Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

Power plays

One of the more laughable claims for “democracy” is that it is government by the people. As I’ve mentioned before, perhaps too many times, it is rather government by the politicians. True, the masses — ever inchoate — have the luxury at intervals of tossing them out; of replacing one batch of politicians with another. This begets dangerous illusions. Occasionally, a demagogue arises who may seize power in a fluctuation of the public will. But he will have his own agenda, and the chance that a demagogue will restore timeless constitutional norms, thus free a people from under the weight of accumulated bureaucracy, is nil. That would dissipate his power. By overturning such checks and balances as stood against him, he will adapt society itself to his own preferred ideological ends.

This may sound the ranting of a political pessimist. It is. Too, I am a “cynic” in these matters, according to the common (and fallacious) definition of that word.

For their part, the people think well of “democracy” when they are able — beyond the usual Pavlovian adherence to such abstract propositions as “democracy” itself, “equality” and so forth — to calculate that they can get the best of the bargain. The majority assume they can get more benefits out of the system than they put resources in, and a minority assume that the majority can be bought off with their own money. The poor vote to “make the rich pay,” and the rich have accountants and lawyers. Massive public borrowing fills the inevitable gap.

Was this always so? Yes, though on a more modest scale. I find no historical record of government by saints (elected or unelected), and prefer monarchy by inheritance because it subverts the will to power, at least until a monarch goes rogue, forgetting his place in the Great Chain of Being. There is an art to ruling, and an art to being ruled as Wyndham Lewis suggested, and better to master arts and be ruled by ancestral custom than have everyone chafing. The ancient Greeks, and mediaeval Venetians, filled many offices by lot. I think this might also be recommended.

And there has always been a legitimate place for voting: where the polity is so small that electors and candidates are familiar with each other. Above the parish or ward scale, it is ripe for trickery, corruption, and abuse.

In a recent essay (here), Angelo Codevilla presents what I think the most coherent view of the revolution now unfolding in the Natted States. His trope of “elites versus people” has been taken up by many other writers, as an explanation for why La Trompe came to power. There is little in Codevilla’s essay I could contradict. I think it is largely true, and am myself on the populist side, for the moment. In the longer run I am on both sides. I share the elite’s view of the people, but too, the people’s view of the elite.

Again, as a spiritual monarchist, and Christian restorationist, who pines for the recovery of Catholic Christendom, I think the key constitutional challenge is to keep both “the people” and “the elites” away from power. With Codevilla and most, I require the consent of the ruled, in all their interests and factions, if for no other reason than to avoid combustions of violence. My only deviation is from the notion that democracy was ever likely to obtain this; or that any balance at all can be achieved without centuries of appeal to the divine.

As that is unlikely to begin in any foreseeable future, the fallback is “waiting on God.” No matter how confused and murderous the times, our hope can always be in a time beyond time, death, and even taxes, and the promise we’ve been given that it will arrive. In addition to our guns and our bibles, we should cling to this.

Fake everything

According to one estimate, two in five visitors to the Internet are now “bots.” The proportion is growing, quickly. Advertisers (has gentle reader noticed I have none?) sometimes complain about the multiplication of them. Unlike the backward old print media — that were banking up carbon in the world’s landfills to save us all from global warming — the Internet now conceals how many eyeballs they are reaching. Bots cloud and pad this information, that could once be guessed by checking print-runs and so forth. Bots are no use to these advertisers; only human consumers buy their goods. But bots can now fake clicks, mouse movements, logins, and do everything except place the orders, although they are starting to do that, too: fake purchases that result in real invoices to the human recipients of unwanted goods.

Something similar has been happening on the world’s stock exchanges. Markets shoot up and down, but thanks to machines working on algorithms, the buy and sell decisions are greatly magnified, or sometimes “microfied,” by these non-, or inhuman actors. There may be spikes and crashes that have nothing to do with demand or supply.

I refer to a dimension of fakery unique to our times, though as I often argue, there are other dimensions. In politics, administration, academia, media, the telling of “just so” stories — plausible but untrue — is among our oldest tricks. The lesser animals fake, as a means to survival; we tell lies for self-aggrandisement and sport. Power requires the manipulation of “perceptions.” Leaders need followers, and storytelling is used to keep them in line. Rivals must be slandered, to prevent people from considering alternatives. Guilt by association replaces reasoning. Still, I prefer the warmth of human falsehood to the intersteller coldness of machines; until the two modes combine in a conniption of science, technology, and moral evil.

Human motives lie behind them, but the bot contingents add what cannot be foreseen. While there will never be “artificial intelligence” in the sense provided by science fiction writers — machines capable of personal malice, or able to do more than mimic human consciousness — there will be, as there have always been, machines that go haywire. A fully-integrated, automated environment is, as it were, programmed for catastrophe. Charity, too, requires human overrides, and a system that cannot be shut down, then put back under human eyes and hands, is ultimately neither sane nor practical.

