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Tuesday 10 September 2013

Answer of a Millennial to.....

One of my readers sent me this link, and I sent it to a Millennial or two for discussion. Here is one comment.

It started out well. I started raising my eyebrows around paragraph
six and by the end they were stuck to my parietal.

It STILL takes hassle to socialize. Arguably, it is a lot more
difficult than it used to. We live in a society which enables us to
choose whatever friends we want, but then disallows us from relating
to them in a positive way. The use of technology in communication rose
to facilitate close relationships against the adversities of modern
obstacles. Remember the Hittite seals in the TAC library? The oldest
extant form of human written communication was designed to associate a
person and his family with an object or concept after that person was
physically divorced from it. Technology develops around a need for
relationships, not the other way around.

He then uses practically the same arguments and quotes about opium
that a certain prominent atheist uses to criminalize organized
religion. The idea that you can compare something to chemicals on the
basis that it alleviates psychological pain is inherently flawed.
Nothing is wrong with alleviating psychological pain, or with, for
that matter, alleviating physical pain (in the right context). What
makes cocaine Bad is that the psychological and physical side-effects
are inherently compromising of its health benefits. The substance
itself entails a psychological dependency which is ultimately
self-destructive. Psychological dependencies which increase ones
dependence on people, rather than things, are actually quite
constructive. In other words, while the mental process of addiction
can be triggered by a variety of things, the process itself is not
destructive - it's part of being human.

The author then makes an interesting series of leaps between
psychological dependency on the alleviation of pain and "recreational"
technology. He ties recreational technology to its marketability and
playing on imagined needs. He then defines the internet as
recreational technology. This is where I get really confused. When he
defines China as a culture shut out from the technical world, I begin
to realize that his definition of "technology" is exceedingly narrow,
and somehow linked to this subdivision of "marketed recreational
technology". (It still doesn't explain why he chooses to ignore that
the Chinese were marketing board games and firing rifles at geese in
the mid 13th century, while Westerners were still playing with balls
of wool and pointed sticks).

Firstly, technology is not fundamentally recreational, which should be obvious.

Secondly (and admittedly obscurely), the internet is not fundamentally
recreational. It is a method of processing communication via data on a
global scale. It doesn't even meet the traditional definition of
"technology", but I digress. His comment that "WoW beats Wikipedia
hands down" was written in 2008 when WoW was at the height of its
popularity, having finally broken into Asia, and Wiki was still a
young and unstable community largely contained in its English-speaking
heartland, so it is understandable. I remember helping to translate
Japanese articles into English at the time, and look back and laugh at
the pointlessness of some of our arguments! Now WoW is on the decline
and Wikipedia is the sixth most accessed web service in the world,
after a handful of search engines and social media engines, and well
ahead of Twitter, Amazon, and Sina. It is set to hit 500 million
unique visitors in a month for the first time this Autumn. The total
number of people who play online games (of any variety) is estimated
at a relatively paltry 217 million.

Thirdly, and what I seem to remind people of in a daily basis, the
internet is composed of people. If you are looking at a website, 90%
of the time you are interacting with a person (like it or not) and the
vast majority of that time you are interacting with a single person or
a small group of people. At the heart of the popularity of the
internet is its connectivity. The popularity of facebook and twitter
attests to that. But perhaps this is precisely what he finds

I think the clue to his thought is finally evident in the penultimate
paragraph: "We don't have the time-intensive life we once did."

