Cheerios promotes androgynism

Anti-feminist/masculinist, Pro-patriarchy has the story here.

Is Benedict XVI the Right’s Barack Obama?

1) Regarded, pre-election, by his partisans as a near genius, or at least intellectually far above his peers. His academic background much emphasized. Then, after election, he makes as many silly, thoughtless mistakes as anybody else.
2) Criticized by his opponents for connections to radical movements in his youth.
3) Regarded by his opponents as an ideological radical, who then governs in a fairly moderate way.
4) Often criticized by friends for having the attitude of a professor rather than a statesman.

In the case of BXVI, #4 is backwards. Benedict’s problem is that he isn’t thinking like a German professor. He makes statements that will almost inevitably be misunderstood and then seems surprised when this happens. Some Catholics try to see a bright side in this ineptness, saying that they’d prefer that the Vatican not become expert at public relations and “spin”. That’s not what I’m talking about. Skill in sophistry is not needed (or wanted) in a pastor, but skill in pedagogy is. Right now, as I draw up lession plans for my spring class, I’m constantly thinking about how best to get my ideas across. I have to decide which example will help illustrate a concept and which will cause confusion by drawing students’ attention to unrelated topics. I try to anticipate how students will be most likely to misunderstand a given topic, and then I plan to explicitly counter likely misunderstandings in class. Is it too much to ask for the pope to do a similar mental exercise before he performs his teaching duties?

What causes the AIDS epidemic in Africa?

I’m not an expert on this. Being an astronomer, I like to go for the big picture and paint with very broad brushes. To me, it seems that these are the outstanding facts.

1) There is an AIDS epidemic in sub-saharan Africa; I’m always seeing numbers like 5% of the population being thrown around.
2) There hasn’t always been an AIDS epidemic, or any equivalent epidemic of venereal disease, in Africa. This has been going on for the last several decades.
3) AIDS is a pretty hard disease to catch. It cannot be present in large amounts in a society unless acts that all sane peoples regard as dangerous and wicked are prevelant.

#3 indicates that the explanation for #1 is not biological; it’s not that HIV is just so good at spreading itself. #2 and #3 together suggest that the explanation is sociological, that we should be looking for evidence of some massive moral breakdown in twentieth-century Africa.

My theory: Africa today has an AIDS epidemic for the same reason that Europe one hundred years ago had a syphillis epidemic: rapid industrialization producing a massive urban proletariat. Able bodied men flock to the new centers of employment, leaving their rural lives–including their communal bonds and social strictures–behind. Workers flood the new urban centers, overwhelming whatever meager social structures were initially in place, forming a rootless, undisciplined mass. This lack of social structure is the defining characteristic of a proletariat. Its members have no status to defend, no neighbors they feel the need to impress. In these conditions, prostitution and other vices grow to scales unimaginable in functioning communities.

In Europe, society eventually responded. Genuine communities evolved in the massive new cities. Workers became “bourgeois”. Ironically, the socialists played a large role in this process; they tried to organize the proletariat, but to organize formlessness is to destroy it. So shall it be in Africa, barring further economic dislocations. The best thing we can do for this unfortunate continent is to encourage those forces with the will and the ability to gather aggregates into communities. These forces are primarily religious–Islamic or Christian. They bring with them an uncompromising sexual ethic, one that, if embodied in communal expectations, would eliminate AIDS in short order.

Our leaders, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen the opposite strategy: attacking Islamo-Christian sexual morality, promoting “acceptance” for the acts that spread AIDS, and promoting the community-smashing political ideal of the “open society”. We’ll see how that works out.

The greatest propaganda coup in history

Broadly speaking, there are two views of sex in the world today: the liberal view of promiscuity and perversion, and the Catholic view. Today, everyone regards it as common sense that an epidemic of sexually transmitted disease (AIDS) is proof that the Catholics should adjust their view. Glorifying sexual “freedom” and sodomy, on the other hand, are thought to be entirely consistent with a robust response to AIDS.

It’s remarkable what a difference controlling the media makes, isn’t it?