Bots, without the slightest intention in themselves, are nevertheless subverting this. We come to depend on them, as we have come to depend on government intervention to save us from ourselves. We lose, by increments, control of our own lives, and our facility for intelligent thinking. We no longer know what the bots are doing, for it is beyond the ability of any individual to comprehend who put them there, and why. We are travelling blind, through a very busy landscape, and will surely hit something we did not expect.

One of my proofs of a loving God, is in the provision of catastrophes, especially those man-made through lapses of prudence. We learn from experience. Or we don’t learn, in which case we have the benefit of catastrophe, again. One generation replaces another, and perhaps we never learn; but the potential is always there.

The bottom-up arrangement of distinctly human family, neighbourhood, custom, religion, remains as a return to the default position. The human soul can relocate itself, after it has strayed into no-man-land, by means of an innate cosmic “GPS.” All we need do is disable the false indicators. But with their multiplication, this becomes hard.

Indeed, we should be working on this all the time, as a balance to our technical innovations. We must keep coming home from work, in order to stay married to reality.

Merry Christmas

… and season’s meet-and-greetings to the grinch constituency. Yes, we might moan on about the commercialization of Christmas, and the increase of direct attacks upon it. Parkdale thugs have desecrated the statue of Our Lady in its little grove outside my church — again. A priest was patiently performing the restoration, as well as he could; he keeps all the necessary solvents in stock. Christmas seems to bring the little devils out. ’Tis their season to be spray-painting, and finding ways to disturb the Mass. The liberals do their bit in the media, on their more sophisticated level.

Lest I be tempted to fulfil my Christmas shopping obligations, I was sternly corrected for saying “Merry Christmas” to a shop clerk last week. I thanked her for the warning, by way of confusing her. Money’s hard to come by, why would I spend it there?

A stateside friend (link) was advised by an upscale saleswoman to buy a “quite adorable” tea set for a little boy. She expressed her preference for a cap pistol. … Another friend, observing a progressive household in which an incompletely degenderized lad had embarrassed his parents by interpreting a walking stick as a rifle, softly whispered to me, “My children have been fully armed since birth.” …

I’m not sure how far we get by affirming the contrary of everything we hear, but farther and farther with each passing year.

Still another friend pings a photo of some Moravian figurines upon a Scandihoovian-modern tabletop, over there in Zlín. They have been arranged to accent the Three Kings in procession, the last swinging his gift as if it were a censer. Cradle, herald, and a sheep, wait to receive them; but Mary and Joseph stand like dancers — twirling, their arms flung out — before a stylized manger. With the same familiar elements the crèche can be arranged in so many loving ways. And to the utter delight of innocent children.

No weapons in that scene, nor in any other presentation of the King of Kings, the seat of all power, come down to Earth as a defenceless baby. This paradox is hammered home in the Gospels. It will be incomprehensible to the world; thus it requires their repetition — that meekness should be the final reserve in a world at war, that is always at war.

Let the world be the world, waiting. Let it be as it has been, hardly knowing its Saviour has arrived. Let it be obtuse, unable to grasp its own contradictions and incongruities. Let it be corrected.

That redemption comes by a mother and a child: “Who’d have thought it?”

Only God would think of a paradox like that.

Intelligent or otherwise

It has been Science Week up here in the High Doganate (which quickly becomes “HD” in my correspondence with neo-conic sections of the American intelligentsia). My love of nature and biology as a child has not yet been killed off, and I enjoy frequent relapses into the starry-eyed condition I recall, when it seemed that each new animal or niche came as a revelation of Beauty and Design — words I have capitalized to increase the irritation. Being a science child made me the more an artsy child, and vice versa. And a polemicist: for how could men in their extraordinary surroundings expend their mature years in pursuit of glibness, and the task of explaining the inexplicable away?

Something like this growth experience happened across Western society, as we read through the histories of the empirical sciences. We find record of the recurring avalanche or landslide of natural discoveries; with behind or following each, a world stripped bare. Without fail, old areas of wonder and inspiration became new areas of aesthetic and spiritual famine. The process keeps repeating itself.

In Canada, for instance, one might almost date social conditions “BD,” and “AD,” for before and after Darwin. Before, natural history had been immensely popular among all classes privileged with free time, and immense collections were gathered of fossils, shells, leaves and flowers, butterflies and insects and every work of that Lord who was taken as their artist. Clubs were formed in every village, with hiking expeditions led by clergymen and others who took nature as a second sacred book, complementary to, and illustrative of, the Bible.

