Tuesday, November 29, 2016

More on Political Correctness and Resistance

Readers may feel I am getting obsessed by political correctness. The truth is that it is only now that I feel I'm waking up to just how dangerous it is, and how deeply it has embedded itself-- even within the Catholic Church.

Some years ago I read a book called Thought Prison by the rather eccentric English academic and blogger Bruce Charlton. The whole book is available online (as are his other books).

At the start of the book, he writes:

When I first came across political correctness - which was the summer of 1981, inflicted on me by a social worker - I thought it was a bad joke.

Even in 1992, when I was in a Texas university humanities department for a month, and I saw the thing close-up and in full flight, it still seemed too obviously silly to take seriously.

Now, of course, the joke is on me: PC defines reality, and we all live and work at the whim of the advocates of PC, who could destroy the lives of any one of us at any moment, for any reason or for no reason whatsoever.

Charlton's experience is rather ironically echoed in my own. I don't agree with everything he says in the book, but at the time I read it I thought he was greatly exaggerating (though the fact that I bought and read the book in the first place shows I had some sympathy with him). I no longer think he was exaggerating.

I can remember the first time I heard the term PC, too. It was either in the late eighties or the early nineties, and I was reading a questionnaire in a women's magazine. One of the questions was: "Are you PC (politically correct)?". I didn't know what it meant-- I can't remember if the magazine explained.

What I find most frustrating about the debate on PC is the constant references to silly terms like "developmentally challenged", or the preoccupation with safe spaces and trigger warnings and the loonier manifestations of PC on campus. Those are just the crest of the wave-- indeed, the sea-spray on the crest of the wave.

PC has much more profound ramifications on everyday life-- every minute of every day.

You can see it especially in the Catholic Church. The extraordinary push in the two Synods of the Family, in the last two years, to have (amongst other things) homosexuality normalised really woke me up. There was something nightmarish in witnessing princes of the Church, successors of the apostles, quite blatantly maneuvering to reverse centuries of Church teaching. I had no idea things had gone so far.

What is even more sinister is the constant push-push-push by which this is accomplished, wearing conservatives down by concession after concession after concession. At first the concessions are simply in the realms of language and tone-- but how much that accomplishes on its own!

PC thrives on the fact that most people are good-humoured and good-natured and don't want to cause avoidable offence. They will concede as much as they can, simply in order to be amiable, without letting go of their deep-seated beliefs.

But then one day they realise they have been backed into a corner, and there is no wriggle room left. (I won't resort to the boiling frog cliché.)

My experiences on Facebook also made me realise the ever-encroaching power of PC. Some of my own family (younger members who had taken in PC with their baby food) regularly heckled me if I said anything outside PC orthodoxy, to the extent that I had to block them from any controversial posts. Friends who had grown more left-wing since I knew them in 'real life' would regularly use phrases like 'cis gendered'' as if they meant something. Not only that, but they were constantly simmering in a state of Hollywood-induced indignation-- about things like transgender bathroom rights, something that never would have even occurred to them two years ago.

Worse of all, there was quite a substantial chunk of Catholics who were especially prone to PC-- as though they were compensating for having to affirm Church teaching on controversial matters.

But the point I have been trying to make in recent posts is that there is no possibility of 'dialogue' with PC. It has to be confronted, defied, outraged, ridiculed, dismissed. You cannot reason with it.

Let me give an example; a lengthy quotation from an article that one disciple of PC addressed to his fellow believers, suggesting that Donald Trump won the Presidential election because PC zealots were too blatant in their approach. Here he is asking what the term actually means (thankfully even he doesn't buy the whole "it's just good manners" line):

The segment of the electorate who flocked to Trump because he positioned himself as "an icon of irreverent resistance to political correctness" think it means this: smug, entitled, elitist, privileged leftists jumping down the throats of ordinary folks who aren't up-to-date on the latest requirements of progressive society.Example: A lot of people think there are only two genders—boy and girl. Maybe they're wrong. Maybe they should change that view. Maybe it's insensitive to the trans community. Maybe it even flies in the face of modern social psychology. But people think it. Political correctness is the social force that holds them in contempt for that, or punishes them outright.

