With the death in February of Tom Bethell (1936 – 2021), the refuseniks of what Orwell called the “smelly little orthodoxies contending for our souls” have lost an eloquent and redoubtable champion. Over the course of Bethell’s five decades as a writer (of seven books and hundreds of essays), the malodorous certitudes of political correctness have been piling up to Augean proportions. Bethell waded into them one by one—from cultural relativism to Einsteinian relativity—hosed them down, and dressed them in motley for our sport.
In the past thirty-five-odd years, Bart D. Ehrman has probably written more books on early Christian doctrine than the collective theology faculty of the Sorbonne. The flyleaf of his latest, Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife, lists thirty titles, several of which, as a fawning review in Time Magazine points out, made it to the New York Times bestseller list. Assuming that being a New York Times bestseller must be evidence of Ehrman’s scholarly attainment — though I doubt that Jean Daniélou, Henri de Lubac, or Étienne Gilson ever achieved that distinction — the reviewer deigns nowhere to speculate as to how such a literary miracle might have transpired. I admit that I harbor elitist misgivings. Were popular success an index of scholarly mastery in the discipline of the history of religious ideas, Andrew Lloyd Webber would be recognized as a world authority on Christology.
Gender identity is constructed from societal perceptions of what it means to be a boy or a girl, and these stereotypes manifest themselves in the daily behaviour of children. To best serve boys, educators must understand their common behaviour as a reflection of the backdrop of societal perceptions of masculinity. It also works to combat these stereotypes so that boys can be the full expression of themselves…[B]oys are able to explore, in safety, the breadth of the human condition….In this school, culture, artistry and creativity are not labeled as “feminine”….These goals become more realizable in a culture that presupposes that one can be much more than what can be offered by the limiting stereotypes of masculinity.
— “A School for Boys”, St. Andrews College Viewbook
Did you know that the Trump campaign’s charges of election fraud are “unsubstantiated”; that there is simply “no evidence” to back them up? You surely ought to know by now, since that’s been the liturgical formula, repeated by the mainstream media (including Fox News, whose primetime anchors now resemble the proverbial rats abandoning the sinking ship) at least a thousand times a day. By the way, there is “no evidence” of Hunter Biden’s emails either (another Russian disinformation campaign); “no evidence” of the Biden crime family’s influence-peddling enrichment scheme; hell, there’s no evidence that Hunter Biden even exists.
In the wake of the George Floyd affair—as in the wake of the Tawana Brawley, Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray affairs—everyone agrees that it is time to have a “national conversation” about race. But Americans have been talking about race almost incessantly since the sixties, longer and more obsessively, it seems, than about any other single subject with the possible exception of sex. The national conversation about America’s other “original sin”—its puritanical repression of sexual desire—(which also began in the sixties) has led to epidemic divorce, almost a million abortions per year, unremarkable teen pregnancy and promiscuity, out-of-wedlock births that nearly equal the number of children born to families with fathers, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, Kevin Spacey, and Bill Clinton, along with the polymorphous perversity of fisting, gay “marriage,” transgenderism, non-binary self-identified gender, and “queer studies” becoming the dominant discipline in the liberal arts faculties of our most revered institutions of higher learning—all, or some of which, ought to persuade one that national conversations are not always ameliorative.
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
There’s a land that’s fair and bright,
Where the handouts grow on bushes,
And you sleep out every night…
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
All the cops have wooden legs,
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth,
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs…
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
The jails are made of tin,
And you can walk right out again,
As soon as you are in…
Across Canada and the U.S., the disappointingly small groups of peaceful protesters who have supplicated the authorities to be allowed to return to work have been mocked by their political nannies as reckless and selfish yahoos endangering the lives of the rest of us. Even immediate family members—some of whom have been known to sleep in the same bed–have been officially shamed and fined for violating the protocols of social distancing while walking in the park or kneeling in the pews.
But that was–as our woke millennials are wont to put it–so yesterday. Today these corona-villains might consider joining the rioters the next time they feel the need for a little physical or spiritual recreation.
The worst is not, so long as we can say, “This is the worst.”
—King Lear, IV, ii
A wasp settled on a snake’s head and tormented it by continually stinging it. The snake, maddened with the pain and not knowing how else to be relieved of his tormentor, put its head under the wheel of a wagon, so that they both perished together.
