fpb: (Default)
This essay is going to start on a very different subject from where it is going to end.

The highest level of artistic achievement always has a powerful ethical content, quite simply because artists of the level of Homer, Dante, Beethoven, have a broad enough insight to take in all significant parts of human experience, and morality is a major part of it. However, morality as such is not necessarily connected with artistic merit, except in the sense that artistic merit always has to do with truth to experience. Take, for instance, a song such as Tata Young's Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy. There can be no doubt that nobody would want to encourage the kind of attitude it describes, not only the tarty-ness, but the vanity and egotism that underlie it, and the parasitical overtones of such a verse as “I like all my men, I like them tall with MO-NEY!!”. But because it is the work of a young woman who has been, one way or another, in the position of feeling, experiencing, imaginatively understanding – if not necessarily acting out – the attitudes it describes, it is an almost complete success, vigorous, driving, melodious and vital. She knows that generation and those people, if she knows anything at all. And even where the lyrics cross the border from childishly arrogant to merely stupid, repeating without insight the follies of the worst pseudo-feminism (“people are intimidated when a girl is cool with her sexuality” - sorry, dear, we aren't really intimidated by any such thing, only embarrassed and rather sad), it may be said at least that this is a true-to-life part of the experience described. Teen-agers will indeed repeat that kind of rubbish. Shakespeare this is not, but it has in common with Shakespeare and all successful art that it is a true image of a true experience.

It follows, naturally, that artistic failure always tends, for whatever reason, to falsify experience; whether it distorts it by conventional and superficial notions, or by ideological blinkers, or by mere stupidity and ignorance. The worst song Frank Sinatra ever sang, Love and Marriage, belongs in this category. This car crash of a song, whose hideous jingle-like opening sticks in the mind like the worst kind of advertising music, is so steeped in sentimental falsehood that it is almost aware of it; almost. For if it really understood that “the idea that love and marriage must go together is sentimental, false and dangerous”, we would have a very different kind of song – something like, for instance, Bruce Springsteen's The River. But Love and Marriage is trying to say the exact opposite, but without any real belief, without any of the belief born from experience. It tries to be both witty and earnest, and fails at both. The material is as arbitrary (“ask the local gentry – and they will say it's ellyment'ry!”) as that of my previous instance was relevant and inevitable (“My mouth never takes a holiday, I always shock with the things I say/ I was always the kid at school who'd turn up to each class about an hour late!”). Notice, too, the modest but effective invention of that half-line, “my mouth never takes a holiday”, as compared with the utter deadness of something like “Ask the local gentry”. Why “the local gentry”? Why not the alien gentry, the overseas gentry, or just the gentry, period? Why, because about a century before the song was written, the expression “the local gentry” meant something. It was pulled from the list of old, half-remembered word groupings, purely to fill its space in a verse. From beginning to end, there is not one passage that has that sense of inevitability that is the mark of a well conceived poem or lyric. The very opening leaves the impression that the singer is repeating the words to himself in the hope that some significant rhyme will occur to him.

The reason why this song does not dare quite take itself seriously, and never seems to find the right turn of phrase, is that it is trying to assert as undeniable fact something that was, and had been for at least half a century, under concentrated cultural fire, namely, the institution of marriage. “Love and marriage, love and marriage, it's an institute you can't disparage...” - can't what? (And notice the infelicity of replacing “institute” for “institution” to make it fit the verse.) It belongs to a luckily rather small group of songs that seemed to want to use popular music to preach, any old how, attitudes that the authors regarded as desirable – although they seemed never to understand what could possibly make them desirable. Another such terrible Sinatra item was Swinging on a star, apparently aimed at schoolchildren, and promising them that if they were good hard-working schoolchildren rather than “mules” or “pigs” or “fishes”, they would grow up able to perform miracles and travel to the stars at will. Well, of course we want children to work hard and study; but to promise them that if only they work hard they can all be Thomas A. Edison or John Wayne or John D. Rockefeller is bunk so pure, so repulsive, so fraudulent, that one wonders how anyone could be so stupid as to want to propagate it to children. Luckily, the song is so bad that one doubts any child ever took it seriously, but if any one ever did, they were setting themselves up for nearly inevitable disappointment and resentment.

One great work of art that originated in the same period showed what the right message had to be, and what it should be. As Bill Mauldin, a great cartoonist, said of his colleague Charles M.Schulz, “He is a preacher. All great cartoonists are jackleg preachers... there is a high moral tone there.” What did he mean? Not, certainly, what many people imagine that the work of art “with a message” should be, that is, that the person with the right ideas and attitudes should be the winner in the end. Absolutely the contrary: what we get from Peanuts is that you can be a “loser”, a modest person with no accomplishment or glitter, a kind of punching bag for destiny, and still be better than a winner. The winner, in the world of Peanuts , is fairly clearly Lucy Van Pelt – a bully and a fool; and I don't think there is a single reader of Peanuts in three quarters of a century who has not left the strip with a strong feeling that it would be infinitely better to be a Charlie Brown than to be a Lucy. That is the moral message children and adults need to hear, reconciling us to the battle of life with its inevitable defeats, showing by example rather than by precept the hollowness and unimportance of “winning”; a message of the most desperate importance in a country where children are daily subjected to liminal and subliminal messages preaching the exact opposite - “winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.”

Swinging on a Star came out at a time when American public opinion was seriously worried about the state of the country's youth, about gangs and a growing looseness in behaviour and fashion. It clearly was intended to preach the virtues of schoolwork and learning, and by extension of hard work and discipline in general, but its scheme of thought shows that the author did not have the least idea why the life of work and study should be preferred to the life of a mule, a pig, or a fish . In fact, it shows the exact opposite: by emphasizing vast ambition and overwhelming success, swinging on a star, carrying moonbeams round in a jar, it effectively depreciates the life of hard work, moderate achievement, and “being happy at home”, that is the best most of us can realistically hope for. (Indeed, from another point of view, it is the best that anyone can hope for. The triumphant billionaire or movie star cannot really be more happy than an ordinary grandfather playing with his grandchildren in a house he has bought and paid for from his own work as a welder or as a clerk. The satisfaction of work well done, of a thriving family, of the esteem of friends and colleagues, is the same for both.) A decade later, Bob Dylan skewered all such fantasies in a few pointed and meaningful lines: Advertising signs they con/ You into thinking you're the one/ That can do what's never been done/ That can win what's never been won/ Meanwhile life outside goes on/ All around you! Indeed Swinging on a Star and Love and marriage are clearly in the style of advertising jingles. Somebody set out to advertise marriage and hard work, with the advertiser's mentality, and had been as successful as one could expect.

Swinging on a Star is not as spectacularly, unredeemably, wholly worthless as Love and Marriage. If its values and rewards are unreal and misleading, at least it is very clear about what it opposes, and when it describes the attitudes it condemns it does with understanding, sting, and even wit. A mule is an animal with long, funny ears./ He kicks up at anything he hears. / His back is brawny and his brain is weak./ He's just plain stupid with a stubborn streak./ And, by the way, if you hate to go to school/ You may grow up to be a mule. ... A pig is an animal with dirt on his face/ His shoes are a terrible disgrace./ He's got no manners when he eats his food./ He's fat and lazy and extremely rude!/ But if you don't care a feather or a fig/ You may grow up to be a pig.....A fish won't do anything but swim in a brook/ He can't write his name or read a book./ To fool all the people is his only thought,/ And though he's slippery, he still gets caught./ But then if that sort of life is what you wish,/ You may grow up to be a fish. There is no such relief of wit or realism or even real anger anywhere in Love and Marriage.

