Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

Twenty years

I am, plainly and without revision, reprinting my essay from five years ago, which was then entitled, “Fifteen years.” It states what I have to say about terror strikes, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Islamic tide and the Western, Christian response to it, in a way that I don’t think will change in the foreseeable future. My continuing sympathy for all victims of this world’s revolutionary events.

*

A generation or more is necessary to see any large event in some historical perspective. That the fall of the Berlin Wall was a “large event” we could see immediately, but not what it portended. The political world would be transformed, but the New World Order that George Bush Senior foresaw was a mirage. Ditto with events since 9/11.

Several thousand were killed on that day in 2001 — the anniversary of the Ottoman defeat at the Gates of Vienna. This was a comparatively small number, by modern standards. The rich symbolism of this Islamist operation was lost on the West, which no longer cares for history or legend. A brilliant assault of “asymmetric warfare,” it fulfilled all of its objectives. The torch has since been passed from the more moderate al-Qaeda to the more fanatic Daesh, and will be passed again in due course. Osama bin-Laden personally lost face by being hunted down and killed like a rat, but his vision of a restored Islamic Caliphate survives him. It inspires still the young in heart and mind.

The immediate intention was to humiliate the “Great Satan”; to awaken the sleeping giant and make him blindly thrash; to goad him into self-destructive behaviour as he struck against an enemy he could neither locate nor understand. Beyond this: to expose him as a paper tiger, tilting a balance of power, and transferring initiative from the mightily-armed “Crusader” to the nimble “Jihadi.” Within the Muslim world: to show that only the radical Salafist faction could get results, could change the direction of history and, as it were, “make Arabia great again.”

As I suggested above, we are still too close to this event to grasp its full significance; but after fifteen years we in the West are in a much worse position than we were on the 10th of September, 2001. We showed, as the Islamists predicted, that we did not have the stamina to prevail, even against weak adversaries; that America and allies could only fight “Vietnams.” Our will is shaken, and to Salafist delight, we have by now expressed contrition for fourteen centuries of Christian defence against Islamic aggression. We bow respectfully, as our culture is insulted, and as versions of Shariah are imposed. In disregard of our own security, we have thrown our borders open to massive Muslim immigration. We follow, at every junction, the course of sentimentality, and adapt to the certainty of defeat. After each hit we call for grief counsellors.

It is instructive that, in the present circumstances, with Christians reduced to desperation through much of the Near East, we import Muslim refugees almost exclusively. The Christians flee to the protection of the Kurds; not to refugee camps in which they would risk massacre. Western governments take only from those camps; or in Europe, the flotillas launched from Turkey and Libya. The Islamists gloat at this demographic achievement; the Daesh now recruit from the disaffected young in the new Muslim ghettoes of Europe, radicalized in Saudi-built-and-financed mosques. Few directly engage in suicidal acts of terrorism; but those who do are lionized as heroes. Lesser, safer acts, such as rape of European women, and desecration of churches and synagogues, have become commonplace. We are, and we know that we are, as incapable of assimilating these migrants as the Romans were of assimilating the Vandals and Huns through their increasingly porous frontiers.

Crucially, in the mindless fantasy of “multiculturalism,” we refuse to recognize the contradictions between Islamic and Christian teaching, and look the other way, muttering fatuities about “the religion of peace” after each psychopathic explosion. This is just what Osama predicted: the harder the blows, the more docile we would become, and the more complacent in the face of the ancient Islamic demand for submission.

The genius of Osama bin-Laden, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, was to know that the de-Christianizing West would respond in this way. Their propaganda spelt out, from the beginning, the argument for their methods. They called us chestless wonders; they said we would fold under any sustained pressure; that we had lost the confidence of our Christian identity. We are an aging society now, vitiated by abortions, needing immigrants to pay our pensions; a people addicted to drugs, from opiates to iPhones; lapsed in creature comforts, and spineless in the face of adversity.

Not all of us, of course. I am sometimes impressed by the number of remnant faithful to the old Christian religion, and its “Western ideals.” In moments of crisis, as we saw for some weeks after the Twin Towers came down, the rest of the population stirs. Yet by Christmas of 2001 they were snoring again, and again the liberal reflexes were twitching. Not al-Qaeda but “Bush” was already being blamed for disturbing the peace.

