Essays in Idleness


Laetatus sum

The seventy-first is a good, or memorable, birthday, for it is the point when most men (who are just like me) realize, “I am now an old man.” The point was perhaps overlooked previously, because “three score and ten” suggests, Biblically and often medically, that death is imminent; that one’s assigned days have lapsed. (“Come in, number twenty-nine, your time is up.”) But by seventy-one, he has absorbed that trauma, and is in a better position to “lift up eyes to Him that dwelleth in heaven.” For the date or year of one’s death can only be of interest to historians, insurance salesmen, and tax collectors. When a thousand years have passed, and vexation is over, surely the immortal soul loses interest in “vital statistics.”

I think back to when the numerals were reversed — when I was seventeen and not seventy-one — and thanks to Julian, dear surviving friend, I’ve been given a photograph of myself with the other five tenants of “45 Soi Phet” in 1970. We are all young, especially wee “Bu,” who was then only two, and mischievously trying to squeeze out of the frame. I stare at this picture, which seems to preserve a mythic time, unreachable by the common. Yet I could return to it, as if subsequent history had been a dream. I am slain by nostalgia.

The sense of loss comes with this world, and continues until, eventually, even the sense of loss is lost. The dead will bury their dead.


Sir Alister Hardy, famous as a marine biologist, was instead a great camoufleur. A young man, he wanted to continue his schooling, on the eve of the Great War, but instead volunteered and was enlisted in the camouflage directorate. It was where the authorities sent their artists, who would be nothing but trouble elsewhere. And it was a way for the artist to continue developing his skills as a painter, rather than as a shooter or bomber (although these also require skill).

The term could be extended beyond the battlefield, I think, into art and science. A camoufleur pretends to be a scientist, while joyfully painting things. Or, he pretends to be an artist, while contriving to be systematically uninventive.

Sir Alister coloured my childhood through two nature books, on The Open Sea. The first was on The World of Plankton and the second on Fish and Fisheries. His illustrations were aberrant for scientific work: for, borne on boats like the Discovery, and dredging the deep, he painted his subjects before their colours had faded, and the wink of life was still on them. He thus captured qualities that no photographer has ever captured. But his prose is “camoufleur,” too: technically correct, but with the breath of poetry whispering.

Marine biology has made dramatic improvements in the years since the IGY (approximately when these books were published), but at the microscopic, “genetic,” sub-cellular levels. At the visual, his work remains precise and explanatory, and in its kind, complete.

It is a wonderful illustration of how science never goes out-of-date, so far as it can be confused with art. The same goes for utile diagrams in all ages. Mr Henry, my biology teacher, demonstrated this with coloured chalks, on the board in the Bangkok Patana school. He cared only for scientific accuracy, but as he obtained it, he obtained art.

The creatures of this world camouflage their physiology with expressions of being. Except, it is not expression. It just is, and they just are.

The Luddite’s dilemma

Chancing upon the Unabomber’s cabin, while visiting Lincoln, Montana (on my Internet screen), I had a look inside. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, a mathematics prodigy and a domestic terrorist, committed his last murder in June at the ADX Florence (a “supermax” security prison in Colorado). It was a self-murder (selbstmord, as the Germans say). Before going to gaol, he had a 35,000-word essay entitled “Industrial Society and its Future,” which the Washington Post published in 1995 (with the official encouragement of Janet Reno). I went to some trouble to obtain that number of the Post, at the time.

As I recall, it was a reasonably coherent exposition of the Luddite’s doctrinal position, or “ecofascist” as its opponents now say, though it left this reader wondering: Why did he kill people by mailing them bombs? The flaw here was that these targets were specific individuals, not gratuitously slaughtered while demolishing their machines. Even Kaczynski himself seemed aware of this contradiction.

But it is while looking around his cabin, off the Stemple Pass Road in the woods to the south of Lincoln, that we feel the weight of this dilemma.

There was no expressive spontaneity in the Unabomber’s acts, for he required much research and preparation. While I was delighted to see a Latin schoolbook, several paperback translations of Tacitus, and a mediaeval history on his shelves, they groaned not from books but with his matériel as a bomber. He erred, not in his declensions, but in his partiality for cybernetic and technological means.

