Essays in Idleness


Leaking sensations

The wartime saying, “Loose lips sink ships,” has apparently been reversed in the present generation, where the ships sink, first. Indiscreet talk, from politicians and the press corps, follows in due course. Much has been made, persistently, in the mass-market news, of these “leaking” stories.

In the chief one this past week, a Supreme Court clerk, or other irresponsible person, took it upon himself to publish the draft of a decision overturning Roe v. Wade. This would begin to erase it from the American consciousness a few dozen news cycles earlier, and allow us to spin from violence and pointless rioting to mere persiflage more quickly.

Meanwhile, the American “intelligence community” (a purposeful contradiction of terms) boasts that it helped the Ukrainians locate, and therefore sink, the Moskva into the depths of the Black Sea; and also to pick off a dozen or so of the Russian generals, in land warring.

This was bound to annoy the Russian invaders very much, for they had already tired of American interference in their military stunts. And as some journalists “believe” that Putin is a madman, they expect him to retaliate with nuclear weapons. Then, because the other governments of the world are ruled by madmen, too (except for the several Fennoscandiyan nations which are ruled by madwomen), we’ll be flinging the missiles back and forth, until everyone is incinerated.

It is not so serious a fate as we might imagine, however; for the planet has recovered from numerous such extinction events; one every few million years. Who knows that another should not be welcomed, if we are to evolve a truly intelligent species? I have sometimes wondered if the evolutionary progression, thus far, is laughably incomplete.

And anyway, what does it matter? The current environment will likely succumb to global warming, according to the most impassioned climate prognosticators. Many of these self-appointed experts give, at best, ten years to our sporting life, before our sun-baked retirement.

Limiting our consideration to historical time, or to what has actually been recorded with dates (i.e. not the full geological record, which is vague and irrelevant), these ten lost years represent a tiny fraction — less than one percent — of the whole duration. We are excitable indeed, if we allow ourselves to become upset about such a relatively minor loss — especially as the great majority of the human race (persons ever born) are dead already; and many of those who happen to be still alive are quite old.

The barking of NATO

Pope Francis has given us of his opinion that the “barking of NATO at the door of Russia” may have led to the invasion of Ukraine — which he otherwise disapproves as being too violent. Other countries, by which we usually read the United States, were the ultimate cause of the conflagration, as we understand they are in all contemporary wars in the Middle East, Africa, &c. Perhaps the Far East too, for if Red China finds the time is ripe to physically molest Taiwan, an American provocation will be mentioned at the heart of it. For we can assume that such an explanation will be coming from Beijing, just as canine barking was first condemned in Moscow.

Nevertheless, he advises his Russian Orthodox rank equivalent to avoid transmigration. Patriarch Kirill “cannot turn himself into Putin’s altar boy,” our Holy Father said, with his latest diminution of altar boys.

It is hard to remain on the same page of this strange Argentine hymn book. It takes for granted much that, through the years, anti-Western and anti-Christian, Communist propaganda, told us all to take for granted.

But I was cured of this influence, very early; for as a little boy in Lahore, Pakistan, when my father seemed mortally ill, and my mama without any income, I was presented with a big bag of Smarties by some mysterious American visitors. Generous souls, they had taken upon themselves to rescue us; and their belief that I would share the Smarties with my (sweet) little sister was a touching indication of their guilelessness.

The result was that I became a convinced Neoconservative at the age of five or six, though it would take a few years longer to become a full Reactionary.

The variation of my own political opinions (and some of my religious affectations, too) from that of the current pope might be presented in this way. As I argue, paradoxically in his defence, he makes enough sense that I can see he is wrong. But then, I’m sure the evolution of his views began in a comparable way, with irrefutable facts, like Smarties.

In my evolved view, the West is, or was by its settled, historical habit, Christian and formatively Catholic. Even those who, through the centuries, abandoned the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and tried to throw her off, are still tied to her by nearly invisible strands. We have been trying to leave for three or four centuries, longer in some places, but note that transmigration is not easily achieved.

Our habitual subscription to demonstrable truth and political freedom (rather like Americans) comes with this. One might almost say it involves the capacity to call certain alternative points-of-view, “nonsense,” or something worse. For this is among many concepts that cannot be translated into the tongues of foreign pagans, without the risk of converting them into (Catholic) Christians.

