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$21.95 hardcover · 224 pages
9978-1594037641-January 2015

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The theme of The Great Divide is that the populations of the democratic world, from Boston to Berlin, Vancouver to Venice, are becoming increasingly divided from within, due to a growing ideological incompatibility between modern liberalism and conservatism. This is partly due to a complex mutation in the concept of liberal democracy itself, and the resulting divide is now so wide that those holding to either philosophy on a whole range of topics: on democracy, on reason, on abortion, on human nature, on homosexuality and gay marriage, on freedom, on the role of courts … and much more, can barely speak with each other without outrage (the favorite emotional response from all sides). Clearly, civil conversation at the surface has been failing -- and that could mean democracy is failing.

This book is an effort to deepen the conversation. It is written for the non-specialist, and aims to reveal the less obvious underlying ideological forces and misconceptions that cause the conflict and outrage at the surface -- not with any expectation the clash of values will evaporate, but rather that a deeper understanding will generate a more intelligent and civil conversation.

As an aid to understanding, the book contains a handful of Tables directly comparing modern liberal and conservative views across a range of fundamental moral and political “issues” so that curious readers can answer the book’s main question: “Where Do You Stand?” An interesting result in testing this exercise has been the number of people who find they “think” one way, but “live” another.    

 

Good Reading
Essays (37)
Thursday
Jun152017

How Libertarian-Socialism Works

This is the brief email I just sent off to an intellectually-curious Brazilian physician who writes to me from time to time about the condition of the West:

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Frankly, I think the West is on a flawed course at this point in its history. But (forgive the flagrant self-promotion) as I have outlined in The Great Divide, and elsewhere, what I call "Libertarian-socialism" (not perfectly either, but a fusion of these two ideologies), is now the main regime-type of the Western world.
This was a type that had to be created by the West to resolve the deep contradiction into which it had fallen by embracing two conflicting political philosophies at the same time: classical liberalism, and egalitarianism. You can't put these two ideologies - the most freedom, and the most public control - together, without eventual doctrinal confusion and collapse. 
The confusion was avoided by fission and fusion: by splitting our former unified body-politic into two new bodies: a private body, and a public body - to produce libertarianism of the private body; and socialism of the public body, then fusing them in what I call "libertarian-socialism."
This fusion satisfies all parties: our mass publics, because they get the a broad range of once-forbidden sexual and bodily pleasures and acts (free-love, homo-sex; easy divorce; abortion; pornography; easy access to drugs; transgendering; etc); and also our egalitarian-type social-engineers, because once such publics are stupefied by their own pleasures and bodily liberties, political reality can be manipulated with minimal protest, coast-to-coast.
This type is has never been seen before in human history. It was not possible in the past because our two clashing public ideologies did not exist, and in any case there was not enough wealth to provide states with sufficient tax harvests to bring about such regimes. But the rapidly-increasing wealth of the West over the past hundred years (and still rising fast), is sufficient to provide immense tax-harvesting to fund all achievable quasi-socialistic programs. When understood in this way, you might say the publics of the West have lulled themselves into a kind of statist-passivity by way of indulgence of their own once-forbidden appetites.
 
What can be done about the vastly-increased top-down control now so visible in these regimes? 
Nothing much. This is far too vast, deep, and novel a movement, combining three powerful and natural things: the human desire for sexual and bodily self-indulgence (never before permitted to such a degree); the equally-powerful human desire to be free of all external control of these aspects of private life; and finally, the egalitarian idealism and desire to control others (the libido-dominandi) of the bureaucratic classes of these regimes - all floated thanks to enormous tax harvests unprecedented in human history.
As long as Western publics continue to accept the Faustian deal: to surrender so many of their former ideals of personal, and family, and political, economic, and property rights and principles of self-reliance, and responsibility to their own governments, in exchange for their new sexual and bodily liberties, libertarian-socialism is here to stay! 

 

 

Tuesday
Jun132017

Medicine As Instrument of Power

This is a powerful bit of truth-telling that should give pause to all those involved in modern medicine. It illustrates the truth that medicien is too important to be left in the hands of doctors. Those who wish to follow this theme in an even deeper and more chillng way, should read the powerful and damning book by the psychiatrist Michael Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors (1986).  

