Down And Out In Christania

Today, let us board the Ship of Imagination and take a journey to the Kingdom of Christania. A small nation in a far-off corner of the world, Christania is a perfectly Christian land: its inhabitants, including its leaders, are entirely believing, churchgoing Christians who, after an honest day’s labor (except on Sunday, of course), come home, sit by the fire, and read the Holy Bible with their families (with a little Tolkien, Chesterton, or Lewis thrown in there for fun every so often). The spirit of the Savior is strong in the hearts of the people of Christiania, and everything they do in every aspect of their lives, both public and private, from the King and Queen to the humblest plowman, flows from their faith.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any problems in Christania, however. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 26:11, the poor will always be with us, and indeed the poor are there in Christania, as well. Being the sort of people they are, the Christanians have established in their country a response to poverty that they have striven to ensure is perfectly Christian and fulfills every obligation that their religion places upon them in dealing with the needs of the poor. Here we must be perfectly clear: the Christanians are a smart, sensible people who know the Bible better than they know their own names and who don’t suffer charlatans easily, and are quick to point out that when they say that their approach is based on their faith, they mean that it is based on Christian scripture, Christian custom, and Christian philosophy – what it is decidedly not based on is any desire to make those things conform to the postmodern theories of Marxists*, socialists, welfare-staters, liberals, social justice warriors, equality fetishists, sociology majors, utopian dreamers, or non-Christians (though they bear no hatred for people with other religious views, Christanians are notorious for their bluntness in making clear that they are not interested in the opinions of non-Christians on the subject of how Christians ought to conduct themselves in the practice of their faith).

In word and deed, the Christanian approach to poverty is 100% based in actual Christian teaching, and thus is unique in the world and worth a bit of study.

The first thing we must look at if we are to understand the Christanians’ approach to poverty is their definition of what exactly poverty is. For this, we turn to the works of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (whose works every Christanian schoolchild has read, in the original German, by the second year of middle school). On the subject of poverty, Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote:

Whoever lives in real abundance has a Christian duty to assist those living in wretchedness. Before we proceed, however, let us affirm that the notion of misery is different from that of poverty. Péguy has already drawn the distinction between “pauvreté” and “misère”. To live in misery means to suffer genuine physical privation: to know cold and hunger, to have no proper dwelling, to be dressed in rags, to be unable to secure medical attention. The poor, by contrast, have the necessities of life, but scarcely any more. They can borrow books, no doubt, but cannot buy them; they can hear music on the radio, but cannot afford a ticket to a concert; they cannot indulge in little extras of food and drink, but should, by self-discipline, be able to save a little. The poor have, therefore, the normal material preconditions for happiness — unless plagued by acquisitiveness or even envy, which has become a political force in the same measure as people have lost their faith.

The Christanians (many of whom believe, as Chaucer did, that a state of humble pauvreté is what is most conducive to living a genuinely Christian life) take the view that they have every obligation to relieve the misère of their fellow man, but none to relieve their pauvreté. They never allow themselves to lose sight of the fact that the Corporal Acts of Mercy laid out by Christ’s teachings are: to feed the hungry, to give water to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to care for the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead. Nowhere in any of this is there the slightest mention of things like free cell phones or college tuition, nor of subsidies to be an artist or to live in expensive parts of big urban centers. They are an industrious people who have built a developed nation out of nothing; they understand that the Christian rules of charity were developed for – and in – a time and place that any modern person would consider dirt poor; a time when even kings sweltered when it was hot, shivered when it was cold, and agonized when they had a toothache, and when “clothe the naked” had to be included in the list because society had a nontrivial problem with people who literally walked around naked because they couldn’t afford a scrap of cloth to cover their private parts. The way the Christanians see it, while there may be pauvreté in developed nations in the present day, there is very little genuine misère, and particularly there is virtually none that is not to some degree self-inflicted.

This brings us to the other thing that must be understood, which is how seriously the Christanians take II Thessalonians 3:10. In this passage, St. Paul writes: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him also not eat”. The Christanians draw a hard line between those who can not work – the aged widow, the young orphan, the sick and disabled, the mentally ill – and those who will not work. For the former, there is great sympathy and charity; for the latter, there is none. Those whose inability to work can be traced to their own poor decisions in life – drunkards, addicts, those who are morbidly obese or otherwise unhealthy by choice – are seen as something in between; it is understood that such people should be cared for, but that the care they are given must lead them toward repentance, reform, and renewal of their lives – physically, mentally, spiritually, and morally. Those who are not willing to take that journey will find themselves placed in the category of those who are not willing to work, and (as we shall see), their pleas for assistance will avail them little.

In short, the Christanians see themselves as having the obligation to provide basic survival necessities for those who, for some reason beyond their control, are incapable of working to earn them on their own, and no obligation to provide anything beyond that to anyone, most especially to idlers and layabouts.

That tells us all we need to know about their attitude toward poverty, but how does that manifest itself in practice? Let us turn to a detailed examination of the system that His Majesty the King of Christania and His Excellency the Bishop of Christania have put in place in order to deal with the problem of poverty in their land. While it may seem a bit spartan by the standards of a Western welfare state, it must be emphasized that great pains have been taken to ensure that it meets or exceeds every requirement and obligation placed upon it by scripture and by Christian tradition.

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The poor of Christania find their way to Charity Centers (hereafter referred to as CC’s) through a few different paths. Some seek them out themselves, which is easily enough done at any outpost of the government, from police stations to post offices, all of which can arrange a referral for the needy person. Others are sent there after defaulting on debts (which is rather rare, as Christania has strict anti-usury laws) or for non-payment of bills (they are free to refuse to go, but if they do, they remain liable for the money they owe). Many end up there after being picked up by the police for vagrancy or panhandling. No matter how they may have ended up into the system, after a day or two in a temporary shelter, they are put on a bus headed out into the countryside, where all CC’s are located.

It is worth remarking before we proceed any further that the name “Charity Center” was very carefully chosen. It is meant to emphasize to those who go there that what they are experiencing is, in fact, charity – provided to them by His Majesty and His Excellency, who jointly administer the CC system, and ultimately by the taxpayers and parishioners of the kingdom, whose taxes and contributions at the collection plate are what are paying for the CC’s to exist. It is not an entitlement which they may demand (the Christanians are notoriously impatient with those who are possessed of the delusion that the universe owes them anything at all); it is a gift which they are expected to receive with humility. The point of this is twofold: to keep those receiving this charity realistic about their situation (and therefore eager to get out of it), as well as to prevent them from coming to resent those who have come to their aid via the mistaken belief that the list of things they are entitled to can and should be expanded indefinitely and that those in positions of power who do not provide them with every last thing on that list are somehow doing them wrong. The Christanians strongly believe that to do otherwise would be to undermine social harmony and to give the poor illusions which, in their situation, they cannot really afford to indulge.

As for the CC’s themselves, they are scattered around rural areas, as far from any towns as they can be reasonably be situated. One can recognize them from a distance; the multiple clusters of whitewashed dormitories standing in the midst of farm fields are unmistakable (some of these dormitories were, in fact, once army barracks, but it hardly matters which, as even the ones that weren’t have been constructed to the same plan). Most CC’s are surrounded by fences, but these are almost invariably low post-and-wire affairs designed to keep animals on the right side of them; CC’s are neither prisons nor are they slave plantations, and it is emphasized to those entering them that nobody there is either a prisoner or slave. The dormitories (with some exceptions, such as those designed for the disabled or elderly, or those with children) are filled with basic, but perfectly comfortable double bunk beds, with a locker for each inhabitant located next to them. Toilets and showers are communal, though separated into stalls for the sake of Christian modesty, and located at the end of each dormitory building. Heat is provided by wood stoves, and cooling by ceiling fans (as Christania has a temperate climate similar to Ireland or the Pacific Northwest, these are felt to be perfectly sufficient). In addition to the dormitories, each cluster typically includes a mess hall, an administration building with staff quarters, a chapel, an infirmary, and an equipment shed. Clusters dedicated to female residents (male and female dormitories are, of course, kept strictly separate; male children under twelve may stay with their mothers, while older ones are assigned to a male dormitory) will also normally have a child care center in their midst.

On the rare occasion that a foreigner (no Christanian would ever say any such thing themselves) remarks that these arrangements suffer from a lack of amenities, they may count on being told that not only do they meet Biblical standards, but are at least as comfortable – if not more so – than those in which recruits in Christania’s army live. And if the conditions on offer are good enough for the realm’s honored defenders, then they should be good enough for anyone.

An incoming resident can, on their first day, count on a thorough medical examination provided by the medical staff at the CC. Here, multiple findings are made regarding their health. One, of course, is overall condition. If serious problems are found, they may be sent to a hospital for treatment, and if it turns out that they require medication, a prescription will be issued and an order placed for it. The signs of drug or alcohol addiction are checked for, and if found, a treatment regimen is arranged for them. Though virtually everyone who arrives at a CC does so with some share of emotional issues, the seriously mentally ill are also identified, and sent on to facilities where the staff is trained to provide them with the care they need. Finally, disability status is checked for; the doctors at CC’s keep their own counsel about who is and is not genuinely disabled (and just how disabled they actually may be), and are very, very good at telling the difference between them and work-shy bellyachers who simply don’t want to get their hands dirty. Those who are afflicted with a self-induced medical condition that makes them unable to do any useful work (i.e. the morbidly obese or the weak and underweight “basement-dweller” type) are sent to fitness training, which is a much gentler iteration of that given in basic training to army recruits who need a bit more work to come up to standards.

New residents then attend an orientation, following which they are offered a sturdy, comfortable set of work clothes to replace whatever they showed up wearing (which is, understandably, often in terrible shape and reeks horribly). Though wearing these around the CC is not technically mandatory (residents may work in other clothes so long as they are practical for the task at hand), it is highly recommended and most people do end up in them (after, perhaps, a few days’ worth of resistance). They are then assigned to a work crew, given dinner, and shown to their bunks to rest up for the next day.

The understanding at a CC is that everyone must work to the best of their ability to do so. The able-bodied mostly work in the fields surrounding the clusters, in which the food that the residents eat is grown. (After harvest season is over, they keep busy chopping wood for heating, shoveling snow, rebuilding tools for the next planting season, and performing other such tasks as are common on any farm during the wintertime). Those in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues are mostly given office work in the administration building; the elderly are usually assigned to the child care centers; the blind do tasks that do not require sight, which can include anything from answering telephones to husking corn. Only those whose disability is permanent and total – quadriplegics or those with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, for example – are exempted from work entirely.

Though some people from Western welfare states may consider the practice of requiring the able poor to work as a condition of receiving help as barbaric, Christanians (after they’ve finished quoting II Thessalonians 3:10, which they are wont to do) will respond that it was not long ago that this was the norm even in those welfare states – they will cite the examples of the WPA, CCC, TVA, and other such New Deal agencies, which not only required real manual labor of those who participated in them, but used that labor to build valuable infrastructure projects such as the Hoover Dam or the electrification of the rural south and west. Which liberal, they ask, is willing to cast Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a cruel exploiter of the impoverished? And if they are not willing to do so, then how can they criticize anyone else for doing no more than what FDR did?

It should be pointed out here that work in a CC, while moderately demanding, is hardly backbreaking drudgery. The pace of life, like that on any farm, is slow and steady. While some labor-saving devices are intentionally absent from CC’s in order to ensure that everybody there has enough to do, there are machines there (operated by trustees, about whom we will hear more later) to do all the truly heavy or dangerous tasks. The Christanians also understand that most of the poor who find their way to a CC are urbanites with no experience of farm life; it is expected that they will have to be shown the ropes over the first few weeks or months (and that this will teach them the skills they would need to perhaps settle down on a few acres of their own someday). The point is not to punish them with Gulag-style hard labor (Christanians will eagerly remind you that Gulags were a project of atheistic communism), but to give them the pride and purpose that comes of labor, to teach them skills that will help them to fend for themselves, and of course to emphasize that freeloading is good for neither the person who allows themselves to sink to it nor for the larger society around them.

If it should happen that a resident in a CC who has not been found to be unfit for labor simply refuses to work, then trustees (or, if necessary, a constable on staff) will bar them from entry into the mess hall until hunger changes their mind. “He who will not work, let them also not eat”.

It cannot be restated enough that CC’s are not prisons, and that the people in them are not being punished for anything. The Christanians are an industrious people, and any claim that the mere necessity to work in order to earn one’s bread is any kind of punishment will be met with the indignant question “Which queen gave birth to you?” – a Christanian colloquialism which amounts to an inquiry as to what basis one might have for the idea that an honest day’s labor is beneath them. Furthermore, those who find themselves in a CC are frequently reminded that they are free to leave whenever they wish; the next bus bringing people in can just as easily take them away. However, they are also reminded that in Christania, public begging on the part of anyone who has either walked away from a CC or been expelled from one for violating its rules is a criminal offense. The reasoning here is that if someone was offered help and then either explicitly refused it, or implicitly refused it by refusing to follow its rules, then begging on their part is a species of fraud, in the same vein as running a fraudulent charity. As for anyone who has left a CC and finds themselves in need again, it is assumed that one trip through the system was enough to teach them how to avail themselves of its services should they require them. The doors to a CC are always open, while the doors that lead to crime or to becoming a public nuisance are slammed tightly shut.

