This isn’t “smoking in the boy’s room”

June 6, 2014

Today’s text is this description of charming play on the school bus.

I‘m not going to dwell on the humorous aspects of this case, though the female under discussion will live in in(ternet)famy under the sobriquet “Teen LaQueefa”.  (Regrettably, her name has been redacted.). But I’m going to start by observing that she was written up for elbowing the young man in the testicles, not for public indecency. Now, in my younger days of bus riding, using my testicles as a punching bag was a near daily occurrence.  And in my later days, it would have been inconceivable that people would have sex on a school bus.  Not that people weren’t having sex elsewhere (so I’ve been told), but they weren’t having it in public. And had the inconceivable happened, the perps would have found themselves in Juvie (or worse) forthwith… which would have been a mercy given that the girl would have been addressed as “Teen LaQueefa” when she was 80 years old.

I think that most of us at least sense that Ultimate PDA is mala in se. The question is: why?  And this is the place at which rational explanations of morality break down. The agreed-upon societal standard for sexual activity is that if it’s mutually agreed upon and doesn’t involve hiding an HIV status or breaking promises to others, it’s fine. So there’s nothing WRONG with boinking on the bus. It might be RUDE,  in precisely the same senses that spitting on the floor or playing music loudly is. But everyone is rude; so what?

We aren’t animals, or appliances. Sex is sacred; it’s as close as we can come in a physical sense to being God.  But when the sacred doesn’t exist in your world, that doesn’t mean anything. You’re just a cat. And if the bus driver treated you like a cat and sprayed you down with a Super Soaker, he’s the one who’d lose his job for assault.

The liturgy according to Forrest Gump

January 24, 2014

“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

I was thinking this morning (always a dangerous thing) and I realized that the Catholic Church was like a box of chocolates. Here are all these graces and teachings, something for everyone. And they are all covered in chocolate, which is the liturgy, and is tasty all by itself.

Now, some people don’t like certain chocolates. Creams seem to be the big culprit. That’s fine, leave the creams for me; I love them.  And there are people who might not choose creams, but find them OK because they’re covered in chocolate.  They won’t spit them out or anything; they’ll shrug and say, “Better luck next time”. But other people have to know. Some manufacturers have a little candy missal on the boxtop: the lemon creams are here, the caramels there. Catechesis is always good. Other folks want to crack the chocolates open, stick their finger in there and see. This degrades the experience for all concerned. But the chocolates still taste good, even if they’re ugly and germy. You can do that when it’s just your box; notsomuch when you’re sharing it with others.

Now, it seems to me that when you deliturgize the liturgy, when you remove all the elements of mystery, it’s like removing the chocolate from the box of chocolates. Yes, you can see exactly what the centers are.  You can take some, and leave the rest alone.  Maybe everyone will leave those alone. And you’ll never experience a really good cream, that would change your opinion of creams, because “creams are ucky” and you don’t take them  And in that depression over there are a group of loose nuts, who aren’t bound together by chocolate anymore. More importantly, it is by definition not a box of chocolates anymore, it’s a box of mixed candies. That could be a good thing, but it’s not the same thing. The chocolate, which unified all these disparate flavors and made palatable the ones we weren’t so fond of, is gone.

Music, rape, and Boujemaa Razgui

January 3, 2014

Just about every musician I know has posted on Facebook about the Boujemaa Razgui story.  Now Customs has issued a statement and doubled down on their disaster, instead of throwing the officers involved under the bus. The gifted expatriate sackbut player and maker (and unapologetic socialist) Nathaniel Wood asked, “Who do these people think they are? ::weeps::” I’d been productive and good all day, so I fell into the temptation of trollery and replied, “They think they are protecting the citizens of the United States from agricultural disasters. Do you understand now why I am a minarchist?” The problem with this was that several people took it as a challenge to their belief in the benevolent state (ok, maybe it was!) and started blaming RAZGUI for his misfortune because, you know, a guy who travels all over and has presumably checked his instruments with luggage before should have known that someday some Customs guys would get a hardon, and should have made them carry-ons…where he would have had to deal with Customs anyway, argue with them, and get turned away from his home (he’s a Canadian citizen, orsiginally from Morocco, currently living in NYC).