After Darwin, life came indoors. Natural history was largely spurned, or rather turned over to the specialists and lab-men of the science faculties. Society was turned towards popular entertainments, beginning around the family piano, then degenerating with the advances of technology. The child would have to discover nature for himself — but would soon be taught that it was boring. “Natural selection” and the “survival of the fittest” could reduce each remarkable creature from a design to a meaningless industrial process. That cows came from milk, or rather milk from cows, was someone else’s concern to the urban child, who had seen the one but not the other.

We need teachers and precursors, as I have argued passim, and I had the extraordinary good fortune to have as my guide in biology the Mr Henry I mentioned in a previous Idlepost (here). Indeed, these days, we need courageous as well as brilliant teachers, as Mr Henry showed, in later unemployment. Though neither noticeably Christian nor religious otherwise (except in his devotion to his subject), he embodied that pre-Darwinian enthusiasm, plus all that could be added through high-powered microscopes. He was also a very precise and honest draughtsman of all that he could see, down to slightly below the cellular level. Were he still alive he would be exploring the incredible cosmos we now find inside each cell — design within design within design.

Mr Henry was not a Darwinist, nor neo-Darwinist, nor anything but a seeker for truth. He had already been driven twelve thousand miles away by the academic establishment in his native land (USA), for though polite and modest, he did not conceal his non-evolutionary views. He had himself been awakened by the works of D’Arcy Thompson, the ingenious Scottish mathematician, classicist, and investigator of “intelligent design,” who had held Darwinism in contempt until the generation before.

I am myself still under Mr Henry’s influence, no more a subscriber to “intelligent design theory” than to the “random design theory” enforced in our academies and our courts by intellectual thugs and charlatans. The origin of our species will remain scientifically unknowable. That there was and is and will be Design, no intelligent observer can doubt, but the identity of the Agent (outside the universe we’re within) belongs to Faith. Apart from revelation, He can be known to the living only as He was in those days “BD,” and back to Aristotle, as the final, Final Cause.

*

[See also my Thing piece yesterday, here.]

On scientific materialism

In Heaven, of course, the journalists don’t make mistakes. Up there, I infer, paper is pricelessly expensive, so everything is composed in the writer’s mind beforehand, dictated then copied in the finest scribal hands. Sentence after sentence is hung with knowing craft and confidence, so the proofreaders need only read with admiration. Too, the choirs never do rehearsals.

I used to say things like this to a Marxist acquaintance, of the old school, with whom I shared a kitchen. We would compare utopias, I with recitations from the Horae Canonicae of W. H. Auden. When he in his turn sang of “scientific socialism,” I would accompany on my metaphysical hurdy-gurdy. A smell of smoke being in the air, I might comment that, “In the perfect world of scientific socialism, that toast would not have burnt.”

He was a Polish-descended mathematician, but with the surname Kaiser; of short stature, with wolfish hairy ears, matching grin, and strangely infernal eyes. I do not know which identifier he made least attractive. I do know he was the usufructuary of the house, in consequence of which I was soon evicted.

The eviction was so entertaining, I cannot resist a telling. It happened of a Friday evening, while he was screening Cuban movies for his comrades, in the living room downstairs. They were raucous in their frequent applause, and drinking a great deal of beer. The toilet being next to my room atop the stairs, the comrades kept choosing the wrong door. To help them select the right one, I painted a red hammer-and-sickle on a large card, but with a tilted thunder-box substituted for the hammer. This I attached to the correct door. On my own, the simple legend: “NOT the bog.”

There was a girl in my room, whom I was sheltering from the communists. She opined that I was doing an unwise thing. But I was quite headstrong in those days, and had barricaded the door.

Dr Kaiser, uttering obscenities on the other side, to the effect that I was an insolent person, summoned several of his mates, and was attempting to stove the door in. We inside were, by way of contrast, trying to pry open a window, with the intention of getting out.

Years later, I returned to the alley behind the house, to see if my memory had accurately reconstructed our escape. It had, and I was pleased with myself. How well I had recalled the precise path, along eave and trough to the roof of the kitchen extension. My girl-friend, an apprentice ballerina, did an elegant leap and roll from there. Mine was more awkward, and I was limping as we ran.

Perhaps gentle reader will wonder what became of my possessions. The room had come furnished, so I did not much care. Some battered books were recovered, by a friend of my friend, but they were few, and several were anyway leftist trash I had obtained only to refute. I did regret what the scientific materialists had done to both volumes of Schweitzer’s Bach, however.

Well, this is perhaps a trivial anecdote, but so are most, and at least it points a moral. Never taunt your enemies; especially when they are more numerous and have been drinking. I have tried to bear that in mind, ever since.

A draught

“No, you have to stop now, you’ve run out of space.”

