Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

The sewer pipe

There is a Sanskrit proverb, that if you are facing total loss and ruin, you should give up half. While I doubt they have it from this Indian source, the attitude of most self-styled “conservatives” is to accept this policy of appeasement. Over the course of my adult life (let’s say, fifty years) I have watched them act as if bailing from a sinking ship. Those who live in locales where “conservatism” is being made illegal — one thinks of the drive-in university campuses — need more robust defences.

One’s life is short. From what I can make out, the specific mental injury with which we are now dealing can be traced beyond fifty years; beyond the profligate ‘sixties; and back to the dramatic expansion of miseducation, as a conscious social measure, post-War. Moreover, the demand to accelerate miseducation continues, from its material beneficiaries. For, like any liberal measure, this act of debilitation was and is “done with the best intentions.”

(And deeper still lies the Trahison des clercs; and in layers beneath that, our secularization. …)

Now, you can’t say any place has been “intellectually ruined,” that was an intellectual vacuum to start with, so in that sense I think many of our criticisms of universities may be unfair. The loss is only detectable in the older institutions of the “Ivy League.” It is here that the humanities, which were the core of classical learning, have been trashed, desecrated, submerged, in a swirling tide of malicious idiocies.

The destruction is compounded by the assimilation of topics into university study that do not belong there. By this I don’t mean the rabid insanities of gender, race, and “intersectional” courses, which need annihilation, but studies that ought to be offloaded into “community colleges,” and vocational schools. Indirectly, the importation of things which may have value in themselves, but are not philosophical, have contributed to the capsizing overburden. But this is made less obvious by the fact that the standards in, say, engineering and computer programming, put the “lit” and “phil” courses to shame.

In light of the riots now proceeding through most Democrat jurisdictions in the Natted States, and which are starting to spread like Batflu through susceptibly “liberal” jurisdictions abroad, it becomes necessary to correct my Sanskrit proverb. Rather than continue bailing, sane people must retain their possessions, including, especially, their minds. These are even more lethal weapons than the “military-style” firearms that progressives seek to ban, although guns are also important.

Perhaps the most lethal weapon on the other side, of this rapidly degenerating “cold civil war,” is the bull-crap that is taught, or rather flung, on “diversity.” It has become the staple product of all our left-contaminated institutions. Public bigotry, that had happily become socially indefensible, is being reinstalled, in campaigns to reignite racial conflicts.

The attempts, for example to revive the slavery issue in our public life, when it was long since settled, shriek of this. The victims of it are, inevitably, mostly black. The destruction of black enterprise, both material and spiritual is, like the destruction of the black family by liberal welfare policy, not an accident; it is what these progressives think will serve their interests. There is no difference, today, between Antifa and (if we can find any) “neo-Nazis.” The tactics are the same; the effect is the same, across the range of provocateurs. Most learnt their sordid trades directly through “higher education”; the rest, indirectly.

Their anarchic thinking depends upon the vicious sludge that has accumulated in our universities, through generations of grade inflation. By now, our weaker young minds can’t breathe, because they are drowning in it.

Are you, gentle reader, a racist, sexist, homophobe, or what? These are unambiguously evil slanders, and yet we half concede to them. Do not pull punches when responding to these falsehoods.

Rioting for fun & profit

There is nothing unChristian about getting angry once in a while. Perhaps one might say it gets less Christian the more it happens. But the injustices of this world are real; they are not props in a game show. Righteous indignation is not an impossibility.

The idea that one’s anger justifies bad behaviour is, however, a crock. It may take a cool head to recognize this truth, which is an additional argument against going off one’s head. Among the civilized, there are laws designed to make revenge unnecessary, and it is an horrific thing when these laws are overwhelmed; or worse, set aside.

What I find most outrageous about events in Minneapolis, and the copy-cat riots in other liberal-governed cities, is that they are permitted. The police are typically ordered to stand down, in the face of arson and looting. Nor is any effort made to identify and prosecute the fiends, later. The authorities simply wait for the anger to burn out, as a forest fire will do, eventually. Often they try to assuage the rioters by “taking action” — with rushed, criminally stupid, cosmetic “reforms.”

For at least forty years I have been trying to point to a truth long established by research: that there is no such thing as a spontaneous riot. Or longer, arguably, for I was first caught within a riot in Lahore, Pakistan, as a child of seven. (I’ve claimed that childhood experience made me a lifelong Tory.) But in my “cancelled” career as a hack journalist, and out of my own curiosity, I have studied several riots since then — from the inside.

