Thursday, July 31, 2008

Duck Call



I'm bored.

Phone me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

As if we needed any more

Richard McBrien, brave defender of helpless secularists, comes up with one more reason to think Paul VI was the worst pope in history.

The encyclical, issued on July 25, 1968, was entitled, Humanae Vitae
("Of Human Life"). The negative reaction was so severe and widespread
within the Church (even national episcopal conferences greeted it
without enthusiasm) that Paul VI vowed never to publish another encyclical,
and he did not --- for the remaining ten years of his pontificate.


So, faced with a global crisis of morals and faith, Paul VI went off and sulked for ten years because people didn't like what he said.

Nice.

Meanwhile, the world went mad without a peep from Pope Miseriguts until we got a rock star to replace him.

Is it any wonder..?

Sue has given me the best suggestion I've heard all week

She says:

the virgin/divorcee analogy is from C.S.Lewis. It's part of the same essay where he says that whenever he hears someone saying that our civilisation is reverting to paganism, he has visions of MPs leaving their sandwiches for the dryads in Hyde Park, and watching the Prime Minister sacrifice a white bull at the opening of Parliament.


Now that would be the BEST opening of Parliament ever.

Ever.

I would spring for the train fare to London to see that.

It would make Cameron the king of fleet street.

How to be a professional Pro-lifer

I promised to put up a couple of links to the American Protestant apologetics people I know about who are confronting the "liberal" secular culture and the abortion lobby.

Stand To Reason blog
Stand to Reason:
Greg Koukl, Steve Wagner,

plus a few others.

STR has an extensive archive of very good, very clear apologetics on a number of Christian doctrines and their work is not really badly hampered by Protestant anti-Catholic biases. This is an altogether laudable effort at expanding on C.S. Lewis' idea of Mere Christianity, and Uncle Jack features prominently among their sources, along with a number of Catholics. STR's work is focused on answering the secular left on religious and "social conservative" issues, including the Life n' Family ones.

* ~ * ~ *

Scott Klusendorf came out of this school and worked with STR for a while before becoming more focused on the life issues and splitting off to do this as an independent. Scott's workshops got me going in all this when I still lived in Halifax. He has spoken to the Canadian Parliament, and the effect has been seen in some of the debates in the House, esp. in the debates on the Human Reproductive Technologies bill.

Scott divides his time between giving training seminars for young pro-lifers and debating abortion advocates around the country. He's the one-stop guy for learning the entire thing.

Scott has written the book on doing pro-life apologetics. Literally. You can order Pro-Life 101 here.

Scott's thing is to tell young audiences, "I want you to consider becoming a full time pro-life apologist, to do the work I do." When first heard him say this to a room of about 20 Nova Scotians, it was like an electric current had been zapped into us all. I found myself three months later boarding a plane to New Jersey to attend a five day seminar. (He also gives training seminars in how to do "support raising", to create a full time salary for yourself to do this work. This is a method of fund raising for religious missionaries that is very common among American Protestants, but of which I had never heard. I know a few brave Canadian souls who have done this, but what Scot perhaps fails to take into account is that this something that requires the American national character to pull off. It is not really something that many Catholics would be able to do, and even fewer Canadians, and I would say almost no Britons. But maybe I'm wrong.)

Scott has a lot of articles posted to his website that spell out very systematically the rhetorical method to approach nearly all the abortion lobby's slogans. If you read them carefully, and learn the basics, you too can start your career as a pro-life troublemaker in six easy lessons.

* ~ * ~ *

The Center for Bioethical Reform:

WARNING. clicking on the link opens the front page of the site that has a very gruesome and extremely graphic video of an abortion that begins automatically five seconds after the site opens.

CBR is founded on the principle that images are the only way to reach people about the reality of abortion. The Graphic Images theory is one that I do not refute, and I've done a lot of GAPping in the last few years. But I also think that it's not always appropriate in every situation. The GAP (Genocide Awareness Project) has been extremely effective where it has landed, especially on university campuses, and it always goes along with careful training of volunteers who are taught to make the rational case against abortion without mentioning religion and without recourse to emotive answers. The pictures are only the ice breaker; the other crucial factor is the training. Without it, I think you are only asking for trouble.

CBR founder Greg Cunningham came to the national pro-life conference in Toronto I went to at the end of 1999 and said that the problem Canada's pro-life movement faces is that the Canadians are too polite. Canadians are afraid to confront and correct and argue coherently. Not only do they not have a firm enough grasp of the issues and the abortion lobby's rhetorical tactics, but they are afraid to step up. He challenged a room full of the Canadian pro-life movement's complacent and comfortable to do a better job. "We need more rude Canadians" was one of those electrifying moments for me.

* ~ * ~ *

CBR + Scott's training seminar in New Jersey gave rise to the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, run by the zany and wonderful Stephanie Gray and my friend Jojo Ruba. Same kind of thing, only with a Canuckistani flavour.

* ~ * ~ *

Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and is probably the last Catholic in the place. He is a convert from Calvinism and has written 50 books on Catholic apologetics and is probably the only Catholic apologist in the US (which means also anywhere else, since it is only in the US that any of this is happening) who is also answering the "liberal" secularists. (Most of the Catholic apologetics being done there is aimed at answering the usual slurs of the Protestant fundamentalists ("Y'all do so worship May-Ree, an ah can prove it!"). I personally think this is a waste of time. It's not the fundies who are going to end up putting us all in camps and who have taken over the world.)

Kreeft is the guy and if you haven't made yourself familiar with his works, now's the time. Especially if you want to know how to approach Thomas but are scared stiff, as I was. Kreeft was the first place I ever discovered Thomas's five logical proofs for the existence of God.

A lot of his articles, and audios of a few of his talks are available here. He's a huge Tolkien and C.S. Lewis fan and has done a lot of stuff on them.

* ~ * ~ *

Research and reference

I would say that if you wanted to buy one book that would teach you a totally comprehensive pro-life apologetic, one that covers in great detail and with lots of examples, the entire issue, this is the one:

Book -Pro Life Answers To Pro Choice Arguments by Randy Alcorn.

Other stuff that's good: Greg Koukl's "Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air" on why moral relativism is self-refuting and how to answer it.

* ~ * ~ *

This is the basic stuff. Get through this and you'll be pretty well prepared in the Laws of Rational Thought. After that, the sky's the limit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How then shall we live?

I've been involved in an interesting discussion in the last couple of days, which can be viewed here and here and in which it was my great pleasure to play the role of "gadfly".

It is one I enjoy enormously. There is little that bores and exasperates me faster than the usual inbox fare of these big Professional Catholic sites where someone writes an article that is meant to provoke discussion and receives a chorus of: "Great post Steve!" "Wow Steve! I've never heard it put that way before..." "I wish I were as eloquent as you are Steve, because you've really said what I've been thinking..."

Nnnggg..!

Yes, and who really cares what you've been thinking, since it is clear you have nothing interesting to say about it.

It is commbox love-ins like these that makes the gadfly in me break out of his cocoon and make a beeline straight for any exposed flesh. Given that no one in our times has been taught how to have a friendly disagreement, I find it is quite a simple matter to make things more interesting. The plodding earnestness of the New Orthodox Catholics is just too easy a target, too juicy a bit of meat, to leave alone. The fact that they, mired as they are in their own private version of political correctness, can't abide the slightest dissent and have no sense of proportion or humour, really only adds to the fun.

(Long Aside: There was, of course, simply no way at all that I could have resisted the temptation of saying What I Really Think about breastfeeding in public. It's a fairly straightforward syllogism: I hate hippies and all of their pomps and works. Hippies started the whole "lets expose our private parts in public to shock our parents and then demand that society change its attitude towards our 'natural and beautiful' body parts" movement that I remember so well from childhood. One of the major themes of the early hippies was the demand to breastfeed in public. The hippies have, through these apparently small discrete incursions, destroyed nearly the entirety of the Christian social agreement that once sustained Western Civilisation. Therefore, I think women need to keep their clothes on in public in order to preserve Christendom. So when I saw a cluster of admiring NOCs congratulating Steve on how wonderfully he had come to the defense of the practise, using exactly the same rhetoric I remember only too well from the furry-armpitted, fright-haired harridans of my earliest memories ... well, it was just too much to expect me to resist. I was certain Steve wouldn't mind.

I will grant, perhaps, the excuse that most of the NOCs are too young to remember the hippie movement themselves, and were for the most part raised in safe middle class neighbourhoods in which they had no direct exposure to the filthy hippies and their Crusade for Indecency. It is perhaps somewhat understandable that they would not realise they were dutifully reciting and defending the hippie doctrines that have slithered quietly into every aspect of our lives and destroyed Western Civilisation. But take it from me who remembers well life on the hippie West Coast in the early 1970s and her mother's grubby, patchouli-doused friends talking about their plans: the determination to force the rest of the world to accept the "beautiful and natural" phenomenon of breastfeeding in public is a manifestation of the feminist hippie movement slithering into Christianity and I won't have it.