Bush made one fatal mistake. He “overmisestimated” his countrymen’s ability to stay what he knew must be a long and difficult course. His “flypaper” strategy — as I called it at the time — was to engage the Islamists in their native East; to let them go fight in places like Kandahar and Fallujah, where they would be irresistibly attracted to, and annihilated by, vastly superior American military discipline, logistics, and firepower. It was working too well: Americans began to feel safe again, resented the foreign bloodshed and expense, and so called the boys home. Now the flypaper hangs over the West.

Beyond this, the Bush strategy was to repair a disintegrating international state system. National governments must take sovereign responsibility; must patrol within their own borders. Regimes which exported violence would be confronted. Either they would end the sanctuary they had granted to terrorists, or a U.S.-led coalition of the willing would do it for them. He cited long-established international law, which entitles the victims of raids to “hot pursuit” across international borders. By invading Afghanistan and Iraq successfully, Bush could compel other regimes, such as those governing Libya, Syria, and Iran, to behave themselves. That, too, was working: until Obama suddenly evacuated Iraq, vindicating indeed those who had called the USA a paper tiger. And, flew to Cairo to deliver an obsequious apology from America to the whole Muslim world.

There had been, shortly after 9/11, a curious exchange in a Washington corridor between President Bush and the freshman New York senator, Hillary Clinton. Playing to the morning-after gallery as a hawk, she needled him. He was quite rude. He wished to assure the former First Lady that he would not be replying to the hit on New York City as her husband had done, to previous al-Qaeda provocations. He would not be merely firing a cruise missile up some Afghan camel’s derrière.

Bush delivered on his threats. He thereby earned the respect of his country’s worst enemies, who had become accustomed to American vacillation. But he became over-extended, as he began to fill the Mesopotamian bog with unrecoverable billions, in a lunatic scheme to turn Iraq into a “model democracy.” This was well-meaning American naiveté at its self-defeating worst: for what had once worked in Germany and Japan had no chance anywhere in the Middle East.

Notwithstanding, within two years, despite serial misjudgements, the USA held all the cards. America still enjoyed an unchallengeable and unprecedented “hyperpower” status. Within two more, Bush himself had started to drop them, for domestic political ends. But the Iraq “surge” demonstrated that he was not retreating. He was willing to expend his own diminishing political capital in the American national interest.

It takes some stomach, to stand one’s ground against a ruthless and implacable foe. Bush wrongly believed the West still had it. He paid for that naiveté, too. Tiring quickly of the inconvenience of battle, the public were easily persuaded to disavow Bush as captain, and make him their scapegoat instead. Osama bin-Laden, and not George W. Bush, had been proved more astute.

In my youth, I was amazed to watch the United States of America let itself be defeated by little North Vietnam — having, it seemed to me, agreed to fight blindfold, with hands tied behind back, and feet chained together. It was a failure of resolution, from which I hoped much had been learnt: you don’t fight a war by a ponderous extension of your domestic bureaucracy. You certainly don’t fight a war you don’t intend to win. Osama told the Muslim world it would happen again, and in retrospect, he was right. But Vietnam was made into a mere holding action within the larger Cold War. The consequences of defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan are much greater.

America was our champion, but the West as a whole has proved itself unequal to the barbaric will. Frankly, I cannot imagine a recovery that does not involve the restoration of our Christian identity, and the renewal of our Christian mission at home and abroad. As “nothing in particular” we are already buried up to the waist in the trash heap of history.

But of course: alternative futures are not precluded, just because I can’t imagine them. Maybe we’ll be saved by flying saucers.

Things go better with Coke?

I am quite fortunate to have several critics, or email correspondents as they might call themselves, who selflessly opine on almost every one of the posts I despatch from up here in the High Doganate. I am thinking in particular of a lady — her youth and foreignness have never been specified — who has commented at greater length than I have written, and mostly about my literary quirks, in addition to the topics I have written on. She is pleasantly abrasive and saucy, and has seldom failed to make at least one point that might be construed as negative and destructive; but in a spirit or tone that is casual and jolly.