While almost all residents end up leaving a CC after a stay of a few months, there are a relative handful who find that the structure and stability provided there suits them, and who choose to stay indefinitely. (Typically, these are people with a history of addiction or an unstable family life on the outside.) While mildly discouraged, this is not forbidden, and those who have been there (and displayed good behavior) for a few years and who have no plans to leave typically find themselves appointed as trustees. In addition to being given more demanding tasks such as operating (and training others in the operation of) the CC’s complex tools and machinery, they take a position as a sort of community leader. They are expected to act as foremen of work squads, conduct orientations, provide counseling, help resolve disputes, handle minor rule violations by residents, and otherwise help keep life in the CC running smoothly. Small as it may be in the great scope of the world, it is still a position of esteem and responsibility, and those who were the lowest of the low on the outside often find a place and a purpose in it.

Now that we have a solid picture of overview of the structure and operation of a CC, let us examine the typical day-to-day life of those who find themselves in one.

Wakeup time for most residents comes at a half-hour before sunrise, rounded to the nearest ten-minute interval. After showering and dressing, residents go to the mess hall for breakfast (work in the mess hall itself is one of those jobs generally reserved for the able elderly or mildly disabled, but also involves an earlier wakeup). Then there is a short morning prayer (like all religious activities at a CC – of which there are many – it is strongly encouraged, but not strictly mandatory), after which the residents head out for their work assignments. For most of them, this means the farm fields. The labors of the day begin, at their typical slow-but-steady pace (only during planting and harvest season can it be said to have any real intensity to it). For safety reasons, as well as to discourage residents from retreating inside themselves instead of acting as part of a team, headphones are forbidden while working, but the foremen leading the work squads often bring a “boom box” style radio with them, and tune it to some music, a sports broadcast, or religious programming so that all can hear while they work. At midday, a truck arrives from the mess hall with lunch, which the squad eats together, picnic-style. Work then resumes, and continues until dinner or dusk (whichever comes first at that time of year). After dinner in the mess hall, residents may attend Bible study, or whatever therapy or rehabilitation sessions they may need, or avail themselves of one of the many job training courses offered at CC’s. For those who would rather relax in their off time, there are a few options available as well. While there is no television, internet service, or cellular service at a CC, residents are encouraged to read, or to play cards or other games, or may listen to their own radios using headphones while in the dormitories until lights out, which is at 9PM every night.

(As for children who end up in a CC with their parents, they are placed in child care if very young, then in a school located on the grounds of the CC until they have reached an age at which they can join the adults in their labors. This is typically much younger than one would see in a Western nation, but it reflects the Christanians’ rather skeptical attitude toward the view of formal schooling as a guarantor of prosperity and panacea for social ills that has been so common in the West for the past century or so.)

This is the pattern six days a week (excepting, of course, a few national holidays such as Christmas or His Majesty’s birthday). On Sundays, the Sabbath is observed, and there is no unnecessary work (a few, such as mess and medical staff, must of course do their jobs on Sundays, but they are compensated with other time off). In addition, married couples who find themselves in the CC (of course, each husband and wife will have been separately sent to the appropriate male or female end of the CC upon arrival), on Sundays are allowed to spend the day together (though conjugal visits are not permitted, as anyone in a CC is not in any position to bring another child into the world). After breakfast, church services are held, and are attended by virtually everyone. These tend to be very long and very traditional, as befits the temperament of the Christanians. Once that is done, a long and leisurely lunch is served. Alcohol is generally prohibited in CC’s, however after Sunday lunch, residents (except those with a history of alcoholism or other relevant health problems) may have two pints of lager (this must be consumed in the mess hall, in order to prevent hoarding or having it end up in the hands of problem drinkers). Following this, a social event is held – for example, a movie (approved by His Excellency the Bishop, of course) may be screened, or a sporting match may be held between teams of residents, or a talent show put on.

Though great care is taken to keep all of these events wholesome, there is one variety of them that is seen as unfortunate, but unavoidable. It happens more often than one might hope that two residents find themselves in an irreconcilable conflict, to the point where preventing them from violent altercations with each other proves impossible. Where this happens, every attempt is made to resolve the conflict peaceably, using methods from counseling to mediation to moving residents from one dormitory to another. Should all of this fail, however, male residents are allowed to challenge each other to a boxing match in order to settle things between them. (Once again, this is in line with Christanian culture; specifically their long history of dueling, which by tradition has thankfully been limited to nonlethal practices.) When this is the case, the utmost care is taken to ensure that it is a fair fight. First, both men must be cleared to fight by the medical staff. Second, it must be mutually consented-to; both parties are interviewed separately by staff to make sure they want to go through with it, and if either says no, then some medical excuse will be concocted in order to cancel the fight without loss of face. But if both are able and willing, then they are permitted to face each other in the ring, with a referee (another trustee duty) and a doctor present, under Christanian Boxing Association rules of conduct. This too, will be scheduled for Sunday evening, and though (of course) His Majesty and His Excellency would prefer that such confrontations never come to pass, they are frequent enough that the large audiences of residents that are attracted by them rarely go very long between opportunities to see one.

With the sole exception of this outlet for male aggression, physical violence of any kind is strictly forbidden at a CC. Furthermore, any crime of any sort committed by a resident will be referred to a constable, who will arrest them and make sure they are remanded for trial by the proper authorities. Other than that, the rules at a CC are straightforward: no illicit intoxicants or sexual activity (The Christanians are upright people, but hardly naive about what can happen when people – especially men – are brought together in close quarters without access to the opposite sex. They are also of a decidedly non-modern mindset when it comes to the subject of sodomy.), no intimidation or hazing, no general troublemaking, and no loafing. Trustees may come up with methods to deal with minor violations of these rules, but severe or repeated cases will result in expulsion, which is the only real punishment on offer at a CC.

While the residents work in the fields, the staff (including residents restricted to office duty) will be busy finding work and housing for them so that they can leave and become independent again. Every effort is made to place residents with, or close to, friends and family, and often the staff manages to connect with those on the outside who are close to a resident in order to find a placement for them. For those without addiction or mental health problems, and who found themselves destitute only through unfortunate circumstance, stays are typically short in duration. Though the recidivism rate at CC’s is higher than anyone would like to see (the ideal rate, of course, being zero), it is low enough to convince the Christanians that their system is the most effective at actually lifting people out of poverty of any nation on Earth.

Thus does the pious, prosperous, peaceful, and orderly Kingdom of Christania face the problem of need within its borders. And while the Christanians would never presume to impose their system on any other people (nor ever will they suffer a foreign system being imposed on them), they are not shy about recommending its virtues to anyone who may inquire about it. Perhaps here in the welfare states of the West, we consider our system to be such a success that no other should be considered, and yet – and here I beg the pardon of the many generations of credentialed experts with degrees from the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton who designed our own antipoverty programs from atop their ivory towers, secure in the knowledge that their understanding of economics and human nature far exceeded that of not only the benighted ancients, but of the very living God Himself – I cannot help but wonder whether those backward, old-fashioned Christanians might be on to something after all.

(*In fairness, it should be pointed out that even the smarter variety of Marxists from days past understood how disastrous it would be to design a system that permitted perfectly healthy people to become parasites, endlessly drawing on a system that they did not contribute to. Stalin was one of them. Article 12 of the Soviet Constitution of 1936 reads: “In the U.S.S.R. work is a duty and a matter of honour for every able-bodied citizen, in accordance with the principle: ‘He who does not work, neither shall he eat’. The principle applied in the U.S.S.R. is that of socialism : ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his work’.” It should go without saying that this level of realism is essentially unknown among the modern left.)

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Short Takes: July 2016

Time for another edition of Short Takes, my roundup of thoughts that are worth saying, but too limited to warrant a full blog post. It’s shaping up to be a long, hot summer, and it’s not easy to keep up with everything going on, so let’s get these thoughts out the door while, like a tray of buns just out of an oven, they’re still hot and fresh.

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• The founding fathers of the United States considered themselves too good – too intellectual, too advanced, too sophisticated – to say that what they were founding was explicitly a white nation that would operate on traditional Christian/Western principles. Therefore, their descendants live in a mongrel nation that operates on liberal Jewish/Puritan principles.

• The role of the reactionary is to remind people that our ancestors – long sneered at by “progressives” of every stripe – were neither fools nor monsters, but were wise and sensible people who did what needed to be done in the hard, tireless struggle to maintain civilization and keep the darkness at bay. One of the things they understood is that if riots are not stopped immediately, with massive force, things will only get worse. They will grow, and sympathy riots will start in other places – more cities will burn, and more people will be hurt than would be hurt by stopping the riots early and decisively.

We are – once again – paying the price for rejecting the wisdom of our ancestors. The price will continue to rise until we admit our error and do as our ancestors would tell us to.

• What must be understood about leftism is that it always delivers the exact opposite of what it claims it will deliver. By this I do not merely mean that it doesn’t deliver what it promises; I mean that it is remarkably effective at delivering the total inverse of what it has promised. Where it promises prosperity, it brings famine. Where it promises liberation, it brings oppression. Where it promises peace, it brings strife. Where it promises progress, it brings stagnation. Where it promises paradise, it brings misery. Where it promises enlightenment, it brings illusion and folly. In the United States, for half a century it has promised to eradicate poverty and bring the races together in brotherhood. Instead, our urban ghettoes are more impoverished, crime-ridden, and nightmarish than ever, and the races are at each others’ throats in a conflict that has steadily gotten worse and seems poised only to get worse still.

When will we all stop believing the pie-in-the-sky promises of these charlatans? When will we learn that any crank, con artist, or snake-oil salesman can say that he’ll give you the moon and the stars; but it doesn’t matter what they can promise, only what they can actually deliver?

• The biggest problem with white nationalism is with its tendency toward what might be called “Captain Ahab Syndrome”. It’s what happens when people are motivated by revenge and hatred for others rather than love for their own. They become willing to countenance any evil and accept any loss in order to get back at those who wronged them. In the end, this leads to the path of self-destruction, as people stop caring about preserving or defending what is theirs, and come to care only about destroying what is their enemy’s. If everything they care about comes to ruin, they will think it worth the cost in order to strike a blow against those they hate. And where that is the case, then everything they care about will come to ruin.

People often misunderstand and misuse the words about forbearance and forgiveness that Jesus Christ spoke in the Bible, but I’ve come to believe that their true meaning is a warning against exactly this.

• That said, I am an enemy of all civilization-wreckers, as all of them are my enemy. Where two groups of them are pitted against each other, I wish only for the destruction of both. I am friend to none, I will aid none, I will praise none, I will comfort none, I will cry over none.

• Anyone who advocates giving in to the left on social issues is a cuck, even if they advocate doing so in order to “move past them” and get on with the business of re-segregating blacks and deporting Mexicans and Muslims. You may be a racialist cuck, or a nationalist cuck, but you’re still a cuck and I still have no use for you.

I fight for what is good and against what is evil, so if you consider yourself “beyond good and evil” then you are of no use to me. And you are a damn fool if you think that’s a realistic position to take in this world or really is anything more than pretentious, edgy-wannabe “more sophisticated than thou” posturing.

Similarly, I have no patience for the distressingly common claim by some on the alt-right that, by amazing coincidence, only those exact parts of Western civilization that they care about saving are salvageable, while the parts that they don’t care about saving are clearly a lost cause and not worth the effort to try to save. Nice try, but I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck.

•Related: Anyone who thinks there can ever really be such a thing as “post-Christian rightism” is delusional, historically and philosophically illiterate, and doesn’t understand what the word “rightism” means.

• Keep in mind that Karl Marx claimed that what he had was not an economic or political theory, nor even a rational philosophy – he claimed that what he had was hard science, as objectively true as physics, and as inevitably correct in its predictions as an astronomer’s predictions of planetary orbits. Because of this belief, which is common to all of its various strains, leftism has always defined a person’s intelligence by how closely their beliefs conform to its narrative – obviously, the more one believes that which is objectively true, the more intelligent one is, and the less one believes what is objectively true, the less intelligent one is. The upshot of all of this is that if your beliefs do not conform to the leftist narrative, then they will never stop calling you stupid. (This is, for example, the basis for the curious claim that a man who graduated from the Wharton School of Business, ran a multibillion-dollar real estate empire, and defeated an entire party establishment to become a candidate for President of the United States, is an obvious blithering idiot.) Thus, there is no point in trying to convince a leftist that, while you may disagree with their narrative, you are not, in fact, stupid. It doesn’t matter how many advanced degrees you have, how high your measured IQ is, how much you have accomplished in your life, how masterful your command of the facts may be, or even how painstakingly and carefully collected the facts you have are. By the definition that they use, you will never not be stupid as long as you disagree with their narrative (while conversely – and how conveniently comforting for them! – they never will be stupid as long as they accept the narrative).