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Matthew Hanley, The Catholic Thing, Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The news cycle now revolves so rapidly that even highly hyped issues can recede from view – and from memory – in no time. If you missed the wall-to-wall coverage of the “March for Science” recently, not to worry – it will be back. The narrative is just too useful to retire: brave souls defending science from antediluvian forces – until an enlightened politician can restore it to its “rightful” place.

Near peak frenzy, the following headline appeared: “The Perils of Trumping Science in Global Health.” It could come from almost anywhere – the Washington Post or the New York Times, MSNBC, NPR – right? It came, alas, from that erstwhile bastion of science, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

The authors are Stanford MDs and their complaint is a tired, flimsy one: the lack of contraceptives and the discontinuation of U.S. funding for abortion abroad are recklessly unscientific propositions that endanger health.

Articles like these convey an interest not in objective outcomes but in advancing a politically motivated cause – often the destruction of one class of persons or another. Not a good premise for an argument, scientific or otherwise. In support of that contention, let’s turn not to the Catechism but to another article in the NEJM.

 

It begins bluntly by stating: “Science under dictatorship becomes subordinated to the guiding philosophy of the dictatorship.” It identifies the guiding philosophical principle, one of “rational utility,” as Hegelian in nature and laments that it has “replaced moral, ethical, and religious values.”

That’s not normally something you can get away with saying. How then do we reconcile these radically different entries – in the same medical journal?

Well, I guess I should mention the latter came from 1949. Its title was: “Medical Science Under Dictatorship.” Written by Dr. Leo Alexander, a contributor to the Nuremberg Code, it was a reflection on his investigation into the complicity of the medical profession (“community” not yet being a thing) in the horrors of WWII.

Alexander stressed the astonishing rapidity of decline in professional ethics, manifested in the wholesale extirpation of the useless, unwanted, chronically sick, and disloyal. Medical “science” at that time found diagnoses such as “inveterate German hater” to facilitate their liquidation.

The overall medical research program was fixated on “destroying and preventing life.” Indeed, Alexander refers to this kind of enterprise as the “science of annihilation.” The conclusion that it’s good to be an enemy of “science” in such a context would seem to be a moral imperative.

He even coins the term “ktenology” for this science of killing; it may not be in everyone’s dictionary, but with all the means of riding roughshod over life we employ today – and seek tomorrow – some sort of term should be in common usage. (“Culture of death” may come closest).

Abuses by the Nazi regime obviously reached massive proportions, but what became evident to investigators like Alexander was that “they had started from very small beginnings.” They began with just a subtle shift in attitude – an acceptance of the basic premise of the euthanasia movement that some lives are a meaningless drain. Better off dispatched.

Not everyone caved. (Occupied) Dutch physicians saw through innocuous-sounding appeals, resisted cajoling, and endured brutal crackdowns – but did not participate in euthanasia or sterilizations. The Third Reich is long gone today, yet the Netherlands has since become euthanasia’s ground zero, which suggests that ideas the Nazis embraced – at least their “cold-blooded” utilitarianism – have triumphed, much like Soviet-like rule lives on in the domineering absurdities of political correctness.

Alexander’s article recounts many disturbing episodes, but is nevertheless edifying due to its clear-headedness. Reading it is akin to watching an old black and white movie that has aged well. Or to anything that induces a feeling of exile. Borders may not have changed, but the landscape of ideas has – to such a seismic extent that the present rather than the past, as they say, has become a foreign country.

The very “same” NEJM caused a bit of stir last month, in giving space to MD-turned-politician Ezekiel Emanuel’s view that “professional societies should declare conscientious objection unethical.”

Emanuel is talking about objecting to various means of destroying, preventing, or mutilating human life that fall under his warped rubric of “care” – means that Alexander had pilloried when Nuremberg was a painfully fresh memory. So you read that right: Emanuel says it should be unethical to object to these things; his apologia amounts, as Wesley Smith succinctly put it, to a demand that pro-lifers get out of medicine.

Drawing parallels to Nazi atrocities can at times be overwrought. But Alexander’s insights into the attitudes that brought about disaster do seem quite applicable to the mentality of Emanuel and his ilk. They sure seem to be attempting what Himmler demanded and ultimately got: the cooperation of physicians and German medical science in patent monstrosities deemed necessary to advance a larger (and obviously unscientific, inhumane) agenda.