If you're a leftist reading this, you probably think that's stupid. You probably can't understand why someone would get so bent out of shape about being told their words are hurtful. ["Told their words are hurtful"...is that what's happening, really?] You probably think it's not a big deal and these people need to get over themselves. Who's the delicate snowflake now, huh? you're probably thinking. I'm telling you: your failure to acknowledge this miscalculation and adjust your approach has delivered the country to Trump.

There's a related problem: the boy-who-cried-wolf situation. I was happy to see a few liberals, like Bill Maher, owning up to it. Maher admitted during a recent show that he was wrong to treat George Bush, Mitt Romney, and John McCain like they were apocalyptic threats to the nation: it robbed him of the ability to treat Trump more seriously. The left said McCain was a racist supported by racists, it said Romney was a racist supported by racists, but when an actually racist Republican came along—and racists cheered him—it had lost its ability to credibly make that accusation.

This is akin to the political-correctness-run-amok problem: both are examples of the left's horrible over-reach during the Obama years. The leftist drive to enforce a progressive social vision was relentless, and it happened too fast. I don't say this because I'm opposed to that vision—like most members of the under-30 crowd, I have no problem with gender neutral pronouns—I say this because it inspired a backlash that gave us Trump.

Donald Trump
So there you go. Even when a disciple of PC is straining as hard as he possibly can to sympathise with the troglodytes who believe (for example) that there are two genders, and even making some valid points along the way, his basic outlook is so wrong-headed-- so insane-- that it's impossible to enter into a discussion with such a person
And I don't know about you, but I find this kind of condescension a thousand times worse than the attitude he is condemning. (And the same is true of many, many similar articles and pronouncements that have appeared since Brexit and Donald Trump's election. Not that I'm banging a drum for Trump.)
There is another point to be made here, one that I can best make by an analogy with my 'day-job'.
I work in a university library, as most readers will know. The majority of students and other readers that I deal with are a dream-- polite, friendly, grateful, patient, etc. etc.
However, there is (as is to be expected) a minority of readers who are rude, aggressive (more often passive-aggressive), entitled, unreasonably demanding, etc.
I have a pretty good antennae after so many years dealing with the public, and I can usually see which tribe a reader belongs to in a heartbeat.
But sometimes I can't, and in those cases I'm very careful not to enter into any kind of pleasantry or chumminess with the reader. Very often a 'difficult' reader will deliberately try to bring about such a tone, knowing that it's much harder to disoblige someone once there is a friendly and personal ambiance to the conversation.
My suggestion is that open antagonism towards PC will ultimately reduce the overall amount of unpleasantness in our discourse. Confirmed antagonists are usually more cordial towards each other than two people (or factions) who think that the other might be won over to their side. The edge of disappointment and bitterness, the element of shock and indignation and rancour, is gone. Eventually a modus vivendi evolves-- sometimes even an affectionate kind of antagonism, like that between the Duke boys and Boss Hogg in The Dukes of Hazzard.

(It's comparable to the situation where a lady wants to make clear to an ardent male friend that she has no romantic interest in him-- the sooner it's done, and the plainer it's made, the less chance there is of lasting resentment.)
Please bear in mind, finally, that I'm talking about ideas and beliefs here. Not people. I'm certainly not advocating unfriendliness to people as people. 

But I AM calling for ruthlessness towards PC. Now, and forever. PC delenda est!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Can Christmas Be Inclusive?

Watch this interesting recreation of a real-life staff room dilemma. How do you balance cherished religious traditions with increasing ethnic and religious pluralism?


It deserves so much more than nine views. I encourage everyone to watch, share, and join in the discussion in the comments. Let's make this baby viral.

I kicked the ball off myself with a suitably balanced and reasonable contribution.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Are you Materteral?