Contraception is always a mortal sin

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be…

…and despite bizarre attempts by the media to enlist the pope as advocating the view that performing anal sex for money is morally acceptable if one uses a condom. (My thanks to the Western Confucian for the link.)

Myself, I’ve never needed the pope to tell me that it would be wrong to risk giving my wife a mortal illness to satiate my lust, and that such a thing doesn’t become acceptable if I am willing to slightly lower her risk by desecrating the marriage bed with latex.  But then, I’ve never subscribed to the liberal belief that sexual gratification is the one absolute right that trumps all others.

Since before I was born, condoms have been the answer for which liberals have been urgently seeking the problem.  It is absolutely imperative, we hear, that sex be denatured and instrumentalized, although the reason changes.  When I was young, it was overpopulation.  Then it was “quality of life”–better to never be than to be “unplanned”.  Now it’s AIDS.  The urge to desecrate needs an alibi.  We can’t admit that we want take sex out of the realm of meaning and put it in the realm of consumer goods because we are pigs who can’t bear the weight of meaning God has infused in our bodies.  No, we want to be able to say that we were forced into this.  Here is the sign of an unsettled conscience.  The condom user still feels the need to babble on about AIDS in Africa.

Human nature is obsolete

News media throughout America are gleefully trumpetting the result that “40% of Americans think marriage is obsolete” (see, e.g. here or here).  It certainly seems like their moment of truimph.  If, like America’s newsmen and entertainers, I had spent decades promoting fornication and divorce, I would certainly feel a thrill of victory in this find.  However, on closer inspection, we realize that, in these stories, the media is not objectively reporting its victory.  These stories are themselves part of their campaign.

First of all, how did Pew get this result?  Did they just ask a bunch of people to give words they thought described marriage, and 40% said something equivalent to “obsolete”?  Of course not.  At the Pew website, their survey results are described in more detail, and it is pretty clear that survey participants were directly asked the question “Is marriage obsolete?”  But asking this question is itself a form of propaganda for fornication.  The question presupposes that marriage is a form of technology, a morally neutral means used for ends not intrinsically connected to it.  This, however, is exactly the point of contention.  In Pew’s Newspeak, though, it is not possible to question utilitarianism itself–this is affirmed whether one answers “yes” or “no”.

Let us imagine the spiritual effects of being asked the question “Is marriage obsolete?” The typical person will have (rightly) never thought of marriage in these terms before, so the question will seem strange. He has been taught to be open-minded, though, so he ponders the question. The question of obsolescence only makes sense if one is talking about a tool, so he begins to think of marriage as a tool. A tool to what, though? Things like chastity, fidelity, and filial piety are out, because they presuppose that family can be not only a means to, but an integral part of, the good life. So he turns to things like money and subjective happiness. Perhaps he gives some thought to the raising of children (the true telos of marriage), but even here his insights will be colored by the utilitarian framework he has been given. The question will be whether children raised by parents do better in the workforce than children raised in government or private kennels. The answer is not obvious: I would not be surprised if impersonal institutions do a better job of shrinking souls to fit into the capitalist machine. Perhaps he comes down for marriage, perhaps against. Either way, he has been introduced to a new and pernicious way of thinking. If he has been raised well, some part of his soul will rebel against the thought of advocating universal fornication; it will see such an arrangement as obscene, no matter how “efficient” it is. But Pew has taught our man to disregard that little voice in his head as mere “superstition” or “prejudice”. Now he has a more “scientific” way of looking at things. Most men enjoy the thought of being smarter than their fellows, and now he has found an effort-free path to intellectual snobbishness in keeping an “open mind” toward sin.

I propose we ask Americans a new question:  “Is freedom of speech obsolete?”  Surely our journalistic overlords would want us to keep an open mind on everything, even the mechanism whereby their dominion over society is guaranteed?  If the conjugal bond should not be regarded as good in itself, surely there’s no need to regard unrestricted media brainwashing as good in itself?  If our masters are as benevolent as they imagine, surely there’s no need to fear such a question?  Here, though, I think journalists would have not trouble seeing how demeaning the quesion is.

