Cosmopolitanism Revisited

This word, like many others ending with “ism”, describes an ideology according to which we all belong to a single “world city”, κοσμοπολίτης in Greek. This idea would transcend the differences that exist between cultures and languages through some form of “natural law” or common morality.

There may be some difficulty in distinguishing cosmopolitanism from globalism. As words often cause an emotional reaction, we are often concerned that globalism would set out to destroy all culture and identity for the sake of enslaving humanity in a dystopia. The twentieth century taught us that there was actually very little difference between international and national socialism, both causing millions of deaths and ruined lives.

It can be a notion that describes something other than a political agenda or a notion of making human beings compete against each other for their very lives. In this posting, I may be using words that have been seized and abused by agendas that appear to do very little to further the cause of human dignity and happiness. I will use them all the same, as I would use the word “gay” to mean joyful, bright, happy or any number of other synonyms. One word I will use is “inclusive” to mean consideration and respect for people of different cultures and ethnical origins. I would certainly also have to consider matters like homosexuality and gender dysphoria, but I will not allow them to dominate or crush the finer points I am trying to discern.

Cosmopolitanism as a shared idea is found in towns and cities more than in the countryside. I sought it in York when I lived in Kendal, and in London when I lived in York, and in Europe when I lived in London. In my own thought and personality, it accompanied my attraction to traditional liturgical Christianity, and there entered another conflict with narrow conservatism and nationalism. Living in a city introduces other constraints, in particular the need for much more money and the conditions for earning it. One enters another paradigm of conformity and narrowness. Cosmopolitanism is often dismissed by conservatives as “political correctness”, alluding to the dystopian novels of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. In the end, it is not a matter of living in some mega-city and its ugliness with the basest of human nature – but something that is within us. It seems to be a part of that nobility of spirit I see in certain twentieth century minds rather than some elusive social reality.

As an ideology, it seems to have developed in the Enlightenment era and was criticised by the Romantic movement. Some elements of the latter sought for a reinterpretation of cosmopolitanism rather than rally to the cause of nationalism. In reaction to the more legalistic and abstract notions, Schlegel and Novalis approached almost an anarchistic idea of fraternity without coercive laws. How could such a republic work? Novalis came up with his Christenheit oder Europa, an essay that looked to some like an apologia for integralist Roman Catholicism, but contains a subtle cosmopolitan message. The central theme was Romantic to the core, an emphasis on emotion, spirit and imagination in the place of pure rationality and materialism. For this reason, the image of the European medieval period is a kind of parable to convey a longing for a cosmopolitan, global, spiritual community. Romanticism sought to promote the idea of a new world, a new utopia without too much thought for “reality”. In Novalis’ mind, the cosmopolitan utopia could not be separated from Christian eschatology and the spiritual dimension. It is not something we can “push” on other people, but one that can guide our own innermost vision.

The ideal is a new society based on personal transformation, an aspiration to peace, harmony, tolerance, inclusion and understanding rather than competition and the lust for money and power. In the political world after World War II and the defeat of Nazi Germany, cosmopolitanism was certainly at the root of the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. Again we are faced with the choice of it being about humanity or the brutality of the strongest over the whole world. Globalism can be something very frightening, but so can nationalism and parochialism.

It goes back much further than Romanticism or the Enlightenment, among the Stoics of ancient Greece. We find a “circle” model of identity by which we understand ourselves, our families, our local community, our country and finally the world of humanity as a whole. Saint Paul in the Christian tradition affirmed that we are brothers, sons of God, not foreigners. We are citizens of one world. Before Schlegel and Novalis, Kant saw a role in cosmopolitanism for preventing war, the very founding notion of the European Union. He mentioned the “principle of universal hospitality”, the earth and its resources belonging to the entire human race. Here I would object to such a notion because nature has right and is not intrinsically property.

Cosmopolitanism is also found in modern French Deconstructionalism and the foundation of ethics being our response to the Other. That sounds very abstract, but philosophers like Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida might be alluding to empathy and our capacity of feeling the needs and sufferings of another human being. On the surface, that seems to be a good foundation. Derrida like Kant emphasised hospitality, welcoming another person into our home. We immediately recoil from the risk of accepting someone who would rob us, kill us, cause harm to our families. At the same time, isolation is no solution. How do we accept the other and prudently determine conditions to protect ourselves from evil? The most fundamental conditions would seem to be that the person is a citizen of his own country and that he is being allowed to stay as a guest or a visitor.

