Thursday, July 26, 2012

A John C. Wright sampler--just because I'm lazy

Ladies and gentlemen, I've been trying to write philosophy lately. When I do this, my blogging usually suffers. Or maybe it would place the emphasis more correctly to say that blogging is bad for my philosophy writing. Whichever, I've been having some trouble thinking of what to blog about. So, in an idle moment (ah, idle hands are the Devil's workplace), I wandered over to John C. Wright's blog. I can't remember who first mentioned Wright to me, so I won't blame anyone else for it.

Wright is a science fiction writer, but I scarcely ever read science fiction and can't speak to the quality of his. I think of him as a unique Catholic blogger. Converted from atheism to Catholicism by a combination of mugged-by-reality moments and a series of highly dramatic events, Wright could now be called the king of highly educated and unabashedly Christian blogospheric vituperation against all the right people.

If you like your bloggers suave and gentlemanly, don't read John C. Wright. If you are deeply concerned about any rough treatment whatsoever of commentators, don't read John C. Wright. If you think that I am overly harsh in my blogging manner, either at What's Wrong With the World or here at Extra Thoughts, you definitely don't want to read Wright, because he makes me look like the sweetest little old lady ever to let a Boy Scout lead her across the street, thanking him demurely on the other side.

On the other hand, if you like the quotations below, you might want sometimes to go and read John C. Wright.

On the insane media speculation about the Tea Party after the Aurora massacre:

(As of the time of this writing, Mr Ross has not been fired, or even censured, for this slander presented as news to a trusting and nationwide audience. If he has issued an official apology, I am unaware of it.)
Of my other thoughts, I will be silent. But I will add my voice to the choir of condemnation against the mainstream media:
You are vermin.
I mean this in the literal sense: a vermin is an animal that destroys livestock and must be put down for human life to be successful.
You could have been newsmen and told the truth as you knew it.
You could have been gentlemen and told the truth without a sick and sadistic desire to fatten yourselves on the blood of the slain, and then spew out that blood, mixed with bile, into to faces of your political rivals in the game of power. You could have been polite, and civil, and honest, and sane.
You could have been human.
But no. The most vicious town gossip who seeks ever to destroy the reputation and blacken the character of an enemy never launched so quickly and so immediately a campaign to stir up slander, hate, and malice against an innocent foe. [snip]
Can you imagine if someone in your neighborhood did this? Suppose every crime committed in the neighborhood was blamed by your next door neighbor’s wife on you. Each time, there is no evidence. Nor has the young man ever done anything wrong. Each time the accusation is immediate, utterly baseless, and it does not matter what the crime is. Purse snatched? You get blamed. Power line down? You get blamed. Car stolen? You get blamed. How long would it take before you became convinced that your neighbor’s wife was a lunatic with no ability to control herself, no ability to tell the truth, a nutcase in a delirium? Five times? I have listed more than that right here. 
And what if your lunatic neighbor’s wife was getting paid for her ability to report the facts honestly and fairly. It is how she makes her money. What then? At what point would you become convinced she was your deadly enemy?
 On G.K. Chesterton:

He is a trenchant observer of the inevitable evil resulting from attempting to reorder human society by the arid theories of intellectuals, and a Jeremiah of the brutality and nastiness which results from a culture that allows for such monstrosities as eugenics produces; and I do not mean by breeding, I mean by the process that selects who shall organize the state, and have absolute power.
He is also an ignoramus of staggering proportion when it comes to basic matters concerning political economy. His criticism of the free market consists of a belief that the poor are wretchedly poor because the rich derive wealth from the poverty of the poor. Poverty exists because the rich, merely by wishing the poverty into existence, create it. Once the poor are wretchedly poor, only then will they be cowed enough to work in factories. Chesterton, with a straight face, announces that the poor who are moderately poor do not seek wages, and rich people do not seek to hire them.
He also thinks the rich could wish poverty out of being using the same magic power that they used to wish it into being, but that they selfishly refuse to use this power, because, if the poor were not wretched, the factories would find no employees, and the rich would be less rich. I am frankly baffled, in this analysis, what Chesterton thinks the factory owners do with manufactured goods once they are produced: if the rich had the power to wish wealth into being, would they not wish for wealthy customers to buy their goods? If no one buys the goods, what good are they?
Chesterton concludes his (ahem) ‘analysis’ by saying that the rich have unwisely ‘allowed’ the poor to multiply in great numbers, so that the overpopulation would increase the labor supply and drive down the height of wages: but they miscalculated in their villainy, and now they fear the numbers of the poor they way the Pharaoh feared the swelling ranks of the Hebrews. The Eugenics movement of the 1910′s was a plot by the wealthy to control the numbers of the poor, who, apparently, can magically raise population rates when it suits them, but not lower them again.
He also pauses to call the rich all the usual nasty names that writers blissfully ignorant of economics call them: parasites, robbers, flint-hearted sinners, etc. Apparently wealth merely exists as a given, appearing naturally for no cause and at no cost, like manna from heaven, but the rich (somehow) with their hoodoo magic have usurped all the wealth, so the manna meant for us falls only on them. This is the economic theory of a cargo-cultist.
Wright's dealings with some anti-capitalist commentators in the comments thread on the Chesterton post are also interesting, and, in a wicked hour, make for fun reading for a free marketer.