• Is culture downstream from politics, or is politics downstream from culture? The answer is that in a normal, healthy society, politics is downstream from culture. The entire strategy of Cultural Marxism, however, has been to reverse this – to take over political institutions (including schools and mass media, for these are the greatest political institutions of all) and to use them to artificially manufacture a leftist culture. The rules of a normal society do not apply to a dysfunctional Cultural Marxist dystopia – if there is anything that the 20th century has proven, it is that attempts to remake culture from the top down by methods that include the use of both mass indoctrination and coercive force can indeed be successful.

• Most people don’t know the story of how the Salem Witch Trials ended (and I mean in reality, not the Marxist/Arthur Miller version of the story). It’s a bit of history worth learning about.

Salem is now a suburb of greater Boston, but in those days, villages were isolated and news took weeks to travel between places that were only a few miles apart. When rumors started to spread that the people in Salem were killing their own wives for being witches, the reaction was slow because, first, nobody really knew how true the rumors were, and second, because Salem had a reputation as a town full of fundamentalist nutters anyway, and thus everyone outside of Salem figured that even if it was true, it was the fools out in Salem’s problem, not theirs.

The tipping point came when the witch hunters, having run out of people to accuse in their own town, decided to expand. They made an accusation against the wife of the minister of the town of Beverly, a short distance away. The minister of Beverly, however, was old friends with the Royal Governor down in Boston. The minister wrote a letter to the Governor, and the Governor wrote a letter to Salem, explaining that the trials would stop – NOW – or he would personally march up to Salem with a few hundred redcoats and put a stop to them with extreme prejudice. It was all fun and games while a town notoriously full of crazies were killing their own, but once they decided to ensnare normal, decent folk in their web of madness, enough was enough. Upon receipt of the letter, the trials promptly ceased.

That is how to put an end to an out-of-control holiness spiral.

• Remember Stevens’s Law: Equality = Communism. Yes, it really is that simple.

• These three brief Tweets sum up everything I’ve spent nearly four years and thousands of words trying to express:

Congratulations to Mr. Scientism for having distilled these critical ideas down to their essences. If you use Twitter, you’d be wise to follow him.

Psycho Dish and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

Psycho Dish found a dead black youth in his backyard last Friday. It was the capstone of a remarkably awful week.

His mom died the Sunday before. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone – she’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s for a long time, and it had been plain for the last year or so that it was only a matter of time before she went. When death comes slowly for someone, the people around them begin the process of mourning and letting go long before they die. When they finally do, it’s almost a relief. Not that anyone’s happy about it, but if there’s such a thing as an easy or pleasant way to leave this world, Alzheimer’s certainly isn’t it. Now that ordeal was over for her, and, in all honesty, for Psycho Dish’s dad as well; he’s getting up there in years, and taking care of her was constant, hard work that would have been tough even for someone half his age. But now she was at peace, everyone said; things could start going back to normal, and they could all remember her the way they wanted to – young and full of life and energy.

Psycho Dish is between jobs (again), and since he didn’t need to be anyplace in particular on Monday, he threw a gym bag with some clothes in it into his old rattletrap of a car and drove the 250 or so miles up to his parents’ place. He stayed for a couple of days, and everyone appreciated the effort, but all the arrangements had already been made well in advance and his dad and sister had been emotionally prepared for this for a while, so they didn’t need much by the way of a shoulder to cry on. And so on Thursday he said his goodbyes, with hugs exchanged all around, and drove home. He got in late, worn out from the drive and from the weight of sad and reflective thoughts, and had just enough presence of mind to take the trash out for collection the next morning before he flopped into bed and passed out.

The next morning, Psycho Dish woke up early, put on some coffee, and went outside to drag his trash cans back in. That’s when he spotted the dead black youth lying face-down in his grass, patches of which around the body had been stained red by pools of semi-congealed blood. He walked back inside, called 911, and occupied the time until the authorities arrived by washing out a couple of extra coffee mugs for the policemen who he figured he’d be spending the next few hours talking to.

As anyone who read the story I wrote about him last year already knows, Psycho Dish is the sort of guy who’s perpetually broke. There’s some bad judgment involved with that, along with some genuine hard luck. But no matter the reason, the result is that he’s a part of the large population of poor whites who can’t afford to pay the premium that more affluent whites pay to not live around black people. Or, put another way, the premium they pay so that their kids never end up discovering a bullet-ridden corpse on the lawn when they leave the house for school in the morning. Psycho Dish lives in a bad neighborhood in a city that’s seen far better days. It’s the sort of neighborhood in which, if a loud noise is heard, the question of whether it was a car backfiring, a firecracker, or a gunshot is not an idle one. It sucks, but it’s all he can afford, and he’s lived in worse places.

Psycho Dish hadn’t heard anything that night, but he had been exhausted and had his mind on other things when he went to sleep, so it’s not a surprise that nothing woke him up. Besides, the police said that the dead black youth had most likely been shot outside a place a few houses down, and stumbled down the sidewalk for a while before he collapsed on Psycho Dish’s back lawn and bled out. They told him the dead black youth was 22 years old, lived with his grandmother a block or two away, and had a few convictions for petty crimes on his record. They mentioned his name, which was one of those that you’d never hear and think it belonged to a white man. As for the neighbors – pretty much all black – nobody saw anything, nobody heard anything, nobody knew anything, which appeared not to surprise the policemen at all. In fact, everyone involved with the investigation seemed to approach it with a weary sense of routine, as if they had seen this kind of thing countless times before and knew exactly how it would go. By lunchtime, they were all done. They gave him a printed handout with some contact information on it and told him to call them if he found out anything new. Then they left, and things started going back to what in that neighborhood counts as normal.

This past Sunday, exactly a week since his mom died, Psycho Dish went to church and talked with the congregation about everything that had happened to him in the past week. (I’m terribly unfamiliar with how Protestant worship services work – at my own church, the Mass is sung in Latin – so whether this was a part of the service itself or was part of a meeting afterward was a part of the story that I wasn’t clear on, but didn’t bother asking more about.). He also asked for help; yet broke as he is, his request wasn’t for himself. The grandmother of the dead black youth, he had learned, is an elderly shut-in who needs assistance with daily tasks. With her grandson gone, she had nobody around to take care of these things for her, and he pled with the congregation for help on her behalf. As his church is solidly white and middle to upper-middle class, full of generous and good-hearted folk with some extra income to spare, I’m sure that such help will appear.

What Psycho Dish did was a decent thing to do – a true act of Christian charity, and I’m sure that God smiles on him for it. It isn’t only the matter of him trying to find material help for someone in need; it’s also that his thoughts were with someone else and their problems even in his own time of grief. Beneath his gruff exterior, Psycho Dish really is a good guy, and I have not a word of criticism to offer for what he did. And yet…

And yet a troubling thought or two linger that I cannot quite rid myself of, no matter how much I’d prefer to see things with only charity and forbearance in my heart. Though I would rather not harbor these thoughts myself, for the sake of honesty I will nonetheless share this rotten orange with my friends. And so, in the presence of all of you, I ask these questions:

Why is it that the lingering consequences of this this situation – and many more like it, for stories like this are not uncommon – end up falling to white people to deal with? Why are the efforts of blacks themselves not sufficient to shoulder these burdens? Why is it the job of white people, like the policemen who spent Friday morning drinking Psycho Dish’s coffee (and unlike an entire neighborhood full of black residents who all saw nothing, heard nothing, and knew nothing about the crime), to seek justice for their murdered youth? Why is it the job of white people, like the good-hearted Christians at his church (and unlike an entire neighborhood full of black residents who live a few steps away), to find ways to care for their needy elderly? Why, instead of relying on white people to help them, do they not take care of each other, as Psycho Dish’s family did through his mother’s long illness?

Will it ever not be the job of whites to deal with the seemingly-endless problems of, and to clean up the seemingly-endless messes left by, black people? If so, when? How? Under what circumstances? What will be the secret ingredient that finally makes it happen after decades of fruitless trying? More ethomasochistic self-flagellation on the part of whites? More kowtowing before window-smashing protestors? Another black President, who presumably will have that last extra bit of magic that the current one seems to have lacked, despite all the promises he made when we elected him?

Blacks have been in this country for four centuries, have been free for a century and a half, have been legally equal in every sense for half a century, and have had the full coercive force of the Total State kicking down every door and destroying every opponent that stood in their way for decades now. They have for a hundred years been sent to free public schools which by law they must attend. Moreover, free public libraries, cheap and universally-available internet service, and taxpayer-supported public television and radio give them access to a limitless store of cultural, historical, scientific, economic, and philosophical knowledge. So when are they going to start acting like white people, as the Blank Slatists long ago promised that they would once unfair laws stopped oppressing them and they were liberated from the shackles of ignorance by access to education? Or, if that question seems a bit too culturally imperialist for you, when will their actions, their attitudes, and their social structures stop resembling those of genetically-similar but geographically-distant Africans more than the whites who surround them in America? Why in black-run or majority-black places in America do we see “Big Man” cronyism, endemic corruption, warlordism and tribalism in the form of urban gangs, and loose sexual morals under weak matriarchy – all features of life seen commonly in sub-Saharan Africa or the black Caribbean, but not in white communities just a few miles away in a majority-white country?

Why is it that, if anything, the process of black acculturation and assimilation into our majority-white society seems to have backslid dramatically over the past half century? Why is it that, fifty years ago, blacks gave their children names like “David” and “Lisa”, but now give them names which, like that of the dead black youth, one would never find attached to someone of any other race? Why is it that, as Mencius Moldbug pointed out, in every big city in America there is a feral, burned-out ghetto that was once a thriving black business district? Why is it that the more coercive the laws establishing utopia at gunpoint become, the farther away anything that any rational person would call a decent and functional society seems to get?

We are told – those who style themselves our moral betters make sure we hear – that “Black Lives Matter”. To whom, I wonder? Judging by the rate of black-on-black murder, and by the rate of abortion among black women, not to blacks themselves. And if not to them, why to me? If they can’t be bothered to raise their children (Why was the dead black youth living with his grandmother? Where were his parents? Dare I ask?), protect their young people, and care for their old and infirm, by what right do they burden me and mine with those tasks? Do we not have enough to do in caring for our own?

Yes, there is Christian charity. But nothing about that stops me from asking questions about the assumptions of individual and group equality that serve as the foundations of the society in which all of this has happened. It doesn’t stop me from noticing that decades, or even centuries, of actions based upon these assumptions have made things worse instead of better. It doesn’t stop me from seeing that, in the name of bettering things for blacks, whites killed each other by the thousands at places like Shiloh and Chickamauga, allowed our own ancient and hard-won rights (such as those of free association and commerce) to be taken from us by laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and spent trillions of dollars that could have gone into space exploration, medical research, or high-tech public transportation – and yet in the end all of these seem to have been wasted efforts that have gained us little except insufferable moral bragging on the part of those who have championed them and who react to their manifest lack of results with neverending calls for “More! More! More!”

It doesn’t stop me from wondering: How much is enough? By what deadline will we either attain success or admit defeat? What precisely has to happen – how many more years of dismal, pointless failure have to go by – before we are allowed to call into question the doctrine of universal human equality? Before we are allowed to ask: “Where is the proof – scientific, historical, or otherwise – for this belief? Where, even, is the proof that belief in it has made things better in any way other than letting some people feel good about themselves for believing in a comforting dream?”

What happens if – when, really, for unreality can only hold reality at bay for just so long – we finally do? And what do we do until then? What about poor whites like Psycho Dish, who can’t afford to flee from the perpetual disaster that is black dysfunction in America? Do we just tell him to accept stepping over dead bodies on his way to take his trash cans in as normal?

The human capacity for holding on to pleasant delusion until reality comes crashing down on us seems to be limitless, so I expect that’s what will happen in this case as well. Events are in the driver’s seat, and things will play out as they will, which will almost certainly be extremely unpleasantly. I think it would have been better for everyone just to have kept our society based on observable reality all along, but nobody (or at least, nobody in a position of power) asked me.

Well, then, I will do the only thing I can do, which is to extend my condolences to Psycho Dish for his serie noire this week. I’ll buy beer the next time we get together – though, I hope you understand, I’d rather we meet somewhere other than your place.

