Justin T

I had to wait a few days before writing on the election of Justin Trudeau as our new Prime-Minister-in-waiting, not least for the emotion of disappointment to dissipate somewhat, and a sense of objectivity to set in.  To be honest, I expected the result.  Harper’s heart (which sounds like a Harlequin romance) was not in the election.  I can only imagine that ten years as the leader of Canada is enough for anyone, and the loss allowed him to bow out gracefully.


Now we have elected a man-boy, the scion of one of the great dismantlers of what was once Canada, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, whom Canadians elected as a bachelor socialist and free-wheeling socialite in the heady days of 1968.  Pierre married the young beautiful Margaret Sinclair, thirty years his junior, in 1971, the daughter of one of his MP’s. She bore three sons to him, before they divorced in 1977 (he had a daughter in an extra (post?) marital affair with Deborah Coyne in 1994).  Margaret Trudeau went on to her own rather bizarre journey through the disco scene of the 70’s. Custody of the three boys went to Pierre, for better or worse.


It was these fractious conditions that produced Justin, who embodies, for me, everything wrong with Canada:  Lightly educated in an ersatz environment in the modern university, a ‘drama’ teacher, tattooed, admitted pot-smoker (while sitting as an MP), with an amoral value system, steeped in tolerance for all things except an objective moral code, fervently pro-choice and pro-homosexual, multicultural,  acquiescent, a born politician with his nose to the wind of modern opinion.


Saint Augustine once quipped that Catholics get the bishops they deserve, and we can extend this to the secular realm that we get the leaders we deserve.  Trudeau Jr. is indeed a reflection of Canada itself, and the people have projected their own values and hopes upon him.  He presents a superficially optimistic picture, with his photogenic self, wife and children, and his own skin-deep sense of optimism, evinced in his victory speech evoking the ‘sunny days ‘, of all people , Wilfred Laurier.  Like the constant revivifying of 80’s music, history has a way of revivifying itself, and it seems the heady optimism of Trudeauopia is upon us again.  Canada’s first dynasty, one might almost say monarchy.  The crown prince, the dauhpin, has received what he sees as his rightful due.  When asked on a plane journey early in the election, someone asked him via note whether he could beat Harper.  Echoing his arrogant father’s response to how far he would go with military force in response to the Quebec crisis, Justin scribbled back ‘Just watch me’.  That note just sold for $12,000.


But, as others have written, reality has a way of asserting itself.  His promises, economic and otherwise, will be impossible to keep, at least with any sense of fiscal sanity.  His promise of billions hither and yon, on infrastructure and battling the figmented unicorn of ‘climate change’, will, sooner or later, have to be scaled back.  Our country is already technically bankrupt, and to add to the debt burden will only signal imminent collapse.


Then again, perhaps Justin can ‘grow the economy’ from his heart outwards…If he had prepared for the task for which he has striven as he should, he would have read Pope Leo XIII’s landmarks social encyclical Rerum Novarum, that the wealth of nations increases ‘from the labour of working men’, from those who, through their own blood, sweat and tears, produce actual things that can be bought and sold.  Countries are not built on emotive slogans, nor on borrowing billions to build ‘infrastructure’, nor on taxing the ‘wealthy’ to rebuild the ‘middle class’.  His lack of education and intellectual clarity shows through in just about everything our new crown prince says.


His moral policies are more dark:  His limited and secular education have led Trudeau to consider human life negotiable.  In his liberal-esque dogmatism, he has already declared that anyone with any pro-life sympathies is not welcome in ‘his’ party.   We will soon have euthanasia on demand, and, of course, the free-for-all abortion status quo will continue, but perhaps now physicians who try to maintain a clear conscience will be forced to refer for abortions and that great euphemism of assisted-suicide, which is really murder-by-physician.  So much for Catholics (and others who share their moral principles) in politics or medicine.


I wonder what our bishops will do?  Is Trudeau formally complicit in the murder of the unborn, and hence due at the very least for latae sententiae excommunication?  Some have argued this, but I am not sure that point has been reached yet.  He has not transformed himself into Henry VIII (not least, unlike Henry and Catherine, Justin and Sophie still seem to be in some stage of marital bliss), but the day may yet come when the ‘dreamy and doe eyed’ young Prime Minister transforms himself into such a tyrant, who, in history, have often portrayed themselves as doing what is necessary for their nation.  Time will tell.


