The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 in Retrospect

In the decades after the Second World War, the governments of the West adopted a number of policies that were bad enough on their own but taken together were disastrous for their countries. One of those policies was the anti-natalist social engineering, such as the development of cheap artificial birth control, abortion on demand, and the reduction of marriage to a contract easily broken and without penalty, that has driven Western fertility rates down below population replacement level. Another was liberal immigration, in which immigrants from non-Western countries have been admitted at rates that are unprecedentedly high and at times when domestic unemployment rates have also been high, in order to replace the children Western people are not having due to the previous set of policies. A third policy is multiculturalism in which the government decides that the country will change to adapt to the new immigrants rather than requiring that they change to adapt to their new country. Finally, there is the policy of squelching opposition to these policies by means that range from the relatively mild means of name-calling, i.e. labeling opponents of the policies as “racists” to the more draconian measures of anti-discrimination, “hate propaganda” and other so-called “human rights” laws. (1)

Those brave souls who have dared to speak out against this insane abuse of Western peoples by their own liberal, democratic, governments, have often found themselves occupying the role of Cassandra, the Trojan princess who, having spurned the advances of Apollo after he gave her the gift of prophetic sight, was cursed to go unheeded and ignored by those who needed the truths she uttered, but thought her mad for uttering them.

This year saw the sapphire and ruby anniversaries of two such Cassandra moments. The twentieth of April was the forty-fifth anniversary of Enoch Powell’s famous Birmingham address warning about the consequences of immigration that is still remembered and talked about as his “Rivers of Blood” speech. (2) This year was also the fortieth anniversary of the original French publication of Jean Raspail’s prophetic, dystopic, novel, The Camp of the Saints, which depicts a Western world, weakened by liberalism, unable to summon up the conviction necessary to preserve its own existence when faced with an invasion by those armed only with their own poverty and need. (3)

Less impressively, this year was also the eleventh or steel anniversary of the publication of the book in which Diane Francis presented arguments against Canada’s liberal immigration policies, the incompetency with which they are administered, and the failure of a refugee system that has made us the laughing stock of the world. (4) Written in the aftermath of 9-11, in this book the National Post editor and columnist made valid arguments on the basis of economic and national security concerns, while doing her very best to ignore completely the heart of the problem with liberal immigration, as I described it in my first paragraph. I mention this only because this year Francis has provided us with a much stronger argument for limits and restrictions on immigration.

Harper Collins has just released her new book, Merger of the Century. (5) In this book she argues, on the basis of the perceived economic advantage to both countries, that Canada and the United States should become one country. By doing so, she has by her personal example, given us an excellent argument for being more careful about whom we let into the country. Diane Francis is American born. She immigrated to Canada in the 1960s, so that her British born husband could avoid being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. Now, she has written a book length argument for a union that would in practice mean the swallowing up of her adopted country by her country of birth. The kind of immigrant that comes to Canada to advocate our take over by the United States is exactly the kind of immigrant we do not need. This is especially the case when they add insult to injury by making the proposal at a time when the United States is under the extreme mismanagement of a buffoon like Barack Obama.

This, incidentally, is an excellent reason for maintaining the law that requires newcomers to swear an oath of loyalty to our head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, and her heirs in order to obtain citizenship. Earlier this year, three malcontents sued the government in an attempt to get this requirement overturned, claiming that it was unconstitutional and violated their human rights. (6) Thankfully the judge that heard that case had the common sense, a commodity extremely rare these days, especially on the judicial bench, to rule against them. (7)

That common sense, unfortunately, is not shared by the man who, equally unfortunately, represents the constituency in which I dwell as our Member of Parliament. That man is Pat Martin for whom, I can thankfully say, I have never voted and, unless I am suddenly stricken by some form of insanity, never shall vote. Earlier this year, even before the court case referred to above had made the news, Martin had declared his desire for legislation that would remove the oath from our citizenship requirements. He was quoted as saying “It’s just so fundamentally wrong. These people are from all over the world — Paraguay and the Congo and the Philippines and Vietnam. Why are they swearing loyalty to some colonial vestigial appendage from the House of Windsor? It’s bizarre really.” (8) While this goes back to what I was saying earlier about the insanity of multiculturalism, in which a country decides to change its institutions and ways to accommodate new immigrants rather than require them to adapt to its institutions and ways, it apparently never occurred to Martin that these people from all over the world knew full well that in moving to Canada they were moving to a constitutional monarchy within the British Commonwealth and by so moving here indicated that this was not a problem to them and perhaps that it was part of what attracted them to the country in the first place. Martin, as the National Post article from which I took that quotation indicates, ultimately wants more than just to scrap the citizenship oath, he wants to sever Canada’s ties to the monarchy. This, and the utterly disrespectful language he used in speaking of that institution, is utterly inappropriate for a member of Her Majesty’s “Loyal” Opposition.

Of course, the monarchy is not the only Canadian institution that has come under attack from that supposedly loyal Opposition this year. Martin was expressing his own private views which are not officially endorsed by his party, the New Democrats. It is, however, the official policy of the New Democratic Party to support the abolition of the Senate, the upper house in the Canadian Parliament, and Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair made a major nuisance of himself this past fall by going across the country trying to win support for such abolition.

In doing so he was seeking to capitalize on the public exposure of the misdoings of now-suspended Conservative Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, both of whom seemed to be in the news more often this year over their alleged abuse of their Senate expense accounts than in their entire previous careers as broadcasters. Whatever the facts may be in the Duffy and Wallin cases, Mulcair, in using these cases to build support for the abolition of the Senate displayed the same astonishing lack of perspective and comparative judgement that he showed when he opposed allowing Canadian born, Canadian raised, Lord Conrad Black back into Canada because of his conviction in the United States for a financial crime while at the same time campaigning for the return to Canada of Omar Khadr, who, while born here, had been raised in Pakistan, and had been captured by the Americans in Afghanistan where he had taken up arms against Canada and her allies. Khadr’s claims upon Canada are far less substantial and more nominal than those of Lord Black, and his crimes far more serious, but such considerations appear to be of no consequence to Thomas Mulcair. Similarly, to make the financial misdoings of particular Senators a cause for abolishing the Senate itself, which as an institution is one of the three fundamental elements of our traditional parliamentary monarchy, is to grotesquely miscalculate the difference between the importance of maintaining our constitutional institutions and that of punishing the abuse of office. You do not throw out a time-honoured, traditional institution because one or two members of that institution have done wrong. Not if you have any sense of perspective.

If I know the NDP at all I suspect that Diane Francis’ new book is not likely to be well received among their membership. While this in and of itself speaks well for the socialist party, which is not something that can be said very often, it raises a curious question. Presumably, the objection which New Democrats would have to being absorbed by the United States is that Canada and everything that makes Canada Canadian would therein be lost, which is an excellent objection. How do the members of the NDP square their Canadian nationalism with their party’s hostility to Canada’s history, heritage, traditions, and most of its institutions?

An even bigger question is raised by those members of the Conservative Party who have indicated their support for the NDP’s call for Senate abolition. (9) The Conservative Party is supposed to be the party of continuity, tradition, and national institutions. Conservative thought is supposed to be rooted in classical political philosophy and medieval Christian political theology as mediated and interpreted in the traditions that have come down to us today. Classical political philosophy favoured a constitution in which the principles of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy were mixed and balanced, such as the parliamentary monarchy system that evolved in Great Britain and became part of our Canadian heritage. How can a conscientious Conservative support the abolition of an essential element of that constitution? (10)

Of course the Conservative Party of today is not the Conservative Party of yesterday. This year is the tenth anniversary of the merger which formed the present Conservative Party, uniting what was left of the Progressive Conservative Party (11) with the Canadian Alliance which had been formed out of a previous merger of most of the PC Party and the western populist Reform Party. When the merger took place, I, who had left the old Conservative Party to join the Reform Party in the 1990s out of disgust with the direction the old Party had gone under Brian Mulroney, declined to join the new party on the grounds that it was most likely going to combine the worst of both parties rather than the best of both parties. In other words it was likely to combine the anti-patriotism often present in the Reform Party and her frequent desire to abandon Canadian traditions and institutions for American ones with the Progressive Conservative Party’s refusal to take seriously the grievances of the western provinces against central Canada and her willingness to rubber stamp the intrusive progressive social engineering of the other parties. It should have combined the old Tory Party’s Canadian nationalism and respect for Canada’s traditions and institutions with the Reform Party’s support for pro-business policies and traditional social mores.

Ten years later, I think my prediction has largely been born out, although Harper’s Conservatives have on occasion surprised me. This summer, for example, they finally got their act together and passed the bill which will abolish Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act one year from the day it received royal assent. (12) Of course they should have abolished the entire Canadian Human Rights Act while they were at it. Passed into law by the Trudeau Liberals back in 1977, the only thing this vile piece of legislation does is allow Canadians who are members of groups deemed to be “vulnerable” and therefore needing protection, to accuse other Canadians of discriminating against them and sue them for it. It was and is a disgusting act of social engineering designed to program people so that they will think in ways that the progressive movement and the government approves and not to think in ways of which they disapprove. Thankfully, the death warrant for its worst clause has been signed. The Harper government continues, however, to support, on various pretexts, legislation for policing the internet that might, in the long run, prove even more dangerous in the hands of progressive social engineers than Section 13 was.

There is probably more that I will later wish that I included in this year’s recap but I am going to end it here on that admittedly less than positive note. This will be my last essay for this year, as I am going to be busy with Christmas celebrations in the next couple of weeks and wish to reserve the rest of my time for reading rather than writing. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and if the Lord tarries will resume posting early in the New Year.




(4) Diane Francis, Immigration: The Economic Case, (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2002).

(5) Diane Francis, Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country, (New York and Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2013).





(10) There is a clear need for the institution to undergo some sort of reform. My proposals for a form of Senate reform that does not do violence to Canada’s traditions and constitution can be found here: I also recommend two articles that a blogger who goes under the internet handle “Alberta Royalist” recently contributed as a guest blogger at the excellent MadMonarchist blog: “The Problem With the Canadian Senate”, and “A Case For a Canadian House of Lords”

(11) “Progressive Conservative” is a contradiction in terms, but this contradiction, unfortunately, is the title under which the party which formed Canada’s first national government was known before it merged into the current Conservative Party. At the provincial level it is still called by this contradictory title.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Apartheid in Perspective

There are many evils that can be charged to the account of the late twentieth- century phenomenon that is commonly called political correctness. One of these is the growing inability to perceive certain historical figures, events, and institutions with anything worthy of being called perspective. In the last century alone, movements and organizations committed to the political philosophy of Marxist-Leninism murdered the bodies of over one hundred million people and the spirits of millions more whom they forced into the dreary, hopeless, slave like existence that passed for life in the police states that flew the red flag. Yet to this day it is far safer for someone in academic or media circles to praise a Communist government, to dismiss the fear of Communism as irrational paranoia, and to say that the Americans were the aggressors in the Cold War, than it is for someone in those same circles to say anything that could be construed as a defense of General Franco of Spain or General Pinochet of Chile even though there was far more freedom and prosperity for the average citizen under either of their regimes than in any Communist country and the number of people tortured and killed by their regimes was far lower than that of any Communist country. Any attempt to put both Communism and the anti-Communist regimes of Franco and Pinochet in perspective is likely to be met with widespread denunciation and accusations that one is engaging in apologetics for “human rights” abuses.

