28 April 2014

The Lanchester Review

The excellent Mr. David Lindsay now has a web magazine up and running here at http://lanchesterreview.blogspot.co.uk - not blowing my own antler here, but I do think these essays are indeed very exciting and intellectually stimulating stuff! The first nine-volume issue features essays by:
  • David Lindsay, Setting a Tone, Not a Line. Sets out the mission of the Lanchester Review, as bringing together the tendencies of the pre-Marxist British labour movement, Christian socialism, One Nation Toryism, guild socialism and distributism, not in a single unified platform but in a common, broad-ranging critique of Whiggism and its accompanying tendencies of militarism and capitalist exploitation.
  • Taym Saleh, Nationhood and the Left. While extending certain hopes for international bonds of solidarity, Mr. Saleh makes the much-needed point that the nation, a polity intended for permanence and for a local expression of the common good, has certain qualities that can and should never be sacrificed upon the altar of internationalism.
  • Teddy Corbett, Votes at 16 Is a Preposterous Idea. And Labour should scrap it. Firstly because legal rights do not correspond with biological maturity or with the ability to make responsible decisions in the common interest; and secondly because politicians should care substantively about the welfare of children, not pander to them as though they are a constituency.
  • Luke Blaxill, The Problem with Identity Politics and the Left. Notes the disturbing tendency on the modern Left to privilege collective identities based on national origin, gender and sexual orientation over those based on class, and to do so in patronising and destructive ways. Though he is somewhat mistaken about the Swedish Left’s model for criminalising prostitution (which is largely a class issue, posited and defended as such), the overall point he makes is valid and direly needed.
  • Yours truly, Remembering the Holy Land. The recapture of Maaloula by the Syrian Army and the return of its Christians is something to be celebrated. But it also needs to be met with the sombre reflection of our own dubious record when it comes to Middle Eastern Christians, and with compassion for the Christians still living in the land of our religion’s birth.
  • Richard Cotton, Labour Should Embrace a More Sceptical Approach to the EU. In light of Labour’s history of supporting the rights of as broad a swathe possible of the British people to political empowerment and self-determination, the embrace of the demonstrably un-democratic, un-representative, dis-empowering European Union by certain Labour politicos is more than just slightly incongruous.
  • Ian Oakley, A Review of The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt and the Golden Age of Journalism, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The portrait painted of American political life at the end of the long 19th century, focussing especially on the reforming presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft, sadly bears very little resemblance to American political life today.
  • Kevin Meagher, A Referendum: Refounding the Case for Europe. The institutions of the European Union are either effete or unaccountable, and furthermore are hopelessly out-of-touch with the British electorate. As such, if Europe truly is a worthwhile project meant to keep its members stable, prosperous and at peace, the case needs to be put to a referendum before the British people.
  • Brian Gould, Bank-Created Credit. The reality that banks alone have the power to create money through fractional reserve lending has some dire consequences for the neoclassical monetary theory. This paper is quite broad-ranging, and covers the limits of current policy-making as well as the attraction of real-estate lending to banks (as low-risk and high-yield, when compared with small business lending).
Please do give it a read, dear readers! I do enjoy the fact that the Review covers such a broad range of topics and interests and provides a deep and eclectic range of post-liberal views.

27 April 2014

God and mammon, and the tragedy of trying to serve both

I really haven’t had much contact with the conventional Anglo-American religious right since my willing submersion in the world of the apostolic alternative right – Romanist anarchists, Orthodox personalists, existentialists, Tory radicals, crunchy cons and so forth – so it was a bit of a culture shock to come across a particular conservative evangelical blog which idolises libertarian ideologues such as Thomas Sowell and Bill Easterly, and seems to take for granted that Christian ethics demands ‘distinguish[ing] between the deserving and undeserving poor’ (when it clearly does no such thing – one of the clearest of Jesus’s commands in the Gospel of S. Luke was to ‘give to every man that asketh of thee’, not to give him the third degree to see if he is worthy of what you are deigning in your magnanimity to bequeath to him). Naturally, he prefaces all of this with the standard bromides that being a Christian ‘transcends mere partisan politics’ and does not mean subscribing to a party line – before going on to do just that, asserting baldly against the ‘trendy lefty social justice’ Christians that ‘capitalism is not the enemy’, that ‘we know’ only capitalism produces ‘programmes and policies that actually work’ to lift people out of poverty, and then proceeding to enlist the aid of that intellectual giant Bono (lead singer of U2) in support of his argument.