Emmanuel is seeking to revive the intimidating tactic Alexander decried: “any hint of faintheartedness or lack of enthusiasm for the methods of totalitarian rule is considered a threat to the entire group.” Like those preceding him in ignominy, Emmanuel intuits that the one who won’t kill is a threat to the designs – and bad consciences – of those who will.

That “scientists” such as Emanuel want a kind of “progress” that abandons the ethos of the Nuremburg Code should clue us all in. What Emmanuel and company are interested in is, to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, power exercised by some men – such as themselves – over other men, with “science” as its instrument. They are ultimately bent on the final conquest Lewis envisaged: The Abolition of Man.

That is what we should be marching against.

 

Monday
Jun122017

Why The Odds Favor Islam

Here is a sobering piece by William Kilpatrick, published in Crisis Magazine, June 12, 2017. It will perk the spirits of Christians, and give pasue for deep thought to secularists.

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Why The Odds Favor Islam

William Kilpatrick

June 12, 2017

On May 22, an Islamic suicide bomber detonated himself outside a pop concert in Manchester, England, killing and wounding dozens, many of them young children.

The terrorist was a 22-year-old named Salman Abedi. A few days after the attack, I was reading an article about the mosque he attended—the Didsbury Mosque. “That’s funny,” I thought looking at the accompanying photo, “that doesn’t look like a mosque, it looks like a church.”

Sure enough, as I discovered, the Didsbury Mosque was once the Albert Park Methodist Chapel. It had been bought by the local Syrian Muslim community and transformed into a Muslim place of worship.

Similar transformations have been taking place in other parts of the UK. St. Mark’s Church in London is now the New Peckham Mosque, St. Peter’s Church in Cobridge was sold to the Madina Mosque. The Brick Lane Mosque in London was originally a Methodist church. But church-to-mosque conversions are only part of a larger story. There are now 423 mosques in London, and the number is expected to grow. Meanwhile, 500 London churches have closed since 2001, and in all of England 10,000 churches have closed since 1960.

The transformation of the Albert Park Methodist Church to the Didsbury Mosque is emblematic of one of the most significant shifts in history: the transformation of Europe from a largely Christian continent to a largely Islamic one. The transformation is far from complete, and there’s an outside chance the process can be reversed, but time and demographics favor Islam.

In several of Europe’s cities, the Muslim population now hovers around the thirty percent mark. In ten years’ time, that will be forty percent. Of course that doesn’t mean 40 percent of highly committed Muslims facing 60 percent of deeply devout Christians. Both faiths have their share of half-hearted “nominals” for whom religion is more a cultural inheritance than a deeply held conviction. Still, the “nominal” problem is a much greater problem for European Christians than for European Muslims. In many European countries, Sunday church attendance is the 5-10 percent range whereas mosque attendance is very high in relation to the size of the Muslim population. In England, there are already more Muslims attending Friday prayers than there are Christians attending Anglican services on Sundays. A study by Christian Research predicts that by 2020 the number of Muslims attending prayer service in England and Wales will exceed the number of Catholics attending weekly Mass.

It’s also noteworthy that the expanding Muslim population in Europe is relatively young, whereas the declining “Christian” population is an aging one. Sixty-forty seems like good odds until you realize that the average age of the 60 percenters will be around 55 while the average age of the 40 percenters will be around 25.

You may object that if there is any fighting to be done, most of the fighting on the “Christian” side will be done by the army, not by citizens in walkers and wheelchairs. But keep in mind that the military draws its recruits from the ranks of the young. As the population of the people that Islamists refer to as “crusaders” ages, European governments will be forced to draw more of their new recruits from the Muslim population. The same goes for the police forces. Many Muslims will serve their country or their city faithfully, but many will have divided loyalties, and some will have signed up in the first place with mutiny in mind.

Most likely, however, the transformation will be effected without major battles. It won’t be a matter of numbers or of military strength, but of strength of belief. Those with the strongest beliefs will prevail. Those who are not sure what to believe will submit without a fight.

Will Europe Defend its “Values”?
That’s the theme of Michel Houellebecq’s Submission, a novel about the gradual Islamization of France. The protagonist, a middle-aged professor, has a number of qualms about the Islamic takeover of the university system, but nothing sufficient to resist it. The things he values most—literature, good food, and sex—are, in the end, no impediment to accepting Islam. True, he is offered several inducements to convert—career advancement, plenty of money, and several “wives”—but one gets the impression that, even without these incentives, he would still eventually convert. At one point prior to his submission, he thinks about joining a monastic order as his literary hero, J.K. Huysmans, had done, but he soon realizes that he lacks the necessary Christian conviction. Indeed, he has no strong convictions.

