Essays in Idleness


The third egg

Democratic politics, in moderate, “civilized” States, should offer a perpetual choice between the Big-Endian Party, and the Little-Endians. At least, this is the theory. Alas, this sensible arrangement has never lasted more than a minute, in the long hour of human history. And then it disintegrates, as it has again and again, just when it seemed to be getting established, in la République française, lo Stato italiano, La República Española, das Deutsche Reich, &c, &c. For, to vary the Swiftian metaphor (Jonathan’s, not Taylor’s), the history makers then contrive to make an omelette, into which Big-Endians and Little-Endians are smashed. This “third egg” is the first cracked one. The playing field or table having become somewhat tilted, all the eggs roll off.

Of course, no good has ever come of this.

Reading, this morning, about the general election that has been called in the United Kingdom, I understand the general despair of the British voter. Neither the Big-Endian nor the Little-Endian Party is electable, and “Labour” will win only because the “Conservatives” are currently in power (while the rest of Europe is switching to the right).

This is a serious problem with democracy. We can’t have an election in which both sides lose, and the pleasure, that would result, of no government at all. The Devil abhors a power vacuum, and someone always comes along to fill it; for after all, there are taxes to collect. And what about law and order? Who will take care of that?

It is best if politicians do not take care of anything important. God arranged the world to be self-governing, even when there is no government, as there is not among all the non-human creatures. Each has been inwardly programmed to know, at least approximately, what it is about, and then to go about, eating or being eaten. Animals and vegetables: there is food to go around! (I’m a particular fan of the mushrooms.) And humans have (in each individual case) a conscience installed, to guide their behaviour, although this still small divine voice can only be heard when we are listening.

Of course, there are also big- or little- administrative details, arising from the complexity of human affairs, but for this reason, we have Monarchy. It appears atop the natural aristocracy that forms when the people are left to their own devices. Unfortunately, it takes time to mature, and democracy keeps setting us back at the beginning.

The Matthew

Glancing at a photograph, of Her Late Majesty and Prince Philip, being welcomed at Bonavista, Newfoundland, a quarter-century ago: one is surprised by the passage of time. They are in turn welcoming the Matthew, a replica of the little ship that brought John Cabot and eighteen sailors this way, precisely five hundred years before. She — unmistakeable with high sterncastle and three tall masts — had just made the Atlantic crossing, through the winds and the combers, from her re-assembly by naval carpenters in her home port of Bristol.

And now, 527 years have passed. Henry VII (Tudor) is no longer on the throne. Charles III (Windsor) has now replaced him. The replica Matthew is already rotting away.

The fishermen and traders of the Bristol Channel, and also the adventurous Basque mariners, had probably floated over the Grand Banks a generation earlier; and the Norsemen, we now know, came across a half-millennium before them. Cabot preceded Jacques Cartier by thirty-seven years. God alone knows the exact, true order, and the location of the first landfall in Newfoundland or elsewhere, but He does not fuss with the number of hairs on a man’s head, nor the minutiae of historical sequence.

It is only men who care, and will make war to dispute a priority. We are a savage lot, and continue to be savages to the present day, except where some elevated doctrine (such as the peaceful Christian) has checked our behaviour. And then we fish, and celebrate.

How marvellous it was, to be greeted by the Queen, and not by a wretched, self-serving politician.

Fête de la Reigne

Canadians, and subjects in the other fourteen British realms, remain disturbed and in shock at the most gender-bending event in our modern history. For, since September 2022, our beloved Queen has been replaced by a man. It is now the second “Victoria Day” since this appalling event occurred, and as I must use his preferred pronoun, His Majesty has begun to appear even on our (base-metal) coins — although not yet on our more valuable paper currency. Were it not for our incompetent bureaucracy, all continuity might have been lost.

The original Fête was meant to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birth, which actually happened on 24th May 1819, although Canadian politicians had tampered with this date to make it fall more “conveniently” on a Monday. (God rest their souls deep in forgetfulness.) Elizabeth II reigned for more than seventy years, Victoria for a mere sixty-three (despite an earlier start). We may hope Charles III will reign forever, but it would be more appropriate if he had not changed his sex. Of course, the royal ideologues insist, he was always a man, and I will observe they have a biological point. But all my life, and that of most others who were born within British North America, we have had a Queen. I cannot get used to so much “chopping and changing,” as a certain close relative used to complain.