Accusing ‘lefty social justice’ Christians of being ‘trendy’ whilst saying Bono’s now one of the cool kids. Oy. That’s the problem with this sort of right-wing Protestantism: the parody writes itself; I really couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to.

To be clear, I admit to being a ‘lefty’ on economic issues not because it’s the ‘trendy’ thing to be, but because I believe that the most consistent interpretation of the Gospels and of the consensus of the Holy Fathers – in particular S. Basil the Great and S. John Chrysostom, two of the most voluble on the subject – tends to support an oikonomía which would be considered, in modern parlance, ‘left’-of-centre. And it would be utterly ludicrous to claim that the Patristic view of justice is confined merely to the realm of secular legal procedure – Patristic justice is not only legal, but social. (And then, not only social, but natural; and at that not only natural, but divine.) Though a faithful and right-believing Christian should never, ever be content with being so labelled, she must be a ‘social justice’ Christian wherever the term is opposed to the mere procedural ‘justice’ of the saeculum which has ever been the plaything of the rich and powerful.

How sad and impotent a thing the Protestant right has become! To be perfectly clear, there are indeed aspects of Mr Muehlenberg’s ‘platform’ that I can sympathise with. He doesn’t want to see government money being used to prop up corrupt régimes, nor does he want to see it being used to promote anti-natal policies in ‘developing countries’. Neither do I. But he can’t see that the problem isn’t just the (in this case, Australian) government which is to blame here! Aid policies are shaped by the same lobbies and special interests which dictate domestic economic policies, and there is big money to be made in promoting anti-natal policies in the ‘developing world’ (with all of the pharmaceutical and surgical goods and logistics to be won in contracts at a significant profit). Likewise, corruption pays, if a given corporation can spend enough to make a relationship with a corrupt government work. Mr Muehlenberg can repeat until he’s blue in the face that ‘capitalism isn’t the enemy’ – but on a lot of the substantive issues he cares so much about, the invisible hand can’t seem to get enough of stabbing his causes in the back.

The same goes with neoconservative Romanists, it must be said. Markets and morals, says the Acton Institute. Why not serve both God and mammon, they ask. But (to give just one example) the acolytes of Robert Sirico put so much emphasis on defending Microsoft (qua Microsoft, with all of its monopoly power intact) as a force for good in the world whilst Bill Gates himself plans to implement anti-natal policies on an international scale, using money which has been essentially throttled from his might-have-been competitors through the government-enforced leverage of the patent system. Can any consistent Romanist see this, and not laugh (or cry, or both)? The Acton Institute attacks Christians who point out the injustices of multinational corporations using legal proceduralism in this way to thwart a shallower-graded distribution of productive property – and takes no position on how the maldistribution they defend contributes to moral crises which (one hopes, one dearly hopes!) they decry.

It is truly unfortunate that there are those amongst my right-believing brothers and sisters who, along with Muehlenberg and Sirico, are beginning to place their faith in the novelties of ‘what works’, using standards of ‘what works’ which date back only three hundred years or less. They have traded the eternal and infallible conciliar vision of the Fathers for the disembodied, rootless and materialistic mind of the market. Thankfully, there has been some decent, Patristically-grounded criticism of the collaboration of S. Vladimir’s with the Acton Institute (also, here).

The bigger irony is that if you start asking the question of ‘what works’, you are beginning to engage in a theological exercise. ‘What works’ to feed the multitudes, according to the Gospel? The disciples asked Our Lord to send the starving masses back to their hometowns to buy food. Likewise, it strikes me that the Easterly-Sowell-Sirico crowd would have had Christ tell the multitudes to stop being such lazy, shiftless, greedy bums and go out and sell stuff, or get jobs working for the Herodians, the Romans and the Sadducees (you know, the job creators!). In each of the Gospels Our Lord does not see it that way. But what does He know, right? He was only following that ‘trendy lefty social justice’ S. John the Forerunner fellow.

