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There’s more good news for alternative media.

On April 3, 2017 Rebel Media hired former political operative Jack Posobiec as their Washington Bureau Chief.

In 2016, Posobiec (pron. ‘Posobik’), his Twitter feed and YouTube videos were popular with Trump supporters, especially Millennials.

Posobiec describes his career as follows:

Last year, I served as the Special Projects Director for Citizens for Trump, the largest Trump grassroots organization in the US.

Originally from the Philadelphia area, I’ve worked for four presidential campaigns, as well as numerous candidates for Senate, Congress, and Governor.

I’m also a US Navy veteran with multiple deployments overseas. 

Posobiec’s Rebel Media work can be found here.

He’s a good reporter. He speaks clearly, concisely and logically.

The video below from Monday, April 3, 2017 was his one of his first reports for Rebel Media. He explains the surveillance scandal involving President Donald Trump and others during the 2016 campaign season. He includes video clips from a variety of Big Media sources and lays out the timeline well:

The Rebel Media was founded in Canada in 2015 by a former Sun News Network host, Ezra Levant. Rebel’s hosts and commentators are controversial but highly popular among Millennials. Canadian Gavin McInnes is the best known in the United States.

The Rebel Media — also known as The Rebel — is an organisation that one either loves or loathes. That said, their programmes will make one think.

Contrary to the way it has been portrayed by Big Media in Western countries, The Rebel is not ‘far-right’ but libertarian-to-conservative alternative media.

Jack Posobiec and Rebel Media unintentionally broke out of their US-Canada market during the weekend of the French election. Now they’ve gone international.

In short, contributors to the /pol/ forum board on 4chan obtained a huge volume of data that supposedly relates to France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron. Macron threatened to sue anyone who discussed these data online during the 44-hour media blackout of the election prior to Sunday, May 7 — the second, and final, round of voting.

Disobedient Media, by investigative citizen journalist William Craddick, reported on the data dump between Wednesday, May 3 and Friday, May 5: here, here, here and here.

Posobiec posted the video below at The Rebel on Friday, May 5, referencing Craddick’s work. Posobiec said that he himself had just been labelled by a Belgian researcher as a Russian agent. Posobiec is a Polish name. This person alleges that Posobiec’s Twitter account appeared in a list of what were brand new Twitter accounts, thought to be bots. The researcher was already hard at work establishing notional bots on April 15. (N.B.: Posobiec opened his Twitter account in 2012.)

Posobiec went on to say that he spoke with 4chan members who said that they found the Macron documents on ‘the deep web’ — the dark net. Posobiec also cited a May 4 article on Got News by an independent auditor for the Big Three accounting firms who examined the data dump. ‘Jessica Gomez’ (not her real name) claimed that the documents are not fake and that the French people should be able to examine them prior to Sunday, May 7:

That weekend, someone on social media suggested that there should be a place on Twitter to discuss the data dump. Posobiec was the first to post at  #MacronLeaks.

Macron has since taken legal action against him and/or Rebel Media.

On Monday, May 8, Posobiec gave Alex Jones an interview in which he said that Rebel Media had their lawyers on the case. He was confident and composed.

My post tomorrow will address a) the speculation about Macron’s finances and b) much worse hashtags — #MacronCahuzac and #EmmanuelCahuzac — both of which started in France months ago. I will look at the latter hashtag  tomorrow.

The Cahuzac affair was the worst financial scandal to take place in France in recent years. It involved tax fraud and money laundering. In the end, Dr Jérôme Cahuzac — a surgeon who became a  parliamentarian then Junior Minister for the Budget in François Hollande’s administration — was sentenced to three years in prison on December 8, 2016. He is also ineligible to serve in public office for five years.

The name Cahuzac has been toxic since his scandal first came to light in 2013. 

Therefore, it’s interesting that Macron would take legal action against an American alternative media reporter when so much information — including the Cahuzac tag — was already circulating in investigative French media outlets.

To be clear: linking Cahuzac’s name with Macron is not saying Macron was involved, but rather the possibility that whatever might be uncovered about Macron’s finances could be as huge as the Cahuzac affair.

I wish Jack Posobiec — and his fiancée Tanya Tay — all the best, especially in the Macron dust-up, and hope that he continues to hold the centre ground in his coverage.

UPDATE: Thank you, Jack, for the tweet. Much appreciated!

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Over the past week, President Donald Trump welcomed Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe of Japan, Justin Trudeau of Canada and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to the White House.

Japan

Before Trump welcomed Shinzo Abe and his wife to the United States last weekend, he already had a big fan club in Japan. This video was filmed on Inauguration Day:

The Abes were in Washington DC on Friday, February 10. Trump and Abe held a joint press conference, wherein Trump pledged ‘even closer’ relations with Japan, including reaffirming America’s security guarantee:

The two leaders met privately before posing for a photo op:

The Daily Mail reported that Mrs Trump did not guide Mrs Abe around Washington, because the latter already had plans for the day: a visit to Gallaudet University for the deaf and hard of hearing followed by a National Cherry Blossom Festival committee meeting at the Japanese Embassy. There is also a language barrier. Mrs Trump does not speak Japanese, and Mrs Abe does not speak English.

However, they rode together that afternoon to meet their husbands for a weekend at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach:

This video shows their arrival in Florida. Each leader had his own entourage. This was the roadside reception for Trump. Abe must have been impressed:

That evening, they had dinner with Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, Superbowl LI champions:

On Saturday, Trump and Abe discussed issues of the day over a round of golf:

Meanwhile, Melania Trump took Akie Abe for a tour of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden in Delray Beach, not far from Palm Beach, where the two couples spent the weekend.

Afterwards, the first lady took Mrs Abe to the Episcopal church where she and Trump got married, Bethesda-by-the-Sea:

A working dinner followed:

That evening, while the couples were having dinner, North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan. The two leaders made an impromptu joint statement:

Canada

Trump met with Justin Trudeau on Monday, February 13. This was a day trip.

Time reported:

The neighboring leaders, polar opposites in nearly every way, took up the thorny subjects of trade and immigration, with Trudeau eager to build a relationship with the new U.S. president.

At a joint press conference after a series of meetings, the two emphasized their shared goals. Trump pledged to work with Canada “in pursuit of our many shared interests.” Trudeau spoke of a special bond and the “deep abiding respect” between the two countries, though he also said that “relationships between neighbors are pretty complex.”

While the two leaders stressed shared interests, their contrasting views were also on display. Responding to questions from reporters, Trump defended his refugee and immigration orders, saying that “we cannot let the wrong people in.” Trudeau, on the other hand, said Canada continues to “pursue our policies of openness.”

Trudeau later noted that there have been times when the two countries “have differed in our approaches.” But he said “the last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they chose to govern themselves.”

Trudeau gave the president a photo. It was of Trump and Justin’s father, the late Pierre Trudeau, also a prime minister of Canada.

Trudeau also met legislators at Capitol Hill.

Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrived at the White House on Thursday, February 16.