Chernobyl Heart, Chernobyl Head

Thirty years ago today, reactor #4 at the V. I. Lenin Atomic Energy Station, located near the town of Chernobyl in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, exploded. The debris from the explosion and smoke from the subsequent fire, both highly radioactive, spread over an enormous swath of territory, and was so intense even when dispersed over long distances that the west’s first indication that a nuclear accident had taken place came when workers at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant, thousands of miles away in eastern Sweden, detected elevated levels of radiation that they determined wasn’t coming from their own plant. The disaster resulted in thirty-one direct deaths due to injuries and radiation exposure, while the number of extra deaths due to health issues related to it can probably never be fully accounted for. To this day, just over 1000 square miles of territory surrounding the plant, designated with the appropriately dismal title of the “Zone of Alienation”, remains an officially restricted area.

Of course, you knew all that already. But what may not have occurred to you is that Chernobyl is the most perfectly leftist thing ever to have happened. How so? Let us begin our analysis by looking at some engineering.

If you have ever driven past an atomic power plant in the United States, you have probably noticed one or more tall grey domes among the plant’s structures. These are called “containment buildings”, and as the name implies, they contain each of the nuclear reactors. They are made of steel-reinforced concrete several feet thick, can be sealed air-tight, and, by federal law, must be able to withstand a direct hit from a fully-loaded commercial airliner without the reactor itself taking any damage. Their presence at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, for example, is one reason why that accident was (despite the left’s hysterical reaction to it) an annoyance that resulted in no deaths instead of being a catastrophe on the level of Chernobyl.

The reactors at Chernobyl, in contrast, had no containment buildings standing over them. The Soviets didn’t build them because constructing containment buildings around their reactors was considered unnecessary to the point of being an affront to the very idea of Marxism itself. Let us not forget that Marx claimed that what he was presenting was not an economic theory or a philosophy: no, what he had was hard science – practically physics itself! – the triumph of which was absolutely inevitable. Thus, logically, all of the fruits of Marxism – economic, cultural, philosophical, and scientific – were so objectively perfect that they, like the ideology from which they sprang, could only be considered flawless. In other words, Soviet reactors didn’t need containment buildings because Marxist science was so perfect that no such measure would ever be needed. Why build a fail-safe mechanism for a system that cannot fail? Not only would that be a waste of time and resources, it practically borders on sedition.

Thus does the Chernobyl disaster stand as a perfect metaphor for Marxism itself. As with the V. I. Lenin Atomic Energy Station, so also with the communist system that V. I. Lenin himself built – with both, we see an unproven technology (in one case a scientific technology, in the other a social technology) put into practice by people who insisted that their theoretical model was so perfect that failure was impossible, and thus that both consideration of possible failure modes and the construction of redundant safety systems to mitigate the damage in case of a catastrophic failure were foolish and unnecessary. And now the weeds reclaim it all – it is post-civilization, and the only things left behind are ruins within the Zone of Alienation.

But how does this disaster, far away and, now, long ago, affect you, dear reader? You may consider yourself lucky for the fact that you aren’t living in the Zone of Alienation, but are you so sure that you really don’t? If modern, western, Cultural Marxist leftism is in any way different from its ideological cousin Soviet communism in this belief about the perfection and inevitability of its own theories, I have seen no evidence of it. Oliver Cromwell once wrote to an assembly of churchmen: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken”; and yet it is virtually impossible to lay one’s finger upon any time when his ideological descendants in the left have ever stopped to think of the possibility that they may be mistaken, or to construct any fail-safe mechanisms to deal with what will happen if it turns out that they are.

For example, they seem never to have asked themselves questions like: What if destroying Christianity really does cut the legs out from under Western civilization? What if we get into a war with a serious opponent and then find out that women really aren’t anywhere near as effective as men in combat? What if spending multiple decades pouring trillions of dollars into ghettos full of low-IQ, high-time-preference people really won’t eliminate poverty forever? What if easy divorce really does create multiple generations of dysfunctional, emotionally crippled children who are incapable of genuine intimacy and terrified of taking any real responsibility? What if feminism doesn’t make women’s lives better, but just turns them into miserable, lonely, reproductively unsuccessful corporate nuns? What if the establishment of a socialist welfare state actually does end up with the working class breaking their backs to pay astronomical taxes so that layabouts, drunkards, junkies, serial unmarried babymommas, and immigrant free-riders who showed up for the taxpayer-funded goodies can live the lives of leisured gentlemen? What if debt does matter? What if tens of millions of Sunni Muslims from violent, unstable countries really aren’t assimilable into European society?

What do we do then?

Velery Legasov, the member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences who was sent by the Politburo to investigate the Chernobyl disaster – a man who was a dedicated, longtime member of the Communist Party – hanged himself out of shame when he realized how wrong they’d all been. Who among the leaders of the West will hang themselves out of shame for the destruction of the black family, or for the fate of South Africa’s whites, or for the Bataclan, or for any of the innumerable disasters that mark the decline of our civilization? Who among them will even admit that these are serious problems that point to a basic defect in their worldview?

The answer to that is, I think, quite obvious. Social, technological, and humanitarian disasters caused by leftism happen over and over again, which any rational person would learn a lesson from, but because it is against the left’s principles to learn anything from history (They’re utopians – to them, the future is always better than the present, which is always better than the past. History is about the past, which is nothing but a cesspool of racistsexistbigotedhomophobia, and thus clearly there is nothing to be learned from any of that), they don’t. The history of the left is one Chernobyl after the next – some local in nature, and some global; some happening in an instant, others stretched over decades. They never learn anything from them and they never take responsibility for them. Always, their disasters are either denied or explained away as outliers or the fault of “wreckers” of various kinds. Always their plans would have worked – and may still! – if only conditions are tweaked just a tiny bit, or if only that last little measure of extra resources were poured into them. And never, never does it cause them to think it possible that they may be mistaken – at any time, or about anything.

In the areas surrounding the still-radioactive wreck of the V. I. Lenin Atomic Energy Station, a new medical condition has appeared. This condition, which affects the hearts of children born in the years since the disaster, is referred to as “Chernobyl Heart”, and among its wide range of symptoms is that it leaves multiple holes in the hearts of its victims. It was to atone for horrors like this that Valery Legasov committed suicide.

Which leads me to a proposal: that a heretofore-undiagnosed condition be recognized. Let us call it “Chernobyl Head”, a condition that leaves multiple holes in the cognitive abilities of its victims. It can be most succinctly defined as that condition that renders leftists unable to ever ask themselves if they may be mistaken, no matter how high the likelihood that they are; unable to develop or even admit the need for contingency plans in case their plans end up not working, no matter how dire the consequences if they don’t; unable to recognize their own failures, no matter how obvious they may be; and unable to take responsibility for the damage they have caused, no matter how awful it is. It is what causes them, without the tiniest hesitation, to declare: “Reality has a leftist bias! We’re on the right side of history! Marxist science is perfect! We don’t need any containment buildings around our reactors!”

Chernobyl Head is endemic to leftists, and incurable in them. Utopians cannot ever allow themselves to ask if there is any flaw in utopia, or in their chosen path to getting there. They certainly can never allow themselves to admit of the possibility that utopia will never arrive, or that it will be any less than perfect. Chernobyl Head is what much of makes leftists so persuasive – such absolute certainty cannot help but come across as strength, and seem inspiring to those who struggle with unsureness. But it is also what makes them so dangerous, so fanatical, so past the ability to be reasoned with. It is why they never see disaster coming, even when they’re warned about it over and over again, until it explodes like an atomic blast against a nighttime sky, spreading death and destruction; the fallout leaving only a ruined wasteland – a Zone of Alienation.

But as awful as Chernobyl Head may be, it can at least be said that unlike Chernobyl Heart, there is a way to effectively deal with it. Some people may be curable, in that they subscribed to leftism for emotional reasons, or because that seemed like the winning side, or because it was easy, and can be turned away from it. But as for those whose cases of Chernobyl Head prove resistant to all treatment, they must be physically removed – preferably from decent society altogether, but at very least from any positions of power or influence. This will not be easy, nor can it be done through playing by “civilized” rules. But those with Chernobyl Head are sick, contagious, and extremely dangerous, and the price of not stopping them is catastrophe.

Short Takes: April 2016

It’s been quite awhile since I posted an edition of Short Takes – my roundup of thoughts that are worth saying, but too limited to warrant a full blog post. But in this political season, there’s a lot that requires some attention to be paid. So let us pay it, without another moment’s delay:

*  *  *

• I’m getting pretty sick and tired of the countersignaling against pro-life that seems to be fashionable amongst certain segments of the alt-right these days, as if saying that murdering babies is wrong is just too pleb-tier for edgy intellectuals like us. I have no patience for this. Murdering babies is evil, and should be illegal, with extreme penalties for violating the law. Full stop. If we as the alt-right can’t say that, then we’re worse than useless. Yes, some moral questions require subtle and nuanced thinking. But some do not, and in those cases, moral relativism is evil’s foot in the door. Abortion is one of those cases. Either abortion is murder, or it isn’t. If it is, then nothing justifies it except a direct and certain threat to the life of the mother, in which case one life is balanced against another – one will live, one will die, and the only choice is who. But if it is not, then abort away – one million a year, ten million a year, a billion a year, it matters not, and no more thought should be given to it than would be given to trimming a fingernail. Any other position – any half-measure, any “legal but rare”, any “in this case but not in that case”, is dishonesty both on a moral and a rational level.

• Related: Something to be cautious of is the increasingly large number of what I would call “racialist liberals” who are claiming to be a part of the alt-right. These are people who, politically-speaking, want all or most of what liberals do, but who are either (understandably) fed up with the disproportionate criminality of certain ethnic groups or who (correctly) believe that a liberal social order is unworkable with too many underperforming minorities acting as a drag on the system. Such people are, of course, entitled to their opinions. But they are not entitled to appropriate the term “rightist” (alt- or otherwise) without being called on it.

Being on the right means believing rightist things. If you don’t, then you aren’t on the right, and you shouldn’t claim that you are. So, if your claims that you are a rightist when you really aren’t are due to some sort of mistake or confusion, I’ll be happy to help correct any misconceptions you may have. If, however, they are intentional misrepresentation, then you are a left-entryist who must be revealed for what you are and ruthlessly denounced until you are hounded out of rightist circles. Again, you are entitled to your opinions. If you’re on the left, go be a leftist, and if the left is presently too racially egalitarian for you, then you’re welcome to agitate however you like to try to change that. But you aren’t entitled to acceptance under false pretenses, and I won’t extend you any.

• Also related: The Trump campaign is having all the effects on the alt-right that I predicted it would, for both better and worse. It must be conceded that Trump has had the effect of shifting the conscousness of the rank-and-file “normies” noticably rightward, or at least has made them far less afraid to speak out. In doing so, he has indeed moved the Overton Window. He has also caused the GOP establishment to be revealed for who and what it actually is, and few people (especially people under 60) will ever trust it again. These are all good things. Yet it must be said that the larger Trump phenomenon may all be based on illusion; it seems to me that Trump is something of a Rorschach test – the right (outside of the GOP establishment) sees him as the embodiment of all their hopes, while the left sees him as the embodiment of all their fears. In truth, he is almost certainly neither, and both those who need a hero to follow and those who need a dragon to slay are projecting those needs onto him.

On the other hand, the recent spate of anti-pro-life signaling has appeared largely because of Trump’s recent perceived “stumble” on an abortion-related question. Certain circles of the alt-right, having fallen into the trap of thinking that jettisoning principle to gain power is a sustainable strategy, have decided to throw pro-life under the bus as quickly as possible so as not to derail the Trump Train any further. These sorts never seem to stop and ask themselves what sacrificing principle for a chance at power has gotten mainstream conservatism. Thus, they inevitably turn into the very thing they’re rebelling against. In short, they’re every bit as much a bunch of cucks as Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, just on a different set of issues.

In the end, it may be fair to say that the Trump phenomenon has made the populist normies better and the alt-right elite worse. These elites, however, (by virtue of being elites) ought to have known not to let this happen to them, and there’s a lesson for all of us to be had here: this is what comes of a philosophical movement allowing itself to get too attached to a single leader, a political party, or even to power itself. Whether Trump is or isn’t the best of the available presidential candidates is beside the point; the excessive attachment that some on the alt-right have developed to him, combined with their renewed faith that they will ever get anything but defeat and humiliation out of mass democracy, represents a serious failing, and there will be consequences to this whether Trump wins or loses the election.

As for me, to misquote Christopher Hitchens, I’m not running for any office, so I don’t have to pretend to respect ideas that are foolish, hypocritical, or evil when I don’t. In this sense, having no aspirations to political power is freeing. Fiat justitia ruat caelum – I will continue to do my part by telling the truth, no matter what the consequences.

• The philosophy of “passivism” has been making the rounds lately in certain alt-right (and especially neoreactionary) circles, and with all due respect to those advocating it – many of whom are thinkers I deeply respect – I must admit to not being particularly impressed by the idea. It makes a certain amount of sense on paper, but in the real world, it is just too easy for it to degrade into lazyism and do-nothingism.

