Michael Kirke was born in Co. Donegal and attended St. Eunan’s College in Letterkenny, 1957-1962. In 1966 he graduated from University College Dublin (History and Politics). In 1966 he began working on the editorial desk of The Evening Press in Dublin and in 1968 went to the newsroom of the Irish Press group of newspapers – contributing news and features to the group’s three titles, The Irish Press (morning paper), The Evening Press and The Sunday Press. In 1969 he went to Belfast and covered the initial unravelling of the Unionist hegemony in the province. Later that year he became the group’s education specialist. In 1973 took leave of absence to pursue postgraduate studies in education in Trinity College Dublin where he graduated in 1976. In 1978 he left journalism and moved into teaching. In 1981 was appointed headmaster of Rockbrook Park School in Dublin (www.rockbrook.ie). In 1994 resigned from that post and moved to live in the West of Ireland (Galway) where he began working part-time in media again. He is now back in Dublin working, among other things, as a freelance writer. His main interests are in political, cultural and educational affairs – as well as issues related to religious faith.
Trilogues, as the name suggests, are informal meetings in which a few key players from each of the EU’s three main institutions – MEPs from the relevant parliamentary committee, officials from the Council and the EC – hammer out a deal on a given policy. Ever since the 2009 Lisbon Treaty stressed the need for speedy decisions, they’ve become, as the EU Observer puts it, “the main engine in the sausage factory that churns out EU laws in Brussels”. The timing of trilogues isn’t known to most MEPs, let alone the public; no minutes are taken; no one knows which of Brussels’s countless lobby groups may have brought pressure to bear. Yet deals made in them are often presented to the EP on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis, thus shortcircuiting the democratic legislative process and making mock of the transparency the parliament was meant to bring to it. Not that transparency is top of the list of MEP concerns. Last year a journalistic investigation exposed a host of dodgy MEP expenses claims; yet MEPs voted
down a subsequent EC proposal to force them to keep their receipts, and have their expenditures audited and made public. The European Court of Justice later upheld the MEPs’ right to keep their spending secret.
This analysis by David Thunder really hits the nail on the head. This points to the roots of Brexit. Battle for soul of Europe is only beginning
EU leaders undoubtedly breathed a collective sigh of relief as they surveyed the composition of the new EU parliament: although nationalist and Eurosceptical parties have made significant gains, the balance of power remains firmly on the side of more or less establishment-friendly parties. The dreaded populist upset has not materialised.
Pro-integration parties have enough votes to form a majority coalition in the EU parliament. This means that the EU can more or less trundle along as it is, at least for the time being.
Nonetheless, the steady gains of nationalist parties, led by Nigel Farage in the UK, Marine Le Pen in France and Matteo Salvini in Italy, cannot be easily dismissed, particularly given that France has given more seats to Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally) than any other party, representing a major setback for France’s pro-EU centrists led by Emmanuel Macron.
The gradual consolidation of nationalist and Eurosceptical parties, even if it does not reach a commanding position, is indicative of a brewing storm over the soul of Europe, over what the European Union really stands for. The current fracturing of European politics is symptomatic of a tension that has been latent in the European Union since its inception, between two very different visions of European integration.
THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, a text for all time because the Devil is for all time.
The dark art of performing exorcisms may seem archaic, even absurd, to non-believers, but the Catholic Church insists that the presence of the devil is growing all the time, due to the increasing secularisation of society, loss of faith in God and the easy access provided by the internet to black magic and the occult. So Dublin’s Irish Independent newspaper and a good deal of other media reported last week.
If he is still doing mischief, it is reassuring that should he decide to target any of us individually to the extent of seeking to possess us bodily, someone will be prepared to do something about it. But individual possession might be the least of our problems. What if he is targeting our entire civilization – and given who he is it is not beyond his powers or ambitions to try to do so. He did it before, with devastating effect. Admittedly there were only two of us – but we underestimate him at our peril.
