Some years ago, I admitted that I had never read anything by Ayn Rand. Since then, I have read selections, but I have yet to tackle a major work. However, I did watch the first two parts of the Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy. Although the films had an indie film budget and less than spectacular production values, I enjoyed them. Having never read the book, I could not judge textual fidelity, but I did enjoy the brutal portrayal of leftist malice and stupidity. The American Left gets to indulge in the worst human tendencies toward cruelty every day; the society belongs to it, and it dominates the organs of culture. Hence, we must tolerate a constant stream of film, television, and journalistic material that depicts whites, conservatives, Christians, and the combination of the three in the most revolting way. Rightwingers do not have many opportunities for such pleasure—but, judaeae gratias, Atlas Shrugged provides it in abundance. The story depicts the hypocrisy, inanity, cowardice, parasitism, and idiocy of the Left in a delightfully decadent way! Indeed, as I watched the films, I almost (but not quite) felt ashamed in enjoying the spectacle, suspecting that the depiction might not be fair. “The real ones are bad—but are they that bad?” I just do not like thinking of my fellow men in such a low way. Yet, reality asserts itself and reminds me that, yes, they are that bad—indeed, worse than artifice conjures.
As few weeks ago, I read an unbelievable article by Lynn Shepherd in The Huffington Post: “If JK Rowling Cares about Writing, She Should Stop Doing It.” Shepherd’s main point is that Rowling has enjoyed much success as a children’s literature writer with the Harry Potter series and now her name recognition is leading to success in her ventures into adult fiction. As such, she is crowding out lesser known writers. So, Shepherd reasons, Rowling should mind her place and stop taking up bookshelf real estate.
As I read Shepherd’s opinions, I immediately thought of the regulators in Ayn Rand’s tale. I also reflected how, notwithstanding how much I want to give the enemy the benefit of the doubt, he always justifies my initial misgivings in the end. Leftists refuse to be outdone by their opponents’ mockery of them.
Later, I read the following post by John C. Wright, “The Orcs and the Books,” where Wright describes the same experience—only a thousand times better:
. . . Second, some readers might wonder why a loyal Catholic zealot like myself has such affection for a adulterous heretic like Ayn Rand, the Apostle of the Sin of Pride. Our philosophies are opposite. I say that the greatest evil in the world is to turn away from that self-sacrificing love which is like God and which is God. She says the greatest evil in the world is to live for another or to allow another to live for you.
Well, despite all differences, here is why I like her: Every time I am tempting to think the bizarre and grotesque portrayals of the collectivist villains in her novels are exaggerations, or are simplistic, or are unrealistic, real life sharply checks me.
Every time I think that the jeering gargoyles she portrays in her books could not possibly exist in real life, a Gothic rainspout shakes itself awake and speaks.
There is a scene in ATLAS SHRUGGED where no-talent writers conspire with no-talent businessmen and no-talent political hacks to pass a law forbidding any change in the production of new books or artistic products.
For a moment, the goons are puzzled as to how such a law would be played out, but the no-talent writers are relieved to hear that under this plan, their old books would be ceaselessly reprinted, and offered in bookstores, and the bookstores will be punished at law if they fail to sale the exact same number of books next year and ever after as this year. The obvious impossibility of this is not a defect in the plan, but the point. The laws are made so that everyone will be in violation of one part or another.
Under the fair-share law, successful authors have to share their success with unsuccessful authors, and the talented be punished, and the lazy be rewarded.
The argument made above that successful writers should bow gracefully aside to allow unsuccessful writers a fair share of the market is so economically illiterate, so childish, so vile, so shocking to the mind of any honest man, that it acts in part like camouflage. Upon hearing the orcs talking in their orc-talk about ruining the writing field, making the writing field worse, driving good books away and shoving bad books into their shelf space in the name of fair play, and, in short, talking about heaping the writing field high with warm filth and stinking ordure, flies and rivulets and urine, the sane people react with a blankness of mind akin to shutting one’s eyes at too great a shock. We cannot believe the orcs are serious. We assume they cannot mean that.
You want J.K. Rowlings, the most celebrated writer of our age, to write LESS? The mind reels, we think the orcs do not mean it, we do nothing to shut them down or shut them up, and then the orcs carry out their program, while we scratch our heads, puzzled that no one told us that this was exactly what they meant all along.
But it is what they mean. . . .
