Mark Steyn Club members can enjoy content from The Mark Steyn Show in whatever form they wish - video, audio or text. For the audio version of this latest edition of Mark's Mailbox, simply click above. If you prefer the print version, here's the transcript.
Hey welcome along to another selection of questions that were submitted during our live Clubland Q&A with Mark Steyn Club members around the planet and there's always a few we don't get to so we like save them, put 'em to one side and use them for a special video edition of Mark's Mailbox, which we're gonna do.
If I keel over or have to reposition myself in an awkward and inelegant way I'm in a bit of pain at the moment, so it's either doing that or calling for the helicopter rescue to unwinch my girdle by a couple of notches. It's a 24 hour girdle but I've been wearing it for 72, you know how that gets.
Anyway, first question from Keith Anderson, from the Dominion of Canada. And Mr. Anderson writes: "As I'm sure you're aware, Mr. Steyn, October 31 is the quincentennial of Martin Luther purportedly posting his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg Castle church. Obviously, this is a huge topic, but I wonder whether you'd care to comment on some of its implications for contemporary secular Western culture."
I don't think he purportedly posted them, I think he posted them pretty reliably on that date. What are we, 500 years ago? That's October 31st 1517, which used to be observed as Reformation Day and kind of passed without notice, the quincentennial, mainly because I think that a lot of people these days assume that Martin Luther was just the guy who was warming up the name for Martin Luther King, Jr. And as far as I noticed, most of the commentary on Reformation Day, October 31st, generally recognizes the first day of the Reformation. Most of the commentary I heard actually came from reformist Muslims arguing that they needed to make like Martin Luther and start their own reformation. So if it's any consolation in another 500 years, that's a mere half millennium, we won't have a lot of trouble with all of the Allahu Akbar type stuff.
I don't think Islam is going to go for a reformation. I fact I think they've already had their reformation and this hardcore one world jihadism is already it. And in part I think that's because they have the advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it, of having seen Christianity's Reformation first. And what that means is that as they see it that leads to a wholly secularized world and that reformation is basically a euphemism for the disillusion of faith. If you've seen our Sunday poem series, what Matthew Arnold in the poem "Dover Beach" calls the "melancholy, long, withdrawing roar." And that the Sea of Faith used to be gathered around the Earth like "like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd," to bring girdles back into it, it's the theme of today's show. But now as Matthew Arnold wrote "I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar."
And Islam looks at the Reformation that began 500 years ago, October 31st 1517, as the start of that melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, of the tide going out on a believing world. As they see it that's what happened to Christendom and they don't want it to happen to Islam. And that's I guess the trick isn't it? That you can start a reformation and where it winds up, where it goes, holding that in balance is the tricky thing.
What I find interesting is that if you look at Martin Luther, what he objected to, obviously what he was objecting to half a millennium ago to the day, was indulgences. They were like the carbon credits of their day. Al Gore has the carbon footprint of a small nation at his home in Tennessee but it doesn't matter because he buys carbon credits. And he sells carbon credits too. I believe he was on course to become the first carbon credit billionaire, nice work if you can get it. I don't know whether there was any indulgence trading billionaires in pre-Reformation Europe. But you could buy your way out of sin and Martin Luther's point is that a formal confessionâ€”this is what he got into trouble forâ€”a formal confession and buying indulgences to absolve one of sin is not sufficient and that a penitent...a man has to repent inside, it has to come from inside.
And that's something else I find interesting with regard to the Islamic world because the Islamic world will forgive a lot if you're doing it in the cause of Jihad, for example. Martyrdom is okay if you take a big bunch of infidels with you. You'll get your 72 virgins in Paradise and you should prepare for that by depilating your private parts and the other things that Mohammed Atta did. And certain other things that are ok. For example, lying, taqiyya, which we saw some interesting examples of in regard to Linda Sarsour's reaction to the recent terrorist attack in New York. The taqiyya, deception, in the cause of advancing Islam's interest is okay.