His plight is the plight of contemporary Europe in a nutshell. Many Europeans see no sense in resisting Islamization because they have nothing worth defending. To be sure, European leaders still talk about “our values,” but they can’t seem to specify what those values are, beyond appeals to “diversity” and “pluralism.” For example, after the Manchester massacre, British Prime Minister Theresa May stated that “our values—the liberal, pluralistic values of Britain—will always prevail over the hateful ideology of the terrorists.”

I’m not so sure of that. In an earlier era, Brits would have connected their values to God, country, family, and honor. In other words, things worth fighting for. But “liberal, pluralistic values”? That’s not very solid ground on which to take your stand. Who wants to die for diversity? Indeed, it can be argued that the worship of diversity for its own sake is what allowed terrorists to get a foothold in England in the first place. No one wanted to question all those diverse preachers spreading their diverse message about Jews, infidels, and homosexuals. The trouble is, unless there are higher values than diversity, there’s no way of judging between good diversities and bad diversities—between, say, honoring your wife and honor-killing her if she displeases you.

The same is true of freedom. Freedom is a fundamental right, but what you do with your freedom is also important. There has to be some higher objective value that directs our choices to good ends rather than bad ones. Otherwise, freedom becomes a license to do anything one pleases.

An Attack on Childhood
Here we touch on a very touchy subject. I would not like to be in Theresa May’s shoes when, after a horrifying attack, she has to come up with just the right words. But one thing she said struck me as not quite right. She said: “We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish, but as an opportunity for carnage.”

It’s possible to fully agree with May’s sentiments while, at the same time, noting that there once was a time when a room full of children watching an Ariana Grande concert would not be considered “a scene to cherish.” “Her dress, dancing, and song lyrics,” wrote one columnist, “are deliberately decadent and immodest.” And, after watching some YouTube clips of her performances, I would have to agree. I’m pretty sure that most of the parents I know would not want their children to attend one of her concerts.

While the world was justly outraged at Salman Abedi’s attack on innocent children, no one seems to notice the attack on childhood innocence that the typical pop concert represents. The two “attacks” should not be equated, of course. The producers of pop concerts are not the moral equivalents of a suicide bomber. Still, the fact that so many parents saw nothing wrong with dropping their children off at the Manchester concert suggests a great deal of moral confusion in the West.

Unfortunately, such moral confusion leaves people vulnerable to those who are absolutely certain about their beliefs. The moral relativism of the West is one of the chief reasons why the Islamic cultural jihad has been so successful. People who can’t see that the soft-porn style of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and Ariana Grande is not good for children will have difficulty seeing the problem with polygamy, child marriage, and other aspects of sharia law. In a relativistic society, the safest default position is “who’s to judge?”

Relativism Leads to Islamic Dominance
Earlier I said that Europe is being transformed from a Christian culture to an Islamic culture, but that’s not quite accurate because it’s actually a three-stage transformation. Much of Europe has already transitioned out of its Christian stage and into a post-Christian or secular stage. There are still many Christians in Europe, but Europe’s Christian consciousness has been largely lost. The next stage is the transition from secularism to Islam. That’s not inevitable, but it’s likely because without a framework of Judeo-Christian beliefs, secularism becomes relativism and relativism can’t offer much resistance to determined true believers.

Back in 2014, Theresa May said “we celebrate different ways of life, we value diversity, and we cherish our freedom to lead our lives as we choose.” But if your culture stands for nothing more than the freedom to shop for different lifestyles, it won’t last long. The contemporary Western fascination with pop culture highlights the problem. Pop culture is by its very nature a transient phenomenon. What is pop today won’t be pop tomorrow. Indeed, the popular culture of tomorrow may very well favor burqas, multiple wives, and male supremacy. There may still be a place for singer-dancers like Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus, but that place would most likely be as a harem dancer in a Sultan’s palace or as entertainment for a Saudi prince who has bought up a country estate in Oxfordshire.

