Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Don Webb - Right Place Wrong Time

Alan Morgan is a hot shot salesman, but always short of cash. He has just secured a new job, which could make him a fortune, if he can pull it off.

There is also a murderous criminal on the lose, who robs his victims and is not afraid to shoot them. The problem? Alan looks exactly like the wanted man - and the Police want to know where he was when the crimes were committed.
Alan - Shaun Dooley 
Perkins - Greg Wood 
Cheshire - James Quinn 
Jill - Fiona Clarke 
Berry - Roger Morlidge 
Margaret - Ruth Alexander-Rubin.
 Produced by Gary Brown

Stupid Mail

You know, if I have to keep answering the trolling I'll never get around to posting a radio play today.

Blaming the Catholic Church for something they opposed as strongly as they opposed abortion or contraception, eugenic sterilization proves only one thing, the college-credentialed (mostly) people who do that are total fucking idiots, especially those who write such tripe, produce it and give it prizes.  Show biz idiots are some of the most dangerous ones.

I have yet to hear anyone of that sort blame one of the most active and most involved professions in the crime of eugenics, THE MEDICAL PROFESSION.  How come it is that these educated folk never, ever, ever! seem to see the scientists and doctors who are the ones who actually propose these things AND WHO DO THESE THINGS while imagining they see priests and bishops and popes doing them?

I don't want to recreate things that I've gone over and over and over in response to trolls so I'll leave you with one such English speaking, American medico who was to the Abenakis of Vermont as a Nazi genocidalist was to the Jews of Europe right up till the time they started murdering people eugenically, Dr. Henry Farnham Perkins.   With that name in Vermont, practicing eugenics, I doubt, very much, that he was a Catholic.
My friend RMJ has done me the honor of commenting on my commentary from the other day,  I'm reading it several times and am convinced he is right on at least one disagreement with what I said or, rather, said badly so I thought I'd point it out here.

The Band - Unfaithful Servant

Unfaithful servant, I hear you're leavin' soon in the mornin'
What did you do to the lady, that she's gonna have to send you away?
Unfaithful servant, you don't have to say you're sorry
If you done it just for the spite, or did you do it just for the glory?
Like a stranger you turned your back
Left your keep and gone to pack
But bear in mind who's to blame for all the shame
She really cared
The time she spared
And the home you shared

Unfaithful servant, I can hear the whistle blowin'
Yes, that train is a-comin' and soon you'll be a-goin'
Need us not bow our heads, for we won't be complainin'
Life has been good to us all, even when that sky is rainin'
To take it like a grain of salt
Is all I can do and it's no one's fault
It makes no diff'rence if we fade away
It's just as it was
And it's much to cold for me to stay

Goodbye to that country home, so long, lady I have known
Farewell to my other side, I'd best just take it in stride
Unfaithful servant, you'll learn to find your place
I can see it in your smile, and, yes, I can see it in your face
The mem'ries will linger on
But the good old days, they're all gone
Oh, lonesome servant, can't you see
We're still one and the same
Just you and me

It is pretty remarkable how much commentary has been done on the texts for the Brown Album by people who have clearly thought long and hard on what they can draw from the words.*

This song, one of the best that Robbie Robertson wrote,  has three characters in it, the "unfaithful servant," the singer-narrator  who is certainly a very close friend of the US, a member of the same household that they share with "the lady" who the  unfaithful servant did something to that leads to his dismissal. Though we haven't been told the gender of the U.S. so that's left to speculation.  I have to say until I read someone making that point this morning it hadn't occurred to me that the servant could have been female. 

I'd assumed because they were represented as leaving alone and from the time I pictured, that the servant was a male who had made some kind of sexual advance that The Lady didn't want or who had had a sexual relation with her that was ended through discovery or it being broken off on unfriendly terms or that he'd been unfaithful with someone else.  Though it could have been a financial wrong, perhaps one mixed with sexual issues.  But I can't believe it was over money.  The singer doesn't seem to know exactly what it was because he is asking what the US did that led to the break up of a happy household that he's mourning the end of.  

He clearly feels broken up over the US leaving, regretting the good old days that are past and gone. He also seems hurt that he isn't regretting leaving, the US is smiling and he figures his friend is going to make out all right wherever he lands.  I concluded that the narrator was a fellow servant who, out of loyalty to The Lady or maybe her family or maybe the land, is remaining in the household permanently damaged by that rupture.    

The commentary I've read on it universally places the location as in the American South, partly due to the accent used to sing it, and all of the songs on the album, though I believe only the drummer Levon Helm was from the South.  Clearly, it's a product of the imagination of a Canadian guy who was recreating lives from a different place than Toronto.  I haven't heard of any Southerners complaining that it or the songs explicitly naming their narrators as Southerners was an act of cultural appropriation so I guess they find it as convincing as I do.  If someone wanted to write in that depth about people in rural New England with that much insight and sympathy and respect and so convincingly, I don't care if they come from anywhere.  Believe me, in Maine we've experienced cultural expropriation of the opposite kind.
It's one of the greatest song of the last 50 years that I know.  I've never heard anyone sing it but Rick Danko and am not sure I want to hear anyone else sing it, he did it so perfectly - reportedly on the first take that got put on the disc.   If I sang I don't think I'd try to sing it. 

* The commentary on the words is generally a lot better than the commentary on the instrumental playing.   As a musician, I don't find that at all useful, it diminishes the experience instead of explaining it - if you could explain it you wouldn't have to do it in music.  It's only annoying. 

Many Related Issues

It counted as a disappointment that when the new-atheism was a fad in the wake of 9-11 and those hundreds and thousands of atheists, most with college degrees or in college, or so it seemed, . . . when they started making their pitches against religion and anything that could imply the reality of God, I was surprised at a. how threadbare their slogans and arguments tended to be, b. how really bad a lot of them were at thinking, c. how plug awful conventional they were.  I concluded that it was one of the most conformist of fads I'd ever witnessed, a vulgar form of ephemeral fashion dressed up in academic drag and with pretenses of being all, you know, sciency.  

One of the more silly arguments I had pulled on me, even in my agnostic phase had been the old paradox of an all-powerful God being able to make a rock too big for God to pick up.  My first response was that the argument didn't take the word "all-powerful"  at its word.  All powers would include the power to overcome paradox, something which human beings would certainly struggle with and probably fail at but the all-powerful God would be able to overcome the paradox, probably in ways that human beings couldn't imagine and certainly can't replicate.  Despite what so many of us seem to believe, including the current occupant of the Oval Office and so many a pop art diva, we're not God. 

As it is, a lot of recent theology, when it deals with the All qualities of God of previous theology, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, etc. is a lot better at presenting problems such attributes of God present than any atheist I've ever heard or read.   And they aren't afraid to point out that God, as presented in the varied human imagination of the Bible, presents a lot of those problems.  

For example, God is presented as changing his mind when Israel fails to live up to the Covenant that God presented as eternal.  Which might be an understanding of why the misfortunes that the Children of Israel thought were NOT part of the bargain befell them.  A lesser people would have ignored their part in bringing about the results of their misfortune.  Or that what was promised was not what they had assumed in all too human terms.   One of the things I've found enormously impressive with that is that, very often, the failures of the Children of Israel are attributed to their failures in charitable justice, their obligations to the destitute, the widow, the orphan, the alien living among them.  It's a far more impressive God who brings national consequences for that than some god who does it over sexual jealousy or some other, all too human motivation.  