There is no doubt but that something very strange has happened to Western society. When you find yourself reading this from Thierry Frémaux, the chairman of Cannes Film Festival we surely have reason for concern. He told reporters last week. “Today it is very difficult to reward or honour or recompense anyone because the political police then falls on you.”
Add to that the life-shattering punishment meted out to Israel Folau on the other side of the world for a thought expressed on social media. Then, in another hemisphere, medical personnel, by a judgment of a Canadian court of appeals, are to have their professional careers destroyed if they will not cooperate in the killing of their patients. Those examples don’t even cover the tip of the iceberg of injustice being meted out in so-called civilized society today in the name of something they call equality.
Libertarian Brendan O’Neill, introducing a Spiked.dot.com post on the subject, says of the Folau case, “So we’re back to persecuting people for their religious beliefs. That’s the take-home message of the scandalous sacking of Israel Folau. He’s been dumped by Rugby Australia for sharing a meme on social media that said ‘hell awaits’ gay people (and also drunks, thieves, adulterers and atheists). But Folau is a devout Christian and this is a Christian belief. It is part of Christianity to believe in hell and to believe that certain sexual and social ‘deviants’ will go there. Folau has been punished for his religious convictions. And the people cheering his sacking are supporting this chilling, pre-modern form of punishment. This case speaks to the new intolerance, where anyone who thinks differently to the mainstream risks being cast out. Israel Folau – rugby player and thought criminal.”
This was the kind of totalitarian world which we thought we had largely left behind us with fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Soviet Communism. Clearly, we were wrong. Soft cultural Marxism has brought us to a place which is worse than the stark Soviet variety ever was – worse because it insidiously masquerades under the cloak of a benign progressivism, and the whole world seems to be swallowing it.
It seems as if the battles for humanity fought by the Russian and Eastern European dissidents like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vaclav Havel and others have to be fought all over again if we are to have any hope of restoring our freedom, our common sense and common decency.
But who will fight them? Forget the political class. It is too prone to corruption of one kind or another, in thrall to or captive by the ayatollahs of ever more lunatic political correctness. Will writers and artists come to our rescue as those Russians did in the last century? The evil of National Socialism – in both its Teutonic and Latin manifestation – self-destructed in the space of little more than ten years. Admittedly there was the help of a significant military push. But the evils flowing from hard Marxist ideology took a good deal longer to vanquish (if vanquished they are). They were essentially undermined by a combination of religious faith and the creative imagination of a handful of great writers.
The great Russian writers and artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were never shy about talking about the Devil. Solzhenitsyn took on the soviets and identified their greatest folly and vice as the denial of the spiritual in man. He later warned us in the West that we were descending into our own hell by putting man at the centre of all things and denying the existence of God. He had no doubt who the driving force behind this was.
One of Russia and the world’s greatest film auters, Sergei Eizenshtein, in Ivan the Terrible, personified the eponymous subject as Satan. No one said it out loud but everyone suspected who the real personification of Satan was. The film was heavily censored.
As noted in Russian Literature and its Demons (ed. Pamela Davidson, Berghahn Books, New York / Oxford), Stalin’s terror of the 1930s, evokes the book of Revelation, in which Satan takes on the form of a “great red dragon” (Rev.12:3). In Eizenshtein’s ﬁlm, the play in the cathedral in which Shadrach, Medrach, and Abednego are symbolically cast into the ﬁery furnace draws a parallel between the cruelty of Ivan (or Stalin) and the evil Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar. In the banquet scene, with its wild dance of the oprichniki (Ivan’s secret police) and its vivid use of black and red, the representation of Ivan evokes Satan presiding over some demonic orgy.
Mikhail Bulgakov was much more explicit and in some ways more devastating in making the Devil and his acolytes the central protagonists in his extraordinarily funny but utterly serious and complex satirical fable, The Master and Margarita. This was completed in 1940 but not published until 1965 – and only then in a heavily censored version.