Also, breastfeeding involves bodily fluids. Anything that involves bodily fluids needs to be kept out of public view.)

Now, wait. What was I talking about?

Oh yes, the discussion at Steve's Inside Catholic column. Jeff Culbreath is someone whose blogging I have enjoyed for some years now and with whom I've discussed many of these kinds of issues in a list we used to belong to. I would say that most of the writing by Catholics, especially traditionalist Catholics, that I find interesting and important is focused on this question of how to live, knowing what we know, in a world that knows nothing of it.

I make light of it and poke my stick into the hornets' nest because the question is an important one that needs to be taken seriously. It can't be left to the mutual admiration societies that cluster into commboxes. Steve and I and a few others have been working on this, almost as the main background theme of all our writing in the last five years. Some of us believe that it is counter productive, not to mention more or less impossible, to remove oneself off to the woods or the country to attempt to re-create a Catholic utopia where all the ladies wear long skirts and all the kids can converse in Latin.

Others disagree.

But the bigger question is one that remains.

Just how do we live as Catholics in a situation like the one we have? What is the proper "balance" of living in but not of the world? How much of the world, and which particular bits, can we take in? What must we reject and of what may we say, "yes, this is part of the human endeavour of which I am naturally a part"?

How do we get the proper perspective on a culture in which we are ourselves completely steeped, to which we owe the very shape of our thoughts?

This raises other questions. Can we have friends "in the world"? Non-Catholic friends? Can we hope for the salvation of our non-Catholic loved-ones?

Do we set ourselves up as arbiters of who qualifies for membership in the Elect? If so, according to what criteria and by whose authority?

Does it matter that we are, while being systematically forced out of public life in the secular world, at the same time deliberately withdrawing ourselves from it? Is this exclusion and withdrawal a bad thing or a good thing? Should we fight it or help it?

There are all sorts of solutions, some better than others, but none The Right solution. Many retreat. Many give up the struggle. Many join groups that help them withdraw, like the SSPX. Some go out of their way to live near a place where there is some safety and the protection of something like a monastery or an Oratory. Some just try to go it alone.

Catholics in general, and traditionalist Catholics in particular, have a habit of looking to the past for precedent to figure out a way to cobble together a method of dealing with the problem.

Is there a precedent for our current situation? I think not an exact one. As someone said, although we are indeed returning to a variation on pre-Christian paganism, complete with child sacrifice, lawlessness and philosophical fatalism, there is a vast difference between a virgin and a divorcee. A Christendom that has spurned Christ in her maturity is not the same bride that was wooed in her innocence.

So, how are we to see our times? How are we to interact with our non-Catholic, paganised neighbours? Do we approach them with disdain? Do we not approach them at all?

Is it possible for a Christian to make use of the things of the pagan world that are, through the working of the Natural Law, still under the headship of Christ, though He is unknown?

Can we read Truman Capote? Do we dare laugh at the bawdy jokes on Boston Legal, or empathise with the moral struggles of Alan Shore? Can we see goodness in films and music that is not specifically Christian?

Did the early Christians read the Classical writers?

Augustine derided the pagan entertainments of his youth, but was he entirely right? (Terribly daring, I know, to question so venerable a Doctor).

The fact is, I do not know the answers to these questions. But I believe this is the essence of our task, having been stuck in these almost inconceivably dreadful times.

I'm a child of this civilisation. I'm even a child of the hippie generation, and I'm sure am also unconsciously greatly influenced by that movement. I want to know the world, not reject it. The world is full of human beings, and there is nothing so interesting and wonderful to a misanthrope like me as human beings.

I can't help it. I love the world.

And I understand that it was not entirely repugnant to the Father either.

Funny

Walter Kupfer, opposing counsel in a murder case, played by the delightfully deadpan Adam Arkin, to Alan Shore:

"You know if the US really wanted to torture detainees, they could sentence them to be you for a day. I imagine it's excruciating."

See?

It's funny.

Dreadfully wicked no doubt; full of characters who have affairs and smoke cigars.

They're probably even Cuban cigars.

Hey, anyone remember Northern Exposure? Adam Arkin's best role, Adam the Insanely Anti-Social Chef.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gah!

318?!

What are all you people doing here?!

The site stats were supposed to go back down to normal after Binky stopped linking to me.

Aren't there any good bloggers out there to read? What? is everybody else on vacation or something? Look, go away. For your own good. Everyone knows I'm dreadful and wicked and nasty. I'm addicted to blasphemous rock n' roll and punk rock music. I have undesirable political views. I laugh at the jokes on Boston Legal without the slightest moral qualms.

I smoke cigarettes for Pete sake!

You guys are creeping me out. Stop looking at me.

Don't make me stage my own death!

Oo oo! I've been there!

'A greater sense of the sacred'
With pope's blessing, Latin masses reborn in Rome, drawing pilgrims anew

By Christine Spolar | Chicago Tribune correspondent
10:27 AM CDT, July 13, 2008

ROME — In the cool recesses of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini church, a Roman Catholic rite steeped in Latin has been reborn in this country.


Three priests, garbed in lace-trimmed white and golden robes, take to the altar as a band of brothers every Sunday, their backs to worshipers, their eyes on the mass at hand.

Dozens of people dutifully follow a service studded with long silences and soaring choral song. Many women have pinned lace mantillas to their hair. When parishioners, young or old, seek the sacrament of communion, they move quickly to kneel, with mouths humbly open.

A celebration at Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini is a visit to your grandfather's mass—and that is exactly the chain of devotion that Pope Benedict XVI wants honored and maintained.

The 16th Century church, located near the lively Campo dei Fiori in Rome's historic district, was built about the same time that Latin liturgy was formalized. It now bears the distinction of being the first large parish in Rome to be granted free rein to celebrate the long-gone liturgy known as the Tridentine rite.

The day the movies stood still

Just when you thought it was safe to leave the house...

We were the first ones to break the news that a Day the Earth Stood Still remake was on the way, and now we bring you the next bit of news related to the remake. The Matrix star Keanu Reeves has signed on to play Klaatu, the humanoid alien that lands on Earth. Production on the remake will likely begin in late fall this year or early 2008, meaning the expected release date of May 2008 is probably no longer true. Somewhat exciting news for this highly talked about remake, but is it the perfect choice?


KEANU REEVES?!!!

Keanu Just-Don't-Ask-Him-To-Talk Reeves?

Keannn....

no.

I just can't stand it any more.

Can't they get Michael Rennie back from the dead?

I just want to know two things:


Is there going to be a soundtrack featuring the theramin?
Because just what is the point of this film if not to showcase the theramin?

and, perhaps most importantly,

ARE THEY GOING TO TEACH KEANU REEVES TO TALK?!!

Urgh.

Why is the world so dumb?

Making the Case



So, there I was, minding my own business, watching scandalous television programmes on the net, when I got an awful fright. The black thing in the corner started making a dreadful noise. "Brring-Brring" it said. Then went on at some length, becoming more insistent: "Brring-Bring" "Brring-Brring"

Lordy, but I hate the phone.

To my great surprise, it was one of my readers. For some reason I generally go along thinking that I'm more or less just talking to myself here, and perhaps a few friends. I often forget that other people are eavesdropping too. It was nice to chat with someone without using my keyboard for a change. I'd almost forgotten about talking.

Anyway, the upshot of the conversation was that she was impressed with this whole Logical Principle of Non-Contradiction thing I'd been going on about. She wanted to know where she could learn that stuff.

I have to admit that I did not invent it.

I wish.

It's Aristotle, but like much of his stuff, it's really just plain sense. He was just the first one to bother writing it down. I suspect that people were in A's time starting to say a lot of stupid and self-contradictory things and it was something like the reason the Church goes out of its way to declare certain dogmas. Not because she has made up something new, but because for the first time in history, people are starting to talk a lot of rubbish and what had been previously simply accepted by everyone as self-evident now has to be spelled out.

After Aristotle, it is nearly everyone until the modern philosophers and the current ongoing plunge into irrationality. But most notably, it is Thomas Aquinas.

From these, and from the many other great writers and thinkers it is quite simple to construct perfectly calm answers to the abortion slogans, as well as to the "arguments" of the secular humanists. After a while, pointing out the logical inconsistencies of the Newfangled People can be something like a sport and quite entertaining.

In a commbox some time ago, I was accused, by someone who claimed to be pro-life, of giving "clever answers" to the more common pro-abortion "arguments". They're not arguments, actually, they're slogans and claxons meant to make a pro-life person feel guilty and shut up. The person objected, I think, to how easily I dismissed the deeply felt feelings of the deeply feeling people who felt that women need abortion because otherwise their feelings would be hurt.

The person was objecting to my assertion that abortion slogans just fall to dust when they are examined with what I like to call the Laws of Rational Thought. They nearly all refute themselves right out of existence. Particularly the ones that are meant to embarrass us and make us hang our heads in shame at believing that we can't kill people to solve our problems.

