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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your respectfully genial host John Derbyshire.
Let me just unpack that modifying adverb before we proceed. Today, Friday, is Good Friday in the Christian calendar, and also the beginning of Passover in the Jewish calendar. That's just a coincidence. It doesn't happen that often. The Jewish calendar is lunar; Passover begins at a full moon, which can happen any day of the week; and the way the math works, Passover and Good Friday can be almost a month apart. Still, for religious people in the Western traditions, the coincidence makes for a more than usually solemn few days.
There's been a religious aspect to the news this week too. There was of course the disastrous fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris; but there were also some religiously-colored exchanges in our politics that I shall mention.
Being temperamentally irreligious, I come at these topics from the outside, so to speak, but respectfully.
What is it that I respect? Reality, as best I can apprehend it. I respect reality. Water is wet; fire burns; the Solar System has so many major planets, in such-and-such orbits. That's reality.
In the human sphere, obviously religious feelings are a core feature of human nature. That's reality, too — human reality. Individual human beings may be more or less susceptible to religion, just as individuals are more or less appreciative of music, and a few are tone deaf — totally un-appreciative.
Likewise some people, for example me, are irreligious; but that's not the human norm. There are even times, in certain moods, when I regret being irreligious. I remember Tennyson's lines:
Why should a man desire in any way
You can't have sensible opinions about human affairs, or make intelligent commentary on the human world, as I am paid to do, by wishing human nature is something different from what it is, any more than you could make intelligent commentary about astronomy by starting from the premise there are 99 major planets in the Solar System.
In fact, at risk of stretching a point too far, I believe many of the greatest follies and cruelties of mankind arise from wishing human nature is something different from what it is.
That's way too much philosophizing, though. Let's get to the news.
02 — South Bend is a dump. Three weeks ago I passed some noncommittal remarks about Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. That was by way of arguing that from the point of view of the Democratic Party, an ideal candidate would be a non-crazy, unthreatening person with just a smidgen of diversity to bring out the SJW voters.
Buttigieg, I argued, fills the bill because he's homosexual — that's the smidgen of diversity — but otherwise comes across as a regular guy. He doesn't want to persecute Christian bakers or boycott fast-food outlets.
Since then, Beto O'Rourke's star has faded as people have noticed his weirdness and hyperbolic vocabulary. For just the reasons I spoke about — non-crazy, unthreatening, smidgen of diversity — Mayor Buttigieg has filled the void, now that we've all figured out how to pronounce his name.
So I've been taking a closer look at Mayor Buttigieg. From what I can gather about his positions on the National Question, there's no way I could vote for him, unless the Republicans were to dump Donald Trump and nominate Jeff Flake. I'm just trying to figure whether Buttigieg would be a plausible Democratic candidate next year.
My inquiries started out in negative territory — I mean, with a disposition to think he's not a serious candidate.
There's that name, for example. No, not the surname: Nobody can help his surname, and I'm guessing Buttigieg had stopped being bothered about jokes directed at his surname by the time he got to First Grade, at the latest.
No, it's not the "Buttigieg," it's the "Pete" that irks me. Having lived through the Jimmy Carter Presidency I am inoculated for life against Presidents who want to be referred to by a juvenile diminutive. If the U.S.A. were ever to elect a President who called himself Timmy, I swear I would renounce my citizenship.
Plus, I can never quite get out of my mind the old English schoolyard joke.
Q: What do you call an Irishman who's been dead and buried for five hundred years?
And then, still on the negative side, there was the business about Buttigieg speaking seven languages. I was skeptical, I'll admit. Linguistic prowess, like sexual prowess, is easy to boast of but much less easy to demonstrate to a skeptical public.
Certainly there are people with a talent for acquiring languages. The 19th-century English writer George Borrow was exceptional in that line. Ann Ridler's careful, scholarly study of Borrow's language skills concludes that he had reading competence in 51 languages and speaking competence in 20. It happens. And yes, that sound you hear is my teeth grinding: I'm hopeless at languages myself, so I come at this topic freighted with envy.
Where the boasts of politicians are concerned, however, skepticism is always in order. Buttigieg added an extra layer of skepticism by claiming to have learned Norwegian so he could read a particular writer of that language in the original.
When I first read that I thought: Wait a minute … Didn't James Joyce learn Norwegian so he could read Ibsen? Yes he did. Had Buttigieg read that fact somewhere and just … appropriated it? I was suspicious.
