Nihilism and the Neighbor from Beyond the Hill

Is Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” really a reproof against borders? To read modern journalists, one would certainly think so, for they can hardly type the phrase “border fence” without feeling an inspiration to add, “something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

When this happens, we should remember that a close reading of the poem shows that there is also something that does. Love a wall, that is. Frost’s neighbor from “beyond the hill” loves walls very dearly—so much so that he more than once remarks, “good fences make good neighbors.” Continue reading

The Apocalypse of Modernity: Evolution and Conversion and Battling to the End by René Girard

Girard 03 G in Interview

Rene Girard in an Interview

History, and increasingly the mere daily record of events, are together apocalyptic, laying bare human nature for what it is primordially before the agonizing laboratory of the millennia creates the Christian society that its beneficiaries, swiftly taking it for granted, petulantly reject that they might go “forward” into a liberated horizon beyond the one defined by the Gospel. “Progress” names that particular folly. A blood-drenched folly it is, beginning with the religious wars of the Seventeenth Century and reaching fullness with the mobilization of the whole society fomented by the Jacobins and institutionalized by their superman-successor, Napoleon Bonaparte. From the guillotine henceforth, modernity blurts itself sanguinely in the Commune, Leninism, Stalinism, Hitlerism, and resurgent Islam (Jihad), which continues belatedly the sparagmatic trend of the late and unlamented Twentieth Century. Yet despite the academy’s authoritative three-decades-long declaration of Dionysiac “Postmodernism,” despite the polysyllables of doctrine-inebriated intellectuals, Modernity in its lynch-mob vehemence has not succeeded in realizing its rainbow utopia. No fulfillment of the destructive quest heaves in prospect. Modernity spirals dizzyingly to its destined abyss, dragging with it those who know full well its madness but who find themselves sucked along with the lunatics into the maelstrom.

The contemporary West resembles nothing so much as an archaic society in the full panic of social breakdown, searching desperately for the scapegoats whose immolation will induce the gods to intervene. So perverse has Modernity become that people eagerly seek victim-status although of course they can only do so by indicting other people as their persecutors. The old gesture of designating the victim has therefore been turned inside out and the nomenclature along with it. Objects of collective passion, those who are about to die at the hands of the mob, are now called victimizer, not victims.

No one can fully understand the contemporary situation without first understanding archaic religiosity, and archaic religiosity only reveals its meaning in contrast with the higher, scriptural religiosity, which at one time informed the civilized condition. In the same degree as the contemporary West spurns the spiritual maturity of Judaism and Christianity, its situation reverts to archaic patterns. Thus, in the sacrosanct name of “Progress” – wretched regress. And in tandem with that regress travels the obliteration both of consciousness and conscience, as the individuated man dissolves into the moral crudity of the Caliban-collective. No one has understood archaic religiosity – no one understands the modern age as a case of accelerating sacrificial panic – with greater clarity and penetration than René Girard (1923 – 2015), who remained intellectually active until his death earlier this month. Two late books by Girard, Evolution and Conversion (2008) and Battling to the End (2010), demand attention from those who sense that the liberal-secular order ever more excruciatingly confronts and denies the revelation of its own nullity.

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What Is It Like To Be Uncaused?

The problem of free will is that to the extent that our acts are uncaused, they are irrational, but that if they are wholly caused (ergo wholly rational), then they are not free, but rather are straightforward functions of their causal inputs – in which case, they do not actually exist as entities disparate from those inputs.

It would seem that if we are somewhat free, we are to that extent irrational. There’s the rub.

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Liberal Cultural Suicide and Spiritual Confusion : Apotheosis via Self-Castigation

One way of describing moral development is in terms of general levels; egocentric, ethnocentric and worldcentric. One starts with an exclusive concern for oneself, then the group – whichever group one identifies with – then a concern for everyone in principle. The Green MEME liberal has a worldcentric developmental level. Their infatuation with egalitarianism can lead to moral and cultural relativism. No moral perspectives are better or worse – all are equal. The same applies to cultures. Cultures are not better or worse, just different.

Moral relativism implies moral nihilism. If one moral perspective is not better than another and you can’t be wrong, then morality is null and void. Cultural relativism says one can’t compare morally the practices of different cultures. Again, there is no question of moral realism or the notion of objective values transcending cultures.

The goal of cultural relativism is tolerance. It is also intended to avoid ethnocentrism and the claim that my culture is better than your culture simply because it is my culture. The liberal in this instance conflates ethnocentrism with bigotry. This is obviously a mistake. One can have a preference for one’s own culture without simply denigrating out of hand other cultures, just as one can have a special love and preference for one’s own parents or children, without making a moral mistake.

The morally worldcentric liberal and cultural relativist seeks to get rid of bigotry by removing ethnocentrism. Thus they make identification with a group a sin. They want to go straight to the transcendent, bypassing the immanent. This is a form of Gnostic world hatred. It is the situation of the misanthropist who hates and despises all particular human beings while professing love for “humanity” in the abstract. Here is the moral and metaphysical error.
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The Revolution Devours Her Young

I remarked the other day that for all practical purposes Islam cannot any longer attack the West except by attacking liberal institutions; for, the institutions of the West are all liberal.

