Last week, Auster revisted an old post where he addressed the unprincipled exceptions of the Left: “The unprincipled exception as dramatized in Atlas Shrugged” Auster begins by summarizing the unprincipled exception, which he frequently mentions as it is necessarily common in leftist policies:
Since liberalism contradicts the nature of reality, it must lead to the death of society if its principles are consistently followed. Therefore a liberal society, in order to continue functioning and surviving, must make lots of exceptions to liberal principles. But since liberal society prohibits all non-liberal principles, these exceptions, upon which the very existence of the society depends, have no principle to back them up. Thus the only way a member of liberal society can slow its march to destruction is through means that to him must seem unprincipled. Liberal society remains viable only insofar as unprincipled exceptions prevent it from consistently following its own principles; and it only seems viable to its members insofar as they employ unprincipled exceptions to disguise from themselves its true nature and inevitable end.
Auster has compiled a list of articles that deal with this issue, “The unprincipled exception: a key to understanding liberalism.”
I find it perplexing, though, that so few people wake from their contradictions. It is the same mystery as to why men remain in the cave in The Republic. Why did the Athenians allow Socrates to be sentenced to death? Why did the Jews choose Barabbas over Jesus? The stupidity, wickedness, and cowardice of the herd are evident in most places at most times. Such is the lot of fallen man. Happily, though, what I call existential logic sparks a discomfort in some people, which results in a journey that leads them out of darkness and into the light.
On Monday, I attended the thirty-ninth March for Life. It is strange to think that I have gone to about half of the Marches for Life in history. I last was not able to go fifteen years ago because I was in Europe at the time. As such, I have a good understanding of how the march has evolved. One strikingly visible change has been the numbers, appearance, and age of men and women in the consecrated life at the march. Roman Catholics have always been the overwhelmingly dominant group at the march, and they continue to be so. However, their priests, friars, sisters, monks, and nuns are more numerous every year. Their garb has become much more traditional, reflecting the return to traditional practices that is so evident in Roman Catholicism. When I arrived at the pre-march rally, I could not find the Orthodox group at first, and I moved around the Mall trying to spot them. The proliferation of cassock wearing Roman priests complicated my efforts. I finally got so tired of scanning such groupings of men that I approached some Latin priests and said, “I’m glad that you guys are wearing cassocks, again, but it makes my life harder when I’m trying to find the Orthodox group.” The priests had a jolly laugh and then pointed me in the right direction to find the group.
The religious folks are also getting younger. I told my friend Andrew that I saw hundreds of pretty young nuns on Monday and such made me very happy. Not in a weird, Catholic school girl uniform fetish sort of way, mind you! Rather, youth is vibrant and attractive, and I find the sacrifice of youth and beauty to the consecrated life particularly beautiful. The practice is clearly dysgenic, which is unfortunate, but sacrifices are necessarily important losses. I also talked to a group of handsome, masculine, well groomed Jesuits about the state of affairs in that long suffering order so dear to my heart, and I have further confidence that the younger Jesuits will end that particular community’s recent rebellion. The new generation holds much promise.
Furthermore, these folks are, in fundy terms, “on fire for the Lord,” and they are actively recruiting. At the exhibit hall for the March for Life, religious women were passing out vocations material specific to men and women. One order had a brochure labeled “Joseph” and another labeled “Mary,” each well suited to reaching their targeted demographic. For instance, the men’s material uses very martial language. One of the responses to “Why devote yourself to God in religious life?” is “To bolster the ranks of the Church Militant in choosing for your tour of duty during this short life to fight on the front lines for God and His Church.” Amen! This is how to recruit strong, energetic young men to the consecrated life! I am happy that the Latins have finally rediscovered their testicular fortitude after a long exile in the estrogenized desert.
