Jul. 21st, 2014 10:48 am
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
The narrow defeat of the Obama administration in the Hobby Lobby case has sent its supporters into ecstases of rage and hate that have to be seen to be believed, and that in some cases can only be described as murderous. I am glad I don't live in the USA. But this fury, that bewilders many conservatives and independents, does not bewilder me. The Mandate was criminal from the beginning, criminal in its prehistory. Remember how deliberately the President lied to poor Bart Stupak and destroyed his career. And the Mandate is really much more basic to the Obama project than people realize, because they can't see its actual purpose. Le me draw a historical parallel.

Ireland has one of the saddest modern histories of any country in the world. Repeatedly invaded and devastated by the larger neighbouring island, its Catholic majority was reduced to a pulverized peasantry, paying tax they could not afford to Protestant landlords and being tithed for Protestant parsons; a miserable swarm of penniless, ignorant and leaderless grubbers of the soil, fed by potatoes, with no middle class or aristocracy or any consistency. But what you have to realize is that, the destruction of the Irish educated classes, in spite of the frightful massacres and repeated wars, were not the result of military oppression or even of mass murder; they were, in the main, the result of laws. England wrote dozens, indeed hundreds,of laws, to destroy the Irish nation as elaborately and as legally as possible. As the Irish Protestant Edmund Burke said, the English laws against Irish Catholics - or "penal laws", as they are shamefully called - were "a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and deliberate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”

The Mass, of course, could not be said: to have it said or to say it meant life imprisonment. But neither could Catholics be educated: to set up a Catholic school was equally a matter of life imprisonment. And Catholics were to be robbed by law: "Every Roman Catholic was... to forfeit his estate to his nearest Protestant relation, until, through a profession of what he did not believe, he redeemed by his hypocrisy what the law had transferred to the kinsman as the recompense of his profligacy." The law encouraged Protestants to steal from their Catholic relations, or even pretended relations; and not just large amounts, but everything - every bit of property they had. "When thus turned out of doors from his paternal estate, he was disabled from acquiring any other by any industry, donation, or charity; but was rendered a foreigner in his native land, only because he retained the religion, along with the property, handed down to him from those who had been the old inhabitants of that land before him."

"....Catholics, condemned to beggary and to ignorance in their native land, have been obliged to learn the principles of letters, at the hazard of all their other principles, from the charity of your enemies. They have been taxed to their ruin at the pleasure of necessitous and profligate relations, and according to the measure of their necessity and profligacy,"

"Examples of this are many and affecting. Some of them are known by a friend who stands near me in this hall. It is but six or seven years since a clergyman, of the name of Malony, a man of morals, neither guilty nor accused of anything noxious to the state, was condemned to perpetual imprisonment for exercising the functions of his religion; and after lying in jail two or three years, was relieved by the mercy of government from perpetual imprisonment, on condition of perpetual banishment. A brother of the Earl of Shrewsbury, a Talbot, a name respectable in this country whilst its glory is any part of its concern, was hauled to the bar of the Old Bailey, among common felons, and only escaped the same doom, either by some error in the process, or that the wretch who brought him there could not correctly describe his person,—I now forget which. In short, the persecution would never have relented for a moment, if the judges, superseding (though with an ambiguous example) the strict rule of their artificial duty by the higher obligation of their conscience, did not constantly throw every difficulty in the way of such informers. But so ineffectual is the power of legal evasion against legal iniquity, that it was but the other day that a lady of condition, beyond the middle of life, was on the point of being stripped of her whole fortune by a near relation to whom she had been a friend and benefactor; and she must have been totally ruined, without a power of redress or mitigation from the courts of law, had not the legislature itself rushed in, and by a special act of Parliament rescued her from the injustice of its own statutes..."

It says enough about the power of brute prejudice, of a kind we see in the highest places today, that this unanswerable attack on a disgraceful law lost Burke an election he should have won. The English had been taught to hate Catholics so much that they evidently thought that nothing done to them could be wrong or unjust.

