Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Conservative, not Republican

That's how I respond when people, on finding out that I do not tow the liberal line, assume that I am a Republican. Well, I vote for the feckless bunch of pussies, but, really, what are my choices?

Thomas Sowell puts it well. The thing is to find a man who can get Barry Hussein O out of the White House
 If not, then the fate of America -- and of Western nations, including Israel -- will be left in the hands of a man with a lifelong hostility to Western values and Western interests.
He needs to go back into some faux-professional sinecure again, like teaching "Constitutional law" --aka the 14th amendment-- as an unpublished "senior lecturer" or being president of the Harvard Law Review without a trace...if you except a six-page piece on abortion that some of his acolytes praise as a rare addition to his body of work. What body of work? God, what a fraud this guy is. Snookered a whole country just because he's half Nigerian. He makes Jimmy Carter look good.

PS I was thinking of Romney today, unenthusiastically, and realized that if he were a Democrat, the press would have made him into the man they wanted us to believe that John Kerry is/was.

Nancy, not Oscar

Oscar Wilde's famous description of aristocrats fox-hunting: The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.

Nancy Pelosi kinda put her verbal finger on much of the American culture wars in a recent comment she made to opponents of gay marriage:

The inconceivable to you is the inevitable to us.

And so it is with many things. Which is why I sometimes think we are having a civil war without guns.

HT to National Review's David Kahane, who takes this on in a much more raucous and funny way.


Just occurred to me that my general attitude toward gay men --each individual case being a different matter, though-- is not positive, except that I support them having sex with each a case of loving the sin and hating the sinner.

Just give me time and I wind up turning things inside out.

Media fasting

My Lenten asceticism of giving of reading things that provoke me to aneurism and fantasies of murder means that I have been reduced to reading a lot of headlines-only. But given the ways of the race, sometimes I don't need to read on to know what's in the story. Ah, the devil's sneaky tricks!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


It is a well established fact of science and religion both that I have lousy car carma. Which is why I no longer have a car. I owned three vehicles from 1998-2009. Each one of them came to a bad end: crashed (while driven by my ex), stolen and stripped by a bunch of Black thugs (from a block and half away) and then totalled by a drunken (White) truck driver while parked (a block and a half away). During their lives, each of these cars, two Honda Civics and an Isuzu Rodeo were more than once sideswiped or backed into whilst parked on the street. I never once had a moving accident, if you don't count the time the Rodeo just died right in the middle of the intersection of 16th and Mission at midday. And this is on top of the practically inevitable pile of parking tickets that you get in San Francisco. So despite the severe inconvenience and, even more, one more wound to my sense of adult agency during a period of personal contraction, I decided the cost was just too much.

With laptops I have had somewhat less disastrous karma, but it has not been a smooth ride. And here I have to claim some responsibility. The one I am using now was a replacement for one that I destroyed by getting my foot caught in its wires and dragging it off the desk onto the hardwood floor. And that one had previously been rescued after the strap on the bag it was in broke and it wound up on the cement in the NY subway. I could go on, but you get the picture.

That's why, when my Roku up and died, I was not surprised. (Or when my microwave cooked itself to death last summer). My current cellphone, though somewhat moody, is functional. And I have had it since August 2010. Practically a record.

Now this laptop is having graphics nervous breakdown. On and off, the color display goes from normal to a shimmering kind of impressionistic tie-dyed blur. From what I figure, the graphics card is in trouble. And since this is an economical model, it is likely soldered into the motherboard and not replaceable...which means that I will likely have to get another one before long. That would make three laptops in three years.

I'm not complaining. That would be unmanly. I'm jus' sayin'.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Past wanderings

Back in the early 70s, as part of my coming-out-to-myself turmoil, I did a week's retreat at a monastery in upstate New York called New Skete. It was started by a group of young Franciscans in the 60's, who were Catholic, but followed the Slavic Byzantine rite. Over the years they decided to become Orthodox, added on a community of nuns and another of married couples. For some reasons no one will talk about, their founder got kicked out, and they built a larger church...and became famous for raising German shepherds.

I remember standing in the (old) church above, looking at the big icon of Christ and clenching my fists, sort of trying to stare him down. And when I talked in very general terms with the founder-abbot about it, he said, "Well, every man has to have a kind of poetry to make his life worthwhile. That's kinda what faith is."


तवास ब्रिल्लिग़ एंड थे स्लिथ्य तोवेस दीद गयर एंड गिम्ब्ले इन थे वबे.
ত্বাস বৃল্লিগ আন্দ থে স্লিথ্য় তভেস দিদ জ্ঞ্রে আন্দ গিম্ব্লে ইন থে বাবে.
ትዋስ ብርልልግ አንድ ትሄ ስልትህይ ቶቨስ ድድ ግይረ አንድ ግምብለ እን ትሄ ዋቤ።
Твас бриллиг анд тхе слитхы товс дид гире анд гимбле ин тхе вабе.
توس بریللیگ اند تهه سلیتحی توس دید گیره اند گیمبله این تهه وبه.
Τωας βριλλιγκ αντ θε σλιθυ τοβες διδ γυρε αντ γιμβλε ιν θε ωαβε. ત્વાસ બ્રીલ્લીગ અંદ થે સ્લીથ્ય તોવેસ ડીડ ગ્ય્રે અંદ ગીમ્બ્લે ઇન થે વબે.

From Left to Right

After reading some head-shaking words from the town of Ross, California, in response to being (quite rightly) chosen as the home of the One Percent in Marin County, I was thinking again about (liberal, of course!) ideology as a trance, a spell, a kind of habituated possession. I wandered around the net and found this in the comments of one blog I check on.
My own conversion experience was hardly as dramatic as hers, because I was never really a hard leftist. I hated politics and considered myself an anarchist, because that’s an easy way to float by in college. You don’t have to think anything through and you get to be cool. I did nonetheless have a soft spot for some of the harsher Marxist critiques of “the system,” but I would never have voted for a Democrat – I never would have voted for anyone.

Lets just say I felt very “at home” with leftists – far, far leftists – culturally and intellectually (I liked French postmodernism and Foucault and crap like that).

But my turning point, when I started to become both politically aware and conservative, was when a friend of mine tried to hold a debate between the three Republicans on campus and about 35 of the 3,000 socialists (my college was extremely leftist). After the debate – which I sat through in utter disgust, listening to the crowd boo and hoot and hiss and curse every time the Republicans tried to speak – one of the Republicans had the tires on his car slashed and “fascist” carved in his car with a knife. He left the school not long after.

I remember realizing at that point that my options had been whittled down fairly cleanly.
I wasn’t an anarchist, because I had this sense of propriety and good form. Somebody, I thought, should have made the crowd shut-up. I realized then that my respect for human decency was far more essential to me than my disrespect for ALL authority. Tying those two thoughts together – cultivating human decency by having a cultivated sense for genuinely oppressive authority – is essential to conservatism.

I also realized I wasn’t a leftist because no ideas that had to be defended LIKE THAT could be worth defending.

