Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Baltimore, Mad Fuckery, and Socialism in America

There's a striking piece out from NPR on Baltimore’s record-high murder rate and the question of what police can do about it.

Maybe the most striking thing about the piece is that NPR ran it. The way I read it it’s basically: Police: Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

How do you "develop a dialogue" with communities whose local mantra is "Death to the cops!" and where every other guy on the street has a rap sheet and will resist police instructions? A community that, when police are compelled to resort to force, will start immediately screaming about "racist oppression"--never mind that black cops are just as likely to employ force as white cops and that the people screaming "racism" are murdering their neighbors at almost war-zone rates? What will more "dialogue" bring, and why are police responsible for this dialogue?

NPR is basically acknowledging that urban law enforcement faces an impossible task.

Conversation ensues below.


LISA: Maybe a different approach…

ERIC: Except that, on the ground, day to day, there IS no possible different approach. That's my point. Either the police are there to police, in which case they must police, or they withdraw. Assuming that different kinds of "community outreach" or more welfare money thrown at these neighborhoods is going to stop them being what they are is naive. Thugs and drug dealers don't do outreach. And sure, try all kinds of hands-on community help, education, etc., I think such efforts are important, and lots of organizations do such work. But in the mean time, the double bind in terms of law enforcement remains: either the police police, or they don't. And either way, they will be seen as "failing" the black community.

BLM is not helping. If they really thought black lives mattered, they'd be focusing on fighting what is by far the #1 threat to black lives: the nonstop violence and gangsterism that runs rampant in black communities. Instead they attribute all the woes of black communities to the same old excuse: whiteness, white supremacy, etc. Sadly, it has become a systemic means of denying agency to themselves: projecting one's social being as a function of some Other. It is not helping; it is only making things worse.

LISA: By another approach I’m referring to a more community-sourced plan--basically nurturing/creating officers from within the community, training them in additional skills, and supporting them in keeping the peace. If we actually cared most about peace and healthy communities, we would have done this a long time ago. But law enforcement officers are not trained or equipped to deal with poverty and all of the ensuing fuckery. Nor are they equipped to deal with the gun/drug-running that is sanctioned by their own government and trickled-down to these communities. They are in a lose-lose situation. As is everyone forced to live in a ghetto.

ERIC: I also think law enforcement trained and sourced from the communities themselves would be great. And it's being tried in different cities. I don't however believe law enforcement officers should be trained to "deal with poverty". What does that even mean? Their mandate is to keep crime from being committed and apprehend those committing it. Period. That's more than enough to handle.

LISA: I wish I knew more about what’s being tried in this regard in different cities. Now and then you hear a story of “success,” but I’m not sure how widespread community-based policing is. As to not believing that law enforcement should be trained to deal with poverty—there’s no way around dealing with the symptoms of poverty. I suspect any cop we ask would tell us that their job consists of parts Mom, Dad, Principal, social worker, and paper pusher. It’s never black and white, dealing with humanity.

ERIC: Well put. But I do think most big-city cops we ask, especially in recent years, will say that too much of the onus is put on them for what remains an impossible situation. I stick with my "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" reading of the NPR article.

The progressive reading is always "Poverty leads to the mad fuckery.” The conservative reading is usually "Mad fuckery leads to poverty.” Both sides are right of course, this is a chicken-and-egg situation, but in our public discourse in the US, it's time we shifted more toward acknowledging agency on the part of black America.

THOMAS: Not knowing the actual situation in the US, however I believe the questions are valid anywhere, so let me give my thoughts on the subject.

In Denmark we have always had the firm standpoint that “poverty leads to mad fuckery” and hence it has been a crucial point for us to educate 100% of our population, homes for all and work for those who were able.

It did work very well. Expensive, but very functional for a society.

And here comes the point that has rocked my otherwise firm beliefs.

In the past 30-40 years we have had a slow and steady immigration, beginning from Turkey and later from other middle eastern countries.