As mentioned, the European ideal came out of the Romantic and Idealist reaction to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and was strengthened by the victory over Nazi barbarianism and crimes against humanity. I heartily recommend seeing the film Nuremberg made in 2000. That trial taught us not only that those who wage aggressive war will be personally punished for it, but also that we have a responsibility for all mankind. The first concern of the cosmopolitan is to end war and bring about peace between us all.

Some feel aware of a positive identity as world citizens and the need to harmonise all local cultures and practical needs. As we see the number of international organisations that exist since 1945, we begin to understand that globalism tends to narrow everything down to money and trade and forgets culture and human needs. This is also the unfortunate tendency of the European Union that causes concern. One cause of warfare and atrocity is the banalisation of evil and the refusal of the quality of humanity in the other for whatever reason. The same result is obtained by depriving a person or a community of their livelihood through greed and corruption.

We live at a time when (we are told) thousand and millions of refugees and immigrants are entering Europe from the Middle East and Africa. Most are Muslims and their paradigm of life is similar to our pre-Enlightenment way in Europe. Infidels must be killed so that nothing may come in the way to submission to Allah. Seventeenth century Christian Puritanism was no different, any more than the Inquisition “cleaning out” Cathars and reverts to Islam and Judaism. Are all Muslims attached to such a paradigm? I don’t think so, and I must emphasise that my criticism concerns their philosophy of life, and not their race or right to practice their religion in a free world. What do we do when they fail to respect us, when they commit acts of violence? These are issues at the root of the current resurgence of nationalism, populism and even forms of neo-Nazism in some places.

A challenge we have to face is seeing through prejudice caused by inaccurate news reports and to venture into the unknown. As a seminarian, I often wandered into the “Arabic” (Algerian or Moroccan in reality) districts of Marseilles. This was in the early 1990’s, and I found that they respected the cassock, something like the thobe they wear. I bought spices and other things in their shops and was quite fascinated by this other way of life in a French city. I have known Brick Lane and the Pakistani community in London, the West Indians of Brixton, and felt stimulated. It was something else that drove me to Europe. I have always known that when those people need to live in Europe, it is because Europe ruined the lives they led in their places of origin.

Could cosmopolitanism be itself a form of colonisation by European values, along with democracy and Christianity, over other parts of the world? It is a good question. The problem is that it is moulded against a backdrop of nationalism and the sovereign state. Is there an alternative, like an alternative to the traditional family of husband, wife and their biological offspring? What about anarchism, the freedom of the individual and the absence of coercion and interference – except in cases of violence? Where are the lines drawn? Humans can be very clever at cheating and stealing without appearing to be doing so! This problem of limits often justifies the curtailing of freedom of religions, native languages and culture. Brexit is now threatening the free movement of people in Europe that accompanies the border-free use of the Internet by which ideas are sent and received across the world instantly. I am increasingly sceptical about the nation-state. What do we replace it with? Tribes? Cantons like in Switzerland? How do we keep corruption and evil out of big institutions like the UN or the EU?

I think we need to travel and see more of the world for ourselves, not as tourists looking into the cages of a zoo, but living among the peoples of the world. My brother has been to Nepal and India, but I have only been to some European countries and to the USA for four short visits. Travel is expensive and can be dangerous, and most of us are not nineteenth-century dilettantes. Flying is one of the most painful experiences I have had, not so much from the possibility the plane might crash, but from the invasive security procedures at airports and people being treated like cattle for processing. We can go to “foreign” districts of our own cities with an open and respectful mind, and we might learn something.

What about multiculturalism? That idea seems to presuppose that we still have a culture. Our Christianity has nearly died out. Many of us are afraid of being replaced by Muslims and everything reverting to a way of life like in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, women treated as chattel, public executions being a routine part of life, abolition of music and alcohol, etc. Since the advent of Romanticism, the notion of the individual has taken over, and this has brought both good and bad. Jacques Maritain along with other French philosophers integrated such ideas into his integral humanism. Maritain reacted away from nationalist integralism as had François Mitterand in his time. Maritain had a considerable amount of influence on Pope Paul VI, whilst Mitterand turned to Socialism. We find here the quest for individual rights and human dignity as the building block of the society that was no longer Christian, but keeping some of the tenets like the intrinsic value of the person even when that person is weak.

What of the world state, a “new world order” which is a subject of discussion among conspiracy theorists? Is it something that is inevitable and has to be influenced by good rather than evil? We have to remember that as much evil can corrupt the nation state, and become a reason for declaring war to protect peaceful and democratic countries.

At the risk of imposing European philosophy worldwide, there are certain questions that cannot be negotiated, such as the intrinsic value of the human person and human dignity. How can these notions be understood in different cultures, value systems and religious doctrines? There is also the integrity of the natural world and its rights, with which we share our life. Are western values the only yardstick? What is obviously needed is for us to understand each other whilst respecting all systems of values and culture and being ourselves.