Well, all this seemed to be a bit much like blaming the victim, so I asked one fellow his opinion of the classic case of Blaming the Victim. “Does a woman also have a responsibility to protect her body from rape?”  Nate yelped foul, the guy I was addressing said “I have absolutely no idea how you can even think to draw that comparison …….” and we were off to the races. My reply:

How can I draw that comparison? I’m a musician. My instruments are part of my identity, an extension of my body. It’s as intimate as the connection with one’s genitals, and as such, the psychological violation is as bad. The physical violation is WORSE, because the body heals, but instruments don’t replace themselves (and when replaced, are never exact replacements). Now, if I were to tell a woman to be sensible about what she exposes to whom, I’d be accused of “blaming the victim”. Isn’t that what you’ve just done with Razgui? (That’s my explanation, Nate, and you’ll have to decide if it applies, or is an extension of tastelessness.)

All of my musician friends are wringing hands about this, and rightly so. It’s horrible beyond belief. Yet hundreds of people are violated by the State each day, and have their lives ruined. They aren’t One of Us, though, so they don’t matter, as long as the Greater Good is served. So I appreciate the honesty of the folks who say, “It’s his fault.” But then you don’t get to be all emotional about it. If a moral crime was committed (and I think there was), we have an obligation to decide why and how, and how to stop it from happening again. That may well involve doing less. If we give average people the power to destroy without the responsibility to restitute, we’re asking for incidents like this.

Now to be fair to Nate, he very clearly saw that, on physics, biology and the law, this was clearly a case of Customs overreach. He didn’t address my original point, but since I’d offended him, I didn’t feel like pursuing the point on his Facebook page. Here, however, I’m under no such limitations.

I’d like to fill in the rape analogy. The instruments were self-made, somewhat as a woman’s body is. And the act of playing music with others can be unbearably intimate. You’re trusting the others not to mess up, as they trust you. You are constantly adapting to others’ musical ideas, as they adapt to yours. The New Musicology doubtless has much to say about this. And I wonder what the Goddess of New Musicology, Susan McClary, would say… but I don’t necessarily wonder enough to ask her when the semester begins (I’m controversial on Facebook so I don’t have to be at work.)

Was this violation necessary?  Nobody argues that rape is necessary. I can only think of one context where one could argue that, and since humanity is in no danger of dying out, it’s not applicable to reality, so why bother? And not many argue that agricultural import controls are UNnecessary. One could make the case that, in this small world, it would be best to get it over with, let everything go everywhere and duke it out for their own ecological niche. I’m not making that case, because we really don’t know enough to foresee all the dangers. And we like to pick the winners. But certainly government has done almost as much harm as good with invasive species, introducing such problems as kudzu, and the bane of my existence, multiflora rose.

This is a place where the Big Government folks need to read the Founding Fathers, and apply their principles to their own policy positions. If you’re going to give some high school grads power to make or break somebody’s livelihood (as they do with the vote), you need to hedge that power about with fearsome restrictions. You need rules under which they can do no irreparable harm. Agricultural materials? Sure, quarantine them until we’re sure they’re fine, especially if they’re obviously made into something. The opinion of the bottom rung worker has to be appealable, all the way up, and if they act on their own to make appeal impossible, they get the boot. Because oboe reeds are agricultural. Stradivarius violins are agricultural.

How we got here, per David Carlin

November 20, 2013

I had to wait for an oil change this morning, so I got aways into David Carlin’s Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.  Of what I read, the most striking chapters were 5-7, which don’t deal with the Church at all, but were the most lucid explanation I have ever seen for how we got to the ’60s, and to our present received truths. Carlin takes sort of a Great Books approach to the debacle, books which held ideas which escaped from academia and entered society in a debased form. Those books and movements are:

1. Cultural relativism ( Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture ; Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa.)

2. Ethical emotivism (A. J. Ayers / Charles Stephenson); antinomianism

3. Suspicion of authority (The Authoritarian Personality, via Erich Fromm, and the Milgram experiment)

I was shocked to realize that most of the intellectual baggage that I’d carried for most of my life, and which many whom I know still carry, had an identifiable pedigree. I might have cracked Mead once. I know that Ayers was discussed in my Intro to Philosophy class in 1977 or 78, but between senioritis and the silliness of Ayers’ proposition, it really hadn’t stuck with me.  Of course I knew of the Milgram experiment, but had never realized the fallacy of equivocation at the heart of it.  Yet the grandchildren of all these works had a profound influence on me (and even the children; Wilhelm Reich’s work can be seen as #3 seasoned with #1).

The point of cultural relativism was that if a moral code worked for a given society, it was just as successful as any other moral code, and that there was no universal set of morals. Indeed, as a young neo-pagan, I believed that other societies’ moral codes might be superior, if they allowed for sufficient amounts of free sex.  And cultural relativism plays into the odd notion that refusing to pay for a strange  American woman’s birth control is a War on Women, but the fate of women in Islamic states is not really a moral issue, because it works for them (at least, if they aren’t women).

