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Drivel, July - December, 2015
Drivel, January - June, 2015
Drivel, July-December, 2014
Drivel, January - June, 2014
Drivel July-December, 2013
Drivel January - June, 2013
Drivel July - December, 2012
Drivel January -June, 2012
Drivel July-December, 2011
Drivel January-June, 2011
|The New Hierarchy of Evils
(April 17, 2019)
All that is necessary for evil to triumph, said Burke, is for good men to do nothing; and most good men nowadays can be relied upon to do precisely that. Where a reputation for intolerance is more feared than a reputation for vice itself, all manner of evil may be expected to flourish. (Theodore Dalrymple, 1949-- )
Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions. (Blaise Pascal, 1623 - 1662)
The western world is engaged in a determined revision of the hierarchy of evils: intolerance is the greatest sin; guilt in any matter must be determined, not on the basis of principle, but according to a scale of relative inequality. Thus -- any evil committed in accordance with cultural tradition is justified -- and any crime is ameliorated according to the victim-group status of the perpetrator. (Observation # 1635)
Although morality is socially derived, it is traditionally justified on the grounds of "Divine" approval. That, of course, is because "Gods" are considered to be infallible and they are helpful justifications for the morality of the day. As Edward Gibbon has noted, rulers find religions "useful."
Throughout history, we have seen religion as the arbiter of the hierarchy of evils in society.
Thus, we may imagine a primitive society, anxious to obtain favourable weather conditions for a good harvest. The obvious evil of a sacrificial killing of a member of the tribe is overcome by the greater evil of offending the Gods -- and the want and starvation that might ensue for the whole tribe in the event of a bad harvest. Thus, a human sacrifice to the all-powerful Gods becomes entirely reasonable.
Similarly, in the Middle Ages, the obvious evil of torturing people for their thoughts was overcome by the theoretically greater evil of their eternal damnation. No doubt the subversive potential of non-conformity also played a rτle as an evil worthy of consideration.
More recently, the Catholic Church proclaimed the greater evils of contraception and divorce against the lesser evils of unwanted children, economic hardship, and loveless marriages.
At present, while Islam remains a force in many parts of the world, the west has become increasingly secular especially in practice. Surprisingly, this has not made as much difference as one might think. There is still a hierarchy of evils which seems puzzlingly flawed.
That is, we would suggest, because the Christian religion has been replaced not by secularism but by a "secular" religion. The most appropriate term for it is probably "political correctness." Its informing notion its Divinity, if you will -- is "equality."
The notion of "equality" not of opportunity, but of result currently strides the ethos of the western world like a dogmatic Colossus.
In an overreaction to the nationalist wars of the twentieth century, multiculturalism is seen as the new path to a Nirvana of peace and happiness. The implicit assumption behind multiculturalism is that cultures are not radically different from one another. They are "equal" on a scale of worthiness; values may differ slightly, but are they are neither antithetical nor incompatible.
This, of course is not true. The most obvious illustration is the contrast between Islamic principles and those of western democracies. Islam holds that religion should be inseparable from government; the West maintains that there should be separation of church and state. Islam calls for the deaths of apostates and unbelievers; the West upholds freedom of religion which includes the freedom to disbelieve in any religion. Islam upholds laws against blasphemy; the West champions freedom of speech.
The religion of Political Correctness frowns on the articulation of such troubling truths. The idea that one culture might be radically different from another leads to the heretical, potentially damning thought: some ideas about the conduct of society might based on evidence be superior to others. This, of course is a terrible and unacceptable blasphemy against the Divine Notion of "equality." The punishment is not yet death although hope springs, somewhere, no doubt, eternal -- but social ostracism based on the ultimate accusation of evil: "intolerance."
In the new hierarchy of evils, then, anything which suggests that one culture is inferior to another is the "greater" evil.
We have neither time nor inclination to give an exhaustive list of examples. But let us consider a few.
When the government of the day referred to honour killings as "barbaric" Mr. Trudeau -- a new evil kind of guy -- was quick to label the term as "unacceptable" since it might make immigrants feel "defensive." The only immigrants who might feel "defensive" would be those for whom honour killings were routine and normal. Thus in the new hierarchy of evils it is more evil to offend those in favour of honour killings than to criticize honour killings themselves.
Similarly, Motion M-103 implies that "Islamophobia" is a greater evil than the suppression of free speech. The absurd notion that a religion not be criticised is to be upheld against the principle that people should be permitted to criticize any idea or philosophy which they find wanting.
In Rotheram, in the United Kingdom, an estimated 1400 children were exploited for sexual purposes by predominantly Pakistani grooming gangs. Although officials were warned, they failed to act -- in part because of fears of accusation of racism, and damage to "community relations." Once again, the sin of "intolerance" is considered greater than the evil of sexual predation on minors.
It is also interesting that western "feminists" often refuse to support women in other countries who refuse to wear the burka and they are strangely silent and uninterested in the practice of female genital mutilation. It would appear that the evil of being considered "intolerant" of a foreign culture is more important than the criticism of real oppressions of women.
A few moments of reflection will show how pervasive is the idea of "equality" in modern western society and how it distorts the notions of good and evil.
For example the theoretical evil based on the false idea that women and men are equally enamoured of corporate ladder-climbing is that women are under-represented in corporate boardrooms. Oddly, there seems to be no similar assumption that women are interested in auto repair nor are there anguished outcries on the CBC concerning the horror that brake jobs are most often performed by men.
The real evil is that there are hiring quotas based on gender and there is a determination to see women "equally" represented in any prestigious occupation regardless of merit. (Those occupations with lesser prestige are, tellingly, not the focus.)
The matters of affirmative action and "cultural appropriation" also reveal an obsession with evils defined by the victim status of certain groups -- rather than a concern for individual justice and the rewarding of merit. The need to make groups "equal" is more important than the "content of character" of individuals to which Martin Luther King so famously alluded.
Finally, it should be noted that Political Correctness itself -- in its attempt to maintain "equality" -- represents a determination to evade reality. This is most obvious, perhaps in the matter of feelings: Political Correctness holds that feelings are sacrosanct. Nothing must be said or done which damages feelings. That is because it is assumed that everyone should have an "equally" high sense of self-esteem. Even criticisms of ideas must be restricted lest such criticism offend those who hold the ideas. And speech must be very carefully considered lest a "microagression" defined as such by the "victim" cause an irretrievable sense of unfair, hurtful unworthiness.
The evil of hurt feelings becomes paramount. The fact that the truth must be buried, speech must be suppressed, spontaneity banished, and the world reduced to a cautious, terrified, humourless walking on the eggshells of potential social trauma these are all lesser evils.
The greatest of these, of course, is the sacrifice of truth. Bad ideas, protected from criticism, will never be brought to account. When good men do nothing, evil will triumph.
Under the new, secular religion, equality reigns and to say otherwise to suggest that some things are actually better than others this is the chief sin and heresy. We have noted elsewhere that this explains the fury of the left against Mr. Trump. The left believes in "equality" -- and Mr. Trump has suggested two terrible blasphemies: some immigrants are more suitable than others -- and America can be "great" again. He can never be forgiven; his damnation is eternal.
The fact is that "equality" is a theoretical concept. It is not in the blueprint of nature and will not be found among living creatures. To be "tolerant" towards everything is a failure to recognize the difference between good and evil. Morally, tolerance is a chameleon: it may be virtue or vice depending on what is being tolerated.
It is surprising to realize in the modern era of enlightenment that the new religion of politically correct "equality" has saddled us with a hierarchy of evils little different -- in its puzzling perversity from the one it has replaced.