Convenience is tyranny

If there is one advantage of private over public tyranny — arguably — it is that private tyrants need only be obeyed voluntarily. The State, in its august moderation, writes laws to prevent private agents from acts of theft, for instance, reserving this right exclusively to government agents. But as “the peeple” are generally willing to be robbed by the tyrants of “capitalism” — in return for goods and services that will be exposed as worthless the moment they try to sell them again — the difference disappears.

Convenience is the primary tool of tyrants. They use it even when it is not strictly necessary, for instance, in withholding taxes on wages, which conveniently strip the citizen of his income. They might, as in the past, compel him to put his wealth into heavy commodities and lug them to the tax office. But under democracy, convenience prevails.

Recently, wearing ludicrous masks and maintaining a fathom’s distance from one’s neighbour, was the convenience enforced by “public health” — against a gain-of-function virus that was launched, conveniently in China.

But in civil, profane life, convenience is what makes the sale. “Convenience stores” pockmark the urban landscape, and “consumer credit” relieves the customer of having to awkwardly surrender his cash. The children who are marching for Hamas, currently, have no idea what things cost. They have been raised in the “credit” (and debit) culture in which someone else always does the math.

Convenience is the tyrant’s soporific. It is what bureaucracies (public and private) are created to advance. The freedom-loving man, by contrast, welcomes inconvenience, and whenever he is not prevented, does things for himself.

Deeper fakes

If you were planning to vote in “the world’s largest democracy” — a.k.a. “the Republic of India” — you might be following an “avatar” of one of the major parties. The Indian political scene has now slightly evolved from the standard we were accustomed to, in the United States, where dead people have long filled the voters’ rolls (though I expect the U.S. will catch up shortly). For in India, the actual candidate may be dead, or the “influencer” speaking for him may have perished — some time ago. A certain “Duwaraka,” for instance — the young daughter of a Tamil Tiger chief, who died in an airstrike back in 2009 — now reappears as an articulate middle-aged lady in Tamil election videos. Prominent politicians, not previously noted for their musical or bunny-hopping skills, adeptly sing and dance (and in athletic costumes); and there are other surprising achievements.

These are all current features of “artificial intelligence,” reported to the Beeb. I have elsewhere read commentaries on the “brave new world” that AI has made possible.

But really, one need only look at the performances of Justin Trudeau, or Joe Biden — two  miracles of the older technology — to see that democracy is not especially threatened. For these and other men (and women!) were also avatars, probably from birth, created by expert political projectionists. Only the naïve could think that they were tangible.

The new, entirely electronic avatars are only slightly more sophisticated than the old ones they replace. They bring just a little bit of technical progress to our governing estates.


Economics, at its best a non-partisan game, or “science,” is not the same thing as capitalism, although the extremely ignorant confuse these terms. Capitalism is an ideology, like socialism or communism. Whereas economics simply tells you, “If you do this, the market will do that,” everything else being equal (which it never is). But even when everything else is unequal, it still gives better results than any ideology.

The world builds skyscrapers, from what it imagines are economic motives. Minarets, pagodas, and campaniles need not pretend to be profane, but the Burj Khalifa or the Shanghai Tower pretend. They are, of course, also impractical, but their designers assume they will make money, which they might do in our spiritual Disneyland.

Across Humber Bay from the High Doganate I have had the dubious pleasure of watching a pseudo-Manhattan rise in formerly smalltown Mimico. It consists exclusively of vertiginous apartment blocks, without businesses, and provides a “sleeper suburb” for Toronto. Aesthetically, it is impressive, the farther away you stand. At the typical reader’s distance, it must be quite beautiful.

When the electricity cuts out, after the next Carrington Event, the latest inmates of Mimico and the office blocks downtown will get good exercise walking up and down from the 40th floor, and across town looking for food. But this may come to seem the least of their troubles. For unlike snails, or cockroaches, blockbuster real estate projects cannot adapt; and their corpses are very large and inconvenient.