No proper Luddite will embrace mechanical methods to such a degree. The beauty of Ludditism should consist in the destruction of sophisticated machinery with unsophisticated gear (and the disabling of the machines, not the people — but then, I am a stickler). The mission is to advance a pastoral cause, not to systematically extend the frontiers of “urbanity.”

Given this dilemma, one wonders whether the young counter-revolutionary should consider becoming a Luddite at all.

Electronic materialism

It is a minor point, like many I am inclined to insist upon, but my chief criticism of the Internet, and “cyberspace,” has to do with its materialism. By this I don’t mean the omnipresent advertising that brings filth and dirt into one’s life whenever the World Wide Web is consulted. Yes, it is appalling; but the excuses made for it are, if possible, rather more appalling. (They make the service “accessible to the poor,” who will be the most harmed by it.) There is such a crass display of sensuality, carnality, avarice, that one might argue it gives moral protection, by making these things more repugnant.

The opposition in our culture, between “the material” (rhetorically bad), and “the spiritual” (rhetorically good), dating in some respects to the early Nominalists and thus even before my enemy Descartes, is at the root of many errors about the constituency of both. The human, for instance, with body and soul, is our primary example of “one person,” necessarily including both of these elements, that cannot be separated unless by the mechanism of death. (Yet even then, we are promised a new body.)

Even the bats that fly through the planet’s hollow interiors have this human-like individual unity, and even the rolling stone has gravity for an aunt. This last may not have free will — even the bed bug seems to have a minute quantity — but it doesn’t need any. When freed from his aunt, the stone can participate in the dance of the superlunary spheres. The stars, however, may have free will, and mobility, too, by their solar jets, flares, and coronal ejections. They elegantly dance to the cosmic music, whereas, in the sublunary space down here, our dancing is so shamefully awkward.

The tyrannical doctrine of materialism extends through all of our electronic media, via the (false) art of “virtuality.” The difference between a Virtual Thing and a Real Thing goes back to that conflict between the scholastic philosophers (Nominalists v. Realists), then off-road down an unmarked byway.

One is not “spiritual” and the other “material.” Both are merely temporal.

Throwing rocks

Saint Stephen was our protomartyr, but since his time, Christians and friends have made popular targets for low-tech missiles — for stonings, riotings, maimings, and theatres of broken glass. Rocket propellant has also been used plentifully, by e.g. Hamas. They use missiles as the equivalent of rocks, aimed inexactly, but launched in the general direction of their fellow Semites. (Today, one thinks of the freshly shattered windows in Toronto’s Kehillat Shaarei Torah orthodox synagogue, but there are thousands of such incidents.)

It’s not just Muslims, as I discovered a world ago, while living in London in the (nineteen) ‘seventies. I was reactionary, even then, but resident in a part of Vauxhall (Wilcox Road) appropriate to my income, and thus surrounded by “young people” — with some of whom I got along well. Others were Commies and Pinkos, however. They were a drug-addled set — vile, boorish, malodorous, menacing — whom I usually tried to avoid.

Alas, I discovered soon after 11 February 1975, that I could fit my large poster of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (the new Conservative leader) only in my front window. It wouldn’t fit elsewhere. (The lady’s stare was disconcerting.)

Towards two in the morning I heard the disharmony of splintering glass. One or more of my neighbours had broken my front window, and the rocks with which he (or pronoun, “they”) had done this had settled on the floor inside my little parlour. The poster, that had been taped to the inside of the window, was entirely removed.

Ah well, I already knew about leftists, who are the same in England as everywhere else, and it was, I suppose, my fault for teasing. It cost me four pounds ninety new pence to buy a replacement pane; and considerable inconvenience, for I was not a proficient glazier.

One would think I had “learned my lesson” (the Left teaches exclusively by intimidation), for as long as I continued to inhabit that beautiful old workman’s cottage. But anticipating the American Bicentennial, I created a montage for my front window, consisting of the “Union Jack” and the “Old Glory” intertwined, with this message scrolled underneath: “O! say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet Wave!” It was posted for the Fourth of July.

About 2 a.m. the very next morning I again heard the tinkle of glass shards. Unfortunately, I had fallen asleep, so was unable to “defend Baltimore,” as it were, though I did get a glimpse of the destructive party.

It cost me more than twelve pounds to replace the pane this time (raging inflation). I now began to understand “the wisdom of the Left”: which makes free only with other people’s property.

