Essays in Idleness


Saint Cassian pray for us

Everyone knows that today is the Feast of Saint Hippolytus (I am joking); who, for his confession of the Faith, was dragged by wild horses. But not everyone appreciates that we also commemorate Saint Cassian, schoolmaster at Immola, disliked by his idol-worshiping boys. They put him to death by piercing, with their styluses. It was “long-drawn-out,” as the Roman Martyrology explains, with possibly unintended drollness.

Therefore he became the patron of — guess? — stenographers. As a (formerly) ink-stained wretch myself, who in his youth disliked several teachers, the story makes perfect sense to me. I, too, once worshiped idols. All the schoolboys did.

Do I believe it? Was Cassian actually slain in this way? I have no reason to doubt it. Truth is often stranger than fiction, and the whole of Christendom was founded on events the first listeners disbelieved. The Resurrection wasn’t plausible to them.

The idea of holy martyrdom itself is, today, somewhere out of reach. A little meejah tickle suggests, “Maybe he deserved it.” We want to know exactly what Cassian said to make his students so angry. Conditions during the Roman Persecution were, for people unexposed to history, quite unimaginable. Even conditions during Mao’s Cultural Revolution — when students also executed their teachers — are unknown to them. Everything becomes a mystery, to the thoroughly uneducated.

In a recent missal a man now styled Saint Cassian of Tangier, has been casually shifted to December. The backstory is also changed, to that of another Cassian in the Martyrology. The saint is identified as a court recorder, who at the pronouncement of a death sentence throws down his pen and declares, “I, too, am a Christian.” He is immediately arrested, and gets to share the martyrdom of his mentor. This is more plausible, for moderns, I suppose. But still, not plausible at all.

The latest version has Cassian of Tangier merely protesting the excessive use of the death penalty.

Glib plausibility is what we worship, today.

According to some poll, just published, 70 percent of living, nominal Catholics in the Natted States simply do not believe in the Real Presence. My first thought was, “No wonder they don’t go to church.”

But John Hirschauer, receiving this news, reminds us that some of them do. He recounts the reduction of the Mass, since Vatican II, to something glib, prosaic, tedious and painful. But let’s not go through the de-Catholicization of Holy Church again, it’s too depressing. Have Catholics been leaving the Church?

Often it looks more as if the Church has been leaving them. Many weren’t even told the doctrine, before they parted ways.

But give the last word to Mahatma Gandhi:

“If Catholics really believed that God Himself were present in the Eucharist, they would crawl towards the altar on their stomachs.”

The prognosis

No predictions are offered in these Idleposts, or if gentle reader is able to find one, he is instructed not to take it seriously. The question, “Where does this lead?” is often implied, but since matters must be considered one track at a time, or at most two or three, no safe predictions can be offered. Only facts can be attested (sometimes). When I look back over the “evolution” of any A into any B, this impossibility becomes obvious. Too many seemingly irrelevant factors come into the mix, and change it. One may say the whole trend was for the good or for the evil, but this involves blather.

Does anyone understand this? (Do I?) In colloquial speech and writing, we easily assume foreknowledge, and intentions that began as no part of the story. Even if we could understand what one of the characters intended, we cannot understand the combinations. It is hard enough to read one mind, retrospectively; and minds change, so that prospectively, we have no information.

Who, for instance, could guess that a girl (and if so, which one) would “trigger” mass hysteria in a Malayan high school, with her own sudden onset of what we used to call “the vapours”? (Some piece I was reading on the BBC.) We know that such events occur; that they are more frequent in some places than in others; that the hysterics are overwhelmingly young and female; but sometimes they are male. The hysteria starts explosively, the contagion is immediate; then like most things, it fades. Meanwhile, hundreds or thousands have participated, showing real symptoms for what had no medical cause. For no accountable reason, normality returns, and people have leisure to construct their explanations. But no one saw the irruption coming.

The same with mass shootings, knifings, and other violent acts. No policeman, nor any psychologist can see the crime coming, even if he has been tipped off about unstable persons. We will have to arrest everyone in advance. Even Comrade Stalin would be at a loss. We can however say that some places are more likely than others to provide a spontaneous “terror” incident, or that the overwhelming number of perpetrators will be young and male; though some will be female. (An incident that is planned can sometimes be interrupted by diligent police work, but the plan itself was spontaneously conceived.) In some circumstances, wild rioting may follow, but in most cases, no. “Copycat” killings, including suicides may happen, but again, who can guess where?

