Essays in Idleness


Of sevens & seventies

There are reasons why things happen, and those with access to a working brain may discover what some of them are. This includes reasons for the bad things that happen. They are never complete, and won’t be, for in the end we are blind and partial. This does not mean we should not try to understand. For we are human, and one of the positive things about this condition (there are several others, arguably) is this compulsion to inquire. Much good sometimes comes of it. But again, I stress the need for a working brain.

In my unpublished dissertation, The Uses and Abuses of Paranoia (a topic suggested to me by the late beloved Eric McLuhan), I made an attempt to distinguish good from bad speculations. This turned out to be more difficult that I expected. I began with the glib confidence that one’s paranoia should be consistently open-minded.

On the analogy of ice hockey, we should keep our eyes on the puck, not only on the big padded brute who is trying to kill us. It may be that his eyes are on the same puck, and there is room for negotiation. Moreover, staying out of his way might be facilitated by moving the puck to another location — say, between his legs and behind him. I tried this once, and it worked. It was a victory for open-minded paranoia.

All human thought is essentially paranoid, to start with. Even among my housefinches, thought begins with the innate desire for survival. But at our human level of sophistication, we even try to avoid embarrassment. The strategies for doing this can be quite arcane. Paranoia demands that we consider our neighbour not only as another divine gift to the world, but also as a big padded brute trying to kill us. I think even among the Saints, while the Love is real, it is never perfectly uncritical.

Which is why Christ’s instruction to forgive the guy — more than 490 times (seventy times seven) according to my calculator, seems so hard. Often I lose count. Worse, He is making His point with Hebrew numerical symbolism, which I never took in school. He is saying, don’t just forgive, in some trite formula of words, but absolutely.

Erase his transgressions from your mind? This is dangerous because it undermines our paranoia.

Or rather, it turns it back upon itself, for we are told that we’ll be forgiven ourselves, as we forgive others. It is right there in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, and it scares me every time I hear it.

Frankly, it is a revolutionary proposition; and you know what we think about revolutions, around here. Notwithstanding, I reflect that He is God, and I am not. We should entertain the possibility of obeying.

My piece at Catholic Thing today (here), touches on the social implications. A world without forgiveness is one in which the worst forms of paranoia tend to prevail. The better sort might fall into the category of Prudence. A world without Prudence can also be pretty bad.

Hoops within hoops

Does gentle reader enjoy watching basketball games? If so, let him keep this eccentricity to himself. For the author of this piece, who has already bravely exposed himself to danger, by preferring cricket to baseball, takes a view of basketball that is almost pro-Batflu. Far from being upset by the apparent cancellation of the NBA basketball season, he is exultant.

It was a sport designed (in Almonte, Ontario, I am ashamed to admit) around the concept of social distancing, even before off-seasons were invented. And while good healthy shoving was added when it was exported to the States, it remains a sport for socially isolated seven-foot freaks. The bouncing of huge basketballs on city sidewalks by misdirected youff is among the principal unaddressed problems in urban life today.

That the basketball stars appear to be all commies (one might call their matches “peaceful demonstrations”), has been noticed by members of the public at large. The commercial rights have been bought up by the Chinese Communist Party; the mass market is increasingly in China; and the stars train within sight of Uigher prison camp facilities. That they shill for the Party also in America makes sense from these arrangements. That their dabbling in American racial politics, with their boycotts, follows, too. That their astronomical salaries could be lost with their professional season is a modest piece of good news. But all will be lost for them, anyway, when the labs in Wuhan or wherever breed their own species of seven-foot bats. (Prototype here.)

Make no mistake: childhood memories of “dwarf basketball” do not inspire me to some benign alternative. I was once almost crushed by a basketball wielded by a boy named Billsborough, using this weapon as a missile. He weighed about three hundred pounds, which he was able to convert into kinetic energy. Doctors were later able to restore the use of my several body parts, but the lad continued to call me “The Mouse.”

Not that this affected my judgement. My horror of basketball had already matured in the courtyard of an Asiatic boarding school. (I was merely visiting.) It was a form of cultural appropriation which I could see, even by the age of ten, ought to be condemned. It led to other derangements, such as sweet, uniformed Asiatic girls playing Elvis Presley hits on 45-rpm recordings. The slide was inexorable.

But the end is near. The removal of this curse from our own continent is a first step. Elsewhere, we may hope it shares the fate of the politburo at Peking.


