It may not be entirely his fault, but Chesterton is touted by his followers as the champion of democracy, the common man, and common sense over and against notions of aristocracy or elitism. He did seem to trust the common man an awful lot. I suppose that the common man, even in our day, can still be trusted to uphold a kind of Oprahfied natural goodness. But when it comes to getting the Permanent Things right, today’s “common man” is not to be trusted at all. And his moral blindness is getting progressively worse by the hour. As evidence I offer Exhibit A from LifeSite News:
“American Gallup Poll results, released this morning, indicate that tolerance of homosexuality within the United States has reached a record high. According to the Poll, since 1977 public support of legalization of ‘homosexual relations between consenting adults’ has risen from 43% to a record-breaking 59%. According to Gallup, the general trend is an increased support for homosexuality. Notably, the observed increase in acceptance of homosexuality has occurred concurrent with a nationwide promotion of homosexuality in the American public elementary school system.”
Chesterton fans are going to have to realize that what we don’t need right now is “more democracy”. Not on any level. What we need today is the courageous exercise of authority. What we need today is a virtuous and well-formed elite that is capable of winning the common man’s respect and admiration.
Very busy today. Here’s some good reading for you:
William Luse on Jack Bauer and the mystery of iniquity.
Elena Maria Vidal reproduces the last letter of Marie Antoinette. Beautiful and heartbreaking.
Dust I Am on things you never knew about hoeing the garden.
Rod Dreher on the power of tradition.
Phillip Blosser on the narcissist generation.
Joseph Bottom on death and politics.
“Because you trespassed against me in the midst of the children of Israel, at the waters of contradiction
in Cades of the desert of Sin: and you did not sanctify me among the children of Israel. Thou shalt see
the land before thee, which I will give to the children of Israel, but thou shalt not enter into it.”
- Deuteronomy 32:51-52
It isn’t a perfect metaphor. But it’s close. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his successors, like Moses, led many faithful Catholics out of Egypt and into a painful desert exile. These faithful Catholics were nourished and fed the orthodox Catholic Faith at a time when Catholicism was scarcely to be found within the official bounds of ecclesiastical authority. They preserved not only the traditional worship of the Latin Rite, but also the riches of Catholic theology and spirituality, including the indispensable customs and traditions that make Catholicism an incarnational reality. For this we all must be grateful.
Unfortunately the well has been poisoned. The abuse of authority within the Church has led to a habit of contempt for authority among the exiles. Their mistrust is deep and seemingly intractable. Like revolutionaries of every stripe, they view anyone outside their little orbit as guilty until proven innocent. Every member of the regular hierarchy is suspect, his motives questioned, his words almost deliberately misunderstood. Catholic precepts against rash judgment, calumny, and detraction are thrown out the window when it comes to priests and bishops in good standing with Rome. The minimum respect that is owed to all priests is hardly remembered. For many exiles it is not enough that Rome is now anxious to provide the traditional Mass and sacraments, to revive the ancient devotions and traditional piety, and to welcome those who have been surviving in a desert exile for so long. No! Everything must be perfect before they return! The hierarchy must first be converted to Tradition exactly as the exiles understand it!
Today the Land of Canaan looms over the horizon. We can see the smoke from the fires in the distance – the fires of restoration. But the exiles are still grumbling. They have been faithful custodians of many things, but at the same time they have allowed the enemy to poison their souls. They have survived for a long time without the complications of obedience to flawed prelates: why should they change now? Hasn’t the Lord preserved them in the desert for forty years? Shouldn’t He be trusted to preserve them for another forty years if they happen to like it there?
Like Moses, they will remain outside and will observe the restoration from afar. Unlike Moses, however, this exile will be of their own choosing – and without the consolations of repentance.
A helpful reader has alerted me to a very practical homesteading site called The Backroad Home. Do have a look.
“Almost every American has an equally unaffected, though not, of course, an equally appreciative, love for ‘the country.’ This love appears intuitive, and the possibility of ease and a country place or suburban cottage, large or small, is a vision that gives a zest to the labors of industrious thousands. This one simple fact is of marked importance; it shows that there is an innate homage to the natural in contradistinction to the artificial—a preference for the works of God to the works of man; and no matter what passing influences may prevent the perfect working of this tendency, there it exists; and with all its town-bred incongruities and frequently absurd shortcomings, it furnishes a valuable proof of inherent good, true, and healthy taste.”
