Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Me and General Robert Lee

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Great Video from Millennial Woes on Traditional Morality and Nationalism

To be found here.

Standard disclaimer: Millennial Woes is an alt-right vlogger, but I do not agree with him about race and several other matters.

However, I really love his videos and think he's very wise. He has the Chestertonian trait of being five steps ahead of the posse; he's thought his way past all the obvious stuff already. And, like Chesterton, he tries to get things in perspective and proportion, to see a subject from every angle, to avoid mere debating points and deal with reality.

One of the jobs I've been doing this summer involves lots of work amidst the shelves with a laptop on a trolley. So I can listen to YouTube as I work. I've listened to loads and loads of MW's videos; I feel a bit guilty that I haven't tossed him a few quid (which I don't have). Maybe plugging him can compensate.

I especially like this video about nationalism. Of course, to me, nationalism is about culture rather than about race. But I like his general argument that nationalism has to be socially conservative. Ireland is a country with a strong (indeed, a dominant) tradition of left-wing liberal nationalism, one which never made much sense to me. I marvel that its adherents don't see its contradictions. I don't understand how republicans were willing to fight and die for a nation which, by their own ethos, might become a thing of the past within a few decades, through demographic and social change.

A benefit of nationalism that I think he leaves out; it promotes respect between the sexes, and between the generations. I'm not just talking about the nitty-gritty of procreation here. A nationalist tends to romanticize history and you can't romanticize history without respecting historic gender roles, and the contribution of both sexes to national history. Feminists are often offended that nations are usually spoken about and symbolized as feminine. I must admit that the disrespect in this practice is lost on me.

Also, nationalism tends to promote respect towards the elderly, since the elderly are the custodians of national memory and tradition. Even in our "pictures or it didn't happen" culture, lived memory is irreplaceable. Liberals and progressives may denounce ageism, and may do so in all sincerity, but their ideology itself doesn't have much to offer oldies, or give much reason to respect oldies.

Millennial Woes, I must admit, has been making me feel a bit dejected about this blog. My style is quite similar to his, in that I combine commentary on "big", public issues such as religion and culture with more idiosyncratic, introspective posts. So does he, but he's been much successful in a shorter time. Oh well.

Eucharistic Amazement

Interesting article in The Catholic Herald describing an encounter between Patrick Madrid and a Mormon who doubts that Catholics really believe in the Real Presence, as they don't show suitable reverence:

The Mormon repeated his earlier remark, saying: “I’m not trying to be disrespectful or anything, but I just don’t think Catholics believe what you believe on this issue.” But what he said next was an even larger indictment: “If I believed what you believe… if I truly believed that it is really God himself and not just a symbol, I would fall flat on my face and be prostrate before it – him. I would be so overcome with awe and worship. And I’ve never seen any Catholic show that kind of respect. So… I guess they just don’t believe it.”

Madrid concludes that the Mormon “had spoken a terrible truth so clearly and with such devastating accuracy that it’s all I could think about for the rest of our discussion”. The “life lesson” he learned was that Catholics do not always edify and evangelise non-Catholics; indeed, “We can also dis-edify, discombobulate and de-evangelise them without ever trying… simply by dint of our sheer laziness and complacency and our lack of reverence for sacred things.”

I have to admit I'm disinclined to agree with both the Mormon and Patrick Madrid here, strange as that sounds.

First off, let me be clear; of course I think we should show respect to the Eucharist. We shouldn't chew gum, have our hands in our pockets, or check our mobile phones while going up to receive Communion. No argument there.

But can we ever show the Eucharist the respect, the "awe and worship", that it deserves? I'm inclined to believe that we can't, and we have to be realistic and sober about this.

I speak from experience. I'm always trying to cultivate the "Eucharistic amazement" that St. John Paul II urged us to cultivate, but I've stopped feeling guilty about my failure to do so. I don't think it's really within my control. Our imaginations are sluggish, limited, wayward. Trying to prod one's imagination into a greater response seems rather artificial to me

Surprise and amazement are transient emotions and they can't be prolonged indefinitely. I remember watching an interview with the Beatles in which the interviewer asked whether they were surprised by the level of their success, and added that they didn't look surprised at all. Paul McCartney replied that they were surprised-- but that it was impossible to go around looking surprised all the time. "You'd look mental", he said, pulling an exaggerated surprised expression. I think he's right.

I've often found myself thinking along these lines when I hear debates about the traditionalist liturgy vs. the ordinary liturgy. I agree that the traditionalist liturgy is more reverential, but surely the difference is infinitesimal when we compare it to the mystery that is being celebrated? Sure, it's better to kneel to receive, than to stand. But isn't the Mormon right, and wouldn't lying flat on our faces be even more reverential? Wouldn't it always be possible to come up with something more reverential, or to fault whatever liturgy exists as not sufficiently reverential?

