On a Greased Rail to Amalekite Rule

With House Speaker Pelosi publicly opining on the immorality of a fortified border, it may be timely to review a traditional doctrine of the Church to which she belongs.  Aquinas begins his discussion of just relations with foreigners by observing that these are “twofold” (Suma Theologica Q. 105, Art. 3.).  They may be peaceful or they may be hostile, and to deal peacefully with hostile foreigners is just as wrong as to receive peaceful foreigners with hostility. Continue reading

The Justice of Natural Self-Love

“Whoever writes on strategy and tactics ought not in his theories to neglect the point of view of his own people.”

Colmar von der Goltz quoted in Gabriel Darrieus, War on the Sea (trans. 1908).

If a man invites you to walk a mile in his shoes, there is a very good chance that he intends to run off with your shoes while you are taking that walk.  If he invites you to see things from his point of view, there is very little chance that he intends to return the favor.  And if he invites you to “take one for the team,” you may well suppose that this is because he is gouging all he can from the team, and therefore looks forward to your sacrifice as a means to up his take. Continue reading

Keep Your Cool and Don’t be a Chump

Every child knows the sly maneuver of provoking another child to “lose his cool,” and thereby bring down upon his head the wrath of some severe but spasmodic adult authority. Say you are lined up waiting to board a school bus, and directly in front of you stands a boy you wish to peeve and humiliate.  Some distance away stands a teacher who is mindful of his need to retain the appearance of authority, but who is also somewhat lazy, distracted and bored in its exercise. Your sly plot is to get this teacher to “crack down” on the chump in front of you by triggering a conspicuous reaction—say a loud cry and some flailing punches—with an inconspicuous provocation—say a whispered accusation of addiction to solitary vice. Continue reading

While Speaking On the Record

I have mentioned that I spent a great deal of 2018 building an “on-line” course. This means that I was, in effect, building the robot that will take my job. (Incidentally, “on-line” education was first sold as “distance education,” the pretense being that the automated format would allow some cowboy at a rancho on the banks of the Dirty Devil River to pursue his dream of a college education. Now it is assumed that the automated format is simply a convenience for resident students who like flexible schedules and the pause button). Continue reading

Saving “Scraggy”

“It continued to survive in scraggy sort of way.” M.E.M. Davis, Under the Man-Fig (1895)

This post is about a word, so those readers who wish to imbibe a metaphysical, moral or political lesson will have to bring their own or go without.  The word is scraggy, and it is one that I fear may have passed into lexical limbo, for I have not heard it in a very long time.  My grandfather, a farmer, described his emaciated cows and cats as “scraggy,” and the playmates of my youth deprecated each other’s bony girlfriends with the word; but I nowadays seldom hear critical commentary on cows, women my age tend to be sleek, and were a credentialed colleague required to characterize some gaunt beast, I think he might say it was “under-resourced.” Continue reading

Old Wine in a New Wineskin

“I do not doubt the valor of your people.  But the world is changing.”

So said Frodo to Boromir on the slopes of Amon Hen; and so I say to you.  The people we would speak to seldom read, and when they read, it is with the focused constancy of a butterfly that flits from flower to flower. And there are, O, so very many flowers in our media meadow. I do not doubt the valor of our pens, but I do doubt the power pens alone.  Some of us must learn to speak through a “hot medium.”  I have begun to do this by producing videos my classes, and will begin from time to time to do it here.  Behold, the video edition of my latest post. Continue reading

On Loyalty to Lost Causes

“Loyalty to lost causes is . . . not only a possible thing, but one of the most potent influences of human history.” Josiah Royce, The Philosophy of Loyalty (1908).*

Loyalty to a lost cause is inherent to reactionary politics, and yet many on the right are embarrassed by the association with defeat and wish it were not so. The thirst for victory is strong in man, and the reactionary heart naturally faints when it reflects on the losses that have littered its way since 1649. A reactionary is also perplexed by questions of how loyalty to his lost cause can be sustained when the cause is truly lost, and when the victors who opposed it are both vigilant and vengeful.

To assuage their embarrassment, cheer their hearts, and unknot their perplexities, reactionaries require a philosophy of lost causes that can pull them from the morass of despair, intransigence and regret. They need a theory to assure them that they are not all mad as Don Quixote or sad and futile prisoners of the past. Continue reading

Addendum to Pity Me Not When the Pop-Guns Pop

When the essays and addresses of Robert L. Dabney were being prepared for publication in the late 1880s, his editors asked the old Virginian whether he would like to suppress or revise some statements of theological and political opinions that had fallen out of fashion.  Dabney’s creed of pure Calvinism had been on the wane for decades, and even the South was washing its hands of Confederate apologia, so a politic man of Dabney’s years might have chosen to fudge the record and pass into history as a vaguely venerable worthy.  But Dabney was the exact opposite of a politic man.  In the words of his biographer, “he would not be swept . . . by the strongest winds and waves of the zeitgeistand “was consequently at war with much in his age.”  Dabney therefore scorned the proposal and answered his editors with this stinging rebuke:

“Do you like the plan of trimming a man whose life and work you would perpetuate, to suit your notions, and then handing the resultant down as if it were real?”*

Continue reading