- Architect Calvert Vaux, from his 1867 book, Villas & Cottages
Most of you are probably aware of Steve Skojec’s new Catholic Restorationist project. The CR’s excellent charter can be read here. The latest phase of this project is the launching of a group weblog in which each member has posting privileges. I don’t generally go in for group blogs. It is all I can do to maintain my own, and furthermore, at some point I am certain to get in trouble with the authorities. My views don’t seem to be an easy fit anywhere. That said, the new CR blog happens to be engaging the same problems that have been my own preoccupation for the last few years. Even better, they are intent upon not merely asking the right questions, but acting upon the answers. In real life. There are already several good posts up by other members, and I hope to contribute something myself now and again. Please bookmark this site and make it a daily read.
I had planned to write a post about “resisting modern ideologies”, which was meant to be inclusive of liberalism, egalitarianism, individualism, scientism, naturalism, multiculturalism, utilitarianism, and feminism – among other devilish plagues afflicting the modern world. But now I think such an essay is far too ambitious for me. I have too little time and even less talent. So I’m going to start with the ideology that strikes me as the most pernicious and pervasive, the ideology which poses the most immediate threat to the Catholic family, the ideology which has had the most devastating impact on the modern Catholic personality, that of feminism.
What is feminism? The answer will vary from feminist to feminist. Nevertheless, the common thread seems to be an ideological commitment to eradicating social differences between the sexes – especially with respect to what feminists perceive as male-imposed limitations on female autonomy. Here on the ground, feminism has the effect of encouraging female resentment against men in politics, the workplace, and ultimately in the realm of marriage and family. While the earlier feminist movement focused on politics and economics, beginning with securing the right to vote and moving to “equal pay for equal work”, the modern feminist movement is obsessed with “liberating” female sexuality and therefore concentrates on things like abortion rights and homosexual activism. Female sexuality is powerful, and the goal of feminism is to eliminate anything (or anyone, in the case of abortion) that prevents women from exercising this power freely. Feminism is nourished, of course, by the doctrines of egalitarianism and individualism, the idea being that everyone should possess complete individual autonomy in equal measure. The practical effect is that most women today view men as competitors and threats to their sexual independence. Needless to say, this is an attitude that poisons relationships and destroys marriages. Feminism has all the destructive power of Marxism applied to the sexes.
Most people today are feminists. Rush Limbaugh is a feminist. Ann Coulter is a feminist. Most stay-at-home moms are feminists. They have accepted, with very few qualifications, that women should be able to live exactly as men live if they so choose. Conservative pundits show themselves to be feminists when they say things like “women should be free to choose between working and staying home with the kids”. What nonsense! Women should be free to pursue lives of virtue according to the priorities of their sex: that’s the only freedom that matters. Certainly this could mean working outside the home, as in the case of St. Gianna Molla, whose professional life was an expression of her deep maternal instincts, and whose career as a physician did no violence to her femininity or her domestic priorities. Serving God in this way was a privilege for her, not a right to be demanded, not a “choice” owed to her by society. While feminism is all about making women autonomous and maximizing choices, Catholicism is about making saints and maximizing the Good. If there is any overlap with the goals of feminism it is purely coincidental.
I believe that Catholics need to become experts at the art of resisting feminism. I call it an “art” because it requires some creativity. There are many ways to do this. In the first place, we must watch our language. Feminism permeates the language nowadays: this is a very big problem. Think of how Protestantism so thoroughly infuses the English language as to make it hard for an English-speaker to even think like a Catholic. Feminism has now infiltrated the language in a similar way: to speak contemporary English is to think like a feminist. Feminism has all but succeeded in emasculating the English language in our generation. The most salient victory has been the disappearance of the masculine pronoun. Modern English-speakers would rather use the plural “they”, “their” or “them” than the singular “he,” his” or “him” when the antecedent noun is singular and the sex is unknown. Similarly, when modern writers feel compelled to use a singular pronoun out of respect for pronoun consistency, they will insist upon “he or she”, or they will alternate between “he” and “she” throughout a text, or they will use the abominable “s/he” device. Anything to avoid the default masculine pronoun!