UPDATE. I am advised by a fellow Neanderthal that the NBA is not dead yet. Apparently, President Xi Jinping has ordered the players back to their show. Darn. I thought they were gone forever. I’d already poured a drink to celebrate the end of bucketball. It came from an expensive jar of Laphroaig. Oh well, I cannot waste it.

Political diary

An asteroid — not a very big one, mind — is expected to fly by Earth on 2nd November; or, failing that, to hit us at one of three locations. I do wish NASA would tell us what they are. The Natted States election will be the next day, and I have several preferred urban locations, but the chance of the car-sized thing colliding with our planet at all seems remote. Even if it does, it would probably burn up in the atmosphere, leaving us all disappointed. A slightly larger rock whipped by a week ago, and the best you could say is that we bent its orbit; it hardly bent ours. There are billions and quadrillions of these tiny rocks hurtling through space, however, surely one will hit us eventually. But the ones that could do memorable damage are a more select set; and big enough to be seen from a distance. I’m sure Elon Musk could figure how to nudge it away. As to these mere stones, the police in any progressive Merican city get more flak, on the average evening.

Normally, we oppose asteroids hitting the Earth, but with the other choices in the big election, some make an exception for this case. So far as I can see, it is Trump versus Trump (half for and half against him), which to my analysis suggests, Trump wins. I don’t know anyone enthusiastic for Biden, but several who’d prefer an asteroid to Trump. In my view, they are trading on false hope.

Why even argue about what would be better for the economy — the riots after Trump wins, or the riots after Trump loses — when the most satisfying course might be to blow everything up. Which leads me to think, that everyone wins in this coming election. All options will prevail.

Up here in the Great White North (I wait patiently for this expression to become offensive), we have a new Conservative leader. Not even the Canadian meejah are discussing this, and no outlet abroad will condescend to report it. His name is apparently Erin O’Toole, and when I finally found some information on him, I learnt that he is not charismatic. The most attractive candidate was a black lady (Leslyn Lewis), who was also the most rightwing, and easily the most thoughtful and intelligent, so gentle reader can guess how much attention she got from our CBC (endlessly pumping for Comma-La Harris). Lewis almost won, despite meejah silence, and might have, had there been a proper convention with those “delegate dynamics” in play. She took Saskatchewan, outright, which is the closest we get to an asteroid strike.

That the Trudeau boy, still prime minister somehow (and may be as hard to get rid of as Angela Merkel), is laughably corrupt and incompetent, is generally known. But Canadians, especially those in my excessively populous province, are a dull-witted lot, and since he’s the only person whose name they’ve heard, they all vote for him. His current scheme is to use the Batflu crisis to impose an eco-socialist “new world order”; we’re still giving foreign aid to Red China.

I think I might favour the asteroid option myself, up here.

In praise of the lash

In his valuable anthology of Invective and Abuse, Hugh Kingsmill noted that our most popular (secular) “apostles of love” are an irascible lot. He was discussing at the time “Tolstoi and Dostoieffsky,” but was about to quote some choice epithets with which William Blake splattered his contemporaries.

My own attachment to Jerome might touch on the religious aspect. The Latin Father from Stridon, in addition to his spectacular translations in our Vulgate from the Greek (he moved to Jerusalem for his mastery of Hebrew), was conspicuous even in his own times. He was notorious for tearing stripes off people. We have Heaven’s assurance that this was overlooked, however, for how did he become a Saint?

Notwithstanding, I do not believe that all the short-tempered get to Heaven, nor all the quote-unquote “apostles of love.” I cannot be an expert on this matter, while in the flesh, and ain’t waiting to be briefed hereafter; but it seems to me that Love, here below, has the remarkable ability to speak for itself — often sotto voce. That is, it speaks not to be heard but overheard, in the manner of poetry; and more likely by actions than in proud boasts.

I would not discount invective and abuse, however. For I note that a good lover makes a good hater, too, and may be better at articulating the latter. Dislike for the demonic almost follows from a liking for the angelic, and in my experience, the demonic is all around us. Patience is indeed a virtue, but there is hierarchy in the virtues, and I can think of others that might overtop it, beginning with Faith, Hope, and Charity. Even compared with Prudence, I think of Patience as more a holding action, until for all we know Prudence will lash out.