So by default I said, “OK, if I’m going to learn about politics, then I’m going to start with the people who deplore displays like the one I just saw.” And then I read Thomas Sowell and David Horowitz. They explained very well what I saw. And that was that.

I had thought these people were just nice hippie communist buddhists. Individually they often were. But when the locusts brushed wings… I’d seen no fury like it.

I share with other gay conservatives the experience of rarely if ever being personally attacked or demonized by other conservatives, even deeply religious ones who hold no brief for men-with-men. They will make their case strongly, but hardly ever with personal rancor. On the other hand, the common first response from liberals, gay and straight, is anger. And the ad hominems (and one or two death wishes) are about twelve seconds behind.

For a Five, the commentor's remark that most hits home: no ideas that had to be defended LIKE THAT could be worth defending. 
In my more tricksterish moments, I have enjoyed watching the faces of liberals who praised cultural diversity and then froze when I sang the praises of Nebraska and Wyoming --"so different from the big cities on the coasts"-- or when they announced their independent open-mindedness, grimaced at my suggestion that the death penalty should be more widely used against serial rapists and multiple murderers*, to really show how much we value women and innocent human life.


*Did you know, by the way, that when Arnie Schwarzenegger's Austrian home town named a stadium after him, it had to be changed when California executed multiple-murdering thug Tookie Williams? There were protests in the streets.

The race that dare not speak its name

Lesbians beat up gay man.
Is it a "hate crime"?

Guess what the pictures tell us that the media won't?

What if three gay men had beaten up one lesbian...
and she was the same color as the lesbians here?

Waddaya think would be happening now?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Western suicide continues

Marvel comics exhibits the internal dynamic of liberalism's suicidal drive, convincing them that as they erase themselves they are actually achieving a higher ethical state.

Note that they do not design another hero but kill off the old one to make way for the hybrid.

They join Action comics in cultural treason.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Obamanation of desolation

It's Lent, so I will not comment. You can imagine.

Roku e risorto

New one arrived today. Fast. Got an HD cable, too, so I have a clearer picture. Happy birthday to me.
Thanks, Bonehead.

Meandering on the line

I remember being struck once by a thought, many years ago and in a quite different situation, that went like this: "In order to possess what you most value, you may often have to tolerate what you detest."

It should not be surprising if that thought were true, in a world well described by John Kekes as one of "scarcity, contingency and flaw."  Because there is never enough of anything for people to have what they desire, requiring competition and gain-and-loss, because the unexpected and unplanned-for is always happening, and because human beings are a complex mix of goodness and evil, with the evil part not negligible.


Following links, I wound up in the comments section of the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper with its feet planted firmly in 1968. An article about possible successors to the current pope included the usual concern about an American as being too tied to a "superpower". One indignant commentor, indicative of the temper and brains of most of them, opined, "Who said America is a 'superpower'? What about the Eurozone?"



Words have definitions --or at least they used to. Of late it seems that Humpty Dumpty is in charge of Webster's. "Marriage" suddenly has nothing to do with gender. And in England the Minister for Equalities points out that in order to achieve equality, some people will have to be treated better than others...But words also have connotations, which shift from context to context. Emanations and penumbras, for you Constitutional scholars. Consider the different hues in these uses:
The Libyan dictator took on the title of Commander of the Faithful.
The Holy Father asked all the faithful to pray for peace.
The first feels distinctly martial, a group to taken seriously, the second much more bovine...or whatever the latinate adjective is for herds of sheep...ovine?
On average, women live longer than men.
This administration supports the health rights and choices of women.
Sister Liberty Dancing on the Bodies of Dead Men

Number one seems just factual and descriptive. Number two uses the word as a flag, where "woman" is code for "wymyn, those very special creatures who have been so downtrodden and now deserve everything free, you putz". That's how it sounds whenever La Pelosi says it, anyway.

Definition is important. So is connotation.


Over at Blackfriars in Oxford, they have a lecture on about how their people are trying to redevelop economics as a moral science. When most Catholics, der Papst included, start talking about economics and politics, ---Justice and Peace---I can almost hear all their unhinged heads cramming themselves up their pious asses. They should be required to chant "scarcity, contingency and flaw" all during Lent. Yeah, economics and politics, two of the items Jesus spent most of his time lecturing on and which Christians are supremely talented at....not. OMG. Just what we have too much of and don't need any more of. How about economics as a realistic science? Which is what I used to think "science" meant.

Traditional ritual

The Blessing of the Arsonists

Luke 12:49

While I'm at it

Re previous post, this list of the current moral temper, courtesy of John Kekes:

in favor of women
and minorities

against them

Offending religious
believers & patriots

Offending Blacks
& Jews

Huge union funds
to political causes

Huge corporate funds
to political causes

Smoking pot
Smoking tobacco

Personal killing
of unborn children

State killing of

Clinton lying
Nixon lying

Hate speech against

Hate speech against

Sex ed in schools
Prayer in schools

Jobs restricted to
union members

Clubs restricted to

Sacrilegious language
against God or Christian

Using “he” to refer to
all human beings.

Scientific study of the

Scientific study of
racial differences

Courtesy of Ex Cathedra

In San Francisco, walking
stark naked in the street,
smoking pot

In San Francisco,
smoking tobacco
fully clothed
in the park

A Religion of Peace
which mandates
gender apartheid

A Christian religion which
will not ordain women

Supporting traditional
marriage if you are
Carrie Prejean.

Supporting traditional
marriage if you are
Barack Obama

Using low IQ to prevent
someone from being         

Using low IQ to prevent
Someone from voting

Moral compasses

I was never a fan of moral theology. Bored me to death. And as a Five, I'd rather be Right than Good. Not to say I lack a sense of right and wrong, but I would never promote it as one of my strong points...or interests.

My conservative ranting on here comes not from moral outrage as much as from a desire for survival.

Anyway, a shrink whom I normally like to read because he is a guy, and a kind of a libertarian, and hence quite unusual among the female-dominated liberal-to-the-core mental health profession, posted a link to a friend who had "the most thoughtful" response to Whitney Houston's death. In a word, we should not judge, because anyone can be caught in addiction.

Yikes. How thoughtful.

Well, here's a thought. Congressman Wiener gets caught with his pants down on the net, engaging in very private vice of the most ordinary kind. His career and life are over, to the tune and drumbeat of universal condemnation, contempt and opprobrium. Ms. Houston, publicly and over years, engages in lavishly expensive self-destruction of the most egregiously lurid kind, --validating stereotypes not only of divas, but of Blacks--and when she dies, NJ's flags fly at half mast for her.

Am I missing something?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Roku e morto

Last September I got a Roku, a little piece of hardward that uses my wireless internet connection to stream Netflix movies and a host of other things. It is a one-time purchase, no fees. I liked it so much I dumped my cable service. And I have been a huge TV watcher my whole life.

Day before yesterday, it suddenly would not stream any Netflix movies. (My laptop did keep them streaming, so it had to be a Roku thing). Other movies, on Amazon, worked fine, other channels worked fine. I searched on the net and wandered thru the Roku forums. Others had my problem from time to time but no solution seemed to jump out.

