|The Goliard Blog
Your destination for deep thoughts and alleged insights
26 April 2002
See you on Monday. I would like to thank all of you who have stopped by to read week two of The Goliard Blog. If there's anything you missed, either this week or last week, it can all be found in the Archives (links are to the left).
Articles that I intend to write next week include:
FAITH: An Inquisition for the 21st century
If that first one doesn't get you back here on Monday, I don't know what will.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Traditionalist scandal watch. First the Society of St. John found itself the target of some apparently well-founded jeremiads that also cast doubts on Tridentine-friendly Bishop Timlin of Scranton. Now it appears to be the turn of the late Fr. Malachi Martin, a darling of many traditionalists who wrote the sensational novel Windswept House (which Martin claimed portrayed many actual persons and events).
A new book out this month by Robert Blair Kaiser, Clerical Error, portrays Martin as a diabolical manipulator and alarmingly skilled womanizer, who seduced Kaiser's wife in Rome during the Second Vatican Council (which Kaiser had been assigned to cover for Time). The book has been written about so far in The Observer, which straightforwardly (if uncritically) summarized Kaiser's story, and the National Catholic Reporter, which predictably used the occasion to again blast the Church for being a "sexually screwed up institution that so needs reforming".
(An aside: Why can't dissidents like the folks at NCR at least grant us defenders of traditional sexual morality the dignity of simply being "wrong" on sexual issues, rather than "sexually screwed up"? Oh wait, I think I know. If they labeled us as wrong, then they might be obliged to provide an intellectually and theologically coherent argument for why their own version of sexual ethics is right. I have come to suspect, from many unpleasant hours of reading these people, that few if any of them could begin to mount such a defense…which is why they prefer to strike progressive, sexually enlightened poses and denounce their opponents as repressed, hypocritical Puritans instead.)
My first impulse, when considering a book praised by NCR and Hans Küng, and carrying blurbs from the likes of Andrew Greeley and Sr. Joan Chittister, it to simply discount it as ideological rubbish. Something tells me that it may not be safe to do so in this case, however. This book begs for a thorough examination by well-informed persons of (or sympathetic to) the traditionalist community. Was Father Martin that great a scoundrel? And if he was, should Windswept House and his other dire warnings about the state of the Church be discounted as lies and wild exaggerations? I do hope someone trustworthy can help lead us to the right answers.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Surprise! Human nature hasn't changed. A pair of stories in Thursday's Daily Telegraph indicates that those who have been working the hardest to fulfill the original goals of the feminist revolution may be suffering the most from it.
A story by Paul Stokes, "Careers are 'making women miserable'", reports on the new book The Miseducation of Women by James Tooley. Tooley, a professor of education, uses social science data and other arguments in support of his thesis that schools are pushing girls in directions they don't really wish to go, leading them to become professional women who would have been much more contented staying at home and bringing up children. Tooley notes that a major part of the problem is that the role of housewife is "desperately undervalued" in society today.
On the men's side, a story by David Derbyshire (you don't suppose he's kin to National Review Online's beloved Derb?), "House husbands at greater risk of heart attack than workers", reports on a new study which found that while self-described house husbands had an 82 percent higher 10-year death rate than other males, men who worked in high-prestige (and often high-pressure) fields such as medicine and the law had a significantly lower risk of heart disease. The same study also noted that women in the same lines of work had not a lower risk, but nearly a three-times greater risk, of heart disease than other women.
In the latter piece, the author of the study, Dr. Elaine Eaker, tries to explain away the data in the usual manner. She believes that the strain on both men and women results from their having "roles incongruent with what is socially expected", and hopes that "[a]s social roles and norms change with time…the harmful effects of having jobs or social roles that are considered outside the norm will be diminished." Eaker is clearly wrong in her diagnosis as it relates to women (embarking on the careers that are giving them heart disease is exactly what is "socially expected" of women these days, which is the central point of Tooley's book), and her hope for the future is incoherent (just how will the life of those who defy society's norms be made easier by a simple shifting of the norms? wouldn't this just mean the same misery, visited on a somewhat different set of people?). Apart from these mis-steps, I believe that Eaker faces a more fundamental problem, in that her subjects are not really being overwhelmed by societal pressures. They're being mugged by reality—by an unchanging thing called human nature.