This is a remark I make to myself each day I write an Idlepost, after filling both sides of a foolscap sheet, in the manner of the essayist, “Alain.” But unlike the author of Propos, I cheat. I fill the margins with insertions, especially missing connectives, and when I transcribe my little pieces into a computer, I revise and correct — sometimes even after they are posted. Let me blame the technology, for making this possible.

Yesterday’s Idlepost, for instance, was a foutoir, … une vaste blague, … or as we say in English, a dog’s breakfast. I came within a keystroke of deleting it several times, and was still trying to fix it the next day (i.e. this morning).

An honest man, like Émile-Auguste Chartier (whose Propos d’un Normand was appearing daily in La Dépêche de Rouen, a century ago), would not allow himself to revise one word, once he had written it down. These were “improvisations” after all. Imagine a piano player who repeatedly stops, to back up a few bars and try again. The manager of the bordello in which he is playing will soon replace him.

My hero Doctor Johnson, writing a Rambler essay while a courier waited, was asked by a house guest if he could read the paper before it was taken away. Johnson told him no. “I will not grant you a luxury I have not enjoyed myself.”

Deadlines are deadlines, but beyond them, it would be helpful if paper were a lot more expensive.

Such are my revisions while retyping into the (outrageously free) electronic aether that I cannot even be sure I haven’t shot over the space limit. I look at a sentence which seemed to mean something in script, but by the time I have sorted what I think that was, it has spread to a paragraph. I see it “in print” then realize that two paragraphs were needed; then spot discordant rhythms that have crept in. And that is before I find embarrassing mistakes in spelling and grammar.

But if God had meant me to get anything right on the first try, He would have endowed me with presence of mind. That He didn’t, I have numerous anecdotes to confirm.

Somerset Maugham, whom I could never read for more than one chapter, was memorably generous with writerly advice to the young hacks. As an old one, I still remember, “Spontaneity is what you add in the seventh draught.” At least, I think he said this (I am allergic to looking things up). And, “Only a mediocre writer is always at his best.” Bless the man, for giving me these comforts. But it would have been better to live without them.

In a recent Idlepost I regretted my constant failure to follow my own advice. If one is not on television, or Twitter, he has the opportunity to think first. I should make use of it.

But it could be worse, gentle reader. Were it not for the two-page rule, I might drone on forever. And if I weren’t revising, all the posts would be like this.

Chronicles of autopoiesis

Perhaps we should have a political party that opposes the Second Law of Thermodynamics — but openly, instead of covertly. We might call it the Anti-Entropy Party. Or perhaps we already have it, but it is called something else. It campaigns against a policy of the Universe that is tending towards the heat death of everything. I think the Third Law may also be on their hit list, together with the First, for the conservation of energy is terribly inconvenient, if not downright fascist. Too, the Zeroth Law; and the Fourth, as soon as we decide what that is. For a truly revolutionary party must be against all the laws of physics, which so far as I can see are uniformly sexist, racist, homophobic, and lacking in diversity. All are associated with white males.

Gentle reader might object that none of these laws can be abrogated, according to all experiments ever conducted, but that is to succumb to pessimism. Maybe they can’t be changed in physics, but in politics everything is possible. We need a leader who will roll up his sleeves and declare, like Obama, “Yes we can!”

Ranged against this Optimist Party, the Pessimist Party can only offer the slogan, “No we can’t.”

Pessimist parties easily lose elections. They are grinch parties that tell us all kinds of things are impossible. They stolidly maintain the Law of Non-Contradiction, the most backward-looking of all. Supporters of that tend to be narrowly mediaeval, scholastic and catholic, these days.

True, I am a reactionary myself — a lifetime partisan of the Pessimist Party, a fussy opponent to the opponents of “natural law,” and physical laws in all of their dimensions. I have often been told the reason we’re unpopular is that we are “the party of No.” A party that just says no, no, no to everything must necessarily lose elections. Those cheery Optimists are ever waiting in the wings, with their “can do” attitudes.

People want Hope, and that’s what the progressive factions are willing to give them. They want liberation from their oppressors, and what is more oppressive than Nature? We may not be able to overthrow this oppressor right away. It has ruled like an absolute monarch for a long time, through multitudes of conspiratorial networks.

But we must start somewhere. We must make a stand against reality, because if we don’t, reality will prevail.

Entropy would be the first target. The Second Law does more than prohibit our perpetual motion machines. It has suppressed a great deal of other promising technology. The full, glorious future not only of cold fusion, but of artificial intelligence, robots, and algorithms, cannot be fully realized, so long as it is in the way. People could live forever, were entropy not staring them down. Why are we being denied perpetual youth?

Why do we allow entropy to make everything, constantly, worse? For thanks to entropy, everything is always running down. In combination with the First Law of Thermodynamics, it is the ultimate killjoy. Rise up!