We are tempted to conclude that condemnation of phony, theoretical evils has a great attraction for the human psyche. It allows for the signalling of virtue and moral superiority, and, perhaps -- as in the matter of discrimination against some groups in favour of others -- as Pascal has suggested -- it allows for the commission of real evils with an untroubled heart.
|Seductive Conclusions Arising from
the New Zealand Shootings: Facile Cultural Harmony, and the Convenience
of Collective Guilt (March 24, 2019)
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. (Aldous Huxley, 1894 - 1963)
The recent shootings in New Zealand have been seen, inevitably -- because of the murderers statements -- through the lens of the clash between western and Islamic civilizations. His attack was against Islam and thus the nature of Islam is inevitably brought to the fore. The heinousness of the crime is obvious; the most immediate and valid response is that it was evil; the natural human tendency, however, is to transfer the blamelessness of the victims to the religion itself. Any criticism of the religion no matter how legitimate -- is silenced since it appears to justify the killers actions.
Perhaps but we are not sure it would help to transfer the problem to a less emotionally charged context. Let us suppose that there is an individual who loathes and detests atheism. He feels that those who ignore the existence of the one true and perfect Deity are a threat to humanity. He points to godless socialist regimes where great evils have been committed. He anguishes over the souls lost to eternal damnation. With the addition of deranged logic, he justifies the shooting of fifty people attending an Atheist Convention.
The atheists are clearly innocent. But has the nature of atheism changed? Surely it has not. It is as benign or as threatening as it was before the act of insanity. If you believe that atheism is a threat to humanity, that threat has not changed in the slightest. What has happened is that someone has committed an insane act to express an idea. There may be some fear that other anti-atheists may be emboldened to do the same thing. But does that mean that devout believers and committed anti-atheists should leap to the defense of atheism by claiming that it is entirely compatible with belief in the one true and perfect Deity?
Your answer to that question will probably determine how you view the response to the New Zealand shootings. We see that response as representing great deal of over-simplification -- virtuous illusion signalling and facile expressions of western guilt.
With respect to western guilt we noted the other day that many in the West seem to have decided that western civilization has been a terrible mistake. They are anxious to distance themselves from it. We referred to the United States where some university students have thought its history is not worth studying and where there seems to be an increasing embrace of political correctness, socialism, or both as superior paths to the Nirvana of egalitarian enlightenment. Democratic capitalism is shoddy, outmoded, irredeemably stained with the taint of pervasive inequality.
The assumption appears to be that had not democracy, capitalism, and technological progress been allowed to destroy things, life would now be vastly superior a happy gambolling through flower-strewn meadows of ease and enlightenment.
Perhaps, then, it is not entirely surprising that the response to an attack on a non-western ideology by a disturbed westerner has resulted in expressions of self-loathing, and a flattering of the ideology attacked.
Thomas Williams, writing in Breitbart News, has drawn our attention to an example of self-loathing. He cites a recently published piece in Slate magazine by an Australian, Rachael Withers, who wrote:
I know that blaming myself and my cohort is illogical, but I cant escape the feeling that all of white Australia is implicated in the deaths a white majority that has fomented and let foment hate. (Breitbart News, March 20)
Ms. Withers, having recognized the illogicality of her position, proceeds to elaborate on it. In for a penny, in for a pound. She thinks that the shooter, Brenton Tarrant, was "steeped in mainstream Australian racism...our particular brand of Islamophobia."
Ms. Withers, of course, makes the usual muddle confusing "racism" with "culturism." The term "racism" is most often used to silence any discussion of cultural differences.
But the "Islamophobia," she refers to -- as we have long pointed out - has nothing to do with race. It has to do with religion. Nor we would point out is it an irrational fear. The literal interpretation of Islam results in horrendous murders, and routine oppressions. If literal interpretations were some rare and bizarre occurrence roundly condemned by Muslims and non-Muslims alike we suspect that "Islamophobia " would scarcely be a concern. But that is not the case.
|The list of Islamic oppressions from the fatwa
against Salman Rushdie to the attempts to construct a Caliphate are well
known and cannot be dismissed by fanciful pretence and false mantras
about a religion of peace. There are whole nations where the practice of
Islam results in unacceptable oppressions. In Pakistan there is the
death penalty for blasphemy; in Iran, homosexuals are hanged; in Saudi
Arabia torture and amputations are part of the legal system.
If there is "Islamophobia" in Australia it is hardly surprising. "Islamophobia " cannot be banished by decree nor by exhortations to virtue labelling it as a "hate crime."
What is required to reduce" Islamophobia" is a free and open discussion of the ways in which literal Islam is incompatible with the humane continuance of the human project. Some official body of Muslims must enunciate a form of Islam which is consistent with western democracy. In the meantime to avoid conflict -- western democracies must attempt to prevent the immigration of Muslims who cannot demonstrate their understanding of what is required of citizens in a secular state.
There is not the slightest sign of any of these things happening with the isolated exception of Mr. Trumps actions much reviled and condemned by the bien pensants in limiting immigration from Islamic countries to the United States.
Thus, Ms. Withers is not dealing with reality. She is dealing with a construct of her imagination a construct in which Islam is a perfectly benign and "peaceful" religion, irrationally targeted by a "racist" who represents western civilization.
Her solution is wonderfully insane. Problems are best solved not by discussion to determine the truth but by repression:
We must condemn hate speech," she said, " and we must deny visas to alt-right figures who come to our shores expecting a friendly welcome not just in the wake of right-wing terror attacks, but always. (Breitbart News)
It is worth pointing out that this restriction on freedom of expression is exactly what we might expect from an Islamic culture. Islam holds that the death penalty is appropriate for apostates and unbelievers. Perhaps, with a little "peaceful" advancement in her thinking, Ms. Withers will see that condemnation is hardly enough the death penalty for blasphemy is the obvious and preferred choice. Allah would approve.
Finally, we should note that Ms. Withers illogicality blaming an entire society for the sins of the individual -- is consistent with an established folly of the age a tendency to minimize individual responsibility and see all crimes as the result of societal forces. As Mr. Williams points out the principle carried to its logical conclusion would contradict her assumption that the victims of the massacre are innocent.
If, as she contends, all Australians are responsible for the actions of one then all Muslims should be held responsible for the actions of Islamic State terrorists. Similarly, all blacks are responsible for Idi Amin and all leftists are responsible for the crimes of Nicolαs Maduro.
Ms. Withers, then, is the poster child for a kind of mindless, reflexive, virtue-signalling. The fact that her comments were was published in a magazine is a barometer of the intellectual vacuum of the age.
In addition to the expression of self-loathing finding evil endemic in western society -- there has been a reflexive tendency to paint Islam in glowing colours. Victims are always one lap ahead in the race to sainthood. At the ceremony for commemoration of the victims of the massacre, there was a concerted effort to send a politically correct message.
The Islamic call to prayer was broadcast, and the Prime Minister donned an Islamic veil; she referred approvingly to the prophet Mohammed.
We suppose the theory is that, with enough expressions of goodwill, a bridge can be built over a vast gulf of cultural antitheses. We cannot dismiss this possibility entirely unicorns may exist -- but we remain skeptical. Deep seated differences about the rτles of religion and freedom of speech in society do not seem amenable to mere expressions of good will. As Mr. Huxley has observed, "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
In response to these gestures of solidarity, the Imam, Gamal Fouda, said of the victims: "Their blood will water the seeds of hope and people will see the beauty of Islam."
When beauty is seen, universally, in a religion which calls for the deaths of apostates and unbelievers, it will be conclusively understood that war is peace, ignorance is strength, and freedom is slavery.
The proposition that effective bridges between antithetical cultures can be constructed of fanciful illusions awaits proof.
Imam Fouda also said that "Islamophobia" kills.
|Reflections on the Yangtze: Is the Era of Western Democracy
Over? (March 17, 2019)
We saw last evening a program on the Yangtze a segment in Simon Reeves "Sacred Rivers" series.