As usual, I was preparing to say something irascible about “the culture” today. My annoyance, generally, with “niceness,” is a regular feature of these Idleposts, and I frequently suspect its alliance with demonic intentions, in its passive-aggressive way. This has been the trend through my adulthood, viewed against a past, at least in the Americas, that cannot have been such icky-sticky moosh. Our ancestors — or at least mine — were very aware of a fight with the Devil, and one they were less confident of winning, than we are now with technology on our side.

The modern man doesn’t really disbelieve in evil, but is easily taken by surprise. I think one of the strengths socialism now enjoys, is the inability of the day-school’d generation to expect things to go wrong. And then to be rather glib about it when things (predictably) do. Their criticism is reserved for the irascible, whereas, it ought to be directed at the smileyfaced and mild.

Being there

The simpler things are, the harder to explain, and it follows, to understand. Every serious “science kid” understands this. There is an impenetrable mystery, until the penny drops. And then we are no longer outside, but in. Ask Einstein. “Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.” It’s that simple. Prior to stumbling upon the equation, he was outside. Or the Fibonacci sequence, or the value for π. All kinds of things follow from these, including decimals that go on (“literally”) forever. But they are perfectly simple; themselves, not other things. They are absolutely constant: real. Change one numeral and it isn’t perfectly “pi” any more. We could go on like this.

And anyway I’m not interested in physical or mathematical constants, just now. When he was little, my elder son began finding them. At age about six he announced a proof of God. It is written into the math, unmistakably; and into our world, the immortal into the mortal. By age nine he had forgotten about this, and was already an engineer, with that drollness that adapts for aeroplanes and bridges and computers. I argued that none are conceivable without God; He has designed a world in which such things are possible. It is on the immortal that the mortal depends. By age ten we are taking this for granted.

The idea of “being there” is among the concepts that I consider to be “too simple to understand.” For it is not an analysis, but essentially a command. Yet it is there, and I have seen it understood by small children. I have also seen it in the old, sometimes; in a certain kind of unquenchable humility.

I noticed once someone “got it” from Blake. Or so he scrawled on the stonework of an abandoned church in England. Perhaps he was on drugs, for he claimed to be at one with all animate things. He was “in the moment” with nature.

Or was he? What could he bring back to prove that he was there? What followed from this enlightenment? A great deal of what pretends to be mystical experience — nearly all of it — has this evanescent quality. We “get it,” but when we come back it isn’t got. It is an abstraction, a fleeting dream. We were privy to a “virtual” thought, only. I doubt the person who wrote that graffito was changed in any permanent way. He did not have even one animate thing in his abstract view.

And yet the most commonplace person (me, for instance) carries with him a golden chain of such “moments,” in which time seems to have receded, and the absolute has become present to us. I remember, from age around six, holding a plum my father had passed me, in the hills above Abbottabad. It was the ur-plum. It is an indelible memory, with which I associate a certain purple I later saw in the late evening sky; the taste and texture of that plum, now universal. Far more would be needed to explain it. In sixty years, I have not got to the bottom of it. It was; it is. “It was real.”

The challenge to us all, today, is to be in the moment, or even capable of being. One must be there, not only in mind. Physically, we are alive and in bodies; there is no other way, than by contact. But we act as if we need not be physically there. We are content to read the news, as it were; to audit the lecture on the Zoom screen; to “visit” a Mass that is being recorded. We are present “in the spirit,” we say to ourselves. But I cannot credit these out-of-body claims. We are humans, not the spirits we imagine.

To my mind, the worst effect of the Batflu is to remove us even farther from the moment, to some unreal abstract space; from that mystical “transubstantiation” in which we are not elsewhere, but very fully here.

Digging deeper

The Natted States Postal Service (mad yet?) has its brand to consider; or so we’ve been told. This was put in jeopardy when a recent design-your-own-stamp programme was rolled out, allowing customers to use whatever imagery pleased them. They could put innocent things like smileyfaces and their pet puppies on their stamps, or cuddly portraits of Karl Marx and Che Guevara. But some customers apparently did “Jesus stamps.” What a scandal! It was because of stuff like this, that the programme became the only profitable part of the USPS in modern history.

Imagine: some part of the Deep State was implicated in a scheme that allowed mere citizens — possibly even Christians or Republicans — to express themselves openly in a public place. Surely that wasn’t Constitutional. The bureaucrats who conceived this were, quite obviously, not thinking ahead. Perhaps they anticipated only “progressive” messaging. Embarrassed, the American postal administration has now cancelled the programme, citing interference with its “brand.”

