Thursday, June 21, 2007

Our choice to die as a society, or not

There is a deeply silly but dangerous article in this week's Macleans. The title, Polygamy: Legal in Canada, is meant to argue that while polygamy is still technically proscribed by the Canadian criminal code, it is now a fact that numbers of people (no one seems to know how many) are practising polygamy in this country and the government is unwilling to do anything about it.

The article is silly because it is full of quotes and ideas from silly people who hold to an understanding of liberalism that is little more than a suicide wish for the particular form of modern society that Canada has been, even as these people do not appear to be in favour of any kind of coherent replacement for the society they would kill off, beyond holding to some vague and incoherent idea of "multiculturalism".

I don't have time now to do a serious critique of the article, and the point of this post is to remind people in Vancouver of the weekly Covenant Zone meeting, every Thursday, 7-9 pm in the atrium of the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library, in front of Blenz Coffee, look for the blue scarves.

But a quick contrast between the article and Covenant Zone is in order to help clarify why we meet. The great fear represented in the article is that Canadian society (and not just the government) might be in some way "discriminating" against people who choose to practise polygamy. Well of course we are discriminating, because how else can people build any form of society and defend any kind of freedom? for example, the kind of freedom to live in a self-ruling society that, so far (and in any logically foreseeable future), has only ever existed among people who produce, through nuclear families, the kind of people sufficiently free and independent and desirous of participating in extra-familial forms of society, to participate in the kind of self-ruling civil society on which our Canadian culture and civilization is founded.

Our state and society is, ultimately, a compact or covenant among families, not individuals, since individuals, as we rightly value them, cannot exist without families and only certain kinds of families at that.

The legal argument written by Canada's Chief Justice in the recent court ruling giving a constitutional right to "same sex marriage" (as if marriage could be, by court dictate, something other than what it has ever been, anthropologically: a license to have children, and a compact between and among families) is mentioned in the Maclean's article:
As the Supreme Court of Canada noted in the same-sex marriage reference, the notion of a "Christian" marriage is no longer relevant. "Canada is a pluralistic society," the court ruled. "Marriage, from the perspective of the state, is a civil institution."
What the Supreme Court did not explain, however, is why it is only in Western societies, today and for the foreseeable future, in which we find anywhere near a majority defending "gay marriage" and "multiculturalism" in a spirit, if not reality, of "non-discrimination". Everyone else openly knowingly and happily discriminates; (for how else is a society to be built and defended?) Every freedom we enjoy is defined by its limits. That's what most people in this world know.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada may not be aware of this, but she is a typical product of a post-Christian society (which is to say in many respects a hyper-Christian society, but to explain this hyper-Christianity that is at the same time anti- or post-Christian requires a further argument about the nature of Christian society, in the spirit of Rene Girard, that I will leave aside for now). It is only post-Christians (i.e. products of the Christian world) who engage in the kind of intellectual folly that is pervasive in the Macleans article: the assumption that there is some conflict between religious freedom (as it could possibly ever exist in the real world) and a traditional Christian understanding of marriage as the basis for the Canadian state, which the state thus has a duty to defend.

What Canadians no longer understand is how different Christianity is from all other religions (even from Judaism, though here to a lesser extent than all others). For most non-Christian people in this world "religion" (though they don't use the word as we do) is a ritual code defining a uniquely correct set of behaviours. Any freedom allowed by the code is in the domain of what is not proscribed by the code and of what can be done once one has committed time and resources to following the ritual code. In most societies, the distinction that has grown up in Christianity, among religion, civil society and politics/government, giving freedom to each within their own constitutionally limited domain, simply doesn't exist. This is because only Christianity has given up the idea of following a uniquely correct ritual code (beyond liturgy) in society/poliitics. For people who follow other political religions, like Islam, to the letter of the ritual law, to come to Canada and think they can follow their religion as they would at home would require that they be admitted the freedom to promote, e.g., the supremacy of Islam and discrimination against non-believers, which is not compatible with how "religious freedom" is understood in this ([post] Christian) country.

A religious defense can be found, somewhere in the world, for pretty much any offensive behaviour, including homicide (against troublesome non-believers). Thus for any society to defend "religious freedom" it must have a good idea of what exactly it means by religious freedom for it surely cannot mean the freedom to do anything that any or all of the worlds' various ritual codes demand. Human sacrifice was a common religious practice until recently, and some people still practise it. Will I one day be given religious freedom to practise it in Canada? Maybe, but not in the kind of Canada I have known and loved.

"Religious freedom" in Canada can only be given a precise definition by reference to our cultural history of Christianity and of its secularized forms. For a Supreme Court Chief Justice to dismiss this fact is a sign we are now living in crazy times with lots of silly people in positions of power, for example in the office of the Attorney General of British Columbia who is being told by his own high officials that he shouldn't prosecute polygamists under the law because the anti-polygamy provisions of the criminal code are surely unconstitutional.

Who is it for these dimwits who have committed to a kind of liberal relativism that requires they stop thinking and show a great anthropological ignorance of how culture works in the rest of the world to think they know OUR constitution, which is ultimately a covenant among certain kinds of families and their individuals, to the exclusion of others. The bottom line is that we are today ruled by Gnostic elites who don't want us to participate in ruling our own society, unless we sign on to their game. They want to tell us what to think, what is and is not rational and acceptable, and in order to do this they have to undermine the basis for a self-ruling society; and that begins with the family. They encourage cultural confusion in the name of multiculturalism and an open society so that we will have no choice but to look to them for high court and bureaucratic rulings on how to think and live. What is going to guide their decisions, once they have foregone loyalty to any cultural tradition, is anyone's guess. But it will be arbitrary and tyrannical. It already is.