The Yangtze is the backdrop for the recounting of Chinas extraordinary rapid rise in wealth, influence, and confidence, with additional notes on the "sacred" -- the increasing importance of religion in a society whose primary devotion in recent years has been to material prosperity.
That prosperity is evidenced by such accomplishments as the Three Gorges Dam, vibrant populous modern cities -- and sleek trains with stations like shrines to the Gods of Technology and Transportation.
The undercurrent of course is what we all know: China is a dictatorship and all roads lead to government. A government approved religion like Christianity is fine; Falun Gong, not so much. China cares little about the wishes of the Tibetans or Taiwanese. It cannot countenance any threat no matter how remote -- to the desired and rigidly enforced unity.
The program has led us to reflect on a contrast -- the focus and determination of the Chinese, and the palpable self-doubt of western democracies.
With its "Belt and Road" policy, China is engaged in a massive expansion of influence. It provides struggling countries with assistance in material projects in order to participate in the rewards, and become indispensable in the developing ethos. Casual about human rights and tiresome details like an independent judiciary at home it has no scruples about dealing with countries like Iran or Pakistan.
It appears that China, while more subtle, is little different in focus and intent from what was common in the old days of buccaneering nationalism. Yes -- it is a dictatorship -- it restricts the freedom of its citizens in the name of unity and in the service of nationalist ambitions. It does not restrict freedom to destroy its culture and influence -- but to enhance them. It is not multicultural, but uni-cultural in its ethos; it is focussed on winning -- success arises, not from equality, but from merit and excellence.
It is a country in stark contrast to western democracies. As examples of those democracies, let us consider briefly -- The United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. They are all mired in self-doubt or self-loathing -- or both: they have all paused on a plateau of self-reflection, and applying impossible standards of virtue -- have found themselves wanting. They have surrendered, willingly, to summary arrest, and have placed themselves in the unyielding manacles of political correctness.
Britain is attempting to extricate itself from the deadening, oppressive, restricting influence of the European Union. Led by a treasonous Prime Minister, Theresa May, its Parliament seems terrified of possible economic shock as the result of "Brexit." It has no confidence that the British people can survive such a setback -- and relying on their native skills and abilities -- can forge a path in the world alone without a European perambulator and a Brussels nursemaid.
Concomitantly, it is reducing the freedom of citizens not to favour and enhance its ethos but to destroy it. It has swallowed the poisonous idea of multiculturalism -- which assumes an equality of cultures --whole. Gangs of rapists are ignored by the police because of their nationality and cultural background; people like Tommy Robinson who point out the favouring of Muslims -- are pursued with complete disregard for justice or truth. Indeed, when no crime is considered greater than multicultural "intolerance" it is no surprise that real evil flourishes as a result.
There is a similarly determined effort to protect other politically correct dogmas. Recently, a woman was arrested at her home -- in the presence of her two children -- by three police officers -- because she had referred in an online discussion to a transgendered person as a "man" rather than as a female. She was held for seven hours, and her laptop and mobile phone were retained by the police for months.
When a country has fallen so far down the rabbit hole of madness, it is hard to see how it can recover.
In the United States perhaps as a last gasp of desperation -- the unsuitable Mr. Trump has been elected as President. Despite his flaws, he has been elected because of an almost unprecedented temerity he has had the nerve to claim that some things are better than others. He has observed correctly that there is something wrong with the Islamic approach to society and has claimed that America can be "great" again. How dare he!
This, of course, runs directly counter to the preferred left-wing narrative expounded by Mr. Obama. One of Mr. Obamas first acts, after his election, was to rush to Cairo to assure the Islamic world that the United States had no better idea about the conduct of society than anybody else. He was not there to lecture, but to encourage. He obligingly dismissed the western notion of free speech by claiming that the future must not belong to those who slandered the prophet of Islam.
At the same time, he took pains to downgrade his own country. He bowed to foreign leaders. He dismissed the American genius for innovation and enterprise by saying that American "exceptionalism" was no different from French or British exceptionalism. He dismissed entrepreneurial capitalism by saying "You didnt build that" claiming that the entrepreneur was not so much the creator but rather the dependent creation -- of society.
Like Prime Minister May, Mr. Obama was a subversive, treasonous force in the country he pretended to lead. His shocking success has been shown by the absolute, foaming-at-the-mouth irrational frenzy of the Democrats and their complicit media in attacking Mr. Trump on whatever grounds possible -- real, imagined, or manufactured.
Mr. Trump's policies on immigration and the construction of a border wall have been decried as hateful and racist. It would appear that the Democrats would prefer the total destruction of their country rather than admit that every nation must have the power to control its borders.
Beyond that, it is clear that the American Universities have drunk from the politically correct poisoned chalice of "equality." Students have voted to replace works by "dead white males" not because of anything they have said but because of their deadness, whiteness, and maleness. Their preponderance is is perceived as unfair to living, non-white females.* Students at Stanford have also rejected the idea that a study of the history of western civilization should be included in the curriculum. That is because "success" is politically incorrect it always carries the taint of moral turpitude: it can only be achieved as a result of unfair oppression. The study of western civilization can be nothing more than the dissection of moral turpitude and hence unworthy of those blessedly on the side of the angels.
Universities have increasingly rejected conservative ideas; conservative speakers are considered "threatening." When Mr. Trump was elected, one university provided colouring books, chocolates, and puppies in a "safe space" for the intellectually oppressed. University students melt, apparently, on contact with the earth; survival is not possible without coddling, and a proper quotient of puppies.
Increasingly, as a manifestation of political correctness -- feelings are seen as far more important than freedom of speech. Many Universities, for example, are obsessed with micro-aggressions. In the present enlightened era, to ask members of the audience to "stand and be recognized" is hurtful -- and an egregious insult to those in wheelchairs. There is no end to the parsing of language in the search for insult: there can be no innocence where a feeling is determined to be hurt.
The society at large which ostensibly decries racism has become obsessed with seeing matters through a racial lens. White privilege is a matter for anguish and dismay; only those with the "correct" that is -- unbleached skin tones can be seen as unbiased sources of wisdom or common sense. In a world of supposed gender equality, the testimony of a woman is worth approximately -- ten times that of a man. Ms. Blaisey Ford does not require any evidence for her allegations. Being a woman is more than enough.
Finally, there is a rise in socialist sentiment. Mr. Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic nomination, is a socialist and the cognitively challenged Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a new "Green Deal" guaranteed to destroy the economy without undue delay. She has studied economics -- at an American university -- so her competence can hardly be disputed. She wants to blow things up and knows how to proceed.
Although socialism is known not to work, and is the very antithesis of the entrepreneurial capitalism behind Americas success, many Democratic politicians seem enchanted -- hypnotized by the egalitarian music and transfixed by the swaying of the venomous cobra itself.
The position of the United States does not seem quite as dire as that of the United Kingdom. If Mr. Trump can hold on which is questionable -- he may be able to moderate the apparent desire for cultural suicide. We would not, personally, put much money on that bet. The United States is riven by and pre-occupied with internal dissension; while it squabbles, China proceeds apace.
Finally, let us deal with Canada. Its too small to matter, of course but since we live here it is a mater of some interest.
Once again, we see the malign influence of a subversive leader, who has little interest in seeing Canada thrive. Indeed, he has classified Canada as a "post national" country. Possibly he sees it not as a going concern, but as a retirement home for those unable to function meaningfully anywhere else. At any rate, he is more concerned with signalling the virtues of climate change correctness than survival. Not having any ideas of his own, he has allowed the climate fanatic, Gerald Butts, to dictate policy. Mr. Trudeau pays lip service to the need for pipelines, but has done nothing to ensure that they are actually built.