And veritably, the idea that a post office would do something profitable would, if it continued, undermine their reputation entirely. It would spread the disorienting fear that they might do something competent, too, or participate in some other horror. But their brand is safe now, and loud Democrat demands for urgent, massive new subsidies, to support their mail-in voting plan, assure us that everything is back to normal.

I can’t find a figure on the Internet, but I would guess the USPS was the 114th postal service in the world to think of such a custom stamp promotion. A stamp-dealer friend once showed me examples of these he had collected from every continent (including Antarctica), towards the end of the last century. We agreed that all of the examples were tasteless.

Perhaps that was the initial attraction, to authorities, for stamp design has been in free fall since the art of engraving was abandoned, decades before that. Like almost any books printed after anno 1970, if not since photo-lithography arrived in the 1820s, they have been contributing to our “Age of Sludge.” Even when using symbols correctly, recent stamps look pre-cancelled. It seems unnecessary to obliterate them further with cancellation chops at the sorting stations.

Now, I have never been offered the command of a postal service, even in my native country, so anything I say must remain hypothetical. I would never have permitted “custom stamps,” and the head of the first person to propose them would have been mounted on a spike above the entryway to the Royal Mail department. (And that wouldn’t have been my most controversial decision.) Please do not turn to me for a defence of stamp desecration.

I only mention this as a way to comment on contemporary mores and manners. One is struck by the undisguised hypocrisy, the moral indifference, and the aesthetic squalour, of pretty much everything in our “urban environment.” But we must not jump to sweeping conclusions. For under each layer of vileness lies another, waiting to be re-exposed. We will have to excavate very deeply.

Of cake & cookies

Would Marie Antoinette have had a personal videographer? It is a question for the ages.

While I might be a personal fan of Marie Antoinette (as long as she stays off Facebook), I’d be happy to concede the point. But in practice, she probably would not have had a personal videographer. I can’t imagine the “reality show,” in which she tells the peasants how to make good, nutritious cake, should they be short on bread. To start, the very line (“let them eat cake”) was not uttered by Her Majesty, but by some leftist scum — the way they wrote the lines that sank Sarah Palin. For another thing, I can’t imagine the Queen of France cavorting for a camera. Surely, sitting for a portrait would be the limit. Moreover, even when she was Dauphine, or an Archduchess of Austria, she wouldn’t have messed about in a kitchen. I doubt she’d care how her servants baked the cake, so long as it was decorated nicely.

But what do I know? I’m more the peasant myself, and truth to tell, I had tea at Versailles much too late to meet her. According to a sign, she’d already been carted off.

On the other hand, the wife of the Mayor of New York (the communist, Bill de Blasio) has a personal videographer, who recently filmed her baking cookies. Apparently, people are complaining about how much the videographer gets paid, along with more than a dozen other personal staff. (Americans do whine so.) But when your husband can slash $1 billion out of the police budget on a whim, I’m sure he can afford them.

New York taxpayers should hardly mind; they re-elected him handsomely. That they are mentally enfeebled, is not for me to say.

A master mariner

I suppose it is perfectly natural that my friends and heroes (sometimes they are both) should now be dying off like flies. This morning I note the passing of Marvin Creamer, at the tender age of one hundred and four. He was and is one of several in the class, “circumnavigators.” This includes a few technically failed, because they didn’t get home; usually because they were slain by natives. The intelligent circumnavigator makes ports of call, and does prefer the safe ones, but when exploring in exotic parts, you take your chances. It’s not just the natives; also tricky harbours and shoals.

The contemporary yachtsman has GPS and electronic sounding equipment, along with computer updated charts. For Magellan, this would have been cheating. I would like to credit Juan Sebastián Elcano, the Basque navigator, as I am slighting the Portuguese this week. The natives of the Philippines remain somewhat restive, and after they had caused Magellan’s demise, Elcano took the carrick Victoria, diagonally across the Indian Ocean, around Africa, and up the Atlantic, to the quaint old town of Sanlúcar. But first the restive crews of the shrinking expedition (which soon included a few impressed Timorese) had killed off two more captains, and abandoned another. Elcano was able to focus who was left on a fine cargo of nutmeg and cloves from the Moluccas. You see: trade helps pacify people.