In the meantime, I have some degree of hope, for both he and his wife are baptized Catholics who, on appearance and admission, practise their faith.  I am not sure in what state of conscience, but God’s grace and mercy, as well as our prayers, can do wonders.


So, following the advice of the first Pope, Saint Peter, let us pray for those in office and authority, and the new leader of this nation, so that God’s kingdom, in some degree, may be manifested for the world to see.


A final note:  Today as I write, October 22nd, is the feast of Pope Saint John Paul II, whose name I share.  I always loved the custom of celebrating one’s name day, as the same Pontiff always did, on the feast of Saint Charles Borromeo (November 4th… JP II’s name, of course, was Karol, or Charles).  May the great saintly pontiff pray for us, and for our newly elected leaders.  And may his words, in some way and somehow, guide them.


Till We Have Faces: To Niqab, or Not?

Zunera IshaqIn an interesting turn of events, the niqab, the face-covering veil worn by certain Muslim women, has become a defining election issue in Canada.  Just today, Zunera Ishaq, who had petitioned for the right to take her citizenship oath wearing the veil, took that very oath, yes, with her face covered (she received a court order allowing her to do so which, apparently, our elected government could do nothing to stop).


I wonder if they would let me take the oath wearing a Mike Meyers Hallowe’en mask, or even a bandana?


Stretched analogies aside, people do get emotional about this.  Recently, a niqab-ed woman, Safira Merriman, had an elbow violently ‘shoved’ into her shoulder in Quebec by an unknown male assailant, while entering a store.  (From the photo, she was wearing the full burqa plus niqab).

merriman niqab

Apparently, Tom Mulcair’s support for the niqab has cost him dearly in the polls, especially in Quebec, which, anecdotally and statistically, has an aversion for foreigners, particularly those not assimilating to its culture.  Not so, it seems, Justin Trudeau, who also supports the niqab as an expression of the ‘freedom’ of a culture to express itself, under his father’s vaunted Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


It is curious that both Mulcair and Trudeau frame opposition to the niqab in terms of ‘racism’ when it has nothing really to do with race, but with
culture and religion.  Safira Merriman is of French-Canadian stock “going back to the 1600’s” as the article states, about as Canadian as maple syrup and the canoe.  She has chosen, with what coercion we know not, to cover her face in public.


And this, I believe, is the root of the problem, of which the niqab is a symbol.  Some people are aware that there is a radical cultural ‘shift’, and, one might say ‘clash’, occurring in Europe, and more slowly here in Canada, with the ongoing and increasing Muslim ‘migration’ (or whatever term one wants to apply).


Why a clash?  Why cannot we, like the immigrants of yesteryear (amongst whom I count myself), not all just go along and get along, live and let be?  Well, the short answer is that if there is one thing consistent in the widely differing forms of Islam, it is the almost universal refusal to assimilate.  In fact, it is a central tenet of Islam, as the name itself implies (‘submission’) that you must assimilate to them and, ultimately, ‘submit’ to Islam, to Allah and his prophet.


This applies two ways, both to foreigners living in Islamic countries, and to Muslims living in non-Islamic (nominally Christian) countries.


In the former, such as Saudi Arabia, the visitor, or immigrant, must abide by Islamic rules, and may only practice one’s culture (primarily one’s religion, but also certain ways of dressing and acting) in the privacy of one’s home, and even here the freedom is limited.  Try walking around Saudi Arabia with a cross on one’s neck, or make the sign of the cross at a market, or try even to speak about your religion and culture.  If you are a woman, try driving a car, or wearing ‘Western’ clothes in public, or, gasp, catching the eye of a Muslim man.


We place no such rules on Muslims in our midst, who are free to dress and act pretty much how they see fit.  Yet, even in their ‘host’ countries, Muslims petition to have the resident citizens assimilate to their beliefs and codes.  Witness the campaign, for one example amongst many, against alcohol and Christmas (which go together like milk and honey) by Muslims in Birmingham, England (yes, merrie olde England, the land of Dickens and Scrooge).  This is not yet widespread, and the moderate Muslims condemn such behaviour, but the radicals, the fervent and the violent, have a way of dominating the culture and getting their way (as we have seen in the fear of ever drawing or portraying any image of ‘the prophet’ Muhammad).


Even the few minor restrictions we might, just might, consider placing on their freedom, like revealing your face during a citizenship oath, are castigated as racist and bigoted, a denial of religious freedom.


Adam Gopnik, a Canadian, has a recent article on this debate wherein, in true ‘liberal’ fashion, he defends the rights of Muslim women to dress as they please, just as we permit Orthodox Jews, the Amish and, I might add, even Catholic nuns and sisters to cover up in religious habits of various sorts.