By comparison, then, we have to conclude that Love and Marriage really has no truth to offer, not even a negative kind of truth. It does not, like Sexy, Naugthy, Bitchy, depict vivacity and insight an objectively bad but real attitude; it does not, like Swinging on a Star, have a clear idea of at least the negative part of its message – much less of the positive on). Love and Marriage has no artistic value at all, no truth to experience. And the common advertiser's attitude of the two songs suggests that their flaws must be similar, rooted in the same way of thinking and doing things. And as Love and marriage is all bad, unrelieved by any quality patches, it is also likely to reflect only the bad parts of Swinging on a Star – to offer as the obvious result of hard work something – great and extraordinary success – that is by its nature open only to the lucky.

And indeed it is so. There is a relationship between love and marriage, but it is not what the song tries to suggest. Let us ask ourselves: what kind of feeling do sane people – I mean those who don't write editorials about “heteronormativity” and “matrimania” and other such ugly neologisms – have, when they hear someone like Jack Kirby say that his proudest achievement was, “I married the woman I love, and I loved her all my life”? If love and marriage went together like a horse and carriage, we should find that fairly obvious. But we don't. We react to it as to something great, noble and touching, something we admire and wish we could emulate even though we suspect we never could. Livelong married love is something like a sporting record or a great work of art: something rare and beautiful, but that makes us all feel a little better about mankind and so, in a sense, about ourselves. I may never manage to cover a hundred metres in a hundred minutes, but I can watch, enjoy and admire the sight of Usain Bolt streaking down the straight and making it look easy. I may be a disaster with the other sex, but I can still look on a life like Kirby's or many others, and feel warmer because married love really is possible.

Married love is the achievement; marriage is the activity. And that being the case, you can see exactly what is the problem with Love and Marriage and the whole set of notions it embodies so disastrously: it offers as the ordinary condition what is in fact the hard-won and somewhat lucky achievement. It offers the equivalent of a Wimbledon singles title to every entry-level tennis player. Which, of course, is exactly what Swinging on a Star does with respect to work and good behaviour in general, and work and good behaviour at school in particular.

But, you will say, people marry for love. Well, some do. Many people marry for companionship; it is that, much more than the unlikely hope that you might meet a complete stranger and just fall head over heels in love for life, that keeps marriage bureaux, websites and ad columns in business. Some marry because there is a child on the way. And even in Europe, let alone in other parts of the world, there are still a few people whose first reason to marry is that an heir is expected from them, beginning with the surviving royal families. And I would have to see the evidence that these marriages are in any way less well founded and durable than those based on romantic love. (Because, of course, what I mean by love in this context, unless I say otherwise, is exclusively romantic or erotic love, the thing that makes you feel that the whole meaning of life is wrapped up into another person, normally of the opposite sex.)

No, love and marriage do not go together like a horse and carriage. Like the attempt to justify hard work as the road to overwhelming success – rather than a necessity which, if properly carried out, might help you to a modestly comfortable later life and perhaps a nest egg for your heirs – to make love the cause and heart and constant fellow-traveller of marriage is wrong in itself and a fertile breeder of disillusionment, anger and unhappiness. One can see it in the lives of the very people who have, for more than a century, done the most to spread this false equivalence. Rich men and entertainment figures who divorce four or five times really do believe that marriage is all about love – so they break up and start again every time they think they are in love. And if anyone thinks that is an enviable situation, I heartily disagree. A single divorce (setting aside the issue whether divorce is even admissible, and treating the modern world as it is) is the most miserable thing in the world; imagine five! And let's not hear any nonsense about amicable divorce. If you can bear to separate yourself from the place you lived for years, from the objects and sights that framed your daily life, from a person with whom you once shared everything – and let's not even speak about custody – then you were never married, you were a gigolo or a prostitute now about to get a final pay-off and leave the place of employment. And in fact such things rarely happen. People, including myself, make bitter jokes about divorce lawyers, but in fact most of divorce lawyers – yes, and judges too – will tell you that most of their time is spent trying to get reason through to two people maddened by loss, anger, disappointment and jealousy. Or to put it another way: let us go from one of Old Blue Eyes' worst songs to one of the best. One for my baby (and one more for the road). As fraudulent as Love and Marriage is, so One for my baby is true to life (including the life of the much-married crooner himself) and speaks from experience. The lament for the impermanence of love, the pain in admitting that it was just “a brief episode”, the where-did-we-go-wrong, are typical of love as it often appears if you are not Jack and Rosalind Kirby, and therefore an artistic triumph. Play the two songs one after the other, and you will need no more arguments to understand how crassly wrong is the very notion that love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.

What, then, is marriage about? Well, of course I could start with the Christian doctrine, which I set out in a recent essay. But that would not convince anyone who is not Christian already. More importantly, it is my view that the tenets of morality, contrary to what many Christians preach, are evident by themselves and would equally be true if no God existed. God is as it were their third dimension; they are rooted in Him and sanctified by Him because so is mankind itself. But I do not need to start from God – though I will certainly end with Him – to argue that murder or abortion are wrong, and that taking care of the old and the sick is right. At any rate, there is no originality in Christ's moral teaching; rather it amounts to “Do what you have always known you must do, only more so” (or, as an Italian patriot used to say, “When you cannot tell the path of duty, choose the hardest”). In the case of marriage, this means that marriage is for life: Jesus compared the statement of principle in Genesis, declaring the nature of mankind in mythical language, where a man and a woman are said to become one flesh, and contrasts it with the merely human and historically originated law that allows divorce “because of the hardness of your hearts”. Jesus himself said that He had not come to alter the law, but to fulfill it; and St.Paul taught that even pagans deprived of the Divine revelation are capable of being “law” to their own selves, perceiving and following the dictates of an exacting moral law. Morality is universal. Even the recognition that every man is a sinner, while it might have surprised the proud Greek philosophers, would come as nothing new to Hindus and Buddhists, each of whom knew of the burden of past karma.

And that being the case, what we have to do is see what marriage is in the daily lives of the ordinary world. First of all, then, marriage brings two families or groups of families permanently together. That is a frequent historical reason for marriage – alliances, peace-making, joining properties and inheritances. That, in a true marriage, never changes; and it is signalized by the typical marriage feast, to which every connection of the couple, however remote, has to be invited. That is because even the most distant members of a family group will know that from now on they have another connection, another link in blood and law. And that link is real and effective. How often does anyone in need of help, advice, introductions, expertise, stop to say - “Hey, isn't your cousin a conveyancing expert? Isn't your uncle's wife a friend of so-and-so? Doesn't your nephew speak fluent Swedish?” Help from in-laws is as expected as mutual concern in the lives of each other's families. This connection reminds us immediately of the words of Genesis – they shall be one flesh. The unity established between two families depend son the fact that each of the partners now has both family identities. In what sense this is more than merely symbolic or fictive is a question that can be argued, but only a fool would argue that it differs only in degree, rather than in kind, from cohabitation.

And this leads us to another central issue: children. I don't want to have to argue that children do better with a firmly married father and mother, any more than I want to have to argue that water is wet. I ask that we take this as axiomatic, as read. That is not to say that this optimal situation is always possible; even without divorce, family break-ups, family violence , or just tragedies – the early death of one or both parents – mean that a large number of people will either live without this benefit, or live in a situation where the benefit of living parents is perverted into an enduring torture. But to make these instances of misfortune or evil behaviour into a reason to attack the institution of marriage is like using the fact that some cops will always be thugs and some cops will always be on the take to call for the abolition of the concept (and the fact) of police. Marriage brings together two people, with the support of many others, for the most demanding and intensive of all jobs – one that takes a minimum of eighteen to twenty years to be considered complete, and that, especially in early years, will take every second of the day and much of the night of a strong young adult. Anyone who has had to take care of a small child, however well behaved, for one hour, ought to understand how wise nature was to ordain that a part of the process of human reproduction should involve two strong adult individuals, supported by many others, dedicating much or most of their lives to rearing their child or children. In child rearing, there is no alternative to a family structure. Institutions and orphanages are proverbial by-words for neglect and abuse, not because they necessarily employ bad people, but because it is totally impossible that a paid person with a schedule could pay a child the attention that a mother or a father are ready to pay every moment of the day. And even in this day where the disastrous worship of love has made marriage as vulnerable as an eggshell or a scrap of paper, nonetheless statistics tell us that married couples break down much more rarely than cohabiting ones,and last much longer. The ceremony of marriage really does make a difference in this central issue of child-rearing – the survival of the couple of biological parents.