And in that sense too, the state of many mosques and madrassas is relatively in worse shape than the Church was before Martin Luther in that the critique he made that they lack a spiritual dimension to repentance, that critique can also be made of Islam, that in a sense in many of its mosques and madrassas you feel the emptiness, the absence of the spiritual and it's all actually about advancing Islamic supremacism through the world.
This next question is kind of a related one, from Kate Smyth in the Commonwealth of Australia. And it I should say it sounds a bit like an Aussie thing but I'm gonna tie it back to the Jihad and all that in a moment : "Hi Mark- absolutely loved the show- only wish it had been possible to listen live, especially given all the Antipodean-related coverage. Any chance of having a Friday-Saturday (or Sat-Sun) schedule to increase our audience participation?"
That's a good idea actually cuz we could do it I think 4 p.m. U.S. Eastern on Friday and it'd be the weekend in Oz and maybe we'd get some more Aussie questions live. And
And Kate says, "It was great to hear you cover such a wide variety of topics. Your tribute to former Governor General, Sir Ninian Stephen, was very much appreciated."
As I mentioned Sir Ninian is the only Australian viceroy to have ever granted two double Ds and as I said, if you don't know what a double D is, I'm not gonna tell you cuz there's too much of that in the modern world, it's too easy, you can find out for yourself what a double D is.
And he was also, which I found interesting, a man five times knighted. He had five knighthoods, which is more than most people need he also had a sixth in that he was a Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, but that's a slightly different one in terms of being Sir Ninian. But he was Sir Ninian Stephen as Australia's governor general five times over. I'm gonna see if I can remember them in the order of Australian precedence. So this is pretty good, no hands, the order of Australian precedence. Does anyone else want to give it a go? Whittaker, Art, Rachel, Michael, anyone else? No? You'll never work in this town again. If you don't know your order of Australian precedence you'll never work in this town again. He was Sir Ninian Stephen; he was a Knight of the Garter, Knight of the Order of Australia, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order and Knight Commander of the Most Noble Order of the British Empire.
You're probably thinking why does a guy need five knighthoods? It's a bit like these people who cause all the trouble in the world with multiple passports. It's always good in case the bottom drops out in one of your orders of knighthood it's always good to have a spare in your back pocket for when the whole powder keg goes up, you know what I mean?
Which brings us actually to Kate's second point. Kate says, "As for the current High Court/ Parliamentary chaos created by the "Citizenship 7"- of whom only two were given the all clear (not including the Deputy PM) - with potentially more in the offing, it would be interesting to hear your views."
Well I saved this column for a print column because it can get pretty arcane and you better spell it out in black and white but I will say this. For non Aussies, in case you haven't been following this, there's people who turn out quite accidentally to have acquired a second...they're Australian born but they discover late in life that they quite accidentally have acquired a second citizenship through the birthplace of their father or their mother or whatever it is and so they find out they're accidentally not merely Australian but they're also [gasps] New Zealanders, or United Kingdom. [Coughs] I burst my girdle there; I mustn't get too excited at dual Aussie and Kiwi citizens.
And I want to tie this to the terrorist attack in New York committed by an Uzbek who got in on the diversity lottery program which is open to Uzbeks because the United States government takes the view that it has insufficient Uzbeks. There's twin bits of insanity on opposite sides of the globe. Basically examples of the same psychosis in the Western world. We're basically, in terms of Western immigration policy, we take the view that it's immoral...there's about 200 countries in the world and we take the view that it's immoral to distinguish between any of them.
So for example if you were in Sweden. Sweden's had a lot of trouble with its Islamic refugees. If you were to say to someone in Sweden, "Well you know if you want to let immigrants into your country why don't you see about Danes, Norwegians, Finns, they seem rather more compatible with Swedes."
People get horrified about that. If you were to say to Aussies: "Basically you and New Zealanders, you're not really foreign to each other. I know some stupid judges want to pretend that you are but we all know that's not true, don't' we?"