The facts show clearly that even though Denmark provided education (here it’s worth noticing that various choices of “free private schools,” such as Muslim-oriented schools, are available for all to choose) provided housing, money for living if you don’t have a job, leisure activities and much more, it has become more and more evident that in fact “mad fuckery leads to poverty”. I should almost say I wish it did, since those fools will still get all the benefits from our country.

Now this shouldn’t actually be compared directly with the US, since the citizens you mention have in fact for generations been an integral part of the nation.

Note: I firmly believe in freedom of speech, freedom of religion and so forth. As long as this isn’t used as an excuse to hurt or abuse other people or their institutions.

Too much of anything (i.e. a too aggressive assertion on one’s own beliefs and refusal to accept a certain level of diversity) is usually a bad thing.

ERIC: As I'm sure you're aware, it's been noted by many that democratic socialist approaches to addressing poverty only seem to work in populations that are culturally, racially unified. Thus some attribute the economic stability of the Nordic countries, a success built up over the decades of the 20th c., partly to this fact: these countries had vast majorities of one ethnic, racial group. Myself I'm going to guess it's not just the cultural unity that helps, but certain cultural norms and ideals in these cultures.

But look what's beginning to happen now that large numbers of immigrants have settled themselves. I'm not making a racist argument here (that the immigrants are backward or bad people) but mainly making this argument: Once you have a national population with clear racial, cultural differences, BANG, all kinds of formerly pragmatic state policies start being perceived through the lens of who (which ethnic group) is mostly getting the benefit vs. who (which ethnic group) is paying the bill. And all kinds of resentments start to build up BOTH on the side of those taking the help and of those paying in most of the money.

I suspect plenty of European nations are starting to get hit with this unfortunate reality. "Diversity" sounds good at first, but leads to enormous problems once it actually arrives. Especially when you have visible, tangible cultural differences and you have institutions that are supposed to serve all groups equally.

So look at the US. The sad fact is that the scars of slavery and Jim Crow remain. I think it's not helping black America AT ALL to cling so tenaciously to these facts, but many of them still cling like mad. Unfortunately, many black Americans are using this narrative of past victimhood to escape having to take responsibility for their own fates. This is glaringly obvious, but if you say it aloud in liberal circles you will be immediately accused of racism and hounded out of the conversation. Still, the main fact about the US is that you have at least two very distinct histories of these two groups, white America and black America, and that this difference becomes a lens through which all kinds of policy decisions are viewed. And then we have a huge Latino population, a growing Asian population, Native Americans, etc.

White America, especially among educated folks, was really becoming less and less racist in the 1980s and 90s. It was tangible. The new century began with the feeling that maybe we were becoming one nation. We elected Obama twice, which almost everyone, certainly myself included, felt was a good sign. But for many reasons, things have gone sour. It's the fault partly of the right, I think, but honestly? It's mainly the fault of the left. With Obama's election, and with the continued rise of SJW leftism in our universities, the left decided to play Identity Politics Hardball. I think it's because Revolution is exciting--no?--and everybody likes excitement. And besides, if you keep talking about *cultural* politics (race, identity, gender) you don't have to look at the ugly fact that Obama and your party are actually working for Wall Street and the CEOs. And so in my reading, starting about mid-Obama years, I see a "progressive" left that could think of nothing better to do than keep screaming about "Racism!" everywhere (it wasn't everywhere) and homophobia and patriarchy on every corner, etc., etc.--even though they were all living in one of human history's most tolerant and diverse polities ever. This, I believe, woke up Middle America to how absurd our "left", including our Democratic Party elites, had become, how pushy and irrelevant and indifferent to actual working people they now were, and Middle America decided in response to . . . vote for the guy this left hated the most. And yeah, in my reading the American left deserved it.

But the point is that in the US the whole political battle--over more socialist vs. free-market policy, tax policy, policing, crime--it's all HUGELY inflected through these basic cultural differences between different racial and ethnic groups in the population. So that making pragmatic policy for the whole of the citizenry is almost impossible. Because what seems pragmatic to one ethnic group looks like a scam to the other. Sad, but that's how ethnicity complicates politics.