What the Mandate is designed to do, mutatis mutandis, is exactly this. This is why the political and media leadership of your country has fought for it so obstinately, so savagely, and so underhandedly; this is why it took even a narrow defeat with murderous rage. It is because the real purpose of this abomination is to exclude Christians and especially Catholics from economic life. In a world in which money is the only power that can really affect politics - as Obama and his people know all too well - it is intolerable to them that there should be a number, however small, of rich people and of company owners who take their Christianity seriously. In this day and age it is not yet possible to make it legal for a man of the government's party to simply steal the property of his dissenting relatives; and besides, there is not - or not yet - a simple test of identity to separate the government's friends from its enemies, as membership in the "Protestant" church was in Burke's time. But they can impose a tax for a purpose that no Christian can accept, and then savagely penalize them - not by jailing them, which is not what they want, but by fining them into ruin.

Look at it in this light, and the whole mechanism becomes lucid, clear, rational and perfectly designed for its purpose. It is intended to make it impossible for Christians to have any independent economic activity in the USA, by making sure that they either have to resign their principles or be taxed into bankruptcy for them. Of course, they could not possibly declare their purpose; of course they lied from beginning to end. But that, and nothing else, is what this Mandate does.

Incidentally, this also gives you an insight into the real view that Obama and his henchmen have of the political process in your country, and of the nature of political power. This law is not meant to strike at Catholic or Christian faith. It does not try to obtain conversions. It does not set up anything like the imposing apparatus by which republican France, after 1875, worked tirelessly to break the ancestral Catholicism of its masses. The only thing that matters, the thing for which they have fought, the thing for which they have lied, the thing for which they ruined Bart Stupak and compromised the word of the President of the United States of America, was to be sure that no rich Catholics or Christians should exist. Wealth had to remain exclusively among people who had no problem with paying tax to distribute IUDs and abortifacients with a shovel. Because in the eyes of Obama and his crowd, only the very rich are politically significant. This attempt to winnow the Christians from their numbers makes it perfectly clear.
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1) Is it only my impression that Moffat and RTD only know how to write heroes who look exactly like public schoolboys from the seventies? I guess it's right for a modern incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, who was an Oxford man after all, and a Victorian one; but both Sherlock and the Eleventh Doctor look exactly like people I might have met at King's Canterbury in 1977 or so, just a few years older. I am not a pusher of diversity for its own sake, but I find their similarities a bit troubling.
2) Much more important is the drift of the heroic image away from a man in his thirties-forties towards a teen-ager. The heroes of the past tended to be men of some experience and with a past, projecting the image of a young father even when convention did not allow them to be (like Pat Ryan in TERRY AND THE PIRATES or even Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, they would have wards or nephews); today the general idea is to cast someone barely old enough to vote as the hero. I don't mean just Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl, where the fantasy element is at least obvious. To me, the most blatant and disturbing instance has been the rejuvenation of Superman. Superman is your dad, the dad we always wanted to have; he is the person who looks over you, who makes sure you are safe, who gets the kitten out of the tree - the reason you feel safe in your bed at night. The fifties Superman was clearly a man in his forties; Wayne Boring's had a recognizable receding hairline. But since the seventies he has been getting younger and younger. Dean Cain's Superman, in particular, looked like he'd just got out of high school; and it's not a coincidence that since then TV has focused on Superboy. To me, this is positively unsettling, as if one watched one's parents devolving into adolescents - like a real-life version of Buffy's Band Candy episode.
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Read more... ) Do you see, now, to what an extent we have all been bamboozled?
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If I come across as irritable, and if I have a temper, it is to some extent - not largely, but at least to some extent - because I have spent all my life, literally from childhood, bashing my head against a soft, crushing, unconquerable obsession of the modern West, which poisons Italy and has all but murdered Britain: I mean the heresy of dialogue. That is, the general idea that there is no problem on earth that cannot be solved, and no distance that cannot be filled, and no difference that cannot be reconciled, by sitting down and talking about it. That, of course, is nonsense; but all my life - and while not ancient, I am well into my middle age - the vast majority of the people I met clung to it as though it were their mother's breast, feeding them their mother's milk.