Finally, let us talk of the most neglected and even occasionally abused aspect of marriage: companionship. I have already mentioned the constant and – from the romantic point of view – inexplicable flourishing of marriage bureaux, wedding contact ads, and websites; which is only explained by the fact that many people simply want to come home and find a member of the opposite sex there. Sex, as such, may or may not take place; the important thing is not to be alone in the evening and not wake up alone in the morning. I have actually seen this used as an argument for “gay marriage”: because people marry when they are aged or infertile, therefore marriage is not about fertility, and therefore “gay marriage” is perfectly all right. Now, the second “therefore” makes no sense at all: just because some instances of actual marriage are infertile, it does not mean that you should invent a kind of marriage that is bound to be infertile, and, more to the point, not involve the two sexes. Because that is the important fact about these things is that they are always about bringing together a man and a woman. Today, of course, they have little spaces for gay couples, but they are certainly in the nature of a gesture to prevailing winds. A marriage bureau that concentrated on “gay marriages” would have a very high likelihood of going bust in a few months, but bringing together lonely men and lonely women is one of the enduring and enduringly profitable businesses of the world. And that is because the two sexes really are complementary in a way that no two members of one sex can be. We have seen that the union and collaboration of a man and a woman over a matter of decades – that is, at the very least, much of their adult lives – is a biological necessity for the rearing of human children. But the complementarity built into the two sexes by this biological need is a natural part of them and can't be talked or wished away. Men will tell you that women always talk about men; but then, how often do men talk about women? Not rarely, I can tell you. No matter what the propaganda, what the pressure of politics and of politically influenced media, the presumptions, the sexes remain a wonder and a mystery to each other.

And across this wonder and this mystery, a union takes place that is more than mere friendship, more than mere feeling, more even than love. A man and a woman form a grouping that is wholly sui generis, that is not to be explained in any terms but its own. It is not friendship, even the deepest and closest and most wonderful friendship; although, if the spouses are good and decent people, it will develop among other things into an enduring friendship where the one understands the other instinctively, appreciates their views, and supports their actions. It is not love, although love is one of its highest and most admired achievements; but two people may be validly married, and even get along quite nicely thank you, without every having had a tremendous attraction to each other. It is not even only fertility, because father and mother may well, it is hoped, look to the children, but they also look to each other. It is marriage; period, end of story. And it is between a man and a woman.
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
For me, personally, the final evidence of the guilt of British criminal Hanratty, of anarchist Nicola Sacco. and of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg - however different the circumstances - have been a personal shock. They are the undeniable proof that people can lie even in the face of death and eternity, that claims of innocence from the scaffold are no more reliable than from any other point. The case of Sacco's fellow-accused Bartolomeo Vanzetti seems even darker: he was probably himself innocent, but he knew that Sacco was guilty as Hell, and he deliberately died with a lie on his lips, for the sake of his imagined revolution. (And to add a further taste of futility to his false sacrifice, the historical fact is that the only party who benefited from his and Sacco's executions were the Communists, who had organized all the protests against their executions, and who were sworn enemies of Vanzetti's Anarchists and would have murdered him a good deal more nastily if he had ever fallen into their hands.) But perhaps the most significant of these is the lie of Hanratty, because that had nothing of the ideological justifications of Vanzetti and the Rosenbergs. Hanratty was not fighting for any "cause", however bad: he was a rapist and murderer with no ulterior motives. And he declared his innocence right to the point of death with a passionate intensity that deceived generations of activists including myself.
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
This is the second time in a few days that I have been assigned a text I find REVOLTING - and by revolting I mean fraudulent, mendacious, propagandistic. In fact it's much worse than the last. And I can't really turn it down. How do the other guys deal with this kind of problem?
fpb: (Default)
I just had an insight, from the New York Times' disgraceful attack upon the Little Sisters of the Poor. It is this: Freud was right in pointing to transference as a mechanism, but wrong in believing that it is principally a defence mechanism. Here, for instance, we have a classic case of transference: the New York Times claims that the Little Sisters’ suit “boils down to an unjustified attempt by an employer to impose its religious views on workers.” We know perfectly well that that is transference, that the so-called newspaper of record is the place where unshared religious opinions would not long survive. But the point is that there is nothing defensive about it. The Times, even in its current parlous financial state, has nothing to fear from the Little Sisters, any more than Obama has. The fact is that they are simply transfering the company's own standard behaviour on to the nuns because that is what they would do in their place, or in anybody's place. The oppression of conscience and the silencing of religious independence is their way to be. And when you look at cases of transference, you will always find it clear: the person who ascribes to others his or her own standard behaviour does so because it finds it natural. It also explains a streak of paranoia that made Freud see this as a defensive reaction. There may be nothing to defend oneself against, but there would be if the modus operandi that the person sees as natural were actually present. If others behaved to the NYT executives as the NYT executives behave to their employees and to anyone under their influence, they NYT executives would have reason to fear. And the same goes for anyone whose similarly low expectations of human nature are really based upon their own low standards.
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
I just had an insight, from the New York Times' disgraceful attack upon the Little Sisters of the Poor. It is this: Freud was right in pointing to transference as a mechanism, but wrong in believing that it is principally a defence mechanism. Here, for instance, we have a classic case of transference: the New York Times claims that the Little Sisters’ suit “boils down to an unjustified attempt by an employer to impose its religious views on workers.” We know perfectly well that that is transference, that the so-called newspaper of record is the place where unshared religious opinions would not long survive. But the point is that there is nothing defensive about it. The Times, even in its current parlous financial state, has nothing to fear from the Little Sisters, any more than Obama has. The fact is that they are simply transfering the company's own standard behaviour on to the nuns because that is what they would do in their place, or in anybody's place. The oppression of conscience and the silencing of religious independence is their way to be. And when you look at cases of transference, you will always find it clear: the person who ascribes to others his or her own standard behaviour does so because it finds it natural. It also explains a streak of paranoia that made Freud see this as a defensive reaction. There may be nothing to defend oneself against, but there would be if the modus operandi that the person sees as natural were actually present. If others behaved to the NYT executives as the NYT executives behave to their employees and to anyone under their influence, they NYT executives would have reason to fear. And the same goes for anyone whose similarly low expectations of human nature are really based upon their own low standards.
fpb: (Default)
Today was one of those days where most of my time was spent on buses, travelling from place to place and from errand to errand. At one stop, a couple came on. The man was a burly, shaven-headed archetypical working class Londoner, aging, but clearly still vigorous, the kind you imagine working in some house that was being renewed, or drinking beers with his mates afterward. The woman was not so easy to categorize; there was a slightly dusty and bewildered look about her. Then I realized that, though she was perfectly decent in dress and hairdo, I could smell urine, and it became clear that she was in the last stages of senility. And at the same time I realized that the man was completely concerned with her, gently telling her exactly where to go and where to sit down, with a patient affection that did not suggest the least possibility of exasperation or tiredness, and which she followed without question. When the time came for them to get off, he asked the driver whether they could get out by the front where they had come in, and I guessed that it would have bewildered her not to go through exactly the same way she had done coming in. And he was taking care that she should not be bewildered even to that extent.

This man had seen his woman vanish in front of his eyes, till she was barely able to understand and incapable of changing a routine or of staying clean. And all the while, I thought, he had treated her with that affectionate, undemanding patience that I was seeing in that London bus. And what was there for him at the end? No earthly reward, that is for sure; nothing but continuous care for someone who could barely respond, and who demanded attention every second of the day; work without end and without the possibility of any positive result - work at preserving a dignity already lost, a personality already gone, a mind already dead. And from all I could see, he was doing it without the shadow of a complaint, let alone any suggestion that there was anything better for him to do.