Most significant, of course, is his disdain for our traditional culture. When the government of the day termed honour killings as "barbaric," Mr. Trudeau was outraged. He said the term was "unacceptable," and claimed it might make immigrants feel "defensive." The only people who might be "defensive" would be those for whom honour killings is pretty much business-as-usual. A small dollop of defensiveness thus created would not seem to risk putting the universe significantly off course in its moral trajectory.
It should be understood, of course, that Mr. Trudeau is not a real person he is a papier mβchι figurehead; inside you will find only a loose conglomeration of threadbare platitudes ready to be triggered by the appropriate stimuli.
For Mr. Trudeau, the truth should defer to the sensibilities of immigrants regardless of their values. It is not surprising that he allows the wearing of the niqab by those ostensibly adopting Canadian citizenship, and a Canadian way of life.
The most powerful indication of Mr. Trudeaus abandonment of our traditions and cultural values may be seen in the disgraceful proposal of Motion - 103. The fact that it was passed by a large majority shows how, like the British parliament, ours is willing to limit free speech not to advance our traditions but to destroy them.
The Motion called for the condemnation of "Islamophobia" and linked it to the notion of "hate crimes." "Islamophobia" was not defined. If you consider it to mean "an irrational fear of Islam" it must be exceedingly rare. It would refer to something like the fear that agents of Islam are reading our thoughts through the television set. If you define it to be "fear of Islam" it could hardly be condemned. Fear of Islam is widespread and perfectly understandable. Muslims must fear it since giving up their religion carries a penalty of death. Unbelievers must also fear it since their deaths have already been decreed. While many Muslims are perfectly harmless those who interpret the religion literally are exceedingly dangerous.
We hardly need remind anyone of the murderous riots resulting from mocking cartoons, or the horrendous evils committed in the attempt to create a Caliphate. Islamic theocracies -- like Iran and Saudi Arabia are oppressive places where no sane free-thinking person would wish to live. In Iran they hang gays, and in Saudi Arabia they enjoy amputations and torture. Critical journalists are not noted for exceptional life-expectancy.
No of course Motion M-103 is not sensible it is virtue-signalling. It is saying that we deplore criticising things that really should be criticized but we would prefer not to because it is unkind, and some people might be insulted. (Where have we come across that idea before?)
Oh yes insulted! Well, we cant have that, can we? No we must sacrifice freedom of speech our traditional birthright and sell it for an unsavoury mess of religious pottage. In doing so of course, we uphold an entirely foreign cultural value the one that holds that religion must not, on any account, be criticized. Perhaps the next Motion will suggest the death penalty for blasphemy. We can hardly wait.
Once again, we see the lack of confidence the abasement and the self-loathing. Our values the ones that have been instrumental in our success must be altered in favour of those which have led to societies from which people are anxious to escape. It is madness.
If Canada is considered an example of western civilization it is more interested in cultural suicide than in proclaiming its advantages.
The great virtue of western civilization has been its willingness to see the world as it is to break the bonds of religious dogma, to investigate, to initiate, and to debate to use technology to create wealth and opportunities for self-fulfilment. The emphasis has not been on equality, but on merit.
That has now changed. The chief virtue is now equality -- found as the bedrock assumption of socialism, multiculturalism, and political correctness. When the aim is equality, the result is mediocrity; when the aim is excellence, equality finds its true place. And since "equality" is not in the blueprint of nature, it is an unattainable chimera. The determined attempt to attain it involves oppression and the loss of freedom.
We do not approve of China dictatorships cannot avoid oppression and corruption.
But we do not think western civilization full of self doubt and eschewing both freedom and excellence -- is in a hopeful situation.
|Drivel, March 13
The border wall is a defining symbol of our age. It is seen by realists as a cruel necessity -- by idealists as unnecessarily cruel. (Observation #1572)
On the world-wide sea, there are many sinking vessels, and a
number of fortunate lifeboats. Virtue requires that the lifeboats rescue
desperate swimmer-survivors -- but an overburdened lifeboat becomes a
deathtrap. Rescue, then, is not a matter of principle -- but a matter of
numbers; the cruelty of rejection is not an option, but a necessity.
(Observation # 1516)
The border wall which Mr. Trump promised to build and which the Democrats refuse to fund is a fitting symbol for the great division of our age.
That division is between seeing the world as it "should" be or as we wish it to be and seeing the world more realistically and recognizing its limitations.
There have been demonstrations claiming that the wall is a "symbol of hate," and that it is "racist."
Underlying such claims is an idealistic view of the world. In a world of great disparities of wealth, freedom, and opportunity, it is thought that migration of people from less favoured areas to those more fortunate is a solution a benign initial step towards a reduction in inequalities.
The unfortunate truth is that there are more desperate swimmers than there are lifeboats to accommodate them. If there were only a few desperate swimmers who could conveniently be rescued without endangering all those afloat, the choice would be clear. But that is not the case. When the lifeboats take on enough desperate swimmers, they too, will capsize, and simply add to the numbers of those swimming at sea.
Some portions of humanity have developed an approach to society which has enabled them to thrive and prosper. They are not perfect, of course, but they have made great strides in discovering truths about how the world works. The capitalist system for all its flaws is the best way of producing and distributing goods. It allows for the elements of initiative and competition call them greed and ambition if you will in the human psyche. Some societies have discovered many of the mysteries of the functioning of the natural world and made great strides in the development of technology which has made life easier. They have developed institutions for democratic governance and resolution of disputes. They have become, largely, secular: religion is not seen as the answer to the way society should be governed. They have developed social programs to assist those unable to compete in the capitalist system, and have achieved much success in treating the sick.
Other nations have not been so fortunate. They have lacked the resources, the insights, or the initiative to compete. They find themselves with citizens who wish to leave for less oppression or for greener pastures. We are not attempting to assign blame. Inequality is simply the reality of the world.
If all the needy of the world could be magically transported to those countries most advanced, the result would not be Nirvana, but chaos. A reasonably stable system would be overcome by the needs and demands of those who would require much time to become productive members of their adopted society.
|Nor should one dismiss the tribal reality people do not modify
their tribal habits especially those with religious roots willingly
or cheerfully. True "multiculturalism" is a fine-sounding ideal but
not something that could be put into practice. That is because some
cultural values are antithetical and incompatible. The most serious ones
have to do with religion which because it is irrational tends to
be stubbornly persistent. As we are fond of pointing out you cannot
reconcile the notion of laws against blasphemy with the idea of freedom
of speech; nor can the idea that religion is the sole source of good
government be reconciled with the notion that it is not.
In earlier times -- when there were no social programs -- there might have been a better argument for "open borders." The Darwinian imperative would apply: "Adapt, or die." But that approach is not, today, considered civilized. In the modern world it is held that the state should assist and protect all its citizens.
And, in fact, in very primitive times, we cannot imagine that any tribe succeeded by welcoming a neighbouring tribe to share its resources. Tribes succeeded by conquering other tribes. The whole point of co-operation within the tribe is to enable competition with other tribes. To think that cheerful, sharing bonhomie is at the essence of the human condition is naive. Long established human ways of being in the world cannot be dismissed with the wave of an idealistic wand. A reasonable step is to make competition non-violent. To banish competition entirely is ultimately neither wise, possible, or productive.
Is it "unfair" to refuse the needy? Of course it is. That is why the idealists call the border wall "hateful." But the alternative is not realistic. True "open borders" mean the destruction of nations. If a nation cannot decide whom to accept and whom to reject, it cannot be considered a nation. It is merely a location. It also has no way of protecting itself against those who would do it harm. The cruel reality is that there is no magic and costless solution to the inequalities in the world.
