The Curmudgeon


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: Mark 12 xxxviii - Mark 13 ii

After delivering one of His diatribes about the iniquities of the scribes, Jesus sits and watches people putting money into the offering box at the temple. He compares the offerings of the rich with the two small coins donated by a poor widow, pronouncing her gift the greater because it was all she had. He then announces that the temple itself will be destroyed.

Naturally, there is no indication in the Gospels that Jesus or His disciples did anything to protest, let alone alleviate, the widow's poverty. The Saviour's words about helping the poor are generally exhortations to get rid of worldly riches for the good of one's own soul, and His final pronouncement on the subject of poverty, at the Last Supper (Mark 14 vii), was that the poor would always be around, and that their needs were in any case less important than His rituals; the idea that the needs of the poor should take precedence is explicitly associated with the thieving betrayer (John 12 iv-vi). On seeing the widow Jesus is as usual far less concerned with poverty as such than with preaching against His enemies and gloating over their approaching destruction.

In light of this destruction, the widow's gift is seen to be futile aside from its salutary effect on the widow's soul and its pedagogic utility to Jesus. Whether He is predicting the literal destruction of the temple or the supplanting of the old Hebrew covenant with His own blood-cult, the practical benefits of the widow's giving all she had are casually shrugged off as negligible or nonexistent. Given that the widow's gift was noble not because of any worldly benefits but only by virtue of her poverty, any attempt to alleviate that poverty would clearly have detracted from the moral quality of her action. In the Saviour's view, those who devour widows' houses are wrong only because they deny the widows in question any chance of renouncing their worldly substance voluntarily.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sacred Truth

Some patriotic people in France are annoyed because a mixed-race migrants' daughter has been chosen to play Jeanne d'Arc in a yearly festival at Orléans. For these Résistants, the most important characteristic of the original Jeanne is not that she was a Catholic martyr, a warrior for France, a challenger of gender rules or a teenage superhero, but the colour of her skin. "Next year, Joan of Arc will be in a burqa," mourned one cultural commentator, despite the fact that non-Catholics are excluded from playing the role. The enragés' commitment to realism is of course laudable; though given their likely commitment to tolerance of eccentrics as well as historical truth, it remains unclear what their reaction might be were their racial icon to be played by a Caucasian royalist transvestite who heard voices in her head.

Friday, February 23, 2018

No Way to Treat Real People

It has long been known, of course, that many members of the present Conservative Party have difficulties with social media. One can hardly expect people whose minds are still groping Land Girls on VE Day to thread their way with ease among the webbed electrical intertitles. Even among the party's clear-eyed, granite-jawed patriotic youth there are problems: a fleshy flunkey named Brandon Lewis has complained that Conservatives cannot swing a dead cat on social media thanks to vicious left-wing bullying of that moral élite who are not shirkers, nor skivers, nor plebs, nor piccaninnies, nor moaning minnies, nor enemies of the people, nor swarming hordes, nor the laziest workers in Europe, nor benefit frauds, nor health tourists, nor spies, nor traitors, nor citizens of nowhere. We can only hope that not too many among these sensitive snowflakes are driven to suicide before they have a chance to sample the loving kindness in which their own party famously specialises.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Better Choice of Ancestor

It isn't often that archaeological science gives comfort to the pushers of patriotism; but even as the Farage Falange reels from the news that the first Britons were dark-skinned immigrants, a DNA study of more recent arrivals has given indications of a worthier heritage. Of course the Beaker people were immigrants too, and from central and eastern Europe to boot; but they seem to have compensated for their namby-pamby pottery obsession by wiping out the local population, whose commitment to large communal projects like Stonehenge indicates an unhealthy, Stalinistic centralising streak. There is as yet no indication as to whether the decline and disappearance of these inefficient persons occurred through natural causes such as their being the laziest workers in Europe, or through something more dynamic and entrepreneurial like deliberate genocide. Nevertheless, the fact that they were replaced by people with Britishness-appropriate skin and eye colour demonstrates that even mere archaeological experts can sometimes redeem the indiscretions of the past.

Me at Poetry24:
Plus ça change

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Genesis, Inc.

Breeders, and a fortiori frustrated middle-class breeders, are neither the most thoughtful persons in the world nor the least self-pitying; hence this dubious celebration of the first test-tube baby's fortieth birthday. We are also approaching the fortieth birthday of the Thatcher régime and its defining genetic pattern of profiteering and privatisation; yet still some sheltered people are shocked to discover that private corporations deal in business transactions. Whatever is being bought and sold, be it gardening manure, fried chicken or the opportunity for a Guardian reader to perpetuate a favourite biopolymer, the object and legal obligation of a private company is to take as much as can be got for as little as can be got away with. Even for a frustrated middle-class breeder, it is quite an achievement not to have noticed that by now. Those who prefer to be sat down and asked, "Have you really thought about why you are doing this? What are the options? Where are you with your partner? Can you afford it? What’s going to happen if it doesn’t work?" might perhaps be better off considering adoption or fostering, where a few shreds of outmoded red tape may still remain in place, and which have the additional advantage of the chance to relieve existing troubles, rather than the certainty of birthing new ones.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ill-Gotten Gains