Maybe if you live in Montana; *average* worker productivity in the US
is 300% of what it was in 1900, and the time spent *not* working, at a
workplace, or commuting is at an all-time low. The speed at which
recreational use of new technology is adopted has nothing to do with
our desperation for it; it has to do with the speed at which it is
absorbed. The more complex and the more adaptable technology is, the
longer it takes to adapt ourselves towards it. The attempt to make
computers more sensitive to what the user thinks is an attempt to make
computers more Human, not an attempt to make humans more Digital. The
human brain is physiologically not a binary engine and it never will
be; we are not electronic. However, we do use the same formal logic as
computers. There are dangers, certainly, in encouraging humans to
think hyperlogically (epistemological relativism being one of them),
but this obviously isn't what he's getting at. He seems to think that
we live in a *less* busy world, a world in which most of us are bored
and obsessed with recreation, and the internet is our easiest way of
passing the time while avoiding real human interaction. I would argue
that we live in a vastly more busy world, a world in which most of us
are overworked and obsessed with greed, and the internet it our
simplest method of establishing real human interaction.

Anyway, I guess I still don't "get it", but I've tried...

(Bravo, kid!)

On Rabbits, Catholics and Communism-Part Three

 A Pillow Mound Rabbit Warren from the Luttrell Psalter.
Now, as then, we need to repeat that there can be no genuine solution of the "social question" apart from the Gospel. Bl. John Paul II in Centesimus-Annus.

Well, a rabbit in a briar patch is completely natural. A person in a family is natural as well. For a state to want to supplant the parents and the family as the basic unit of society is not only unnatural, but anti-God. An human has a nature and both communism and socialism destroy that nature. Our nature involved being in the image and likeness of God, not in the image and likeness of an economic or social system.

Perhaps Catholics have never read the Decree Against Communism, written in 1949 by Pope Pius XII and reconfirmed in 1962 by Bl. John XXIII. If a Catholic joins a communist party, that Catholic is excommunicated.

Catholics today need to read several encyclicals on this subject, but here are the links to a few. If you do not know what it is to be an individual, a person, with dignity and independence, you will fall into error.

Pius XII against communism--a snippet

What would be the condition of a human society based on such materialistic tenets? It would be a collectivity with no other hierarchy than that of the economic system. It would have only one mission: the production of material things by means of collective labor, so that the goods of this world might be enjoyed in a paradise where each would "give according to his powers" and would "receive according to his needs." Communism recognizes in the collectivity the right, or rather, unlimited discretion, to draft individuals for the labor of the collectivity with no regard for their personal welfare; so that even violence could be legitimately exercised to dragoon the recalcitrant against their wills. In the Communistic commonwealth morality and law would be nothing but a derivation of the existing economic order, purely earthly in origin and unstable in character. In a word. the Communists claim to inaugurate a new era and a new civilization which is the result of blind evolutionary forces culminating in a humanity without God.
13. When all men have finally acquired the collectivist mentality in this Utopia of a really classless society, the political State, which is now conceived by Communists merely as the instrument by which the proletariat is oppressed by the capitalists, will have lost all reason for its existence and will "wither away." However, until that happy consummation is realized, the State and the powers of the State furnish Communism with the most efficacious and most extensive means for the achievement of its goal.
14. Such, Venerable Brethren, is the new gospel which bolshevistic and atheistic Communism offers the world as the glad tidings of deliverance and salvation! It is a system full of errors and sophisms. It is in opposition both to reason and to Divine Revelation. It subverts the social order, because it means the destruction of its foundations; because it ignores the true origin and purpose of the State; because it denies the rights, dignity and liberty of human personality.


30. Man cannot be exempted from his divinely-imposed obligations toward civil society, and the representatives of authority have the right to coerce him when he refuses without reason to do his duty. Society, on the other hand, cannot defraud man of his God-granted rights, the most important of which We have indicated above. Nor can society systematically void these rights by making their use impossible. It is therefore according to the dictates of reason that ultimately all material things should be ordained to man as a person, that through his mediation they may find their way to the Creator. In this wise we can apply to man, the human person, the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, who writes to the Corinthians on the Christian economy of salvation: "All things are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."[12] While Communism impoverishes human personality by inverting the terms of the relation of man to society, to what lofty heights is man not elevated by reason and Revelation!
31. The directive principles concerning the social-economic order have been expounded in the social Encyclical of Leo XIII on the question of labor.[13] Our own Encyclical on the Reconstruction of the Social Order[14] adapted these principles to present needs. Then, insisting anew on the age-old doctrine of the Church concerning the individual and social character of private property, We explained clearly the right and dignity of labor, the relations of mutual aid and collaboration which should exist between those who possess capital and those who work, the salary due in strict justice to the worker for himself and for his family.

