The Catastrophe — Part II

Cata 09

Daniel van Heil (1604 – 1664): Aeneas and Family Fly from Burning Troy

Introduction to Part II: In Part I of this essay, I began by reminding readers of the necessary complacency that accompanies civilized life.  Civilized people go about their lives in the assumption of institutional permanency and a continuity of custom.  The assumption that plans made today will see their fruition tomorrow belongs to the background of organized existence and motivates our purposive behavior.  The same assumption can lapse into complacency, however, so that, even as signs of trouble emerge on the horizon, a certain denial disarms a people from responding with sufficient clarity and swiftness to looming disruption.  People take civilization for granted and rarely contemplate that it might come tumbling down about their ears.  Insofar as the historical record has something important to teach ordinary people who are not specialists in the subject, it might well be the lesson that all known societies before the modern society have come to an end.  Some of them have come to an end abruptly and violently.  One such society, or civilization, was the Bronze Age civilization of the Twelfth Century B.C. in the Eastern Mediterranean.  The singular term civilization is appropriate even though the geographical-cultural region of the Eastern Mediterranean contained many separate peoples distinguished by their distinctive languages, religious beliefs, and customs.  These societies – Greek, Semitic, Anatolian, and Pelagic – were in commercial, diplomatic, and artistic communication with one another.  They together constituted a pattern of civilized life, whose individual element-nations had the same stake in maintaining the coherency of the whole.

I. The preponderance of archeological and epigraphic evidence coupled with the testimony of legend and epic narrative would attribute the Catastrophe to a wave of barbarian depredation. This does not mean that other factors played no role. Competing theories about the Catastrophe, as summarized by Robert Drews in The End of the Bronze Age, postulate “Systemic Breakdown” and “Natural Disaster,” such as drought or earthquake, as accounting for the abrupt collapse of so many nations.  Drews discounts both as likely sole causes, but suggests that Systemic Breakdown in response to a crop-failure or an outbreak of disease might have eroded the stability of the existing societies.  The Bronze Age kingdoms were inflexibly organized, heavily ritualistic in their conception of life, and on occasion testily feudal in their relations with one another, as the episode of Paris and Helen makes clear.  Widespread drought leading to famine and disease (which the records of Hatti attest) might well have created a social crisis, with a cascading effect, with which administrative inflexibility could not cope.  Yet as Drews emphasizes, despite their cumbersome nature, the Bronze Age kingdoms apparently functioned more or less as usual right up to the hour of their sudden demise.  Mycenae, for example, was in the midst of a large-scale rebuilding project.

Continue reading

The Catastrophe – Part I

Cata 06 Keuninck or Coninck Kerstiaen de

Kerstian de Keuninck (1560 – 1632): Troy in Flames

Introduction to Part I: Modern people assume the immunity of their situation to major disturbance or – even more unthinkable – to terminal wreckage.  The continuance of a society or culture depends, in part, on that very assumption because without it no one would complete his daily round.  A man cannot enthusiastically arise from bed as the sun comes up and set about the day’s errands, believing that all undertakings will issue vainly because the established order threatens to go up in smoke before twilight.  Just as it serves this necessity, however, the assumption of social permanence – that tomorrow will necessarily be just like today – can, when it becomes too habitual through lack of reflection, lead to dangerous complacency.  It is healthy, therefore, to think in an informed way about the possibility that our society might break down completely and become unrecognizable.  Such things are more than mere possibility – they have happened.  Societies – and, it is fair to say, whole standing civilizations – have disintegrated swiftly, leaving behind them depopulation and material poverty.  In the two parts of the present essay, I wish to look into one of the best documented of these epochal events, one that brought abrupt death and destruction to a host of thriving societies, none of which survived the scourge.  I have divided my essay into two parts, each part further divided into four subsections.  Note: I wrote this article twenty years ago or a bit more for John Harris’s quarterly print magazine Arcturus.

