Essays

New Jersey Adventure

This is an extract from my book Albatross, about which you can read more via the navigation bar on the left.

There is in Stirling, on the borders of the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands, a firm hight IT-MacS, owned by the Begg-Lorimer family. The top person in the firm is Carole, and her main deputy is her husband, William, commonly called Bill. Their son Gavin runs their Stateside operations out of Athens in Georgia, often spending weeks at a time away from there to administer the arrival of new employees and their initial assignments. I understand that the firm gets some kind of subsidy from the Scottish Office.

IT-MacS hires IT professionals in Britain and rents them to U.S. firms, notably the Prudential Insurance Company in New Jersey, via an intermediary firm whose name I forget but whose principal hights Darrel. The contract is so arranged that the employees do not need U.S. residence rights and do not pay any income tax, either U.S. or home, because the salary gets paid partly as “expenses” and partly into an account in the Isle of Man. The firm provides apartments, one for two employees to share.

I saw an ad for IT-MacS in either Computer Weekly or the Guardian. The firm advertises mainly in the Scotsman. I telephoned for the application form, got it, filled it in, sent it in with a U.S.-oriented CV, and was very rapidly telephoned back by Bill. On 1996.07.10 I went for interview by Bill in Glasgow, when the firm’s modus operandi was outlined to me. I pointed out that as a U.S. permanent resident I was legally obliged to file an income tax return every year, and had been doing so even during the five years when I was in the U.S. just enough not to lose my status. It was agreed that my salary, after deductions, would get paid into my U.S. bank account. There was a difficulty with my status at the time, and I showed Bill the special visa in my passport. He assured me that there would be no difficulty about it. I was left with the contract documents to read overnight(the firm had arranged a hotel room for me). The next morning we exchanged contracts on the understanding that I would fly to my new post in New Jersey on 1996.07.16, the following Tuesday.

Over that very busy weekend I was phoned several times by Carole, who was kept up to date on my packing arrangements(I was abandoning my digs in Stourbridge), in particular with my plan to send quite a bit by surface freight, despite which I would still probably have excess baggage. She also approved of my plan to spend Monday/Tuesday night with my brother in Lancing, not frightfully far from Gatwick.

On Monday I did travel to Lancing, making the horrendous discovery that Kings Cross Thameslink has no lifts, and on Tuesday by taxi to Gatwick, where, because of a sign I had made, I was found by the other two programmers in the shipment. When time came for check-in, problems did arise about my status. I telephoned Carole to discuss matters, and she telephoned around quite a lot. I was able to keep her informed also of a delay in the flight, and of the need for one of the other programmers to pay for the third’s excess baggage. At length Carole discovered that the reason my Green Card(which would have obviated the need for the technique Bill thought suitable) had not arrived was something postal. I phoned my wife in Los Angeles to confirm a detail of that. Eventually the other programmers left on the flight to Newark, while I was directed by Carole to a lodging in Horsham. The next day, following instructions, I took the Gatwick Express to the U.S. Embassy and got a letter of transmission to make up for the missing Green Card. I spent one more night in Horsham and on 1996.07.18, Thursday, at Carole’s instructions, assured that Gavin would be waiting for me at my destination airport, took the interairport bus to Heathrow and Air France. The latter had to get back to American Express, IT-MacS’s travel agent, about my excess baggage.

Something went wrong with the Air France plane for Paris, so I was transferred, with many others, to a BA flight. Unfortunately, as I discovered once at Paris CDG, my baggage was not transferred, so it missed the flight to New York JFK. This was actually just as well, because Gavin was not there to meet me. After waving my sign around quite a lot, and having Gavin paged, I proceeded independently to Somerville. If I had been a little more awake, I might have remembered the new Subway line near the airport, built since my last visit to the Big Apple, but I used a more expensive route. I got to the apartment, to find things in reasonable order, and my flatmate in reasonably good humor despite my early-morning arrival. When morning came he told me that Gavin had been told I would be further delayed. When Gavin came, after my flatmate had gone to work(I was hanging around with a towel around me), he said he had expected me on a later flight but had nevertheless been at the airport at the time of my arrival. He professed not to understand how he could have missed my sign. He gave me preliminary instructions, mainly to wait for Darrel’s phone call as to what to do on Monday. Gavin gives the impression of a sullen rotter, but, as is my wont, I charitably canceled this impression in my mind. A mistake. My luggage arrived on Friday/Saturday night.

On Sunday, just as I came back from church, Carole phoned and accused me of quarreling with Gavin, my flatmate, and Darrel. She threatened to fire me. The incident she mentioned with my flatmate was quite fictitious, and the others were too vague to respond to. She accused me of “attitude” for having the excess baggage. I managed to calm her down. I got the idea, which I still hold, that Gavin had taken a spite against me as a result of his failure to go to the airport, and was making trouble.

I worked Monday to Friday quite successfully at Prudential in Florham Park. I made visible progress on my assignment and my direct supervisor on Friday gave me instructions about Monday’s work. During the week I spoke with Bill, who had gone to Athens, about my tax status. He was about to discuss it with the accountant in New York. Apparently I was the first employee, not excluding Gavin, to be U.S.-taxed.

On 1996.07.26, Friday, I handed my timesheet to Gary, the programmer entrusted with faxing them to Stirling. Later I met Gavin leaving my apartment and checked with him that he had been inside, because he had some mail there. He confirmed that he had been and told me that the Pru did not want me back on Monday because I had “been doing press-ups under someone’s desk”. He would see me about it later, either that evening or the next day. There was no discussion. I had indeed twice during the week remembered to do the physiotherapy prescribed for my bad back, but under a desk in a room where I was the only person working. I do not know who saw through the doorway and complained. I very much doubt that it was any of my immediate colleagues.

That night, instead of telling me my new assignment, Gavin got drunk(that is hearsay). The next day I stayed in so he could find me, but only got in touch with him because I sought him out at a neighbouring apartment when I heard he was there. He told me that I was not being reassigned, because of what I had done, especially after the other problems, which he did not specify(airport?). Again, there was no discussion.

On Sunday night, after I had started plans for new accommodation and a new job, Gavin phoned to say that I should be all ready packed because he and his father were coming at 08:30 the next morning to get me to the airport for a plane on Monday night. I said I had been thinking of looking for a job locally. He said that that was entirely up to me but that they needed the apartment.

At 1996.07.29 – 08:50, Bill and Gavin not having appeared, I left the apartment to visit the church, the newspapers, the Job Service, some potential employers and a lawyer. I left open on the kitchen table the state booklet about renting with ringed in red the paragraph about self-help evictions never being allowable in New Jersey, just in case they got any ideas. The lawyer, of the county legal services(not the county counsel), confirmed that they would have to give me two days written notice before seeking a court order, and that only after issue of a court order could my goods lawfully be removed from the apartment. At 15:20 I found the apartment stripped, at least of my possessions, and a note in the door with Gavin’s telephone number. I went back to the lawyer, swore some affidavits, and heard him telephone Gavin and Bill, who got very annoyed with the lawyer ’s interpretation of the law(pretty obvious from the state booklet), and tried to insist that I should go to Scotland. It appeared that they had already surrendered their own lease on the apartment, presumably so that I would in case of reoccupation have to argue with the prime landlord rather than with them. The lawyer persuaded them to deliver my goods to the law office porch, which they with bad grace did(I later discovered that the list of people to be informed of my death was missing). I phoned the church for immediate aid in finding a place to stay overnight, although I had a legal right to go back to the apartment, because I did not want two balked thugs after me. The lawyer later said he could not blame me for not going back to the apartment, given Bill and Gavin’s nastiness and “attitude”.

At the time of writing I have not been paid my expenses(submitted to Gavin shortly after my arrival) or my salary for the week’s work. Nor have I beecompensated, as in principle I should be, for either the unjust dismissal or the illegal eviction.

John A. Wills 1996.08.15

Affirmative Action

California State Senator Richard Pan in June 2020 approved of assimilation-affirmative action because “by the time you get to the college application process, structural racism ensures that people are not at the same starting point”. He is right: many applicants are the victims of exclusion- and inferiority-affirmative action. The obvious solution is to find those performing the affirmative action and to squash them. But the Senator wants to add another round of affirmative action, as though two wrongs would make a right.

From independence in 1910 until 1948 South Africa had a policy of White supremacy. Then the (White) electorate decided that that was wrong, and tried to implement a new policy, separate development a.k.a. apartheid a.k.a. plural democracy. The justification was that as there were many nations there should be many citizenries. Apartheid-affirmative action was introduced and for 45-odd years rigorously enforced. It failed, miserably, and now South Africa is trying another kind of racialism, which will also fail.

In the U.S. some people think with Senator Pan that because there is one citizenry there should be one nation; they want assimilation-affirmative action. Why might the U.S. succeed when South Africa’s effort failed, leading to general discontent and racial resentment not yet overcome?