I was thinking this morning how 'avuncular' is one of my favourite words-- I like Nigel Farage because he is so avuncular-- and it seemed to me a shame that there is no equivalent word to apply to ladies who are 'auntly'. (Whatever that is. But what is uncle-like, for that matter? You know it when you see it, and the same thing with auntiness)

But there is! At least, somebody has proposed one. Marterteral

I'm all for it.

Happy Feast Day of St. Sechnall!

As well as being the first day of Advent, today is the feast day of my name saint, St. Sechnaill (or Secundinus!), who may even have preceded St. Patrick's mission to Ireland.

You can read about him here, though much of the facts about his life are shrouded in the mists of history (delicious phrase).

Pray for me, St. Sechnaill! Ireland was pagan when you came here. It is worse than pagan now. Help me and all who profess faith in Christ  to rekindle the light of faith in this once-hallowed island!

I happen to read today, by complete coincidence, that the twenty-seventh day of November is also the day that the Blessed Virgin revealed the Miraculous Medal to St. Catherine Labouré. if Catholicism has done nothing else for me, it's given me a streak of Francophilia, after a lifetime of Francophobia. France makes sense when you think of it as 'the eldest daughter of the Church'.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Chimes at Midnight, Repeated

This is a re-run of a piece I posted a few years ago. I think I was trying to do a Keith Waterhouse. It drew a few nice comments. I happened to come on it today, and thought I would post it again. (Sometimes, when I Google usages of a particular phrase or reference, I find my own stuff.)

My life has been notably uneventful by most peoples' standards. And yet I am fascinated by how eventful life is, in every case. We have all been places, seen things, known people. Every now and again I am struck by a sense of wonder at the unseen world, so that a dusty store-room somewhere seems no less marvellous than the Grand Canyon.

Similarly, whenever I hear someone use a phrase like "I remember a time we used to..." or "back in the day, a few of us would always..." I feel a frisson of awe.

This essay was more an attempt to convey this sense of awe, than to write about my own experience particularly. I also love the phrase 'the chimes at midnight", which evokes to me this particular atmosphere of tremulous wonder.

If I were to die this very day...

If I were to die this very day, I would have walked alone on a deserted beach, and stood in a crowd of untold thousands in London on New Year's Eve, with my wife-to-be.

I would have flown over the Atlantic Ocean, looking at the clouds glowing beneath me. I would have heard a tune played on an organ made of stone, in an underground cavern.

I would have played blind-man's-bluff, charades, beggar-my-neighbour, Cluedo, hide-and-seek, Pooh sticks, and a game invented by me and my brothers that involved trying to hit each other with the rubber base of a hospital crutch, first bouncing it against the floor.

I would have been a socialist, an Irish nationalist, an anti-Irish anti-nationalist, an anti-modernist, an atheist, an agnostic, an anglophile, a Judophile, a Luddite, a monarchist, a eugenicist (unfortunately), a Catholic, and a fan of Liverpool Football Club.

I would have sat in a field with other neighbourhood boys, at dusk, after playing football for hours, and listened to ghost stories. I would have lain awake in bed that night, desperately trying not to say (or rather, think) the Lord's Prayer backwards, thus summoning the Devil.

I would have been to a single baseball game, and come away entranced, with the song echoing in my head: "Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd..."

I would have watched bats flitter through the twilight in Limerick, and watched lightning-bugs glow in Virginia.

I would have worn: sideburns, a Marseillies soccer jersey, silky tracksuits, fingerless gloves, massive square-framed glasses, a pink wrist-watch, denim corduroys, a blue jumper with pictures of space invaders, and slacks and shirts and jumpers that made one girl tell me, "You dress like a seminarian".

I would have sat in an empty cinema watching a movie alone. I would have been to see the same movie five times-- for two different movies. I would have watched three movies in the cinema, in a row, on one day. And all this after having nervously bought a cinema ticket on my own, for the first time, in my early twenties.

I would have eaten five cream cakes in a row, walking around Dublin city centre in my college days, because I could afford all five for a pound.

