Scents and Sensibility

Leon Kosavic as Masetto and Erwin Schrott as Don Giovanni. Photographed by Mark Douet

Scents and Sensibility

Don Giovanni; Ossia Il Dissoluto Punito, opera buffa in two acts, music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, a further revival of the 2014 production, conducted by Hartmut Haenchen, directed by Kasper Holten, Royal Opera, Monday 16th September 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones  

Don Giovanni, played by bass-baritone Erwin Schrott, suitably demonic and over-powering, wants sex with as many women as possible. His appetite is somewhat indiscriminate, as his conquests (1000 in Spain alone) range from the young to the old, from the rich to the poor, from the fat to the thin. “Leave the women alone?”, he asks Leporello, rhetorically, “You’re mad! You know they are more necessary to me than the bread I eat! Than the air I breathe!” This compulsion, sometimes called satyriasis or Don Juanism, lends itself to a psycho-analytic interpretation. Indeed, according to Freud’s biographer Ernest Jones, Don Giovanni was his favourite opera. Freud doubtless considered the killing of the Commendatore, Donna Anna’s father (performed by Brindley Sherratt) as evidence of the Oedipus Complex. And there are voyeuristic elements evocative of the “primal scene”, as when Masetto, en catimini, spies on his fiancé and Don Giovanni.

Yet Mozart’s dramma giocoso, which combines elements of tragedy and farce, is as much about power and class as it is about sex.  It has been suggested that “Don Giovanni’s privilege, wealth and status enable much of his behaviour” (‘Introducing Don Giovanni’, Rogue Opera). In opera buffa, moreover, “Characters sing in musical styles appropriate to their social standing”. Seria is exclusively reserved for aristocratic characters like Donna Anna and Donna Elvira, in this instance sopranos Malin Byström and Myrtò Papatanasiu (see Jessica Waldoff, ‘A Musical Portrait’, Official Programme).

Zerlina (feisty soprano Louise Alder) is about to be married to Mazetta but the Don persuades her that by marrying him instead, she can transform her life. He surmises that a nobleman’s clothes impress people of her class and considers her fiancé an oaf, who is unworthy of her. On another occasion, the hapless Masetto (played by Leon Košavić) is called a “…stupid, dog-faced peasant”. Manservant Leporello (bass Roberto Tagliavini, making an impressive Royal Opera debut) has aspirations to be independent and rise in the social hierarchy. The top hat which he carries for his master and sometimes puts on, is emblematic.

Credit is due to the set designer, Es Devlin, for his revolving mansion; to the video designer, Luke Halls, and to the lighting and costume designers, Bruno Poet and Anja Vang Kragh, respectively. The tiered set is striking as were the silhouettes of the masqueraders at the ball.

In the event, good triumphs over evil in a denouement reminiscent of Brian De Palma’s film Scarface. The Don’s vengeful victims – Donna Elvira, Leporello, Masetto, Donna Anna (evidently raped in her own home), her fiancé Don Ottavio and the ghost of her father, the Commendatore, witness his cumuppance.

Malin Bystrom as Donna Anna and Erwin Schrott as Don Giovanni. Photographed by Mark Douet

Dr Leslie Jones is Editor of QR

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White Guilt and Christianity

Ilana Mercer

White Guilt and Christianity

By Ilana Mercer

Is white guilt a Christian affliction? Edward Gibbon would probably have said so.

In “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” 12 volumes, 1776, he saddled nascent Christianity with the downfall of the Roman Empire, no less.

By so surmising, Gibbon brought upon himself the wrath of “bishops, deans and dons”—not to mention that of Dr. Samuel Johnson’s biographer, James Boswell. Boswell called Gibbon an “infidel wasp” for “the chapter in which he showed that the fall of Rome was hastened by the rise of Christianity.”

And, indeed, Gibbon seems to point toward Christianity’s self-immolating, progressive, pathologically inclusive nature, remarking on the courting by early Christians of “criminals and women.”