Writers and artists like Bulgakov, and composers like Shostakovich and Prokofiev suffered rejection but persevered within the repressive system. Bulgakov, even with his White Russian background and hostility to atheism, kicked against it and still survived. He was constantly refused permission to go abroad and spent time being interrogated in the infamous Lubianka. The Master and Margarita, his masterpiece, is a slap in the face of the intolerant atheism which poisoned Soviet Russia. By 1922 the Orthodox Church was under direct attack and priests were rounded up. Four were condemned to be shot (Bulgakov’s own father was a priest and theologian). Throughout the 20’s the debunking of Christianity was a constant objective. Ruthless punishment was inﬂicted on the books whose authors questioned this and found themselves abroad owing to deportation, emigration, or defection. Their books had to be removed from public libraries and shredded.
Bulgakov’s portrait of the Devil, Woland, daringly suggests Stalin. Both were mysterious, aloof, and rarely seen. Like Woland, Stalin also destroyed what sought to expose him. Both demanded subservience from their followers. Woland and his acolytes, however, also attack the agents of the system. We are inclined to cheer them on. Throughout the novel they mock and play games, sometimes hilariously funny, with the apparatchiks who run the system and who at least pretend not to believe in Woland’s existence – despite all the evidence he gives them. In their folly they try to explain the tricks he plays on them as some form of hypnotism or scientific slight of hand.
Whether or not Bulgakov intended to draw a parallel between Stalin and Woland, there is no question but that the Soviet censors read the novel in this way. In one passage, the shape changing cat, Begemot, speaks of the grandeur of Satan’s ball, but, after being contradicted by Woland, immediately hastens to agree obsequiously with his master: “Of course, messire. If you think it wasn’t very grand, I immediately find myself agreeing with you.” That was much too close to the bone.
And what does that remind us of? The daily groveling apologies of many of those who find themselves reprimanded and punished by our thought police.
So where are they, the writers, creative artists, who will expose this evil among us? They have yet to stick their heads above the parapets – and God help them when they do. The great Russians who exposed Satan suffered for what they did, some physically as well as mentally. Perhaps the same has to happen again? Perhaps the answer is here:
And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and kneeling before him said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.” (Mathew 17. 14-20).
The Cross first came to Guadalupe at the age of 20 in the form of a tragic event – the execution of her father by a firing squad
Guadalupe Ortiz de Landázuri
The lives of saints, even the lives of great but ordinary people, who may also be saints without our knowing it, are often marked by great suffering. There is no such thing as holiness without Christ’s Cross.
This was certainly a distinguishing characteristic of a woman who will be beatified next week. On May 18, Guadalupe Ortiz, a scientist, a teacher, and much more, will be honoured in a stadium more commonly associated with rock concerts than with religious devotion.
The Cross first came to Guadalupe at the age of 20 in the form of a tragic event – the execution of her father by a firing squad.
Guadalupe bore this ordeal with exemplary serenity. Who is to say that the marks of this cross were not part of the foundation on which she later built that life of dedication to God and service to her fellow human beings, across two continents.
Last October we posted an article about Terrence Malick’s new film about the life and death of Franz Jagerstatter. At that time the working title for the film was Radegund, the village in Austria which was home to Jagerstatter. The released film’s title is now A Hidden Life.
The film is being shown at the Cannes Festival this month and is one of the most eagerly anticipated screenings on the festival’s programme.
Jordan Raup writes about it here on the website of The Film Stage. His piece includes several images from the film.
He says, of it and the festival:
We’ll soon be sharing our most-anticipated films of Cannes Film Festival, which begins next week, but it’s safe to reveal that the premiere we’re most looking forward to is Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, formerly titled Radegund. Marking the director’s return to World War II dramas, this one takes a much different perspective than The Thin Red Line.
