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λόγος into a Logo Print E-mail
By David Warren   
Saturday, 14 June 2014

On the Enlightenment principle of Democracy, the government is accountable to the people, and the people are accountable to No One. On the old Christian principle, both were accountable to God. This meant that if the people were in trouble, they could always turn to God. Now they must turn to No One.

We had an election this week, up here in Ontario. The Liberals won a fourth consecutive term. Better, for them, they have their majority back in the provincial legislature, so they dont have to listen any more to all the numbing criticism of their scandals – and revelations of massive public waste.

The province is seriously in debt, thanks not only to direct waste, but to avoiding confrontation with public service unions by paying them whatever they want. Teachers, policemen, bureaucrats, and the like now often make six-figure salaries. And their unions played an important part in demonizing the Conservative opposition, which was threatening, in a limp sort of way, to cap them.

American readers will be familiar with this issue: and the Detroit-like bankruptcy that follows is now at the core of political life throughout America and Europe. The people who can count are pitted against the people who refuse to do so.

More than money is at stake. My example is the attitude inculcated in schoolteachers who often earn more than twice as much as the parents of the children they are teaching. I do not think their sneering arrogance is only a product of my imagination.

Similarly, the attitude of the policemen. The forces I have seen in action have been transformed over the last generation, by wealth and the smugness of “sensitivity training.” More and more, they are the law, called out not to enforce statute, but to adjudicate conflicts, according to their “politically correct” lights.

To American readers, I would explain that Ontario, once governed like Texas, is now governed like California. In less than a generation, the province has gone from being the economic powerhouse of Canada, whining about all the transfer payments it was making to the poorer provinces, to itself receiving transfer payments from, exempli gratia, Newfoundland.

In the election campaign, this debt, and the huge annual deficits feeding it, went almost undiscussed. The media focused on the need to “stop Hudak” – the rather wimpy Conservative leader – painting him as a kind of Blue Meanie who, from sheer unaccountable malice, wants to fire the saintly people selflessly delivering all the social services of Nanny State. Hudak – now retired – may well have tried to refute this criticism, but what he said no one heard. Instead we got pictures of him smiling, like a rodent.

Meanwhile the Liberals, under their new, super-cool, indeed lesbian premier, promised massive new spending programs, including a grand new pension scheme. For the urban vote in gridlocked Toronto, they also offered massive new spending on urban transit. That was how they won the previous elections – promises of massive new spending – and the joke is still working.

Too, Americans will be familiar with our political geography. The electoral map makes the urban/rural division very plain. I live in downtown Toronto, and I would need a car to get to a riding where a Conservative candidate would stand the slightest chance. But once there, the polarities are reversed, and I am back in the Old Ontario, where people are still doing weird stuff like going to church on Sundays, and observing relations between cause and effect. Gracious reader may already have guessed that this Old Ontario votes Tory, but with islands of Grit and even Socialist support, corresponding exactly to the locations of its growing “satellite cities.”

This is Ontario, this is North America, and this is Europe, too.

I would not say Christianity (including Christianity par excellence, in its Catholic form) is dead in the West. I would only observe that it has abandoned the cities. Reason, too, has retreated to the hinterland, before the “progressive” advance. We have, within each country, state, province, or canton, however the boundaries were drawn, two countries.

There is the country of the (historically, still fairly new) “mass man,” of politics and marketing, essentially a cypher with a serial number, instructed how to live by public education and the mass media of “news” and entertainment, with its associated omnipresent commercial advertising. And the other country, which some city folk still remember with nostalgia.

For the Church this is a considerable challenge. I should think it must be evident by now, that the religion of Jesus Christ cannot be communicated to the mass market, through advertising or by any other means but “cor ad cor loquitur” – person-to-person and hand-to-hand.

But I have also observed that the bishops palaces are in the cities, and that for reasons I could probably explain, the bishops themselves often think in terms of mass marketing and “infrastructure” – which in secular life is built to connect cities together, or to supply them with raw materials, treating the space between the cities as drive-through or fly-over territory.

Or, if they dont think like that, perhaps because they are secretly Christian, they preside over very urbane bureaucracies, inclined to translate everything they say into mass marketing and infrastructure; into sound bites and commercial logos. “Turning the λόγος into a logo” is my sound bite for what they are doing, a process which requires not so much thought, as “conditioning.”

Perhaps I have mentioned before what I think of “democracy,” in an environment like that. I look this morning at the election results before me – riding by riding across the map – and this word “conditioning” keeps coming to mind. Everything Christ taught stands now against the conditioning of the masses, and their infrastructure, in cities where His voice is drowned out.

And that is how things will be, until the Devils vanity gets the better of him, and the infrastructure collapses.