Most especially, I am puzzled by this: If passivism’s plan is, 1) Become worthy, 2) Accept power, 3) Rule, then what exactly is the strategy for making 2) happen? It looks to me as if this stage is glossed over in the manner of the infamous “underpants gnomes” of South Park. But it is not an unimportant question, and it would seem that passivism is all about avoiding it on the assumption that if we just become worthy enough, power will eventually come knocking on our door, hat in hand, begging us to accept it. I find this to be rather unrealistic, to say the least.

I understand, absolutely, saying that hippie-style protests will never work for the right. I understand saying that we should focus on the philosophical and meta-political, and leave the machinations of day-to-day politics to others. But when that turns into the idea of retreating from the world to spend our time in navel gazing and self-improvement schemes rather than trying to accomplish something in the here and now, my response is that if I wanted to do that, I would have joined a monastery. Instead, I started writing and speaking out because I wanted to change things, and I’m not planning to become “passive” anytime soon.

• Taikung Jen, in a conversation with Confucius:

“I’ll teach you how to escape death…

…there is a raven in the eastern sea which is called Yitai (‘dull-head’). This dull-head cannot fly very high and seems very stupid. It hops only a short distance and nestles close with others of its kind. In going forward, it dare not lag behind. At the time of feeding, it takes what is left over by the other birds. Therefore, the ranks of this bird are never depleted and nobody can do them any harm. A tree with a straight trunk is the first to be chopped down. A well with sweet water is the first to be drawn dry.”

•The city government of San Jose – heart of the Silicon Valley – has announced a campaign to crack down on unlicensed “massage parlors”, which they (correctly) accuse of being fronts for prostitution. While I carry no brief for houses of ill repute, I nonetheless find this move deeply disturbing. For as long as anyone I know can remember (going back to my grandparents’ time, and further) there has been an unspoken truce that has existed in every American city in which East Asian ethnic neighborhoods have formed. The terms have always been approximately this: the neighborhood will remain largely self-policing – violent crime among residents will stay rare, and violent crimes against outsiders (especially tourists) will remain virtually unheard-of. In exchange, the police (who, being no fools, surely know where to find it) will turn a blind eye to discreetly-operated dens of the sort of vices that East Asians particularly enjoy (gambling, prostitution, and the occasional opium den prominent among these). The new anti-vice campaign on the part of San Jose’s municipal government represents a violation of this long-established, stable, mutually-beneficial truce.

The Puritan left, of course, knows no honor, so any truce it offers will last only until they feel they have amassed enough power to break it with impunity. San Jose’s campaign fits in neatly with the left’s recent transgressions of other lines that, not long ago, they swore they would never cross – including those involving freedom of religion and even freedom of speech. And they will stop at nothing, nor will they respect any borderlines, in enforcing their new dictates. As Fred Reed noted, in the New Order, no one will be left alone – not anyone, not anywhere, not ever. There is no corner of the internet hidden enough, no small-town bakery obscure enough, no private sanctum deep enough within your own walls, no low-down barroom dingy and smoky enough, and no alley in Chinatown dark and narrow enough that the Puritan left’s Inquisitors – whether they are officials of the state or private vigilantes – will not insert themselves there in their hunt for demons to exorcise and witches to burn.

First they came for the Chinatown whorehouses…

• Related: The newest addition to the left’s long, long inventory of things that are triggering and oppressive and must be purged for the good of the children: Animanics. No, really.

Attention leftists – when you’ve reached the point where your enemies list has grown so long that it now includes Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, you’ve objectively gone batshit insane.

• There may, however, be a ray of hope out there in the darkness. Over at amerika.org, Brett Stevens has come up with a novel proposal for getting the lefties to leave us alone. He advocates a strategy of passing laws distasteful to them, not only because such laws are sane and reasonable, but also with the intent of getting them to boycott us (and thus to go away). Relevant quote from his article (which is very much worth reading in full):

“The only place safe from the ever-greedy belly of socialist-style government and the neurotic fatwas of Coastal liberals is the place that no one wants. Become that place. Make the South look utterly terrible to these Coastal neurotics and schizoids, and let them pull back. If they want a wall, let’s build that wall. Let us seal ourselves off from the North forever because we are so disgusting to their eyes.

In the meantime, cut free of their neurosis and the easy-money jobs of the cities that make people into robot zombies, we can rebuild civilization and eventually have enough tactical nukes to vanish them if they charge over the wall. Let the Coastal liberals face the fate of their reality-denying, misery-spreading Leftist mental health issues. We must break free, and it begins by making them not hate us, but be grossed out by us.”

At the moment, this seems to be working brilliantly, not only at keeping degenerate pornographers at bay, but in preventing attention-seeking show biz has-beens from pestering decent folk, and even at driving off crooked, predatory globalist banksters. So far so good then – I’ll lend my personal endorsement to the Stevens Plan. If it keeps undesirables from darkening our doorsteps, then it’s a win-win all around.

By the way, would it be silly of me to ask why the left suddenly finds millionaires and huge multinational corporations interfering in politics to be totally acceptable when that interference furthers the left’s own political aims? Yes, I suppose it would.

(UPDATE I: Washed-up 80s relic Cyndi Lauper says she’ll donate all of the proceeds from her next concert to a gay rights organization trying to get the North Carolina law repealed. So, there’s another $4.25 or so in the kitty! You go, girl.

UPDATE II: And now insufferable prog lardsack Michael Moore has announced that in response to the new law, he won’t be releasing his latest dismal propaganda film to theaters in North Carolina. This law just keeps getting better and better!)

• Has anyone else noticed that among leftism’s innumerable internal contradictions is the fact that their dogmatic belief in blank-slate theory directly contradicts their opposition to hereditary monarchy? If blank-slate theory is true, then there is no reason to fear a “bad seed” on the throne – all that will be needed to produce the ideal philosopher-kings of which thinkers since Socrates have dreamed will be to give them the right upbringing and education. (This latter is especially important, for the left’s belief in education as alchemy – able to turn any human material into any other kind of human material that may be desired – is essentially absolute.) So why then do they not, instead of opposing monarchy, devote their energies to advocating for the right sort of education for young princes?

Perhaps in their mind lurks the knowledge that Nero’s teacher was Seneca, and Commodus’s was his father Marcus Aurelius. Then again, when did “progressives” ever stoop to learning from history?

• The left is an engine of sadism and destruction; included in this is sadism and destruction directed inward – i.e. masochism and self-destruction. This is not incidental to leftism nor a by-product of it; the sadomasochistic imperative is in fact central to leftism. Nothing that the left does can be understood unless seen through this lens; looked at any other way, its actions seem random and bizarre. It explains both the left’s pattern of rewarding those who engage in behaviors destructive to society at large and even to the left in particular, as well as its otherwise-inexplicable alliance with Islam. For example, Muslims knocked down the Twin Towers; and as a result, the number of Muslim immigrants in the United States has been doubled since that day. Or consider that the massive sexual irresponsibility of gays spread an epidemic that killed tens of millions; and as a result, they were rewarded with gay “marriage”. Or that violent criminal predators have turned the streets of our once-gleaming cities into dystopian war zones; and as a result, they are getting handsomely paid off in exchange for a pinky promise to not do it again (contrast this to the penalties in technically-communist but non-self-destructive China for “hooliganism”).

The left desperately wants death, but the sadomasochistic imperative at its core means that its suicide will not be in the form of an otherwise-harmless self-immolation in the style of Thich Quang Duc. Instead, the left will destroy itself in the manner of Andreas Lubitz – intentionally taking everyone who they have trapped within their power along with them in their death dive; the helpless victims, in a rather more urgent version of William F. Buckley’s response to leftism, pounding helplessly on the cockpit door as the mountains get ever-closer, telling: “No! No! For the love of God, stop!”

Either we destroy the left, or it destroys itself and takes us along with it. In the end, which is more humane? More reasonable?

• I was 15 years old when the film Rain Man was released to theaters. I remember Good Morning America running a segment just before it debuted in which they had to explain what autism was, (being especially careful to make the point that it was not the same thing as mental retardation) because at the time it was such an unknown condition that most people had never heard of it. Over the intervening years, it seems as though autism, like homosexuality, has gone all the way from existing in the shadows to being the new normal. Scientists and physicians, I’m sure, have well-reasoned explanations for the increase in rates of autism over the last thirty years or so, and I have no doubt of the correctness of their explanations. But I can’t help but notice that autism seems to be the signature disorder of our age – a medical condition that perfectly reflects where we are as a society. Of course, autism is the apotheosis of the Whig thinking that, over the course of centuries, has become the central current of thought in the West (and, via the transmission lines of globalism, the world). Ruthlessly logical, humorless, uncultured, literal – it is the thinking of a cog in a system, but essentially nothing else. What could be more reflective of the computerized, post-industrial age – an age in which our lives are defined by interaction with machines, and in which thinking like a machine is increasingly considered to be the height of intelligence?

Whoever you turn into heroes, that is who people will seek to emulate. Now, think of all the high-functioning autistics who we have held up as the great heroes of our age – Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and others who built huge fortunes quickly in the Great Silicon Valley Gold Rush of 1975-2010. When the heroes we were all taught to emulate were cowboys, soldiers, policemen – men who reflected masculine virtue – what sort of men did our society produce? And now that socially-maladjusted, overly-literal machine-men – they who know circuits and cost/benefit analyses, but who can discern no use for God or philosophy or morality – now that these are our heroes, what sort of men is our society producing?

Perhaps the scientists will say that’s all a coincidence. If it is, it’s a remarkable one.

• From New York comes word that the NYC subway’s implementation of NFC payments will take at least five more years (and likely much longer), and that only $10 million of the projected $450 million budget for the project has actually been allocated. Behold the entropy of a decadent, declining, systemically corrupt system in action! New York City – so great a showpiece of advancement in the 20th century that the young Ayn Rand, fresh off the boat from Russia, wept when she beheld its towering skyline – cannot, in this century, find a timely and cost-effective way to implement a technology that Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, and even Bangkok have been using for years.

My prediction:The NYC subway system, which has for many years been desperately in need of a major modernization (not just in terms of new technology like NFC payments, but in basics like better ventilation and some escalators to replace endless flights of stairs in big stations), will not be getting significantly more modern anytime soon. The NFC project will crawl along for years, with nothing much coming of it. When it is finally finished, years late and tend of millions over budget, the final product will be barely-functional at best. Meanwhile, astronomical amounts of taxpayer money will disappear into politically-connected pockets (all in ways that are technically perfectly legal).

Bob Grant used to say that we are slipping and sliding into third worldism. This is a fine example of that trend. Do not expect it to be reversed anytime soon. An occasional rocket landing on a boat aside (every trend line has a few bumps in the opposite direction), we are not a society that can get things done anymore.

• Related: Will everybody please shut the hell up about Uber? Stop treating it like it’s the past decade’s most innovative development in tech. For heaven’s sake, it’s just a phone app that helps you to hail a gypsy cab; it’s not the freaking Apollo moon landing program.

• He’s back! After an absence of four years, the prognosticator of prognosticators, the badass of business – everyone’s favorite Texan investor, Johnnie Walker drinker, and secret brony – the man they call Ghost has returned with all-new episodes of True Capitalist Radio! I’m a big fan of the show, the host, and even (maybe especially) the trolls, so trust me here – if you listen to a few episodes, I’m confident that you’ll be hooked.

 

The Lion And The Ox

“One law for the lion and ox is oppression.” – William Blake

*  *  *

When I tell people that I don’t believe in equality, the response I get is invariably one that combines horror with incomprehension. How, people ask, could I not be in favor of equality? Equality is, after all (and as Tocqueville ably illustrated) the very business of America! How could I not think equality the most desirable state to which mankind can aspire, and that which we must work together to build? How could I not wish the government to pass laws to grant us more of it, and to want it implanted as a value in every human heart?

My reply is that they have misunderstood me. I do not say “I don’t believe in equality” in the sense that I might say that I don’t believe in Objectivism or Communism or Juche. I say “I don’t believe in equality” in the sense that I might say that I don’t believe in unicorns, or the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus. I mean that I see no convincing evidence that the thing being discussed actually exists, either at an individual level or at a group level. Thus, it is immaterial whether I support it, or wish for it, or think it would be a great idea if we had more of it. Perhaps it would be the most wonderful thing in all the world if equality really existed, and perhaps I can’t think of a single reason why it wouldn’t be. Similarly, I daresay it would be the most wonderful thing in the world if Santa Claus really existed, and I most certainly can’t think of a single reason why it wouldn’t be. And yet reality remains what it is.