I. Archeologists, historians, and classicists call it “the Catastrophe.” It happened more than three thousand years ago in the lands surrounding the Eastern Mediterranean.  Neither geological nor climatological but rather sociological in character, this chaotic enormity erased civilization in a wide swath of geography stretching from the western portions of Greece east to the inner fastnesses of Anatolia, and all the way to Mesopotamia; it turned south as well, overrunning many islands, finally swamping the borders of Egypt.  The Egyptians nevertheless defeated the interlopers, some of whom stayed on as mercenary soldiers under the pharaoh.  The Catastrophe left cities in smoking ruin, their wealth plundered; it plunged the affected regions into a Dark Age, bereft of literacy, during which populations drastically shrank while the level of material culture reverted to that of a Neolithic village.  Echoes of the event – or complicated network of linked events – turn up in myth and find reflection in early Greek literature.  The Trojan War appears to be implicated in the Catastrophe, as do certain episodes of the Old Testament.  Recovered records hint at this massive upheaval: diplomatic letters dictated by Hittite kings and tablets bearing military orders from the last days of the Mycenaean palace-citadels.  Places like Sicily and Sardinia took their names in the direct aftermath of the Catastrophe and in its scattering of peoples.

Continue reading

An Awful Folly and the Spider of Ennui

“Were I to be angry at men being fools, I could here find ample room for declamation; but, alas! I have been a fool myself; and why should I be angry with them for being something so natural to every child of humanity.”  

Oliver Goldsmith, “A Description of Various Clubs” (1759)

This is a true story of a great folly that took place here in Texas, a hundred and forty years ago.  Before I tell the story of this folly, I must explain that I am not telling it simply because the story is ludicrous or shocking.  It is, to be sure, ludicrous and shocking enough, but laughter and reproof are not the best response to this spectacle of folly.  The best response is awe, that curious combination of wonder and fear that we feel in the presence of a great power from which we are not altogether safe. Continue reading

“A Primer on the Right” by R. E. Salyer

Salyer points out that an important characteristic of the Left is the demand for justification.[1] However, why we love one woman, family, community, nation, rather than another cannot be justified. Any quality the beloved might have will be possessed by another. The cultures of other countries have their own charms, not necessarily existing in our own country, too. The Right, however, believes in loyalty, and loyalty and justification cannot coexist. The rationalist demand for justification is irrational. Rationalism per se is irrational. The truly rational acknowledge the limits of reason and accommodate mystery. The demand for justification cannot be justified, but the limits on justification can.

Tradition is a product of trial and error – a combination of what works and historical happenstance. Cooking styles will be influenced by locally available produce and, at times, climate. Extremely spicy food is connected to hot climates which accelerate spoilage. Can a Frenchman justify his love of French cooking versus Chinese? Not really. And yet, his loyalty to his own cuisine is good and beautiful. Without the love of French cuisine, it ceases to exist.

Axioms cannot be justified – or rather, they are self-justifying. Without self-evident axioms there is nihilism, the characteristic of the Left. And then, the Left accepts only empirical statements as legitimate. Empiricism is synonymous with objectivity and thus measurement. The Good, the desire for the True, and the Beautiful cannot be measured and thus cannot be justified. This is why spiritual, nonmaterial reality, is necessary to avoid nihilism. Continue reading

Recipe for Destroying the Planet

Create an elite class of cosmopolitan technocrats with no allegiance to any country or city; equally happy to live in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo. Do this through enormous international corporations, with the same qualities, and selecting candidates needed to perform corporate functions. This will work better if all sentimental attachments to family, home, city, and country are jettisoned and demonized as parochial nationalism promoted by benighted Neanderthals living in flyover country. This creates Globalism – a mixture of economic interdependence, watered down deracinated Western culture, promoting cosmopolitanism, “tolerance,” and the attempt to make any odd subculture feel “accepted” and normalized, while at the same time trying to dismantle any idea of normalcy. Continue reading