The difference that Mr. Gopnik, along with Mulcair and Trudeau, do not seem to grasp is that none of these styles of female dress cover the face, upon which Islam is insistent, and the stricter the interpretation of the Qur’an, the more covering is demanded.  Sure, Ms. Ishaq’s niqab is full niqabsomewhat minimal, a kerchief around the head, with some covering of the nose and mouth, like a Torontonian battling the summer smog.  You can still see her eyes.  But look at the photo here of a woman you might ‘see’ in Saudi Arabia, as an example of what might be around the corner should a more strict version of Islam assert itself.


There is something deeply significant about a face.  When asked to send a picture of ourselves, we, of course, send a photo of our visages, not our arms, hands or various less-mentionables.  The face signifies who we are as persons.  In fact the original Greek word for face, prosopon, was adopted into Latin as persona, which in turn developed into our philosophical, theological and legal notion of ‘person’.  Curiously, this term was originally applied to God in His nature as a Trinity of Persons, which led, as Joseph Ratzinger argued persuasively in a 1991 essay in Communio, to the development of the human notion of person, an individual with an inviolable dignity, made in the very image of God Himself.


Islam, in its theological doctrine (such as it is) does not have much place for the dignity of the human person.  We are not made in God’s image, and Allah is not even a ‘personal’ God, but a distant figure, whose decrees, whether for good or ill, cannot and must not be questioned.  He exists not in a relationship with his human creatures, but as a law-giver, a punisher of sin and a rewarder of virtue (as they define them).  Prayer is an act of obeisance, to be carried out externally, at least in their five times a day prostrations toward Mecca.  In office buildings and hospitals across the land, they demand prayer mats, separate rooms, female segregation and so on. We are, of course, free to join them.


If human beings are not persons made in God’s image, they have no inviolable rights, and this especially applies to ‘infidels’ who have not submitted to Allah and his prophet.  We hear of the extremes of this daily from Syria and Libya, as Christians, along with less-observant Muslims, are enslaved, tortured and martyred.  No one is free from the inscrutable decrees of Allah.


I wonder whether Mr. Mulcair and Trudeau have ever stopped to wonder why Muslim men ask (dare I say compel) their women to cover their faces with the niqab?  Whether the women do so ‘freely’ or not is beside the point (the National Post claims that modern Islamic women want to wear these veils, as part of a modern trend, but I don’t think that is entirely true).  The real question is what the veil says about the personal status, the very identity, of these women, who declare themselves practically anonymous in public by veiling the very face that signifies their personhood.


Till We Have Faces is the title of a curious and rather allegorical novel by C.S. Lewis, in which the main character, a disfigured woman, spends most of the story wearing a veil.  She is a person ‘with no face’, the morale being, if I read it correctly, that we must first find, and reveal, our true identity before we can achieve happiness and peace.


What is Islam saying about women when compelling them to wear a veil?  Are they saying they are not really persons?  That their faces ‘belong’ only to their husbands, which only he has a right to see?  Are they implying that we, as non-Muslim ‘infidels’ if you will, are not ‘persons’ enough to look upon them?


A final thought:  As I mentioned, the woman in the ‘elbow shoving’ incident, behind her niqab and burqa, is French Canadian, and, we presume, culturally Catholic.  I wonder why, when she married her Muslim husband, did he not convert to her religion?  Why is that almost never the case, in Italy, Germany, Sweden, wherever Muslim men marry Christian women?  Why are they not a couple raising their children (if they have any) in the full truth of the Catholic Church?  One laughs at the very thought, but that is the point.  If Ms. Merriman is a typical Quebecer, she was not practising her faith, and was likely never raised in its tenets and practice, or perhaps in any religion.  And, as I have written before, one cannot have a culture without a religion.  La langue francaise, poutine and hockey do not a culture make.


Whatever one says about Islam, they do have a culture, disordered in many ways, but dominant and confident, for they do seem to believe, and believe religiously, in what they profess to be true.


Not so, alas, Quebec, along with just about the entirety of what we call ‘the West’, quickly becoming a religious and moral void.  As I have written before, as our religion withers, so too does our culture.  We can scarcely be said to have a culture anymore, for we do not have a shared, binding core set of religious beliefs, a common transcendent faith.  Quebec used to, and may even fifty years ago have resisted Islam.  But now?  What is holding us together?  What is the foundation for Trudeau’s vaunted ‘Canadian values’?  The vague and incoherent Charter and its notions of ‘tolerance’?  I fear that will not stand up to the stern dictates of the Qur’an.