I see a danger in the rise of populism because I have read the history (cf. William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany) of what happened between 1919 and 1933, the year when Hitler got elected as Chancellor of Germany. The whole scenario was made possible by the consequences of World War I and a cultural background going back centuries. Nuremberg had to mark the end of an era and the beginning of a new cosmopolitanism. The British Empire evaporated and France lost Algeria. We baby boomers contested everything in the 1960’s even if some of us were no more than spoiled brats. At this very day, I feel at a watershed between the two ways the world can go – back to the era of the dictatorships or seeing the achievements of the past becoming shitholes and post-apocalyptic scenes of misery.

I could see the nation-states in Europe being something like the Cantons of Switzerland, keeping local culture and language, but reinforcing the federal union. The reality of the European Union is incredibly complex, and it leaves me confused. Criticisms of it are contradictory and biased. I am not sure that political cosmopolitanism would ever be good and lead to a better world, any more than nation-states at war with each other and stealing other countries to make their empires.

I fear that nationalism and populism will win out, and we face more suffering like in Europe a hundred years ago. The appearance will not be the same, any more than the technology. Even Orwell’s nightmare will be outdated, and the evil will ooze into our lives from where we don’t expect it. For my own part, I can only be myself and express what I believe, and maybe someone will kill me for it. The dream must continue even when it is opposed and annihilated by sin and the self-styled Ubermensch. I end this piece with a note of sadness as autumn begins to rob our days of light. Hope can only begin with within, just like the Kingdom of God.

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A Cri de Coeur from an English Expatriate in Europe

I wrote this short text for a Facegroup group of more than nine thousand English expatriates in France, many of whom are uncertain of their future in the event of a “hard” or “blind” Brexit. There are hundreds of thousands of British expatriates in all the countries of the European Union.

Our tales all point to the tragedy of humanity and the clash between the “haves” and have-nots”. I don’t want to belittle anyone, being myself an expatriate in France still applying for the citizenship which will perpetuate the status we presently have as EU citizens. I will say this, we have “had it so good” since World War II. Most of us were born after 1945 (1959 in my case) and have only known peace and the period of change in the 1960’s – which is now at an end. I look at all this from the point of view of a historian.

In the 1790’s Wordsworth saw the reality of the French Revolution when the Terror began. He was married to a French woman, and he had to return to England leaving his wife and children behind. As France was occupied in 1940, any English had to leave. Some of us might have seen the film “Tea with Mussolini” about how English people in Italy, even rich ones, were made to leave their homes and assets. The grandparents of my wife lost everything twice during World War II, first in Warsaw and then in Lyon. These are tragedies that begin to haunt us once again.

This fiasco of Brexit is another chapter in the tragic history, and may destroy even the appearance of stability in our country. The consequences are so totally unpredictable, and all we hear are lies intended to anaesthetise us and make us helpless. It would be poetic justice if post-Brexit Britain suffered an economic collapse of such a magnitude that it would bring real-estate values lower than equivalent areas in France and would destroy speculation and profiteering with housing, food, health care and other essential utilities.

Some of us may have to go back to England. Most will be able to get residence / work permits or citizenship, and our life will be allowed to continue as it is. Others may be less fortunate. The powers that be in England would be just as uncaring about our plight than workhouse beadles in Dickensian England. There is still that puritan notion of the human person being worth his money, and that poverty is a consequence of sin or lack of faith! Thus I have taken a highly critical attitude and found a lot of inspiration in pre-Marxist socialism.

There will never be justice in this world, but I am one of you in this struggle. We left our country for different reasons. I sought a new and cosmopolitan life and found different experiences in France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. The bedrock of my thought is Romanticism, as Europe emerged from the ruins of the Aristocracy and the Church and reacted against the extremes of the new rationalism. Everything is in the imagination and the force of the human spirit. My combat is one for humanism.

Our struggle is also one of cosmopolitanism and the gift of being in contact with other cultures and ways of life. I suffocate in England when brought into contact with parochial conservatism. I’m sure we didn’t come to Europe only because English housing prices are prohibitive. There is a whole cultural and human dimension.

I joined this group because I see in it a swelling of the human spirit from the ground that inspires me, in the same way as Polish dock workers in the early 1980’s fought against the Soviet straitjacket for freedom. We also sought freedom from a country that is subtly becoming something quite foreign and sinister.