The Electoral College

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States has occasioned much discussion of the method of electing the President. That most of the opposition to the present method of election comes from those who would have preferred the other main candidate to be elected should not distract us from the unsatisfactoriness of the present arrangement.
The popular vote lost in the arithmetic of the Electoral College. Reading Federalist LXVIII, we see that the intention was that the Electors deliberate in their respective States and that they then vote individually. Nowadays in all states but two the Electors are bound by State law to vote all the same way, the way chosen by the majority of voters in the State (in Maine and Nebraska the Electors must vote according to the majorities in districts). There is no deliberation. Democrats are saying that the U.S. ought to have a direct vote for the presidency, as Austria, the Irish Republic and Mexico have, but that the Republicans would oppose this because they occasionally gain from the present system. More importantly, Austria, the Irish Republic and Mexico are a lot more homogeneous than the United States. Seriously, how should the U.S. elect its Chief Executive, who, unlike those of most parliamentary states, is also the President? Let us consider a new Amendment to the Constitution.
Let an Electoral College of 101 (an odd number, to prevent ties) be elected by the people of the Republic rather than by the peoples of the several states, using proportional representation. Let each party wishing to compete submit a list of 101 candidates for the College (with, presumably, the party’s candidate for Chief Executive at the top of the list, chosen in much the same way as the party presently chooses its sole candidate, and other members in the order the party’s convention chooses, presumably representing the various trends within the party). Let each voter choose a list, and the totals be sent to someone at the seat of government of the United States, perhaps the president of the Senate, who would assign places in the College from the lists in proportion to the votes cast for the different lists; he would probably use the d’Hondt highest-number procedure to do the arithmetic, as is done in some parliamentary states with pure or partial proportional representation in their parliaments. Let the College then meet at the seat of government to choose the executive, remaining in office for 4 years.
There would rarely be a majority of one party in the College: a typical pattern might be the two big parties each getting somewhat less than 50% and small parties getting a few percent each. The parties would, after deliberation in the plenum and otherwise, make some kind of agreement, e.g. small-party X agrees to support big-party A’s candidate for Chief Executive if small-party X gets some seat in the Cabinet, each Cabinet member – and some other office-holders – needing the consent of the College instead of, as at present, the Senate; there would also have to be policy agreements although, unlike in a parliamentary state, there could be no control of what Congress might do. During the term of office, the College could withdraw confidence in a Cabinet member and then try to replace him. For the Chief Executive, withdrawal of confidence would have to be constructive, as it is for the Chancellor in Germany, i.e. the Chief Executive would stay in office until the College chose a replacement. If an Elector died or resigned during the term of office he would be replaced by the next person on his party’s list not already in the College.
Federal judges are currently appointed by the president with the consent of the Senate. Let this remain unchanged. Similarly, the method of appointment of members of the Federal Reserve Board, and of other agencies where we need textualist or technocratic rule, should be as for judges. Exactly how to distinguish, in the Article of Amendment to the Constitution, which officers would be appointed by the College and which by the President with the consent of the Senate is something I am not sure of.
When the College is in recess, it should be liable to be called into session by the President or by the Senate. The present impeachment procedure for the executive (House before Senate), would be abolished, as the College would assume that function, but that for the judiciary would remain unchanged, and presumably that for the technical agencies also.
The constitutional office of Vice-President would be abolished, the Senate electing a permanent president for itself (perhaps not himself a Senator, as he is to break tied votes). In the case of a Grand Coalition, with two big parties sharing power, there might be a vice-president in the Cabinet, with functions assigned in the coalition agreement.
This seems to me a more satisfactory arrangement than the present one, with an attempt at greater consensus than we now have (note that there would have to be some consensus within each party about the candidates following the first in the party’s list). I am convinced that the most democratic method of electing an executive-choosing college is pure proportional representation, while the most democratic method of electing a legislature is multi-round voting in single-member constituencies (some parliamentary states have various more or less messy mixed systems because they fuse the legislature and the executive, but the U.S. has from its beginning rightly kept the two branches separate); I here propose fulfilment of my double ideal in the executive branch; a change in the method of electing the House of Representatives is desirable but not here discussed. The greatest danger in my proposal would be the giving of too much power to small parties, as, for example, the Liberals so long had in Germany, the Socialists and the corporatists (CDU/CSU) having to kowtow a little to achieve office. But I submit that that would be less unsatisfactory than the present arrangement.
The other original purposes of the Electoral College, as explained in Federalist LXVIII, are that the sense of the people should operate in the choice and that as little opportunity as possible be offered to tumult and disorder. Due to the development of the party system, the latter is as doable as it was at the founding of the Republic, but what I propose is surely no worse in this regard than what we have now, while the sense of the people is better catered to.
John A. Wills 2020.05.15