Virtually anything having to do with Africa is similarly protected from perspective by political correctness.

Take the slave trade for example. We know all about it, don’t we? The bad guys, the white Europeans, in the age of exploration came to Africa, where they began to capture and enslave black people, who they shipped overseas to Europe and the European settlements in the Americas, where they were oppressed as drudge labourers.

Suppose, however, we were to broaden our perspective on African slavery by including within our picture of it the fact that slavery existed on the African continent long before European ships arrived on her west coast, that African slavery had begun with African tribes going to war with one another and enslaving each other, that the Arabs had conducted a trade in African slaves centuries prior to Europe’s getting involved, and that one of the consequences of modern European expansionism, colonialism, and imperialism was that the imperial powers ended and outlawed the slave trade in the nineteenth century, and abolished slavery in the territory under their control? Suppose we were to broaden our perspective even further by pointing out that since the end of World War II, which had accomplished a geopolitical realignment around the two new superpowers of the USA and USSR, who forced the old imperial powers to withdraw, slavery has begun anew in parts of Africa where it had been abolished by Britain, France, and the Dutch.? Suppose we were to point out, as Professor Bruce Charlton recently did (1), that due to liberal immigration and multiculturalism slavery has been reintroduced into the birthplace of abolitionism and is largely being ignored by the leftists who promote multiculturalism in contradiction to their professed opposition to slavery in all forms?

From that broader perspective it no longer appears to be a simple Manichean morality tale of evil whites and pure, innocent, oppressed blacks does it?

There is probably no element of African history that is more lacking in perspective than that of apartheid. Apartheid is the word in the Afrikaans language that refers, as its sound would suggest to English speakers, the state of being apart or separate. In 1948, when the Nationalist Party came to power in South Africa, it adopted this term to designate its policy of racial segregation.

The government of South Africa picked a particularly poor time to institute this policy. World War II was over, the revelations of the atrocities of Nazi Germany had given racialism a bad name, the anti-colonial, anti-imperial era was beginning under the supervision of the new progressive superpowers, the Communists were at work trying to fan the flames of anti-racist sentiment into the fire of revolution, and in the United States, now the leading power of the liberal, democratic, West, the Civil Rights movement would soon be underway, which would lead to the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, the model for subsequent anti-discrimination legislation such as the 1968 Race Relations Bill in the UK and the 1977 Canadian Human Rights Act. The way the tides of opinion were moving, it was inevitable that apartheid would receive widespread condemnation. Interestingly, the one country that understood perfectly well where the Afrikaners were coming from, itself achieved its independence as a country that same year. After the Six Days War in 1967, Israel and South Africa forged a close alliance, signing the Israel-South Africa Agreement in 1975. Today, enemies of the Jewish state liken the measures she has taken to preserve her existence in the face of the constant threat of Arab and Muslim terrorism to apartheid. Her defenders reject the comparison as a calumny, perhaps because they, unlike the country they are defending, lack perspective on apartheid.

It is fitting, therefore, that of those essays with which I am familiar, the one which in my opinion best put apartheid into perspective, appeared in an extremely pro-Israeli publication. The author of the essay was British writer and historian Paul Johnson. In an article that appeared in the September 1985 issue of the American neoconservative monthly journal Commentary, (2) Johnson took the United States to task for the economic boycott of South Africa then underway. It was a “cruel absurdity”, he declared, for the richest country in the world to “deliberately set about destroying the economy of what is in some respects still a developing nation.” (3) The United States had nothing to gain from doing so and much to lose. The only explanation for this absurdity, Johnson argued, was that “assumption that the South African regime is a unique moral evil, whose wickedness is so great that the necessity for its destruction transcends all the rules governing relations between states and, indeed, the dictates of elementary common sense.”

He then proceeded to demolish that assumption by pointing out that South Africa, far from being unique, is “in many fundamental respects…a typical African country.” He gave six examples, the first four of which are 1) that like other African states it was undergoing a population explosion, 2) like other large African states its racial problems were particularly complex and not just a matter of black and white, 3) “population pressure on the land is driving people into the towns, and especially into the big cities”, and 4) like in other African states this creates problems for the government to which the response is typical:

So governments respond with what has become the curse of Africa—social engineering. People are treated not as individual human beings but as atomized units and shoveled around like concrete or gravel. Movement control is imposed. Every African has to have a grubby little pass-book or some other begrimed document which tells him where he is allowed to work or live. South Africa has had pass-laws of a kind since the 18th century. They have now spread all over the African continent, and where the pass-book comes the bulldozer is never far behind. Virtually all African governments use them to demolish unauthorized settlements. Hundreds of thousands of wretched people are made homeless without warning by governments terrified of being overwhelmed by lawless multitudes. In the black African countries bordering on the Sahara, the authorities fight desperately to repel nomadic desert dwellers driven south by drought. When the police fail, punitive columns of troops are sent in. (4)

The fifth example Johnson gave was that South Africa, like all African states, conducts its social engineering on a racial basis. He wrote:

All African states are racist. Almost without exception, and with varying degrees of animosity, they discriminate against someone: Jews, or whites, or Asians, or non-Muslim religious groups, or disfavored tribes. There is no such thing as a genuinely multiracial society in the whole of Africa…African countries vary in the extent to which their practice of discrimination is formalized or entrenched in law codes and official philosophies. Most have political theories of a sort, cooked up in the political-science or sociology departments of local universities. Tanzania has a sinister totalitarian doctrine called Ujaama. Ghana has Consciencism. There is Zambian Humanism, Négritude in Senegal, and, in Zaire, a social creed called Mobutuism, after the reigning dictator. All these government theories reflect the appetites of the ruling racial groups… Apartheid is not a concept which divides the Republic from the rest of Africa: on the contrary, it is the local expression of the African ideological personality. (5)

This, it should be noted, has changed since the change in power from the Afrikaner National Party to the African National Congress in 1994. Not only does the ANC, despite the false image of the “rainbow nation” generated by a deceitful media, practice discrimination against the white South Africans who are currently being eliminated in a Zimbabwesque manner, the ANC is not even representative of all South Africa blacks, being historically a primarily Xhosa organization, (6) although its current leader, Jacob Zuma, comes from the rival Zulu people.

The sixth way, in which Johnson said that South Africa was typical of Africa was in the way it had suffered “at the hands of its politically minded intellectuals”.

Having demonstrated that in all of these negative things Nationalist South Africa was a typical, rather than unique, African state, Johnson then identified four ways in which it stood out by differing from other African states. The first two of these were its wealth, “South Africa has by far the richest and most varied range of natural resources of any African country”, and the fact that it had used that wealth to build a modern economy, the only one of its kind in Africa. The third was that blacks were better off in white-governed South Africa than any other country in Africa. Here another extended quote from Johnson is in order:

Except for the Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Malawi, all the black African states have experienced falls in real incomes per capita since independence. But only in South Africa have the real incomes of blacks risen very substantially in the last quarter-century. In mining, black wages have tripled in real terms in the last decade and are still rising…This helps to account for the fact that there are more black-owned cars in South Africa than there are private cars in the whole of the Soviet Union. The Republic is the first and so far the only African country to produce a large black middle class. In South Africa the education available to blacks is poor compared to what the whites get, and that is one of the biggest grievances the black communities harbor; but it is good compared to what is available elsewhere on the continent…Thanks to mining, again, this modest but rising prosperity is not confined to blacks born in South Africa. About half of South Africa’s black miners come from abroad, chiefly from Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Botswana…The security fences South Africa is now rather anxiously erecting are designed to keep intended immigrants out, not—like the Berlin Wall—to keep people in. (7)

The fourth way in which Nationalist South Africa differed from other African countries is that was “in many respects a free country.” Johnson explained that:

Every other African country has become, or is in the process of becoming, a one-party state. None of them subscribes in practice, or in most cases even in theory, to the separation of powers. Both the rule of law and democracy are subject in South Africa to important qualifications. But it is the only African country where they exist at all. The emergency and security powers enjoyed by the South African government are so wide and draconian that they almost make us forget that the judiciary is independent—very much so—and that even non-whites can get justice against the state, something they are most unlikely to secure anywhere else on the continent. The courts are cluttered with black litigants suing the police, the prison authorities, or other government agencies, or appealing against sentences. (8)

To summarize, the things which the anti-apartheid movement most objected to in Nationalist South Africa – its official racial discrimination, its heavy handed government policing, etc., were all features that the South African government shared with all other African governments, that were not uniquely South African, per se, but rather were typically African. It made no sense, therefore, to single South Africa out for condemnation. The only difference was that in South Africa the governing group was white whereas in all other African countries – now that Ian Smith’s government had fallen and Rhodesia was being turned into Zimbabwe – it was black. Since the conditions for blacks were improving in Nationalist South Africa, to the point that they had an immigration problem from the rest of the continent, whereas they were rapidly declining in the rest of Africa, it made even less sense to condemn South Africa.

Since the ANCs rise to power in 1994, conditions in South Africa have deteriorated for blacks and whites alike. What was a first world country when governed by the Afrikaners is becoming a third world country, in which the white South Africans face genocide and the black South Africans face the deterioration of the rule and protection of law, a failing economy, and a decline into the conditions present everywhere else in Africa. Those South Africans who can, black and white alike, are now fleeing the country, while under Afrikaner rule they were struggling to get in.

What is apparent out of all of this is that South Africa was a better place to live, for blacks and whites alike, from 1948 to 1994, than either any other country in Africa was at the time or than South Africa itself has been ever since.

This does not mean, of course, either that the policy of apartheid made the difference between South Africa then and South Africa now, or that apartheid is somehow justified by all of this. What made the difference between South Africa then and South Africa now is that South Africa then, the prosperous, Western, country, was largely an expression of the Afrikaner people who built the country, established its institutions, and wrote its laws. As such an expression, the country of South Africa was a country that Afrikaners, other African whites, and African blacks all wished to participate in. Apartheid, of course, prevented the other people living in South Africa, other than non-Afrikaner whites, from full participation, and that is wherein its injustice lies. The difficulty is that apart from apartheid, that South Africa would probably have been impossible to create.