This, of course, runs up against two of the left’s most anti-reality tendencies. The first is its consistent inability to comprehend the difference between the descriptive and the normative – between an “is” and an “ought”. To the left, if something ought to be, then it is – or perhaps more specifically, if something must be true in order for their beliefs to be valid, then it is true, and questioning it will be placed beyond the pale. The second is their belief in the power that laws passed by governments have to restructure reality. They protest: “But we have passed laws to ensure equality! We have had Supreme Court decisions! The law is clear!” Perhaps it is – but it is also meaningless in the face of implacable reality.

So here is some reality: You cannot pass a law that will make human beings equal. You can pass a law that will force everybody to act as if human beings are equal, but that is not the same thing. The government could just as well pass a law forcing everybody to act as if unicorns existed, and enforce it with penalties so harsh that virtually nobody would be willing to speak up against it. In fact, you can go even father. You could mandate teaching about unicorns at schools and universities, and indeed, you could even set up whole Departments of Unicorn Studies. You could make sure that films and television were careful to never question whether unicorns existed. You could get people kicked off of social networks for snickering at the idea of unicorns. You could make it so that those who dared to disbelieve in unicorns were fired from their jobs, blacklisted from entire professions, and rendered unable to make enough money to put food on the table for their children to eat.

You could do all of that, and it still won’t make unicorns exist.

It is at this point that I can imagine conservatives and libertarians responding: “Alright, we accept that individuals are not inherently equal. But we should at least grant people equal treatment under the law! That is the cornerstone of liberty! It is the key principle to which free men subscribe! It is what the Founding Fathers fought for!”

I am afraid that at this point, I will rankle them by not only disagreeing with the premise of equality under the law, but by illustrating my point with something else I’m sure they’ll dislike: a defense of Islam.

To do this, let us start by looking at the rape epidemic sweeping Europe – at incidents ranging from the Rotherham scandal to the Cologne sex attacks – and ask ourselves why they happened. Specifically, why does the arrival of waves of young men from Muslim countries in northern European societies consistently correlate with a wave of sex-related crimes in those countries? The obvious answer is that they feel empowered to commit them, but at the bottom of that chain of discoveries lies a stark truth: The reason that they suddenly feel empowered to do in Europe what they would not do at home is because the system of restraints (statutory, religious, and cultural) that is sufficient to restrain Swedes, Danes, and Englishmen from doing these things is not sufficient to restrain Syrians, Somalis, and Pakistanis from doing them. In their own countries, they would likely be lashed, beheaded, or otherwise face punishments for these acts that Westerners would consider draconian, and they would be subjected to them after far less due process of law than Westerners are used to. And this, of course, is over and above all the preventative restraints found in Muslim societies such as a still-intact system of patriarchal control over wives or unmarried daughters, the covering of women in clothing that reveals nothing, and an honor code that takes sexual impropriety as a serious matter calling for retribution (often delivered directly by the family of the violated woman). This is a serious system of restraints. Would you or I want to live under them? Would we want to wrap our women head to toe in black cloth and face the lash (or lynching) for sexual indiscretions? Of course not. But we are (either genetically or by citizenship) Europeans, and these restraints would be unnecessarily harsh if placed on us. In criticizing Islam as regards these cases, therefore, we may be confusing cause with effect. It is likely that instead of causing incidents like these, Islam (and the set of restraints that it represents) is in fact the only thing that prevents them from being as much of an epidemic among young men from Muslim countries in their homelands as it is among groups of them in Europe*.

(I will note here that the harshness of the American justice system has long been, of necessity, set at a level necessary to deal with the disproportionate criminality of blacks. This means that it is in general much harsher than the justice systems found in places like Sweden, which were set up to restrain basically all-white societies. Whether this generally higher level of harshness has anything to do with the fact that there has been no notable rape epidemic among Muslims in America is a conclusion I will leave it up to my readers to make.)

The obvious answer for the afflicted northern European countries (other than disallowing immigration from Muslim lands) would be to establish different sets of restraints for Pakistanis than for Englishmen and for Syrians than for Germans. In fact, many Muslim communities in their nations have openly requested this by asking to be allowed to set up Sharia-based law courts to deal with infractions in their communities. And yet they are consistently opposed in this by their European hosts, whose unshakable faith in blank slate theory, human equality, and equal treatment under the law cannot permit them to enact an answer so obvious that even the supposed “victims” of this inequality would eagerly welcome it.

(It is worth noting that the Muslims in these communities were so frustrated by the refusal of European authorities to allow them their own courts that they took to implementing vigilante-style “Sharia Patrols” in cities in Britain and Germany to maintain order in their neighborhoods. The authorities cracked down on these aberrations against equality with a swiftness and sureness that one might wish it reserved for the likes of Al-Qaeda or ISIS.)

And here we face the trap that Blake warned us about. While it is impossible to enact a separate law code to deal with each different individual, it is both possible and, if there is to be true justice, necessary to enact a separate law code to deal with each identifiably different group. What happens if we do not? Then we must have one law for everyone. But if we do that, at what level do we set the harshness of its restraints? If we set it at the level of those who need the least restraint, then we will have endless chaos caused by those who need more of it. If we set it at the level of those who need more restraint, we will unnecessarily tyrannize those who need less of it. If we slosh around between the two in a hopeless attempt to somehow split the difference, we get what Sam Francis referred to as anarcho-tyranny.

This is why the American south’s now universally-reviled Jim Crow system was in fact both sensible and necessary. And oh, yes, it is reviled! A national mark of shame! To think that we ever required blacks to sit in the back of the bus, away from everyone else! What barbarism! And yet… what have the results of the abolition of this system been? Let us consider the case of the buses. Half a century after desegregation, what do they look like? The sad truth is that our roads are choked with cars – many old, rusted, and belching smoke – because nobody who can possibly avoid taking public transportation in this country does take it. And while there are multiple reasons for that, one that cannot be ignored is a desire to avoid the swarms of loud, scary blacks that are ubiquitous on public transportation in any big city in America (it is not for nothing, after all, that Jay Leno once referred to buses as “rolling bad neighborhoods”). This has a snowball effect. It keeps ridership low, which prevents expansion. It makes existing routes outside of poor black areas economically difficult to maintain, and new routes outside of them politically difficult to create (Why did the St. Louis MetroLink – known to locals as the “CrimeLink” – never expand into the wealthy suburbs west of the city proper? Why did the San Francisco Bay Area’s BART commuter train system never expand into rich, white, liberal Marin County, despite initial plans for it to do so? The reason is both obvious and rarely mentioned.)

So much for the liberal dream of us all giving up our cars and using public transit! More cars on the road, more traffic, more expense for the working poor, more pollution – all unintended consequences of the ideal of equality under the law.

Let us consider another example: The left is absolutely correct that “stop and frisk” laws have disproportionately targeted visible minorities, especially blacks, in many cities (perhaps most notably in New York). And when they did, crime went down drastically. As a result, black neighborhoods became drastically safer. Many non-criminals who lived in these neighborhoods had their effective level of freedom increased, because they were no longer imprisoned in their houses out of fear of walking the streets. Whites, no longer afraid to come and spend money there, did. Businesses started to thrive again. Things got better.

And then Black Lives Matter showed up and demanded equal treatment under the law – or else. Cities burned, and policemen were put on trial (after intense pressure from BLM or its allies on the left) for doing their jobs. The new mayor of New York declared his support for the protesters and antipathy toward the police. As a result, policemen started staying in their cars instead of patrolling, and started to turn a blind eye to what they once would have stopped. Predictably, crime started to rise again. This will not end well for anyone.

In Europe, one law for native whites and for Muslims is a disaster. In America, one law for white and black is a disaster. It is obvious why. Middle easterners are not Englishmen; blacks are not whites. Nor are any two distinct and identifiable groups of people the same as each other. For example: Jews are not Arabs (a fact reflected in the law of the Jews’ own homeland) nor are they whites. Women are not men. Aristocrats are not craftsmen, craftsmen are not peasants, and peasants are not slaves**. Yes, exceptions exist to just about any generally true observation. But we can’t make sensible law based on exceptions and edge cases. The “talented tenth” may be inconvenienced by laws like Jim Crow, but the untalented 90% is a huge problem that must be realistically dealt with. Besides which, wisely-exercised human judgment among authority figures can more than adequately adjust for exceptions and edge cases. (Though this is exceptionally difficult under the current system, because Moderns have a horror of human judgment, preferring to believe instead that impersonal, automatic, universal systems of law and bureaucracy will provide us with just and wise leadership).

Everywhere we either find helpless acceptance of the anarcho-tyranny that inevitably accompanies equality under the law, or we find people engaging in elaborate schemes by which to treat different groups of people differently without letting it appear that that’s what we’re doing (often by finding ways to price certain groups of people out of certain markets, thus making the cost of living skyrocket for everyone). Aside from the patent ridiculousness and injustice of all this, it is not sustainable. So why do we not simply formalize the obvious solution, which is to treat distinctly different groups of people with distinctly different attributes differently? The answer is simple enough: Because that would be an arrangement based on truth, and we are a society that both fears and hates the truth.

But law that is not based on truth can neither ever be just, nor can ever stand very long. Lions are not oxen, pretending that they are is delusion, and having one law for both really is oppression. This is the truth, and in the end, the truth cannot be ignored forever. As the old saying goes: “Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret”.

(*I will go on record as saying that we in the West don’t give Islam nearly enough credit. It manages to keep some basic semblance of order in a lot of very rough places – and among a lot of very rough peoples – that would almost certainly be much worse off without it. Thus, I do not at all question the utility of Islam when practiced in those places. I question only 1) its validity as a genuine revelation from God, and 2) its compatibility with other – especially Christian/European – cultures.)

(**There are some people who are natural aristocrats of the soul, and there are other people who, as Aristotle noted, are natural slaves. Just as it’s true that it’s basically impossible to stop a natural aristocrat from becoming some form of elite within the society around him, so too is it true that it’s basically impossible to free natural slaves, because “slave” doesn’t describe their employment or legal status, but simply describes who they are. They will inevitably, invariably become some form of slave within the society around them. Witness, for example, the permanent welfare class – disproportionately the descendants of the slaves of 150 years ago – who live in a form of slavery in which they are utterly dependent upon their masters, who [the actual labor of slaves being obsolete in the post-industrial age] ask them to work only one day a year. That is, election day, when the time and effort they put into voting is required in order to maintain their masters’ power over them – a labor which they gladly supply.)

Good Friday

From The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, Chapter Two:

 

“In a white cloak with blood-red lining, with the shuffling gait of a cavalryman, early in the morning of the fourteenth day of the spring month of Nisan, there came out to the covered colonnade between the two wings of the palace of Herod the Great the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. 

More than anything in the world the procurator hated the smell of rose oil, and now everything foreboded a bad day, because this smell had been pursuing the procurator since dawn.

It seemed to the procurator that a rosy smell exuded from the cypresses and palms in the garden, that the smell of leather trappings and sweat from the convoy was mingled with the cursed rosy flux.

From the outbuildings at the back of the palace, where the first cohort of the Twelfth Lightning legion, which had come to Yershalaim with the procurator, was quartered, a whiff of smoke reached the colonnade across the upper terrace of the palace, and this slightly acrid smoke, which testified that the centuries’ mess cooks had begun to prepare dinner, was mingled with the same thick rosy scent.

‘Oh, gods, gods, why do you punish me? … Yes, no doubt, this is it, this is it again, the invincible, terrible illness… hemicrania, when half of the head aches … there’s no remedy for it, no escape … I’ll try not to move my head…’

On the mosaic floor by the fountain a chair was already prepared, and the procurator, without looking at anyone, sat in it and reached his hand out to one side. His secretary deferentially placed a sheet of parchment in this hand. Unable to suppress a painful grimace, the procurator ran a cursory, sidelong glance over the writing, returned the parchment to thesecretary, and said with difficulty:

‘The accused is from Galilee? Was the case sent to the tetrarch?’

‘Yes, Procurator,’ replied the secretary.

‘And what then?’

‘He refused to make a decision on the case and sent the Sanhedrin’s death sentence to you for confirmation,’ the secretary explained.

The procurator twitched his cheek and said quietly:

‘Bring in the accused.’

And at once two legionaries brought a man of about twenty-seven fromthe garden terrace to the balcony under the columns and stood him beforethe procurator’s chair. The man was dressed in an old and torn light-blue chiton. His head was covered by a white cloth with a leather band around the forehead, and his hands were bound behind his back. Under the man’s left eye there was a large bruise, in the corner of his mouth a cut caked with blood.

The man gazed at the procurator with anxious curiosity.

The latter paused, then asked quietly in Aramaic:

‘So it was you who incited the people to destroy the temple of Yershalaim?’

The procurator sat as if made of stone while he spoke, and only his lips moved slightly as he pronounced the words. The procurator was as if made of stone because he was afraid to move his head, aflame with infernal pain.