Yireh Satan

Some months ago I read Julian Jaynes: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Jaynes maintains that until about 1000 BC most people were not conscious, except as an animal is, i.e. of current sensation with some reflexes hooked in. Instead we had hallucinations in our right brain which spoke via the anterior commissuary into the sound-processing parts of the left brain, giving us orders. Originally these hallucinations were of the primate troop leader, culturally evolving into the gods of the pre-classical religions. I have made a list of objections to this thesis, but Jaynes describes it so well that most of those you will think of on reading the above description hardly arise, and there is definitely something valuable in it.
The old gods broke down when continuing civilization became so complex that conscious thought was required, but “voices which had to be obeyed were the absolute prerequisite to the conscious state of mind in which it is the self that is responsible…we have become our own gods”(Bk 1 Ch-3 §4.14 s.3, 4). This at once rang a bell and, after fruitless searching in the (bethieved) libraries of the neighborhood, I hied me to a vihara to identify that bell. Sure enough: “It is only when the Tathagata attains and is abiding in the animitta Concentration of Mind… that the Tathagata’s body is at real ease and comfort. Therefore, Ananda, let yourselves be your own firm support, and let yourselves, and not anyone or anything else, be your refuge; let the Dharma be your firm support, and let the Dharma and not anything else, be your refuge”(Mahaparanirvanasutra §165(in Maha Vagga in Sutra Pitaka)).The mind is animitta (perhaps animitra in Sanskrit, I do not know) when it disregards signs of phenomena, i.e. when we are consciously thinking and so our own firm support, not using either the hallucinatory instructions from the right brain. This was spoken ca. 600 BC, when the old gods of India were becoming memories we still tried to make speak.
Somewhat earlier Abraham went through the same change (Gn 22:1-14). First the gods (“ha elohim”, v. 1) in his right brain, like that in the other people of that time and place, ordered him to sacrifice his son; we need not worry here just how such gods had evolved. Then Yahweh, God of the conscious, not merely reasoning but logical (logic is to reason as morality is to behavior) mind, located in the left brain, told him such action was neither necessary nor desirable.
In both these scriptural stories we can see the transition from a reactive, emotional, unthinking religion to one which thinks things out, covers the bases and knows why it must obey God or the Dharma. The place where Abraham saw what was right and what wrong he named Yireh Yahweh, i.e. “Yahweh sees”, or “Yahweh will see” (Semitic tenses are not ours). Sight is the least deceptive of the senses, and both Buddhism and the Tradition of Abraham are religions of the conscious mind, although nominal adherents of both may slip back into reactive declarations, nowadays rarely fully hallucinatory. We seek in religion a formula that will bring us final security and lasting happiness; what we find in the thinking religions is personal and limitless potential (George Leonard: Here and Now, quoted in Universe 1993.09.12 p. 23).
This is not to say that the older religions are totally illogical, nor that even newer ones will be more logical. Brahmoism, for instance, deliberately tries to give Hinduism the systematization and consciousness noticed in Christianity. On the other hand, a modern secular inhumanist, Ian Dunbar of Culcheth in Warrington, writes “When it is a matter of your most intimate nature and the values attaching to it, the bones, that is, an inner intuition, is the right source…it is rational to have faith in the values of secular ethics, and irrational to have faith in the supernatural beliefs of religions” (Guardian 1994.01.08 p.24). The religions he means are primarily those of the Tradition of Abraham, which attempt to be thought-out, even being logical about morality, something Dunbar refuses to be. Contrast Dunbar with Anthony Burgess when asked whether he was grateful for being a Catholic: “It has taught me to think logically” (Mundo, quoted in Guardian 1993.11.26 G2 p.7).
Dunbar does not explicitly worship any gods, or follow a logical (as opposed to merely rational, or at least so he claims) dharma. But many people do, or at least try to find “final security” in worship parallel to his morality. This is dangerous.
The new religions were aware of the relics of the old ones. The children of Israel destroyed the idols which might wake the old hallucinatory gods. They killed the dangerous people to whom the old gods still spoke, as being possessed of unclean spirits. Anyone who has been troubled with engrams or other recognizable badness erupting into the conscious mind will share the wish to kill such unclean spirits, and a few, alas, do even kill themselves. In a very few cases, this may even be the right thing to do, though I very much doubt it. We often hypothesize such spirits to be devils or Anti-Gods, which hypothesis can be logically extended to the theory that apparitions of the heathen gods are works of Anti-God, explaining neatly why the possessed speak as the old gods did, and see their unclean spirits in the form of the old gods. Sometimes the same danger arises even when the old gods are largely forgotten, except as fairy tales, and then, if we happen to use images of holy people and objects, those same images may arise to hinder our progress in thought-out religion. That is why contemplative prayer should always be preceded by discursive prayer and meditation – an important caveat for some modern meditation teachers. When the Zen Buddhist says “Kill the Buddha!” he is warning against the danger of an image occupying our minds as a hallucination.
The cult of the right brain is dangerous in another way, too. I once knew an EdD with the conversation of a moron. I estimate his effective IQ at about 90. Even the sloppiest universities do not award doctorates to such people, so he must have become stupid after his orals. One characteristic of his moronicity was his tremendous difficulty in making comparisons between parallel situations and activities – for instance, I once heard him floundering uselessly in a conversation about parallelisms of two kinds of racialism, with one of which he was supposed to be well acquainted. Also, he could not see the value and necessity of systematic coverage of possibilities in planning – only the results he was interested in should be thought about. Both these phenomena are typical of the right-brain-dominated mind, and it is fairly obvious that he had allowed his intuition to dominate his thought.
It so happens that this man is quite evil. After seeing him engage in sustained and quite pointless evil I concluded that he was a Satanist. So I had better tell you what I mean by Satanist. I do not mean some fool with a half-baked religion including a deity arbitrarily named “Satan”. A Satanist is someone who believes that there exists a God roughly like Abraham’s Yahweh; that this God is good and a criterion and source of goodness, again much as Abraham’s Yahweh; that there exists a person evil in being opposed to this good God, not merely in seeking a subordinate good, which is the usual human reason for evil: who chooses to serve this Anti-God. It took me a long time to figure out that this man was in this sense a Satanist, and I have never before or since recognized such a thing. Is it not likely that his Anti-God resides in his right brain as a hallucination, giving him instructions which he follows, just as the gods of ancient times resided in our brains ready to talk at moments of crisis(as in the Iliad)? I can explain this exemplar of stupidity and evil by supposing that in his thirties he started worship of an Anti-God which, in return for the security of an ever-ready answer without much effort, demanded the suspension of conscious reasoning. If the real Satan, supposing there to be one, ever appears before this worshipper, of course, he will not be able to give him complicated instructions because of the servility to the hallucinatory one and the consequent inability to grasp complex situations or sets of instructions. But I suspect that some mediaeval people convicted of Satanism may well have been in similar situations (although, of course, the Cautio makes it plain that judicial incompetence explains a very much higher proportion of convictions).
This man worshipped a right-brain hallucination, but many people exhort us to obey impulses only slightly less verbal. The New Age people often tell us to “get in touch with” our right brain, whereas we should be trying to train it. That way it will give us the right, i.e. the true, answers. A man named, I think, Jeffries, at, CUNY, teaches of a distinction between “sun people”, superior on account of their emotional temperaments and intuitive thinking, and “ice people”, inferior because of their repressed feelings and addiction to bloodless rationality. I submit that there are in fact far too many “sun people” in the world, relying on emotional temperaments and intuitive thinking, which gives them contradictory instructions, so that they kill each other – think of opposing nationalists, who might in principle reach agreement on such a question as “how should humanity be politically subdivided?” if they approached it that way, but will always disagree because they have different intuitive answers which they refuse to examine.
Similarly, we know that the New Age people too often act like machines: if they don’t see anything, they simply assume nothing is there – they don’t poke and pry into dark corners, because they might find such enemies as decision structures in which their sure answers are alternatives and the less likely alternatives at that (cf. Gordon R. Dickson: Necromancer ch. 12 §3.16 s. 5.6). I understand that their would-be-scientific Biosphere II project failed to some extent because of failure in their plans, which did not cover possibilities systematically. Similarly, they ignore Gauquelin’s empirical astrology because it would force them to relearn what they believe they already know, even though something is here which one might expect to interest them intensely.
David Alton a few months ago told the story of a London school-boy who, assigned to investigate astrology, became a Satanist. Now, why should the correlation of astronomical and psychological phenomena lead anyone to worship an Anti-God? I suspect that Alton may be talking of Satanism in a more woolly sense than that I define above, but the connection is presumably the aura of intuitionism in both activities as commonly practised. It is only the accident of differing starting images that makes Ian Dunbar a secular inhumanist rather than something like a New Ager quasi-Satanist.
The way forward for humanity is the way chosen by Gautama and Abraham, the way that gives us science rather than accidentally developed technology, limping along on economic necessity; the way that gives us a moral God (or Dharma) at least in principle derivable by reason and so consistent in government. This is the choice to emphasize the conscious mind rather than exalt subconscious and visceral functions. Obi-wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker to trust the Force in himself, but such instruction is dangerous until that Force is trained by conscious discipline. I am frightened when I see Christians identifying the Star Wars Force with the Narnia Aslan: they are most definitely not the same. Some Fundamentalist Christians – and, perhaps, some of those Muslims unhistorically called “Fundamentalist” – are relapsing into the pre Abrahamic mindset, like the New Agers they oppose, and the Secular Inhumanists both fear.
There does obviously exist the danger of paying too little attention to the urgings of the intuitions from the right brain: I myself have lost from repression of urges at certain points, but that was because I was unsure of how well I had trained my verbal reflexes – I had had several bad results of speaking too soon. If I am to trust the force in myself I must train that force, inform my conscience – as the popes like to put it -, using reason to design the training. Then the intuition will serve the conscious mind by presenting wholes when the logic of the conscious mind would take a long time to get there. We guard against error in such reasoning by being ready to analyse the argument later and correct it where necessary, a psychedelic process (psychedelic drugs, of course, are not in practice psychedelic) familiar to us primarily from mathematical reasoning. It is a horrible coincidence, or perhaps it is not wholly a coincidence, that there is at present a rejection of proof among a minority of mathematicians, although perhaps not to the extent of the intuitive concept portrayed by the late 1993 Doonesbury scenes from Walden.
To upgrade our cultures we need more, not less, logic. We need to train ourselves in self-respect, banishing self-esteem, for otherwise, we know, we will bring bad luck on our society by the laws of probability. Virtue, liberty and logic are linked:

Since thy original lapse true liberty
Is lost, which always with right reason dwells
Twinned, and from her hath no dividual being;
Reason in man obscured, or not obeyed,
Immediately inordinate desires
And upstart passions catch the government
From reason, and to servitude reduce
Man till then free.

Thus Milton in Paradise Lost (12:83-90), condemning not only every sin but even more that tendency to sin which Dunbar and his like embrace. Where the spirit of Yahweh is, there is liberty, for there is right reason and virtue. And Yahweh is the God we discover with our conscious mind. When we throw, as we sometimes do, Yahweh out with the gods of the bicameral era, we saw away a bough we need. As Orwell says: “But there had been a little mistake. The thing at the bottom was not a bed of roses after all. It was a cesspool full of barbed wire”(Notes on the Way §3 in Time & Tide 1940.04.06). And right into that cesspool is where a lot of present-day trendies are trying to drop us. Yireh Satan.

Copyright 1994, John A. Wills

Wandering Thoughts on Homosexualism

Homophobia is hatred of homosexuality and homosexualism is love of homosexuality. As homosexuality is an improper concept, both these tendencies are intellectually unsound. Resting as they do on the same improper concept, they often grow and shrink together.

In mid-2001 I read in the San Francisco Chronicle that Egypt was having a crackdown on gays.  As background we were told that it is common for non-gay men in Egypt to walk hand in hand and make similar physical expressions of love, something that is simply not so in modern Christendom. But it seems to be so in Sa’udi Arabia, where perversion is punished even more severely than in Egypt, and in South Vietnam, where, I suppose, there is contempt for perversion, if not punishment. In April 2002 there was a big meeting of Arab leaders; the Sa’udi and Iraqi representatives, both male, kissed each other on the lips, something we would never see between same-sex leaders from Christian countries.

We can make a big leap and suppose that rampant homosexualism (involving but distinct from rampant perversion) in Christendom is the cause of this shyness in our culture, a shyness which some Moslem countries have avoided by greater strictness in state attitudes to pseudosexual activity. We have certainly had a tremendous wave of homosexualism, with a consequent increase in homophobia, since the 1960s, the most frightening (because most irrational) event being the 1973 denial by the American Psychiatric Association that homosexuality – here meaning sexual inversion – was a disorder, an absurdity now copied by a lot of learned bodies whose members certainly know better. An interesting example of the effects of homosexualism is to be found in Enid Blyton’s Noddy books: when they were first written, in the 1950s, Noddy when staying overnight with his friend Big-Ears was pictured sharing Big-Ears’ bed; in the revised editions of the 1980s and 1990s Noddy has a camp bed. The aversion to men holding hands seems to antedate the 1960s, of course, but the dying Nelson said “Kiss me, Hardy” (thus repelling generations of British schoolboys) so there has been a big change.

I hazard a guess that the homosexualism of the 1960s had been preceded by a lower-profile movement for a century or more. The occasional remarks I have come across in literature and history seem to indicate something of the sort. I think that Britain for a while in the 2nd half of the 19th Century punished same-sex mutual masturbation (legally known as “gross indecency”) with death (Queen Victoria is said to have denied the possibility of women doing such things, so that only men got it in the neck); this implies that there had been some increase in homophobia, presumably prompted by a significant increase in homosexualism, or at least in perversion.

We in modern Christendom find it difficult to imagine how different relationships might be in an environment with little or no homosexualism. As a consequence we sometimes come to ludicrous conclusions that certain men in the past, for example Shakespeare, were gay, whereas in reality what today might be evidence of gayness is in Shakespeare the result of a comparative lack of gays in his environment, and certainly lack of approval for their behavior. Again, John Boswell, reading descriptions of the now disused Byzantine liturgy for the reconciliation of friends who had quarreled spread the word that the Christian church had formerly celebrated gay weddings: as a result of the homosexualism of his environment, Boswell could not envisage deep non-erotic love between two people of the same sex – or perhaps between any two people.

