Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Statute of the Blessed Virgin in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Church, UCD Belfield

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Beat Them with Fists!

"They want them to be treated with oil, soap and caresses. But they should be beaten with fists. In a duel, you don't count or measure the blows, you strike as you can."

This is pretty much the sentiment I have been expressing in recent blog posts on the subject of debate and political correctness. But who said those words?

Was it Michael Voris, controversial founder of Church Militant TV?


Was it Dinesh D'Souza, pugnacious conservative pundit?


Was it Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and hate figure of the metroliberal media in Britain?


It was St. Pope Pius X, and he was talking about theological modernists-- which today we would call theological liberals.

By all accounts, he was a deeply charitable and gentle man. But he obviously knew that the clash of ideas is not the place to pull punches.

A Holy Advent

I am sorry I have not yet wished my readers a holy and fruitful Advent. To be honest, I am finding it hard to get into an Advent mood, being very busy. However, I don't think a Catholic blog should let the season come in without acknowledgement.

God bless your Advent!

Identity Politics and Grievance

A very quick post, just some remarks on identity politics.

Social and cultural conservatives like me often decry 'identity politics', and this is in reaction to the kind of victomology and grievance-mongering whereby everybody belongs to some perceived oppressed minority (or even majority): Irish Travellers, gays, people with Asperger's syndrome, and so on (and so on, and so on, and so on)....

This is particularly understandable when the (supposedly) oppressed group plays the 'structural inequalities' card, which means that fairness and objectivity are to be thrown out the window-- that society is (supposedly) so tilted against this or that oppressed group, or indeed all of them, that 'social justice' demands we can't be neutral but must always favour the (supposedly) oppressed group, even in our language and discussion.

This leads to absurd claims, such as that you cannot be racist against white people, or that you cannot be sexist against men.

Given all this nonsense, isn't it predictable that conservatives and classical liberals would want to do away with 'identity politics' entirely?

I think this is a mistake-- perhaps not for the classical liberal, but certainly for the traditionalist conservative, who should realise that people are not just atomised individuals, but that tradition and history and community and belonging are essential to them.

This flies in the face of the individualism that emanated from the French Revolution and the Age of the Enligtenment. One French Revolutionary famously said: "The Jews should be denied everything as a nation, but granted everything as individuals". But that's the kind of 'emancipation' that's not going to satisfy anybody, in the long run.

This is why, although I often criticize multiculturalism in some senses of the term-- in the sense that we should be neutral regarding different cultures, or that we should not privilege a particular culture, or that we should not seek to preserve distinctive cultures-- I'm entirely in favour of multiculturalism in another sense.

I am a multiculturalist in the sense that I think ethnic and religious minorities should be allowed and encouraged to preserve their own traditional cultures-- and to develop them, as well. I also think they should be given official recognition and State funding, where appropriate. "Integration" should not have to mean abandoning your heritage.

There was some controversy in Ireland recently about Polish language Masses-- the suggestion was made that this was hindering Poles from integrating into Ireland. That is the sort of 'integration' I would not like to see. Indeed, the Catholic Church has always cherished particular traditions, as the existence of the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Anglican Ordinariate shows.

If this sounds awfully liberal, my response is twofold: 1) Good! There's a good liberalism as well as a bad liberalism. 2) I also think ethnic minorities should be respectful of the majority culture, and not seek some kind of equal billing or neutrality when it comes to State occasions, holidays, TV schedules, etc. etc

Recognition, yes. Resentment, no.

I learned a lot about American culture from the American version of The Office (my favourite TV show, along with Star Trek: The Next Generation). It's where I first heard of the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa, which I found very interesting.

Now, you may consider Kwanzaa a silly made-up tradition. But as I 've often said, I'm in favour of all traditions, even made-up ones. If I was African-American, I would celebrate Kwanzaa.

I think I'm being consistent here. I've always disliked the kind of Irish nationalism, or Irish cultural heritage, which doesn't want to affirm anything but only wants to wallow in victimhood. There seems to be a kind of Irish cultural identity which rests entirely on an animus towards British 'imperialism', the Catholic Church (and, simultaneously, anti-Catholicism), and historical discrimination against Irish immigrants in the USA and elsewhere. The Irish-American website Irish Central is a good (or bad) example of this. Their entire vision of Irishness seems to be victimhood of one sort or another.

Indeed, the proponents of this kind of Irish identity usually kick against any sort of vision of Irishness which they perceive as too 'prospective' or 'narrow'; such as the Irish Revival, with its ruralism and Gaelicism and traditionalism. They want everything, in both religion and culture, to be vague and amorphous and misty; they are very often Catholic in a sentimental kind of way that makes no demands on them. That kind of thing makes me nauseous.

In brief: I am all for identity politics when it is about affirmation and celebration, but I am all against identity politics when it is about victimhood, grievance and seeking to silence those outside your identity group with the words "You can't understand what it's like etc. etc. etc."

Prayer Request

Yesterday I heard the very sad news that a good friend had lost his father.

There is a unique loss in the loss of a parent. I still dream about my mother all the time, and she died in 2001.

Please pray: Eternal rest grant unto Vittorio Giuseppi, oh Lord. May perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Reading and Writing Makes you Liberal

According to Stephen King, anyway.