*

Now here is a thought, to give my fellow Pessimists nightmares. What if God is secretly opposed to entropy? Or even against death, which our best religious sources plainly suggest. What if He merely put up with entropy, while designing a material Universe constrained by what is possible, for purposes we do not completely understand? (They may be too obvious.) What if He even designed the constraints? And what if, considering it as a game, He devised a means to defeat entropy, or at least resist and give it a good run, actually from within the system? What would that be?

It would be where biology comes in. In at least one place in that Universe (here) living creatures “evolved,” or as I’d say were designed and created, from non-living matter, obeying all the laws of physics, somehow, but laughing at them, as it were. Then God made man, whose consciousness knocks mere plants and animals into a cocked hat.

And this, after having made something (the Universe) out of nothing, which was already playing it very fast and loose. For something instead of nothing is as anti-entropic as a policy can be.

Like trees, we are dragged down by gravity, but push instinctively the other way. Like dancers, we toy with our limitations. And in every corner of this Universe, that we are able to investigate, we glimpse Eternity: the whole thing serving as a metaphor of it.

Still, I think one must become a thoroughgoing Pessimist, to fully appreciate and properly embrace the cause of “pro-life.” I say this with some warmth, for I’ve noticed that, when things don’t work out for the Optimists, they wind up euthanizing themselves.

Spaemann

The combination of clarity and charity is rare enough in this world; add courage and a wonderful weapon is formed, on behalf of the right and the good. This was my impression of Robert Spaemann, the German radical Catholic philosopher, of whose death this week I just learnt. Be not mistaken about my use of that word “radical.” All true philosophers are so. They return again and again upon first principles — upon known and unalterable truths — and never let them out of view. This is the very thing that makes them tedious to undisciplined minds: their ability to hold focus.

“Ruthless charity” is a concept I have toyed with. The contradiction is superficial. It can be understood when we consider the quality of a great surgeon. His blade is attacking not the patient but the disease; the cancer, not what it has attached to; not the sinner but the sin, as it were. The intention is actually to save the patient, though it be at the unavoidable cost of pain. Spaemann’s investigations into the history of philosophy may first seem a series of assaults, yet what one acquires from each operation is greater respect for its subject. Even a thinker such as I abhor — let me give the example of David Hume — is provided with a context in which he has valuable things to say, and to qualify; perhaps even some beauty in the pattern of his thought.

This is not to be confused with “open-mindedness,” or the fake virtue of “tolerance.” There is no smarmy “live and let live.” Rather, the mission is to discover what may be of value to us, but lies concealed in our enemy’s possession. From its beginnings, Catholic philosophy has always raided the pagan in this way; and accorded to their best the honour they deserve.

In his recoveries and restatements of Catholic thought — always conscious of contemporary needs — Spaemann’s capacity for focus made him an exhilarating thinker in himself. In his accounts of Happiness and Benevolence (translated 2000), and on what constitutes Persons (translated 2006), he is among the permanent contributors to “anthropology” in the old sense (that could never be detached from morals).

With Spaemann’s close friend, Joseph Ratzinger, too, one touches what is so genuinely impressive and worthy in the German mind and tradition: an aspiration to precision and depth which does not lose sight of the humane. Both men, as explicators and interpreters of the Catholic faith, exemplify this fine German “attentiveness” (as I call it), even to an almost naïve kindliness towards all fellow teachers and scholars.

There was no vituperation towards the man Bergoglio, in any of Spaemann’s criticisms of Amoris Laetitia, and of the pope’s other schismatic writings, now roiling throughout the Church to the detriment of souls. For any Catholic, to criticize the pope — should he depart from Catholic teaching in a way that one can understand and articulate — is not so much a “right” as a duty. And Spaemann has been consistently dutiful, on matters which in the long view are more consequential than sex scandals, horrific as many of those have been. Sin is in passing, and can finally be absolved; Error is for keeps.

From the beginning, it was not the function of the Church to accommodate the world. Rather it is the world’s task, to accommodate the Church, and thus the Christ Who Is — its saviour. Spaemann was never confused on this, nor avoided any issue in cowardice. He was and will remain that sort of Churchman, who has things the right way around.

Of eggs & baskets

[Trigger warning: The entirety of this Doganpost was written in a bad mood.]

*

I had, when I moved into this place, a lovely globular wire egg basket, of the sort in which the French collect (or once collected) snails. It had a handle, and could be hung from a hook; and wire paws, to stop it rolling off a counter. Its one flaw was: too big. I acquire chicken eggs six at a time (though am often compelled to buy a full dozen); this basket could hold nearly twenty. Foolishly, I gave it away. Wire egg baskets used to be common in the flea markets. I expected to find another, soon.