A Hidden Life follows Austria’s Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), a conscientious objector who was put to death at the age of 36 for undermining military actions. A set of new images have now been unveiled for the film also starring Valerie Pachner, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Jürgen Prochnow, as well as the late Michael Nyqvist and Bruno Ganz. Cannes also updated the initially stated three-hour runtime, which now clocks in at 173 minutes.
There is careless and sloppy journalism and there is cold calculated malicious journalism. Sadly both fit into the spectrum to which Janet Malcolm notoriously drew attention in a New Yorker essay thirty years ago when she wrote:
”Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.”
They were harsh uncompromising words, probably framed to get attention and not really meant to be taken at their literal value – no more than Lord Acton meant us to take at its face value his statement that “all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. But such exaggerated statements do make us think. There is good journalism but it is becoming harder and harder to find.
Malcolm’s hyperbole was written in the context of a famous crime reporter, Joe McGinniss, who won the confidence of a notorious murderer, accompanied him throughout the period of his trial and conviction for the killing of his wife and two children, and then allegedly deceived and betrayed that confidence by revealing details of the man’s life which he had never wished to be made public.
McGinniss protested Malcolm’s categorization of his as a deceiver: ”My only obligation from the beginning was to the truth.” Malcolm’s view was that McGinniss’s obligation to be truthful to the criminal, even though he was convicted, should have preceded his obligation ”to the truth.” Complicated.
But not so complicated is the patent betrayal and deception, followed by gross misrepresentation, of one of the voices of reason of our own time, Sir Roger Scruton.
Douglas Murray, writing in a recent issue of The Spectator, might see it as just one further splinter in what the late Bernard Levin once referred to as “the cracked mirror of our times.” Sometimes, he writes, a scandal is not just a scandal, but “a biopsy of a society. So it is with the assault on Sir Roger Scruton, who in recent weeks has been smeared in the media, fired by the government and had his life’s work assailed. Scruton is the latest, though far from the first victim of the modern outrage mob.”
When Janet Malcolm passed her judgment on our professional standards and integrity as journalists, she did not have to add into the mix the irreparable damage which the incendiary fuel of so-called “social” media now pours on to the bonfire. We do.
In January, we saw some of the most prestigious news media organizations in the United States pass summary judgement on a group of raucous but harmless schoolboys for allegedly surrounding and taunting a native American tribal elder. By the time the facts of the case became clear (there had been no taunting, the boys had done nothing wrong) they had been thrown to the anti-social mob and denounced as racists in front of millions.
In Scruton’s case, he was interviewed by a deceptively friendly and reassuring New Statesman journalist, joint deputy editor, George Eaton. Their conversation was then misrepresented in the magazine article which followed. Professor Scruton was accused of outrageously breaching every rule in the Canon of Political Correctness. Not long after the magazine appeared on the newsstands the thought police got to work.
As Murray says, “The hit job on Sir Roger can be seen as a classic of the genre: he was sacked (from a Government post) within five hours of the Twitter storm breaking. His fate offers a perfect case study in the art of modern character assassination.”
But in some ways Sir Roger may be classed as one of the lucky ones. The case against him unraveled and the New Statesman and its standard of journalism is in the dustbin. Murray managed to get his hands on the recorded interview and exposed the deceptive charade.
Before the interview had even hit the newsstands its author was on Twitter heralding its arrival and telling his followers that ‘the government adviser and philosopher Roger Scruton has made a series of outrageous remarks’, and included a link to the interview. Unfortunately for him the recording of the interview now exposes the deceit and misrepresentation – and all the idiotic public figures, journalists and politicians who responded with knee-jerk reactions now have egg all over their faces. Indeed a worse and more costly fate may await some of them.
Scruton was alleged to have talked outrageously about ‘Hungarian Jews’. He was alleged to have been racist about ‘the Chinese’. He was alleged to have described ‘Islamophobia’ as ‘a propaganda word invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue’. He had described accusations of anti-Semitism against Viktor Orban as ‘nonsense’ and talked of Muslim ‘tribes’. Outrage and resignation calls soon followed. The perfect Twitter storm had been started.