Europe has even less to hold itself together, as witnessed, amongst innumerable examples from which I could draw, in the ghastly and embarrassing fin de siecle Eurovision song contests, won last year by a bearded transgendered ‘woman’, Conchita Wurst.  No wonder the conchita wurstMuslims are just walking in by the thousands, and, I dare predict, will soon take over.  Who is going to stop them?  I don’t think Ms/Mr Wurst and her ilk are up to the task.  Perhaps the more fervent amongst our Muslim brethren think they are doing us a favour by saving us from ourselves.


To resist a culture, one must first have a culture, strong, vibrant, cohesive, and, I will repeat, the only way this is possible is to have it founded on religion and the family, two things almost completely missing from the face of modern Europe, Canada and, yes, Quebec.


We must again rediscover our own identity in our Christian Catholic roots, but, to put it mildly, that will be a long, uphill struggle, and, as things now stand, distant on the horizon.  However, it is only by doing so that we will resist assimilation, and the loss of our own identity as persons made in God’s image, along with all the dignity, rights and freedoms so dearly bought through the centuries that go along with that.

Primal Rage

Oregon shootingThis morning, as I begin this column, ten people at a community college in Oregon were killed by yet-another loner gunman, seeking some kind of notoriety and/or settling some ill-defined grievance; the ultimate motive is really yours to choose.  We will never really know, besides the killer’s confused on-line postings, for he was shot to death by the police, and has now been judged by God.  Apparently he asked at least some of his victims whether they were Christian, after which, if they answered in the affirmative, he shot them in the head.


I wonder if God asked him the same question?


Some readers may have heard of another recent mass murder, three women killed in and around the town of Wilno, not far from where I live, by a deranged individual seeking vengeance, a former paramour, apparently, of two of the women.  This is an unheard-of event for this rural area, where a big news story is where all the missing town water went to.


I don’t often agree with President Obama, but he is correct that we are getting sort of numb to this.  Not as numb, one may presume, as those in places like Nigeria, where another bombing took place; the suicides who strapped, or had strapped, the explosives to themselves were apparently young girls.  The perpetrators and victims of Islamic terrorism are rather indiscriminate.


However, I do not agree with the American president that this is primarily about guns.  Or, at least, I propose that it is only accidentally so.  As the glam-rock band Queen sang a few decades ago, ‘there are plenty of ways that you can hurt a man’, guns just being a rather effective means to inflict harm.  The question really is about the root causes of violence, the anger caused by the increasing isolation of the modern individual, especially modern man, and by that, I mean today’s male, who finds himself more and more alienated from who he is meant to be.


A large part of that isolation and alienation stems from what men are meant to do with their passions, with all the roiling energy within them, whence arise these acts of violence.  Saint Thomas enumerates eleven passions in the human soul, all deriving from the fundamental passions of ‘love’ and ‘hate’, the proper response to perceived ‘good’ and ‘evil’ respectively.  Other emotions, such as desire, hope, daring, and fear help us achieve the good we want, or avoid the evil we do not.


In more normal (and by that, I mean past) civilizations, male passions were channelled into hard work and family life.  This turned these otherwise-unruly energies into virtues, which allowed our hardy forebears to clear forests, move rocks, clear the land for farms, dominate the animals, build homes, study, investigate and explore the world, raise children, and, when necessary, fight wars.  Religion further helped purify and elevate all these natural endeavours.  Passions, especially sexual desire and anger (two dominant and connected passions in man) can be purified, moderated and channelled into good uses, and, to some degree, always have been.


I need not even state that most of this has gone by the wayside.  We now have untold millions of angry and sexually unfulfilled young men throughout this planet listless and undirected.  Many of them perceive that they have been ‘hard done by’ in the world, by family, by women, by authorities, by whomever.  Religion is either gone, or used as a veneer for violence and sexual dominance.  The natural energy-releasing outlets are also by and large gone:  Farms, factories, guilds, trades, any real sense of purpose or direction.


Thus these modern men channel their passions into vicarious violent video games, pornography, and sports, but these are not really outlets.  They are not actually fighting the wars, having sex, or playing the games on the pixilated screens.  They are sitting on a couch in their shorts, eating crisps and burgers. But the anger and their desires remain unresolved, undirected…


Thankfully, it is the rare individual whose anger and lust spill over into the violence we have witnessed.  Most people just want to lay low and be quiet, especially if they consider the perceived ‘evil’ (the grievance or whatever) impossible to overcome, in which case anger turns into sorrow, listlessness, passive acceptance (which explains, at one level, the basis of ‘depression’ and ultimate mental illness).