Indefensible optimism on my part. I should have learnt: from my unwelcome habit of giving books away (to people I think ought to read them). What was once readily replaced, in the used bookstores, is no longer. Books may still be found for almost nothing, in bulk, but any specific book becomes a “rarity” to the Internet merchants, who will price it for “collectors,” after googling to find the highest amount an idiot ever paid for it. Then add “shipping.”

“They don’t make them like that, any more,” an elderly lady discovered, after giving away her last typewriter ribbon, some several years ago. (Beloved old stenographer who, refusing to be defeated, then mistress’d the art of respooling.)

We live in a time when hoarding is necessary. Of course, it has been identified as a compulsive disorder, by the same sort of people who have made it necessary.

Among the demands of Progress is that any provision against future want be obstructed, made illegal, or at the very least condemned. For the risk, from Twisted Nanny’s point of view, is that the desire may lead to independence of mind, and other “rigidly conservative” behaviour. “Democracy,” as currently understood, requires extremely low information and intelligence on the part of its supposed beneficiaries, and so the slightest manifestation of individual judgement points towards “antisocial” tendencies, such as trying to leap from the pot before the water is boiling.

This includes the use of a broad vocabulary, and instances of humour — indicators of racism, sexism, homophobia, and a three-figure IQ. The principle is the same as that imposed by modern supermarket packaging. A good citizen will never do startling things, such as transfer eggs from plastic foam cartons into wire baskets. The technology is now available to alert the authorities when eccentricities occur.

The municipality of “Beijing” (Peking in China) has introduced computerized filing, so that all information on inhabitants of the city can be coordinated, and each person ranked by obedience, for the purpose of doling out Twisted Nanny’s favours. Here in the West, that system is advancing through rules on recycling, and laws to enforce “environmental awareness.” One must not only buy eggs in a guvmint-regulated package, but dispose of that package in an approved way.

In many cities, garbage must now be placed in guvmint-issue transparent bags, to facilitate not only user fees and taxes, but guvmint inspection of what one discards. (There was a time when an accuser riffling through your refuse would himself be considered barely human trash; today he is given wages and a pension.) People accept this “for the good of the planet,” because they are intellectually retarded, and freedom means nothing to them.

Personal savings, or refusal to become indebted, is another target of the State. I could curl gentle reader’s ears with my own story of how I was driven into debilitating debt without ever having borrowed, by the openly malicious, compound operation of tax auditors, and “family law.” Most volunteer, however, to run up debt on their credit cards, and remortgage themselves periodically.

Others, more clever, are able to get rich by mounting their debts beyond the possibility of repayment, on the ancient principle that I have a problem if I owe a hundred dollars, but if it is a hundred million, the bank has a problem. Though I have met quite a few apparently wealthy persons in my adult life, the “apparent” qualification is necessary. I may never have encountered even one with net assets. (The State smiles on this, because it keeps the rich in line.)

The prospect of living modestly, earning one’s living honestly, and being left alone, has been methodically swept off the table. The history since when this was normal, lies on the floor like so many broken eggs.

The concealment

If one has ever looked for a lost sheep, or perhaps lost spectacles or lost fountain pen, one will be familiar with the sensation that it is hiding. But sheep seldom have that purpose, and household objects (arguably) never. In truth, one is looking in the wrong place. Nor may one conclude that the item has ceased to exist, from the fact that one cannot find it. Contemplation may soon yield the answer; or else it will enhance the mystery. How was I to guess that a mechanical pencil, without the capacity to disappear, but with the capacity to jab, had actually made a hole in the pocket of a jacket, and worked its way to the bottom of the lining? I condemned the pencil and not myself; I attributed volition when it stabbed me in the backside.

Science is at a loss to explain many a thing that could be easily explained, were it looking in the right place. The presumption that it must be somewhere else is the means of its concealment. In the example I gave, the knowledge that the sharp thing had been in my pocket was sufficient clue; by defect of intelligence, I read this clue wrongly.

The genius of Sherlock Holmes was not in the development of brilliant theories, but in his ability to ignore them; his refusal to be led astray. Likewise, the remarkable cosmological deductions of a Georges Lemaître (“Big Bang”), or of a Francis Crick (the “sequencing hypothesis” of 1957) came from spotting the obvious, then following it home. … (“Come and see!”)

The obvious lies concealed in a field of distractions. The quarry is, as it were, “hiding in plain view.” This is the secret, I was told by a detective novelist, to writing a detection novel. Start from the solution then add the distractions. The same method may be used in the construction of a joke. These are idle pursuits, but gentle reader must not expect me to condemn idleness.