I have the impression that same-sex physical signs of affection lasted longer in some parts of Christendom than in others; I think in fact that they lasted longer in Catholic countries than in Protestant ones; I have been told that non-gay Italian men still often hug and kiss in public. There are three possible reasons for this, and I suspect that all are true.

Firstly, Catholics are not so much given to homophobia as Protestants, being aware that we are all sinners, with many temptations to battle, and that sins against sexuality are not the ones to combat with the most effort socially (although they are very likely the most important ones to battle within most people’s souls in the search for holiness). Protestants are less tolerant of each other’s failings and more concerned with sins against sexuality than with other sins. Homophobia and homosexualism feed on each other, so Catholics also have less homosexualism.

Secondly, in another way, Protestants may be more tolerant of certain sins against sexuality. We noticed in the 20th Century that many Protestant groups publicly approved of contraception, as though ejaculating in a balloon were somehow less sinful than ejaculating in a rectum. Contraception goes back millennia, but there seems to have been a gradual increase starting some time after the Reformation, and it may have even then been condemned less by Protestants than by Catholics, although it was not until the early 20th Century that significant numbers of Protestant leaders publicly approved it. Furthermore, Protestants were already condoning remarriage after divorce, perhaps due in part to a misunderstanding of Mt 19:9, where Jesus says “here not upon fornication”, a divorce upon fornication being a separation when the couple were not really married, but where many Protestants understand “here not upon adultery”, i.e. unless one spouse has committed adultery. This doctrine is given in the Presbyterians’ Westminster Confession of Faith 24:5, although I do not think I am being malicious in supposing that personal problems of some of the framers may have been more important than an honest misunderstanding of the Gospel in the acceptance of this mistake.

The Mt 19:9 mistake of the Protestants broke the entire natural-law structure of sexual morality, leading to private and later publicly admitted contraception. I suggest that the same rupture led to other kinds of perversion in private, and self-kidding about it, firstly among Protestants and later elsewhere in Christendom.

Thirdly, Protestants have less monasticism. They often seem to fear the contemplative life. In WCF 22:7 the Presbyterians tell us what they think of celibate life – another sign of the proclivities of the framers? – and the Catholic attitude is quite different: marriage is a sacrament, an outward sign of inward grace, whereas the religious, particularly the contemplative, life is itself the grace, and so profession is not a sacrament. Catholics have a better idea than Protestants that varying lifestyles are legitimate, and so pause before condemning the gay lifestyle: they do condemn it, on clear moral grounds, but not merely because it is not their own way of life. Protestantism (and, in practice, Islam) thus tends to greater homophobia and so to greater homosexualism in response.

The Scottish Free Presbyterian Monthly rails against homosexualism, more homophobically than strictly morally, and also condemns the Catholic Church as the mystery of iniquity, refusing to notice implicit agreement with the (more measured) Catholic attitude towards perversion. The FPM does not realize that the Reformation it strives to defend is the origin of the perversion against which it rails.

The perversion which has increased may cover more than voluntary and semivoluntary mutual masturbation and contraception. During the early 1990s someone who had been a family-court magistrate during the 1950s wrote the Spectator a letter claiming that in over a decade of such work he had never come across an instance of erotic child abuse. He acknowledged that there might nowadays be greater willingness on the part of witnesses to mention such crime, but he was sure that he would have come across some instances unless the incidence had grown considerably in more recent times. We can make a guess, corrigible by relevant evidence, that the increase in homosexualism brought with it increased contempt for sexual dignity, with one result being a great increase in erotic child abuse and perhaps another an increase in mutual masturbation by two-sex couples – what is the incidence of fellatio and buggary in Victorian pornography? The infamous Victorian Walter, of course, describes the fun he had raping an eight-year-old girl, and I know there was child prostitution in much of north-west Europe in the late 18th Century – General Booth of the Salvation Army was instrumental in getting the age of “consent” raised.  But, whatever led to this abuse of children, it seems to have ceased by the 1950s.

Additionally, child abuse by clergy and other adults in special positions of trust may have increased since some point after World War II. It is possible, of course, that it was merely better hidden in the past, but I doubt that, for the following reason. Much of the complaint about clerical abuse is anti-Catholic complaint, although there seems to be at least as much in other denominations, from reports I have read about how psychologists see it. The abuse has given anti-Catholic propagandists a new weapon. But it is precisely a new weapon. Boccaccio in Decamerone mocks clergy and religious for sins against sexuality, and in particular against celibacy, but does not, so far as I remember, accuse them of child abuse. Similarly, the Maria Monk accusations of the 19th Century mention infanticide as a crime of celibates, but not, so far as I know, erotic abuse of children. We may assume that Maria Monk, if there had been any whisper of such abuse, would have told many stories of it. I therefore conclude that the phenomenon is comparatively new, and possibly in part co-incidental with and consequential on the increase in homosexualism.

Who would like to correct and intelligently augment these thoughts?

Osama at Heaven’s Gate

I dreamed that Bill Clinton died. At Heaven’s gate there was some difficulty due to his history. He had committed grave sins against sexuality (cf. Sixth Commandment); more serious, for what I could see, were certain sins against property (cf. Seventh Commandment) and gross lies told to gain political advantage (cf. Eighth Commandment); worst of all was his promotion of abortion (cf. Fifth Commandment). But God is endlessly merciful, and Bill entered Heaven instead of waiting eternally in the outer darkness.
Then Osama bin Laden died. With him the picture was quite different: despite the usual storm of peccadilloes, imperfections we all share, here was a man who for decades had prayed four or five times a day and, better still, worked actively at great personal cost for a vision – albeit a mistaken one – of God’s Kingdom in the world. Welcome into the Joy!
Then Osama saw Bill. “That man tried to frame me for the embassy bombs!” he cried, “and when the Afghan government refused to go along with the frame-up he sent guided missiles to kill me and my friends, actually killing some of them and injuring more, besides ruining our homes on the already bleak hillside. I won’t go where he is.”.
What is my chance of Heaven? Do I really want to go, considering who’s there?
John A. Wills 2001.09.25

The Nature of Israel

                Throughout this tract we translate ‘am and laos as “people”, goy and ethnos as “nation”, qahal and ekklesia as “church”.

 

Israel is a people which does not count itself among the nations (Nm 23:9).  Israel is a church (Nm 20:10-12). The word gentile, “non-Israelite”, comes from Latin gens, “nation”. Israel did indeed go down into Egypt and there become a great nation (Dt 26:5), but the Sinai experience turned that nation and its hangers-on (Ex 12:38) into a church. At the beginning of Joshua (5:8) we read that the nation was circumcised, but after that the Bible does not approvingly call Israel a nation.

In general, Israel gets contrasted with the nations (e.g. Ez 6:21), notably in that Israel has been given the Law and no nation has (Ps 147:20). When Israel does get called a nation, it is generally because God is annoyed with it (e.g. Ml 3:9).

How then can we briefly and usefully portray this church? First we note that it was founded at Sinai and absorbed many tribes and nations in Canaan (Ez 16:3), eventually fixing its central shrine in Jerusalem (2 S 6). It had a state of sorts to protect it in its formative centuries, but this state split (1 K 12:17-20) and so did the church (v. 28-29), definitively about 520 BC (Ezra 4:1-4). One of the successor churches we call the Jews, the other the Samaritans. Each has its own history up to the beginning of the Common Era, when another great split took place.

Because churches have doctrines to teach, both branches of Israel, but especially the Jews, made converts outside the two states. The Book of Jonah proclaims Israel’s duty to spread the doctrines. By the beginning of the Common Era there were Jews from Barbary to Babylon and beyond.

Israel expected a Redeemer, a Messiah (Is 61:1-2 and many other places). At the beginning of the Common Era, Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be the Messiah (Lk 4:21, Jn 4:25-26). About the year 50, at the Council of Jerusalem (Ac 15:5-29), his followers renewed Israel. In the year 70, when the Romans were about to destroy Jerusalem, premessianic Jews stayed in the city while Christians fled beyond Jordan. The Emperor gave permission to rebuild the Temple, but instead the premessianic-Jewish hierarchy stayed in Jamnia, also known as Yavne. About the year 90 the Council of Jamnia founded the Rabbinical Jewish church as a continuing premessianic branch of Israel. Thus the Jews split into Christians and Rabbinical Jews, the most obvious difference being the question of whether Jesus was the Messiah, the most important perhaps the question of which matters of the Law are the weightiest (Mt 23:23 etc.).

Meanwhile we find a reference (Jn 11:48-52) to the people of the Holy Land as a nation, presumably a result of the Herodian conquest’s unifying effect. The chief priest would certainly not call Israel a nation, and John would not make the mistake of putting such a mistake in his mouth. This is the nation we now call Palestine, the first majority‑Jewish nation.