When I see something wonderful, and it would take too much or be out of place to say how wonderful it is, I make a military salute. I saluted this couple (making sure nobody noticed) when they got off. Such things are the light of God in this world. It's not only that the human mind cannot accept that such heroism should have no reward, should be futile and ignored; that it practically demands to see a supernatural reward for people who live and die like that. It is that he act itself is a thundering denial of any materialist or cynical view of man. A man who lives like that, without the prospect of reward and with the constant reminder of what he will never in this world have again, is a man who testifies to the whole universe that his nature is something else and something more than to eat and drink and sleep.
fpb: (Default)
Slavery never went away. It just crawled into people's souls and settled there. And of all the slave minds, the worst are those who shill for the rich and powerful - people who don't even need advocacy, they can supply their own so well - and praise their banditry. And there is a variety of such shills who is not only repulsive but also comical: those who loudly theorize about their own personal love of freedom, and who insist that nobody else but them really knows what freedom is about.
fpb: (Default)
One possible result of “gay marriage” that has not been considered seems to me worth considering, though it may sound paradoxical. It may need not to a less but to a more inhibited and prurient attitude to sex.

My reasoning is as follows. Start from the obvious: the demand for “gay marriage” only makes sense if marriage is conceived as a legal permission to have sex. Marriage, of course, is not and has never been that. But if you take sex within marriage to be legal and permitted, validated and right, in itself (that is, independently of the attitude or potential for procreation), then you correspondingly devalue sex outside “marriage”. I am not saying that we may see a decrease in “hooking up” and casual sex, but if sex outside “marriage” loses the sense of validation, permission and correctness in favour of sex in “marriage”, then that will make the commonplace view of sex outside marriage not just cheap but much nastier than it has been. We may be seeing some advance warning of that even now, for instance in the universal rage of contempt visited on Paula Broadwell (even granting she deserved it). But the worst result would be on the homosexual community itself. Everyone knows that most practising homosexuals do not restrict themselves to one partner. Everyone knows that the whole “gay community” rotates around constant exchange of partners. Everyone knows that when we speak of gay bars or clubs, we don’t speak of chaste establishments; but if homosexual relationships become formally divided between the inevitably small group of permanent, formalized “married” couples and the inevitably much larger pool of players, that will make the “community” of players and swappers even more dirty, even more dodgy, and even more dangerous than it already is.

I think, however, that this effect may not even be restricted to gay sex alone. The loose morals of the present are very unlikely to be changed merely by a change of mood; but we may be heading towards a direction where sex outside marriage becomes joyless and destructive. This is not an unfamiliar trajectory. There was a brief period in the late sixties when free sex and "mind-opening" drugs seemed to be the twin tracks of an ongoing revolution. Then drugs, while continuing to be widely used, fell off into a joyless, despised, lonely twilight world, haunted by freaks and stalked by mental illness and early death. Something like that might well be going to happen to what is left of the once sexual revolution.
fpb: (Default)
One possible result of “gay marriage” that has not been considered seems to me worth considering, though it may sound paradoxical. It may need not to a less but to a more inhibited and prurient attitude to sex.

My reasoning is as follows. Start from the obvious: the demand for “gay marriage” only makes sense if marriage is conceived as a legal permission to have sex. Marriage, of course, is not and has never been that. But if you take sex within marriage to be legal and permitted, validated and right, in itself (that is, independently of the attitude or potential for procreation), then you correspondingly devalue sex outside “marriage”. I am not saying that we may see a decrease in “hooking up” and casual sex, but if sex outside “marriage” loses the sense of validation, permission and correctness in favour of sex in “marriage”, then that will make the commonplace view of sex outside marriage not just cheap but much nastier than it has been. We may be seeing some advance warning of that even now, for instance in the universal rage of contempt visited on Paula Broadwell (even granting she deserved it). But the worst result would be on the homosexual community itself. Everyone knows that most practising homosexuals do not restrict themselves to one partner. Everyone knows that the whole “gay community” rotates around constant exchange of partners. Everyone knows that when we speak of gay bars or clubs, we don’t speak of chaste establishments; but if homosexual relationships become formally divided between the inevitably small group of permanent, formalized “married” couples and the inevitably much larger pool of players, that will make the “community” of players and swappers even more dirty, even more dodgy, and even more dangerous than it already is.

I think, however, that this effect may not even be restricted to gay sex alone. The loose morals of the present are very unlikely to be changed merely by a change of mood; but we may be heading towards a direction where sex outside marriage becomes joyless and destructive. This is not an unfamiliar trajectory. There was a brief period in the late sixties when free sex and "mind-opening" drugs seemed to be the twin tracks of an ongoing revolution. Then drugs, while continuing to be widely used, fell off into a joyless, despised, lonely twilight world, haunted by freaks and stalked by mental illness and early death. Something like that might well be going to happen to what is left of the once sexual revolution.
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Probably the most important learning experience in my life took place when I was about eighteen. One part of it was a comics masterpiece, published just as I was falling back in love with comics. Chris Claremont, a man who has never since written anything remotely as good, indeed who has rarely written anything good at all, wrote one of the greatest comic-book stories ever published, the “Dark Phoenix epic” (Uncanny X-Men #125-138), in which the protagonist Jean Grey eventually committed suicide rather than become a monster. I read it chapter by chapter as it came out, and it pretty much dominated my eighteenth year.

This might in itself not have been so significant, but for the echo it raised in some very real and ugly events. This was also the time of rampant terrorism and mafia power in Italy, and only a short time earlier a particularly horrible crime had taken place. The Red Brigades – part of whose strategy was to become a sort of violent parallel trades union, taking the part of supposedly abused and endangered workers – abducted an industrial engineer called Giuseppe Taliercio, who managed a factory in which some industrial accidents had taken place. The terrorists tried to get him to support their ignorant, conspiracy-theory account of these accidents; Taliercio, knowing full well what expected him if he refused, still refused, and insisted on telling the story as he knew he had happened. So, after 46 days of hideous detention and torture, they murdered him. I read a stunning account of his last days in the left-wing weekly L’Espresso, which was followed by an infinitely moving letter of thanks from Taliercio’s sister, who thanked the journalists for their account of his courage, and concluded: “So long as one of us is left who is willing to die rather than lose his humanity, we are not finished yet.”

I don’t remember which I read first, the story of Jean Grey’s suicide or the letter from Taliercio’s sister. What I am clear about is that the letter, and in particular the unforgettable last line, made clear to me that, for all the mythological and science-fictional trappings, the story of Jean Grey’s choice to die rather than lose her humanity was about something very, very real - a choice that anyone might be called to make, that did not belong to fantasy characters and that had nothing to do with escapism, but which to the contrary dealt with the most serious and central issues of real human life.

And this is my quotation for the heroes of Flight 91: “As long as there is one of us left willing to die rather than lose his humanity, we are not finished yet.”
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http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/denmark-forces-churches-to-perform-same-sex-marriages

There may have been a lot of misguided persons who did not believe this would happen and who did not see that it was the obvious, the inevitable, the unstoppable consequence of so-called "gay marriage". Now they have no excuse: it has begun. It is quite evident that the purpose of this law is not to flatter a few hundred people who imagine themselves to be marriageable material, not even to take advantage of the majority that has been subjected to propaganda in a hundred forms till it cannot tell reality from an episode of Will And Grace; the purpose of this law is to break down the Christian Churches and reduce them to an arm of the state, or drive them underground. It goes without saying that the Catholic Church will not comply, and I cannot imagine independent bodies such as the Baptists doing so. On the other hand, the pressure on countries such as Sweden, Britain, Canada, France or Germany to adopt similar atrocities will become intense - in ways that are invisible to the public. And when the deal is done, look for the sudden apparition of indignant or pathetic stories about vicious priests and heartbroken homosexuals, not, mind you, in the traditional left-wing outlets, which have been squared long since, but in the likes of the Daily Mail and Fox News. For the so-called conservative media are just a part of the game.
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Has anyone noticed that, in spite of the massed ranks of propaganda for the sexual revolution and its results, vulgar language continues to use "F***" and "Screw" exclusively in a bad way? The unconscious mind that dominates vulgar language experiences "f***ing" and "screwing" exclusively as negative things, malicious exploitation without any advantage to its victims ("they screwed us") and utter ruin ("We're screwed") and damnation ("Screw them!"). Fifty years of propaganda haven't managed to convince the human unconscious that being sexually exploited is anything but an unmixed evil.