There is literally no way to convince most of them that there are limits to dialogue. They ignore decades of total failure in crisis after crisis, and seize one minor and partial success - I mean the unreconciled "reconciliation" in Northern Ireland - to convince themselves that dialogue is always and everywhere the answer. Of course, even in Northern Ireland, there is no peace; only the absence of high-profile violence. Cops are not shot any more, but the terrorists of both sides effectively patrol and control their communities, cut off from each other by ever-growing lengths of wall. I don't want to underrate the importance of no longer having open violence; but this is, at best, a half-successful piece of "dialogue", and does not deserve its iconic status.

However, international public opinion has made a fetish of it (international public opinion, after all, does not live in Northern Ireland and doesn't have to suffer the swagger and menace of the "militants" on their streets). All right; so Irish blood no longer flows - though Irish bones are frequently broken. That's an improvement. But when this lowering of the temperature of violence is internationally promoted as a triumph of "dialogue", when Britain aggressively markets itself as specialists in conflict resolution across the world on the strength of Northern Ireland, when the figurehead of the "peace process" in NI, Tony Blair, is made the international delegate to have peace in the Middle East - then one has to wonder who can possibly imagine that what barely works in the streets of Belfast can ever be relevant to the armed millions of the East Mediterranean. But because the heresy of "dialogue" seems - by deliberately adopting a mental squint that fails to see the thousand wrong things - to have once been validated, there is no limit to the credit that can be claimed on its strength.

But the heresy of dialogue is not disastrous every now and then or at random; it is disastrous inevitably, always, and by its own nature. There is a process that has taken place again and again but from which the dialogue-addicts never learn. When a conflict arises, the dialogue-addicts inevitably tend to favour the more violent, more brutal and more unscrupulous side. So in the thirties they favoured Hitler against France, in the sixties the Soviet Union against America, and now the Muslim world against Israel.

Why? Because it is in the nature of things. It is in the nature of things that Prime Minister Bullying-Bastard will always be willing to talk. He is friendly, hospitable, will listen for hours. ON the other hand, Prime Minister Threatened-Decency cannot pretend that he can offer the moon. He has to place limits on the concessions he is willing to make. And the result of this is inevitably that the dialogue-addicts remain impressed, even enchanted, by the friendly openness of Mr.Bullying-Bastard, and increasingly sadly disappointed by the intransigence of Mr.Threatened-Decency. Hitler's antechamber positively swarmed with pacifists from every nation; even after he had conquered Poland and France, he was still talking peace, peace, peace at any cost. As for Joe Stalin, he positively took out the copyright on pacifism; every international pacifist association from the thirties onwards was a Soviet front. And our contemporary parallels! Why, how open to debate they are, how willing to talk, talk for hours at a time, any time of day and night! Nobody could possibly imagine that they have anything against dialogue. And they don't - since they expect dialogue to deliver everything they want, bit by bit. That is why "peace" must be a "process"; so that everything may be renegotiated over and over again, dead issues resurrected, impossible demands made over and over again with every appeareance of reasonableness. That is what "dialogue" is about.

What happened is quite simply this: that many Europeans, and an enormous majority of Britons, have become addicted to this opium. And because this drug only works one way, can only work one way, it always ends up allying the dialogue-addicts with the worst villains.
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France, and to a lesser extent Germany, lay claim to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment as to a kind of national treasure and heritage; and the rest of the West tends to agree. Yet those elements of the Enlightenment that had a permanent, positive and enduring impact on the West came neither from Paris nor from the university towns of Germany, but from Edinburgh (Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations), Milan (Cesare Beccaria's Crimes and Penalties) and from the fledgling, English-speaking United States of America. No work of any French or German author, not even Voltaire or Kant, compares.
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I have a kind of intuition that one might get a lot of insight into the modern age by making a close comparative study - not only philosophical, but psychological and culture-historical too - of Rousseau and Nietzsche; beginning with their religious roots.
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...not just for the understated power of the song, but for the heart-breaking subtext, come from someone who really knew what racism was and what it could do to a man.
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By now, all my friends, as well as a very large number of people who will never be my friends, know that I have a kind of gift for online brawls and battles. I once made [ profile] carlanime laugh by remarking that there was something unnatural about having a great big online brawl without me. That was a joke; in point of fact I am not particularly happy about this, but it is a fact, and I am hardened to it.