Both Rabbinical Judaism and Christianity continued evangelization, the Christians by the year 200 converting a majority of the Palestinians from Samaritanism and premessianic Judaism – an apostasy for which some Rabbinical Jews have not yet forgiven them. The Palestinians remained majority-Christian until after the Crusades. Christians converted most of the Roman Empire, whereas Rabbinical Jews converted several Central Asian peoples, most notably the Khazars, from the remains of whose Empire the original Zionist settlers came.

Karma for Al Qa’ida

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1. Original Sin, which Orthodox Christians – at least those on Mount Athos – insist on calling Ancestral Sin, is the source of most bad karma. Drowning in inadequate minds we experience more dissatisfaction, often clinging to poetry as a raft. Because of original sin we tend to react in actual sin to all dissatisfaction, sending more waves of bad karma down the ages.

2. Lack of a doctrine of Original Sin seems to me to be, within the Abrahamic tradition, the main distinguisher of Islam from the Mosaic/Mussadek/Israelite tradition, which has such a doctrine firmly established in Gn 3 – and Gn 4, for that matter. Original Sin is a reality, and should not need a doctrine, but Mussadeks have the advantage over Muslims of having a definite doctrine and hence the constant reminder that the struggle for right, jihad, must start within each of us. Muslims also believe this, but are more inclined than Mussadeks to forget it. Of course, people on both sides of the divide often forget it, but I think that Muslims are more inclined to start great projects without concern for inner orientation, making the great projects more liable to error.

3. Lack of church music robs Muslims of the rafts they need in inadequate minds. They have poetry – indeed much of the Quran is poetic – but singing and instrumentation are a great help in keeping us afloat in our inner seas of unreason. It should be noted that those Christians who contradict the Bible’s command to sing new songs and play on instruments tend to be nastier and more prone to condemnation than their otherwise similar fellow-Christians – think of the various kinds of Presbyterianism in Scotland, for instance.

4. Lack of monasticism deprives Muslims of an ultra-sane community to give example of a way of life radically different from that to which most of us have been called, and by that example to help us see more clearly our own vocations. I am talking here of an actual contemplative life, with celibacy and some degree of material poverty and obedience, not the life of a friar or cleric. This kind of life has various spin-offs, such as retreat houses and spiritual writing, both of which have special value because of their mode of provision.

Thomas Merton writes somewhere that when we intensely want to do something to better the world we may ultimately decide that the best we can do for the world is to retire from it and pray for it. Muslims do not at present have this option. Taking a very concrete example, would John Walker Lindt have taken up arms had there been monasteries as well as schools in Yemen?

Monks give an example of the inner jihad: they repent their own sins first; they themselves are thus unlikely to have misguided external jihad, but those with strong tendencies to jihad may, in ignorance of the monastic vocation, do crazy things. Elijah lived on Mount Carmel and came down to thunder at kings. He did not work within governments to better things, although that too is good work, but stood aside and pointed out the corruption of the kings; he was better able to rebuke their lack of external jihad because of his own internal jihad. The upbraiding of kings is, of course, more pastoral than monastic, but the lack of monasticism weakens the pastor. There are two places in the Quran – 5:85 and 57:27 – which praise monasticism, but at some time a perhaps spurious hadith “there is no monasticism in Islam” [Ibn Hibban, Ahmad, At-Tabarani, graded authentic by Al-Albani] – which, for all I know, may have been a lament rather than a prescription – was generally received: monasticism, which had in fact arisen in Islam, was actively suppressed.

At the beginning of the Common Era Judaism split into Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism. It seems that Elijah’s followers all became Christian; at any rate I have come across no evidence of a monastic tradition within Rabbinical Judaism, which has apparently for all its nineteen centuries as a distinct church been monk-less, except among the Falashas in Ethiopia. And there are in proportion probably more Rabbinical Jews who support Zionism than Muslims who support Al Qa’ida and the like.

5. Lack of democracy has prevented many Muslims from striving for their political ideals in a peaceable way. There are several reasons for lack of democracy in Dar ul Islam.

Firstly, people often see no need for democracy. In the 2002 Yemeni elections some critics condemned the process as mindless aping of the corrupt and decadent West. We know the law of God, let us apply it without the kerfuffle of campaigns and parliaments. It should be noticed that the Catholic Church in the 19th Century had a similar distrust of democracy, with the result that the movements called “liberal” have tended to be anticlerical and even opposed to natural law. In Rerum Novarum we find surprise that any Catholic would wish to associate himself with a political party other than that proposed by the magisterium, showing a complete misunderstanding of the idea of democracy. Communists have a similar idea: “united trade union, of course: why then two parties?” as I read in Berlin’s Die Wahrheit during the 1970s. The 20th-Century Communist and the 19th-Century Catholic were both thinking of political parties as groupings on the basis of something other than political opinion.

This attitude may be at an end in Dar ul Islam. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini believed that Iran would remain Islamic only so long as it remained democratic: he thought of democracy as a means of achieving and maintaining rightness. But other democracies have been slow to welcome this change – indeed, the United States had kept in power the regime which preceded democracy in Iran. In reaction there is now in Iran a movement to limit democracy, keeping all power in the hands of the judiciary, who know what is right.

Secondly, the United States has kept undemocratic Muslim governments in power, notably in Araby. President Jimmy Carter issued an executive order preventing the export of weaponry to undemocratic American governments; within a decade all America except Haiti and Cuba was democratic. Why has the order not been extended to the entire world? At one time there might have been arguments for arming non-Communist dictators in a strategy of preventing the expansion of the Kremlin Empire, but that was never a very good policy and the Kremlin Empire is now no more. As far as Araby goes, the obvious answer is that a democratic Arab state is likely – although democracy is unpredictable – to be more anti-Zionist than a despotic Arab state, besides taking from the Zionists the argument that their opponents are all dictatorships. Similar considerations arise for non-Arab states, notably Iran, and Zionism is no doubt one reason the U.S. persists in hostility to Iran.

There may be other reasons for the lack or failure of democracy. I have read the opinion that India has been democratic while Pakistan has stumbled from one despotism to another because in proportion to population Pakistan inherited less than its share of competent high-ranking civil servants from the Indian Empire. I do not wish to discuss such hypotheses, merely to show that the reasons may not have much to do with Islam. After all, China, Belarus, Cuba and Burma are not Muslim countries.

Even in democracy people with big ideas – or ideas which they think big – often descend to violence. In despotism the temptation is greater.

6. Confusion of church and nation is bad for both. Dt 32:28 warns us that when Israel – which is a church, not a nation (Nm 23:9) -, degenerates into a nation it loses its intelligence, as has been demonstrated in Northern Ireland, where both branches of Israel have degenerated into nations. The principle extends to churches outside Israel – and Islam is only just outside.

Muslims have some difficulty in distinguishing church and nation. The official English version of the Iranian Constitution states in Article 11 that all Muslims constitute a single nation. There may be a linguistic problem here, even a translation problem – I imagine that the word translated as “nation” is umma rather than watan -, but Muslims do tend to get more annoyed at wrongs done to fellow-Muslims than Christians do at wrongs done to fellow-Christians. The responses to Zionism and to the Bosnian conflict are here in their different ways instructive.

Church and nation are two modes of identification – a Latin word meaning same-making – of people. If Muslims constitute a church, the Muslim’s attitude to persons of another church should be that, at least in the long run, they should be converted to Islam: there is only one true church. We are more symmetric in our attitude to persons of another nation: we are as foreign to them as they are to us, and, although we secretly think our nation the best, all nations are in principle of equal worth. Unfortunately there are sometimes fights among nations, even tending to genocide, and when we confuse church and nation we bring this kind of fighting more to the fore. When churches as churches fight they have rather different motives from nations fighting each other. We assume that the members of the other church are being deliberately obstinate, and our anger at this obstinacy becomes greater when we confuse nation and church. Humanity and God’s church will go on forever, and so will every person, but all nations will come to an end. We have a calm assurance that the church will not die. The fear that someday our nation will die leads us to insane deeds on behalf of the nation, and of the church if we confuse them. When we confuse nation and church we lose the assurance of the church’s permanence and, panic-stricken, do crazy things to save the nation.

There are other examples of this confusion on a large scale. The descendants of the Khazars have been treated as a nation and have extended their national loyalty to other Rabbinical Jews, so that the Rabbinical Jewish church has degenerated into a nation; this is one of the origins of Zionism. Similarly, the Hindutva policy strives to make Hindu church preference identical with Indian nationality.

7. National and hence ecclesial humiliation have been the lot of Muslims for nearly a century. Through most of the 20th Century most Muslim countries were under some kind of foreign hegemony. Muslim Filipinos, for example, feel themselves to be under Christian Filipino rule. Whereas a Christian may feel sympathy for a Christian group elsewhere under some kind of supposed oppression he does not identify himself with the sufferers, or if he does their Christianity has little to do with the identification. The Muslim does identify himself more with a supposedly suffering Muslim than with other sufferers. Much recent hegemony has been by communities perceived as Christian, so that a Kashmiri rebelling against Hindu stubbornness identifies himself and an Egyptian rebelling against the adoption of Christian social practices.

When Muslim governments try to modernize, they offend conservatives, who are often able to portray the modernization as Christianization. In Lebanon for a long time the Christians were materially better off than their Muslim compatriots; instead of identifying and emulating those Christian practices which made Christians richer – after all, did Fidel Castro consider copying the practices which had made the Puertoricans more prosperous than his own people? -, Lebanese Muslims became resentful. Palestinians, Pakistanis and Indonesians shared that resentment. On a larger scale, nearly all Muslim countries seem to their inhabitants somehow inferior to those of the Christian West, but reject the solution of aping the Christians.