To a trained observer, the organizers of the riot stand out. They are dressed distinctly, they are giving orders; they are directing the attacks. They will usually be wearing expensive communications equipment. A drama coach would notice that their harangues are premeditated and rehearsed, to stir violence. That anger in the crowd was available to them, as their raw material, goes without saying; their art consists of “weaponizing” it.

Fascists — the real ones, in pre-war Italy and Germany — were masters of this art. So were the Communists with whom they had streetfights. The blackshirts today, a near-monopoly of the Left, descend from this rich tradition. When Antifa and other leftist scum shut down public discussions in universities and elsewhere, they may use the latest technology, but to old-fashioned ends.

What is alarming is not that these people exist — radical evil is a fact in human nature — but that they are given permission to act lawlessly. Rather than arrest and prosecute them, the liberal authorities agree to silence the legitimate speaker. They are trying to avoid confrontation, with people who sought confrontation, and will seek a larger confrontation next time. The prestige of these devils in human flesh is increased by their victories.

An injustice, such as the apparent murder of George Flynn by a vicious cop, while three more stood and watched, was the pretext for the riots. It was convenient for aggravating racial tensions, by which the Democrat party hopes to retrieve black votes that had been getting away from them. I would not wish to omit this dimension of the permission they grant to rioters. Politics are a cynical business.

But note, the mostly white folk in Antifa, prefer black neighbourhoods to start race riots, for that is where resentments will be easiest to exploit. (Masks help to conceal their whiteness.) This means that the victims of the riots, whose property and businesses are gutted, will also be mostly black. The media elide this aspect of the lawlessness, because they want Republicans to be defeated, too.

The moral stench is overpowering.

____________

BOB & DOUG. It has been half a century since, it seemed to me, the USA space programme was the most exciting thing in our solar system. Those were days before one referred to astronauts as “Bob and Doug,” or had drone ships with names like, Of Course I Still Love You, to recover the launching stages. Recall, once again, those exhilarating words: “Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Today, I think of manned, extraterrestrial missions only as an extravagant form of entertainment. But what a magnificent entertainment — golly and hurrah!

Collegium electorale

While I am, in principle, opposed to democracy, I see no alternative to it in the foreseeable future. For there are actually systems of government that are worse than democracy. We must, as some girlfriend once explained to me, work with the system we have; and while she agreed that a theocratic state would be better, neither of us saw a good prospect for it in the current, “Vatican Two,” evolution of the Church. Given this unavoidable fact, and several others, she would accuse me of utopianism. My response was, in brief, that what’s good enough for Plato is good enough for me.

(I think we both had soft spots for hereditary absolutism, but after all this time, it is hard to remember details.)

An educated girl, my love of that moment pointed to Plato’s dates, before Christ. He could not even be a Catholic. This led to a delightful, almost Socratic conversation about what is, and is not, utopian. Thomas More was dragged into it, too. For I held that the “utopian” works by each of these gentlemen were never meant to be taken more literally than as literary works; and one might argue that both Plato’s Republic, and More’s Utopia, were satirical. So that we were soon discussing not only what is utopian, but what is satirical.

(A big topic, that.)

What happened to that girl, I wonder? She was French, and therefore intensely attractive. But those were the good old days, when well-raised boys and girls did not promptly hop into bed, and so they could part peacefully. I think she judged me to be impractical, and lazy. She was of course perfect, but I failed to insist on the point.

In principle, I am not against voting. This we do to select Popes, and Holy Roman Emperors — seven electors in the latter case, the last time I counted. And in many other cases, we vote, when a decision is required, and there is no immediate consensus; or for the sake of formality, even when there is.

My only opposition was to voting for people one had never met, or knew anything about. The idea of an electorate of millions struck me as (adjective) insane. Too, I was attempting to read the scholastics, and agreed with the mediaeval observation that democracies, even on the smaller scale that our distant ancestors could imagine, were profoundly divisive.

You end up with partisans who want to kill each other, and this can be a source of disorder.