Even more infuriating to his detractors was Gibbon’s prodigious scholarship. “No one could disprove Gibbon’s basic facts,” notes American author Willson Whitman. Whitman, who wrote the 1943 Foreword to the abridged version, remarks how “Gibbon outraged the Christians of his era by suggesting the ‘human’ reasons for the success of Christianity.”“Among these reasons [Gibbon] noted that Christianity … attracted to its ‘common tables’ slaves, women, reformed criminals, and other persons of small importance, in short that Christianity was a ‘people’s movement of low social origin, rising as the people rose.”

To go by Gibbon, Christianity might be called the Social Justice movement of its day. In no way was Gibbon, who “professed Church of England orthodoxy,” diminishing Christianity’s centrality to Western civilization, or its essential goodness and glory. He was just following the evidence.

With Gibbon’s historical analysis in mind, it’s difficult to dispute that America, once identified as a staunch Christian country, seldom stands up for or safeguards Christian interests. Trust Tucker Carlson to take note. On April 22, 2019, less than two minutes into this broadcast, the TV anchor observed that American foreign policy imperils the already imperiled Christian communities across the Muslim world. For one, the ancient Iraqi Christian community is a shadow of what it was under Saddam Hussein.

To their own dwindling, Western flock, American and European Christian leaders seldom offer succor and support. More often than not, church leaders are inclined to scold Westerners and berate them for insufficient procreation.

Take Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. For outbreeding Christianity, Chaput offered praise for Islam as a civilization—as if civilizations are great because of huge numbers, rather than human capital—namely, people of superior ideas, abilities and sensibilities; people capable of innovation, exploration, science, philosophy, to say nothing of mercy and charity.

Has not Christianity’s great heart been instrumental in ameliorating famine, and thus enabling Muslim Africa’s population explosion? But, no! For the less-fruitful Christians of the West, Archbishop Chaput has only words laced with snark. Chaput taunts the waning West with the prospects of getting swamped, deservedly, and dying out if it doesn’t hurry up and breed like the Muslims of the Third World. Is that how the church defends its own? It doesn’t seem remotely merciful.

Why doesn’t Chaput defend, with a view to preserving, his own Christian Civilization, even if it fails to reproduce to the archbishop’s standards? Since  Archbishop Chaput and his ilk will not—cannot—encourage contraception for Africa, how about protesting Africa’s migration to Europe?

In the context of the American and European immigration S.O.S., the “demographic decline” argument,wielded by Christian leaders (and many a misguided “conservative” pundit), has been used as an excuse to swamp—and weaken—native European populations.

But from the fact that Western nations aren’t breeding to some state-set, church-approved, desired level—it doesn’t follow that these nations “deserve” to be demographically drowned by better breeders.

Why don’t Christian religious leaders stand-up for the right of Western people to retain their countries, despite their procreational foibles and frailties?

The State has orchestrated the mass migration invasion. Pressured by The Church, the State can stop it.

Just like their Christian compatriots in the ministry and the priesthood—American rabbis are generally more inclined to pop-religion and Social Justice. Like their Christian friends, rabbis aim to bring religion in line with self-help literature and common, leftist, spiritual and political hobbyhorses and quests.

Theologically, America’s rabbis are an unscholarly lot, more an extension of American pop-theology than that of the authentic Hebraic tradition. Social Justice is a pillar and imperative in the Hebrew Bible. Deuteronomy, an early book, showcases an advanced concept of Jewish Social Justice, and is replete with instructions to protect the poor, the weak, the defenseless, the widows, the orphans, the aliens, etc.

This ethical monotheism, developed centuries before classical Greek philosophy, is echoed throughout the Hebrew Bible (Exodus), and is expounded upon by the classical prophets, who railed against power and cultural corruption so magnificently. The Ten Commandments, lest we forget, preceded the Epistles of St. John.