This is their formal welcome to the White House, followed by friendly conversation — they met at Trump’s residence in Trump Tower after the election — and the official photo op:

This short video from Netanyahu’s Twitter encapsulates the highlights of the day:

Trump and Netanyahu held a joint press conference before their private meeting:

NPR has a transcript of the press conference. Topics included the usual concerns, primarily peace in Israel and in the Middle East:

While the two leaders met, their wives went to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. This was apposite as February is Black History Month in the United States. Museum guides provided the two ladies with assistance in viewing important exhibits and interactive displays:

Trump’s meeting with Netanyahu was a sharp and welcome departure from the Israeli’s meeting with Obama in 2014. The Atlantic detailed the breakdown in the relationship, with one White House staffer calling Netanyahu a particularly vulgar word denoting a coward.

For that Obama staffer, if this is what a coward looks like, then I’m the pope. This is Bibi as a young man (courtesy of The_Donald):

As you can see below, Trump picked up on that at the time. Here’s a comparison between Obama and Netanyahu:

Here’s another:

Now back to the 2017 visit. The Daily Mail has a complete rundown, including photos, of the Netanyahu visit to Washington.

Melania Trump’s white suit is a Karl Lagerfeld creation.

Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, thought to be a prime mover in strengthening US-Israeli relations, attended the press conference. The Kushners also know the Netanyahus well.

That evening, the Trumps co-hosted a dinner for the Netanyahus. Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) and his wife Jeanette were the other co-hosts.

Joel Pollak wrote a good article on Breitbart, detailing five ways in which this visit will improve relations between the US and Israel, not to mention the Middle East with regard to terror.

In closing, this was the fourth state visit Trump has hosted within the past three weeks.

I am not sure when we had such great presidential optics online. Despite all the slings and arrows the new president continues to take, this one best sums up his inner serenity. From the Abe visit to Mar-A-Lago (note Mike Flynn standing in front of the statue):

The Trump meetings have terrific photos and videos. Long may they continue.

On April 24, 2015, the Telegraph published a list of 10 towns that have changed their names for various reasons.

Readers who like offbeat history will find the article interesting. (Telegraph commenters added names of European towns which attract attention.)

Here are but a few:

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, was originally called Hot Springs. When Ralph Edwards, the then-host of television game show Truth or Consequences, said an episode would be filmed in the first town to rename itself after the programme, Hot Springs applied in 1950. Edwards returned to the town annually to appear at its fiesta until his death.

Kitchener, Ontario, was called Berlin until the Great War. As the war generated much understandable anti-German sentiment, the townspeople were able to vote on a selection of new names. In 1916, the town was renamed after Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War.

Sleepy Hollow, New York, was originally North Tarrytown. Traditionally, the area was known by that name, which Washington Irving popularised in his eponymous legend. The town’s name changed in 1996. The film with Johnny Depp appeared three years later.

Controversially, one town has not changed its name, despite requests to do so during the Second World War:

Swastika, Ontario, chose to maintain the status quo, pointing out that the Sanskrit symbol signifies good luck, despite its having been hijacked by Nazis many millenia later.

Not so long ago, most Reformed (Calvinist, including Presbyterian) churches had Communion — Supper — services once a month.

Today, that tradition is changing, with more churches embracing a weekly Supper.

Those churches which have not yet done so say that the frequency of the Supper might diminish its significance to the congregation. Along with this is the rationale that, during the service, congregants will choose to reflect on either the preaching or the Supper but not both. Others say that their church’s tradition has always been for a quarterly or monthly Communion service. All of these are reasonable.

However, there is also a poor excuse, which is that the distribution of the Supper takes too much time! This lady, commenting on a Gospel Coalition post exploring the subject, supports frequent Communion. She rightly takes issue with the ‘not enough time’ excuse, pointing out:

this is the one thing the Lord commanded we do to remember Him and what He did. If you don’t have the time, please feel free to cut out the collection of money, the silly dramas [some Reformed churches feature short plays during their services], the endless singing about how great God makes you feel (not Glory to God in most contemporary Christian music), the light show, the “howdy” (greeting…where everyone walks around talking about anything but Jesus). You can’t spare 10 minutes out of the weekly hour to remember what Jesus did for you? SHAME!

However, there are deeply rooted historical reasons why Communion has been infrequent in Reformed churches.

Calvin, Zwingli and Knox

John Calvin believed in weekly Communion:

the Lord’s Table should have been spread at least once a week for the assembly of Christians, and the promises declared in it should feed us spiritually.

However, he was unable to persuade the Geneva City Council of this principle. At this time in history, large European cities often legislated on matters spiritual as well as temporal. The Council approved monthly Communion.

In Zurich, Ulrich Zwingli took the view that the Sacrament was but a mere memorial of the Last Supper and offered no means of grace. Appalled, Martin Luther took strong exception to this and told Zwingli that ‘another spirit’ moved through him.

Nonetheless, Zwingli set a quarterly Communion observance for his followers: one Sunday in the autumn, followed by Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.

John Knox promoted the Geneva pattern of Communion in his Order of Geneva (1556). Six years later, the First Book of Discipline adopted by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (1562) was issued. It called for a Zwinglian quarterly observance in Scottish cities and twice a year in countryside churches.

Communion Seasons

By the 18th century, Presbyterians in Scotland received the Sacrament rarely. Many only received it annually for the following reasons: suspicion of clergymen, lack of ordained ministers and a shortage of bread because of widespread poverty.

Scottish Presbyterian Communion tokenThese annual commemorations of the Supper turned into what were called Communion Seasons. The faithful began by fasting on a Thursday, attending a church service on Saturday where they received their Communion tokens, receiving the Sacrament the following day and a thanksgiving service on Monday.

If these remind us of revivals, that is indeed how they turned out. The same weekend format was adapted for American revivals, with a certain amount of religious enthusiasm.

Presbyterianism in Colonial America

By the end of the 18th century, Presbyterians in the American colonies held opposing views with regard to the frequency of Communion.

Whilst the 1787 Directory of Worship for American Presbyterianism stipulated the annual Communion Season, a Scottish-educated minister in New York City disagreed. In his 1797 book, Letters on Frequent Communion, John Mitchell Mason argued that the showmanship of the revivalist approach detracted from traditional Presbyterian piety. He advocated weekly Communion as a consistent means of grace.

Reformed Communion historically

There was one issue with frequent Communion, not only in the Presbyterian Church, but also in the Reformed congregations.

Those wishing to receive the Sacrament were required to attend preparatory classes at their church in the days before each Communion Sunday. Ministers and elders gave tokens to those whom they had deemed worthy. The recipients were then required to present the token at the service.

These circumstances made frequent Communion services impractical.

Today’s experience

Although Communion tokens have long been history, Reformed clergy and congregations still struggle with the frequency of Communion services.

The Revd P Aasman of the Canadian Reformed Church in Grand Valley, Ontario, explains that his denomination’s Book of Praise contained a lengthy Communion liturgy and now has a shorter form. However, he writes, even then, congregations are reluctant to participate more often:

Both of these things (the length of the form and the manner of celebration) support infrequent communion and, therefore, need to be adjusted before positive change can be made.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is concerned that their congregations might have a Zwinglian view of the Sacrament as a memorial with little to no means of grace. OPC elders D. G. Hart and John Muether posit that increased frequency of Communion services are not guaranteed to alter those perceptions where they exist. Whilst they conclude that these services should ideally be weekly, they also warn:

weekly communion might tempt partakers toward a deadening familiarity with the sacrament …

Personally, as a former Catholic, now Anglican, I would agree that frequent reception of Communion, sadly, does become overly familiar and loses its significance. That is a terrible admission to make, however, it is true. I have also seen it in other Catholics during my time. When I first became an Episcopalian, my church had monthly Communion services. (That said, the 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. services were always for Holy Communion as were Wednesday evening services.) I felt better prepared spiritually for less frequent Communion. I could also concentrate more on the readings and sermons during Morning Prayer Sundays. My weakness, but no doubt others’, too.