Perhaps I might call her “upbeat,” from her ability to put a positive spin on the behaviour and intentions of, for instance, our present Holy Father; as well as certain other progressive religionists (mostly nominally Catholic). I begin to see why all the recent popes have been canonized, or at least, are getting loaded into the canons. The Church makes a powerful cheering section; which drowns out those looking glum. There is always someone to like the pope, no matter from where he comes, or how novel and astonishing his theological, doctrinal, and moral positions.

What most impresses me is the ability to remain cheerful, about the way things are going, even when they are going to Hell.

Good cheer requires good energy, too, and here would be a good place to insert an advertisement for a popular energy drink. But as I’ve had to explain to several inquiring advertising agents, recently, I don’t run ads — for fizzy drinks, sports cars, or anything “commercial.” Its part of my anti-flash, downbeat aesthetic presentation.

The calendar

Much to my surprise, I discovered upon glancing at the calendar this morning, that it is the first of September. As my (equally surprising) heart surgery occurred in February, I must have survived it by six months, and be now on the giddy road to recovery. I am not, but that is just a technical detail.

Rather, as my faithful readers may have long suspected, I suffer from tediously post-operative dizziness and “imbalance”; and weakness not merely of will. Some Swedish cardiac rehabilitation equipment at the Toronto Western Hospital has so far failed to cure the physical aspect of this unworldliness; and my propensity to prefer Conservatives to Liberals, Artists to Terrorists, Dante Alighieri to Jorge Bergoglio, and indeed Trump to alternative madmen, cannot be cured. I think I was born with natural biases, before the subjects of it presented themselves.

But this squib must serve as an excuse for my frequent non-appearances in this space, and slowness to respond to my email commentariat. They are asked to forgive me, if they can; and may God bless them, whether or not they do.

Against commerce

It would be useful if all those who are opposed to capitalism, or commercialism, would declare themselves. Hypocrisy requires them to retire from economic activity, and its consequences, such as eating. It happens that most of the material features of our society, and all known previous societies, depended upon commercial activities, and can be described as “capitalist” even when they insist upon describing themselves as “socialist” or “communist.”

The differences come not from buying and selling things, but from what a military man would call “command.” Certain persons (mostly non-military) are elevated in law, to a position where they acquire command of resources, and decide arbitrarily who gets what, based on an equally arbitrary moral system of reward and punishment.

No system of “free market capitalism” is perfect, because no such system has yet to exist, nor could exist given a world that is finite, and in most of its details, consistently real. Indeed, the more “free market” it is declared, the more its operation is interfered with by agencies of the government, in more complicated and unpredictable ways. Taxation is only one of the impositions; and yet substantial, compound taxation is imposed even in sectors of the national economy that are publicly called tax-free.

The issue is not complicated; whereas politicians and the self-interested political or bureaucratic class must pretend that it is. “The world is too complicated to survive without regulations.” Our schools are designed to drive this message home, and thus deprive our infants of even the possibility of freedom; they manufacture the evidence of complication. Except, some children nevertheless instinctively learn to experience freedom as the gift of God.

In my mind, “the economy” has some purposes besides the creation of paperwork, and prison sentences, but its consequences are always tediously economic. For instance, how is it that everyday, necessary objects of food, clothing, and shelter are, if they are not consciously made to an extravagant, luxury standard (which often involves bad taste), are still no match for military goods, which typically may be used only once; if that.

At the Sally Anne and similar institutions, the junk of our culture may be cheaply obtained; it is almost given away. But as we see in Afghanistan, the most potent weapons tend to be distributed absolutely without charge (to our most repulsive enemies). And these are made to an incomparably high standard of reliability, and even beauty.

I am seldom offended by the injustice of our various commercial arrangements — on a good day when the sun comes out, and there are not too many biting insects. Instead, I am uncomprehending.

What chiefly mystifies me about the economy is the common belief in the universal existence of entirely imaginary things; when the universal non-existence of them is fairly clear. This is the case with “capitalism,” or “commercialism” (to maintain a higher standard of politeness. The latter is perhaps more innocent because it is merely comparative; nevertheless it is also rude).

Military items are made to the standard to which religious objects once often answered, or weapons intended for almost purely aesthetic display. Cost is not an issue, whether in manufacture nor in giving the goods away (or sometimes, wantonly destroying them in an act reminiscent of iconoclasm). Whereas, cost/benefit seems always to be calculated, and usually the determinant, in goods available to “the free market.”