One major disadvantage of a penal system where offenders are not simply hustled onto a gurney and disposed of is, of course, the danger that criminal elements will take advantage of their undeserved freedom in order to lie around in cells all day thinking of ways to screw the taxpayer. This certainly seems to be what has occurred in the case of Curtis Dawkins, a convicted and incarcerated murderer who has written a published collection of stories and whose fees and royalties the Christian state of Michigan is now claiming back so that he can pay for the privilege of paying his debt to society. Dawkins himself argues that the proceeds of his work should go towards his children's education: a grotesque and disingenuous parody of the family values espoused by the current President and his controlling orange head-tribble. Dawkins has even stated quite openly that the practice of writing eases the burden of being in prison, which rather undermines the point of the whole penitential business.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Virtuous Exports

Given the late Head Boy's announcement some years ago that Britain's mission to democratise the fuzzy-wuzzies of Afghanistan was jolly well accomplished, it should come as no surprise that civilian casualties in the pacified nation have exceeded ten thousand a year for the past four years. Our own Ministry for Wog Disposal, hardly the people to make a fuss when mere foreigners are being maimed and killed, rates Afghanistan as the second least peaceful country in the world, and notes that the United Nations mission in the country has found that the province with the highest number of civilian casualties is Kabul. Hence the Ministry for Wog Disposal is happily deporting Afghan asylum seekers, including those who swarmed into Britain as junior cockroaches and are indiscreet enough to turn eighteen, on the grounds that they can move to Kabul if they face persecution in their home province. This has the dual benefit of protecting British jobs and directing a salutary hint of British moral superiority at Iran and Pakistan, which between them have an infestation of at least two million Afghan refugees but where real and understandable non-racist concerns are only intermittently effective.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: Luke 16 i-xiii

Jesus tells a parable about a wealthy man who hears rumours that his steward is losing him money. On the basis of this hearsay, the man orders the steward to turn in his accounts, as he is no longer worthy of his meat. Unable to perform manual labour, and too proud to live like a disciple of Jesus, the steward ingratiates himself with his master's debtors by illicitly altering the records of their debts. When the master hears of it, he commends the steward for his shrewdness.

Jesus notes that worldly people are more skilled at dealing with their own kind than are "the sons of light." Hence the unjust master, who sacks his steward without bothering to investigate whether the rumours are true, can at least recognise and praise his former servant's intelligence. By contrast, the light of the world despises worldly wisdom and finds worth only in the penitent. As His parables of the labourers and the prodigal son make clear, the arbitrary nature of God's favour means that virtue and hard work are largely worthless; and in order to gain the Saviour's approbation, rather than putting his talent to work the steward should have turned the other cheek, gone the extra mile, grovelled at his master's feet and begged for a harsher punishment.

Having related the parable, Jesus recommends that His disciples make friends for themselves among the wealthy, which is certainly a shrewd and worldly move if one wishes to spare oneself the trouble of taking thought for the morrow. Nevertheless, Jesus warns that, in order to be tolerable to God, such worldly friendships must be opportunistic and hypocritical: nobody can serve two masters, and the elect must therefore take care to love and despise shrewdly.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Available Now

My latest, which treats of some voyagers and what they discovered, is now available as paperback and pdf ebook. As with my short novel Taking Down, the opening scene occurred to me first, and without much else attached; and I also dithered over writing about a voyage because I didn't know anything about ships. It took a while to sink in that a voyage in a fantasy story need not necessarily take place aboard anything with gaff-rigged t'gallants athwart the mizzen and all the rest of it; and thus was born arguably the book's most innocent and tragic character.

Friday, February 16, 2018

That Fifth Column Just Keeps Getting Longer

Traitors, saboteurs and citizens of nowhere at the Royal United Services Institute have joined the choleric chorus of metropolitan moanery with an inverted pyramid of pessimism about security; and this in spite of all the trouble taken by something called Gavin at the Ministry for Wog-Bombing to point out Labour's links with the spectre of international Communism. RUSI, which was founded by the Napoleonic spy Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, seems to think that the Recrudescent Imperium's glorious path to independence is mined with risks rather than laden with opportunities, but never once makes the all-important balancing assertion that the Euro-wogs need us more than we need them. In any case, many of the so-called problems are hardly problems at all: far from being an unforeseen and undesirable consequence, the strengthening of nationalist forces through imposed poverty has been essentially the British Conservatives' manifesto for at least the past eighteen months. The undermining of the latest solution to the Irish Question is doubtless to be regretted, but it is of course a price worth paying in the service of a far greater ideal, namely allowing Tumbledown Tessie to hang on and stumble through the good fight for God, Queen and Faction. Everything else is just Euro-wog stuff that will sort itself out as soon as the lesser breeds get it into their strange foreign heads that they need us more than we need them. Besides, even the treacherous RUSIans admit that the costs of our new globular glories can be mitigated over time; in other words, as with the consequences of climate change, the worse things get the more they will be someone else's problem.