One of the greatest humiliations for a Muslim community has been Zionism. The Palestinians are of course about 12% Christian, which is probably more important for the Zionists than the Muslim majority, but nevertheless a majority-Muslim nation is being wronged. In 1967 Abba Eban proclaimed that the Palestinians opposed Zionism because they were Muslims, not because of Arab nationalism or in objection to dispossession. That was a lie at the time, but the solidarity among Muslims has begun to make it true. And Zionism has, with help from the Christian West, been the most violent external imposition on Dar ul Islam during more half a century. To react to it seems natural, and a large part of the reaction is against Christendom.

8. Homosexualism in Christendom has grown in parallel to the growth of homophobia in Dar ul Islam. I know that there has been in Christendom a big wave of homosexualism – in which I played some small part – starting in the 1960s, but I am ignorant about the rise of homophobia in Dar ul Islam. It appears that sexual self-respect diminished considerably in Europe during World War II: regular Saturday beer and sex became customary in those parts of the British armed forces serving at Home, and the practice continued and expanded after the war; I imagine the same was true elsewhere. Muslims do not admit to similar behavior amongst themselves, and so find something to look down upon in Christendom.

In the 1960s, partly as a result of lessened erotic self-respect generally, sympathy for gays increased. Laws decriminalizing mutual masturbation were urged with the promise that, freed from the risk of prosecution, gays would be more likely to seek treatment for their sexual inversion so that decriminalization would lead to a decline in the behavior complained about. That promise has obviously not been kept, although the majority of cases of sexual inversion were already by that time rectifiable: the gay lifestyle, contrary to the common morality of all the children of Abraham, has become common while its opponents are vilified, accused of homophobia as though the homophobia-homosexualism axis covered all the possible opinions.

It is hardly surprising that Muslims see Christendom as a nauseating cess-pool of fornication, perversion and venereal disease, clearly morally inferior to Dar ul Islam and thus justly meriting God’s punishment at the hands of the faithful. This increases the resentment at Christendom’s material prosperity and the feeling of righteousness in striking the infidel down.

9. The Black Legend of U. S. wickedness parallels the earlier Black Legend of Spanish wickedness. Both result from predominance in the world. Both tend to be believed both outside and inside the hegemonic society. Anything evil the great power does gets exaggerated; anything good gets forgotten or misrepresented.

I once read a letter in The Economist describing seven great evil deeds by the United States. Judging justly, the U.S. was clearly on the right side in five of the cases, the guilty party was doubtful in the sixth, and I could not determine the truth of the seventh. People concocted preposterous – and even contradictory – justifications for North Vietnam’s 1955 attack on South Vietnam, but not until the 1960s, when the U. S. was trying to help the South Vietnamese: the Black Legend of U. S. malice motivated those stories. Many such stories are bandied around, simply because the U. S. is the world’s dominant polity. It is also Christendom’s dominant polity, so all the attacks made on it, whether true or false, are of use to the enemies of Christendom. The Black Legend concentrates hatred on the U. S. in particular and on Christendom in general. Muslims are more conscious of Christendom than most people, and of the centrality of the U. S. to Christendom.

Each of the karmic threads I have identified has its own karmic origins, and consequences besides Al Qa’ida. Al Qa’ida and the associated movements are themselves going to have tremendous consequences for us all.

It is noticeable that Zionism enters the karmic background of Al Qa’ida in two ways: firstly it has similar karma behind it; secondly it enters into several of the elements I have identified. We might follow Hegel and think of Zionism as the thesis, Al Qa’ida the antithesis and… ¿what? as the synthesis.

© 2003, 2019 John A. Wills

 

Catholics Voting for Abortion

Catholics tend to be left-wing. Left-wingers tend to be pro-abortion. Therefore Catholic constituencies frequently elect pro-abortion politicians.

Now, this is not true in, say, Germany, where both great parties are, in Anglo-Saxon terms, left-wing. But it does seem to be true in both the United States and the United Kingdom. I am pretty certain the pattern can be seen elsewhere too. There is a problem here, and resolving it may by generalization resolve and describe higher-level things. I suspect, for instance, that it may help explain the Italian situation regarding abortion, although one might suppose Italy to be here similar to Germany.

The reason my premise seems paradoxical is that the Catholic Church not only officially but also in the minds of most of the flock condemns abortion: Catholic talk of “dignity” refers to the whole gamut of human rights, of which that to life is the first and most fundamental. What we have is people voting the opposite way from what they explicitly believe and what, I am sure, they have for the most part internalized.

As a first step I resolve the problem into 3 questions:

1. Why are Catholics left-wing?

2. Why are left-wingers pro-abortion?

3. Why do people who believe in human rights vote for left-wing candidates even when those candidates oppose human rights, the defense of which should be to the Catholic prior to any left-right question?

Catholics are left-wing because many of the things called left-wing are desirable from a consistent Christian perspective. A slew of papal and episcopal letters have pointed this out. In addition, many Catholic Anglos are of Celtic descent and so have been low down the social hierarchy, another factor which makes for left-wingery; the Chicanos in California today in this sense resemble the Irish of Massachusetts a century ago.

When I wonder why left-wingers like abortion, I am not wondering about specifically pro-abortion forces or secular inhumanism generally: I am wondering about those who have abortion on a palette of favorite things, most of which are more understandable from a left-wing stance. Contrary to my original intention, answering this question has become the bulk of this essay.

All political movements run a danger of dishonesty, even if only to sidestep explaining difficult ideas. The pro-abortion movement has produced the most contemptibly dishonest arguments of any political trend I have come across. I have in fact only once come across a pro-abortion argument both honest and informed, and that was Libertarian, not left-wing. I see no point in searching dishonest arguments for clues.

Left-wingers are pro-abortion because left-wingers like to be anti-establishment and the establishment until a few decades ago forbade abortion. This is not an adequate answer. Also, pro-abortion propaganda claims sympathy for the unwilling mother and abortion is touted as a relief for her; the unreflective left-winger goes along. Neither is this answer adequate: it should work just as well for right-wingers, and left-wingers are certainly much more pro-abortion than right-wingers(except when the right-wingers are thinking of socially poisonous races).

The real answer goes deeper. Consider the Irish potato famine. Potato blight increased over several years until the potato crop was worthless. There was hunger in the land. The hungry people had not produced any material values which they could exchange for food produced by others. Other people on the island of Ireland, not relying on a single crop, had indeed produced food enough that there was actually “export” of some kinds of food from Ireland. The food could be sold in Great Britain for prices far higher than people in Ireland could afford to pay. So it went east, out of reach of the hungry.

So great is our horror at people (especially of more or less our own race) going hungry in large numbers that we are inclined to say that Her Majesty’s Government should have done something about the situation. My mother used to say that HMG, noticing the annual decline in the value of the potato crop, should have organized the introduction of new varieties and new crops. To this the libertarian would reply that every farmer should have chosen to plant a different crop, as some in fact did, resulting in the possibility of surplus food from some farms. Even if HMG had advised the farmers about alternative crops and farming methods they might have ignored governmental advice – as has happened in recent years in Mexican Chiapas, where peasants insist on continuing unproductive methods, then revolt because they remain poor. It is also said that HMG should have bought vast quantities of food and distributed it to the unfortunate farmers and their frustrated customers. Most of all, however, critics of HMG say it should have forbidden the “export” of food from the island of Ireland. This would have got prices down to a level at which a significant proportion of the hungry people could have afforded at least some food. This kind of argument is common among left-wingers, even among Christian-influenced right-wingers. Many liberals will agree with this socialist argument.

What the socialists and their liberal fellow-travelers forget is that the farmers who had produced the exported food were its owners until they sold it. They had chosen to farm better than their neighbours, and so had a surplus. They were entitled, one might think, to all the benefits resulting from their choice. To prevent them selling their produce where they wanted would be stealing. Even to compulsorily purchase it would be stealing unless the price paid were equal to what could be obtained by “export”-ing it.

Left-wingers sneer at this kind of argument. They seem to themselves and even to many right-wingers to hold the moral high ground because starvation is abhorrent, and because they seem to be advocating charity – a kind of charity they might call justice, ignoring the injustice done to the good farmers, from whom this charity would have been exacted. In recent decades it was for such reasons illegal to export more than a certain quantity of beef from Guatemala, because beef was so expensive in the importing country that it was worth while dedicating land to pasture rather than to corn to sell at a price people could afford to pay. The call for trade restrictions looks like a call for social justice.

The left-wingers may be right: perhaps food exports from hungry areas should be limited. But they are impatient of the intellectual effort required to justify what looks very like stealing. They then go further and ignore private-property rights. George Orwell, for instance, bemoaned the re-fencing of people’s lawns in London after World War II. He said that if it was theft to compel the owners to maintain what would in effect be small public parks, he was in favour of theft . And how had these owners acquired ownership anyway? he wanted to know. Again we see impatience of intellectual effort to justify what seems socially beneficial.