Where will the Nordic countries be in a dozen years? I think liberal Europe in general has been too quick to believe in its own myth--the myth that Enlightenment democracy can unify any and all cultures in a pragmatic way. Denmark it seems has realized the risks and stepped back a bit. Sweden is in deep denial. France is more used to these conflicts, as they've been part of the national dialogue since the liberation of Algeria. But I still think France rather unstable. Germany? I predict there will be more and more regrets over time. Hungary and Poland?

Read Rimbaud: Do It Now

Arthur Rimbaud, c. 1871

One of the sharper young folks I know is taking up reading Rimbaud. And bravo to that! Rimbaud was an extraordinary figure in almost every way. To take him up is to realize it immediately. A 19th century French teenager from a small town backwater who basically reinvents shamanism from scratch. On his own. And his linguistic genius, there's nothing like it in English or French: the cussed sharpness of it, the fact that this is basically a kid from farm country who's read the whole town library and seriously intends to remake the world through language. The fierce oddity of it; the seriousness of the project--and most important, how in many ways one gets the sense that he actually almost pulled it off.

My friend laments that Rimbaud didn’t write more. I don’t. There’s already a wealth of material. It fits, of course, in a single volume. In English either the Wallace Fowlie translation or Paul Schmidt translation will do. And for a good biography, Graham Robb’s is very well done, though his readiness of individuals poems often miss the boat, I find. No matter.

For me the key question is this: What would language have to be for Rimbaud’s project to make sense? I’ve some writing on this problem myself, stored away, and hope to get back to it some day. Rimbaud and later Max Jacob, very different figures, are the only reason I took up French on entering university.


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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Natural Law Philosophy Convinces Almost No One--and So What?

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Natural law thinking is a hard sell at present for at least three reasons: 1) it is philosophical, and being so requires a bit of hard study of the basic metaphysics even to begin to grasp; 2) it gives answers that contemporary Westerners have been programmed to reject out of hand; 3) it is part of a particular cultural order's approach to truth and ascertaining it, and that cultural order is now utterly lost and foreign.

I think this last is the deepest of the challenges. Ever since Aristotle's summary demotion in the early modern period, Aristotelian causality (especially the concept of final causality) just doesn't make sense to the vast majority of people, who live in a mechanistic/emotivist universe, and whose very idea of learning and study is grounded in a very different theory of causality--provided they even have any respect for learning or study.

But of course our modern distance from natural law theory doesn't at all mean it is wrong or somehow "primitive”. The recognition that moderns have iPhones and Thomas Aquinas didn't, which decides the matter for a lot of folks, is clearly lame. Edward Feser has been very good at underlining just how many of the serious problems of contemporary philosophy and science result directly from the modern refusal to recognize Aristotelian causality. In the ethical realm, Alasdair MacIntyre musters an even more decisive army of arguments, and comes to the same conclusion: Back to Aristotle. Natural law arguments, pace the iPhone wielders, are actually very strong. And consensus is not in fact that hard to reach on basics.

So although natural law thinking is a hard sell for us, still I think Rod Dreher, in his recent reply to a piece by Paul DeHart, shows a bit too much of the shall we say practical approach when he suggests that natural law isn't the way to go because "It will convince almost nobody." Serious philosophy, for most of history, has been a matter of convincing almost nobody. Myself, I'd say that any scholars, writers or teachers who dedicate themselves to getting students to understand Aristotle or Thomas are doing very important work--whether what they say and write will be popular or not. And I mean this also in terms of what their work can do for the Church. Sure, these scholars might have to drink hemlock eventually, but in that they'll be in good company, and hopefully their teachings will survive, if only in a small group of disciples. Isn't this in any case, speaking of Rod Dreher, also part of the ethos of The Benedict Option--to keep and maintain a core of the faithful in the face of the mayhem all around?