“Every time I think that the jeering gargoyles she portrays in her books could not possibly exist in real life, a Gothic rainspout shakes itself awake and speaks.” How marvelous! And apt to the situation!
I often notice that others in the traditionalist realms of the internet have had the same insight or made the same point on a given topic. For a recent example, I read George Michalopulos’ observations about the Winter Olympics a few days after I posted “Sochi Sour” and found quite similar arguments. We posted the entries on the same day, and yet we independently came to the same conclusions. When I find such cases, I wonder for a moment if perhaps we are suffering from a hive mind, but I do not think so. Rather, we dissenters witness the madness of the world on a daily basis and, being sane, call lunacy its proper name. The real shock is why more people do not have the same response.
Concerning Shepherd’s argument about Rowling, I find it abhorrent and shamelessly self-serving. If we want the world to become better, then why would we ask someone who makes it better by creating works of value to stop such production? Why would one wish to deprive the world of more treasure? It is wicked! Shepherd admits that she has never read any of Rowling’s books, but she questions the literary value of Rowling’s adult works based on others’ criticism. So, maybe Shepherd’s position could be defended as simply sensible aversion to hype. Yet, that hype developed from millions of readers’ experiences with her books rather than a suave media blitz, and the reputation has held up well over the last seventeen years. It is not a passing fad. Of course, a million Brits could be (and frequently are) wrong, but it is niggardly of Shepherd to refuse to grant Rowling her laurels of talent—especially when she refuses to read the author whom she judges so. Shepherd’s position is not that Rowling writes worthless drivel. In Shepherd’s own words, “when it comes to the adult market [Rowling has] had [her] turn.”
I think of Nietzsche’s reflections on Raphael in On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life, “That a Raphael had to die at the age of thirty-six, for example, is offensive to morality: such a being ought never to die” (page 48, tr. Preuss). Consider what mankind lost at Raphael’s young death. Think of what such a man could have done with another forty years. Only demons rejoice at such facts. I am not equating Harry Potter with the Italian Renaissance, but the principle applies regardless. We should rejoice at the enrichment of the world. Only the servants of hell want to make the cosmos worse rather than better. And Shepherd desires such perversity from egoism . . . how satanically fitting. It is ironic that Ayn Rand, the preacher of selfishness, should be the one who delights in the excellence of others while the “altruistic” Left allows egoism to blight the world.
I discovered a disheartening but interesting list while reading one of John Derbyshire’s recent posts on Vdare, “The HANDLE’S HAUS List Of PC Purges—And Dogma, Dissent, And Duty.” Derbyshire, who makes the list for the Lowry treatment at National Review, shares the moment that inspired him to stand athwart the spirit of the age, yelling “Liar!” He further analyzes the record to see if there are temporal trends in contemporary leftist witch-hunting (answer: inconclusive). I commend Handle for compiling a list of contemporary shame; read it: “Bullied and Badgered, Pressured and Purged.” On it are so many people whose attachés our cultural elites are not worthy to loosen . . .
Merry Christmas, blessings on this feast day of the Lord’s Circumcision, and happy Saint Basil’s day!
Weapons history enthusiasts were sad last month to see the passing of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47. The Telegraph posted a short article with photographs and video: “Kalashnikov inventor dies aged 94.” Correspondence between Kalashnikov and Patriarch Kirill has publically surfaced; read “Kalashnikov ‘feared he was to blame’ for AK-47 rifle deaths.” Alfred Nobel had similar concerns about dynamite, but he willed his fortune to award the Nobel Prizes as an atonement. Maybe, the Russian state could offer a similar honor in Kalashnikov’s memory. However, the Russkies should ensure that such awards not end up in the hands of men like Le Duc Tho, Yasser Arafat, and Al Gore and that they would go to worthy recipients—unlike Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama not even nine months into his first term.
Speaking of weapons history, I recommend that you visit the U.S. Army Ordnance Museum if you ever get the chance. It used to be at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, but the military is moving it to Fort Lee in Virginia. The place pretty much has every kind of gun, ammunition, and tank ever made. The museum director used to be an eccentric but genial officer who knew everything about the evolution of arms. He may still be there. He was a tough guy and may live forever.
Mikhail Kalashnikov—memory eternal!
Yesterday, Kristor offered a short but thoughtful essay on pedagogy and human nature on the Orthosphere, “Life & the Limit.” I recommend it as well as its comments thread.
