Haud Hogmanay

The Scottish government has forbidden the celebration of Hogmanay this year, which attentive readers will recall is the reason that Hogmanay came to be in the first place. The wild, three-day New Years' celebration became what it is because the Scottish government forbade the celebration of Christmas, finding their subjects entirely too inclined to drunken revelry on the feast of Christ's birth. Thus, the Scots simply moved it to the next weekend.

This year England is paying the price for the Scottish government's attempt at avoiding revelry. England is not that far a drive for Scots who want to conduct their outdoor torch parades in Viking gear, drinking and setting fire to stuff. (Drinking and setting fire to England is also an old Scottish custom.)

We will be celebrating here. I'm making venison steak pies, shortbread, and festive drinks like raw-egg eggnog. 

Haud Hogmanay, and may you all have a much better New Year than either of the two past.

Authoritarianism's Appeal

For 'good' purposes only, of course. 
The contemporary political theory literature—which largely conceptualizes legitimacy in terms of democracy or basic rights—would seem to suggest not. I argue, however, that there exists another, overlooked aspect of legitimacy concerning a government’s ability to ensure safety and security. While, under normal conditions, maintaining democracy and rights is typically compatible with guaranteeing safety, in emergency situations, conflicts between these two aspects of legitimacy can and often do arise. A salient example of this is the COVID-19 pandemic, during which severe limitations on free movement and association have become legitimate techniques of government. Climate change poses an even graver threat to public safety. Consequently, I argue, legitimacy may require a similarly authoritarian approach. 

The idea that the government exists to keep you safe, and may violate your rights as necessary to do so, is pernicious. Government does exist to provide security in the sense of holding a space in the world that will not be overrun by those who would enslave or tyrannize you. If it does this by enslaving or tyrannizing you, however, it has already defeated the purpose for which security was wanted.

There are ultimately no limits to government power once you accept the principle that safety per se is a proper end of government. What could you regulate under the heading of climate change? Every economic activity, surely; and thus every activity whatsoever, since every choice one makes has economic consequences. Take an activity that has as few as possible: should I take a walk outside in the fresh air? If I do, I'm not doing other things that may be valuable in the fight against climate change. Perhaps I should be spending my exercise time generating power on one of those generator standing bicycles. Indeed, perhaps the government will find that we all have a duty to do so:

One bicycle could potentially provide a small village with electricity if each household spends on hour per day pedaling the bike.

So like Conan pushing the wheel, we could all be mandated to spend even our exercise time in a way that those with the whips have determined is in the interest of the common good.

Well, it worked out for him. Maybe it will be good for us too. Plato's Athenian would have liked the idea quite a lot. 

For those who believe as the Declaration of Independence does that the sole function of government is to secure inalienable rights, this principle must be rejected. Granting governments extra powers in emergencies is unacceptable because governments can always make emergencies as necessary to continue their powers. Granting them extra powers for emergencies as broad as "climate change" whisks away any defense from having them regulate every aspect of everyone's life. It is the choice of the frogs who demanded a king.

Advice You Can Use

If you are a reader of Grim’s Hall, there is a good chance that you would enjoy opening champagne tonight with a sword. If you’ve never done it before, The Art of Manliness has a helpful graphic

The Feast of the Holy Family

That is today's feast; I missed the Feast of Holy Innocents this year, but you can read prior posts about it. Likewise the Feast of St. John the Divine, which is remembered here.

"Dancing is Strictly Not Permitted"

Pakistan? China? No, the state of Washington Western Australia. [UPDATE: See comments. My mistake.]

You see it's not religion or totalitarianism... well, actually, it does sound like totalitarianism at the point that you presume the right to regulate dancing inside private homes. Amusingly masks are not required, so it's fine to breathe the same air in an enclosed space as long as you don't engage in any dancing. 

Consensual sex between adults of any kind, however, is presumably permitted. No decent progressive government would dare regulate that. So I guess it's not quite totalitarian, since there is at least one exception to totalized regulation. 

On a Similar Subject

Blogger is having a day, I guess; I usually have no trouble posting comments places, but today it's just doing a weird thing where it shows the comment as posted, but then when I come back it was never posted. I assume that, like other similar tech errors that crop up from time to time, this will pass in a while. YouTube was being completely impossible to use with Blogger about a year ago, and that went away completely until last week, when I began having very similar issues with the HTML editor on Blogger crashing. (If that happens to you, the only way I know to fix it is to log into Blogger with an iPhone rather than anything running Windows, and force it to change back to Compose View instead). 