So after doing the usual take-out-the-plug-and-restart --which reminds me of kicking the cathode ray TV when I was a kid-- I removed Netflix, then tried to reinstall it, but was told my Netflix had no room in its memory. So I removed most of the other channels. Still nada.

I went to Settings and did a factory reset. Went things came back on, it stuck on Settings and would not respond to anything at all.

This led to tedious 45 minute on-line-chat based set of moves to fix it. "Jay", the chat guy, said that if it was  hardware issue --which means if the thing is broken after 5 months-- the warranty is 90 days and they could not replace it.

As part of my Lenten giving up of things that make my gasket blow, I just decided to replace it myself. For what it does, it is very reasonably priced. My ex T and his partner have had a Roku for a couple of years with no problem so I guess I just got a clunker. Given my karma with cars and laptops, no surprise.

So here I am, doing my bit for the economic recovery by buying another device. They just emailed me that it's on its way. (Note correct usage of it's and its. Am I smart or what?).

The end. (There is no moral to this story).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lenten penance

I think that what I am going to try to give up for Lent is reading items on the net that make my blood pressure erupt, when I have a choice about it.

In Catholicism, sin is always a matter of choice. The three requirements for committing a serious sin are 1. grave matter 2. sufficient reflection and 3. full consent of the will.  All three. So if you get dragged into something without thinking or without acting consciously, it's knocked down from a felony to a misdemeanor. But I'm gonna try.

I will still rant. After all, Ex Cathedra is a son of Descartes: I rant, therefore I am. But I don't need to add a lot of fuel to that fire. Even if I never read another item about the various cancers of the Seven Pillars, I'd have plenty of material to last me past Easter. It's self-propagating.

I have already made this choice three times today and it's just 9 AM. I refused to read anything about the results of the Koran burning in Afghanistan, I am putting off indefinitely reading about a court case in PA over Halloween mocking of Mohammed (sorry Trevor), and I refused to watch a video of soldiers being made to wear prosthetic breasts and full wombs as part of a sensitivity training about pregnant females in the military.

And in honor of my ascetic attempt --I think of it as a kind of fasting--- here, courtesy of a HT from B...


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

And you think its tough for gays to come out

Think of what it's like for the parents...

Off to a bad start

I completely forgot that today was Ash Wednesday, so I had my usual once a week breakfast out: orange juice, coffee, French toast, eggs over easy...and ham. Oh well, what do you expect from a fallen Catholic?

The ashes are made by burning the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday, with prayers and a blessing with holy water. In some places the priest traces a cross on the forehead, in others just a thumb mark. In Europe they sprinkle them above the forehead, in the hair. "Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return."

I was reminded of what day it was when B called to ask if I'd been to church for ashes. No. He suggested I got to the gay church in the Castro because they would likely have a varied palette of differently colored ashes. "Try the castagna," he opined, "it's slimming."

Just a bowl of clam chowder for dinner.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Second class citizens


This is one of those show-stoppers that people drag out in discussions, a phrase that wins the day merely by being spoken. Like "separate but equal".  Or in a pinch, "Jim Crow."

As a matter of fact, I am in favor of different classes of citizens. The mania for levelling everyone is, well, a mania. One of the great weaknesses of the Enlightenment was that its devotion to reason turned out to be vulnerable to huge levels of abstraction. I more and more regret Jefferson's "all men are created equal." He might have said more defensibly, if far less elegantly, "all men are created with equal right to life, liberty and property, and the pursuit of happiness." But, brilliant Founding Father though he was, he was a Francophile and given to moods of rhetorical excess.

Our Constitution still enshrines second-class citizenship, actually mandates it. When some people wanted Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for President, calls were made, of course, to erase the discriminatory clause which, barely concealing its xenophobia,  limits this office to natural-born citizens. In our age of global blah-blah, how can this antique requirement, blah blah, which insults our immigrant fellow-citizens and new arrivals, blah-blah, depriving us, blah-blah.

Our nation's capital has long been deprived of a full voice in Congress. And is it an accident that Washington "Chocolate City" DC is more than half Black...I mean African-American? To say nothing of all the mostly People of Color felons deprived of the vote for life.

And then there is a group of folks, not negligible especially here in the People's Republik of Laputa By The Bay, who find the restriction of voting rights to citizens to be "discriminatory". (You can smell the racism.) Do you remember the calls for a "global voice" in the selection of the US Prez during ourlast elections, on the grounds that since we have so much influence, it's only fair to let the "world community" which holds us in so much contempt take part...and possibly correct our bad choices.

There's also the rank ageism. According to the Constitution, you have to be 35 to be President, 30 to be a Senator (and a citizen for at least 9 years) and 25 to be a Congressman. Sheer unconcealed arbitrary hatred for youth: ephebophobia, even pediaphobia. And people under 18 are cruelly restricted from voting across the insult to our young people and our children, who, after all, are our future. And in many cases, innocence and hope still intact, they can see more clearly than so-called adults.

And I really wonder why folks get all bent out of shape about the Electoral College but hardly raise a whisper about the grotesque inequality of the bi-cameral Legislature. The House of Representatives is pretty representative, with seats apportioned by population. But then all that fake people-power gets erased by the ridiculous notion that each State gets 2 Senators, regardless of size. The practically empty state of Wyoming's 570,000 (86% White) citizens get an equal voice with (oh so diverse) California's 30 million --50+ times larger!--, or Texas' 27 million or New York's almost 20 million, etc. That system really renders massive numbers of Americans --racial and ethnic minorities especially--second-class, their voices diluted beyond recognition just to please some misguided 18th century obsession with "States".

So many second-class citizens.

I wish there were a lot more.

Final transgression of the day

My commentor on the previous post mentioned Zizek's Zigan problem: gypsies, or as the PC term now is, Roma people.

I did some googling and found that every article about them treats them as faultless victims of groundless European hatred and discrimination. We even have a thing now called antiziganism, a form of racism, which means you don't like them.

In the comments boxes you get unfiltered European popular opinion sometimes. But otherwise it is entirely cast in the discourse of racism, discrimination and bigotry. Sarkozy evidently threw them out of France recently for no good reason at all.

Apparently the uniformly negative  reaction of people to their Roma neighbors for the last 700 years, wherever they are found, from England to Turkey and beyond, has nothing whatever to do with the behavior of the Roma themselves. That, apparently, is unthinkable.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Perhaps I'm not so smart

Just looked into The International Journal of Žižek Studies.
The article was A Hysteric's Guide to Pixar.

I am convinced it is just an elaborate blog for impish Alan Sokal.

I'm on a roll today. Disposed of Girard and Žižek.
Maybe after breakfast I'll gut Hegel.

More hilarity

on Ex Cathedra.

A nice summary of the liberal view of man and world, contained in a comment on another site a couple of years ago. I made a copy of it because I liked it.

“It seems to me that the entire liberal ideology is based on the premise that the world is an inherently orderly and just place, which is only corrupted because there are evil and selfish people hogging the resources which ultimately spurs violence.

The conservative reaction to this is that the world is inherently a flawed, dangerous, and unjust place, but that we have been lucky and industrious enough to create institutions to overcome this, and that we muck with them at our peril.