All of which must be taken into consideration if we are to even approach perspective, when it comes to apartheid and the whole South African situation.


(2) Commentary has been published since 1945 when it was founded by the American Jewish Committee as a replacement for the Contemporary Jewish Record. Its first editor was Eliot Cohen, who was succeeded by Norman Podhoretz in 1960. It was during Podhoretz’s editorship that the journal ostensibly moved to the right, when Podhoretz, initially a Cold War liberal Democrat, grew disgusted with the pro-Soviet, pro-Palestinian, New Left in the 1970s and realigned himself and his publication with the American conservative movement. Hence the label “neoconservative”, which in an American context generally refers to a member of the “New York Intellectuals” who moved from the left to the right in the 1970s and who is usually belligerently militaristic. Commentary gradually became independent of the American Jewish Committee. Its current editor is John Podhoretz, son of Norman Podhoretz, and it remains extremely, to the point of being obnoxiously so, pro-Israel.

(3) Paul Johnson, “The Race for South Africa”, Commentary, September, 1985. (if you wish to view this, you will have to part with some shekels, I am afraid, either a subscription price or the purchase price of the article)

(4) Ibid.

(5) Ibid.

(6) See Ilana Mercer’s Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (Seattle: Stairway Press, 2011) for more information about this.

(7) Johnson, op cit.

(8) Ibid.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela: Man and Myth

People all around the word love stories. Stories inspire us, entertain us, and teach us. The Greeks called them mythoi, and it is from this word that our English word myth is derived. Our use of the word myth has been largely shaped by positivistic thinking. The positivists believed that human thought evolved from an understanding of the world that is primitive and false to an understanding of the world that is advanced and true through stages of myth, theology/metaphysics, and science. Thus, today, we usually use the word myth in one of two ways. In ordinary conversation we use it to mean a story that is or has been believed to be true but is not actually true. There is a more technical use of the word in which it means a story shared by a large number of people who collectively find some deeper significance and meaning in the story that helps them to make sense of the world, their place in it, and how they ought to live their lives. This is how the word myth is used by various sorts of social scientists and critics.

Around the world today, many people are mourning the death of a man around whom a contemporary myth, in the second technical sense of the word, has been built.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, was born into the leading clan of the Thembu people in South Africa, on July 18th, 1918. On Thursday, December 5th, 2013, he passed away from a lung infection at ninety-five years of age. Much of the life he lived between those two dates is, for better or worse, a significant part of the history of the second half of the twentieth century. Like many who study and practice law, he was attracted to politics as a young man, and in particular the politics of the African National Congress. The ANC was a party founded a few years before Mandela’s birth that was Marxist-socialist in ideology and which was organized to be the voice and champion of the black African population of South Africa. The young Mandela became an activist for the ANC and in 1961 he was one of the founders and the first leader of the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), an affiliate of the ANC that sought to obtain the party’s ends through guerilla warfare. Arrested the following year, on a charge of inciting strikes, he was later charged on several accounts of sabotage and conspiracy, and sentenced to prison. He would remain a prisoner until 1990, the bulk of his sentence being served at Robben Island, after which he was moved to Pollsmoor Prison and then briefly to Victor Verster from which he was released. After his release, he was made leader of the ANC and in 1994 became President of South Africa when the ANC won that first post-apartheid election. His party has remained in power in South Africa ever since, although he resigned the presidency and the leadership of the party in 1999.

Having briefly summarized the life of Mandela the man in the previous paragraph, let us now turn our attention to Mandela the myth. The first part of the myth has to do with his pre-1994 days as an ANC activist and a prisoner. According to this part of the myth, Mandela was guided by strict moral principles as he fought for a noble cause, and is arrest and imprisonment at the hands of the South African regime had nothing to do with any wrongdoing of his own, but was a politically motivated act of injustice, which so outraged people around the world that it inspired them to take up the anti-apartheid cause and demand both his release and a change to South Africa’s policies.

The second part of the myth has to do with his actions during and after his rise to power in 1994. According to this part of the myth, Mandela was a gracious and forgiving man, who was determined to heal the divisions in his country and create racial unity, and so he insisted upon a policy of fairness and forgiveness towards South African whites and imposed this policy upon those members of his party that wished to seek revenge against the whites until they came around to see the wisdom of his ways, and so created a paradise on earth.

The myth of Mandela is a myth in the sense that it is a story, shared and believed by people around the world, to which a kind of sacred meaning has been attached. The meaning of the myth is that racism can be defeated, that people can overcome the boundaries that divide them, and unite in a harmonious, post-racial, world.

Is the myth of Mandela also a myth in the sense of a story that while widely believed is untrue?

Ordinarily, I would not consider appropriate to ask this question when the man behind the myth is newly deceased. Chilon of Sparta’s maxim, de mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est (1), “of the dead, speak nothing but good”, is social protocol that has the authority of prescription and tradition behind it, as well as common sense and common courtesy to those who are in their period of mourning. It should also be taken into consideration, whenever one sets out to debunk a myth, whether debunking the myth might actually do harm when the myth accomplished some good. In John Ford’s 1962 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, after the funeral of John Wayne’s character Tom Doniphan, Jimmy Stewart’s character Ranse Stoddard, who had risen in politics to become an American Senator on the basis of the belief that he had shot down Lee Marvin’s villainous Liberty Valance, reveals out of guilt, that it was actually Doniphan that shot Valance. After telling the story, the journalist to whom he is speaking declines to report it, saying “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

In this case, the myth is a pernicious one that both cloaks and feeds a tremendous evil and so it must be debunked. The evil to which I refer is the evil of genocide – the genocide of white South Africans.

Perhaps you are unaware that such genocide is taking place at this very moment. It receives little to no media attention. The Holocaust, which ended almost seventy years ago, is constantly discussed. Occasionally the Holodomor, the Soviet-made famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the early 1930’s, will receive mention. Sometimes the Turkish genocide of the Armenians is discussed. In the 1990’s, the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda was headline news. Only a handful of brave writers ever mention the genocide of the white South Africans however.

Yet it is happening nonetheless. In the nineteen years since it took power, the African National Congress has slowly been recreating the horrors of the former Rhodesia after Robert Mugabe turned it into Zimbabwe. White farmers in particular, have been targeted for extermination and they live in terror of the gangs of thugs going around the countryside murdering them. One of the few mainstream media commentators to report on this, the BBCs John Simpson, wrote earlier this year:

There used to be 60,000 white farmers in South Africa. In 20 years that number has halved. (2)

While some of that reduction in number is to be attributed to white farmers fleeing the country in fear, murders take place on a daily basis. There have been at least 3,000 murders and they have been conducted in a particularly brutal manner, often with rape and torture thrown in. Last year, Leon Parkin and Dr. Gregory H. Stanton of Genocide Watch reported:

The South African Government for the last 18 years has adopted a policy of deliberate government abolition and disarmament of rural Commandos run by farmers themselves for their own self-defense. The policy has resulted in a four-fold increase in the murder rate of Afrikaner commercial farmers. This policy is aimed at forced displacement through terror. It advances the goals of the South African Communist Party’s New Democratic Revolution (NPR), which aims at nationalization of all private farmland, mines, and industry in South Africa. Disarmament, coupled with Government removal of security structures to protect the White victim group, follows public dehumanization of the victims, and facilitates their forced displacement and gradual genocide. (3)

It would appear that Mandela’s “Rainbow Nation” is not such a post-racial paradise after all.

There are, of course, many who would say that this is a matter of what goes around comes around, and that the white South Africans had this coming because of the way they oppressed black South Africans in the past. Usually those who think in this bloodthirsty, vengeful, way about an entire race of people are the same people who consider themselves to be too forward thinking and enlightened to believe in such things as the retributive model of justice for individual criminals or the death penalty for murderers, dismissing such ideas as barbaric and regressive. This is what comes from excluding all but one side to a question from polite discussion for decades.

Ever since the National Party in South Africa instituted the policy of apartheid in 1948, Western liberals have treated it as a one-sided affair and have sought to exclude other points of view from the discussion as being beyond the pale. They were not wholly successful in this during the Cold War when the South African government was a valued ally against the Soviet Union, but when the Cold War began to thaw, liberal opinion prevailed, and the West pressured South Africa into releasing Mandela, abandoning apartheid, and holding the general election that led to the rise of the ANC government. Since then all other viewpoints on the question of South Africa have been effectively squelched by the liberals through accusations of racism.

The supporters of Mandela, the ANC, and the anti-apartheid movement were correct to think that they were opposing an injustice, for apartheid was, undoubtedly, an injustice in many ways to the blacks of South Africa. It does not follow from this that the anti-apartheid movement was on the side of justice. True justice, involves doing right by all parties, but the anti-apartheid movement was only concerned with doing right by one party, the black people of South Africa. Piet Cillier of Die Burger once said “What you have unfolding in South Africa is a true tragedy – an irreconciliable struggle,not between right and wrong, but between right and right. The blacks are in the right, but so are the whites.” (4) William F. Buckley Jr. once remarked “Some day, when you have nothing else to do, come up with a solution for South Africa, won’t you? But remember the rules of the game. All the marbles have to end up each in a cavity—you can’t just throw a few of them away, to make the game simpler.” Coming up with such a solution, is precisely what the anti-apartheid movement was not interested in.

Ironically, apartheid itself was an attempt to come up with such a solution. It was not a successful attempt, of course, but it was an attempt, on the part of the National Party, to do right as best they could, by all the various groups that lived in South Africa. Western liberals refused to see any good faith behind the attempt. They insisted that the only just model of society and government was that of a race-neutral, one-person, one-vote, liberal democracy. This model, however, was as much of an injustice to the Afrikaners and other white South Africans (5) as apartheid was to black South Africans. Indeed, it was a greater injustice. Apartheid in theory involved a degree of self-government for other racial groups, however, imperfect that worked out in practice, whereas one-person, one-vote, liberal democracy could only mean the domination of the Afrikaners by the blacks. That liberal democracy, at least in the circumstances of South Africa, is a greater injustice than apartheid can be clearly seen in the fact that apartheid South Africa had a problem with illegal black immigration whereas white Africans have been fleeing from post-apartheid, ANC-governed, South Africa. Ultimately, of course, the greatest evidence that liberal democracy is a worse injustice than apartheid, and one that amounts to insurmountable proof, is the genocide of the white South Africans of which we have already spoken.

