In Crisis Magazine, Anthony Esolen has responded to James Martin, S.J. of America Magazine and to his pontifical attempts to ferry Sodom across the Tiber. I recommend his jeremiad, “Open Your Eyes, Father Martin.” Esolen is always worth reading, and this rebuke serves as a suitable brevem coram Deo against the Sexual Revolution.
A few weeks ago on my mother’s birthday, anthropologist Henry Harpending died. Steve Sailer wrote a thoughtful obituary of sorts for him on Taki’s Mag that also reminds us that we live in interesting times: “The Scientist vs. the SPLC.” Sailer also commemorated the man on his blog by quoting Harpending’s lively account of hunting Cape Buffalo: “Henry Harpending, RIP.” May his memory be eternal.
I suspect that his University of Utah replacement will not follow in his footsteps. It’s sad how often I have occasion to think, “Sic transit gloria mundi,” but that has probably been true for most men throughout history. It’s even sadder how often I wonder whether we are entering a new dark age.
Jane Clark Scharl revisits Josef Pieper’s sensible words about work and leisure in “Josef Pieper’s Guide to Getting Over FOMO” in the Intercollegiate Review. I did not recognize “FOMO,” but Scharl graciously informs us that it means “fear of missing out.” It’s the less confident acronym for neurotics; type A folks use YOLO. Scharl explains Pieper:
In his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Pieper writes, “In order to gain a clear notion of leisure, we must begin by setting aside the prejudice . . . that comes from overvaluing the sphere of work.”
According to Pieper, we believe, mistakenly, in the philosophy of “total work,” which maintains that happiness can be achieved by work. Work he defines as anything “unleisurely”—literally any activity that has its end in the material world. We live today as if work were the most important thing we can do. From grade school up, we go school so we can get into college and get a good job, and then be happy and fulfilled.
But despite the urgent demands of bodies and matter, Pieper reminds us that we aren’t completely material. Humans have intellects, which can transcend matter through reason and reflection. So in order to be truly fulfilled (or fully filled, if I may), we must look for happiness in something that can likewise transcend matter—something other than work. That quest for happiness outside of work is called leisure.
For millennia, leisure was at the core of Western culture (and arguably an Eastern tradition, though that’s for another day). Whether we acknowledge it or not, Pieper says that “leisure is the centerpoint about which everything revolves.” But by the time he wrote his book in 1947, the philosophy of “total work” had pervaded Western society and degraded the concept of leisure to mean “doing nothing” or “free time.” We think of leisure as a void between periods of work, which we can use either to rest from work or fill with the “rewards” of our labor: stuff or experiences that work made possible for us.
But that’s an impoverished view of things. Leisure is far from idleness. Rather, it is the fullest of all time, because unlike work, leisure is dedicated to fulfilling the transcendent part of us. Pieper says leisure includes “relaxation” and “effortlessness,” because it requires us to be fully active, affirming “the universe and [our] experiencing [of] the world in an aspect other than its everyday one” (emphasis mine).
Scharl’s discussion of Pieper reminds me of the recent examinations of Common Core in the Intercollegiate Review and of how the new educational guidelines reduce childhood education to vocational training. A old style Marxist might suspect that the wealthy just want to dull the minds of the people while simultaneously training them to be efficient workers—well shaped cogs in the economy’s production machine. Yet, I fear that the truth is even worse—for the elite appear to want the same reduction of education even for their own schools—for their own children. Naturally, they want finer trappings with a pedagogical orientation toward higher earning vocations, but they remain committed to the belief that education equals vocational training. Gone are the days when the mighty captains of industry supported the cultivation of the human spirit (not to mention the more proper elite of the ancien régime). The industrialists of yore benefited from liberal education and had to have a broad grasp of the West’s history, controversies, achievements, and failings. Even had they come from secular families, they would have known more about the Christian religion than contemporary theology majors. Notwithstanding their possible tendencies toward philistinism, the culture at large would have impressed the importance of beauty and refinement on them so that they would have at least attempted to comply for appearance’s sake. Today, our commercial titans go to Silicon Valley, which is full of brilliant men whose interests and horizons largely correspond to their work. The t-shirt wearing, tieless man-children who pontificate at TED Talks after having read one Malcolm Gladwell book or having volunteered for a charitable stint in the Third World think themselves intellectual eagles, but they know less about the nature of man and of civilization than the schoolboys at Yale a century ago. The current plutocrats are themselves products of a degenerate society; while rich and powerful, they are spiritually emaciated and are too tunnel-visioned—indeed, too ignorant—to influence and lead the nation wisely.