Not everyone, however, may be aware that there are times when the opposite is the case: where, having come to conclusions that I really thought would offend readers and bring about major rows, having effectively steeled myself for ferocious opposition, rage, insults -- I found supposedly incendiary arguments simply sink into an ocean of silence, or perhaps receive a few unconcerned remarks from people who could not see what the fuss was. Read more... )
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My post on the Massachusetts pregnancy pact has generated more debate than anything I have written in years. Thank Heaven (and thank the goodwill of my f-list) it has all been in a polite spirit - even when people disagreed radically. If there are still lurkers watching this LJ for things to be offended by, they will have to make a more than usually thorough job of misrepresentation and lying to make it suitable for fandom_wank.Read more... )
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In the late eighteenth century, Read more... )

"Mind must be harder, Heart must be keener,
Bravery be greater, As our strength lessens.
Here our lord Lies cut to pieces,
A good man brought down; If one so much
As thinks to leave this field, Let him howl for ever!"
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I have long since come to the conclusion Read more... )
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If you are not BritishRead more... )
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I wrote this essay some years ago. I still think it is interesting, and besides it has something to do with my remarks (to follow) about JK Rowling.

Read more... )
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The admission by Guenther Grass, Nobel Prizewinner for literature and "conscience," or at least leading figure, of Germany's hard left, that he had been a member of the Waffen SS, raised some ugly thought in me.

That there was a long subterraneous - or not even so subterraneous - solidarity between Brown and Red, especially at the level of what might be called the international intelligentsija, is not exactly news. Everyone knows, for instance, that the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger was all but sheltered from de-Nazification, and given genuine new lustre, largely thanks to the French Communist writer Jean-Paul Sartre. Heidegger had done as much as anyone to aid the Nazi takeover of the German universities; and as the universities were the most prestigious and internationally respected bodies in Germany, it may be said that someone like Heidegger bore more guilt for the rise and propagation of Nazism than anyone outside the Party circle proper. But Heidegger and Sartre shared the philosophy of Existentialism, and, from his point of view, Sartre was quite right in trying to shelter his master - even though another Existentialist, Hannah Arendt, had told Heidegger to his face that Nazism was a natural and inevitable development of his, Heidegger's, philosophy.

Of course, Grass was not a philosopher of international repute, on whose writings people wrote PhD theses, when he committed his little indiscretion. He was a teen-age boy. At 15, he had tried to volunteer for the submarine service, but had been rejected on grounds of age; the Third Reich, at the time, was not yet desperate. It may have been on account of that earlier attempt that when he was drafted in 1944, he was sent, not to the Army, but to the Waffen SS, a wholly separate body. By late 1944, the SS had ceased to be a volunteer troop, as they had been through most of their history: frightful losses on the Russian front, the loss of most auslandsdeutsch districts - German-speakers outside Germany - which were their main recruiting ground, and the dubious loyalty of the Army after the July 20 plot, had made recruitment for them a matter that could no longer be trusted to volunteering. Even so, they were treated as elite units, and conscripts sent to them were regarded as select.

Grass admits that. He claims that he was drawn to the Waffen SS not by their political meaning, but by their reputation as the last-ditch troops, those who were sent to stop breaches in the line and on desperate or unconventional missions. He also claims that the two missions in which he took part were dangerous long-range reconnaissances far behind Russian lines, which is credible enough; and that he never shot a bullet in anger, which is rather less credible. ON April 20, 1945, as the whole front was slowly melting into the fire of advancing Russian American, British, Allied and Partisan armies, he was wounded and taken to a field hospital; and that was the end of his war. That is his story. I see no reason to doubt its detail, and it is not the detail that troubled me.

