Wolf Time: Part II

Today's discussion is about the right way how to live a good life in an ethically confused time. How can one do it? Is it possible? What virtues are the right ones for such a life?

As fate would have it, we have an excellent intro into this discussion from our neighbors to the north.
Legislation passed by the Canadian province of Ontario has granted authorities the right to take children away from parents who refuse to accept their children’s “gender identity.” Critics of the new measure launched a petition aiming for a repeal of the “totalitarian” child abuse bill.... It deprives parents of their earlier right to “direct the child’s education and religious upbringing.”

The family is now only allowed to “direct the child or young person’s education and upbringing, in accordance with the child’s or young person’s creed, community identity and cultural identity.”
In fact the law is uglier even than that description, bearing the marks of the worst kind of identity politics.
The matters to be considered in determining the best interests of a child are changed. The child’s views and wishes, given due weight in accordance with the child’s age and maturity, unless they cannot be ascertained, and in the case of a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, the importance of preserving the child’s cultural identity and connection to community must be taken into consideration.... the new Act includes the child’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, family diversity, disability, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

...

Societies are required to make all reasonable efforts to pursue a plan for customary care for a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child if the child is in need of protection, cannot remain in the care of or be returned to the person who had charge of the child immediately before intervention by the society or the person entitled to custody of the child and is a member of or identifies with a band or a First Nations, Inuit or Métis community. Customary care is defined as the care and supervision of a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child by a person who is not the child’s parent, according to the custom of the child’s band or First Nations, Inuit or Métis community.

An equivalent to section 86 of the current Act, which prohibits Roman Catholic children from being placed in the care of a Protestant society, institution or family and Protestant children from being placed with a Roman Catholic society, institution or family, is not included in the new Act. Instead, a society is to choose a residential placement that, where possible, respects the child’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, family diversity, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and cultural and linguistic heritage. In the case of a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, priority is to be given to placing the child with a First Nations, Inuit or Métis family, respectively.
Lars Walker could have written that law into his book.

So what do you do about it? What do we learn from Wolf Time about how to deal with such a world?

32 comments:

Tom said...

Procedural question: What about spoilers? I don't want to give everything away, so I'm going to keep things vague, but those who have read the book should understand, I think.

So, one thing I think is clear is that the book opposes violent responses to such evil. Both the situation with the Hand of God and the climax of the book make that clear.

When faced with persecution, Harry returns to the ancient Christian response.

Ori Pomerantz said...

I'm going to recommend the traditional Jewish response. Don't be there.

Grim said...

Hm, spoilers. I assumed everyone had read it if they opened the discussion section. :)

Ori, I'm not as familiar with Jewish theology -- which is often quite intricate -- as I might be. I've read Maimonides and Gersonides, but that leaves the vast bulk untouched. Do you want to explain what you mean by that, given that not all of us have the background?

Ori Pomerantz said...

Sorry, I wasn't thinking in theological terms or even moral ones, but practicalities. If you're afraid the government will take your kids, emigrate someplace safer.

A lot of Jewish customs, such as our focus on job skills and portable forms of wealth, makes a lot more sense when you realize that are descended from those who managed to get out while it was still possible.

Robert Macaulay said...

How to "live a good life in an ethically confused time?" Is the government of Wolf Time ethically confused or evil?
In both confused and evil times, the powers will first try to take from you things that they value, and therefore assume that you value as well. Celebrity, access to the powerful and such. If that doesn't work, the powers will keep turning up the heat. So, one response is to care about less and less, thereby removing their potential grip on you. Another response, as Ori says, is to move out of their range.
What if the powers won't let you go, reach for what you hold dear and inalienable, try to imprison you, become evil? Then you either accept martyrdom (easier for yourself, hard for you and your family) or you push back - hard.
Not sure where things stand? Recite to yourself Montroses-toast.

Grim said...

Ori:

I misunderstood you; I thought you were referring to some doctrine, but you were speaking very practically.

It's not a mode I'm sure of. On the one hand, what you're speaking of is as plausibly American as it is Jewish: Americans came to America for reasons, including an opportunity to get away from something less good.

On the other hand, it is hard to imagine leaving America to fall into darkness. Or even if it did, to abandon it. I wonder if those Americans with the old spirit of the place would not be more like Tolkien's Rangers of the North, moving quietly in the dark to do what could be done during the long, hard time.

Grim said...

Robert Macaulay:

You're right, of course, that there is a plausible reading on which the government is actively evil. That happens if you believe (as Aristotle, mentioned in the previous section of this discussion) that the purpose of politics is to enable human flourishing, which is defined by certain natural goods. That's why I cited the Canadian law, which uses the state to destroy the natural goods of family in order to supplant it with an alternative view of sexuality that is divorced from at least biological nature.