I spent quite a bit of time seeing how often Presbyterian churches have a Communion service. Here are but three examples in the PCA: one has it quarterly (the Supper elements have been prepared by the same family line for 150 years!), another has it monthly and a third has one weekly.

It will be interesting to see what the future brings in this regard.

luther-roseOlder Lutherans who wonder how and why their liturgy has changed so much since their childhood might find Frank Senn’s 2011 paper ‘Ninety-five Theses on the State of Liturgical Renewal in the Lutheran Churches of North America’ a helpful resource.

A brief summary follows with page citations from the PDF.

Lutheran liturgy began to change bit by bit in the 1950s, although its ‘renewal’ did not begin in earnest until the 1970s.

The Catholics were the first to begin tinkering with liturgy and tradition in the 1960s. Unfortunately, Anglicans also followed them into the same trend, which has left all three denominations confused. It is no wonder that most of us cannot recognise the churches of our childhood.

Early days of settlement

Senn divides his paper into items of historical and current interest. His first seven points on pages 2 and 3 cover the early Lutheran Church in North America.

We discover that German Lutherans were the first colonial settlers to celebrate Christmas with gusto. However, in regular worship, Senn tells us that Lutherans were either pietists or rationalists. (Pietists rejected the established — state — churches of Germany and Scandinavia for more homespun practices. Rationalists, probably the middle and upper middle classes, adhered to established liturgy and theology.)

In the mid-19th century, Senn writes, immigrants brought more confessionally Lutheran styles of theology and worship (item 10, page 3). Those who were translating prayerbooks into English found these useful resources. A more uniform pattern of worship began to develop which culminated in 1888 with the Common Service (item 12). It was so named because it was liturgy which all Lutherans could appreciate and use.

By the early 20th century, what pastors wore at Sunday services had changed. Black robes were gradually replaced by an alb and stole with the addition of a chasuble for Holy Communion services (item 15).

1950s and beyond

In the late 1950s, the Lutheran Churches of North America embarked on a programme of ‘liturgical restoration’. A new worship book, The Service Book and Hymnal, was introduced in 1958. The Joint Commission on the Liturgy and the Hymnal had gone beyond Lutheranism to embrace certain prayers and hymns from the broader Western Church (item 17, pp 3, 4).

However, it was not long before the new worship book’s critics complained that its language was too archaic. After all, they said, American culture was changing rapidly. So, eight years later — 1966 — an Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship convened to discuss how church services could be made more relevant to contemporary society (points 18, 19).

The Commission was in place through the 1970s. Although certain synod-specific rubrics were created, the Commission encouraged them all:

1/ The LCMS Worship Supplement (1969) to the Lutheran Hymnal (1941). This new volume had not only newer hymns but also alternative orders of service (item 20).

2/ The 1970 Service of Holy Communion (item 21) was an modern one in line with the spirit of unity and ecumenism of the day. Not only that, it established Holy Communion as the principal Sunday service (item 22). As with the post-Vatican II Catholic Missal, Lutheran liturgy moved towards being more man-oriented to the perceived ‘needs’ of the congregation.

3/ Throughout the 1970s, new booklets appeared with more particularised and alternative worship services and hymns (item 23). The Commission’s summer conferences introduced them — and no doubt proliferated them year on year.

4/ The Commission adopted a version of the three-year Roman Catholic Lectionary for public worship (items 24, 32). Although North American Lutherans began using the Lectionary, most European Lutherans did not (item 25).

5/ It could be said that the Commission’s work culminated with the 1979 Lutheran Book of Worship, approved by the church groups involved except for the LCMS (page 5). That said, many LCMS congregations began buying copies for their churches. The LBW was informed by ecumenism, reiterated the importance of Holy Communion as the main Sunday service and borrowed texts (e.g. the Psalter) from the Episcopal Church’s 1979 Book of Common Prayer. A broad campaign of workshops in churches across North America ensured its acceptance.

6/ Altars have been rearranged or built to be free-standing to allow everyone to stand around them (item 41, page 6).

Resulting present day problems

Senn hints that so much alternative liturgies and hymns might have made the Lutheran churches in North America come full circle, approaching the tension of pietism versus rationalism in the colonial days. Some Lutheran churches are more traditional whilst others embrace new practices and language. This is because of:

1/ Gender-inclusive liturgical language (item 42) which has led to a deliberate omission of the Creeds with their male-oriented references to the Holy Trinity (item 44). The 2006 Evangelical Lutheran Worship book is gender-neutral whilst the LCMS Lutheran Service Book, also published in 2006, retains traditional language (item 45).

2/ Inter-Lutheran co-operation on worship has consequently become polarised (item 46).

3/ Worship has come to be seen, erroneously, as a form of evangelism and, as such, services have been modified to become seeker-friendly (items 68-71, page 8).

4/ Congregations and clergy now think that prayer books and hymnals are too complicated for the unchurched to use (items 73 and 74, page 9), so service sheets and big screens are being used instead.

5/ Congregations are omitting a confession of sin and the Creed (item 77), no doubt in order not to offend.

Senn makes excellent points near the end of his paper (item 84 on page 10 and items 91, 94 and 95 on page 11). Emphases mine:

84. Lutheran laypeople used to be able to recognize Lutheran worship when they visited other congregations in the days when the Common Service was included in the hymnals of various church bodies, or when the SBH and then the LBW were in widespread use. Common Lutheran worship can no longer be presumed.

91. The question needs to be raised as to whether a common order is sufficient if common content is lacking. Historically Lutherans have been concerned about the relationship between the lex orandi (rule of prayer) and the lex credendi (rule of belief). In the nineteenth century, liturgical and confessional restoration went together. Lutherans have understood that practices influence theology.

94. Lutheran worship has always been trinitarian and Christological.
Worship is addressed to God the Holy Trinity and the content of many songs
is Christ ‘‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’’ This orthodoxy is challenged today by secular ideologies such as feminism and Pentecostal praise and worship songs that focus on Jesus and me.

95. In many congregations we have returned full circle to a situation in which the liturgy must be retrieved and restored before it can be renewed. In many other congregations, however, the seeds of liturgical renewal, planted forty years ago, are producing rich fruit.

I suspect that the Lutherans are experiencing a long-term decline in worship just as other Protestants and Catholics are. Our churches and liturgies are no longer what they were.

As I have written before (here and here), we are no longer hearing the voice of the Shepherd through our clergy and lay leaders but that of the stranger, the hired hand and the thief.

Whilst reading the Revd George Wilson’s paper ‘Clericalism: the Death of the Priesthood’ I happened upon an interesting anecdote which he related on page 10. (Main site page here.)

Catherine Doherty Madonna House site MH-sub-CDIt concerns the late Baroness Doherty and her instructions to a group from her Madonna House ministry who went to Africa. Catherine Doherty — a woman who is currently a candidate for canonisation in the Catholic Church — knew both extremes of life during the 20th century. Not only did she live from the Russian Revolution and through two world wars punctuated by the Great Depression, but she also personally experienced wealth, poverty, motherhood, a broken marriage and, finally, a return to normality in her life bolstered by faith in Jesus Christ.