For example, though his mother supported the Seattle Symphony, Bill Gates scoffs at traditional philanthropy to support the fine arts and humanities. Gates has given charitably for medical research and epidemiological missions, which are fine goals. Survival is a good thing, but flourishing is better. Yet, flourishing is too frivolous, too marginal for our latter day plutocrats to support. For the new elite is utilitarian in their morality, materialist in their metaphysics, and worse than Marx in their understanding of man and of the potential for human excellence. There are obvious exceptions, but our society’s technocratic managers’ coarseness and striking ignorance of matters beyond their specialized fields surprise and frighten me. The spiritual squalor of America’s rich matches that of its feral poor and compliant, complacent bourgeoisie—all is a consumerist wasteland where the nomads delight only in gadgets and in the meanest of pleasures.
Last month, I offered several articles from Salvo Magazine that dealt with contemporary ailing academic life in “The Mod Quad.” Today, I present a selection of Salvo‘s articles about earlier education. I recommend them, especially “Daycare Denial” and “School Deform.” They both cover disturbing developments in our quite troubled times. From “Daycare Denial: Inconvenient Truths about Childcare Subvert the Very Best Intentions” by Marcia Segelstein:
When Saubier and her fellow daycare workers learned that a new child would soon be coming, “we braced ourselves for the tormented cries of a confused child who would soon be spending his or her days with us.” She stresses that crying in daycare is not limited to the child’s first few days. “Children are continually crying in daycare,” she writes, “because there is often no one available to pick them up when they fall, wipe their noses when they have a cold, kindly show them that hitting and biting is wrong, or tenderly change their diapers.”
I found one of Saubier’s stories especially poignant:
One winter, while on the playground, I passed by a group of two-year-olds. One was stumbling around in the cold, crying, and I put out my arms to him to see if he wanted to be held. Not knowing me at all, he still came to me and I stood there holding him a bit. He put his head on my shoulder and I regretted having to put him down. Soon there were three others at my feet asking to be picked up. I remember thinking that it was really pathetic that these little ones were begging to be held by someone they did not know. I held each one quickly before returning my attention back to the infants in my care.
. . . Parents, experts, and even politicians often defend and promote daycare with the claim that it helps children learn how to socialize. But based on her firsthand experiences, Saubier has a different take on the kind of socializing daycare cultivates. “Socializing in daycare fosters aggressive behavior simply because children are forced to go into survival mode once deposited among so many other children who are at a self-centered, ‘me’ stage developmentally,” she writes.
From “School Deform: How Common Core Promotes Cultural Engineering by Killing the Imagination” by Robin Phillips:
The architects of Common Core have spoken candidly about what they see as the goal of education, and it is not education at all, but training. What they want from the next generation is not better people but better workers, and Common Core offers the environmental conditioning for producing them.
This differs greatly from traditional classical education. America’s founders understood that a healthy democracy requires that citizens learn to think critically, to ask questions, and to develop well-ordered faculties of reason and imagination. Citizens who were inculcated in the ways of sound thinking would be able to preserve the riches of our cultural heritage. This was the same vision articulated by Plato, who argued in The Republic that the highest goal of all education is knowledge of the Good.
By contrast, when the architects of Common Core tried to describe the goal of education, they were unable to articulate anything higher than “college and career readiness” and “21st century literacy” for a “global economy.” To them, students are little more than units pegged for a future workforce whose productivity will keep America competitive with emerging economies like China and India. As Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins warned on the Catholic Vote website, Common Core “is a workforce-development scheme that treats the individual as human capital, to be shepherded where needed in aid of a centralized, corporatist economy. Schools are factories where children are trained, and the teachers are their supervisors.”
Please read both articles in their entirety. It disgusts me to see such complacency toward this new inhuman educational regime, especially by educators whose very vocations are compromised and degraded by efforts like Common Core. How is it that teachers, administrators, politicians, and parents, from the Left and the “Right,” have allowed this to happen? Either they actively support the killing of the mind, which I find horrific but possible, given the Zeitgeist, or they just don’t care. For one reason why they might not care, see “On Compulsory Mis-education: Teaching the Young to Despise Their Heritage” by Cameron Wybrow. How sad of a society we have become.
Today marks the third anniversary of Lawrence Auster’s untimely death—very sad. I miss reading his View from the Right, and I frequently wonder how Auster would comment on the passing scene. May his memory be eternal.