Men and women are simply wired differently. Always have been, always will be. Somehow this fact, universally recognized by all sensible humans for centuries upon centuries, became hotly contested during the silly season of the twentieth century, leading to a number of experiments which attempted to make our society's little girls and boys turn out the same. But since there exists no neutral, asexual state of humanness which the experimenters could use as a model or mould for their little charges, their program amounted to little more than coercing little girls to act like little boys in certain respects, and little boys to act like little girls in others.
In the adult world, one result of this ideological experiment is that some grown-up girls are trying to act like grown-up boys in the professional world. Both Tooley and Eaker indicate that many of them are miserable, and are even putting their health at grave risk. Meanwhile some grown-up boys are trying to act like grown-up girls in the home. Eaker's data show that these men are also putting their physical health at risk, but I believe that's only part of the problem. I am certain that a study of house husbands and other non-professional men, who are married to women in high-status professions, would reveal a remarkably high incidence of depression, suicide, alcoholism, and other psychological difficulties. Assuming the role of the stay-at-home "wife", and relying on one's spouse for material support, can take quite a toll on the male psyche, even among males who initally embarked upon the project convinced that they could do it, and that it was the right thing to do. These men's spouses, for their part, tend to harbor a contempt for their husbands that grows steadily over time, even among those women who at first were proud to have a husband who was "progressive" and "brave" enough to take on a secondary, supporting role. In such a way do the Gods of the Copybook Headings prove that they will outlast us all.
"But what about the girls and boys, the women and men who do not fit the stereotypes?" This is a frequent response from the gender-equity crowd when it is conclusively demonstrated that the vast majority of males and females do differ in certain predictable ways. I have two answers to this objection. First, I believe that the exceptional women and men who have a true calling outside of their traditional roles typically find a way to pursue it, and will continue to do so even if our society suddenly ends all of its present programs to encourage them. Nobody stopped Margaret Thatcher (thank God), and she broke into the world of politics back when people actually voiced full-throated objections to women doing such things. Second, and more fundamentally, I believe it is high time that we stopped making the exceptions our rules—especially when our common understanding of why the rules existed in the first place is in such dire need of repair.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Another helping of Scots verse is on the menu this week, this time from Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns. This selection was actually written as a song, to be sung to the tune of "Laggan Burn". (No, I haven't any idea how that one goes…do you?) If you're stumped by any of the Scots words, you might try consulting the version with handy pop-up glossary posted over on "Burns Country", the official Robert Burns site.
25 April 2002
There must be 50 ways to leave the Euro. One of Jean-Marie Le Pen's more sensible proposals is for France to withdraw from the Euro. In the interest of furthering this goal—and in the even more important interest of annoying the French political class whenever possible—I would like to offer some suggestions as to how this could be done.
The first thing that one should realize is that, in setting up their common currency, the European Union and European Central Bank made no provision whatever for a country to withdraw from the Euro. The folks in Brussels and Frankfurt will tell you this means that France could not leave the Euro even if it wanted to. But that is mere wishful thinking. France is still a sovereign country and can enact whatever laws it likes, while the European Union does not yet have the raw power to compel one of its member-states to do anything against its will. The worst that Brussels could threaten would be to kick France out of the E.U. altogether; and since that is exactly what Le Pen would want, it would be the idlest of threats.
What the absence of an established procedure for withdrawal really means is that France would be free to make up its own rules. The first thing it should decide is that its new currency—let's call it the "Franc Nouveau"—would begin its life pegged to the Euro. This would make things simpler in many respects; most importantly, it would avoid a hostile public reaction from the French, who have just finished the exasperating process of converting the prices of absolutely everything to a different scale and do not look forward to doing it again.
The French government would then announce dates certain on which the Franc Nouveau would begin circulating, and on which the Euro would no longer be considered legal tender in France. I would recommend that this announcement be made nine to twelve months ahead of the launch of the Franc Nouveau—not enough time for the Europhiles to try to engineer a change of government in Paris, yet enough lead time for the European Central Bank to arrange to cooperate in the switchover if it wishes to. It would be in the ECB's best interest to cooperate, as it would need to coordinate a reduction of the money supply with the withdrawal of France in order to avert an inflationary spike in the Euro. At what point in the timeline (and how rapidly) this reduction ought to be made I will leave to the wizards in Frankfurt.