Divisions on a ground

One of my best-kept secrets is an ambition to found an independent state of Circassia, in the north-west Caucasus, along the north-east shore of the Black Sea. This ambition first occurred to me at the age of nine, or perhaps slightly later. I had read, or had read to me, Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” and in my childish confusion, had mistaken the Abyssinian maid (playing on her dulcimer, singing of Mount Abora). I had her confused with a Circassian maiden, taken from another literary source. My geography was vague, especially then, and my race-consciousness was deficient.

Circassian maidens, I had learnt, were the most beautiful in earthly creation (except for Abyssinian maidens?) and while I later encountered only one of them (briefly, in Israel), in her presence I came to believe everything I’d been told.

There was no point in visiting Circassia, however, in the hope of meeting her sisters, as her nation had ceased to be. Her people had been massacred, deported, dispersed, by Russian invaders in the 18th and 19th centuries. This had concluded with the uncommonly brutal “Circassian genocide,” about 1864. It was one of very many barbaric and savage Russian massacres, by which the territories they conquered were depopulated.

It will also make the establishment of my Circassian republic (or better, khanate, or kingdom) more difficult — for the descendants of the one or two millions who once lived there, and spoke the Circassian dialects (from Adyghe in the west, to Kabardian in the east), are reduced to the few interbred with Russians, &c.

Nevertheless, there is a fine territory — green cedarn hills and fertile ground — between Ukraine and the independent state of Georgia (after Georgian “Abhkasia” has been recovered from Vladimir Putin’s military monkeys). For the Russians seem only to have murdered 90 percent of the inhabitants of Circassia, missing a few strays.

I should think the people of both Ukraine and the Caucasus could sleep easier if Russian access to the Black Sea was permanently withdrawn.

Estonian women are also extraordinarily beautiful, and many have survived Russian incursions to the present day. They are among the speakers of the Finnic languages, and my projects include the recovery of Karelia (which Stalin took), and the Kola peninsula (home for the peaceful Lapps). But this is not to forget the land immediately north of (Old Slavonic) Novgorod, centred on “Sankt-Petersburg” since 1703, by the architectural enterprise of Tsar Peter the Great. It is in many respects a gracious city, and I wouldn’t want harm to come to it.

But the surrounding countryside was occupied by Ingrians — another Finnic-speaking people — before another Russian genocide. The re-establishment of an Ingrian nation (or call it, Izhorian, if you prefer) would add another to the attractive collection of wee Baltic states. My proposed Free State of Königsberg (replacing the Kaliningrad oblast) would shoo Russia away from its last ice-free winter port.

I believe Winston Churchill said, at the end of World War II, that he loved Germanies so well that he wanted as many as possible. I have something of the same sentiment today: there can’t be enough ex-Russian states for me. To be practical, I count some eighty-five states into which Mother Russia could dissolve, plus whatever we find under the ice in Siberia.

Why peace is hard

Yes, peace would be nice, as most of the belligerents in Ukraine (and elsewhere) would agree, although they would like to add other desiderata: for instance, a nation enslaved, or a conquerer triumphant, as the condition of peace. Mr Putin, whose name is lately used with admiration in his own circle, or contempt outside it, but apparently nowhere with indifference, is the man who has been setting conditions; but he is one of history’s long chain. Such characters will always find succour among faithless friends, for the time of their success. They will be feared a while. Those who imagine they can rise, ride in his ascending chariot, and will be in it when it plunges.

The wisdom of the Church was never peacenik. It has always recognized that “things are as they are,” and must be, in this vale of tears. Sinful men and women will be violent, but worse, create the conditions for violence beyond their own persons. Great numbers will be organized to their service by lies, and the constant repetition of these lies by “true believers.”

How does one detect that one has joined the wrong side? Surely this will be discovered when it is debated, one suspects; though in fact truth is only a by-product of debates, which were usually begun for quite another purpose. Instead, the lover of truth (in all the embarrassment that may accompany it) will only detect the truthful tone, as one person who is listening apart, among a crowd of the undiscerning. He will be alert to the contrary tone of glibness when the false is revealed, watching for the accretion of irrelevance, almost feeling for the little incidents of deceit, that tell him to beware. How often I have monitored an argument that could have been resolved by a single hard fact, had it ever been spoken, and then admitted. But it was too tasteless to bring up, and so was buried in the blather.