In the Ayers/Stephenson formulation, all moral statements are merely statements of feelings, with a persuasive element thrown in. Ultimately, this means “x is right because I want it to be.” Kant said that autonomous morality must be guided/generated by reason, but that implies a reasoning populace, which is not the populace we have.  I was a thoroughgoing Kantian, both as a Wiccan and (insofar as I was one) an Objectivist, but came to the realization that autonomous morality through reason would always be subverted and betrayed by autonomous morality through emotion.  One major problem with this movement is that it makes all discussion of “rights” fundamentally useless. “Rights” are a moral formulation; if one’s rights are determined by one’s morality, and one’s morality by one’s desires, then “I have a right to this” is indistinguishable from “I want this.”, which means that anyone can pull any ‘right” out of their ass  and think it carries as much weight as any other right.

In the theory of the authoritarian personality, there is no model of proper authority. Thus, good is seen as being as far away from the authoritarian mindset as possible: instead of ethnocentrism, forced multiculturalism; for sexual repression, loss of sexual control; for religious dogma, irreligion. Anti-Semitism is also an aspect of the authoritarian personality; ironic, since it is currently most virulent in the Left, which must then be authoritarian.  This was the element that struck me most forcefully. I had never understood the virulent hatred of the Right by the Left, and the portrayal of all non-Leftists as fascists. Under this paradigm, it became quite logical: they literally think we are crazy, mentally disturbed.

There is in Carlin an assumption that it takes 25-30 years for an idea to percolate into common acceptance.  These works all came out in the 30s and 40s.  He mentions Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind (1953) and the founding of National Review (1955) which (though he doesn’t mention this)  flowered into the election of Ronald Reagan by 1980.  Following the pattern, Atlas Shrugged would have set up the establishment of the Libertarian Party in the early 70s. The big LP “coming out” and distribution of the ideas of Rothbard can be defined as the Ed Clark campaign of 1980… which means we would see a popular acceptance of a gutter libertarianism ca. 2005-10, And so it seems to be happening. Now, what is the Big Idea of 1990 which is ready to bite us in the behind or to save us? And how can we, who seek to preserve Western Civilization, unteach the lessons of the last 50 years?

Another 70s priest lets us down

October 14, 2013

I could just puke.

In the incident report released today, an off-duty Cleveland Metroparks ranger said McGonegal offered the ranger $50 to help him “get off,” then exposed himself and masturbated, all while sitting inside his late-model Jeep SUV.

The report said McGonegal had three sex devices in his Jeep when he was arrested around 12:45 p.m. …

The report said inside the Jeep was a bottle that contained an intoxicant. During questioning after his arrest, the priest said he bought the product at a sex shop and smells the contents to get “a buzz.”

Later Friday, McGonegal told workers at the jail that he is HIV-positive, the report said.

Father was ordained in 1971. I had thought that was a little early to have been a scuminarian (scuminarians believe that if a reliquary is a place to deposit relics, then a seminary must be a place to deposit your semen), but maybe not. The post-Vatican II rot entered early and deep. But in a sense, that’s irrelevant. All of this would be grave matter for any of us laymen. It’s only worse for priests by virtue of their office. And don’t give me that crap about “If we only let them marry…”, as if married men never solicit sex, or as if men could marry other men.

Look, I know, innocent until proven guilty and all, but read the article; is there any way at all that this could be a frameup or a mistake? Even the physical evidence is a matter for scandal.  I wasn’t sure I should even comment on this; it’s not like I’ve lived a life of chastity. But when you’ve had multiple Plain Dealer articles and broadcast reports, it’s not exactly a secret. People should know there’s at least one Catholic heartsick about this.

Now we have to wonder about his church. St. Ignatius of Antioch was one of the churches that Bp. Lennon had on the chopping block before the Vatican overrode him. I have to wonder whether he knew the score and decided to kill two birds with one stone (I think St. Peters was a similar situation, with a pastor who is now excommunicated). It’s a gorgeous building. But is it faithful? One has to ask. Sex is the mother of heresy, and a priest who is confused about the Church’s teaching on sexuality might be confused about other teachings.  A glimpse of their website is inconclusive. I looked at a couple of their bulletins, and Father’s remarks therein seemed pretty orthodox and even catechetical. They do have a “mission statement” with all the improper buzz words:

We are a Catholic Church in the City of Cleveland, dedicated to worship, educational excellence, and social justice. We promote ecumenism and embrace cultural diversity. We strive for family growth, neighborhood involvement, and community development. We uphold the dignity of the human person and are determined to meet the demands of the new millennium with hope for the future.