So anyway, James' post linked to a post by AVI on Authoritarian Populists. He is also wondering where this intense fear comes from, given that in fact mostly people on the right are anti-authority. Certainly it is true that, were I somehow to come into authoritarian power, I would use it chiefly to dissolve the systems of power that currently are being misused. I might dissolve the entire Federal bureaucracy; or perhaps the entire Federal government, except for a Constitutional rump that ran the Navy (and not a standing Army), involved no other bureaucracies, and complied with the 10th Amendment by doing nothing whatsoever that the Constitution doesn't explicitly assign to the Federal government. I might dissolve the state governments, too, shifting to a voluntary model of government such as I have discussed here from time to time. Grant me this tremendous power -- which I don't actually seek in any way -- and I would use it to dissolve power, not to impose my will upon other people. Not even on abortion, which I believe to be philosophically indefensible in most cases (barring things like intertubal pregnancies, which will kill the mother as well as, inevitably, the child). Not even on armed robbery or murder, where I would license people to form self-defense leagues and militias to protect their communities, but would prefer to dispense with law enforcement officers and courts that operate as a separate class from the people. This might be called populism, since it returns power to the people; but it is not properly authoritarian in any way (especially since, contra hypothesis, I seek no power whatsoever but merely try to persuade people that this would be a good way for us to go together).

However! It is not me, or you, that these people fear. The issue is merely that they cannot distinguish us from the ones they fear. This is normal when you are really completely separate from another class of human beings: most of us could not easily explain the difference between various Hindu castes nor some of the more novel LBGTQ+ categories. Social distinctions are often very complicated, and impenetrable to outsiders. 

The people they are afraid of do exist; there just are almost none of them. They are people like Mencius Moldbug, whom I've never met, nor have I met anyone who has met him as far as I know. They supported Trump, and being unable to distinguish, the left thinks that everyone who supported Trump in any way and for any reason must be somewhat like them. 

They really can't distinguish between them and the people who showed up in Charlottesville, nor between them and the KKK (who did not), nor between them and the broad class of anyone who would consider voting for Trump. They cannot distinguish between those who believe the election was conducted in an unconstitutional manner in 2020 and those who believe the wilder tales being promulgated about election machines and servers in Italy. They cannot distinguish between those who came to the Stop the Steal Rally to hear the President speak, and those who marched on the Capitol; nor, easily, between those who marched on the Capitol and protested peacefully outside of it and those who went inside with flags and facepaint. Nor can they distinguish between those and actual fascist insurgents, who would have brought guns.

Your average Trump supporter is none of those things, in my experience; he or she is an ordinary American who was disengaged with politics for decades since Reagan left, increasingly seeing no one in either party who had his or her or America's interests at heart. Republicans and Democrats alike, they sold out their country for personal profit, sent jobs to China or Mexico, maximized corporate profit but let the American economy wither. Suddenly, in Donald Trump, they found a guy who really wanted America to succeed -- to become great again -- and who spoke a language they understood about doing the simple things like building walls (both physical ones to prevent mass immigration that depressed their wages, and economic tariff ones to restore the domestic economy). 

Those people aren't like me, or most of you, either. They are somewhat like my father, who was the most decent and upright man I ever knew. They do not fear democracy, but they do fear corruption; democratic forms mean nothing if they are corruptly prevented from expressing the true will of the people. They do not desire to be ruled by authoritarians, but by leaders they chose for themselves, who share their ideas about right and wrong, truth and falsehood, and other basic values. They may sometimes be wrong about those values, or not; but they wish to govern themselves, as a people who do have shared values, according to those values. 

This is in fact a very democratic notion, a Federalist notion that allows different values to exist in different parts of America; but to see that it is you have to be able to make all these distinctions. That requires coming to know these people on their own terms, and well enough to see how they differ from others who may also be on the right. 

Fearing Guns

James has an excellent question at his blog: why do people fear guns in a visceral way? There is good discussion in the comments. I would simply join it, but for some reason Blogger isn't letting me comment over there. 

So here is what I wanted to say:

To some degree it's the same thing driving the literary convention called "Chekhov's Gun." Any introduction of a gun into the drama, no matter how small, implies that the gun will be fired by the last act. 

Real life doesn't work that way, but human beings tend to construct dramatic stories about their lives, and this convention is so well-known because it is so completely obeyed by storytellers. Seeing a gun, then, implies that violence is being foreshadowed; that it is forthcoming. 

For those of us who live with guns, of course, sheer repetition proves that this dramatic tension is not a real feature of reality. I first saw a gun in my father's closet; he lived and died and never fired it as far as I know. I have that gun in my safe now, and I'm not going to fire it either because it's a cheap piece of crap from postwar Germany that might explode in my hand. I have a gun that belonged to my great-great grandfather, and another that belonged to my grandfather; whole generations have passed without them harming anything other than the occasional squirrel for Brunswick stew.

