I may be about to utter some truth — that I could have been the patriarch of instant noodles. Except, upon checking this claim within the Wicked Paedia, I see that “instant ramen” was (were?) launched in Japan in 1958; and my scheme for Burmese noodles was not even conceived until 1971. There was no Wicked Paedia in 1971, however, so my claim might have prevailed for a while.

This idea was one of several “get rich quick” schemes I entertained in those days, when I was still a child, but now of adult years. During my one and only visit to Rangoon (as it then was, and should be called in English) I was enchanted by the noodles of a street vendor, who was incidentally rather pretty. I had no idea of the recipe, and made no attempt to procure it, but it was a liquid variant of standard Burmese curry, with perhaps additional sesame oil; flooding rice noodles. One might be tempted to add a duck, but few were to be seen flying over Rangoon on that day.

The technology of “flash frying” was not yet clear to me, though I guessed that high heat would be involved. On the Thai streets, with which I was more familiar, I had already been impressed with the speed at which “prepped” raw materials could be transformed. I conceived of the idea of dried instant noodles, and powdered flavouring packages, and the ugly small plastic bags they could be sold in.

As my elder son demonstrated, a generation later, the dry pre-cooked noodles could also be sprinkled with the flavouring powder, and munched like potato crisps straight from the bag. Think of the potential.

Fortunately, I didn’t have the money to advance my scheme, on even a modest scale. And thank God, for if it had been successful, I might be rich today. Indeed, I am grateful for the “failure to launch” of all my get-rich-quick schemes before the age of twenty, and for my abandonment of such ambitions later. I’ve lived a charmed life.

My Luddite approach to technology developed in those days. The intention of “high tech” was subsumed in an apocalyptic vision: of the slavery into which men and women are thrust, when they surrender their crafts and cooking. They become “workers and consumers” — slaves, generally, without even religion to sustain them. For whether serving Capitalism, or Communism, they have joined a pyramid scheme, under an invariably unhappy pharaoh, and his team of whippers: cranking out pyramids, Burmese noodles, whatever.

Perfect object

All objects are perfect, as Zbigniew Herbert explained to me, whenas I was growing up. (Czezlaw Milosz translated.) They “cannot, unfortunately, be reproached with anything.” He had never seen a chair shift from one foot to another, a bed rear up, or a table (even when tired) dare to bend its knees. He suspected that they did (or rather didn’t do) this from “pedagogical considerations,” and were in fact reproving us. For we living subjects are a notoriously unstable lot.

This would be the beginning of my defence of corruption, growing again as I read (not for the first time) the biography of Lucrezia Borgia, by Ferdinand Gregorovius. I am at the point in her young life when she discovers who her father really is, and what opportunities in life this will present to her and to her siblings. For there are advantages to being a Borgia, especially when your father is the pope. (And one of my favourite popes: Alexander VI, a generous and competent administrator, who usefully divided the New World between Portugal and Spain. Though not the best example to later popes, on the point of personal morals.)

Even today, many children try to make the best of what they have to work with; and neglect their Latin and Greek studies, as Lucrezia is accused of doing. (Nevertheless, she was plenty smart.)

A femme fatale is the opposite of an object, as I would say in defiance of the old-school feminists. They shift from one foot to the other, bend their knees, and occasionally rear up. They do this because they are alive; and few are saints after all. But saints, too, are not objects, except when made into statuettes (which is not a criticism of art).

Byzantine and Mediaeval history are brimful of characters who were, to a superlative degree, not objects, and to understand them, centuries after each has performed his death, is a task beyond our reach. But as it is Sunday, I thought I should put my book aside. This is another thing an object would not do.


The writer Luis Rafael Sánchez, of whom I know nothing else, apparently coined the term “posthumization” — in Puerto Rican (a presumed variant of Spanish). But I would rather credit Ana Lydia Vega, who pronounced it during her “honoris causa” doctoral address in some university auditorium somewhere. She mentioned that the academic gown she was wearing, which she likened to a “burqa,” gave her a zombitic appearance — that of a gothic angel — so that she might float among the dead in the local cemetery. Around there she would find the men all in undertaker black, but the women wearing “revolutionary red” lipstick. Her fellow writers would be carrying protest signs, for one progressive cause or another, and even those arguably alive may be “posthumized” in official tributes, such as the one she was now enduring.