I'd say we can continue to use more biblical and immediately existential approaches to waking people up to the Gospel, all the while offering hearty support to others who struggle on the more arcane natural law philosophical ground. Why not?

DeHart's article and Dreher’s response were both hard-hitting and worth careful reading. Yes, DeHart seems a bit too motivated to search out and debate Leo Strauss, and so may be finding Strauss under every rock, including Dreher's Rock. But although that might weaken his piece a bit, I don't think he's wrong to raise his dissent to Dreher’s brief outline of history, if only to remind us of the strong continuity between the Enlightenment order and the more properly Christian era. I'm not sure how many dozens of times I've tried to make similar arguments to "progressive" liberals: namely, that their bitter anti-Christianity is intellectually weak stuff, given that their own notions of rights and individual dignity were basically derived in the West and are part of the West's Christian inheritance. I've yet to have a single progressive liberal agree with me, or even get so far as recognize my point. Which has finally convinced me of something: it's generally a waste of time to discuss history with progressive liberals, who in terms of historical range seem to have been hatched from eggs last Tuesday. I mean--these people think of the 1950s as the Middle Ages.


While Christianity appropriates ideas from classical antiquity, it also fundamentally transforms them. By contrast, even though modernity rejects classical Christianity, it does so by and large within a frame bequeathed to it by Christianity. Indeed, the notions that human beings are by nature equal, that by nature they are free from political subjection, that political order is created by human will and choice, that the community or commonwealth is authoritative or sovereign over government, that there are natural rights that government ought not infringe, that there should be separate jurisdictions of church and government and those who exercise political power should have no authority in religious matters, that human persons transcend and are not defined entirely by political association (be it the kingdom, the polis, or the empire) . . . These all are Christian ideas--or, at least, ideas that were first articulated by classical Christian thinkers.

I hold these truths to be self-evident. But trying to get people, especially coastal people, to acknowledge any of them is like trying to build a snowman out of rain.

The problems of periodization raised by DeHart and Dreher in their brief back and forth are some of the most important problems we can be wrestling with. Because how we solve them will largely determine how we orient ourselves in terms of making historical arguments. And we need to make strong, well-evidenced historical arguments, at least to those who are open to listening. Re: our current malaise, I tend to agree with Dreher’s assertion that the real worm in our apple began its growth with 13th century nominalism. And, sadly, that now we don't so much have an apple with a fat worm in it, but just a worm and a few remaining apple skins. Our main task now is to protect those few skins as best we can and wait it out while the worm slowly dies of the hunger it's inevitably going to die of--though probably not in my lifetime or yours.

NB: 1) Edward Feser has penned the best short introduction to Thomas Aquinas for those unfamiliar with Aristotle, Aquinas and natural law philosophy. The perplexed could do much worse than start with this little book. 2) Dreher quotes from a 2013 debate between Feser and David Bentley Hart over natural law. Relevant links can be found here. I'd say Feser wins this one.


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Friday, November 24, 2017

LaVar Ball: Ass-Clown of the Year

The arrest of three UCLA basketball players in Hangzhou for shoplifting early this month was shameful enough. But it’s the reaction to the event by LaVar Ball, father of one of the players, that takes the cake for clueless. I nominate him Ass-Clown of 2017.

The debate over whether the man should thank the US president for getting his son out of ten years jail time in China is one thing. Of course he should thank him. He’s a moron for not doing so. But it’s not just that. What most people are forgetting in all this is any sense of what it means to be part of a nation, part of the United States.

China is our main global competitor at present. The shoplifting by these so-called "students" (I’ll use the scare quotes because I don’t think athletic scholarships should even be a thing) was of course widely reported in the Chinese press. Think about that for a moment. Given China's population of 1.4 billion, that means hundreds of millions of Chinese, catching this event in the news, were confirmed in their prejudice that America people of color are troublemakers and losers. Good job for you son there, LaVar.