That a high proportion of military goods don’t work, when they come to be tested, may be taken for granted; for the cost of testing is a necessary contributor to the theatre of government waste. That is a universal truth — most things don’t work, or don’t work for long — but that is an entirely different issue.

Lightning

Near the beginning of his De Rerum Natura, Lucretius predicts that Mount Etna will again erupt — “ad caelumque ferat flammai fulgura rursum.” The old classics hand, believing that he is dealing with the eccentricities of a poet, will take this as a colourful way to describe a volcano vomiting forth.

But “fulgura” here refers to lightning, so that if the passage is properly translated, lightning will be thrown into the sky.

This is not a poetic metaphor. It is a description that is scientifically exact. The lightning is generated in the heart of the volcano, and thus shoots upward. We aren’t reading what it looks like, but what it is.

Scientists — for instance, a knowing Epicurean like Lucretius — can grasp this. Literature professors might grasp it as well, I suppose, though they tend not to. And, journalists … know less than anybody. In reading the classics, with attention, and perhaps a dictionary, one acquires some respect for the ancients.

*

Afghans similarly. They have had a most unfortunate reputation through most of my adult life, … as psychopathic killers. Yet when I travelled, fairly extensively in that country, as a youth, I saw no sign of this. There were several mostly unrelated regions of Afghanistan, yet there was only one district in one region (Baluchistan) that I felt uncomfortable visiting, to the point of unsafe.

In those days, Afghanistan had not yet been invaded by the Soviets; let alone by Americans and the combined forces of NATO. She had a king. She was surprisingly independent, and ridiculously poor, but was mastering the art of begging from the world’s competing suppliers of foreign aid.

This was unwise. It is sufficient to be poor: the powers will most likely leave you alone in that case.

But the Afghans, especially the overly proud Pashtoons, had the settled habit of gunning down unwelcome intruders. This is not as mad as the world assumes, for it usually discourages their entry.

Granted, Afghans were, in the main, infidels; but when not being invaded, they were generous and hospitable, lively and charming peoples, almost to a fault. Also, some of them good dancers.

The libels told against them are appalling. The Taliban are a small part of the population, though enthusiastically armed, and manly. Their native, foreign-equipped defence forces, against this Taliban, were useful, before the United States Congress decided to cut them off supplies, repeating the crime they had committed at the end of the Vietnam War.

Unlike Afghans, it appears that Americans are easily defeated. Patience and time are all that is needful. They panic and surrender, when they hold all the cards — for instance, surrendering the immense, quite defensible, Bagram Airfield, which they still had a use for, if they were going to ship Americans out. Many other decisions, in which their advantages were relinquished, leave an unfortunate impression of sub-normal intelligence.

More significantly, they announce to the world that they are untrustworthy and unreliable. I am puzzled by such behaviour. A sovereign nation tries generally to avoid this.

They need science, and poets. Also manliness. They have soldiers and aeroplanes enough.

 

Afghanistan

No one can make a serious argument, with or without moral posturing, that the United States had no right to be in Afghanistan. Moreover, there is little evidence that Americans and allies (including Canadians) committed any significant atrocities in that country, that might be cited under Geneva Conventions (which anyway don’t apply). In fact, substantial casualties were taken to avoid inflicting civilian casualties and destruction, even when the civilians in question were committing grievous acts themselves. They just weren’t wearing uniforms.

Whether it was the Americans, in Asia, or the Romans, in remote Europe, it is difficult for any mostly civilized military force to defeat or tame a barbaric enemy. This must be attempted, from time to time.

It is not sufficient to imprison this sort of enemy. As a practical matter, he must instead be killed, both to remove him definitively from the theatre of conflict, and to terrify survivors, thus make them compliant. Modern, Western, post-Christian man has failed to do this even in imagination.

The principle of “mercy” does not come into it. We were fighting to the death against a mortal enemy. Any relaxation on our part would appear as weakness, and weakness costs lives.

