måndag 28 januari 2013

Why the fuss about horseburgers?

Kattvik - chestnut horses by Elmar Eye
Kattvik - chestnut horses, a photo by Elmar Eye on Flickr.
The fuss about horseburgers is a classic bit of journalistic twaddle. Unless you are a vegetarian or hold to the rules of a religion, what is the objection? Horse is perfectly good meat, leaner than beef. In fact, there is something to be said for promoting it for what it is - a superior product.

The only reservation concerns the use of knackered racehorses which are, apparently, dosed up with drugs which it would not be a good thing to consume. But the same issue applies to all farm animals and animal produce. That is a good reason to cut down on meat and choose free range or KRAV-marked products.

But the horseburger row looks like a stirring up a controversy to sell newspapers. Nothing of sense seems to have been said on the subject.

söndag 20 januari 2013

Cameron to embark on 21st Century Crusade?

David Cameron said on Sunday that the growing threat of Islamist militants in the Sahel region of Africa required “a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months”. He compared the situation with that in Afghanistan, saying: “What we face is an extremist, Islamist, violent al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group, just as we had to deal with in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Foolishness or ignorance?
Is it really a good idea to embark on an open-ended - permanent, to all intents and purposes - war of attrition against militant Islam from Africa to Afghanistan? Militancy is implicit in the original texts of Islam - the Koran and Hadith, and it has a been a thread running through history since the time of Mahomet. It can not be stamped out by military means and it is more likely that military intervention will encourage militancy. Why is this not understood? A further complication is the presence of large Islamic minorities in many European countries, with the potential for militancy to develop within those communities.

The military option - a kind of latter-day crusade, is bound to fail. Alternative strategies must be considered, possibly involving the setting up of some kind of cordon sanitaire. Left to itself for a few decades but with access to information from the outside world, it is just possible that Islam could start to crumble under the weight of its own internal contradictions. A twenty-first century crusade can only delay that desirable process by driving people into the hands of the militants.

fredag 11 januari 2013

Why does this music spook me?

For some reason this piece, Rejoice in the Lord alway, by George Rathbone, gives me the creeps. On the face of things it is a nice bright jolly tuneful composition in a major key, with no discords. It was probably written between the two world wars, in the British light music idiom. But it spooks me. Why should it have this effect? It could be that it is just too bright and jolly to be true, in the spirit of the muscular Christianity which came to the fore in British public schools in the second half of the nineteenth century and was a continuing theme until the 1960s, when, thank goodness, it faded away. Or is it just that the music is boring and vacuous? Or is it the associations it carries? It is exactly the kind of music that we were made to sing at school just after the war. To a listener whose childhood was in the 1940s, it taps directly into a stream of unpleasant memories: the smell of school dinners with overcooked cabbage and wet coats in cloakrooms, dingy classrooms, sitting on dusty parquet floors, being made to wear itchy woollen underwear, that sort of thing.

Poor Man's Purcell
But there is another issue in the case of this particular text. The Rathbone setting immediately invites comparison with the much better-known one by Purcell, written in 1685. If you have heard the Purcell then the Rathbone will leave you dissatisfied. It also raises the question of why the composer, who was born in 1874 and studied at the Royal College of Music, even went to the trouble of writing it, knowing full well the difficulty of following in the footsteps of a giant. Admittedly the Purcell takes more in the way of resources and is longer, but the comparison is bound to be made and the newer piece doesn't stand a chance. It comes across as a poor man's Purcell. So why is it even being performed, when it should have been allowed to sink quietly into oblivion? After all, the composer is so obscure nowadays that he does not even have a Wikipedia entry.

måndag 7 januari 2013

The signifier becomes the signified

Prayers after Mass
I met a man yesterday aged about 70 at the Tridentine Mass. Of Jewish origin, he had been brought up in Italy as a Catholic but lost his faith with the introduction of the Vatican 2 reforms. Then he went back to Judaism and lived in Israel for many years, becoming involved with the Chabad Lubavitch sect. In recent times he lost his faith in that too and became atheist. Now he is interested in attending the EF mass again. It speaks to him.

The ultimate problem with the liturgy is as explained in the "Spirit of the Liturgy" by Cardinal Ratzinger: the signifier becomes the thing signified. Get it wrong and it is stripped of its meaning.

Ratzinger's book should be a study text for all priest-candidates.

lördag 5 januari 2013

We saw his star in the East

Vidimus stellam eius in Oriente et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum.

We saw His star in the East, and have come with gifts to adore the Lord.

torsdag 3 januari 2013

Catholic Church can do nothing right

Whatever the Catholic church hierarchy does will be wrong. The Archbishop of Westminster has put and end to the LBGT Masses in Soho and transferred the ministry to the Jesuits at Farm Street, nearby.

I have never attended an LGBT Mass and do not know what happens at one. I have set out my views on the Mass on many occasions on this blog. The Mass belongs to everyone. If there is any question of it being taken over by a section of the community, then the ideal way to prevent such appropriation would be to use the Extraordinary Form, which has to be performed precisely in accordance with the instructions. Unfortunately, those who favour the Extraordinary Form Mass have themselves become regarded as a sectional group so that is not an option. Whilst this situation continues, the best that can be done is to celebrate the Mass in "vanilla flavour".

But the move to Farm Streets sounds as if the Archbishop is taking the gay Christian community seriously, and the brickbats he has been getting over on the Guardian's "Comments is Free" website shows yet again that whatever the Catholic Church does is wrong. Which shows also that the criticism is motivated almost entirely by hate and does not even deserve to be taken seriously. There must indeed be people who would be happy to believe that the Pope eats babies.

The death of civilised debate

The Guardian has been steadily reducing the number of articles on which comments are allowed. On the newspaper’s web site, which used to ap...