That is why it seems to me that a decent, sober, calm reverence should be sufficient, and why the Ordinary Form seems perfectly fine when celebrated properly.

Some Wise Words from Bruce Charlton

"The importance of Fantasy is that the everyday modern world is one of lies and triviality; so people like myself almost need the Fantasy genre in order to 'exercise' the proper priorities and evaluations."

This reflection is prompted by his reading of the Wheel of Time novel cycle, most of which I've read, but which I'm never going to finish. I rather regret sinking as much of my life into it as I did. It certainly had its moments, but the longer it went on, the more I became disillusioned by Jordan's apparent determination to add plot development to plot development, layer upon layer, character after character-- just for the love of drawing the thing out, it seemed.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against long books. The Stand and It by Stephen King were amongst the best books I've ever read. And the sheer length of those books were part of the pleasure. But I felt that they were long for a reason-- their length was warranted. The plot never stalled, and I never felt the author was simply treading water. Everything added something to the story. (Well, almost everything. Let's not talk about the Trashcan Man sequences in the unedited version of The Stand.) The Wheel of Time just felt absurdly bloated to me.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Interest and the Lack of It

Some months ago I wrote a post entitled "What I Believe" and made it a featured post, thinking it would be a good ready reference for anyone who stumbled upon this blog. I can tell from my blog statistics that very few people actually look at it.

This surprises me. I'm always intensely interested in what people believe. It's the first thing I want to know about them, and it usually forms a huge part of how I view them. If I find myself visiting a strange blog, I look for such a credo myself.

But then again, I'm constantly surprised at what people find interesting and what people find boring. For instance, I generally like homilies at Mass. But other people seem to hate them. Some years ago the Nigerian priest in my local parish stopped giving a homily on a Saturday morning. I asked him why, and he said people had complained it made the Mass too long. I encouraged him to resume this practice.

Well, he did, but some of the parishioners (on Saturday mornings) have been practicing a particularly petty form of silent protest against it. When he asks everyone to sit down after the Gospel reading, these elderly ladies remain standing. Last week, he had to ask them to sit down twice.

Not only shockingly rude, but baffling. These same old ladies will sit through any amount of post-Mass devotions.

On the other side of things, the most popular tourist attraction in Dublin is the Guinness brewery. I have no idea why anyone would want to see Guinness being brewed. True, i can't stand the stuff, but that's beside the point. I love brandy, but I have no great interest in seeing that made, either. I'm not boasting about this-- intellectual curiosity is always a good thing, no doubt-- I'm just saying that it baffles me.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

In Praise of Folly

I have a recurring fantasy of taking a cross-- perhaps a large, cardboard cross, reaching above my shoulder-- and carrying it through the suburbs of Dublin, or perhaps even further afield. I wouldn't just stick to the important thoroughfares, the busy city streets. I would drag that cross through every sort of residential area, industrial estate, and shopping centre in the greater Dublin area.

I really think I might do this one day. It might not be a cross. It might be a sign bearing a verse from Scripture.

I wouldn't say anything, unless people approached me. Then I would tell them the purpose of the sign, and try to evangelize them.

I love this idea. Perhaps I would chicken out of doing it, when it came to the crunch. I'm not sure. Do you remember my Kung Fu Buffet song of some months back? I eventually decided to visit that distinguished establishment, accompanied by a friend. I'd aired the possibility of reading my lyrics out loud to the staff. When it came down to it, I kept them in my pocket. I told my friend I'd decided against it, and he said: "Yeah, I knew you would." I didn't know I would. 

So maybe I wouldn't really follow up on my "fool for Christ" idea. But I love the idea.

I've always liked playing the fool, and been very drawn to it. When I was in school, I would go out of my way to cultivate a reputation for eccentricity. When I was about ten or eleven, I would write the word "Homestead" all over my class mates' copy books. Homestead were a brand of economy Irish groceries. Another time, I heard a family member describe how his friend had started eating a paper bag in a bookshop (the bag he was given for the book). I immediately felt I had to top this, and so I went out to a shop with clothes-pegs in my hair.

This wasn't just to get attention. Actually, I don't think it was about looking for attention at all. I wanted to make the world more interesting.

The funny thing is that I'm intensely self-conscious and prone to embarrassment about ordinary things-- such as walking through the wrong door, or pushing a door that pulls open. But when it comes to things that are "off the scale", I rarely feel self-conscious at all, and even relish whatever derision is involved. This is especially true if it has anything to do with beliefs or convictions. I never feel happier than when I'm arguing with a whole room in favour of some unfashionable opinion, or even being laughed at by the whole room. A few months ago, almost everyone in a television studio was laughing at me because I said the Catholic Church has apologized too much. This sort of thing just energizes me.