Let's say that the French government chooses a future January 1st as the launch date for the Franc Nouveau. I would recommend that the Franc Nouveau and the Euro both be accepted as legal tender until the end of March or so. This would be in line with the recent transition to the Euro, giving most people plenty of time to spend whatever Euros they were holding in cash at the beginning of the year. Those with more cash on hand than they planned to spend by the end of March could exchange their Euros to Francs Nouveaux, commission-free, at any bank. The Euros spent at local merchants or exchanged at banks during this three-month period would all be collected by the Banque de France, which could redeem them directly with the European Central Bank if Frankfurt were cooperating in the switchover. (In the absence of such cooperation, the Euros could be sold on the global currency markets, or held in reserve for other government purposes.)
The Franc Nouveau's one-to-one peg to the Euro should be maintained until the end of the calendar year, for an extra dose of stability and to delay a bit longer the day when the French will once again have to do a bit of math when evaluating the prices in Germany (and vice versa). With the coming of the new year, the Franc Nouveau would be allowed to float on the world currency markets, and France would once again be in control of its own monetary policy…something which a nation gives up at its great peril.posted by The Goliard | Link |
This wasn't obvious all along? In his address to the American cardinals on Tuesday, the Pope said, "People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young." The cardinals did two disturbing things in response to this statement. First, they acted as if this were a brand-new idea in the history of humanity; second, they promptly started to back away from it.
Perhaps I am revealing a deep cynicism here, but I think that the cardinals' inital reaction to the Pope's address was simply part of their ongoing strategy of trying to spin away their own responsibility for the scandal. Rather than own up to their mistakes—even sins—they have instead decided to play dumb: "So having sexual predators as parish priests is a bad idea. Well. Who knew? Thank you, Holy Father, for this great insight. We'll try to keep that in mind from now on."
But not all of the cardinals really do plan to keep it in mind, as evidenced by the statement they issued at the conclusion of the conference. In this communiqué, the cardinals state their intent to set up a new process to dismiss "notorious" offenders from the priesthood, but leave rather vague the fate of non-"notorious" clergy who abuse young people. In other words, sexual predators might stand a decent chance (depending on the individual bishop) of remaining in the priesthood, unless and until the coverup fails and the press catches wind of it and makes the person "notorious". Exactly how would this differ from Cardinal Law's prior practice?
The cardinals' individual comments to the press also showed a movement away from the Pope's clear statement of principle. More than once I spotted a cardinal on television expressing concern over what a "one-strike" policy might mean for a hypothetical priest who might have had sex with minors in the past, several decades ago, but has since proven himself invaluable to the diocese.
Where does this dog-who-only-bit-once example come from? Is he merely a straw-man? Or are the cardinals speaking of actual priests…perhaps even men who are near and dear to their hearts? I'm not so sure that I want to know the answer.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Tough crowd. I wonder if Their Eminences could have made them happy by taking a boat instead.
But seriously, maybe part of the outrage is because Rome let them come back at all, without first accepting a couple of resignations. Now that sounds like a worthy complaint.posted by The Goliard | Link |
In praise of Hamish Macbeth. The television series Hamish Macbeth, based on characters from a series of novels by M. C. Beaton, is to my knowledge the best thing that BBC Scotland has ever produced. This series' many virtues include a wealth of memorable characters, a fine quirky sense of humor, excellent acting, and beautiful Highlands scenery. The richest part of the series, to me, was the finely-textured (and sometimes heartbreaking) relationships between Hamish and his lady friends Alex and Isobel. People on television simply don't have romances this true-to-life, with outcomes this well-plotted and supported, very often.
This is the sort of program that makes one realize what fantastic potential the medium of television has…and also how rarely it comes anywhere close to living up to this potential. Along with Inspector Morse, I believe it was the best drama series aired in the 1990s on either side of the pond. It is currently hard to find, either on the air or on videotape, but if you do come across the opportunity to watch it, by all means do not miss it.posted by The Goliard | Link |
With apologies to the late Paddy Chayefsky… I don't have to tell you it's bad. Everybody knows it's bad. We sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us all about the latest developments in a Hollywood murder case that no sane person would care about. Maybe it's not yet O.J.-bad, but it's bad, and when the trial actually starts it could get worse than bad.
