A better discontent — cross-post

Maybe I just know better than I once did where to look, but it seems like the far Right is thinking and communicating more clearly than it once did.  The best of our side have gotten better at identifying the key issues and our key concerns on those issues.  They can speak directly about meaning, piety, and loyalty without having to first blather on about the Vision of the Founders or the genius of the price mechanism.

Here are some encouraging articles I’ve come across just recently.  Here‘s an excellent statement of the conservative sensibility from Front Porch Republic:

As I look at the way we are now, I see a people who wish to be light, free from the weightiness of responsibility, limits, duties. We want sex without fertility, food without calories, endless consumer goods without (observable) environmental degradation, religion without law, divorce without fault, mobility without loneliness, bodies without aging, entertainments without limits. We want our freedoms to be endless and without cost, allowing us to float free from now this to now that, casting off identities and  responsibilities like old clothes discarded.

Of course, to those who are unbearably light, nothing is more repugnant than weight, but we are in our very natures called to weightiness, for we are moral agents, responsible for all.

Whether you think of the text as Holy Writ or mere literature of the past, the early chapters of Genesis indicate to us with bracing clarity the choice before us now. The human emerges from the dirt and yet is somehow responsible for the dirt, capable of tending, keeping, filling, and ordering the very dirt from which he is. The human is told to build, till, improve, cultivate–to husband (in the old sense) the cosmos as its responsible priest. And yet he is to exercise this creativity within the limits of fidelity, for he is steward and not Creator, always dependent, and obligated to be responsible.

How will we make our world and ourselves? Will be we unbearably free, infinitely light, using our creative capacities to cast off our responsible nature and soar into the beyond? Or will we be heavy, using our skill to tie ourselves into the loam from which we came, hoping to be faithful to obligation, duty, and the task of responsibility? Will the tapestry we weave have substance, or just the play of newness, with the shuttle undoing all that has been created before?

I want to be heavy. I want my children to be heavy. I want my life to be one of creative fidelity, finding new ways to be obligated and woven into the fabric of the world and the lives of my lover, my children, my neighbors, and friends.

Also, if you’d like to know what those queers at Yale missed out on, I’ve just come a great article by the estimable Dr. Esolen on liberal totalitarianism, parental authority, and sexual revolution:

On June 25, 2009, a seven year old boy was abducted at gunpoint from his terrified parents. They had just boarded a plane to fly to the country where the boy’s mother had been born, and where her kin still lived. They were leaving their own country for good, because they had grown weary of the harassment they suffered there from a syndicate of well-placed thugs. They themselves had broken no law.

The boy’s name is Domenic Johansson. He is now going on ten years old, and he has seen his mother and father only very briefly since. The thugs, officials of the Swedish government, have allowed the parents very little opportunity to visit. Domenic’s mother has suffered a nervous breakdown, and is now quite incapacitated. The foster-woman into whose care Domenic was given has informed the boy that she will never let him return to his mother and father, no matter what any court might say. Domenic, once a cheerful little boy, looks haggard, crushed, dull, as if the heart had been ripped out of him.

What was the crime committed by Christer Johansson and his wife?  The crime was simply that the Johanssons, a devout Christian couple, had pulled Domenic out of the state school and were educating him at home. It was, we should note well, perfectly within their rights by the Swedish law then in force to do this. It was also within their rights as specified by the European Union.

There was a time when certain things were considered holy. The family was holy: it was a realm of order and authority and love, not to be burst into by marauding benefactors. “A man’s home is his castle,” went the saying, meaning that the home, for father and mother and children, is as an independent dukedom, with its own traditions, its laws, its bonds of loyalty, its wisdom, and its hard-won wealth. So long as no crimes against God and man were committed, that castle was to be honored; for upon such families the whole social order was founded. One would no sooner set spies in the home to rat on mother and father, as the Soviets did, than one would burn down a church. It is not simply that one would refrain from abducting a child, as the Swedish government has done. One would not wish even to associate with someone who could conceive of so vile a thing.