Even a cursory glance at human history should reveal who is correct. The 'natural state' of human society is petty, arbitrary, and enormously violent.”
A longer version of Ann Coulter's remark that "the natural state of the world is Darfur."

Dead divas, French hierophants and Leviticus 16:10

Origin of this very Jungian image unknown

I have a resistance to cries of scapegoating. One of the psychologists I used to know had authored a monograph on it and consequently he became a hammer to whom ever situation was a nail. It was the reductio ad caprum emissarium*. (This reductionism also fuels my dislike of the current theological fascination with Rene Girard, revealer of yet one more Magic Bullet Hidden From The Foundation Of The World).

But while discussing with an acquaintance at a gym full of gay men the oddity of overhearing too many conversations about Whitney Houston's final implosion, I remarked that I did not feel the need to grieve her because this fabulously wealthy singer was, after all, part of the One Percent. He just looked at me in a sort of politely stunned kind of way. (I enjoyed that.)

But is not the whole Occupy movement an exercise in scapegoating?  People often assume you can only scapegoat an Official Victim Group. But if you can marry up, why can't you scapegoat up?

*Based on the dense and complex ritual text of Leviticus 16, the scapegoat, the goat sent away to Azazel, bearing the sins of Israel laid on it by Aaron, away from the community and out into the wilderness.

Strange bedfellows

Mr Spengler's lede line
may sound a bit histrionic as well as unexpected: First they came for the Catholics...then they'll come for the Jews. Seems out of order.

But it reminded me of two Jews, Jonah Goldberg and Benjamin Kerstein, who are keenly aware of what most of their fellow-Jews, overwhelmingly leftliberals, are blind to. The progressive mind, agenda, temper, ideology, whatever, is messianic and totalizing. Like Downton Abbey's Mrs. Crawley, it really recognizes no area of life that is beyond its reforming zeal and improving regulation.

Goldberg's recent interview on Uncommon Knowledge points out that Obama's attempt to force Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients is a logical outcome of his worldview. Progressives do not recognize "islands of separateness" outside the Grand Design of Universal Equality. And the First Amendment --which Obama has a telling habit of referring to not as freedom of religion but the far narrower freedom of worship...very Islamic-- is no bar. After all, what are the complaints of a narrowly sectarian and frankly atavistic sexual prohibition to the eschatological value of Wymyn's Reproductive Rights...for free...from the State?

As in San Francisco last year, what are the barbaric preferences of a 3000 year old religion to the rights of newborn males to full genital pleasure?

Kerstein had an anti-Chomsky blog. He described growing up in the Boston public school system:
Liberalism in its post-Vietnam form, a kind of quasi-pacifist libertarian socialism shot through with a ferocious strain of racialism, was in every way our state religion.

I believed, first and foremost, that the United States was an irrepairably corrupt and wicked society, founded on racism, consolidated through genocide, perpetuated through oppression at home and tyrannical imperialism abroad, and fueled by a psychotic machine capitalism which was, through its environmental destruction and cultural hegemony, destroying the world itself.
Nicely put, eh?

What drove him out of that America-hating church was recognizing that, as a Jew, he was finally unassimilable. The tribal specificity of the Hebrews, past and present, which resisted the totalizing dreams both of Christendom and Islam, and Rome before them, was not a diversity to be celebrated, but a stubborn threat to the homogeneous universal community. The leftist lionizing of the Palestinians was always, he discovered, a way of hating the very existence of Israel, a substitute for himself as a Jew. (And IMHO, the White West itself). His ironically named* but very articulate convert's confession, My Road to Damascus, is worth a read.

Progressivism has no internal brake, no built-in sense of limit. Progress is its own justification and it is endless. How can we say that this is progress enough? The horizon ever recedes. I read yesterday, somewhere, that some young Black activist, daughter of an older Black activist, proclaimed that just because America elected a Black man as president does not mean that the country is not still deeply racist. Well, of course, girl! At no point will it ever be anything less than deeply racist. No matter what happens. Once all evidence of it has disappeared on the surface, all you'll have to do is investigate the White Subconscious to find it. This is crucially important because as long as Blacks are the victims of Whitey they can never be held accountable for their own massive self-induced failures. So you bet, sistah. Racism Now! Racism Forever!

We're all in this together. No exceptions. It's the Way of Progress.

*For you Biblically-challenged, it was on the road to Damascus that Saul, a Jew persecuting Christians, was knocked down and confronted by a vision of the risen Jesus, and became a Christian, changed his name to Paul and wrote most of the New Testament. The archetype of the sudden conversion to the opposite side.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Night Artistry

Sunday night. Sometimes a great night for TV. Dexter. The Tudors. Sopranos. Rome. Even Big Love. Years ago, X-Files. And two great shows from earlier in the first decade of the century; I used to get lost in them. They got cancelled early when inanities like True Blood stagger on.

The gritty and mystical Carnivale (terrific opening sequence below)

And "American Shakespeare with dirty talk", Deadwood.

Games cardinals play

The UN is apparently trying to get African nations to enact gay-friendly laws and stop killing them. Gee, who to dislike more? The UN or the barbarians of Africa?

An African Catholic cardinal is upset
“African bishops must react” to such a move, the Guinean cardinal told me, adding: “This is not our culture. It’s against our faith.” He said that it is “not possible to impose on the poor this kind of European mentality.”
They are perfectly free to react, of course. And I have to respect the argument about culture, be it accurate or not...but only if I can do the same. That little special pleading about "imposing on the poor"...huh? WTF has that got to do with it? Is there gonna be a homo tax? And of course, when a Personne de Couleur says "European mentality", everyone must genuflect and repent.

Next time I react against an African mentality being imposed on poor me in my culture, I'll be sure to reference His Eminence.

Delectatio morosa

is the Catholic version of Schadenfreude. I concur.

In the nascent American republic, this principle (of limited government) was codified in its purest form in the First Amendment to the Constitution. But it had additional ramifications as well – for the government’s scope was limited also in other ways. There were other amendments that made up what we now call the Bill of Rights, and many of the states prefaced their constitutions with bills of rights or added them as appendices. These were all intended to limit the scope of the government. They were all designed to protect the right of individuals to life, liberty, the acquisition and possession of property, and the pursuit of happiness as these individuals understood happiness. Put simply, liberty of conscience was part of a larger package.

This is what the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church forgot. In the 1930s, the majority of the  bishops, priests, and nuns sold their souls to the devil, and they did so with the best of intentions. In their concern for the suffering of those out of work and destitute, they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal....They did not stop to think.

In the process, the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.

At every turn in American politics since that time, you will find the hierarchy assisting the Democratic Party and promoting the growth of the administrative entitlements state. At no point have its members evidenced any concern for sustaining limited government and protecting the rights of individuals. It did not cross the minds of these prelates that the liberty of conscience which they had grown to cherish is part of a larger package – that the paternalistic state, which recognizes no legitimate limits on its power and scope, that they had embraced would someday turn on the Church and seek to dictate whom it chose to teach its doctrines and how, more generally, it would conduct its affairs.

