I’ve long regarded Pope Francis as the best argument for separation of church and state, but now he’s outdone himself. A preview of his new book, cloyingly entitled Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, quotes him ranting against anyone who has the temerity to object to the corona-crazed state:
Some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions — as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom.
That “some” (“some kind of”) is the perennial mark of obscurantism. Communists applied it lavishly. They were always sneering at the idea that somehow the socialist state constituted a danger to peace and freedom. Imagine! Then “some” passed on to the modern liberals, who learned to sneer at every suggestion by libertarians and conservatives that some benefit might somehow come from telling the state to leave people alone. In these circles, some is regarded as the final argument: “I’m so baffled by your notion that somehow, something is wrong with my ideas, I don’t know what to say. I’ll just have to use my some on you.”
Having quashed any argument that could somehow, preposterously, happen, the users of this ploy — but no, here I have to interrupt myself. “Ploy” implies the intelligence required to use a ploy, and at the moment I cannot recall more than two or three somers who appear to have had that much of it. I’ve heard many people praise Pope Francis for his warm heart — although I don’t know how a heart that is constantly on display, like an item in a department store, can retain its heat — but I’ve never heard anyone talk about how bright he is. That’s because he isn’t. After he has brandished his some, magically refuting all opposition, he does what all the rest of them do: he prattles on and on, issuing moral edicts and displaying his ignorance even of the things he himself is saying.
I mean, lookit: “the good of the people” is different from “autonomy or personal freedom.” Someone may do “good” for you in ways that have nothing to do with freedom or autonomy. “Autonomy” is, in fact, not the same as “freedom.” You can be free in all sorts of ways without being “autonomous.” And “the good of the people” — how many forms may that take? Might it be possible, somehow, in some universe, for there to be rules that limit freedom or autonomy in the name of “the good”? Why, yes. Rules may be beneficial or not, but since they are rules, they will surely impinge on absolute freedom. Duh. Somehow the pope doesn’t understand that. Everybody else does, but he doesn’t. He can’t imagine a “measure” (lordly word) that has a “good” purpose and still restricts anyone’s freedom, even when he’s faced with the gigantic spectacle of whole continents being forced to relinquish the most basic freedoms — freedom of movement, freedom to work, freedom to buy and sell, freedom to have a God damned Christmas party. Oh no, if it’s for your “good,” it can’t be an assault on freedom. And of course politics couldn’t have anything to do with it. According to the Pope o’ Rome.
They were always sneering at the idea that somehow the socialist state constituted a danger to peace and freedom. Imagine!
What babble. And how’s this, from the same source. Here the pontiff (which by the way is the oldest title in the world, dating back to the Etruscans, who, as I recall, were as pagan as the current pope) shows that he’s an expert not only on public health, the theory of individual freedom, and the ethics of public policy, but also on economics, urban land use, and American politics and jurisprudence. Speaking of the anti-mask protestors, he saith:
You’ll never find such people protesting the death of George Floyd, or joining a demonstration because there are shanty towns where children lack water or education, or because there are whole families who have lost their income. On such matters, they would never protest; they are incapable of moving outside of their own little world of interests.
We need a prophet such as Francis to deliver such revelations. Who would have suspected that, for instance, the small business owners who have been closed down and closed off by the covid hysteria, or the people, generally poor people, who work for them, people of all races, I might add, are actually just wealthy bigots? Only the pope knows these things. Interests provides an invaluable link to the anticapitalist crusade that has been constant with him, and appears again in this book of his. The word also provides (unknown to him, because he’s not very bright and is therefore incapable of being embarrassed by self-analysis) a link to the amazing world of public choice economics, from which we learn, to almost no one’s astonishment, that everyone has interests, including popes. It is clearly in this pope’s ideological interest to berate everyone who wants to make a living. But no, that wouldn’t occur to him. He is a good person, and therefore has no interests.