Now, I think Catholic Church mission statements are stupid. Any parish has only one mission: to get souls into Heaven. Any other goal is ancillary to that, and if it doesn’t contribute to that, it needs to go.

One can tell quite a bit from the music, but I couldn’t tell anything about the music from the site, except that you don’t have to read music to join the choir. I think that technically applies to my own parish as well (but people who can’t tend to deselect themselves; we really don’t do music that can be learned by rote.), so it’s not really a tell. Indeed, the whole website seems a bit like a coverup, a lot of “here’s what we do; come to the parish picnic!” and not a lot of “here’s what we believe.” Granted, there’s a book for that; a Catholic church shouldn’t have to put it on their website (though, interestingly, the Catechism is notable by its absence from their “links” page.) But we all know there are Catholics and catholikes, members of the Church of Jesus Christ and members of the Church of Nice. One can’t assume.

So, what next? Father is 68, old enough to draw Social Security. I think that retirement is appropriate, and possibly the most merciful thing for all concerned. Pray for the parish of St. Ignatius, and especially for Fr. McGonegal.

Alea jacta est

September 30, 2013

The Universe has been talking to me, hard, this weekend. In not-exact order:
1. Karl Denninger decided to go Galt.
2. My composer friend Paul Gothard died on the 19th. My old pastor at St. James Anglican Catholic, Fr. Cyril Crume, died Saturday.
3. I received a Facebook meme which read, “Don’t try to explain yourself to stupid people. You’re not the jackass whisperer.” And I realized that I spend an inordinate amount of time doing just that. Not that my friends are jackasses, but they’re usually Democrats. And I’ve been “getting into it” with people I don’t need to get into it with, justifying this on the grounds that, “They’re academics and don’t get out much, and need to know that reasonable people can have a different opinion.” Only they don’t care, and having a different opinion is proof to them that I am NOT reasonable.
4. A major change in the Quick family dynamic, the details of which are private.
5. I spent a good chunk of the weekend composing, for the first time since forever, then heard many inspiring pieces on the Composers Guild concert (some of them inspiring in the sense of, “I can write better than that turnip.”) Why am I not doing that more?
6, 20 squash and a bunch of radishes harvested from my garden, and good weather predicted for the week. Maybe I can grow and harvest something after all.

Then there’s the general noise. Everyone is a cheesesucker now, even those who know better. I don’t see a lot of evidence that Congress will stop the “Affordable” Care Act. We are well on our way to a Cloward-Piven event. And that might just be the best chance for liberty, as I fail to see how the system can be collapsed without collapsing on the heads of those trying to collapse it. I can’t save the world. If I saved enough individuals (through religion, not politics), it might make a difference (certainly for the individuals), as a Christian nation doesn’t act like this. But any real hope of wide-ranging change is useless.

So, I’m 57 years old. I have maybe 25 years ahead of me. Or 5 minutes.I should be composing and hanging with my wife, not wasting time on Crackbook with those who are truly right. It is time to accept our wise overlords. No, I’ll vote against them. I won’t give them a single thing I don’t have to. But I’m tired of arguing with those who have made their bed (and mine). Let the naked fist of reality argue with them. I’m done trying to be a jackass whisperer.

Jesus and Facebook agitprop, take 2

September 27, 2013


Here’s another example of Hand Puppet Jesus. I’ve noticed that I’ve been having a hard time making my objections clear in its native habitat, and I didn’t say everything I needed to say in my previous post on the subject. I also have a bad habit of adding snark predicated on my own radical-subsidiarist political views. So I’m going to try to make it clear why I consider such things to be blasphemous, and attempt to leave any political commentary to the end.

Let’s start by defining blasphemy:

the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk:

Not such a useful definition, as it requires us to define what is sacrilegious. But I wanted to start with a secular source. Let’s go to the fount of truth, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (sorry, Protestant brethren; ask yourself if you disagree with this definition):

2148 Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. St. James condemns those “who blaspheme that honorable name [of Jesus] by which you are called.” The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things. It is also blasphemous to make use of God’s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. The misuse of God’s name to commit a crime can provoke others to repudiate religion.

Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. It is in itself a grave sin.

I think that’s pretty clear. The meme above obviously isn’t cursing God. It may be speaking ill of Him. It is certainly failing in respect and misusing the Holy Name, in ways that I hope to make clear.