A thought

May. 16th, 2012 04:15 am
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Always tell the truth. If not out of principle, then at least out of precaution. The day might come when being believed on your word might make the difference between success and failure, or between life and death.
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Point one: Mr Eric Holder, the United States' chief law enforcement officer, has announced that his department will not defend lawsuits involving the Defence of Marriage Act, a federal law duly passed by Congress and signed by (a Democrat) President.
Point two: In Italian law there is a crime called omission of an official duty, which carries, I believe, a jail term.
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I am not an accomplished lawyer. I find quite as much material for a lecture in those points wherein I have failed, as in those wherein I have been moderately successful. The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day. Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done. When you bring a common-law suit, if you have the facts for doing so, write the declaration at once. If a law point be involved, examine the books, and note the authority you rely on upon the declaration itself, where you are sure to find it when wanted. The same of defenses and pleas. In business not likely to be litigated, — ordinary collection cases, foreclosures, partitions, and the like, — make all examinations of titles, and note them, and even draft orders and decrees in advance. This course has a triple advantage; it avoids omissions and neglect, saves your labor when once done, performs the labor out of court when you have leisure, rather than in court when you have not. Extemporaneous speaking should be practised and cultivated. It is the lawyer’s avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech. And yet there is not a more fatal error to young lawyers than relying too much on speech-making. If any one, upon his rare powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption from the drudgery of the law, his case is a failure in advance.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search of defects in titles, whereon to stir up strife, and put money in his pocket? A moral tone ought to be infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it.

The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere question of bread and butter involved. Properly attended to, fuller justice is done to both lawyer and client. An exorbitant fee should never be claimed. As a general rule never take your whole fee in advance, nor any more than a small retainer. When fully paid beforehand, you are more than a common mortal if you can feel the same interest in the case, as if something was still in prospect for you, as well as for your client. And when you lack interest in the case the job will very likely lack skill and diligence in the performance. Settle the amount of fee and take a note in advance. Then you will feel that you are working for something, and you are sure to do your work faithfully and well. Never sell a fee note — at least not before the consideration service is performed. It leads to negligence and dishonesty — negligence by losing interest in the case, and dishonesty in refusing to refund when you have allowed the consideration to fail.

There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest. I say vague, because when we consider to what extent confidence and honors are reposed in and conferred upon lawyers by the people, it appears improbable that their impression of dishonesty is very distinct and vivid. Yet the impression is common, almost universal. Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief — resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave.

Abraham Lincoln, 1850
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To me, the existence of great geniuses - great artists - who are also wholly despicable human beings is a real problem. Ernest Hemingway, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Berthold Brecht, Richard Wagner, Benvenuto Cellini - despicable, exploitative, self-satisfied creatures, each of them, born to bring ruin to those who were wrong-headed enough to trust them, born to use and abandon - people any one of us would cross the road to avoid. I am not speaking merely of doubtful or damaged people, or people who occasionally did something wrong, but people who were consistently, unacceptably wrong. Shelley's monstrous selfishness caused at least one suicide, and would probably have cost more lives had he not been lost at sea. Reading Hemingway's life leaves one somewhat queasy - what with the deliberate drunkenness, the constant nastiness even towards people who were supposed to be friends and allies, and the chain of wives, there is a sense of being blown along a wind of mingled contempt and inebriation, and in the end there is nothing surprising about the sentence he himself passed on his life with a shotgun. The odiousness of Berthold Brecht is by now so well known that one has to remind oneself that he is remembered not for being a monster, but for being a truly great poet and playwright. Benvenuto Cellini, the author of some of the finest statuary and gold and silver-smithing in the Renaissance, wrote a book of memoirs that might well be subtitled: "The self-invention of a vicious, mendacious, woman-beating braggart." Richard Wagner managed to find a woman who sublimated her own cruelty and power-thirst into a masochistic abasement before his genius, and left his first wife for her; which is why he did not leave quite such a path of ruined lives as Hemingway or Shelley. The only problem with this is that, as in the other cases I mentioned, his genius was real. Even those who hate Wagner will admit that we are not the poorer for the Prelude to the Master Singers, the Entrance of the Gods into Walhalla, or Wotan's farewell to Bruenhilde. And we would not be without Shelley's verses, Satanistic though they are; or without "Mother Courage and her Children"; or without "The Old Man and the Sea". Even Cellini's memoirs, whose attitude and truthfulness I described above, are nonetheless a classic of the Italian language; as for his proper work, even Florence, beautiful though she is, is improved by the presence of his Perseus.

This is a problem for me because in my view great art cannot exist without imaginative generosity, without a real understanding and liking for people. Where does one find these things in the lives of the men I mentioned?
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This unpleasant abortionist creep, who can't hold back from connecting opposition to abortion with Fascism, nonetheless agrees with me that it is specifically opposition to abortion that has fuelled the rise of the conservative movement. (History disproves her pathetic claim in that area: Fascism, and Nazism even more, were into free love, sexual licence, the abortion of inferior children, and euthanasia - all the dear, sweet, progressive programmes that re-surfaced in American universities - where Hitler had been widely popular in the thirties, after being briefly bombed into silence by American bombers in the forties.)

Marcotte misses the point that the Tea Party is a deliberate attempt to do what "fiscal conservatives" have been itching to do for years, which is get the anti-abortion majority to forget about such "divisive" causes as abortion and concentrate instead on such "uniting" matters as tax cuts for the rich. There are two forces in the general area of the GOP whose long-term aim is to defang the anti-abortion movement and co-opt its membership for their own political purposes: old-style party hucksters such as Karl Rove, who despise Christians and anti-abortionists pretty much as much as Democrats do, and the Murdoch empire, which is built on pornography and based on a debased view of human nature that could not survive a moralized society. The Rove Republicans have been trying for decades to ride the anti-abortion tiger without conceding anything substantial to it. The Murdoch group is smarter. Part of Rupert Murdoch's animal cunning, base but clever in its own way, is not to try and create movements himself. The British newspaper owners, his predecessors, tried that in the 1930 election and were destroyed, shamed and ridiculed by the professional politician Stanley Baldwin. Murdoch and his people keep an eye on popular movements and, when the time is right, co-opt them. Then they use their formidable financial and organizational power to direct, penetrate and corrupt them so that, whatever happens, the real interests of the Murdoch group are never harmed and always promoted.