However, there’s none of this turn-the-other-cheek, love-thy-enemy stuff in the Hebrew Bible and in Judaism, in general. It’s not a national suicide pact. In the Tanach, there’s the imperative of justice. One of the oft-repeated phrases in the Hebrew Bible is, “Justice, and justice alone, you shall pursue.” (Deuteronomy 16: 18-20)

Be just to your enemies, yes! But love them? Welcome them into your home? Let them walk all over you, outnumber you—even kill you when The Prophet moves them? Never! In this respect, Israel’s orthodox rabbis are still hard-core Old Testament, steeped in a religious and cultural particularism, whose impetus it is to preserve the Jewish Nation.

You’ll certainly not hear an Israeli Orthodox rabbi, tethered to his country and countrymen, suggest that, because the Chosen People are in violation of the injunction to be fruitful and to multiply (pru urvu, as commanded in Genesis1:28)—that they deserve to be replaced by better breeders.

Before Gibbon, it was Voltaire whose historical analysis led him to view Christianity as having had a softening effect on Rome, culminating in its yielding to the invading barbarians.

If Christian prelates reject history’s lessons—and the imperative to harden The Faith—courtesy of Gibbon and Voltaire, perhaps they’ll heed the Hebrews who revived their fighting faith in their ancient homeland.

Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She is the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook & GabNew on YouTube: “America Belongs To The World; It’s Everybody’s Home.

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Blake, Envisioned

William Blake, The Angels Hovering over the Body of Christ in the Sepulchre c.1805. Credit

Blake, Envisioned

William Blake, an exhibition, Tate Britain, 11th Sept 2019 to 2nd Feb 2020
William Blake, by Martin Myrone & Amy Concannon, Tate, 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

William Blake was born in London, on 28th November 1757, at 28 Broad Street, where his father James ran a hosiery shop and haberdashery. Blake’s family were dissenters and as Simon Schama points out, he was buried in a dissenters’ cemetery (Radio 4, 9th September). Although the approach taken by Martin Myrone and Amy Concannon, curators of this exhibition and authors of the accompanying book, “is determinedly historicist and materialist” (page 14), they overlook the influence of Dissent over Blake’s thought. Not so Alan Moore, who in an afterword, refers to “…Blake’s Moravian parentage…[and] the dissenting Christian faiths that he grew up with…”

For Nonconformity informs Blake’s vision of the world, which is essentially eschatological*. The German mystic Jakob Böhme (1575–1624) endorsed the Lutheran view that “humanity had fallen from divine grace into a state of sin and suffering”. He emphasised the role of the fallen angels who had rebelled against God. Fifth Monarchists, likewise, were ever mindful of Daniel’s prophecy that four successive kingdoms will eventually be replaced by God’s kingdom. They constantly referred to the Number of the Beast. All of these themes are explored by Blake. Angels, fallen or otherwise, throng throughout his oeuvre. Continue reading

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Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

 SIR –

How should Boris Johnson deal with the Bill which requires that he seek a further extension from the EU, expected to be on the Statute Book by Monday 9th September?

When asked “What will you do if Parliament passes a Bill which obligates you as PM to go to the EU and seek an extension to the leaving date?”, Johnson has made some indeterminate responses, such as “I would rather die in a ditch”. At no point before the 31st should he say that he will ignore the new law. Rather, he should continue making indeterminate statements and for two reasons: (1) because if he says that he will not obey the law, that will probably prompt legal action from the likes of Gina Miller and John Major and (2) because if he has not flouted the new law or said that he will flout it, it will be difficult for the Remainer gang to take any political action against him.

On 31st October, Boris Johnson should simply decline to ask the EU for a further extension. That will get us out of the EU with a no deal Brexit because the Remainers will not be able to act quickly enough to stop the UK leaving by default.

At that point Johnson, on the face of it, would have failed to obey the law. But what penalty could he incur? It is a fair bet that there is no penalty stipulated in the Act. Likewise, what other criminal offence will he have committed? That being so, all that the Commons could do would be to launch a vote of no confidence.