These are the instructions she gave to a few members of her Madonna community destined for Africa. Fr Wilson relates the story (emphases mine):

I was very close to the Madonna House community up in Canada, the Baroness Doherty’s; it’s a lay group.  Some years ago they sent three of their members to Africa and the Baroness said to them, “Okay, you’re in Africa for three years.  I don’t want to hear that you have done anything for anybody.  You’re not there to do for anybody.”  Well, these three young people went out to Africa for three years; and they just found this unbearable: “We’re here for three years, and what have we done?  We didn’t feed the poor, we didn’t do anything.” When they left, a thousand people from the community came down to the riverside to send them off; and what the people said to them is, “You’re the only white people who ever loved us.  You lived our world.  You shared the same things.  You didn’t try to do for us.  You just were human with us.”  That’s love. 

This puts paid to all the myriad ecclesiastical ‘projects’ of all denominations which involve DOING.  Thank goodness God’s grace moved the Baroness to actually forbid her Madonna House members from engaging in semi-Pelagianism!

A thousand people equated not doing with love!

May we take a firm example from this!

That doesn’t mean we’re to sit back and neglect others. However, what Madonna House members fulfil is a mission which I suspect some of my readers in their ministries do as well. The Baroness stated:

What is Madonna House? Madonna House is a very simple thing. It is an open door. It is a cup of tea or coffee, good and hot

Madonna House is a house of hospitality. It is a place where people are received, not on their education, not on how wonderful they are as painters, or whatever they have to do; they are received simply as people. They are loved.

Please note what she had to say about poverty, which she experienced first-hand:

one of the most pressing problems of modern people is not material deprivation, such as food and shelter, but rather loneliness and a need for someone to listen to them. Our prayer-listening houses do exactly that, over a friendly cup of tea or coffee.

Some of my readers involved in ministry — particularly to young people — will know that, but may the rest of us keep this in mind.

Sometimes love is best accomplished with a Martha and Mary approach: tea and sympathy, respectively. We don’t necessarily need to be part of a formal ministry to accomplish this everyday giving which may mean a lot to someone — much more than we think.

Several years ago my better half and I watched Roman Polanski’s (yes, I know) gripping film The Pianist, starring Adrian Brody.

Brody’s character is transferred to various safe houses — flats — in order to evade the Nazis. He must be perfectly quiet at all times and be prepared to leave at any moment. At one point he is living in a block of flats and needs to get something off the top of his kitchen cabinet. Unfortunately, his tenuous grip slips and a cup or plate, if I remember rightly, falls to the floor with a crash.

He has a choice: either stay and risk a knock at the door or grab his small case with some clothes and leave the building. He opts for the latter. Just as he quietly opens his door and furtively checks to see the coast is clear, a woman comes running up the stairs to see what’s happening. She spots him and yells out, ‘Jew!  There’s a JEW in the building!’

I turned to SpouseMouse and said, ‘How long do you think smokers have?’

The hunt, repression and mistreatment of smokers has been going on for some time. Although still isolated, it is no different from 17th century witch hunts or the 20th century round-up of Jews under the Third Reich.

Frank Davis’s blog has been exploring these developments over the past few days.

Housing in California

Consider:

– The State of California passed a law, effective January 1, 2012, requiring that all landlords show what parts of multi-family dwellings are non-smoking. As Frank says, that the flipside of this is that all tenants will know which flats and open areas permit smoking.

– The City of Pasadena, California, has passed a law — also effective January 1, 2012 — requiring that all multi-tenancy buildings be non-smoking. The City says it will enforce this law and does not expect its citizens to do so.

In both instances, only tobacco smoking is mentioned. Therefore, may we assume that cannabis smoking is allowed?

Is it ethical to prohibit tobacco smoking everywhere in a community when cannabis smoking is acceptable? Cannabis has resin. Look into a well used cannabis pipe; it will be full of it with an appearance indistinguishable from tobacco tar. Cannabis also makes its users high, something one cannot say about tobacco.

Is it ethical to deprive tobacco smokers of a place to live?

Is it time for tobacco smokers to leave California? Some have lived there all their lives.

If so, where do they go?

Is it ethical to simply forbid people to smoke when they may have valid reasons for so doing? Isn’t tobacco preferable to mind-altering drugs? Do the people of California honestly think that a smoker will no longer feel any cravings living in a non-smoking city, working in a non-smoking office environment and having no place to smoke?

It’s no different from forbidding people to consume fatty snacks in the privacy of their own dwelling. I’ll be coming back to food in a future post, by the way.

After all the bogus science surrounding tobacco (see ‘The bogus science behind Tobacco Control’ on my Recipes / Health page) it seems churlish, spiteful and hateful to exclude smokers not only from employment but also to deprive them of housing.

It’s amazing that people actually believe that cigarette smoke passes through … walls! Poorly sited ventilation shafts are one thing which also allow lingering, noxious food odours to circulate into another unit (I’ve experienced them daily over a couple of years in the past) — but walls?

What are reasonable adults thinking?

Of course, California is not the only state doing this, although they are the grand engineers and originators. San Francisco is the birthplace and international HQ of Tobacco Control.

Two of Frank’s readers from California provide additional insight (emphases mine):

Tom: There w[ere] a massive amount of expensive billboard sized subway and transit signs all over downtown SF this last month that were hailing this new state law as a major victory and demanding that all renters in SF and California for that matter go to their landlords and demand full disclosure of a) where “the smokers” live and b) the dangers of SHS … it’s been highly promoted all over SF this month, encouraging people to run to landlords and complain about SHS – using highly provocative anti-smoker propaganda of the hateful and devisive variety to accomplish its goals

Tom: … Berkeley Rent Control Board makes clear, it is perfectly okay to discriminate against smokers – and another, Pasadena in SoCal making smoking illegal inside your own apartment or condo unit entirely, including balconies … now the anti-smoking industry is test-marketing new hate campaign billboards in SF for their effectiveness before springing them onto the rest of the state (and by way of international anti-smoking cohorts, elsewhere in the world, given time).

Berkeley, for example, only: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=10436

Q: Can I refuse to rent to smokers?

Yes. The fair housing laws do not specifically protect smokers, and addiction to nicotine does not qualify as a handicap for purposes of the laws protecting the rights of the disabled. Although the California Supreme Court has ruled that the Unruh Civil Rights Act bars arbitrary discrimination on the basis of a person’s “personal characteristics” (e.g., hair style) or “personal traits,” and it might be argued that refusal to rent to smokers is this type of discrimination, it is unlikely that such an argument would be successful in court because there are valid business reasons for refusing to rent to smokers, e.g., concern for the health of other tenants, fire safety, lower insurance costs, reduced cleaning and maintenance expenses. The federal Fair Housing Act, in fact, provides that a landlord is not required to rent to anyone whose tenancy would constitute a direct threat to the health and safety of others or pose a risk of damage to property. As long as a no-smoker policy is applied uniformly, it is likely to be legal.

I also found online a CDC [Center for Disease Control] federally sponsored 45 page handbook that explains step by step how to go about enacting these ordinances in other jurisdictions outside of CA (hardly a “grassroots effort” if CDC, a government taxpayer sponsored agency is providing political organizing materials and support to lobby for what the government clearly already is supporting) – but that link seems to have closed up and not handy – but it was under the CDC website, illustrating it is a government agency that is manufacturing this so-called “grassroots effort” that the anti-smoking fake-charity in SF is helping out with their hate-campaign against apartment and condo smoker posters this last month on trial run in downtown SF.