In honor of Mr. Auster, who frequently wrote about quirky, interesting side topics, I present a suitably out of this world article from Salvo, “ETI in the Sky: What the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life Means for Us.” The article’s author Hugh Ross surveys the disappointing results in the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life—disappointing, that is, to those of us who had hoped or expected to find some trace of non-human civilization “out there.”
Perhaps, pessimism is unwarranted; Ross’ conclusions are based on assumptions that may not be justified. I don’t know; I’ll defer to the scientists in their judgment. Yet, I do question how we can confidently expect alien life and civilization to follow our own model. Isn’t it conceivable that the conditions for intelligent life elsewhere need not be the same as the conditions for such on earth? Furthermore, one of Ross’ points is based on the idea that an advanced alien civilization would harness local solar (stellar?) power in a particular way. Cosmic-sized cultural imposition of a decidedly Baconian-Cartesian flavor, no? So, I remain agnostic on the issue, though Ross’ article did make me a bit sad. For all the splendors of our world, it is disappointing to consider the universe so limited in its manifestations of life.
Daniel J. Mahoney has an insightful essay in the Intercollegiate Review: “The Healthy Boundaries of Democracy.” A selection:
“Progressive” thought is defined by the view that liberty and equality are unproblematic, and that the great task before democratic peoples is to maximize them, to make the world ever more “democratic” and egalitarian. The solution to the problems of democracy is said to be more democracy, as the philosopher John Dewey famously proclaimed at the beginning of the twentieth century. True democracy must move to the left, becoming ever more inclusive, tolerant, egalitarian, and relativistic. To realize the democratic ideal, we must reject antiquated truths and insist on extreme equality and unlimited personal choice (think “the right to choose” or the self-reinvention central to “gender theory”). In this view there is no such thing as loving democracy (or liberty and equality) too much.
What could possibly be wrong with such an uncompromising commitment to the “democratic” ideal? To begin with, progressivism (and extreme libertarianism) forgets the goods, habits, and traditions that make a free society cohere. Elsewhere I have called them the “conservative foundations of the liberal order.” These goods—healthy family life, a moral code rooted in religion and natural law, prudent and far-seeing statesmanship, the rule of law, a respect for legitimate institutions, love of truth—were largely taken for granted by the Founders of the American republic. As the philosopher Michael Polyani put it in the 1960s, the best of the liberal tradition, including the American Founding, presupposed an “authoritative traditional framework” that could protect, nourish, and inform “the new self-determination of man.” Liberalism, properly understood, presupposes the continuity of civilization. It undermines itself if it demands “liberation” from all moral restraints.
At its best, liberalism must include a self-consciously conservative dimension. Rational self-mastery and the freedom to choose, goods cherished by liberals and conservatives alike, do not mean that individuals are radically independent, that they are completely sovereign over themselves and the world. Progressivism is that crucial moment when liberalism succumbs to an ethic of absolute autonomy, when it liberates human beings from an order of nature or justice above the human will. It is that moment when liberalism subverts itself by negating the goods that truly allow it to flourish.
I considered myself a classical liberal as a teenager, but I began to reject the Anglo-American liberal tradition during my first month at college. While I value certain aspects of liberalism, I cannot see how one may have the tempered liberalism that Anglosphere “conservatives” frequently champion as the best political arrangement. Liberal regimes appear to unfold according to their basic principles, which esteem human equality and liberty and deny the existence and/or the intelligibility of the (natural) human good. Because such principles conflict with reality, liberal regimes are inherently unstable. So, the mixed regimes of nineteenth century Britain and America that the English speaking Right holds up as exemplars of strong societies were not balanced, constitutional orders but rather a stage of social decay with many admirable but fleeting qualities. History appears to confirm this insight of political theory in that there has always been a significant presence of radicals in the modern English speaking world. Consider the Unitarians of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the multitude of sects and communes in the nineteenth century, the rhetoric and ideals put forth by abolitionists and suffragettes—indeed, there is nothing new under the Daily Kos sun. The glaring exception appears to be “homosexual ‘marriage,’” as I cannot find any precedent for it before the last century. Yet, the revolutionaries have been attacking traditional Christian marriage since the misnamed Enlightenment. In every way, it seems that the wackydoodle fringes just have to wait for the larger society to “catch up” with their progressive stance. Indeed, their positions are progressive—because their features characterize a more advanced stage in liberal evolution. Leftists mistake this particular evolution for the general advance of human civilization (the existence of which I seriously doubt), but they are correct in judging the “correct side” of liberal history.