England owes us nothing, as we owe nothing to England. Certain things may inspire us from our long history and rich culture. I am a musician and love Purcell, Vaughan-Williams and Elgar, but they were geniuses from their persons, not the country that made them. The true England is within us, no longer the country that is taking us back to the Victorian era! We are criticised by family and friends because they still live in Plato’s cave of shadows – but we have emerged and found something greater. The genii cannot be put back into the bottle!

The figures hearten me, and I suspect that the true England is here, off England’s shores and in the hearts of those who sought freedom and an original view of life.

I am new to this group, but I am sure we will achieve a lot by writing and making it known how many of us there are in all the European countries, speaking their languages, discovering new cultures and ways of life and being better persons for it. We are still English and refer to our roots. We should also write to those who represent our local authorities and governments in the countries in which we live, showing that we love and respect the values they and Europe have forged to make sure that the tragedy of Nazi Germany should never ever again happen. We need to show our love for human rights and freedom.

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The Virtue of Hope

I have followed my Bishop’s tenth anniversary of Episcopal Consecration from afar. I would like to join my voice (or writing fingers) to Fr Jonathan Munn’s article Ad multos annos!

As I have mentioned elsewhere, I came to the conclusion in 1995 that my conversion to Roman Catholicism was mistaken and joined the Anglican Catholic Church in England, then under Bishop Hamlett. My experience brought me a clear view of the dangers of the extremes of cosmopolitan liberalism and parochialist conservatism. I went through all kinds of different journeys and dead-ends and ended up in the TAC under the “wooden-legged” Archbishop Hepworth. I stayed aboard until the deck sank from under my feet, and applied to Bishop Mead of the Anglican Catholic Church in England. I had already been in correspondence with Fr Jonathan Munn, and his most memorable saying was that this Church was like finding the contents of a jar corresponding exactly with the description on the label. What a surprise in this world of deceit, lies and the grandiose pretensions of narcissists and people with other disorders!

Even though Bishop Damien was friendly in my regard, he had me fill in the forms, express my motivations and vocation in writing and go before the Board of Ministry whose members were unused to dealing with someone of such an atypical profile who had lived such an extremely varied life. I was accepted, received and given conditional ordination to the priesthood.

No one would claim that the ACC is “the true Church”, but it is a true Church. The appeal to me of continuing Anglicanism was the liturgy and the effort to live with no preference over the Opus Dei – the work of God as St Benedict termed the Divine Office. Unlike with Roman Catholic traditionalists, I was not faced with political extremes and the “dialogue of the deaf”. In Bishop Damien Mead, I found a father in Christ, even though he is much younger than I am. We priests and laity are persons to him, not files of documents or quantities. This is an increasingly rare quality in a diocesan bishop!

My time in the ACC thus goes back to 2013. I never met Fr Tim Perkins who tragically died young. I was spared from knowing the drunken charlatan who was asked to leave our Diocese, who got himself consecrated by a “wooden leg” and continues to cause trouble in his town. A second priest left us for Atkinson-Wake’s group. No sooner than our Diocese had lost these two priests, others came and joined us, contributing their knowledge and learning to a cause beyond and higher than our immediate perimeters.

Like many Bishops, Bishop Damien has suffered from the weight of his pastoral charge – symbolised by the big Book of the Gospels placed on his shoulders at his consecration. We all suffer from the whims, iniquity and nihilism of humanity. Bishop Damien has taken all these sufferings with great courage, and thus edifies his charge. Ecce Sacerdos Magnus…

I am often asked what would happen if we had to have a new Bishop? I suppose that a suitable and worthy priest would be elected. However, I do think that we are in a time when Bishop Damien is the only one who has the depth of vision and understanding of profound issues that give us all a sense of direction and hope. It is indeed a part of the Virtue of Hope for us. I join in with Fr Jonathan’s prayers of –

asking the prayers of St Augustine of Canterbury, St Anselm, St Thomas Becket and St Damien of Molokai, that Bishop Damien may be given the strength to bear the maniple of tears and sorrow and that he may receive the true reward of his labours. I pray also for many more happy years as my bishop!

What a contrast from some Roman Catholic bishops I have been reading about who care more about their careers than their pastoral responsibilities!

I end with the reflection that a Bishop’s pastoral care is not unilateral. It is our responsibility as priests to look after and support our Bishop in his sufferings as a human being and his joy in doing God’s will and his job.

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The mask comes away…

I have come across a review of a book on the history of Vatican I (1870) in Vatican I, Pius IX, and the problem of ultramontanism. The article is published in a Roman Catholic site, and criticism from such a point of view is that much more germane. I was reading stuff like The Pope and the Council by Döllinger (Janus) and August Berhard Hasler’s How the Pope Became Infallible published in 1979 and translated into English in 1981 when I was yet a student at Fribourg and afterwards a seminarian at Gricigliano. The book in question is John W. O’Malley, Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church, Harvard University Press, 2018. I’ll read it.