Too suspicious, at least where Norwegian was concerned. The Washington Post website has a video clip of Buttigieg answering questions in Norwegian. He doesn't sound too sure of himself in the language; but he understands the questions and gives some kind of answers, and the Norwegians seem happy.
That raised my estimation of the guy somewhat; but then I read Daniel Greenfield's April 9th takedown of Buttigieg and his city. South Bend, says Greenfield, is a public-sector plantation — a typical "empty sandwich" Democratic city with a big violent black and Hispanic underclass, a white lefty elite class, and nothing much in between.
But didn't Buttigieg win re-election as mayor with eighty percent of the vote? Yes he did. What the media doesn't tell you is the actual numbers who voted for him: eight and a half thousand in a city of a hundred thousand.
In other words, South Bend got Buttigieg the way New York City got de Blasio: by hardly anyone bothering to vote, other than public-sector union members and professors of Gender Studies. Meanwhile the homicide rate is worse than Chicago's.
Edited quote from Daniel Greenfield:
South Bend is a human tragedy. And while Buttigieg isn't solely responsible for [its] woes, he has exploited it, instead of trying to fix it, using buzzwords and gimmicks to build a national brand …
03 — Buttigieg v. Pence. And yes: The story of Pete — dammit, Peter — Buttigieg's rise has a religious sidebar.
He's been mayor of South Bend since January 2012. That means that his mayoral terms have completely embraced Michael Pence's four-year governorship of Indiana, the state in which South Bend sits … or festers. Pence has of course been Donald Trump's Vice President since 2017.
Mayor Buttigieg and ex-Governor Pence are both devout Christians: the mayor an Episcopalian, the Vice President an evangelical. Buttigieg is a homosexual who is married to another guy; Pence is a biblical literalist who believes homosexual intercourse is against the law of God.
Hence the following, from an interview Buttigieg granted to CNN this week:
[Clip: The Vice President is entitled to his religious beliefs. My problem is when those religious beliefs are used as an excuse to harm other people.
I found that objectionable in several different ways. Speaking as a freedom of association absolutist, I'm fine with discrimination. If you want to fire me, or don't want to hire me, or don't want to serve me, or rent a room to me, because I'm white, or male, or heterosexual, or have a British accent, or am too old or too conservative, I'm fine with it. I'll go elsewhere.
Laws against discrimination are a money pot for the shyster attorneys who promote them, and who finance the politicians that pass them; for the rest of us, they are an insult and a nuisance.
And then there's that prissy millennial usage "LGBT." If pressed on the matter, I might allow that there's a hole in our language here. We need some clear, short way to say "sexually eccentric," now that "freak" has gone out of fashion. No, I don't want to bring back "freak"; that would be more trouble than it's worth. I just think we need a plain word, preferably just one syllable, in place of that pretentiously managerial Human-Resources-Department-speranto "LGBT."
And then there's the appeal to snowflakery. Quote: "Policies that hurt people — policies that hurt children."
Mr Mayor: If I whack you upside the head with a loaded pool cue, I will have hurt you, and the law supplies you with remedies. If I sign a bill to prevent homosexual scout masters from taking young boys on camping trips in the woods, I haven't hurt anybody. Where the children are concerned, much more likely the contrary — I have saved them from hurt.
What I mostly dislike about that clip, though, is the glimpse it gives us of the iron fist inside the CultMarx velvet glove. The mayor tells us that he would love to see the Vice President, quote, "evolve" on the issue of discriminating against sexually eccentric people. "Evolve" — to a higher form of life, you see? To get on the right side of history! Our side! Or else …
Whether Mayor Buttigieg is on the right side of history, history itself will reveal in the fulness of time. There is no doubt he's on the right side of the zeitgeist, though — the side where all the goodthinkful people stand, the side where all the media talking heads, college administrators, schoolmarms, social-network CEOs, and Human Resources Managers stand.
In this little engagement with the Vice President, Buttigieg is punching down. Behind that engaging boyish smile, if you watch closely, you can glimpse the sneer of cold contempt, the arrogance of power.
04 — Are we ready for a homosexual President? And what about the homosexuality thing? Is that likely to help Buttigieg in a general election, or hurt him?
That's hard to call. I hear that Democratic strategists are worried that a homosexual candidate might lose them black votes; and of course it would be interesting to hear what our Moslem congressgals think about it.