One area where public benefit requires private loss is public projects, such as roads and ports. In deciding whether a proposed project should be carried out, governments typically list all the losses anyone would suffer by the project and all the gains people would realize. If the gains are clearly greater, then the project should go ahead, with such confiscation of private property and loss of private amenity as is needed. Obviously, those who lose property or amenity should be compensated for their losses. The great left-wing economist Kaldor (who gave bad advice to the governments first of Ghana then of the UK) said no, it was not necessary to compensate those who lost by the public project. He went the whole way, approving stealing for the alleged common good. And many people would agree with him, especially if those losing were some kind of outcaste (the Afro-Irish villagers displaced with low compensation to construct Central Park in New York, the allegedly idle rich almost anywhere, the “boss class” hated by the Socialist Workers Party).

One of the functions of government is to construct great common works. All functions of government should fulfil government’s sole purpose, namely the securing of such human rights as those to life, to liberty and to property. But Kaldor says that the functions of government can legitimately involve the violation of human rights. He would be impatient – or at least many of those agreeing with him are impatient – of arguments showing the basic fallacy of this thesis. They choose what seems somehow right and then ignore what makes it wrong.

For a number of minor reasons, often classed as social, left-wingers see something attractive in abortion. With the impatience gained in scorning the right to property they scorn the right to life, even lying about important facts and constructing – or at least regurgitating – the contemptibly dishonest arguments I mentioned earlier, so distracting themselves from their refusal to think. The fashion has taken hold, and there is little that can overcome it.

As for the third question, people do not vote on issues in any hierarchy but on a congeries of issues without any systematic weighting. Having once decided to be left-wing (or right-wing, for that matter), the voter thinks of a candidate’s stand on abortion as one among many issues. Disagreeing with the candidate on several issues, the voter may still choose him for his general tendency. Voters thus give the same weight to methods of securing human rights (which is the purpose of the state) as they do to the question of whether to secure a fundamental right at all. To see the raison d’être for the pursuit of power lost in the pursuit of that power renders the whole thing meaningless, but somehow people get lost in the plethora of arguments about a plethora of secondary, tertiary and n-ary issues. In internal discussions of a party, there is a tendency to mock moral arguments against party doctrine, and even those comparatively clear in mind about why power is being pursued often cannot express themselves and feel ashamed about being the exception on “single issues”, unable to explain, even to themselves, that abortion is so basic, so important that unless we get this right we will not get anything else right .

What, then, is to be done? Firstly, I must be honest on this matter and in all political questions, clearly distinguishing means and ends. I must not make health-care provision, for example, an end which justifies state-funded abortion, just as I must not make tidy streets an end which justifies euthanasia of the homeless. I must in political discourse, whether internal or external, always remember that the purpose of government is to secure such God-given rights as those to life, to liberty and to property. It is better that the state do nothing at all than that it violate these. All my wonderful plans for a better world must be discarded if they imply wrong-doing by me or by the state, my servant.

One thing that has led people astray in reading (often indirectly) papal social encyclicals is that when the earliest of them were written it was generally agreed and understood that personal human rights were inalienable, however often violated. The popes therefore saw no need to reiterate the primacy of personal rights when developing their theories of collective rights. Furthermore, the earlier social encyclicals, at least, preferred the collective rights to be secured less by the state than by other societies, so that the state’s special duty of securing human rights, and in particular personal rights, fell by the wayside. It was even thought that personal rights were so well understood that securing them need not be mentioned among the state’s functions. This was a serious error. All future ecclesiastical pronouncements on collective and social rights should clearly make them subsidiary to personal rights. Among ecclesiastical pronouncements I include guidance from the pulpit at election time. And when politicians are interviewed by clerics, personal human rights should be emphasized even to the extent, where necessary, of forgetting the favourite social projects of the clerics.

In ordinary preaching the clergy should from time to time explain the meaning not so much of the 5th as of the 7th Commandment: Thou shalt not steal. I did not create Bill Gates’ wealth (he got it by making other people’s work more valuable), for example, and it is not my business, apart from taxation, to tell him how to spend it. Similarly, the “windfall” taxes in Britain not long ago were effectively stealing, because they were directed at people who were already paying taxes on the same scale as other enterprise owners, employees and customers. Did one sermon in the realm point this out? If envy (not ambition) and stealing are suitably rebuked, Catholics will develop the reflexes required to protect them also against pro-abortion propaganda disguised as left-wingery.

More generally, to change left-wingers in this regard we must understand how they became pro-abortion, concentrate their attention on the basic human rights, and have them work out in detail why coercion to certain charity-like actions is in truth justified. Then they will see that they cannot apply the same arguments to abortion: we restrict the rights to liberty and property to secure the right to life, and the reverse motivation is insane.

In all political discourse human rights should be prominent. Discussion of them should be prior to left/right, devolution/subsidiarity, democracy/aristocracy, even anarchy/government questions, and when that becomes customary those other questions will doubtless become more tractable. There may be partisanship about methods of implementing, but the principle of securing human rights, firstly by ourselves (including the state) avoiding violations and secondly by punishing egregious violations, should never be subject to partisan politics.

More generally still, in all our discussions about means we should remember our ends. Unless we know roughly what we have in the pantry our trip to the supermarket is pointless. We should not use a scouring pad to polish the car. And in all our votes we should remember the purpose of the state.

John A. Wills 1999.01.01

Pro-Palestine Movements and Consequences

The recent pro-Palestinian marches in various U.S. cities were reminiscent of the 1960s movement against U.S. aid for South Vietnam. The U.S. is the main provider of money and weaponry to the Israeli state, and one can easily imagine the pro-Palestinian movement growing until that aid stops and Zionism comes to an end. The parallel with the Vietnam demonstrations is not entirely accurate, of course: North Vietnam’s cause was not just. It is a great pity that the demonstrators of the 1960s chose to support a tyranny in the conquest of a democracy rather than an oppressed and exiled people trying to get home. Communism and Zionism are both works of the Devil, who, I suppose, used support for one to avert opposition to the other. But now the pseudoliberals of the U.S. are taking the morally right side. Europeans are now predominantly pro-Palestinian, but U.S.Americans, who have the financial and armament power to end Zionism, have somewhat less competent news media and also tend to identify the Israelis with the Biblical Israelites, who in the Bible have the assumption of being on the right side.
This linguistic confusion is addressed in a chapter of my book Albatross ISBN 0-595-19418-4. The great irony here is that those making this linguistic error are predominantly Christian, and , as I point out in another chapter of Albatross, a prime motive for Zionism is to punish the Palestinians, national descendants of the Biblical Israelites, the first Jewish nation, for following the false Messiah Jesus of Nazareth. Also, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has wielded tremendous clout from 1957 on, and there was no equivalent lobby for South Vietnam.
These problems will be overcome, as far juster arguments were overcome when the pseudoliberals opposed democracy in South Vietnam; after all, the pseudoliberals will not have to lie this time. In a decade or two, unless better solutions are found, the Zionists will be violently defeated. North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam to replace liberalism and democracy with Communism and despotism; also, perhaps, to pay off some scores from the quarrel between Bao Dai’s people and the Viet Minh and from the later quarrel which split the Viet Minh. It was natural that victory led to horror and poverty. It is not natural that Palestinian vindication lead to horror or poverty, but it is very likely: the Zionists have taught the Palestinians to hate Jews, something new in their history; on the other hand, the Zionists have always hated Palestinians, and have nukes to wreak that hate in their last days of power: the victory is likely to be violent and pyrrhic, leading to bad karma on all sides, with consequences for another century or so. Furthermore, since the June War there has, initially at Zionist prompting, been a tendency to identify Palestinian patriotism and Islamic Fundamentalism, so it is possible that a “liberated” Palestine would be some kind of despotism. Iran has shown that an Islamic state can be a democracy, but the other omens are not good; furthermore, it would be preferable that the democracy be more or less secular, and not only because of the Christians and Rabbinical Jews in the country. There can be no doubt that Christian support of Zionism has been one of the components in the rise of Islamic Theocratic movements. There is a real danger that Palestinian victory may act like a tonic on these dangerous movements, hindering democracy worldwide, and even leading to interstate wars and further atrocities like September 11. We certainly do not want the Holy Land ruled by some Taliban-like group, with resurgent Zionists from abroad attacking them and thus strengthening both ideologies for decades on end.
What then is to be done to end the succession of bad karma? How can we help the Palestinians emerge from Hell with empty hands? As often in politics, the answer is to concentrate on commutative justice. The U.S., as chief beweaponer of the Zionists, is in a position to insist on progress here. If the U.S. were to demand that the Israeli state cede its sovereignty to the PLO the state would refuse and try to carry on without U.S. weaponry and money, nuking Jerusalem rather than lose it, but if the demands were such as to keep the Israeli state itself working, without sudden changes, there is a good chance that the Israeli leaders would acquiesce, with the result of a comparatively peaceful transition without loss of whatever good Zionism has done(Museum of the Diaspora, Yad vaShem Archive, kibbutz idea).