These slogans work to shut us up because most pro-life people, like everyone else, got their intellectual training from Saturday Morning Cartoons. It is also quite astonishing how much anti-intellectualism can be found in the pro-life movement: "We don't need all that rational thought and reasoned argument. We've got our tiny feet pins and our feelings to guide us."

Yah.

Yes, the "clever answers" make mincemeat of the abortion slogans and that is often very embarrassing to people, whether on their side or ours. It is felt that these are really good arguments against which we are essentially helpless. And people usually get angry when they are embarrassed. It's astounding how annoyed many "pro-lifers" will become in the course of discussion when you give them a simple clear answers to the usual slogans.

I have noted a trend in the pro-life movement that has grown from the great need to be liked, and to pretend that we are "not really in conflict". This has led to a habit of thought in which the pro-life person, who wants to be seen to be in sympathy with the poor poor women in "crisis pregnancies", adopting most of the abortion slogans with an eager air of agreement. "Gosh, yes, I see that you have suffered terribly, and of course, no one wants to impose a particular belief on you..." We get rather fed up, I suppose, with being called nasty names and want to go back to being seen to be nice, and kindly, and helpful and motherly. There there dear...

This leads to the idea that we mustn't ever make any sort of rational case against abortion based on principles. Principled people, you see, are evil bastards who hold these principles to be more important than a woman's feelings. And who needs that? The upshot is that you frequently hear the abortion arguments solemnly recited by pro-lifers eager to prove themselves as deeply feeling and sympathetic to the plight of woman as our opponents.

I've called this Pro-lifer Stockholm Syndrome. It leads, eventually, to the pro-lifer going over to the other side.

The conversation then usually goes something like this:

"Well, I'm pro-life, and I would never counsel anyone to have an abortion, but I knew a doctor who had a lot of women come to him in the emergency room who had been victimised by back-alley abortions, and he told me that the only way to stop that is to make it legal, so it can be regulated. SO where are all your clever answers in the face of women bleeding to death?"

or

"Well, I'm pro-life and I would never counsel anyone to have an abortion [this is the required disclaimer] but I've done a lot of counseling with women in need, and you just don't know the pain and agony of a woman faced with the decision to terminate a pregnancy. I think the only Christian thing to say is 'I'll support you whatever decision you make'".

or, as the disease progresses:

"Well, we don't agree that abortion should be made illegal. You see, we believe that a woman does have a right to choose and we see our work more as presenting her with options. We reject the idea that we have to be in conflict over this issue."

(All of these come from my own experience, and were said to me personally by people in the pro-life movement. The first in a commbox, the second by a Sister of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and the third at a meeting of a diocesan pro-life organisation funded by the Archdiocese of Halifax.)

These, and others like the "what about the thirteen year old girl who is a victim of rape?" are normally presented with a sneer as if they are utterly unbreachable fortresses of logic and moral strength and that even to dare to answer them is tantamount to hating women... and this is from people, invariably, who present themselves as being pro-life.

Most people who are "pro-life", especially in this country I've observed, say they are pro-life because they have some vague sentiments about babies and a vestigial emotional reaction to abortion left over from their youth when there was still a societal taboo. But they have never heard the reasoned arguments. And they feel defeated when someone approaches them with one of the (five, yes, only five) abortion slogans. In our world, feelings trump reasons and facts, and principles are entirely forgotten.

I didn't know any of this either when I started out. I was also handicapped by not liking children, particularly not liking babies, and not really having all that much time for mothers either. I was a very unlikely pro-life activist. If it had been left up to my sentiments, I would certainly never have exercised myself over any of it.

What does bother me, however, and always has, is willful stupidity and ignorance, irrationality and blind acceptance of "what everyone knows". (Come to think of it, if it weren't for my natural fightyness, I would never have bothered even looking it up). When I started, it was because I became interested in the long slow shift in philosophy in the west from objectivism to subjectivism. From there I stumbled on subjectivism's greatest triumph: utilitarianism that produced the Nazi eugenics programme and thence the entire modern abortion culture.

At the time I started, I didn't know what to call any of this, but I got extraordinarily lucky. A group of American protestants had developed a systematic approach to Christian apologetics aimed directly at the new subjectivist ideas that have produced what we now, rather loosely, call "liberalism". The left has embraced sujectivism and have created the world against which we are now at war in the Culture Wars.

The trouble with Britain is that it is not in the Culture Wars. British people have lost the logical capacities and the apathy that has grown out of post-war material comforts has lulled them all to sleep. But these American Christian apologists, all of whom are great Chesterton fans, have developed an entire revolution in apologetics based on the classical rhetorical techniques that can all be boiled down to the Logical P. of Non-C.

After a while, some of them broke away from answering the anti-Christian left, and concentrated their efforts onto answering the pro-abortion left.

There is a nice young fellow, Scott Klusendorf, (see pic above) who has made a career out of flying around the country and teaching eager young American pro-life kids to do this work, and challenging them to get into the fight full time. Scott's work has led to a revolution in the pro-life world in the US where there are fewer and fewer little old ladies rattling their rosary beads and talking about how cute babies are, and more and more annoying thinky people making rational arguments in favour of not killing people to solve your problems. This was absolutely necessary because it is not going to be long before the generation that remembered a time before abortion and subjecivism are gone, and there will be no more vistigial abortion-taboo left in western society. We cannot continue to count on the sweet little old ladies to do the work.

I see that it has a ways to go before the revolution gets here, but I know that the scouts are already here scoping the place out. Some people from the Center for Bioethical Reform have been here and are talking to some young eager beavers about setting up the first training sessions.

Scott runs a website in which he gives people the tools they need to clear away the rotting undergrowth of irrationality and post-modern subjectivism and shine a bright clear light of reason on the life issues. I took his course a couple of times and, between him and Peter Kreeft, I credit them with creating the cold, unfeeling, Principles-oriented monster I am today.
An acquaintance of ours makes a fine point:

There's no particular reason that different forms of disagreement with Church's understanding of human nature should be mutually consistent, and yet I can't help but be struck by the irony: in an era when some people are arguing that homosexual acts should be approved because gay and lesbian people are "born that way," other people (or occasionally the same people, just depending on whether the tides are high or low) are arguing that biological maleness and femaleness are basically irrelevant to what sort of people we are. To the latter camp, suggesting otherwise is the great sin of essentialism. "Biology is not destiny" was one of the classic feminist slogans.

Think about it.


In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is every reason to believe that those who oppose Catholic teaching are actually incapable of making "mutually consistent" arguments for their defence of popular vices. The rejection of "Catholic teaching" is simply the rejection of rationality and even the notion of logical consistency must be jettisoned in order to achieve this.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Still banging on about it

Well, well. I have been going on about this stuff for quite a while:

Friday, July 16, 2004

"Everything Harry Mudd Tells You is a Lie"

My Dear Philothea,

Here below is an article that gives the essence of the matter of the problem in the Church and in the world. To the modernist mind, Ratzinger's "no, you may not give Kerry Communion," is not opposed to the McCarrick's "yes, you may give Kerry Communion." This is the reason the first lesson I teach in the confirmation class is the logical principle of non-contradiction. It is the pin-point fulcrum upon which our civilization rests and having eradicated it, the wrecking crew is bull-dozing without opposition.

There's that word again...'opposition'. In the Vatican II, Personally-Opposed-But world 'opposition' is a non-concept. I remember being told that certainly, non-contradiction was an important principle of logic, but that logic didn't end there, there was more to it, there were elaborations, developments, nuances.

My opposition to opposition was supposed to stop there, but non-contradiction stepped in again. How could the principle of non-contradiction incorporate ideas that contradicted it? Here was the problem again. "Sure non-contradiction is an operative principle in philosophy, but once you move beyond it, non-contradiction no longer applies." Matter and anti-matter can co-exist. Yes and no do mean the same thing, I can be both right and wrong about non-contradiction, if I am nuanced enough, sophisticated enough.

Clever enough.

Clever enough apparently to both know and not know the thing I know about the principle of non-contradiction. Clever enough to decide that the doorway and the wall are the same thing, and clever enough not to break my nose when I decide that for me the wall is the doorway. Or perhaps, clever enough to have my nose be both broken and not broken when I have both walked through the wall and banged into it.
If you were describing all this to a space alien, where would you start?

Friday, July 25, 2008

People who think I'm acerbic

obviously don't read Kathy enough.

"post-algia" Def: the longing for a time
when men came home to hot meals cooked by wives who weren't wearing dirty, baggy pajamas. When your kids called you "Sir" and not "asshole".

When you didn't have to keep going in for diversity training and wondering what you were supposed to call minorities this week. No ugly wheelchair ramps or transvestite washrooms or group hugs or recycling. No tofu, no hippies, no Pride parades, no Paris Hilton, no Code Pink, no dreadlocks.

A time when you had to go out of your way -- say, to the carnival -- to see a 300lb woman with a tattoo.


Oh baby. You're making me weak in the knees.

Shatner for President

Man, things are getting too serious out there,

and in here.

Time for a Shatner moment.


E plebnista!


Denny Crane!


This one's for Fr. Paul


Ok, now we all know this one.