If you define good and evil in terms of traditional religion, well, this too seems to be undermining your view of the good to supplant it with something inverted. It's interesting to see Catholic and Protestant groups stripped of the same sorts of protections that are extended to so many other named groups for the preservation of their culture. But it would do no good to move the child, in this case, to another Catholic family or institution; in the case of 'not respecting their gender identity,' it is the Catholicism that presumably has to be removed in order for the child to have a 'good life.' There's no way to read that except as a rejection of the doctrines of the Church on what the good is or where it comes from, or how we can know it.

Ori Pomerantz said...

It is hard to imagine leaving America, but when America changes that much it has already left. It's not about the land, it's about certain ideals.

Tom said...

Where is there to go? America is getting bad, but every other place I know is as bad or worse. Israel, maybe. Are there other possibilities?

Krag said...

Call me a dumb former Marine, but my first answer is: violence. I see no way to reason with humans that start a conversation by denying biological fact. The train is off the tracks before leaving the station. The way forward is by killing some, driving out most, and silencing the remainder. Some things you can work out, some you have to kill over. The ever-increasing demands to disregard logic and fact for feeling and emotion does not lend itself to rational resolution, in my opinion.

douglas said...

Our founders went to war over far lesser offenses than those the people were subjected to in the book. I suppose that suggests one answer (Krag's).

Like our founders, I think you should desire peace and attempt to make your complaints known and work for a change in the populous and the government, but if that fails- well- there isn't much left, is there?

I'd say we're at that stage where things are getting out of hand, and we are really just beginning to make our complaints known in a broader way. We shall see what comes of it.

I'm still hopeful that the left will reveal itself too much for some of their currently nominal supporters, and a greater shift will occur. At times, considering the odds of such a thing happening, I'm grim, and other times more hopeful, so I really don't know what to make of the present other than to continue to try to enlighten more people to the absurdity of the path we are on. At some point, it will be time to begin talking about the dangers more openly, but surely the murmurings have started in our little 'back rooms'.

I suppose the old advice- "Si vis pacem, para bellum" seems apt.

Lars Walker said...

Part of the impetus for the novel was my reading of a book on the history of witch hunting. I say I read it, but I couldn't finish it. Too awful. So I'm partly writing against the idea of enforcing Christian doctrine through violence. Which isn't exactly a looming problem in our time.

If you read "Death's Doors," my sort-of sequel published more recently, you'll find I address a rather different situation, where America is invaded and our government submits. In that case, my good guys do fight back.

So I guess my conscious principles were, no violence in defense of Christianity, but violence is OK in the face of armed aggression. Exactly at what point government persecution becomes armed aggression may be a question I need to contemplate.

Grim said...

So I guess my conscious principles were, no violence in defense of Christianity, but violence is OK in the face of armed aggression.

I came to roughly the same conclusion via a consideration of Luke 22:36 contrasted with Jesus' response to the actual use of the sword to defend him from arrest. That can be metaphorically extended to a bar against defending the faith by violence, but also a recognition of the need to defend each others' persons at times.

On the other hand, MLK would make a similar move, exposing himself to violence to effect change but urging his followers to private self-defense. That made sense because MLK knew that most of America would be appalled by violence, so long as it was public and impossible to ignore. The appeal to nonviolence as a means of social change depends upon an underlying social morality: many societies would not be put off by public violence against hated minorities (like the Jim Crow South, which reveled in lynchings).

The Christians in the South were using violence against other Christians, of course; and it was, in an important sense, an underlying Christianity in the rest of the country that made people uncomfortable with that violence. The Romans were not uncomfortable with violence in the same way, and fed Christians to lions as public spectacles. There's no reason to think that MLK's approach would have worked against Romans.

Jesus' did, of course.

Robert Macaulay said...

I'm truly enjoying this conversation. I certainly am aware that, these days, there really is no place to which you can run away. Of the four choices - fight, flight, surrender, posture - the flight choice is foreclosed.
I do want to bring back what I said at the end of my last post, and I'll quote the Earl of Montrose this time:
"He either fears his fate too much,
Or his desserts are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch,
To win or lose it all!"
Most of us are not comfortable resorting to violence quickly, except in the face of immediate threat to ourselves, loved ones or innocents. What would push us past that point, so that violence was the natural reaction and restrain had to be contemplated? As Mr. Walker said above, "Exactly at what point government persecution becomes armed aggression?"