I would have heard an old Jewish man recalling his memories of Krystallnacht, the night when SA troops and ordinary Germans smashed up hundreds of Jewish shops and businesses.

I would have prayed to God in Westminster Cathedral, in the café of a cinema, in a completely dark budget hotel room, at the top of Croagh Patrick.

I would have actually slipped on a banana peel, in Moore Street.

I would have stood in a dole queue, and sat in the first-class section of an airplane.

I would have lain awake in bed reading all night until morning, not once but several times, reading To Sir with Love, David Copperfield, The Ragged-Trousered Philantropists, and a Sexton Blake book.

I would have forgotten my own birthday at the age of fourteen, but never have lost a child's excitement about Christmas-- even when I half-wanted to, in my late teens.

I would have collected Batman cards, Transformers toys, the Tranformers comic, The Eagle comic, Carry On movies, Subbuteo teams and accessories, and unusual words.

I would have been on a picket once, rather reluctantly.

I would have drawn a map of a fantasy world on the back of a roll of wallpaper, as part of a plan to out-Tolkien Tolkien, before my voice had even broken.

I would have lain in bed crying, wishing Aslan was real.

I would have visited the National Museum with my class, and have been frightened because everything there was so old and belonged to the dead.

I would have heard kids in my French class excitedly discussing the odds of a white Christmas that year-- a white Christmas that never came to pass. But I would have lived to see a real, gleaming, perfect white Christmas, many years later.

I would sat in an Accident and Emergency department for twelve hours with my future wife, on her first visit to Ireland.

I would never have milked a cow, because my farmer uncle would never let me when I asked him.

I would have pompously told my father that "I renounce Shakespeare", some time in my teens, only to receive the withering response that I wasn't the first person to do that.

I would have been shown a rock with Satan's footprint on it.

I would have watched with awe as my older brother and my cousin played games like Back to Skool and War of the Worlds on my cousin's Spectrum computer.

I would have been caught in the middle of a riot.

I would have gone on my knees (plural) and proposed to a woman, and heard her say "Yes" through tears.

I would have written a love-note to a girl, and then chickened out of putting it in her school-bag.

I would have smelled freshly-mown grass, tasted greasy chips, seen the night sky glow orange with the reflection of street lamps, shivered with cold as I walked around the school-yard on a Winter morning, and lost all taste for red wine after I drank too much of it at a dinner party and almost threw up in the taxi.

I would have been in detention once, and struggled with scruples about promising the supervising teacher that he wouldn't see me again, since I didn't see how I could conscientously promise that.

I would have known neighbours knock on our door to ask if they could use our telephone, long years before every ten-year-old kid had his own mobile.

I would have been given a snow-man snow-globe, for Kriskindle, at a work Christmas party.

I would have played a computer game for sixteen hours straight, then gone out to walk the dog in the early hours, have been so light-headed that I felt I was walking on the moon, and resolved not to play any more computer games.

I would never have been in a wax museum, seen E.T., played spin-the-bottle, read Treasure Island, been in a helicopter, or had a headache.

I would have known what it was like to have no friends, and what it was like to have wonderful friends.

I would have seen every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but never seen an episode of Cheers.

I would have received a Valentine's card-- for the first time, in my thirties.

I would have written poetry in a café in Wales, in Dublin airport, in Philadelphia airport, in a pub in Chester.

I would have sat down in an almost-deserted school hall, during one study period towards the end of the day, reading my history book as silence fell over the school, and suddenly realised that history had actually happened.

I would have been almost mugged, with a bottle waved in my face, until my would-be-mugger relented, when someone he knew shouted from a window to leave me alone.

I would have had one line to say in a school play, and forgotten it.

I would have got trapped behind a china cabinet, that was placed diagonally in a corner of the living room.

I would have heard children playing outside my window.

I would have seen what seemed like hundreds of crows filling the sky at dawn, out my bedroom window, when staying with my step-grandfather, in Croom.

I would have volunteered for a psychological study in Trinity College, which involved spitting into a glass dish.

I would have made shadow-puppets by candlelight, with my family, during a power-cut.