Social conditions contribute to such acts, but who can fully understand them? Who can consider them impartially, for each explanation must contain presuppositions, any of which can be made controversial. Often, I think, those who analyze the batty event are themselves batty; and sometimes a microphone is more dangerous than a gun.

Among our modern “myths,” or imaginings, is the notion that we can know what, in reality, only God could know. We assign motives, and judge, to suit our own convenience, at a given moment. We cannot judge the way God would judge, assuming the Christian revelation is true. (This is the presupposition of Faith, which I have certainly bought into.)

But if there is anything resembling a traditional moral order, as in all known pre-modern societies, we can easily know what is good or bad. We can make sense of the moral order, especially if like the Catholic one it is intellectually coherent; and we may praise or blame according to it. We can distinguish what is sane, from what is quite crazy.

The alternative to moral order is disorder. This becomes inevitable when conventions of good and bad are refounded not on reason and tradition, but on our messy, contradictory “feelings.” Things become bad not because they are demonstrably bad, but because we personally find them icky. We make ourselves the judges, and of course our judgements will vary, from day to day. We may not be mad, but will be able to mimic madness effectively this way.

What follows from this can be prognosticated, but only vaguely. A society will fall into warring, emotional factions. But this is not a specific prediction, rather an observation, of how things are, today.

Touch the Earth

Two thoughts that I simply must share with gentle reader, after examining this morning’s meejah. One is bigger than the other, though I’m not sure which.


Item: David Whitlock, gentleman and chemical engineer, observed horses rolling in dirt, near the beginning of this century. (I observed this phenomenon earlier, incidentally, and saw that it extends to many furred and feathered creatures.)

“Why do they do this?” he asked himself.

Too, I noticed that horses hardly ever take showers, voluntarily, and even when they do, they never reach for soap, or “sham-poo.” (Ditto, cats and sparrows.) Surely, something worth pondering. Consider, too, the humans in “developing countries,” not yet visited by the sales representatives of Unilever, or Procter & Gamble. Water, yes. Ivory soap, no. And instead of using peaceful laundry detergents, they beat their home-spun clothing against rocks. (Pre-industrial weaving can stand up to it, apparently.)

As an experiment, Mr Whitlock stopped bathing. After fifteen years, he denies having any body odour. He has also subscribed to the theory, that the skin is stripped of protective oils by soap and detergents — whereas, it was designed (by God) to preserve a rich, microbiomic heritage. True, Mr Whitlock developed quite a pong at first, but that was before he invented his own bacterial product: soil from a local farm, juiced with a nitrate from ammonia. Now, I gather, he smells pretty as a horse.

There is, I learn from the Grauniad, a flourishing cosmetic industry for other soap disenthusiasts. But surely gentle reader may save his money and avoid this bourgeois, extravagant trade. Just get out and roll in the dirt, occasionally.


Item: on tariff walls.

I was raised on the notion that “free trade” is a good thing, and that tariffs are bad, bad, bad. And true, I am still not a Socialist, Communist, or Democrat. But I do have a conservationist streak, and let me admit candidly that tariffs are good for the environment. Not only do they stop wasteful, carbon-fuelled, international shipping and transport. They should help close down innumerable, export-dependent, smokestack industries at home. A much cleaner Earth, and no more anthropogenic global warming!

Therefore I propose to nominate Mr Donald Trump and Mr Xi Jinping, to share the first Nobel Eco Prize.

A call to revolt

Patience is a virtue, one of many I sadly lack. My father, a serious industrial designer and thus a critic of modern industry, decried its general absence. There is a hurry to get things done. This has, no doubt, economic causes, using that term broadly to include deadlines of all kinds — the hurry to get to market, compounded by the incredible mass of tax and regulatory considerations that create a shallow obstacle course through which the creative are compelled to stumble. They function, in effect, as spatial deadlines, intersecting the temporal ones.

Sometimes arbitrary rules are necessary, of course, but the more they are centralized, codified, then subjected to chop and change, the more destructive of human ingenuity, and the more they encourage stupidity, waste, and corruption.

Leisure — in the sense crisply expounded by Josef Pieper and other penetrating Thomists — is eliminated or lethally crimped by these “deadlines.” (See: Leisure the Basis of Culture, trans. Dru, 1952. It has a fine introduction by T. S. Eliot, too, and should be on every idler’s most accessible bookshelf, until he has memorized it.)