This review approaches the subject with the eternal rule of the historian, that of avoiding anachronisms. You don’t judge the Inquisition by the standards of modern declarations of human rights! However, the historian is human and such temptations are impossible to avoid entirely when what we see today is a consequence of the past.

On the subject of Vatican I and its Pope who “felt infallible” like one of those clowns in the Palmar de Troya sect in Spain, we are reminded that a considerable amount of Roman Catholic apologetic cant ignores human imperfections. We are reminded of the way bishops had to live through a Roman July with its torrid heat and rain. The debates and speeches were nearly inaudible, in Latin, and horribly monotonous.

This review picks up on how Catholic reactionaries were hysterical about how the modern world, then like now, was threatening the existence of the institutional Church. Pius IX’s “solution” was to make himself an infallible monarch, the butt of jokes for decades. The theory according to which everything tightens up when there is a real or imagined threat is very compelling in this context. Conspiracy theorists in the latter part of the nineteenth century were quite shrill in their expression, and their writings are still used by groups like the sedevacantists or other traditionalists with similar views. Pius XI was a moderate and intelligent Pope who found a need to develop ideas of Christ the King (cf. Quas primas) in the 1920’s to dilute the influence of budding dictators like Mussolini and Hitler.

The nineteenth century in most of Europe was a time of great instability, and the spectre still influences the Brexit question. The paroxysm of authoritarianism was over in 1945 with the defeat of the dictators and a beginning of a new paradigm in which I discovered the world as a child. We have found out that such a guarantee of absolute certitude is an illusion. We have to work by our critical sense and understanding of our own times.

A historical study of the Council, such as I have read in Hasler’s book, and might discover in O’Malley’s book, is essential to deconstruct the myths and see the emerging image of hysterical reactionaries and a “hostage” situation as the clouds of war loomed in Europe.

We find the same terms applied to the Papacy since the French Revolution as to modern politics between the EU status quo and populist movements. In violation of the historian’s golden rule, our times give us a hermeneutic key to understanding the movements and goings-on of the nineteenth century. The history is the same, though over a longer time-scale.

Papal absolutism has brought us the Jesuit Pope from Argentina, who continues in a paradigm of unaccountability and bluff. The future will tell. To non Roman Catholic Christians, it hardly seems to matter. We are brought to the quip of Winston Churchill about the best argument against democracy being a conversation with a voter for five minutes!

We need seriously to change our paradigm and way of seeing the world. Certainly, there is hostility towards Christianity, but it is mostly indifference and ignorance. Most people don’t know and don’t want to know. Their freedom has to be respected. This forsaking of totalitarianism and authoritarianism has brought me to seek the essential of the Romantic movement and a realisation that truth is beyond our activism and illusions. It is transcendent.

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Tight or Loose?

I have reading a number of articles by sociologists and others who have an interesting theory about “tight” against “loose” cultures. The tightest would be strict Muslim countries or the remaining Communist and totalitarian countries. The loosest would be New Zealand or the Netherlands. It is the old dilemma between individualism and collectivism, liberalism against conservatism, between those who see positive aspects in today’s world and those who would go back to the 1950’s or 30’s and force everyone else to do so. Such a study would be Differences Between Tight and Loose Cultures: A 33-Nation Study.

My curiosity into this subject was aroused when I was voicing my concern a few days ago over Brexit. People want to leave or remain for different reasons, but I can say I have personal experience of northern England in the 1970’s and smallness of mind. A film that deeply resounded with me in those years was Kes. Here is the trailer:

This is essentially a young boy from a working class background seeking and finding his own world against the smothering norms of social conformity and bullying by schoolmates and teachers alike. I would almost wonder if there were a trace of autism in Billy Casper and the need for different world from working class Barnsley. In my own experience, I began an apprenticeship in organ building in Durham in 1976, and I only stayed for three months. My problem was cultural and my disgust with that narrow parochial mentality of the petty self-righteous. It was not my world, and I remember my father idealising those men whom he qualified at the time as the “salt of the earth”. It’s great to have a pint down t’ local with the lads, but living and working with them is another matter! It’s a point of view, because I am not interested in conversations about sexy women or football. The politicians in Westminster appealed to such people to get their Brexit vote.

All my life, I have contended with this issue of strict conformity and social cohesion against finding self-knowledge and the stuff of which creative people are made. I’m not picking on the workers, because the French bourgeoisie can be horrible too. Oscar Wilde picked out the point beautifully as he compared them with the Scribes and Pharisees, all law with a cold heart!

