The Long View 2007-09-07: Catholic Reformation; The Bottom Billion; Fortress Switzerland; Malingering Dinosaurs
Damian Thompson has had an interesting career. He has written on conspiracy theories, the Latin Mass, and apocalyptic beliefs. I don’t recall this blog post specifically, but I do remember reading Counterknowledge [Amazon link] in 2008.
Catholic Reformation; The Bottom Billion; Fortress Switzerland; Malingering Dinosaurs
I spoke to Damian Thompson (of the UK papers The Telegraph and The Catholic Herald) a few years ago about the prospects for a revival of the Latin Mass. He was not hostile to the old Mass, but he did not see much point to its restoration or much prospect for it. Well, a variety of things have changed in recent years; the effective date of Benedict XVI's reauthorization of the old use is September 14. Benedict, Thompson says:
...has indicated that the entire worship of the Church — which has become tired and dreary since the Second Vatican Council — is on the brink of reformation. This is an exciting time to be a Catholic. Unless, that is, you are a diehard ‘go-ahead’ 1970s trendy, in which case you are probably hoping that the Good Lord will call Joseph Ratzinger to his reward as soon as possible.
Reasonable points, but I might note that the dreariness of the post-Vatican II worship is, in large part, simply another reflection of the artistic deficit of the era. Architecture and music are in better shape than they were in 1970, but even so, it is not clear that the deficit has been made up. The fact that much of what has to be done may be called "restoration" does not get us off the hook: a restoration can be no more intelligent than the period in which it occurs. If that deficit is not made up, the reformation will be as dreary as what it replaces.
If you are interested in following Catholicism (and Anglicanism, and Islam) in England these days, you could do worse than to drop by Thompsons's blog, Holy Smoke.
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Meanwhile, Fr. Neuhaus at First Things waxes Kiplingesque in a brief summary of Paul Collier's new book on development issues, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It [Amazon link]:
Although Collier does not discuss Catholic social doctrine, his analysis is remarkably similar to that of John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus: The really poor are poor because they are excluded, or exclude themselves, from the global circle of productivity and exchange....
Collier illustrates the conflict trap and the natural resource trap by reference to the rebel leader Laurent Kabila, who, leading his troops across Zaire to seize the government, explained to a journalist that all you need for a successful coup is $10,000 and a satellite phone. With the money, you can buy yourself an army; and with the phone you can, as Kabila did, arrange $500 million worth of deals with corporations that are willing to bet on your winning. ..Collier says the “hardest chapter” to write was on the need for military intervention. Nonetheless, he persuasively contends, such intervention is needed to restore order, maintain post-conflict peace, and prevent coups. ..International intervention means intervention mainly by America and Europe. African militaries are the problem, not the solution. As for U.N. peacekeeping forces, various countries are paid a thousand dollars per month for each soldier they send. These soldiers are for their governments a valuable asset to be kept carefully out of harm’s way...
The phrase “policeman of the world” was presumably discredited during the Vietnam era. But even the best neighborhoods have policemen, and the worst cannot survive without them.
$10,000 and a satellite phone? Perhaps instead of borrowing several times that amount to install that new backflow system the local water company is insisting on, maybe my condominium association should just overthrow the State of New Jersey.
Putting insurrection aside, though, we should note that there are several conceptual problems with a "world police" of any description. "Police" implies a law-governed force under the control of a government. There is no official world government, but I am much taken (if you will forgive me for linking to my review again) with the thesis of Daniel Deudney's Bounding Power: the difference between the inside of a state and the outside has been exaggerated, and the world is already a "republic" of a sort. Still, the kind of activity that Collier contemplates requires an orientation toward a much greater degree of transnational integration than exists at present. Such "policing" would have to be done in the name of a system that does not yet exist: towards a mythical world order that functions like Sorel's "General Strike." Thoughts along these lines are not absent from the social doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.
But there is another point: states that act in their narrow self interest may do the most appalling things to other societies, but then they will stop. A state that acts for the benefit of other societies, in contrast, has no logical stopping point. As C.S. Lewis used to say: a jail sentence is limited, but treatment can go on forever.
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Speaking of international policing, I note another item, this time from Switzerland, that suggests Mark Steyn is by no means a discredited prophet. We read in The Independent (UK):
[T]he Swiss People's Party (the Schweizerische Volkspartei or SVP)... has the largest number of seats in the Swiss parliament and is a member of the country's coalition government.
With a general election due next month, it has launched a twofold campaign which has caused the UN's special rapporteur on racism to ask for an official explanation from the government. The party has launched a campaign to raise the 100,000 signatures necessary to force a referendum to reintroduce into the penal code a measure to allow judges to deport foreigners who commit serious crimes once they have served their jail sentence...
[Party leader Dr.] Ulrich Schlüer [explained his] fierce support for the [traditional Swiss] militia system.
To those who say that Germany, France, Italy and Austria are nowadays unlikely to invade, he invokes again the shadow of militant Islam. "The character of war is changing. There could be riots or eruptions in a town anywhere in Switzerland. There could be terrorism in a financial centre."
One wonders whether those world police would be spending all their time in Africa.
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Finally, but maybe not finally enough:
[U.S. Geological Survey geologist emeritus James Fassett.] A few years ago, Fassett's colleagues were digging in a fossil-rich area of New Mexico when they uncovered the four-foot-long fossilized thighbone of a duck-billed, plant-eating hadrosaur in a sandstone cliff. When Fassett dated the bone to half a million years or so after the dinosaurs? supposed mass extinction, ..."There's no longer any question that dinosaurs in the area survived the asteroid impact event, finally becoming extinct about a million years later," he says.
I can't say I am surprised. Even when it's over it isn't over.
Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly
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