The issue of paradox figures in these next paragraphs form Why I Am Still A Christian, I thought I should get the issue out of the way first. 

After saying in the last paragraph I posted,  "He is not a super-ego or a Big Brother.  God bursts apart the concept of person;  God is more than a person," Kung continues:

But conversely, a God who is the foundation of personal nature of human beings cannot himself be a-personal either.  He is not sub-personal.  God also burst apart the concept of the impersonal;  God is not less than a person either. 

Even mathematicians and scientists had to get used to paradoxical thinking.  Niels Bohr's concept of complementarity offers itself as an example here.  In quantum mechanics, it depends on the question that is asked whether the answer in an experiment is expressed in terms of "wave" or "corpuscle" ;  and in the same way, in philosophical and theological discussion, it depends on the way the question is put whether, in answer to a particular question, God might be described as "personal" or "a-personal."  But the fact that God is fundamentally neither personal nor a-personal depends upon the incomparable nature of God.  He is in fact both the same time, and might therefore properly be called "super-personal."   

But for our biblical faith and our Christian values today, the decisive thing is that, even though this God is "super-personal," he is still a genuine partner who is kind and absolutely reliable, a partner to whom we can speak.  Of course we can only talk about this God, and talk to him, in metaphors and images, in ciphers and symbols.  But we can nonetheless communicate with him with human words - how else?   And it is obviously on this basis that the possibility of prayer and worship depends - a possibility which, it seems to me, is enormously important, particularly for us modern human beings and our essential Christian values - which of course should not be purely intellectual.  For in simple prayer and genuine worship even modern men and women can find certain values at a wholly different depth of their existence, and can truly experience where we come from, where we are, and where we are going.  

In my personal experience of meditation, something I've done most days, walking meditation.*   

But it wasn't until about six years ago that I changed the focus from the mere sensation of walking and breathing to the two parts of the Shema, love God and be good to each other that it was effective for me.  I am convinced that it is a belief in God that powers the most effective manifestations of being good to each other, certainly in society, that's the case.  I have never seen a deficit in one half of that, in people liking people to be good to them, it's a lot harder to keep up their end of the bargain if they don't feel compulsion to do good to other people and they figure they can get away with it.   Trump and pretty much all of Republican-fascism functions that way, which is most visible in those who support them while professing most loudly their Christianity.  Even when Trump so badly mangles the ideas he's obviously never thought of except in the way he might have learned a line for his reality TV show, even when he fumbles into declaring his divinity, such Christians as stick with him show the difficulties of giving up self-interest when they figure  there is no divine requirement that they do so.   

Since this is obviously a political commentary on the book, I will point out that slavery as practiced in the United States and elsewhere is an ultimate form of NOT doing unto others as you would have them do to you.  In the institutions, the Constitution, federal and state law, local statutes, in the parts of Protestant denominations that broke with their abolitionist and desegregationist brethren, in the Catholic and other cannon law that maintained the institution of slavery** we can see what happens when people figure they are entitled to having people do FOR them, what they have absolutely no intention of doing for other people.  I don't think that it's any accident that the evangelicals who support Trump tend to be in the tradition that supported slavery and segregation and that the Catholics who support him despise liberation theology and any attempt to drag the Catholic church out of the darkest days of its past.  

In political terms, it all does hinge on whether or not you really believe you are to do the will of God in doing to others what you want them to do to you.  You can either make that real in real life out of fear of punishment - which might be effective enough to make it real in law and in practice - or you can do it because you want to because you love God and are inclined to follow the commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples, "Love one another as I have loved you."   I think the second one would be the more successful means but I can't think of any other motives that would overcome self-interest that they can get away with in human terms, in sufficient numbers of people, with sufficient universality except those two.

Today Christians no longer have a naive belief in God, which suggests an answer to some other difficulties in the way of the Christian faith,  especially scientific ones.   

I'll leave it there because the next paragraph is a very long one which goes into that.   I will say that here Kung is talking about not all Christians because a lot of people who profess Christianity do have a naive belief in God as the answer to their personal difficulties - especially those who never deal with those difficulties asserted with modern science.  

Science, itself, can't deal with Christian faith except in only a few details associated with physical objects.  Science can't be used to honestly address anything but those things which are susceptible to its methods.  The famous "wave-particle" issue of physics that Kung brings up is about as practical a demonstration of the very real and important limits of science in addressing even the simplest of objects such as electrons.  As I've noted before, scientists, when they are being honest, most so when they're being most rigorously honest, will admit those limits.  I found it interesting that the major figures of the new atheism tended to be those in the life sciences and most of them in the most attenuated and speculative branches of what is called science, including those which often by professional habit, put aside any notions of strict adherence to both the methods of science and the subject matter which can honestly be subjected to scientific methods.  The vulgarity, the puerility of argument that came from Richard Dawkins in that landmark of the new-atheist fad, The God Delusion was so bad that even many of his fellow atheists publicly expressed their embarrassment over it.  And there were worse. 

* I first took it up because as a piano player I had to sit for so many hours a day I couldn't stand sitting anymore.  I couldn't stand sitting meditation.  I learned it from a student of the Buddhist monk Titch Nhat Hanh, before "mindfullness" became a watch word.  What I think of as Buddhist meditation technology is a huge contribution to human culture but when it is done in an absence of moral content, like conventional technology, I worry about its ability to just make people more efficient at being self-centered and more concentrated in doing bad things they want to do.  I've been impressed, and not in a good way, at how some of the worst of the tech millionaires and billionaires took up "mindfulness".   That's something that Buddhist texts warn about, so it's not jut me who had that problem with it.  I'm sure the Buddhists who told me that justice is an illusion were diligent in their "mindfulness" practice, it just didn't contain what was needed to let them see that justice is no illusion.  

** War is, of course, another ultimate form of not doing unto others what you would have them do unto you.  So is wage slavery - against which so much of the Gospel, the Law and the Prophets speaks.

Friday, September 13, 2019

In Which I Possibly Have a Major Disagreement With Hans Kung.

This is certainly the biblical God, but the biblical God perceived in the new view of the world according to Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin.  A God who, as the all-embracing and all pervasive God of the world, i certainly not a person in the way that a human being is a person.  What determines every individual human existence is not an individual person like other persons.  He is not a super-ego or a Big Brother.  God Bursts apart the concept of person  God is more than a person.

My history of public writing, of blogging requires that I deal specifically with this paragraph because, of course, the name "Darwin" in that list.  As someone who, as a result of arguments I had online, took on the shockingly easy task of documenting the link of Charles Darwin's major claim to fame, natural selection, with eugenics, scientific racism and, yes, the genocides of the Nazis, I have to differ IF HANS KUNG MEANT NATURAL SELECTION WHEN HE INCLUDED DARWIN'S NAME ON THAT LIST.   

If he meant, merely, the fact that all known living beings we know today are descended from earlier members of earlier species, that would make this passage non-controversial from my point of view.  The massive evidence of the fact of evolution, a theory which preceded Charles Darwin and which doesn't need natural selection to be established in the evidence of it, is certainly the most well established fact of evolutionary biology, I would say it is either the only fact so well-established in evolutionary biology or close to it.*  I will acknowledge that Darwin's invention of natural selection led, in history, to a wider acceptance of the fact of evolution but that historical fact doesn't alter the problems with the theory which has had an extremely troubled and troubling history along with that influence. 