If Jorge Mario Bergoglio were not living in an abnormally little world, he might have reflected on the horror of “whole families who have lost their income” because of government impositions “for the good of their people.” Tens of millions of families around the world, but especially in the Catholic world, have been destroyed by the “measures” that Bergoglio lauds. Catholic churches have been closed to worshipers, and bishops, priests, and parishioners have joined the protests against such arbitrary and tyrannical measures. Now this cruel, ungainly man takes it upon himself to preach against impoverished people and the “interests” of his own church. I’m reminded of the sorry behavior of America’s big businessmen, who never miss an opportunity to extend a middle finger to their customers and employees, advertising their own supposed virtue with total disregard for its effects on ordinary men and women. While big banks fired or laid off tens of thousands of employees, they were donating hundreds of millions to leftwing causes. One of the many things Pope Francis cannot see while squinting through the windows of the Vatican is the fact that billionaires have prospered enormously during the state-spawned corona hysteria. And why not? Much of their competition has been wiped out by government decree. If you’re scared away from the local stores, you can always give your money to Amazon.
It is clearly in this pope’s ideological interest to berate everyone who wants to make a living.
Additional examples of caring more about everything except what is in the interest of people like you and me are cheerfully provided by Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and the TV and radio stations and networks that prune their news and shed their customers by curtailing the information they are supposed to be in the business of conveying. They look good to themselves, I guess, even though they don’t know any more than a rabbit knows about the political or public health arguments they promote or suppress. Like the pope, they think they’re right, and that’s good enough. It all follows from there. They never meet anyone who dares to disagree with them.
Predictably, obscurantism spread rapidly from the state and the media to the least reflective of American institutions, the colleges and universities, and to the least reflective of their denizens, the administrators. The administration of a university near me spent several months of 2020 lecturing everyone on the fact, which it had suddenly discovered and was in no position to confirm or evaluate, that American society is “systemically racist.” (If you ask how systemic differs from systematic, it’s that the latter is a normal word that people normally understand, whereas the former is jargon and can mean exactly anything. My forebears used to talk about people who were sick because they had “something bad in their system”; if they drank molasses, maybe they’d get better.) Then this institutional Parnassus, this acme of intellectual achievement, proclaimed, with great fanfare, an edict mandating that the few students permitted to remain on campus might finally enjoy some kind of social interaction — provided that they (A) limited it to two hours, (B) wore masks, (C) stayed six feet away from one another, and (D) admitted no more than three people to their coven. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? And just full of science. That’s where those magic numbers come from — 2, 6, 3. I’m talking about the scientific basis for controlling people’s lives.
Also quite predictably, obscurantism leaked into that other fount of light and life and science, the academic journals, which began to eject articles they’d already published, whenever anyone objected that they weren’t conforming to the covid code. We may assume that they’ve refused even to consider a mountain of other articles. The ground for academic rejection or ejection, as for official deletion of posts from social media, is generally that, even if the facts in an article are right, someone might be misled. A classic statement of this philosophy oozed out of The Johns Hopkins News-Letter when it dropped an article reporting on the work of a Johns Hopkins economist suggesting, on statistical grounds, that the corona virus is not responsible for any marked rise in total deaths in this country. The journal followed up with a double-talky critique of the author’s analysis, a critique that restated the notion that her article was abhorrent because it “has been used to support dangerous inaccuracies that minimize the impact of the pandemic.”
They look good to themselves, even though they don’t know any more than a rabbit knows about the political or public health arguments they promote or suppress.
You can read the article, which is linked in the critique, and decide for yourself who’s right. But I can’t imagine any statement, any statement whatever, that could not be used “to support dangerous inaccuracies that minimize the impact” of something. (By the way, does impact have to be used whenever anyone wants to discuss the effect of anything? This isn’t about meteors hitting the earth, you know.) “It isn’t very hot this afternoon” might encourage someone to go out and get a dangerous sunburn. “Some of Oscar Wilde’s plays aren’t very good” might be used by someone to minimize the worth of his other plays, and of all works by gay writers. Of many hundreds of medical symptoms it may be written, “That’s probably not important” — and this may mislead people into not seeking help for conditions that are actually important.
But speaking of medical conditions: anyone really concerned about “the good of the people” ought to be furiously opposed to any attempt to suppress or manipulate discussions of them. I well recall the scare campaign waged by government agencies during the decade following the discovery of AIDS, a campaign in which essential facts about the ways in which the illness was spread were kept from the public in order to make them too scared to have sex. I also recall that the tactics of every authoritarian religious group or political party is rigid suppression of every show of evidence or opinion that might be “misinterpreted.” That’s how they maintain their grip on “the people.” Today, that’s how “the science” maintains its grip.
Enough of it. Stop!