As for the Orthodoxy community, I was pleased by Metropolitan Jonah’s address. When the introducer stressed that the invocation would be a historic first joint witness and prayer of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox bishops at the March for Life, I was alarmed, thinking that the Metropolitan had gone rogue and was about to cause the heads of all the Churches’ external relations departments simultaneously to explode around the world. Yet, the bishops were very clever. They stressed that they were having a joint prayer, but Metroplitan Jonah delivered it with Timothy Cardinal-elect Dolan standing next to him. That way, unity was shown without causing scandal to the Orthodox, who are wary of joint prayers. After the prayer, the two men hugged and shared the kiss of peace. It was satisfying to see the Latin and Orthodox bishops exercise such diplomatic intelligence. Harmless as doves and wise as serpents! Perhaps, the Metropolitan’s recent political turmoil has taught him to be shrewd.
The Orthodox marching, group, however, continued to be dysfunctional. On George Michalopulos’ site, I saw that a deacon had mentioned the march. I responded thus:
Father, if you have any influence on the group, could you please remind the banner carriers that they are always negligent of the crowd behind them? For years, I have thought about writing a letter, but I don’t know to whom I should send it. I have attended the march pretty much every year since I was a child, and I have marched with the Orthodox group most years over the past decade. However, for the past five years or so, the banner carriers—probably due to their being feisty seminarians—behave as though they are not leading a crowd of people through a gigantic mass of folks. They always leave most of the group behind, especially at the beginning. This year was no different, but thankfully they stopped at the corner on Constitution because they left the bishops! Maybe that was their plan for regrouping, but they need to wait every year for the group to collect.
I understand that they want to get to First Street to have time for the service, but there was plenty of time. Also, if they are worried of the Capitol Police kicking them off the corner as has happened before, why don’t they move to the plaza across from the Supreme Court? I know that we are there for a cause, but we are also quite a visible spectacle to thousands of positively disposed people who have only heard of Orthodoxy. Every year, I witness dozens of interested folks, mostly enthusiastic Latins, engage the group with questions and encouraging words. We would increase our visibility near the Supreme Court and allow for more onlookers to join us in prayer since it is the end of the marching route there.
This may not be able to be helped, but stationing the group far from the rally (like this year) keeps us from being able to hear the rally (and the Metropolitan’s prayer) and makes us largely invisible to the marchers and to the Orthodox in the crowd who are looking for us. I searched for the group for at least an hour in that muddy mess before I located them on Seventh Street far from the rally. On the way, I came across several disparate groups of Orthodox Christians, including nuns from All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery on Long Island, who would have otherwise marched with us had the group been present and visible at the rally.
I know that organization is largely alien to our ethos, but we can do better. So, if you know how to rectify the situation, it would be highly appreciated.
Maybe, the deacon can forward such concerns to someone who can improve the group’s planning.
For the past four years, I have been able to play tour guide a bit for my brother’s high school group before and after the march. This year, the boys arrived in Washington a day early, which allowed them to see more of the city. If you take such a long bus trip, you ought to spend more time in the capital than simply the hours of the march. Plus, getting a decent rest in a bed makes the day of the march better in every way. I met the group at Union Station after the divine liturgy, which worked well since the group attended mass at the basilica in the morning. From there, I showed them some Capitol Hill sites on the way to the National Mall. We had the chance to visit many museums and monuments until I returned the very exhausted group to their hotel that night. Unfortunately, I only saw the group for a minute while they were passing the Orthodox memorial service at the end of the march, but I hope that their Monday went well.
Among other observations, I must say that I prefer freezing temperatures to the rain. The rally was a mud pit, and umbrellas and crowds go poorly together. Still, I was surprised by the turnout. Every year, people say that the march is getting bigger, and that usually seems to be the case. I remember that the march in A.D. 2001 was particularly impressive, but I attribute that to the inauguration crowds’ participants’ double dipping. Moreover, folks back then anticipated some positive political change with Bush’s election, and such energy likely affected a numbers boost at the march. Nonetheless, recent years have seemed larger than before.
I was also pleased that the route was lengthened this year due to the Mall’s restoration project that forced the rally back to Ninth Street. The eastward creep of the march over the past decade has bothered me a lot, as I mentioned in recent years in “The March and the Media” and in “Thirty-eighth March.” I wish that they would return to the Ellipse.
Unlike the last few marches, I did manage to see a counter protester this year. After the march, as I walked to the Hyatt Regecy to see the exhibit hall, I passed one scruffy looking, thirty something man who was wearing two cardboard pieces like the Soldiers of Hearts in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. The boards stated something about voting for “choice.”