The myth of Nelson Mandela makes no sense apart from the idea that apartheid is the supreme injustice. As the organizer and leader of a group that he armed and trained to fight against the South African government, whose life sentence was handed down for acts of sabotaging the property of that government, Mandela was hardly a prisoner of conscience. These are acts that one would ordinarily expect a government to arrest and imprison people over and it is unreasonable to blame a government for doing so.

There is much more that could be said but now is not the time. My purpose here is to burst the myth which had done and is doing so much damage rather than to attack the man. Raised in the church, Mandela long ago abandoned the Christian faith when he embraced the atheistic doctrines of Marxist-Leninism. Let us pray that in his last hours he repented of his sins, turned back to the faith of his childhood, and experienced the grace and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.

(1) Chilon said it in Greek, of course, but it is best known in the Latin rendition.
(3) Leon Parkin and Gregory H. Stanton, “Why Are Afrikaner Farmers Being Murdered in South Africa”, August 14, 2012,
(4) Quoted by Sir Peregrine Worsthorne in his memoirs, Tricks of Memory (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1993), p. 195. The quotation was from a speech given at a braaivleis (barbecue) hosted by the Afrikaner head of the South African Bureau of Information for the media entourage during Harold Macmillan’s “Wind of Change” tour of Africa. Worsthorne had been assigned to the tour by the Daily Telegraph. He writes that only he and a single American reporter accepted the invitation.
(5) The Afrikaners are a specific nation, white, European in racial origin, Dutch Reformed in religion, who speak their own language, a form of Dutch.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Kingdom of Christ

This is the text of a homily given at Evensong in the Anglican parish of St. Aidan in Winnipeg on Sunday November, 24th, 2013, the Feast of the Reign of Christ The King. The Scripture readings were Zechariah 9: 9-16 and Luke 19: 11-27

We who belong to countries that share in the culture and civilization that is commonly called Western have a very linear way of thinking about time. We conceive of time as a current which flows from a source in the past, through the present, towards a destination in the future. Philosophers have posited various destinations towards which they have suggested history is moving. Karl Marx said that history was moving towards a state of universal communism. More recently Francis Fukuyama argued that a universal, American-style, democratic capitalism was the “end of history”. What these philosophies do not acknowledge is that the Western way of thinking about time and history that made their ideas possible is due to the influence of the Christian faith. Christianity teaches that history began with Creation, was diverted from its original end by the Fall, was redeemed by the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and is moving towards a final destination, the Kingdom of God.

Apart from Christian divine revelation the idea of time and history as moving in a straight line would not make much sense. The natural world suggests that time has a circular shape. Think of the basic units by which we measure time. A day, in the language of the ancients, is the time it takes for the sun to complete its journey through the sky from the east to the west. In the less picturesque language of the modern scientific worldview it is the period of time it takes for the earth to rotate on its axis. It amounts to the same thing and in both cases it is a circular motion. Likewise a month is the time it takes for the moon to complete its cycle of waxing and waning – or to revolve around the earth. Similar remarks could be made about the year. The seasons are a cycle to which man has attached great significance from earliest times, seeing in them a picture of the cycle of life, from birth in spring, through growth in summer, to maturity in fall, and finally culminating in death in winter, from which the cycle begins again with the rebirth of life in the next spring.

The spiritual conclusions that pagan faiths, enlightened only by natural revelation and not by special revelation, drew from what they observed in nature, were often false, such as the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul through reincarnation. Sir James Frazer, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Scottish anthropologist, in his notorious The Golden Bough, compared the various myths in which a god dies and is reborn in some way. This myth appears in one form or another throughout Mediterranean and indeed world mythology. It is ordinarily associated with fertility rituals and mysteries. It is clearly a symbolic representation of the natural cycle, of life, death, and rebirth. Frazer tried to explain away the gospel account of the death and resurrection of Christ as yet another version of this meme. C. S. Lewis, the Christian apologist whose death, fifty years ago, was overshadowed by the somewhat more spectacular death of a less interesting persona of whom we have all heard a great deal this weekend, that occurred on the same day, demolished Frazer’s argument by pointing out that Christ’s death and resurrection, unlike that of Osiris or Dionysus, took place not in some “other place” outside of time, but in actual history, in an identifiable place, at an identifiable time. Since the natural cycle of which the pagan mythology was a symbol, was itself used by Christ in the twelfth chapter of John’s Gospel as a picture of His own redemptive work, Lewis argued, the Gospel was true myth. Jesus was and is the reality, of which the earlier myths were mere shadows.

The Christian Church, in developing its liturgical calendar, harmonized the Christian faith’s teleological history, with the cyclical time observed in nature. The Christian year, like any other calendar, is built around the seasons of the cycle of life. Its major festivals take place around the winter and the spring solstices. Its seasons ebb and flow with the rhythms of life. The significance, however that it assigns to days in the calendar is drawn from events of the earthly life of Jesus Christ, which are arranged in the order of linear time so as to reenact and remember these events each year. It begins with Advent, a four week period of anticipation that leads up to Christmas, the festival of the birth of Jesus Christ, the celebration of which continues until Epiphany, the feast of the visit of the magi. In Lent we have a period of penitent reflection leading up to Holy Week, which starts on Palm Sunday with the reenactment of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and ends in the celebration and remembrance of the Last Supper, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, respectively. Ascension Day and Pentecost, commemorate the anniversaries of the ascension of Christ and the sending of the Holy Ghost.

Today is the last Sunday in the Christian calendar. It is the feast day of the Reign of Christ the King. This is a very new addition to the Christian calendar. The feast day was created by Pope Pius XI in 1925, at a time when the nations of the world were falling prey to the personality cults of Mussolini and Lenin, to remind the world of Him Who is king of kings, and lord of lords. It was originally assigned to the last Sunday before All Saints Day, i.e., the last Sunday in October. The Roman Catholic Church reassigned it to the final Sunday of the Christian Year in 1970, after which it was adopted by other liturgical denominations, including our own.

I am not ordinarily a fan of innovations, particularly those of the twentieth century, but in this case I think this was appropriate and unusually well thought out. For this addition to the calendar makes the liturgical cycle culminate in a celebration of the kingdom of Christ – the end towards which Christianity says history is moving, thus completing the harmonization of linear and cyclical time, in the Christian year.

The kingdom of Christ is what the Jews called the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. It was a Jewish concept before it was a Christian concept. It is the kingdom God promised to Israel through the Old Testament prophets. It was to break another cycle, a less healthy one, the cycle of sin, repentance, restoration, and apostasy told in Old Testament history. The gospel that Jesus preached was that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, and the kingdom was the subject, in one way or another, of virtually every sermon He preached, and every parable He told. There are many aspects to the kingdom. It is the reign of Christ from Heaven after His Ascension to sit on the right hand of His Father. It is the Reign of Christ in the heart of the believer and collectively in His earthly body the Church. It is also the coming future kingdom that will be manifested upon earth after the Second Coming.

Some today are skeptical of the latter aspect of the kingdom. They think that the spiritual and invisible aspects are all that there is and that the prophesies of the kingdom were all fulfilled in the first century.

This brings us to the parable told in the reading from Luke’s gospel today. According to Dr. Luke this parable was told by Jesus immediately after His encounter with Zaccheus the tax collector in Jericho and just before His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. This timing, as we are about to see, is crucial to understanding the parable.

This parable is unusual in that it joins two separate stories in one. One of those stories is quite familiar because it is very similar to another parable that Jesus told only a few days later in the Olivet Discourse as recorded by St. Matthew in the twenty-fifth chapter of his gospel. This is the story about the man who goes away, entrusts his money to his servants, then comes back to see how they had used the money.

The stories are not absolutely identical in each telling. A different monetary unit is used in each. In the Luke parable it is minas, in the Matthew parable it is talents. The Matthew parable is the source of our English use of the word “talent” to refer to a gift or ability, based upon the common interpretation of the parable as meaning that at the Last Judgement, men will be held accountable for how they have used the abilities with which they have been entrusted in this life. This interpretation comes from the fact that in Matthew’s parable, the talents are divided unevenly among the servants in accordance with their abilities as judged by their master. This is not the case in the parable recorded by Luke, where the minas are divided evenly among the servants. In Matthew’s parable, the unfaithful servant buries his talent, in Luke’s he hides it away in a napkin. In Luke’s gospel, the other servants respond in shock when the nobleman takes the coin away from the unfaithful servant and gives it to the servant who had made the largest profit, and make a kind of mildly worded protest at this taking from the poor to give to the rich. This is not found in the parable in Matthew, although the nobleman’s response, which could be paraphrased into current idiom as “the rich will get richer, and the poor will get poorer”, is. Needless to say, neither parable is likely to be the favourite parable of those of our brethren who have been deceived by socialism. Otherwise it is basically the same story.

It is the other story, that is joined to this one in the Gospel of Luke, that I wish to focus on. It is a very interesting story, given as the reason for the journey the rich man takes into the far country. He goes there to receive a kingdom. Those, over whom he is to be made king, reject his authority and send representatives after him saying, in the language of the old King James, “we will not have this man to rule over us”. So when he returns, in addition to sorting out the financial doings and misdoings of his servants, he has to respond to this rebellion, which he does by rounding them up, and having them executed for their treason.

What makes this part of the parable so interesting is that Jesus was telling His audience a story that, with one crucial difference, is identical to an episode of history with which his audience would have been well familiar. King Herod the Great, the king who had ordered the slaughter of the innocents after the visit of the magi, had himself died shortly thereafter, naming his son Herod Archelaus his successor in his will. The throne did not automatically go to Archelaus, however, he had to journey to Rome to receive it from Augustus Caesar. As brutal a man as his father, he was not popular, and there was widespread opposition to his rule. He had 3000 of his opponents slaughtered at Passover, before departing for Rome, and when he arrived, Josephus tells us that a delegation of about 50 Jews and Samaritans arrived at approximately the same time, to plead with Caesar not to appoint Archelaus. Caesar did appoint Archelaus the ethnarch over Judea but ten years later removed him from office for his misrule.

The crucial difference between the story Jesus told, and the history to which He was alluding, is that Archelaus was a wicked and brutal king, whereas the king in Jesus’ story, who represents Jesus Himself, was a just king, hated by wicked subjects. Flipping the story around like that was not likely to endear Him to the crowd – especially after He had just befriended Zaccheus, a despised tax collector. So why did He do it?