The man with bound hands leaned forward somewhat and began to speak:

‘Good man! Believe me …’

But the procurator, motionless as before and not raising his voice in the least, straight away interrupted him:

‘Is it me that you are calling a good man? You are mistaken. It is whispered about me in Yershalaim that I am a fierce monster, and that is perfectly correct.’ And he added in the same monotone: ‘Bring the centurion Ratslayer.’

It seemed to everyone that it became darker on the balcony when the centurion of the first century, Mark, nicknamed Ratslayer, presented himself before the procurator. Ratslayer was a head taller than the tallest soldier of the legion and so broad in the shoulders that he completely blocked out the still-low sun.

The procurator addressed the centurion in Latin:

‘The criminal calls me “good man”. Take him outside for a moment, explain to him how I ought to be spoken to. But no maiming.’

And everyone except the motionless procurator followed Mark Ratslayer with their eyes as he motioned to the arrested man, indicating that he should go with him. Everyone generally followed Ratslayer with their eyes wherever he appeared, because of his height, and those who were seeing him for the first time also because the centurion’s face was disfigured: his nose had once been smashed by a blow from a Germanic club.

Mark’s heavy boots thudded across the mosaic, the bound man noiselessly went out with him, complete silence fell in the colonnade, and one could hear pigeons cooing on the garden terrace near the balcony and water singing an intricate, pleasant song in the fountain.

The procurator would have liked to get up, put his temple under the spout, and stay standing that way. But he knew that even that would not help him.

Having brought the arrested man from under the columns out to the garden, Ratslayer took a whip from the hands of a legionary who was standing at the foot of a bronze statue and, swinging easily, struck the arrested man across the shoulders. The centurion’s movement was casual and light, yet the bound man instantly collapsed on the ground as if his legs had been cut from under him; he gasped for air, the colour drained from his face, and his eyes went vacant.

With his left hand only Mark heaved the fallen man into the air like an empty sack, set him on his feet, and spoke nasally, in poorly pronounced Aramaic:

‘The Roman procurator is called Hegemon. Use no other words. Stand at attention. Do you understand me, or do I hit you?’

The arrested man swayed, but got hold of himself, his colour returned, he caught his breath and answered hoarsely:

I understand. Don’t beat me.’

A moment later he was again standing before the procurator.

A lusterless, sick voice sounded:

‘Name?’

‘Mine?’ the arrested man hastily responded, his whole being expressing a readiness to answer sensibly, without provoking further wrath.

The procurator said softly:

‘I know my own. Don’t pretend to be stupider than you are. Yours.’

‘Yeshua,’ the prisoner replied promptly.

‘Any surname?’

‘Ha-Nozri.’

‘Where do you come from?’

‘The town of Gamala,’ replied the prisoner, indicating with his head that there, somewhere far off to his right, in the north, was the town of Gamala.

‘Who are you by blood?’

‘I don’t know exactly,’ the arrested man replied animatedly, ‘I don’t remember my parents. I was told that my father was a Syrian…’

‘Where is your permanent residence?’

‘I have no permanent home,’ the prisoner answered shyly, ‘I travel from town to town.’

‘That can be put more briefly, in a word – a vagrant,’ the procurator said, and asked:

‘Any family?’

‘None. I’m alone in the world.’

‘Can you read and write?’

‘Yes.’

‘Do you know any language besides Aramaic?’

‘Yes. Greek.’

A swollen eyelid rose, an eye clouded with suffering fixed the arrested man. The other eye remained shut.

Pilate spoke in Greek.

‘So it was you who was going to destroy the temple building and called on the people to do that?’

Here the prisoner again became animated, his eyes ceased to show fear, and he spoke in Greek:

‘Never, goo…’ Here terror flashed in the prisoner’s eyes, because he had nearly made a slip. ‘Never, Hegemon, never in my life was I going to destroy the temple building, nor did I incite anyone to this senseless act.’

Surprise showed on the face of the secretary, hunched over a low table and writing down the testimony. He raised his head, but immediately bent it to the parchment again.

‘All sorts of people gather in this town for the feast. Among them there are magicians, astrologers, diviners and murderers,’ the procurator spoke in monotone, ‘and occasionally also liars. You, for instance, are a liar. It is written clearly: “Incited to destroy the temple”. People have testified to it.’

‘These good people,’ the prisoner spoke and, hastily adding ‘Hegemon’, went on: ‘…haven’t any learning and have confused everything I told them. Generally, I’m beginning to be afraid that this confusion may go on for a very long time. And all because he writes down the things I say incorrectly.’

Silence fell. By now both sick eyes rested heavily on the prisoner.

‘I repeat to you, but for the last time, stop pretending that you’re a madman, robber,’ Pilate said softly and monotonously, ‘there’s not much written in your record, but what there is enough to hang you.’

‘No, no, Hegemon,’ the arrested man said, straining all over in his wish to convince, ‘there’s one with a goatskin parchment who follows me, follows me and keeps writing all the time. But once I peeked into this parchment and was horrified. I said decidedly nothing of what’s written there. I implored him: “Burn your parchment, I beg you!” But he tore it out of my hands and ran away.’

‘Who is that?’ Pilate asked squeamishly and touched his temple with his hand.

‘Matthew Levi,’ the prisoner explained willingly. ‘He used to be a tax collector, and I first met him on the road in Bethphage,’ where a fig grove juts out at an angle, and I got to talking with him. He treated me hostilely at first and even insulted me – that is, thought he insulted me – by calling me a dog.’ Here the prisoner smiled. ‘I personally see nothing bad about this animal, that I should be offended by this word…’

The secretary stopped writing and stealthily cast a surprised glance, not at the arrested man, but at the procurator.

‘… However, after listening to me, he began to soften,’ Yeshua went on, ‘finally threw the money down in the road and said he would go journeying with me…’

Pilate grinned with one cheek, baring yellow teeth, and said, turning his whole body towards the secretary:

‘Oh, city of Yershalaim! What does one not hear in it! A tax collector, do you hear, threw money down in the road!’

Not knowing how to reply to that, the secretary found it necessary to repeat Pilate’s smile.

‘He said that henceforth money had become hateful to him,’ Yeshua explained Matthew Levi’s strange action and added: ‘And since then he has been my companion.’

His teeth still bared, the procurator glanced at the arrested man, then at the sun, steadily rising over the equestrian statues of the hippodrome, which lay far below to the right, and suddenly, in some sickening anguish, thought that the simplest thing would be to drive this strange robber off the balcony by uttering just two words: ‘Hang him.’ To drive the convoy away as well, to leave the colonnade, go into the palace, order the room darkened, collapse on the bed, send for cold water, call in a plaintive voice for his dog Banga, and complain to him about the hemicrania. And the thought of poison suddenly flashed temptingly in the procurator’s sick head.

He gazed with dull eyes at the arrested man and was silent for a time, painfully trying to remember why there stood before him in the pitiless morning sunlight of Yershalaim this prisoner with his face disfigured by beating, and what other utterly unnecessary questions he had to ask him.

‘Matthew Levi?’ the sick man asked in a hoarse voice and closed his eyes.

‘Yes, Matthew Levi,’ the high, tormenting voice came to him.

‘And what was it in any case that you said about the temple to the crowd in the bazaar?’

The responding voice seemed to stab at Pilate’s temple, was inexpressibly painful, and this voice was saying:

‘I said, Hegemon, that the temple of the old faith would fall and a new temple of truth would be built. I said it that way so as to make it more understandable.’

‘And why did you stir up the people in the bazaar, you vagrant, talking about the truth, of which you have no notion? What is truth?’

And here the procurator thought: ‘Oh, my gods! I’m asking him about something unnecessary at a trial… my reason no longer serves me…’ And again he pictured a cup of dark liquid. ‘Poison, bring me poison…’

And again he heard the voice:

‘The truth is, first of all, that your head aches, and aches so badly that you’re having faint-hearted thoughts of death. You’re not only unable to speak to me, but it is even hard for you to look at me. And I am now your unwilling torturer, which upsets me. You can’t even think about anything and only dream that your dog should come, apparently the one being you are attached to. But your suffering will soon be over, your headache will go away.’

The secretary goggled his eyes at the prisoner and stopped writing in mid-word.

Pilate raised his tormented eyes to the prisoner and saw that the sun already stood quite high over the hippodrome, that a ray had penetrated the colonnade and was stealing towards Yeshua’s worn sandals, and that the man was trying to step out of the sun’s way.

Here the procurator rose from his chair, clutched his head with his hands, and his yellowish, shaven face expressed dread. But he instantly suppressed it with his will and lowered himself into his chair again.

The prisoner meanwhile continued his speech, but the secretary was no longer writing it down, and only stretched his neck like a goose, trying not to let drop a single word.

‘Well, there, it’s all over,’ the arrested man said, glancing benevolently at Pilate, ‘and I’m extremely glad of it. I’d advise you, Hegemon, to leave the palace for a while and go for a stroll somewhere in the vicinity – say, in the gardens on the Mount of Olives. A storm will come…’ the prisoner turned, narrowing his eyes at the sun, ‘…later on, towards evening. A stroll would do you much good, and I would be glad to accompany you. Certain new thoughts have occurred to me, which I think you might find interesting, and I’d willingly share them with you, the more so as you give the impression of being a very intelligent man.’

The secretary turned deathly pale and dropped the scroll on the floor.

‘The trouble is,’ the bound man went on, not stopped by anyone, ‘that you are too closed off and have definitively lost faith in people. You must agree, one can’t place all one’s affection in a dog. Your life is impoverished, Hegemon.’ And here the speaker allowed himself to smile.

The secretary now thought of only one thing, whether to believe his ears or not. He had to believe. Then he tried to imagine precisely what whimsical form the wrath of the hot-tempered procurator would take at this unheard-of impudence from the prisoner. And this the secretary was unable to imagine, though he knew the procurator well.

Then came the cracked, hoarse voice of the procurator, who said in Latin:

‘Unbind his hands.’

One of the convoy legionaries rapped with his spear, handed it to another, went over and took the ropes off the prisoner. The secretary picked up his scroll, having decided to record nothing for now, and to be surprised at nothing.

‘Admit,’ Pilate asked softly in Greek, ‘that you are a great physician?’

‘No, Procurator, I am not a physician,’ the prisoner replied, delightedly rubbing a crimped and swollen purple wrist.

Scowling deeply, Pilate bored the prisoner with his eyes, and these eyes were no longer dull, but flashed with sparks familiar to all.

‘I didn’t ask you,’ Pilate said, ‘maybe you also know Latin?’

‘Yes, I do,’ the prisoner replied.

Colour came to Pilate’s yellowish cheeks, and he asked in Latin:

‘How did you know I wanted to call my dog?’

‘It’s very simple,’ the prisoner replied in Latin. ‘You were moving your hand in the air’ – and the prisoner repeated Pilate’s gesture – ‘as if you wanted to stroke something, and your lips…’

‘Yes,’ said Pilate.

There was silence. Then Pilate asked a question in Greek:

‘And so, you are a physician?’

‘No, no,’ the prisoner replied animatedly, ‘believe me, I’m not a physician.’

‘Very well, then, if you want to keep it a secret, do so. It has no direct bearing on the case. So you maintain that you did not incite anyone to destroy … or set fire to, or in any other way demolish the temple?’

‘I repeat, I did not incite anyone to such acts, Hegemon. Do I look like a halfwit?’

‘Oh, no, you don’t look like a halfwit,’ the procurator replied quietly and smiled some strange smile. ‘Swear, then, that it wasn’t so.’

‘By what do you want me to swear?’ the unbound man asked, very animated.

‘Well, let’s say, by your life,’ the procurator replied. ‘It’s high time you swore by it, since it’s hanging by a hair, I can tell you.’

‘You don’t think it was you who hung it, Hegemon?’ the prisoner asked.

‘If so, you are very mistaken.’

Pilate gave a start and replied through his teeth:

‘I can cut that hair.’

‘In that, too, you are mistaken,’ the prisoner retorted, smiling brightly and shielding himself from the sun with his hand. ‘You must agree that surely only he who hung it can cut the hair?’

‘So, so,’ Pilate said, smiling, ‘now I have no doubts that the idle loafers of Yershalaim followed at your heels. I don’t know who hung such a tongue on you, but he hung it well. Incidentally, tell me, is it true that you entered Yershalaim by the Susa gate riding on an ass, accompanied by a crowd of riff-raff who shouted greetings to you as some kind of prophet?’ Here the procurator pointed to the parchment scroll.

The prisoner glanced at the procurator in perplexity.

‘I don’t even have an ass, Hegemon,’ he said. ‘I did enter Yershalaim by the Susa gate, but on foot, accompanied only by Matthew Levi, and no one shouted anything to me, because no one in Yershalaim knew me then.’

‘Do you happen to know,’ Pilate continued without taking his eyes off the prisoner, ‘such men as a certain Dysmas, another named Gestas, and a third named Bar-Rabban?’