Enjoy the weekend and Christmastide, but remember the holy innocents tomorrow (December 29/January 11)—both the original slaughtered boys and the children killed by wicked people in every age, including our own. Their blood cries out to the Lord from the ground! I’ll also think of the murder of Alexei Nikolaevich—may he pray for us and for his longsuffering people.
As I mentioned a few years ago in “Fine Art Remakes,” I don’t know why the date for the holy innocents differs in the various Churches—the memorial is observed on December 28 in the Roman Church, December 29 in the Orthodox Churches, and December 27 in some Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.
مسیح برخاسته است
Several weeks ago, Kristor posted two essays on the Orthosphere about politics that I highly recommend: “The Metastasy of Wickedness” and “A Modest Proposal: Enclose the Commons.” In them, Kristor diagnoses a disease and proposes a treatment. His diagnosis is obviously correct, but I am not fond of the suggested health regimen. Read it and ponder.
I do think that Kristor’s corporatization of politics, if ever possible, would be better than the dysfunctional and insane commontheft that we have now. However, there is no substitute for an outright principled rejection of modernity’s many idols, including and especially the liberal, egalitarian, democratic republic. Kristor’s idea is fascinating—just like fascism, Falangism, distributism, syndicalism, neo-corporatism, salafism, and other “reactionary” models for modern society. They are pretty good on noting the problems of the liberal commonwealth, the socialist state’s corrosive, enfeebling effects on its people as well as its tendency toward hard or soft tyranny, and the soul killing and flattening natures of capitalism and democracy, but they all carry a somewhat unpleasant odor. When they are not guilty of pendulum swinging overreaction or subtle or cowardly submission to leftist folly, they appear as politics’ version of a snake oil peddling crank. I think that is because they are revolutionary movements that have begun in the imaginations and mental abstractions of intellectuals rather than having slowly emerged from the trials of life through the centuries. A sane and stable political system must organically develop among civilized people with generally wise and virtuous leadership. Tragically, the last three centuries have turned every traditional society upside down and destroyed every virgin forest of the pre-revolutionary soul. Any way forward (or shall we say back to the good path) will necessarily be reactive, intellectual, and crankish—but it is a frightfully dangerous business for men to presume themselves equal to the accumulated wisdom of generations. How rare a wise lawgiver and founder of a new regime is!
I learnt yesterday of the death of Mrs. Barbara Willke this past Sunday evening. The Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati posts the details: “In Memoriam: Mrs. Barbara Willke”:
With great sadness, Cincinnati Right to Life mourns the loss of Mrs. Barbara Willke, who served as co-founder along with her husband and as chairman of the organization for 28 years. She died peacefully Sunday night at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, after suffering a severe head injury due to a fall. Funeral arrangements are pending.
“Mrs. Willke was a woman of courage and intelligence whose lifelong commitment to preserving the sanctity of human life is a moving legacy,” said Paula Westwood, Executive Director Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. “No one can fill her shoes.”
Barbara Willke was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and internationally known author, lecturer, and expert in human sexuality. She held B.S. and R.N. degrees from the University of Cincinnati, College of Nursing & Health, plus graduate studies at University of Dayton.
Mother of six, grandmother of 22, foster mother of several teenagers, Barbara headed the Department at the College of Nursing for five years before her full-time career as wife and mother. She is the wife of Dr. John Willke, past president of National Right to Life, president, Life Issues Institute and president emeritus, International Right to Life Federation. They would have been married for 65 years this June.
With Dr. Willke, Barbara co-authored twelve books on human sexuality and abortion. Together they created audio and visual materials that were proven to be basic teaching tools throughout the world. Their materials have been translated into 30 languages on all five continents. She and Dr. Willlke frequently appeared on radio and TV shows. They have spoken in 64 different countries.
Mrs. Willke was awarded honorary doctorates from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College and, along with Dr. Willke, Cincinnati’s Xavier University.
Congressman Henry Hyde’s words bring to mind Barbara Willke:
When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God — and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world — and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us!’
I used to volunteer at the Right to Life office in North College Hill when I was a teenager, and I would always find Mrs. Willke tirelessly working in her office, though she was decades older than retirement age. Even though she and her husband were instrumental in founding the right to life movement in America and were internationally celebrated in prolife circles, Mrs. Willke humbly remained in Cincinnati and toiled in our small, unpretentious R.T.L. headquarters. She would frequently come out to say encouraging words and to show her appreciation to the volunteers while we helped stuff envelopes and did other clerical tasks in the back workroom. She was always kind and grandmotherly, manifesting a quiet but radiant and peaceful joy. May her memory be eternal! And of that, I am certain. I do not have definite views on the afterlife, but if souls may converse in the presence of the Lord, then I suspect that her friend the late Nellie Gray was there to welcome Mrs. Willke home.