Eaton then gloated on Instagram with a photo of himself necking a bottle of champagne. His caption: ‘The feeling when you get right-wing racist and homophobe Roger Scruton sacked as a Tory government adviser.’
The New Statesman’s public editor has now issued a response to the controversy but it is so hedged that it is unlikely to do anything to restore its reputation.
He admits that “Eaton was clearly at fault in his Instagram post. A journalist should not interview a subject and then insult him or her. One tweet – concerning Scruton’s comments on the Chinese as “replicas of each other” – was misleading. Both the published interview and the full transcript make clear, as the tweet did not, that Scruton was criticising the policies of China’s rulers (“they’re creating robots out of their own people”) rather than echoing racist stereotypes.
“The other tweets took words somewhat out of context as many (perhaps most) tweets of that sort inevitably do. Whether Scruton’s words were ‘outrageous’, as Eaton claimed, depends on who is reading them. MPs, former chancellors and present ministers can make up their own minds. Yet Eaton’s use of the adjective ‘outrageous’ suggested, as did the Instagram post, that he approached the interview as a political activist, not as a journalist.
“It is more difficult to judge the extent to which the published interview was misleading. Certainly, the full transcript shows that most of Scruton’s comments on Muslims, Orbán and anti-Semitism were more thoughtful and nuanced than those highlighted by Eaton. But all journalism is necessarily selective.”
All journalism may be necessarily selective but when that selection is as egregiously serving a political ideological bias as in this case, you have a totally different phenomenon on your hands. When your bias unjustly leaves the reputation of an author of more than 50 serious books on diverse subjects needing to be rescued from the rubbish dump, your lawyers would seem to have a mountain to climb to keep you from ending up in financial ruin. Spare me the cries about suppression of freedom of speech – freedom is not a license to hate.
Examine this map and then read Kathy Sheridan’s appalling piece in The Irish Times online – on second thoughts, don’t bother; just read the headline. Why is the media covering up the roots of this – sorry, these massacres?
When will our mainstream media organizations start telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? There are many ways of faking news and left and pseudo liberal politicians, along with colluding media, have given us a master-class in one of those ways in their cowardly response to the Sri Lankan massacre.
Allison Pearson takes them to pieces in today’s Daily Telegraph (London).
Calling the Sri Lanka bombing victims ‘Easter Worshippers’ shows just how afraid we are to admit that Christians are under attack
This is deeply uncomfortable for the liberal media, which responds with shifty obfuscation. On Monday, The Washington Post ran a bizarre story about the Easter Sunday massacre with the headline, “Sri Lanka church bombings stoke far-Right anger in the West”.
It is now a new pro-life movie and has become a huge box office hit in the US. It is listed at #5 nationwide after bringing in $6.1 million in ticket sales in its opening weekend.
It’s the second movie of its kind to pack out cinema theatres in less than a year, with the movie Gosnell also reaching the top ten in box office sales and soaring to #1 on the Amazon DVD best-seller list.
Unplanned is the inspiring true story of Abby Johnson’s journey of transformation.
As one of the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic directors in the US, she was involved in upwards of 22,000 abortions. Her support for abortion led her to become a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood. That was until the day everything changed for Abby when she came face to face with the horror of what she was doing. Today, she is one of the most ardent and effective pro-life speakers in America.
Civilizations do not crumble in a moment, an hour, or because of an event of one day. Like all decaying things it is a process, in this case driven by the gradual and cumulative effects of mankind’s compromise with the mystery of evil.
It is said that on the 9th of August, 378, on hearing the news that the barbarous, invading Goths had defeated and overthrown the Roman legions in the battle of Adrianople, leaving the body of the Emperor Valens mutilated on the battlefield, St. Jerome dropped his pen in despair and abandoned the chronicles in which he was recording the history of mankind from earliest times.
That was then. This is now.