This has nothing to do with health and everything to do with hate — which is state and federally funded.

It does make one wonder how the Baby Boomer kids — the vast majority of whom either lived with smokers or encountered tobacco smoke elsewhere nearly every day — turned into such hateful and fearful people. Did our generation drop like flies? Certainly not. In fact, our parents, our children and we ourselves are promised the greatest longevity in history.

Please note that this applies only to tobacco smokers. Cannabis smokers are widely encouraged in California. Magically, second-hand cannabis smoke and residue carry no dangers or inconvenience. Therefore, whilst high, a renter can inadvertently set fire to whatever he likes. He is also free to create a mess which might also cost the landlord extra money. Anyway, isn’t that what a security deposit is for? Having rented for several years, I know that one did not get the security deposit until one vacated the premises and the landlord assessed whether he needed part of it to refurbish the flat.

Physical violence

Since paranoia about second-hand tobacco smoke has hit the media non-stop over the past decade in the United States, certain individuals have been taking matters into their own hands.

Consider:

This was supported by a comment from Tom (also in California):

Seeing smokers threatened with a beating by fist in the streets of SFthere is no link – I have seen that – with my very own eyes and encountered something very close to that personally as well. Links to one infamous SF Chronicle editorial a few years back prior to the outdoor bans from an attorney advocating violence against outdoor smokers and saying that she would defend the attackers in court and no judge would dare find the attackers in any way guilty as well as links to another infamous Asian Weekly editorial entitled “Filthy Chinese Smokers” just prior to the outdoor bans  …

Tom adds:

And I can also say, anectdotally, since I have no “link” to what I actually saw, but a perhaps mid-30′s well-dressed black professional on the corner of Diamond and Bosworth, directly across from the BART subway station, during mid-afternoon on a sunny breezy day, go up to an older white gentleman in his 50′s or 60′s who was standing to cross the street and had a cigarette in his hand – and yell at the man in his face, telling him that if he did not get away from him with that second hand smoke he was going to punch him out – to which the older man did a kind of confused laugh behind the younger man’s back after the light turned and the younger one scurried to make his distance from the older one who had the cigarette. And I have personally experienced an incident, not quite so serious but slightly surprising when it happened in downtown SF when a woman dressed in extreme finery got out of a Mercedes unbeknownst to myself, came up beside me and started screaming and thrashing her hands around my face crying that second hand smoke would get on her fancy clothes and it took her husband rushing up behind her to drag her away to the Palace Hotel, where a dinner can easily run $400 and they must have been going there for something important. There is also the matter of the “Filthy Asian Smoker” article that the Asian Times newspaper ran, condemning smokers in Chinatown, many of whom are elderly men and women in their 80′s and 90′s, and that was the kick-off for Supervisor Alioto to have smoking banned outdoors in parks, squares and plazas with a $500 fine.

Back to the body of Frank’s post:

And Michael McFadden (who lives in Philadelphia) weighed in with:

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear of isolated incidents by nuts. I have documented news stories of a 13 year old smoker being beaten to death by a 15 year old Anti, a pregnant smoker being shot for smoking while pregnant in a parking lot, a daughter being “branded” with a hot iron by her mother for smoking, a girl being strangled in her bed by a next door neighbor because the girl had shared a cig with the neighbor’s daughter, and a girl being tortured for hours with a homemade flame thrower etc because she’d smoked around a friend who was pregnant. I’ve also witnessed a smoker being severely gut-punched by a passerby at a folk festival for no apparent reason other than the smoking, and another smoker at the same festival the following year having a bedpan of urine and feces thrown at her.

If spousal abuse and child abuse disturb us, then, surely, this should, too. What people personally think of tobacco is neither here nor there.

This is assault and battery, possibly with intent to murder.

Is this the sort of society we wish to see? One hopes not.

Unfortunately, as Frank says:

it’s a development that is wholly in line with the Tobacco Control Industry’s ‘denormalisation’ programme, whereby smokers are evicted from pubs and restaurants, and thereby from society, and turned into a demonised underclass, and the object of derision, contempt, and ultimately violence.

For the truth of the matter is that, even though the top echelons of the Tobacco Control Industry generally make no explicit calls for violence against smokers, more or less everything that they do encourages precisely such violence … rather than building up fanatical support using marches and rallies, it’s built up using the mass media to continually portray smoking as a disease, and smokers as subhumans.

It’s also occurring in other Western countries:

Antipholus Papps: I was assaulted by a bicycle courier in downtown Vancouver the other week. This [guy], who spends each and every working day trailing buses, cars, and pick-ups around downtown Vancouver, took exception to me smoking on the kerb of one of Vancouver’s major arteries and slammed his bike into my leg.

Once one segment of society is seen as being less than human, it will not stop there.

Suppose that, starting tomorrow, every tobacco smoker gave up. Do people honestly think that our world would be free of scapegoats?

Who would be next? Welfare mothers? Fat people? Christians?

Shall we turn a blind eye then? If not, why do we do so now?

This post is for adults only.

Those of a sensitive disposition are also forewarned as some readers may find the content disturbing.

As the content is so distressing, I would advise people to refrain from eating whilst reading it.

Lloyd de Mause (pronounced ‘de-Moss’) is an American social thinker who specialises in psychohistory — uncovering the whys and wherefores of our behaviour over millenia.  The next few posts feature his research into child abuse and the treatment of women in societies around the world from antiquity to the present day.

You might find his research either edifying or objectionable. However, it will provide food for thought, especially to readers who have ever wondered why so many children are treated as being lower than animals. These excerpts from deMause’s The Origins of War in Child Abuse and his 1997 lecture, ‘The History of Child Abuse’, will shed light on what might be atavistic human traits or learned behaviour.

I do not agree with de Mause’s conclusion that laws against corporal punishment and obligatory visits by ‘child helpers’ will produce a kinder, less violent society. I can think of real life examples for and against.

De Mause also believes that less corporal punishment will give way to fewer wars. I’m not sure about that, either. Fallen man will always look for violence and subjugation of another. Just read the news in peacetime. Some of the suspects had violent upbringings, others did not.

Content and summaries below are from de Mause’s lecture, ‘The History of Child Abuse’. Emphases are mine.

De Mause states that children have been beaten, molested, starved and sacrificed since ancient times in cultures around the world through to the present day. He posits that abusive parents and other adults view children as ‘poison containers’:

receptacles into which adults project disowned parts of their psyches, so they can control these feelings in another body without danger to themselves.

An abusive mother often feels insecure and unloved:

As one battering mother put it, “I have never felt loved all my life. When the baby was born, I thought he would love me. When he cried, it meant he didn’t love me. So I hit him.² Rather than the child being able to use the parent to detoxify its fears and anger, the parent instead injects his or her bad feelings into the child and uses it to cleanse his or herself of depression and anger.

