Rémi Brague’s Kingdom of Man: Genesis and Failure of the Modern Project (2018) offers a lineage of, and a judgment on, “progress,” which, central to modernity, conceives itself as, precisely, a project. This word project figures importantly in Brague’s exposition. Brague (born 1947) distinguishes on the one hand between a task, a term or family of terms that he traces back to antiquity, and, on the other, a project, a term or family of terms that emerges with the so-called Enlightenment, beginning in the Seventeenth Century. (Brague translates from Greek, Latin, and various medieval and modern languages into French, and his translator, Paul Seaton, from Brague’s French into English, but readers may take for granted a thoroughness of lexical rigor across languages.) Having drawn Adam from the soil and Eve from Adam’s rib, God tasks the newly mated couple, and through them the whole of humanity, with dominion over nature, or stewardship, as some versions put it. Presumably although perhaps awkwardly one might refuse a task. A degree of voluntarism attaches itself to the concept. At the same time, the subject of the task undertakes it out of a sense of reciprocity or mutuality and in the trust that fulfilling the commission will sustain an ongoing relationship that benefits both parties – the tasker and the taskee – in the long run. A task is in the order of things. A project, by contrast, arises from a sense of urgency or panic. The discovery of a lack provokes a sudden resolution that the lack be made good as swiftly as possible. A project addresses a perceived deficiency by invoking a mandate for immediate action. Brague calls attention to the etymological basis of the word: Pro- (“forward”) and jacere (“to throw”), in Latin. Something ballistic and aggressive adheres to a project, which resembles a military campaign. Brague indeed invokes Napoleon’s campaigns, ultimately vain but hugely destructive, as instances of the generic project.
The James Martin Center has published Part I of my two-part article, Leaving the Blight of Higher Education. This first installment bears the subtitle, “Farewell, Students.” In it I describe and discuss the corruption, not of faculties and administrations (that comes in Part II), but of the student bodies of our colleges and universities. Students have, in effect, been co-opted as the enforcement-arm of the administration in order to police and neutralize even the smallest dissent from the totalitarian program of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. In its ugly candor, the university now functions as the training-ground for a national regime of denunciation. Far too many students, most of whom, through disinclination and a lack of intellectual requisites, should not be in college, relish their license to denounce and exercise it with enthusiasm. Affirmative action exacerbates this attitude, consisting, as it does, in the inculcation of a sense of racial-moral superiority that can find no anchor in reality but only in perpetual outrage.
It is not simply the politicization of everything. Students have assimilated almost entirely to the vulgarity of the reigning, perverse “pop culture.” To be “cool” requires the insertion of profanity in all sentences. The constant flow of sailor-language is demoralizing for someone who believes that college is supposed to comport itself with civilization.
Here is an excerpt from Part I:
A friend of mine from Upstate, “Fred,” served in the Army, where he rose to the rank of sergeant. After leaving the military, Fred found employment on campus as a manager of services. Fred and I frequently find ourselves in the same bar on weekends.
One afternoon, a gaggle of co-eds having entered the premises, Fred turned to me and asked, “Have you ever overheard them talking on campus?” I nodded, but let him continue.
“They use the f-word in every sentence,” he said, a phenomenon familiar to me. Fred, who came to Upstate from an environment where the f-word possesses a degree of functionality, nevertheless took offense in the profanity of female undergraduate banter.
Fred’s speech maintains a civilized quality and in this, he differentiates himself from students, female or male. It is not that co-eds implicate themselves exclusively in voluble profanity. Male undergraduates indulge equally in expletives. They even invoke the f-word and the s-word in class, but a stern glance can enjoin such infractions.
The problem is a continuing one, however, and its implication remains unsettling. In other classrooms—this is the only possible inference—these language-proletarians have escaped admonition. They, therefore, assume that no one could possibly object to their verbal infelicities.
Things are come over the last few days, and indeed hours, to a peculiarly acute pitch in America, and so in the wider West of which she is by historical accident – which is to say, by divine Providence – at present the head. America is now, for better or worse, the lead ram of the herd. Whither America goes, the rest shall follow. So we find that the entire West is at this hour poised on a world historical knife’s edge. If things go one way in America, the entirety of Christendom outside Russia will fall into rank apostasy, and so, into social chaos, poverty, and war. If they go the other, then might the West join with our Russian brothers in a renascence of Christian orthodoxy, and so of social health; of sanity, and so of peace, and of justice.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
On November 9th, Tucker Carlson offered the following prescription for curing the ills of the USA.