Pieper does not say this directly, but I will: the opposite of philosophical leisure is glibness. It has other opposites, but I mention this one because it is involved in almost every form of ignorance, atheism, and sin. Rather than think anything through, to first principles, we race through the equivalent of a hop-scotch course, our minds fully loaded with distraction. We must “touch all the bases.”

Our modern conception of science is a bureaucratic mechanism called “scientific method” which denies the existence of human intuition, and thus our humanity. It is never actually followed — no scientist ever discovered anything in a time-serving, methodical way; especially not on billion-dollar machines. But still we praise and believe in this method, or such derivatives as Popper’s “falsifiability,” because we are easily pleased, profligate, and hopelessly glib.

It is the same in every section of art and design. A few, a very few, independent and searching minds, take the leisure to “build cathedrals,” as it were. They remain conscious not of arbitrary rules, but of Nature and the God who is the source for emulation. The conception of God may take various shapes in the human imagination, but everyone fully alive will know what he means by “God,” even while denying Him.

God is not glib. As evidence, let me cite the extent of the universe, and the complexity of its parts. Yet to the mind of a Darwinist, or other tomfool, God is imagined as a random, non-teleological process; as movement with no end in view. God is conceived as if He were glib.

Ditto on the moral, and legal, planes. We appropriate the divine; declare ourselves authors of goodness and truth; draught standing orders and legislation. We legislate “progress” by intellectual oversight, replacing what is changeless with things that are changing. It is interesting that not only the Christian but the ancient pagan traditions were free of this arrogance, in which we assume that chance and destiny lie within our power. But all human power is illusory. In the end every one of us is dead.

Finally, on the plane of poetry — the embodiment of the beautiful — our poetical feet are caught in catch phrase, cliché. We are going through the motions, like bonobos or bigger monkeys. We perform jingles.

Unless: we stand back from our little games, and take whatever time is necessary, to consult with the ages and the Master of the ages.

Make a stand now, gentle reader! It is time that we staged a Revolt Against Glibness.

August calmative

It is true, I have been dawdling, and am at risk of further dawdling, so long as this summer lasts. Hardly anyone reads me, though; who will notice?

Truth to tell, I have nearly lost my mind, so that it wobbles on the precipice of being, and I am under an arguably moral imperative to, if possible, fetch it back. But then, mental health is often overstated. For instance, I have caught myself taking “events” with untoward seriousness, and devoting an unconscionable amount of time to perusing such filth as the Main Stream Meejah. At the risk of contradicting Mr Trump, there is no genius who can do that very long, and remain “extremely stable.” Indeed, I attribute the fact that all of our politicians are mad, to their universal habit of following the news. How could anyone maintain equanimity, keep an even temper, even a straight face, in such circumstances? Invariably they turn into strait ones.

And when they are not following the news, they are generating it.

“Monkey see, monkey do.”

Voters should demand that they take long, reflective vacations, for their frenetic activity is idle in entirely the wrong way. It should be philosophical. I propose that presidents only serve, and parliaments meet, once in a while. Their bureaucrats should likewise be encouraged towards indefinite truancy. By way of giving them the hint, we could stop paying them. Let them go to the fields to watch the food grow, and ready themselves to help come the harvest.

The French are good at this, or were. In France, by tradition, nothing happens during the month of August, and the government shuts down. I spent that month in Paris, once, and found that the city had become, except for a few abandoned tramps and lunaticks — and some critically necessary wine merchants — completely depopulated. Indeed, even the Sorbonne was emptied of its usual rioting communists. Even feral pigs had disappeared from the suburban arrondissements, in pursuit of their neighbours, to carry on their culinary researches in the départements. Finally, even I left. It was just too hot — that year as no doubt every other — and when the plumbing failed, the prospect of bathing in the Seine did not appeal to me.

I may still write one thing or another, now or then through the month, should I find myself present in Greater Parkdale, up here in the High Doganate, and feeling perversely industrious. For even my absences are unreliable. But gentle reader should ignore these things. He will find, if he shuts down his laptop, and any other devices he may own, past North American Labour Day, that nothing will have happened in this world, at all worth his attention.

Unless something does, but should that be the case, he is likely to be apprised, direc’ly.