Public attitudes have liberalized a lot this past twenty years. Still, on the poll numbers I've looked at, they haven't liberalized as much as I'd have guessed, or as Social Justice Warriors would have wished. There is still a big block of Americans who are negative on the issue.
For how many, though, is it a deal-breaker? That's the thing it's really hard to know. Polls tend to emphasize the binary aspect, for-against, and forget all the shades of intermediate opinion people have: mild disapproval, grudging acceptance, not-much-bothered-either-way.
Speaking for myself, I'm wary of admitting homosexuals to positions of power. They have a way of taking over and corrupting institutions they are let into: The courts of at least two English kings illustrate the problem. So, come to think of it, does Mayor Buttigieg's church, the Episcopal Church, which is now pretty much just a dating club for homosexuals.
That said, however, there are issues of salience. To borrow a figure of speech from Lady Ann: If we had a homosexual President who got Congress to pass real patriotic immigration reform — an Israeli-style border fence, compulsory E-verify, visa tracking, moratoriums on legal immigration and refugee resettlement — if we had that guy as Chief Executive, I wouldn't care if he let himself be buggered on the White House lawn in broad daylight.
05 — More witches than Presbyterians. Returning to the religious theme, and speaking of polls, Gallup published a new poll this week on religiosity in America. Headline: U.S. Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades. The first two paragraphs tell the tale, quote:
As Christian and Jewish Americans prepare to celebrate Easter and Passover, respectively, Gallup finds the percentage of Americans who report belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque at an all-time low, averaging 50 percent in 2018.
The key factor in declining church membership, Gallup says, is the percentage of Americans telling pollsters they have no religious affiliation. That percentage has more than doubled since the year 2000, from eight percent to nineteen.
That accords with my own impressions. When I started full-time writing for conservative outlets twenty years ago, religion was a big issue. A lot of conservatives — notably the late Larry Auster — jeered at me as not religious enough to be writing for outlets like National Review. Intelligent Design, which I wrote unflattering things about, was a big issue — big enough to get me a mention in the New York Times.
That all seems like a long time ago now. I haven't read National Review for a while, but in the Dissident Right outlets I follow — Unz Review, Occidental Dissent, AmRen, the Z-man — religion is well-nigh invisible. Even more traditional-conservative websites like FrontPage and American Thinker don't bother with it much.
How does that square with my opening assertion that religiosity is a core feature of human nature? I don't see any contradiction. For one thing, we have way more outlets for our religiosity now than we used to have. Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, … that old palette of religious choices seems as quaint now as having only three TV networks to watch.
Citizens who grew up with forty different breakfast cereals to choose from want more variety in their religious experiences. The Pew Research Center told us last year that practitioners of New Age spiritual cults — Wiccans, Neo-Paganists, Eastern mystics, and the rest — now outnumber Presbyterians.
And then, we learned from the 20th century if we didn't know it before, that when traditional religion has been outlawed, religious passions just get redirected to ideology. Look at the ecstasies released by China's Cultural Revolution fifty years ago.
Something like that has happened to us, too, this past twenty years. As John McWhorter observed in a landmark essay four years ago, the anti-racist ideology of our goodwhite overclass is a full-dress religion complete with priests, liturgy — Diversity is our Strength! — Original Sin, and a Day of Judgment.
Likewise with anti-Trumpism. Watching the reaction of Democratic politicians and commentators to the Mueller Report this week, you can't help thinking of those cults where everyone goes up the mountain to wait for the world to end; then, when the Apocalypse fails to happen, instead of trudging back down the mountain disillusioned, their passion and conviction only intensify. They start demanding a review of the sacred texts to see if maybe they just got the date wrong.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: So after all that religion talk, what do I have to say about the Notre Dame fire?
Not much. I was sad to see a fine, beautiful old structure suffer so much damage. I'm a bit blasé about fine, beautiful old structures, though. I grew up in an ancient English town with a 12th-century church on every corner, and a couple of Anglo-Saxon ones in the countryside around. I hate to see anything so old and lovely suffer harm, but the lesson I took from my childhood was: There's plenty more where that came from.
It does seem scandalous, though, that with so much old, dry woodwork there, the authorities didn't take better precautions against fire. Two words, guys: SPRINKLER SYSTEM. Yes, I know, there are old fabrics that might suffer water damage; but is it really beyond French ingenuity to devise suitable protections?