Other feminist influences include the dropping of sex identification for ships, nations, and other venerable places or things: i.e., you can’t say “she’s a grand old flag” anymore. And then there’s the obligatory substitution of “humankind” for “mankind”, “humanity” for “man”, and “people” for “men”. Finally, for us Christians, there has been the obnoxious rewriting of hymns along feminist lines, so that “Good Christian men rejoice!” becomes “Good Christians all rejoice!” and so forth.
Ladies and gentleman, it is our job to save the English language from feminism. The English language is patriarchal because the human race is patriarchal. Man, as in Adam, is the symbolic head of the human race: for that reason the male pronoun can either be gender-specific or inclusive of all humanity. It is important not only to oppose the feminist emasculation of the language, but also to positively uphold the idea of Christian patriarchy that is contained therein. An important truth is at stake in the matter. At the same time we should not be too heavy-handed about it. This should be done in a natural way, without repudiating the practicality of non-ideological “inclusive” language at times. We need not set about looking for opportunities, resulting in an awkward and affected overuse: opportunities will present themselves naturally in the language as it is today.
The art of resisting feminism extends far beyond language, of course. Many have commented on the importance of men practicing chivalry (as it has come to be known) towards women. Observing time-honored courtesies – aside from simply being the right thing to do – can go a long way towards undermining support for feminist goals. Men should also be extra-careful in the way they speak in the presence of women, avoiding profanity and off-color jokes – even if, as is often the case nowadays, the women themselves use filthy language. You might be surprised at how many women behave like ladies when in the presence of a gentleman.
Resisting feminism also involves relations with men. For example, when working with married couples in business, you ought to assume the husband is the decision maker until there is information to the contrary. That does not mean that you should ignore the wife or discount the importance of her opinions. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this, and running roughshod over a woman’s legitimate concerns is the wrong way. Her husband won’t appreciate it either. But you will be surprised at how some couples react to your subtle assumption of male headship. Very often the husband, who is perhaps used to deferring to his strong-willed wife in everything, steps up to the plate and actually takes the lead. And in a surprising number of cases, the wife, rather than opposing him, ends up encouraging him. Whether this is for the sake of appearances I do not know, but it is still a positive thing and a gentle step in the right direction. Practice makes perfect.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to simply get out from under the feminist jackboot. To some extent men are already doing this. Men have largely abandoned higher education due to the feminist domination of universities. When women take over a profession, men tend to seek other kinds of work. There are exceptions in high-paid specialties, such as nursing, but in general men want to work with men and for men. Even women, it turns out, prefer to work for men. The result of this male flight from feminism is that women now outearn men in over 80 professions. Freedom from feminism does have a price. However, the current upside-down situation is temporary and will correct itself once feminism – with your help! – runs out of steam.
A final note: modern children’s literature, movies, music, cartoons, toys, games, and school books are shot through with feminism. The feminists are very good at this. They routinely cast girls in masculine roles and boys in feminine roles. Many characters are purposely androgynous. Deep masculine voices are always sinister, female or effeminate voices are always on the side of the angels. Not even old movies are safe. The flip side is that non-feminist toys and games are often hyper-masculine in the worst pagan sense. And that is the choice modern children are presented with: feminism, or barbarian masculinity?
How do you fight this? It’s not as tough as you might think. Children are better off without 90% of the toys and games and movies that the world has to offer anyway. With respect to books and music, I don’t trust anything produced after 1965, and I’m skeptical about anything produced in the 20th century. Even if Harry Potter seems OK – I honestly don’t know – there are dozens of classics your kids should be reading before Harry Potter even enters their vocabulary. Vigilance!
“The frequency and power of crime have blunted Christian sensibility, even alas! among Christians. Not only as men, but as Christians, they do not react, do not leap to their feet. How can they feel themselves to be Christians if they are insensitive to the wounds which are being inflicted on Christianity? Life shows its existence by the sensation of pain, by the vivacity by which it reacts to a wound, by the promptness and vigor of the reaction. In the midst of rottenness and decomposition there is no reaction.”
- Cardinal Ottaviani, as quoted in “Action: A Manual for the Reconstruction of Christendom” by Jean Ousset.