It has come to my attention that Britain has a new prime minister, BoJo the Clown (known to his friends as “Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson”). I gather Mrs Maybe, previously raised to that office under some gender equality programme I suspect, didn’t work out. Mr BoJo has already been criticized for having unkempt blond hair (and small eyes, I have noticed). Too, he was educated at Oxford University, which is still somewhat élite. He was able to use the word anaphora in a sentence (here), and shares with Churchill (and Trump) an ebullience, a buoyant exuberance, that his enemies invariably discount to their cost. He is a reminder that one man (and I have named three) can change the course of history, and the fate of nations.

Not necessarily for the better, of course.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Member of Parliament for North East Somerset, is suddenly elevated from the backbenches to the front bench; from persistent articulate rearguard rebel, to House Leader in the Mother of Parliaments; and, Lord President of the Council.

Born to rule (the son of an editor of The Times), the now right honourable gentleman stands as a throwback to 1529, when the last indigenous Catholic was appointed to that office. (Though I am not entirely clear what were the Privy Council arrangements under Good Queen Mary, before the return to Erastian apostasy under Bad Queen Bess.)

Not merely a Conservative but a member of the party’s (“Faith, Flag, and Family”) Cornerstone Group, and a diligently practising Roman Catholic with forty children or so, Rees-Mogg has already made a mark in his new rôle, by imposing rules of style and civility upon his staff, if not the Tory caucus, the British nation, worldlings, &c. Extremely useful, and ought to be widely leaked.

Mr BoJo, too, was christened a Catholic, though it has not so far had much effect. He has rabbinical Jewish and infidel Turk antecedents, too, and learnt Anglican hymns at Eton. He is thus a kind of one-stop shop for nominal Abrahamic associations, but to the point, the Orangemen of Ulster are already calling him “England’s first Catholic prime minister” — and what’s good enough for Belfast is good enough for me.

So … (Rees-Mogg says never begin a sentence with this word.) … After nearly five hundred years of absence without leave, can England be walked back to Rome? …

Pourquoi pas? I ask you.

The young daughter of a close friend, watching some royal wedding on TV, asked her mother about the affiliation of Westminster Abbey. The announcer said it was Anglican, but this little girl said it sure looked Catholic to her. Her mother quickly explained about the Reformation; how the Abbey was built by the True Church, but expropriated by the demonic Henry VIII, &c.

After puzzling on this for a moment, the wee daughter inquired: “So why don’t we storm it and take it back?”

Another example, I should say, of ebullience; we can’t really know what is possible till we try.

Western Civ is in decline, I am told (plausibly). Our societies have been “secularized,” and the great majority of Europeans and Americans no longer even pretend to be Catholic.

So why don’t we storm them?

Breaking news now broken

Curiosity, of the kind that kills cats, makes it impossible for me to ignore Pew reports on the “state of the meejah.” You see, I used to be in that disreputable trade. The report I just perused filled me with anxiety; the uncomfortable thought that I am an idler, wantonly wasting my time. Still, all work and no play would make David a dull boy.

Allow me to shock gentle reader by reporting that newspaper circulations are lower than before, and advertising revenues are shrinking. Single copy sales are down to 1940 levels in the Natted States Merica, it sez here. This doesn’t strike me as necessarily alarming for the owners, for a lot of newspapers were sold back then. Surely there are still profits to be made.

However, as I am reminded by consulting a copy of the Brooklyn Eagle from that year, three-quarters of the pages were ads. (I still read physical newspapers, but instead of newsstands I buy them in flea markets. I find newspapers aged at least half a century more informative and interesting than the ones published today.)

Moreover, the pages were wide: much space allotted to classified ads in agate type and yet, a lot of tightly-spaced “news,” too, and hardly any pointless “features.” In word-count, vastly more than any current daily journal, whose ad-free pages are mostly filled with large photographs and irrelevant headlines to serve as captions for them.

No journalist seems to have thought of it, but I suspect that a contributing cause of plunging sales might be that the market has perceived a total waste of money — now that fish is wrapped in cellophane. Even the reader hoping for soft pornography will find much better on the Internet, for free.

I’m not finished with the Pew Research Centre yet. We also learn that passive television watching is in decline, and Internet news, too. Radio is ill. News reporting is overall fading away, except “cable news” channels, which seem to be holding their own for the moment, thanks to viewers who absurdly love Trump, or pathologically hate him. There are other indications: that voters are less and less informed, even of the lies, the empty bull and posturings that constitute our democratic life. News is now entirely a failing entertainment industry, that had replaced such bloodsports as cockfighting; though it has become more fully an outlet for the deadly sin of Wrath.

