It’s Canada Day, which means that a week after demonstrating our pride in same-sex “marriage”, fisting, and surgical castration in the service of self-identified gender, we can now be proud of just being Canadian. Or can we? For the past fifty years or so, Canadian patriotism has been indistinguishable from a rankly condescending posture of superiority to AmeriKKKa. When animadverting on Americans as flag-waving jingoists, Canadians become positively jingoistic. I recently heard a national celebrity boasting about how “modest” we Canadians are, apparently unaware that this rather shopworn hymn of praise is self-refuting: i.e., lauding oneself for modesty is immodest.
The following is a slightly revised version of a lecture I have given on book I of Cicero’s Laws, for a course at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies entitled “Cicero: On the Examined Life”. The perennial currency of Cicero’s ideas on Justice and Natural Law should be obvious to the readers of these pages…
The Laws, as I have said, was written by Cicero as a sequel to his Republic, in self-conscious imitation, that is, of Plato, whose own Laws Cicero believed to have the same relation to the master’s earlier work. The dialogue has as its interlocutors Cicero’s friend, advisor, and publisher Atticus, his brother Quintus, and Cicero himself, who is the main speaker.
The setting is Cicero’s estate at Arpinum, in a grove that contains the so-called “Marian oak”, which is the subject of the dialogue’s dramatic prelude. Atticus notices the oak and asks if it is the same one that Cicero had made famous in a now lost poem entitled Marius (a famous Roman general, statesman, and rival of the dictator Sulla). The point is then made by Quintus that no real tree can live as long as one planted, so to say, by a poet in the imagination of his readers. The whole discussion may seem at first to be a merely literary diversion, but of course, it is entirely germane to Cicero’s philosophical purpose and world-view.
Later, Cicero is encouraged by his interlocutors to write a history of Rome, a suggestion which he resists, and this reminds us of the broader question of the relation between the truths of history and poetry (or myth).
Like a multitude of others, apparently, I was taken aback by the intensity of my reaction to the news of the fire at Notre Dame in Paris. Until it was ascertained that the great rose windows in the transepts and west front had been spared, Mrs. P and I were on what was rather like a death vigil for an old friend. The 13th century rose windows enclosed practically the only painted glass that the anti-religious fanatics of the French Revolution—the secular forerunners of the Taliban—were unable to reach. (Much of the rest of the current structure, including hundreds of stone sculptures and dozens of windows, is the product of a 19th century “restoration” by the erudite, but sometimes hyperactive, architect Viollet le Duc.) The besetting fear was that the lead came securing thousands of pieces of painted glass might melt, even from the radiant heat of distant flames, and the glass would return to its sandy elements on the nave floor a hundred feet below.
As has been widely reported, on February 19 the Greater Essex County District School Board voted to require all of its elementary schools to the fly the rainbow flag throughout gay Pride Week. No doubt the little blighters from kindergarten to grade 6 will be expected to salute the flag from the steps each time they enter and leave the school building, and from the playground whenever they take a break from bullying their gay and transgendered classmates at recess. Let’s hope that some brave young ideological non-conformist takes a knee, and see if the liberal media fetes him in the way they heroized Colin Kaepernick.
What follows is the text of the introductory lecture for a course I have taught at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, entitled “The Good Life: The Search for Happiness”…
I hope that it is not merely more self-congratulation when I say that the subject of our course is, or perhaps I should say, ought to be, one of paramount importance. The search for happiness has been the principal occupation and telos of human life since the very dawn of civilization. From the moment that humans left the cocoon of animal unconsciousness, they have been aware that what distinguishes them from the beasts is the aspiration not merely to live, but to live well—to live the good and reasoned life.
It might seem odd at first that the phrases “the good life” and “happiness” are juxtaposed in our course title, as they are so often juxtaposed in the texts we are about to read. But the “good life” is, of course, an ancient philosophical expression, and in both philosophy and theology the quest for happiness has always been inextricably bound up with the quest for virtue. Continue reading “Happiness Among the Ruins”
Never missing an opportunity to demonstrate their compassion for the wretched of the earth, the Democrats have moved briskly on from “the-border-is-a-manufactured-crisis” mantra to the usual government-shutdown threnodies about laid-off workers pining to return to the Jerusalem on the Potomac, while languishing in exile by the waters of Babylon.