God, I have sometimes reflected, is not hiding from us. We look for Him in all the wrong places (for instance, not in the Mass), often knowingly because, like Adam, we are hiding from Him. We blame Him for not being there, when He is standing right in front of us, silently and immovably. His presence could be known if we returned His gaze, but instead we are looking through and around it. Christ Himself will wait to be recognized, silently and patiently. He is not a screamer. Nor can He be “in the mood” to trick us, to sneak up and catch us out, for as we learn from the most reliable sources, he is not a trickster of that or any sort. Ask, and He will answer.

Now suppose one had the intention to trick, to conceal, to make Our Lord invisible to those genuinely in need of His assistance. In practice, this is easy. All one must supply, is distractions; to change the subject, as the seeker approaches; to raise a noisy protest, somewhere else. It seems to me the chief tactic of the Devil, in this or any age, is not to “deny Christ,” per se. That won’t work, for He is undeniable. Rather it is to keep him unseen, by putting ever more distractions in His way. By studying one’s customer, one learns which distractions he prefers.

The Devil and his agents can be stupid, as mediaeval man was aware. Their mistakes consist of becoming too cocky, too visible themselves; of slipping into a direct contest. This only contributes to Christ being seen. And when He is, the game is up for them. How many little devils have blown it in this way!

Vallis Hortensis

My campaign to assert the independence of Vallis Hortensis (better known as Parkdale) has yet to bear any fruit. But we must be patient in the work of centuries.

Parkdale naturally descended from the Village of Parkdale, located dangerously close to the sprawling and gluttonous City of Toronto. Before that, it was market garden, dairy pasturage and farmland, adapted to the heavy clay of our promontory, happily set to receive delicious Lake breezes.

An Indian portage, used over time by at least five distinct tribal “nations,” had once skirted our western side, and the French Fort Rouille marked the east, at the Lakeshore. We were a prosperous fur-trading outpost for the French and for the natives, from the 1600s. Alas, rather than surrender them to the British, the occupants torched their fine little bastion’d properties in 1759.

The fort’s first commandant having been Pierre Robineau, Chevalier de Portneuf, I suggested adapting his arms for our own anti-modern heraldry, but failed to get anyone’s attention. Ditto, I am sorry to say, with my proposal to recognize seventeen official languages, including French, Latin, and five dialects of Iroquoian (as a scheme to encumber our political busibodies).

I wrote “gluttonous,” and won’t take it back. The City annexed us in 1889, in its quest for Lebensraum, and bestial lust for cash cows.

Well managed, as it had been, by its Reeve and Council (low taxes, nary a deficit), the Village had provided itself with all necessary services (fire, water, gas, police, public health, schools, library, markets; churches including a huge, now-departed Methodist “cathedral”; charitable institutions such as the populous convent of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, now disappeared under welfare housing, &c). But it was filling up with too-visible mansions, owing to excessive wealth.

After annexation, these services were quickly merged into the urban bureaucracy and mostly gutted or removed. Property taxes were raised, to reflect the need to pay the parasite classes, and the decline from Toronto’s richest district to among Toronto’s poorest has been our more-or-less continuous story through the thirteen decades since.

But it is delightful to examine old photographs of the modestly glorious public, private, and ecclesiastical edifices that once decorated our municipality, the demolition of which, and replacement with buildings somewhere on the scale from mediocre to obscene, peaked around 1960.

As parliamentary constituency, Parkdale remained among Canada’s most fiercely Tory through the half-century after amalgamation, but with Liberal governments in Ottawa and the Province, and the usual commies at City Hall, it was eventually ground down. Today, it provides reliable voting fodder for the more advanced progressive factions, its residents trained to vote in fear that they might lose their pogey.

Now, to be reasonable, Parkdale is not such a special case. Similar things have been done to many thousands of small municipalities across Canada, Merica, Europe, which have similarly descended into squalor. “You can’t live in the past,” as the progressives say, you are only allowed to live in their present, and what will be worse, their future. No local government enjoys constitutional protection in this or any country but Switzerland, and therefore local government ceases to exist. Under “democracy,” the amount of say a citizen has in his own immediate environment approximates to zero. All planning is under the control of credentialled experts, themselves accountable only to the Devil.

The more reason we should look to the future. For as this world becomes uninhabitable, and we powerless to defend anything we love, we might as well focus on the world to come.

Nativity scenes

“The things that we love tell us what we are,” according to an aphorism of Saint Thomas Aquinas, flashed before me the other day, and in a public place. (Also: “Whatever is received is received according to the nature of the recipient.”) The simplicity of these sayings bespeaks their author, who was unlike the modern philosophers, who sneer at anything that can be understood.

And what we love, we can defend.

I love a crèche, even one that is rather tacky, though I draw a line to exclude those designed to subvert the Catholic faith, such as recent displays at Madame Tussaud’s, and in the Vatican. They were said by some to be “in bad taste,” but that is not my objection to them. It is inaccurate, because such displays are satanic, and in our continuing Age of Enlightenment, the satanic is fashionable. The idea of “taste” itself has been twisted, to reflect the “coolness” factor, which once was exactly what good taste rejected.

