George Jonas and David Bowie died yesterday. They both wrote lyrics, Jonas somewhat less profitably than Bowie. Other than that, they didn't have much in common. I will miss George very much. He was Canada's greatest public intellectual, and I was honored to share the pages of The National Post with him. I'll have more to say later, but there's a modest tribute from me as part of Joseph Brean's story in today's Post:
His columns were memorable in many cases for a single aphorism. Politicians who seek high office, for example, should be disqualified for being stupid enough to think they can do it. Crime is not wrong because it is illegal, it is illegal because it is wrong. Cold War Communists "could cope with bankruptcy; they had never been anything but bankrupt, beginning with Karl Marx himself." Freedom is too fragile to put into words, so "if you write down your rights and freedoms, you lose them."
"He was a wit, which is a higher art than being a jokester," said Mark Steyn, a longtime friend and colleague. "His elegance had a magnificent compression to it, which I think comes in part from writing poetry or writing opera libretti, in both disciplines of which you have to say it in a very short space of time."
I'll give a couple examples of that "magnificent compression", from a recent column of George's on a topical theme:
The new kind of immigrant doesn't simply compete with the host population for economic opportunity and space (which can be shared) but for identity (which cannot). Immigrants can and do create jobs, but can't create identities for the host population, only compete for the existing identity of a nation.
This makes certain "small" matters, often dismissed as merely symbolic — permitting turbans on construction sites, say, or ceremonial daggers in schools — actually more important than ostensibly hard-nosed economic issues. A flag — a piece of fabric on a stick — is just a symbol, but a demonstration in America conducted under an American flag is materially different from one conducted under the flag of Mexico. The first is a country trying to share a problem; the second, a problem trying to share a country.
You have to have a very sharp mind to be able to write that clearly. Our political leaders do not, which is why in Europe, for example, we now have a very large problem sharing comparatively small countries.
By the way, George Jonas was a refugee - a genuine one, from Communist Hungary. He was standing outside the US Embassy in Vienna, where the line stretched around the block. A friend came strolling by, spotted George and said he'd just been at the Canadian Embassy, where there was no queue and you could get a visa in ten minutes.
George was resistant. "But I don't know anything about Canada."
"What's to know?" said his chum. "It's next door to America and run by the Queen of England."
He became a better Canadian than the new Trudeaupia deserved.
~Here are a handful of weekend headlines, all drawn from Laura Rosen Cohen's website on Sunday. Read collectively, they represent the suicide of a civilization:
All the stories are different, and all the stories are the same:
Denial: Mass Muslim immigration isn't a problem.
Anger: The real problem is those Islamophobes who think mass Muslim immigration is a problem.
Bargaining: So we'll be okay if we just rein in a few peripheral rights like free speech.
Depression: But funnily the old multiculti utopia doesn't seem quite so vibrant now that all the gays and Jews and uncovered women are gone.
Acceptance: Still, life's okay as long as you're culturally sensitive and don't provoke anyone by wearing short skirts or leaving the house.
~Princess Ashraf of Iran also left us a few days ago at a grand old age. She was the twin sister of the Shah, and a rumored Rasputinette, the power behind the throne. But I think of her now as a reminder of a lost time. In the Teheran of the Forties and Fifties, she showed her hair, wore earrings, went bare-armed and flashed discreet cleavage - just like women in France and Germany. There are no women in Iran today who dare to dress as Princess Ashraf did seventy years ago. What makes you think it will go any differently in Cologne or Vienna or Stockholm?
~Merry Christmas to all our Orthodox readers. In my piece on Donald Trump's Vermont rally, I mentioned his pledge that under a Trump Administration everyone would be saying "Merry Christmas!", and I observed:
At a certain level it seems an odd thing to be talking about on January 7th...
Every single member of the Orthodox Church emailed me to point out that, in fact, January 7th is Christmas in the Orthodox calendar and to accuse me of rampant Orthodoxophobia. My bad. So Happy Boxing Day, or whatever it is by now.
~As I mentioned on the radio this morning, among his many other accomplishments, in a multitude of fields, David Bowie also wrote the first English lyric to "My Way". You can find more on that here.