For courage is also necessary, to the truth. It will cost, to speak it. And the one who knows the lies are untrue, may be flinching from prospective pain. He knows, or rather thinks he knows, that he does not have the strength to stand against a falsehood, that is everywhere accepted. He does not have the power to lean, alone, into the gale.

He will let it pass. He is not a great hero; he is not Christ.

Christ can save us. To serve God is to serve the truth, and it is to call upon the divine for assistance, in the moment of insecurity. With men this is impossible, “but with God all things are possible.”


Were the Americans boldly supplying weapons to the enemies of Nazi Germany, in the time before Pearl Harbour? and applying economic sanctions and other ills against their future enemies? Of course they were; there is nothing new in the news. They were penalizing Germany, and Japan, and generously helping Britain, just as they are now penalizing Russia, and sending help to Ukraine — as if they would “fight to the last dead Ukrainian.”

The Russian, like German and Japanese regimes before them, may suffer from these attentions to the fine details of malice, yet often find the theatre empowering. They are inspired to ever more shameless aggression, and their peoples are won over to the monstrous cause. They will take pride in withstanding the hardships we impose, and use their best wits to defeat them. And they will find new allies, that really we have found for them.

History has not been kind to those who impose sanctions and blockades; for these are among the leading suppliers of unintended consequences. This is the case for large nations, but also for smaller groups. The Jews I would give as my example of the greatest long-term beneficiaries, not only in Christendom, but leading back to ancient Egypt. Christians, too, and others who have experienced bigotry in the places where they live, have also flourished from restrictions, being moved to make the best of them. Indeed, the world benefits from shortages of things — though we pretend not to notice.

One of the (satanic) achievements of the First World War was the invention of active, mass (“democratic”) civilian warfare, through economic measures. The wars of the 19th and previous centuries had been fought without these cumbersomely wicked methods. Moral principles from non-military life continued to apply. Countries (and businesses) paid debts to their national enemies, when they fell due, and trade even in strategic materials went unimpaired.

That was then, but from 1914, this is now. Sophisticated blockades were brought against the Kaiser, by Britain and France. They tried, never entirely successfully, to cut him off from his European neighbours, and their colonial “partners.” By 1939, war had become more than “simply the continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means,” but a special system of moral display or “virtue signalling.” It became the final expression of hegemony.

We were exploring new dimensions of “total war,” beyond any kind Clausewitz had conceived of. The combination of unprecedented viciousness, with the soothing propaganda of kindliness and concern, is a definitive feature of modernity.

A new book by Nicholas Mulder, The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War (Yale), seems to make this point, gently. It is not the sort of book I spend my evenings reading, but the kind I am willing to skim and approve.  In its background we can see, perhaps, the whole liberal order of what we might call “globalism” hitting the shoals of the Great War.

Liberalism, in economics or any other field, was never possible, just as solid money may never be possible; but the world made an heroic, conspicuous effort to achieve a universal reign of economic decency, to the cusp of my grandfather’s generation.

I have tried to explain to myself the pity that I have read in his diaries, when he was a soldiering occupant of south-western Germany in 1919, after the victory had been won. (To secure which, he had trudged through France.) Not since the wars of the Reformation had men and women been brought so low. It is a world in which we don’t actually seek Hell for ourselves, but are tireless in imposing it on those we have trapped on the enemy side.

War patriarchs

Balderdash, I was thinking, while trapped in a little war, or rather “a discussion,” with an old not-really-Slavic friend about the “military operation in Ukraine” — as Vladimir Putin likes to call it. My friend seemed to think that the West had provoked it, with efforts to assimilate Ukraine into the American sphere of influence, through foolish Ukrainian not-really-statesmen, and I granted this was worth one point in ten.

At a deeper level, he said the habitual Orthodox mindset had come in conflict with the habitual “Western” (Catholic) one, splitting Ukraine between expressions of the same faith. The Rus’ are more faithful and religious, he said; more powerfully committed to divine truth. As a good Christian, one should be on their side, or at least sympathetically neutral.

But none of this is true, I say; and now I am writing this squib, so there!

That deeper notion, of religious differences East and West, has been with us for a while. In fact it precedes Dostoyevsky. It goes deeper than the Church split of 1054, and can be traced even to pre-Christian cultural tensions between Romans and Hellenes.