Today is Ascension Thursday, and the FishEaters website has some interesting tidbits on Ascension Day customs. (By the way, if you’re not well acquainted with FishEaters it is about time to remedy the situation!).
“As to customs, it is traditional to eat some sort of bird on this day, in honor of Christ Who ‘flew’ to Heaven. If you live in a hilly or mountainous area, climbing the hills in commemoration of Jesus and the Apostles’ climbing the Mt. of Olives, whence Jesus ascended to Heaven, is customary. Putting the two together, a picnic that includes some sort of bird and eaten on a hill or mountain would be a perfect way to spend the day …”
If you work in a place like this, you might be a Loser.
“Another way of saying this is that a new technology tends to favor some groups of people and harms other groups. School teachers, for example, will, in the long run, probably be made obsolete by television, as blacksmiths were made obsolete by the automobile, as balladeers were made obsolete by the printing press. Technological change, in other words, always results in winners and losers.
In the case of computer technology, there can be no disputing that the computer has increased the power of large-scale organizations like military establishments or airline companies or banks or tax collecting agencies. And it is equally clear that the computer is now indispensable to high-level researchers in physics and other natural sciences. But to what extent has computer technology been an advantage to the masses of people? To steel workers, vegetable store owners, teachers, automobile mechanics, musicians, bakers, brick layers, dentists and most of the rest into whose lives the computer now intrudes? These people have had their private matters made more accessible to powerful institutions. They are more easily tracked and controlled; they are subjected to more examinations, and are increasingly mystified by the decisions made about them. They are more often reduced to mere numerical objects. They are being buried by junk mail. They are easy targets for advertising agencies and political organizations. The schools teach their children to operate computerized systems instead of teaching things that are more valuable to children. In a word, almost nothing happens to the losers that they need, which is why they are losers.
It is to be expected that the winners — for example, most of the speakers at this conference — will encourage the losers to be enthusiastic about computer technology. That is the way of winners, and so they sometimes tell the losers that with personal computers the average person can balance a checkbook more neatly, keep better track of recipes, and make more logical shopping lists. They also tell them that they can vote at home, shop at home, get all the information they wish at home, and thus make community life unnecessary. They tell them that their lives will be conducted more efficiently, discreetly neglecting to say from whose point of view or what might be the costs of such efficiency.
Should the losers grow skeptical, the winners dazzle them with the wondrous feats of computers, many of which have only marginal relevance to the quality of the losers’ lives but which are nonetheless impressive. Eventually, the losers succumb, in part because they believe that the specialized knowledge of the masters of a computer technology is a form of wisdom. The masters, of course, come to believe this as well. The result is that certain questions do not arise, such as, to whom will the computer give greater power and freedom, and whose power and freedom will be reduced?”
An essential book for the Catholic Restorationist’s library (someone please come up with a list of essential books before I have to do it for you) is Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by the late Dr. Neil Postman. The importance of this book for our technology-drenched generation cannot be overstated. Here’s a sample from his chapter titled “The Loving Resistance Fighter”:
“Those who resist the American Technopoly are people -
who pay no attention to a poll unless they know what questions were asked, and why;
who refuse to accept efficiency as the pre-eminent goal of human relations;
who have freed themselves from the belief in the magical powers of numbers, do not regard calculation as an adequate substitute for judgment, or precision as a synonym for truth;
who refuse to allow psychology or any ‘social science’ to pre-empt the language and thought of common sense;
who are, at least, suspicious of the idea of progress, and who do not confuse information with understanding;
who do not regard the aged as irrelevent;
who take seriously the meaning of family loyalty and honor, and who, when they ‘reach out and touch someone’, expect that person to be in the same room;
who take the great narratives of religion seriously and who do not believe that science is the only system of thought capable of producing truth;
who know the difference between the sacred and the profane, and who do not wink at tradition for modernity’s sake;
who admire technological ingenuity but do not think it represents the highest possible form of human achievement.
A resistance fighter understands that technology must never be accepted as part of the natural order of things, that every technology – from an IQ test to an automobile to a television set to a computer – is a product of a particular economic and political context and carries with it a program, an agenda, and a philosophy that may or may not be life-enhancing and that therefore requires scrutiny, criticism, and control.”