It’s hard to beat transcendent values with transient values. That’s especially the case when the transcendent crowd are willing to die (and kill you in the process) for their values. Most Brits, on the other hand, are not willing to lay down their lives for the sake of keeping bacon on the menu or porn on the telly.

Christianity vs. Two Forms of Totalitarianism
When I use the word “transcendent,” I refer only to a belief in an eternal life beyond this worldly existence. Quite obviously, as in the case of Salman Abedi, transcendent values can be twisted. The idea that God will reward you for murdering innocent young women in Manchester by furnishing you with virginal young women in paradise is a truly twisted concept. But apparently it is widely shared in the Muslim world. When, during a World Cup qualifier in Australia, a minute of silence was called to commemorate the London terror victims, the whole Saudi soccer team refused to observe it. As Sheik Mohammad Tawhidi later explained:

In their eyes the attackers are martyrs who are going to paradise. And if they stand for a minute of silence they are against their Muslim brothers who fought for jihad and fought the infidels.

As twisted as these values may be, it’s beginning to look as though secular values aren’t up to the job of opposing them. The trouble with secular values when they are cut off from their Judeo-Christian roots is that they are arbitrary. Autonomy? Dignity? Equality? Says who?

“If there is no God,” wrote Dostoevsky, “everything is permitted.” Secularism has no God and, therefore, no ultimate standard of judgment. The end result is that each man becomes his own god and does his own thing—even if that “thing” involves the exploitation of childhood innocence. Islam, on the other hand, does believe in God, but not the God Dostoevsky had in mind. The God of Islam is an arbitrary despot whose commands are not rooted in reason, love, or justice.

So we have two arbitrary systems vying for control of the West—the soft totalitarianism of secularism and the hard totalitarianism of Islam. Both are really forms of slavery. Muslims are slaves of a tyrannical God, and secular man becomes the slave of his own desires and addictions. It may seem unthinkable that the West will ever submit to Islam, but many Western citizens are already in submission mode. Submission to their desires has put them in a bad spot. As a result, they are looking for something bigger to submit to—something outside and above their own fragile selves. Some have already turned to Islam. Many more will unless…

Unless, that is, there is a recovery of the Judeo-Christian belief that God is a God of love, justice, reason, and goodness—and that we are made in his image (a concept which does not exist in Islam). In the context of that vision, belief in human dignity and the rights of man is thoroughly justified.

People who believe that they and their neighbor are made in the image of God will generally have a strong sense of their responsibility to act accordingly. Such people will be far from perfect, but they will at least realize that it is wrong to submit both to Islam’s warped image of God and to secularism’s degraded image of man.

In the end, the choice for the West is not between Islam and pluralistic secularism. A rootless secularism will almost certainly submit to Islam. The only real hope for the West is the recovery of the faith that once inspired Christians to build a beautiful church near Albert Park in West Didsbury, England.

 

Sunday
May212017

A Fine Essay On The End of Universities

Here is a fine piece by the eloquent British thinker and author Roger Scruton, on the decline of our universities. Who would ever have thought we would see sucha day?

 

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/04/the-end-of-the-university

Friday
May052017

My "Interview" With the CBC's Peter Gzowski

I am in the process of assembling a collection of some of the Audio and Video interviews I have done over the last thirty years, to leave for my five children and thirteen grandchildren. They were not aware of much of this chapter in Grampa's life, so I have written a little story to accompany the files. Below is a brief description of two of those interviews which took place in the early 1990s, with the CBC's Peter Gzowski ,on his Morningside radio show.

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Peter Gzowski was the CBC's biggest culture maven for decades. His "Morningside" show, which ran from 1982 until 1997, had a sizeable national audience. He made no secret of the fact that he was a man of the left, and he wasn't shy about using the CBC microphone to make this known across the country.  I pestered his Producer for an interview just after The Trouble With Canada was released in April, 1990, because it had immediately jumped onto the bestseller charts. But she declined every time, until after the book hit #1 on the Globe and Mail National Bestseller list on August 4th. At that point, the CBC would have looked pretty dumb for declining, so Peter eventually, if reluctantlyagreed to do this brief interview that December.