I want you to get mad. I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, "I don't give a damn about Robert Blake, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
I want you to get up right now. Get up. Go to your windows, open your windows, and stick your head out, and yell, "I don't give a damn about Robert Blake, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Things have got to change my friends. You've got to get mad. You've got to say, "I don't give a damn about Robert Blake, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Then we'll figure out what to do about People magazine and Entertainment Tonight and daytime talk shows and idiotic local news broadcasts. But first get up out of your chairs, open your window, stick your head out and yell, "I don't give a damn about Robert Blake, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"posted by The Goliard | Link |
Normal service resuming shortly. My apologies for the gap in postings. I have been rather indisposed (as they say) since Tuesday afternoon, but am now rapidly gaining strength, and so I shall not be depriving you of my deep thoughts and alleged insights for much longer.posted by The Goliard | Link |
23 April 2002
ON OTHER PAGES
Clarity and truth about the Middle East. If you're not regularly reading Mark Steyn's columns for Canada's National Post, you really ought to start. His most recent piece, "It's time to snap out of Arab fantasy land", exposes the foolishness of the British press and the U.N. Human Rights Commission, provides a useful history lesson, and once again describes the current Middle East situation with great clarity.
Steyn makes reference to the fraudulent claims of massacre in Jenin; to get a detailed briefing on this subject, you can do no better than to read Joe Katzman's article "Jenin: Imploding the Myths" on his worthy new blog Winds of Change. Be sure to explore some of the story's informative links.
The moral state of things is this:
1. If the Palestinians unilaterally lay down their arms and renounce violence, they will be given peace, dignity, and their own state.
2. If the Israelis unilaterally lay down their arms and renounce violence, they will be slaughtered.
3. As far as most of the world is concerned, either outcome would be satisfactory.posted by The Goliard | Link |
22 April 2002
ON OTHER PAGES
Probably the most irresponsible homily in the Western Hemisphere. Monsignor Eugene Clark, in his homily this Sunday at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, said that the United States is "probably the most immoral country, certainly in the Western Hemisphere…because of the entertainment we suffer and what it's done to our morals." This was part of a Clark's wider criticism of America's "sex-saturated" society and especially its indulgence towards homosexual acts.
William Donohue of the Catholic League, in defending Clark, said that the Monsignor "makes a great deal of sense", which in fact is true when the homily is viewed as a whole. Certain passages, however, were phrased in an exaggerated and irresponsible way that practically begged Dignity/USA and their friends in the press to open fire. Thus, criticism of Clark's "most immoral country" statement is well warranted and even necessary—such as these remarks from blogger Anne Wilson:
Really. So we are more immoral than Colombia, where drug lords routinely assassinate judges and make the rule of law virtually impossible. More immoral than Mexico, with its almost-entirely corrupt police force & judiciary and its de facto invasion of the US with illegal immigrants. More immoral than the Communist governments of Venezuela or Cuba.
Irresponsible hyperbole, in the defense of the Church and its teachings, is a vice and serves no one but the Church's enemies. Msgr. Clark would be well advised to keep this in mind when he drafts his next homily.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Letter from Paris. The Weekly Standard's Christopher Caldwell has posted an excellent dispatch from France on the election results. Unlike my piece below, Caldwell focuses on what Jospin's defeat means for the French left. He concludes: "The big news of the election is not any drift towards fascism but the emergence of a new hard left organized on the ruins of French Communism."
There is also a great quote from Le Pen. Caldwell writes: "Responding to an interviewer who asked him what he thought of Parisian youth marching to protest his fascism, Le Pen replied, 'What's fascist is using street protests to dispute the result of a free election.'"
Le Pen has a good point, and I think he ought to add an item to his election platform: a fine of 500 Euros to be levied against any person who publicly calls a politician a "fascist", yet cannot properly define the term when asked.posted by The Goliard | Link |
So that the reader may fully appreciate this joke, I should note that my beloved Aberdonians are renowed for being a bit…um…careful with their money, even by Scottish standards.
Two friends, one from Aberdeen and one from Edinburgh, walk into a pub. The Edinburghian asks the barman for a pint of his best ale. The barman draws the pint, hands it to the man, and says, "Three pence, please."
"Surely you mean three pounds," the man replies.
"No, sir, three pence. You see, today is the hundredth anniversary of the opening of this pub, and to commemorate the occasion we are charging the same prices that were charged a century ago."
"What a lovely idea," says the Edinburghian as he hands the barman three pennies. He then asks his friend, "Shall I have him draw a pint for you as well? Or maybe two?"
"Nothing, thanks," replies the Aberdonian.
"What?" asks the Edinburghian incredulously. "Why on Earth not?"
The Aberdonian explains: "I'm waiting for Happy Hour."posted by The Goliard | Link |
Understanding Le Pen's triumph. In Sunday's first round of voting in the French presidential elections, Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked the Continent by coming in second, thus earning a place in the May 5th runoff against incumbent President Jacques Chirac, and eliminating the man everyone expected to be Chirac's runoff opponent, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
To say that Chirac, a Gaullist, and Jospin, a Socialist, were the "establishment" choices would be an understatement. These men were the only two candidates, out of a record crop of 16, whom the European chattering classes believed respectable and deserving enough to participate in the runoff. Now Le Pen, a man who has never troubled himself with appearing respectable, has crashed the party, and the French political class is shocked and appalled.
