Bruce Charlton has rightly argued in an email that the lack of commentary at The Orthosphere on the corona-virus pandemic, the implications of which are epochal, is intellectually and morally impugnable. For what it is worth — I cannot get rid of the suspicion that it is a deliberate attack. Its occurrence and effects are far too convenient for the forces of the Left for it to be a coincidence. I can offer no evidence except the event itself. I invite comments.
The acid eating at tradition is cheap information. This is to say that the acid eating away at cultures – all cultures, properly so called – is cheap information.
And information is from now on essentially free.
Can there then ever again be such a thing as a coherent traditional society?
Sure, tradition is necessary; it is the atomic stuff of culture as such. But is it even possible anymore? Are we looking at the death of culture?
Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829 – 1869) was the American musical superstar of the mid-Nineteenth Century. The issue of a German-Jewish father and a Creole mother, he early demonstrated executive prodigality at the keyboard and his knack for effective composition. During the Civil War, Gottschalk proclaimed his loyalty to the Union and toured the North playing his patriotic fantasias to wildly receptive audiences. A longtime resident of Oswego, New York, I feel compelled to report that Gottschalk visited that fair city no less than three times between 1858 and 1864, professing his belief that its young women were the fairest in all the States! “The Banjo,” described in French as a “fantaisie grotesque,” takes inspiration from what in Gottschalk’s day went by the name of “Negro Music.” It develops an original, largely rhythmic motif, and quotes Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races” in its finale. There is more by Gottschalk below, as well as songs by Henry Clay Work. A New Yorker, Work was Foster’s equal by any measure, but, because his fondness for “Slave Dialect” offends PC, he is today little known.
Kristor’s recent essay, “The Arms Race to the Degenerate Bottom,” reminded its readers of the downward or subscendent trend of aesthetics under the by now longstanding regime of liberal modernity. Recently also JM Smith made reference in one of his Orthosphere entries to Billy Wilder’s film The Seven-Year Itch (1955), starring among others Marilyn Monroe. Miss Monroe is my topic. In a state of heightened awareness after reading Kristor and JM (if “heightened” were the word, which it is likely not), I was quick to notice that the cultural mudslide in whose beginnings Miss Monroe participated — in various ways — is still prone to feature her prominently, as though honoring its own inception (if “inception” were the word, which it is likely not).
John Seward Johnson II, a.k.a. John Seward (born 1930), is a sculptor apparently well-known to the art-world, but hitherto unknown to me. Johnson created his twenty-six-foot tall bronze statue of Monroe in 2011, basing it on the skirt-lifting scene from Wilder’s film, where Monroe stands over a grate in the sidewalk. The statue, which resembles Seward’s other work, all of which looks like it was intended for audioanimatronic display at one of the Disney parks, originally stood in Palm Springs, but has recently gone on tour to Stamford, Connecticut, where it is spending the summer.
The sculpture’s painted garishness no doubt accords itself with the prim sleaziness of Palm Springs, which I would describe as Las Vegas without the casinos but with at least as many cocktail waitresses, pole-dancers, and call-girls. When one thinks of primly sleazy places, however, one hardly thinks of Stamford.
The photograph below shows “Forever Marilyn” from a frontal perspective. —
The photograph that I have placed below the “continue reading” toggle again shows “Forever Marilyn” frontally but from a different and revealing angle. —
The Texas killer, whose name I omit, was a proselytizing atheist, which puts him in the same circle as Lenin, Stalin, the Austrian demon Schickelgruber, Mao, Pol-Pot, and Che Guevara, to name but a few, and not merely for his atheism. As Richard Cocks pointed out to me in an email exchange earlier today, main-stream media have let the homicide’s religious convictions go unmentioned, but even the alternate sources of information seem not to know how to deal with it. I am struck by a couple of additional details.
The wall is a limen or boundary. On the hither side of the wall is Nature, free and luxuriant. On the hither side of the wall is the cultivated ornamental tree. The fruit seems to produce itself on the thither side of the wall. The ornament is beautiful, but Nature, the fecund lady who feeds men and women and their children, is bountiful. She responds to the farmer’s bargain: Let me understand your cycles and placate your demands and I will increase your fecundity. Agriculture is the productive compromise between Nature and Culture, to the benefit of both. The two-thousand-year-old wall-painting from a middle-class house in Pompeii speaks magnificently of the Western idea of Nature, with whom humanity partners, for the sake of her survival, and its — that is to say, our — survival. Christ does not disrupt this discipline.
The hither side of the wall might be brought into the thither side, to form a garden or grove. In Augustine’s Confessions, Original Sin finds its analogue in the autobiographer’s penitential divulgence that when an adolescent he joined with a gang of miscreants to trespass a neighbor’s orchard-garden and steal his apples, or peaches, or plums, or whatever the edible fruit might have been. Instead of consuming their booty, the trespassers petulantly discarded it, as though it was offal. Augustine begs forgiveness.
Augustine’s story is the germ of the Twenty-First Century’s ecological sensitivity, although the Twenty-First Century ‘s ecological sensitivity has no notion of Augustine or of confession or of the historical archive, witting knowledge of which tells us who we are.
To the west of Oswego, my adoptive civitas, the apple-orchards have benefited from three thousand years of Western horticultural science. These orchards nowadays resemble olive- or grape-orchards. The apple-trees are close to the ground, rounded, compact, and the fields of them look like vineyards or oleo plantations. The work of the harvest is much eased. The cultivated changes in apple-tree morphology entail a dramatic decrease in the price of harvesting apples. Respect for Nature is a boon. It is a Western boon.
During a solar eclipse, light from the sun is not only diminished by the occulting transit of the moon, but that same light is also temporarily polarized. The polarization shows things fleetingly in a new and revelatory way, as long as one is looking. (It helps to be looking, as it were, out of the corner of one’s eye.) Rather than photographing the eclipse itself, as it passed over my city, and as many people were doing, I photographed the city. The shots in this post document what I saw.
Political correctness is an instrument of oppression and scapegoating most prominently used by academic and political elites and enforced by mainstream news outlets. It is authoritarian, conformist and puritanical. Most egregiously, it is anti-thought. In On Liberty John Stuart Mill writes “Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think…”
An analogy can be made with other forms of despotism. Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia, once he had executed 250,000 people at the beginning of his tyranny, proceeded to be a fairly benevolent dictator. This is no argument in favor of this form of government however because the fact of his benevolence was merely happenstance. There was no mechanism by which he might be removed should his actions become intolerable.
Likewise, counterfactually supposing political correctness had some beneficial effects, there is no mechanism of correction. Political correctness countenances lies and censorship if they be in what is considered a good cause. As many have noted, when it comes to political correctness, the truth is no defense. This means errors cannot be challenged, even in principle, by appeals to facts. Instead, insisting on pointing out inconvenient truths is an excellent way of being morally condemned.
A son of the South (I am a fils of les gens de couleurs libres, who fought first for the independence of Louisiana and then for the abolition of slavery), I naturally experience some emotional ambiguity concerning General Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Nevertheless, in light of Kristor’s “Jubilee” theory of polity, I recommend New-Yorker Henry Clay Work’s “hit song” of 1864, “Marching through Georgia.” Here are the lyrics. —