Conservative evangelism

Order.  Men despise religion.  They hate it and are afraid it may be true.  The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect.  Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.  Worthy of reverence because it really understands human nature.  Attractive because it promises true good.

—Pascal, Pensee 12

Thus spoke the greatest of Christian apologists.  In his latest article, Alan Roebuck proposes that conservatives learn from the Christian evangelical/apologetic tradition on how to win over souls to the traditionalist cause.  Two main points in the article are 1) We must attack liberalism’s basic premises–which he identifies as the beliefs that God is unknowable and that that discrimination is always wrong–rather than just attacking specific liberal policies; 2) As in Pascal’s strategy, we was make potential converts want to believe that conservatism is true and liberalism is false before we will be able to convince them that this is the case.  They must come to see liberalism as bad news.  Liberalism maximizes human autonomy by positing a meaningless universe.  Roebuck points out that men have desires for other things besides freedom; most importantly, we have a desire for order and meaning.  It is to these that we should appeal.

Reading Mr. Roebuck’s essay, my first thought was “Why haven’t I written an essay on conservative evangelism?”  After all, from a conservative point of view, what could be more important?  Yet we have very little discussion of how, practically speaking, the people around us could ever be won over.

Myself, I tend to divide nontraditionalists into two classes:  Leftists and confused.  The latter category is divided into the non-political and the mainstream “conservative”.  Leftists I regard as the equivalent of reprobate souls; attempting to win them over is hopeless, and it’s a waste of very limited resources.  The nonpolitical can become effective conservatives if they are won over to a dogmatic form of religion–Catholicism or Calvinism, in the American context.  The easiest catches, I tend to think, are the mainstream “conservatives”, who are already somewhat detatched from the Leftist elite, and can possibly have their mental horizons expanded and become true conservatives.  Hopefully, this blog (which, to borrow the expression from Roger Scruton, is a work of conservative dogmatics rather than apologetics) will help some along this journey.

Roebuck is a mathematician, and I am a physicist, so I might be expected to take a more experimental approach.  Here goes:  Have any of you ever successfully brought someone over to conservatism?  If so, where were they starting from, and what was it that worked?  I personally have never succeeded in a conversion, so I don’t have any data to offer.

Bonald’s maxim on truth

At the hospital I was at recently, some of the curtains had “inspirational” sayings written on them.  I was struck by this one:

Speak your truth.

to which I must reply

There is a word for people who take a propietory attitude toward truth.  They’re called “liars”.

What a world of difference there is between “my truth” and “the truth”.

Neoconfucianism and the second Axial Age

In his pernicious Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell argues (or, rather, asserts) that the meaning of all the world’s myths and religions is that human categories of being and nonbeing, sacred and profane, good and evil are in fact illusions.  In fact, he claims that a belief in objective good and evil is a sign of an unresolved Oedipus Complex.  Being a modern-day gnostic, it’s hardly surprising that Campbell despises Christianity while praising Buddhism to the skies.  Buddhism is indeed the most historically significant manifestation of what I’ve identified as the gnostic attitude–the refusal to see God’s presence as mediated by physical signs or communal organizations.  It was the world’s first great desacralizing movement.

Any society founded on a vision of sacred order will see a desacralizing movement–be it Buddhist, Marxist, capitalist, or other–as a mortal threat.  Such was China during the Tang Dynasty, and Confucian scholars were not slow to recognize the threat of Buddhism or to denounce it.  It was easy for Confucians to denounce the ascetic side of Buddhism, the encouragement it gave to young men to cast off familial and political responsibilities and become monks.  They were poorly prepared, however, to answer the anti-rational metaphysics of Buddhism.  Confucius himself had famously eschewed metaphysical questions, and China’s Daoist tradition was, if anything, sympathetic to the new ideas.