This is being discovered in the United States at the moment. Huge skyscrapers are hitting the second-hand market at a reduced price. I was just reading about the 44-storey “AT&T Centre” in St Louis, which sold for more than $200 million when new in 2006. With the AT&T decals removed, it has resold for $3.6 million. That’s more than forty flights down. The Chinese property market has done somehow worse, and I look forward to the prices in the Mimico “clearance sale.”

But why should we expect such sites to be cleared? For what will the land underneath these giants be worth, when the worldlings come to their senses, and decide they don’t want new skyscrapers any more?

Being right

The problem for Galileo, so far as it was theological, was that the earth is not in heaven. This it would be, by the mediaeval model, if the sun were put at the centre of the universe, as the Copernican arithmetic seemed to indicate. But in contemporary Ptolemaic cosmology, the earth, being at the centre, was the farthest one could be from heaven. It did not participate in the dance of the spheres, and so, could not hear the music.

Of course, it turned out Copernicus, the Catholic canon, was wrong, along with everyone else. For the sun is not stationary, either, even though the wonderful aurora displays over the weekend made us think twice.

Can you believe it? That the earth is revolving around the sun?

“I will not believe that there is such a demonstration, until it is shown me,” said Cardinal Bellarmine, quite typically. This brilliant Counter-Reformation cleric got bad press out of the Galileo affair, even though he judged carefully. (The Protestants up north were much less cautious in condemning heliocentricity.) He thought that scripture and the better homiletic passages, along with common sense, seemed to endorse the Ptolemaic model. For it sure looked like the sun was rising every morning. But one must be circumspect about such things.

We now know that the professoriate were Galileo’s real enemy; not the Church. They were narrowly Aristotelian (instead of broadly Aristotelian, like Thomas Aquinas) and quite censorious. Aristotle was “settled science” for them, and Aristotle wasn’t a heliocentrist. Galileo had too much enjoyed defying “settled science,” and twitting the professors at Padua. They wanted him punished “as an asshole,” and Church officials were persuaded to play along.

There are Galileos in every science, always, and like their original, they generally jump the gun. I appreciate the “zen” Galileo, patiently polishing lenses for his telescopes, rather than the alarming controversialist looking for trouble. But the real hero of the Galileo affair (according to me) was Robert Bellarmine, then, perhaps, the most learned man in Italy. He subscribed to truth, at every level, and at all times.

Prog cons

Ontario is governed by a party that calls itself the “Progressive Conservatives,” and has a peculiar Canadian national history. The title is rather appropriate, however, even in a philosophical sense. It helps explain why I hate the current “Ford” party almost as much as I hate the Liberals and the N-D-Pee. (Of course, it is not humanly possible to hate them equally.)

The word “progressive” is not absolutely decisive here. I am a Reactionary and a Traditionalist — as readers may have guessed by now — and neither a progressive nor a conservative, except that I use that latter word colloquially, sometimes, to mean “reactionary” and “traditionalist.” The philosophical distinction was neatly made by Karl Mannheim, and others.

Indeed, the word “conservative” was a modern invention, made by that delicious Frenchman, François-René de Chateaubriand (who came from Saint-Malo, the way Canada did). In the early XIXth century, he launched a journalistic movement for the restoration of French civilization. It was a political movement, in opposition to what we would now call the progressive revolutionary movement. The word, “conservative” caught on, first in Germany and then in England, in the mid-1830s.

Now Chateaubriand, who wrote a magnificent, romantic defence of Christianity, may be recommended to the reader who is getting tired of C. S. Lewis, though it will help if he reads French. He will be taught that catholicism is not anything “mere.”

But back to Mannheim, the movement of conservatism is what marks it as an exception from instinctive traditionalism, “the original reaction to deliberate reforming tendencies … bound up with magical elements of consciousness.” In other words, traditionalism is not a movement. It is as old as time, and essentially undefeatable. The most revolutionary characters are (typically) set in their ways; they are only stimulated by “the programme.” Paradoxically, the political conservative will often be progressive in his private life.

The secret of tradition is those “magical” things, which the progressive is always jawing against. The most humans can achieve, individually or collectively, is a trade-off. Something worth keeping must always be sacrificed. The idea of progress is that of continuous, accumulating good, without trade-offs. It is an example of the fallacy of perpetual motion.