25 April 2014

Yes, that really is her surname. And no, I couldn’t resist.

This is the sort of thing that could only be thought up by an Obama Administration State Department advisor and international affairs professor at Princeton. See, apparently, according to Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, we ought to be sending Russia a clear message that we won’t be putting up with any more of their shenanigans in the Ukraine by bombing the bejeezus out of the brown people on the next continent over. That oughta learn them Russkies to mess with ‘Murica!

Of course, some of us folk with a wee bit more compassion and common sense very quickly pointed out how this ‘Killing Syrians for Ukraine’ tactic might not be the wisest move in the American foreign policy playbook (see also here). Slaughter not only seems to think that a gratuitous and unilateral display of American force on another continent will have a chance at deter Russia from pursuing its own foreign policy objectives in its own backyard (despite massive evidence to the contrary, going all the way back to the Yugoslav Wars), but she is also willing – as she herself admits! – to strengthen the hand of extremist Sunni Islamism in the Middle East over the dead bodies of Syrian Christians, Alawites and moderate Sunnis in order to spit in Russia’s eye.

I admit, when I first heard of it, I was truly hard-put not to think of the entire article as an elaborate Stephen Colbert-style satire of liberal interventionism. How quickly I abandoned that conceit upon actually reading the article should be read as an unfortunate testament to how low my opinion of the American foreign policy establishment currently is. But my real question is: how seriously has this proposal been taken amongst the policymakers? That Dr. Slaughter was clearly comfortable enough in her arrant Wilsonianism to actually write in an article meant for public consumption something to the effect of: ‘what’s a few thousand more dead Syrians when it comes to making Russia lose some face?’ does not speak well of the collective sanity of our government or our public sphere when it comes to dealing with either Eastern Europe or the Middle East.

22 April 2014

Pointless video post - ‘Rock until You Drop’ by Raven and ‘C’mon Let’s Go’ by Girlschool

Recently I’ve been on kind of a Motörhead kick and have been looking for sort of similar-sounding artists (even going as far afield as Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath’s retro side project Chrome Division), and wound up listening to some of the NWoBHM stuff in my library, including Hit and Run by Girlschool and Raven’s newish album Walk Through Fire. I actually never realised how much I appreciate that particular, bluesy sort of traditional heavy metal sound until I was on my tenth listen-through or so of Hit and Run. It never ages, never gets old. Interesting also to me were a few of the socially-tinged lyrics on these albums, which got me interested in the political views of the artists. Girlschool’s second guitarist Jackie Chambers is apparently quite politically-minded, is critical of mainstream media and is a fan of Russia Today and Al Jazeera; likewise, Raven headman John Gallagher is also intensely critical of the mainstream media and seems to be quite anti-corporate lobbying, anti-banking industry and anti-Monsanto. (Rock on, guys and gals!) At any rate, even though these views rarely surface in the lyrics of the music itself, the music is amazing: sheer, kick-arse traditional heavy metal the way it was meant to be played. Do enjoy, dear readers!

19 April 2014

Christ is risen!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

The power of death has been tried and found wanting, and the chains of sin lie broken. The gates of Hell are rammed down and the light of Christ shines through, a promise fulfilled to all of humankind, now and ever and to the ages of ages! A glorious and blessed Pascha to one and all!

10 April 2014

Enemies of the paranoid? (I hope not!)

I am just going to preface the following rant by making it clear that Russia is not perfect. In my view, it’s nowhere even close to it; it’s juddering vaguely in the right direction about fifteen degrees off-course after an entire short century of being misgoverned, plundered and left by the wayside of the world community to die - but it’s at least up and walking. Even so (and in light of this history), I still can’t help but feel that the historical Orthodox paranoia about Catholicism is in some measure justified by Catholic powers’ sketchy geopolitical history.

The Crimean War was portrayed by Catholic archbishops in France as a crusade against the Orthodox. Never mind that Algerians and Ottoman Turks were party to this crusade, or that Christians were the target.

In WWI, Austria’s demands against Serbia were deliberately calculated to start a war which they knew would involve Russia. And the Armenian genocide during the war was carried out with the connivance, material and military support and possibly direct participation of Germany and Austria.