All good, so far as I can see. The belief in “progress” requires constant punishment, and people can be relied upon to do it to themselves.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Pew, we learn that the Catholic Church is losing members evermore quickly in Europe and America, together with all other Christian churches. My own guess is that this is for the same reason that newspapers are collapsing. Little of significance happens in a contemporary church; just the usual “politically correct” prattle from a pulpit, to a stripped-down auditorium without upholstered seats. Church attendance has fallen below 1940 levels: “daily and Sundays” both way down.

People aren’t much interested in the news from Heaven any more. But they aren’t much interested in the news from Earth, either.

More generally: people aren’t much interested, today.

Artificial spirits

The word “culture” is one of countless that have changed meaning over the years. From what one does for oneself — acquire something by one’s own assiduous efforts — it has instead become what is done to you. The culture is taken to install itself. Some variation on “the culture made me do it” is used as the presumptive excuse when overriding moral principles, which can be dismissed as “so yesterday.” Thinking things through is disparaged, and in a reverse of logic, false premisses are substituted for those that were demonstrably true.

Christopher Dawson made this observation — about the evolution of “culture” as a “cultural” term — in passing, about sixty years ago. I reflect that the phenomenon befits a “trend,” that has been passing through our “culture” from the French Revolutions of the 18th century to the French Revolutions of the 20th. A “culture” has become an animate thing, with a soul and a will, like a person. It has also become a vacuous, irrational force, such that a “multiculture” can also be a (singular) thing. Happily, the older use of the term has survived in some instances. One may still say that a person is cultured, or has acquired a cultural substance of some kind (such as the ability to read with attention). This, we might surmise, is a concession of “the culture” (now using the word in its contemporary sense).

What happens, gentle reader may ask, in a Petri dish? If one is a bacteriologist (or other real, ensouled, wilful person), one may use it to culture cells. The Petri dish itself, while real, is without soul or will. A culture can be said to form within the dish, but it is the product of chemical and physical mechanisms, which the scientist wishes to manipulate. The elevation of culture to a noun was illicit. It was a misappropriation of our intellectual resources.

I mention this because “artificial intelligence,” with all the misconceptions that it carries, has been sneaking into our cosmology. We claim to create something that, more carefully considered, pre-existed: the natural materials and forces that we manipulated. It may be that an advanced computer, specially programmed and focused over time, can beat Garry Kasparov in a game of chess. But the computer uses great electronic power, stored memory of innumerable moves, the means to search a vast database, &c — to defeat a guy with no “artificials” whose brain is functioning on one-fifth the power of a light bulb (less than 20 watts). Moreover, if he tried to do what the computer is doing, Kasparov would be disqualified for cheating.

The machine lacks soul, will, or consciousness, though it can be endowed with an appearance of such things — by human design. With the advance of technology the illusions grow. As I write, there are people cowering in fear of what Artificial Intelligence will do, including business lords of the tech sector, and by all means they should disconnect machines which they can’t philosophically understand.

But they don’t scare me — except in the sense that a crocodile or a skunk could scare me. A robot has no bad will, and cannot acquire one. Only its programmer can achieve the exalted state of malice. The robot may work on deterministic principles; the mad scientist certainly does not.

We live in an age of superstition and credulity in which, generally, abstractions from abstractions become gods, and even abstractions from them can be worshipped. The class politics of Marxism made this respectable among malicious intellectuals, but Marx was undergirded by Hegel and Hegel by the vaguely or precisely Cartesian project that undergirds modernity. History is taken to be governed by laws not unlike gravity, electromagnetism, or the strong and weak nuclear forces; except, thanks to their objective “material” existence, things like gravity are not actually worshipped, merely obeyed. The supposed fundamental historical forces — the gods who created the “cultures,” as it were — are, in the end, quite artificial spiritual constructions.

From the Devil, if you ask me.

The power of dreams

By way of making a long Idlepost short, dreams — whether good ones or bad ones — are quite powerless. Work is what gets things done on this planet. Pharaoh didn’t get the Pyramids built on dreams. He employed, or more pointedly enslaved one hundred thousand worker bees, according to Herodotus. It is the same for our modern, democratically-elected “nation builders,” raising monuments to themselves. Someone has to do the work, someone has to pay.