Fortunately, the partisans of communal sacred order rose to the occasion through the great Confucian revival of the Song dynasty.  Interestingly enough, the key to the counterattack was the rediscovery, half a world away, of key features of Aristotelian metaphysics.  In the metaphysics of the Chen brothers, systematized by Zhu Xi, being has two principles:  li (form) and qi (matter).  It is through the formal principle that all things are connected to the T’ai Chi (the source and summit of form; Plato’s Idea of the Good, more or less).  Hylomorphic doctrine was tied to Confucian ethics by tying human li to morality and ritual.

The system of Zhu Xi became public orthodoxy in China for six centuries, his writings a main subject in the civil service exams.  Then, in the twentieth century, another gnostic craze gripped China, as Sun Yatsen and others decided that the China should abandon its culture and embrace the refuse of Western civilization–the gnostic heresies of nationalism and socialism.  We all know how that turned out.

Karl Jaspers famously pointed to the age of the Upanishads, Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, and the Hebrew prophets as the “Axial Age” when all the world’s great civilizations made a leap in spirituality.  This Axial Age gave men for the first time a true sense of God’s transcendence from the world.  It left some work undone, however, in that it didn’t leave an intellectual framework for understanding how God could be both immanent in the world and yet transcend it.  This was left for what I think of as the second or minor Axial Age, when, under pressure from gnostics and pantheists, the great world civilizations were forced to articulate their understanding of how God relates to the world.  Zhu Xi was not only the Chinese equivalent of Thomas Aquinas; he lived at almost the same time.  Go back one more century, and we are in the lifetime of Ibn Sina, one of the greatest of theistic philosophers, who plays a similar role in Muslim thought.  Interestingly, all three–Zhu Xi, Aquinas, and Ibn Sina–were, basically Aristotelians.  Aristotle is the philosopher of choice for social, sacramental religions.  At around the same time, Gregory Palamas confronted the relationship between God and creation in the context of mystical experience, and his writings would become a foundation of modern Eastern Orthodox thought.  Finally, in India, the Bhakti movement would temper Hinduism’s monistic tendencies with an emphasis on interpersonal devotion to a deity.  Ramanuja lived in the eleventh century.

Why do I bring this up on a political blog?  It’s not just that I use this blog as a container (some would say a waste basket) for any of my non-physics-related thoughts.  While the nature of being is more important than politics, it does have political implications.  In my telling, the conservative understanding of authority is a sort of practical application of Saint Thomas’ fourth way.  Authority is one way the polis orients itself toward the transcendent Good.  It partakes in the dialectic of sacred and profane.  Thus, defending the Confucian/Jewish/Christian/Muslim/Hindu sense of the sacred is very much a conservative’s business.

First Things calls for more Catholic self-abasement

American conservative (!) Christians are outraged , or at least very disappointed, by the comments of Melkite bishop Cyril Bustros.  Bishop Bustros, you will recall, voiced the OUTRAGEOUSLY ANTISEMITIC belief that all peoples are equally valued by God.  Then he made an OUTRAGEOUSLY ANTISEMITIC comment to the effect that Israel is a secular nation like any other, with no more and no less of a mandate from God than any other nation.  He even, horror of horrors, suggested that the Church, rather than the modern day atheist, socialist nation-state of Israel, is the true successor of ancient Israel, as if there were some spiritual benefit to belonging to the people who accept Christ rather than the people who reject him!  Of course, we who are blessed to live in the Springtime of Vatican II know better than all of this.  The writers at First Things, in their infinite wisdom, are very disappointed with Pope Benedict for failing to emphasize that God Himself is a hard-core Zionist.  They are perplexed that his comments on the Middle East have been limited to vague calls for peace and for justice for all parties, as if we should have such concerns in our minds when the geopolitical power of the Chosen People is at stake!  Surely, they feel, the Holy Father is only refraining from speaking the manifest truth because he fears offending Arab Christians.  Probably for the same reason, Pope Benedict is not yet “on board” with plans to insert a prayer into the Good Friday Mass, petitioning God that all Catholics may convert to Judaism.  (Then we could be chosen people too!)  Give it time; the Springtime of Vatican II isn’t done with us yet.