The war lasted twenty years, less a few weeks, counting from 9/11. The United States (and allies) once again established their incoherence in battle. A coherent strategy would have ended in victory in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the intimidation of any potential enemies thoughout the “Middle East.” This result was almost available to the George Bush regime, but was sacrificed to maintain several childish illusions about democracy and the rule-of-law, where neither had ever existed.

Foreign wars, against barbaric savages, can be fought and won. Publicity should be avoided, as it has been in all successful encounters of this sort, since history began. We cannot afford to “pull punches.”

It is a myth that Afghans were unwilling to accommodate Western ways of life, or that Muslim fanatics cannot be defeated. The former, like most men, can be governed by fear, when that is what is left to motivate them; and the latter through annihilation.

An inconceivable God

“He is not a male; he is not a female; he is not a neuter. He neither is, nor is not. When he is sought, he will take the form in which he is sought; but again, he will not come in such a form. …

“It is indeed difficult, to describe the name of the Lord!”

This is how God appeared to sages of the Upanishads, in not-quite-ancient India. I would update it, by adding that it neither is, nor is not, compatible with our Christian attempts at description. A Christian would not have God depersonalized to this extent, while even today, a Hindu might think this would be a good thing.

But consider, the Christian has it both ways, in the person of Jesus Christ. The Father of Christ can be — for as much as it means anything to the human understanding — more abstract. He cannot, even in principle, be seen. Christ is less abstract, and more immediately poignant, to the human person. The Bible stories present Him as within the reach of the sympathetic imagination, in a way that, for instance, a mathematical abstraction is not within reach.

“Personhood” has many implications, including the implication of reality. But then what we’ve implied is transcended, through the provision that Christ is “Very God.” Somewhere in this, we have stepped through the irresistible Indian qualifications of God, without reducing everything else to “maya.” It is, theologically, why even as an intellectual attainment, Christianity exceeds all other religions.

But was it achieved by human hands or human minds? This is where the question of Faith re-enters, in its peculiarly Christian way. Our Saviour had to declare Himself. There was no way he could have been discovered. Our Faith must be necessarily a “reckless” departure, from what can be done on our own terms, to what can be done only on His.

Without Christ, Christ is inconceivable.

Discernment

“We can only renew ourselves by discerning God’s will in our daily lives.”

This line was all that I retained from the blither and blather of a random papal Tweet. It is a statement of radical, uncontested Protestantism; if I should put it vaguely. More succinctly, it reveals pathological narcissism in the speaker, and marks him out as someone, at most, only partially sane.

His other remarks were of the same quality.

Let me explain. No one can discern God’s Will, even when it is presented to us in its simplest, most direct form. God, for instance, tells us not to murder our children. But we don’t need to discern this. It is like science. The “fact” that murder is evil, is confirmed by all human experience, and is too obvious to insist upon a written proof. A person who doesn’t understand it is not making a mistake, a “scientific error,” or discovering an exception to the conventional rule — although such things happen.

But we are discussing Murder. An intelligent person knows what that means, as much as an unintelligent person can know it. I daresay even an over-busied Peronist from Argentina will “smoak” it out.

What he may not know — what he may imperfectly “discern” — is that he will be damned for a knowing act of murder. The same for many acts that are an analogy to that; that resemble murder by intention or style. Or perhaps, after the course of a complex life, he will not be damned.

We might know this by discerning God’s Will, assiduously through all pasts and futures, if we could. Be we cannot. We can only beg for mercy, and promise to amend.

This, at least, distinguished a Catholic from a Calvinist in my mind. I am not trying to condemn Calvinists here, for again in my experience, few of them honestly believe what they’ve been taught, and many are in defiance of the teaching, or by forgetting it, kind and merciful. The belief that they’ve been saved, by the Will of God, and are among the “elect,” is an emotional distraction from what in their lives was objective. It is foolish to depend upon discernment.

It is foolish to pretend that you know what you can’t know, and yet, can know perfectly well that you can’t know.

Call this “science.” The standards for proof are very high, when we look into the most straightforward, demonstrable empirical questions. It goes beyond, for matters that must be permanently invisible to us, such as the Will of God in all its unknowable detail.

The person who claims to teach, more than he has received from his own teachers, and tells others to claim this freedom for themselves, must generally assume himself to be very knowing. But he lies, and is a mindless tyrant, and what he knows is false. Ignore him.

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.