Thus, I doubt that conservatives can salvage liberalism or its pantheon, including the chief among its gods, democracy. Abandon the trap; reject the bait—hook, line, and sinker. Let us rather orient ourselves according to what sage men call perennial wisdom and swim in the currents of the ages.
Open Culture has a post on Neil Halloran’s short animated film, The Fallen of World War II: “The Staggering Human Cost of World War II Visualized in a Creative, New Animated Documentary.” The graphic accounting of human destruction is sobering:
May their memory be eternal!
In yesterday’s post, “The TRS Lexicon,” I mentioned my distaste for the alternative Right’s use of “Cathedral” to mean the general left-liberal consensus among the establishment in the modern West. I find it perverse to call good evil and evil good, and I take the Left as the antithesis of Christendom. The “The TRS Lexicon” suggests that Moldbug uses Cathedral as an anti-Christian slight, but there may be other reasons. Moldbug himself states that leftist ideology functions as our contemporary established religion in “A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations,” and he is certainly right.
Moldbug notes that the contemporary establishment cooperates to advance a certain agenda without any central organizing power. Conspiracy theorists want to attribute the seemingly coordinated moves in dismantling Western civilization to some agent—worldwide Jewry, the Freemasons, plutocractic dynasties like the Rothschilds and Rockefellers, elite conferences like the Bilderberg Group, et cetera. Moldbug’s point is that there need be no central Committee for Public Safety. An ideological virus has been far more successful than the Comintern in spreading leftist ideas. So, there is no Council of the Elders of Zion, no ruling hierarchy, though the West has an equivalent to an established church. This Moldbug calls the Cathedral. While I disagree with his (and others’) use of the term, the following is why it makes for an effective image.
Medieval Christendom was not perfect; medieval men were fallen like their heathen ancestors and descendants. However, all aspects of medieval society—explicitly religious life and practice, politics, domestic and international policy, the fine arts and everyday craftsmanship, economic activity at all levels, municipal affairs and family life—all aspired to the Christian vision. Medieval man understood everything as having its proper place in the City of Man in orientation, ultimately, toward the City of God. A widely acknowledged order of the Good made possible a civilizational unity in Christendom not seen since the beginning of the modern age. Indeed, this fragmentation of modern life is a significant source of our civilization’s ills, and such is why modern ideological movements seek to recover an all embracing vision for man. The totalitarian age is an attempt to found that unity anew, whether in Marxism, National Socialism, technocratic commercial republicanism, or whatever the latest ideological mutation may be. The utopian dreamers of today yearn for some simulacrum of wholeness. They want to build their own Cathedral—an updated version of the French Revolution’s Temple of Reason where they may find salvation as l’homme régénéré.
Moreover, the term “cathedral” lends itself to such a social unity. A cathedral is, of course, the seat of the bishop in a diocese. It is therefore the central locus of Christendom: there, where the bishop, priests, deacons, and all the people of God—emperors, kings, nobles, guildsmen, peasants, merchants—unite to perform the most essential function of man—the worship of God. The cathedral is thus the image of society united in its highest act. On a more pedestrian level, the medieval cathedral provided the practical necessities of the town’s common life. Beyond the cult, it served as the source and center of public identity and pride, the main civic meeting space, the chief educational establishment, and the default market location for cities that had not yet developed additional public buildings. In every way, it was the focus of medieval social life—the House of God. The cathedral’s edifice itself recalls an even greater unity. The architecture and embellishment of the cathedral recapitulates the whole cosmos; it contains the heavens, the realm of angels and stars, the earth and sea and all that is therein—birds, hooved creatures, both wild and livestock, fish, reptiles, mystical beasts, and flora, both of the woods and of the pasture. It contains the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant; both the breathing saints and the ones who pray in the bosom of Abraham join together in the worship of God. It embraces all of history in stone, glass, paint, and mosaic—from the creation of Adam to the Last Judgment. The cathedral is the collective microcosm of creation—the place where the microcosmic priests meet to pray, where they participate in the neverending doxology of the universe in praise of the eternal God.
So, when Moldbug sought a term adequate to capture the extensive reach of modern leftist ideology and the human mechanisms that foster it, it is not surprising that he chose the “Cathedral.” In the Church of the Antichrist, the term fits perfectly.
Happy birthday to my father! Many more years to you!