Let us be clear here. The American Leviathan loathes everything that is not Itself. It does not want self-reliant people who can take care of themselves and their neighbors. It does not want people teaching their children in their own way. It does not want free associations, like the Boy Scouts, who actually do things like clean a park or build a bicycle path, things that benefit everyone, and for little or no cost to their towns and cities. It does not want private schools with their own curricula. It does not want private universities with their own ideas about what sports to sponsor, or what people they should hire. It will allow the shells of these things, so long as the “free” truckle to its will, and the “private” strip naked to its searching glare. Its pact with the little people is simple enough. The Leviathan will promote a false freedom, mere license, which helps to destroy every other social institution in existence, from the family to the neighborhood to the local school to the church. Then the Leviathan, having built a sufficient number of prisons, will come a-knocking on every door to help.

This is really the central meaning of the debate concerning whether the Catholic Church should provide for Fornication Protection Kits – for that is what we are talking about, though no one wishes to say so openly. The diktats from Levi come cloaked in the language of medicine, just as the diktats from Lotta and Lars come cloaked in the language of children’s welfare. But just as no one without a diseased mind can really explain why it is a benefit to children to be yanked out of their innocent mother’s lap and sent to live with strangers, just because mother and father wanted to teach them to read and write, so no one without a diseased mind can explain why it is a benefit to women’s health, or anybody’s health, to underwrite the sexual revolution.

Finally, Stephen lays out for us why American Catholics must be reactionaries, and what that means.

[W]hat is the smartest way to fight? What if none of these stances is effective in stopping or repealing Obama’s birth control mandate? What if engaging with the political system as it currently is actually creates more problems in the long run than it solves? For instance, civil disobedience may not work, because it will be hard for protesters to goad the federal government into using just enough violence to gain the support of the masses, but not too much violence so as not to suffer considerable loss of human life. Moreover, mustering mass support for her position may entangle the Church in dubious alliances that she may later come to regret. And, to go one step further, even considering armed resistance against the US military is just ludicrous.

Does that mean that American Catholics should abandon the fight? No! There remains open to them another option: the reactionary stance toward politics. For the reactionary, neither civil disobedience nor military resistance is capable of restoring a sane political order. Early on, some reactionaries, most notably the French reactionaries in the Vendée, took up arms against the revolution. But, by now there is now hope of restoring the old order. Indeed, it is not clear what the best one could hope for in the current situation is. The name of “reactionary” is an unfortunate relic of an earlier age, but at least it does connect the modern reactionary to his spiritual forbears.

Intellectual resistance is more demanding than military resistance. As the Colombian aphorist Nicolás Gómez Dávila said, “To think against is more difficult than to act against” (source). Armed resistance certainly requires courage, but the soldier has an immediate enemy who could destroy him at any moment, which helps him remain vigilant. Intellectual resistance, on the other hand, consists of transforming a culture, without the fear of death to spur us onward. Moreover, the reactionary does not wage an empty war of words in newspapers, on TV, or on blogs. It is a battle for souls. It is a war in which we must convert, ourselves first and then others.

American Catholics should by all means work within the ordinary political process and use civil disobedience to oppose President Obama’s contraception mandate. But, there is no guarantee that American Catholics will enjoy any success. Indeed, after Catholics are forced to pay for contraception, it is nearly certain that the federal government will impose a requirement to pay for abortions; this will play out in the same way that Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close down after they refuse to place children in homosexual households. We Catholics will be exiles in our own country. The task of a reactionary Catholic, then, will be to figure out how to hand on the faith in an age of persecution, how to prepare an underground spiritual and intellectual resistance, to convert hearts and minds. We will need to wait and be patient. Above all, we will need to take Cardinal von Galen’s words to heart: “Become hard! Remain firm!”

One Response

  1. I am particularly taken by Stephen’s critical insight – following Don Colacho – above: “Intellectual resistance is more demanding than military resistance. As the Colombian aphorist Nicolás Gómez Dávila said, ‘To think against is more difficult than to act against.’”

    This is, I believe, profoundly true, as the necessary understanding – thoroughly assimilated, firmly held to and hard against the grain of modernity – is sufficiently difficult as to be largely inconceivable to the mass of contemporary individuals. What is needed is a ‘heroic act of the intellect’, a conversion – or, better, an un-inversion – of worldview, with all the concomitant consequences for the soul that flow from this. Man, having turned away from God, must turn back, and – having worked himself into an intellectual cul-de-sac – this re-turning will necessarily be, in critical aspect, intellectual in character.