On some recent indications in neuroscience that some people allegedly in a "persistent vegetative state" may actually be conscious:
As a science fiction writer, the implications have been explored many times in fiction, because we are discussing a possible system of mechanical telepathy. [snip]
As a philosopher, I assume these are the researchers of the same caliber who earlier proved that men lack free will, because neurological studies show brain activity accompanies the reported awareness of a decision to move a finger.  The logical conclusion to draw is that ambiguous neuroscience makes for bad philosophy and worse theology.  My warning to experts is not to venture out of the field of your expertise without a warning to your audience, lest they give your words undue weight.
As a loyal son of the Catholic Church, my reaction to the article in general is less than moderate: In your face, culture of death! The science you worship instead of use now has some evidence that you are killing living souls in your grotesque love of euthanasia: and you call us backward and superstitious? We were here before you! You generation of vipers, you selfish bastards, how shall you escape the wrath to come?
When Terri Schiavo was killed in her bed by the state of Florida, and the press and the governor of the state stood by sitting on their hands, ignoring the weeping parents, and the culture of death celebrated in unseemly if not satanic glee, declaring that Schiavo had earned the privilege of starving to death, dying slowly by inches by dehydration.
The generation of vipers was too kind hearted to take a gun to her temple and shoot, as one would do to kill a mad dog or broken-legged horse, or kill her with lethal injection or electrocution as one would do with a condemned criminal, or slit her wrists. Instead, due to the legal nicety which somehow declared feeding and watering a sick person to be “extraordinary life support” we starved her to death.
Now comes this johnny-come-lately scientific evidence to support what the Church has always known: they you cannot write off a living human being “as good as dead” and play God, and grant death, without running an inhuman risk.
To the living patient unable to move or speak and convince her killers that she is still alive, this is a scene out of some Poe terror tale of premature burial. That the killers would decide to kill you slowly by inches, when you cannot even beg for death, merely adds horror to the terror, a grotesque irony, for which the perpetrators will have to pay and double again in purgatory or in hell, when the books of their deeds are opened and read aloud.
On basic economics and Obamacare (and Medicare, for that matter):
It is obvious that lowering the rate of reimbursement for medicaid means that more patients will see fewer doctors who therefore will see each patient for less time or not at all.
For a variety of reasons, the poor are on average sicker and sick longer than the rich. When the medical care is cut, it is not going to be “Robin Hood” style cut from the rich and given to the poor. It is going to be cut for everyone, because more demand is being put into the system, and less supply being supplied.
The number of doctors refusing to see medicare patients, on the ground that they government does not actually pay enough to pay for the service provided, surely must increase.
It is a rule of economics. You cannot keep your cake and eat it, too. There is no such thing as a free lunch. You cannot ration a good without producing a shortage of the good, because rationing forces the resources to seek a more economical use. Rationing produces waste, and waste creates an incentive for resources to move elsewhere, namely to a good or service or field where there is some return or reward for one’s efforts. 
There now. I don't have to blog this week. Wright did it for me. Heh. Thanks, Mr. Wright.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Turning things upside down

I've already written about Obama's "you didn't build that" comment in a post here.

Here at Extra Thoughts I want to bring out something I mentioned at W4 only in comments. One of the most trenchant points about what Obama said was made by Lawrence Auster:
Here, perhaps, is the ultimate sin of leftism in general and of Obama in particular: Obama treats the people who, through their efforts, have created wealth and all sorts of benefits to society, as though they were parasites. In short, he treats good as evil.
This is what we see the left doing elsewhere as well. According to the left, women can be men, men can be women, men can "marry" men, good, decent people are evil homophobes.  Criminals are good guys, and defenders of the innocent are scary gun-toters just waiting to kill somebody innocent. Probably you can think of some even better examples.