Dr. Luke provides us with the answer, in verse eleven. They were getting close to Jerusalem, and His disciples thought that the kingdom would immediately appear. Indeed, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday takes place immediately after this. The point of this parable was to tell His disciples that when they saw prophesy being fulfilled before their eyes, the prophesy we heard in the earlier reading from Zechariah about His riding into town on a donkey, that they should not think that He would establish the kingdom then and there. Rather He would be going away to be crowned king, to return later to judge the works of His servants, and to put down opposition to His reign.

The full significance of this only gradually dawned on His disciples. Soon after telling this parable, He rode into Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna. When, a few days later, in response to His prophecy that “not one stone of this temple will be left unturned”, they asked Him “when shall this be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming”, they showed by so asking that they recognized that despite His triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, His coming as king was yet to come. They assumed that the prophesy of the destruction of the Temple was referring to His Second Coming. After His Ascension into Heaven, they expected that His Second Coming to put down His enemies and establish His kingdom would happen immediately, within their lifetimes. Only after the destruction of the Temple forty years later, did the Church realize that what the disciples had thought to be a single question was actually two, concerning two distinct events, and that they would have to wait yet further for the Second Coming of Christ. Today, the Church is waiting still.

We should not allow the passing of two thousand years cause us to doubt the Second Coming and the future full manifestation of the kingdom. It is still an article of orthodox faith that “He will come again with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end”. It is appropriate, therefore, that as we prepare to begin again the Christian cycle of worship again with the season of anticipation of the coming of Christ, that we end the old cycle with a celebration of that kingdom to which all of sacred history leads. May our reflections upon the reign of Christ, this final Sunday of the old Christian year, inspire us to wait with the watchful anticipation enjoined upon us by Scripture, for the coming of the King.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Man and Machine: Part Four

The True Lesson of the Holocaust

In 1943, a French history professor who was a socialist, pacifist, and member of the resistance movement in occupied France was arrested by the SS, beaten and interrogated, and sent to Buchenwald, and later to Dora, where he was held until the end of the war in 1945. After the war he resumed teaching, and in 1949 published a book about his experiences in the concentration camps. (1) He followed that up with another book, a year later, in which he strongly criticized the published recollections of other camp inmates for containing inaccuracies and exaggerations. (2) From then, until the end of his life in the late 1960’s, he would write several other books in which he attempted to debunk other historians of the war and criticized several aspects of what had come to be the conventional historical account as being false.

Between the World Wars, a new school of American historians, the most famous member of which was Charles A. Beard, achieved distinction for its re-examination and re-interpretation of history. One member of this school, a professor of history at Columbia University, argued against the then-orthodox view that Germany was solely to blame for the First World War. This professor, like his friend and colleague Beard, was a classical liberal who opposed the growing support in American liberalism, and particularly in the Roosevelt administration, for Wilsonian interventionism and internationalism. As World War II approached, he argued that the Roosevelt administration was determined to drag the United States into another European war, and spoke out against this. (3) After the war, he read the French author’s writings and arranged for English translations to be published in the United States.

Meanwhile, a British autodidactic historian had become an international bestselling author for his first book, a 1963 volume about the Allied firebombing of Dresden. This was the first of many books about World War that were both popularly received and showered with critical acclaim. He focused his research upon the war, and especially the Third Reich, writing biographies of several of the German and Nazi leaders, including his magnus opus, a two-volume biography of Hitler that was released in 1977 and 1978, and was praised by Sir John Keegan as being “certainly among the half-dozen most important books on 1939-1945.” (4) While this historian did not make the same claims in his books that the French and American historians mentioned above had made, he made other controversial assertions and later accepted invitations to speak at conferences organized by those who accepted the accounts of the previously mentioned historians.

Then, in the 1980s, the Canadian government put two men, a Canadian born high school history teacher, and a German born graphic artist who ran a publishing house on the side, on trial for disseminating that French professor’s views. The former was charged under the “hate propaganda” provision that the Trudeau government had added to the Criminal Code, the latter under an older law against spreading false news. The critically acclaimed British historian, asked to testify at the trial of the graphic artist, was banned from Canada. He would later be arrested in Austria and sentenced to prison for his interpretation of history. A French professor of literature was also invited to testify at the trial and back in France would be beaten and hospitalized by thugs, and stripped of his academic position for his acceptance of the same interpretation of history. In the United States a small research institute and publishing firm was bombed by terrorists for the same reason, and back in Canada other terrorists plastered Toronto with maps to the graphic artist’s house and instruction on how to make a primitive bomb. The house was eventually subjected to an arson attack and early in the new millennium the graphic artist, who had relocated to the United States to live with his wife, was arrested by American immigration, turned over to Canadian authorities, ruled to be a danger to our national security in a closed hearing that violated all the fundamental principles our justice system was built upon, then deported to Germany where he stood trial and was sentenced to five years in a German prison for expressing his views on history in Canada.

Surely we all agree that it is morally outrageous that men would be subjected to terrorism, violence, and government persecution for advocating an alternative view of history. Would you still agree if I told you that the men of whom I have been speaking were, in order of first mention, Paul Rassinier, Harry Elmer Barnes, David Irving, James Keegstra, Ernst Zündel, and Robert Faurisson, and that the small research institute/publishing firm was the Institute For Historical Review? How about if I told you that the history they questioned was the conventional account of the Holocaust? Would you still agree that it is morally outrageous that they be subjected to violence and persecution for advocating an alternate view?

The fact that many people would not agree – or would at least hesitate in agreeing and try to qualify their agreement – demonstrates that the historical occurrence known as the Holocaust is more than just a historical occurrence; it is also a religious dogma. Suppose you were to challenge the conventional history of the United States by claiming that Clint Eastwood was actually president from 1981 to 1989 instead of Ronald Reagan. You would undoubtedly be ridiculed as a nut, but it is highly unlikely that you would be made the target of terrorist violence or subjected to state persecution. That is not the way we customarily treat people who are in error on a point of history, even if the error is huge and ludicrous. That is, however, the way the men mentioned above have been treated. Their dissent from conventional history is treated, not as an error, not as something worthy of ridicule, but as something morally reprehensible and requiring punishment. It is only the rejection of dogma that is considered to be evil, not dissent from history. (5)

Indeed, the very name given to the historical occurrence suggests its elevation to the status of dogma – holocaust is the Greek term for a sacrifice completely consumed by fire, a burnt offering. People like Rassinier, Zündel and Faurisson are called “Holocaust Deniers” by those that would deny them the protection of the rights and liberties enjoyed by others. This term indicates the nature of the offence – the denial of established dogma – for which they are to be stripped of this protection. It is not very informative about the content of what these men claim, nor is it intended to be. (6) Having committed the grievous sin of “denying” the chief dogma of the age, their words contain a moral contagion from which the general public is to be protected, and if a member of the populace wishes to know what these men said that warrants this kind of treatment, they are to be directed not to the contaminated words of the “deniers” themselves, but to the experts who have appointed themselves to the role of protecting both the dogma and the public from the deniers.

My purpose here is not to argue that the holocaust revisionists are right, or that their version of the events of the Second World War is closer to what actually happened than the conventional history. (7) Nor am I trying to make the point that religious dogma is bad. Religion is a basic element of social life. It is the community of worship, and it is the community at worship, and as such performs the function suggested by its Latin root, of binding the community together. Dogma, a core set of beliefs that is collectively held, authoritatively established, dissent from which estranges one to one degree or another from the community, is essential to that function. My point is not even that dogma should not be enforced by the means used against the revisionists, disgusting and distasteful though I find those means to be.

No, the point I wish to make out of all of this is that the Holocaust should never have been made into a religious dogma because as a religious dogma it is being used to teach all the wrong lessons. The Holocaust, like the atrocities committed by the Soviet Union, Red China, and other Communist states, is a product of the Modern Age. The goal of the Modern Age, when it is thought of as a long-term project, was two-sided. It was about the bending of nature and all of creation to the will of man through science. It was also about the emancipation of the will of man from traditional constraints. The scale on which the Holocaust was conducted, and the means by which it was carried out, were made possible by the science and technology of the age of progress. The decision to commit murder on that scale is a decision made possible by the emancipation of the will. The manner in which it was carried out, with all the cold, technical, efficiency of a machine, demonstrates just how much modern technolatry can turn man into an imitation of his own soulless creation, the machine. The lesson to learn from all of this is that we need much of what modern man was willing to give up to obtain the wonders of science and technology to keep us from becoming cold, soulless, machines. Instead, the new secular religion that has elevated the Holocaust into dogma, teaches the exact opposite lesson, that man needs to further throw off the “shackles” of the past, and embrace completely a future of reason, progress, and technology.

Like Judaism and Christianity, the new, unofficial, state religion of what used to be Western civilization, is built upon a special kind of history, or a special view of history, that is usually called by the German word Heilsgeschichte.

Heilsgeschichte, which literally means “salvation history”, is history in which God is the primary figure, working in and through the events of history to accomplish His purpose, the salvation of His people. In the foundational Heilsgeschichte of Judaism, God called Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans and into the land of Canaan and promised to make a great nation out of his descendants. When those descendants, whom God had brought down to Egypt to escape a famine, had grown to become a people, they were enslaved and oppressed by Egypt’s Pharaoh. God delivered them from that slavery, raising up Moses to lead them out of Egypt into the wilderness of Sinai, where God entered into a covenant with them, in which they agreed to be His people, and He agreed to be their God. If they were faithful and obeyed Him, they would dwell in the land He had promised them in peace, if they were faithless and disobeyed, they would be driven from the land. The central redemptive act in this Heilsgeschichte was the exodus and especially what transpired on their final night in Egypt, when the destroying angel struck down the firstborn in every house in Egypt, passing over the Hebrew homes which had been marked with sacrificial blood. This event is remembered and celebrated every year in the Jewish Passover. It was, not coincidentally, on the Jewish Passover, that the central redemptive act in the Christian Heilsgeschichte took place.

The Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians call the Old Testament, contain promises and prophesies that God will again rescue His people in a way that will overshadow the exodus, that He will send them a deliverer greater than Moses, to establish His kingdom on earth, and that He would then make a newer and better covenant with them, in which He would write His laws upon their hearts rather than tablets of stone. The Christian Scriptures teach that these promises and prophesies have been fulfilled in the Christian Heilsgeschichte, that Jesus Christ was and is the promised Messiah, that the salvation greater than the exodus was accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection, and that the New Covenant has been established by His blood. Christ’s death and resurrection, together comprise the central event of the Christian Heilsgeschichte, the crucifixion having been understood from the time of the Apostles to be the ultimate act of atonement that the Day of Atonement prefigured, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices that effectively takes away the sins of the world, the true Passover of which the original was a shadow.