Natural selection is not either well and solidly defined nor is it all that well documented, most of the documentation I've seen of it consists of creating scenarios which either beg the question, assuming natural selection as an essential premise on which the conclusion is based or an invention of a scenario for which natural selection must be the answer.  Almost everything that would be needed to confirm natural selection as a universal and supreme law of biology is unavailable to us, having been lost forever in the fact that almost all of that information is and forever will be lost to scientific examination.

If natural selection is what Hans Kung meant by his inclusion of Darwin, I have to object in the most strenuous of terms because natural selection, from the earliest weeks and months of it being known, EVEN BEFORE CHARLES DARWIN'S BOOK WAS PUBLISHED IN 1858, was used to attack Christian morality, the teachings of Jesus and religion in general.  The secondary literature of Darwinism begins, almost immediately to take on a polemical character to make that attack and to give it the aura of scientific certainty.   It is notable that its most devastating impact on religious faith was among those who took certain views of the Bible and Christianity while others were entirely untouched by it.  As Darwinism gained fashionability in the university and writing classes, it spawned much of the modern anti-Christian, anti-religion movement.**  And it did so with Darwin's full approval, his foremost followers, so designated by him, Thomas Huxley, Francis Galton, Ernst Haeckel, wrote books and articles and papers using natural selection to attack not only Christianity on the basis of inequality being a law of nature, an engine of progress, but also egalitarian democracy.   

Reading the attack by Darwinists on egalitarian democracy as they used natural selection to assert the desirability, indeed, the scientific inevitability of inequality  - the alternative in attempts to establish equality being predicted to lead to a catatrophic biologically determined dysgenesis of the human species, led me to conclude that Christian egalitarianism and egalitarian democracy were inextricably linked.  That their remedy inevitably included the exclusion of entire groups of people from the human species, either directly by killing them or passively allowing their deaths through poverty, illness, etc. refusing to maintain them in life or by their medical sterilization was exactly what was put into effect by eugenics laws and boards in the United States, Canada, Germany, and later through he mass murders of the Nazis and others.  

I have documented that in numerous ways, in numerous places, at different times, starting with Darwin and his inner circle and down to today's neo-Nazis and academically approved neo-eugenicists and scientific racists that I could write a book, my posts on that topic in my archive probably are long enough to be edited down to one.  

Natural selection is the opposite of the Mosaic Law which sought to maintain the lowest class of the destitute and the poor, the "alien living among" the Children of Israel, it is certainly opposed to God as Christians are required to believe by the teachings of Jesus, who exists among us AS THE LEAST AMONG US.   There is no way that both natural selection can be true and Christianity can be true, there is absolutely, by the very words of Darwin's own disciples, who he endorsed and agreed with, no way that natural selection can be true and the basis of egalitarian democracy can be true.  And I have documented that any number of times.   

As I hope will become obvious, Hans Kung's own text lays out the essential components of Christianity that are incompatible with natural selection.  As they comprise some of his most potent arguments for belief in Christianity, these are not minor points of possible disagreement.  

*  I have also noted that one of Charles Darwin's major holdings which I believe,  that all known living life on Earth was descended from a single, original organism, is a product of sheer faith and conclusions based on what seems most probable.  That is not evidenced and, I have every certainty, that it will not be evidenced because there is no way to establish that in the physical record.  I believe it because of the enormously staggering improbability of such an original organism assembling by random chance out of non-living stuff is hard to believe happened once, without divine intervention and intent, but to imagine it happened more than once is of even more staggering improbability magnified by however meany such "original organism" arose so improbabily and, even more improbably, that more than one of them was able to combine with another, they would have had to independently include compatible biology that just happened, by random chance, to have assembled into more than one such organism.  

From thinking that through I conclude that believing that life on Earth is a product of divine intent and design is far more parsimonious than believing it even rose once.  If it rose more than once and we are descended from more than one original organism, I'm absolutely certain it is by divine intent and design.  

I don't see any way that my understanding of those mathematical improbabilities is in any way in conflict with accepting that evolution later modified that (those) original organisms to produce all of life we see around us and which are being destroyed by us at a meteoric rate.

** I would say that, by a large fraction, the acceptance and promotion of Darwinism was due to that usefulness it served to atheist polemics and proselytism, most of those who are big fat champions of Darwin probably could't even tell you what natural selection means in a fairly accurate generalization.  I was astonished when I did the experiment of asking several working biologists, some teachers of biology with degrees in the topic, a few of them working scientists for a definition and the answers were all over the place.  One, from a very well respected biologist including genetic drift in their definition, a theory which I can see as nothing except but a diminution of the universal hegemonic belief in natural selection as a supreme law of biology. 

Hate Mail

Forget the lousy journalists, they aren't worth considering.  Every single time you hear a good journalist, a good reporter - reporters being the only real journalists - an editorialist, a radio or TV journalist bemoaning the lies told by Trump, told by his staff and cabinet, Republicans in the Senate, the House, in state governments, every time you hear them talking about the lies that flow like a deadly cholera and typhus and chemical sewer from the Murdoch empire, etc.. . . 

as they document the democracy killing, the People killing, the biosphere killing effect of lies you should wonder at how, every single one of them will accept the most massively idiotic article of faith among such journalists, such members of the scribbling class that, 

"Mercy, sakes alive, NOTHING can be done to suppress those lies or, heavens, we'll lose our freedoms . . . oh, wait . . . . "  

Only they never get to the "oh, wait". They have a financial and professional interest in NEVER getting to that "oh, wait."

We will suppress lies in the mass media, first, in other media, second, on "social media" third or you can forget about electoral democracy, democracy, certainly egalitarian democracy.   

The scribbling class intelligentsia prove themselves to be asses up which their heads are by their failure to note this discrepancy in their discourse. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Hate Mail

Your accusation that I'm a snob who hates popular culture because I'm a snob coincides with one of my periodic, maybe every couple or three years of pulling out The Band's Brown Album and being reminded of what a great achievement in music matched with words it was.  

It's still, after all these decades, something I can go back to and be knocked out with its artistic imagining of lives and relationships and worlds and, in my hearing, religion.  

I'd say that it stands up there with other such great achievements such as those theme albums of Carla Bley but its grittier relationship with lives that live on the edge and become the least among us adds a lot to its depth.  I find it profoundly religious in all its ambiguities and recounting of weakness and failing, waiting for redemption.  It didn't surprise me, at all, that when they chose musicians to perform with them at their last concert, the great, transcendently great Staple Singers were invited.

I'm such an elitist that I won't be satisfied till everyone is elite.  I'm a universalist egalitarian. 

Update:  And now the guy who calls me a snob is offended because I didn't mention the greatest, world-classiest, offical, critic ordained greatest of the great, instead of The Band and The Staple Singers.  My choices weren't officially elite enough, those accredited as the greatest of the greatest by those in the know, apparently.

There may be snobs as big as the pop music critics but there are none bigger and more cluelessly ridiculous.  What a con job pop critics are, only to be topped by the academics who gas on about such stuff.