Obama is just continuing in that tradition. Instead of lauding the producers of wealth--indeed, the producers who also produce the tax money to fund various government programs--Obama treats them as being in need of a good talking to, a good chiding, to remind them that they are not really the producers, that "somebody else did that." And think how much better this producers-as-parasites meme makes people feel who actually aren't contributing anything of value to society. People like this fellow, perhaps. Ha! Those so-called "wealth creators" are the real parasites, so presumably professional panhandlers are...who knows...philosophers, the ones really giving something profound and important to us all. Or something like that. This is, of course, the philosophy of Occupy and of Communism. The "evil capitalists" are the parasites and the thieves, living off of everybody else. And "everybody else" needs to rise up and take it from them. 

More anon, including some quotes about cluelessness about where wealth comes from. I'm planning a post containing some bon mots (or is that "bons mot"?) from John C. Wright--a real character of a blogger if I've ever seen one. Sneak preview: Wright's post on the, shall we say, weaknesses of Chesterton's economics. Enjoy (if you're the kind of person to enjoy that kind of thing).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It is finished

The other day I heard "I Will Glory in the Cross" on the car radio. It's been a long time since I heard it. Good song written by Dottie Rambo. (Ignore the slightly odd video that goes with this nice vocal performance.)

What is the significance of the final line? "I will weep no more for the cross that He bore. I will glory in the cross."

Here we cannot ignore a parting of the ways between a generally Catholic and a generally Protestant sensibility. One need only think of the fact that Catholics have crucifixes and Protestants have, if anything, plain crosses. (Some are even uncomfortable with that.) To a certain kind of evangelical Protestant mind, we should no longer think of Jesus on the cross but only of Jesus' victory over death. It is finished. Jesus has accomplished his work, and we should not harrow our feelings or our thoughts by meditating on Jesus on the cross. There are deep theological waters here, for we could get into the specifically Roman Catholic notion of the sacrifice of the Mass, which goes beyond the more general Anglican concept of the Real Presence. But let's not actually go that far. Let's just ask about this question of thinking of Jesus on the cross.

Without getting into the specific theology of the Lord's Supper, we can remember that Jesus said, "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show the Lord's death till he come." So for all Christians, including memorialists, there is supposed to be at least one time in their regular Christian practice when they do meditate on Jesus on the cross--namely, at Communion. This makes it a pretty hard thing to argue that a crucifix and meditation thereon is actually unbiblical or theologically incorrect.

Well, what about the Apostle Paul's statement that he glories in the cross? Does that mean that we should "weep no more" over the suffering of the cross? It's important to realize just what a shocking thing that was to his audience. Both to Jews and to Gentiles, it was a real scandal, a stumblingblock, to glory in the cross, to worship a crucified Savior, and to take the cross as a symbol of one's religion. Crucifixion was an entirely concrete matter to first-century inhabitants of the Roman empire, and a horrifying business it was. Paul is certainly deliberately engaging in a reversal of the usual thought processes both of his own Jewish people and of his Gentile audience when he says that he glories in the cross. Does this mean that we should entirely transform the cross into a symbol of victory over death?

I think we should be willing to weep over the cross. In that sense, much as I like the song, I don't agree with the strictly literal meaning of that line. If we truly "show the Lord's death," if we want to remember His death and thank him for it, we will have compassion on His sufferings, we will be filled with awe at what He suffered for us, and we may even weep for the cross that He bore.

Gratitude is one reason for this, but I think there is another: Jesus' sufferings are over, but there are others whose sufferings are not over. At this very day and hour, at this very moment, there are people suffering all over the world. Some of them are suffering torture and death for the cause of Christ. Some of them are just suffering--chronic pain, illness, torture, murder, grief, total loss, mental illness. Sufferings innumerable. On the cross Jesus took all the pains, griefs, and sins of mankind upon Himself. When we meditate on Jesus' cross, we acknowledge the pain of mankind and the evil of man toward man which is such a weight and a darkness upon the earth.

And we see how all of that can be swallowed up in victory.

That point is the truth in "weep no more for the cross that he bore." Not taken literally, but taken to refer to the fact that Jesus' death gives meaning to human pain and suffering and ultimately conquers it. That is why we can glory in the cross. Ultimately it is about both suffering and victory, and our meditation should cover both. Not either/or. In worshiping Jesus as the crucified Savior, thinking of Jesus as the crucified Savior, we are both acknowledging the reality of evil and suffering and also the reality of its ultimate defeat. So we weep. And then we weep no more. We glory in the cross.