A more complex, socially acceptable example is that of the Bimin-Kuskusmin of New Guinea, where it is taboo for a woman who has recently given birth to sleep with her husband. Consequently, the mother sleeps with the child and transfers her sexual feelings and gestures to them, particularly to sons. As this separation from the husband can last up to four years, a frustrated mother can cause a small boy pain in his genital area:

One three-year-old boy describes how whenever his mother was sad or angry she masturbated him so roughly that it hurt him, and he struggled to get away, complaining of a pain in his penis. “It hurts inside,² he told the ethnologist. “It goes Œkoong, koong, koong’ inside. I think it bleeds in there I don’t like to touch it anymore …”

The boy told the ethnologist that in order to overcome the pain in his privates, he cut himself on the leg, thereby creating a new pain which distracted him from the original one.

De Mause observes:

Boys in many New Guinea groups today, for instance, are so traumatized by the early erotic experiences, neglect and assaults on their bodies that they need to prove their masculinity when they grow up and become fierce warriors and cannibals, with a third of them dying in raids and wars. In fact, I have found that rather than the incest taboo being universal–as anthropologists claim–it is incest itself that has been universal for most children in most cultures in most times. A childhood more or less free from adult sexual use is in fact a very late historical achievement, limited to a few fortunate children in a few modern nations.

He then looks at late 20th century statistics on incest in the United States, Canada, Latin America,  England and Germany. I couldn’t help think of the eagerness of education ‘experts’ to push for sex education among younger and younger children in our schools when I read this:

In America … Adjusting statistically for what is known about these additional factors [those from higher risk groups who were not interviewed, e.g. criminals, psychotics, prostitutes], I have concluded that the real sexual abuse rate for America is 60 percent for girls and 45 percent for boys, about half of these directly incestuous.

A recent Canadian study by Gallup of 2,000 adults has produced incidence rates almost exactly the same as those found in the United States. Latin American family sexual activity–particularly widespread pederasty as part of macho sexuality–is considered even more widespread. In England, a recent BBC “ChildWatch” program asked its female listeners–a large though admittedly biased sample–if they remembered sexual molestation, and, of the 2,530 replies analyzed, 83 percent remembered someone touching their genitals, 62 percent recalling actual intercourse. In Germany, the Institut für Kindheit has recently concluded a survey asking West Berlin schoolchildren about their sexual experiences, and 80 percent reported having been molested.

Of India, he states:

Childhood in India begins, according to observers, with the child being regularly masturbated by the mother, the girl “to make her sleep well,” the boy “to make him manly.” The child sleeps in the family bed, witnesses and most likely takes part in sexual intercourse between the parents

Child marriage was, of course, a long-standing Indian practice. When laws were passed in 1929 trying to outlaw it, the government was overwhelmed by men insisting that early marriage was an absolute necessity, since little girls were naturally very sexual and must be married early if they are to be restrained from seducing adults …

The Indian subcontinent, in fact, still has many groups, such as the Baiga, where actual incestuous marriage is practiced, between fathers and daughters, between mothers and sons, between siblings and even between grandparents and their grandchildren–thus disproving the oft-repeated anthropological truism that “no known tribe has ever permitted incest” because if it were allowed society would surely cease functioning. In many of these villages, the children move at the age of 5 or 6 from the incestuous activities of the family bed to spend the rest of their childhood in sex dormitories, where they are initiated by older youth and men into intercourse with a succession of other children, none for longer than three days at a time, under threat of gang rape.

China’s social history, he says, shows:

the same institutionalized rape rituals as in India, including the pederasty of boys, child concubinage, the castration of boys to be used sexually as eunuchs, marriage of young girls to a number of brothers, widespread boy and girl prostitution and the regular sexual use of child servants and slaves. So prevalent was the rape of little girls that Western doctors found that, as in India, few girls entering puberty had intact hymens. Even the universal practice of foot binding was for sexual purposes, with a girl undergoing extremely painful crushing of the bones of her feet for years in order that men could make love to her big toe as a fetish …

Childhood in Japan:

still includes masturbation by mothers “to put them to sleep.” Parents often have intercourse with their children in bed with them, and “co-sleeping,” with parents physically embracing the child, often continues until the child is ten or fifteen. One recent Japanese study found daughters sleeping with their fathers over 20 percent of the time after age 16. Recent sex surveys report memories of sexual abuse even higher than comparable American studies, and “hot lines” of sexual abuse report mother-son incest in almost a third of the calls … Even today, there are rural areas in Japan where fathers marry their daughters when the mother has died or is incapacitated, “in accordance with feudal family traditions.”

In the Middle East:

Historically, all the institutionalized forms of pedophilia which were customary in the Far East are documented extensively for the Near East, including child marriage, child concubinage, temple prostitution of both boys and girls, parent-child marriage (among the Zoroastrians), sibling marriage (quite common among Egyptians), sex slavery, ritualized pederasty and child prostitution. Masturbation in infancy is said to be necessary “to increase the size” of the penis, and older siblings are reported to play with the genitals of babies for hours at a time. Mutual masturbation, fellatio and anal intercourse are also said to be common among children, particularly with the older boys using younger children as sex objects. The nude public baths (hammam) are particularly eroticized in many areas, being especially notorious as a place of homosexual acts, both male and female.

Girls are used incestuously even more often than boys, since females are valued so little. One report found 80 percent of Near Eastern women surveyed recalled having been forced into fellatio between the ages of 3 and 6 by older brothers, cousins, uncles and teachers. The girls rarely complain, since “if there is any punishment to be meted out, it will always end up by being inflicted on her.” Arab women know that their spouses are pedophiles and prefer having sex with children to having sex with them. Their retribution comes as follows. When the girl is about 6 years old, the women of the house grab her, pull her thighs apart and cut off her clitoris and often also her labia with a razor, thus usually ending her ability to feel sexual pleasure forever.

De Mause views the clitoridectomy as an act of incest. Of genital mutilation of girls and boys, he says:

In all these cases, the child is being used for the sadistic sexual pleasure of the parent. In fact, circumcision ceremonies are often followed by drinking parties that end in intercourse, so sexually arousing is the circumcision—in some areas, the traveling circumcizer is actually accompanied by some prostitutes, who know how sexually excited villages become after the ceremony …

Oh, the carnality of it all. If this does not illustrate man at his hungriest for flesh to abuse, then what does?

Any time that people lust after flesh, whether to beat it or abuse it sexually, they would do well to ask why they feel that need. Sadly, most who engage in this practice are too caught up in flesh to step back for a moment to examine their thoughts and desires.

De Mause explains how the child as ‘poison container’ works in contemporary Greece:

As one peasant community in rural Greece puts it, you must have children around to put your bad feelings into, especially when the “Bad Hour” comes around. An informant describes the process as follows:

One of the ways for the Bad Hour to occur is when you get angry. When you’re angry a demon gets inside of you. Only if a pure individual passes by, like a child for instance, will the “bad” leave you, for it will fall on the unpolluted.

Newborn infants, in particular, were perfect poison containers because they were so “unpolluted.” The newborn then became so full of the parent’s projections that even if he or she is allowed to live (up to half the children in early societies were murdered at birth), the infant had to be tied up–tightly swaddled in bandages for up to a year or more—to prevent it from “tearing its ears off, scratching its eyes out, breaking its legs, or touching its genitals,” i.e., to prevent it from acting out the violent and sexual projections of the parents.

It seems to me from personal observation that many adults coo over a tiny infant only to demonise it when it starts developing an inquisitive nature or personality a few years later. The much loved, much indulged baby becomes a ‘little devil’ or, more benignly, an ‘imp’ or a ‘rascal’. Admittedly, most of us tested the waters in our early years, but observe how quickly adult opprobrium sets in and lasts until our adulthood. Then, it often reverts back to indulgence, excuse-making and the need of the parent for the child.

