Mystical flirtation and the decline of civilization

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.

Blind and shameless collusion in abortion news coverage

We are of course rejoicing at the success of the phenomenal pro-life demonstration in Dublin on Saturday. It was achieved in the face of what one could only describe as a media blackout of the event in the weeks leading up to it. It must surely have given both the conscientious and the crowd-following public representatives something to think about. The conscientious will have had their convictions reinforced by the platform speakers who sent out loud and clear statements and illustrations of the crime that the killing of the unborn is. For the populist crowd-followers it gave evidence that pro-life people power is on the move and for them this is a chilling signal that their cosy parliamentary seats might also be on the move.

More than 25,000 people from all over the country gathered in Merrion Square to protest at the coalition government’s proposal to legislate for abortion within the jurisdiction of the Irish Republic. Abortion is currently prohibited under the terms of a constitutional amendment passed overwhelmingly by the people 30 years ago. An estimated 150 pro-abortion demonstrators presented themselves at the venue as well.

But we are also once again confronted with the story-within-a-story. The story of the shameless bias of the media which spells out one fact over all others: the majority of those in the positions of influence in the media in this country are openly and unapologetically campaigning for the pro-abortion cause.

If anyone needed confirmation that there is collusion between the Irish media – orchestrated, one suspects, from behind the closed doors of sub-editing rooms – and the international press one has only to scan the reports of the Vigil in the newspapers over the following days. It did not make the front page of a single broadsheet on Monday. The Irish Times reported on it without the slightest allusion to its significance. Even RTE managed to rise to using the term “game-changer” in its Saturday evening report. That this surprised us speaks for itself. Can you imagine what we would have been reading and listening to had such numbers turned out for a pro-abortion rally? Try. You won’t find it very taxing.

How did Independent Newspapers report this the following day? The opening paragraph of a report attributed to Sarah Stack and the Press Association was this:

PROTESTERS for and against abortion have staged separate rallies in Dublin as each side step up their campaigning. The Pro-Life Campaign urged people to stand up for “the right of the unborn child” at its Unite for Life Vigil but were (sic) accused of going against legislation that would save the lives of women. Note that “right of the unborn child” in inverted commas.

The Government, we were reminded, has committed to legislate and introduce regulations to allow abortion if there is a real and substantial risk to a woman’s life, including the threat of suicide.

The report then entered even-handed mode when Pro-life spokeswoman Caroline Simons’ words were reported. She told the crowd, the biggest Dublin has seen for a decade or more, that the Government’s argument that abortion is needed to treat threatened suicide in pregnancy was demolished at the hearings on abortion held in the parliament over a week ago.

“The psychiatrists who addressed the hearings were unanimous that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal ideation”, Simons said. “But there is evidence that abortion increases the risk of future mental health problems for a significant number of women.

“The facts are simple. Where a pregnant woman’s life is at risk, Irish law and current Irish medical practice allows doctors to intervene to ensure women receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, even where this unavoidably results in the death of the baby.”

But that was as even-handed as it was going to get. Separately, Stack then told us, – without mentioning the number protesting – that pro-choice campaigners staged a counter-demonstration nearby and said pro-life groups are protesting against the introduction of legislation that would save the lives of women living in Ireland.

“They’re protesting against legislation that the majority have voted for in a referendum. They’re protesting against a supreme court decision. They’re protesting directly against what the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) says Ireland needs to do to protect the human rights of pregnant women,” a spokesperson for this group complained about the 25, 000.

Then came the red-herring inbthevform of a report of a two-day-old story about the opening of an inquest into the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar on October 28 after she suffered a miscarriage. The international media has – with the help of its Irish fellow-travellers – sat in judgement on this and has decreed that Savita died because she was refused an abortion. On the information currently available there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for that conclusion.

Stack’s report then goes over the background to that case – all in the context of the demonstration in Dublin. No mention is made of the multiple statements made by gynaecologists, and by speakers at yesterday’s demonstration, that there is no evidence that an abortion need ever be resorted to as a solution to a complication which might arise in pregnancy.

Stack then proceeded to report on the formation of a new pro-choice group, Abortion Rights Campaign, being established in the country.

She reported that Clare Daly TD said the campaign is not a sprint but a marathon. “We’re here for the long haul,” she said. “In the meantime, we want the immediate introduction of legislation for the right to safe, legal abortion when a woman’s life is at risk, including from suicide.

“We also want the simplest, broadest legislation that includes the right to abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality. We will keep the pressure on until we get this.”

She did not say what everyone knows, that the pro-abortion campaign wants abortion on demand, and knows that prime minister Enda Kenny’s “restrictive” legislative proposal is the best way to get it.

The entire report devoted about 150 words to the demonstration by 25,000 people while the cause being promoted by the pro-choice group got the lion’s share of attention with over twice that. Shameless. Admittedly another report, seen online, by two reporters from the group’s newsroom did carry more of the content of what was said at the demonstration. But it was not much more and it also laboured the Halappanavar case which in the end of the day may have nothing at all to do with abortion and be revealed as a sad case of a woman dying from the effects of an infection.

For some serious coverage of the demonstration a more balanced report can be read here. See this short YouTube video for an atmospheric snapshot of the event.

All this is happening in Ireland while conscientious Americans are mourning the more than 55 milion lives sacrificed on the twin altars of, on the one hand, false compassion, and on the other of selfishness and self-indulgence. This is the toll of lives taken over the 40 years since the US Supreme Court conceded the right to life of the unborn in Roe V Wade.

Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, keeps telling his people that he is not entering the same road as this. He offers no plausible reasons for this assertion, no reasons at all in fact, but instead moans about receiving abusive letters among which are some which suggest that he is “worse than Herod” who slaughtered the Holy Innocents. Well, he may not be worse than Herod. But if he presides over the passing of legislation which will lead to the intentional killing of babies in the womb, even one baby in the womb, then he will bear responsibility for that act and will join a significant number of public representatives who are running Herod a close scond. Is there any other moral reasoning which will deny that? These babies are the new Holy Innocents.

The US picture is truly horrendous. Since that fateful decision by nine men on the Supreme Court in 1973, there have been approximately 55,772,015 abortions that have destroyed the lives of unborn children. Looked at another way, that is 1,392,500 abortions each and every year, 116,191 abortions each and every month in all 50 states. The math breaks down to 26,813 abortions each and every week nationwide. And every day, that’s 3,820 abortions.

Almost 4,000 children have died in America from abortions each and every day since.