I noticed a few signs that made me smile, but I cannot recall them now. I should have taken pictures. I did see a group of children with stuffed minion dolls (from Despicable Me) on which they had written, “Minions for Life.” That was cute. I also noticed a large banner held by Anglican converts to Rome that stated, “Thank you, Holy Father, for Anglicanorum Coetibus!” When I saw the Yoopers for Life sign, I had to ask the group if they had brought pasties for everyone. Sadly, they said that they had run out.
As always, my fellow Ohioans made a strong showing. The young priest who accompanied my brother’s high school group said that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati had 1,700 student tickets, with additional staff, clergy, and chaperone tickets, of the 20,000 total tickets. If we add 150 more for staff, that makes 1,850 of 20,000, or 9.25%. That is amazing. If we added the tickets for other Ohio cities, it is possible that a fifth or even a quarter of the participants were Ohioans. Yet, it confirms the anecdotal evidence of seeing so many Ohio groups so well represented at every year’s march. Midwesterners, in general, have a strong showing, along with groups from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Virginia, as one would expect. Foreign delegations included Canadians, Germans, Italians, the French, Brazilians, Mexicans, and I believe Guyana, whose drum playing visitors I had never seen before.
In summary, the day went well despite the rain. I wish that every day in Sodom, there were so many righteous men in the city.
For this holiest of days on our modern civic calendar, I recommend that you read Paul Gottfried’s “The Patron Saint of White Guilt” from Taki’s Magazine. After such edification, if you still hunger for a chance to indulge more piety, enjoy One STDV’s “Example of MLK as Deity,” inspired by Gottfried’s brief article.
One would think that such sanctimonious madness exists only on the political Left, but Leftism has colonized mainstream conservative institutions and minds. For example, Glenn Beck named Saint Martin of Sorrowful Memory as one of history’s four champions of peaceful revolution along with Moses, Jesus Christ, and Ghandi. Of course, Beck is an American and a Mormon, which means that his historical compass wavers after we go back more than two centuries. Still, I find it surprising that a prominent American “conservative” media figure like Beck includes Ghandi and King among the most important men in any category that spans human history or that he reckons that Mose’s and Jesus’ accomplishments involve “peaceful revolution.”
Update: It appears that the unrepentant Right shares a mental morphic field at times. A day after posting my homage to Saint Martin, I read Richard Spencer’s “The God of White Dispossession,” which starts with, “On this, the holiest day of modern America’s liturgical calendar, we should revisit Samuel Francis’s writing on the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.” Later, Spencer also criticizes Glenn Beck, though more generally than my post does. I suppose that the Left’s worship of King and Beck’s unconsidered enthusiasm for him make them standard targets for conservative disgust. Moreover, I believe that Gottfried and Francis were friends. So, even our auctores were related.
Christ is born!
Merry Christmas on this seventh day of the Nativity and happy birthday to my nephew, Austin. Many years and blessings to him! He was born on Friday the thirteenth of January (December 31 on the Church’s calendar), and so the cycle has revolved, again.
Yesterday, Lawrence Auster explained a bit more of his recent change in outlook in “Small moves away from liberalism are not going to turn around the society as a whole.” Auster states that he no longer thinks that our civilization will repent from its spiral toward nihilism and barbarity. He therefore counsels what we may do without falling into despair. The ever insightful Kristor adds the following comment:
Back in 1973, when I was a teenaged commie, I used to engage with my commie friends in political discussions that would go on for hours and hours. The only thing I remember from those discussions is a dictum that arose from within me one day, unbidden, yet fully formed, when we were talking about what it meant to be a radical: “To be a radical is to be forever unsatisfied with the content of history, yet reconciled to the process of history.” This attitude will be familiar to readers of VFR from the phenomenon here oft noted, of the fact that liberals understand there to be no limit, no stopping point, to the process of social reform. What has happened and is now happening, however many improvements there might have been, is totally unsatisfactory, and awaits the incipient onset of a gnostic New Age, in which every sordid thing that has come before will be repudiated and destroyed. Nevertheless, however, the ugly things that are happening now are the birth pangs of that New Age, and since birth is painful, it is to be expected that the process should make most of us quite uncomfortable (and even, many of us, dead); yet for the sake of that glorious New Age, we should not chafe at our discomforts of ugliness, but rather shoulder them cheerfully, happy with the way things are tending. That’s a radical: forever unhappy with things as they are, while delighted with the endless evolutionary/revolutionary process of history as it works its way toward a new utopian order.