A vote of no confidence could also result in a general election, if no new government can  be found within 14 days, the thing Remainers fear most. But whatever happens, after the 31st October, by using the strategy I have laid out, the UK would have left the EU and could only be drawn back in by a future UK government applying to re-join. Moreover, it is difficult to see how such an application could be made without a new referendum, given that the decision to leave was itself made by referendum.

Robert Henderson, 6th September


Editorial endnote.  Stop the press! The Prime Minister has reportedly stated that he is prepared to break the law. Tempus fugit… 

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Kubrick’s Final Film

A mask, from Eyes Wide Shut

Kubrick’s Final Film

Ilana Mercer grabs more shut-eye

Stanley Kubrick’s farewell film, Eyes Wide Shut, has turned 20. I reviewed it for a Canadian newspaper on August 9, 1999, and found it not only pretentious and overrated, but something of a snooze. This flick is the last in a series of stylized personal projects for which the director became known. Given the mystique Kubrick acquired or cultivated, this posthumous flop is unlikely to damage the legend.

For all the film’s textured detail, its yarn is threadbare and its subtext replete with clumsy symbolism. The screenplay consists of labored, repetitive and truncated dialogue, where every exchange involves protracted, pregnant stares and furrowed brows. “I am a doctor,” is Dr Bill Hartford’s stock-phrase. An obscure, campy, hotel desk clerk delivers the only sterling performance. This is cold comfort, considering the viewer is stuck with over two hours of Hartford’s halfhearted, libidinous quests.

“Eyes” is really a conventional morality play during which Hartford, played by Tom Cruise, prowls the streets of New York in his seldom-removed undertaker’s overcoat, in search of relief from his sexual jealousy. His jealousy is aroused by a fantasy that his wife Alice—played by then real-life wife Nicole Kidman—relays in a moment of spite, and involves her sexual desire for a naval officer she glimpsed while on holiday. So strong was her passion, she confides, that she would have abandoned all for this stranger. Continue reading

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Labour Day

Ford Madox Brown, Work

Labour Day 

Mark Wegierski returns to class

In Canada and the United States, the holiday honouring workers and the union movement is celebrated on the first Monday of September, as Labour Day, to avoid the radical connotations of May Day. In some parts of Europe, by contrast, May Day is still celebrated with enthusiasm by socialist and far left parties who share in the idealism of earlier, nineteenth-century workers’ struggles. However, relations between “the progressive intelligentsia” and the proletariat have always been problematic. Even leaving aside the excesses of Soviet Communism (and its various offshoots), the record of Western “progressive” intellectuals with regard to real workers has been questionable at best.

The valuations of the various social classes required by Marxism were, to a large extent, arbitrary. For instance, the “petit bourgeois” (the lower middle-class) were utterly despised, even though they often had to live a hardscrabble existence, and despite the fact that many in the intelligentsia themselves came from well-to-do backgrounds. Moreover, when confronted by the social conservatism of much of the proletariat, left-wing intellectuals fell back on the concept of “false consciousness” and the notion of what Marx had derisively termed the lumpenproletariat (the lowest substratum of society, especially criminals and vagrants). The 1960s generally, and in particular the thought of the psychiatrist and anti-colonialist intellectual Frantz Fanon, marked the repudiation of the “embourgeoised” proletariat in favour of what mainstream Marxism would simply have called the lumpen. Continue reading

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Deadly Rift between Dems and Israel

Ilhan Omar

Deadly Rift between Dems and Israel

by Ilana Mercer

“A toxic rift opens between Democrats and Israel,” blared a Washington Post headline. This, “after the nation refused entry to two members of Congress.” The two members are representatives Rashida Tlaib, Democrat from Michigan, and Ilhan Omar, Democrat from Minnesota.

And the “rift” is toxic only to Democrats—and to the many neoconservatives and establishment Republicans who’ve aligned with them against Israeli nationalists and Trump nationalists.

Properly distilled, the divide is between hardline nationalists (Israeli and American) and the globalists (Democrat and Republicans). Liberal pro-Israel groups were likewise exposed for their disdain for any Israeli display of sovereignty.