Getting dirty

We continue to be well-as-can-be-expected, up here in the High Doganate, though stir-crazy, and over-informed about the Batflu (also known as the Kung Flu, or Peking Pox). The housefinches on our balconata persist in their social distancing, and at street level, the dogs continue to walk their masters. The brave, without a dog, may go out, without a mask, if they can stand up to the Virtue Signallers (or as I prefer to call them, the Smugly Foocklings). But that is in the respectable parts of town, at least three miles away, where designer masks are now de rigueur. There are plenty of trolleys, but they travel mostly empty. This is because the transit authorities are “committed to keeping customers and staff safe.” Knowing that most of the public health measures are fraudulent, and/or counter-productive, is not helpful to one’s peace of mind.

These measures would include the vast public doles which our guvmints have been generating, electronically. It could be taken as pay, for those who’d otherwise riot. Eventually, the guvmints hope to electronically rake it back, both from those who were paid and those who were not, in the form of much extended taxes. To understand the Batflu response, is to understand the welcome it gave to bureaucrats and their patrons, wherever the Left won the last election. They do not surrender such powers lightly.

Most of the people I hang out with are their particular targets — from freelance giguers to flea marketeers to those with religious vocations. Such people naturally resist the Kafkaesque arrangements our progressives relish and demand. The Batflu “crisis” put as many as possible of these statistically inconvenient people out of work. (Many are compulsive tax-evaders, after all!) These “little people,” especially those trying to support uncool, old-fashioned, frankly heterosexual families, are the ones for whom I most pray, as they and their children face the “green” future, which will exclude them in the name of “diversity.”

But also I think of the vast slave armies, in the “service economy,” with their idiotizing jobs, from flipping hamburgers to humping boxes in the Amazon warehouse — pinned to their minimum wages until their functions can be mechanized. (When they unionize, this happens faster.)

The “professional classes,” who can work from home, because they do nothing of value, needn’t go months without revenue, while their debts are piling up. They sneer at those who oppose a lockdown, that is perfectly comfortable for the professional classes, who at worst save money by dining in, or must order what they want through Amazon.

It is, as some Dundonian economist was recently explaining, our new, essentially Red Chinese economy: socialism for the rich, and capitalism for the poor. It is high-finance socialism with bailouts for the rich; and competitive, free-market capitalism for the poor they are transiently employing. This keeps operating costs down. Those who work for a living are the suckers in this system; they live in “flyover country” where the work is being done. (Though much flyover country hides downtown, just out of sight.)

Can gentle reader imagine all the gross things that happen on a farm? Let alone in a meat-packing factory. City by-laws can’t keep these things far enough away. For the real work is dirty; these are vulgar people. (Vulgar, and let me add, happy and glorious in their honesty.)

Occasionally, the unwashed catch on to this, and vote for representatives like Trump, who promise to “drain the swamp” of their regulators. But they have no idea how large that swamp is, or the scale of effort that would be required to make it productive.

So what is the solution?

To the Church, all must turn; or to Christ, to make this instruction more specific, at a time when bishops are frequently among the Christian’s worst enemies. (This homily expresses my own view, succinctly.) The ruler of this world is coming, as Christ told his Apostles; and by this He did not mean God the Father. For “the ruler of this world” is on the other side.

“You have to serve somebody.” In the time yet available, let us serve Him.

Fight them on the beaches, &c

Sometimes, I learnt in a schoolyard somewhere, you just have to fight. My own experience was usually of getting clobbered, but I did not come from a pacifist home. That Our Lord told us to turn the other cheek towards importunate Roman legionaries, I noticed, but if gentle reader examines the biblical commentaries he will see that His proposal could be interpreted as a diss. He had more irony than a White House press secretary, and often answered questions in a more confrontational way. In this world conflict happens, even within families, and it is important to remember, in addition to the fight, just what it is that one is defending. Blessed are the peacemakers; but not all of your adversaries have prioritized peace.

To my mind — the one that is employed to write these Idleposts — there are better reasons to fight than to uphold one’s ego. This is a point I did not fully grasp when I was younger and more proud. A great deal of conflict can be avoided by letting insults pass. What people think of you, including the thought that you have no honour, is a matter of no consequence in light of what God thinks. But to do something that might very well be dishonourable, on the field of the divine, suggests sloppy thinking.

“Martyrdom” or “witnessing” is a good fight to have. I don’t mean an habitual self-indulgent posture, but the real thing. To my secularoid friends it is foolish. Why court death, when “sucking up” offers an easy way out? They imagine themselves pro-life where Christians are pro-death. But for a person whose conception of life is limited to not getting snuffed biologically, this whole definition of foolishness is strange. We (Christians) are in for the long game; they are in for the short.