It strikes me that this dictum is just as applicable to Traditionalist radicals as it is to those of the Left, albeit along a diametrically different vector; for the Traditionalist sees history as having Fallen from a Golden Age, and tending toward an ultimate, inescapable eschatological catastrophe, while the Leftist sees it as going the opposite direction. As pessimists about the prospects for a merely human project of saving the world, Traditionalists are more apt to respect and cherish the beauties it has so far produced, that are in the nature of things always eventually lost to the flux of time, and skeptical about their “new, improved” replacements. Until the Enlightenment, such was the prevalent attitude—the traditional attitude—in all cultures and throughout history. The hope added thereto by the Christian Gospel, of an ultimate, permanent, and total redemption of history at the eschaton, completed that vision, healing and correcting the despair that it had recommended to men, and nerving them to the creation of new and sublime creaturely beauties: cathedrals, songs, voyages, poems, discoveries, philosophies, enterprises of all kinds.
Our job then—indeed our duty—as Traditionalist radicals is, to name the uglinesses now pervading our world, not surrendering to despair thereat, but rather rejoicing nonetheless in the marvelous and orderly beauty that still, always, nevertheless surrounds us, and determined to enact such new beauties as may be within our poor powers. We are all of us engaged throughout our lives in a steady progress toward our own personal holocausts, in which every good thing we have loved will be immolated. Yet we may have confidence that, as all of history is an instrument and expression of Beauty Himself, so must that Beauty which is the source of all things eventually, utterly prevail in and through all things. We may therefore—indeed, we should—make our way toward our common doom, singing and rejoicing, if only to adorn this world’s everlasting resurrection. For, thanks to the Divine omniscience, no worldly good can fail of resurrection in the life to come.
And that, in the final analysis, is why we humans have children, and want to have children. It is why we want to preserve them, and to preserve our culture, and our lives. It is why we are ordered toward reproduction, survival, prosperity, enjoyment. Mere death makes all these things vain, empty, stupid. If death were the end of the story, none of these things would be worth doing, much; so that as our culture has come to believe in the ultimate finality of death, it has done less and less of them. But if death is not the end of the story, and the goods of this world are destined to permanent life in the world to come, then all these vital pleasures are objectively and immensely important—not all-important, to be sure, not first things, but important nonetheless.
What then ought we to do about the death of our culture? Do what is good, and beautiful, and virtuous. Nothing will be wasted, no good thing forever lost; everything will be remembered, and accounted for. From the good and virtuous things that we engender—children, mostly, but also our work, our charity, our thought, our art—something appropriate will arise. We may trust in that.
Kristor beautifully reminds us of the Christian hope and offers sage advice on how we may act as instruments through which the Lord transfigures the world into his perfected creation. Moreover, I found it more than a little ironic that Kristor begins his comment, “Back in 1973, when I was a teenaged commie,” in a thread about the hellish trajectory of the modern West. If a Communist can become what Kristor is now, then anything is possible! But, of course, we have always known this. The hagiographies of the saints remind us over and over of the power of repentance and of the transformation that God affects upon men and women who allow him to do so. Mary of Egypt and Moses the Black come to mind.
I had a friend in college who was raised in an extraordinarily pious Roman Catholic family. His mother appeared to me as the very incarnation of the traditional Catholic maternal presence. His parents and siblings would continually pray together; road trips would be opportunities to say the rosary as a family. Very Catholic! Then, one day, my friend told me about his parents’ youth. His mother was a radical feminist in college, rebellious against traditional society and the Church. The Lord works many wonders, and the human mind may be surprisingly resilient in struggling for truth in the midst of lies. Given such examples, it is reasonable to hope for the salvation of our civilization in time and not only in the eschaton.