I would submit that the bishops, nuns, and priests now screaming bloody murder have gotten what they asked for. The weapon that Barack Obama has directed at the Church was fashioned to a considerable degree by Catholic churchmen. They welcomed Obamacare. They encouraged Senators and Congressmen who professed to be Catholics to vote for it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Abendland unterganging

And people wonder why I feel declinist about us.

Conservative icon Chris Christie, governor of NJ, has ordered the flag to fly half-mast for Whitney Houston.

But then again, he's a Republican and she was part of the 1%.

Paved with good intentions

One of my social and psychological interests is in unintended outcomes, especially where the eventual effects of an action develop into something not only unintended but opposed to the original intention.

As a therapist, I often see it in couples, where one partner engages in a nagging campaign to improve the other, supposedly in the interests of a happier relationship for them both and succeeds only in driving the other farther away.

A much larger example is the drive in the 1990’s by Western Christians to deal with the problem of slavery in the Sudan. The slave-holding Arabs of the north, being Muslim, had never gone through the epochal change of rejecting slavery on religious grounds, a movement begun and completed by White Christians in the 19th century. Muhammad himself owned, bought and sold slaves and neither the Koran nor the Hadith condemned it but instead regulated and institutionalized it. America's first foreign war was provoked by the Muslim states of north Africa raiding American ships for slaves. The Sudanese Arabs continued Islam’s long and once enormous practice of slaving, focusing on the southern Sudanese Blacks, who are non-Muslim and therefore the permitted objects of the activity.

Western Christians, especially American Protestants, responded by buying these slaves and setting them free. But their good intentions were thwarted by the energy of the unintended outcome. Once the Muslim slavers realized that they could get a good price for their property from these Christian, some of them increased their slaving activity, precisely so they could sell the captives back. The demand increased the supply. The emancipatory activity of the Westerners had the unintended and opposite effect of bringing more southern Sudanese into slavery.

A cardinal in jail

Cardinals, the bigshots of the Catholic Church. What they essentially are is a group or college of counselors who serve as electors for the papacy, since the 11th century. More than you want to know about their history, etc. here.

The pope just "created" a new group of them, including a Czech Dominican. For many people, even those who lived with it for most of their lives, like me, the Communist Bloc seems like a distant memory. In the age of the Jihad, almost quaint. But it was real and grimly totalitarian. This new cardinal lived with it until he was in his late 40's, most of his life.

He joined the Dominicans while the Communists were still in power, but shortly after his ordination, his government permission to act as clergy was withdrawn and he went to work in factories for the next fifteen years. In the early 80's he secretly started training other Dominicans but was arrested and jailed for it for two years.

All this in our lifetimes. The nightmare that was Marxism was no dream.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The One and the Many

Ancient philosophical issue. A social and political tension as well.

One of the themes of liberal moralism is that people should be taken as individuals. To even think of humans in groups --except of course, when it suits the liberal drama of oppression and liberation-- is noxious. The reductio ad Hitlerum would arrive very soon. Yet Barry Hussein O remarked that his grandmother was "a typical White person". Were I write something as egregiously racist as "a typical Latino", well, that would not as be kindly received as the opinions of the half-Black incumbent of the White House. It tells you what the real Rules of the Game are.

So thinking about groups must be done very carefully indeed, in certain cases. If you wish to expatiate on the greater likelihood of men, males, to engage in criminality compared to women, that is ok. The facts and the numbers and everyone's experiences makes this clear. Plus, men are an Oppressor Group, so they have no claim to complaint in any case. Even if were one to assert that this criminality is predominantly a younger men's game, no heads would roll. The facts and stats are there. Linking male youthful criminality and economic status...well, there you might get away with it because it might serve the dogma that crime is caused by poverty.

But supposed one were to venture into the terra prohibita of criminal males by, say, race or ethnicity. And to notice that some groups of young males engage in criminality at a rate far outstripping their demographic representation. Well, here verily there be dragons. We would instantly move from obvious, even helpful, facts to hateful bigotry. I have noted several times on this blog news stories which report crimes and where the sex and the age of the perpetrator is happily given. But how often do we read of "youths" and suspect what the writer will not say?

Well, it's not relevant, is it? Although age and sex somehow are...

Fiery neo-con Midge Decter once wrote a famous takedown of homosexual men in her 1980 article about gays on Fire Island, The Boys on the Beach. It is considered by many to be the epitome of right-wing homophobia, provoking a riposte by no less than Gore Vidal. (Talk about Scylla and Charybdis).

At one point she writes
“Know them as a group. No doubt this will in itself seem to many of the uninitiated a bigoted formulation. Yet one cannot even begin to get at the truth about homosexuals without this kind of generalization.”
Know them as a group. Is Midge correct? Is that how we have to look at groups? (One is impishly led to wonder how Mrs. Podhoretz --her married title-- would think about her paragraph if "Jews" were substituted for "homosexuals".
Know them as a group. No doubt this will in itself seem to many of the uninitiated a bigoted formulation. Yet one cannot even begin to get at the truth about Jews without this kind of generalization.”

But she's right. How can you begin to get at the truth of any group, any group of anything whatsoever, without generalization? How can you know what any particular tree is unless you know what the group of organisms called trees are? As Aquinas said, aside from universals, particulars are unintelligible.

Well the question is a stupid one, and it is a testament to the cognitive looniness of our culture that it even arises. And it is indicative of the associated agendas around various groups, whether you can generalize about them or not, and in what ways, and to what ends. As one Black colleague in my graduate psychology program put it, "If you want to be my friend, you have to forget that I'm Black. And never forget that I'm Black." (Gosh, who wouldn't want sign up for that gig?)

In any case, desired or not, everyone speaks in terms of groups. One man's bigoted generalization is another man's obvious statistical fact.

When I used to teach psychology interns I had to lay out some definitions before I spoke, schooling these supposedly educated people in the differences between typical, archtypal and stereotypical. Speaking about Protected Victim Groups provokes complexes that drain the brain of electricity and reduce people to ideobots.

But what about the individual? Well, at the risk of seeming thick, I think you have to look at individuals as individuals related to all the groups they belong to. Take those generalizations away and you will in fact not see the individual, or much of anything beside your anxiety. Just a cipher.

And for those of you who are interested, a generalization and a universal are not the same. Generalizing describes characteristics that fit many or most, most of the time. Universal means all without exception. All men die is a universal. Men die younger than women is a generalization. Both are true.

So to think about a group at all is to think about a group.

That may be comfortable or uncomfortable, allowed or discouraged, even forbidden by law or social convention. Like Midge or not, she was right: you don't really have a choice, if you want to investigate the truths about groups.

Great minds

Well, Kenneth Minogue is very much out of my league, but I did find something he wrote about Morals and the Servile Mind to be in sync with my recent complaint about liberal government becoming our hectoring teacher and manager of a groundless but required moral effort.