Notwithstanding my dislike of politics, in the aesthetic and several other dimensions, there are political battles that must be won, and I favour winning them. I was writing recently that one should be governed not by optimism but by hope, including the hope that God will contrive the best possible worldly result (since no human will be capable of imagining it). But as I said above, I am familiar with losing. True honour requires a willingness to lose, which is almost opposite to a willingness to surrender. For in causes where good and evil are easy to distinguish — abortion is an example — we must never surrender.

Victory also requires a willingness to win, however; and then, having won, to show magnanimity, &c. The transition from victory to magnanimity is a pretty one to watch. I would argue that this is only possible to the happy soldier, in the grand scheme of things; to the soldier not prey to his own pathologies. But there is no happy soldier unwilling to fight.

The disciplined child

Generally speaking, I am against attributing crimes to demonic possession. I find this practice is too “liberal” (in our postmodern sense of leftwing): it distracts from the criminal’s personal responsibility. We see this in most journalistic accounts of major pathological crimes. To mention “demons” or “devils” or “Satan” is unfashionable, so instead the term “evil” is used without qualification. It is an expression of panic, among those who were never taught that evil progresses in subtle grades, and must be qualified by definitions. Or who don’t know that evil begins in the whining of the unrestrained child.

Among people with no training in exorcism, there is the tendency to over-simplify. The mechanism by which the criminal embraces radical evil may seem simple in its result — a murder is just a murder, after all — but the personal “journey of self-discovery” on the part of the murderer is different in each case. True, he has, in the end, expressed his allegiance to Satan. But like the murder itself, this is just an end point. Along the way, he has toured many other motives, including some for which he might expect to be praised, as the modern parent will praise an errant child. In reading the manifestos of mass killers, for instance, a naïve idealism will often be encountered. (The relation between naivety and madness is a topic someone should explore.)

The greatest crime writers (Dostoevsky comes to mind) trace the development of a criminal mind from invariably glib, rather childish origins. Often he (the criminal) is looking for something as “innocent” as a shortcut to some goods he wants. By small increments, or by accidents in the course of trying to commit a “relatively harmless” robbery, things get out of hand.

I don’t think the average housebreaker, carrying a sawn-off shotgun, has the slightest intention to use it. His chance, unexpected meeting with the homeowner becomes his excuse to the court, for performing the murder; or to God (as suicide is self-murder), for himself getting “blown away.” Those with experience interviewing criminals, including injured ones, often note their use of the passive voice. (“There was a gun. It went off.”)

But this does not apply to such a wilful crime as, say, the massacre of children in a school; almost invariably ending in the suicide, or as it were, “constructive suicide,” of the perpetrator. There is unambiguous intention to do evil. Planning was involved. Likewise, behind every case of Islamic terrorism are practical considerations. The “pure theory” of avenging some historical injustice doesn’t get you very far.

My point in this little Idlepost is to call attention not to terror crimes, but to the more modest criminality of the liberal mind, resembling that of the housebreaker. He only intends to “push the envelope” a little way, towards his unexamined utopia. He makes demands for goods, in the form of taxation, of those who are “rich” from what they have somehow earned. (To the criminal mind, this “earning” must always be illegitimate.)

There are people who have volunteered to pay, without pressure, and there is nothing wrong with such conventional taxation, to fund various forms of community defence. Nor do I oppose people beggaring themselves, on ludicrous schemes, with their own money. But the liberal cannot be satisfied with this; he anyway needs more for his generous redistributions, or batty, counter-economic projects. Even those opposed to them must be forced to pay. He graduates from a collector of charity or taxes to the equivalent of a weaponized thief. This may remain peaceful for a while, but eventually the homeowners resist. Only then might violence suddenly occur. It comes as a surprise; especially to the criminal.

It is the misfortune of our society to have forgotten that the whining child must be resisted from the start; prevented, until it becomes a habit, from doing things that are wrong — when self-discipline can take over. We must restore that clarity of will, that prevents nature’s liberals (a class that includes all babies) from growing into criminals.

The Batflu we still have with us; and I doubt that this postmodern liberalism can be easily expunged. But we must at least try to eliminate it, permanently.