Had a bad day?

Have a fight with the boss?

Someone cut you off at rush hour?

Kid with a noisy i-pod on the streetcar?

Somebody was WRONG on the internet?

This will make you feel better.

ready?

All together now...

One Two Three

Click

No Guarantees

Warren on the Canadian voting public:

While I unburdened myself last week of my contempt for Canada’s Governess-General, her Chief Justice, her Prime Minister, and other, undesignated officials -- in the affair of what I have come to call the “Order of Morgentaler” -- I’m not sure the people of Canada have yet been sufficiently condemned, and I will devote this week’s column to rectifying that oversight.

On the issue of same-sex marriage -- a proposition put in referenda before many U.S. states and consistently rejected by huge margins -- there was a similar swing. Canadians began totally opposed, were split by the time the “courts had decided,” and by now are, so far as I can see, hugely accepting.

Now, I am a Catholic, and my Church teaches that “despair” is a sin (since it involves the abandonment of hope in eternity). So I opt instead for “desolation,” which is not a sin, merely a psychological response to everything around one being in an advanced state of disintegration. For civilization requires, among other things, a general populace with moral ideas that cannot be altered by the slightest breeze.


Oh David, don't be silly. Christ only guarantees that His Church will survive. He said not thing one about civilization surviving. That's up to us, and we don't care in sufficient numbers.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I guess it isn't the first time I've thought about this

But it seems worth saying again:

But a question arises in my mind. If an entire country is complicit, an entire culture, as is the West, in the greatest systematic mass murder in the history of the human race, can there be any way for any of us to shield our minds from its effects?

Are we not all subject to the long-term damage caused by this impossible dilemma? We kill our children. We do it in enormous numbers. Those of us who do not participate in the killing are complicit by inaction. And everyone knows this.

Do we not all engage to some degree in one of the three reactions I outlined above? In each case the first instinct is to try not to think about it. When forced to address the issue, the most common response is the one least defensible: "I wouldn't have an abortion, but I can't force my opinion on others." A six-year old could tell you what is wrong with that, but most people will say it, and mean it, when they are confronted. I have found it is wise not to try to push past this by demolishing the logic of their position. Mayhem usually ensues.


I noted to a friend today, another Gen-X child of the hippie Culture-Wreckers:

Things continue fine but weird.

Every now and then, I am struck with one of those "What the hell am I doing here" moments. But, since those moments have been the defining characteristic of most of my life above the age of fifteen, I'm learning to ignore it.

I'm here. Life is weird. That is just how things are. Must get used to it.

I think the reason our parents never told us how weird and incomprehensible life was going to be is actually that it is much weirder now than it has ever been before. Their generation abolished all the rules and order of society. Naturally, they didn't notice this, and have carried on as if nothing has happened. But we have noticed because no one seems to know how we are supposed to live our lives.

I know there must be plenty of people out there who think this is a dandy situation and thrive on there being no rules and who say 'whoopee' and go off and do their own thing all their lives. But being a middle class Anglo means that I have a strong genetic predisposition to needing societal rules and day to day order...which no longer exists.

I'm glad, though, that I have finally discovered that my feeling weird all my life, as if things are not the way they are supposed to be, is not my fault. It's not me; it really is "society's fault" this time.

I love this cafe`

go there every time I go into Chester to go shopping.



The vikings hardly ever show up these days though.

Things are going down hill, even too much for them.

Thanks Dale.

An Inconsistency

The following is a brief exchange between Dr. Henry Morgentaler and a Canadian interviewer:
"I'm like a newborn baby," Dr. Henry Morgentaler told the CBC's Evan Solomon about surviving a recent stroke and heart operation. "I enjoy being alive."

The irony wasn't lost on Solomon, who then asked the Canadian abortion doctor "how does a guy who's seen so much death (in Auschwitz and Dachau, where he was imprisoned as a youngster) fight for a cause which many people believe is a form of killing?"

"I won't deny there's an inconsistency," Morgentaler answered. "Maybe I've deluded myself."


It does seem to demonstrate a thing I've been thinking about.

It is actually impossible that Henry Morgentaler does not know where babies come from. He is not just a doctor, but an adult with a normal intelligence. The only possible explanation of how he could have done what he has done is that he is insane. That the cognitive dissonance has driven him mad.

And if it has happened to him, the leader of our abortive society, the Moses who has brought us into the fleshpots of Egypt, it has happened to the rest of us too. We must all be, at least to some degree, insane.

We are all, or nearly all, suffering from a sort of societal cognitive dissonance.
Recently I wrote:

There is never a point at which one is unmovable. Human beings cannot become so calloused as to be insensible. It is recorded that those involved in the killing in the German T4 euthanasia project in which disabled children and other vulnerable patients were killed by lethal injections, gassing and starvation, went slowly mad. Drug and alcohol abuse rose significantly among staff and they began to display bizarre psychological and behavioral problems.


There is something interesting that can happen to the human mind when faced with something impossible to accept. I have observed it quite closely in the last ten years or so. I don't know what the psych majors call it, but there is something that human beings can do to their own minds when they are faced with a truth about themselves that is unface-able. It is an unconscious unhooking of connections, as if they are trying to de-connect themselves from themselves. I have seen it many times and I think this is the answer to the puzzle of people no longer being able to make logical connections.

Logical connections -- "If A and B are equal, and if C equals A, it also must equal B", sort of thing -- are apprehensions of Truth, an immutable and indestructible thing that will not bend to our preferences and can only be acknowledged, not changed. A thing, in other words, beyond our power that rules us.

The trouble with truth is that when it comes to true things about one's self, it is mostly something unpleasant.

In our times, the truth about abortion is one of the most unface-able things going.

Nearly everyone is quietly in support of abortion being legal. At the same time, it is, given the amount of sheer data available to everyone, actually impossible for anyone to deny that abortion is the wanton murder of an innocent child. This means that we are nearly all in support of the wanton murder of innocent children.

A and B are the same, and if C is the same as A, it is the same as B.

Of course, the main way we have learned to deal with this is avoidance. Our television screens are daily full of horrifying things. Crime, war, disease, famine etc. We all know horror, but it is the kind of horror we can deal with because it is always someone else's horror. I have read that the normal reaction of an ordinary person when a horror comes to visit is "Why is this happening to me?" because we have all been trained to assume that we are going to be the exception to horror. We are supposed to be exempt. And mostly we are. It is true that everyone suffers, but most of us suffer in ways that are more or less bearable. It is still true that only a minority of us gets cancer, or is robbed, or raped. In this society anyway.

But the abortion horror is one that is with all of us all the time. Given the numbers since the late 1960s when governments started legalising, it is likely that you who are reading this have had an abortion. Or knows someone who has. Very likely, in fact.

But more than that, everyone without exception, is complicit in abortion being the plague that it has become. It is our fault. And we know this. Even the people who know what abortion is have not stopped it. We have all made excuses. We do it every day. Of course, the only way to deal with this unbearable truth is to push it aside, drown out the noise it makes, to disconnect those logical train cars from each other and try to leave them behind on the track.

But every once in a while, a person has The Moment. It is that supremely terrifying instant when he realizes beyond a doubt that he is evil, the bad guy. He is, himself, the enemy of goodness and right. He is on the wrong side.

I remember mine, and know it for what it was, a moment of grace, the hosts of angels hovering around desperate to rescue me from my own delusions. And of course, it did not come all at once, but was the culmination of years of careful mental and spiritual preparation. But even with it being mitigated, it was not one I would ever want to repeat. It is, however, one that I would fervently wish on everyone, because the alternative is much worse.

This utterly unbearable Moment is one of complete agony. To realise that you are the monster in your nightmares. As Uncle Jack once wrote, to fear one's self is the last horror.

I remember it perfectly well. I was just getting ready for a bath and was reading a book. It was 1998. Between one sentence and the next, I suddenly realised that I had been on the wrong side all this time. I was in the wrong. A year later, I started to recover my equilibrium. Probably the most painful year of my life.

After that, the task of life is to start the dreary process of re-connecting those abandoned rail cars, and being vigilant against the ever-present temptations to disconnect them again.

Maybe we can hope that Dr. Morgentaler's mild shrug, "Maybe I've deluded myself," is part of this necessary preparation for his own The Moment. I pray fervently that he does experience this one most horrifying instant, before he dies, that is.

But it does look, from the outside at least, that it is merely a manifestation of the disconnect. For a man who has made killing infants his life's work, and who has done so much damage to his society in the process, the disconnect must be very large indeed. That he is able to shrug mildly in the face of being called a mass murderer of infants and say, "Maybe I've deluded myself" and then reach calmly for another cup of tea, makes me think we've got a ways to go yet.

It is a disconnect so wide that it must encompass nearly all of his mental energies. It would require the entire re-writing of reality to keep it undisturbed. I think the only word for it is insanity.

To some degree or other, it is a form of insanity that we all must share. It is this form of insanity, that Dr. Morgentaler calls "an inconsistency" that makes us all, to one degree or another, unable to make logical connections. It is the one area of the mind that absolutely must remain suppressed for us to get on in daily life. Let the logical capacities out for a moment and we will end up screaming in terror at what we are.