The idealists believe that they have moral virtue on their side. Their virtues are "equality" and the alleviation of misery. But as Mr. Churchill remarked about socialism it promises an equality of misery. Open borders with the destruction of nations they entail would spread, rather than alleviate misery. Advanced capitalist societies can offer only the "unequal sharing of blessings" if they retain control over their borders.
Indeed, we suspect that were the idealists to experience what they advocate, they would soon change their minds. If they found themselves required to share their dwellings with four immigrant families or even one for an extended period of time -- we suspect that their enthusiasm would falter. As William F. Buckley noted: "Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive."
What is the best solution to the terrible inequities among nations of human beings?
Immigration may help a few. But the best solution is to alter the conditions which lead people to wish to leave their homelands. That will not be easy. But that is where the focus should be. We must note that even the Pope whom we consider an uncritical socialist* has expressed this view:
"The way to solve the problem of migration is to help the countries where migrants come from...They come because of hunger or war. Invest where there is hunger. Europe is capable of doing this, and this is a way to help those countries grow." (Breitbart News, January 29, 2019)
|The Mysterious Case of Gerald Butts
(February 24, 2019)
Gerald Butts, Mr. Trudeaus Principal Secretary, has resigned in the middle of the Jody Wilson-Raybould scandal. If you have any questions about his rτle in that scandal it appears some pressure was exerted on the then Attorney General to interfere with the prosecution of SNC Lavalin or his integrity in general you have only read his letter of resignation.
Mr. Butts categorically denies any interference in the matter and claims he has with all those around -- him "acted with integrity and a singular focus on the best interests of all Canadians."
Well, thats a relief!
If he is blameless the result of his inherent and undisputed integrity why, then, resign?
He says it is because of the "distraction" of the accusation a distraction so significant that it is in the best interests of the Prime Ministers Office that he "step away."
Well, that seems not only a reasonable theory but it is backed by decades probably centuries -- of evidence. By now, everybody knows that when people are unjustly accused, and then resign, nobody thinks that they are guilty; in 99% of all recorded cases -- speculation immediately stops and everything returns to normal.
Writing in the National Post on February 19th, Rex Murphy speculates that there is something more awful yet to come: Mr. Butts is getting out of the way before the wave hits.
Well, we hate to be negative* but if we were inclined to go beyond Mr. Butts protestations of virtue and concern for his fellow citizens, we might discover that he was also Principal Secretary to the awful and unlamented Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty. It was Mr. Butts who was behind Mr. McGuintys disastrous green energy policies.
Mr. Butts, you see, was president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada from 2008 - 2102. He appears to believe in all the climate alarmism for which no reliable evidence has yet been provided. He seems to think in accordance with the views of the late Maurice Strong that the economy of the future does not involve much in the way of fossil fuels. Mr. Butts view of Canada would seem to include lots of trendy caves, grass huts, and igloos.
As a close friend of the weak-minded Prime Minister, Mr. Butts has managed to exert his Svengali-like powers. Doubtless this accounts for Trudeaus uncertainty and ambivalence about energy, pipelines, and Alberta. His ultimate aim is an oil-free future; his strategy is not to appear too obvious about it by paying lip-service to the need for pipelines.
Mr. Butts, we should note, charged $127,000 for his move from Toronto to Ottawa. His highly developed sense of integrity possibly energized by complaint resulted in a repayment of $41,000. The integrity saw nothing wrong with the rest of the money -- $86,000. Those gold-plated moving vans don't come cheap.
Even though he resigned from the Wildlife Fund in 2012, Mr. Butts was paid $175,000 -- in U.S. dollars -- by the Fund in the following year. He is, indeed, an honourable man.
We think the most interesting element of his resignation letter is the "non-sequitur" -- the reference to climate change:
Our kids and grandkids will judge us on one issue above all others. That issue is climate change. I hope the response to it becomes the collective, non-partisan, urgent effort that science clearly says is required. I hope that happens soon.
We think that this is revealing. It seems almost an admission. Why bother to emphasize your virtue in a completely unrelated matter? Is there a balance in play? Does being on the side of the angels in an all-important, transcendent matter balance out any hint of error in other, less important things?
We call this the "Angelic Fallacy" -- the self-serving claim that good intentions and noble aims will wash away a multitude of sins .
It will be interesting to see who inhabits the eventual ranks of
angels and devils in this matter.
*O.K., O.K. we live for negativity!
See also Limerick Lane.
|The Walmart Credit Card Trap
(February 17, 2019)
A couple of years ago, we had a Scotiabank Visa "rewards" card. The card provided a rebate on purchases at some retail outlets mostly grocery and drug stores, as we recall. The card was not entirely satisfactory. First -- there was an annual fee you had to earn sufficient "rewards" to cover that cost. Second "No Frills" did not accept Visa cards. Third if you bought groceries at Walmart there was no reward; it was impossible to distinguish between eligible groceries and ineligible TV sets.
When Walmart offered a Mastercard which seemed to offer a solution to all these problems, we -- eventually we are a creature of habit decided to try it.
Indeed, apart from the fact that a Walmart card lacks a certain cachet when you use it at a fancy restaurant it has lived up to the promise it seems quite satisfactory. We have collected about $273.00 in "rewards" thus far. We admit that we have not spent them; we assume perhaps naively that there are no "catches." Perhaps they can only be spent in Bavaria, on January 1, 2020, from 4 - 6 p.m.
Now, last December, we faced a situation which we know will seem absurd and utterly incomprehensible to our readers: we had more demand for funds than we could conveniently supply. This is a situation which never occurs in well-run households. We imagine that 99% of reasonable, intelligent people have ample savings accounts upon which they can call in emergencies. Failing that, they have a comforting store of gold and silver coins in a special sock in their sock drawer, or a gold brick hidden behind the furnace.
When we require funds, however, we have only three options: robbing a bank, selling an acquaintance or unimportant relative into slavery, or selling a stock. The first two options require courage and planning somewhat beyond our capabilities; the second involves a betrayal of principle especially if it involves a loss -- and must be rejected as unethical.
Lo, and behold! Just in time for Christmas, Walmart in a white beard and Santa suit sent us a notice offering to increase our credit limit to $7000 and to provide an interest-free loan until the following June. All that was necessary to secure the loan, apparently, was to apply for some special cheques. There would be a $4.00 charge for each cheque used.
We phoned. Anxious to prove that we are not some naive country bumpkin we ventured a guess at the "catch:" "We suppose," we said, "that you are doing this in the expectation that people who get these loans will be unable to pay them off in six months. They will then owe you vast sums of money on which you will charge 21% interest." I do not remember the reply of the Walmart representative but she certainly did not disagree. Nor did she add the warning which she should have.
Heres the real catch. Suppose you have borrowed $3000. You then proceed to make $1000 in purchases. Your total bill comes to $4000. You send in $1500, thinking that this amount will pay off your cost of purchases, and $500 will be allocated to the loan. You figure, in 6 months, the loan will be paid off.
That is not how it works at all. Assuming that your minimum payment on purchases is $100 they pay that amount off. That leaves you with $900 of purchases money that you still owe.
They then take the rest of the money -- $1400 -- and apply it to the loan bringing the loan down to $1600.
On the $900 of unpaid purchases they then charge you 20% interest.
Thus, in effect your "interest-free" loan is not free at all.
Even if you stop making any further purchases except for your "minimum payment" -- any amount you send them will be applied to the loan. Until the loan is fully repaid, you will always be paying interest as a result of the "interest-free" loan.
Let us suppose you are foolish enough to make $1000 of purchases the following month. Your new purchase total will be $1900. If we assume the minimum payment is 10% -- $190 -- then a new payment of $1500 will be divided as follows: $190 to purchases, reducing the total to $1710 -- and $1310 to the interest-free loan -- reducing it to $290. You will then be charged 20% interest on $1710. The "interest-free" loan is rapidly being transformed into an interest-bearing loan.