While I might not knowingly agree with any cause that Ms Vega supports — for I maintain complete innocence about developments in Puerto Rico — I do agree to the use of this novel expression. I am in favour of “posthumizing” all writer-activists, to which end, I would propose that we found a Society for the Posthumization of Activists, with the acronym, S.P.A. Its function would be to treat activists everywhere as if they were dead.


His Majesty King Charles III has been crowned at Westminster. This is the sort of news for which we resort to the BBC, hoping it will take a break from its schedule of progressive, political ostentation. Verily, our own break will continue, indefinitely. The King, too, should consider such a recess from “new age” posturing, and in the finest tradition, “just do his job.”

It is glorious, and sometimes happy, to still have a Christian monarch in these disgraceful times; or at least a Protestant one. Only a few misbehaving dissentients displayed their objections, outside the Abbey. But that’s what the police are for: to meet capricious, “girlie” mischief with manly, authoritative force.

God save the King!


As a Christian, I have been assured of immortality; though in view of the Devil (whom I’ve been trying to ignore), immortality might not be the happiest thing. Still, it tends to reduce birthdays to their finite context. This morning I woke to realize that seventy finite solar years had now passed, since the 29th of April, 1953. My birth happened, so mother told me, in the middle of the night, depriving her of sleep. So my own insomnolence appears to follow on trend.

The morning woke incident seemed the perfect conclusion to a mostly sleepless night. As gentle reader may know, I am entirely opposed to woke and wokism in any form, and would prefer to sleep in. It “triggered,” while I was lying in bed, a calculation of the lunations since my birth. I finally settled upon 864; a number that divides by two, three, four, six, eight, and nine, to produce in turn highly divisible numbers. The Moon is Waxing Gibbous, so I suppose I should acknowledge a small fraction at the end, of just over a week. (The Moon is in Virgo. I remain perpetually in Taurus.)

I think here of the Gibbous Monkey that the neighbours kept (young German bachelors), when I was but a child, much less advanced in moons. This was in Bangkok, and their names were Arminius and Gunther. The monkey, cleverly denominated “Tar-saan,” was of course a master of brachiation, and could fly from tree to tree at incredible speeds, if he ever escaped his quarters. He could anyway leap about the longest room, without touching anything in transit, and was no more likely to collide with any object than a bat. But he protested his imprisonment, by walking upright in mockery of his human slave-masters, using his long arms for balance; and stealing shiny and valuable things, which he would irretrievably hide in the rafters.

Tar-saan could be amusing, but he could also bite, savagely. He was much too intelligent to make an agreeable pet.

Uniparty news

Mr Tucker Carlson, a gentleman who has been more successful in the media than I have been, was told some ten minutes before the release of the press announcement that he had “agreed” to part ways with the Fox News Corporation. But what if he’d said no?

Well, gentle reader may not understand public relations, and why it usually fails.

As the broadcasting company is incorporated in Delaware, I have long suspected it is a front for the Biden presidency; rather like President Biden himself. He won because his opponent, Mr Trump, who received an extraordinary seventy-four million votes, inspired eighty-one million to vote against him (often legally). In a similar way, despite its immense market share, Fox has a bigger anti-market. There are even more people who would rather eat insects than tune it in.

Mr Carlson had three years to run on his contract, which was for twenty million dollars per year. Let me assume he will be paid off the balance. In that situation, I would need all the time to count the money. Too, I would go into hiding from the Internal Revenue “Service.” Perhaps in lakeside Bolivia?

This “earthquake,” or so Mr Carlson’s firing has been described by all media observers willing to utter his name, will make, on balance, approximately no difference in American public life. It will be roughly like the Soviet invasion of Hungary. The millions who knew perfectly well that Communism is satanically evil, will be confirmed in their views. A larger number will persist in their invincible ignorance.