In a libertarian society, everyone agrees to disagree, and to leave each other alone in their disagreements. It would not be important that people should leave each other pretty much alone, so that each might go his own way as he saw fit, unless they had no cult in common, that brought them naturally to agreement about how best to live life. The purely libertarian society is the zero of commensality, and of ecclesiality. There is in the purely libertarian society no gathering, no agora; for, even the disputations of the agora presupposed a basic patriotism under the bonds of extended familiarity.
Libertarianism then is identity politics reduced to its limit: the individual. In the purely libertarian society, every man is a faction. Libertarianism is a cease fire in a Hobbesian war of all against all.
But it is at best a cease fire; the war continues, and threatens ever to boil over.
Divorce is a gesture that implements and urges demographic and political suicide. It is an expression of self-hatred; of the will to delete the patrimony inherent in oneself, and to prevent people such as oneself from peopling the future.
We live in a time of universal outrage. Everybody is angry with somebody for overstepping the bounds of decent behavior, but nobody can agree just where these bounds might lie. There is a good deal of finger wagging and tongue clucking, but very little in the way of shame.
To commit an outrage is to overstep bounds, for the word comes to us from the French outré (meaning excessive) and the Latin ultra (meaning beyond). It is an accident of etymology that the word seems to indicate a feeling of rage, although raging against outrages is common enough, and convention permits us to say we are outraged by the outrageous. Continue reading →
Thirty years ago, men who coveted a reputation for deep thinking were wont to discuss Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being. I was such a man and I remember such a discussion, sitting on the roof of a Boston apartment building late one night, in the company of an unemployed actor, who was connected to the sister of a woman with whom I was connected. As is so often the case with rooftop conversations, I remember the circumstances better than the substance. I clearly remember the John Hancock Tower rising up before us, against a backdrop of phosphorescent clouds; I clearly remember people below us, spilling onto the sidewalk before the Berklee College of Music; I clearly remember the roar of traffic on the Mass Pike and the earnest and sonorous voice of the unemployed actor. My memory of what the actor said is not so clear, but I believe it was in an existentialist vein, and that he laid considerable weight on such things as the “authentic life,” the “deliberate act,” and “the deed.” My memory of what I said is no clearer, which is just as well, given the sorts of things I said thirty years ago. Continue reading →