Alas, furloughed federal bureaucrats are living pay check to pay check, and can’t meet their next mortgage payment. Really? Were that the case, it would be hard to sympathize with them, since they earn $80,000 a year on average, and if they can’t make ends meet on that, they need to stop taking lessons in deficit spending from their government employer.
Dear President Trump,
Please consider the following ten suggestions for selling your wall to the Democrats (more available upon request): Continue reading “Walls Are For Hugging”
In no other department of progressive politics has language become more corrupted by Orwellian inversions of meaning than abortion. Almost fifty years after Roe, the propagandists of abortion continue to refer to it as a matter of “reproductive health”, as if pregnancy were a disease, and an intervention whose very raison d’etre is to render the natural reproductive process irrevocably morbid can be described as “healthy”. Abortion is related to reproductive health more or less as decapitation is related to mental health.
While watching Fox News recently, I switched (during a commercial break) to CNN—I had been over-indulging in Christian cheer—to hear a female commentator inveighing against an “alien invasion” and “illegal occupation” of her “sovereign territory”. What? A Trump supporter on the Clinton News Network? Pondering this miracle in the spirit of Christmas, I thought that, just perhaps, I should give CNN another chance.
But the commentator wasn’t talking about Mexican and South American criminal youth gangs violating America’s southern border, as I soon discovered; she was characterizing the existential status of a baby in its mother’s womb. No compassionate appeal for inter-uterine sanctuary cities here. And no “racism” or “xenophobia” either, of course.
It appears that the space on the Me-Too mantle reserved for the scalp of a Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice will remain vacant for the moment, at least until impeachment proceedings can begin. It was a close call. Going in, Judge Kavanaugh already had three strikes against him: he’s white, he’s male, and he’s (purportedly) conservative (his opinion on the Planned Parenthood case suggests that he might already have “grown” in office; but let’s see.) The fact that fully-accredited boy-feminists such as Bill Clinton and Justin Trudeau still have their hair tells us that of the three disqualifying sins in the theology of the Church of Progress, the last is the most grievous.
Which is not to say that most progressives weren’t willing to convict Kavanaugh on any single one of them. As Hawaii’s Democrat senator Mazi Hirono harangued America’s deplorables, the “men of this country” should “just shut up and step up”. Now, a Carthusian vow of silence by every man and male-child in America might be a pleasant prospect, if it meant that we didn’t have to listen to Chuck Schumer waxing eschatological every time a new Trump initiative comes before the Senate. But I doubt that Chuck would feel bound by it, since for Chuck “stepping up” always involves microphones, cameras, and a podium.
Following my talk (see A Love Sonnet to Post-Sixties Modernism, recently posted at http://188.8.131.52/2018/12/12/love-sonnet-post-sixties-modernism/#more-1328), several members of G’s discussion group asked me what I thought was the fons et origo of today’s progressive despotism. Of course, there are any number of explanations for the strange pathology in whose grip the West now finds itself, going back at least as far as Cromwell’s, Rousseau’s, and Robespierre’s revolutionary dreams of creating paradise on earth. What follows is an equally inadequate, though somewhat more recent, answer.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, even the career fellow travelers at the New York Times, CNN, CBC, and the Toronto Star (a.k.a Pravda West) were high-fiving one another. After decades of promoting détente, promulgating risible doctrines of moral equivalence, and excoriating Ronald Reagan as a war-mongering simpleton, suddenly–as they wanted us to believe–, they had become anti-communists all. Inevitably, following the Western intelligentsia’s death-bed conversion, nothing really changed. Worse, the romance of revolutionary utopian socialism has only become more intoxicating, with its reductive narrative of victimhood (racism, sexism, homophobia), patriarchal oppression, male rape culture, white privilege, Eurocentrism, colonialist “hegemony”, and class-hatred/envy of the “rich”.