Yet, looking more closely at that more philosophical or generally religious orientation:  if we are to speak in this way of God as the great Whence, the cause of all causes, and the great Whither, the end of all ends, how am I really to know what is concealed in the cause and what awaits us at the end?  Might not the end perhaps be a dark abyss, and not a place of illumination?   Might not the basic support be an enticing illusion, and not a sustaining foundation?  Could not the ultimate end be a definitive breakdown, and not the ultimate fulfillment?  How am I to know whether the central sense of things for myself and the world will not ultimately turn out to be nonsense,  the central value ultimately non-value?  Such doubts are truly justified and make the consideration of commitment to a system of essential Christian values difficult.

In reading this paragraph I thought of how of often, in how many ways in popular culture, in intellectual culture, the "dark abyss" "definitive breakdown" the presentation of life and the universe as meaningless ("nonsense") the value, purpose intention, meaning are presented as not only nonexistent but are rejected as a hated and derided and discredited illusion.  You read that in a large number of writers you start to think that they want that to be true, their emotional attachment to these non-qualia of a dark abyss and their distaste and disdain for any proposal that the positive alternatives to them might be true. 

Of course, the very same people will, in other ways, in other statements, often in the language of moral outrage or in sentimental assertions show that they don't really believe their own hard, cynical, would-be manly tough-mindedness.  Their very anger and outrage in their expressions supporting the reality of their dark vision shows that they don't believe in it even in their expression of it.

It is clear to me that the reason they are so emotional about it is their angry rejection of the possibility of God the Creator who imbues the entire creation, including the physical universe with purpose and intent, with value and meaning.  Most distasteful to many of those with manliness issues and an economic self-interest in an absence of moral obligation is that the universe includes such things as justice and, most disgusting to them of all, love.

What and who is the God who is to provide my essential values?  What is he like?  In the light of the Old and New Testament I know an answer to this question.  The god of the Judeo-Christian faith does not remain abstract and undetermined like the God of the philosophers.  He is concrete and determined;  not hidden, but revealed in the history of the people of Israel and of Jesus Christ.  And unlike the God of the philosophers and scholars to take up Pascal's contrast - this God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ, is not enigmatic, like the Egyptian sphinx, the strangler of passers-by.  Nor is this God ambivalent, equivocal, two-faced like Tyche-Fortuna, who is the goddess of happiness and unhappiness guides the course of the world.

I would add here, that deistic God who contemporary atheists - and I will add, not a few Nazis - have, at times, for reasons I don't believe are sincere, propose as a possible God they can believe in, a god they believe could have, maybe, created the universe but who ignores it, having set off what is otherwise, in human and in animal experience, a torture machine, whose indifference to humanity and human suffering is either a matter of choice or impotence.  I never, in reading these "deists" from the 18th century enlightenment nor in the years of the new atheism fad of the 00s believed for a second that any of them believed in such a God.  I will note that most of those to whom such deism was attributed among the American "founding fathers" were invariably slave owners or those who didn't have much trouble with slavery.   It was in the God of Abrahamic religion who those enslaved found their right to freedom, their right to the product of their own labor, their rights to equality.  The Christian form of that God, through the person and teachings of Jesus is, in fact, the origin of the modern concept that slavery is an abhorent evil and its greatest force in the abolition of slavery and, lest it be forgotten, in fighting against wage slavery.*

No, the God of the Judeo-Christian faith unambiguously proves to be a God, not against humanity but for humanity.  "Immanuel: God with us."  A God who should mean for human beings not - as is so often represented by supposedly Christian teachers - fear but security,  not unhappiness but happiness, not death but life.  Even in the Old Testament (despite some still mythically pagan features) not a slave-owner but a God of the exodus from Egypt, a God of liberation, of mercy, of salvation, of grace.  A God beside whom there are no other gods.  This one and only God is that one very last, very first reality which, together with Christians and Jews, Moslems also worship in Allah - a fact which was not unimportant for the Camp David agreement and the recent strivings for peace in the Middle East.  He is the reality which Hindus also seek in Brahma, and the Buddhists in the Absolute Dharma (Nirvana), as do the Chinese in heaven or in the Tao.  For Jews and Christians this one true God is not the unknown God.  He is the good God, the God who looks on human beings with kindness, the God in whom men and women can place an absolute and unreserved trust even in doubt, suffering, and sin,  in all personal distress and all social affliction - the God in fact in whom we can place our faith.  

I agree that in those other religious traditions the things that can produce egalitarian democratic governance with the aim of producing the most possibly decent life we can achieve are to be found, I have to ask why they have lain there undiscovered in most places where those other religions predominate as opposed to the places where they became active and were put, however imperfectly, into effect.  I've mentioned before my debate about justice with some Buddhists as my engagement with the Jewish tradition was re-starting, when I noted the lack of a notion of justice in Buddhism.  Instead of producing the Sutras that could point to that, they proclaimed that justice was an illusion, to which I told them if they were denied justice, they'd soon find out that their right to justice was not an illusion.  

I don't know if Muslim countries will find the potential in potent enough quantities that Islamic egalitarian democracy will come into being, I don't know if Hindus will discover that potential in potent enough form to make India a real egalitarian democracy.  I do know in the contexts in which egalitarian democracy arose in the United States, in Europe, it was through the morality taught by or taken up from the Gospel, the Law of Moses, the Prophets and that as those fade, egalitarian democracy has faded, too.  The idea that a de-religionized Europe will retain what was gained in the moral revulsion to the world wars, to the Holocaust and other mass murders of the Nazis, is dissolving right before our eyes.  I think the de-Christianized Christianity that wants to be nice more than it does in asserting the teachings of Jesus is not going to revive that.  I think the central issue is the choice to really believe the most audacious claims in the Scriptures that support that moral force as the will of God.  To really believe that you are commanded to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I think the "winter Christianity" that Karl Rahner predicted would be the Christianity of the future, in the modern, scientistic, secularized, de-religionized era certainly is centered around the form of the Jewish creed, The Shema, confirmed by Jesus,  to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as you love yourself.  From the second part of that wherever it is expressed all ideas of egalitarian democracy certainly come, they can't come from anything else.  But I don't think it's possible to really believe it is possible for enough people to do that with enough force in reality TO MAKE IT REAL if you don't believe that it is a law, a requirement given by God.  The secular notion that is something like that, the secularized notion of equality is not found by or in science and, so, remains as a habit of thought which doesn't stand up in use.  

In view of the rise of neo-fascism, under that name or unadmitted, the decline of workers rights, of egalitarian democracy, it's worth considering that while Christianity might exist in a personal form, equality and democracy cannot exist except in a society, in a polity.   There can be no "winter democracy".   


My increasing skepticism in the secular liberalism of my youth as a potent force as I saw its decline after the mid 1960s preceded my re-engagement with the Judeo-Christian tradition which, oddly enough, came from reading John Dominic Crossan's The Historical Jesus.  As much as I am skeptical, now, of the "Historical Jesus Seminar" that book came from, it was probably the decisive step in choosing to see, choosing to believe.   I saw that the only really successful pursuit of justice in American history, in European history seemed to be powered by people who believed in their obligation, imposed by God to treat others as they wanted to be treated.  As a secular notion or even a feeling of niceness - a vestige of post-Christianized societies - it just doesn't get the job done.