I referred to this as “Hand-Puppet Jesus”. Hand-Puppet Jesus is when you put words or thoughts in Jesus’ mouth, thereby making a claim that He would have said or done something in a particular case. It usually involves a counterfactual: either a concept that did not exist in Jesus’ time, or else words that He didn’t say that may contradict what he DID say. It is seldom so extreme as to actually put the words in  Christ’s mouth; instinctively people shy away from that. In the case of the illustration in the previous post, we have an example of the first type of counterfactual: socialism as we understand it did not exist in Jesus’ time. (Yes, year of Jubilee, early Church, blah blah blah… the government or other overarching unit of social authority did not own the means of production.) The example above is of the second type, and is even more egregious, as the counterfactual involves something that Jesus did, and it implies that he didn’t or couldn’t do what He did.  The feeding of the 5000 was not funded; the story makes clear that there was no possible level of funding equal to the task. It further implies that, since there was no funding, Jesus was powerless to get the job done.  This is “speaking ill” and “failing in respect”.  The hypothetical missing “2nd frame” of this cartoon ought to have had Jesus saying, “Very well… I’ve got a kid here with a sack lunch; we’ll serve that up.” It would still be sacrilegious, as a misuse of the Name.

The main problem with Hand-Puppet Jesus is that it put you in a position of power over God, knowing better than He does, conscripting Him into your battle. Note that this is different than using the words of Christ as part of a theological argument. If you say, “Jesus said to do XYZ about the poor, the only way to do XYZ nowadays is to get the government involved, ergo Jesus wants us to get the government involved.”, that’s a legitimate argument, though falsified in the 2nd term. YOU are making the argument, not Jesus. If you say “Jesus wants us to tax the rich to feed the poor,” well, He never said anything like that.

“But… I’m not misusing God’s name; this is for a good purpose.” Let’s stipulate to that, since I said I was going to try to avoid politics. By using Jesus as your pitchman for a political argument, you are misusing Him, and the validity of the political cause has nothing at all to do with it.  To clarify, let’s invent some right-wing equivalents to the memes we’ve looked at.  I don’t Photoshop, and I’m not going to look up some online meme-maker and the proper pictures in order to do something that I think is a sin anyway, so we’ll do this verbally. Imagine the question about paying taxes to Caesar. Conservatives believe in lower taxes, and some of us question the general morality of taxation. So let’s draw one where the guy holding the coin replies to Jesus’ koan, “It’s not Caesars money, it’s mine. I earned it.” Blasphenous? Or how about the woman caught in adultery? The last man to slink away turns and says, “OK. But if she’s pregnant and gets an abortion, I’ll dump a whole mountain on her.”

The problem with Jesus as a political pitchman for either side is that His Kingdom is not of this world, and thus transcends the usual categories of Left and Right, so any attempt to do so will falsify His vision for us.  I had another Facebook friend mutter about “another Pope ignorant of economics.” I don’t think that Popes in general are ignorant of economics; I think they’re playing a different game. Consider that economics is a branch of applied psychology. People in the aggregate are pretty predictable, and that predictability is the basis of economics. Note that the title of Mises’ magnum opus is not “Monetary Action” but “HUMAN Action.”  Now, what would happen to economics if we replaced the usual lot of fallen men with 7 billion Christs? What if all the incentives in the system were spiritual rather than material? And that’s only on the demand side; what if those Christs could do the loaves and fishes themselves, so that supply was infinitely elastic? Economics describes the world we have; religion describes the world we can and will have.

Now, one last comment about loaves and fishes: I think this gets misused by the Left because they don’t actually believe in miracles. One hears sermons (even, sad to say, in Catholic churches) claiming that the miracle was actually that Jesus got people to share.  We know everyone ate their fill, and there were leftovers. If there had been that much food on that mountain, it would have been a trivial problem; just tell people to share, and they would have done so. There were people with nothing to eat. We’re expected to believe that people with something made up the shortfall. So all these people who packed for their own needs (and maybe a bit over) shared what they had, everyone was full, AND there were leftovers? Are we to believe that there were a couple of caravans of dried fish and barley loaves following Our Lord? Or are we going to believe the clear sense of Scripture, that He started with a little that we offered Him, and made it into a lot? Are we going to believe that people started following Him afterwards because of the good share-y vibe, and not because He was a meal ticket?   The naturalistic explanation is actually more incredible than the miraculous explanation. This was a miracle of temporary life. The big miracle is eternal life. If we believe that eternal life is a gift, and not somehow the natural lot of man, we have to believe that the miracle might not happen. Miracles are rare and contingent, so let’s not trust in them, or even believe in them. They’re terrifying in their unpredictability. They can’t be controlled. Make them go away.