             As it happened, we were in Vancouver when we saw the book had hit #1, and we arranged a fine dinner of celebration at Il Giardino's restaurant . They had a lovely outdoor setting with great food served in a walled garden, flaming hibiscus flowers everywhere, lots of sunlight, and many tables of happy diners.  At one point, Jeanie leaned over to tell me that the man smoking a cigar at the next table was the singer Billy Joel.  After a while he became a little agitated and leaned over to ask why we were celebrating:  "What's the occasion?" I leaned back toward him and said, I'm a writer, and my book hit #1 in Canada today!" Then he asked: "What's the title?" I answered, "The Trouble With Canada." He looked around at the happy scene, and said: "I don't see any trouble!" and we all burst out laughing.

            I should add that three years later, I again pestered the Morningside Producer for an interview on my next book, The War Against the Family, which had risen to #5 in the Coles Bookstores national chain, but had been banned by the Duthie's Books chain of three stores in Vancouver. Celia Duthie, was a well-known leftist and radical feminist.  She didn't mind selling books by Karl Marx or revolutionaries like Che Guevara - but not a book by this conservative thinker!

             And her book-banning caused a national ruckus. The Globe and Mail published a front page story about "Book Banning" in Vancouver. And because of this, my publisher seized the occasion to print 1,000 additional copies. A national battle over censorship ensued between my publisher and the Booksellers Association of Canada - which defended a bookseller's right to refuse to sell any book of which they didn't approve. Meanwhile, The Canadian Publishers Association came charging onto the field, arguing  that because books in Canada are given to bookstores free on consignment, and not paid for until sold, publishers should not be denied shelf space to promote their bestselling # 1 books! There was a flurry of angry letters to the Globe from both sides. Later, I learned that the Booksellers Association gave a hefty prize for the best essay published by one of their members for defending their right to censor my book!

             At any rate, when I finally got to Peter Gzowski's CBC studio for the interview on The War Against the Family, things were a little icy. No sooner had I entered the waiting room, with about ten minutes to go prior to the interview, when Peter thrusted a copy of a thick book at me written by a Marxist professor from the University of Winnipeg who was notoriously opposed to the traditional family and defended homosexual rights. Peter announced curtly:  "Here. This gentleman will be a guest on the show with you." I had no time to look at the book. It was a set-up by Peter for a two-to-one gang-up on Bill.

              Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of that show. But suffice it to say that it was something close to a shouting-match between myself and the Marxist professor, with curmudgeonly Peter chirping in to take the professor's side whenever he felt like it. It was all I could do to reply to both of them, one after the other.

               When it was over, and I walked out of the studio, I extended my hand to thank Peter. He was standing there beside his Producer, and ... refused to shake my hand.  That was pretty awkward. He had a somewhat shabby grey beard, and he just stood there and stared at me, like a tired old beaver, as if it was normal for a CBC host to be this rude.   

                But the story did not end there. Those were still the days of snail mail, and about ten days later I got a call from another CBC Producer who told me that the CBC had received "an avalanche of mail" in reaction to the show, and as a result, they were going to do another show for a whole hour, dedicated to reading a lot of the letters, good and bad, that they had received about the first show! 

                In fairness, they did read some of the letters chastising Gzowski. But I had received carbon copies by mail of some they never read on air in which listeners lambasted him for his rude treatment of me. Some said that although they had been fans of Morningside for a decade and more, his behaviour was so ill-mannered, they would never listen again!

                So ... I bundled a half-dozen of those letters up and sent them off to Peter. 

Wednesday
Apr122017

How Exercise Can Kill You

I am still in a bit of shock and disbelief that I am writing this blog. I have been a sport and exercise junkie for over 60 years, and I have lately discovered the new sport science that says I, and countless others who have done the same, may have been harming ourselves by training too hard for too long.

My running began at the age of seventeen with the ambition of one day making the Canadian Olympic Team. I was fortunate enough to have a famous Canadian sport and fitness guru named Lloyd Percival as my coach, at least for the first few years, and in the summer of 1959, he took me and couple of team-mates to Philadelphia's Franklin Field to watch the first-ever Russia Vs. America Track & Field Meet - a post-war event held in the spirit of friendly international rivalry. During the 10,000 metre run, an American, as well as a Russian competitor began to wobble badly from heat stroke in the very last lap, and both of them collapsed right there on the track. It was a chaotic scene, with fans screaming, officials and athletes trying to help them up, and confusion over who had lapped who, and so on.