and, Bl. John Paul II 

and a snippet from there---His (Leo XIII) words deserve to be re-read attentively: "To remedy these wrongs (the unjust distribution of wealth and the poverty of the workers), the Socialists encourage the poor man's envy of the rich and strive to do away with private property, contending that individual possessions should become the common property of all...; but their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that, were they carried into effect, the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are moreover emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community".39 The evils caused by the setting up of this type of socialism as a State system — what would later be called "Real Socialism" — could not be better expressed.

13. Continuing our reflections, and referring also to what has been said in the Encyclicals Laborem exercens and Sollicitudo rei socialiswe have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears, the very subject whose decisions build the social order. From this mistaken conception of the person there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property. A person who is deprived of something he can call "his own", and of the possibility of earning a living through his own initiative, comes to depend on the social machine and on those who control it. This makes it much more difficult for him to recognize his dignity as a person, and hinders progress towards the building up of an authentic human community.
In contrast, from the Christian vision of the human person there necessarily follows a correct picture of society. According to Rerum novarum and the whole social doctrine of the Church, the social nature of man is not completely fulfilled in the State, but is realized in various intermediary groups, beginning with the family and including economic, social, political and cultural groups which stem from human nature itself and have their own autonomy, always with a view to the common good. This is what I have called the "subjectivity" of society which, together with the subjectivity of the individual, was cancelled out by "Real Socialism".40
If we then inquire as to the source of this mistaken concept of the nature of the person and the "subjectivity" of society, we must reply that its first cause is atheism. It is by responding to the call of God contained in the being of things that man becomes aware of his transcendent dignity. Every individual must give this response, which constitutes the apex of his humanity, and no social mechanism or collective subject can substitute for it. The denial of God deprives the person of his foundation, and consequently leads to a reorganization of the social order without reference to the person's dignity and responsibility.
The atheism of which we are speaking is also closely connected with the rationalism of the Enlightenment, which views human and social reality in a mechanistic way. Thus there is a denial of the supreme insight concerning man's true greatness, his transcendence in respect to earthly realities, the contradiction in his heart between the desire for the fullness of what is good and his own inability to attain it and, above all, the need for salvation which results from this situation.
14. From the same atheistic source, socialism also derives its choice of the means of action condemned in Rerum novarum, namely, class struggle. The Pope does not, of course, intend to condemn every possible form of social conflict. The Church is well aware that in the course of history conflicts of interest between different social groups inevitably arise, and that in the face of such conflicts Christians must often take a position, honestly and decisively. The Encyclical Laborem exercens moreover clearly recognized the positive role of conflict when it takes the form of a "struggle for social justice";41 Quadragesimo anno had already stated that "if the class struggle abstains from enmities and mutual hatred, it gradually changes into an honest discussion of differences founded on a desire for justice".42

However, what is condemned in class struggle is the idea that conflict is not restrained by ethical or juridical considerations, or by respect for the dignity of others (and consequently of oneself); a reasonable compromise is thus excluded, and what is pursued is not the general good of society, but a partisan interest which replaces the common good and sets out to destroy whatever stands in its way. In a word, it is a question of transferring to the sphere of internal conflict between social groups the doctrine of "total war", which the militarism and imperialism of that time brought to bear on international relations. As a result of this doctrine, the search for a proper balance between the interests of the various nations was replaced by attempts to impose the absolute domination of one's own side through the destruction of the other side's capacity to resist, using every possible means, not excluding the use of lies, terror tactics against citizens, and weapons of utter destruction (which precisely in those years were beginning to be designed). Therefore class struggle in the Marxist sense and militarism have the same root, namely, atheism and contempt for the human person, which place the principle of force above that of reason and law.