I know a number of middle-aged married American mothers who say of their adult offspring, ‘I hope they don’t move away. I need all my babies around me’, or ‘All my children and their families live within a three-block radius; they are there when I need them’.

So, it seems that once trained to be independent, the parent views the adult child as cleansed anew — reborn, as it were — and becomes a revered ‘poison container’ for the parent’s anxieties and fears in their advancing years.

This, too, is something which seems to have gone on since time began.  Perhaps it is a good thing in that a parent finally feels free and able to invest positive emotional energy in the adult child. However, in a pathological situation, it happens when the child has his best years ahead of him personally and professionally. In the worst sense, the parent is still controlling the child’s development, dreams and aspirations.  In this case, the parent still relies on carnality and the need for the ‘poison container’.

De Mause points out that anxious adults used children as sacrificial poison containers to ensure commercial and other successes. Child sacrifice was a means of appeasing the gods, a practice that began in pagan times and continues into the present day:

Typical was Carthage, where a large cemetery has been discovered called The Tophet filled with over 20,000 urns deposited there between 400 and 200 B.C. The urns contained bones of children sacrificed by their parents, who often would make a vow to kill their next child if the gods would grant them a favor–for instance, if their shipment of goods were to arrive safely in a foreign port. Some urns contain the bones of stillborn babies along with the bones of two-year-olds, indicating that if the promised child was not born alive, an older child had also to be killed to satisfy the promise. The sacrifice was accompanied by a music, wild dancing and riotous orgy, and was probably accompanied by the ritual rape of virgin girls, as it was with the Incans. Plutarch told how the priests would “cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan [while] the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums…” Sacrifice, rape and genital mutilation of young girls continues to take place today in the Andean mountains, particularly to ward off the guilt coming after successful cocaine deliveries. These ceremonies, from antiquity to today, resemble closely the satanic rituals made familiar recently in the newspapers, using the infliction of rape, sexual mutilation and other horrors in order to visit upon child victims elements of the traumas of the satanists’ own childhood.

Furthermore:

That child sacrifice was carried out mainly by the rich in each of these early societies confirms my theory that it is a guilt-reducing technique. Whenever new ventures were begun, children would be sacrificed. Whenever a new building or bridge was built, a child would be buried within it as a “foundation sacrifice.” Children still play at capturing a child and making it part of the bridge in “London Bridge’s Falling Down.” Children’s bodies were particularly useful in curing disease. Whatever one’s physical ills, a child could be used to “absorb” the poison that was responsible. When, for instance, one wanted to be cured of leprosy, one was supposed to kill a child and wash one’s body in its blood. When one wanted to find out if a house whose previous occupants had died of plague was still infected or not, one rented some children to live in it for several weeks to see if they died–rather like the use of canaries in mines to detect poisonous gas. When one was impotent, depressed or had venereal disease, doctors prescribed having intercourse with a child. As late as the end of the nineteenth century, men who were brought into Old Bailey for having raped young girls were let go because “they believed that they were curing themselves of venereal disease.” Raping virgins was particularly effective for impotence and depression; as one medical book put it, “Breaking a maiden’s seal is one of the best antidotes for one’s ills. Cudgeling her unceasingly, until she swoons away, is a might remedy for man’s depression. It cures all impotence.” And, of course, whenever a parent had a disease, they always had their children handy to absorb the poison. Thus British doctors in the nineteenth century regularly found when visiting men who had venereal disease that their children also had the same disease–on their mouths, anuses or genitals.

De Mause sees the advancement of women as the way out of this situation. He theorises that the better women are able to mother, the better off families — and societies — are. And the way for them to become better mothers is by coming to grips with their past — especially the traumas:

The crucial relationship in this evolution is the mother-daughter relationship. If little girls are treated particularly badly, they grow up to be mothers who cannot rework their traumas, and history is frozen. For instance, although China was ahead of the West in most ways during the pre-Christian era, it became “frozen” and fell far behind the West in evolutionary social and technological change after it adopted the practice of footbinding girls. Similarly, the clitoridectomy of girls in Moslem societies has inhibited their social development for centuries, since it likewise puts a brake on the ability of the next generation of mothers to make progress in caring for their children.

However, there is more complexity to this than meets the eye, because we have all been conditioned not only by our family influences, but those which are cultural and historical as well. More on this tomorrow.

Meanwhile, let this serve as a message that we should not be regressing to the past, as Christian complementarians and their Muslim counterparts would have us do, but to move forward in God’s grace to make use of all the precious gifts He has given us and our offspring. If there is one thing in this life we really should do ‘for the children’, this is it.

Tomorrow: De Mause’s six childrearing modes

Over Christmas, the other site where I blog — Orphans of Liberty — featured a post entitled ‘What Political Correctness Is Leading To …’

In it, JuliaM wonders if the British could soon begin reacting in the same relativistic way as Canadian students do to honour maimings.

The post refers to an article by Dr Stephen L Anderson, ‘Moments of Startling Clarity: Moral Education Programming in Ontario Today’ (p. 26 of PDF and here on Scribd).  It appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of the OSSTF/FEESO Education Forum magazine.

Anderson teaches in a secondary school in Ontario. In 2010, he completed his thesis on the Character Education movement. He describes his class’s reaction to a photo of a young Afghani bride, Bibi Aisha, whose family cut off her nose and ears. The distressing photo is on page 26. Before going into this in more detail, readers will be relieved to know that a Jewish surgeon has since reconstructed Aisha’s nose.

I recall reading the horrifying story whilst on the way home from work one evening several years ago.   Anderson takes it up in more detail (emphases mine):

Aisha was the Afghani teenager who was forced into an abusive marriage with a Taliban fighter, who abused her and kept her with his animals. When she attempted to flee, her family caught her, hacked off her nose and ears, and left her for dead in the mountains. After crawling to her grandfather’s house, she was saved by a nearby American hospital. I felt quite sure that my students, seeing the suffering of this poor girl of their own age, would have a clear ethical reaction, from which we could build toward more difficult cases.

However, such was not to be the case in Anderson’s ‘Character Development’ class. Students’ reactions included the following:

Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.

It’s just wrong to judge other cultures.

And this one, which is the worst of all:

I don’t feel anything at all; I see lots of this kind of stuff.

Really? In Ontario? In magazines? Shocking.

Anderson adds:

My class was “character developed” and had all the “traits” in place. They were honest — very frank in their views. They had empathy — extending it in equal measure to Aisha and to the demented subculture that sliced her up. They were accepting — even of child mutilation. And they persevered — no matter how I prodded they did not leave their nonjudgmental position. I left that class shaking my head. It seemed clear to me that for some students — clearly not all — the lesson of character education initiatives is acceptance of all things at all costs. While we may hope some are capable of bridging the gap between principled morality and this ethically vacuous relativism, it is evident that a good many are not. For them, the overriding message is “never judge, never criticize, never take a position.”

That’s a frightening reality. Would those students care if that occurred next door to them? Or would they say, ‘Well, it’s their culture. That’s what they do’?

On the other hand, as Anderson acknowledges, the same students would be pushing for various rights of Western groups of people. Yet, this girl’s mutilation, which happened half a world away, is merely excused.