    Let me pass to a garland of quotations from Frithjof Schuon that exemplify the articulation of ‘intellectual resistance’ such as is needful:

    “The ‘mystique’ of modern man is one of revolt. Between the spirit of revolt and the spirit of submission there is no communication: like oil and water they neither mix nor understand one another; they speak different languages or lead incompatible lives; there is between them a fundamental divergence of imagination and sensibility, to say the least of it. This spirit of revolt has nothing to do with the holy wrath that is by definition directed against error and vice, but is rather a case of pride posing as victim; it marks both a ‘hardening’ and a ‘freezing’ of the soul; it is a spiritually deadly petrification – for hatred is inseparable from it – and an agitation without issue which only intelligence and grace can conquer.”

    – Frithjof Schuon, “Dimensions of Islam”, p.39

    “Most ‘intellectuals’, to speak without euphemism, are not intelligent enough to understand writers like Saint Anselm or Saint Thomas Aquinas, that is to say to understand them in depth and to find there evidence of God. The darkening of our world – whether we mean the West properly so called or its ramifications in the East and elsewhere – appears patently in the fact that an extreme mental dexterity goes hand in hand with a no less excessive intellectual superficiality; it has become habitual to treat concepts as if they were playthings of the mind, committing one to nothing, in other words everything is touched on and nothing is assimilated; ideas no longer bite into the intelligence, which slides over concepts without taking time to really to grasp them. The modern mind moves ‘on the surface’, all the time playing with mental images, while not knowing their possibilities and role; whereas the traditional mind proceeds in depth, whence come doctrines, which may seem dogmatist, but are fully sufficient and effectual for those who know what a doctrine is. Twentieth century man has lost the sense of repose and contemplation; living on husks, he no longer knows what fruit is like.”

    Frithjof Schuon, “Stations of Wisdom”, pp.x-xi

    “Independently of doctrinal atheism and of cultural peculiarities, modern man moves in the world as if existence were nothing, or as if he had invented it; in his eyes it is a commonplace thing like the dust beneath his feet – more especially as he has no consciousness of the Principle at once transcendent and immanent – and he makes use of it with assurance and inadvertence in a life that has been de-consecrated into meaninglessness. Everything is conceived through the haze of a tissue of contingencies, relationships, prejudices; no phenomenon is any longer considered in itself, in its being, and grasped at its root; the contingent has usurped the rank of the absolute; man scarcely reasons any more except in terms of his imagination falsified by ideologies on the one hand and by his artificial surroundings on the other.…What we need is to become once again capable of grasping the value of existence and, amid the multitude of phenomena, the meaning of man; we must once again find the measure of the real!”

    – Frithjof Schuon, “Light on the Ancient Worlds”, p.41

    “Promethean minds believe themselves to be creatures of chance moving freely in a vacuum and capable of ‘self-creation’, all within the framework of an existence devoid of meaning; the world, so it seems, is absurd, but no notice is taken – and this is typical – of the absurdity of admitting the appearance within an absurd world of a being regarded as capable of remarking that absurdity. Modern man is fundamentally ignorant of what the most childish of catechisms reveals, doubtless in a language that is pictorial and sentimental, yet adequate for its purpose; namely, that we are inwardly connected with a Substance which is Being, Consciousness, and Life, and of which we are contingent and transitory modalities. He is consequently unaware of being involved in a titanic drama in terms of which this world, seemingly so solid, is as tenuous as a spider’s web.”

    – Frithjof Schuon, “Logic and Transcendence”, pp.59-60

    “It has been said that modern man has lost the sense of sin, the kind of attitude in question can best be described by saying that man no longer has a feeling of his own smallness or that he has become insensitive to all the violations brought about through the decadence of his nature, in short, that he has become insensitive to the point of being pleased with himself and of no longer having any awareness of the ambiguity attaching to his own condition. The empty shadow of this awareness he calls ‘anguish’ and he hates all those who, still possessing this awareness and accepting the positive responsibilities implied therein, escape this ‘anguish’ and thereby also escape ‘revolt’; these two complexes, anguish and revolt, he wishes to make universal, for it is in the nature of man not to wish to go to perdition alone.”

    – Frithjof Schuon, “Treasures of Buddhism”, p.57-8

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