I am a conservative who, from time to time, gets testy about leftists and enjoys giving them a gentle prod. Today, I am feeling especially annoyed. While watching the news on television, I learned the Ontario government plans to “invest” in solar panels for northern Metis communities so they can generate incredibly costly electricity for themselves and then sell any surplus to the provincial grid at staggering prices. Presumably, the Metis contribution to the “beneficial” project will consist in sweeping snow and ice from the panels during the six hours of feeble winter daylight.
Many conservatives see the UN building in New York as the “Vatican” of the socialist movement. (Image: Wikipedia)
When Scottish physician and writer Arthur Conan Doyle created his fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, he gave the immortal sleuth some character traits not considered virtues. Foremost among these dubious qualities would be Holmes’ chronic problem with boredom. Another negative behaviour, his cocaine habit, stems directly from this noteworthy inability to stay afloat in unstimulating situations. Doyle wished us to see that Holmes’ mind was so powerful it required huge amounts of intellectual “fuel” to keep it from stalling.
Arthur Conan Doyle used his famous character, Sherlock Holmes, to exemplify the perils of boredom for those with powerful intellects. (Photo: Wikipedia)
In reality, anyone with a decent mind faces the same situation. We know that all human beings tend towards “psychic entropy” when alone – the least stimulating situation a person can be in. It is less obvious that persons of greater intelligence may suffer the same fate even when among others if the milieu in which they travel is of insufficient sophistication. The danger is, as it was with Holmes, boredom followed by sudden descents into severe depression.
I am a conservative, and like many people on the right, I have a problem with the leftist propensity for taking everything over. Leftists are against boundaries for the simple reason that they love to overstep them and meddle where they have no business getting involved. A case in point: In a recent local dispute between teachers and parents, a school spokesperson casually claimed that teachers were “co-parents” to the children who attended school. He seemed blissfully unaware that the courts have consistently recognized the primacy of parental authority in the rearing and education of children. Teachers were startled and offended by the public outrage that followed the spokesperson’s remark.
Teachers have become toxically self-important at the expense of their hapless pupils. (image: clipartpal.com)
These days we are all familiar with the concept of the “butterfly effect.” The usual formulation goes something like this: when a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world (often the Amazon jungle) it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world. The colossal disparity in magnitude between cause and effect embodied in the idea has fired the collective imagination around the globe.
At the level of our lives, the famous butterfly effect is largely an urban myth. (Image: Thomas Cotterill)
The butterfly effect was “discovered” in 1961 by MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz. He was working at the time as an assistant professor in MIT’s department of meteorology where one of his projects involved an early computer program designed to simulate weather. As so often happens in science, his discovery was accidental. Looking to save some input time, he rounded one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions from .506127 down to .506. To his amazement, the tiny reduction utterly transformed his long-term forecast. Lorenz wrote about the experience in a 1972 paper titled, “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?” The title was imaginative, intriguing, and provocative. A completely new idea was born. Vast opportunities for exciting scientific speculation suddenly sprang into being.
The other day, I got to wondering why so many who obviously are politically correct deny being so when someone points out to them that they hold such views. I think the answer lies in the way most of us acquire our attitudes and opinions. Few of us are dedicated philosophers or deep thinkers so we form our opinions piecemeal, often over a considerable span of time. We do not suddenly buy into an established ideology or pre-packaged set of ideas. Most of us recognize the foolishness of such a thoughtless swallow-it-whole move.
It is possible to absorb politically correct (and other) attitudes without realizing what is happening. (Image: Thomas Cotterill)
Because of this piecemeal approach, participants in the politically correct worldview have probably absorbed the values one at a time as they encountered them. As is now well known, there is a strong leftist bias in education, the arts, the media, television, Hollywood, and so on. We meet political correctness everywhere. Such views are on the six o’clock news, embedded in sitcoms and dramas, presented in magazines and newspapers, flashed across the big screen in the latest Hollywood blockbusters, embedded in novels, and discussed on television talk shows. We may also encounter the worldview among our already-persuaded family members, friends, and co-workers. Seldom do these isolated examples of politically correct thinking bear the specific label “Politically Correct.” However, the notion that they are unquestionably a good thing is implicit in the mode of presentation. It is often very persuasive.
A striking feature of socialist Europe is the proliferation of separatist movements. Growing numbers in Northern Ireland want to split from the UK and found a new nation called Ulster. Nationalists in Scotland also want to go it alone. Belgium’s Flemings (the Dutch) want independence and some Walloons (the French) have responded with a proposed state of their own (you cannot fire me, I quit!). Denmark’s Faroe Islands and Greenland both have independence movements. In France, there are separatist rumblings in Brittany, Corsica, and the Basque country. Catalonia has recently expressed its displeasure with being part of Spain. Germany’s Bavaria gets restless now and then. In fact, there are many such movements within most European countries, although not all of them must be taken seriously.
A preoccupation with ethnicity, minorities, and differences erodes national identities based on what a people have in common. (Photo: public domain)
Romantics like to think of themselves as unique individuals who have the strength of character to go against the flow. They describe anyone who stays in the mainstream as a “conformist,” a word with negative connotations.
Romanticism promotes an anti-social emphasis on individuality and self-absorption. (photo: public domain)
Academic and novelist Ann Swinfen has some interesting things to say about this topic as it relates to C. S. Lewis’sTheChronicles of Narnia. In her work of literary criticism, In Defence of Fantasy (1984), she points out that Lewis was against individualism and in favour of conforming to religious orthodoxy and societal norms. His fiction reflects this strongly held rational philosophy.
The term “normal” once referred to the statistical idea of average (the norm), but in recent decades the word has acquired instead the medical connotation of “healthy.” Even the hard sciences are affected. In good science, the opposite of normal (abnormal) in the statistical sense means “not average”; that is, above average or below average. No judgement is implied. However, when one switches to the frame of reference acquired from medicine, the opposite of normal is “pathological,” and a value judgement is very definitely evident. This switch or drift in the meaning of normal has become practically universal and increasingly harmful.
Weather is just one of many areas where we have lost sight of what constitutes normal. We now use a medical model rather than a statistical one. (photo credit: wpclipart.com)
The Algerian War of Independence began in 1954 and sputtered on until 1962 when the nation gained its independence from France. A noteworthy feature of the conflict was the use of terrorism against civilians. Millions of French citizens lived in Algeria at the time and regarded the country as their rightful home. In fact, many in both Algeria and France itself regarded Algeria as an extension of France proper. This situation led to civil war inside Algeria as pro- and anti-France factions battled one another for dominance.
War in Algeria prompted Camus’ insight that some people believe in history and also want history to be fair, even if settling accounts means tolerating terrorist attacks on the formerly dominant. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Every age acquires a label of some kind, a word or phrase designed to capture the essence of the times. We have seen “the post-industrial society” and the “information age,” the one indicating what we have left behind, the other where we have arrived. Yet neither of these economic descriptors truly captures the irrational emotional state that now permeates, and so powerfully disturbs, the troubled Western World.
The modern taste for shock, irrationality, the supernatural, and everything to excess remarkably resembles the earlier Baroque period. (Image: Wikimedia)
We in the West should seriously consider labelling our present era the “neo-Baroque.” In their landmark work, Theory of Literature, Weller and Warren claim that the Baroque period was in love with paradox, the oxymoron (e.g. deafening silence), and catachresis (deliberate wrong use of words), and not just in the sphere of literature, which is, after all, philosophy for its time, but at large in society as well. Today, we see the same tastes running amok in all Western societies.