Whew! Glad that's over

Binky has stopped linking to me for the moment and we can get back to normal.

It was very strange to see the site stats go bursting through the roof. A bit like inviting a friend over for tea and discovering he had brought the entire village with him and you don't have enough cake forks or chairs.

It made me nervous; all day I wanted to tell everyone to go away and stop looking at me. I write this thing on the assumption that I am writing it for about five or six readers a day, the ones I know and have had tea/got drunk with. The idea that other people, whom I don't know, come round and watch us while we're in here gives me the creeps. Like discovering that the walls of your cottage, that you thought were brick and plaster, were actually cleverly contrived one-way glass and all the world is watching you as you loaf about on the sofa reading the Oldie and cackling at the jokes.

I have to say it gave me the supreme willies when Steyn linked to me in April. Yeesh. Who would ever want to be famous?

Horrible.

Now, I've got some lovely pics of Beeston Castle for y'all, and a bit of history of that very interesting place. But first I have to get on the bike and ride over to Tarporley, the next village that has a bank, and pay some bills. It's ten miles there and back, so don't expect too much out of me today.

Go read a book, or have a conversation with a loved-one.

Our Steyn

"Discussing cultural relativism with cultural relativists is like playing tennis with some guy who says, 'your ace is just a social construct'."

So that's how it's done

I wondered:

Is this the tolerance that our thought-police take pride in?

The apparatchiks of the equality industry merely have to contemplate the sector of their psyche wherein their self-righteous emotions reside: and if these are sufficiently overwrought, they decide that a hate-crime has been committed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

OH, I have got to get me one of THESE!

I want one I want one I want one

soooo badly.



I must have it. If only I could have one of those, my life would be complete. I would be happy.

I should have known

As if his weird obsession with teaching Catholics that their Faith is in vain were not enough,

Paul Zachary "PZ" Myers (born March 9, 1957) is an American biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) and the author of the science blog Pharyngula. He is currently an associate professor of biology at UMM,[1] works with zebrafish in the field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), and also cultivates an interest in cephalopods.


He's a Radial Symmetrist!

Aaaagh!

I should have realised it when I saw the little icon of an octopus on his blog.

How more proof DO WE NEED?!


* ~ * ~ *

(For those who think I've lost my marbles, this is an in-joke for people who have read me more than three years.)

I want to believe...


that the show's over.

I thought we were all more or less done with this. We all pretty much believe now. Guys, it was a great show. Don't spoil it.

Well, at least it's got Billy Connolly.

But this, is just an abomination. There ought to be a law. There ought to be a lynch mob. Pitchforks and torches dammit.

and no. I haven't seen the new Indy yet. Can't get anyone to go with me.

So hard to know where to begin

but I think I'll start with the parents.

Mitch and Janis Winehouse have unveiled a life size waxwork of their daughter Amy at London wax museum Madame Tussauds today.

Mitch Winehouse, described the waxwork as being "absolutely incredible" adding "I can't get over the tattoos. They are perfect."

Mitch Winehouse also stated that his daughter is due to begin work on her third album within the next few months.

"She has two or three more live gigs then she will be working on her new album. She's got quite a few songs already."



ummm...

yes. The likeness is quite good.

But what I'm wondering, Mr. and Mrs. Winehouse, is whether either of you have noticed that your daughter's lifestyle is life-threateningly damaging to her. Has it crossed either of your minds that there is serious reason to worry that she will not live long enough to die of whatever venereal diseases she has doubtless contracted in her single-minded determination to destroy herself?

Is it just me? or is there something seriously missing in the reaction of these parents?

Thursday

You may have noticed that I have something of a soft spot for anglo-Catholics, despite that I think their position is inherently contradictory. They are not numerous in the bloggosphere but I've found another, very politically incorrect site. Thursday Thoughts Thursday Thoughts

And some very nice formatting work there too.

Nice and old-fashioned.

Crazy-talk

Once again, Shea, though perhaps the most annoying of the American NeoProtCaths, has made a good point.

I won't mince words: Myers is an evil man. And as evil men -- particularly evil intellectuals -- tend to be, he is also a madman, as are most of his acolytes and followers. One need only read Pharyngula to know this. Not all atheists are driven mad by their atheism. Many are quite respectable human beings. But those who make it their raison d'être tend to be made crazy by it. That's the tragedy of sins of the intellect. They don't just make you stupid; if you persist in them, and particularly if you persist in them to this degree, they make you crazy.


I think I've noticed this before. I think it's because modern atheism is one of those anti-rational ideas. It ends up denying, in its enthusiasm to kill God, the existence of everything. Taken to its logical conclusions, it ends up creating a self-consuming intellectual black hole that cannot be maintained. Materialist atheism eats its own tail. The inability of atheists to follow simple rational lines of argument is surprising when you first meet it. But once you follow them down their trail a bit you can quickly see where it is leading and soon come to understand that their position is not tenable, full of those internal contradictions that, like unexploded buzz-bombs in a 1945 London suburb, are best left strictly alone.

The ones who go crazy are the ones who, deciding ahead of time that atheism is the only reasonable route to take, discover that it is a logically untenable position and attempt to forge ahead anyway. And, as our friends the Islams have shown us, anyone who knowingly attempts to embrace a logical contradiction has embraced his own destruction. Anti-matter cannot be hugged.

Chesterton said something about this didn't he? That a madman is not someone who has taken leave of reason, but of everything other than reason.

The ones who manage to hang on to their sanity longest are the ones who do not follow the logic to its self-consuming end but busy and distract themselves setting up straw men. Dawkins is the master of this trick, (but I'm worried about him lately; he's starting to twitch a bit). It was a habit of Catholic-baiters from way back, as attested to by the late Great Fulton Sheen, who said something along the lines of "People almost never hate the real Catholic Church, but only that thing they believe the Catholic Church to be". It is impossible to hate Truth, but quite fun to hate something you have invented yourself to help you ignore the truth.

Atheists are deliberately working against a whole raft of things they know are true.

Poor old Nietzsche found out what happens to you when you do that.

I put it to someone last year:

...the fact that morals are morals, right is right and that's that, actually points to Christianity being the true religion; the one, in other words that reflects the true order of the universe.

You might be interested to know that in philosophy there is this thing called the "Natural Law", that has nothing to do, itself, with any religion. It is upon this law that the Christian moral law is founded, not the other way around.

The natural law theory, developed by the Greeks and later by Roman jurisprudes, and thereby finding its way into Roman law and later medieval law and theology, is that there is a universal idea of right and wrong, embedded in the nature of the universe, that can be known by anyone essentially instinctively. It is the moral law written on our souls that enables us to say, good is good and evil, evil. To shun evil and do the good and that we all know what that is.

...

Islam insists on its laws but only because it is the "will of Allah", and not because it is "right" in any universal sense, (they have no concept of universal moral norms). Whatever is willed by "Allah" is the good, whether it is a grave evil or not. Whatever Allah wills, whether it be the rape of six year old girls, or sawing off the heads of foreign journalists, is the good. They refuse to acknowledge the existence of any universal moral law, saying that if Allah wills the evil, that is the good.

This is the basis of the argument made by many faithful Christians that the notion Muslims and Christians (and Jews, let's not forget) worship the same deity is nonsense. The Muslim Allah is anti-rational and contradicts its own nature. Allah is able to make or break the moral laws at will. This is the essence of the criticism made by Pope Benedict at Regensberg, that God, the moral law and the good are all of a piece and that it is simply anti-rational to say that God could possibly change the moral law or will what is clearly an objective evil. God cannot, by His will, contradict His own nature and say that an evil thing is really a good.

In Christianity, the moral law is what it is because it is a reflection of the nature of God. It is good because He is good. It is eternal and universal because He is eternal and universal. The two cannot be separated.

The fact that you have said "morals are morals" proves that you think like a Christian,...The concept, "Morals are morals" is a Christian concept.

And that is the essence of the problem we are having with the Islams. We make these moral and philosophical assumptions so naturally, and are taught so little about it in what we laughably still call our "schools" that we make another unconscious assumption that everyone in the world thinks like we do. This assumption is shared equally by secularists, leftists, liberals and by thinking religious people. We have been so immersed in the Christian way of thought for so long that we simply can't imagine any other way of thinking.

But there is another way, and the two are not just incompatible, they are like matter and anti-matter: the two cannot exist in the same place at the same time...or there will be an explosion.

The Sexual Revolution...

taking the "sleaze out of the sex industry", since 1968.

A Sydney brothel welcomed pilgrims, urging "potential sinners to commit their sins" before the Pope leaves Australia. The brothel offered a 10 percent discount to anyone with a WYD accreditation card.


Such good taste.

And in related news...

"No Pope" protesters have welcomed young Catholics in Sydney, but plan to hand them coathangers to protest against backyard abortions, condoms to promote safe sex, and stickers with gay themes to promote the rights of homosexuals.