Spirited fugue

Coleridge, I think his name was, spoke of his books speaking back to him from the shelves, and their spines winking as so many signal boxes; Swift had them flying about the room, and wrestling with each other in the prologomena to his Tale of a Tub. Swift was being satirical, as the perfessers generally agree, whether he was being satirical or not; Coleridge, as his critics argue, was, when he was not on drugs, a madman.

He was, after all, in favour of the Atlantic slave trade, or rather he wasn’t, but it was made to look that way. For it brought inhabitants of the darkest jungles of West Africa into the vicinity of Christian redemption and, even if it hadn’t, the French would probably still be taking slaves. This kind of reasoning is only attempted by (Christianized, reactionary) blacks, these days; whites find other things to talk about.

But I am concerned not with slaves, which get too much publicity for their lack of numbers in these parts, but with books, particularly wingéd books, which fly off the shelves. For the truth is, Coleridge’s books were also capable of flight — spiritual fugue, not physical levitation — and he communed with them even when he was not reading.

This is a function of books in a library that has been discounted in modern times, beginning with the invention of cheap paperbacks. As a proper lady of my acquaintance comments, “Books furbish a room.” (She was once employed as an interior designer.) Indeed, the choicest sort of intellectual pretenders (“influencers”) also take this approach, and they collect books you cannot argue with, any more than you could argue with them.

An old-fashioned, thus unfashionable library is, nevertheless, a nice place to live. Cicero recommended that we inhabit a library, in a garden; I would add a kitchen to the equipage. The books will become wingéd only after you have begun to commune with them, but they have this immediate advantage. For as long as they are allowed to decorate your interior, you may read them, and look things up.

The good stabbing

What do you do, when a man with a knife approaches you, while you are conducting an online Mass in Sydney, Australia?

This problem in modern etiquette confronted the Assyrian bishop, Mar Mari Emmanuel, while delivering his homily in church, Monday. Quick to respond, he flashed a Crucifix at the young Muslim, directly. This, presumably, caused a defect in his spring-loaded blade. The assailant nevertheless managed to repeatedly stab the bishop, a younger priest, and several parishioners who came forward to help them; but thanks, perhaps, to the divine intervention, no one was killed.

In hospital later, the bishop (who is known to TikTok audiences) announced that he was recovering, and not in danger. He forgave both his attacker and the persons behind the attack. This was the correct Christian response, leaving the police to deal with the administrative details.

It was also a rather clever approach to the publicity issue. Forgiveness really irritates the radical Muslim. He will assume the Christian is trying to trick him into apostasy. (Sometimes it works.)

I was asked recently if I could offer any hope at all, for the future of our degraded Western civilization. Of course there is hope; most obviously in the number of Muslim immigrants, from Persia and other “Islamist” regimes especially, who are converting to Christianity. As apostasy is generally punishable by death in Muslim countries, their emigration “changes the equation.”

They often become more serious Christians than the average we supply, and we should expect many future saints among them.

Dead babies

While I am riffing on political topics: I notice that Biden and Demoncrats have recovered in the polls, and I would not put it past Canadian electors to make Injustin revive. The secret to winning elections is to tell the best lies, not only about current events, but about the whole human condition. No one really believes or likes politicians; but they believe or like the lies.

“Republicans” and “Conservatives” work with the liberals on a common progressive agenda, less the odd obvious scam (but plus a few others). The Right, like the Left, depends on enthusiastic supporters who are young and naïve, and older ones who are world-weary.

I think that Trump, for instance, is an opportunist whose conservatism is performative, and that he is deeply crass and vulgar. But in the Abraham Accords and other foreign policy he showed a clew, and in his partial, elementary grasp of economics he leads by a few miles. Too, Trump is “a character” with impressive stamina, traces of wit, and a capacity for jolliness, who came late to prostitution; whereas Biden was cynical and senile approximately from birth. The winner won’t be selected by voting, however.

The pollsters have discovered that Americans on all sides only care about abortion. Should it be legal, illegal, or should we grant fifteen weeks of “grace”? Now, with Roe v. Wade retired, politicians can no longer hide behind their skirts, and must either have a sincere opinion, or tell an easily exposed whopper. This is sad for them, but especially for Republicans, who were stringing the pro-childbirth faction along. The majority are unquestionably in favour of convenience in all of their moral choices, and therefore of child-murder on demand.

