“It is time to shout . . . that the freedom of all the earth’s people to move across borders must be at the center of any response to the climate crisis. Unless we do, racism and fear . . . will give way to fascism and war before the tides get a chance to drown us.”
Ben Erenreich, “Open Borders Must be Part of any Response to the Climate Crisis,” The Nation (June 6, 2019)
There was a time when a Man of God would terrorize his congregation with a vivid prospect of Hell and damnation. Today our men of god are for the most part godless, but they are no less give to terrorizing their listeners with lively descriptions of the punishment that awaits men who do not repent and amend their ways. This punishment is not eternal torment in a Lake of Fire, but a future in which the sin of “racism and fear” has received its just wage of “fascism and war.” Continue reading
“She liked Mr. Walpole’s company, because they could bring their little scraps of scandal together and compare them.”
“‘But where was the proof?’ said Horace, doubtfully, on some wicked anecdote being told.”
Percy Fitzgerald, Charles Townshend (1866)
I have been warned against the perils of anecdotal evidence, and I am sure you have as well. I have not, however, assimilated the modern prejudice against anecdotal evidence, and if you have, I hope to talk you out of it. I concede that it is a great mistake to extrapolate from an anecdote to an understanding of how things generally are, but I believe we make what is often a greater mistake when we fail to interpolate anecdotes into our understanding. Continue reading
Cosmic justice: infantile and nihilistic
Social class, home environment, genetics and other factors all contribute to differences between individuals. People differ in looks, height, income, social status, morality, various kinds of intelligence and athleticism, musical ability, industriousness, discipline, and nearly every other human characteristic. Differences in culture, history, and geography generate differences between groups. Being born into a culture that emphasizes hard work, education, conscientiousness, and thrift is a tremendous advantage.
“Social justice” advocates describe the resulting disparate achievements as “inequalities” with the suggestion that these represent some kind of injustice. Unequal achievement is treated as though it must be the result of discrimination, “privilege” or some other unfairness, while it is in fact the inevitable consequence of differences between individuals and groups. These differences will exist no matter how a society is organized barring a race to the bottom where the laziest, least talented individuals set the bar and every achievement that surpassed that pitiful measure got confiscated and distributed – removing any incentive to do anything much at all. Continue reading
“Rien n’aura eu lieu que le lieu.” – Mallarmé
Plato had a cyclic – or “spiraling” – view of history, in which the cycles bear the regular scars of catastrophe, the plural catastrophes being epochal in the root sense of articulating a dehiscence between one age and another. The most dramatic expression of Plato’s catastrophic theory of history comes with the story of Atlantis and the Prehistoric Athens in the two linked dialogues, Timaeus and Critias. The Atlantis story has a pedigree, which Timaeus supplies. The statesman Critias, who narrates the legend in the two dialogues, heard it in his youth from his grandfather, who knew it in turn from his source, the famous lawgiver Solon, who got it from certain records kept by the Egyptian priestly college at Saïs in the Nile Delta. Solon visited there in early career on an embassy from Athens. The filiations of memory that permit Critias to rehearse the story are important in context because Plato, putting his notion in the mouth of an Egyptian priest, believes that one effect of the regular cataclysmic events is periodically to interrupt the record of history and reset cultural development at its degree-zero. When the earth shakes or fire falls from the sky or the oceans rise to inundate the land, civilization, painfully built up over the centuries, vanishes under the onslaught of nature; only a few mountain-dwellers or lucky, remote people survive. Since the simple, unlettered survivors take no custody of the written lore, almost every verbal trace of the smashed civilization also vanishes. The priest tells Solon that quirks of nature permit a few exceptions, and that the Nile Delta is one of them – a place unaffected by universal disasters, where continuous records chronicle humanity’s adventures going back tens of thousands of years into the past. Atlantis and the Prehistoric Athens attained high civilization; their achievements, technical and political, indeed put to shame all the societies of Solon’s day, including Attic society. A scourge of earthquakes and flooding obliterated both nations and the stunned survivors managed to live at a stone-age level of material culture only.
T. Lothrop Stoddard
Insofar as people today remember Massachusetts-born T. Lothrop Stoddard (1883 – 1950) at all, they remember him vaguely as a once-popular writer-journalist who had the bad taste to address forthrightly matters of race and immigration, as those topics concerned American national policy, in the decades before the Great Depression. People over forty who read the footnotes while studying English might recall that F. Scott Fitzgerald alludes to Stoddard obliquely in The Great Gatsby conflating his name with that of his contemporary Madison Grant. A few people might further connect Stoddard with the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924. Stoddard lobbied for it, another black mark against his name by contemporary standards. The wispy image of Stoddard will therefore suggest to most people, should it improbably appear to them, that the man belongs on the distinctly politically incorrect side of right attitudes and behaviors; they will adjust their emotions accordingly. Yet Stoddard contributed his considerable cachet to such causes as Pacifism and Eugenics, having been allied in the latter project with that darling of the Twenty-First Century Left, Margaret Sanger; he saw himself, in part, as an American Friedrich Nietzsche, rather as Fitzgerald saw himself as an American Oswald Spengler. Stoddard presents a fascinating case precisely because of his anomalousness when measured against early Twenty-First Century political templates. The regime of Multiculturalism must see in him only a scandal; on the other hand, he seems to be an ideological forerunner of the Democrat-Party abortion constituency. Stoddard’s case, discomfiting to all sides, suggests the limitations and rigidity of contemporary politics, from which candor has been banished. An excellent writer, he appears to have argued his brief honestly and without malice; much of what he says about race – take for example his contention that multi-racial societies are dubious propositions that diminish social trust – finds support in recent studies, such as those of Robert Putnam. How to square it?
