Belloc’s book The Cruise of the Nona is not as well-known as it should be. It is a sort of counterpart to The Path to Rome, only that was written when he was in his early 30′s and this one was written when he was in his mid 50′s. Each of them is an account of a voyage interspersed with – as he puts it in the sub-title of the Nona – “Reflections and Judgements on Life and Letters, Men and Manners”. But whereas in The Path to Rome he is going to an obvious destination on foot, here he is meandering round the bottom part of the British coastline in his boat with no special goal. I don’t know if this is a kind of metaphor of how he saw his career in youth and in middle age.

At one point he reflects on a long, private meeting that he had with Mussolini, newly come to power in Italy (the Nona was published in 1925.) He has a good deal of sympathy with the dictator. They both share a contempt for the parliamentary system, which Belloc saw as a sham battle that did not represent the populace and served to conceal the real powers within the State. He is even enthusiastic about Mussolini: “What a sense of decision, of sincerity, of serving the nation, and of serving it towards a known end with a definite will!” But he also disagrees with him on one important point:-

One thing, however, struck me in his comments which was, as I thought, extreme and ill-founded; and that was his contempt for all majorities. Mussolini laid it down to me that the conception of majority government is as ridiculous as it is immoral, and should be fiercely combated as a lie and an evil in itself. I do not agree; it seems to me that the rational basis of a majority government stands firm upon certain conditions.

On many points, Belloc says, it would indeed be ridiculous to hold referenda. “What would a majority vote do with bimetallism, or the appointment of admirals?” But if five conditions are fulfilled, then, he contends, a ruler is morally obliged to follow the majority.

(1) When the question arises from a homogenous community; (2) when there is an active popular demand for its settlement; (3) when the matter under discussion is reasonably familiar to all; (4) when it concerns all, or nearly all, directly, and in much the same degree; (5) when the majority is substantial.

You must be dealing with a homogenous community – for in one made up of various races, or fundamentally different religions, a majority means nothing towards a decision. It is a mere affirmation of discord. You must have a real and popular demand for a decision, and it must proceed from the people themselves: not from a body claiming the right to frame the question: a vote on matters of no popular interest – as a vote on Welsh disestablishment in North London, or on mining regulations in Brighton – is a manifest abuse. Even on a burning matter, discussed by, known to, and affecting all, no small majority can possibly be decisive, or make an accord – for a half is not the general will. But when a community of one stuff votes by a large majority in favour of something they both understand, and desire, and that something close to their own lives, then that majority is of true effect.

This seems pretty sound to me, only Belloc apparently thinks that the ruler would be bound in justice to follow the majority if all five conditions were met, as is suggested by his use of the phrase ‘the general will’ (he loved Rousseau’s book, and yet how he would have disliked the man!) I should think the obligation is rather one of political prudence. Also, he misses out a sixth and very necessary condition – that the thing voted for be not against the Law of God.

Our loyal reader Magdalena has pointed me toward a topic about which she herself would be much more qualified to write. As she did, however, so far decline the honour of a guest post at this illustrous blog, only comparatively ignorant me is left to bring to your attention the Ecopop initiative to be voted upon in Switzerland on 30 November 2014.

Those of our readers in command of German can verify for themselves that this is not a hoax. I myself had to do that, actually. This initiative (initiated, to  my immense frustration, by bourgois, left-wing ecologists) demands that:

- immigration to Switzerland do not exceed  0.2 % of Swiss permanent inhabitants each year, and

- that 10% of Swiss federal developmental aid be devoted to voluntary family planning in developmental countries (including a constitutional prohibit of developmental aid given if they go against the aim of helping family planning)

Let me rephrase: We have to make those Africans have less children so they do not swamp our country.

This is probably the most blatant manifestation of the connection between xenophoby and left-wing support for family planning I have yet met.

How shall we ever be able adequately to describe the happiness of that marriage which the Church arranges, the Sacrifice strengthens, upon which the blessing sets a seal, at which angels are present as witnesses, and to which be Father gives His consent? For not even on earth do children marry properly and legally without their fathers’ permission.

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another, side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations.

They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. Unembarrassed they visit the sick and assist the needy. They give alms without anxiety; they attend the Sacrifice without difficulty; they perform their daily exercises of piety without hindrance. They need not be furtive about making the Sign of the Cross, nor timorous in greeting the brethren, nor silent in asking a blessing of God. Psalms and hymns they sing to one another, striving to see which one of them will chant more beautifully the praises of their Lord. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present; and where He is, there evil is not.

… is driving me mad.

First, I won an e-book reader. It is actually quite handy, as you can take the equivalent of about a ton of books wherever you go (and there is a lot of stuff for free on Gutenberg project, and the like). Nevertheless, I have found myself (I am horribly ashamed to say) swiping my fingers across the (paper) pages of actual books to turn pages.

I should have known better, but, in order to sort of replace (or at least supplement) my much loved, aging Samsung 10” netbook, I got myself a 10” convertible (i.e. a keybord + tablet combination). Now, when I am not getting crazy trying to fight Windows 8 on the tablet, I am trying, in vain, to operate my netbook by fingering its (non-touch) screen. Argh!

Add to this the mental challenge of remembering which port and which cable can communicate with whom: My micro-USB-to-USB adapter plugged into the USB port of the keybord of the convertible can connect to the USB-to-micro-USB adapter of the charging cable of my e-book. The tablet and my camera, however,  have propriotary charging cables, and the tablet, unlike the netbook, has only a micro SD reader and no SD reader. If my mother’s camera’s SD card slot is somehow, enigmatically, configured in a different way to my camera’s SD slot, there is, consequently, no way for me to access my photographs during a trip without an extra mini-USB-to-USB cable, which I did not take on a trip, as it was needed for neither the tablet, camera, e-book reader, or USB stick on their own.

Do not let me get started on mobile phone SIM card sizes,or, worse, the (in-)compatibilities between mini-HD, HD, and VGA ports and plugs, respectively.

There is nothing like technological progress.

An eminent scholar recently brought the following quote to my attention. My more philosophical co-bloggers will be better than I am at explaining why this constitutes an example of illogic, by making opposites of two perfectly reconcilible options.

It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country as a consequence. Everybody is using coffee; this must be prevented. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were both his ancestors and officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied upon to endure hardships in case of another war.

Frederick the Great of Prussia (1777)

With the resignation of Bishop Conry, I am praying for new Bishops with a Eucharistic faith.

Bishop Conry was the chosen disciple of Cardinal Murphy O’Connor – we can pray that an important characteristic of new appointments may be that they hold no favour with such people.

Let us pray that the Lord preserves his Bishops who love him; protect them from harm so that we may be guided by them to eternal life.

Please God, send us more Bishops like this:

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