Inexplicable Ascension

We do not know much about how the world works, or what is in it, so by analogy I guess that we know less about Heaven. None of my gentle readers have visited there, to my knowledge; though perhaps we have had glimpses from far off. Not one of us, I am fairly certain, has a clew how to get there, by any “scientific” means.

Mars may be in sight, but there is no programme of heavenly exploration in the SpaceX budget; only a few billions for getting to trackable places. We know a bit about celestial mechanics, from careful observation, but I for one don’t know what Gravity is, or Time for that matter, and have never met anyone who could explain them to me. Only their effects. It was an easy leap to the proposition that No One Can — explain what is inexplicable.

Even in my adolescent years as an atheist, when I was inclined to think that I knew it all, I was puzzled by inexplicable things. I have mentioned in some previous Idlepost an inspiring biology teacher, a Mr Henry, who implanted in my mind, at the age of just a few months past eleven, the notion that “life is a mystery.” All these years later, I am unable to shake it.

By this he didn’t necessarily mean it was a Catholic mystery (he was not a Catholic), but more simply that the origin of life on earth, like the origin of matter in the universe, was not something that could be accounted for. It wasn’t “difficult,” but plainly impossible, and while Mr Henry had formed the merry habit of ridiculing Darwinian Evolutionism, he’d get serious and mention that there was no place for any “natural history” to start. But, too: no way to deny that it had started.

And likewise with the human embryo, or to recall this biology teacher, any other animal embryo. (He could read Greek, and cite terms from Aristotle.) At what point does it become animated or “ensouled”? When does it become, in effect, a novel creation? To describe the mechanism of conception, in detail however tedious, is to advance our understanding a distance of zero. For the timing of it is of no consequence. It happens out of time.

Driven out of his last job in the Natted States, for his unflattering views on scientism, I had the luck to meet him in a private school in the third world. His wasn’t an uncommon fate, for in modernity there is no tolerance for persons with scientific qualifications who also develop philosophical skills, especially the ability to perceive logical contradictions. But Mr Henry was in possession of an extraordinary humility, in the face of nature. He never complained, in my presence, about the ridiculous behaviour of men. He took up his bag, and moved to where he was wanted. He continued teaching, to anyone who wished to learn, or was allowed to.

What can we know about the Ascension?

As in every other subject, only what we are told. We must, ourselves, judge of the authorities, for we are physically incapable of testing everything we hear. Our tests, themselves, we must review with scepticism.

Mr Henry had the gift to draw enthralling diagrams of cellular and molecular structures, and the power to make me check them against what I could see through a microscope. We carried our investigations to the periphery of a pond. He had also the power to pronounce himself powerless, to see beyond what he could see. He never spoke against prophets, but could be almost catty in rejecting what we have been calling “visionaries” for the last century or five.

That Our Lord came down from Heaven is incomprehensible to us. That He, of His own will, returned there, is beyond the farthest reach of scientific inquiry. That by His grace He has invited us to follow is something we can know, however, in our hearts.

Social isolation

What are we going to do, now that the (Red Chinese) Batflu is over? Or, not exactly over, for some of our progressive epidemiologists are still cheering for a second wave. But the thing itself — the first wave — is becoming harder and harder to sustain. In the Natted States, for instance, it has more or less disappeared from the Red States, and the “plateau” is tilting downwards even in the Blue — where governors had to feed the virus-infected into nursing homes, to keep their death rates up.

How will they justify their lockdowns, when their citizens stop dying altogether? When, with summer, they just go to the beach? When even their cops have stopped listening to them? And Doktor Fauci has noticed the wind shifting, and has therefore adjusted his sails to the “irreparable damage” that could be done if we don’t re-open quickly enough?

Moreover, it turns out, that the general public is somehow bored with “climate change.” What else can the progressive media use to scare them? How are we to maintain distancing in circumstances like these?

For social isolation is important to maintain. Myself, I look forward to the churches opening again, so I may sneak back into the Mass — the most Latin and traditional I can find — to get my isolation in there. The higher the Mass, the more is available, for the priest has turned towards God on our behalf, and even the wilder of the infant parishioners sense an atmosphere of reverence.

It has been my conviction, however, since before I began these Idleposts, that social isolation is possible even without wearing a bandit mask, or putting on that face which says: “Come any nearer and I’ll spray you with sanitizer!”