Throughout Christian history various “theories of the atonement” have been put forward by theologians. These are explanations of how Christ’s death accomplishes man’s redemption. Although there was no consensus on the matter in the Patristic period, a popular theory that arose during that time was the ransom theory, that Christ’s death was a ransom paid to someone, usually thought to be the devil, who was holding man captive. Anselm, the eleventh century Archbishop of Canterbury was not satisfied with this theory, and so he offered the, well, satisfaction theory of the atonement as an alternative explanation. This theory considers man’s sinful rebellion against God to be an insult to the honour of the Sovereign of the universe, requiring that honour to be satisfied. Christ’s death offers to God that satisfaction. A modification of this theory was the penal substitution theory, taught by the Protestant Reformers, which is closely related to their concept of forensic justification. According to this explanation, the sins of man were transferred to Christ, Who paid the legal penalty for those sins, so that God could in turn transfer His righteousness to the sinner who believes in Jesus, declaring him to be just.

Another theory of the atonement is the moral influence theory of the atonement that was taught by Peter Abelard in the twelfth century. According to this theory, the atonement works through the positive example of the humility and love displayed by Christ, which inspires others to follow that example and change their lives. Outside of liberal circles this is generally considered to be the weakest explanation of the atonement but it is of particular significance to our discussion because the Holocaust is to the Heilsgeschichte of the new religion what the atonement is to the Christian and the way it is supposed to operate is best explained as a backwards version of the moral influence theory. Whereas in the moral influence theory of the Christian atonement it is the good example of the Victim that brings salvation by inspiration emulation, in the inverted version of the theory that is the Holocaust it is the bad example of the perpetrators that brings salvation by inspiring shock and horror and turning people away from the evils that brought it about.

As Judaism was built upon the foundation of God’s historical deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and as Christianity was built upon the foundation of God’s redemption of the world from sin in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so the new state religion of what used to be Christendom is built upon the foundation of the idea that in the Holocaust the depravity and perversity of prejudice and hatred was manifested in such a way as to make mankind collectively declare “never again.” (8) While many Western governments have banned the teaching of Christian doctrine in state sponsored schools, all children in Western countries are now catechized in the lessons of the Holocaust from an early age. The new faith has erected sacred monuments all over the Western world. One is currently being constructed at the Forks in the heart of Winnipeg, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, a horrendous and hideous eyesore of postmodern architecture scheduled to open sometime next fall. The European Parliament and most European national governments have passed laws protecting the tenets of the new religion. Inquisitions have been created to root out and punish heretics. Some of these, like the Canadian Human Rights Commission are official institutions, formally established by the state with government powers. Others, like the Anti-Defamation League, are private institutions.

The regime that historically perpetrated the Holocaust exemplified several different kinds of evils. It was, for example, noted for suppressing dissent and silencing critics of the regime. Clearly, however, these are not among the evils to which “never again” applies. People have been given heavy fines and even sentenced to prison for expressing disagreement with the conventional history of the Holocaust while books putting forth arguments for why that history should be revised have been taken off library shelves, stopped at the border, and presumably burned. So some of the evils of the Third Reich are now actually committed in the name of the Holocaust and its lessons, against those who dare to dissent from the new faith!

If the new state religion of the West teaches that the Holocaust is an act of redemption that has superseded both the Jewish exodus and the Christian atonement and that it has done so by horrifying the world with the consequences of evil, the evil from which the world is thereby supposed to be delivered would appear not to include every kind of evil or even every kind of evil associated with the Third Reich. This means that it must be a specific evil or a specific set of evils. We do not have to look far to discover what that specific evil is, for it is emphasized every time a moral lesson is drawn from the Holocaust. The evil in question is prejudice.

There is a reason the teachers of the new religion have focused on prejudice over such other evils of the Third Reich as the evil of the police state or the evil of suppressing dissent. Prejudice is the faculty of the human mind that forms conclusions when the grounds for making a purely rational judgement are lacking. In the absence of such grounds, the mind forms its conclusions from information accumulated in the home and in the community from the opinions and actions of those we love and trust and who are closest to us. Since nobody can live their entire life based entirely upon purely rational judgments, prejudice is a necessary human faculty and is not intrinsically evil. It can err and be corrupted – but then so can reason. In its worst form prejudice is a dislike for other people over differences such as race and religion that hinders one from treating such people with justice. While this latter kind of prejudice is what the teachers of the new religion focus on when they condemn prejudice, their prejudice against prejudice arises out of the basic modern desire to see human life and the world in general organized according to patterns drawn up by pure reason. Thus they make the Holocaust into a warning, not just against corrupted and perverted prejudices, but against prejudice in general, and of all forms of thought that are neither modern nor strictly rational. They view ideas, sentiments, opinions, and feelings, formed in the home and drawn from tradition and culture with suspicion as the kind of thing that led to the Holocaust, and look to educational institutions administered by the state to root these ideas out and implant correct, rational, modern thought into young people.

This is exactly the wrong way of looking at it. Mankind was not made to live in a world built upon pure reason and he would find such a world, could it be built, which of course it cannot, to be utterly unlivable. It is natural for a man to be prejudiced in favour of the people he is closest to – his family, friends, neighbours, relatives, countryman over people who are strangers to him and there is nothing wrong with this prejudice so long as we remember that we have a basic duty to treat all men with justice and common decency. Nazi racial doctrine, far from being an exaggerated form of this prejudice, was instead the product of the modern era, of modern science, and of the modern unleashing of the will to power. The Nazi concept of race was the modern scientific concept. Traditionally, when a man spoke of his race he meant his immediate line of ancestors, not a large category of mankind, transcending national boundaries, and differentiated from other men by a shared set of physical characteristics. The latter concept was generated by the modern scientific compulsion to classify and to categorize everything. The Nazi idea of life as a struggle between the races for survival and domination is Darwinian.

Even Nazi anti-Semitism was a product of modernity and not merely a survival into the modern era of negative thoughts and feelings pre-modern Christians may have had towards the Jews based upon the longstanding mutual mistrust of Christians and Jews towards one another. As Dr. Jacob Neusner explained, anti-Semitism was a new phenomenon, and not the same thing as “casual bigotry, mere dislike of the unlike, let alone theological animus or a spiteful form of politics”, none of which could have caused the Holocaust. He wrote:

A political philosophy formulated in the world of late 19th-century Germany and Austria, anti-Semitism formed the ideological foundation of political parties and served as the basis for public policy. It provided an account of life and how the Jews corrupt it. It offered a history of Western civilization and how the Jews pervert it. It formulated a theory of the world's future and how the Jews propose to conquer it. (9)

There is a certain irony in the fact that by insisting that the Holocaust demonstrates the need for us to adapt a more rationally ordered, modern way of thinking, the new religion of the West is actually demanding that we embrace even further the kind of thinking that made the Third Reich and the Holocaust possible.

There is a lesson to be learned from the Holocaust, for those willing to learn it. The lesson is not that that we need to abandon prejudice for pure reason and embrace a modern way of thinking. If anything it is the exact opposite of that. The lesson contained in the Holocaust is a warning about the dangers of modernity, the dangers inherent in combining the pursuit of power through technical efficiency with emancipation from traditional constraints upon the exercise of the will. This is a lesson that can only be learned by placing the Holocaust in its proper historical context and not by elevating it out of that context and into the realm of Heilsgeschichte.

The Third Reich was an extremely modern regime that strove to re-organize German society, industry, government, and military the top down in order to maximize technical efficiency. It is this aspect of the Reich that her remaining apologists like to emphasize – “Hitler made the trains run on time”. It was notably on display early in the Second World War when the Germans used the Blitzkrieg tactic to quickly overrun their enemies.

Germany had been striving for technical efficiency long before the National Socialists came to power. In the early seventeenth century, Sir Francis Bacon wrote a treatise outlining a new methodology for learning about nature and the world. (10) He believed that the knowledge thus obtained would be the means for obtaining control over nature and the world. (11) Putting his ideas into practice, Great Britain obtained tremendous wealth and power over the next couple of centuries. The desire to emulate these achievements lay behind the nineteenth century unification of Germany, her industrialization, and her early twentieth century imperial ambitions. That this desire for scientific knowledge, technical efficiency, and the wealth and power that came with these things had entered into the German soul and become a national dream, was symbolically represented in literature as early as Goethe’s Faust.

Goethe himself was a representative of an earlier type of German civilization, one with roots in classical antiquity and medieval Christianity, that made the transcendental universals of goodness, truth, and beauty its ends, rather than science, technology, wealth, and power, and which found its highest expression in literature, music, and art. Today, looking back upon this civilization, it is often asked how the people of Bach, Haydn, Handel, Mozart and Beethoven could, less than two full centuries later, have chosen a gang of murderous, power worshipping, thugs as their government. Part of the answer must be Original Sin, that human depravity that is always there, just beneath the surface of even the highest of human civilizations, waiting to break forth in barbarism. The rest of the answer, however, is to be found in the Mephistophelean temptation of technical efficiency and the power it brings.

In Adolf Hitler and his cronies, the Germans found someone who promised both the final fulfilment of their century old dream of industrial wealth and empire and revenge for the humiliation that had been unjustly inflicted upon them by the victorious Allies after the First World War In power, the National Socialists set out to deliver on those promises. If technical efficiency is the use of scientific knowledge of nature and the world to make these most completely serve the will of man, the Nazis, who recognized no moral or other constraints upon that will and saw the efficient exercise of that will as essential to winning the struggle against other races, were more prepared than any other government to make full use of that efficiency. It is appropriate that the most memorable piece of Nazi propaganda, Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 film about the Nuremberg Rallies of the previous year, was entitled The Triumph of the Will.

In the Holocaust, you see the ultimate example of technical efficiency in service to a will that itself recognizes no limitations and no Master. The decision to terminate the existence of millions of people is made, an effective plan for doing so is drawn up, the means to carry out the plan is devised, and the system, from the railways that carried the prisoners to the concentration camps, to the gas chambers that killed them, and the ovens that disposed of the bodies, is put into place and set in motion, as one giant factory of death. Apart from the modern way of thinking and doing things, the subordination of nature to the will of man, and the emancipation of the will of man from the transcendental order of things, no amount of prejudice or even bigotry could have brought about the Holocaust. Furthermore, as the history of the Soviet Union and other Communist nations, whose ideology, whatever their practice, was officially egalitarian, shows, the combination of technical efficiency with an unfettered will, will produce large scale human atrocities apart from any official racial doctrines or hatreds.

It may have occurred to you that this modern way of thinking is exactly what our own liberal, democracies, have in common with Nazi Germany and the Communist powers and that if anything, it has grown even stronger in the decades since the Second World War. But don’t worry about that. Our governments would never allow themselves to become cold, soulless, machines and always treat people with justice and humanity.