‘I do not know these good people,’ the prisoner replied.

‘Truly?’

‘Truly.’

‘And now tell me, why is it that you use me words “good people” all the time? Do you call everyone that, or what?’

‘Everyone,’ the prisoner replied. There are no evil people in the world.’

‘The first I hear of it,’ Pilate said, grinning. ‘But perhaps I know too little of life! …

You needn’t record any more,’ he addressed the secretary, who had not recorded anything anyway, and went on talking with the prisoner. ‘You read that in some Greek book?’

‘No, I figured it out for myself.’

‘And you preach it?’

‘Yes.’

‘But take, for instance, the centurion Mark, the one known as Ratslayer – is he good?’

‘Yes,’ replied the prisoner. ‘True, he’s an unhappy man. Since the good people disfigured him, he has become cruel and hard. I’d be curious to know who maimed him.’

‘I can willingly tell you that,’ Pilate responded, ‘for I was a witness to it. The good people fell on him like dogs on a bear. There were Germans fastened on his neck, his arms, his legs. The infantry maniple was encircled, and if one flank hadn’t been cut by a cavalry turmae, of which I was the commander – you, philosopher, would not have had the chance to speak with the Rat-slayer. That was at the battle of Idistaviso, in the Valley of the Virgins.’

‘If I could speak with him,’ the prisoner suddenly said musingly, ‘I’m sure he’d change sharply.’

‘I don’t suppose,’ Pilate responded, ‘that you’d bring much joy to the legate of the legion if you decided to talk with any of his officers or soldiers. Anyhow, it’s also not going to happen, fortunately for everyone, and I will be the first to see to it.’

At that moment a swallow swiftly flitted into the colonnade, described a circle under the golden ceiling, swooped down, almost brushed the face of a bronze statue in a niche with its pointed wing, and disappeared behind the capital of a column. It may be that it thought of nesting there.

During its flight, a formula took shape in the now light and lucid head of the procurator. It went like this: the hegemon has looked into the case of the vagrant philosopher Yeshua, alias Ha-Nozri, and found in it no grounds for indictment. In particular, he has found not the slightest connection between the acts of Yeshua and the disorders that have lately taken place in Yershalaim. The vagrant philosopher has proved to be mentally ill. Consequently, the procurator has not confirmed the death sentence on Ha-Nozri passed by the Lesser Sanhedrin. But seeing that Ha-Nozri’s mad utopian talk might cause disturbances in Yershalaim, the procurator is removing Yeshua from Yershalaim and putting him under confinement in Stratonian Caesarea on the Mediterranean – that is, precisely where the procurator’s residence was.

It remained to dictate it to the secretary.

The swallow’s wings whiffled right over the hegemon’s head, the bird darted to the fountain basin and then flew out into freedom. The procurator raised his eyes to the prisoner and saw the dust blaze up in a pillar around him.

‘Is that all about him?’ Pilate asked the secretary.

‘Unfortunately not,’ the secretary replied unexpectedly and handed Pilate another piece of parchment.

‘What’s this now?’ Pilate asked and frowned.

Having read what had been handed to him, he changed countenance even more: Either the dark blood rose to his neck and face, or something else happened, only his skin lost its yellow tinge, turned brown, and his eyes seemed to sink.

Again it was probably owing to the blood rising to his temples and throbbing in them, only something happened to the procurator’s vision.

Thus, he imagined that the prisoner’s head floated off somewhere, and another appeared in its place. On this bald head sat a scant-pointed golden diadem. On the forehead was a round canker, eating into the skin and smeared with ointment. A sunken, toothless mouth with a pendulous, capricious lower lip. It seemed to Pilate that the pink columns of the balcony and the rooftops of Yershalaim far below, beyond the garden, vanished, and everything was drowned in the thickest green of Caprean gardens. And something strange also happened to his hearing: it was as if trumpets sounded far away, muted and menacing, and a nasal voice was very clearly heard, arrogantly drawling: ‘The law of lese-majesty…’

Thoughts raced, short, incoherent and extraordinary: ‘I’m lost! …’ then: ‘We’re lost! …’ And among them a totally absurd one, about some immortality, which immortality for some reason provoked unendurable anguish.

Pilate strained, drove the apparition away, his gaze returned to the balcony, and again the prisoner’s eyes were before him.

‘Listen, Ha-Nozri,’ the procurator spoke, looking at Yeshua somehow strangely: the procurator’s face was menacing, but his eyes were alarmed, ’did you ever say anything about the great Caesar? Answer! Did you?… Yes … or … no?’ Pilate drew the word ‘no’ out somewhat longer than is done in court, and his glance sent Yeshua some thought that he wished as if to instill in the prisoner.

‘To speak the truth is easy and pleasant,’ the prisoner observed.

‘I have no need to know,’ Pilate responded in a stifled, angry voice, ‘whether it is pleasant or unpleasant for you to speak the truth. You will have to speak it anyway. But, as you speak, weigh every word, unless you want a not only inevitable but also painful death.’

No one knew what had happened with the procurator of Judea, but he allowed himself to raise his hand as if to protect himself from a ray of sunlight, and from behind his hand, as from behind a shield, to send the prisoner some sort of prompting look.

‘Answer, then,’ he went on speaking, ‘do you know a certain Judas from Kiriath, and what precisely did you say to him about Caesar, if you said anything?’

‘It was like this,’ the prisoner began talking eagerly. The evening before last, near the temple, I made the acquaintance of a young man who called himself Judas, from the town of Kiriath. He invited me to his place in the Lower City and treated me to…’

‘A good man?’ Pilate asked, and a devilish fire flashed in his eyes.

‘A very good man and an inquisitive one,’ the prisoner confirmed. ‘He showed the greatest interest in my thoughts and received me very cordially…’

‘Lit the lamps…’ Pilate spoke through his teeth, in the same tone as the prisoner, and his eyes glinted.

‘Yes,’ Yeshua went on, slightly surprised that the procurator was so well informed, ‘and asked me to give my view of state authority. He was extremely interested in this question.’

‘And what did you say?’ asked Pilate. ‘Or are you going to reply that you’ve forgotten what you said?’ But there was already hopelessness in Pilate’s tone.

‘Among other things,’ the prisoner recounted, ‘I said that all authority is violence over people, and that a time will come when there will be no authority of the Caesars, nor any other authority. Man will pass into the kingdom of truth and justice, where generally there will be no need for any authority.’

‘Go on!’

‘I didn’t go on,’ said the prisoner. ‘Here men ran in, bound me, and took me away to prison.’

The secretary, trying not to let drop a single word, rapidly traced the words on his parchment.

‘There never has been, is not, and never will be any authority in this world greater or better for people than the authority of the emperor Tiberius!’ Pilate’s cracked and sick voice swelled. For some reason the procurator looked at the secretary and the convoy with hatred.

‘And it is not for you, insane criminal, to reason about it!’ Here Pilate shouted: ‘Convoy, off the balcony!’ And turning to the secretary, he added: ‘Leave me alone with the criminal, this is a state matter!’

The convoy raised their spears and with a measured tramp of hobnailed caligae walked off the balcony into the garden, and the secretary followed the convoy.

For some time the silence on the balcony was broken only by the water singing in the fountain. Pilate saw how the watery dish blew up over the spout, how its edges broke off, how it fell down in streams.

The prisoner was the first to speak.

‘I see that some misfortune has come about because I talked with that young man from Kiriath. I have a foreboding, Hegemon, that he will come to grief, and I am very sorry for him.’

‘I think,’ the procurator replied, grinning strangely, ‘that there is now someone else in the world for whom you ought to feel sorrier than’ for Judas of Kiriath, and who is going to have it much worse than Judas! …

So, then, Mark Rat-slayer, a cold and convinced torturer, the people who, as I see,’ the procurator pointed to Yeshua’s disfigured face, ‘beat you for your preaching, the robbers Dysmas and Gestas, who with their confreres killed four soldiers, and, finally, the dirty traitor Judas – are all good people?’

‘Yes,’ said the prisoner.

‘And the kingdom of truth will come?’

‘It will, Hegemon,’ Yeshua answered with conviction.

‘It will never come!’ Pilate suddenly cried out in such a terrible voice that Yeshua drew back. Thus, many years before, in the Valley of the Virgins, Pilate had cried to his horsemen the words: ‘Cut them down! Cut them down! The giant Rat-slayer is trapped!’ He raised his voice, cracked with commanding, still more, and called out so that his words could be heard in the garden: ‘Criminal! Criminal! Criminal!’ And then, lowering his voice, he asked: ‘Yeshua Ha-Nozri, do you believe in any gods?’

‘God is one,’ replied Yeshua, ‘I believe in him.’

‘Then pray to him! Pray hard! However…’ here Pilate’s voice gave out, ‘that won’t help. No wife?’ Pilate asked with anguish for some reason, not understanding what was happening to him.

‘No, I’m alone.’

‘Hateful city…’ the procurator suddenly muttered for some reason, shaking his shoulders as if he were cold, and rubbing his hands as though washing them, ‘if they’d put a knife in you before your meeting with Judas of Kiriath, it really would have been better.’

‘Why don’t you let me go, Hegemon?’ the prisoner asked unexpectedly, and his voice became anxious. ‘I see they want to kill me.’

A spasm contorted Pilate’s face, he turned to Yeshua the inflamed, red veined whites of his eyes and said:

‘Do you suppose, wretch, that the Roman procurator will let a man go who has said what you have said? Oh, gods, gods! Or do you think I’m ready to take your place? I don’t share your thoughts! And listen to me: if from this moment on you say even one word, if you speak to anyone at all, beware of me! I repeat to you – beware!’

‘Hegemon…’

‘Silence!’ cried Pilate, and his furious gaze followed the swallow thathad again fluttered on to the balcony. ‘To me!’ Pilate shouted.

And when the secretary and the convoy returned to their places, Pilate announced that he confirmed the death sentence passed at the meeting of the Lesser Sanhedrin on the criminal Yeshua Ha-Nozri, and the secretary wrote down what Pilate said….

 

….Pilate drew into his breast as much of the hot air as he could and shouted, and his cracked voice carried over thousands of heads: ‘In the name of the emperor Caesar! …’

Here his ears were struck several times by a clipped iron shout: the cohorts of soldiers raised high their spears and standards and shouted out terribly:

‘Long live Caesar!’

Pilate lifted his face and thrust it straight into the sun. Green fire flared up behind his eyelids, his brain took flame from it, and hoarse Aramaic words went flying over the crowd:

‘Four criminals, arrested in Yershalaim for murder, incitement to rebellion, and outrages against the laws and the faith, have been sentenced to a shameful execution – by hanging on posts! And this execution will presently be carried out on Bald Mountain! The names of the criminals are Dysmas, Gestas, Bar-Rabban and Ha-Nozri. Here they stand before you!’

Pilate pointed to his right, not seeing any criminals, but knowing they were there, in place, where they ought to be.

The crowd responded with a long rumble as if of surprise or relief.

When it died down, Pilate continued:

‘But only three of them will be executed, for, in accordance with law and custom, in honour of the feast of Passover, to one of the condemned, as chosen by the Lesser Sanhedrin and confirmed by Roman authority, the magnanimous emperor Caesar will return his contemptible life!’

Pilate cried out the words and at the same time listened as the rumble was replaced by a great silence. Not a sigh, not a rustle reached his ears now, and there was even a moment when it seemed to Pilate that everything around him had vanished altogether. The hated city died, and he alone is standing there, scorched by the sheer rays, his face set against the sky. Pilate held the silence a little longer, and then began to cry out:

‘The name of the one who will now be set free before you is…’ He made one more pause, holding back the name, making sure he had said all, because he knew that the dead city would resurrect once the name of the lucky man was spoken, and no further words would be heard. ‘All?’ Pilate whispered soundlessly to himself. ‘All. The name!’ And, rolling the letter ‘r’ over the silent city, he cried:

‘Bar-Rabban!’

Here it seemed to him that the sun, clanging, burst over him and flooded his ears with fire. This fire raged with roars, shrieks, wails, guffaws and whistles.

Pilate turned and walked back across the platform to the stairs, looking at nothing except the multicoloured squares of the flooring under his feet, so as not to trip. He knew that behind his back the platform was being showered with bronze coins, dates, that people in the howling mob were climbing on shoulders, crushing each other, to see the miracle with their own eyes – how a man already in the grip of death escaped that grip! How the legionaries take the ropes off him, involuntarily causing him burning pain in his arms, dislocated during his interrogation; how he, wincing and groaning, nevertheless smiles a senseless, crazed smile.

He knew that at the same time the convoy was already leading the three men with bound arms to the side stairs, so as to take them to the road going west from the city, towards Bald Mountain. Only when he was off the platform, to the rear of it, did Pilate open his eyes, knowing that he was now safe – he could no longer see the condemned men.”