On Bunny Rabbits And Socialism-Part Two Out of Three

I am reading off and on for fun Venerable Fulton J. Sheen's Your Life is Worth Living. If you are evangelizing someone from age 16 on, I recommend this book. The chapters are from his television series and the chapters are short and self-contained.

Now, you might be puzzled as to what Fulton J. Sheen has to do with bunny rabbits or with socialism.

Did you know that the wild rabbit can travel up to 25 miles a day? Could....and that is a mile an hour, if the rabbit is not sleeping, which it would be doing, so more than a mile an hour, if needed for safety, food, or setting up a new warren.

That rabbits need freedom for survival is true even of house pet rabbits. This need for movement and freedom is not merely a natural drive, but a need for the rabbit to be a rabbit, and not a cat or a dog, which a rabbit is nothing like.

Now, Fulton J. Sheen had a lot to say about communism. He spoke eloquently and intellectually, but also practically about what communism does to the soul, the mind, the heart of a person, of a nation.

One of the best points Sheen made in one of his talks was that when he was teaching in a Catholic university, (he taught philosophy for 25 years), was that the Catholic teachers knew both sides of the argument concerning communism. These professors could argue, like St. Thomas Aquinas, as Sheen notes, both sides.
When I taught my students debate and argumentation, they had to learn both sides of the argument in order to win their "side".  Unless a Catholic understands from the inside out the real dangers of communism, this Catholic will not see their own slide into mental slavery.

I gave my house rabbit freedom to run around a very large walled-in garden. It was safe in that garden. When we moved into that house, it had been abandoned for a while and the garden was half-full of briars. It took us a month to clear back the heavy, stubborn briars. At the end of the large garden, we left some in a contained area. This was Sooty's special play area. If Sooty needed space, the rabbit would go into the tangled briars for time-out.

One of my favorite memories was a mid-summer night when Sooty did not come back in when we called at the patio door. It was getting dark,  and we were concerned, as Sooty slept inside.

I remember my husband standing on top of the briar patch calling Sooty, who apparently did not want to come in. Finally, I put food in its dish and stood by the patio door. The rabbit came out quickly and popped into the house for din-dins.

Now, we understood Sooty's needs and habits, but also the danger from owls and other predators, which would eat this little rabbit.

Sooty had freedom within limits. This is not the case for those living under communism as Sheen points out.

Our rabbit was free because we loved it and had a relationship with it. As Sheen points out, Catholicism is a relationship with God, not with a system.

Sooty knew whom it was obeying-a kind person who was feeding it and concerned.

We do not have that kind of relationship with tyrannies. Socialism and communism, as Sheen points out, create an anonymous "they" and we give that "they" power, or they take it.

The they is only so powerful as we make it in the West. and we have created a monster.

It is hard for me to convince people who are excellent Catholics of the danger of socialism. These good people in Europe cannot see how the society, the family, their own wildness, that is their own individual dignity have been eroded by group think and the "they" who control their lives.

The arguments usually end up centered on how wonderful the baby-killing national health system are for people.  I cannot help those who desire such systems to determine who lives or who dies, who is fit for the utilitarian world and who is fit to serve the state as opposed to those who are a burden on the state.

I cannot convince group-think Catholics who do not really know the other side of the argument.

Catholicism gives real freedom. As an institutional Church, the Catholic Church knows both sides of the argument. And, she preaches a relationship, not merely dogmas. As Sheen points out, to be free, one needs order and law, but God's laws not man's. And, socialism and communism both re-define man.

That is the problem. I did not re-define my rabbit. It was a rabbit, not a person.

The person is not merely a cog in the wheel of the state; the person does not exist for the state.

To know the arguments might help some Catholic who are socialists to repent.