Lars Walker said...

Very good points. Excellent!

Tom said...

As for convincing people, America was not always this way. Americans would have rejected our current authoritarian state a mere century ago, but they were convinced over the course of the 20th century that government was the solution to their problems.

It wasn't internal violence that brought us to this state, it was generations of persuasion. The historical facts suggest we can use persuasion to repair our republic as well. It just won't be easy or quick.

Tom said...

Another way to view this is from the history of black Americans. After the Civil War, would a black revolution in the segregated South have been justified? They were more oppressed than we are.

Tom said...

To get back to the book, one thing that struck me as odd was when Harry considered converting to Judaism. This made me think that all of the denominations had succumbed to the same disease the Lutheran Church had in the novel.

As it has turned out so far in real life, a number of Christian organizations haven't succumbed. Some have split, and the Catholic and Orthodox Churches seem to have withstood the onslaught so far. I wonder what Harry would have done in this situation.

Of course, with the religion law discussed in the book, I wonder how the traditional branches of Christianity would have reacted. Would there be underground churches? I think so. In a way, it would be a return to Christian roots and persecution under the Roman Empire. "The doors! The doors!"

Grim said...

After the Civil War, would a black revolution in the segregated South have been justified?

The major argument against it would have been that they couldn't win. In general starting a war that you have no hope of winning is thought immoral. The logic goes: war necessarily entails many harms in pursuit of some goods; moral decisions that entail harms as well as goods have to satisfy the Doctrine of Double Effect; one horn of the Doctrine is that the expected harms have to be proportionate to the goods hoped for; if there is no hope of victory, there is no hope of the goods; therefore, the goods cannot be proportionate to the harms. Thus, the action of starting the war has to be disapproved.

One could argue, of course, that a people making itself free is a good that is in fact proportionate to the harm of resulting death, or even the harm of the loss of all of your family, your culture, your particular take on civilization. But that's a big, big ask, and most people have not been persuaded by it.

douglas said...

Tom, when you say that the Catholic and Orthodox churches have resisted the onslaught so far, I can't speak to the Orthodox, but I don't know that I'd say the Catholic church is secure against the onslaught. Since the seventies, there's been a movement within the church to 'reform' in a more 'modern' way- I've heard many a sermon that while not counter to canon, seemed to me to be at the least, diffusing the obligations of the faithful in favor of other social agendas (social justice, liberation theology primarily). I by no means feel secure about the future of the church.

Most of us are not comfortable resorting to violence quickly, except in the face of immediate threat to ourselves, loved ones or innocents. What would push us past that point, so that violence was the natural reaction and restrain had to be contemplated? As Mr. Walker said above, "Exactly at what point government persecution becomes armed aggression?"

Well, that is indeed the question. I'll again turn to the Founding Fathers- they resisted violent revolution for years. They wrote letters, they printed tracts, pamphlets, and otherwise made their opinions clear on the oppressions of the crown, they through their legislatures opposed policies of the crown, they sent emissaries to England to argue their case, and the oppressions continued.

What tipped the scales was when, as they had maintained the means to defend themselves through the stockpiling of arms, ammunition and powder, Crown troops attempted to seize that means of self defense. I think that's a good marker. Anyone trying to remove your right to self defense means you no good, at least certainly values your life and well being less than you do. Even if they don’t mean you harm in the immediate, it’s not unreasonable to assume they mean you harm in the long term.

(1/2)

douglas said...

Perhaps we can turn to the Declaration of Independence as our guide, after all, the main thrust of the document was to lay out the justification for revolution.

”Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

Has our government become destructive of these ends? I think it would be more accurate to say it’s become obstructive of these ends to some degree. I also think the Canadian example in the post may well be considered destructive of those ends.

” Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

So our reticence to invoke revolution seems sound.

” But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Indeed, so what then indicates such a design? Well, for the Founders, it was a long list. I won’t quote it all here, and I’m sure you all are at least familiar with it. If you look at that list, we haven’t been widely subjected to those sorts of offenses. We’ve seen edgings into some of those complaints- but not outright widespread instance of any of them (I think). The pattern, at large, is not yet there. And of course, it was ultimately the use of force by the King against the populous that was the straw that broke the camels back. Can I see us getting there? Yes. Can I see us avoiding that? Yes. But it would seem that it would take a major, unjustified use of force by the government to initiate a revolution.

Was the society in the story at that point? I don’t think we can from the facts given us in the story be sure of that, but there was no evidence of that. What we did see was evidence of a society that had chosen to subvert itself, chosen to abandon the principles and ideas that make America, America. It’s been said by many wise men that America will never succumb to an external force, it can only be destroyed by decline from within. We saw much of that in the story, and we’re seeing much of that around us today.