I attended WYD in Toronto, (or I should say rather that it attended me, since I was already living there) and the sad-sack protesters were there too and it was a good thing. Their pitiful numbers - twenty or forty odd - compared to the (literally) hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, was only outdone in pathos by the stark contrast in their demeanours.

The pilgrims were radiant with joy and innocent fun, running around the sad, demented old city in matching-t-shirted gangs singing songs about the Mother of God in Slovenian and teaching the Toronto commuters to sing along on the subway. They crowded onto the streetcars and BRAZENLY broke the dour Toronto commuter rules. Chaperoned by flocks of equally radiant monks and nuns, flapping along in full-sail habitry, stopping to tell anyone willing to make eye contact all about the glories of Jesus Christ and His Church. Oh, and all of them, including the monks and nuns, under thirty.

Hell, they even managed to cheer me up!

The protesters, in contrast, huddled together, for the most part, in the local Anglican/homosexual church downtown, and, carefully recorded by their devoted CBC lapdogs, snarled out the usual whingeings about the wickedness of John Paul and his nasty old Church that wouldn't let them beordainedhaveabortionsbuggertheirfriendscontraceptanddanceinchurch which seemed about the limit of their grasp of Christianity. The only recorded moment in which an actual WYD pilgrim attended one of their rather sad events was when one of the more strapping of them went up to the microphone at their own request and urged them, for the sake of their immortal souls, to be converted, to repent and return to the Sacraments and the fullness of the Faith. (Which moment did not make it onto the CBC news coverage).

Anti-protest laws imposed for the Pope's Sydney visit this week, which could see protesters arrested for annoying Catholic pilgrims, were ruled unconstitutional by a court on Tuesday.


What a bunch of idiot prats the NewChurch people are!

Even the Canadian organisers of WYD, perhaps the most incompetent pack of miscreants ever to organise an event of such magnitude, were not this stupid. Good work guys. Show the world what a bunch of anti-democratic half-wits the Australian Church leadership really is.

I also did quite a bit of pro-lifering at WYD 2002. We did the GAP outside the fence of the Ex. (the wonderfully pro-life organisers of WYD did everything they could to obstruct/ignore our efforts and we were not allowed to hand out literature inside the venues. The pro-life display that was authorised was put in the same building as the government of Canada kiosk. A nice irony.) But it was a pretty good location. We were between the streetcar stop and the entrance so everyone saw us. And we had loads of very annoying conversations. Which, in Christianspeak, we like to call "opportunities".

One young chap named Max had come down from Ottawa to see what all this Pope fuss was about. He claimed to be an "anarchist", but of course was really just a run-of-the-mill muddle-headed Canunckistani leftist mush-brain.His head riddled with logical gaps and internal contradictions. But he was among the most determined I've ever met, coming back for three days in a row. He talked to us for hours at a stretch, with the rest of us taking it in turns to evangelise him. Don't forget that the GAP trains people quite carefully in the classical rhetorical techniques and we were a pretty determined bunch and loved nothing better than going toe-to-toe with the Maxes of the world.

All of which, I thought, was more or less the point of WYD. What if the CanChurch organisers had tried to get a court injunction against Max, (and if it had been upheld) ? What if he had been shunted off by cops for fear of "annoying" us?

I sometimes remember to pray for Max and think of him often.

Semiconductor

Oh my gosh! Science is just so darn cool!


Magnetic Movie from Semiconductor on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Uncrime

So, a word without a definition leads us to crimes without definitions.

In Britain,

Race-hate crime is a serious business. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry defined a racist incident as 'any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person'. This definition has now been adopted by all police forces.

This is good because, while we police officers love to do the extra paperwork brought on by a racist incident, we are not always very good at identifying them, and we have to be helped out.

For example, the control-room operator. It may appear he is just a civilian sitting in a room 48 miles from where an incident took place, but in fact he is capable of sensing racism through the phone line.

Today I'm visiting Indira Patel, who was racially abused a week ago. 'To be honest, I'm surprised you came,' she says as I arrive. It seems some youths damaged a glass panel on her door.

She says it happens to all the flats on the end of rows in her block because that is where kids hang around smoking cannabis.

I shuffle some papers. 'It says something about racist abuse here.' She looks amazed. 'Goodness, no. I must say, the call-taker did keep asking me if it was a racist incident. I thought it was odd.'

[...]

I email the Scrutineer, requesting a reclassification to criminal damage, and a removal of the reference to racism. The Scrutineer rings me. 'About this racist incident. We can't just reclassify it. How do you know it wasn't racist?'

'The victim doesn't think it was.'

'Well, how does she know it wasn't?'

'Um . . . well, how do you know it was?'

There's a silence then she replies: 'I will change it to a criminal damage, but unless you can provide verifiable evidence it was not racist, the classification has to stand.'

I begin to doubt my sanity. 'How did it become a racist incident in the first place? The victim doesn't think it is, for goodness' sake.'

'If someone perceives it to be racist, it is.'

'It looks like the only person who perceives it to be racist is the Crime Centre.'

'Well, that is "someone".'

Here's looking at YOU



Welcome visitors from FreeMarkSteyn

and Serge's place.

I was wondering why my stats had taken a mysterious jump.

And,

From

Little Switzerland, North Carolina, USA
Garwolin, Siedlce, Poland
Auckland, New Zealand
Sydney, New South Wales, Oz
Roma,
Singapore,

and

whoever you are in Eastleigh, Hampshire ... gosh, I'm flattered at all the attention. Really. I have only one thing to ask: Are you male, single, independently wealthy and/or have tenure at Cambridge, between the ages of 35 and 50? Just checking.

"The illuminating light of social systems will renew, in a certain way, the Church's experience of mystery."

I was discussing with someone the other day the difference in style between JPII and Pope Ratzinger. I've been reading a little Ratzi and I have to say, it's a joy. The clarity, the forthright assertions of universal truths, the fearlessness, the intellectual honesty...

mmm...

People, even his Australian media detractors, are saying about Benedict that he has the knack for putting complex things into language that people can understand.

My friend was telling me how much trouble he used to have with John Paul's encyclicals. He thought they must be terribly profound because so obscure, and that he was the one to blame for not getting them. Has anyone thought that maybe they simply weren't really all that profound? I am reminded of that very amusing online toy, one that I haven't played with for a long time, the Random JPII Speech Generator. Go ahead, take a few clicks. No one is watching.

The refreshing mysterion of universal spiritual resources will modernize all hope for celebration.

The immense enthusiasm of peace will inspire worldwide mysterious depths of the human person.

The illuminating light of social systems will renew, in a certain way, the Church's experience of mystery.

The intelligent radiance of the United Nations will enlighten modern man's experience of mystery.


Yeah. That's the stuff.

Warren puts his finger upon it

The difference between the Islamic outlook and the Christian seems fairly subtle at first (and has been badly blurred by Protestantism, particularly of the Calvinist flavour, that leans heavily towards the Islamic concept of using the law to "compel the good") but boils down to this very essential one of human freedom.

But this must be voluntary, in the main. For the Christian message is of freedom -- a radical freedom, reflecting Scripture and Tradition received as divinely inspired. God, in the Christian account of things, has left man very free to choose his destiny -- left the individual, as it were, to choose his poisons. Law requires that we punish exceptionally evil behaviour, for the sake of defending our own autonomy, but when law is used to “compel the good,” there can be no freedom.


God, the Christian God that is, (we do not indulge the politically correct religious fantasy that the God of Abraham and Christ is the same as the Demon Allah,) does not compel human compliance to the Good. We may freely reject the Good. We pass laws to protect ourselves and our families from people who reject the Good, but we do not waste our energies attempting to force all men to live uprightly.

It is the subtlety of the difference between the two ideas that bolsters my idea that Islam is a Satanic delusion, a heresy, a clever perversion of Christianity, and one that appeals very directly to those who fear freedom. It is precisely this kind of half-twist that Satan likes in his work. Yes, Islam acknowledges the existence of an objective good and evil, but its attack on human freedom is the give-away. As I understand it, it was the ability of Man to choose, his essential freedom that makes him "in the likeness of God", to which Satan so objected that he, as Screwtape put it, "chose to withdraw his support"* from the heavenly hosts.

It is notable also that it is in this rejection of human freedom and the attempt to "compel the good" that Islam and the modern social hygiene advocates on the left have their meeting place. The Human Rights Tribunals that are working to force Pastor Boissoin and Fr. deValk and countless others to conform to the neo-liberal Shariah law, are attempting to compel the (anti-)Good of the theories of the New Left. Pan-sexualism, materialism, relativism etc...the usual suspects.

* ~ * ~ *

* "Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy's determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.)"

Do the math

I'm no good at arithmetic, which is why these kinds of things don't often keep me awake at night.

I don't think most Muslims are "extremists" or "murderers." I'd say that real, genuine "radical Islamists" who dance around whooping with glee when some psychopath flies a plane into a skyscraper in the name of Allah, probably only make up 10-15% of Muslims.