He suggests that people who are well-read would be somehow immune to Donald Trump's crude and vague use of language. I wonder how many millions of Trump voters were highly literate?

He also dismisses non-readers as people who get their knowledge of the world from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.

Stephen King is a genius and I've happily lost myself in many of his books; he has that primary gift of a story-teller, that the worlds he creates have a solidity and a reality of their own, which has nothing to do with how realistic or plausible they might be. 

But quite a few of the things he says here irritates me. He lists off a few names of contemporary writers of literary fiction, and suggests ordinary Americans are semi-illiterate for knowing nothing about them. Why should they? What's so great about literary fiction, particularly contemporary literary fiction?

I don't know what makes people liberal or conservative, but I'm pretty sure it's more elusive than whether or not a person is an enthusiastic reader.

All my life I've felt ill-read. I can hardly ever remember 'devouring' a book. I have never felt the inclination to read for hours. I share King's view on the importance of reading, but I think there are many different sorts of reader, and I certainly don't agree that reading (by itself) necessarily inclines you towards any particular view of the world.

This is Reassuring

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says that Catholic teaching on Communion for the divorced and remarried has not changed, and cannot change.

The permanence of Catholic doctrine is the Faith's single greatest 'selling point' in modern society. If that is undermined, everything is undermined.

The enemies of the Faith realise this-- that is why they are always trying to convince people that changes in discipline (such as clerical celibacy) or plurality of opinions amongst theologians before a doctrine was infallibly proclaimed (for instance in the case of the Immaculate Conception) are changes in doctrine.

'Mercy' that undermines the authority of the Church, or that creates confusion and ambiguity, is not mercy at all.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Some Reasons I'm Watching "Supergirl"

1) Because we recently switched to Sky TV, from an old and financially crippling contract with UPC/Virgin, and the deal includes Sky Go, which lets me watch past episodes of TV shows on my laptop and smartphone. It's pretty nifty.

2) Because, even though I think the contemporary obsession with superheroes is rather infantile, superhero stories have some virtues. One is that they are usually old-fashioned in both storytelling and morality. They generally eschew the shades of grey and anti-heroes which are so prevalent elsewhere. In terms of narrative, they usually have a simple 'quest' storyline, and don't go in for non-linear storytelling or endless atmosphere-building shots.

For this reason I find myself watching more superhero films (and now, TV) than I would like. I wish there were more good old-fashioned stories outside that genre, but there's not.

Also, superhero movies (like science fiction movies) usually look great.

3) Because Supergirl herself is adorkable, to use a nice portmanteau word coined by TV Tropes. At last, an action heroine who is not angry or bitter or out for revenge against men. It's refreshing. (At first, Supergirl is trying to emerge from Superman's shadow. But that seems fair enough, and she's over it by the second series.)

4) It's true that the show is is quite politically correct. But then, isn't almost all TV these days? Superheroes are always presented as symbolic of 'minorities', and all 'minorities' are presumed to be the same-- whether that minority has to do with skin colour, belief system, sexual behaviour or delusion regarding gender. Aliens (like Supergirl) are regarded with suspicion in the show's fictional world, and this is made the occasion for all kinds of left-wing messages. (Which is not to say that "we should be tolerant of difference" isn't a good moral in itself-- it is, although it can obviously be misapplied, and routinely is.)

The more blatant a piece of fiction's ideology is, the less it bothers me. A couple of years ago I read a young adult's horror novel called Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was blatantly pro-New Age and anti-conservative Christian, but that didn't bother me-- I even enjoyed how hammy it was about it.

Apparently one of the characters in the Supergirl comic book was made black for the TV show. I don't care about that. I don't care what colour or sex the characters in a story are. I haven't seen the new Ghostbusters movie, but the premise of all-female Ghostbusters is fine by me.

Another of the prominent characters is a lesbian. Well, homosexuality is a feature of our time, and entertainment can't ignore it.

5) I watched the first episode on a plane, and that makes me feel strangely invested in it-- even nostalgic for it. Watching a movie or a TV show on a plane is a very unique experience. (I'm told you can't qualify 'unique'. Phooey!) 

Superhero comics were not a feature of my childhood. Not that I didn't read comics. I loved comics. But I read British comics; Battle (war stories), Transformers, Eagle (adventure and science fiction), and Roy of the Rovers (soccer). My knowledge of superheroes was limited to toys, the Adam West Batman TV series (and I had no idea it was supposed to be self-parody) and occasional annuals. (I did have a Spider-Man annual, composed of one long story, which I read quite often). 

But the whole superhero phenomenon-- the fact that there were dozens of these characters, maybe even hundreds, and complex fictional worlds devoted to each one-- passed me by.

I can remember, towards the end of my childhood, my mother gave me some American superhero comic-books she'd bought in Dublin city centre-- the first ones I'd read (and the last, come to think of it). They actually disturbed me. There were letters from readers (obviously adults) which compared the storylines to various stories in the news and discussed them like they were Shakespeare plays. This is a bit weird, I thought.

Generally, I think superhero entertainments are OK as long as they don't take themselves too seriously. After that, it does indeed get weird.