But I asked Lloyd one question, the answer to which became a kind of template for my training ever after. As I watched the Russian fall prostrate on the track at the finish line, as if dead, I asked Lloyd: "Can you damage yourself by running that hard?"

His answer was, "No. The outer body will always give way before the inner body." In other words, before you can damage your heart or other organs, you will cramp, faint, throw up, tear a muscle, whatever, and that will stop you.  That answer became my MO as they say, for most of my athletic life, such that I could not describe the intensity of some of the workouts we did in the early, most competitive years, complete with my own occasional wobble, throwing up, or near passing out, or crazy cramping from exhaustion. All was good. I figured I could out-train the next guy, no matter how hard he tried, any day, and it might hurt a lot, but there would be no serious health consequences. I never had a lot of athletic talent. But I could out-train almost anyone.  So, I made it to the Pan American Games in the Decathlon (Silver medal, 1963), the Tokyo Olympic Games (11th place, Decathlon), two Commonwealth Games in the 400m Hurdles (1966, Jamaica, and 1970, Edinburgh - 6th place both times), and ... a lot of other international meets and Canadian Championships.  

But I was wrong. And so, it now appears, are countless thousands, if not millions of athletes who run, swim, cycle, or cross-country ski, or do other endurance sports intensely, the most dedicated of them middle-aged and older racers who, as God is my witness, are thinking, as they train: "Just imagine what I could have done if I had just started younger!" Marathons around the world often host 20,000 or more such athletes, and some Orienteering and ski marathon races in Europe host 50,000+ competitors!

And, like me, they all think: if some training is good, more is better. The outer body will give away first.

But that is not true.

Recently, in the middle of a x-c ski race, I had a bout of Atrial fibrillation (AF). I have always had a little cardiac arrhythmia, especially after a coffee or a coke. But AF is a chaotic arrhythmia.  So ... I got checked out.

An echocardiogram and a Holter monitor session revealed that I have so-called "athlete's heart": enlarged atrial chambers, and what looks like some scarring, stretching, thickening of chamber walls, and a few other unusual things not seen in the hearts of sedentary people (who have other issues!). Scarring of the heart muscle interferes with the normal electrical signalling of the heart. The electrical current has to go around the scar tissue, or is simply blocked by it. Some of this is due to aging (I'm 76 now, and still skiing and cycling a lot), and we know that older people experience more AF than younger. But the rest of the damage is likely a consequence of long-term intensive endurance exercise - like, over 60 years of it!

AF can be very dangerous if not brought under control with drugs, or eliminated with surgery. But ventricular tachycardia (V-Tach - a very fast beating of the ventricle), of which I have had a couple of short instances, is even more dangerous if it mutates suddenly into ventricular fibrillation, whereupon the ventricle quivers a lot, instead of beating, so that it stops ejecting the blood within. The result is sudden death. That got my attention. And the attention of my cardiologist, too. So I am on a Beta Blocker, which is a designer drug that blocks the body's own supply of adrenalin to the Beta-1 cells on the heart muscle, thereby slowing it down.

Yesterday, when I went cycling on a beautiful hilly course, I couldn't get my heart rate over 110 beats per minute, on hills where it would normally hit 130 or 140bpm. That felt really strange. As for my research? Lots of surfing the web and watching Youtube videos on this topic. Here is a good one by Dr. James O'Keefe, of Kansas City, who specializes in these matters, which tells the story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6U728AZnV0

I have also been studying a new book by Case, Mandrola, and Zinn, entitled The Haywire Heart: How Too Much Exercise Can Kill You, and What You Can Do To Protect Your Heart (VeloPress, 2017). The subtitle is particularly arresting. The book is a fairly easy read, except for the section that explains the electrophysiology and biomechanics of the heart muscle (an incredible organ if there ever was one!), and it gives incisive commentary on all the most relevant recent research on how and why "The Dosage Is the Poison", so to speak. In other words, good exercise (mild to medim intensity, not too often) is very health-protective and good for you. Bad exercise (too hard, for too long), is dangerous and can, ummm, kill you. In short, exercise describes an upside-down U-curve: More is good for you for a while, and then it makes things worse. This means that exercise that is hurting the outer body, is very likely hurting the inner body, too.

I forgive my coach for giving me bad advice. At the time, it seemed true. And I have loved my sporting life. But now I have to learn to love slowing down a lot.