But skipping forward four-and-a-half centuries or so, Mr Creamer did the rounding journey in a 36-foot yacht, with only such crew as would fit aboard. (Two, I think.) An American geography and oceanography perfesser, nearing retirement, he was a man of great backwardness after my own heart. Rejecting such newfangled contrivances as the mediaeval compass and renaissance sextant, along with wristwatches, radios, and other recent gizmos, he decided to do it by skill alone. He navigated by sun, moon, and stars, and when they were occluded, took hints from birds, natural flotsam, even the colour and temperature of the waters. He was never lost.

His belief, from careful study, was that the mariners of the later Middle Ages knew what they were doing, and apart from design of their ships, didn’t need technology to find their way around. By the late 15th century — the time of beloved Columbus — they were entirely comfortable with oceans, far beyond sight of land, and often, too, from land in places Europeans had never visited. They had got the hang of it, as it were, and while the best way to become a sailor was involuntarily, as a prisoner of some Crown (hence a recurring mutiny problem), the officers were masters of the sea. Having once hit a coast, they could fill in the charts a bit more, and soon the mapamonde was their oyster.

Upon returning to his (surprisingly unanxious) wife in 1984 — an unusual modern woman, she had confidence in him — Creamer declared, “One small step backwards for mankind.”

We walk to heaven backwards, as Saint Newman says, and I daresay Creamer is in sight of it now.

On flattery & slaving

Flattery is a useful resort for those who lack charm. Or they think it is. Apart from the thing itself, there is nothing wrong with flattery. In combination with charm it is lethal. One is at risk of becoming a “friend for life,” or forming other involuntary adorations. But the machine flattery that is a currency today, and probably was in previous generations, marks a man as a public nuisance. Even if he doesn’t want something, it is assumed that he is paying in advance for something we don’t want to sell. And we will sometimes part with it, just to shake him off.

Were it not near the root of what foreigners detect as “English perfidy” — once confined to the English themselves, until they settled America — it would not be a source of their despication. The genius of British imperialism was to offer things, such as flattery, to the natives of Elsewhere, until they figured out who was strongest, and formed an alliance against the lesser tribes. But the alliance would end with toppling their friends — as a learned Bengali once explained to me. They’d then show their old allies the back of their hand. (“Divide and conquer,” as the Romans called it.) Having dispensed with any other possible ally, he was now at their mercy. The flattery would now cease.

But the amateurs of flattery are naïve; only the professionals know how to use it. For them, it must be employed “diplomatically” — which is to say, cynically. It can be a means to power; to get the upper hand. Charm, in such cases, is unnecessary. One employs that only when one is able.

The history of slavery is a cynical one. However, the taking of slaves is not the most cynical part. Rather, it is the alliances formed. You get native tribes to do the dirty work for you; tribes you have noticed are already into “dirty,” such as slaving raids. It is a transaction, after all.

The history of slaving in West Africa, is a history of free trade, as any leftist would correctly point out. So far as I can see, this pertains generally, and the English don’t have an enforceable monopoly on perfidious behaviour. They just do it so well, that they are generally resented. No one much complains about Portuguese perfidy, for instance.

Let me further observe, the non-existence of racism, in trading relationships. It would get in the way. Or rather it appears to exist, but only derivatively. It is something that arises after the fact (of enslavement), rather than before. Flattery is more effective in the investment stage.

Perhaps it will appear that I abhor the English, but I love them, with all their flaws. As for any nation, one should cultivate stereotypes, in order to be alert to their tricks. Using “English,” now, in reference to all the natural-born English-speaking people (“Anglos” as the French say), I would suggest a more subtle narrative for Black Lives Matter; certainly more subtle than gentle reader will find in the nasty, racist, “1619” fairy tale.

It was a world in which slavery was common (as it still is, in many regions). By reversing the order of the motives by which these Anglos came to be adept in slavery, they make a hash of the story. They omit, for example, that these Anglos were generally nicer to their slaves than lazier masters who cared less for productive efficiency.

And they do not provide the inspiring bits, when men — especially English — decided to place morality above trading advantage. This is always possible, and is my primary argument against “free trade,” when made into an ideology.

For we should all be free traders, but let us be Christians, first.

On the growth of madness

Those who live in our big cities become, invariably, a little disturbed. (Take me, for example.) But some go shrieking mad, and with the prolongation of Batflu Orders, the number is increasing.