*  The conditions of workers in no country that had an anti-religious Communist government rose as high as those so imperfectly did in the countires where Christianity once had influence.  I have to wonder if the decline in real workers unions in the United States is a product of either the post-slavery suppression of the egalitarian core of Christian belief among those who profess what might be considered a semi-deistic "Christianity" whose god is indifferent to the economic justice that is central to the Mosaic Law and which found unbridled egalitarian generosity in Jesus's parable of the workers in the vineyard, or which is replaced by the gods of American style secularism, the market served by the kind of de-moralized law that Oliver Wendell Holmes wanted, the civil law stripped of all notions of morality, an automatic, scientifically precise and predictable administer of decisions that grant property to some and dispose of the lives of others devoid of morality.  As this bizarrely ill considered hero of traditional American liberals put it in The Path of the Law,

For my own part, I often doubt whether it would not be a gain if every word of moral significance could be banished from the law altogether, and other words adopted which should convey legal ideas uncolored by anything outside the law. We should lose the fossil records of a good deal of history and the majesty got from ethical associations, but by ridding ourselves of an unnecessary confusion we should gain very much in the clearness of our thought.

I think that such a monstrosity of a "Justicecalling for such a parody of justice, a. points out the folly of not paying serious attention to the actual different denotation that words have because, b. the secular, 18th century "enlightenment" seflish meaning of "liberalism" is consistent with such a depraved view of secularized law.  It would, in the experience of the victims of such "clearness of thought" be the very opposite of justice.  The merely ethical replacement of actual, religious morality, of real justice,  with that scientistic, enlightenment virtue of "clearness of thought" is quite compatible with that level of injustice and moral depravity and real suffering and death.  The habits of mind it encourages are quite deistically indifferent to those.  And, these days, in days gone by, many who wore the label "Christian" were capable of it, as well. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Message To LP

By chance I noticed that you brought matters here elsewhere to bother people with.  That's a banning offense.

Hate Mail - Perhaps The Last On This Topic For Now

Not at all, I didn't say Clifford Simak was a "shit writer" because I noted that All Flesh Is Grass fell apart at the end, you can say the same thing about Huckleberry Finn, many of the books by Thornton Wilder, to name but a few.  Even great writers, even in some of their otherwise best work have not been able to end them well.   And even great writers can write a bad book.  When I read Katherine Anne Porter's essay about her friend, the very fine writer Eudora Welty and she pointedly excluded the book "The Ponder Heart" from those she endorsed as superior I agreed entirely, it is a bad book that doesn't come near her other work.  I was astonished when I read it that she'd written it.   I didn't say anything bad about Ursula Le Guin's books though to pretend the best of them come up to the top level of literature is just stupid.  It would be as stupid as to pretend that H. G. Wells was as good a writer as Thomas Hardy,  Isaac Asimov as good as James Baldwin.

The lazy habit of thought that divides the world, art, literature, into the super-stupendous-world-class-ultra-great and crap is ubiquitous, probably so because it's easier than to not be so lazy-ass stupid.  Much professional, commercial criticism is based in such lazy-ass-stupid related to marketing.    

While I have come to vehemently deny that books, literature, any object have rights as People and other living creatures do, they do share that feature with People, that they are a generally mixed bag at their best, the authors who write them as well. We are all fallible sinners.   I doubt there are many authors who write even four great books, those being the very greatest authors.  Then they might write a number of good but not great books, good books having more problems than great books do.  And there are different levels of greatness and goodness.  Then you come to the merely entertaining, the most popular level of literature which goes from, at times, very, very good down to crap.  Some of the crap is some of the most popular, that happens in standard literature as well as sci-fi.  And that's books on paper.  When it's transferred to a movie treatment, generally, though not always, it's right into the gutter. 

I'm hoping to get back to Hans Kung later today. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Dee Dee Warwick - You're No Good

Imagine that.  It's not Mr. Pop Music but me knowing that the original, original wasn't the great version by Betty Everett, the one by Dee Dee Warwick was released before that one and it's pretty great, too. 

I don't know if I've ever heard a version of the song that isn't great.  Linda Ronstadt's is great, as well.   It seems to be one of those rare song's that's you'd have to be a really lousy singer to mess up.  

Update:  Stupy thinks he's informing me for the first time that this disc was produced by Lieber and Stoller WHEN IT'S PRINTED RIGHT ON THE LABEL OF THE DISC.   The stupid imagine that everyone else is as stupid as they are.  

Dee Dee sang this too. 

Foolish Fool 


Hate Mail

He's a clue, Simps, if you want to meet my request for a list of sci-fi books that come up to the level of art, you don't give me a list of authors, two, who, to my knowledge, never wrote a piece of sci-fi, one of whom I seem to recall having far more disparaging things to say about the quality of sci-fi than I did this morning, and to then equate popularity with literary quality.  And, I note, you don't even list the works of the two who had written stuff that is, arguably, science fiction.  I doubt you know they exist.  Then you claim that "no one reads Katherine Anne Porter" as if that is relevant to what I said,  especially after I noted that the largely forgotten Howard Fast was a better writer than the sci-fi writers whose work I'd enjoyed.  

I doubt you ever read a single book by any of the writers I named or the ones you did, I doubt you've read a novel you weren't assigned to read in college or high school  and you probably skimmed, at best.  I'll bet you wrote your grade school book reports from the dusk jacket flaps.  

I'd have thought that someone might name something by Ray Bradbury or, possibly, Kurt Vonnegut, though I would have been pretty sure you wouldn't mention Octavia Butler.   All of them superior writers who have written sci-fi (I tend to like their non-sci-fi stuff better).   Though I still wouldn't compare them favorably with writers like KAP.  

When you can just make up any old thing to fix the problems of your story, it tends to go flaccid*.  I'm sure your experience is flaccid though I doubt you'd ever reflect on that.  Flaccidity doesn't often lead to lucidity.

I notice you didn't take up the questions I said I'd have liked to see Ursula Le Guin address dealing with her contention that she and her body were the same thing.  I'm not surprised, when two of your tag-team buddies, JR (Freki) and "Skeptic Tank" tried to - coming up with predictable and inadequate arguments - I kicked their asses.   That's a feeling you must know.

*  That's been the most unsatisfying thing about science fiction in my experience, how when authors are allowed to take any old route to solving the problems of their characters, inventing everything up to and including basic physics, the temptation is to make an easy shortcut.   I think, when it gets down to that, even some of those authors I've liked, even in books I otherwise liked, the writer didn't seem to be able to continue with the story, ending it any old way.   Clifford Simak in All Flesh is Grass worked himself into an elaborate plot line, working up to a cataclysmic denouement when, to give his story a happy ending, he had to rely on having his  sentient flowers make the effort to solve all of our problems because they needed us to think they're pretty.  I enjoyed lots of the book but the ending sucked.  Even in the decidedly superior Ursula Le Guin I find that resort to be far more unsatisfying than any of the constant ambiguities  of her narratives.  I don't find that they do much to inform my thinking about real things.

It's a sad commentary on the alleged educations of modern people that so many people with such high credentials are so invested in what ends up being kind of chintzy.  I am sure it's related to the addiction that so many college credentialed people have to historical fiction over actual history only in that case the even greater distance between what is real over what is presented as real is far more dangerous. 

As to the argument that more people read science fiction than read Katherine Anne Porter, that's hardly a surprise, facile and easy entertainment is more popular than difficult and challenging examinations of real life.  There was a time the educational and intellectual industry encouraged people to try the difficult and challenging and examinations of real life.  With the "study" of pop culture all the rage these days, that's not true but that has more to do with profit potential than it does the most important thing about popular culture. Something you can also say about science, as well.   Pop culture's influence makes its content enormously dangerous when, as it so often does,  it promotes sexism, racism, ethnic bigotry, hatred of minority groups, bad attitudes to people on the lower levels of society, the poor, the disabled, the troubled or if it glorifies power and the exercise of power by the powerful.  