I would have lost my glasses in a water-slide.

I would have once written ten thousand words before breakfast.

I would have had debates about capitalism, poetry, euthanasia, gun control, the existence of God, Irish history, cinema, national traditions, immigration, superheroes, and dozens of other subjects.

I would have carried two bunches of roses, one white and one red, through the streets of Richmond, drawing thumbs-ups and cheers from a group of young guys, a deadpan comment that "you've got it covered" from a passing girl, and-- months later-- a mention from some acquaintances who had passed me in a car at the time.

I would have heard a ghost story about the Titanic, told in a school dressing room, that involved deep-sea divers seeing the words "Leave us in our watery grave" written on the hull, and walked home feeling a chill all around me.

I would have walked into a shop with clothes-pegs in my hair, as a child, just to top a story that my brother told me about a friend who had started eating a paper bag at the cash desk of a bookstore.

I would have missed my train on a visit to Sheffield, because I couldn't resist going back to the pub where I'd had dinner, to look one more time at the red-haired barmaid who'd served me. But she was gone.

If I were to die today, I'd be grateful.

But I'd rather live for many years to come.

Monday, November 21, 2016

John Waters on the End of Debate in Ireland

Related to my foregoing post, here's an interesting video from John Waters on the topic "The End of Debate in Ireland."

I was there! I was sitting between Desmond Fennel (a public intellectual) and Fr. Brian McKevitt (the editor of Alive!, a Catholic freesheet newspaper of a decidedly conservative bent). I introduced myself to Fr. Brian, who asked me if I represented a group. I should have said, no, I'm just some guy.

The sombre and almost apocalyptic tone of John Waters in this video reflects my own view. Political correctness, cultural Marxism (a term Waters mentions) and the stranglehold of left-liberalism is something that terrifies me, and I think many people radically underestimate how sinister and serious a threat it represents.

"Something radical and unbelievable is happening to our culture, and we are seemingly powerless to stop it." Indeed. 

It's particularly bad in Ireland, but I don't think it's essentially different here than anywhere else.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

People and Ideas

One of my favourite websites on the internet (which is, after all, the only place you're likely to find websites) is TV Tropes. It's all about various tropes, or artistic conventions, used in fiction and TV. It was intended as a resource for writers, but I just read it for fun. I won't link to it, since you can just Yahoo it or Duck Duck Go if you want.

I came across the above photograph on it. The article it is taken from is titled 'Accidental Nightmare Fuel', and is dedicated to unintentionally frightening moments in movies, TV shows, etc.

The caption on the photo is: "Sure, she's smiling now, but wait until she sees the picture." The point being that the bunny looks downright evil in it.

True enough, but that's not why this picture stuck with me. It's that...the little girl is so adorable, and innocent, and happy-looking! She melts my heart.

The picture has deepened a 'mood' that has come upon me over the last few years. 

You know, I can be a very irritable and caustic kind of fellow-- although I'm generally polite for public consumption, anyone who knows me well would know that my sense of humour can be mordant, to the extent that I regularly find myself confessing my uncharitable jokes in sacramental confession

And yet, despite my occasional surges of misanthropy, I increasingly find myself feeling sorry for everybody.

Look at that little girl in the picture. So full of excitement, and enthusiasm, and dreams, and spontaneity! Everybody started out like that. If they become jerks, it's usually through disappointment or trauma or some festering wound.

I think everybody is like that little girl, deep down.

Added to this is the fact that everybody is going to die. And not only going to die, but going to miss out on some of the things that they wanted with all their hearts. And going to lose people they love.

I only agree with one thing that any New Atheist ever said, and that's this comment by Sam Harris: "Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?"

(Of course, it doesn't stop me from being a jerk a lot of the time. But I do try to remember and pull back from it. Sometimes.)

I wrote a poem trying to express and dramatise this mood. One reader very kindly said it moved him to tears.

But! But! But!

At the very same time I find myself having a more tender attitude towards people, I find myself having a tougher attitude towards ideas. I mean bad, evil ideas.