The only escape from this trap is to make sure you have no balance on your card before you make the loan and never make any purchases as long as the loan is outstanding. Ideally with prior knowledge this should be done at the very beginning. Subsequently your only escape will be to pay off the loan, stop making purchases, wait until the card balance is clear -- and then start a new loan. By that time, it is likely that the "free loan" period will be close to its expiry date anyway.
That is the Walmart credit card trap.
The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal. (Aristotle)
It seems as though madness of one sort or another is a necessity of the human condition.
We have seen some progress towards the rejection of the madness of religion. Western societies have become largely secular, as ideas about divinity have been seen, increasingly, as hypotheses lacking evidence. The days of the Inquisition and the burning of witches seem definitively over; church and state are seen as separate, rather than intertwined.
But the new secular religion political correctness is taking its place. It is as if the human psyche abhors a vacuum: some degree of irrationality is essential to its function.
The essence of political correctness is a sentimental belief in equality. It is thought that "equality" is the true natural state of humankind. There should be equality of all groups in every field of endeavour. Thus the numbers of women in corporate boardrooms, in the fields of theoretical physics, or automobile repair,* should represent a wonderful parity of genders. The numbers of aboriginals in jail or in the field of neurosurgery should reflect exactly their proportion in the population as a whole. Dentists or janitors* regarded through the lens of equality -- should be found with exactly the same mix of race or ethnicity that the population would suggest.
The latest example of this absurd type of thinking comes from the Government of the United Kingdom. It has determined that in British universities, there is a regrettable lack of ethnic balance:
|The latest figures show that 79 percent of
white students received a first-class or upper second-class (2:1) degree
in 2015/26, compared to 72 percent of Chinese students, 71 percent of
Indian students, 62 percent of Pakistani students, and 51 percent of
"Black Other" students. (Breitbart News, February 3)
The fact that the Government has bothered to discover this information shows a preoccupation with seeing things through an ethnic lens. In the world of political correctness, these disparities are an affront to the presumed natural order of things.
The fact that Chinese students might suffer from a language barrier, or that there might be a difference in the importance of academic excellence in the Chinese and Pakistani cultures, is of no import.
The lack of "equality" is seen as an indictment of the educational system. Accordingly, the Government has ordered British Universities to achieve an quality of outcome among ethnic groups. Sanctions are threatened for Universities which fail to make "good progress" towards the goal.
There is, apparently an "Equality Challenge Unit" concerned with such matters. This august body has called for an examination of curricula the idea being that changing what is studied might be a way of achieving "equality."
The obsession with "equality" rather than merit and achievement suggests the beginning of a significant decline in progress.
As we have often observed: When equality is the aim, mediocrity is the result; when excellence is the aim, equality will find its true place.
The society which focuses on equality will lose in the competitive race which is reality. Political correctness has a pretty face but its effects are far-reaching and subversive.
*In fact, of course -- no one cares whether there are proportional numbers of female auto mechanics -- or Austrolovenian janitors -- it is only when high-paying or prestigious positions are involved that "equality" becomes an issue.
|The Dream Postponed (January
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. (Martin Luther King)
Martin Luther King expressed his dream in 1963; it is hard to see that much progress has been made towards its fulfilment. People are still judged on the colour of their skin: anyone who has white skin is immediately assumed to be suffering from an irreversible malaise an infection of the "white privilege" virus, which removes his legitimacy of opinion, and renders him unsuitable -- or to be legitimately discounted -- in many areas of employment.
We are not, of course, equating the discrimination often voiced against white Americans with that historically experienced by black Americans. We are simply pointing out that there is a tendency to generalize on the basis of membership in a group.
There is very little appetite for judging people on their "character." It is far more convenient not to see people as individuals at all -- but, rather, as representatives of certain groups. People are perceived and treated according to the current "status" of their group. Anyone belonging to a group "historically marginalized" is to be given special compensatory respect and consideration. Similarly, virtue varies in direct proportion to misfortune: moral superiority is ascribed to those claiming any degree of victimhood. Wealth and success are certain indicators of moral turpitude. The landlord is always heartless and evil; the tenant is incapable of deception. The demands of the immigrant to protect his religion from criticism is put above the rights -- enjoyed by generations of prior citizens -- to freedom of speech. In matters of sexual assault, women are to be believed without question; a mans testimony is worth about fifty cents on the dollar and that is on a good day of favourable exchange rates.
|In general, it may be said that our society is determined to
create some approximation of "equality," by ascribing compensatory moral
virtue to those according to their success in painting themselves as
victims of current or historical misfortune.
All this accounts, of course, for the immediate response to the "Covington" incident we discussed yesterday. It was immediately assumed that the white student, Nicholas Sandmann, was guilty, and the aboriginal protester, Nathan Phillips, was the virtuous victim of profound evil.
It is worth noting that Mr. Sandmann and his family have now engaged an attorney, L. Lin Wood, who specializes in suing the media for libel and slander.
We wish Mr. Sandmann every success no so much for his victimhood but because we think there is far too much reckless rushing to the signalling of "virtue." Mankinds impulse to lynching first -- and worrying about facts later -- remains unchanged. There should be some onus on those reporting the news to discover the facts of a case before playing to prejudice.* Perhaps a successful lawsuit will encourage a prudent concern for the truth.
* P.S. We find it fascinating that the Bishop of Covington, Roger J. Foys, has apologized for his own precipitous leap to judgment: "I especially apologize to Nicholas Sandmann and his family as well as to all CovCath families who have felt abandoned during this ordeal. Nicholas unfortunately has become the face of these allegations based on video clips." The apology came after the announcement of pending legal action. (Breitbart, January 25)
|The Determination of the Utopians
The theory seems to be that as long as a man is a failure he is one of God's children, but that as soon as he succeeds he is taken over by the Devil. ( H. L. Mencken, 1880-1956)
We are living in a time in which "preferred narratives" are in conflict with the real world.
The preferred narratives pretty much all have to do with the idea of equality. There is a desperate attempt to "equalize" the lots of disparate elements of mankind. As we noted in Troubles with the Tribal Impulse, a few days ago, certain tribes are seen in need of being raised up others in need of being pushed down. As with all preferred narratives facts are used, selectively, according to their usefulness.
No clearer evidence can be presented than that of the incident involving Covington Catholic High School students at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on January 18.
There was a "confrontation" between Nick Sandmann, a student, and Nathaniel Phillips, a native American protestor claiming to be a Vietnam war veteran. A much published picture showed Mr. Sandmann wearing a "MAGA" cap, smiling at Mr. Phillips.
With such a picture, there is no need to examine the facts in order to signal virtue. On the one hand, there is Mr. Phillips, a native American claiming military service on behalf of his country. His group identity aboriginal immediately places him in the choir angels. Once you add military service, he may claim a rightful position just edging out Jesus on the right hand side of God.
On the other side, is Mr. Sandmann easily seen as the Devil incarnate. First of all, his skin is white. That alone ensures that he is chock full of the arrogance of "white privilege." As a white person, he is hardly able to smile. The only thing of which he could possibly be capable is the supercilious, scurrilous sneer of a white supremacist.
If there could be any faint fog of doubt, any half-scintilla of hesitation about passing such judgment, it is immediately dispelled by his MAGA hat.
Such a hat is the symbol of everything which the left detests. First of all it repeats a slogan of Mr. Trump the agreed anti-Christ of our times who through some extraordinary machinations of multiple forces of evil, stole the election from Mrs. Clinton.
|But the slogan itself is anathema. Mr. Obama worked
tirelessly for eight years to proclaim the ordinariness of the American
ethos, to renounce the entrepreneurial spirit which is the hallmark of
American genius, and to reduce, in whatever way possible, the stature of
the United States on the world stage. This is all very much in accord
with the notion of "equality:" facts be damned; no culture is any better
than any other.