What roused my thoughts was that, until now - and it must be admitted that Grass seems to have made his admission of his own free will - he was believed to have served on an Anti-Aircraft unit. This connected him to another important German intellectual, his exact contemporary, Josef Ratzinger, who was forced out of the seminary where he was studying for the priesthood to be conscripted into one.

The difference between the two is the enthusiasm with which the teen-age Grass threw himself into the war effort, first trying to be a submariner, then taking with pleasure the role of a chosen soldier of the Party and Fuehrer. Young Ratzinger, on the other hand, entered the seminary in the clear consciousness that anyone who took that step deprived Army and State of his services - until the State, in its death throes, abolished the exemption of the priesthood and forced them into military service - and placed himself in an unfriendly position. And when he was recruited, he soon deserted.

What people unfamiliar with events will not realize is that, by deserting, Ratzinger showed no less purely physical courage than Grass reconnoitering behind Russian lines. Both risked a quick and nasty end. When American and French divisions crossed the Rhine in April 1945, they found the trees of the Black Forest hung with hundreds, thousands of dead young men hanged by their neck to save ammunition. These were soldiers who had been found to be AWOL, and been executed without trial or waiting. Some were hanged in their front yards, in front of their families Their executioners, on orders from Central Command, were the Waffen-SS - Guenther Grass' lot. As the chosen bearers of Nazi faith, they had been ordered to force the rest of Germany to resist to the last man, woman and child.

I am certainly not charging Mr.Grass with murder. As I said, I see no reason to doubt his unsolicited account of his wartime days, clearly the result of a deep personal unease. It is rather that this story places the two men, at a time when neither can have had even a suspicion of their extraordinary and iconic future, at opposite ends (Grass even says that he met Ratzinger in a POW camp after the war) of a really iconic group of events and institutions, and does so by anything but chance. What the one young man sought, the other fled. I do not know whether the misleading statement that young Grass fought his war in an Ack-Ack battery came from him or whether it was something he just allowed to be believed, it is clear that it was the sort of thing that could be believed of a decent, untainted German; that it did nothing to damage the reputation Grass was getting, as the moral authority of the German left. Yet young Ratzinger wanted nothing to do even with that, and risked the noose to escape it.

What attracted young Grass - whose parents had named him for a pagan Teutonic hero - and repelled young Ratzinger - whose parents had named for the husband of Mary and several Christian saints - was the suicidal appeal of the dying Nazi party. Whatever the ordinary German teen-ager might know, suspect, or be unwilling to suspect, of the horrors and crimes of his government, there was one thing that nobody could miss, that was the very daily atmosphere of dying Nazism: the heavily charged sense of suicidal, revolutionary glory and doom, of a whole party and nation turning kamikaze in order to bring down their enemies and themselves in one red and monstrous ruin. Weltmacht oder Niedergang, world power or annihilation; "Better an end in terror than a terror without end". These were not, unlike the massacre of Jews or Russians or disabled or negroes or homosexuals, things done in "night and fog"; they were the slogans and the reasons for existence of the Nazi Party, its mind and passion, its proudly exhibited belief. That those beliefs then led to political criminality on an untold scale is, in a sense, secondary; that is, in order to become thieves and murderers, men had first to assent to this mental attitude.

The revolted romanticism, the highly-charged, throbbing emotion of disgust and rejection, that lay at the heart of Nazism, is the join between the last days of Hitler as young Grass experienced them, and his destiny as Red Pope, moral authority of the anti-American, anti-capitalist, fanatically pseudo-pacifist hard left. The conclusions may be different; the root is the same. I do not know whether either Grass or Ratzinger ever thought of the other as in any way his opponent, his counter, the symbol as much as the leader of the forces he himself rejects; yet they oppose each other with a perfection that belongs more often to mythology than to real life. At seventy-eight years of life, filled in both cases with tremendous achievement and worldwide renown, the White Pope faces the Red still on the grounds of what the one rejected, and the other passionately accepted, in the dying days of Germany's awful night.
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The seeds of the evolutionist idea were planted in the superhero genre from the beginning; Read more... )


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