For decades, it seems, I have been avoiding long queues and crowds. I haven’t attended a football game in fifty-one years (and even then, I was playing). My computer is too old to have a Zoom camera, so I am able to keep unwanted visitors out.

Life in the city is chaotic enough: one is constantly affronted by shamelessness and noise. We must hatch a new scheme for social isolation.

On juvenile delinquency

Among the oddments that sometimes appear in opinion polls are questions like, “Would you accept a lower standard of living in exchange for” … whatever policy is currently on offer. That policy might range from a climate-change shutdown of all carbon-based energy production, to reduced levels of immigration and foreign trade.

In principle, I approve this recognition of policy trade-offs, and every acknowledgement that, in the red-pilled world beyond political phantasy, “you can’t have your diamond-studded hand-sculptured fondant wedding cake, and eat it, too.” Or in the more modest, Yorkshire version of this important cliché: “You can’t have the penny and the bun.”

Any concession towards what I remember as reality is welcome at the present day, to me. As a non-economist, however, I regret that the trade-offs are only expressed in money. They apply also, and frequently instead, to things the modern world doesn’t count, because they are intangibles.

Take the example of elephants.

From an interview with (the magnificent) Mary Eberstadt, I have learnt that an elephant calf will stay within a few feet of his mother for the first eight years of his life. I was vaguely aware of this from my travels in exotic countries, but now I have a tag to put on it. I will file it under “family values.”

Gentle reader, who may be a zookeeper or mahout, might ask an obvious, possibly rhetorical question. What happens if we separate mother and child earlier? One answer is, baby elephant dies. Another is that he doesn’t, but then you may have, in later life, a juvenile delinquent. And believe me, a juvenile delinquent who weighs upwards of three metric tonnes can be a considerable social problem.

Now, fish are notorious for abandoning their children, but not whales and other sophisticated seaborne mammals. Indeed, as we ascend the dignities of the animal kingdom we find that the higher animals require, in addition to the installation of “instincts” by nature, regimes of liberal education. Parents are first teachers throughout that kingdom, at least among the elites, in which we tend to include ourselves. One must be taught how to be an elephant, and likewise, how to be a human being.

Orphanages have been established among men, and certain animals still accept orphans, to make the best of difficult situations. Nature herself has been known to wink at a good back-up plan. But she prefers her original arrangements, and is conservative, if not reactionary, by disposition.

Let me mention a distinction of my own. Sophisticated animals with child-rearing skills tend towards rule, in the animal kingdom. Animals without, tend towards “becoming” — their food. This is a vague inference, however, and I would not recommend it to a student doing a biology exam.

Rather, I would consider such things in a general approach to life. At the risk of challenge from the speciesists, I would go so far as to suggest that humans may be superior to elephants (in some respects; I admit that elephants are heavier). Our children may require even more parental training, and the consequences of omitting this — or “economizing” on it, as it were — could be more grievous. (Traditionally, even fathers were involved.)

And while this may have little to do with money, directly, a world of trade-offs comes into view.

Why write?

By increments — this is one of my favourite phrases — the lockdown that continues in Ontario has been reducing me to my old condition of a pundit. Perhaps I should admit some rôle in this. Rather than simply lap in the luxury of more reading time, and more naps and in-sleeping, I become feverishly aware of reports from a world that, even at their most eloquent, make little sense.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” according to a soundbite from ancient Greece. But the more I examine these reports, the less I can justify writing at all.

Somewhere out there in the electronic fog, I find podcasters saying roughly what I’d say, at moments that I could log in their podcasts. I have even encountered Catholic commentators who, because they are unreconstructed Catholics, advance something like my own party line. Why disturb the peace that such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google would enforce, with their metastasizing banks of censors and “fact-checkers” — hired cheaply as they are laid off from our downsizing “legacy” media? The best one can hope is to give them more work.

Their style, or to be more accurate, their smell, is that of the “mainstream” editors I used to deal with. (One of my discoveries towards the end of the last century was that the dullest newspaper reader was at least five times as sentient as the most brilliant newspaper editor.) They (the editor-censors) were genuinely alarmed to see a memorable remark, especially if it might be strictly logical. They got powerfully irritated when they suspected that a writer was thinking for himself, or using new information.

How nice that they still have jobs.