I take popular entertainment very seriously because its huge audiences make what it does potentially very dangerous and my experience of it is that any positive effects it can have are easily turned around by the money men who control what goes on screens, what comes out of speakers.   I watched the very, very brief period of an attempt to present positive images of Women and Black People of the early 1970s, turned into the backlash against feminism and the rise of "anti-political correctness" which was really the use of still well entrenched habits of straight white male supremacy as a weapon against women and minority groups.  I saw that even within the gay male subculture as promiscuous, anonymous sex, especially anal sex, was popularized and continued even as its results became deadly in the 1980s and it still is there in ever more extreme forms in the explosion of online availability of porn. You can contrast that with the typical college-department view of pop culture which is directly tied to its profit making potential, trying to paste onto it an intellectual substance which, if it was really there, would cut into its ability to make money.

The conception,  the compound noun,  "science fiction" is interesting to think about because of the proud, hubristic claim of the champions of science that it very intentionally and specifically DOESN'T DEAL IN FICTION.  Science fiction is 100% fiction, it is most often close to 100% science free.   

To associate a genre of writing which depends for its defining elements on things that don't exist, on things that, according to the only science we have available to us, cannot exist or science as we know it is invalidated, to associate that with science is more telling about some of the truly bizarre notions we have about science than it does anything else.  It's tempting to say that that's a phenomenon of those who hold an ignorance based, romantic view of science (like many online) but there  are lots of professional scientists who seem to be true believes of that type, too.  I have to wonder if it didn't influence some of the stupider things Carl Sagan did, everything from his incredibly stupid "The Amniotic  Universe"(published in the friggin' Atlantic!)  to his invention of the pseudo-science of "exo-biology" a science based securely on life forms that have never been seen, heard, smelled, sensed, and which are not  known to exist, which we know are not available to subject to legitimate scientific methods.  And, to top off the total and hypocritical absurdity of it,  which, by Sagans arguments, as a good member of the Council of CSICOP against UFO buffs, almost certainly will never be there to compare the science fictitious fabrications of the exobiologists against.  

That the set of all Sci-ranger defenders of the cultural and political hegemony of science comprises an enormous intersection with the set of all heavily emotionally invested sci-fi fans is interesting.  It makes you wonder how sophisticated their knowledge of science or even basic mathematics could be or how deep their commitment to their asserted exclusive route to reality is. 

I do think that that tell us a lot about those two groups and, especially, that intersection and the problems of the culture which a STEM based education produces.  They seem to be powerless and helpless when dealing with real life.  

I don't read that much science fiction, I pick up a book about once every five years or so and sometimes I like it.  I've never mistaken it as important.  It's not like reading Noon Wine or Home. 

I Love Phil From Britain

I loved this video in which he goes through how Boris Johnson is buggered, I especially liked his observations at the end of it about what the best outcome would be and why whether or not Johnson is imprisoned for breaking the law is a relatively minor point in that as compared to compelling him to follow the law.  While our system with the strong presidency makes the usefulness of, someday, jailing a criminal president and his criminal associates in office proportionally more necessary, there are lots of components to prevention of future criminality.  I think, here, where the idiotic features of our Constitution make it possible for a criminal president to get away with it as long as his party controls even one house of Congress (and if that party is the Republican-fascist party, likewise the Supreme Court) that the only and last resort is voting him and his party out of office.  What he says at about 12:30 is one of the best points I've heard made about politics for at least a year. 

Someone Pulls Out The Late Ursula Le Guin And Waves Her Like A Rubber Knife

Ursula Le Guin was a good writer of high end sci-fi, she wrote some OK poetry and some essays, outside of creating unreality she made some astute points about life, not to be confused with profound observations.   I would have loved to go with her through my unanswered questions debunking the atheist faith that our minds are a product of physical structures in our bodies, apparently the article of her faith that you botched.  I suspect she came to see that she was not identical with her body in the twinkling of an eye. 

I am not a huge fan of sci-fi, though I've enjoyed a few book by a few authors, Clifford Simak, Le Guin, . . . but I know of no work of sci-fi I'd class as great literature.  Having last year, as a result of a trolling here, read Howard Fast's novel, Spartacus, a minor novel by a minor novelist, and it was far better than any classic of science fiction I've read.*  I loved Simak's novella  All The Traps of Earth, Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven while knowing, full well, they can't hold a candle to the three short novels of Katherine Anne Porter in Pale Horse, Pale Rider.  I wouldn't say that any science fiction rises above the level of superior entertainment.  If people want to suggest titles that do, I might read them and if I agree I will amend that statement. 

However, I have read enough of Le Guin to say that her idea that the mind is corporeal is illogical and doesn't match the human experience of thinking, of coming up with new ideas, even of dealing with the most mundane of human intellection necessary to navigate even the most mundane aspects of everyday life in real time and the real vicissitudes of life and the time it takes for the body to make the molecules that comprise biological structures and to build the biologically active structures from them.  I find it remarkable that someone who spent so much time creating worlds and psychologies for imaginary beings SOMEONE WHO CLAIMED TAOISM AS A MAJOR INFLUENCE ON HER, never thought about how a brain would know that it needed to make the structure to BE an idea, how it would know what it needed to make to BE that idea novel to that brain and not some other idea, how it would know just what structure to build to BE that idea (which it doesn't yet contain), how it would know it had made the right idea structure instead of the wrong one, BEFORE THE STRUCTURE TO BE THAT IDEA EXISTED IN THE BRAIN.  And to do that in the virtually instantaneous real time in which we do that a thousand times before we've been awake for an hour.  

She should have stuck to making up her fantasies and to making observations on human experience.  She was certainly superior to Billy Collins in it, probably in the same class as E. B. White.  She was not a deep systematic thinker, her insights were seldom profound.

*  I say that knowing that Fast's and all movie-fiction versions of Spartacus was about as ahistroical as the Macbeth of the play, or the Richard III of the play.  He is a construction made out of ideological motive, not an historical figure.  

Despite all of the modern attribution of abolition of slavery to those who led (and "led" is a stretch from the scant evidence we can base our conclusions in) the Spartacus rebellion we have no idea what their goals may have been.  All we know about it is the product of what the Roman aristocrats, probably every one of them a member of the slave-owning families and class, cared to say about it.  

Monday, September 9, 2019

Hate Mail - Actually, There Are Atheists I Love, Like This Guy

and not only that, he's a friggin' Brit!   Love the guy. 

Unrelated update:  Apart from about three people who are ever there when I check on the links you send me, Duncan's "Brain Trust" (they really do call themselves that) are mostly a bunch of mid-brows credentialed above their achievements who have aged into buffalo-butt coots.  I don't get why those three still bother with it, or why you do, for that matter.  I know it's a bad habit that like bad habits are hard to break.  I'm still looking, aren't I?  But that's not going to continue.  That's the thing about typical examples of folly, there are others who typify it as well. 

Today In Bot Spam - For A Second I Thought It Was The Kind Of Offer That Rarely Comes To A Man So Up In Years

Imagine what I thought when I quickly looked at the beginning of this bot-sent comment as I moderated those this morning:

I will right away clutch your rss

before I realized I misconstrued it. 