From Italy’s independence until the end of WWII, they were at the throat of Ethiopia. They liked to use Muslim Somali and Eritrean ascaris as their shock-troops in their wars of conquest.

In the Balkans, the unholy alliance of Tudjman, Izetbegovic and Albanian terrorist groups to tear Yugoslavia apart has resulted in massive human suffering throughout the region. Milosevic was hardly blameless in the whole affair, of course, but at the very least he was trying to preserve a common and multi-ethnic polity!

And now, it seems that the “Ukrainian” “Greek” “Catholic” “Church” (as aptly named as the “Free” “Syrian” “Army”, and just about as politically defensible) and the Crimean Tatars are trying their hardest to provoke a reprise of the first Crimean War.

I have nothing but admiration, respect and high regard for the consistent Catholics who have been my steadfast friends and coworkers these past years. And to their credit, many of them have been consistently questioning these policies of nominally-Catholic nations and powers for a lot longer than I have. But I have to ask - and, dear Catholic readers, please do not take this in any spirit other than that of brotherly concern! - what is it going to take to get Catholic countries to give up persecuting their Orthodox brothers and sisters?

Unite to fight!

Image courtesy Mother Jones

Very few things warm my jaded, curmudgeonly, contrarian heart like seeing people on the economic left and on the social right advancing a common cause against the establishment. But this is exactly what happened! Mother Jones, a flagship periodical of genuine left thought in the US, has long been voluble on the topic of worker rights, up to and including paid maternity leave. (The United States is one of six countries which does not have an explicit national paid maternity leave policy; the others being Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Swaziland and Samoa.)

And this week, The American Conservative published an article suggesting that the equal-pay campaign was actually using statistical sound-bites to paper over deeper structural inequalities in the American workforce designed to place women in particular at a disadvantage, including - you guessed it! - the absence of a paid maternity leave policy:
We need to remove the stigma that treats pregnant women and new mothers like pariahs, and the economic structures that punish childbearing... If we want to help women, we should start by fully understanding the complexity of the challenges they face.

The American Conservative in agreement with Mother Jones on a matter of (rightly considered) feminist, egalitarian and pro-family concern; I love it! (Old) Left and (Old) Right, unite to fight!

07 April 2014

Symbols and signposts

I used to say that the Left was mostly right about economic and foreign-policy issues, and that the Right was mostly right about cultural and social ones. To some extent, I still believe that. But as I’ve looked more closely at American politics, a disturbing thought has struck me again and again. Regarding Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Mali, Syria and now Russia I’ve noticed party-line Democrats ratting their sabres as bloodthirstily as Bill Kristol and the neocon crowd did in Iraq, and calling for the heads (whether literally or figuratively) of Pvt Manning and Edward Snowden. Regarding economic issues, I’ve seen Democrats cravenly defending the Citizens United decision and dishonestly sweeping the deep failings and inbuilt flaws of Obamacare (notably its prominent lack of a public option) under the rug.

On the other hand, the Republicans have never shown any conviction on abortion, and their having run for office Romney, who had been staunchly pro-choice (before his candidacy) and had invested in a company which profited from abortions, merely shows how they use culture-war issues as cynical ploys to win conservative voters. Increasingly more Republicans are either bailing on their opposition to same-sex marriage, if not switching sides outright as publicly as Obama had. Now more than ever, with a very few blessed exceptions, I suspect that ‘left’ and ‘right’ in American political terms refer merely to constellations of symbolic lifestyle and faux-cultural consumer choices rather than any deep differences in principle.

Both what passes for an American ‘left’ and what passes for an American ‘right’ are completely fine with whatever you choose to do so long as it doesn’t affect them. Unless you happen to be poor, in which case neither side will lift a finger to help you (by, say, raising the minimum wage or ending corporate subsidies for big unaccountable MNCs or offering tax benefits to poor families) – the only difference is that the ‘left’ will patronise and there-there you and the ‘right’ will revile you as lazy. If you happen to be poor and brown, the ‘left’ will patronise you even more before they shut you out of their schools, and the ‘right’ will threaten to shoot you (if they don’t actually do so) before they shut you out of their gated ‘communities’. If a white man commits a crime against you, both ‘left’ and ‘right’ will let him off with a wrist-slap, but if you commit a crime, the ‘right’ will cheer as you’re electrocuted and the ‘left’ will do nothing to stop it. If you’re poor, brown and unborn, you’re even more SOL. The ‘left’ will have you cut to pieces in a vacuum without a qualm, and the ‘right’ will make a big show out of wringing its hands whilst it does so. If you happen to be poor, brown and foreign, well, you’re really SOL. The ‘right’ will drone-bomb you into oblivion without a qualm, and the ‘left’ will make a big show out of wringing its hands whilst it does so.