I suppose I’d say that the fight is an ideological one right now, but maintaining the ability to protect ourselves is essential, and movement by the government to take that away could be the sort of thing to push us from one level to the next. But that’s obvious to our ideological enemies, I think, and they realized some time ago that the slowly growing power of a central government was the more effective (from their view) method of destruction of the American Idea. That’s our fight, now and likely for some time. Were it to get to the point described in the book, perhaps it’s already beyond the tipping point, and you’re simply watching the decline of a once great civilization.

Karl Anderson said...

In general starting a war that you have no hope of winning is thought immoral.

Mr. Walker addressed a variation of this issue in Troll Valley, where the question was whether it was right to begin a fight for freedom in which the vast majority of those enslaved would not live to see the freedom were it won. When the best case scenario is a Pyrrhic victory that can only be won at a disabling cost, what is the right thing to do?

Grim said...

The logic doesn't necessarily apply with the same force when at least some of the good can be attained. It's only prohibitive when there is no hope of victory.

And indeed, for a Christian, that may never even come up. One may always hope for the intervention of an all-powerful divine in defense of a righteous cause. Though as has been said recently in the Hall, "the Lord helps those who help themselves."

Tom said...

One could argue, of course, that a people making itself free is a good that is in fact proportionate to the harm of resulting death, or even the harm of the loss of all of your family, your culture, your particular take on civilization.

Live free or die, you mean?

Karl (or anyone), is the book "Troll Valley" in the same world as "Wolf Time"? There is a Troll Valley in "Wolf Time." I'm going to have to start reading some of Lars's other stuff.

Grim said...

I'm not where I can find it easily, but check the archives for discussion of both Troll Valley & Hailstone Mountain.

Lars Walker said...

"Troll Valley is another novel, set in the same town as "Wolf Time," but earlier in history. It's the same valley that's mentioned in "Wolf Time." "Hailstone Mountain" is one of my Erling Skjalgsson Viking novels.

Karl Anderson said...

Whoops! The events I was referring to are in Hailstone Mountain, not Troll Valley. Sorry for the confusion.

Tom said...

Thanks for the info on the books! Both look good.

douglas, that's a good analysis. I'm not sure, though, that some of the abuses are not being repeated now. One of the abuses was abolishing local governments. While state governments haven't been abolished, per se, the federal government has simply given itself the power to override them and regulate them in ways that the words of the Constitution do not allow. In addition, the USSC has certainly nullified the will of the people expressed in duly enacted laws on a number of occasions. It would be interesting to go down the list and compare.

I think you are right about keeping our arms, but I don't think it's as big a check on tyranny as many seem to believe. It wasn't just the colonists' arms, it was their organized militias, something we don't have and which would be difficult to form. Also key to the American victory was a big ocean between them and us and France's willingness to support us with weapons, soldiers, and their navy.

douglas said...

Thanks, Tom. Surely some of the abuses are being repeated in some form or variation of intensity now, no doubt, and the pattern gets longer and more apparent, but I don't think it's quite yet fully formed. We're not so much debating whether or not there exist reasons to consider rebellion, but when will you know the 'Straw that Broke the Camels Back' has been placed. I think almost anything short of the government committing some sort of massacre is unlikely to spark revolution. One of the few things I can see that might do that short of massacre is seizing of arms. It's such a strong signal that it would be near impossible for the American public, as it is now, to ignore. That's not to say they can't simply continue playing the long game, and indoctrinate future generations to vote for their way and dissolve us from within, but I don't think we've gotten to the point of hopelessness on that account, not really even that close yet- but I'm plenty concerned.

So long as we have the arms, I think we could work up the militias- perhaps not the sort ready for field formations and maneuver battle, but guerilla warfare? Absolutely. (Wolverines!) So long as we hold the spirit of freedom, instead of a collective vision, I think we can do what is necessary.

jaed said...

One of the few things I can see that might do that short of massacre is seizing of arms.

As at Lexington. History may not repeat, but it rhymes sometimes.

Tom said...

We're not so much debating whether or not there exist reasons to consider rebellion, but when will you know the 'Straw that Broke the Camels Back' has been placed.

Yes, that's a good way of putting it.

So long as we hold the spirit of freedom, instead of a collective vision, I think we can do what is necessary.

That's a good point. Or at least, as long as enough of us do. Maybe you're right.

Ori Pomerantz said...

On the average, we breed and they don't. We will win, based on that if nothing else.