Unfortunately, that small number, in a world that has over a billion Muslims, adds up to over 100 million fanatically evil people.


Which is why I'm glad that other people, people whom I know from personal experience are really good at maths, are taking care of this issue.

Now, the latest from Pat Condell



"Now technically, that's not racist of them, because Islam is not a race, so that's OK then. But anyone who criticises it is a racist because language means whatever we want it to mean in the topsy-turvy world of multicultural hypocrisy where everyone in the West is automatically guilty of crimes committed by their ancestors, should be deeply ashamed of their identity and spend their whole lives apologising for it."

(Just in case "Anastasia" was starting to think I was neglecting her education.)

Well, not all of it,



just the bits they don't like.

The Herald gloomily predicted, “Let a citizen of modest means utter a politically incorrect thought: He will be crushed.”

That is what happened to the Reverend Stephen Boissoin. In a letter to the editor in the Red Deer Advocate, he protested the homosexual agenda, and was hauled off before the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The complaint—sound familiar?—was that Boissoin’s words were “likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt because of their sexual orientation.”

The panel ordered “that Mr. Boissoin . . . shall cease publishing in newspapers, by e-mail, on the radio, in public speeches, or in the internet, in the future, any disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals.” He was also ordered to apologize in writing for the article, and was fined.

As the Catholic Exchange reports, “In essence, the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal is ordering . . . the minister to renounce his Christian faith, since his opposition to homosexuality is based upon the Judeo-Christian Bible.”


I'm sure the Alberta Human Rights Commission and Pastor Boissoin can find "common ground" on some issues of Christianity. That Jesus was nice to old people, say,

or liked little kittens...

Monday, July 21, 2008

"The race card is a Joker"

I'm with Kathy. There is something terribly thrilling about being called names by people on the left.

Especially the ones who are busy pretending not to be on the left, particularly in the British "pro-life" "movement". The trouble with this country is that its people have become so thoroughly brainwashed that they don't have any idea what their own political positions are. Since being here, I've seen that they are almost completely insulated from other points of view and explaining political ideas to them is like trying to describe water to a fish.

In this space, we've discussed the erosion of meaning of what I've called the Claxon Words. "Racist", "homophobe", "anti-choice extremist", and the now almost completely devalued "fascist", that are among the milder things I've been called over the years as a pro-life activist. But it is as a student of language and culture that the use of these terms by the left as claxons becomes interesting. They are words that have ceased to have any meaning of their own (and in many cases, never had any to start with), and now function entirely as alarms to make sure no one is talking about what we're talking about; reasoned discussion of the points at hand must immediately stop while we clear the room and call in the Haz-Mat team.

Screaming "racist" is the ultimate distraction technique, like yelling "fire" in a theatre when you're having an argument you suddenly realise you can't win.

Kathy writes:
Calling someone a "racist" no longer means a thing, precisely because terrorist sympathizers like El-Mo and his leftwing enablers have overused the word.

A racist is a conservative who's winning an argument with a liberal (or a "progressive" or a Muslim).

That's why I love being called a "racist." It says more about the person accusing me than it does about me.

That is, it indicates that they are brainwashed, lazy idiots who know I'm right, but can't bear the awful truth. And they sense -- correctly -- that most people feel the same way I do, and are just too intimidated to speak up.

Like me, the average person is tired of illiterate losers bitching about "racist words" like "niggardly" and "devil's food cake" or "black holes". And we're really tired of elites trying to get us to feel guilty about making commonsense observations about other people.

The race card is a Joker.


I'm with Kathy. When people call me a "racist" for daring to have an occasional independent political thought, I usually mark my calendar and give myself a point.

Can anyone suggest...

if one were interested in learning more about very early Christian history in Britain and Ireland, whom to read? Apart, that is, from the likes of Bede. Any good modern scholars of the period from AD 400 to 900 or so?

Who?

He hates music and politics mixing, and has been badly burnt by this in the past, not least when he called musicians campaigning for John Kerry in 2004 “treasonous morons”. “You definitely get blackballed in this business,” he reflects now. “Basically, the press is liberal, and you’re supposed to adhere to that. I felt a real pressure. It was the same when I said, ‘I’m Christian now.’ Wow, what a reaction. But if you’re in this business and you’re honest, you’ll pay for it.

Je me souviens

John Zmirak tells us why all Catholics should carefully observe the 14th of July:

Bastille Day marks the beginning of the greatest organized persecution of the Church since the Emperor Diocletian, and the explosion onto the world of ideologies that would poison the next two centuries: socialism and radical nationalism. Between them, those two political movements racked up quite a body count: In his 1997 book Death By Government, scholar R. J. Rummel pointed out that

during the first 88 years of this century, almost 170,000,000 men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; or buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens or foreigners.


And the first such modern genocide in the West took place in France, beginning in 1793.

It was undertaken by modern, progressive apostles of Enlightenment and aimed at Catholic peasants, and by its end up to 300,000 civilians had been killed by the armies of the Republic.


The differences, of course, are that the Diocletianic persecution only lasted eight years and was not terribly successful at creating widespread public distrust of Christianity. The Modernist/Enlightenment persecution, using techniques that would later be given the name "Gramscian", has lasted, on and off, for 200 years and has almost succeeded in eradicating Christian culture in western society, what we used to call "Christendom".

"a Catholic historian who teaches at a French university once told me over dinner, 'We are not to mention the Vendée. Anyone who brings up what was done there has no prospect of an academic career. So we keep silent.' "

[...]

The local government, to its credit, opened a museum marking these atrocities on their 200th anniversary in 1993 -- with a visit by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who pointed out that the mass murders of Christians in Russia were directly inspired by those in the Vendée.The Bolsheviks, he said, modeled themselves on the French revolutionaries, and pointed to the Vendée massacres as the right way to deal with Christian resistance.

And so say we all...


Around the world, traditionally-minded Catholics want to say it. In Australia, some of our confreres got the chance.


H/T to Rosalind, our favourite antipodean correspondent.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Surrealist Lightbulb and the Fine Art of Conspiracy

What makes a joke funny? What elements go into humour?

It may seem silly, but two incidents lately have made me wonder about these things in a serious vein.

The first is the hilarious behavior of the British Columbia HRC in its earnest discussion of whether the CBC television programme Little Mosque on the Prairie is funny. I'm fairly sure the Islams bringing Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine up on blasphemy charges don't think its funny either. I think they think that non-Islams are required to think it is funny because that is how it is expected to work as a propaganda tool. They've been told that Westerners have this thing called "humour", and that when Islam is presented with this substance coating it, the dumb Westerners will accept it more readily. I'm fairly sure they think that "humour" is like a kind of icing that makes the dumb Westerners enjoy any awful bit of baked sawdust presented as cake.

So, in the course of the procedings, the Islams accused Mark Steyn of not finding Little Mosque funny. I am given to understand that the Kangaroos earnestly brought in "humour experts" to engage in a serious discussion of what makes a programme funny, and what doesn't. I was not told the outcome, whether Little Mosque would be stamped as "Official Canadian Humour", and whether that would mean that not finding it funny, or at least not pretending to, would leave open to prosecution in the Human Rights Tribunal anyone who didn't laugh along with the laugh track. Canada's getting pretty weird, and I'm not sure what the rules are these days, not having been keeping close enough watch.

The second incident is the rather odd reaction of Richard Dawkins and his Bright friends when presented with a parody of themselves.

I will not explain at too great a length, but it made me think that I am right and that one of the defining characteristics of the left/atheist/newfangledperson/southpaw crowd is a nearly complete blindness to irony. I've not yet finished thinking about what this means, but if I come up with something, I'll let y'all know.

Meanwhile, someone else has done a pretty good job:

Long ago, I remember watching some film about human evolution narrated by Richard Leakey, Jr. It was interesting as such films go, but you got the sense as it went along that it explained everything at the cost of leaving everything out—like scientists in a Far Side cartoon analyzing humor.

The crowning moment of the film, for me, was when Leakey stood in front of the gorgeous twenty-thousand-year-old cave paintings in Lascaux, France and, with genuine puzzlement in his voice, wondered aloud “Why did they do this? What was the purpose?”

I had the distinct impression he would have expressed equal bafflement were he standing in the Louvre. There seemed to be a gene missing somewhere. He was a man who knew a great deal about human origins and yet, however smart he was, there was something about him that was radically out of touch with, well, what it meant to be human. You felt he needed tape on his glasses, a pocket protector, high water trousers and D&D dice in his pocket to complete the image he seemed to project with such earnest unconsciousness.



So, a friend of mine has decided to try his hand at satirical columniating in his local paper, (No, I won't tell you who and where, not yet anyway), and we are working on his technique.

Maybe I could offer my ideas to the BC. Human Rights Tribunal, they seem to need the help.

What's Funny?

I've come up with four elements that seem to be present in nearly all humour. I have called them:

Juxtaposition, Subversive Truth-telling, Exaggeration Ad absurdam, and Conspiracies
.