From half a century ago, when I was a novice of sixteen breaking in — among the last not to have been frontally lobotomized in a journalism school — I recall a particularly obtuse editor on the page-assembling horseshoe of the (now contemptible) Globe & Mail. He had some copy in front of him that was, if I say so myself, dangerously funny. And he was diligently stroking through anything that made him laugh, with his blue pencil, leaving unaltered only the sludge.

Scottish, by the way. The memory of his face still makes me wince.

But give him his due, for he is my inspiration this morning. Perhaps I am sliding back into my old ways, pointlessly blathering about the “breaking news” around me. But if that is the case, to hell with it. I, with all my limitations, inherited from Adam and descendants passim, will tragically persist.

____________

A HAPPY RECOLLECTION. The Globe desk editor I mentioned above once sent me to fetch him a coffee. That was not my job, as I explained to him, but he called me a “young twerp,” repeated his order in a louder voice, and gave me a fiver to buy it with. In those days, a coffee could be had from the cafeteria for a nickel. (A dime in the more poncy places.) There was also a lovely lady on cash who had spare nickel rolls. I was able to obtain his change in the form of 99 nickels. He exploded, of course, when I spilled them over his desk, and went to the managing editor to demand that I be fired. But he was told that he’d be reported to the union for asking me to do something that was not in my job description, and so returned forlornly to his coffee, by then surely cooled. … (God bless him, wherever he is now.)

The GPS society

Do you have any rights, gentle reader? Perhaps not. Up here in the Canadas we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, granted by the charity of Pierre Trudeau (late father of the child now governing us). It spells out what we are allowed to do, “subject to such limits” as may occur to our government from time to time. I viscerally opposed it, whenas it was being written over our inherited constitution, four decades ago.

Animals have rights, under the law of the jungle. I approve of these, insofar as I approve of life on this planet. Hunters have rights, because they are animals. The state has rights, thanks to soldiers and police, for as long as they are willing to obey. What a lot of rights exist!

In the old Roman Fora, the Christian had the right, to be eaten by a lion. He had no other rights, however. As the Marxists say, the capitalist has his right, to become extinct. In their time, the passenger pigeons were as free as any bird; and the eagles, who used them as a foodstuff, had the right to harry their vast flocks. Our own right, to squab, tipped the balance until the last ones found the right to die naturally.

Rights are not conferred. They are taken. They exist for as long as they can’t be taken back.

Under the fabulous and mythical Natted States Constitution, these truths are self-evident. Though still young, it contains many mediaeval features. Federal, State, and Municipal governments are allowed to exercise certain prerogatives, under specified conditions; but there is another level of government. “The People” have all the rights that remain. This includes the ancient right to overthrow a tyrant. In the theory, they have not been granted these rights by the government, but by God — the Same who granted the rights of the Lion.

As Loyalists, not Patriots, my ancestors opposed the innovative Yankee legal arrangement; though as fellow Americans, they were just as feisty. Since I mentioned hunters above, let me consider gun rights. Our “right to bear arms,” up here in the Loyal Canadas, wasn’t encapsulated in any constitutional arrangement because it was among the oldest and most obvious rights. A man has a right to defend himself, and if he has the means, he will be respected. In his recent “Covid-related” (i.e. characteristically fraudulent) ban on 1,500 brands of firearms, the Trudeau child has been revising this. It is hardly the first outrage he has attempted — avoiding Parliament whenever he can.

To my shame, as a Canadian, he was not overthrown — even when we had a chance to do this peacefully.

Today, we have (not only in the Canadas but through much of the West) the sort of people to whom I’d have to explain that I am not advocating disorder. Rather, I propose to restore it. We were once free countries, to an extraordinary degree — thanks explicitly to our Christian traditions, through which were established conditions of trust. We have still, however, such rights as we are willing and capable of defending.

Unless we are willing to defend them — violently, when push comes to shove — we proceed to conditions like those in Red China. We will be allowed what most people seem to want: a “progressive,” consumerist, high-tech megacity. But it will be one in which we have agreed that, because we can’t be trusted, we must wear the equivalent of GPS bracelets.

