It is normal for our Social Justice Warrior progressive interlocutors of the latter-day Left to exclude any middle ground. Either you accept their proposals without a jot of cavil, or you are an utterly insane, wholly evil Nazi, who ought rightfully to be killed.
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.
I’m not using your name because the Web is public and I want to minimize the chance that your privacy will be invaded. But this letter is written mainly for you. Other people may benefit from it, but that’s just a fortunate byproduct.
As a young man, your most important task is to come to understand the world. A man cannot live well if he does not know what’s happening.
The contemporary world has been disrupted. But the disruptors (the liberals) are a wicked bunch, and their disruption, which is really destruction, threatens you and everything you love (or should love.) You are just one person and you cannot stop the destruction by yourself. But as a first step you can understand the disruption by understanding how the world really works, and how humans should behave.
That’s what I want most to get across: What reality really is, and how humans should behave. There’s a lot to say, but I can only write one letter at a time. This letter concerns postmodernism.
Postmodernism is one of the defining features of the modern world, so we must understand it. We don’t need to understand everything about it; we’ll leave that to the scholars. But we have to understand its essence, the thing that makes it what it is. Continue reading
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.
A hierarchy that is not consecrated and thus ordered in all its parts to the vision of the Good vouchsafed by the common cult is as likely to work good as is a broken clock to display the correct time. A profane institution is finally, and thus fundamentally, and thus thoroughly misdirected away from the proper mundane end of all human acts: the achievement, maintenance, repair and restoration of that proper harmony among and within things under and toward heaven, in virtue of which alone is there any health, prosperity, propagation, contentment, wisdom.
Reading a book of evangelical theology this afternoon, I realized that there are a few reliable ways we can be sure that an author is a liberal weenie, and that the text he has written is therefore ideologically driven, ergo tendentious (whether witly or not), and probably wrong in its arguments. It is very simple, at least in books of theology. We can be sure that an author is a weenie if:
- He uses “impact” as a verb.
- He uses “image” as a verb.
- He avoids using masculine pronouns in referring to God.
- He uses “gender” to indicate sex.
- He uses “gender” as a verb.
If furthermore there is ever in a writer about ancient texts anything like environmentalism or feminism, egalitarianism or communism, relativism or nominalism, we can be sure that he has read them anachronistically, and therefore wrongly. We can, in short, be pretty sure that he is a hopeless idiot, and what is worse, not even therefore much useful to his sinister god.
What can we take from this? That we should never, ever, ever in a million years commit any such howlers.
Probably I have missed a few. I welcome correction of any such omissions.
Feminists, Marxists, libertarians – indeed almost all moderns – are alike stuck in the improper reduction of all social relations to struggles for power. They cannot see that struggles for power are not the basis of society, but rather defects thereof. Society is constituted fundamentally of charitable exchange, communion, friendship, familiarity, commensality.
There is struggle, to be sure. But you can’t struggle for social power if there is no society to begin with.
The modernist’s reduction of society to its diseases leaves him unable to understand his quotidian predicaments in any other way than as constant battle. This dooms him to … constant battle. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
At least since Nietzsche, modern European pagans of the more reckless jejune sort have been wont to proclaim that Christianity gutted Europe of her original, chthonic, manly, distinctive culture. The process took millennia, they say, but it has now been pretty much completed. Europe has been unmanned by the pale Galilean who had already sapped Rome and the wider Hellenic world with his flaccid Oriental mysteries, and lies now prone before her Mohammedan conquerors.
It’s a silly conceit. For one thing, the West began her precipitous Modern decline at exactly the moment that her formerly deep and utterly preponderant Christian faith began to weaken and splinter – thanks in no small part to that madman, Nietzsche himself (and to a few other madmen, such as Voltaire). For another, if Christianity really did gut Europe of such a vigorous exuberant cult, then … that cult must have been rather weak after all, mutatis mutandis – and so, by its own lights, deserving of death.
This is Gay Pride day, I gather. Or something. Somehow or other I encountered online today a Mercedes Benz commercial, extolling homosexuality and Mercedes vehicles – many other aspects of high end modernist taste appear in the ad, too. I won’t link to it. You can find it if you want to. It’s a gorgeous ad, I must say; impeccably done. If I was homosexual, I would find it wonderfully attractive.
But I’m not. So, I found it disgusting.
My immediate thought: “I guess Mercedes doesn’t want straight men to buy their stuff any more.”
If you know in your guts that you are misbehaving, or failing to behave rightly, then you will be anxious to hide your guilt about your viciousness – your moral, ergo ontological weakness, ergo political weakness, ergo vulnerability – from your fellows. So you’ll want ways to signal that you are a virtuous person, that do not much interfere with your pursuit of your favored vice. Facebook posts promoting politically correct notions, participating in bootless group activities like marches and charity events, donating money, shopping at the right sort of stores, and the like: all are good for this purpose. They don’t require you to change anything about the way you live. They don’t require moral behavior. And so they are cheap, relatively speaking. Much cheaper than repentance.