For “Deplorables”, however, this division is delicious.

First: There was nothing wrong with the Israeli government’s refusal to allow the two entry into its country. Similarly, there would be nothing amiss if the American government refused to welcome into our own country a party of agitators with terrorist sympathies. The “Miftah group that planned the Tlaib-Omar Israel trip once referred to suicide bombing as sacrifice ‘for the cause.’” Continue reading

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Color-Coded Theory

Ilana Mercer

Color-Coded Theory

by Ilana Mercer

A CNN profiler was speaking about the El Paso shooting, on August 6, in which 22 people were murdered by an angry white man. She blamed the killer’s sense of white privilege. Mass murder carried out by white, young men, the “analyst” was saying, occurs because they cannot adjust to a changing society. They cling to the way things were, when the country was predominantly white.

In other words, the oppressor in these young white men wants to continue to oppress. When whites commit unspeakable acts of violence, it is said to only ever come from a place of power and privilege. When browns and blacks commit unspeakable acts of violence, it only ever comes from a place of powerlessness and deprivation.

With distressing regularity, we’re lectured that black or brown evil is a consequence of systemic oppression; white evil a result of frustration over having to relinquish the systemic role of oppressor. Ditto for suicide. Continue reading

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Reform, in Name Only

Reform, in Name Only

Bill Hartley returns to prison

Along with other departments, the Ministry of Justice was required by the coalition government to undertake budget cuts. Prisons were particularly hard hit and according to the Prison Governors Association there are now 7000 fewer officers than in 2010. Some prisons were closed. In keeping with the tradition of care and consideration shown to employees by headquarters, governors of the affected prisons were given ample notice to brief their staff. Half an hour after a telephone call in one case.

Another method used was to merge some prisons which lay in close proximity to each other; hence there are interesting new names on the list of jails, ‘Northumberland’ and ‘Humber’ for example. These mergers have certainly produced an economy of scale in admin departments and the like, though running such places must be awkward: the governor having to go out of one jail to enter another then manage a new set of operating problems, even though as far as headquarters is concerned it’s the same jail.

More recently the Service has experienced another metamorphosis. Gone is the unloved and unlamented National Offender Management Service, meant to ‘seamlessly’ bring together prison and probation. Belatedly, headquarters figured out that there was going to be little loyalty towards something called NOMS. Now it is called HM Prison and Probation Service. Those poor folks in probation were always going to be the junior partners in this enterprise and they have suffered organisationally. First they were effectively nationalised, being taken out of local authority control. Then merged with the Prison Service, then disastrously privatised and now they are back in the fold as part of HMPPS. Continue reading

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Dem’s Dystopia

Joe Biden, LBJ Library photo by Jay Godwin

Dem’s Dystopia

by Ilana Mercer

How does one distill the worldview of the Democrats vying for their party’s presidential nomination? Outrace each other on racial righteousness? End Anglo-America? Welcome the World? Evict the unborn? Speak Spanish; English is your second language? All the above—and worse.

On display, again, during the second in a series of Democratic primary debates, were the racial (read anti-white) dynamics. Genial uncle Joe Biden bowed and scraped to his multicultural rivals, whereupon they set upon him like a flash mob; a multicultural mugging, Pat Buchanan called it.

Race—more accurately, anti-white politics—is the Democrats’ cri de coeur. They have no other passion other than hounding and excommunicating others for what are thought crimes—for thinking, speaking or tweeting in politically unpleasing ways.

But practicing ageism gives these social-justice warriors no pause. Leading the purge of the party’s elders was Eric Swalwell, a nasty bit of work who had mercifully dropped out after the first round of debates, late in June. At the time, Swalwell had called on older Democrats to “pass the torch.” “[I]t’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans.”

“If we are going to solve the issue, pass the torch. If we are going to solve climate chaos, pass the torch. If we want to end gun violence and solve student debt, pass the torch.”

Continue reading

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