Longtime readers of this blog (and there are a few) may have noticed a hardening of my attitude in recent times. I suppose you could say I have 'shifted to the right', in some regards.

Being a fan of the genial G.K. Chesterton, and being cognisant of the effect that cyberspace can have on personality, I've always tried to be courteous and reasonable on this blog, and in other virtual spaces. I'm proud of the fact that I've always used my full name and made known my place of employment, so nobody can accuse me of hiding behind anonymity.


I have to admit that I'm becoming much less convinced of the value of being courteous and reasonable-- if you are not dealing with courteous and reasonable opponents.

Think of the liberal left in Ireland. They have their knives out for the Catholic Church. They are not fair, or objective, or reasonable.

If you met one of them in a pub or at a party, since you would be face to face and the likelihood is that you are both ordinary likeable people, you could well have a reasonable and polite and cordial conversation about Catholicism (or euthanasia, or gay marriage, etc.). Both parties might say things like: "You have a point", or "I see what you're saying".

But afterwards, what difference would it make? In all likelihood, your interlocutor is not going to become any more reasonable or fair-minded as a result of the encounter. He or she may be the most reasonable person when it comes to the affairs of everyday life, but ideology works differently.

I hear Fintan O'Toole is a very nice chap, and I believe it. But week after week he launches venomous attacks against the Catholic Church, the unborn child, the institution of marriage and many other precious things in the pages of The Irish Times.

A nice guy, when he's not writing in favour of the right to kill human beings
I have no animosity against the man himself, but I think his ideas deserve to be met with unbridled hostility. And the same goes for many others. 

The clash of ideas and the interaction of human beings are not the same thing.

We should always be kind to people. I don't think we should always be kind to ideas. In fact, I think we should be pretty ruthless to bad and dangerous and destructive ideas.

I think that it's not only permissible, but often even necessary, to resort to polemic, invective, scorn, ridicule and animosity when we find ourselves confronted with evil ideas. Not when we are debating with people who are genuinely open-minded, but when we find ourselves facing an implacable enemy.

Political correctness, for instance, deserves no quarter. Using terms like 'LGBT', or referring to a man as 'she', or being cornered into delivering strings of apologies ("I absolute think that discrimination is wrong, nobody is more horrified by discrimination than me") is NOT wise. You may think you are being urbane or temperate, but you are in fact being conditioned, in pursuance of a very conscious strategy on the part of your opponents.

Ideas matter, and bad ideas deserve our hostility. 

I am sure that the Association of Catholic Priests-- the left-wing priest's association in Ireland, which is always trying to spread heresy-- is full of priests who are very pleasant and kind and loveable people, on an individual level. They were all sweet, wide-eyed toddlers once. But the work they are doing is very often (unwittingly) the Devil's work. It kills souls.

The same is true of other bad ideas, religious and secular. Of course, some are less dangerous and harmful than others. But many of them, religious and secular, simply need to be squashed with extreme prejudice.

(I am well aware that only months ago, on this blog, I was talking about my fascination with the 'virtual space' of pluralism, and the concept of society being an extended group of friends. Well, I've thought it through and changed my mind-- that was a passing phase.) 

We sometimes hear the argument: "You can win the debate, but lose the soul." Of course this is possible, and prudence would recognise where it is a danger.

But in reality, I think this danger is vastly overstated. Most people who enter a debate are already committed to a particular point of view. They are highly unlikely to change it soon no matter how gentle or rough you are.

It is the audience who is swayed. After all, most 'debates' are not one-on-one. Most debates are open-ended, involving print and broadcasts and posters and graffiti and all sorts of other media.

Another claim you sometimes hear is that bluster and indignation are counter-productive, since people only get heated when they can't prevail using sweet reason, or when they doubt their own arguments.

How true is this? If someone were to accuse you of making obscene phone calls to their grandmother, would your knowledge of your own innocence prevent you from becoming agitated about it?

Or if someone were to claim that one of your teachers in school, who was a bully and a sadist, was practically a saint, would it be surprising if you became flustered in arguing this?