And then there is Mr. Trump having the temerity to assume that America was once "great" and might become so again. Speak of apostasy! In the world of fortunate equality, nothing can be "great" no one thing can ever be "better" than another! Unless of course it is a discreditable, disgraceful idea which denies "equality" as the best and most laudable goal for the human race.
The preferred narrative that a group of white supremacist students had jeered at a noble indigenous war veteran was picked up and repeated by the usual media. Even those who might be expected to show a modicum of restraint were unable to resist the call to righteous moral outrage. A professor of English at Dartmouth College, Jeff Sharlet, tweeted: "Ill have no problem with someone doxxing these boys. "(Breitbat news, January 23) ("Doxxing" refers to the publication of personal information.)
In short, the Covington incident reveals, once again, what we have observed before: those anxious to signal their "virtue" are so enthusiastic about their cause, so eager to proclaim their special place on the side of the angels, that they do not bother to find out where, in fact, virtue lies. Often the facts turn out to be at variance with the "virtuous" assumptions.
And in this case, it appears that conclusions were reached prematurely. The students themselves had been verbally harassed by a group of "Black Hebrew Israelites." According to Mr. Sandmann, the students had responded with school chants. Mr. Phillips had then approached the students, oddly conceiving of them as a threat.
The claim of Mr. Phillips that he heard chants of "Build that wall" have not been verified. His credibility is not impressive: it has been shown that he did not serve as a soldier but as a refrigerator mechanic. He also has a criminal record.
The narrative, then, is not exactly as it was presented.*
We take this incident as simply more proof of the devotion of those on the Left to their preferred narrative, and their determination to signal their "virtue." They are not interested in facts, but in twisting them in accordance with the world as they wish to see it.
*A detailed account if the timeline may be found at: https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/01/24/timeline-how-the-covington-hate-hoax-spread-on-social-media-and-who-blew-up-the-misleading-video/
|Islam: Propaganda vs. Reality
(January 21, 2019)
It is the fashion to pretend especially in Canada that Islam is a perfectly benign religion. Islamic terrorist attacks, it is claimed, are aberrations the violent evil of a madness that has nothing to do with the religion of Islam.
We acknowledge that there are many secular Muslims, and Muslims whose understanding of their religion excludes violence. The problem remains that there are passages in the Koran which advocate death for unbelievers. While many may argue that such passages are "taken out of context" they still remain. If they simply remained as quaint relics of now irrelevant historical contexts we might be unconcerned. But the fact is that there are groups of Muslims who do not care about the niceties of context, and take the texts at face value.
Most people are familiar with the fates of Salman Rushdie, and the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo. Everyone over 30 will, surely, remember the violent response to the publication of the Danish cartoons in 2005. These events cannot be wished away by referring to unfortunate misinterpretations of Islamic texts.
Similarly, the religion does not look kindly on apostasy. Rather than look at texts which might be claimed as "misinterpreted" it might be more instructive to look at events. From Wikipedia:
In the years 1985-2006, three governments executed four individuals for apostasy from Islam: "one in Sudan in 1985; two in Iran, in 1989 and 1998; and one in Saudi Arabia in 1992." Twenty-three Muslim-majority countries, as of 2013, additionally covered apostasy from Islam through their criminal laws.
We should also note that Pakistan has laws which provide for the death penalty for blasphemy. The case of Asia Bibi* is a recent example of the injustices which are common in that wretched, backward country.
|We think that the reality as opposed to benign theory should
be constantly kept before the public. That is because seeing the world
as we wish it to be rather than as it is makes us vulnerable. As we
have said elsewhere a failure to face reality allows it to stab you in
That is why we think it is important not to overlook the case of "Haroon Masih" (Not his real name it has been altered to protect him. )
Mr. Masih is a former Imam from Pakistan who immigrated to Germany. After encountering a Christian couple in Greece, he began his conversion to Christianity. (Breitbart News, January 20)
After his conversion, he moved back to Pakistan where he founded an underground Church. When this was discovered, he was beaten "half to death" by those who included members of his own family. On his return to Germany, he claimed to have been stabbed by two men speaking the main language of Pakistan -- Urdu.
We continue to see the attempt to condemn "Islamophobia" as utterly misguided. It is hard to imagine a religion more justly to be feared. Clever arguments about historical contexts are exactly that: it is important to see how the religion functions in the real world.
Those whose interpretation is benign, cannot, on the account of their own virtue, claim that the religion should not be criticized. Rather, they should raise their voices in condemnation of the many ways their religion is a force for evil in the world.
When they fail to do so, they retard, rather than advance their own cause.
|Trouble with the Tribal Impulse
Human beings have prospered by banding together in tribes. Tribes have prospered by defeating other tribes. But the costs of tribal warfare as shown by the wars of the last century have become prohibitive. We are now engaged in an interesting experiment attempting to reduce conflict by showing that no tribe is superior to any other.
Because some societies have achieved more that others in terms of wealth, freedom, longevity, and general attractiveness the challenge is that of squaring the idealistic dream with the obdurate reality.
The policy of multiculturalism is one such effort. It is assumed by some -- that open borders and unlimited migration represent the path to Nirvana. The fact that some cultural values are directly antithetical and quite incompatible is conveniently ignored.
At a different level within most western societies pains are taken to suggest that those from all cultural backgrounds are deserving of equal cultural self-esteem. What this involves, in practical terms, is ensuring that no member of any cultural group should feel slighted in any way.
If you embrace the faith of Islam, which is a highly intolerant religion, your request that Islam never be criticized will be supported as recent experience in Canada suggests -- by a parliamentary motion.
If you are an aboriginal, caught in a cycle of despair and misery as you attempt to defy the forces of industrialization, your desire to block roads and stop trains will be met with significant acquiescence. Letters will be written to the editor, lamenting past injustices, and implying that, in a just world, the conquering races would be required to return preferably in leaky rowboats with insufficient food supplies to their countries of origin.
If you have any cultural background which differs from the dominant and successful one, the wearing of any symbols of your culture will be considered "cultural appropriation." Perpetrators of such insult will be figuratively hung, drawn, and quartered. Should there be an attempt, in any literary endeavour, to assume the "voice" of a member of an "oppressed" culture a figurative burning at the stake will be considered appropriate.
Knowing all this, it is hardly surprising that a "white" comedian, Zach Poitras. has been banned from two comedy nights to be held a bar in Montreal. Apparently Mr. Poitras styles his hair in dreadlocks. The organizers have declared:
We will not tolerate any discrimination or harassment within our spaces...[such as when] someone from a dominant culture appropriates symbols, clothing or hairstyles that come from historically dominated cultures. (Breitbart News, January 17)
The hairstyle it is claimed acts as a "vehicle" for racism.*
We must suppose the battle between the ideal and the real is central to our modern age. It will be fascinating to see, at what point, ideal notions will be required to pay some deference to reality.
Let us consider some of the pitfalls of the current course.
|1. By protecting some cultures but not others a
clear message is sent: some cultures are not as good as others. Some
require protection; others have the strength to stand on their own. The
aim of bolstering an oppressed culture is compromised from the
beginning -- attention is inevitably drawn to very inequality in need of
alleviation. Behold our unexpected friend the law of unintended
2. Unwavering tolerance and kindness will suppress valid criticisms. If a cultural attitude or practice is itself inconsistent with tolerance, then "tolerance" becomes self-defeating. For example, if Islam is to be given what it asks protection from mockery and criticism -- two things follow. First, freedom of speech is curtailed, and second, the way is paved for further unreasonable demands why not Sharia Law, or alterations in the criminal code to create penalties for blasphemy?