LaVar said he would have thanked President Trump if he’d flown his kid home on Air Force One . “There’s a lot of room on that plane,” he said on CNN. Uh-huh. Does the man really have no idea what it means for national leaders to visit another country? Imagine how it would have played in Chinese media if our president, after getting them bailed out for their criminal behavior, had actually then flown these entitled "student" morons home in the presidential jet. Imagine the message it would convey, how the Chinese media would use it to dis American common sense in general and the sense of America’s leader in particular.

Rather than being a smart ass on national TV, LaVar Ball should be ashamed. The man's son, as a youth representative of the US, disgraced tens of millions of Americans in front of literally hundreds of million Chinese. And yes, he and his two teammates disgraced people of color. I don’t know why more black Americans, in particular, aren’t calling Ball out on his cluelessness. This “father” thinks his son stealing is no big deal; and the Chinese, reading the reports, will naturally assume this to be typical of how American blacks think.

That CNN treated LaVar Ball with anything but utter contempt tells you something about CNN. Not thanking your country’s president for saving your son’s future? Shoplifting “ain’t that big a deal"? Yeah, I myself don’t give much of a damn about ball players. But as for this ex-ball player and father, I wouldn't waste my spit on the man’s face.

My novel A Taipei Mutt is now in print. The Asian capital unmuzzled.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Russiagate Shuffle: More Pathetic Pleading from NYT

One of my more liberal friends recently challenged what he called my “cynical” attitude toward the big names in American journalism: the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. “There is a thing called skepticism,” he wrote, “and a thing called cynicism. You are really starting to fall into the latter.”

Ironically, not a day later, he sent me a link to an editorial in the New York Times which, he said, conveyed his own thinking on why Mueller’s Russia investigation was important. He thought the piece was spot on. It was David Klion’s “Why Don’t Sanders Supporters Care About the Russia Investigation?” When I read it, I was really almost flabbergasted.

This is what you send me to demonstrate my cynicism is misplaced?

Let me explain. I’ve lived in Asia for decades now, in Taiwan, and have keenly watched the political shifts in my home country, the US, with a feeling of ever more distance. And not a small amount of shock. In recent years, one of the things that’s struck me most is the degree to which some of my sharpest friends from the past have become what I’d call zombified. I really can’t comprehend their inability to see things that seem glaringly obvious. There are many of these things, a whole heap, and one of them is surely the absurdity of Russiagate. And this shabby editorial this good friend from the past sent me—how could he not manage to see what it was about?

Since I went out of my way this time to snap my old friend out of his NYT-induced funk, I’ve decided to post my remarks here:

-----Yes, David Klion’s piece underlines a lot of key themes relative to the problem of globalized corporate oligarchy. And these problems are obvious. But sit back and think for a minute. Fighting corporate oligarchy was not the reason Mueller was put in charge of the Russiagate investigation. The reason the investigation was launched was to find evidence of Russian collusion with the Trump administration that would amount to tampering with the 2016 election. And surprise: NO EVIDENCE HAS BEEN FOUND.

In short, this NYT piece is yet another example, and a pretty transparent one, of trying to milk something newsworthy out of Russiagate. But the problem to me seems clear enough: Russiagate is by definition NOT newsworthy. Because it doesn't exist. There was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to sway the election to his advantage. If there had been, it would have been found out many months ago.

So what we have here from the NYT, sorry to say, is YET ANOTHER example of what has infuriated me and many others about the "journalism" coming from the NYT/WaPo/MSNBC/CNN axis. I'd like to call them the Axis of Feeble. Because if, like me, you've been following the Russiagate business from the start, you will see that when one claim falls apart, this little press axis just shifts to implying that the investigation is about some other claim. It's gotten downright pathetic. It's gotten mendacious. It's shameful.

Let's take a moment, old friend, to consider how this new piece works. Or tries to work. Bear me out, and I think you'll come to see what I've been seeing for many months now. The reason for what you call my cynicism. At least I hope you see it.