Just ask Ernst Zündel.

(1) Crossing the Line.
(2) The Lies of Ulysses
(3) He died in 1968. His friend, libertarian economist and historian Murray N. Rothbard, wrote a detailed obituary that appeared in the final issue of Left & Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought and can be read here:

(4) John Keegan, The Second World War, (New York: Penguin Books, 1989) p. 596.
(5) Sometimes this point is disputed by the claim that the revisionists are motivated by a desire to rehabilitate National Socialism. The Nizkor Project, for example, on its main website asks “Given the evidence why do people deny the Holocaust?” They then answer the question with a quote from the National Socialist White People’s Party “The real purpose of holocaust revisionism is to make National Socialism an acceptable political alternative again.” While clearly this is true in the case of the NSWPP themselves, it is absolute nonsense to suggest that such was the motivation of Paul Rassinier and Harry Elmer Barnes. Rassinier had been a leader of the Libération-Nord, the French resistance movement against the Nazis, and among his anti-Nazi activities prior to his capture by the Gestapo, he smuggled Jews to safety in Switzerland. Harry Elmer Barnes was a classical liberal, i.e., what would today be called a libertarian. Neither man possessed the slightest sympathy with National Socialist ideology and it is libelous to suggest otherwise. Barnes was a noted Teutonophile and if anything clouded his reason it was this. It is dishonest to equate a love of German culture and the German people with sympathy for the policies, practices, and ideology of the Third Reich, however. Teutonophilia is common, if not universal, among holocaust revisionists. John Sack, an American author, journalist and war correspondent of Jewish ethnicity and moderate, centrist political views was invited to address the conference of the Institute for Historical Review in 2000. He went, and in February 2001 his account of his experiences there was published in Esquire under the title “Daniel in the Deniers Den”. As he told the story, he went there prepared to encounter a conference full of hateful anti-Semites but found no trace of hatred or anti-Semitism. In his words “All in all, the deniers that day and that weekend seemed the most middling of Middle Americans. Or better: despite their take on the Holocaust, they were affable, open-minded, intelligent, intellectual. Their eyes weren’t fires of unapproachable certitude and their lips weren’t lemon twists of astringent hate. Nazis and neo-Nazis they were certainly not.” What did he think was their motivation? “Most deniers, most attendees in their slacks and shorts at the palm-filled hotel, were like Zündel: were decent people who, as Germans, had chosen to comfort themselves with the wishful thinking that none of their countrymen in the 1940s were genocidal maniacs” You can read Sack’s essay, which was selected by Stephen Jay Gould for republication in Best American Essays 2002, here: My own impression of every holocaust revisionist that I have ever met has been in accord with Sack’s assessment.
(6) The phrase “Holocaust Denier” suggests that the person to whom it is applied claims that the entire history of the Holocaust was faked just as some people claim that the moon landing was faked. In fact, what they actually claim is that the total number of Jews killed was significantly less than six million and that wartime concentration camp conditions were the primary cause of death, rather than a systematic plan of racial extermination.
(7) Nor is my purpose to explain where and why they are wrong. My thesis concerns the moral lessons that have been drawn from the Holocaust and how they differ from the moral lessons that ought to have been drawn from the Holocaust.
(8) I have used terminology drawn from the history of Christian theological reflection upon the atonement to describe the role of the Holocaust in the new religion that has replaced Christianity in what used to be Christendom. Today, in former Christendom, questioning the sacred number of six million, for the victims of the Holocaust, will usually produce a stronger emotional response, even among those who purport to be faithful, believing, and practicing Christians, than, a denial of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There has been much discussion of the theological significance of the Holocaust among the theologians of Judaism who, obviously, conduct their discussion using Jewish theological terminology. Dr. Emil Fackenheim, who escaped from the Third Reich to Britain, moved to Canada after the war and became a rabbi, and eventually made aliyah to Israel towards the end of his life, said that a 614th Mitzvah (commandment) had arisen out of the Holocaust, i.e., to remain faithful to Judaism and God, and so deny Hitler any posthumous victories. Other rabbis believe that the Holocaust requires a radical, reworking of Judaism’s picture of God, perhaps along the lines of the “God is dead” and “process theology” movements among liberal Christian churches. Most relevant to our discussion here, are the observations that distinguished academic rabbi Jacob Neusner has made regarding the role of the Holocaust in American Judaism. In the preface to his American Judaism – Adventure in Modernity: An Anthological Essay, (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1978) he said that the “story of Holocaust-and-redemption, destruction and rebuilding, or death and resurrection (to use the appropriate religious terms)” had become “the central myth of American Jewish consciousness over the past ten years”. It had not figured much into American Jewish consciousness in the 1950’s and 1960’s, he said, but the 1967 War had changed that when a large number of American Jews perceived the nations of the world as having reneged on their promises to Israel, believed the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people to be imminent, then, when Israel triumphed, regarded it as divine redemption. Dr. Neusner was less than impressed with the changes that the new Holocaust-and-Redemption theology brought to American Judaism. He believed that it had led Jews to embrace things that they had traditionally been sceptical of such as messianism and political salvationism. “Judaism, in its theologians’ eyes’”, he wrote “is a religion of the present and the future, affirms life and looks not to Auschwitz but to Sinai. But the Judaism of Sinai was not much heard from. Hitler was represented as a negative symbol, rather than Moses as a positive one. So Jews were told to be Jewish not because God has called them into being, but in order ‘to spite Hitler’”.
(9) Jacob Neusner, “Sorting Out Jew Haters”, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, March 1995, p. 40.
(10) Sir Francis Bacon, Novum Organum Scientiarum, 1620.
(11) Sir Francis Bacon, New Atlantis, 1627. The purpose of Salomon’s House, the institution of research and learning depicted in this utopian novel, is “the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.”


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Man and Machine: Part Three

They Have Brains, and They Think Not; Hearts Have They, and They Feel Not

Their idols are silver and gold, even the work of men's hands.
They have mouths, and speak not: eyes have they, and see not.
They have ears, and hear not: noses have they, and smell not.
They have hands, and handle not; feet have they, and walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them are like unto them; and so are all such as put their trust in them.
(Psalm 115: 4-8,from the Great Bible Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer)

Man began to measure time, by noting the position of the sun in the sky. He improved his time-telling technique with the invention of tools such as sundials and hourglasses. In the Middle Ages he invented a device that would not just assist him in measuring time, but would actually keep track of time for him through its own internal workings. It would, as long as it was maintained properly, operate on its own. This device is the clock. As man’s technology advanced in the Modern Age, he developed more machines that could be turned on and would then proceed to do what they were designed to do with little-to-no further input from man. Their function is built into them and, apart from a breakdown of some sort, will be fulfilled each time they run.

These machines accomplish their function without thinking about it. Rational thought is still a property of living human beings, and not of machines. Future situations where this is no longer the case is one of the staples of the dystopic side of the science fiction genre. Usually, the scenario involves the machine gaining sentience and turning against its maker. Since science fiction is a pop culture expression of the modern spirit, the spirit of the age in which man turns his back on his Creator and attempts through his conquest of nature to build a new world in accordance with the values he has chosen, it is fitting that it would express such fears that man’s creation would in turn do the same, much as the Titan king Saturn in ancient mythology feared that his son would rise up to depose him, the way he had deposed his father Uranus. Perhaps the first example of the expression of this fear is Mary Shelley’s early nineteenth century science-horror novel Frankenstein, although it is not a machine, but life in a monstrous creature, that Dr. Victor Frankenstein creates. The idea of robots with artificial intelligence, rebelling against mankind was such a popular theme in early robot fiction, that Isaac Asimov deliberately set out to do the opposite, to depict robots incapable of turning against a mankind and the popular fear of the robotic as irrational. Probably the best known example of the sci-fi meme of machines that turn against man is to be found in director James Cameron’s 1984 film The Terminator and its various sequels and spinoffs. This film depicted an assassin cyborg, sent back in time from a future where a military computer system Skynet had gained consciousness and declared war on humanity.

A scenario in which machines gain consciousness and turn against their creators is not the only way in which a future different from the present status quo of thinking human beings and unthinking machines can be depicted. The other alternative is to present a future in which mankind has lost the capacity for rational thought. To a limited extent, this scenario is used in stories which depict a general populace that is oppressed by being prevented from perceiving the world as it is, whether through the brainwashing of a police state as in George Orwell’s 1984, or living out their lives in a simulated reality generated by now dominant machines, as in the Wachowski Brothers’ popular The Matrix trilogy. This scenario is more fully utilized by Pixar Studio’s 2008 computer animated film WALL-E, in which, the earth having become a giant garbage dump, mankind has gone on an interstellar cruise, leaving robots such as the title character to clean up his mess. The cruise spaceships take care of all their passengers needs and schedule their daily routine so that they live out their lives in a kind of pleasure-induced trance.

Fanciful, as the scenarios depicted in these works of fiction are, the ideas contained in their general themes, the idea of machinery taking over the world and the idea of man himself becoming more like an unthinking, unfeeling machine, are worth reflecting upon. Do these represent valid concerns about the direction in which modern technology is taking us?

The question is a legitimate one. Originally tools were invented by man to assist him in doing his work, to lighten his load. In the Modern Age man began to develop machines that would not so much assist him as do his work for him. Initially, the work machines were invented to take over from men was mostly physical labour. As far back as the Renaissance, however, Blaise Pascal had invented a functioning calculator that could perform simple arithmetic. In the twentieth century, this branch of technology, that of machines that do mathematics, solve problems, and otherwise take over tasks for which man used his brain instead of his hands, really took off. Computers began as large machines, used for military purposes and by scientists for calculation in their research, but within decades of their invention smaller, personal models for use in the home were invented, and by the end of the century portable “laptop” models were available. As the size of computers shrank, the number of functions they could perform increased, and in the last few decades computer technology has been incorporated into all other kinds of technology and into every aspect of our lives. Telephone communication is now mostly done through small, mobile, telephones with built-in computer functions allowing access to the internet and all sorts of other functions. Automobiles now have built-in computers that remind you of things you may have forgotten, that inform you when your car needs maintenance, that help mechanics diagnose problems, and which in some cases help you plan your route and even park your car for you. Everything from agriculture to medicine is computerized these days.