As I was just reporting to a priest, I’ve learnt to wear a mask for up to nine minutes, continuously: long enough for a quick dash into a grocery store, or a solemn Pater Noster. The public hygiene regs will allow me to go maskless, if I think that I have an excuse; but in that case, I must expect some disordered person at least to “comment,” and possibly to dose me with her Pepper Spray. For “Karens” at their best provide due process imperfectly.

Time and again my right ear is filled with lamentations, about the number being harmed by the Batflu, without coming into contact with the thing itself. I gather, from the usual suspects, that there are appalling losses by family violence, suicide, small businesses destroyed — before adding the number who have died untreated from coronaries, cancer, and various other ills.

By careful, and wisely suspicious attention to the meejah, one may learn that the death count from the actual virus continues to drop. By this, I don’t just mean that fewer are dying, but that the official, cumulative, death tolls are shrinking. They are lowered, retrospectively; with zero publicity, of course. This is because, in their eagerness for funding, the officials were counting “creatively.”

Having achieved their purpose, they quietly trim former deceits. In England, for instance, the health authority has quietly subtracted more than 5,000, who had died “after testing positive,” but also after fully recovering. Very large numbers, everywhere, were merely assumed to be Batflu deaths, in old folks’ homes and places of that sort. Governor Cuomo of New York may well have murdered a few thousand less than were observed to die, after he forced the sick and contagious into these homes. He just needed to pad the numbers for his federal subsidies. That’s what politicians do.

It is very hard for the modern, progressive mind, to understand that old people just die. This has been happening for some millenmia now, and we used to understand “natural causes,” but that was before we all became modern, progressive, and woke. “Science” tells us there must always be a cause; and if “science” can’t find it, something must be blamed. That is where politics comes in. Its task is to change a “something” into a “someone.”

The greatest damage is done not directly to the slandered, but to the human psyche at large. For there can be no estimate for the effect of lies. Yet there can be no civilization, when trust becomes impossible, and the trusting are invariably set up and used.

Compliments to the felines

Even the New York Times runs “Corrections” (selectively), and in honour of a venerable, nearly lapsed meejah tradition, I would like to take something back. In a recent Idlepost I wrote that one may put a cat into a bag twice, but the second time it has to be dead. This might be true enough, empirically, but apparently gentle readers took an implication, that if our progressive masters ordered a second Batflu lockdown, people wouldn’t obey. News from Auckland, New Zealand, and a hundred other places, now indicates that this is false.

The citizen of a modern Western democracy will, indeed, do whatever he is told to do, no matter how stupid or repugnant. (Here in Canada, they will even vote for the idjits again.) If you can scare him enough, with unending speculative nonsense, he will get right back into the bag.

A further implication of my assertion was that humans are at least as intelligent as cats. Let me admit I was going out on a limb there. The evidence goes decisively the other way. Arguably, there are some cats who could be fooled twice, on a range of minor issues. But on something so important as being stuffed into a bag, I’ve never met a cat who would countenance a repetition. At the risk of annoying some reader in Auckland, I must now say unambiguously, that cats are smarter. It would seem to follow, moreover, that they are better-informed.

Not having a cat at the moment, up here in the High Doganate (and please, nobody send me one), I am unable to administer a simple quiz. But by now I should think any human who knows anything, knows that lockdowns, social distancing, and the wearing of sub-medical masks, have no effect whatever on the transmission of microscopic particles. Smarter, apparently, than cats or people, the Batflu goes where it wants to go, and infects whom it pleases.

This has always been the way in epidemics, and they have never answered to the wishes of our political masters, even in those rare moments when their wishes were benign. There are ways to help a disease spread, and our politicians have discovered a few of these, but as T. S. Eliot said of Rum Tum Tugger, “He will do / As he do do / And there’s no doing anything about it.”

There is evidence that in the past, populations subject to a plague knew this. They went about their lives, unless they happened to be dead; and while some who could afford it fled to the countryside (carrying the plague with them), it was a voluntary act. Instinctively, even in the face of death, they prized their freedom, just as much as cats.

Well, more than one reader has accused me of “living in the past.” And as one particularly noted, I look back on the Black Death as to the good old days. But now, I fear, they will never come again.

Next year in Jerusalem

My Chief Leaside Correspondent quotes some wag in Twitter: “It’s going to be wild when the Arab Street becomes friendlier to Israel than the Western Left.”

But with my Chief Texas Correspondent I have been discussing some other strategic subtleties.