3. Excessive coddling of a culture encourages not strength, but weakness. If a culture will wither under cultural appropriation, cannot survive criticism, and finds success only in taking offense, what chance does it have of ever growing up? If success is found only victimhood and complaint do those elements not become a constriction a limited way of being in the world? When "success" is measured not in terms of improvement but in terms of complaint, is there not a constant need for the discovery of new complaints complaints of ever-diminishing validity? When the present can be viewed only through the prism of ancient grievance does this not draw focus away from viable opportunities for a better future?
The Darwinian message to all cultures is simple: "adapt, or die." The laws of nature can be fudged, temporarily, but not broken.
4. A certain amount of pretence, perhaps, helps make the world go around. The machinery of social interaction is always greased with small dollops of humbug. But danger lurks. The more humbug that is required, the more evident is the gap between the ideal and the real. When the amounts of humbug required become, finally, absurd, there is a risk of an about-face from coddling to animosity.
5. The cost of constant lying the elaborate and exaggerated pretense that some cultures require constant coddling -- must eventually take its toll. The requirement to lie is, in itself, oppressive. The freedom to express any critical opinion is lost. Soon we will be living in a world where everybody is saying one thing but meaning another. The truth and the freedom to state it -- become lost in all public, and much private discourse.
6. Laughter is a very human response to the sudden, triumphant perception of inconsistency. Indeed, mockery, as we have said elsewhere while not appropriate in every venue and on every occasion -- is the guardian of reason, the enemy of pretension, and the mirror to folly. It is remarkably associated with freedom. But laughter becomes increasingly rare in a society where many groups of citizens have, as their raison dκtre the taking of offense. That is why political correctness which is primarily concerned with offenses to feelings and has minimal interest in truth -- is so grim and humourless. The comedy festival which forbids the wearing of dreadlocks is, symbolically, preparing the cup of hemlock for all participants -- to be served on opening night.
7. Perspective is important. There is little room for laughter in matters of great human tragedy and moral evil -- like the Inquisition or the Holocaust. But finding mortal insult in criticism of religion or "cultural appropriation" is not sustainable in a free society. Making sacred mountains out of ordinary molehills -- like all pretentiousness -- invites ridicule.
8. We return, in our last point to our first: the law of unintended consequences. In the grim, humourless world of political correctness, when so many are determined to find offense, society must be driven by fear and be focussed on constant appeasement. The ultimate end is not happy tolerance, but increasing animosity and distrust. The determined pursuit of virtue as is so often the case ends in vice. In this case it is the same vice cultural disharmony -- that the idealists claim to be working so diligently to avoid.
We are not suggesting that social harmony will be enhanced by
deliberate malicious insult; we simply see the deliberate attempt to
find or manufacture insult in order to create -- and perpetuate -- the
"success" of victimhood is without merit. The fruit of unreasonable
expectations is always bitter and inedible.
*Of course it could also be the sincerest form of flattery -- but those determined to find racism will find it, wherever they need to. Finding something which -- by some elasticity of the imagination -- might be termed "racism" is like discovering a well-travelled broomstick in the garden shed. A gleeful dance of moral triumph around the ritual bonfire is assured. #1243
|The Future of Globalization
(January 8, 2019)
Mr. Macron, the President of France, recently decried "nationalism" as "treasonous." * He is, of course, an idealist who sees the world, not as it is, but as he conceives it should be. It is significant that he praised the League of Nations for envisioning the "dismantling empires" and approves of the United Nations, and the European Union both unsuccessful projects claiming moral superiority but based on a defiance of ordinary common sense.
He has recently encountered some resistance from the "yellow vests" who feel that more concern is given to theoretical policies of globalization than to the well-being of citizens. They have protested against fuel taxes and the high cost of living.
Globalization, as we understand it, involves not only the beneficial effects of increased trade, but the weakening of nationalism, democracy, and control over immigration.
It is apparently believed that nationalism is a flawed theoretical construct which can be wished away: the true virtuous destiny of mankind is as a single colony of carefully programmed ants, working contentedly under the direction of a queen ant a cabal of unelected expert bureaucrats.
Indeed, we see such high-sounding theories and virtuous ideals as representing a grave misunderstanding of the human condition.
As a species, we did not reach our present state in the absence of tribalism. As with most things, tribalism has good aspects and bad. The advantage is that individuals band together giving up some autonomy in favour of group actions and security. A certain degree of uniformity is involved. A tribe without some common ethos is likely to succumb to a tribe more focussed and determined.
The unfortunate aspect is that tribal rivalry involves wars. The more efficient culture arises from a competitive clash of aspirants. One civilization rises as another falls. The essence of life has always been the struggle for unequal outcomes.
|In the last century, it became clear that nationalist wars have
become unthinkably destructive. Globalization and multiculturalism --
are the understandable reactive responses. But we do not think they
provide a viable solution to the taming of our instinctive territorial
and tribal impulses.
Evolution trumps revolution. You cannot change the nature of human nature in a generation.
That is why globalization the attempt to destroy nations, borders, and political accountability to local populations -- will fail.
The most reasonable but still somewhat idealistic solution is to recognize our instinctive tribalism but tame rather than destroy it. Nations should retain their borders and cultures and continue to compete to create societies most suited to our species. Our vague prescription is that the best society is that which allows the greatest liberty for citizens that is consistent with the prospering of the whole.
We saw last evening, a documentary concerning Jane Goodalls work with chimpanzees. Her project was initiated by the paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, who thought that study might give some insights into human behaviour.
What we found most interesting in the program was that upon the death of a matriarch a tribe of chimpanzees split up and a faction moved to a territory further south. Tribal rivalry ensued, and the faction was destroyed by the main group.
Ms. Goodall concluded that human tribal warfare has ancient genetic roots.
Changing the nature of human nature is not a project to be undertaken lightly.
Ideals, as we have noted elsewhere, are often like the Sirens of
mythology they are a seductively attractive lure to shipwreck.
* See Diary, November 26, 2018
|A Squint into the Future (January 6,
We would like to engage in a little thought experiment.
We would like to assume that in ten years or perhaps a bit more it has become clear that greenhouse gasses are not "pollution" and are not the chief factor in global temperatures. It has been discovered that the sun is more important. The alarmist climate models have, finally, been proved mere hypotheses, unsubstantiated by facts. Mountains of moral posturing, avalanches of fear and angst, and gargantuan gobs of government meddling all based on flawed theory and unsubstantiated speculations have been shown to have been entirely unnecessary and counter-productive. The new solar grand minimum -- the cooling -- will have clearly begun.
What will have been revealed about science and its place in the tribal context?
In fact nothing much that is new.
|All societies require a high degree of conformity. People are
less concerned with being correct, than with being part of the herd
with being seen to be correct. Charles Mackay observed the phenomenon in
1841 in his book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of
We seem to be programmed not for science not for careful concern with the truth but for the unthinking acceptance of what our "leaders" tell us. Doubtless this has been an important factor in tribal survival.
Another recent example of delusion -- we have seen for decades a belief that saturated fat causes heart disease. It was all based on a flawed study in the 1950's by Ancel Keys. Somehow, the idea was adopted by the medical community. Those holding skeptical opinions were ignored or silenced. Once an idea has acquired a certain currency it is a coin minted in gold no other will be accepted.
We suspect along the same lines that the theory of the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease and consequently the advisability of statin medication will be found wanting. There is some evidence of this already.
It would be pleasing to think that when the theory of anthropogenic global warming has finally been exploded by the facts that serious consideration will be given to the prevention of similar errors. We imagine an august body of skeptics The International Scientific Skeptical Commission whose task it is to investigate extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds and to make some judgment on the validity possible, probable, or pretty good of the latest "scientific" idea.
But we suspect they would not wish to risk unpopularity by too close a consideration of the facts.