The world is made of many dialectical opposites: rich and poor, urban and rural, religious and spiritual or materialistic, nationalists and globalists, conservatives or traditionalists and liberals. Some of the sociologists I have been reading suggest that our differences are less political and ideological – but cultural. What is culture? Culture is not only art, music and literature, the creativeness of the few, but it is also a code – differing from country to country, from one social class to another – determining rules for correct behaviour and dress. Most of us follow these norms without a second thought, and others are more critical and find themselves living on the edge or in the margins. In some countries, social norms are enforced strictly – Saudi Arabia or North Korea for example – and we can do pretty well what we want in most western countries within the limits of the law.

One thing that alienated me in northern England was the pettiness and intolerance. On the other hand, people will talk to you. Try opening a conversation in London and the response is likely to be a very stuffy “I don’t think we’ve been introduced“. Those are two different levels of social conformity and intolerance. When things go too far, we tend to yearn for a nostalgic idealisation of the 1950’s when there was less litter, rudeness, selfishness and lack of respect for other people. Men wore hats. Ladies wore dresses. Men had short haircuts and women tied up their hair and wore hats. Punctuality was the politeness of kings! No one was entitled to anything – you had to earn it, in your place. The cycle turns again when individuals are stifled and yearn for the freedom, not to harm others, but to be truly themselves. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis – in the way Hegel put it. History is cyclic and what goes round comes round.

The theory according to which an existential threat brings about a coherent society is interesting. England during World War II was a model of national unity and people pulling together to look after the victims of war and the common effort of beating the Hun! My grandparents and parents mocked Hitler by drawing his face on rubbish bins and in other ways. On the other hand, occupied France was a minefield of collaborators and resistants. One could find oneself betrayed to the Gestapo by one’s own family! Collaborators would sell out a person just for a few food ration stamps or some petty privilege. I don’t think that tightness was always so correlative with existential threats, but it is often the case. The present-day threat as perceived by some is the spectre of mass Islamic immigration and the islamisation of Europe. How real is that threat? Certainly much more in Paris or Marseilles than in my little village among the apple trees and cows of Normandy! We also have to take into consideration the fact that we have voluntarily relinquished our Christian culture in favour of materialist consumerism.

With Brexit and tendencies towards nationalism and so-called “populism”, many favour authoritarianism and tightness. Who knows, in the 2020’s and 30’s, we might see a repeat or a caricature of a hundred years before with full-blown totalitarianism. It suffices to see the old footage to see how popular Hitler and Mussolini were in the 1930’s before the war and without folk knowing anything about slavery, concentration camps and euthanasia programmes. After all, the word Nazi was simply a contraction of Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, a socialist notion made to appeal to the working class. Working class people could be counted on to obey the leader and repress original thinking. Without the workers, no one would have taken any notice of the ranting failed art student from Austria! That is the extreme. I felt the same “tightness” in Durham but at a more subtle and moderate level, but bullying and abuse are still serious matters.

The disciplined, clean and crime-free society is a temptation, as is a Church that serves as a “chaplain” to such a regime as in Spain under Franco. The loose society has its disadvantages and self-entitled “lazy bums”, but it also has tolerance and creativity. The totalitarian cult or sect works well for as long as the “guru” is reasonable in his demands and the adepts can be satisfied with life without criticising or asking questions. The “democratic” alternative community rarely lasts very long due to human nature. We are back to the old theme of Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.

The only way out of this impossible situation is nobility of spirit, a subject I have written imperfectly about and which I am researching for my next Blue Flower. Few have it. Do I have it? It seems to be a quality like the State of Grace or humility! It is unredeemed against redeemed humanity. The dialectic is certainly to be found at the root of many problems in our world like terrorism, revolution or the road towards totalitarianism. The cycles of history turn and reaction follows action.

I see these things happening, and the truth is higher and more transcendent that any of this bloody mess. The aspiration to the wholeness of humanity in Romanticism happened in the wake of the French Revolution, as a reaction to Victorian hypocrisy and again shortly after World War II and the evaporation of European totalitarianism with the only exception of Communism in countries far away from us.

What about each one of us in all this? Be as harmless as doves and as cunning as wolves! We have to live in society and play the game, do the right things, but not believe in everything uncritically. That seems to be the difference. The Christian anarchist obeys the law and respects other people, but believes in a higher spiritual principle than authority, submission or law.