There is also a misunderstanding between the term materialism and consumerism. This must be corrected. Too many Catholics think materialism is merely being caught up in the buying and accumulating of things-that is consumerism. Materialism is the philosophical idea that the world is all there is-there is no afterlife.

The goal of both communism and socialism is materialism-the denial that the ultimate goal of men and women is heaven. Those isms make earth the goal and earthly comforts the work of humankind.

This is not the case. The popes knew that materialism changes the definition of what it means to be human.

Be a Catholic. Fulton J. Sheen in this chapter mentioned that a communist told him that the encyclical on communism by the pope was the best understanding of the system he ever saw. The same is true for the encyclicals on socialism. Nothing has changed. A rabbit is a rabbit, a man a man, and a system which replaces God for security and identity is a tyranny.

Here is Pope Leo XIII.

In fine, the rewards and punishments of a future and eternal life having been handed over to oblivion, the ardent desire of happiness has been limited to the bounds of the present. Such doctrines as these having been scattered far and wide, so great a license of thought and action having sprung up on all sides, it is no matter for surprise that men of the lowest class, weary of their wretched home or workshop, are eager to attack the homes and fortunes of the rich; it is no matter for surprise that already there exists no sense of security either in public or private life, and that the human race should have advanced to the very verge of final dissolution.


Even family life itself, which is the cornerstone of all society and government, necessarily feels and experiences the salutary power of the Church, which redounds to the right ordering and preservation of every State and kingdom. For you know, venerable brethren, that the foundation of this society rests first of all in the indissoluble union of man and wife according to the necessity of natural law, and is completed in the mutual rights and duties of parents and children, masters and servants. You know also that the doctrines of socialism strive almost completely to dissolve this union; since, that stability which is imparted to it by religious wedlock being lost, it follows that the power of the father over his own children, and the duties of the children toward their parents, must be greatly weakened. But the Church, on the contrary, teaches that "marriage, honorable in all,"[13] which God himself instituted in the very beginning of the world, and made indissoluble for the propagation and preservation of the human species, has become still more binding and more holy through Christ, who raised it to the dignity of a sacrament, and chose to use it as the figure of His own union with the Church.

more here and here

On this organic conception which alone is living, in which the noblest humanity and the most genuine Christian spirit flourish in harmony, there is marked the Scripture thought, expounded by the great Aquinas: Opus Justitiae Pax—The work of justice shall be peace—a thought which is applicable to the internal as to the external aspect of social life. It admits of neither contrast nor alternative such as expressed in the disjunction, love or right, but of the fruitful synthesis, love and right. In the one as in the other, since both radiate from the same Spirit of God, We read the program and the seal of the human spirit; they complement one another, give each other life and support, walk hand in hand along the road of concord and pacification, while right clears the way for love and love makes right less stern, and gives it a higher meaning. Both elevate human life to that social atmosphere where, even amid the failings, the obstacles and the difficulties of this earth a fraternal community of life is made possible.

But once let the baneful spirit of materialist ideas predominate; let the urge for power and for predominance take in its rough hands the direction of affairs; you shall then find its disruptive effects appearing daily in greater measure; you shall see love and justice disappear; all this as the sad foretaste of the catastrophes that menace society when it abandons God.

to be continued....

On Bunny Rabbits

Years ago, just because I do these sorts of things, I studied rabbits. I was interested in their social structure, habits, needs, and so on. That was in the days before blog and websites on house rabbits. I had to use books!

We had a house rabbit, and I wanted to make sure I understood, to a certain extent, my pet. Sooty Little Ears was a Black Rex, which are highly intelligent and fun pets.

Sooty Little Ears had the run of the house. He did his necessaries in a cat box, and was tidy.

This rabbit would meet people at the door. A person would bend over and stare, then say something like, "What an unusual cat. OH! It's a rabbit."

Sooty thought we were all rabbits. It thought we were strange rabbits, but rabbits none the less.