Look at the article's first paragraph: "Nearly every day, new details emerge about the relationship between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. The extent of the alleged collusion, which may ultimately endanger Mr. Trump’s presidency, has yet to be determined, but the scandal has dominated news coverage and enthralled Washington."

This a statement of fact that doesn't amount to anything. What is stated? "Every day, new details emerge." Of course every day new details emerge. The problem is that none of those details is evidence of collusion or even very interesting in itself. Are Paul Manafort's dealings in Ukraine many years ago newsworthy as far as the 2016 election? No. Is Flynn's undisclosed meeting such a big deal? Hardly. Plenty of people in both parties have had plenty of meetings with Russians, as they've had meetings with Germans, Chinese, and Indians. Meetings don't mean anything. After a full year of this sordid business, there is still NO SMOKING GUN. And there won't be. (A recent article by Caitlin Johnstone does a good job of explaining why there almost certainly won't be. Check her out.)

The other statement in the first paragraph, namely that "the [Russiagate] scandal has dominated news coverage and enthralled Washington"--yes, that's true too in a bland and irrelevant way. Because what does it even mean? It only means that establishment Washington, loathing Trump, can get excited over a conspiracy theory and that, to its shame, can continue to PRETEND to be excited over the theory long after it's clear the theory points to no concrete truth. A

fter the article's first few paragraphs (which quote a few sane people like Noam Chomsky) did you notice how THE WHOLE FOCUS OF THE ARTICLE SHIFTS? No more is there anything about the 2016 election; rather it's all just bromides about international capitalism. You could write the same article substituting the names of other countries in for Russia. Because there are dirty deals and money laundering from one side of the globe to the other. And probably Trump's friends and Hillary's friends and Manafort's friends have their fingers in various of these global pies. We all know this, and the Russiagate investigation is not going to help a democratic citizenry fight this constant wheeling and dealing. Nor is the NYT going to help much either, when push comes to shove.

In short, this article is an exercise in BAIT AND SHIFT. Honest analysts on right and left are all saying that the Russiagate investigation is, in terms of its original mandate, an utter joke. This NYT article does its best to imply that they're wrong about that because, you see . . . oligarchy. The writer's trying to save face for the establishment press by not-so-subtly re-purposing the investigation.

Can't you see this? Sure, parts of the article may reflect your thinking on oligarchy, but c'mon--that question is NOT what the investigation was about. Was Mueller tasked with investigating the Trump team in order to find arguments for leftists to use against apologists of globalized corporate capitalism? No, he was not. He was tasked with finding out how Russia colluded with Trump to sway a democratic election. He has found, and will find, NOTHING.

Two more things:

1) Note how the name UraniumOne doesn't even appear in the article. That's just another example of NYT bias. They're afraid a new investigation will be launched, and that their gal will be under the lens. If there's any story that might give us an object lesson in how corporate backroom deals with politicians subvert national interests, UraniumOne is at least as worthy a story as Paul Manafort's greed.

2) Note that even Masha Gessen--diehard Putin foe and Russian-American LGBT activist, a woman who loathes Trump almost as much as the guy running her homeland--note that even she is quoted in the chorus of those pointing out the Russiagate investigation is a waste of time. Gessen is not always honest in her writing. But she has to admit the truth on this one. And that should tell you something. Because Gessen is a woman who would like Trump impeached and Putin roasted alive.

This article may seem worthy to you in some of the points it makes, I don't know. But to me, in terms of a coherent editorial, it's trash. It's a cheap rhetorical game, nothing more. It's like a man who says he wants you to try a new IPA and ends by putting an iced green tea in front of you. I will drink elsewhere.

* * *

I'm still waiting for my friend's reply to these remarks.

My novel A Taipei Mutt is now in print. The Asian capital unmuzzled.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Gospel of Mark: a World-Historical Text

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter. --Mark 1:40-45

This passage appeared in a friend’s post. Mark, the earliest of the the Gospels, and the shortest of them, is also in many ways the most powerful--a brilliant, world-altering text. If we think about it, whoever this author was, he created a new genre of writing to communicate a new reality that had entered the world. Scholars point out that his Greek was crabbed, uncouth. But his narrative skills were immense.