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Piss-ups in Breweries

In two hundred days, the 29th March 2019, the UK will leave the European Union and go to the “good old days”. I won’t go into the details of everything I have been reading in the news. You can read it all for yourself, listen to videos of speeches in the Commons. I can only be grateful to have lived in France for so long – and I fulfil all the requirements for French citizenship. I have to go and sit an examination with the Alliance Française next month to produce a piece of paper saying that I come up to standard for the Froggie Lingo. It is one of the required conditions. Then I can submit my application to the Prefecture of Rouen in November. The UK will have nothing to say about that and the law allows me to keep my British nationality. I will then be both British and European, able to travel without restriction between the two worlds. I also have to get a French / EU driving licence, which I will be applying for next week. British driving licences will no longer be valid in Europe – and I will need to ask whether it is possible to keep my UK licence for when I go to England.

If Brexit is “no-deal”, then it is going to be chaos. Some journalists are likening the situation of this impotent government to France or Russia just before their revolutions, or Weimar shortly before Hitler took over. It is all very frightening as the British political establishment seems about as corrupt as the Vatican and any number of fly-blown banana republics, though more about money than “chicken leg”. Perhaps they are exaggerating and fear-mongering. Though there are many problems in the EU, I have not been hard to convince into the Remain camp – and I give my voice to the cause of a new Referendum before it is too late, offering three choices: soft Brexit according to the Chequers Agreement, hard Brexit or remain in the EU.

The British establishment seems blithely uninterested even in questions of business and trade, where the money is. The situation of EU nationals in England and UK nationals in Europe like myself is still vague and would become dire after a no-deal Brexit. I remember having to have a residence permit here in France, but then there was no problem in being able to work and be affiliated to the social security, health care and pension system. Without all that, I would be back in England and destitute, told that I can eat cake if I have no bread! Not so with French nationality as many British expats here in France have obtained.

From what I am reading in the mainstream news, Brexit seems to me absurd, an impossible situation. There are problems with the EU, over-regulation, lack of accountability and democracy, but the status quo is better than what might happen with a no-deal Brexit. As Voltaire said, Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien (the best is the enemy of the good).

A friend of mine wrote to his MP: “Current polling shows that a majority of UK voters, (and of your constituents), want to stay in the EU.  The best legal advice is that Article 50 can be rescinded unilaterally, even at the very last minute. Staying in the EU would protect this country’s commerce, manufacturing and agriculture, as well as its influence in the world“. My own work as a French to English translator is an epitome of the need for business in different countries to overcome the language barrier and to trade. I do business with translation agents in several European countries, and one in England run by a French director. He will also have difficulties once the fateful day arrives with all the restrictions and red tape.

I know zilch about economics and and international trade (except at my own infinitesimal level) but I can only strike my forehead with the palm of my hand – repeatedly – when I see the people running Westminster living in – – – Cloud Cuckoo Land. The EU was put together painstakingly over some forty years, and it is all about to be ruined. Perhaps the country of my birth is about to go back to the 1930’s!

This plea will have no effect other than ask British readers to reflect and voice their conviction that the Referendum first-time around was obtained by lies and populist jingoism. Our country lost what was left of its Empire from the end of World War II to the 1960’s. Next, it will be the unification of Ireland (an idea with which I sympathise) and the division of the Kingdom. Alarmism? Perhaps, but what I am reading about Theresa May and the Conservative half-wits hardly inspires confidence. I wonder whether all this is going to end up with a General Election over a vote of no-confidence and Labour getting in under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. We will have deserved it!

Some might ask me what I think about mass immigration and the vast sums of money being sucked out of the social security system. It is not a question I know much about. I live in the country, but I do know that some parts of Paris resemble slum dwellings in Africa, South America and the Middle-East. There is a problem when English people cannot afford to buy or rent homes and social housing is being given to people who have just arrived and are living on benefits. The question of survival is at the front of any populist and nationalist agenda. I cannot myself return to England because I don’t have the money and have not contributed to national insurance for years. I wouldn’t even get a measly state pension! The migration policies of the EU are catastrophic, even for the people themselves living in destitution and squalor. I don’t know what to say, but we can’t ruin everything just to stop the immigrants.

I have so little left of my origins: the English language in which I am writing, my red passport, my Church and my family. I go to Synod and Council of Advice meetings in England. I still have my memories from childhood and adolescence before I arrived in France in July 1982 looking for my vocation and life. The journey took me to Italy and Switzerland, an experience of cosmopolitanism – and I cringe when I read about the parochialism of Tory politicians in a completely bigoted and closed paradigm of mind. I was born in England, and I was given values and a world view I would have found nowhere else, except perhaps in Germany two hundred years ago. The present English political establishment is not the England that made me English!