“There is a great deal of suicide in a nation,” said Adam Smith of General Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga. I paraphrase. In fact, the ur-economist had just been told that the United Kingdom was ruined, not that it had committed suicide; for there had been no intention to beget the United States. There was “a great deal of ruin” in the homeland, Smith said, at which he then sniffed. After all, the British hadn’t finished acquiring India, yet. But the Whigs — and I hate them yesterday as today — had generally settled on a policy of self-destruction, varied with romantic, Imperial arrogance. They might be compared to an over-dramatic teenager, who attempts suicide a few times before she finally gets it right. It took Britain until the XXth century to elect socialists, and finally do herself in.

Adam Smith was, intellectually, a “liberal”; but a fiery Scotch moralist under the skin. Nothing wrong with that; liberals (unlike Whigs, the prototype Leftists) tend to be thoughtful, convivial people, who avoid making scenes. But no empire is won or lost because of their advice. The perfect liberal is a benevolent cricket umpire, I once thought, while he ignored my l.b.w.

“Play up! play up! and play the game!” is the contrary advice of the “Vitai Lampada.” To take one’s knocks, and one’s outs, and even the existential defeats with tranquil serenity, is not even slightly in conflict with this. In Mr. Smith’s drollness I detect the glimmer of the true Tory lightening rod. That’s why I still condescend to read him.


“Here is the Church, here is the Steeple,” my maternal grandmother would say to me, illustrating her thesis with manoeuvres of her clasped hands. … “Open the door, and there’s all the People!” … It was my first instruction in Church history, which, I soon learnt, must overlap with world history. But whereas the Church is unipolar, focusing its prayers on the one God; the world, by contrast, has multiple poles. Or, to simplify, it is bi-polar, in relation to the divine; half pointed this way and half the other.

Shrinks used the term to replace manic-depressive, out of a desire not to moralize. But, penetrating the skull scientifically, we have discovered there are right and left hemispheres, not only in every human cranium, but in those of many animals, too. (The reader should consult Iain McGilchrist — somewhat Scottish, just like my grandmother. You will find him all over the Internet, even if you are not looking.)

But I am curious this morning about another form of bi-polarity, that between Russia and America. Of course, the full, wide world is multi-polar, as we might imagine a person who had nuclear weapons, and was very, very, very, mad.

We have perhaps had “nukes” over-explained to us, although they remain, as it were, over our heads. The modern, high-tech, progressive, hydrogen, thermonuclear weapon is a miracle of sophisticated engineering and design. It combusts by fusion, a big improvement over the fission bomb that was good enough for Hiroshima. Indeed the latest thermonuclear bombs, though of smaller, more convenient size, can blow up on many times the scale.

And, they don’t spread radiation nearly as much as the old-fashioned A-bombs. Properly detonated, a little above the ground, they don’t produce fallout at all — although that danger was overstated. (You can walk right through Hiroshima with a Geiger-counter, less than a century after that blast, and you won’t get any reading at all.)

On the other hand, the new, improved nuke can obliterate most of a large city, and vaporize millions.

Will Putin use nuclear weapons when he finds himself bungling the war in Ukraine? For, he is hampered by munitions sent from Biden, and we know he is impatient. As any Democrat could tell you, he must really want Trump to win the next election.

He could interfere, by ordering surprise strikes against the United States, with those hypersonic missiles he’s been boasting about. He need not fear retaliation while the American command is distracted by gender issues, and Biden, who is senile, has probably lost the codes.

The electoral balance reflects urban-rural divisions. Regardless of State, if the County is urban, it is Democrat for sure. If rural, it is probably Republican. By targeting only big American cities, Putin could alter election results. Trump would now almost certainly win.

Arians, under every bed

One of the faults of the gentleman who writes these Idleposts might be described as “mental slippage” — a phenomenon that leaves him absent from the place he should mentally be. Indeed, “Mister Worn” wrote knowingly himself about “absent mindedness,” when he was younger: that it is the result not of acting without thinking, but of attempting the simplest tasks through cluttering and distracting conscious thought. (They are meant to be done unconsciously.) This author’s condition was somewhat aggravated by the stroke that turned him not quite into a vegetable, three years ago. (My friends insist charitably that I’m now “ninety-six percent,” so I shouldn’t claim to be more than twenty-four parts “a greenie” in every twenty-five.)