Let’s all stop lying. Lying about everything that matters, every day of our lives. That’s what we’re doing now. Have you noticed? How many times did you lie today because you had to? Let’s repeal our national dishonesty mandate (it’s a law never codified but still ruthlessly enforced) and tell the truth instead. That’s our only hope. Tell the truth about everything.
The morale of the West – and, thus, its capacity to morality under pressure, so then its economic vigor and geopolitical power – has throughout 2020 been assaulted on many fronts at once, more and more acutely. It is odd that things seem to have gone so badly in so many ways, all at the same time, and as it were in concert. The question naturally arises, whether that concert is orchestrated.
There are two options now before me; before America; before the West; before Christendom, as we all approach what seems to be a cultural crisis hundreds of years in the making: either to panic, or to commend our spirits to God, so renewing our pledge of fealty to him our Captain, and then to keep fighting, and before all else to keep praying.
There must be a demonic aspect to the present crisis. Our adversaries on all sides are too various, distributed and yet spookily coordinated for any merely human agency to have organized them so well. Another clue to their demonic inspiration: they are rather dense, as befits an army dedicated to confusion and disorder. They make stupid, obvious mistakes, such as threatening election officials – a federal offense – and then posting recordings of those threats online.
Synchronistically, I just finished the book Daimonic Reality: a Field Guide to the Otherworld, by Patrick Harpur. I have been reading about demons and angels a lot over the last five years or so. I had not wondered why, until yesterday morning. The topic is interesting, but so are many others. Why had I got on to it? Perhaps, I then thought for the first time, out of the blue: perhaps, it has something to do with our present crisis. Perhaps I have been prepared. Or we: for, I am not special. Lots of people in recent years have begun to take angels and demons rather more seriously than had been the case since 1900 or so.
Whatever the outcome of the present electoral controversy in the United States, it seems that we are bound soon to some radical political crisis, that will profoundly shape the American future – and, so, the future of all Christendom, such as she still is.
The covid pandemic is mostly a Boomer thing. The Chinese Flu kills a tiny percentage of people younger than the Boomers. Like every other medical difficulty, it kills rather more of their parents than it does of Boomers. Only the Boomers and their parents then are much at risk from the disease. Their parents are no longer much able to sway either public discourse or public policy. The Boomers are in charge. So the panic about covid, and the policies implemented in respect thereto, are mostly the result of Boomers worried about themselves. They have shown themselves – in the person of such governors as Cuomo – totally willing to throw the generation of their parents under the bus. Because, hey, those guys were going to die soon anyway. They have also shown themselves utterly indifferent to the manifold catastrophe their disastrous policy responses to the disease have inflicted upon all younger generations.
As with every other thing they have touched, the Boomers have ruined public health by ruining civil society.
III.Weird Tales served as the main venue of baroque science fiction although most critics regard that magazine as something other than and inferior to a science fiction periodical. To the extent that John W. Campbell’s vision defined the genre then perhaps Weird Tales really was not science-fictional. Nevertheless, Lovecraft published there, who admitted no supernatural elements in his fiction, along with Smith and Robert E. Howard. Indiana born Catherine L. Moore (1911-1987), linked to Lovecraft through her correspondence with him, seems however closer to Smith than to H. P. L. in more ways than one, beginning with her interest in intensely visual figuration, often architectural or ornamental, voluntary derangement as an antidote to unbearable ennui, and the emissary protagonist, all of which one can only classify as Symbolist. Now Symbolist aesthetics is related to baroque aesthetics, both by direct affiliation (Swedenborg to Baudelaire and Mallarmé) and in view of a persistent determination on the part of the individual artist to fill his canvas with detail and to impregnate every detail with meaning. The non-baroque artist regards his baroque co-practitioner as decadent, extravagant, self-indulgent, illogical, and repetitious – someone who pushes too many adjectives against his nouns. The baroque artist sees his critic as a Calvinist and a prude. Moore’s Northwest Smith, like Poe’s narrator in “MS. Found in a Bottle,” fulfills the roles both of pursuer and pursued; he too is fugitive, freethinking, not at all prudish, and never a Calvinist. He sits in bars viewing the traffic like a Baudelairean flaneur, consumes potions like a shaman, plumbs the depths of despair and ecstasy, and, last but not least, acts a knight-errant in defending victims against the sacrificial madness of crowds, wicked cabals, and cults.