Henry Köselitz has an excellent little essay on the Radix Journal site: “History Isn’t Over.” He mentions Francis Fukuyama’s well known description of the world after the fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of American hegemony in the 1990s—the “end of history”—and notes how history is refusing to end. In other words, mankind stubbornly refuses to accept universalist, liberal, commercial republicanism as the only show in town. Indeed, there are good reasons to think that the curtain call for that production is nearing. From Köselitz’s essay:
Liberal regimes cannot pay their debts because Liberal regimes do not have the population base necessary to sustain a modern welfare state. All Liberal regimes have below replacement birth rates, creating a situation in which there are not enough workers to produce the wealth required to provide for medical care for retirees and benefits for those unable to find work in an economy increasingly geared towards those on the right-hand side of the bell curve. As this trend is found in every Liberal regime, it is not an accident. This fall in population is the direct result of the sexual revolution, the deconstruction of the family, and the pursuit of economic growth at all costs, all of which are a natural outgrowth of Liberalism’s belief in the autonomy and equality of the individual.
The sexual revolution separated sex from fertility; it desacralized sex, made it just another recreational activity instead of the foundation of the family. The patriarchal family itself came under attack by feminism, which objected to male leadership in both the public and private sphere, and actively worked to delegitimize the family and the mores and institutions which supported it. This project was aided by businesses which wished to increase the supply of labor, thus reducing its value. All of these trends contributed to falling fertility rates, and are products of principles of equality and individual autonomy followed to their logical conclusion. Liberal regimes cannot defend their borders or protect their citizens from crime because Liberalism cannot delineate an “Us” or a “Them”. They are unable to do this because Liberalism contends that human society is merely an aggregation of autonomous and equal individuals each pursuing their own rational self interest. It thus must deny the existence of the Other. It is not possible to conceive of an Other because to do so would be to “discriminate”. Discrimination is the act the valuing of one thing over another, thus the act by its very nature violates the Liberal moral principle of equality. Because of this, a Liberal regime cannot consider questions of identity when shaping its immigration policy without contradicting its highest moral principles. It is no accident that Liberal regimes are importing millions of “refugees” who have open disdain for the values and culture of Europe and have nothing in common with the European populations which they are “enriching”. It also why Liberal regimes throughout the world have long allowed their inner cities to become third world slums.
Exactly! Liberalism eventually lobotomizes its adherents. The above words bear repeating: “. . . Liberalism cannot delineate an ‘Us’ or a ‘Them’. They are unable to do this because Liberalism contends that human society is merely an aggregation of autonomous and equal individuals each pursuing their own rational self interest. It thus must deny the existence of the Other. It is not possible to conceive of an Other because to do so would be to ‘discriminate’. Discrimination is the act the valuing of one thing over another, thus the act by its very nature violates the Liberal moral principle of equality.” Human beings are social by nature, and rational self interest involves a network of interests—because the self finds its context among broader associations—a series of “us’s.” Liberal societies are naked and vulnerable, internally and externally, to men who refuse to intoxicate themselves on eighteenth century hallucinations. Their tribes unite and find the decadent West a low hanging fruit ripe for picking—and devouring. There are barbarians at the gate, but there are no guardians at the tower, and the gate is kept open on principle. Hence, liberal regimes will fall. The question remains to what extent any remnant of their host civilization survives. This is why I refuse to rejoice at the coming disaster. I do not want modernity’s violent death to destroy anything else; for its life has marred the world beyond the fantasies of hell.
I have never read Fukuyama; I only know of the “end of history” as I know about Confucius’ Mandate of Heaven—through cultural osmosis. With apologies to Fukuyama who may have addressed the irony himself, I find it amusing that someone would identify the rise of liberal capitalist imperium as “the end of history,” which reeks of Marxist obsession with Hegelian dialectic—the thought paradigm of the very people whose utopia just self-destructed. Maybe, such was Fukuyama’s point, and he has fun with it. After all, his famous book is titled The End of History and the Last Man. How can that the second part of that title not proceed from an intellectual’s smirk?
Insanity is rampant, and there is no shortage of material for cultural critics. Nonetheless, I recommend a brief but clear post that Malcolm Pollack published last summer about the Obama administration’s clever strategy on the racial Marxism front: “A Respectful Whistle.” Perhaps, clever is not the appropriate word. It is not tactically brilliant to muster and direct one’s forces to attack a wide break in the enemy’s defense. That is war 101, right, if not just common sense? Thus, it is not so much that leftist strategy is brilliant as it is that American “conservatives” are blind, imbecilic, or pusillanimous (and possibly all three) when it comes to ethnic matters. So, why shouldn’t Obama’s henchmen have a little opportune fun with our Nation of Cowards?