His remarks:
My concern with democracy is highly specific. It begins in observing the remarkable fact that, while democracy means a government accountable to the electorate, our rulers now make us accountable to them. Most Western governments hate me smoking, or eating the wrong kind of food, or hunting foxes, or drinking too much, and these are merely the surface disapprovals, the ones that provoke legislation or public campaigns. We also borrow too much money for our personal pleasures, and many of us are very bad parents. Ministers of state have been known to instruct us in elementary matters, such as the importance of reading stories to our children. Again, many of us have unsound views about people of other races, cultures, or religions, and the distribution of our friends does not always correspond, as governments think that it ought, to the cultural diversity of our society. We must face up to the grim fact that the rulers we elect are losing patience with us.

No philosopher can contemplate this interesting situation without beginning to reflect on what it can mean. The gap between political realities and their public face is so great that the term “paradox” tends to crop up from sentence to sentence. Our rulers are theoretically “our” representatives, but they are busy turning us into the instruments of the projects they keep dreaming up. The business of governments, one might think, is to supply the framework of law within which we may pursue happiness on our own account. Instead, we are constantly being summoned to reform ourselves. Debt, intemperance, and incompetence in rearing our children are no doubt regrettable, but they are vices, and left alone, they will soon lead to the pain that corrects. Life is a better teacher of virtue than politicians, and most sensible governments in the past left moral faults to the churches. But democratic citizenship in the twenty-first century means receiving a stream of improving “messages” from politicians. Some may forgive these intrusions because they are so well intentioned. Who would defend prejudice, debt, or excessive drinking? The point, however, is that our rulers have no business telling us how to live. They are tiresome enough in their exercise of authority—they are intolerable when they mount the pulpit. Nor should we be in any doubt that nationalizing the moral life is the first step towards totalitarianism.
In the current battle between Obama and the Catholic bishops over whether the State has the right to require Catholic organizations to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and sterilization, free of charge: If you change this to abortion, then you can see the issue. It does not matter if the Catholic organization pays through its direct premiums or the insurance company --mandated by the Feds-- pays for it (and the organizations indirectly through premium adjustments).

What even more deeply galls me is that the State decides that wymyn are a special class who deserve free services. And even more than that, what the hell gives the Feds the idea that it is their right to tell individuals or groups what services they must provide "free" to anyone at all!? All that means is that they mandate someone else to pay for it.

This is an issue where feminism, redistributionism and secularism (three of the Seven Pillars)  combine.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When you think of it

it's really pretty amazing that anyone would buy this worldview.

".. Liberals believe in

the utter plasticity of human nature,

in the avoidability of evil
through education and change of institutions,

in a happy historical future.

Liberals assume

that politics consists of “problems” to which one can find “solutions,”

that all “truths” are relative (unless it's one of their dogmas)

that distinctions between men are politically irrelevant,

that social hierarchies are always bad,

that the government is obligated to guarantee to everyone
food, shelter, clothing, education,
security against unemployment, disease, and want."

A nice summary, in Gerhart Niemeyer's review of Burnham. of a "self-constructed dreamworld, which one is determined to accept as if it really existed."
And he goes on to make this point, which certainly matches my experience:
Liberals feel guilty at the thought of any condition of wretchedness, anywhere... This vulnerability, and his peculiar sense of guilt, so often breeds in the Liberal a generalized hatred of Western civilization and his own country.
The classic example: in all the years since 9/11, I have heard from them only a ritualized and rather muted disapproval of Islamic violence against us, but when it comes to evil icons like George Bush, or Republicans or The Religious Right, or Corporate America or "racists", the bile easily spews forth in torrents. When I make a test and offer a criticism of America, they always join in and ramp it up. Never a defense. Never. As Nick Cohen admitted,

Accepting that fascism is worse than western democracy, even western democracies governed by George W Bush and Tony Blair, sounds very easy in theory, but it is very difficult to do in practice when you are a habitual enemy of the status quo in your own country.”

The cover to Kenneth Minogue's Pure Theory of Ideology, where he points out the character of ideology as a religious revelation:
The term “ideology” can cover almost any set of ideas, but its power to bewitch political activists results from its strange logic. It is part philosophy, part science, and part spiritual revelation, all tied together in leading to a remarkable paradox—that the modern Western world, beneath its liberal appearance, is actually the most systematically oppressive system of despotism the world has ever seen.
Bewitch, accurate enough, also made me think of hypnotize and trance.

As my friend Rosamonde Miller often says, "An idea is something you have, an ideology is something that has you."

The man in the mirror

Searching in my big hall closet, I pulled out a notebook I kept when I was about 19 or 20. I was a young monk, barely two or three years into what would turn out to be a twenty year sojourn. Paging through it, I first of all noticed the radical change in my handwriting. Back then it was almost calligraphic. Now it takes an effort of will to keep it legible...mostly, I suspect, from lack of practice due to decades' long attachment to computer keyboards. Writing by hand is slow and my fingers now want to leap ahead with the pen, resulting in a kind of gash with ornaments. My signature, once controlled, legible and careful, has been for many years now a hooked stroke with a dot. One Asian checkout girl at Home Depot said it was the Chinese character for gate!*

I read a few paragraphs in the notebook. And there I was. On the one hand, the life-setting is entirely different and a part of me felt galactically distant from that writer. The Buddhists have a point, I thought; a solid and continuous self is an illusion. Who was he? But there on the page, the ways of thinking, the attitudes, the cast of mind...forty years later, all too recognizable.

Character is real.


*Interestingly, the pronunciation for this character closely matches part of my name.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wah wah wah

Once again, we have the unseemly spectacle of Blacks who can't pass promotion exams wanting to blame the exams. In this case, it's Boston cops.

A while back it was firefighters in, well, pretty well every city in America.

Ya know, boys, I think the steam has run out of that particular victim train. Not every group is equally talented at everything. That's called "keepin' it real." People who are not drinking kool-aid know this as a matter of everyday observation.   And of course when Blacks predominate in certain fields of endeavor, do we have Whites or Asians whining to the judge?

I recall a passage from one of (Black American) Thomas Sowell's books about culture, race and economy. One tribe in a newly independent African state, a tribe whose academic achievements were quite underwhelming compared to another, complained that the more accomplished tribe was getting most of the new civil service positions. Their argument: "Just because we are less qualified is no reason to refuse to hire us. We deserve jobs, too."

Is there a gap, lack, problem, lag, failure or pathology that does not get blamed on the R word? No one believes it anymore except some of you.

It makes you look undignified and embarrassing.

PS. The same kind of stuff here. If the admission rates should reflect demographics, then so should the graduation rates, right? So we'll have to make sure that the 27% of Blacks who (according to the Division of Equity and Inclusion) don't finish at Berkeley get to graduate. It's only fair, after all...So I suggest than any White or Asian student who supports affirmative action should be given the chance to transfer their diploma to a Black student who was so unfairly deprived of one.

A mess of pottage

Oliver Stone is Jewish (I did not know that) and his wife is Christian. Their adult son, while making a documentary on Rumi in Iran, converted to Islam. But said that this does not mean he is abandoning Judaism and Christianity...


Well, to begin with, kid, you can't practice Judaism and Christianity. My guess is that he was raised in a kind of amorphous soup, not unlike his father's movies.

