If you call a man a communist, your status will drop in the minds of most people. The ascription need not be angry or accusatory, and may be altogether accurate, but to make it is a mark of vulgarity. Suddenly you are Joe McCarthy with whiskey on your breath, or Richard Nixon with a greasy sheen and a five o’clock shadow. I should add that, the people in whose minds your stock has fallen need not be communists themselves, or even fellow travelers. They simply share the common prejudice that people who see “reds under the beds” are crazy, and vulgarly crazy at that. Continue reading
“Globalization is making people richer — and that absolutely includes the American middle class.”
Kevin D. Williamson, “Globalization is Making Everyone Richer,” National Review, February 12, 2019.
Before he was evicted from Heaven with the rest of Lucifer’s rebels, Mammon was known as the stooped angel. It was cause for comment among the heavenly host that Mammon shuffled around the Celestial City with his shoulders hunched, his head bowed, and his greedy eyes fixed on the gold with which the heavenly streets were paved. There sat the Almighty upon his throne; there slouched Mammon, ogling the gold. Continue reading
The word bromide was at first the name of a sedative that physicians used in the treatment of epilepsy, sea sickness and insomnia; but in the early twentieth century its reference was extended to soporific bores and their stupefying conversation. The implication was that subjection to the bromides of a bromidic man (or woman) was very much like chemical sedation, since it induced the same feeling of numbness, lassitude, and fuddled mind. Continue reading
“The truth of history has been much corrupted by these encomiastic
essays; for many circumstances were recorded in them which never existed.”
Cicero, On Oratory and Orators (55 B.C.)
An encomium is, literally, a speech delivered in the course of a feast, and those who make speeches to feasting men are naturally inclined to praise the occasion of the feast. For if the occasion is not praiseworthy, the feasters are fools. A speech delivered at a wedding normally stresses the joys of matrimony and the most amiable qualities of both bridegroom and bride. A speech delivered at a birthday party normally flatters the guest of honor, and seeks to reassure him that he is fortunate to be so far advanced in years. A certain amount of good-natured ribbing may be tolerated, but everyone understands that, on festive occasions, strict objectivity and searching candor would be in the worst possible taste.
The church and clergy here, no doubt,
Are very near a-kin:
Both weather-beaten are without,
And empty both within.
Jonathan Swift, “Epigram IV,” (1726)
Alexander Pope was, I fear, taking some license when he wrote that “hope springs eternal in the human breast.”* Hope is a hardy and tenacious growth, and its root can send out green shoots after calamities of frost and fire, but it is not deathless, and there are times when a man awaits those green shoots in vain. Continue reading
“For Pete’s sake, Sir, teach the men not to be ‘trigger happy.’ (Note: an expression used on Guadalcanal for men who are very nervous and who fire without seeing the enemy. This man is dangerous and has caused a lot of trouble . . .)”
Russel P. Reeder, jr. Fighting on Guadalcanal (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1943).
Skittish souls say they are “triggered” when a traumatic and allegedly repressed memory is recalled by a “triggering” phrase, image or act. And souls even more sensitive therefore tell us we must set out “trigger warnings” whenever there are “triggers ahead.” Devising a “trigger warning” that is not itself “triggering” requires uncommon subtlety and skill, such as might be demanded of a highway department that was forbidden to mention roadwork, or a janitor sworn to silence on the matter of wet floors. Continue reading
“I stand where three ways meet; two lie in view,
And I am pondering which I shall pursue.”
Theognis of Megara, Maxims (c. 500 B.C.)
Medea was, long ago, a princess in Colchis, a barbarian kingdom that lay to the lee of the Caucasus Mountains, east of the Euxine Sea. When the Argonauts came to steal her father’s Golden Fleece, she lent them aid, fell in love with their captain, and returned to Corinth as Jason’s wife. But once Media had born him children, Jason’s eye began to rove; and when it at last settled on a young Greek princess, he resolved to discard his old accomplice. Media refused to go quietly, and because her barbarian spirit was combined with the deadly herb-lore of a witch, she gave Jason a stupendous demonstration of the proposition that “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Continue reading
“Full seldom doth a man repent, or use
Both grace and will to pick the vicious quitch*
Of blood and custom wholly out of him,
And make all clean, and plant himself afresh.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, Geraint and Enid (1859)
I am rereading Libido Dominandi, a fat book that played no small part in my “red-pilling” when I first read it nearly twenty years ago. It pointed me to writers like Abbé Barruel and Nesta Webster, and from there I went, as they say, “down the rabbit hole.” The book is by E. Michael Jones, a Catholic writer with whom many of you are, no doubt, familiar. Those who know Jones know he is a provocative thinker and a good storyteller, but that he desperately needs a very stern editor. Many of his books are far too long, and pithy encapsulations of his thesis are too often secreted in out-of-the-way places.
In the third book of the Iliad, Homer likens the battle on the plain before Troy to the legendary battle between the pigmies and the cranes. This later battle was said to occur annually, somewhere beyond the Great Desert, perhaps in Ethiopia, perhaps in faraway Ind.
Homer does not tell the story of the battle between the pigmies and the cranes, but rather alludes to it in a simile that contrasts the squawking ferocity of the Trojans and the grim resolve of the Greeks. This same simile would serve, I think, to contrast the recent battle between our squawking public moralists and the boys from Covington Catholic High School. Continue reading
Some years ago, back when I would occasionally flip through cable channels, I came across a bit of a news documentary about a professional ethicist analyzing the moral reasoning of grade school students. First the students were interviewed and said rather unremarkable things such as that cheating on homework or tests is wrong. These interviews were reviewed by the ethicist, who pronounced himself “disturbed” at how students never question the justice of school rules against cheating “…blah blah white supremacy patriarchy structural capitalist oppression blah blah…”
As an antidote, some quotes from wise men:
…if geometry were as much opposed to our passions and present interests as is ethics, we should contest it and violate it but little less, notwithstanding all the demonstrations of Euclid and Archimedes…
— Gottfried Leibniz
Why, Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks, he is lying; and I see not what honour he can propose to himself from having the character of a liar. But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.
— Samuel Johnson
The matter is quite simple. The bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.
— Søren Kierkegaard