These interests amount to two things: weakening corporate taxation and taxation on rich individuals - the whole Murdoch group is one enormous, matchlessly brilliant tax evasion operation designed in order to evade as much British, American and Australian taxation as possible - and insuring that their pornographic populism is never put under serious scrutiny. In doing so, they are quite willing to make some quite remarkable alliances. In Britain, for instance, Rebekah Wade, when editor of the original Murdoch porn sheet, The News of the World, took up with great enthusiams the cause of an anti-paedophile campaigner. This from the press group that has done more than everyone else put together to sexualize every corner of British life, which has made parents so used to smut on every page that they left it around for their children to read (literally - I saw that with my own two eyes, in umpteen British homes, in the eighties and nineties), and from which pre-teen girls learned to idolize softcore models such as Samantha Fox. But it makes sense in two important ways: first, Sara Payne, the movement's leader, is quite frankly an ignorant woman whom Rebekah Wade found easy to manipulate (Payne was shocked, poor creature, to find that she too had been on the phone-tap list of her dear friend Rebekah); and second and more important, it gives any possible sense of revulsion at the sexualization of society a focus and a limit. Child rapists, of course, are the lowest of the low; to focus and concentrate on them the disgust that in other ages was felt for pimps and whores of every sort offers a cheap salve to the violated conscience of natural man - and, even more, woman - in sexual matters. This, of course, is nothing but good news to the biggest pimp the world has ever seen, the inventor of the Page Three Girls, the exploiter of "reality" shows. It also, as a side effect, offers journalists in general a steady source of monster stories. In a sense, it is the ideal Murdoch compromise: the Murdoch media get to carry on untroubled with their appeal to the crotch, at the same time as they get to posture as moralizing campaigners. Really, if homicidal child rapists did not exist, Murdoch would have had to invent them.

The alliance with the Tea Party is a broader matter, but there are some points in common. The heart of it is to deviate, twist and corrupt an existing popular movement so that it works to the advantage of the Murdoch media. The popular groundswell against paedophilia had been going on for a couple of decades when Rebekah Wade took it up, as a natural and humanly inevitable reaction to the stated desire of Sexual Revolution theorists and publicists to sexualize children. (In Denmark, the age of consent was abolished in 1968 and only restored - as a result of some such groundswells of public opinion - in 1978; for ten years, child sex and child pornography were legal in one of the most prosperous and respected countries in the world.) Likewise, the movement against abortion, a despised fringe factor in the seventies, has been slowly picking up strength decade after decade until at present a majority of Americans declare themselves pro-life at every poll. Marcotte, the doctrinaire abortionist, calls it a "moral panic", but anyone without her blinders ought to realize that moral panics don't last three decades and don't pick up strength over that period. Certainly it could no longer be treated, either by the GOP or by Murdoch, as a noisy minority.

The Tea Party certainly started as a grassroots movement; but the Murdoch media pimped it from the beginning, and it is really remarkable to what an extent not only basic views, but talking points and intellectual fads they originated (such as the demonization of the little-know eighty-year-old academic Frances Fox Piven) spread like oil slicks across the whole movement right; and how even such an utterly compromised Murdochista apparatchick as Bill O'Reilly, whose sexual shenanigans should have put him beyond the pale long ago, remains a guiding light of sorts. Forty years ago, Murdoch's animal cunning identified an enormous gap in the market - the conservative/populist area; and the feeling that Fox-TV pundits are the ones who "speak our language" has since then increasingly blinded conservatives to the debasing, manipulative and mafia-like characteristics of Murdoch and his empire. Mere gratitude that someone noticed them has co-opted them into the Murdoch camp, with the inevitable corrupting results. Remember, this is a guy who managed to find enough "friends" in the Vatican to get himself awarded a Papal medal, at the same time as he published some of the most Jack T.Chick-like Church-bashing in the mainstream media.

And the Tea Party has been amazingly effective in drawing attention away from the scandal of abortion and to the obsession with tax. Some of its leaders have openly said that conservatives ought to stop pressing on "divisive" issues such as abortion. Never mind whether this is a representative view or not; the mere fact that it has been said and publicized means that abortion is no longer the central issue - that it is in play, one of many things on which conservatives may agree or disagree. And this is only the beginning. In actual fact, however "divisive" anti-abortion views may be, no opponent of abortion has ever done has been so recklessly divisive and socially and politically irresponsible as the Tea Party's successful attempt to blackmail the Senate and the Administration into not raising taxes at a time when that is desperately necessary and any sane "conservative", including Margaret Thatcher, would have. I have a suspicion that one reason why we haven't heard a lot from Sarah Palin in the last few weeks is that she is quite happy to let Michelle Bachmann and the other idiots run after this hare and compromise themselves in the long term. Any serious presidential candidate cannot indulge in this of idiotic rhetoric, on pains of being found out one day after taking the oath of office. You can bet your life that the next Republican President will raise tax (remember Ronald Reagan and "read my lips"?) with the subdued approval (subdued because nobody will want to draw attention to their duplicity) of the Republican Party and of selected Tea Party leaders; and those tea-partiers who stick to the anti-tax hysteria out of misguided principle will suddenly find themselves isolated and reduced to fringe specimens. Thus do party politics, especially in the age of Rupert Murdoch, work against integrity, whether right or wrong.

The true believers have been told that the purpose of the borrowing limit blackmail was to hurt the hated Obama presidency. As a matter of fact, it has hurt the Tea Party, by isolating it from a considerable area of Republican moderates and from any Democrat. But the hysteria about tax is necessary for long-term reasons that have nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with the corrupting use of party politics. As while abortion is something that generates its own disgust and its own opposition, to try and move at least a large mass of conservatives away from thinking against abortion, the propagandists had to offer them something equally emotionally involving and more short-term. The budget battle, which was a disaster for the USA, served to blood the Tea Party in an actual political battle, which will from now on dominate their imagination. And as the anti-tax hysteria rages, abortion moves further and further from the centre. And if the stock markets of the world crash and America loses power to China, what does Murdoch care? His corporations, insulated from stock marked concerns by a very peculiar property structures, are not apt to suffer; and he has spent decades flattering and supporting the coming Chinese superpower in the hope of being allowed a place at the table. As I keep saying, Murdoch is cunning. It's his only quality. And Mademoiselle Marcotte ought to thank him on her knees: he has managed to set the anti-abortion cause back at least twenty years. Had there been a Murdoch around in nineteenth-century America, there would still be slaves today.
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The ending of World War Two engulfed all countries, victor and neutral, into a tide of horror. Even the Soviet Union, whose government had little to learn from Nazism at its worst, found it easy to show, indeed to feel, horror at what its troops discovered in the early months of 1945 in dozens of camps from Majdanek to Theresienstadt to Auschwitz. Many people evidently found it impossible to take in the enormity of German crimes; Giovanni Guareschi, for instance, in spite of having been himself dragged to Germany as a slave worker, simply does not seem to realize that the whole of the German state and army had been criminalized, and repeatedly treats individual German soldiers as honourable enemies. Such attitudes were not rare in the British and American armies as well - especially among officers; ordinary grunts who had fought the SS and knew that they tortured and murdered prisoners and made their comrades hear their screams in the night might have had a different view, but who listens to the grunt before the distinguished general?

But even to those who did not consciously or unconsciously shut down their minds against the real monstrousness of German behaviour, the facts were too close and too many to make a distinction. The Germans had murdered priests, gypsies, trades unionists, sick and old people. Their rationing policy in occupied France, according to expert testimony at the Trial of Nuremberg, seemed designed to cause mass malnutrition. There was, in fact, mass starvation in the Netherlands in the last months of the war. The amounts of food and animals stolen are unimaginable: millions of cattle, pics, fowl, made their way to Germany especially in the last few years of the war. In Germany itself, the Government had murdered thousands of people; American and French soldiers advancing through the woods of Swavia found them draped by hundreds of corpses, soldiers found by the SS and hanged without trial for supposed desertion.

Ito took a long time before the relative proportions of the various Nazi crimes became clear in men's minds. And when it did, one rather disquieting fact became clear. The worst and most determining of Nazi crimes, the one that dominated all the others and infected the whole of Germany with guilt, was one which none of the Allies had done anything to mitigate. The post-war powers, both western and Soviet, drew their legitimacy from the heroic saga of their resistence and overcoming of Nazi evil; Stalingrad and Normandy were sacred, resolving names, names that implied motivation, values and pride. But while everyone knew that the Soviets had, to put it mildly, no time for Hebraism, the record of the British Empire and the United States was if anything more despicable. The British had purchased a few hundred Jewish children from doomed Jewish families in Bohemia and Moravia. This is today presented as a humanitarian act, but to take the children while leaving the adults to their already foreseen fate strikes me as not much better than slave trade. Other than that, the record of the British Empire with respect to German Jews and Jews in general was black, and grew only blacker after the end of the war, when the very weapons that had brought down Nazism were turned against refugees fleeing to Israel and against Israel itself. As for America, the less said, the better. While universities cherry-picked illustrious and useful exiles (while remaining the one part of American society where Hitler was popular and admired), the country in general shut down against any effort to open its borders to fleeing Jews. During the war, Roosevelt and his administration repeatedly refused any proposal that might have helped the Jews, and they did so in the full knowledge that the Jews were being butchered. They also kept the knowledge of butchery from their people, on the reasoning that "we don't want them to think that we are fighting a war for the Jews". And they were right; they weren't.