But it is typical Muslim BS that since the Koran lists both Moses and Jesus as true prophets, Muslims who convert --or, in their self-serving lingo, revert-- still remain true to them. Except that the Moses and the Jesus of the Koran --the Jesus especially-- bear little resemblance to the men revered by Jews and Christians, respectively. The Koran expressly, clearly, loudly, emphatically and repeatedly denies the divinity of Christ, for starters. Reminds me of that stupid women who wanted to be a Muslim and an Episcopal priest at the same time.

I am sure Mr and Mrs Stone will be supportive of their Ahmahdinejad-supporting son. Why the hell not?

Henry VIII lives

both in England and America. Imagine, a ghost who bilocates.

Did you know that people go to jail, now, right now, for years, in Britain, because of comic books? Just as they once went to the Tower and Tyburn for failing to march in step with the King's ever-changing moods. "Hate-speech" laws are nothing but a weapon of tyranny. America may be the last place on earth where freedom of speech is protected by our old, out-dated and (according to young Reb Ezra Klein) hard-to-read Constitution, created by a lot of Dead White Males. (HT to Jack Donovan for the link).

Mark Steyn finds Prince-Bishop Barack I of America acting a lot like Old Harry when it comes, once again, to the Church and the Throne.

Obama's government threatens massive fines for religious bodies who refuse to include in mandated health insurance, coverage for items that violate their denominational consciences.

If you can force a Catholic university to cover contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs, is there any reason at all besides temporary expediency, that you could not force it to cover direct abortion?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

One man's decline

Neocon editor of Commentary, John Podhoretz, writes about America having a choice to decline or not, and asserting that Obama is choosing to decline. But Podhoretz ignores the issue of demography and immigration. When John Derbyshire, who recently created a furor over his race-realism speech at CPAC, remarked a while back that immigration policy should support "ethnic balance", Mr. Podhoretz was outraged and appalled.

Apparently Mr. Derbyshire's assumption that White Americans would have both the desire and the natural right to maintain their position as a majority, Mr. Podhoretz immediately began playing the reductio ad KKK. One is led to wonder if the editor of Commentary would be similarly outraged at Israeli immigration policy, so obviously (and perfectly right and sanely) aimed at keeping it a Jewish state.

People like Podhoretz (who is, by the way, Midge Decter's son) make me sympathetic to Russell Kirk. And lest anyone think ill of me for the implications of this post, please remember --not that it matters-- what would be, for similar reasons, the fate of the Catholic bishops of the US were Ex Cathedra king.

But this is just so much noise. Today Ex Cathedra is of the opinion that that race (sic) is over. Despite what the polls say, no one has done and no one is going to do anything substantive about the immigration issue. All the magazines in the world are nothing against a demographic tide that a civilization has lost the will to stem.

Africa again

Back in the 80's Rome made a pretty different rite for the Mass available in what was then Zaire and is now the "Democratic Republic of the Congo". Nowhere else in Africa was this replicated, as far as I know. There are some snippets of it being performed here and there on the net. Although, like many African places, it is a complete societal mess, they sure can sing and dance.

Its Penitential Rite comes later in the liturgy than in the current Roman (a good idea btw); the Mass opens with an invocation of the Saints (and the ancestors). But there are some images in the Penitential Rite which I find pretty striking and original. I have marked them in italics.

Brothers and sisters, the word of God has enlightened us. We know that we have not always followed it. Let us ask the Lord to give us the strength we need to lead better lives.

Silent pause; and then, the people express their sorrow by taking up an attitude of repentance: head slightly bowed, arms crossed on the breast.

Lord our God, like the insect that sticks into our skin and sucks our blood, evil has come upon us. Our living power is weakened. Who can save us? Is it not you, O Father;
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy

Before you, O Father, before the Virgin Mary, before all the saints we confess that we have done wrong: Give us the strength we need to lead better lives.
Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy

Before our brothers, before our sisters, we confess that we have done wrong: give us the strength to lead better lives, save us from falling back into the shadows.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy

Most Holy Father, weaken in us whatever drives us to evil; forgive our faults because of the sacrifice of your Son Jesus Christ; may your Spirit take possession of our hearts and may our sins be drowned in the deep and silent waters of your mercy.

In a solemn Mass the celebrant sprinkles the people with holy water and a song with a baptismal theme is sung such as Asperges Me or Vidi Aquam.

The Sign of Peace is then exchanged.
...may our sins be drowned in the deep and silent waters of your mercy."

Mormons again

An appreciative article about the LDS faith from a non-Mormon professor of religion who considers them "obsessed" with Christ, though not a Christian religion.

One thing he does not mention is that current Mormon theology identifies Jesus Christ with the God of the Old Testament: Yhwh, or as he is oddly but widely known, Jehovah*. All other Christians read the Old Testament as the voice of the Father. For the Latter Day Saints, it is Christ who gives the Ten Commandments, etc. etc. The god they call "Heavenly Father" is not Yhweh, but Elohim. So although their theology put them outside of historical Christianity --the article calls them both more than and less than Christian-- their Christ plays a huge role in the Bible, both in Old and New Testaments.

However, they never pray to Christ, only to Heavenly Father.

*Trivia: in Hebrew, the Divine Name consists of four letters, transliterated as YHWH. Originally written without the vowel marks that later came into Hebrew (as they also later did in Arabic, a sister language). Since pronouncing this name was forbidden, whenever it appeared in a text, the speaker substituted the Hebrew word for "lord", Adonai. The vowel markings for this word gave the sounds A O A.  The YHWH came to be written with the vowel markings for Adonai...which sort of gives you Yehova. At least that's the dominant theory.

Ex Cathedra is tired

of thinking globally because it makes him irritable locally.

Doesn't mean he'll stop, but is not deluded about the cycle.

St Valentinus

Valentinus ---not the saint whose martyr's blood has become romantic chocolate-- was a 2rd century Christian Gnostic, someone who had a theological backstory older than the Bible, a secret oral tradition that tried to help explain why, if the Creator was good and just, the world he created was such a mess. (And why his own moods and behaviors in his Holy Book were so unnervingly un-Christlike.) The ancient Problem of Job.

Academicians spill oceans of ink about the word "gnostic", which means "knower". Gnosticism has been rather too easily straight-jacketed into a monolithic & dogmatic form: elitist, dualist, either puritanical or libertine, world-hating and earth-hating. On the other hand, it has been romanticized by the hermeneutics of victimization as a feminist harbor in a sea of patriarchy. I have my own definition. Of course.

But a very helpful work on the subject, Michael Williams' Rethinking Gnosticism, instead of trying to fit all the ideas and people considered Gnostic into a definition thereof, tried to see what they all had in common. He made the case for "biblical demiurgic mythicism." Big improvement, no? There was a significant class of Christians in the ancient world whom this describes: dissatisfied poet-theologians. You can hear echoes of their teachings in the polemics of the New Testament itself. The orthodox battled them hard and won. First, they were focussed on the Bible as their religious center but gripped by the apparent contraries within it. Second, they all held that there was a difference between the Father of Jesus Christ as depicted in the New Testament (the true God) and the God of Israel: the Jews were children of a lesser god, a demiurge. And third: their preferred mode of religious expression was creative mythmaking. Hence, backstories like Valentinus'.