It sat next to us when we were on the sofa.  It sat under the table when we ate dinner.

But, if there was danger, in its little, beady, black eyes, Sooty revealed it was an Alpha Rabbit. We found this out in several ways.

One day, a huge cat from the neighbors, a house once removed, jumped into our upstairs window. Suddenly, we heard this thumping. Sooty was warning all of us of danger. Then, Sooty ran under the bed in the master bedroom and hid until I tossed the cat out of the house.

From then on, Sooty changed behavior. The rabbit would sleep at the door of the master bedroom at night, when before it would sleep anyway. It would sleep right at the open door, across from the window where the cat had jumped in.

Sooty was from there on in alert mode. If it sensed danger, it would thump and even wake us up at night.

Sooty remained wild, as most house rabbits do, because they have not been domesticated as long as dogs or cats. Wild animals need much more freedom and less stress than domesticated ones.

I compare Sooty's reversion to being a guard rabbit with thinking like a Christian.

Sometimes, Christians must move along with society or culture becoming domesticated, becoming one with the rest of society, losing the edge of being a contradiction in the world.

Then, something happens which awakens the wild, wakens the real Christ-likeness is the soul, the mind the heart.

This is our situation now. We need to be like Sooty Little Ears. We have been warned.
Unless we think like Christians, we shall not see the danger nor be ready for it.

Memories of Birds

Since I have been in Dublin, early July to be almost exact, I have seen only pigeons and seagulls. But, I finally saw a little robin, and  I was enchanted. I saw it last week, in a rose garden hidden away here, on the 2nd of September, and it was looking for crumbs, coming out of a border of Cotoneaster horizontalis.

I love the English Robin, and my weird memory can bring up specific times when I have seen such adorable birds. These are not the only times....

Hampstead Heath, at a pub,The Holly Bush, August, 1980,  and the bird was in a bush. I was with a significant other

Stoke Bishop, Bristol, a cold June day in 1986, when I was walking down a lane surrounded by hedges. I was not with a significant other.

Outside Sherborne, Dorset, December, Christmas Day, in 1991. Four of us were walking in the frosty cold and a small robin peeked out of a hedgerow.

Buckfast Abbey, Devon, one was singing in shrubbery, April, 2011. I was walking to the Abbey for Lauds.

Ashbourne, County Meath, January, 2012, one was jumping about and singing in a clump of varied colored roses which were blooming. I was on my way to Mass.

Cobh, St. Benedict's Priory, October, 2012, in the Bible Garden. It was singing in the small fruit trees, and, in the taller yews as I was outside praying.

I love the cheeky attitude of the English Robin and how it hops about, stopping once in a while to look at you, just to make sure you are looking at it. One must be silent to see and hear birds.


So the guy with the Nobel Peace Prize wants to bonb Syria, and the Russian quasi-dictator just proposed a peaceful solution?

Jumper Weather

American Jumpers

British Jumpers

Footnote on the Perfection Series

One of the things I have told many who are not regular readers of this blog is that they could go back and start with the series following the tags or labels. However, this is just a little footnote to remind one of the Doctors of the Church and the Dark Night of the Soul posts which are, of course, connected to the perfection series and can be read separately.

One of the reminders in this little footnote is that we must pray and seek for purification for three reasons; one, in order to be freed from self-will and selfishness which denies God access to our hearts; two, to be freed of habits of sin and imperfections which impede charity to our neighbors; and three, to allow God to lead us into union with Him not only for our sake, but for the sake of the holiness of the Church.

Without suffering, there is no purification. Without truth, seeing one's self for who one really is, there can be no humility, the key virtue gained in the Dark Night.

The Dark Night leads into the Illuminative Stage, the state of the freeing of the virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As I have said before, can you imagine the power which would come from the Church if all Catholics allowed God to lead them through suffering to this Illuminative State.

In the future, I shall return to this state with more detail, but there is much about it in the perfection series.