Practically every newspaper is describing the first round of voting as "le séisme" (an earthquake); meanwhile the left-wing Libération spoke for many with a front page bearing the giant word "NON" above a picture of Le Pen. Prime Minister Jospin, using a few more words to convey the same sense of horror, described the result as "a very worrying sign for France and our democracy", while his finance minister Laurent Fabius called it "a cataclysm of terrifying proportions." President Chirac spoke a touch more obliquely, but left no doubt that he agreed with Jospin and Fabius that Le Pen's success was a grave threat to the Republic. By Monday morning voices of alarm were being heard in other European capitals as well.
Le Pen is certainly an odious little character, but how exactly is he a threat to democracy? Even if a Le Pen presidency might somehow carry with it a danger of neo-fascist oppression—a wild fantasy in itself—the point is moot because of the metaphysical certainty that Le Pen will lose to Chirac by a huge margin in the runoff. I also do not see any signs that Le Pen or his supporters threaten to overthrow or otherwise subvert the French government in the wake of this loss. The threat that horrifies the French political establishment, then, cannot be the infinitesimal threat of Le Pen acquiring any measure of power; it is, rather, the threat posed by this man's very presence in the race.
What is so dangerous about that? Le Pen campaigns on issues that most European politicians strive to avoid; what is worse, he takes positions on these issues that elite opinion has declared verboten. He is against high levels of immigration. He believes that it might not be a good thing that France currently hosts between five and eight million Muslim immigrants, many of them largely unassimilated, some of them hostile to Jew and Christian alike. His opinion of European institutions runs from the skeptical to the derisory. He is an unabashed nationalist. Such ideas are viewed as incredibly dangerous by the Eurpoean political establishment, which is why they have tried so hard to define them out of respectable political discourse.
The effort to expel or marginalize undemocratic ideas occurs continent-wide. Sometimes the methods are subtle, sometimes not; the most striking example of the latter was when ostracism, intimidation, demonization, and even international sanctions were deployed against Joerg Haider and his Freedom Party when they tried to join the governing coalition in Austria. The fruit of such efforts is a less-democratic Europe, as wide swathes of the electorate find their beliefs and preferences unrepresented by any of the major parties in their country.
This holds true even in Britain, where democracy has traditionally been healthier than anywhere else in the E.U. While three-quarters of Britons believe capital punishment is acceptable, two of the three major parties proclaim the practice to be barbaric, and the third (the Conservative Party) occasionally pays lip service to the idea but failed to reinstate capital punishment when it governed for eighteen straight years under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Similarly, polls show nearly half of Britons would be in favor of leaving the European Union altogether, yet two of the three major parties are enthusiastically pro-Europe, while the Conservatives are hopelessly split on the issue. Finally, as in France, issues of immigration and multiculturalism have long carried strong taboos, reaching back to Enoch Powell's expulsion from the Conservative front benches in 1968 over his famous "rivers of blood" speech.
In order for the voting franchise to mean anything, voters must be given a true choice. When large numbers of voters are not given choices that reflect their true preferences, they typically react in one of two ways. One is to stay away from the ballot box altogether—which was also part of the story in France yesterday, as the country saw a record-low turnout for a presidential election. The other is to flee into the arms of unsavory fringe politicians such as Le Pen and the U.K.'s British National Party (the BNP had several surprisingly strong results in the last election following an outbreak of race riots). One searches in vain, however, for any sign that the French political elite comprehends its own role in bringing about both voter apathy and the rise of Le Pen.
What will happen in the next two weeks in France is easy to predict. The mainstream political parties will band together and, aided by a shocked and horrified media, will ensure that Le Pen is not only beaten in the runoff but crushed. The chattering classes will then congratulate themselves and the country on having exorcized this horrible demon from the body politic. Le Pen himself may even prove to be finished. But the issues which Le Pen rode to his surprising triumph on Sunday will not be so easily shoved aside; and if the French political ruling class continues to stigmatize and exclude the "wrong" points of view on critical issues such as immigration and the European Union, they will only burst forth again another day, probably in even stronger fashion, and possibly in an even more disturbing guise than Le Pen.posted by The Goliard | Link |