For people who respect the equality of women and men, and equality among men and among women, the practise of polygamy, and the erosion of the nuclear family that produces maximally free and equal men and women, is a threat. But to understand this fully, maybe you need to participate more in your civil society with your equals, and also to study the restraints on civil society in places where polygamy is still practised. Maybe you need to give some attention to what a national Covenant is and what it cannot be. Maybe you need to learn how to discriminate, respectfully, intelligently. That's what we try to do every Thursday night in the Covenant Zone.


dag said...

This isn't in direct response to your post above but I hope it has some relevance regardless.

If, as it appears to me, the equations below don't come out as they should, please copy and paste the url and look for yourself at the argument presented. I'm obviously no better at computer work than I am at math, for which I can only beg your indulgence.

Like is not same, as I never tire of pointing out. Same is not same outside the realm of abstraction. Reality is an infinite Sorites Paradox. And yet... and yet... there are absolutes even in the paradoxical setting of Sorites. The problem is one of infinity and how to make it rational to the experience of Humanness. I come down on the side of "common sense." I come up on the side of metaphor.

Below is an elaborate metaphor from math that might be more accessible to others than to me, and if so, then more enlightening than my usual allusions to poetry and literature. We shall seashell.


The idea behind an isomorphism is to realize that two groups are structurally the same even though the names and notation for the elements are different. We say that groups G and H are isomorphic if there is an isomorphism between them. Another way to think of an isomorphism is as a renaming of elements.

For example, the set of complex numbers tex2html_wrap_inline1939 under complex multiplication, the set of integers tex2html_wrap_inline1941 under addition modulo 4, and the subgroup tex2html_wrap_inline1945 of tex2html_wrap_inline1257 look different but are structurally the same. They are all of order 4 (but that's not what makes them isomorphic) and are cyclic groups. The maps tex2html_wrap_inline1947 (for the first pair of groups) and tex2html_wrap_inline1949 (for the second and third of the groups) provide the necessary isomorphisms.

We often give a name to certain collections of isomorphic groups. For example, the above groups are cyclic of order 4 (usually denoted as tex2html_wrap_inline1951 (multiplicative notation) or tex2html_wrap_inline1953 (additive notation)). When we say that there are only n groups of order k (or n groups up to isomorphism) we mean that there are only n isomorphic types. Any group of k elements must be isomorphic to one of these types. For example, there are only two groups of order 4 - cyclic of order 4 and the Klein 4 group. There are many groups with 4 elements but they are isomorphic to one of these.

Up to isomorphism, there is only one group with a prime number of elements. It is the cyclic group tex2html_wrap_inline1965 where p is a prime. There is only one infinite cyclic group up to isomorphism, namely the integers under addition.

In trying to prove groups isomorphic, we might set up a map between the two groups (following along the idea behind constructing a homomorphism). Then, perhaps we find this is not an isomorphism. And that is all we have found. We cannot conclude that the groups are not isomorphic yet. We might just have hit on the wrong map. For example, there are 120 bijections between two groups of order 5 (and 24 of these map the identity to the identity). Of these, only 4 are isomorphisms. The problem is much greater for more complicated groups.

To show that two groups are not isomorphic, we need to exhibit a structural property of one group not shared by the other. For example, the cyclic group of order 4 has two elements of order 4 whereas the Klein 4 group has no elements of order 4. Thus the two cannot be isomorphic and belong in different isomorphism classes. Other structural things to look for (but not limited to) are number of (cyclic, abelian, non-abelian) subgroups, number of normal subgroups, isomorphism types of factor groups.

If I had an "apocalyptic vision" it would be mathematical, given the stasis of math in itself. The end of history of math is objective; the question is not of math but of the aporia of Humanness.There is no apocalypse in aporia, cannot be, and the telos of aporia cannot lead to apocalypse. However, even artsy types can use math to create sense of common sense realities in the face of a Sorties paradox such as the nature of the fascism of Islam and the Left. At what finite point do we apply Occam's Razor?

The math is beyond me, but the metaphor is clear. The "apocalyptic vision" is for those who deal with reality as static and finite in the mathematical sense. Morality might well be static but in practical terms we will never know and can never know. Therefore, any hope of an apocalyptic vision is harmful to the person in this lifetime, the one that counts. It's there that our Gnostic and Muslim cousins fail us.

I've had a year and a half to digest the thoughts and meaning of my conversations with Charles and Truepeers, and I come to no conclusion but that the metaphors unfold as I could never have imagined alone or in other company. You who miss this are cheating yourselves. Even if you're a prissy and obnoxious jerk you're not merely welcome to join this discussion, you are required by the immutable laws of Dag to attend. Depending on my mood at the time you might even warrant a cup of coffee. I don't care if you're a 20 year old girl in the second year of a sociology course at a community college or if you're a gay barrista at Starbucks. Hey, I'm not judgmental. Sort of.

truepeers said...

gay barrista? (obnoxious jerk is also redundant). Doesn't "barrista" denote the feminine according to the Spanish logic? What is a manly male coffee bartender to be called?

As for the rest, Dag, it will have to await a more serene moment...

dag said...

I hope to have a serene moment this evening. See you then.

And, yes, I hope to see NA well. I can only stand being redundant for so long before I duplicate my thoughts to the point of boredom.