“If you would pray acceptably . . . withdraw from the world, see that you carry not the world with you.”
Phillippe Sylvestre Dufore, Moral Instructions (1760)
Radical thinkers would have you believe that it is a great advance to discover the politics behind science, art, religion, sports, sex, or whatever else you can think of. The fact of the matter is, that their “discovery” is a reversion to the entropy state of human consciousness, and that the discovery of hidden political agendas was coeval with the birth of human speech. When Prometheus gave man fire, most men immediately sat down and hashed out critical theories that defamed Prometheus, deprecated fire, and exposed the gift as part of a wily Titanic conspiracy.
Critical theory is always regressive because, in reducing everything to a scramble for power and privilege, it reverts to a primitive form of human thought. Because we are social animals, our minds are naturally disposed to envy, suspicion and backbiting. We naturally covet the glory of our betters, cherish the belief that it was obtained by disreputable means, and exercise our wit in stripping it of every last shred of merit.
Anyone with an ounce of honesty sees this impulse in himself.
Nietzsche called this charming trait “ressentiment.” Ordinary resentment is “a deep reflective displeasure against the conduct of the offender,” as when I resent an unjust slander, or a boorish abuse of hospitality (1). It differs from a momentary flash of pique or indignation, because the offensive conduct is not soon forgotten, but rather becomes the object of “deep reflection” and obsessive brooding. Resentment is a smoldering anger on which the sun is allowed to go down many, many times.
Nietzsche retained the French spelling because he wished to make clear that he was not talking about ordinary resentment, but about the morbid resentment that feels a deep reflective displeasure against noble things and meritorious conduct. Resentment becomes morbid ressentiment when it resents that for which it should feel gratitude and esteem. Ressentiment is, in fact, a form of profanation that dishonors what should be honored, disparages what should be admired, and defames what should be revered.
And ressentiment is our instinctive response to anything greater, finer or more beautiful than ourselves. This is why we find it very easy to cavil and jeer, but to praise without flattery is hard. And our instinctive ressentiment is is why it is always easy to turn any conversation to a gabble about politics.
This is also why “critical studies” are beloved by lazy and dimwitted professors. It is easy to take a painting by John Constable and tear it down as an ideological instrument of bourgeoise morality, patriarchy, or Eurocentric white supremacy. The criticisms are readymade, and they go down easy with students because they feed the students’ natural ressentiment. Rather than confronting students with the humiliating assertion that Constable was, unlike them, a great man, and that his paintings are, unlike everything they have ever made, great works of art, the “critical” approach comforts students with the assurance that Constable was just as grubby, selfish and dishonest as they are.
In fact, more grubby, selfish and dishonest, since he lacked their critical insight into politics.
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Whenever there is a call to make an activity or organization more political, it is a call to make it less of what it is and ought to be. A painting is different than a novel, and a novel is different than a film, but critical analysis eliminates these differences and reduces the three things to the common factor of power. A club of bird watchers is different than a department of physics, and a department of physics is different than a military platoon, but critical analysis eliminates these differences and reduces these things to expressions of a common ideology. The club, department and platoon are, in the last critical analysis, nothing more than regional chapters in the hegemonic political party.
This brings me to what Catholics are calling the “new integralism.” As best I can tell, “new integralism” proposes that the Church should become more political. It is said that this will represent an “integration” of Catholic moral doctrine and practical political policies, but it looks to me like a more perfect integration of the Church with the Globohomo Borg.
And “integration with” means “assimilation to,” since the Church will be profaned by the Globohomo Borg, but the Globohomo Borg will not be baptized by the Church.
Should the “new integralism” be undertaken, it will almost certainly succeed, for politics is the entropy state of human consciousness, and it is always easiest to gabble about politics. Of course, gabble about politics encourages ressentiment, and ressentiment is the opposite of reverence, so integralism and gabble about politics will almost certainly succeed in making the Church less of what it is and ought to be.
If it is to remain itself, the Church must be anchoritic, not activist.