Hope v. optimism

My policy, up here in the High Doganate, my ivory tower, is to maintain an attitude towards the world, down there, that is consistently sceptical and pessimistic. It is a policy that has been tested by events, and has seldom failed, if ever. There are, let me admit, moments when I have indulged a mushy sentimentality, relaxing my guard; when I have entertained the rather liberal thought, “things are getting better.” And I have been duly punished for each of these phantasias. For no, things are terrible, often getting worse, and anyone who thinks human life will end well, hasn’t been shoved into a ventilator yet. It is the one positive thing we might say about the Batflu; that it serves as a much overdue reminder — that if we are not dead yet, we will be, soon enough. In my view, it is the fate of optimists to be routinely suckered.

But this does not mean I am not hopeful. Or that, while I tend to be generous in my criticisms, things aren’t passable as they are.

Now, if gentle reader thinks I am going to blather on about Heaven, in the manner of a Born Again Happyface, he has guessed correctly. I don’t actually know anything about that place, except what I have glimpsed in fleeting moments; or have construed from my religion. From both I gather that our hope, when it is genuine, lifts us out of worldly conditions, disconnects us from our prospects down here. Moreover, these moments link or knit to each other, not to anything we might trade. As the saints have discerned, or so I speculate, futurity is now.

Hope is indicated, and to be cheerfully expressed in our works, as a lawyer might say. An optimist expects things to turn out well; a pessimist merely hopes to be wrong, for a change. But being right as usual needn’t disappoint him. We know that we will fail, in the end, but we do not hope for failure. Rather we hope for a good resolution, leaving this to the divine.

The hope is in Eternity, of course, but into our mundane life, it will frequently spill over. The beauty that is rejected (as “irrelevant” and unprofitable) in contemporary practical living, will be visible to the hopeful at the strangest times. It will appear in the most ridiculous situations. We must do our best to be prepared for them.

This is why I find dark humour so encouraging. It invites us to cease hoping for the wrong things.

Then & now

Long before the Batflu, there were plagues, as I’ve been hinting lately. Perhaps I should thank the shut-in, for an opportunity to revisit Marcus Aurelius, and the physician Galen, too. Roman soldiers campaigning in the Persianist Near East had often returned with nasty infections, in that ancient globalizing world, when the West was first trading with India and Han China; and disease was among the first things they traded in.

But the Antonine Plague of the later 160s AD, with its spectacular fevers, inflammations, and skin eruptions (possibly smallpox), visited millions of deaths upon the people everywhere from sober civilized Africa, far north into the German heart of darkness, making previous spot outbreaks seem tame. The later Plague of Cyprian (possibly our first adventure with the measles) also paradoxically helped to keep the Huns at bay, by substantially reducing the pressure on land.

Our estimates of the death tolls from these contagions are even less reliable than those from Italy or New York today. Hospitalizations were zero, however, because hospitals hadn’t been invented yet. Perhaps a quarter of the population was eliminated in each of these plagues; but it could have been half in either. Large rural areas were completely depopulated, from disease and the subsequent famines and disorders. The economy could be a problem, even then.

Yet the thoughtful Marcus Aurelius, who may himself have died from plague complications (he’d had co-morbidities all his life), did not think it was the worst thing that could happen, even when it was at its most raging in Metro Rome.  He thought the spread of falsehood and of charlatanry was worse — the way deceit circulated, as it were, like a virus.

Saint Paul of beloved memory had already issued his “Guidance” to the longsuffering citizens of this world. He did not (check it out) specify social distancing, sheltering in place, or any other method to stay safe. Rather his advice to its inhabitants was, “Be ye not conformed to the world.” This would work for all occasions.

In this generation of deChristianization, when the cads and monsters of surveillance are increasing their control, it is worth remembering our one defence against them. Even if gentle reader has been gaoled, for congregational singing, or for being a clergyman over the age of sixty-five (I cite two of the many banned items in a provincial instruction on church re-openings), he may remain inwardly free. For stone walls do not a prison make, &c.

Of course, if it were up to me, I would have the Knights of Columbus form armed militias to prevent the cops from busting in during Mass, but I doubt this idea would appeal to our present church leaders. Other, more pacific suggestions, such as sending a few Christians with flowers to a nearby abortion clinic, to keep the cops busy while others pray in church, would probably also be ignored. From the pope, performing pagan rites in Rome again this week, while continuing to sell out the Catholics in Red China, down to every smarmy liberal bishop and priest, our Church has herself been active in the deChristianizing process.

But it wasn’t just Saint Paul preaching non-conformity. Jesus of Nazareth had already warned us to expect stuff like this.