And likewise with what happened with this diversity lottery beneficiary who went all Allahu Akbar on a bike path in Lower Manhattan the other day. We ae supposed to entertain the proposition that having Uzbek immigrants to the United States poses no more of a challenge than having Canadian immigrants.
And so these two things are really part of the same Western psychosis that we are not allowed to actually reach judgments about which immigrants are most compatible with our societies.
Fun fact: you know the diversity lottery program, which is what it says; you draw immigrants out of a hat. But once the immigrant has been drawn out of a hat he's entitled to all the benefits of chain migration and the New York guy brought in 23 other relatives. So that's like 24 members of this guy's family being pulled out of the hat. It's too parodically stupid the diversity lottery.
Oh here we go, same old theme. Ann-Marie writes: "An Ottawa man..." Sorry pardon me. [Makes air quotes] An "Ottawa man" was deemed not guilty of raping his wife here in Canada; the judge said that the man thought it was alright to rape his wife because in his culture, a wife must be available to her husband all times. The man, a Palestinian apparently did not have the requisite mens rea for rape. Will we be seeing more of this?"
Now this is a reference to a judge on the Ontario Superior Court, Robert Smith, and a lady, a Palestinian lady who grew up in Kuwait before moving to Canada and had an arranged marriage and she believed it was her obligation to have sex with her husband whenever he wanted. The husband was a completely unreliable witness. He testified that he could not have raped her because he'd had a hair transplant just before and the guy who'd performed the hair transplant told him to refrain from sex, presumably because it could dislodge the hair transplant.
The judge amazingly didn't buy this story but still acquitted the guy, essentially on the grounds that in their cultural sphere, the idea that the woman has to just put up with it any time the guy wants it is a commonly held cultural belief and that therefore both parties understood what the deal was.
It was interesting to see feminist critics of this in Canada. For example there was a lady journalist who was writing about this and tied it to a judge in Alberta who had said rather unsympathetically to one rape victim, "Why didn't you just keep your knees together?"
But that's actually not the point they're making. The point they're making here is one I've been making for over a decade to Western feminists about the two tiered sisterhood. So this judge, Robert Smith, wasn't saying like the Alberta judge at the Court of Queen's Bench, "Why don't you just keep your legs together, dearie?"
He's actually telling this woman that she doesn't have the right to keep her legs together, dearie. And that's what's fascinating about it. This is one of the horrible things about identity politics. It destroys one of the bedrock liberties, bedrock rights of free societies, which is equality before the law. In this case the judge has reached the distinction between Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Muhammed and has concluded that Mrs. Muhammed has far fewer rights to complain and whine about being raped than Mrs. Smith does.
And yes we are going to see a lot more of that. We're moving into a world of judicial, cultural relativism that will leave significant groups of people with far fewer rights. And essentially the rights you do have before a judge like this will depend on which identity group you chance to belong to.
B. Smith writesâ€”a bit out of date this questionâ€”"What are you dressing up as for Halloween?"
Well, last night, when was Halloween again? A couple of nights ago? Whenever it was. These days, ever since the 2016 election, I always go as Jeb Bush and what I do is raise like $100 million from a Halloween Super Pac and then I go trick or treating and I come back with three and a half Tootsie Rolls for $100 million. Just like Jeb Bush, it works every time.
Let's see, what else have we got here? Peter Hitchens...this is from Raj S., who I take it is in the United Kingdom. "Peter Hitchens, in his book "Abolition of Britain", faults Mick Jagger, among others, for weakening the British institutions. As a critic and practitioner of music, what are your views on degenerate music? Why is good music so uncool these days? My soon to be 14 year old child listens only to instrumentals, thank God!"