An oversimplification? Probably. Unfair? Possibly. But I’ve had a couple of friends on the ‘left’ unfriend me on FB for opposing the war in Syria, and at least one friend on the ‘right’ unfriend me for posting anti-abortion literature. It might be possible that I’m becoming more extreme in my views, but I seriously don’t think so. I have never attacked Obama in the way or in the terms in which I once attacked Bush, for example. I have even ‘defended’ him on occasion, from the clearly wrong-headed and vacuous charges of his being non-American, Muslim or (most laughably) socialist.

I have this nagging suspicion that the most serious argument to be made against gay marriage is a left-wing, feminist one: it makes mutual sexual attraction the only philosophical basis for marriage and turns the norm of reproduction into a loveless contractual exchange on the open market, reifying the bodies of women (and the sperm of men) not even as labour but as productive capital – as machines, in other words – with the final product, the body of a child, to be designed with the self-interest of the homosexual ‘client’ parent in mind. But I am convinced also that, in the final analysis, the most serious argument to be made against capitalism generally is going to be a non-Marxist, personalist, even a conservative one: that it presupposes a materialist version of the cosmos wherein everything can be reduced to its symbolic, monetary value.

If there is any signpost to a new kind of politics in the US, it will be built on the instincts that are already there in much of the Democratic base, particularly amongst non-whites and blue-collar whites. These instincts were what propelled Obama to triumph in the ’08 primaries over Clinton, though he has long since abandoned them. These instincts are populist, anti-war, anti-police state and anti-racist. But they are also heavily traditional – even distributist – and pro-life. The big question now, is whether those instincts will be retained in the coming generations, or whether they will be ‘educated’ out of existence by the dominant party line.

In the meantime, when people talk about the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ in America – ignore them. America has no ‘left’, apart from Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich and several more marginal political figures (like Jill Stein). And America’s ‘right’ is only that insofar as its fusionist ideology conforms to the standards of Anglo-American liberalism.

02 April 2014

Enthronement of corruption

… would be a really good thrash metal album title. If it hasn’t been done already.

But it’s essentially what the Supreme Court has just done now, in removing many of the limits to individual campaign contributions, allowing individuals to contribute up to $3.6 million to federal political campaigns each election cycle. This decision may have been, like most other legal precedents, a long time in the making, and it may be but one decision in a long list of decisions giving big money the Constitutional protections of free speech. But it will certainly further restrict whose voices get to be heard in our political system, who gets to have access and who gets to sway votes when each election comes around. The McCutcheon decision might not be anything new, but it is a perfect example of the direction the United States has been taking. The prohibitively narrow definition of corruption stipulated by this decision essentially makes corruption a de jure reality in the United States – even if the opinions of legislators and other holders of elected office cannot be purchased on a vote-by-vote, bill-by-bill basis, what this SCotUS decision means is essentially that legislators and other holders of elected office themselves may be bought by the highest bidder.

Chief Justice Roberts euphemistically calls the effects of such purpose ‘general gratitude’. Because gratitude is only owing, in the Republican juridicial view of the world, to the wealthy and to the powerful, and clearly in direct proportion to the size of their patronage.

Let me be clear: this is one of the reasons I am a monarchist. Why? In great part because you will never find today, nor will you very likely find in history, a monarchy which is so brazen about the ‘general gratitude’ the political process owes to its nobility. No: monarchies and other traditionalist societies at least have the decency to forego this Americanist fiction that wealth and power aren’t ever accidents of birth and circumstance, and they do (at least in the British case) often treat their nobilities with a noted lack of seriousness.

Ironically, it seems to be only in republican forms of government where the undisciplined, unlimited, unaccountable rule by the ultra-wealthy is made respectable under an ersatz gloss of meritocracy.