Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Neuroplastic Explosive

Huzzah! New book out by Norman Doidge - the sequel to The Brain that Changes Itself:

The Brain's Way of Healing (2015)

I bought a copy on sale on Saturday, and finished reading it by Sunday evening - a staggering book, with recoveries that look miraculous, but are actually just good brain science. If it's not enough for you to read about the blind seeing and the deaf hearing and the lame walking, the chapter on autism is breathtaking, and offers real hope for people whose children are struggling with this.

I now want to lie in the sun and listen to Mozart, for the good of my health, for the rest of my life.

Meanwhile, In Other Headlines

This article by Rebecca Weisser is one of the few intelligent and sensible things I have seen in the Spectator recently about the current Abbott mess. (Simply waving pom-poms and chanting 'rah rah Tony' and denouncing any criticism as failures in groupthink is not helping. And yes, I AM looking at you, Rowan Dean et hoc genus omne.)

Meanwhile, I have been reading about someone called Rosie Batty, who is apparently the first woman in Australia ever to have experienced domestic violence. Thankfully she has been able to speak publicly about this, starting with her first press conference a few hours after her son was beaten to death by his estranged father. At last, after millenia of silence, the lid has been lifted on this abhorrent practice, and a woman has spoken out about her experiences. This is the only explanation I can come up with as to why she was given an uninterrupted platform on Q&A and then a standing ovation.

I am also watching with interest the downward trajectory of Australians of the Year. Next year, if we take this to its logical conclusion, the winner will be either Lara Bingle or that lesbian couple from last year's My Kitchen Rules. But probably not both.

Thank goodness also for Patricia Arquette, star of such films as Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Stigmata, Little Nicky, and Deeper than Deep (in which she played Linda Lovelace). When she was awarded an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress this year, Arquette very bravely devoted an entire sentence or two to the complex and mulitfactorial issue of why some people are paid more than others. Meryl Streep, one of Hollywood's highest paid actors of either sex, gave her a standing ovation. I look forward to the release of Arquette's comprehensive strategy outlining just how she intends to arrange for everyone to be paid exactly the same amount, regardless of sex, age, and abilities.

UPDATE: Thank goodness for Queensland Attorney General Yvette D'Ath. D'Ath reports that she is being briefed on how Queensland can introduce civil union legislation. This is despite the fact that Queensland already has a civil union scheme introduced by the Bligh government, which was then renamed as a 'registered relationship' scheme by the Newman government, which also got rid of the official ceremony part. So all the State government has to do is restore the official ceremony and original name. I think the technical term for this is 'low-hanging fruit', no pun intended.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Extremely Quotable Quote

In our time, when someone says, “I don’t agree with all of the teachings of the institutional Church,” you can bet your house that the disagreement has nothing to do with three Persons in one God, but rather two persons in one bed.
- says Anthony Esolen, in a crackingly good article on how to fix the so-called vocations 'crisis' and reverse the feminisation of Church culture.

Can Islam Be 'Reformed'?

This piece by Theo Hobson in the Spectator last week is the best and most coherent summary of this vexed issue that I have read recently. Here's an extract:
Creating a more liberal political order was not on Luther’s agenda, nor on anyone’s at that time, but it did become a central concern of some Protestants in the next century. The Protestant Reformation was not a matter of Christianity accepting the truth of something else, something beyond itself. And that is what people really want when they say that Islam needs a reformation: they want it to accept the truth of western values, adapt to them.

So the ‘Islam needs its reformation’ line makes this mistake. It supposes that Christianity and Islam are two comparable forms of religion: if Religion A adapted to modernity, Religion B can too. But Religion A didn’t adapt to modernity: it inadvertently made modernity, by trying to be more purely itself.

The game-changing idea that emerged in the wake of the Protestant Reformation can be summed up thus: down with theo-cracy! (Maybe I’m a soppy liberal patriot, but it seems to me that this breakthrough was 90 per cent English.) Let the state no longer enforce religious uniformity, but rather protect people’s freedom to choose how to worship. This revolution in theo-politics was proposed not by atheists but by idealistic Protestants. God wills this new sort of liberty-protecting state, said people like John Milton and John Locke. (Nonbelievers like Spinoza and Voltaire followed in their wake and have received undue credit.) [take that, you Enlightenment geeks!]

Why did they think that political liberty was God’s will? They had learned from earlier Protestants like Luther to distrust bossy institutions and religious rules; they now applied this to politics as well as religion. And they pointed to the New Testament, which affirms no theocratic model of politics (unlike the Old Testament, with its holy kings). The whole tradition of coercion in religion is wrong, is at odds with scripture, they said. For example, John Locke, in his ‘Letter Concerning Toleration’, claimed that toleration is ‘the principal mark of the true church’.
PS. If you want a good laugh while you despair of Western civilisation, read the Comments section ...

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Here's the Thing

This is something I’ve been chewing over in the last few days.

You need a society with minimal economic intervention, but maximum law and order. There is no use having laws unless they are enforced. You don’t need many laws, but you do need a system that enforces them, from police through courts through to the prison system.

The only example I can think of is Singapore, which works well along these lines (even if I find the weather oppressively humid).

Australia, on the other hand, now has a society with increasing economic intervention, but diminishing law and order, due to a lack of enforcement.

One of the causes of the lack of enforcement is that we are drowning in laws, and cannot enforce all of them, because many of them are contradictory.

The inertia brought about by lack of enforceability has also led to the ‘low-hanging fruit’ mentality among law enforcement and the justice system. Mentality: “If we can’t enforce the big, scary laws – which we can’t – then we need to pick off the easy targets, or else we will be out of business.”

I see two strains at work in Australian history.

One is economic meddling, protectionism and over-regulation. This was shown to be damaging in real life, and led to its unpicking mostly by the Hawke-Keating government. However, it’s been flooding back in, and shamefully under Liberal governments.

The other is the trahison des clercs identified by Nick Cater and others: the systematic white-anting, from within, of ideas about law, order and justice at every level, and in every institution.

So yes, we do have no one to blame but ourselves.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Continuing Crisis - Quick Round-Up

1) The Pontifical Council for Women has produced what has to be the most lame video ever. Patronising. Dumbed-down. At times unintelligible. I am with Creative Minority Report - Lord, just send the meteor, already.

UPDATE: Hallelujah! The English-speaking version of this video has now been removed from YouTube. Thank God.

2) The English Bishops accusing faithful Catholics of Donatism can get stuffed.

3) If you want to know what Pope Francis really said to the Curia, read it for yourself. It's absolutely unarguable.

At times like this, there's nothing for it but to break into some serious boogie-woogie!