In Mark we see the human side of Jesus. We see him almost as a man who is reeling from his own powers. And much in the narrative indicates a closeness to the crowds that thronged to get near this power.

Erich Auerbach, the first couple chapters of whose Mimesis are sheer brilliance, points out that this writer was the first in the ancient world to write of the lower classes as fully human characters. Mark brought into writing an entirely new, and more fully human, way of communicating social reality. And as I suggest, this is because he recognized that with Jesus social reality had been altered radically.


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Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Gay Man Returning to the Catholic Church?

It was in an online discussion of Milo Yiannopoulos’ interview with the Jesuit magazine America. Myself I thought Milo had done a great job of it. Matt, a 20-something gay friend of mine, who’d grown up in a very Catholic town, weighed in to say he was stunned a Jesuit magazine had even agreed to interview Milo. This same friend had recently surprised me with the news that he was attending Mass again. He'd even gone to Confession.

I’d describe Matt as brilliant, precocious, complex. Though part of Catholic culture, he’d always criticized the Church, and for the years I’ve known him was certainly far from being a “practicing Catholic”.

Our discussion that day, in chat, is very brief, but I want to post it because it allowed me to summarize a few points I keep wanting to make--points that also relate to Milo's interview.

Thing is, Matt was already despairing over his future as a practicing Catholic. Here’s how it went:

MATT: Meh. I probably won't go back to Church. I don't want to live a celibate life, and I can't be arsed spending time around people who consider me fundamentally immoral and spiritually disordered. Some crosses are too heavy to bear.

MYSELF: But here's the thing--the point, if I may raise it, that I think you're missing. I don't think any really serious Catholic will think you're "fundamentally immoral". Or rather: they will think we are all fundamentally immoral.

The mistake of post-1960s Westerners is to assume that we are fundamentally defined by our sexuality. This is why we’ve been subject to so much of the SJW cultural ranting regarding this whole question. I myself have come to realize that this shift in the definition of the person is more a late effect of Protestantism, bending toward Gnosticism, than anything else. The shift has taken in many Catholics too. But it's a mistake; it's a modern perversion of the faith. Even the coded definition of people as hetero or some letter of LGBTQwerty is a modern invention. Most cultures through most of human history have just recognized that humans are sexual.

Something eccentric is going on with us. We're out on a limb in our basic anthropology, and we're moving further and further out.

So if I were you, I'd keep thinking this through. And I don't think you're even close to fundamentally immoral. You're probably more fundamentally moral than plenty of the others attending Mass. Milo in his interview was right, I believe, to recognize that he has sin, but that the sin society defines him for is not his worst sin--rather that pride is a more dangerous sin.

One option is to, as it were, cordon off your sex life for the time being. By which I don't mean to actually become celibate, but rather to allow the contradiction to exist, but put it aside while you keep faith with those aspects of the Church's tradition that you can.

I haven't had coffee yet, so I'm not so sure these points are well put. But I think they're very important--that we've been more or less brainwashed by the culture into assuming that our definitional center is sexual behavior. It is not. Even most of the Christians around us are in this respect more "late modern Westerners" than they are Christian. But you don’t have to be.

MATT: Good points. And thanks for the advice! Maybe I’m being over-dramatic on this question.

I'm not all that obsessed with sex anyway. I just worked myself up into a tizzy thinking, "Who are THEY to demand that I be celibate!"--without realizing that, in theory at least, all Catholics could spend their lives celibate if they go unmarried.

I'll keep thinking these things through, and continue with my experiment. In any case, I'm not in a relationship at present.

* * *

And that was that. Myself I don’t know how most gays or lesbians will react to my points, but I do stand by them as important. The contemporary world, especially post-1960s, has sex on the brain in ways that warp what is essential in both the meaning of personhood and the meaning of faith. And, I'd add, in the meaning of sex itself.


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