Yesterday, Baroness Margaret Thatcher died. May her memory be eternal.
The Telegraph lists reactions from British and world politicians and other public personalities, including the following tribute from Nancy Reagan:
It is well known that my husband and Lady Thatcher enjoyed a very special relationship as leaders of their respective countries during one of the most difficult and pivotal periods in modern history.
Ronnie and Margaret were political soul mates, committed to freedom and resolved to end communism. The world has lost a true champion of freedom and democracy.
As Prime Minister, Margaret had the clear vision and strong determination to stand up for her beliefs at a time when so many were afraid to ‘rock the boat’.
As a result, she helped to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of millions of people. Ronnie and I knew her as a dear and trusted friend, and I will miss her.
The United States knew Margaret as a spirited and courageous ally, and the world owes her a debt of gratitude.
Here is the lady during her last few days as Prime Minister arguing against the latest levellers to plague Albion:
An admirer who maintains the Youtube channel thatcheritescotthatcheritescot has compiled bits of speeches into two videos that will surely bring a smile to your face:
Thatcher now joins the other formidable and courageous persons of her generation, including Ronald Reagan, Václav Havel, John Paul II, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who have fully graduated from their service to the common good and have journeyed to better climes. Let us pray for their souls, and, God willing, may they pray for us in troubled times.
Last week, George Michalopulos posted a piece by some folks in the O.C.A. opposed to Bishop Matthias’ (Moriak) resuming his episcopal duties in the O.C.A. Diocese of the Midwest: “The Sons of Job vs Syosset.” I do not have a strong opinion about the matter, as I am not a member of the O.C.A. and because I generally have a strong aversion to penal actions. I am happy to let others deal with punishments; I just want everyone to do what is right. Sadly, men are obstinate in their wickedness, and les gendarmes et alia are necessary in society. Anyway, though I am not a partisan in the O.C.A. bishop’s battle, I did object to the reasoning and language of the “Sons of Job” statement. So, I commented:
While I am sympathetic to those fine Midwesterners who expect their bishop to behave like a bishop, I cringed at some of the statements in this article, especially in the dean’s letter:
When they observe that the Church has lower standards of consequences for sexual misconduct, harassment, and ‘Zero Tolerance’ than the U.S. Military or Corporate America – it is too much.
Both the military and the corporate world are governed by mad leftist worms and by cowards who bow to them and to their demonic ideology. Sexual harassment “law” in the United States is an unpleasant reminder of how weak and pathetic money-worshiping bourgeois society has become. Don’t rock the boat, and you’ll keep your job and paycheck — justice and integrity be damned!
And the language of the Sons themselves shows that they have adopted the mindset of feminism:
We had an archpastor with an immeasurable power differential of age, gender and office . . .
“Power differential,” “gender,” — these are ominous signs that the churchmen have fully adopted the Zeitgeist.
The bishop appears to have poor judgment, where he is more concerned about his own desires than about the good of his flock. There is no need to borrow the contaminating values of the enemies of traditional civilization to call his fitness for the episcopate into question.
This heretical attack on American orthodoxy (though pleasantly in timely accord with the Orthosphere) elicited many negative comment “votes” and even a few critical comments. Commentator “Catholic Observer” added:
I see what you are saying, kinda-sorta, but would you really want to return to the era when there were no sexual harassment laws? As a woman, I sure wouldn’t.
It’s not just leftist whiners who appreciate such laws. It’s any woman who has ever been humiliated by innuendo-laced questions at a job interview. Or who has attended an offsite sales conference that featured a “wet T-shirt” contest. (For female employees only, of course.) Or who has repulsed an attempted RAPE by her boss in the bowels of Widener Library and then received neither credence nor support from her employer, Harvard College Libraries. Or who has been fired from an ad agency after complaining to her superior about an influential client’s repeated sexual advances.
All of the incidents I’ve recounted above are 100% true stories. The first two occurred in my own life; the last two happened to friends.
You may want to go back to those days, before the “leftists” insisted that women have some protection and redress against workplace predators.
As for me…thanks, but no thanks.
(Yes, I am aware that there are male victims, too, but they are outnumbered by female victims, as you yourself seem to concede via your references to feminism.)