But in how many men does the anger continue to simmer in their ruminations?  How many nurse their resentments, playing over violent and sexually deviant scenarios in their addled and unformed minds?  How many would do what these murderers have done if given the chance, the right set of circumstances, if freed from the thin and fragile constraints of civilization and authority?


Of course, in any society, virtue, and the ‘right way’ of being a man, are still possible to some extent.  But this becomes more difficult the less it is supported by the surrounding culture.  As George Weigl wrote recently in First Things, there is a crisis of loneliness, self-centeredness, abandonment of family prayer, and a loss of a vibrant cultural life is the crisis that leads to the more obvious signs of social and family breakdown.


Or, as the Holy Father put it in his homily for the opening Mass of the Synod on the Family,


The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.


The murderers are almost always themselves ‘victims’ (if one wants to call them such) of these cultural phenomena:  Divorce, family breakdown, increasing isolation, loneliness, along with perhaps reactionary sense of misplaced righteousness and self-importance.


Some think these murders can be prevented by stricter gun control laws.  There is some truth in this; we may see fewer victims.  But there are also difficulties.  Yes, the government does have a duty to control what weapons can be held by the public, at least to some extent.  We don’t want people with personal nuclear bombs, and I am not sure why someone would need a fully automatic assault rifle.   Unless of course, he is expecting a civil war or societal collapse, but that is another story, with another whole set of problems.


But, in the meantime, a strict gun control policy, in the United States at least, would be perceived as punishing the 99.999% of innocent, law-abiding gun owners, who claim to have the constitutional right to bear arms (but there is dispute about the nature of this amendment), to hunt and defend themselves.


Even if the government went ahead with a stricter gun-control policy, what to do with the weapons already in the hands of the people?  There are already far more guns in the U.S. than people (but it is nearly impossible to count them all, and there may be far more than statistics say), so that genie is pretty much out of the bottle.  It would be a hard and bloody struggle to disarm the entire population, or a good majority of it, and would probably lead to more deaths than many years of the still-rather-rare mass murders.


But the main difficulty is that gun control does not get at the root of the problem, the unrootedness of the modern male who has no idea how to be a ‘man’.  They remain immature boys in fully grown male bodies. I find it curious that these murderers choose victims who cannot fight back, unarmed women, defenceless students in class, even children.  It is as though, unable or unwilling to face the real, and difficult, evil within them, to mature and overcome their own deficiencies, they lash out at false, and easy, ‘evils’ outside, thinking, this will make things better, this will make me who I am…


Of course, it does not, but only exponentially compounds the evil, which, I think, is why many mass murderers commit suicide, or bring about their own death in some way.  The myriad of police officers showing up in their army gear is, alas, too often too little, too late.  All they find are dead bodies, the murderer amongst them…


Perhaps, the violence could be prevented a long time before if someone had confronted them earlier as they drifted towards such demonic delusion. But that, ultimately, is the duty of their parents, their fathers, and those who stand in their place, teachers, employers, and even friends, who will bring them to task, even forcibly.  Alas, that whole system, that whole culture, has just about irrevocably broken down.  Fathers abandon their families, mothers are at work, divorce is rife, many children are raised alone, or by strangers.


Even outside the family, we stay away from each other, especially those most troubled.  Many, perhaps most, of us seem to be on our own, and society cannot operate on the basis of loners.  We need community, and all that entails.


I just read an article about the future automation of many manual labour jobs, already far in progress.   How will society absorb millions of young men sitting around all day with nothing to do?  Do you think they will be content sipping coffee in cafes, playing foosball, practising the cello?  (I will write more on this).


What we should do, as I will never tire of repeating in these columns, is strive to rebuild culture, so that men do have a chance to ‘be men’, to find their place in society, to be called to account for misbehaviour before it becomes violent, to treat women with respect, to strive for virtue, qua vir, as a man, to found families, and take responsibility for their life and their actions.


Otherwise, our society will descend further into chaos, into the individualistic dog-eat-dog, nature red-in-tooth-and-claw insanity that we have recently witnessed, and, sadly will likely witness again all too soon…


In the meantime, may God grand eternal rest to the souls of the victims, and repentance to those who so tragically took their lives.