It was not for nothing that the West chose Latin as its primary liturgical, and also philosophical language; and I might argue that the withering of the cosmopolitan Latin literary tradition was in itself a threat to the Catholic Church. (“Dante, herald of the Reformation,” I shall lecture.) For the language in which one has the custom to think is not a minor part of the soul’s understanding of the world, and the most brilliant and intentionally precise men will speak at cross-purposes, through translation.

This we admit, but falling short of a casus belli, for war, other than defensive, cannot be justified in any of the languages in which reason once prospered. Indeed, the only justification for war — recognized even by the religious — is defensive in some sense. Creaturehood must defend itself, within nature — although this principle leaves plenty of room for interpretation.

War is not entirely, nor usually even mostly, good; killing and destruction are not admirable ends in themselves. Surely, most people know this, or at least suspect; even while they are preparing for war.

The idea that there is anything in the Gospel — in Christ’s teaching, whether it is received in Moscow or in Washington, D.C. — that would recommend the occasional missile strike, is obtuse. Wars begin from sordid motives, and advance as the sordid is increasingly shared about. They are unChristian, yet they cannot be Buddhist, or Animist, either. A religion that advances conquest through a war-cry of Jihad would be a murderous religion, and utterly invalid; and so Mr Putin’s Jihad may be unimaginatively condemned.

Patriarch Kirill, primate of All Rus’, has won for himself the reputation of being Mr Putin’s sleazy and pathetic shill, by blessing the weaponry. As spokesman and enthusiast for a worldly power, he could not possibly speak for Christ. I was willing to ignore his background as an archimandrite, as apologist for Soviet Communism to the World Council of Churches, and so forth — I can overlook much when a character knows how to dress — but suddenly I remember:

That there is no such thing as a religious war. It is an extension of politics.

Easter morning

Great and Holy Pascha, or, Easter Sunday — is the entry to Eastertide (in the liturgical arrangements of the West) but also, the access to maturity in human life.

Except for more purely seasonal indications, the animals seem unaware of Him, and persist in their own spaces. We, alone, can formulate an argument for our radical difference from the rest of nature, and indeed what follows: the extreme aloofness of our position on the planet. Often, we try to hide this even from ourselves, and invent the wildest ecological theories as a kind of alternative to the inevitable human religious faith.

Between the natural animal and “unnatural” man, many habits are shared, such as the use of language. One thinks of the honey bees. We can’t have philosophically “meaningful” conversations with them, but then, we cannot deny that they are communicating, among each other.

From an excellent authority on the behaviour of honey bees (the late Karl von Frisch), I learned that they may forage for their nectar and pollen well beyond five miles’ distance from their hive. Then they find their way home again, quite infallibly. They can visit the very same flower the next day, or — and here my credulity was tested — they can precisely describe their route, to a hive-mate. He can then follow it, solo. Through their round-dances, and waggle-tail dances, this information is communicated, just as we would with words; and more complex matters of odour and taste, along with the weather in tiny microclimates, and bracketing details of time, can also be “spoken” by these wax colonials. Their fellow workers seem to understand; and since ancient times, our bee-keepers have knowingly intervened in the honey bees’ routines.

These workers are incidentally all females — all these industrious little bee-souls with their tasks — but incapable of reproducing. They are “eusocial,” like many of the ten-thousand species of bees, ants, wasps, termites; and maybe some others. Each must have elaborate signalling abilities, and as at least the entomologists have come to appreciate, not only discrete languages in one colony from another, but subtle differences of dialect, within and between, and up and down the classes. So, upon meeting, individuals may not only tell each other apart, but know whom to protect and whom to kill, &c.

Whereas, human beings are not actually eusocial, though Professor E. O. Wilson seemed to think that we were. But we would need a strict local caste system in every human settlement to achieve this, and the time suitable for Darwinist evolution to perfect the various orders. And of course, we must eliminate such human eccentricities as free speech and free will, as well as our propensity to speak nonsense, and sing without purpose. (The socialists are working on this.)

By comparison to the other animals, whether eusocial or not, Christ rose, and talks, directly to us. Again, this is discerned, by everyone who attentively listens. Today — this morning — we are reminded that He speaks from either side of death; and that he summons us to follow.

Easter eggs

I am appalled to see Easter eggs on sale in Holy Week, and often, long before. I make the same complaint about hot cross buns, which seem to have jumped all our supply chain hurdles. Had no one the will to persist through Lenten abstinence and fast? Or horror, perhaps they’ve ceased to be Christian. We live in an ever more barbaric society, even while our physical prospects are improving.

