Michael Malice

Malice has an interesting background, a podcast, and some interesting friends. One is Thaddeus Russell, historian and author. Speaking together recently, the pair alerted me to the writings of Grant Madison, whose racial theories apparently helped shape US immigration policy. Example? Well, in one work Madison shows how the Irish worked their way up from quite lowly status to Nordic. In his taxonomy, apparently, Nordic is the “white man par excellence.” So I’m smiling already.

Russell is amusing when he speaks of the Scots-Irish who worked through the middle colonies: “motherfucking savages”, rowdy, violent renegades who drank, fought, and defied government intrusion in their anarcho-capitalist communes with violence.

Are You Sure I’m The Crazy One?

The late sixties and seventies toughened some of us up for severe psychic distortion, but on the internal dimension. Hallucinations here, inside the head. Reality over there, where we share it with most others. Our psychotropic mental rock climbing was matched somewhat by externals: adventurers like us made music and art that reflected their perhaps temporarily disarranged reasoning capacity. We had a different and deeply amusing perspective on the world, thanks to medicine and creativity. Much laughter! Today, I wonder if things have reversed, inverted, flipped and totally freaked out, man. The George Floyd protests. A new saint! As we know now, a rather felonious monk he proved to be, robbing a pregnant woman at gunpoint as he did. Yet he has our prime minister kneeling in the dirt to honour his name? Or something. The crazy people want to defund the police! In a way, of course, given my deep hatred of government and authority, I see the attraction. (You and I, my friends, could operate and thrive in such an environment, of course, but I doubt the many would survive the first weekend.) Green. Greta. George. If we have replaced our induced insanity with an outside and objective mass psychosis, fine. Bring it on!

Looking at lockdown

An hour long walk along the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway, Westboro Beach, and Island Park Drive in Ottawa on Saturday yielded some purely subjective impressions about present and future behavior in this current lockdown. First of all, bicycle riders appear to have the least respect for distancing conventions of anyone in the crowd, and it was a crowd. Perhaps they feel the wind has a sterilizing effect on their emanations. Second, judging by people sitting and standing and moving in clusters, there’s a shared impression that family groupings confer immunity. And family groups would gently intermingle, one with the other, beginning with the younger members, with no fear of infection. Dogs, apparently, exempt anyone near them from even the pretence of caution.

Many people on foot, using the pathways and sidewalks in this western banlieu of Ottawa, were in several senses, going through the motions. For many, distancing has become conventional if not merely performative. (To borrow what I think is a commie word?) By this I mean, fear of dying from the Chinese Communist Party virus is dying away, to be replaced by that beautiful Canadian trait, a massive overdisplay of politeness, and conformity. People were giving only the slightest token obedience to the distancing guidelines, daintily ignoring them when pathways simply became too crowded. This observation tells me that the current apparent overreaction to this pandemic cannot and will not hold. People no longer fear death greatly during this pandemic. They have the much greater fear, the distinctly Canadian fear, of the disapproval of their neighbours. So they will pretend to keep their distance, and move to more normal behaviour. I think this great scare will soon be over.

Driftin’

Me to a friend

My mind has been running on this one for a long time, and now I find I must approach you with my thoughts. The autumn wind, the breeze in the fall, it seemed to exert a powerful influence over every folk singer in the world. It seemed to set them all to driftin’, wanderin’, cutting loose from all ties that had recently been established to seek something else in the distance and in the future. Let me ask you something. The spring rains? Did they tell folk singers to register for summer courses? The first deep snowfall? Was that a sign you needed to get a job? These are just locked down thoughts. Otherwise, I fear you would take me more seriously than they might deserve. Well, got to be a wanderin’. But not really.

My friend to me

Was a time that folksingers were all “Hey Nonny Nonny”, “Jolly Rumbelow” and courtly ballads… the singers were either boosters of the agrarian life or singing tradesmen argung for the particular merits of one’s occupation. Everything was nicely settled and folks voted the straight party ticket. Then, around the time of one of the Jameses – when Popery and famine stalked the land – ordinary entertainments began to pale and people were seized with discontent. The grass appeared to be just that much greener a few counties over and harps were being replaced by the much more portable (and tune-able) lute. Communal singing around open fires morphed into a kind of star system. People demanded personal appearances and the travelling musician became the thing to be. It was the Irish – of course – that started all the rot.

Thackeray “The Virginians”

While Trump endures months and years of unrelenting and unscrupulous attacks, this passage comes inevitably to my mind, and no doubt yours. A young officer is displeased that the Marquis Lafayette is brought into the American army as a major-general. He reproaches Gen. Washington. And Washington replies.