Gnostic William Blake's Demiurgic "Ancient of Days"

The suspicion that you are not being told the whole story is a typically Gnostic form. It has long outlasted the "knowers" of the ancient world: the Matrix movies and The Truman Show continue the theme. Jorge Luis Borges certainly had a strong Gnostic streak in him; from The Defense Of Basilides The False,

The Gnostics were vanquished in their battle with the Christians.
But we can imagine their possible victory. If Alexandria had triumphed
instead of Rome, the bizarre and confused stories that I summarize here
would be coherent, ordinary, 
One of the most impressive documents of Valentinian Christianity is Ptolemy's Letter to Flora, which shows how ancient is the complex set of problems created by the differences between the Old and New Testaments. It gives an amazingly clear but not simplistic set of guidelines for interpreting the Scriptures. In a way, it foreshadows the "documentary hypothesis" which sees the Torah as a composite work of several distinct authorial voices. Amazing how smart old people can be.

So, from an old pinhead, Happy Valentinus Day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The greatest liberal achievement

The most significant achievement of liberalism…is its ability to handle the problem of guilt for large numbers of people without costing undue personal inconvenience.”

James Burnham
The Suicide of the West

A review of that book from another conservative philosopher:

Ideology as a Fate
Suicide of the West, by James Burnham.
New York: John Day, 1964. 312 pp.

Reviewed by
Modern Age, September 1964, p. 320

I MUST MAKE a terrible confession: most books
about the contemporary scene bore me to tears.
This book, however, I could not put down once
I had started. I read it on a plane ride, from
cover to cover, not even interrupting my lunch.
The reason is not only that the book reads so
well, but that it says so much. It is a portrait of
Liberalism’s dreamworld, by way of an explanation
of what has been happening to the West, and
to this country, in the course of our lifetime.

Appropriately, Burnham begins by identifying
the Liberals. No meaningful answer could have
been obtained had he started by asking “what
is Liberalism?” and proceeded to “define” it in
some intuitive way. A convincing list of Liberal
personalities, publications, and institutions provides
a sharp focus: whatever they say, write,
teach, and do, must be taken as Liberalism. Empirically
rather than speculatively, Burnham
finds that Liberals beIieve in the utter plasticity
of human nature, in the avoidability of evil
through education and change of institutions, in
a happy historical future. Liberals assume that
politics consists of “problems” to which one can
find “solutions,” that all “truths” are relative,
that distinctions between men are politically irrelevant,
that social hierarchies are always bad,
that the government is obligated to guarantee to
everyone food, shelter, clothing, education, security
against unemployment, disease, and want.

A list of these and other Liberal tenets, nineteen
in all, is highlighted by contrasting them with
alternate modes of thinking, not necessarily conservative,
though. For Burnham rightly insists
that Conservatism, unlike Liberalism, is not an
ideology and cannot be systematized along parallels
to Liberal ideas.

The highlight of the book, for me, is Burnham’s
elucidation of what ideological thinking
is. Having read this, Burnham’s readers will
never again insist that there should be an “American
ideology” because there is a Communist
one; nor will they think of calling Christianity
an “ideology.” Ideological thinking, as the term
has been used for over a hundred years, is
based, not on the perception of reality, but rather
on some preconceived position to which reality
is then adjusted. It is, therefore, factproof.

“A convinced believer in the anti-Semitic ideology
tells me that the Bolshevik revolution is a
Jewish plot. I point out to him that the revolution
was led to its first major victory by a non-
Jew, Lenin. He then explains that Lenin was the
pawn of Trotsky, Radek, Bukharin, Zinoviev, and
other Jews . . . I remind him that Lenin’s
successor as leader of the revolution, the nonJew
Stalin, killed off all those Jews . . . He then informs
me that the seeming Soviet anti-Semitism
is only a fraud invented by the Jewish press, and
that Stalin and Khrushchev are really Jews whose
names have been changed. . . There
is no possible argument, observation, or experiment
that could disprove a firm ideological belief.
. . .”

This is, of course, not an example of
Liberal ideological thinking, but Burnham shows
in quotation after quotation how the same imperviousness
to reality as it is characterizes Liberals.
Theirs is what Robert Musil has called a
“Second Reality,” a self-constructed dreamworld,
which one is determined to accept as if it really
existed. Between those immersed in a Second
Reality and those who can still see what is and
how it is, there can be no dialogue.

A superb chapter is that on the Liberal guilt.
On the assumption that education and change of
institutions can take care of all evil, Liberals feel
guilty at the thought of any condition of
wretchedness, anywhere. For this kind of guilt
there can, of course, be no forgiveness. The Liberal
seeks relief by trying to “do something
about any and every social problem,” a feverish
and interminable compulsive activity in which
not the correctness of the program but rather
“good intentions” are counted. The Liberal’s twisted
and irrational sense of guilt has a fatal political
effect: It disarms him morally before those
whom he regards as less well off than himself.
This vulnerability, and his peculiar sense of guilt,
so often breeds in the Liberal a generalized
hatred of Western civilization and his own country.
Here also is the origin of the Liberals’ determined
preference to seek the enemy only on the
Right. “Pas d‘ennemi a gauche!”

There are ideologues, as, e.g., the Communists
and the Nazis, who know how to handle power
with consummate skill. Not so the Liberals, says
Burnham. He is right, although he could have
added that once Liberals decide on force, they
tend to go to extremes, as in the case of unconditional
surrender. Liberals are “better out of power
than in power.” With Liberals in the government,
the area of the West has contracted, year
after year, position after position, not from any
lack of physical strength but from internal, i.e.,
spiritual and intellectual, causes. Liberalism, says
Burnham, motivates and justifies the contraction,
and reconciles us to it. Liberals tell us that “the
occupation of Cuba by Russian troops is not entirely
a bad thing” (Rovere) or that the enemy’s
aggressiveness will wane as he grows stronger.
In this sense Burnham calls Liberalism the “ideology
of Western suicide.”

All of Burnham’s books have been parts of an
endeavor to understand what is happening to our
civilization. At times there has been a trace of
Spenglerian “destiny” in his concepts. More and
more, however, he has been moving toward a
deepening humane understanding of experiences
and responsibilities. This book strikes me as his
greatest, in that respect. The Liberal syndrome is
examined with care and precision, never with hate
or arrogance.

The reader often is moved to feel
the excitement of self-discovery and the urge to
move on along the path Burnham opens. The book
is so stimulating that I had a desire to write
page after page in an effort further to deepen
the insight. I would have liked to comment on
the Positivism which governs our intelligentsia
in and out of the Academy, on the Comtean sense
of history which makes progress appear as a
continuing fight against religion and metaphysics,
on the ritual worship of mankind in lieu of a
deity, on the Liberal ethics of action apart from
any sense of constitution (either the constitution
of being, or the constitution of national political
existence, or the economic constitution), etc. The
discovery of intellectual rot in those who govern
us is no cheerful message. Hope, however, springs
from the realization that in things of the soul the
unflinching acknowledgment of the truth is the
first step towards health.

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