There is no free lunch, and there are no free pyramids.

I was dreaming this morning as I woke of some vast white elephant scheme for which I, apparently, was responsible. Needless to say it was turning belly up, and I was in receipt of criticism for my tendency to ruthless incompetence. There was something in the air about a Moon Shot, easily explained by today’s anniversary.

John F. Kennedy had a dream — plus the power to commandeer huge resources. Martin L. King had a dream — that hasn’t quite worked out yet, so far as I can judge from the American meejah. Someone else had a dream, according to an old snake-oil pamphlet I consulted yesterday. There are multiple dreamers in this morning’s news — all expecting someone else to pay. I predict, when they don’t, each dreamer will get very stroppy.

That’s why taxes were invented — to make the worker bees work, or pay for things they would never support, voluntarily. Some of those things might actually be for their own good, but such endeavours almost always consist of stopping someone else’s dream from happening. In retrospect, they are never appreciated, for no one gives points when something doesn’t happen. Alas, only the fully grown are likely to comprehend this.

Are there any grown-ups, today?

The manned landing on the Moon made a fine entertainment, and a poignant memory. (See here.) What it cost has now washed under the bridge. I would not dream of trying to change the past. At most I might wish to change the future: put some screeching breaks on it, perhaps.

I have no objection to anyone who would send astronauts to distant orbs, so long as his recruits know what they’re doing, and the entrepreneur has the means to pay. My approval might come a bit quicker if they want to launch less sexy, high-tech wee little unmanned probes, “to see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.”

But if you want to spend fifty or five hundred or five thousand times more to put a man down there (and a woman won’t be any cheaper), I’m not standing in your way. Who knows what the return might be on an investment like that? The prospective space pioneer could do a whip-round at ye pub to collect his first billion or two; then see if the banks will accept his collateral.

Our own world will show some modest sign of maturity when the banks decline. Or later, when they foreclose on him.

On a lump of coal

The most beautiful coal mine in the world is, by general consensus, shaft 12 of the Zollverein works in Essen, Germany. Alas, it is no longer in production — the do-gooders closed it in 1993 — but now even Unesco counts it among “World Heritage Sites.” In 1932, near the end of the Weimar Republic, the architects Schupp and Kremmer achieved a glorious vindication of the “objective functional” design ethic, in poured concrete and tiles, red steel and trusses; the unforgettable façade of the Boiler House, and the sublime Winding Tower which became an international symbol of German engineering.

Gentle reader could, were he interested, dig out of the Internet (with some help from Google Translate if necessary) the whole history of industrial production along the Ruhr, going back deep into the Middle Ages; and centuries later, of the coal, coking, and steel-making enterprise “Zollverein,” named to celebrate the German customs union of 1834. (It helps if you were the son of an industrial designer, raised in appreciation of such things; and your mother was from the coalfields of Cape Breton. More still, if your first love was for a girl from Essen.)

Coal is a metal, and it is not a metal; both points can be decisively proved. Because it has been used almost exclusively as a fuel, through the centuries, becoming a cheap commodity associated with dismal work conditions and pollution, it is not held in much esteem. Too, since the strength and skills required to mine, refine, distribute and use this substance are unambiguously masculine, it is disparaged in our toxically feminist culture. It is considered “unclean” not only physically but new-age spiritually. The many millions of unambiguous males who still work in the coal-centred industries — for instance “stoking” a form of electricity generation that provides several hundred times more power than the output of our bird-slaughtering windmills — are themselves trolled by all progressive politicians, who gloat at every prospect of putting them and their families out of their livelihoods.

I love coal, as a material in itself, and long treasured a lustrous black nugget of nearly pure carbon polished anthracite, that came to me in a Christmas stocking — hung by a fireplace nearly sixty years ago. It was a lasting reminder to me that coal is an extremely precious thing; a divine gift. In chemical and physical analysis we are only beginning to understand its remarkable properties, and its potential for use far beyond building water heat to spin turbines. Notwithstanding, sans sulphur and the more immediate volatiles, slow-burned at high temperatures, it can indeed spin those turbines smokelessly; and can itself be spun in extraordinary carbon-fibrous ways.