The incorporation of the computer into so many different aspects of our lives has inevitably and radically altered the way we live them and the societies in which we live them. While these changes have enriched our lives in many ways, there are also many ways in which they are cause for concern. The more we build machines to do our work for us, the more we become dependent upon those machines. The more dependent upon machines we are, the more serious is the difficulty we will find ourselves in if those machines break down or if for some other reason they are not available to us and we must again do the work for ourselves. This is a danger that gets progressively worse because the more collectively dependent upon machines we become, the less likely we are to pass on to future generations the skills and know how necessary to do the tasks that machines do for us. When we start to rely upon machines to do tasks that are part of rational thought, like making calculations, solving logical problems, or even making decisions, we run the risk of allowing our very thought processes to atrophy. If you doubt that is the case, then observe what happens at the till of a coffee shop or grocery store when the computer system crashes and the person behind the till is required to calculate your change manually.

If through the development of robotic and computer technology which performs an ever increasing number of man’s mental tasks for him man is creating machinery after his own image, the surrender of these tasks to the machine and allowing of our own mental powers to atrophy would seem to be making man ever more like a machine. This is not the only way in which this is true. As we develop our technology through modern science, we increasingly organize our societies according to the principles of technology, and human existence becomes more and more mechanical.

As Jacques Ellul put it about sixty years ago “No social, human, or spiritual fact is so important as the fact of technique in the modern world.” (1) While Ellul meant something more than just the mechanical by “technique” – he meant every application of reason towards the goal of efficiency – the mechanical is certainly included and in explaining why technique is more than machine, he wrote “the machine is the most obvious, massive, and impressive example of technique, and historically the first…Technique certainly began with the machine. It is quite true that all the rest developed out of mechanics; it is quite true also that without the machine the world of technique would not exist.” (2) As a principle of social organization, the technical is radically different from anything that had preceded it. It meant that all of society would now be directed, not towards a vision of the Good, such as that represented in the culture of the countryside and organic community or that represented in the laws and civilization of the city, but towards maximum efficiency to be achieved by knowledge and reason harnessed in the service of the will to dominate.

If technique became the primary principle of social organization in a kind of technical revolution and if technique began with the machine which remains the most impressive example of technique, it follows that a society completely touched by and organized by technique could to some degree or another be described as mechanical. Owen Barfield, in a book we will shortly take a closer look at, said of the machine “The whole point of a machine is, that, for as long as it goes on moving, it ‘goes on by itself’ without mans’ participation.” (3) While obviously a human society in which man does not participate is a contradiction in terms, when Barfield says that a machine moves without man’s participation he is speaking of man as someone external to the machine. The men in a society that has become mechanical are not analogous to the man who owns a clock but to the gears and cogs within it. In saying that a society has become mechanical we are saying that the society has been organized so that to a certain degree the motion within it men within it, including that of the men who live within it, has become automatic, determined by routines and patterns established by planners with technical efficiency as their end. That human activity ought to be in harmony with the natural rhythms of life, which are instead interrupted and trampled upon by technical efficiency is a theme that runs throughout the writings of poet, novelist, essayist and farmer Wendell Berry. Surely the best word to describe activity that is out of sync with life and driven by ends to which such harmony is irrelevant, is mechanical.

That the more man becomes dependent upon the machine the more like the machine he becomes himself and that the more dependent upon technology human society becomes the more mechanical it becomes itself is something that was predictable long before the modern experiment. The basis of the prediction is right there in the eighth verse of the one hundred and fifteenth Psalm quoted in the epigram to this essay. “They that make them [idols] are like unto them; and so are all such as put their trust in them.” Modern man has made idols out of his machines and technology, and having put his trust in these idols, has come to resemble them.

The idols of which the Psalmist wrote, were images made of stone or metal that represented the various deities the pagan nations worshipped. The making and worship of idols was a practice forbidden to the Israelites in the second of the Ten Commandments. The point of the psalmist’s mockery of pagan idolatry is that man-made idols, rather than being the hosts of powerful deities, are just lifeless images. The craftsmen who built them gave them the appearance of having mouths, eyes, ears, noses, hands and feet, but these were merely appearances. The idols were dead stone, dead metal, and by making and putting their faith in them, men became like them, killing their spirits by focusing on these idols the attention and worship due to the true and living God, thus cutting themselves off from the Source of life.

The idols men build today are in one sense more impressive than statues of Chemosh, Ba’al, Moloch, Dagon and Astarte. They are designed to actually do things, from moving goods and people to calculating complex equations. It is not just hands and mouths, modern man has given his idols, but brains and hearts as well, in the computers that direct their functions, and the sources from which the power that keeps the machines in motion circulates. Yet despite this greater resemblance to living beings, it is still just an artificial imitation. To paraphrase the psalmist, they have brains and they think not, hearts have they, and they feel not. Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, modern man has been unable to give life to his creation and in transferring his faith from God to the machines his science has enabled him to build and the techniques his reason has enabled him to devise, he has again broken his connection with the Source of his life, and come to resemble his moving but lifeless creation.

There is another aspect to the idolatry in modern science and technology that is worth contemplation. Earlier I had quoted Owen Barfield’s remark that the point of a machine is that it moves by itself without man’s participation. This remark was made in the context of a paragraph in which Barfield was arguing that the machine is the model by which the modern mind conceives the universe. In the next paragraph he explained that this is not how science itself conceives of nature, but rather the conception that science has created in the minds of ordinary people. This is part of a larger argument that modern man, by confusing his conception of the world with the world as it is in itself, is committing a form of idolatry.

This argument is part of a book entitled Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry, which out of all of Barfield’s books is the one most likely to be remembered today. (4) The book begins with a discussion of the Kantian difference between things as they appear and things as they are in themselves. The difference, of course, is that the way things appear always involves the interpretations of our senses and minds. What is called “post-modern” thought has taken this difference and run with it in a most unhealthy direction, but the argument Barfield made is very different. Noting that the appearances involve a collective interpretation – whether an individual perceives things correctly or wrongly is generally judged by holding his interpretation up to the standard of the collective perception – Barfield argued against the positivist belief that ancient man and modern man live in the same world but that modern man’s perception, understanding, and explanation of that world is better, more in line with the world as it actually is, than the ancients. Instead, he argued, it would be more accurate to say that ancient and modern man do not live in the same world, because the world they live in is the ever changing world of appearances. Man’s role in generating this world of appearances, he called participation, and the way man participates in the world of appearances and even his recognition of his own participation, changes with his thoughts through time. In earlier eras man recognized that the world they saw, was something in which they participated themselves, as did the unseen that lay beyond the appearances. In the modern, scientific era, recognition of man’s participation has been pushed back to a second and even third degree of awareness, whereas recognition of the reality of anything beyond the appearances other than that which appears in scientific hypotheses is mostly absent.

The difference between the ancient and the modern perception of the world is not, Barfield therefore argued, that primitive man sought the same kind of understanding that modern science seeks but through a less developed mythology that “peopled the world” with spirits. Rather the modern perception has come about through a change in thought about the nature and purpose of science.

Plato, Barfield reminded us, recognized three levels of knowledge – the first and lowest being sensory observation, the third and highest being intellectual perception of the divine ideas, with geometry or mathematics as the intermediate level. What we call science today corresponds with the second level. The purpose of scientific hypotheses was to “save the appearances” (5), i.e., to provide a working explanation of what is observed in the first level of knowledge. This working explanation was understood to be man’s own creation and not to be confused with the truth, or the world as it is.

This understanding has largely been lost. The knowledge obtainable by science, Barfield explains by analogy, is “dashboard knowledge” rather than “engine knowledge”, i.e., a knowledge of how to drive a car rather than knowledge of its internal workings. (6) Sir Francis Bacon understood this when he declared knowledge to be power. There may still be an understanding of this among scientists themselves. Plato and Aristotle, however, believed that a knowledge of truth, of the permanent, unchanging, reality beyond the world of appearances was also accessible to man and with the evaporation of this belief, the idea that scientific hypotheses themselves can explain the reality beyond the appearances became the vogue among scientists and among the general public this became the idea that the explanations of scientific hypotheses are the reality beyond appearances. Since scientific hypotheses are themselves part of the world of appearances, the confusion of scientific hypotheses with the world as it is, the idea that nothing other than scientific explanations lie beyond the appearances, is a form of idolatry, Barfield reasoned, because it is an attribution of ultimate reality to what is merely an image.

On a somewhat similar note Simone Weil wrote:

Idolatry comes from the fact that, while thirsting for absolute good, we do not possess the power of supernatural attention and we have not the patience to allow it to develop. Lacking idols, it often happens that we have to labour every day, or nearly every day, in the void. We cannot do so without supernatural bread. Idolatry is thus a vital necessity in the cave. Even with the best of us it is inevitable that it should set narrow limits for mind and heart. (7)

The cave she refers to is Plato’s, i.e., Plato’s allegory illustrating the difference between the realm of appearances as opposed to the realm of true Forms. Those who see only things as they appear in the physical realm, Plato said, were like prisoners chained in a cave, who see nothing but shadows cast from a fire behind them upon a wall, and mistake that for reality. Surely nobody in the history of the world could be better described as “in the cave” than modern man who in his positivism has rejected the metaphysical and theological, and sees nothing beyond the appearances than the scientific explanations he devises for them, who mistakes what Barfield’s most famous student and friend, borrowing from the same Platonic allegory, called “the Shadowlands” for the ultimate reality.

If we consider this alongside what we have already discussed about modern man’s having made idols out of his machines it would appear that modern man is engaged in multiple, related, layers of idolatry. First he made idols out his images of the world and his scientific explanations of them, then, with the power over nature his science obtained for him, he created machines, to do his will and to do his work for him, upon which he became dependent and in which he placed his faith, turning his machines into idols too.

The more man’s technology advances, the more of an idol he makes it. The more of a technolator he becomes, the more mechanical his life and society becomes, and the more he begins to resemble his own soulless, lifeless, creations.

(1) Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), p. 3. This is a translation by John Wilkinson of La Technique ou l’enjeu du siècle, completed in 1950 and published in Paris by Librairie Armand Colin in 1954.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry (New York and London: Hartcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1957, 1965), p. 51.

(4) Barfield himself is probably more likely to be remembered today for his association with C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams than for his own writings.

(5) This phrase, translating the Greek sozein ta phainomena (σῴζειν τὰ φαινόμενα), was borrowed by Barfield from the commentary by Simplicius of Cilicia on Aristotle. It is more frequently rendered “saving the phenomena”. Barfield preferred the translation appearances because the transliteration phenomena has taken on weaker connotations.

(6) Barfield, p. 55.

(7) Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1952), p. 109, a translation by Arthur Wills of La Pesanteur et la grâce, first published in Paris by Librairie Plon in 1947. Weil died in 1943. This book is not something she wrote for publication, but was posthumously compiled from her notebooks by her friend Gustave Thibon.