E. J. Moeran (1894 – 1950) circa 1940
The opening bars of Ernest John Moeran’s Symphony in G-Minor (completed in 1937) etched themselves in my memory when I first heard them in the early 1970s in Neville Dilke’s 1970 EMI recording with the English Sinfonia – and they have haunted me ever since. Over a four-four ostinato based in the horns, the violins play a sweeping, folksong-like melody with a character both heroic and tragic; it is a melody strongly vocal in its outline, but full of developmental implication, which the composer ingeniously exploits. According to Geoffrey Self’s 1986 study of Moeran (1894 – 1950), work on the Symphony began as early as 1924, but its author it aside for a decade before resuming it. Moeran worked initially on what would become the Symphony’s slow movement, deriving his motifs, as Self informs his readers, from a traditional Norfolk melody, The Shooting of his Dear, which he had arranged previously for chorus. Self argues that The Shooting of his Dear appealed to Moeran more due to the pathos of its lyrics than to its inherent melodiousness. The song tells the story of a young fowler who accidentally kills his beloved while out hunting and how her ghost appears at his trial to plead clemency. The murder of the innocent, as Self sees it, figured centrally in Moeran’s conscience, as he had served in the British Army in the Great War, in which he had been severely wounded. Moeran’s symphony thus began with the folksong, on the basis of which the slow movement builds an elegiac fantasia; and when Moeran took up the score again a nucleus of motifs derived from the same Norfolk tune informed the thematic material of the other movements, including the sweeping theme at the commencement of the first movement’s Allegro. In Self’s analysis, the Symphony in G-Minor constitutes itself as a subtly and ingeniously worked out musical unity, as complex in its construction as any other major musical work of the mid-Twentieth Century.
No doubt but the derivation of the score’s thematic material from a few basic melodic cells conveys itself unconsciously to the lay listener. The main laical reaction to Moeran’s score, however, consists in feeling oneself overwhelmed by the work’s lyrical richness and its constant implication of carrying forward a musical narrative endowed with a powerful meaning. Self points out that the Symphony in G-Minor partakes in complexity and meaning in another way – through its pattern of allusions to other symphonic scores. He names Jean Sibelius, and in particular his Second, Third, and Fourth Symphonies as generating echoes in Moeran’s partitur; and Peter Tchaikovsky’s Sixth and Sir Edward Elgar’s Second Symphony and his tone-poem Falstaff. Self poses a rhetorical question: “What if [Moeran’s] music were to work by using our knowledge of other, specific works, and ones which are accepted loci classici for particular emotional gestures?” Self believes that Moeran often consciously made musical allusions so that musically astute listeners “would take account not only of the Moeran passage, but also of its model.” In this way “the total listening experience would be compounded of Moeran heard in light of the model – on occasion, indeed, the Moeran [passage] might make ironic comment on the model.” Elsewhere in his book, Self gives evidence that Moeran extended this practice to the large-scale works that succeeded the Symphony, and in so doing aligned himself with the mid-century convention of literary allusion, as in the novels of James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence or the poetry of T. S. Eliot.
“An’ them that do not like it they can lump it”
Rudyard Kipling, “Cholera Camp” (1896)
It has been awhile since I last heard the expression “like it or lump it,” although the stoical philosophy expressed in the line will never go out of fashion. I will say more about that philosophy in a minute, but let me first say something about the expression. Continue reading
“There should be some restraint of law against foolish and impertinent scribblers, as well as against vagabonds and idle persons . . . . I do not speak this in jest: scribbling seems to be a sign of a disordered and licentious age.”
Montaigne “Of Vanity” (c. 1580)
“Cobbler, stick to your last.”
Apelles of Kos (c. A.D. 79)
Montaigne was of the opinion that everyone could lend a hand in the destruction of society, since each man could bring to this great work his own pernicious power. “One contributes treachery,” he wrote, while others, differently gifted, contribute “injustice, irreligion, tyranny, avarice and cruelty.” As in happier undertakings, “the same spirit” is in this evil enterprise advanced by “diversities of gifts” and “diversities of ministrations” (1).
“O wad some pow’r the giftie gi`e us,
To see ourselves as others see us!
It wad frae mony blunder free us . . .”
Robert Burns, “To a Louse” (c. 1785)
Burns wrote these lines after he spotted a louse capering on the bonnet of a particularly proud and vainglorious woman who was sitting before him in church. In her own mind, Jenny was a lovely object of envy and admiration; to everyone else she was a lousy popinjay and a slovenly groomer. And so we have all blundered, at one time or another, swelling with vanity at the very moment a booger dangled from our nose, or our fly stood open to the four winds, or a louse did the jitterbug on our bonnet. Continue reading
Understand the terms used here. This is about evolution in the Darwinian sense: That purely material forces drive all biological change and therefore God is not the creator of the species and the human race. As a Christian I reject Darwinian evolution; the Bible says that God created the living beings, including mankind, and therefore Darwin contradicts Christianity. I do affirm evolution in the other senses, including microevolution, minor variation in already-existing forms caused either by natural selection or by deliberate human interference. I believe it because we see it happening now. But Darwinian evolution, which goes far beyond the observable evidence to postulate that all biological change was non-theistic, is doubtful and unnecessary.
And by “dissident right” I mean the non-mainstream yet non-insane right. Others may try to define the term more narrowly, but since the mainstream right is not helping to restoring a sane society, we need a term for rightists who are on the right path. At the moment, “dissident right” is the best candidate. Continue reading