Joan Didion’s The White Album is a short collection of reflective journalism published in 1979. In it she chronicles and observes events in the late sixties and early seventies. Most of what she writes is set against the background of life in California, the vortex around which the helter skelter world of those years revolved. Its title of course suggests that iconic Beatles album of the same non-name. It constitutes a kind of snapshot of that time, in many ways with darker shades than our rose-tinted nostalgia bestows on it.
Popular imagination deludes itself in thinking this hectic and dreamy era was a liberating one. Didion’s ironic observations, written as it unfolded, lay bare much of that illusion.
Her essays reflect the character of the Sixties, hopeful but hopelessly and dangerously naïve. The cultural climate which we saw forming before our eyes in that decade, and the handful of years in the decade that followed, was anything but a harbinger of peace and love for western civilization. Didion, in this book and in her other collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, chronicles the highs and lows of the hopes and follies of those years. From them we can trace a line of descent to the ills and woes of the early 21st century.
Didion writes about the moment when the culture of death, which now has the official stamp of practically every state jurisdiction within what we call the Civilized Western World slouched out of the Californian desert on August 9, 1969, like the Beast of the Apocalypse. Allowing for calendar reforms, an interesting coincidence of dates in 378 and 1969?
She writes of how people in Los Angles, looking back, believed that the Sixties ended on that date. The tensions which people felt ended; the jitters they were experiencing morphed into some kind of equilibrium – now there seemed to be some explanation of what was going on. But that didn’t help. Things in fact got worse.
That day might not look like more than a symbol for the levels to which our race has sunk in the decades which followed. It can serve as such. But it is more. The forces – diabolical but also driven by hedonistic and corrupt multiple visions of what mankind is – behind that act were also the forces which were being let loose in a benighted military operation in South-East Asia. They were also the forces being let loose at home by the dark, dark reasoning of the American Supreme Court judgment in the case of Roe Vs Wade. That judgment in effect falsely elevated the pursuit of pleasure, the cult of individualism and crass materialism, to the level of a compassionate principle. It has resulted in a blind acceptance of a totally false vision of what human compassion and true freedom are, leading us deeper and deeper into confusion with each decade that passes.
Didion described what those times and that day in August 1969 was like for her – how it was so ordinary and yet strange, how it ended in a nightmare.
“We put Lay Lady Lay (Bob Dylan) on the record player, and Suzanne (Leonard Cohen). We went down to Melrose Avenue to see the Flying Burritos. There was a jasmine vine grown over the verandah of the big house on Franklin Avenue, (where she, her husband and their little girl, lived at the time). I imagined that my own life was simple and sweet, and sometimes it was, but there were odd things going around town.
“There were rumors. There were stories. Everything was unmentionable but nothing was unimaginable. This mystical flirtation with the idea of ‘sin’— this sense that it was possible to go ‘too far’, and that many people were doing it – was very much with us in Los Angeles in 1968 and 1969. A demented and seductive vortical tension was building in the community. The jitters were setting in. I recall a time when the dogs barked every night and the moon was always full.
“On August 9, 1969, I was sitting in the shallow end of my sister-in-law’s swimming pool in Beverly Hills when she received a telephone call from a friend who had just heard about the murders at Sharon Tate Polanski’s house on Cielo Drive. The phone rang many times during the next hour. These early reports were garbled and contradictory. One caller would say hoods, the next would say chains. There were twenty dead, no, twelve, ten, eighteen. Black masses were imagined, and bad trips blamed.
“I remember all of the day’s misinformation very clearly, and I also remember this, and wish I did not: I remember that no one was surprised.”
The Cielo Drive murders orchestrated by Charles Manson were a symptom of a wider malaise which had gripped the culture of a generation. This malaise is our sad inheritance from that time.
Another essay in the book illustrates more of this effect. She describes the cult following by young adolescents of the Hell’s Angels movies of the time – where pillage, rape and murder were presented for purposes of entertainment and excitement. Human life was routinely expendable. Didion clearly shows what was at its heart. Her words are full of apprehension about the future.