It will be wild, too, when Trump wins the in-person vote 63:37, but Biden wins the unprecedented mail-in vote 96:4, putting him slightly ahead in the aggregate. When Trump challenges the result, USA slides into civil war; and in the chaos, China takes Taiwan, Iran takes Iraq, and Russia invades Ukraine and the Baltics. Turkey then reclaims Greece, in the name of a reconstituted Ottoman Empire, and Spain (unsuccessfully) attacks Gibraltar. The European Union, of course, collapses, as Germany threatens England in return. Hezbollah will be pre-occupied by the ayatollahs’ proxy wars in Syria and Arabia; and Hamas busy with the terror-Islamization of Egypt. (I’m leaving out the many lesser tribal conflicts, including the nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan.)

That will leave Israel as the only place in the world enjoying a bit of peace and quiet. Gentle reader will want to make his bookings, now.

The fire this time

Angelo Codevilla takes an eagle flight over the Black Lives Matter riots, in his latest essay for the Claremont Review (here). Of course the cause I mention is only the one that is currently newsworthy; Codevilla looks back upon great riots of the past. And, while it was often a component, “racism,” as the slovenly define it, was never previously the banner. Were it defined more strictly, it would not be the cause even of slave revolts, for the idea of racial solidarity is historically recent. (I think the English invented it.)

“Us versus Them” is, however, a conflict that can be packaged in many different ways, which may seem ludicrous in retrospect, but when fresh could inspire riot, rapine, and murder. There has never been reasoning in a mob, as there has never been reticence in a tornado, though it tracks according to rules of a kind. One tornado is rather like another, and while none is sustainable, a tremendous carnage will be done while it lasts.

Later, when the sun comes out again, the victims pick up the pieces, often in despair. But they have nothing else to do. The wreckage might have permanently altered a landscape, once peacefully inhabited; whole cities have been altered, as if by a Great Fire. But with the sun again shining, the ruin seems unaccountable. It is time, as Christ says, for the dead to bury their dead.

Codevilla checks through an entertaining  list of revolutionists — “Pastoureaux, Flagellants, Cathars, Free Spirits, Ranters,” &c — none comprehensible until their causes are rewritten by the revisionists of another age. The targets of the time seemed plausible enough, once — enemies demonized by the devil, as it were — but are themselves transient features of history. For establishments change generationally, and who was up yesterday is down tomorrow. Families may endure, relatively, but members of a family don’t.

In most cases, we could see rebellion rising, but only after we had seen the result. In our own time, we can follow the rise of “virtue signalling,” from a long way off, but only now begin to realize its importance, as we see where it leads. But the “cosmic smugness” of the godless is nothing really new.

Millenarianism is Codevilla’s organizing principle — the sudden appearance of hordes demanding apocalyptic perfection, and naturally, claiming it for themselves. Plus, too, one needs a cynical political class, exclusively concerned with increasing their own power. The mobs, after all, don’t only need egging on. Oddly, they also need the cynics’ permission. Some will think of the rioters as their clients, until they find that they are first to go up against the wall. But they are not totalitarians, only cynics; whereas the successful revolutionary will be a totalitarian, en plein air, painting his canvas in blood and excrement.

An age which is capable of thinking that the Batflu could be stopped by political measures, is capable of thinking that political adjustments can prevent “the fire next time.” But we’ve had viciously evil mobs through history, as we have them now, and I do not doubt we will have them to come.

Curiously, the prescription of Stephen Leacock, the Canadian humourist — “mow them down to marmalade” — is the only police method with a chance of working. But as the French humourist, Louis Capet, observed, “pas d’argent, pas de Suisse.” Had he paid his Swiss Guards better, and given more intelligible orders, the French Revolution might never have happened. But then, had their wits been about them, the CCP’s virus would never have spread.

Our present worldview is that events are inevitable. We believe that, because we don’t believe in God. But if, for instance, Calvin had been beheaded, and Luther burnt at the stake, perhaps we wouldn’t have had a Reformation. By now it is too late to test this hypothesis, but when I think what chaos the Church had muddled through during the five previous centuries, I can’t see why she couldn’t have muddled through again. The same for the French monarchy, or conceivably, the Constitutional Republic to our south.

When you see mobs, it is time to put down your tea. For time is at a premium, and as Mrs Thatcher used to say, “this is no time to go wet.”