Perhaps this begins farther back, with a misunderstanding of Horace. He did not write, de gustibus non disputandum est, which was an older Latin adage. (“No accounting for taste” is the English parallel.) But if he had, he would have sung it mordantly; which is to say, with bite. The pagan Romans strike me as obsessed with good taste, and its correlatives. It was a decadence in them from the beginning, and it reveals their “inferiority complex” towards the artistically self-confident Greeks. From the earliest Christian art, through Baroque, to nativity scenes, the Catholics never suffered from this.

Saint Francis of Assisi would never have thought of it, when designing his crèche. The intention was to convey the “infancy narrative” in terms any child could understand. The plan is still working.

A Crucifix that looks like it will drip on your shoes: this is Catholic, and as an Anglican I sometimes thought such items a little “over the top.” But I’m not an Anglican any more. Verily, I have come to think that Christianity itself may be in bad taste, and that Christ showed this by his own dripping. It is in the worst possible taste to explain this, which is why I often try.

But again, taste comes only tangentially into the heads of the proprietors of shopping malls; if anything does get in there. They all had nativity scenes through Advent — their Christmas shopping season — until quite recently. These helped put people into the “Christmas spirit,” of reckless spending, reconfiguring guilt for doing bad things, to guilt for not buying enough stuff for your “loved ones.”

Today that is trumped by “the spirit of the age,” and businessmen will endanger their own sales statistics to conform with the coolness that the satanists demand. By the Catholic Herald I was just apprised of the latest ban in Scotland. Messrs Thistle Shopping Centre in Stirling “prides itself on being religious [stet] and politically neutral,” they announced, in having their crèche removed; a reminder that Pride is a mortal sin.

And Messrs Facebook blocked a picture of Santa Claus, kneeling at the crib of Baby Jesus, on the grounds that it was “violent or graphic content.” There is no accounting for sanity among such people. We are increasingly under the keystroke of Internet censors who are — if I may use a colloquial expression — batshit insane. Happily, they still get sporadic resistance; but not the more powerful and constantly escalating resistance that could put them out of business.

When a department store in this town cancelled the crèche in its most prominent display window — as quietly as it could, twenty years ago — a friend noticed, and wrote to the boss. When he received the usual slimy, boilerplate reply, he chopped up his “Hudson’s Bay” credit card, and mailed the pieces back. He was able to persuade many friends to do likewise.

I do not dispute the right of the capitalists to make their own corporate decisions. But we have the right to drive them into bankruptcy, and should use it more robustly.

Devices of enslavery

“Without acknowledging how pernicious and far-reaching liberalism’s reach really is, there is little hope for upending it.”

I love a man who will use the word “pernicious,” and not care who hears. Thus I love Richard Greenhorn and the other gentlemen (are there no ladies?) who contribute to the website, American Sun. Our reading today, for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, will be this one, here, forwarded to me by a priestlie correspondent this morning. I applaud this piece because it is just what I would say, were my talents and skills not so cruelly limited.

Many years ago, having returned to Greater Parkdale from fairly extensive travels, and having rented quarters, in Chinatown of course, I renewed acquaintance with several Canadian friends. They looked saddened when they visited these quarters. Unaware, perhaps, that I was then floating in Hong Kong paper gold, they noticed the absence of distractions. Within several weeks, not one but two television sets were delivered, semi-anonymously to my door. The halls being unlit in the evenings, I returned from fairly extensive drinking one night to injure myself over one of these. I hadn’t expected it to be blocking the entrance to my little suite. The problem of getting rid of first one large television set, and then another, was a puzzlement for weeks. Finally I decided to store one of them on a dresser, in the plainest view, so visitors in future could be persuaded that I already had an idiot box of my own.

Now, thirty-something years later, I gather the TVs are “improved.” While you are watching them, they are watching you. Indeed, I am told, even the toasters are tracking your movements, and will only stop if you minister to them with a sledge-hammer. Liberalism is far ahead of where it was in 1984.

“When we argue about liberalism, we are not arguing about politics per se. In the present context, we are arguing about the acquiescence to technical changes which ultimately go to the very definition of man.” (Greenhorn.)

A further motive, in offering the link, is to explain to several somewhat obtuse readers what I could mean by yesterday’s virulent attack on refrigerators. Especially the one who confessed that he loves his refrigerator, and added intemperately that he would never part with it.

A third, is to qualify my own aspirationally gallant attempts to advance the cause of Catholic Integralism. A fourth might be to extend my survey of the inevitable modern alternative to it: Twisted Nanny State.

Then what are we doing on the Internet, one might ask? Trying to be a Fifth Column.