Reactionaries often blame capitalism for eviscerating tradition and reducing everything to the lowest common denominator. But capitalism – i.e., free exchange – is not a recent phenomenon. It was not invented by the Franciscans, forsooth, but rather discovered by them as a subject amenable to moral, theological and philosophical analysis, and so to discourse, development and elaboration. Capitalism has been around since the beginning of human society. It is no more than a fancy word for exchange that develops surplus, after all; for mere trade, and commerce. For almost all of human history, capitalism supported and indeed mediated local tradition – or, at least, did not vitiate it.
I had an unoriginal thought worked out this morning that I wanted to share. Mostly it’s already well-established, but it does go in a slightly novel direction in explaining the ‘holiness’ spiral of modern society.
Modern progressive liberalism (viz. WW2 and after) is a specific negative type of Christianity. That much is obvious. Where our once-for-all and yet repeated-daily Eucharist (Malachi) is the navel and foundation of our religion, the Holocaust is the navel and foundation of modern progressive liberalism (hereafter MPL to save keystrokes).
We can’t work our way into Heaven, for finity is incapable of infinity. Indeed, we cannot achieve anything greater than ourselves, whatever; but only, rather, what is lesser than we. So, Heaven is given to us gratuitously. Our work consists only in accepting its invitation; in wu wei.
So then, there is a difference between interior holiness spirals and exterior holiness spirals. The former are done in secret, and in service of true spiritual ends, so as to accept the invitation of the Logos; whereas the latter are done publicly, and for purposes of social advantage. As essentially worldly, exterior holiness spirals partake the Arms Race to the Degenerate Bottom. They are motivated by the urge to be accepted and approved by the mob. So do they accept the conditions of the mob, and instantiate it.
The Pharisee is an agent of the mob.
One reason you pick out and blame a scapegoat for the sins of the whole people is so that you can be sure you yourself are not among the number of the evil ones who pollute the City, and thus yourself in no danger of ostracism or banishment. This you can do without ever troubling with the beam in your own eye, provided you go along with the mob’s condemnation of the chosen scapegoat. It’s an easy “fix” for your own anxiety about your wickedness.
But it’s not a true fix; it doesn’t remove your inward knowledge of your own impurity, or your awareness that your impurity might be soon found out, so that you were then yourself ostracized. It doesn’t permanently salve your anxiety. All it does is ensure that you are not going to be singled out for punishment this time. It is a temporary reprieve, and no more: so that you remain as it were a condemned man, whose sentence of death has been deferred for one more day.
Holiness spirals are not first a search for status, although once they have got going, they do result in an arms race to see who is holiest among the Pharisees, thus of the highest moral and political rank, and thus least suitable as a scapegoat.
They are, first, a search for the proper constraints of true holiness upon conduct. Men are Fallen, and live in a Fallen, corrupt world; and they know it. They want to get holy; they want desperately to get ritually pure. Until they can honestly feel that they have done so, they will feel terrific anxiety, and thrash about in their predicaments like a bear in a trap.
Trapped bears are very dangerous.
When there is no established sacerdotal hierarchy that can authoritatively define the unquestionable constraints of holiness, and then offer men a way to get back within those constraints when they have strayed beyond their pale – that can give them a way to know that they have reached safe harbor – then men are going to push and push toward holiness however they can discern it according to their own best lights, without let or correction, and without possibility of any satisfactory completion of the search (because a forecondition of success for any search is a clear definition of success – such as can be authoritatively furnished to the searcher only by an incontrovertible authority). Anyone who disagrees with the notions of those who find that as a result of their personal quest for holiness they themselves are of the holiest sort then becomes a legitimate scapegoat in their eyes, and so a social enemy. There is then mutual repudiation and scapegoating of adversarial sectarians; mutual excommunication; schism; and, with the ensuing conflict of irreconcilable cults, civil war either hot or cold.
The estimable Laura Wood, an orthospherean shield mate of long standing in the culture wars, and an old friend, responded to my recent post on The New Castellation of the Eurosphere (which adduced the recent proliferation of bollards as its material) with an intelligent and forceful critique of my attribution of that castellation and all its dire cultural sequelae to the threat of Muslim terrorism. This post is a response to her comments.
The Great Sex Harassment Witch Hunt of 2017 is mostly hitting liberals. It is leaving conservatives largely unscathed (at least so far). Why should this be?
Paraphrasing Greg Cochran:
… a [model] that generates entertainingly wrong results will inevitably produce many interesting and publishable results.
Hah! And what do the media insatiably want? Interesting and publishable results! Clickbait! Something scary! Something that can be blamed upon some scapegoat! Something we can act to eliminate, simply by ostracizing the scapegoat!
A model of some sort generates a scary result of some sort: “Arctic May Be Ice Free By 2014,” or “Local Witch May Be Responsible For Cow Death,” or, “Jews / Blacks / Christians / Whites / Men / Immigrants / Liberals / Progressive Social Justice Warriors / Environmentalists / Feminists / Muslims May Be At Fault For All That Is Wrong With Your Life (Not You),” or something of the sort. Then, it’s off to the races, with lots of breathless news about the ongoing crisis.
As the fall semester began in the first week of August at Upstate Consolation University, student radicals and their faculty sponsors, seeking solidarity with their fellow Social Justice Warriors elsewhere in the country, rallied in the Mehar Shandruff-Danpoo Multicultural Center and Cafetorium, formerly the Andrea Dworkin Memorial Housing and Parking Office, to announce their determination to overturn and smash all statues of Confederate Civil-War heroes currently standing on the teaching-college’s architecturally bland lakeside campus. On leaving the rally, however, to go in search of offensive icons to topple and desecrate, the emotionally overheated crowd could find none. There were various commemorative statues scattered about the grounds of UCU, but not only did none of these represent or honor any Confederate Civil-War hero, none represented or honored any Civil-War hero, or, with one exception, any participant in any war. This fact is perhaps unsurprising given that UCU was only founded in 1958, nearly a century after the Southern surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The absence of targets nevertheless provoked the protesters maddeningly, causing them to retreat to designated “safe places,” where volunteers supplied them with pearl necklaces to clutch and offered smelling-salts to redeem the marginalized and oppressed from their debilitating white-privilege-induced vapor-attacks.
A nut is a man obsessed by just one thing. He is slave to an overmastering theory, or a compulsive activity, or a consuming ambition, or a fiendish desire. A “gun nut” dreams about guns and will pay dearly to possess them. A “health nut” dotes on his diet and broods over his bowel movements. The word “nut” is sometimes applied promiscuously, to every variety of mental disorder that one finds in a “nut house,” but a purist reserves it for men in the grip of an idée fixe, or obsession. When the word was first used in its psychological sense, towards the end of the nineteenth century, it denoted an overwhelming sexual infatuation. A besotted young man was said to be “nuts on the girl.”
So a nut is the same as a maniac, a fanatic, or an enthusiast. Each of these words has its peculiar associations, but at bottom they all denote an unbalanced mind. The mind of the besotted young man is unbalanced because the girl on whom he is nuts has eclipsed all else, and so caused him to neglect his work, his friends, his prayers, and perhaps his self-respect. We are nowadays instructed to refer to lechers and tramps as “sex positive,” but men and women with this imbalance formerly went under the good and descriptive title of sex maniac (or erotomanic, if you prefer). The fanatic was, originally, a religious nut who cared for nothing but the business of the temple, or fanum. His city could burn, his children could starve, so long as the gods were served. His modern namesake is so fascinated by the business of the stadium that he allows grass to grow knee-deep in his yard, to the sorrow of his neighbor, the persnickety garden enthusiast. Continue reading