I have other guns I see or handle more-or-less daily, none of which have been fired recently (due to the expense of ammo more than anything else; it's fun to shoot for practice, and to keep in shape as a marksman). They never cause any trouble, but they're available in case trouble should appear from other directions. 

Still, I suspect it is chiefly the literary and dramatic conventions. Those who never encounter the things have only those dramas to fall back on, mentally, and that is how the story always plays out in the dramas.

Here's a fun piece on that topic.

The Feast of St. Thomas Becket

Martyred this day 1170, Thomas Becket is remembered by today’s feast. Here is a version of the story that suggests a motive for one of the knights who helped kill him. 

Viking Routes in Scotland

A major new mapping project by universities in Scotland will examine ports and portages

One man's trash

Maggie's Farm linked this charming article, originally published in the NYT, a periodical that still apparently manages to put out things worth reading despite its best efforts to ruin itself. Molly Young gives us a thoughtful and stimulating look at the work of Paul Rozin, who analyzes disgust reactions. I realized long ago that my disgust reactions are anomalous. It's one of the things that define my identity, which is founded on a willingness to question rules and conclusions rather than assume that the majority view is by definition correct. Our differences are the basis of a valueable exchange system, in which all the riches available to us can be sorted through a complex social market in which we each apply our own measures of cost and benefit. Around our house, for instance, I automatically take on jobs that I know would distress my husband but have a negligible impact on me, if any, like cleaning up poop. In return, my husband assumes responsibility for things that would drive me nuts but place little burden on him. Voila, an economy! Few things make me happier than to find that what I prize is so undervalued by others that I can pick it up for a song. It's exactly the opposite of wanting what's in vogue. It's what makes me at heart a contrarian. Society needs contrarians, as long as we're not too difficult to get along with. Someone should always be hanging around demanding that we reconsider some basic assumptions, just in case. The syndrome does come with a large dose of alienation. In my seventh decade of life I'm only just now beginning to get a handle on how to deal with that. We contrarian introverts do need communion with other human souls, we just can't get it in the most usual ways.

Military to Diversify Working Dogs, Include Chihuahuas

So far, there have been no Chihuahuas capable of taking down a 250-pound man by the arm, so the military has elected to eliminate that test altogether.

More Restrictions on Latin Mass

The Chicago Diocese is making it very difficult for priests to conduct a Latin Mass.
...priests, deacons, and ordained ministers who wish to use the "old rite" must submit their requests to Cupich in writing and agree to abide by the new norms.

Those rules specify that the Traditional Latin Masses must incorporate scripture readings in the vernacular, using the official translation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In addition, such Masses cannot take place in a parish church unless both the archbishop and the Vatican agree to grant an exemption.

The new policy also prohibits the celebration of Traditional Latin Masses on the first Sunday of every month, Christmas, the Triduum, Easter Sunday, and Pentecost Sunday.

The push follows the Pope's move to try to limit the usage.

The Vatican's explanatory document states that the intent of Traditionis custodes is "to re-establish in the whole Church of the Roman Rite a single and identical prayer expressing its unity, according to the liturgical books promulgated by the Popes Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council and in line with the tradition of the Church."

What always strikes me here is how much more the Latin Mass represents an establishment 'in the whole Church of the Roman Rite [in] a single and identical prayer." It's the one they sing in Jerusalem, and occurs in the same language and terms as when performed in America or Europe, Africa or in (secret, hidden churches in) China. It ties the Church together, and ties it also to its ancient ancestry -- those who, by doctrine, continue to be members of the Church after death. 

It seems to me that a quick way to divide the Church into many competing factions is to divide it into many competing languages. In fact, I believe there is a Biblical story about that.

Sleigh Bells Ring

In the discussion below, I linked to an article on how the lyrics of Jingle Bells have a kind of dark sarcasm about the joys of horseback riding and sleighing. I found this performance of the original version, which also has a markedly different chorus than the one we know so well. 

The lyrics aren't all that dark, really; rather, they make light of a real danger facing the people of the era. In that way it reminds me of this song, which likewise allows itself to make fun of a very serious peril that faces us today. It ends up being a fun song, even though the dangers of driving while intoxicated are very real and can be much more terrible than portrayed.

That seems to me to be something like the spirit of the original Jingle Bells. We all know we could end up 'upshot' or flat on our backs when we get out on horseback, just like we all know we could encounter one of these 'merry fellows' on the highway -- and that it might not be a laughing matter if we really do. Like M*A*S*H or similar military-themed humor, sometimes it is allowable to make fun of even the truest perils we face.