Sometimes the demand is made that a discussion should produce light rather than heat. Well, heat and light generally go together. 

Sometimes you hear someone say something like: "People are more important than ideas". In a literal sense, I agree with this, but what does it really mean?

Take the presumption of innocence. That's an idea. But it's an idea that protects real human beings.

Or 'reproductive rights'. That's an idea-- an idea that has killed millions of innocent human beings.

I have been thinking about this a lot in recent months, and I am more and more strongly of the opinion that Catholics (and others) have been losing simply through conceding-- through not showing up, through not speaking up. Through being excessively apologetic and tentative and cautious.

Tried to 'dialogue'. Look what happened to him.

The gold standard of debate is generally taken to be the Socratic dialogues written by Plato-- which are not so much an adversarial process as a kind of interpersonal encounter, a shared journey towards truth.

That may have been appropriate to Athenian gentlemen of Socrates's time, but it hardly seems appropriate to our current situation-- outside the context, perhaps, of good friends having a good-humoured discussion over coffee, on a long walk.

That is not our situation. There are very powerful forces in our society who want to silence opinions they hate-- prolife views, the defence of religious liberty, and a whole host of others. If they cannot silence them, they wish to stigmatise them, to marginalise them, or to moderate them as much as possible.

Refusing to shut up, or to be cowed, or to be apologetic, is a victory in itself.

I think we should be kind to people, the good and the bad. But I don't think we should be kind to bad ideas, especially when the people advancing them (who may be lovely, lovely people in many ways) have no real interest in 'dialogue', or discussion, fairness.

That's not the time to be a bunny-rabbit. Unless it's one mean bunny-rabbit.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Buy the Road to Damascus for 2,970 Dollars!

Seriously, you can.

I don't know if it's worth that much but I'm surprised it's still available, one way or another.

I love the phrase 'the road to Damascus'.

I don't know what my all-time favourite phrase is. I like "softly falling snow" very much. I like "the cold light of day" very much. I like "down Memory Lane" very much.

And I'm sure there are others that I can't think of right now, but "the road to Damascus" is certainly one of my all-time favourite phrases.

Come to think of it, I like any phrase or title which begins "the road to...", such as The Road to Wigan Pier

It's a good book, too. 

The title is ironic, as a quotation from Orwell on the Wikipedia page explains: "Wigan has always been picked on as a symbol of the ugliness of the industrial areas. At one time, on one of the muddy little canals that run round the town, there used to be a tumble-down wooden jetty; and by way of a joke some nicknamed this Wigan Pier. The joke caught on locally, and then the music hall comedians got hold of it, and they are the ones who have succeeded in keeping Wigan Pier alive as a byword." 

(In Britain a pier is usually a place of recreation and entertainment.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Venerable Fulton Sheen on The Rosary

From his book, The World's First Love:

It is objected that there is much repetition in the Rosary because the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary are said so often; therefore it is monotonous. That reminds me of a woman who came to see me one evening after instructions. She said, “I would never become a Catholic. You say the same words in the Rosary over and over again, and anyone who repeats the same words is never sincere. I would never believe anyone who repeated his words, and neither would God.” I asked her who the man was with her. She said he was her fiancé. I asked: “Does he love you?” “Certainly, he does.” “But how do you know?” “He told me.” “What did he say?” “He said: ‘I love you.’ ” “When did he tell you last?” “About an hour ago.” “Did he tell you before?” “Yes, last night.” “What did he say?” ” ‘I love you.’ ” “But never before?” “He tells me every night.” I said: “Do not believe him. He is repeating; he is not sincere.”

The beautiful truth is that there is no repetition in, “I love you.” Because there is a new moment of time, another point in space, the words do not mean the same as they did at another time or space. A mother says to her son: “You are a good boy.” She may have said it ten thousand times before, but each time it means something different; the whole personality goes out to it anew, as a new historical circumstance summons forth a new outburst of affection. Love is never monotonous in the uniformity of its expression. The mind is infinitely variable in its language, but the heart is not. The heart of a man, in the face of the woman he loves, is too poor to translate the infinity of his affection into a different word. So the heart takes one expression, “I love you,” and in saying it over and over again, it never repeats. It is the only real news in the universe.