313,000 people own homes and farms and orchards in the 1948 territories, property stolen from them or their parents in the Nakba – and on some later occasions. There are also many people who have been robbed of their property in the 1967 territories. I am not talking here about sovereignty, but about personal property rights, protected by the Seventh Commandment. The Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property is in charge of these properties, although in fact some of the dispossessed live in the 1948 territories and so are not absent, being recognized as Israeli citizens. He delegates his authority to the Jewish National Fund Qeren Qayemeth leIsrael, which rents the property out to immigrants. The Israeli state has an absolute moral obligation to arrange the return of these properties to their owners, with the payment(by the JNF, which has had the profit) of back rent with interest for the time of dispossession. Each returning owner should be given a note from the JNF(or, in some cases, the state) for the back rent with interest, at least the accruing interest to be paid each month, with no reduction in payment until the last payment. Those whose property is in the 1948 territories must also, of course, be given Israeli citizenship without naturalization oaths, because they should never have been expelled from their property or country.
The U.S., as chief beweaponer of the Israeli state, should credibly threaten the withdrawal of all aid and arms sales unless the enabling act is before Knesseth Israel within a month, it gets signed by the President within another month, the Custodian of Absentee Property issues claim(not petition) forms within another month, the first family has returned to its property within another month and within 6 months the speed of restitution is such that one can reasonably expect all the owners to be home within 5 years. This demand should be independent of any irrelevant matter, such as behavior of the Palestinian Authority or other Arab polities.
The property owners, together with their immediate families, make up more than a tenth of the refugees; also most of the settlements in the 1967 territories would be dismantled. This act of simple commutative justice will therefore at once lessen the refugee problem, Palestinian anger at Zionism, the bigoted “Jewish character” of the Israeli state, and the hatred for the Palestinians which the Israelis nourish in themselves by this robbery. Once the Israelis do what they know is right in this matter, some of them will recognize that the Zionist project is mostly immoral and unJewish.
Disputes as to ownership in the 1948 territories should be resolved primarily in Israeli courts. To ensure justice, there should be the possibility of appeal to a bench of the International Court of Arbitration whose members would be appointed half by the Israeli government, half by the PLO or the Palestinian Authority, and the chairman by those appointees or by the president of the International Court of Justice. Further benches of the ICA can be erected later to deal with other problems.

There arises the problem of those currently living in or working on the stolen property. We might think them unentitled to much sympathy, because they have known all along that they are on stolen property, so they have no claim against the owners, the JNF, the Israeli state, or, indeed, anyone. But that matter of justice will not prevent bitterness. Various solutions are possible. Firstly, some of the property consists of blocks of flats and the like, and the Israelis have a Tenant Protection Law, so no-one will be immediately displaced by the restitution. Similarly, owners may choose not to re-occupy their property at once but rather to live somewhere else in the 1948 territories, renting the property out to the current tenants, perhaps until the termination of the current lease from the JNF(usually for 49 years), perhaps for some other period; this is something on which the owner must decide; some such owners may even choose to ask the JNF to administer the tenancies for a while. Other tenants may have family they can live with, either in Eretz Israel or abroad; many, I imagine, would choose to return to their ancestral countries(Arab states already have the administrative machinery in place for the return of their nationals, with restitution of abandoned property and citizenship; but most Arab states are rather unattractive places to live in) or to third countries. A few may move to wherever the owners were living just prior to the restitution; some tenants in Ein Hawd may move up-hill to Ein Hawd al Jadidah – and so understand at first hand what Zionism has meant to the Palestinians.
Another problem arises from the destruction of property carried out by the Zionists not only in 1948 but also later. What is to be done with the property rights in Emmaeus, which the Israelis dynamited and bulldozed after the June War to make Canada Park? What about the Arafat family home, destroyed not out of Zionist spite but for the more or less legitimate purpose of expanding the worship area in front of the Wailing Wall? Some of these difficulties can be resolved with either state or JNF funding of reconstruction, but that will not always be practicable. Still, these are a minority of the cases.

Once having shown that it means business about peace, the U.S. can one by one make other demands. One is similar to the rights of owners: for some kinds of tenancy from the state, e.g. miri, there was in Ottoman and Mandate times a right of the tenant to continue the tenancy, and those with such rights can at some time be treated like the property owners, although the back rent owed would have to be calculated differently, and would obviously be lower. And there are other angles to work from.
As I write the Israelis are demanding the extradition of the killers of a genocidal maniac hight Zeevi, who was murdered in revenge for the murder of a violent resistance activist hight Zibri. There are many such claims being made by the Israelis, and the Palestinians might make many more. If there are to be two states, as there more or less are at present, there should be an attempt at symmetry. Each state should be able to make extradition petitions in the court of the other, with external appeal to a second bench of the International Court of Arbitration. A third bench should be available to ensure that trials have been conducted in accord with relevant law. This would make many people feel uncomfortable, but it is so obviously the right thing to do that most will be ashamed to object to it; at least, I hope they will. It is conceivable that other kinds of dispute will also be resolvable in this general kind of way.
It is probably not worth while to have the parties go to the International Court of Justice to determine their proper boundaries, because there has been so much change since 1948 as to make it most convenient to have borders decided in some other manner. It is conceivable that the Partition of Palestine was contrary to the United Nations Charter(the U.S. wanted the ICJ to decide that, but the U.K successfully begged the U.S. not to suggest it in open forum), and I know that the Mandate of Palestine was contrary to the League of Nations Covenant, but it might be taking states’ rights, a legal fiction, beyond their legitimate function, the securing of human rights, to try to adjudicate these matters now.

The Holy Land question set includes many problems about religion. The oddity is that a solution to an important part of these problems has been known since 1929. In that year the Holy See, central administration of the Catholic Church, was given a microstate, smaller than many city parks, with juridical sovereignty, thus fulfilling the needs formerly fulfilled by the larger Papal States and allowing the Italian territorial state to develop without ecclesiastical domination. This means that the Pope can condemn politicians without being thought to have his own political motives for doing so. It is surprising that the same solution has not been applied to other churches. One reason is, of course, that not all churches have equivalents of the Holy See, but that can be remedied.
The World Jewish Congress should develop a method of choosing a Chief Rabbinate of All Israel, separate and distinct from the Chief Rabbinate of Eretz Israel, and the Israeli state and the Palestinian Authority should in parallel cede a small piece of land up against the Wailing Wall as Zion City State. Historically the Mount of Olives would be a better location, but modern Rabbinical Jews have forgotten that. Just as the Holy See has some say in holy places outside the Vatican, the Chief Rabbinate might have some rights outside its state, notably the Tomb of Abraham. Many people support Zionism who really want something like the Holy See, as I mention in Albatross, though they may not realize that that is what they want.
The World Muslim Federation, which is separate and distinct from the Organization of the Islamic Conference, should develop a method for electing a Supreme Mufti of the Faithful. He would probably not be accepted by Shias, but the Pope is not accepted by Protestants. The Supreme Mufti should be given a trilocal state including the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Tomb of Muhammad in Medinah and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The last would very much annoy some people, but Rabbinical Jews could have rebuilt their temple in the second century of the Common Era(they had imperial permission) but did not even move the Patriarchate to Jerusalem, instead keeping it at first in Jamnia and then in various places in already Christian Galilee, so I think they have abandoned their rights; as indeed have the Christians, who, during the Christian period of the Roman Empire, did talk about erecting a basilica there but never actually did anything. The Supreme Muftiyyah too might have interests in the Tomb of Abraham, as well as in the Tomb of Moses.
The Christian leaders in Jerusalem are quarreling a lot less than formerly, having even taken the keys of the Holy Sepulchre back from the Moslem families who had been holding them for centuries. They should be able to work out some kind of deal for a Holy Sepulchre City State, with recognized interests in the Church of the Nativity, the Church of the Annunciation, and so forth.
For symmetry, any movement for these states would include motions for a Sikh Golden Temple City State and a Buddhist Potala City State.
The three microstates in Jerusalem should over a period of years cool down much of the religion-related anger about the holy city, although obviously a lot of people would be dissatisfied. The Supreme Mufti and his microstates would probably weaken the movements for Islamic theocracy, not because the Supreme Mufti would say anything in particular about it but because the daily working of the Muftiyyah would distinguish church and state in people’s minds.
Somehow, in conjunction with these matters, perhaps, the Chief Rabbinate of Eretz Israel, now appointed by the Israeli state, should become more independent, perhaps following the pattern of the Chief Rabbinate of the British Commonwealth, which too was once state-appointed. Similarly, it is probably a good idea for the Chief Mufti of Jerusalem to be elected by someone other than the Palestinian Authority. For that matter, there should be no more state interference in the appointment of Christian prelates.

There would be a lot more to do to bring peace to the Holy Land. The U.S. can induce this slowly. At present villages formed by people classified as Jews promptly get utilities installed. Other Israeli citizens often have to wait decades; think of Ein Hawd al Jadidah. The U.S. can probably stop this, if the gradually reforming Israeli citizenry does not itself do so. Similarly, public housing, even when administered by the JNF, should be available to citizens regardless of religion. This would go a long way towards transforming Israeli society.

Eventually the Israeli state and the PLO should be merged; not federated. I have ideas of how this might be carried out in stages, but will not go into them here. One can imagine a peaceful, democratic prosperous Palestine as the nucleus of a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Araby, itself the nucleus of a peaceful, democratic, prosperous world. That is not the way I choose to direct my political activity, but I pray God’s blessing on those who do. I do not believe that their next steps can reasonably be very different from what I have described above.
2002.04.29
© 2002, John A. Wills