Tis easy to sneer at him (though, believe me, the Marquis has many more merits than you allow him); to my mind it were more generous, as well as more polite, of Harry Warrington to welcome this stranger for the sake of the prodigious benefit our country may draw from him—not to laugh at his peculiarities, but to aid him and help his ignorance by your experience as an old soldier: that is what I would do—that is the part I expected of thee—for it is the generous and manly one, Harry: but you choose to join my enemies, and when I am in trouble you say you will leave me. That is why I have been hurt: that is why I have been cold. I thought I might count on your friendship—and—and you can tell whether I was right or no. I relied on you as on a brother, and you come and tell me you will resign. Be it so! Being embarked in this contest, by God’s will I will see it to an end. You are not the first, Mr. Warrington, has left me on the way.’

 ‘Ah!’ he added, ‘an open enemy I can face readily enough. ‘Tis the secret foe who causes the doubt and anguish! We have sat with more than one at my table to-day, to whom I am obliged to show a face of civility, whose hands I must take when they are offered, though I know they are stabbing my reputation, and are eager to pull me down from my place. You spoke but lately of being humiliated because a junior was set over you in command. What humiliation is yours compared to mine, who have to play the farce of welcome to these traitors; who have to bear the neglect of Congress, and see men who have insulted me promoted in my own army? If I consulted my own feelings as a man, would I continue in this command? You know whether my temper is naturally warm or not, and whether as a private gentleman I should be likely to suffer such slights and outrages as are put upon me daily; but in the advancement of the sacred cause in which we are engaged, we have to endure not only hardship and danger, but calumny and wrong, and may God give us strength to do our duty!’ 

Mr. Harper? Sir? You ARE awake.

The Liberals are running against tax cuts? Some days, the prime minister must need to close the door and just simply have his laugh. (When I saw Trudeau’s remarks about income-splitting, my wife thought I was having a fit.) No matter how valid the criticisms of yesterday’s package might be, there is one ineffaceable image in my mind – the manager of a household comparing a pay stub or tax return with a list of monthly expenses before rounding up the partner and heading out to vote.

The arrogant Mr. Kay has it partly right

“Please get a grip, folks. This is not “war.” It’s one Islamist-inspired lunatic killing one guy and then getting killed in a famous building” While referring to a fallen soldier as ‘one guy’ is singularly infelicitous, and something I suspect he regrets, it is true that the murders of Canadian Forces personnel and the assault on Parliament are not deeply significant. However, we really are in a war with Islamic extremists and their abettors. At the fringes, troubled or variously motivated individuals will commit what security forces sometimes call ‘spectaculars’ – low-risk, high-publicity attacks like the Boston bombings. Unlike the World Trade Center, London and Madrid attacks which required coordination and training, anyone possessed of a firearm, edged weapon or chemistry set and bus fare can commit one of these crimes, make headlines and unfortunately influence behaviours, attitudes and policies. As a civilization at war with barbarism, we must expect  these attacks, maintain our values and keep what Mr. Kay so condescendingly called our ‘grip’. But we must show our citizens that we can and do fight back. Bombing ISIL is not quite pointless, but it does at least show resolve. A review of immigration policy would actually mean something, but we are not yet wounded, frightened and angry enough for meaningful action.

What they see in your mirror

A video service called Flixster aggregates trailers for newly released and impending films. It’s like a testing valve on a sewage system, offering two minute samples of what film-makers think you will like. In effect, it is a picture of who they think you are. In a half hour or so, you can look at the distillation of the efforts of the world’s greatest film-writers, directors, actors and craftspeople. Unfortunately, their genius is mediated by producers and investors, the very last people who should be guiding and controlling the efforts of these artists. Lust and sadism contend with brutality and betrayal to tempt the fickle eye. One flawed gem I glimpsed flickering in the slurry is called “The Humbling”, which degrades the talents of Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon and others possibly as gifted as they are. (When I saw it was based on something by Philip Roth, I knew it could not possibly instruct or enlighten, let alone entertain.) Of all the many samples I scented, only one appeared to have any professional integrity or internal consistency, only one appeared to respect its audience and correctly frame the talents of its performers – I commend to you “Dumb and Dumber To”. It appears to be an honest piece of work, posing as nothing more meaningful than the laughter it evokes.

Barack Ebola

“If even one undiagnosed Ebola patient lands in the United States, you may call me George!” All right, all right, there is nothing funny about a killer plague washing across a continent and now across the world on wings of political correctness and governmental ineptitude. And it is unnecessarily cruel to link him to the Reichsmarschall’s discomfiting boast. So why am I laughing? Because it marks one more notch on Barack Obama’s rubber gun of failure? Because it has been so predictable for so long? I wish no person harm, but I do wish some people would act like leaders to lessen harm to others.

Trudeau Levant moral miniaturization

Finding the moral high ground in the Levant-Trudeau high school hallway hair-pulling is, as Pratchett said, like extracting gold from seawater. Canadian soldiers are in harm’s way in Iraq, the CRTC is in a hugely interesting debate on digital communication, a federal election is coming. The Liberals are fighting for votes and Sun is fighting for ratings. Not my battle.