The greatest disaster in education today, is the loss of that explicitly Christian conception of a God-created universe and planet. It enhanced the merely empirical reason, directing our attention to the very miracles that the modern, post-humanized world denies, and mocks. It provided a vision of the bottomlessly precious, from the smallest atomic scale to the farthest we can see, and was unquestionably the reason Christian, Western man took his commanding place in the world’s transformation. This had nothing whatever to do with geography or race. It had everything to do with a way of looking upon Creation — in Plato’s transcendental terms of the good, the true, and the beautiful; in Aristotle’s glimmering of a prime mover over-pinning logic; in the ancient Hebrew meeting-place of God and Man.

Let it be understood that coal is precious; that the ancient bio-matter compacted into coal was, and actually remains, precious; that all matter and much beyond matter, all life, is precious here below — under the titanic furnace of the sun. Then can we begin to see how precious is that Special Creation, beyond miracle, of every human soul.

Omigod chronicles

Having been told many times that I’m not welcome here; that I should go back where I came from; that if I came from here I should nevertheless leave the country; or that I should recede in time, and go fix the problems of the 13th century; or move to any other century that will have me; … hooo, do I empathize with “The Squad.” They, too, were told they should go home (to Somalia, or the Bronx, or wherever) and fix the problems there. It was a very hurtful comment. And made by Donald Trump, on Twitter. He is worse than Hitler.

Me, too, was a victim of racism; including chrono-racism, the worst kind. (There has been a genocide against all those born before the 20th century. They’re all dead now.) I was utterly traumatized, let me tell you — so much that, in several cases, I attempted a witty rejoinder. In others, I didn’t react at all. I waited for my fellow panelists to defend me. But they didn’t have the courage. They just sat there, like grinning idiots, pretending that nothing important had happened.

I get so outraged by Donald Trump, when he tweets what most of the population are thinking; until he says it and they line up to condemn him. He is such a racist. An anti-Semite, and what makes it worse, a Zionist and an Israel-lover. A guy making jobs more plentiful for Blacks and Hispanics, just to buy them off. (What a corrupt person!) An Orange Supremacist. He even has an estate in Florida.

A Fascist, who wants to enforce immigration laws. There are concentration camps all along the Mexican border now, with millions of people trying to get into them.

Why do you think people elected Trump? Because Vladimir Putin told them to do so. That’s what made them think he’d be okay. But he’s a Russian agent. Probably an Iranian agent, too.

Trump is putting tariffs on the poor, innocent, defenceless Red Chinese, so that we can’t buy them at Walmart any more. His wife is from Slovenia. He must have bought her in the slave market at Ljubljana, and smuggled her in Air Force One.

Time to impeach him: before he wins another election. And don’t wait another minute! For it could be a landslide next time.

Factory work

In the factories that I own — all of which happen to be imaginary — the managers are instructed never to pay our workers more than they could make if they quit. Not much less, however, and we do after all pay bonuses to, e.g., those who have lots of children, and modest extras to those experiencing bad luck, too. There are also worker dividends at year-end. But, “paying attention” is what we try to do better than other employers. Alas, all this is complicated by our endless fights with the guvmint Tax and Labour Departments, and the Inspectors from the Department of Redundancy Department. In principle, however, we try to pay less.

This is to be sure that our staff are loyal. Which means, we have to be loyal to them.

We pay monthly, on the nail, never hourly; salaries not wages, as the accountants say. Some of the jobs are in effect piecework, but this is for work contracted out. Inside, work is performed by teams. No team has more than a dozen people, and each has a captain or foreman, often as not elected by his mates. They, in turn, form teams at the next level up, and so on hierarchically. But the focus is on the factory floor, for that’s where production actually happens, as opposed to ventilation and careerism. Working hours are approximate, and shifts are exchanged informally, but deadlines must be met, and persistent slackers can of course be fired. We do expect our foremen to be a little inspiring, though, and paternal in just the right way.

No enterprise is without internal strife, but I’ve found that this can be minimized if morale is kept high. Hence, the elimination of “production lines,” and the emphasis we place on the design not only of our products, but on the physical surroundings in which they are made. It is a little known fact that there is a trade-off between quality and “efficiency” (as statistically defined). As nothing we make is for the low, mass market, and nothing is ever marked down in price, we reverse the usual assumptions about economies of scale. That which hasn’t sold is withdrawn, shipped elsewhere or broken up for recycling. A lot of thought has gone into eliminating waste, especially the human waste of boredom.