Elsewhere, “Catholic Observer” identified himself (I assume) [wrong—I had overlooked “As a woman . . .”] as a Roman traditionalist. He is not your typical “Take Back the Night” marching, Vagina Monologues watching member of N.O.W., but he nevertheless has accepted the feminist (sic) version of society and history. It is for such reasons that I think that our society will perish—not because of the abundance of crazies but because of the dearth of the sane. The leftist invasion of the mind snatchers has been quite successful. I responded:
Oh, absolutely. Those grievous dark days — you know, the 1950′s — when crimes were about transgressing clearly defined boundaries rather than about the subjective, perceived discomfort of “protected classes.” When standards for proper conduct were based upon the common, received morality of a Christian people rather than cowards’ fear of lawsuits by the Left’s designated pet victim groups. When society had the good sense to carve out spheres of sociable interaction for men and women and to regulate, through social force and through law, the necessary decorum and behavior required for a civilized society. After the deluge, when we live in an anarcho-tyrannical state of fear and mistrust, we have far more use, abuse, and degradation of women than existed in those intolerable years before the sexual and cultural revolution. Would I return society to civilization and away from barbarism? Definitely!
This prompted “Pere LaChaise” to write:
Joseph, you write like a true zealot for a vague reminiscence of things that were better before women and people of color got involved. Welcome to the past, sir.
I rather fancy the word “zealot.” I have often written that, to the consternation of my fellow wayfarers and to the dismay of my betters, I have a leftist personality. Unlike the Left, though, the past truly is welcome to me; I feel neither temporal alienation nor the burden of my predecessors. I just do not have those “Daddy issues.”
Well, I normally ignore leftist trolling and snarks, but I took the bait. Most readers of Monomakhos are generally conservative Orthodox Americans from the more modernist jurisdictions. They are like Republicans; the leftist transformation of society upsets them but they lack clear principles to know why it is bad. Hence, they usually adopt the framework and the principles of the enemy unaware, and they thus eventually fold like cardboard housing in a storm. I figure that my insignificant witness online and in person may help to counteract the incessant onslaught of confusion for the few with ears to hear. So, I replied:
Leftist regimes are unsustainable. For they misunderstand human nature (egalitarianism, refusal to acknowledge sex differences and roles, inconsistent awareness of the tribal reflex in man, and pretty much everything else characteristic of their insanity) and they aim for improper ends (autonomy of the individual will, fulfillment of the appetites, destruction of any hierarchy of values, priorities, or tastes beyond the individual’s choosing, overturning of all traditional, time-tested restraint, and the necessary, unavoidable contradictions of trying to impose liberalism – a glorification of the self – on others). And so they will not last long. The more successful they are in implementing their perverse understanding of justice, the quicker they will kill their host society. They are thus bad parasites (bad for the host and, in the long run, for themselves). One would think that so many who claim Darwin and natural science as unassailable authorities would apply the concept of fitness to their own political situation.
It is fitting that you take the name of a graveyard; it reminds me of Dostoevsky’s famous line about Europe. In that lovely Parisian plot lies the corpse of Jim Morrison, whose own life manifests well the disorder of the new regime and of the new man. In it, also, are the bodies of Héloïse and Abélard, who dealt with the injustices of the old regime—though a regime capable of regularly producing such beautiful and noble souls that transcend the shortcomings of an unjust world. In any human society, comprised of fallen men, there will be ugliness and rot. Some societies, however, cultivate virtue and goodness. Ours gives us Sandra Fluke. I’ll happily remember (through cultural memory, not my own) the time before sluts as sluts became our society’s heroes.