Item: The Notre Dame fire of course has everybody wondering whether Muslim terrorists were to blame. I suppose they might have been; but it seems odd to do something like that unless you want the world to know you did it. I haven't heard Islamists making any claims.
One thing's for sure, though: If Muslims were to blame, overclass commentators and reporters would move heaven and earth to prevent us knowing about it. On Fox News this week, two different presenters — Shepard Smith and Neil Cavuto — cut off guests who started speculating about the fire and mentioning other church fires in France.
There's an ironic reversal here. For the past several decades in the U.S.A., suspicion about church fires has been a staple of anti-white polemic. Any time a black church caught fire we were told that was evidence of white racism. In fact they were mostly set by black arsonists.
Now we're hearing about Christian churches in France being burned, and hearing mutterings about Muslims being to blame. Isn't diversity wonderful?
Item: One minor running sub-theme in our own current Cultural Revolution is the death of comedy. We've long known that Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld won't perform on college campuses because the fog of political correctness is too thick for humor to penetrate.
Now Terry Gilliam, the one American member of the original Monty Python team, has joined in. Terry was being interviewed on Monday about the forthcoming release of his new movie, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Quote from Terry:
I always felt the British are very good at laughing at themselves. The Americans are better at laughing at other people … but it's changing because now we can't laugh at anybody because it causes offense.
Item: In related news from Australia, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has since the year 2000 given out an award, the Barry Award, for the best comedy show. The award is named after Australian comedian Barry Humphries, famous on stage and TV in the personae of Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson.
I should say, though, that to us veterans of the 1960s, Humphries will forever be the creator of Barry McKenzie, a comic strip that ran in Private Eye magazine through the later years of that strange decade. The title character of the strip was, to quote from its Wikipedia page: "a parody of the boorish Australian overseas, particularly those residing in Britain — ignorant, loud, crude, drunk, and punchy."
We twentysomethings of the time learned a whole vocabulary of Australian slang from that comic strip, notably a remarkable number of synonyms for throwing up, of which my favorite was "park a tiger on the rug."
Well, apparently Humphries, now aged 85, recently suffered an episode of Elderly Tourette's Syndrome in a magazine interview and said something unkind about transsexuals. The Melbourne Festival has now changed the name of the Barry Award.
Summoning up all their reserves of imaginative creativity, they have renamed it the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award. To the best of my knowledge, no-one has yet taken offense at that.
Item: Finally, a couple of items from the folder labeled You can't make this stuff up.
In the endless wrangling and posturing over Brexit, a group of globalist left-liberals from both the Labour and the Tory parties in Britain's parliament have joined together as a new anti-Brexit faction. The official name of this new faction — I believe it is now actually a new party — the name is Change UK, official abbreviation CUK. C-U-K, "cuk."
I told you you can't make this up.
Item: Second item from that same folder. There is yet another globalist group fighting against Brexit, this one for young British globalists.
This I am pretty sure is just a lobbying group, not a party. What they are lobbying for is, a do-over of the 2016 referendum that delivered a majority for Brexit.
You want to hear the official name and abbreviation of this anti-Brexit group? … You sure? … OK, here you go. The official name is Our Future, Our Choice. Official abbreviation OFOC. That's O-F-O-C, "ofoc."
I first heard about OFOC when browsing some British TV comment shows and panel discussions the other evening. "OFOC," people kept saying, "OFOC!"
I have trouble keeping my attention fixed on Brexit at the best of times. This wasn't the best of times. It was after dinner. I'd had a couple of glasses of wine with my meal and a postprandial shot of Old Crow, maybe two shots. My eyelids were growing heavy. Visions of warm blankets and soft pillows were dancing in my head; and here were these Brits on my computer screen yelling "OFOC!" And I'm like: Are they allowed to say that on TV over there now?
So there you are: OFOC. If you're too old for OFOC, don't worry; you can join CUK instead.
07 — Signoff. I may be temperamentally irreligious, but I had a thorough Church of England education. In my childhood you couldn't avoid it. I know the hymns, I know the liturgy, and I know the Bible pretty well.
If I told you it all had no emotional content for me, I'd be telling an untruth. You can't grow up steeped in stuff like that without it leaving some emotional residue, positive or negative.
In my case, positive. I have special affection for the old Anglican hymns, many of which are very lovely. Here's one of my favorites for the Easter season: "When I survey the wondrous cross," sung here by the choir of King's College, Cambridge.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: King's College choir, "When I survey the wondrous cross."]