From my readings in the Wall Street Journal, “globalism” has taken a few hits lately, and with any luck, should soon fade from the background of media clichés. Of course, the hits I’ve been monitoring are relatively minor. They are sword, famine, beasts, and pestilence; it would be tedious to document the route of each horseman. But worse can be easily anticipated, when we factor in a catastrophically aging population, and the violent gerontological behaviour of such as Russia and China.

It is an ill wind that blows no one any favours, however, and supposing that we outlast any attempts at armed invasion by more envious powers, Canada is well-placed. All we need do is to “phase out” our obnoxious environmentalist constituency, which by now we should be willing to perform as an end in itself.

I am thinking of our national reserves in, for instance, potash, and nickel. Sotto voce, let me add natural gas and coal, and our splendid variety of titanium and other rare metal ores. We are perfectly located to become the New Russia, once the Old Russia has itself been phased away. If gentle reader, too, consults the Wall Street Journal, and can skip through all the liberal posturing in its pointless feature stories, I think he will be rendered giddy.

Alas, this applies only to Canadians (and perhaps Australians); most other nations had the misfortune to be founded closer to Russia, or China.  Most, also, did not have the luck to seize, or inherit, some several billion acres of mostly unoccupied territory, under which the usual wild surplus of resources were buried. This, too, is the purest good fortune, when considering our far northern climate — for anything not astutely buried will surely perish (unless it is frozen carefully). Even so, with a small population, it is easy enough to grow what we need, and a few things more for sale to the famished (although mangoes we may always have to import).

All over the world, the potential for agriculture is actually high, no matter the supply of fertilizers and transport. This is because human labour can replace technology, and always will, except where the people are lazy or sluggish. For hunger, I like to opine, is the great motivator to oeconomic activity.

But what of the aging nations? With my own first taste of the effects of catastrophic aging, my desire to get out into the fields, or even visit the groceteria, has become more modest. And needless to say, where the average age is now above fifty, they cannot be seriously expecting a baby boom. This is terribly sad.

More or less

Let me beg the reader’s indulgence, for I have not been filing these Essays in Idleness every day or so, as I once did, and as some of you had come to expect. I could attribute this failure to “writer’s block,” for on too many occasions I set out to compose what I thought would be a snip, but found appropriate words to be unavailable.

This, in turn, may have had something to do with what Swift called, in his “Verses on the Death of Dr Swift,” to be, “That old Vertigo in his Head.” For in the time since my heart attack, and little adventure in open-heart surgery, I had at least one prompt stroke. It was entertaining, and I enjoyed the drug regime that went with; but since, I have remained dizzy, swirling, physically unbalanced. Indeed, I cannot amble constitutionally, without swaying from one side of the sidewalk to the other, like a common Parkdale inebriate.

The medical professionals, upon whom I try not to comment, keep checking upon me, or summoning me to call upon them. They are exhausting, but they have not been oppressively curious. The clearest account I have received was from one experienced “rehab” nurse who said that, to her experienced view, the surgeons had entirely cured my cardiac condition. Unfortunately, they had replaced it with a neurological condition.

But I am grateful that they left me alive.

My own theory of medicine is the ancient one. Various diseases are miraculously cured, “one fine day” — regardless of medical intervention. Various others prove fatal. I will hope for the first class, in which case, I will resume writing more frequently. If the second,  however, I must write less frequently, or not at all.

What is a man?

At a time when the Woke people are discussing — or more precisely avoiding the discussion of — what is a woman, I should like to glance at the even more trivial question of what is a man.

Of course, I say “trivial” only in light of current social conventions, one of which is to use the word “social” in a vaguely malicious way. The reader may have heard of human individuals, and even the late Mrs Thatcher allowed “families” to be grouped apart from the general population. But revolutionists, from the Communists to the Patriots of old, and looking back sometimes to Solon, preferred to use “the people” as the only practical plural of “person.”

I may be over-simplifying; for I’ve been told all about American Exceptionalism, by the Trumpestuous faction. It differs from other forms of national exceptionalism because it is distinctly United Statist. But in the Russian national anthem I was just listening to, there would seem to be a second-person reference: “You are unique in the world, one of a kind!” Also it is uniquely, “This native land, protected by God!” I will not vouch for this translation, however, as I got it from the Wicked Paedia. (Grammatically, I do not see how “they” could be “one of a kind.”)