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist with the Ottawa Citizen. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at:
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (11)Add Comment
written by Paul, June 14, 2014
From out West I mourn for the Province of my birth. The only hope I can see is that 4 years of a majority Liberal government will so utterly destroy the place the citizens will finally wake. Sadly, from what I've seen in Europe and other jurisdictions this probably won't happen though.
written by schm0e, June 14, 2014
Guess there really is no hope except in Salvation itself.
written by Mack Hall, June 14, 2014
Mr. Warren,

Please be aware that in Texas, as in most states, teachers many not, by law, bargain collectively, and thus make less than some of their students' single mothers pulling in multiple public assistance checks.

In Texas, the only state employees permitted to unionize are police and firefighters.

Please don't project.
written by Kay, June 14, 2014
"...the bishops’ palaces are in the cities, and that for reasons..., the bishops themselves often think in terms of mass marketing and “infrastructure”..."

This is quite evident and something Pope Francis is working to correct. With God's grace this is where the laity can lead and evangelize the people on the spiritual periphery.
written by DeGaulle, June 14, 2014
Paul, some of the European citizenry is beginning to wake up, but probably too late to avert catastrophe. When an avalanche starts it is probably impossible to prevent it running its course. The best that can be hoped for is that the casualty list might be kept a little lower.
Consider Italy. Population currently is fifty-six million Italians. At their current breeding rate, there will be eight million Italians left in Italy by the end of this century, many of them geriatrics. Living beside them there will be probably one hundred million or so belonging to the economic powerhouse that is Islam. These are paying for the costs of present-day Italy.
written by Tony, June 14, 2014
What makes the teachers' salaries especially galling is their massive incompetence to do the humble but necessary tasks we ask them to do. From my observation, Canadian schools are better than American schools socially, but you are even less likely there than in America to learn anything of substance about western civilization, English literature, and so forth.
written by red, June 14, 2014
Mack Hall

I'm not sure why you would post an untruthful description of the collective bargaining laws of the US.

For a clear explanation, check out the Outside the Beltway website; an article titled "Public Employee Bargaining Rights".
written by Manfred, June 14, 2014
It is important to remember that Catholicism spread very quickly among the slave class in the Roman empire as their plight was so hopeless. Recall that slaves could be scourged and crucified, e.g., while a Ronman citizen could not. That is why their horrible martyrdoms were embraced-they released them from the hell of their lives. Modern catholics, often possessing a Master's degree and a mortgage, are more willing to seek accommodation with the zeitgeist.
When Tom Wolfe was questioned on his "Bonfire of the Vanities" as to why all his figures were "Masters of the Universe", he explained that while the lower classes still existed, they no longer mattered. This helps to explain the fury felt by the middle classes worldwide against the oligarchs and plutocrats among the political classes; but also for the leadership in their Church which has been feeding them a fictitious religion when they need orthodox Catholicism the most.
written by Rich in MN, June 14, 2014
Narcissism has a thousand faces, and the devil is an absolute master at turning us from one face to the next -- 'round and 'round we go. What will happen if the modern propaganda machine, unprecedented in human history, is able to keep us looking into the pool of our own demise? In this terrarium we call 'Earth,' when the dividing wall of common sense falls, there will be two species looking each other square in the eye: secular relativism and radical Islam. I wonder how well those two specious species will get along together?
written by Paul, June 14, 2014

Agreed there are some bright spots and I do keep hope in the promises of Christ but those are for the next world not this one. My difference in opinion with members of the HRCC on this subject seems to stem from a different interpretation of the scripture "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it". Most Catholics I find based on this verse assume the pendulum will swing back to the right and a better future will emerge. This could occur but from my studies another of the several possibilities is the pendulum will continue to swing to the left till evil finally reigns before Christ returns. That doesn't mean I've given up on this world but as you said "it's probably too late to avert catastrophe". One after thought, I left Ontario in 1980 to seek employment out West so I'm not sure of the political landscape any more, but the Liberal Party was the party of the HRCC back then. So probably one of the reasons for their majority government is due to support from Catholic's (but that's just a hunch, haven't seen any stats yet to back that up).
written by Myshkin, June 14, 2014
The Bishops as a group, and let's face it, the Pope as well, have accepted the premises of modern democratic socialism. It's not yet explicit in the documents of the Magisterium, but it is in the documents issued from the USCCB ( anyone recall the 1986 "Economic Justice for All"?). These documents take sound moral principles, mix them with dubious political presuppositions, and -- Voila! -- produce sloppy mash-ups of platitudes and Alinskyite cant. They have placed at least part of their hope in socialist ideology, arguing themselves into thinking that they can discern a continuity between the Gospel and the socialist ideology. Of course they will not come out and say this, since officially Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum explicitly condemns socialist schemes (n.4):

"To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man's envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. 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. "

But their political presuppositions do exactly what Rerum Novarum condemns, but do it under another name, democratic "easing of income inequality." Our present Pontiff has said much the same things, urging the State to become the administrator of all wages, "thus transferring property from private individuals to the community."

A quote often attributed to De Tocqueville, but without known source in his work, is that "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses ..." It seems Ontario is well on the way. And much of the U.S.A. as well.

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