[LOYAL READER: I realize that, as a rhetorical device, asking a multitude of questions can pose an annoying obstacle to pleasant reading. But the point of the following is (another question): Why are so few people asking them?]
- Name That Dictator
Scene: A TV game-show studio, some place, some time in the latter half of the 21st century…
Listen carefully, contestants. This is the final question for the Grand Prize of a two-week, all-expense-paid vacation this spring in Milan, Italy, when the city celebrates its grand re-opening to tourism. Ready?
Name the cruel, power-crazed despot who sentenced his entire population to house arrest; forced his citizens, including the frail and the elderly, to line up for hours in freezing temperatures to buy food; made it illegal for the owners of private businesses to operate without special permission, or their employees to go to work, upon pain of imprisonment, plunging the world into an economic depression and universal poverty from which it wouldn’t recover for generations; ordered his police to disperse protestors, arrest people for worshiping in synagogues and churches, and fine visitors to public parks; and encouraged citizens to denounce their non-compliant neighbours to the authorities, all the while broadcasting soothing public service announcements from overhead drones to the effect that the Government has the safety and well-being of its subjects in the uppermost chamber of its divinely charitable and loving Heart: Continue reading “Psychic Pandemic III: Dissident Questions from a Giant Prison”
It’s official. Medical authorities, global bureaucracies, and national governments around the world (including the otherwise sensible Trump administration) have “declared war” on the coronavirus. If you’re still wondering whether you should enlist, lend an ear to the March 13 summons of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres:
COVID-19 is our common enemy. We must declare war on this virus. That means countries have a responsibility to gear up, step up, and scale up…The United Nations – including the World Health Organization — is fully mobilized.
Would this be the WHO whose first African (and, not coincidentally, medically un-credentialed) Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, was a member of the TPLF, a revolutionary militia listed by the U.S. in the 1990s as a terrorist organization?; who as a high official in the Ethiopian communist government presided over the brutal repression and massacre of his own people?; who, having covered up a cholera epidemic in Ethiopia during his tenure as health minister, was then muscularly promoted by the Chinese as their candidate for the leadership of the WHO?; and who, once elevated to that position, promptly installed as the WHO’s Goodwill Ambassador (move over, Gandhi) Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s Prince of Peace?
Would this be the WHO that on January 14 repeated China’s claim that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the Wuhan virus, lavished servile praise on the CCP’s handling of and early success in containing the contagion, and in three separate statements, from January to early March, advised against (xenophobic) restrictions on travel from China?
There may be a silver lining to the coronavirus. Parliament has now been officially quarantined. Mass shootings are being put on hold (there are no masses, sacred or secular). South of the border, Chuck Schumer, reflexively enraged at whatever Trump does, says, or thinks, may be moved to remind himself that the virus can be passed to others in airborne droplets, and thus stop foaming at the mouth for a while. And more Americans may, belatedly, come to recognize the prudence of Trump’s admonitions about our addiction to cheap Chinese labour, and the vulnerability of the U.S. “supply chain” to the malevolent whims of another communist dictatorship.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that we are experiencing a full-blown psychic pandemic, in addition to the viral one. Does anyone remember a run on the grocery stores during the HIV, SARS, MERS, or H1N1 epidemics? As one wag on the radio observed, if you need to lay in that many rolls of Charmin, you ought to have scheduled a visit to your doctor long ago.
The following is an abridged version of my lecture on Homer for a survey course on the literature and philosophy of the ancient Greeks, which I have taught for many years at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. (It gets harder and harder to do so, of course, as feminist orthodoxy becomes more and more entrenched.)
Before we leave the Odyssey, some general observations are in order on the nature of the heroic ethos that its protagonist embodies—an ethos that was incarnated by any number of Greek and Roman mythic heroes, including Theseus, Hercules, and most important of all, the Roman Virgil’s Trojan hero Aeneas, who is made to follow in Odysseus’ footsteps, or rather wake, both literally and figuratively. All of these mythic heroes were interpreted in the allegorical commentaries written on Homer, Virgil, and Ovid throughout classical antiquity and down through the Christian centuries, as types, indeed, almost as personified abstractions, of virtue and wisdom, which invariably, in pre-modern literature and philosophy, meant reason in control of the carnal appetites and passions.