There were exactly two sovereign bodies that seriously took action to help Jews. The unloveable Francisco Franco, Catholic tyrant of Spain, had inherited from his republican enemies a law dated 1926 that allowed any Jew of Spanish descent, however remote (this was meant to redress the injustice of the expulsion of the Sephardi Jews from Spain in the 1500s), could claim Spanish citizenship and reside in Spain. Under pressure from Nazi Germany, Franco gave them a list of Jews resident in Spain; a gesture that was worth nothing unless and until the Germans themselves invaded Spain. For Franco had no intention to persecute the Jews. To the contrary, his diplomatic representatives across Europe saved over 20,000 Sephardim by giving them Spanish documents according to the 1926 law, and placing them under Spanish protection. This policy also allowed the great Italian hero Giorgio Perlasca, under the guise of a Spanish diplomat, to save between three and five thousand Jews in Budapest more or less on his own.

Spanish decency, however, stopped at Sephardi Jews, a small minority of the Jews under threat; and it was simply dwarfed by the deeds of the Catholic Church, unless indeed it was to be counted as part of it - for Franco was a devout Catholic. The Catholic Church, driven by none too secret orders from the Pope himself, hid and smuggled abroad hundreds of thousands of Jews. Jews were hidden in monasteries, in church schools, in cathedral closes, among friendly families, in every possible place that resourceful priests and religious could find. Underground networks for the printing and distribution of faked documents were set up. The small puppet state of Slovakia, headed by a priest, did not arrest or execute a single Jew after 1942, when the Vatican made a strong protest (although it does seem to have taken the opportunity to accept or compel a huge bribe from surviving local Jews). An American Jewish historian estimates the number of Jews saved directly by Church intervention at 850,000. And the Church paid for it, too: Hitler knew who to thank for resistence against his exterminating policies, and 6000 priests and many more layment were murdered in the camps by way of thanks.

The larger the butchery of Jews loomed among the other enormous crimes of Germany, of course, the more serious the cognitive dissonance in the West. Roosevelt's direction came back to haunt them: they had not, indeed, fought the war to save the Jews. The war to save the Jews had not been fought except by the Church and by a couple of unpleasant but Catholic tyrants.

Nothing, therefore, explains itself more easily than the savage and historically wholly groundless assault on Pope Pius XII as "Hitler's Pope". The people who handed themselves over to this mania were and remain utterly blind and deaf to facts; or they would have shut up long since. They are under the psychological compulsion of a crawling, subtle, horrible guilt. They will not say it, or even admit it; but they know that the entities to which they are loyal, eastern or western, and which draw a great deal of moral legitimacy from the destruction of Nazi evil (and quite right too, for Nazism was evil if anything was) have in fact failed, failed systematically, failed horribly, in the most defining of the many moral challenges that Nazism threw at mankind. They could not contemplate the camps and the ovens without a small voice somewhere telling them that their own leaders had betrayed that mass of murdered mankind. The connection between this and the vicious, unreasoning, deliberately cruel assault on a dead Pope should be obvious.

Are there other phenomena like this? Aren't there just! The other vicious assault on the Church in our time has been in the name of abused and sexually assaulted childhood. And let me say immediately that abuse is a horrible crime and that the priests who broke their vows in this peculiarly ugly and treacherous way deserve anything that happens to them. But the history of the sexualization of children in our time has not yet been written, indeed it is not yet completed, and when it is written it will tell a very similar story as that of "Hitler's Pope". For the horrible abuser priests who seem to have sprung up across the Church bore on their forehead, like the mark of Cain, the imprint of secular culture in their time. What was the hallmark of the fifties, even before the sixties, across the West? Sexual liberation! Sexual liberation, of course; so imprinted in our memories as children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of that age that most of us don't even imagine taking a critical position towards it.

However, there is one way in which commonplace attitudes have retreated since the sixties. In the sixties, the calls for the complete normalization of sex with and among children multiplied till some countries legalized it or ceased to take any cognizance of violation of the laws on consent and rape. In 1969, the people involved in such things would frankly say that they saw no difference between the legalization of homosexuality and of paedophilia. For a while, groupls like NAMBLA were welcome partners in civil-rights environments.

However, in this area, and in this alone, there was an effective reaction. Throughout the seventies, grassroots movements of mothers rebelled against the normalization or toleration of paedophilia. It was from them, and in opposition to the sexual-revolution establishment, that the current hatred of paedophiles arose. Now we have a kind of broken-backed consensus that to have sex with someone under 14 is evil and forbidden and the worst thing in the word in all circumstances whatsoever, but to prevent two consenting persons above 16 from having any kind of sex they wish is is evil and forbidden and the worst thing in the world in all circumstances whatsoever. That is the conscious state of our society, in which the paedophile is absolutely the lowest of all beings.

However, this does not correspond to facts on the ground. I don't think there is a single thinking person who doesn't realize that the sexualization of children proceeds apace. Fashion, advertising, music, address and represent pre-teens in obviously allusive contexts. The revolt against paedophilia was a grassroots revolt, and the commercial heights of our society have every intention of circumventing and drowning it.

In this situation, what does it mean to single out the Catholic Church for a sin which it has taken in from the world - all the abusing priests were worldlings involved in "modern" movements in various ways, as indeed were those among the bishops who protected them - and in which the world greatly surpasses it? (It has been proven again and again that there are more child abuser among state schoolmasters than among priests, but it does not pay so much to prosecute the former. And the Church has not invented or decreed the success of Britney Spears and other paedophile-themed singers and actresses.)

What these facts suggest to me is simple: the Church is the conscience of the West. And when parts of the West feel filth on their consciences, they project it on the Church, imagining the objective body of the Church to be as filthy as their own inner consciences. It's an easy mistake to make.

NOTE: I corrected a mistaken account of the Slovak puppet tyrant Monsignor Tiso's activities. It was only after a direct protest from the Vatican that Tiso and his people stopped cooperating with Nazi persecutors. That, of course, only underlines more strongly the centrality of the Pope's position. From 1942 to 1944, Slovakia not only stopped deporting Jews, but became a refuge for Jews fleeing from neighbouring countries.
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There is no such thing as a man (homo sapiens) without religion, unless of course we count the victims of dementia. All human beings have an overall understanding, however tentative, of reality as a whole; a framework, instinctive or reasoned, that allows them to understand how things connect to each other, how they form a whole, what their meaning and goal and usefulness are.

That is what religion is. Every other definition is clearly fallacious. If we envisage it, for instance, as the search for what is morally or aesthetically highest, then a number of proven religions simply don’t make it. The ancient Aztecs sacrificed human beings in their thousands and in circumstances of the most horrible depravity; as for aesthetic excellence, it would be a curious taste that found it in their gods with their skeletal faces and corpse-like bodies. (There is indeed beauty of a sort in ancient Mexican art, but it is in my view to be found in the whole, in the design of the pyramids, the discs, the slabs of stone, rather than in the individual that populate them. You might say that it is a synthesis that builds up an overall beauty from details of horror.)