Anderson writes:

The problem with “Character Development” programs is that they are really lists of verbs masquerading as nouns. For example, “tolerance” only looks like a noun: but really has no meaning until we add an object to it — we have to ask, “Tolerate what?” Likewise, “courage” can take various referents: one can be a courageous rescuer or a courageous liar — but nothing substantive is taught by the general directive to be “courageous.” Again, “honesty” looks universally good: but only until you consider how hurtful a direct answer can sometimes be, or how excessive forthrightness can expose innocent others to danger or foment rumours, when indirectness or silence might not.

Nothing in the package passed down to the schools by the Ministry, Finding Common Ground: Character Development in Ontario Schools, K-12, addresses these sorts of worries. It comes with no means for assessing the real results it claims to produce. Consider your own school: has there been any attempt at all to measure the outcomes? How many “bad” kids have been made “good?” How much violence has been curbed? How many incidents of prejudice have been prevented? Do we know for certain that the activities promoted by our character clubs have any verifiable impact on their fellow students, or are we just hoping some good is being done?

From what I read in the papers, it seems that our youth are more violent than ever before. Unthinkable things occur every day in primary and secondary schools in Western countries: stabbings, shootings and martial arts kicks which are often fatal.  Yet, hardly anyone — including teachers — condemns it. Often we read in a newspaper report statements such as, ‘He’s a good kid, really’ or ‘He was a victim of his environment’.  That old canard: ‘Society’s to blame’. Clergy also participate in this, as we have seen in the Church of England’s justification of the London Riots.

Having taught and studied the Character Development movement, Anderson concludes:

I don’t believe that character education is the panacea that they claim it is. The more you know about the history of the program, and the more you understand how irrational its sponsoring theories are, the more reason you have to be skeptical. It is simply a bizarre mix of Neo-Aristotelian virtue language, Kolbergian developmentalism and American-style Character Education ideology. It has no internal logic.

I’m not saying that character education is itself destructive, just blandly ineffective. Yet there are some situations in which something benign becomes malignant through the expectations that are placed on it

The danger appears when we expect it to be some sort of remedy to real-world social dysfunction and we begin to think that schools are addressing that. In truth, we might not be strengthening the moral integrity of our students; in fact, we could be weakening it— particularly in respect to their ability to form and hold moral convictions ...

Today, character education is the darling of moral educators in Ontario; but tomorrow we will see if this “emperor” has any clothes. At present, we are trying to create character without reference to moral substance. If our current programs ultimately leave students incapable of sustaining principled ethical commitments, then we will have prepared a new public with greater empathy with moral relativism, an instinctive respect for unjust cultures and regimes, and perhaps even a high tolerance for cruelty. But then we will have to add “moral education” to our list of oxymorons.

I took an ethics class in secondary school. Had this happened then, the teacher would have asked if there was ever any moral justification for such an act. I expect we would have replied that it was barbaric and horrifying.  It would be hard to imagine anyone saying that it was all right given the culture.

But then, that was Catholic school in the 1970s and not a secular one of the 21st century where, as Anderson states, a moral code is lacking.

We can come up with any number of excuses for actions which deprive people of their imago Dei and personal freedom.  If the State passes a health law such as the smoking ban or minimum-priced drink, we rationalise it as being ‘for our protection’.  If we go through intensive body scans at airports, it’s ‘for everyone’s security’. If a husband or father maims or kills his wife or offspring, it’s because the ‘honour of the family is at stake’. And so it goes.

The salami slicer and boiling frog metaphors come to mind. Whatever next?

Tomorrow: Cultural relativism in the UK

 

Yesterday’s post listed a few sites where people could buy products made in their own countries. As Christmas is practically around the corner, it seemed apposite.

Today, we’ll see what exactly is behind buying nationally. Some might ask, ‘After all, aren’t we a global economy now?’  Whilst that is true, there is still scope to think of one’s country first. Behind this are are socio-economic reasons concerning national identity and local workmanship.

Bob Theisz’s Made in Canada website simply states that the objective is to help Canadians buy Canadian products. It carries a banner saying ‘Proud to be Canadian’.

In France, an article at La Fabrique Hexagonale points out that fewer than 20% of Renault vehicles are now made in country; some of Air France’s maintenance has been farmed out to China and the Dannemarie factory which produces motors for scooters is closing.  Despite that, the article states that it’s still possible to buy products which are made in France.

Similarly, Madine France reminds us that just because a label says ‘Made in France’ doesn’t mean that it is completely manufactured and assembled there.  Their objective is to promote French quality, keep present and future jobs in France and preserve sustainability with lower, local transport costs.  They point out that nearly half of French people are willing to pay 5% to 10% more for nationally-made products.

Stephen Gately of BuyAustralianMade describes similar objectives in outlining the Australia he ‘would like to see’: one which is self-determining, ‘self-sustaining’ and ‘provides an increasing range of valuable employment opportunities for all’. His consumers’ page displays a variety of Australian-made products.

BuyBritish.com urges Britons to help get ‘British Industry back on the road to recovery’. Site creator Tom Mawhood tells us more, in part (emphases mine):

Buy British – genuine British – items which have been majority manufactured here with British jobs – this was a major campaign in the 70’s when I was a child and one which urgently needs to be engaged with – we need to invoke a pride in British produce and generate enough demand to ensure that there is competition and therefore high standards …

Farming – how many 000’s of acres are … set aside – let’s get these productive again creating more jobs and generating more foodstuffs – we could return to fresh produce as opposed to processed produce requiring tins, packaging, and so on …

Family values – we need to be encouraged to once again look after our own and take responsibility for our families. Perhaps a step back to a 6 day week with Sundays a day of rest with no shops open to enable everyone to pursue some leisure and or family interests – we all deserve a quality of life …

Mawhood’s site has a rating system which describes to what extent his listed products are made in Britain.

Globalisation has its benefits, however, many online commentators are pointing out that its principal purpose appears to be keeping wages down to benefit multinationals.  Meanwhile, many small and medium enterprises find themselves wrapped up in red tape. Who among us benefits from that? I prefer to buy locally and nationally when I can and am sorry to find that some of our British businesses have gone to the wall over the past few years whilst others have been taken over by multinational firms which have no problem closing operations and offshoring thousands of jobs.

This brings me to Roger Simmermaker’s How Americans Can Buy American. Simmermaker is an electronics technician and vice president of his local Machinists Union (IAM&AW). He also makes a number of television news appearances.  His book — which has the same title as his website — explains his position in more detail. Like his Australian, British and French counterparts, he states:

Real wages for working Americans have plummeted 19% since 1972 – about the same time we entered into a so-called “global economy.” We only vote for our representatives every two or four years, but we vote with our wallets and checkbooks every day!

How Americans Can Buy American puts the steering wheel controlling our nation’s fate in the hands of those who care about it most – The American People. The time has come for ordinary Americans to take control of America’s destiny.

Like many others, I miss the days when we bought products made in our own countries.  This situation reminded me of an American advertisement which those aged 45 and over might remember.  It’s from the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), which merged with a few other smaller unions in 1995.  Whilst I am not a big union supporter, these people did bring American women high-quality garments, cut and sewn to last for years. This advert is the 1978 version with the familiar song — written by an ILGWU member — which they used for several years in their advertising. Even then, American clothing jobs were being sent overseas, as you find out in the introduction:

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