"this abstract God of the philosophers"

This section of Hans Kung's book I've been commenting on should really start with the last paragraph I posted the other day. 

There are in fact many non-Christians or former Christians who say that they would believe in such a great Whence and Whither, they would believe in an Absolute or Supreme Being, a Deity, or "God";  that atheism leaves them intellectually and emotionally unsatisfied.  But they have little idea of what to do about this "God," scarcely know what or who God is, or what he is like.  In this sense, if they are not atheists they are at least agnostics.

Now this does not totally surprise me.  I certainly do not want to belittle the God of the philosophers, or the God of general religiosity., of whom agnostics generally speak.  I do not want to declare this God is an idol fabricated by humanity, as some Protestant theology has done for a long time.  How could I do so, when I consider Aristotle, Plato and Plotinus,  Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz,  Kant and Hegel?  For it is still a great thing for a human being to know something about this great Whence and Whither, Why and Wherefore, of humanity and the world;  something about the great mystery of reality; and thus to have a certain basic orientation.  But I would suggest that it is not very easy to live with this still-hidden mystery, with this abstract God of the philosophers;  to know what or who he is, or what he is like.  This God is a God without a countenance.  He is "the unknown God" the theos agnostos of the Acts of the Apostles, and he thus rightly remains the God of the agnostics.  This at any rate is so unless, like the great philosophers of modern times (and also their atheistic opponents) we allow ourselves to be influenced by the Christian idea of God, which is present everywhere even today.  

It is inescapable that the "God" we discuss is the God we individually conceive of.  That is true of anyone, anything we discuss.   I think our educations, the influence of the methods and assumptions of science on our ways of thinking, the results of that in the general culture has led us to not understand that when we're talking about so many things we are not talking about anything real but an abstraction of them.  

This is clear when you consider things asserted the "average person" that is a product of statistical analyses of data collected from, ideally, a sufficiently large enough, randomly selected sample of the general population of such People.  That ideal, just mentioned, is itself an abstraction, in no instance I've ever seen does such data come from such an ideally randomly selected sample of sufficient size.  And that doesn't take into account that most, perhaps almost all such data collection take for granted something known to be untrue, that the people so imperfectly sampled will at least as imperfectly report, their opinions, their actions, their experiences, their opinions, etc. when we know that the method, itself, insures that much of such data will be unreliable or false or ephemeral and not valid by the time the numbers are crunched.   Yet people believe with all of their hearts in the attributes of this artificial and misleading "average person".  

And that's only one problem about treating abstractions as if they are real, there are many more such artifacts of the culture of science as it translates into the general culture. 

This passage leaves me thinking of what a profound insight it is when, in Exodus 3 13-14, when Moses asks God who he should tell the Children of Israel is the God who sent him to them that he should say “I am who I am. You must tell them: ‘The one who is called I Am has sent me to you."

I interpret this to point to the difference between the absolute reality and those real entities we talk about.  In talking of the ultimate absolute reality,  God, the Creator of all of the other things we can only know about through their perceived and analyzed attributes, who created and endowed things and creatures with their attributes, we are facing the ultimate inadequacy of our own minds and means of knowing.   And that was something those People who the snarky TV-movie-si-fy-etc.  cultured atheists love to deride as "bronze age goat herders" got when so many of the educated class among us can't conceive of.   And in our ignorance, not only do we construct a myriad of idols, we are led to have the utmost faith in them. 

The idea of a Christian God, the same God, is bound to confound such People.  I am sure that Kung's list of  "this great Whence and Whither, Why and Wherefore" could be the focus of such snark among those who are so confounded but it's not a bad way to put the problem of God put in terms of human experience, either. 


In a lot of ways this book and Kung's work, in general, are addressing the doubts of the educated class of People who have such an outsized influence on the general culture through the media.   I think that his attempt to reintroduce Christian morality into that culture is important in every way.   While most people are not members of that class, merely the consumers of their media product.  I think that in a lot of that product, which we are seeing produces effects that endanger egalitarian democracy in the countries most heavily influenced by the media, Europe, the West, where democracy reigned in the post-war period, many of those effects the product of unlimited "freedom of the press" and "free speech".   Freedom without the morality that is not provided, in an effective form, by anything but religion will produce vulgar despots such as Trump, Putin, Boris Johnson, Viktor Orban, Giuseppe Conte, etc. and ineffective opponents to them.  Clearly the theories of such lovers of such freedoms have failed the scientific method of making predictions and seeing those come true.  We were supposed to have enhanced egalitarian democracy under the post-war regime of absolute free speech, instead we see resurgent neo-Nazi and neo-fascist movements, the post-Marxist gangster governments, using the same pseudo-liberal slogans of "free speech" as their foremost tool.  In view of that the ACLU championing of the free speech of Nazis is a glaringly obvious mistake, but one our educations prevent most educated people from recognizing when it is blindingly obvious. 

And I have come to believe that, in the West and in much of the rest of thet world the form of religion that will be the vehicle of the corrective of that will be Christianity.  I have no doubt that the same potential exists in the other monotheistic religions, Judaism, Islam, many non-Abrahamic religions - I'm reading a lot about traditional Cree religion and believe it has that same potential - but that the most likely source of that for most people will be Christianity or it won't happen.   I see absolutely nothing in general secular culture which contains it as more than borrowings from religion and if it is a weak force within religion, it is totally impotent in that secular adoption of morality from Christianity or other religion. 

This section of the book has such wide implications that Kung had to leave out for brevity that it's going to take a while to go through. 

If I had twice as much time I could probably produce an entirely different commentary on the book, it's implications are that wide.  But this is the one that seems most important to me.

Stupid Mail

Well, for a start, I'm wondering how a rural French Canadian Catholic Priest would have wielded such influence over a hospital in Calgary as to get them to sterilize, without her knowledge, a young girl he was having an affair with, I mean, what hospital in Calgary at the time was it supposed to have been?  I can't find documentation of there having been a Catholic hospital there at the time and, anyway, I am very doubtful that a Catholic hospital would have performed such an operation.  It would have been at a hospital which was either secular or associated with a Protestant denomination, many of which were not opposed to eugenics, many of the "liberal" and not so liberal Protestants of the day favored eugenics as a supposed means of "improvement".  Though certainly not all of them did.  I do know that very briefly, one of my greatest heroes, the father of Canada's great national health system, the most successful leftist in the history of North America, The Rev. Tommy Douglas, favored eugenics for a brief period, I believe he wrote his thesis on the topic, though he seems to have dropped the idea rather quickly.  Perhaps he knew a theme that would be popular with the educational establishment of the time.  He also had progressive ideas (for his time) about "homosexuality" that it was a disease to treat, not something to imprison people over.  Such was the progress of that period.

I don't know an awful lot about Calgary or Alberta in the late 1930s but as the Catholic Church wasn't influential enough to prevent the enactment of the dreadful eugenics law that is the focus of the play I discussed last night, I doubt a priest would have exercised that influence over non-Catholics who would have performed the operation.  In places where the Catholic church did have that kind of political influence, eugenic laws were generally blocked.  Some of the worst of it was, rather incredibly, blocked by Catholic influence in Britain, though not all of it. 