I like the idea of being a fool for Christ for several reasons:

1) Paradoxically, I think the world only takes something seriously if it sees people are willing to behave foolishly for it, to lose their heads for it. Or, to put it from the opposite perspective, we have an intuition that any given belief system is only vibrant when it produces its share of crackpots.

2) Eccentric behaviour adds to the poetry and colour of life.

3) I would like to add something to the folklore of Dublin, to the city's distinctiveness. 

4) If you are willing to play the fool, you become immune to criticism. It's always best to get the moment of crisis over with as soon as possible. In the same spirit, I always tell new colleagues that I'm a "right-wing nutcase" soon after meeting them for the first time, to get it out of the way, and spare them any shock when I don't agree with their liberal bromides.

But it's more than this, that attracts me to the "fool for Christ" idea. It's hard to describe what I'm trying to get at here.

The big winners in the recent British election were the Democratic Unionist Party. As my non-Irish readers may not know, they are a party founded by Ian Paisley, a rabble-rousing Presbyterian who never apologized for mixing politics with religion. Many years ago, my brother described to me a series of speeches made by DUP leaders, after a similarly impressive election showing. He told me that the first speech was as fiery and impassioned as anyone could ask for; that the second speech took it up a notch or ten; and that he then found himself wondering, as Ian Paisley made his way to the platform, how this living legend could possibly top the two previous speakers. But Paisley didn't say a word; instead, he launched into a hymn without a word of preamble.

It must be at least fifteen years since I heard that story, but I've always remembered it as an example of the phenomenon I'm describing in this post. Because, although I laughed, my reaction was not: "These guys are buffoons". My reaction was: "These guys are serious."

It's still more than that, though...this thing I am trying to describe...

This entire post came out of a train of thought some hours ago. I was thinking about Ireland retaining its Irishness, and whether we really had a national character any more.

And an image came into my mind. An image of a man-- not a particular man, but a composite picture. He was a middle-aged man with fuzzy red hair, and a long fuzzy red beard. He's wearing an Aran sweater, or some other thick and colourful sweater. He's also wearing enormous jam-jar glasses, and staring into the camera with a toothy smile. He's either in a pub, or at some kind of public meeting or book launch. He speaks Gaelic, listens to traditional Irish music, and is willing to launch into a long earnest speech on our national heritage at the drop of a hat. He's a walking cliché, a walking joke, and while he lives Irish Ireland is safe. Alas, I have not seen so much of a photograph of such a man in many many years.  

Friday, June 23, 2017

One Year Since Brexit

Today is the anniversary of Britain's vote to leave the EU.

I think it's no exaggeration to say that this was the public event that brought me the most joy, in my entire life. I can remember the Berlin Wall falling, but I didn't really understand what was happening. I can't actually remember the fall of the Soviet Union.

I'm too tired to write a post commemorating it properly. But it was a watershed moment for me, for two reasons:

1) For the first time in my life, my implicit belief in historical inevitability was shaken. For all my reading of Chesterton, who constantly poured scorn on this idea, I really did believe in historical inevitability. I would have denied such a belief, but I still believed it. I thought that, perhaps, things had changed since Chesterton's day. The juggernaut of ever-greater European integration seemed unstoppable.

2) The reaction of many of my Facebook friends shocked me. They didn't just disagree; they sneered. The British people were idiots. They didn't know what they were doing. They'd regret it immediately. It was unbelievable, apocalyptic. It provoked the same reaction in my workplace. It seemed to me like a reaction conditioned by years of globalist propaganda.

Because I had some EU nerds amongst my Facebook friends, who could write at great length about fisheries and the Treaty of Rome and so forth, I was nervous about getting into a debate about this. At one point, I was so irritated at the sneer-fest that I did post something. However, I blocked quite a lot of people from seeing it, and I kept it very much on a philosophical level. I was surprised and heartened at how many people "liked" it-- quite often, people I never would have expected to sympathise with me on this subject.

I was certainly pushed to the right by the general reaction to Brexit. One reader warned me I had drifted to the "hard right". I guess I have.

Nobody who has followed this blog for any length of time will need me to explain why I was so happy. It had nothing to do with economics and everything to do with national identity, national sovereignty. I am too tired to go into it now, but I have to admit that, in terms of public events, the day of the Brexit result was probably the happiest of my entire life.


Well, that's enough of Fanny Burney. Borrowing the third volume in anticipation of the weekend, I saw that I was on volume II of the early journals. There are twelve volumes of the main sequence-- and we are missing some of them, anyway.

I think it is the end of my diary reading, too. My own diary is enough.

Back to reading Irish language books, then. My reading life is far too whimsical and wayward. And yet-- it has to be, to some extent. That's what reading is all about. You have to explore and leave the beaten track.

(I've meant to write a blog post on reading habits for some time.)