This, and the Democrats superiority in cheating, assure Biden of another term. For not even I would vote for a Republican, unless he made clear that he was willing to lose on the abortion issue. The Trumpestuous, however, will not risk losing, intentionally.


The word, from Greek, means “acting against one’s better judgement,” and is (I suspect) at the root of our problems with “intention.” More painfully, acrasia is in the background of all “planning” schemes — and thus in all activities of our secular governments. They are all “crazy,” as Christians know, from original sin, but a Greek pagan might recognize it as ἀκρασία.

A Platonist, of course, would argue that this acrasia does not exist; that we would all do what was best if we knew what that was. And this presumably includes bureaucracies, which are typically staffed by human agents. Alas, we don’t, and they can’t, form better judgements. Plato’s Socrates was perfectly aware that “wrong happens.”

The Christian conception is complementary with the Aristotelian conception, instead. Thomist, Catholic, Christian thought is prior, in the sense that it explains the problem from the beginning; but both Christ and Aristotle are against brutishness in its many forms — from the weak-willed to the headstrong. Indeed, in the Nicomachian Ethics, Aristotle senses a divine agency, acting negatively in self-restraint, and positively in virtue.

I was contemplating this subject in macabre detail this week, as one of my correspondents accused me (as he had before) of “war-mongering.” I tend to confess to this vice, rather than indulge in disgusting “virtue signalling.” Of course we are publicly against war, and some of us are even privately opposed. But the serious question is: How can war be avoided?

Paradoxically, as the clever sort of humans, including statesmen, have always known, war is avoided by warlike acts. That is what made Trump and Reagan and Nixon so successful as pacifists, and the other recent presidents such failures; it is why Switzerland has been able to stay war-free for so long. Not only must we build a military that no one could wish to tangle with, and keep it constantly exercising, but we must be clear whose “side” we are on. That’s what inspires enemies to stop teasing.

It constitutes “better judgement.”

The long war

“When you’re in love the whole world is Jewish,” according to the title of a comedy album that my father brought home, in the early ‘sixties. No one in my family was Jewish, but as I recall, the album, recorded at some live performance in New York, was funny in a politely vulgar way. Today, it might cause a disturbance on campus, but most things do. Back then, it let middle-class goys (goyim?) feast upon echt Jewishness. It was part of a broad historical movement, as it were, in which Jews became an acceptable, indeed popular, North American minority, and were sentimentally favoured over their persecutors. They were peacefully assimilated, as they had been in the good old Weimar Republic, on the eve of brownshirt assaults, and Kristallnacht.

Bourgeois America hasn’t changed, and neither did bourgeois Germany. Our middle class remains well-meaning, and spineless, simply stepping aside, now that the devil is loose again. Sentimental niceness is a happy, witless, worthless indulgence. What happens to Jews today at Harvard and elsewhere has become “none of our business.”

The “mainstream” governing parties in the USA and Canada wish to present themselves as reasonable. They take a middle position between Hamas murderers, rapists, and kidnappers, and Israeli Jews trying to defend themselves. While the Israeli Defence Forces go to unprecedented lengths, suffering unnecessary casualties to spare “Palestinian” (Arab) civilians, Hamas does whatever is in its power to maximize the carnage. The more civilians they can present as victims, the more the publicity machines of the Left are fed. Israeli ceasefire offers are consistently rejected. Hamas is in its element.

Hamas and the PLO have used the time they have been in power to brainwash the Arab youth, through viciously propagandist schooling systems, helped along by UNRWA and foreign aid. Under their control, huge majorities of Arab children have been raised to the cause of Jew-killing, and the old fantasy of a “two-state solution” has been replaced by: “From the river to the sea.”

This is what happens when the bourgeois, sentimental, cowardly representatives of the West make diplomatic accommodations with Satanic organizations, such as Hamas, the PLO, Hezbollah, Houthis, the Syrian regime, the Iranian Ayatollahs, ISIS and various other “Islamists.” We give the possibility of peace away. By our concessions, we have made them into spokesmen for Islam; and they have spoken: “Death to America,” and “Death to the Jews.”