Humour in general seems to be dependent upon the element of surprise and all of these elements contribute to creating a reaction of surprise in the audience (except conspiracies, which do the opposite, but play upon our vanities, which is a different thing... to be dealt with last).

Satire seems to depend upon Subversive Truth-Telling and Exaggeration Ad Absurdam more than the others. There is usually the Conspiracies element there too.


Humour:

We laugh when something unexpected happens in a familiar surrounding, that does not threaten. We laugh when John Cleese, himself a living parody of upper-class English manhood, shows up in a dress and starts talking like a Manchester housewife. When we say to someone, "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?" our audience (assuming they are very young and have never heard this old chestnut) begins to smirk in anticipation of being surprised by an unexpected answer; and the laugh, when it comes, is an exhalation of relief. Jokes are for adults what peekaboo is to an infant, a constant surprise.


Juxtaposition:

I will use lightbulb jokes to illustrate.

Q. "How many Surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?"
Ans: "A fish"

Juxtaposition is probably the first element of humour. It is the one children like most and the one that Monty Python claimed as their own. It is, simply, the placing of a completely unexpected object in a familiar surrounding, as in the Surrealist LB joke above.

We expect the lightbulb joke, which by adulthood is pretty familiar territory, to go in a set pattern. The example is the psychiatrist LB joke, and the answer "Only one but the lightbulb really has to want to change" presents a small juxtaposition between the expected habits of psychiatrists and what we know about lightbulbs. The psychiatrist LB joke is only mildly funny to most people because the juxtaposition does not create a very wide gap. Its humour rests only on the silliness of the idea that a psychiatrist would treat a lightbulb.

The gap is the humour. To make an analogy, a joke is like a ride at an amusement park. We are taken up in a comfy and, we know, perfectly safe chair to a great height, and allowed to plummet to the ground in a perfect simulation of something terrifying and unexpected. The gap created by a juxtaposition of the expected with the unexpected, is the distance one falls. The greater the distance, the more "terrifying" the ride, the more fun. The bigger the gap created by the juxtaposition, the funnier the joke.

This is the first reason the Surrealist LB joke is funnier than the psychiatrist LB joke. Its juxtaposition of the expected answer (something mildly droll, perhaps, about painters) with the totally unexpected non-sequitur of "a fish", creates a vast gap between what we expected and what we now have.

The psychiatrist LP joke is mildly amusing and probably gently mocks our interest in self-help pop-psychology. Whereas the juxtaposition of the Surrealist LB joke creates a vast gap that shocks us into a much bigger laugh.

Exaggeration Ad Absurdam:

The Trad lightbulb joke. "How many Trads..?" "Change?!!" mocks the traditionalists' obsession with never changing anything in their lives, of wanting to hang on to everything of the past, no matter how absurd. It implies they would rather sit in the dark than change even a lightbulb. It mocks their fanaticism and silliness by bringing the issue into to an extreme absurdity. No Trad would ever hesitate to change a lightbulb of course, but the implication that they hold their Traddiness to be a higher goal than ordinary acts of life-maintenance illustrates a true aspect of their characters.

The Surrealist LB joke also has an element of ad absurdam. One would expect that Salvador Dali had not so inculcated his artistic sensibilities that he would not know the difference between a lightbulb and a fish. But it exaggerates what we assume is the oddities of the Surrealist school painters to make their ideas look silly.

Of course, satire depends heavily upon Exaggeration Ad Absurdam, as we see with the all-time classic example of Mr. Swift's essay on the Irish Problem. It employs juxtaposition, in the fact that the target audience is familiar with the sad scene of the Irish situation, and exaggeration to a great extreme in suggesting that the solution is to go all the way with the logic and treat the Irish as cattle for food, rearing them, essentially, as an alternative to the beef industry. A Modest Proposal, particularly with its completely calm and matter-of-fact tone, enraged the English ruling elite because it implied that there was only a small step between the way the English treated the Irish at the time, and treating them as animals to rear for food. The target audience got the joke because they saw that the logic was perfectly sound, but the joke was on them, and they knew it. (More on Mr. Swift and the elements and nature of satire later).

Conspiracies and Subversive Truth-Telling:

But the Surrealist LB joke is funnier than most LB jokes, and more sophisticated. First, it assumes quite a lot of knowledge on the part of the listener. It assumes that he has enough grasp of English to know what the expected type of answer is to the question "how many?". He also is familiar enough with the culture to expect a lightbulb joke to follow a familiar pattern: "How many Xs does it take to change a lightbulb?" "(Number)" followed by a brief explanation. This is part of the set-up. The familiar surroundings that will create the distance of the gap created by the juxtaposition. The ground, from which the lift takes up our comfy chair.

The joke also expects that we are familiar with surrealist art, and modern art in general and agree that it is pretty silly. It creates a conspiracy, therefore, between the joke teller and the listeners. The joke draws us into the conspiracy that we all agree Surrealism, and probably most of modern art, is just dumb, and that its practitioners and supporters are so divorced from reality that they can't answer a simple question without going all weird.

It mocks also the modern social convention that we are never allowed to voice this opinion for fear of being seen as philistines. We must never make fun of or take lightly a major modern art movement, (or, by extrapolation, modernity in general). Telling a joke that mocks Surrealism, and by extension its fans and supporters, is a subversive act of Truth-telling that garners a sense of relief from the audience who laugh at the shock of hearing it, but are also glad that someone has dared to say it.

By creating a conspiracy, and engaging in Subversive Truth-Telling, you have both flattered your audience and given them permission to think what they want. It allows them to form an elite of their own, people who are "in the know" about how silly modern art is. You have raised them from the position of philistine bumpkins to being in the same class as the modern art elites. They will love you. The Surrealist Lightbulb Joke is, therefore, the little boy who was the only one who dared to point at the Emperor and laugh. He breaks the spell of the tailors and allows everyone to laugh and point as well.

Satire:

Satire seems to consist mostly of extreme exaggeration of familiar things and people.

Mr. Fowler gives us, in the Oxford Concise, "(Rom. Ant.) poetic medley, esp. poem aimed at prevalent vices or follies; a composition in verse or prose holding up vice or folly to ridicule or lampooning individuals...use of ridicule, irony, sarcasm etc..."

Irony: "Expression of one's meaning by language of opposite or different tendency, esp., simulated adoption of another's point of view for purpose of ridicule ...use of language that has an inner meaning for a privileged audience and an outer meaning for the persons addressed; Socratic: simulation of ignorance as means of confuting adversary.

Let's examine one of the more popular satirical offerings, The Simpsons.

The Simpsons employs three elements that make it great satire (and extraordinarily clever marketing): Conspiracies, exaggeration and subversive truth-telling.

Its satire seems to consist mostly of presenting a world that is only slightly, but absurdly, exaggerated version of our own. It takes cultural elements with which we are all familiar, exaggerates them and re-presents them in such a way as to make the real world seem absurd. That is the purpose of satire, esp of the sort you are proposing. To make other people see the world as we see it. To force other people to recognise the absurdities of the real world by creating a satirical fantasy version of it.

Satirical characters are just exaggerated archetypes, the types familiar throughout literature. The vast cast of two-dimensional background characters in the Simpsons is one of the best examples of this going. We recognise them all instantly, either from our dim recollections of high literature (the salty old sea dog, Captain Creech comes straight out of at least half a dozen 19th century novels and poems) or modern films. Monty Burns is Ebeneezer Scrooge, and probably a dozen others. The Comic Shop Guy, Mayor Quimby, Principal Skinner are all immediately recognisable archetypal characters from films and popular culture, (and sometimes our own high school experiences).

But what the Simpsons does best is the Conspiracy. The Simpsons requires an extremely high level of cultural literacy, coupled with the knowing aloofness that so characterises members of the post-60's generation. People born after the 1960s seem to display the same sense of not really belonging to this culture, but of being stuck in a surreal and nearly always hostile world that we did not create and about which we can do nothing. We all believe, whether our parents are alive or not, that the world we live in was created by them and for them, and not for us. We feel that the Boomers still own the world and only grudgingly allow us to live in it, as long as we don't make too much mess. We feel trapped in a bizarre parodic culture that only dimly resembles the world we think we should be living in. We are, in a word, alienated. Which makes us an ideal target audience for a parody.

The Simpsons draws us, a very specific target audience, into a vast but at the same time oddly exclusive club for whom the dozens of rapid-fire references to cultural artifacts in each programme act as code words. It is a form of verse and response antiphonal relationship between the show's makers and the audience. A sign and counter-sign required to be let into the club's doors.

Conspiracy, upon which satire is enormously dependent, necessarily creates two camps: us and them, the people who get the joke and the people who are the butt of the joke, or at least the straightman. I think the genius of the Simpsons is to make the in-crowd so huge. Nearly everyone raised after the 1960s, and a fair number who weren't, are in on the joke, but it creates this vast conspiracy that includes nearly everyone, while maintaining the feeling that we are enjoying the company of an exclusive group with the right gnosis. It is an exclusive club, complete with exciting hand signals, that everyone can join.

More on this later.