No, without documentation the play looks like your typical story told by anti-Catholics of the time, many of which are about as ridiculous as the Protocols of The Elders of Zion.  This has the same aroma about it.  Though anyone who wants to find the actual documentation should take up my invitation to produce it.  I always prefer to have credible documentation about historical claims, as opposed to easily most of the theatrical-show-biz concept of "history".  Apparently Betty Lambert's main source of "information" about the story of her play was her mother and Lambert, herself, said her mother said she'd misrepresented the story and was unhappy with the play.   Everyone should be taught in their history classes in school, the very first thing, that plays and novels and TV shows and, especially, movies are entirely unreliable sources of information about history.   About most things, in most cases, actually. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

An Interesting Specimen For Research - Betty Lambert - Jennie's Story

                     Jennie's Story

Set in the late 1930's on the Canadian prairies. It concerns the Sexual Sterilization Act that was enacted in 1928, allowing a sterilization procedure to be performed without consent on individuals that were.

deemed to be unfit or mentally challenged. Jennie McGrane
takes the title role, and her discovery of what the priest Father
Fabrizeau has done to her is the central drama of the play. Believing she had an appendectomy when she was a teenager, the truth is revealed when she's unable to conceive.

This was one of Lambert's latter works, and among her finest.
In 1999, it was adapted into an independent film by Kim
Winner of the 1983 Chalmers Canadian Play Award.

Looking for a play to post yesterday, I came across this play supposedly about the infamous Canadian eugenics movement, especially the most infamous part of it in Alberta. I read the description of the play and was immediately skeptical about it because in the decades in question, the 1920s and 30s, perhaps the most prominent organization opposed to eugenic sterilization, in fact all sterilizations was the Catholic Church.  That was certainly true in the United States in Canada and in Britain.  Having so recently critisized the Pius Popes, I have to, in full justice, point out that it was Pius XI's 1930 encyclical Casti Conubii that condemned sterilization.*  If the "Father Fabrizeau" of the story took part in a highly doubtful sterilization of a young girl he was having sex with, he was certainly doing something he knew the Pope had condemned as a grave sin.  It's an odd choice for a playwright to make, if she had known much about the actual eugenics establishment in Alberta which, from my reading, is almost an entirely Anglo-Saxon one.  I don't know what kind of religion the members of the Eugenics Boards professed, if any, but I doubt any of them were Catholics in good standing and I especially doubt they would have been French Canadian Catholics.  I never met a French Catholic Priest of that time who wasn't deeply Integralist, though here just about all of them were the product of an infamously Jansenist seminary in Quebec.

Betty Lambert, unfortunately, died young from lung cancer in 1983 so she's not around to attest to the alleged historicity of her play, she claimed it was based on a story her mother had told her about the wife of a farmer she knew. 
"This story my mother told me (now she tells me it's not the whole story--she's so angry at me for having written it). I grew up on this story about a woman, a girl really, who had worked for the local priest in southern Alberta. On the advice of the priest, she went to Calgary for an operation, thinking that she was having an appendectomy. Years later she married a farmer in the district, and they were very much in love, but she couldn't seem to get pregnant. Finally she went back to the city to find out why she couldn't get pregnant, and she was told that she had had a hysterectomy, at which point she went home and opened a bottle of Armstrong and Hammer lye and mixed it up with some water and drank it. And killed herself.

"That is a story that I had been told since I was a girl, and I knew the husband, so that when I came to write...I mean, it's always bothered me, it's something I knew I'd have to deal with one day. I mean the whole...the Catholic Church. She was obviously sleeping with the priest, and I couldn't figure it out. I thought he would have to have had some kind of legal support to do a thing like that, so I started looking into the statutes on sterlization and they're horrific. B.C. was bad, but Alberta was unbelievable. In Alberta you could be sterilized--and by that they meant hysterectomy--for the transmission of evil, and evil was loosely defined as anything from pauperism to alcoholism, to feeble-mindedness. The figures are incredible, and this was not changed until 1971."
-from an interview with Betty Lambert

I would love to know if anything like this ever happened that way, I have no way to know how you would find out if that was the case.  How the actions of such a son-of-a-bitch priest would match the official procedures of the Alberta Eugenics Board might be enlightening, as would any evidence that there were irregular sterilizations of the type presented in the play.  

If something like that happened, I don't know but I'm highly doubtful.  I'm especially doubtful because Betty Lambert admitted that her own mother, from whom she claimed to get the story, said it was not "the whole story" and that she was "angry at [her daughter] for having written it].   What it sounds like to me was the typical WASP slander of the Catholic priesthood that has been done in fiction and in hack theater since the dawn of the English language theater.   You have to wonder what the people who told and repeated the story that Lambert made of the rampant and racist use of eugenic sterilization, involuntary sterilizations and people duped into being sterilized by medical professionals.  Why was it this one story out of so many which were and could be documented that caught on in this particular theatrical telling of it?  An award winning one, no less. 

I do recognize in this the automatic-anti-Catholicism that was perhaps the mainstream dialect of the kind of writer that Lambert consciously chose to be.  The Deputy that I wrote about the other day is just one of scores and hundreds of such themed works of the period and which is certainly not dead, not even in declining viability.   If only historical accuracy were as stressed in such an intelligentsia. 

If she had wanted to choose religious figures of the time who supported the eugenics movements, she could have chosen one of the many, named, public, supporters of eugenics and who even participated in the administration of eugenics.* 

What can be known is that a priest who did that in the late 1930s would have known what he did was triply a violation of the official law of the Catholic Church, he broke his vow of chastity, he had extramarital sex and he duped the girl he was raping into being sterilized. 

*  70  Public magistrates have no direct power over the bodies of their subjects; therefore, where no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, they can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics or for any other reason.  Pius XI  Casti Connubii

I am rather shocked to realize that this is in line with my argument that there is no overriding governmental interest or right that is superior to the right of a woman to control her own body, which is the basis of my opposition to the anti-choice arguments.  I am sure that Pius XI would cite there being another person involved in the case of abortion, though I would still hold that the state has no right to tell a woman that she must be pregnant any more than it could tell her that she must become pregnant or that, once pregnant it had the right to force her to terminate her pregnancy.   Though I'm sure that wouldn't be an argument that Catholics who oppose a right of choice in that matter would accept.  We are entirely in agreement that the state has no right to sterilize a woman involuntarily.   

Though I have to wonder that in the cases of profound retardation in which women don't understand enough to know what pregnancy is or the consequences of having sex you can meaningfully talk about it being a matter of personal choice.  I've known one such case and was troubled about it from when the elderly grandmother who was the caretaker of her profoundly retarded granddaughter was alive, now that she's dead, I have no idea what has happened to the woman.  I would never leave that decision in the hands of an appointed board, such as was common in the past,  I wouldn't trust anyone except a judge to make such a decision and I probably wouldn't trust a lot of them to do it.  I certainly wouldn't have trusted the majority of the Supreme Court in 1926 who so appallingly and cavalierly disposed of the rights of Carrie Buck (who was not mentally deficient, at all) or her daughter whose death was likely a result of that infamous case. 

** You might find this interview from Interfaith Voices interesting.  

 This week on "Interfaith Voices," we are airing an interview that deals with a topic from Catholic life I had never heard of before: the Catholic struggle against the eugenics movement in the first half of the 20th century. It is a conversation with Sharon Leon, author of a new book, An Image of God: The Catholic Struggle with Eugenics.

Or you could search my archives, I've written a lot about eugenics and who supported it and who opposed it.