Do you blame the involvement of women and “people of color” [per Lou Grant—which color?] for the fall? Or is their lack of involvement all that matters? So, a strong, prosperous, socially (comparably) unified republic—1950’s America, where, incidently, Americans of all “colors” and sexes were more involved in their communities and with each other than in our age of increasing alienation—is to be condemned because women still largely ran domestic and unofficial civic affairs rather than the corporate world and elected offices? Because American blacks lived, depending on their location, with state-sponsored or state-tolerated segregation? Behold the liberal’s true mind-set! He would rather everyone live in equal misery in the husk of a decaying commonwealth than for people to live happily unequally in a stable and generally healthy society. For women and blacks are less happy now than in those terrible days before the 1960’s, but liberals can only process information with images of white cops with billy clubs and riot gear and the poor, eternally oppressed Negro. Where is the concern for blacks’ welfare as a result of Orwellian named “welfare”? Where is the concern for blacks’ moral goodness? Where is the liberal’s self-righteousness when lower end American blacks now live in a culture so filthy and bleak that even the Hobbesian state of nature looks more human and ennobling by comparison? In the terrible days of Jim Crow, it was much easier to find intact black families, solid and packed black religious congregations, black neighborhoods where crime was low and trust was high, and individual black Americans of developed virtue and good sense. The civil rights movement was useful for the talented tenth, but things took a nosedive for everyone else once whites started “helping” the poor blacks of neverending victimhood. This should not surprise anyone honest about human nature, but liberals do not believe in human nature. Moreover, for liberals, blacks are not moral agents—not human beings who choose right or wrong like everyone else—but rather sacralized objects of devotion by which liberals may practice their substitute heathen religion on the altar of white guilt (not their own, mind you, but others’). Every misdeed by a black is not a sin, crime, or moral failing, but rather the collective responsibility of “racism” – particular or “institutional” and “systemic.” To blot out these transgressions, the white liberals atone for the sins – of others. They are like Christ—indeed, better than Christ—since Christians are such bigots, you know. Every lefty is a little John “more popular than Jesus” Lennon who glows in self adulation, knowing that he is the redeemer of the world. Verily, verily, he is the one that he has been waiting for.
It is an unworthy but nevertheless bountiful offering of traditionalist points of which many (most?) of Mr. Michalopulos’ readers have been sadly unaware. Let us all do our part to plants seeds, though we do not know when and where kernels will fall on fertile ground. Moreover, if we occasionally have the pleasure of shoving such seeds in leftist eyes, it is so much the better. We all have our sinful indulgences.
Update: One of Michalopulos’ readers who is a proud representative from the Old Left objected to my characterization of leftist regimes as “unsustainable.” He offered Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Cuba as examples. I commented:
Take Sweden, for instance. Its ideology has reduced its birthrate, made its people into heathen hedonists incapable and unwilling to uphold their own nation, and invited alien hordes into its cities — an invasion that will lead to population replacement and to a very different cultural and social regime. In the meantime, when the less than leftist newcomers rape the women and assault the men, the society is voiceless and unable to address the problems (due to its ideology). Instead of identifying the causes behind the sharp spike in sexual assaults, the Swedes double down in their error and increase their estrogenized Orwellian policies, further emasculating Swedish men — the natural protectors of their compatriotes in a sane society. Similarly, when the newbies paint religio-ethnic slurs on synagogues and render some of the most Jew-friendly cities in the world dangerous to Jacob’s children, the elite worries about the rise of the “far right.” It’s beyond dystopic fiction, beyond farce. What has led those well ordered Scandinavians to such madness? Their autophagous leftist ideology, which will destroy their society, unless, as we hope, they will repent of it before it consumes them.
Last month on The Orthosphere, Kristor published “The Production of Righteousness” about the ultimate aim of social policy. The post and its comments are worth reading.
In undergrad., I remember reading various facile distinctions between the legitimate aims of secular society and those of the Church. A common marker was that politics aimed for material well-being while religion aimed for spiritual well-being. A more respectable opinion held that the commonwealth inculcated the natural virtues, while the Church cultivated the theological virtues. I found and continue to find these distinctions bogus. If the ultimate aim—the highest good—of man is God, then all other considerations follow from that. If a king is to consider the good of his people, then he must facilitate their attainment of the highest good, in relation to which all other goods have their place and meaning. If the bishop’s job is to shepherd his flock toward salvation, he, too, must concern himself with their character development and with conditions conducive to living morally. A king and a bishop in a Christian society wear different crowns (figuratively if not literally, thanks to the Turks!), but the common delineations of their duties remain unsatisfactory. One leads the institution of the state, which is simply the organizing power of the whole people for the preservation of society, while the other leads the ecclesiastic institution, which is simply the organizing power of the whole people (in a Christian society) for the salvation of souls. However, measures that preserve society and those that foster spiritual growth largely overlap. It is for this reason that “Church and state” ought to cooperate in a partnership—a symphony—for the good of men.
Earlier in the month, Bruce Charlton posted a short but powerful summary of our contemporary predicament in “The extreme depravity of modern Western leaders.” While I read Charlton’s description of the modern Western elite, I thought of Eliot’s observation from The Cocktail Party:
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm—but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
May the age of self esteem soon become an age of repentence!