In a later decade an iconic pop star was to take the name of Manson, much as a Christian or Muslim might take the names of the saints who populate their faiths’ histories. A meaningless gesture? No.
In yet another essay, on the Women’s Movement, she touches on other effects which have flowed from the “mystical flirtation with the idea of ‘sin’”.
The Women’s Movement for her was essentially Marxist, redefining as it did human nature in purely materialistic terms. While on its popular surface it might just look like a reworking of romanticism, it was anything but romantic. Many movements rife with erroneous readings of our human nature do have an up-side. They point to real problems and injustices and move us to correction. This, however does not negate the inherent dangers in their errors. Of the feminism of this movement, she writes:
“Something other than an objection to being ‘discriminated against’ was at work here, something other than an aversion to being “stereotyped” in one’s sex role. Increasingly it seemed that the aversion was to adult sexual life itself: how much cleaner to stay forever children.”
Or, might we add, forever childless? A “woman’s role” had nothing to do with what “real women” are, want or need. It was all a construction imposed on them. It was the work of their enemy.
“The transient stab of dread and loss which accompanies menstruation simply never happens: we only thought it happened, because a male chauvinist psychiatrist told us so. No woman need have bad dreams after an abortion: she has only been told she should.”
Feminism, in this reading, was turning the male per se into the enemy – or at best, the heartless manipulator – of his life partner, the female. Out of all this came ultimately the denial and attempted obliteration of the real natural distinctions between male and female which we see all around us today.
Didion foresaw this:
“All one’s actual apprehension of what it is like to be a woman, the irreconcilable difference of it – that sense of living one’s deepest life underwater, that dark involvement with blood and birth and death – could now be declared invalid, unnecessary, one never felt it at all.
“One was only told it, and now one is to be reprogrammed, fixed up, rendered again as inviolate and unstained as the ”modern” little girls in the Tampax advertisements.”
The aftershocks and echoes of the event of August 9, 1969, no more than the events of September 9, 2011, or May 25, 2018, when Ireland went the way of Roe Vs. Wade, continue to reverberate around our world – be it in massacres in school classrooms, mosques, Christian churches or synagogues.
The Roman Empire and the civilization which it had embodied struggled on in a decaying state for a another couple of centuries after Adrianople. To St. Jerome the butchered body of Valens was but a powerful symbol of the terrifying truth that a millennium-old civilization was in terminal decline. In those centuries after 378, however, a new light was already shining. That Light, picking up the remnants of that dying culture, cleansed them and revitalised them. Eventually a new civilization emerged, which we now know as the Christian civilization of the High Middle Ages.
If we accept the butchery of August 9, 1969, as a symbol of the sad decline of our own brilliantly scientific and technological – but artistically, philosophically and morally decadent era – to where can we look for a light to lead us out of this darkness? Where else but to that self-same regenerative power which led our forefathers out of their desert?
What then is the lesson we might glean from observing our record of folly and evil? It is that we should call evil what it is and that we resist the temptation to indulge in “mystical flirtation with the idea of ‘sin’”. Christians recognize a Revelation which assists them in this battle. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us wisely:
“Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind’s origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.”
Edmund Burke may or may not have said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Nevertheless, the idea is right. It is certainly true that unless common sense and decent humanity, both of which are highlighted in Joan Didion’s writing in these times, gets a chance to express itself in this world, and unless more of us pay attention to the timeless truths about ourselves, we are destined to continue down this vortex in which human lives are distorted and destroyed in multiple ways.
Jan. 22 correction to the original story reads: Earlier versions of
this story incorrectly said that Native American activist Nathan
Phillips fought in the Vietnam War. Phillips said he served in the U.S.
Marines but was never deployed to Vietnam.
Garvan Hill reflected on this story on 22 January. You can read that comment here.