The Venerable Fulton Sheen

I read this passage on my morning tea-break, and decided to blog it. I hoped I could find it already transcribed somewhere, to save me typing it. And I discovered that it was; not only once, but (fittingly) many, many times. I copied and pasted it from The Catholic Gentleman (whom I thank).

I picked up that book from the library book exchange months ago. I admit I have only read passages here and there, as I find the Venerable Sheen's style a bit too orotund.

But this passage interested me very much, as I often find myself thinking of simple words like: "Please", "Thank you", "Greetings", "Hello", "Sorry", and so forth. I find myself wondering what they actually mean, what their informational content is. Sometimes I find myself wondering (although of course I know, but wondering in an abstract kind of way) why we don't simply eliminate 'please' and 'thank you' from everyday transactions, since they can more or less be taken as read.

I also find myself increasingly struck by the importance of small gestures. A small, kind gesture might have an effect out of all proportion to what it cost, while the lack of one might be utterly crushing. In the movie The Damned United, about the rivalry between soccer managers Brian Clough and Don Revie (based, of course, on a true story), Brian Clough goes from near hero-worship of Don Revie to an almost obsessive rivalry...because the more experienced manager failed to shake his hand after a match. I don't know if that's the actual historical truth, but I can easily believe such a thing would happen.

Brian Clough and Don Revie

I can remember once telling two friends of mine, in separate emails, that I wouldn't be able to attend scheduled meetings of clubs because I was flying to America. It was winter and both of them told me to wrap up warm. I remember how extraordinarily touched I felt by that.

I read recently that some people have been saved from suicide by something as simple as a smile from a stranger. I can believe that, too.

After 9/11 I felt it was a bit silly that so many of the people I knew were signing condolence books, physical or online. Nobody would ever read them, and what difference would one signature make out of hundreds of thousands?

Well, I have changed my mind about that. I have noticed, when I read about historical events such as tragedies, or protests, or coronations, or similar major public events, how often books of condolences, telegrams of congratulation, cards, etc. are mentioned. "Hundreds of people lined up to pass the coffin", "Over three hundred thousand people signed a book of condolences", "Telegrams of congratulations were received from as far away as Papua New Guinea"; such statements seem to feature heavily in historical accounts, and indeed are rarely omitted. Sometimes the details are even more precise.

Indeed, it often strikes me how strange it is that the most symbolic gestures, and the ones that require the least effort, are very often the things that make the most impact, for good or ill.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Prayer Request

A very quick post to ask my readers to pray for the right result in a Student's Union referendum being held in UCD today and yesterday. The vote is on whether the UCD Student's Union should adopt a neutral stance on the subject of abortion. It's only happening because a petition to hold it got enough signatures.

Here's a link:


This is what the woman making the anti-neutrality argument says:
Voting for neutrality might seem like the reasonable thing to do in this referendum. However, when you really look at it as a whole, voting for neutrality means shutting down all conversation about abortion in our university which would be detrimental to the very idea of a university.

College is supposed to be an experience where we become more aware and more informed about social issues. Allowing our students union’ to have a pro-choice stance means that debates can be had about this issue and people can become better informed and make their own decisions about this topic. Neutrality stifles discussion and it would be a shame to see UCD become a place where healthy debate and discussion can no longer take place

 "Neutrality stifles discussion". Freedom is slavery, war is peace, ignorance is strength, propaganda is information, etc. etc.

From what I can see, the pro-neutrality camp has been much more active in campaigning, but the pro-aborts probably feel complacent enough not to campaign much. I hope they're wrong. Pray! 

(Edit, 12/11/16: Sadly, the Student's Union voted to stick with their current policy of campaiging for abortion to be introduced. But the vote for neutrality was 36 per cent. Which isn't too bad.)