True, our competitors hate us. That is because everything we make is the best of its kind — “twice the price but lasts ten times longer; classic style that won’t go out of date.” People told us this was a self-defeating economic strategy, but I’m here to tell you it works. (In my imagination.)

It further helps that we are not trying to dominate any of the markets in which we compete, only to hold our own. The intention is to cultivate steady, really satisfied customers, who trust our workmanship and integrity, and will stick with our goods from generation to generation; who “buy into the brand,” as it were.

The reason I’m so rich (in spirit) is that I learnt, early in life, that hardly anyone works just for the money, unless he is psychotically greedy, or desperate. Most wish to be around friends, who value them for what they do and are. Most would prefer a workplace that is beautiful, and joyous, to say nothing of safe. These are among the perqs we try to provide in all our firms, at Dominion Holdings.

“Community” is often advertised, but seldom delivered in modern life. I think, for instance, of our big car assembly plant, at Lakebottom, Ontario. It has a choir and orchestra. There are several field clubs, the gastronomical workshop in a company cafeteria, the factory gardens with so many volunteers. We have a gym and the rooftop race track, our hockey and baseball teams, the reading circles that meet in our library. There is the med clinic that can handle anything, with its free pharmacy.

A factory is also a school, according to some corporate adage, and gentle reader should see our in-house nursery and kindergarten, our night and apprenticeship classes, the exhibits of models and drawings and even fine art that are scattered about. There are research facilities within the factory “campus,” and workers with bright ideas are quite welcome there (we have a very busy patent lawyer). Many are drawn to the attached garage, in which we restore old cars and trucks for a hobby, while rediscovering lost craft skills. The finest interior in the whole complex, according to me, is the Latin-mass church, dedicated to Saint Eloi (after whom the company was named); though some prefer the smaller meditative “non-denom” chapel for our Protestant, Buddhist, and Novus Ordo staff. One of our managers is also a rabbi.

It is not true that, if you build a better mouse-trap, the world will beat a path to your door. But neither is it true that advertising can save the inferior mouse-trap manufacturer. As any Trump could tell you, the trick is to get people talking, and the less it costs you, the more it pays back. Good faith, good will, and good humour are the watchwords of our publicity operation, and (in my imagination) it seems to be working well enough.

Full retro

My readings in mediaeval economic history peaked when I was given an assignment, a few years ago, by some newspaper chain that happened to be employing me. They were planning a celebration of Capitalism to delight their pro-business readers, and wanted to regurgitate the cliché iteration of a much-disproved thesis about the “Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” that Max Weber (1864–1920) never held. I, on the contrary, wanted to resist it. I sent in a draught manuscript on the development of trade finance, double-entry bookkeeping, brand management, and industrial production in mediaeval Florence and across pre-modern Europe, to make clear that this thesis, associating the birth of “capitalism” with the Protestant Reformation, was fanciful diddly-squat. My manuscript was neither returned, nor published. It was off-message.

A ludicrous belief in “modern progress” is shared by ideologues both Left and Right, and has been since the European Enlightenment. Both assume that “business,” and “science,” were inventions of modern people — freethinking, self-starting, emancipated — casting off the shackles of religious tyranny and dark superstition that had constrained all generations before. People much like themselves. By simply ignoring the evidence of history — rather as modern media simply ignore news unless it fits their agenda — an alternative world can be constructed. This is a world in which the heroes are all “liberators” of one kind or another, setting their necks against the ignorant, malevolent, self-serving villains, trying to sustain feudalism, slavery, tradition.

The end justifies the means, in progressive pedagogy, and so the endless repetition of bald yet mediocre lies can be justified. The progressive is by definition “on the side of history,” a cause so irreproachably good that pious fraud may be used to advance it. Naturally, the spokesman for progress accuses his opponents of doing exactly what he would do. Over time, realities are forgotten, progress triumphs over its foes, and a brave new world prevails until the catastrophe in which it collapses.

We are governed by superstition today. I realize this at each appearance of a new diet fad, each vomit of statistics, each announcement of the latest findings of one branch of scientism or another — that another progressive embolism has ensconced itself in a vein of the human body politic. A new witch-hunt is about to launch, against a new villain who deserves “zero tolerance.”

Our safety depends on the immediate rejection of anything that is presented as progressive. Suppress the contagion of Progress, before it kills us all.