I don't want to blame everything on Mick; he had an unfortunate experience a couple of years back. He thought he was being interviewed for one of hip hoppin' rock magazines and instead he was interviewed by someone from Saga, which is the magazine for British pensioners, which is what they call seniors over there. And it was a tragic thing for him because he thought of himself as still hip and edgy and he didn't' realize he was supposed to be on the cover of the magazine for British seniors.
I don't know why he'd be surprised about this because when you think about it "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" makes a much more obvious anthem for frustrated seniors than it ever did for angry youth. "I can't get no satisfaction, Doctor." "It's a common problem at your age. Just take two Cialis and call me in the morning."
So Mick Jagger...I don't want to blame everything on Mick Jagger...I recorded a song a few months ago. "When You Go to my Lovely," which was a hit for Peter Sarstedt in the 60s and it has a wonderful line evocative of the 60s, You live in a fancy apartment off the Boulevard St Michel Where you keep your Rolling Stones records And a friend of Sacha Distel.
And on that lyric, keep your Rolling Stones record, Pete our guitarist went [Mark imitates guitar] I can't get no satisfaction. Everythingâ€”it's like the Reformation. It's holding these things in balance. It's all very well to have a little bit of edginess, a little bit of transgressiveness; it's always good to have that. When the counter culture becomes the culture and it squashes everything else...I mean Mick Jagger now is Sir Mick Jagger. He hasn't got five knighthoods like Ninian Stephen in Australia but he's catching up. Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Rod Stewart, Sir Bono. What was it the Beatles sang? You say you want a revolution? Sorry I'm having tea with Princess Margaret on Tuesday I can't do it. That's how genuine their revolution was.
But that's what I find bizarre and weird, when the counter culture becomes the culture and drowns out the culture. And I think at the beginning of the 21st Century, if you go back 120 years, there is an absence of beauty in our world, in the visual arts. You can look, I think, at the 20th Century in some waysâ€”musically speakingâ€”as the throttling of melody and again I'm all for edginess, transgressiveness, and all the rest of it but when you have institutional transgressiveness, which is what the sort of aristocracy has done then I think that does become a slightly problematic business. And I don't know what you do to correct that.
I'll find another point about this. I used to like the way even pop songs assumed a kind of cultural literacy. Venus de Milo is noted for her charms, strictly between us you're cuter than Venus and what's more you've got arms. Leo Robin wrote those lines in "Love Around the Corner." It was a big hit for Bing Crosby in the 30s and it presumed that even when you're pitching the woo to your chick that you have a sufficient cultural literacy to have a vague memory of a statue called the Venus de Milo of which the arms are missing.
I remember terrible old TV sketch comedy and some guys are down in the street and they pull up to Franz Schubert at his window, "Hey Franz are you coming to the pub tonight?" And Schubert leans out the window and says, "Nah, I gotta stay in and finish my symphony." And they say "Oh come on to the pub, we'll just have a couple of pints." And he does. That joke presumes that people know that there's a guy called Schubert and he wrote an unfinished symphony.
And when you have...it's not that Mick Jagger's degeneracy, in Raj's words, can destroy an entire culture but it's when a particular monolithic institutional, absurdly institutional kind of formalized transgressiveness can obliterate your much wider inheritance that I do think that's a problem.
Anyway, we started with Martin Luther and the quincentennial of him nailing his 95 Theses to the door and we have travelled via Australia's absurd parliamentary eligibility rules, all the way to the degeneracy of Mick Jagger. We hope you have enjoyed the journey and we will get back to you if Mick Jagger starts catching up on Ninian Stephen's...let me just throw in another thought on that. Ninian Stephen, Sir Ninian Stephen, before he was governor general, he was a judge on the High Court, the High Court that is kicking elected members of Parliament out of Parliament, right? So follow me on thisâ€”having five different knighthoods is no obstacle to being a judge on the Australian High Court but having two passports is an obstacle to sitting in the Australian Legislature. I don't get it, just as I think it's always helpful to have a spare passport in your back pocket, so it always helps to have a spare couple of knighthoods.
We'll see ya next time.