Example: when making my little mention of Athanasius, Thursday, I entirely forgot the point I was going to make about him on his feast day. He was, as I did mention, the scourge of the Arian heretics, but more, he is our contemporary. Now, this is not often said of an Ante-Nicene Father, but Athanasius was too large to fit entirely into the IVth century. He grasps the whole point of Arianism and, as it were, runs with it.

Arius taught that Christ was not Very God, not the Godhead of the Word, but just a man, only higher in grace than most, if not all, others. He was saying just what sympathetic non-Christians say today, that Jesus was, memorably, very good. We should try to emulate Him, they sort-of believe. In other words, we may “honour” him, even though he is absolutely bonkers, and a liar, and a fraud, who could not have risen from the dead. This is the immortal heresy, of the perpetually modern.

For if Christ was not God, He was instead rather silly, and we should be doing whatever most appeals. We, thanks to evolution and democracy, may distinguish right from wrong. This is the Arian principle on which every moderate liberal lives today — while saying nice, cluttering things about Our Saviour.

Contra mundum

Athanasius the Apostolic (as he has been to the Copts of Alexandria, since the IVth century, when he was intermittently the Coptic pope) took on the Arians, including Arius, the Egyptian heretic, directly. It was not merely an Egyptian affair — although Egypt was in the middle of Christendom in those days. For Athanasius also fought with Roman emperors, from Constantine to Valens, in defence of Christianity, plain and catholic. Intermittently, he was removed from office and kicked out of Alexander’s town, but there was no shutting him up. Attempts to kill him always failed.

We (Dogans) remember him today (literally) because the creed he advanced still has meaning. Catholic Christianity is the same as Nicene Christianity, sixteen-and-a-half centuries later. The Trinity, and the divine identity of Jesus, were the truths that Athanasius contrived to make clear. He maintained these orthodoxies, contra mundum, and is one of our most formidable proofs that, sometimes, the world loses.

To follow the “Proper of the Saints” daily is to take in Catholicism in her breadth. It is to be, at least in aspiration, a little Athanasius, from yesterday until tomorrow. It is how one learns to be a proper irritant to the heretics one encounters. For our religion isn’t narrow, and we will not make it narrow to please them. It was perhaps in his frequent displacements from the See of Alexandria that Athanasius acquired his familiarity with the wide world, and with the monks of the Egyptian desert, including Anthony the Great.

He was smeared by the Arians, over and over; their mud naturally targeted Athanasius, for he never moved. But Pope Julius in Rome, and Holy Church, eventually washed it away.

Lying in debate

One cannot lie in a debate. Or, to put it the other way, one cannot debate with a liar. This elementary fact (or “principle,” sounds nicer) seems not to have been put at the disposal of students in any college or post-graduate setting in the time since I (arguably) grew up. True, one might argue that Biden or Trump is a liar, but this will be meaningless in a forum where everyone is lying. At most, one may distinguish the smaller from the bigger lies, and “bullshit” (as Harry G. Frankfort defines it) from the more obvious forms of deceit.

This, to my mind, is what honesty has been replaced by, in journalism and all the other occupations where the impartiality of truthfulness was once prized. “Fairness” has become the new standard. If a statement undercuts both sides, it may be presented as “fair,” though of course it will not be. But the advantage, to the lazy falsifier, is that an apparent balance requires little effort, and no knowledge of the subject. For the knowledgeable exhibit bias, after all. They are, like Aristotle, “masters of those who know.” They are imbalanced; they take sides. Only the ignorant escape special pleading for the truth.

I have noticed this phenomenon (universal lying) more clearly as I try to keep up with current events. We cannot defeat “Communists” and “Leftists” (and “Islamists” and dispensers of “smelly little orthodoxies” of many other kinds), because they make up facts to benefit themselves. But more, the universality of lying creates a background against which any truth must vie. Our leading sceptics deny that we can even distinguish a truthful pattern. This makes them systematically dishonest.

Perhaps I exaggerate — one of the more innocent forms of lying? Perhaps, even today, it is possible to speak the truth. This could be done with much effort, and real courage, like Hercules shifting the Augean pile; a necessarily heroic act. For the human mind was usefully endowed with a mysterious ability to detect reality: a “nose for the news,” as it were.

It can tell when the mephitic smell has lifted.