Burroughs’ Amtor – A Satire of Ideologies

Venus 01

Roy Krenkel (1918 – 1983): Cover for the Ace edition of Pirates of Venus

Once upon a time – I believe it was twelve years ago – I published an article at the Brussels Journal, defunct since 2009 but still archived on the Internet, under the title Edgar Rice Burroughs and Masculine Narrative.  The article mainly addressed the author’s quasi-science fiction novels, but it also contained criticism of the stilted, politically correct apologies for Burroughs in otherwise handsome editions of his work reissued beginning in 2000 by the University of Nebraska Press under the Bison imprint.  The foreword writers ritually excoriated Burroughs for having exercised the usual list of phobic isms and inexcusable bigotries.  The article pointed to numerous counterexamples that, in particular, exonerated the Tarzan-author of having populated his stories with unrealistically weak or grotesquely male-deferential female characters.  The editorial matter accompanying the Burroughs sagas in the Bison editions anticipated today’s advancing disappearance of the Burroughs oeuvre from the marketplace, partly under influence of wokeness.  The stock of Bison editions nears depletion at Amazon.  Those that remain for sale are in short supply.  Used paperbacks from the 1960s and 70s are still for sale, but due to scarcity the prices are rising, especially for the Ace editions with cover-art by Roy Krenkel.  An Amazon customer may purchase publish-on-demand versions of some titles, but they make a poor comparison with the Dover, Ace, and Bison reprints of past decades.  The publish-on-demand editions often lack cover-art, coming with only title and author; and the printed page looks awkwardly composed, with no typographic grace.  The situation treats poorly a man who once enjoyed the status of the most-read popular author in the USA, if not also in the world at large.  (Burroughs’ adventures saw translation in a dozen languages, at least.)  It saddens me that a man of so great an imagination, and at his best, a master of sterling prose, should vanish from public knowledge.

Continue reading

Locked in Empty Temples of Gods who Have Flown Away

The only difference is this
The gilt is off the chain
And what was once a golden bliss
Is now an iron pain.

Edward Bulwer Lytton, Marah (1891)

A enthusiast is filled with the spirit of a god, or what at least seems like a the spirit of a god so long as his enthusiasm lasts.  The roots of the word enthusiasm break down to in and theos, so that enthusiasm is the state of having, or at least feeling, a god within.  The most common and representative form of enthusiasm is no doubt erotomania, which is the condition of one in whom the god Eros has taken up temporary residence.  When possessed by the god Eros, a man is subject to the love-drunk fatuities that we call infatuation. Continue reading

Had Not You Better Be Gone?

“When a country — a society, a civilization — gets to the point of legalizing euthanasia, it loses in my eyes all right to respect. It becomes henceforth not only legitimate, but desirable, to destroy it; so that something else — another country, another society, another civilization — might have a chance to arise.”

Michel Houellbecq, “How France Lost Her Dignity,” Le Figaro (April 5, 2021)

I believe many readers will appreciate Houellbecq’s column, which can be read in translation here, since he writes hard truths about euthanasia, national decadence, and the inexorable wrath of Gnon.  He also tells us things we need to hear about fatuous claims to individual human dignity and the sycophantic me-tooism of our “religious leaders.” Continue reading

Nuts to the Natives

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

St. Ambrose, advising St. Augustine to conform to the Roman custom of Saturday fasts (Anno Domini 390)

“When in Rome, do as you like and call the Romans xenophobes.”

St. Bilious, advising St. Fractious to complain about Roman customs when in Rome (Anno Diabolus 2021)

Continue reading

The Régime of which St. Just Presents the Plan

 “The régime of which St. Just presents the plan, is that by which every oligarchy of invaders installs and maintains itself over a subject nation . . . . It is a very simple one and consists in maintaining the subject population in a state of extreme helplessness and of extreme terror.  To this end, it is disarmed; it is kept under surveillance . . . its eyes are always directed at the uplifted axe and to the prison doors always open.”  (Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution [1878], V, xi)

“And we won’t ignore what our intelligence agents have determined to be the most lethal terrorist threat to our homeland today: White supremacy is terrorism.” (President Joe Biden, Speech to Congress [April 29, 2021])

Terror is, properly speaking, a government policy, so a true terrorist is a government official who advocates and executes a policy of terror.  This policy may or may not involve violent killing.  The essence of political terrorism is that members of a subject nation are intimidated by a fear that they might be arbitrarily denounced, prosecuted and punished for a vague and enigmatic crime.  A vague and enigmatic crime such as “white supremacy,” for instance.   Continue reading