My own notation, should it be called for, is that family (which I sometimes misspell “fambly”) tends to be neglected in any description of “the mass” (not in the Catholic sense), and is as undistinctive as any comparable collection of mush. It makes as little sense as “woman,” to the blind, sexless, and mentally unresponsive.

There is general agreement that he/she/it is an “organism.” Even a candidate for the American Supreme Court will admit to possessing knowledge of that much biology, though anything more would be deemed controversial. The most recent such candidate is what would formerly have been called “a woman,” but not any more, except after the adjective “black.”

A man, it follows, has now lost his status as a male human being, as he can no longer be distinguished from a woman. Moreover, being human would seem an insufficient argument against being eaten, by one’s own kind. But that kind is fading. I spend part of my time in hospitals, these days, where I can report that we are all treated as organisms. Some distinctions continue to be made by the organisms, themselves, though nothing systematic. Chiefly, they go into various departments, according to their disease.

Is there a way to categorize dead men — that would be satisfactory to the Wokists, or any allied group of post-human revolutionists? I cannot think of one, for after death, such superficial identifiers as previously were “an issue” gradually disappear, or quickly vanish thanks to modern cremation technology.

On the other hand, I gather that archaeologists can still determine what the experts now call “gender” from corpses that were discarded many thousand years ago; and DNA samples are often used to establish fambly members. Too, past funerary customs sometimes allow even a modern to distinguish the rich from the poor.

The methods are not always certain, but then, the fate of the world in “global warming” is uncertain yet. We must be patient.

Peaceful shelling

That the American FBI, like the Canadian RCMP, has become a rogue agency, enforcing the whims of senior Democrats on one side of the “world’s longest undefended” border, and the Liberal Party on the other, should not be much contested by persons of the conservative, old-school type — at least, those who read news reports. We’ve noticed the celebrities who count, and don’t count; whom they investigate, and don’t investigate; those above the law, and those below it.

But the question is, which is more corrupt?

According to our left-dominated mass media, the victims of these two secret police organizations must take all the blame. This is because they want to change the government, secretly if not openly. More subtly, the belief in evidence-based jurisprudence, as evidence-based science, indicates a spirit of non-compliance with civil authorities and government thugs. To the left, this is much more significant than the frauds the media are disinclined to cover.

Indeed, the continuing hysteria over “racism” in North America, and all of its complex ramifications down to the redefinition of “a woman,” has installed a convenient environment for fraud. I mean this quite literally, for I have read multiple reports of arrests finally made against persons who were scamming millions of dollars through government programmes and projects. They got away with it for years, perhaps decades, because no one dared to challenge them. The fraudsters were “cool” people; they were comfortable with power. Most were collecting expensive properties and cars; their politics were merely protective colouration.

Once having obtained power, through deceit, a formal or informally ideological party becomes hard to dislodge. It now controls the mechanics of elections. It can pass laws to compel the silence of anyone expressing free opinions. It orders the police raids. Intimidation is the great persuader: leftists and criminals have always known this.

We have, in North America, something like the war in Ukraine, although without the constant loud shelling. Instead, it is superficially fairly “peaceful.”  Every feature of our once-Christian civilization is under more-or-less frontal attack, and subject to schemes that would invert it.

Another difference is that the Ukrainians are, nobly and often heroically, fighting to defend their homeland — their own families — against numerous barbarous Russian invaders. Whereas, over here, we seem to have surrendered unconditionally to a much smaller force.

The misery index

While I was distracted for a few days by “things,” they were nothing important, and verily, nothing to contribute to the National Misery Index, which seemed high enough beforehand. But now, looking over neglected email correspondence, I discover something that can be set against that. My Chief Argentine Correspondent boasts that his South has undone my North, eclipsing my fair Dominion in the achievement of misery; and they will not let up.