Was that not a religion, then? Heck yes! The Aztecs were convinced that the universe had the shape they envisaged, and, being the kind of place it was, it demanded that many human beings should be sacrificed to it. In doing so, the Aztecs fulfilled the duties that their vision of the world involved. Other religions have postulated, for instance, that there is a fundamental ontological difference between believers and unbelievers, such as that the unbelievers are so far out of the proper human level that their proper position is as slaves and prey to the believers; or that different classes of human beings amount to different kinds of being, so distant from each other that to think of sexual congress between them is disgusting, as we would think of sexual congress with a dog. (That is not so hard to understand if we turn from caste to race. The complex of taboos and horrified fascination that drove the destructive relationship between whites and blacks in the old south had its centre in sexual ideas, so that the idea of a black man possessing a white woman was both compulsive and terrible. That is how believers in caste regard sexual congress between a higher and a lower caste.)

It follows that religion does not have a dependent relationship on morality; it does not search for or obey a morality already made. This, if they were able to formulate enough, would be the most widespread stupid idea about religion of our day. People would say - and say with a straight face - that the practices of this or that religion which strike them as immoral cannot be to do with “what religion really is”, or even with “what that religion really is”. The general idea is that real religion must inevitably be moral; which is mistaking the stream with its source. Religion defines morality, not the other way around. The people who declare war on the world in the name of their God; the people who butcher men on high altars and raise their still-beating bloody hearts to heaven; the people who will eagerly commit murder rather than allow sexual congress between different castes or races; all these people are doing the right thing according to their own religion. They are following the dictates that teach that, because the universe is a certain kind of thing, because mankind and the internal divisions of mankind are a certain kind of thing, because the world contains certain relationships, therefore those acts are objectively good and dutiful. The Aztec priests were certain that, if their service to the gods with its thousands of butchered dead were to cease, the universe would collapse. The end of their drive came not just because the Spanish put an end to the sacrifices and the universe did not in fact collapse - that could have been remedied in any of a hundred ways (including to claim that the arrival of the Spanish had itself been the expected collapse, that had destroyed the world as they knew it). What put an end to it was a different view of reality and of God, the view taken in Cortez’s hulls by his Franciscan preachers and their books.

Religion makes morality. I will deal later (if any of my readers remind me) with the relationship of this with CS Lewis’ famous argument for an underlying universal moral sense or “tao”. For the present I will only say this: that religion as an understanding of reality - a philosophy of reality, as I call it - is, like any other aspects of philosophy, an understanding of reality. Reality is what it claims to understand, but reality comes first. And so, if religion delivers a structured understanding of morality, we have to understand that a moral impulse is a part of reality, a part, that is, of human nature. Religious doctrine, however, varies to such an extent that what one religion declares true - in the field of morality, mind you - another declares false.

Compare, for instance, two capital religious texts, Galatians 3.28 (St.Paul says the same thing in the same terms in two other letters, but I shall use this one) and the Purusa Sukta, RigVeda Hymn no.10.90 - but, like the Pauline verse, repeated in all the other Vedic collections. The interesting thing about these two passages is that they present almost the same religious image: a supernatural unity in the form of a man, in which exist at once, either all of creation, or the whole Church. The Purusha of the Vedic hymn is nothing else than The Man, cosmic unity in the image of a man, who is divided so that all of creation might have individual existence. All concrete things are found in him. In St.Paul, however, it is the Church that is at one and the same time The Man - the body of the Son of Man: “Now ye are the Body of Christ” - 1Corinthians 12.27. And this is cosmic body of the Son of Man is a very articulated thing indeed - nearly as varied as the body of the Vedic Man:

St.Paul:
13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14For the body is not one member, but many.
15If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
25That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
28And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

RV 10.90:
6 When Gods prepared the sacrifice with Puruṣa as their offering,
Its oil was spring, the holy gift was autumn; summer was the wood.
7 They balmed as victim on the grass Puruṣa born in earliest time.
With him the Deities and all Sādhyas and Ṛṣis sacrificed.
8 From that great general sacrifice the dripping fat was gathered up.
He formed the creatures of-the air, and animals both wild and tame.
9 From that great general sacrifice Ṛcas and Sāma-hymns were born:
Therefrom were spells and charms produced; the Yajus had its birth from it.
10 From it were horses born, from it all cattle with two rows of teeth:
From it were generated kine, from it the goats and sheep were born.
11 When they divided Puruṣa how many portions did they make?
What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet?
12 The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rājanya made.
His thighs became the Vaiśya, from his feet the Śūdra was produced.
13 The Moon was gendered from his mind, and from his eye the Sun had birth;
Indra and Agni from his mouth were born, and Vāyu from his breath.
14 Forth from his navel came mid-air the sky was fashioned from his head
Earth from his feet, and from his car the regions. Thus they formed the worlds.

There are differences. St.Paul is in deadly earnest because he is addressing people who must be set straight here and now; the author of RV10.90 is calmly setting out an idea of the universe for people whose allegiance is not in doubt and whose individual salvation is not immediately his concern. But there are also subtler similarities: the Purusa must be offered as a sacrifice so that the worlds might exist; Jesus Christ, whose body is the Church, is also God as creator (“through Him all things were made”) and at one and the same time the ultimate victim in the ultimate sacrifice. Clearly these two complexes of ideas have much in common.

When it comes to societal morality, however, they contradict each other flatly. St.Paul stated clearly that, whatever the difference in offices and gifts, all members of the Church are fundamentally equal: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” And if there should be any doubt, "God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked, That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another." Specifically, it is the union of the Church with the sacrificed body of Jesus in the Eucharist that makes every Christian equal in dignity with every other. Conversely, the cosmic sacrifice of the Purusa creates, among all other separate and autonomous orders of things, the four Varnas or basic castes (the word “caste” in ordinary usage denotes a “jati”, which is a sub-group of the Varnas): “11 When they divided Puruṣa how many portions did they make?/ What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet?/ 12 The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rājanya made./ His thighs became the Vaiśya, from his feet the Śūdra was produced.” The Man, therefore, may be one, but men are many, and their differences are ontological, as much as those between Sun and Moon, thunderstorm and fire and wind, the air, the sky and the earth. (“13 The Moon was gendered from his mind, and from his eye the Sun had birth;/ Indra (the god of storms) and Agni (the god of fire) from his mouth were born, and Vāyu (the god of wind) from his breath./ 14 Forth from his navel came mid-air the sky was fashioned from his head/ Earth from his feet, and from his car the regions. Thus they formed the worlds.”) For a world to exist, such things as sky and sea, moon and sun, wind and fire, must have their own existence and be separate from each other; and for the same reason - the two groups of two stanzas balance each other and positively demand to be read as doublets of each other - holy men (brahmanas) and warriors (rajanya) and the mass of free men (vaisya) and the mass of serfs (sudra) must exist and be separate.

Since religion is the interpretation of reality, the philosophy of reality, it is at least terrifyingly difficult, and on the whole better left alone, to try and take a position outside religion and try to assess the religions in terms of a universal morality that can be found outside and above them. While the impulse to morality, like for that matter the fact of war, can be found in every society in the world, the way that it is conceptualized and formulated varies from religion to religion. Just as it is a matter of high morality for Christians to treat all men as equals, so it was a matter of high morality for the authors of the Mahabharata that the four Varnas should each recognize and perform their caste duties. That was one of the first thing that visiting ascetics asked noble kings, in particular the most just king Yudhisthira, when they honour their courts with a visit.

Ultimately such differences can be embraced by debate, though not necessarily undone - that would amount to conversion. But it is very important to accept that each person has his or her own religion, in the sense of his or her own view of existence; and that religion by its nature generates a picture of morality, gives the moral impulse a frame and a shape. There is therefore no more dangerous delusion than to pretend to judge and condemn someone else’s religion from the point of view of morality; and that is because the morality you invoke inevitably turns out to be that of your own religion. You therefore end up condemning the other guy’s religion on the grounds that it is not yours, and very likely he, not being necessarily any wiser than you, condemns yours because it is not his.

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