By now, every one of these organizations ought to be extinct, as we made the Nazis extinct, together with their Sturmabteilung and other terrorist bureaucracies … vanished, exterminated. That took more than a decade to achieve (from Hitler’s initial democratic victory). But after many, many decades, “Islamism” remains, and note: we are being defeated by it.

Hateful anti-hatists

Granted, it is hard to get anything right; and when in addition to oneself, one has assumed responsibility for the behaviour of some hundreds of millions of others, or even a few thousand, the certainty of failure must be quite discouraging. Yet, I feel no compassion for these political leaders — very much including those “on my side” — and will not sponge them with soothing, sympathetic wetness.

When the State tells me that it is wrong to kill, or even to maim or torture, immigrants, I am willing to “grant the State a pass”; for there have been laws against such violence from the beginning of (human) time. But when the State tells me that I mustn’t hate immigrants, it has gone too far. Indeed, as a connoisseur of hatreds, I despise various immigrant groups particularly, and probably hate many white cis-Canadians even more. These are prejudices to which I am entitled.

The question whether I have a right to hurt animals is more complicated, and potentially very boring. But I remain within culinary conventions by eating only animals and vegetable matter. I hate some vegetables even more than I hate the immigrants, though seldom does it rise to the murderous level.

The nursing of selective, as well as general, hatreds, is an important human right. Hatreds have been, as those acquainted with art and literature may know, a fine creative goad. … “Some of the greatest poetry and paintings,” &c. … And it can never be prevented, because the more practised hatists go about their despications, subtly. One might easily miss what they are secretly gnashing about.

But those who would persecute hatists refuse to be subtle. They want legislation. They are so damned obvious. Categorically, let us persecute them!

Dispensing fault

It is rare that a catastrophe — an actual catastrophe with deaths and serious inconveniences — happens as “an act of God.” I learned this as a young hack journalist from a brilliant insurance adjuster, who had spent his life tracing effects from causes, and I began noticing it while reading the newspapers right away. The really big catastrophes are (not invariably, but quite usually) the result of human “interference” in the natural order of things. This especially includes politicians’ attempts to amend natural laws, by legislation.

From “climate change,” to the “woke” generation that is now proceeding through therapy to neurosis, catastrophes cannot be understood without such concepts as fraud, lies, swindles, treachery, and the other forms of criminal deceit, often at unimagined scale.

Passing events such as the Batflu, which resulted according to prestigious medical authorities in millions of deaths, are difficult to research and understand, because from the start they were designed to be opaque to research and understanding. Evil is impenetrable in itself. Nothing — absolutely nothing — that came from those authorities can be trusted as wholesomely correct. Paradoxically, much of the “misinformation” they most stridently condemned, turned out to be true. Note, that in “public medicine,” the end will inevitably be used to justify the means.

But there is no direct proof that the virus came from the Wuhan biological weapons lab, doing contract work with money from the American medical establishment, any more than there is evidence for the existence of Satan. Neither is there conclusive evidence that the reader got out of bed this morning. All the transient evidence can be wiped away.

More largely, not all, but most of the routine problems that the citizens of the world must suffer — the unpleasant shortages and unpleasant surpluses — are the creation of politicians for political ends, and more often were intended, than unintended, consequences. No one who claims to be “solving” anything should escape punishment.

Indolent piece

About forty years ago, I was planning to celebrate, this year, the fortieth anniversary of a “little magazine,” called The Idler. The plans made by these humans, especially by me, don’t work out as we expect them to, however — although dates forty years in the future may be calculated reliably. For that’s barely two “enneadecaeteris” cycles, or less than half of a Callippic period, as Greek astronomers calculated them, before the Christian era (see Ptolemy’s Almagest).

As we live today in a multicultural multiverse, I should mention that Babylonians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Mayans, and some others were aware of these calendric cycles, in which, if one is patient, the lunar and solar dates come eventually to coincide; but as usual the Greeks “branded” them. They were anticipating capitalism, and perhaps, making an exhibition of their white privilege.

Back to the Idler. It perished thirty years ago, thus cancelling its fortieth anniversary party in advance, as well as centennial and bicentennial celebrations. But as a small number of persons seem mildly interested in what it was (and it was, after all, part of the prehistory of the Borborygmatic Society) … The Hub paid me to write this memoir.