This adds to my distress. … “Dear David,” he writes:

“We await the inclusion of all you Northerners with us: a proud second country abottom the International Misery Index. We arrived at this enviable position thanks to the uncanny Argentine ability to think from the anatomical rear. I admit, your politicians are trying, and getting much better at it, but be assured, they will never, ever, reach our disillustrious level. …

“You see, we have had many nefarious entities to blame along the way. We are masters of deflection. As we receded to unprecedented depths of moral squalor, we accused: the voracious Spanish Lion, Perfidious Albion, the American Empire, German Huns, Malodorous Frenchmen, the United Nations, the international banks. We did the whole list. From the World Bank to the Salvation Army there is not one lender that has not been screwed by the Argies. It is a majestic record. …

“The gallery of rogues shown at the end of this email [deleted] is missing the Radicals that began the demolition in 1916 when Argentina was in the position now enjoyed by Canadians. To prove my point, here is the mug of the first Radical president [also deleted]. Tell me if you are not thrown into a paroxysm of admiration and moved to exclaim: ‘Hipolito! Lead us to the light!’ (His autopsy revealed a head filled with the purest form of granite.) Churchill, Roosevelt, Hoover, Wilson, cultivated the intelligent look. Hipolito was sincere: his whole demeanor honestly declared: ‘I am an ass!’ …

[Cf. Trudeau in blackface.]

“The election of Hipolito Yrigoyen brought an end to the era of the Old Oligarchs, who had taken a country similar to Afghanistan (1810 to 1850 or so) up the ranks (economy, education, income per capita, &c) to rub elbows with Britain, France, Germany, and the United States. Imagine! Argentines were the best paid workers on the planet by 1888, and from 1856 to 1916 they ate four meals a day! And they had clothing! Their children went to school! The only Harrod’s outside England was in … Buenos Aires! How perfidious of the English to ensnare us in the vices of consumerism and vanity! Those island robbers! Pirates all of them, especially Florence Nightingale! …

“From this distant land I spy how the powers would steal our honestly earned position upon the Index. But we are the most miserable! We will fight to the last man! Mr Joe Biden may be breathing down our neck; Mr Trudeau de Castro is working hard as Mr Putin (returning Russia to the glory days of the USSR). …

“I propose you address this unfair situation in your well-respected blog. We have earned our post in the Misery Index, over one hundred years! It belongs to us. Canuckistanis go home! Yankees can go home, too! We are exceedingly miserable, and no nuclear conflagration can remove us from our place in history. …

“Yours truly,


Verdunish episodes

The curious journalist might consult people who have lived in Grozny (Chechnya), or in Aleppo (Syria), about Russian military tactics, and in particular about how merciful their troops are.

Both cities were bombed to rubble, but more poignantly, the civilian population in each was intentionally targeted by the Russian war machine. The suffering of the inhabitants was unimaginable — to we who live comfortable bourgeois lives at “the end of history,” here in the far West. In Europe, especially in its eastern sections, there is more appreciation of such things, and it helps to explain their sudden recovery of enthusiasm for NATO.

I am still smarting from the (intellectual) beating I received after writing an especially unironical newspaper column, in 1991. On the verge of the first Gulf War, I reviewed preparations for the Battle of Verdun, some seventy-five years earlier. My point was that a lot of (relatively innocent) people were going to be killed, and probably a lot more than we anticipated. But the battle was necessary, and had to be won at any cost. This was the view of French generals at the time (who’d been “set up” by German generals), and I argued, it is a view that is still defensible, even though we know what catastrophic bleeding ensued.

An inundation of non-fan letters washed in, of the worst kind. It was from readers who actually understood what I wrote, unlike the ignorant plebs I was used to. A much-admired (and formerly admiring) old friend wrote that he was aghast to find my soul so wrapt in darkness. He would never trust me again.

Operation Desert Storm did not cause so many casualties — except on the Mesopotamian side — but would have been much worse if Saddam Hussein had the “weapons of mass destruction” that some of our spies already thought he had. But I had argued we must simply take the risk.

The reverse of my argument has been made by President Biden, and all responsible allies. Putin has wagged his staffs — he has put his nuclear missiles on alert — and that is why we must do nothing. We must not encourage him to “escalate.” Or rather, we must do everything we can to confute him, short of anything that would work. We must not, in any case, “send in the air force.”

It is merely an aside, but the same Russians who went about their massacres in Grozny and Aleppo have behaved as pussy-cats when they were plausibly threatened by a superior force. Putin is not actually mad, and if he were, we could count on a member of his own inner corps to deliver the necessary lead injection. He does take extraordinary risks, however, and we can guess that he is arrogant and proud. As Stalin would say, this is not a situation for people with bad nerves.

One must be ready, in this world of sin and death, for all one’s best intentions to collapse, and all one’s reasonable calculations to go wrong. We might especially hesitate to gamble with other people’s lives. But sometimes it is necessary.