I ask English readers to think these things over and write to their PM’s to show their support for a new Referendum. I am sure that Europe can and will reform the present institutions in Belgium and forge something that is not only money and material, but also lofty inspirations of the soul, the gift of Christianity, the intrinsic goodness and worth of the human person. There must be light at the end of the tunnel. Anyway, we can only do something about it by staying and working for that reform, not by leaving .

In every lawful and peaceful way, let us exorcise this demon of Brexit and avert incalculable harm to us innocent citizens, our families and friends, and all that matters to us.

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Be careful about what you ask for!

The Pope’s Earthly empire is laid to rest – Italian anti-clerical drawing from 1870

It was in 2014 that I wrote in Aristocracy of the Spirit:

I had a long conversation with two friends in London a few days ago about the notion that the Church, in particular the Roman Catholic Church was, using computer language, in a state of complete system failure. No amount of work would repair the system other that a complete hard reboot. Roman Catholicism has painted itself into a corner with its notion of Papal infallibility that no amount of apologetics can save it from inevitable decline. Perhaps such a view is exaggerated, because it seems to be finished in most of Europe, but an evangelical and charismatic form seems to be growing in China, Africa and South America.

I found an entry in Facebook this morning that I cannot find, but the substance consists of saying that even devout and practising Catholic people would recommend the total collapse of institutional Catholicism as the only condition for the renewal of Catholicism and Christianity. The idea is going around, and it is tempting. I was listening to someone on YouTube who used to be a therapist, and the job certainly took its toll on his own spiritual and emotional life. He didn’t seem to be bitter, but he sees revolution in the air. I am brought to think of Wordsworth’s rapture on seeing the French Revolution – that is until they rolled out the guillotine! Indeed.

Only churchmen would be concerned to see the Church cleansed and reformed. The secular world would see it destroyed, taxed and fined out of existence. So would the more fundamentalist forms of Islam and Evangelical Christianity (though they have their own problems). A short while ago, I read about the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). It is a provision of American Federal law and there are equivalents of it in Europe (dealing with the Mafia in Italy, for example) and other parts of the world. The real issues are going on in the USA, but the Vatican is implied. Normally, the Vatican is a sovereign state and has diplomatic immunity. Would sending the troops in to invade the Vatican cause a war these days? A couple of thunder flashes (non-lethal hand grenades used for military training) and rifle shots in the air would do the job. Perhaps an idea or two could be left in the comments to this posting.

Then there is the question of whether this is an American problem or a world-wide one, or one that only concerns the American Church and the Vatican. We all need to watch the news, relevant blogs and the more credible entries in Facebook. There is a lot of hysteria and red herrings like homosexuality and clericalism being blamed for everything. I blame narcissistic and sociopath personalities, remembering that each person on this earth has a choice between good and evil. Psychopaths collaborating together in some kind of secret organisation is the very essence of a malaise in human nature described by the Polish psychiatrist Dr Andrzej Łobaczewski in Political Ponerology. I do believe that everything will click when someone reads this book (which is in English). If this has happened in the institutional Church, then all that can be done is for the UN and the USA to declare war on the Vatican and occupy the territory and positions of power after an unconditional surrender.

The future of it all would be most uncertain. Perhaps parishes that own their property as associations or rent a church that are not involved in crime or cover-up would find a way to continue. It may be like 1905 in France. The Church still exists in France but has no political power or immunity. The cathedrals belong to the State and parish churches older than 1905 belong to the municipal authority of each commune. The buildings are allocated rent-free to the diocesan and parochial associations that administer money and material tasks. The Law of 1905 has been used by traditionalists to their advantage, taking churches like Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris or Saint Louis du Port Marly near Versailles by force. The situation of the first church is tolerated by the Mairie of Paris and the second has been regularised with the Bishop of Versailles.

In America after massive bankruptcy and selling real-estate to pay the legal fees, fines, compensation, you name it? Perhaps some of the parishes could raise money to buy a few buildings for sale, just like traditionalist RC groups and continuing Anglican churches. Who knows? That’s America. What about the Vatican? That is a matter of international law and it will take time to pan out.

I don’t wish anyone any evil unless they are personally guilty of crimes against human persons or have covered-up for them from a position of authority. May the dirty secrets be blown open for the world to see, that sin may be overcome by repentance and a renewal brought about by divine grace and the innocent seeking a way forward in humility. Tremendous damage will be done, as happened at the end of World War II when Berlin was flattened and thousands of innocent German civilians were left homeless and starving.

I now begin work on my article in the next Blue Flower which will revolve around the antithesis of psychopathy and evil totalitarianism, the nobility of the human spirit at its highest and most beautiful. May we transcend the evil of this world as we yearn for the Βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ (Kingdom of God).

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