But the same is of course true for liberals themselves. The only way they can attack the Establishment is by attacking liberals, because the Establishment is pervasively liberal. There are no right wing institutions out there, other than a few think tanks and magazines that don’t have budgets for the sorts of jobs that liberals are fit to do, with the result that few liberals infest their offices.

Who now is the Left attacking, and destroying? The Progressives who run the universities. Schadenfreude ain’t in it.

Daredevil Morality and the Neighbor Problem

Drawing toward the end of the Our Father, as you well know, we petition God to “lead us not into temptation.” We make this request because we know that temptation is not, as geographers like to say, ubiquitous. Its properties and potencies vary from place to place. In one place temptation is as faint and tenuous as wood smoke from a distant chimney, in another as overpowering and lethal as a cloud of mustard gas.

In asking God to “lead us not into temptation,” we also acknowledge our weakness, our inability to withstand temptation that is sufficiently strong and specially tuned to our own peculiar hungers and hankerings. We can hold up to a whiff of wood smoke, but will go down before a cloud of mustard gas.

Any man who would remain righteous must remember these two things: temptation is not ubiquitous and he himself is weak. And with these things in mind, he directs his steps accordingly. Continue reading

The Verdict of Paris

I’d been thinking I ought to post something about the massacre in Paris last weekend but without knowing quite what. Then today I realized that I had already posted on the subject, *before it even happened.* In On the Delicacy of Civilization, I distinguished in passing between crimes *within* a civilization and attacks upon it from without. Like market failure, crime is a vice and weakness of civilization. It may redound to civil death, but such deaths are endogenous, analogous therefore to kidney failure, cancer, or heart disease. In a sense, such deaths are processes of civilization.

An attack from without is more like … well, like an attack on a person, than it is like a disease. Diseases make attacks more likely, insofar as they are evident in outward weakness, as is usually the case with disease. But they don’t cause the attack; they rather only reduce its apparent cost to the attacker, thus inclining him more to attack.

As I pointed out in that post, any high civilization organized on the basis of a supposition that its denizens will not try to destroy it is quite vulnerable to sabotage at the hands of a fifth column of alien aggressors from another, antithetical civilization.

Among the galaxy of confusions evident in our leaders, the confusion between crime and attack is among the most important and often manifest. We hear always about “bringing terrorists to justice,” when justice ain’t in it. Such talk is confused, and confusing. One cannot but think that, the confusion being so very obtuse, it must be intentional, and tendentious.

Among all the things I might say about Paris, this only has not (so far as I know) been said already a thousand times: the attack in Paris. as being directed against the Power of the West, was directed *against the liberal order.* It is the liberal order that suffers from the attack. To the extent that it succeeded in jarring the liberal elite away from liberalism and toward a police state (Francois Hollande has already proposed some changes to the French Constitution), *it undermined liberalism.*

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Cultural Diversity Update

Tweets trying to avoid the implications of the Paris shootings

It was only in a series of Facebook interchanges with a FB friend on the topic of the Syrian refugees that I really understood for the first time how much liberals hate Western culture. I could not understand why he did not care about the potential damage to host countries. That same ‘friend’ is reposting tweets on FB. “If we don’t use reason in the face of evil and murder and horror, then what good is reason at all?” “Don’t allow this horrific act to allow you to be drawn into the loss of your humanity or tolerance. That is the intended outcome.” “Wanna shatter the Islamist extremist worldview? Show them we aren’t separate or different and don’t hate each and can be eternal friends.” “You know what pissed off Islamist extremists the most about Europe? It was watching their very humane, moral response to the refugee crisis.” “I pray that not all immigrants are lumped into a mass of hatred. Most of them flee this very same kind of terror, not cause it.”

The tweets desperately try to forestall drawing logical, rational conclusions about the wisdom of Muslim immigration to Europe from the Paris shootings.

Self-Sealing Fallacy

Philosophers refer to something called “the self-sealing fallacy.” This fallacy occurs when a factual claim is made and a counter-example is provided refuting the original claim. The person making the factual claim then amends his original statement to make it immune to counter-examples by producing a tautology – a statement true by definition.

All children like ice cream.

But Judy is a child and she doesn’t like ice cream.

Judy isn’t a real child at all. Real children love ice cream.

The last statement makes it true by definition that children like ice cream. This forestalls refutation through counter-example. However, one has gone from making a factual claim about the world to producing a tautology that is not saying anything about the world anymore; it is merely an arbitrary and silly attempt to redefine a word for one’s own purposes.

Self-Sealing Fallacy and Muslim Immigration

My claim: welcoming millions of Syrian refugees into Europe is likely to cause problems. One of them is that within that population is likely to be individuals who see it as their mission to destroy Western culture. Another problem is that the refugees in their extremely large numbers are likely to significantly harm that culture in predictable and unpredictable ways. Cultural suicide is a bad idea for immigrants and the host culture. Among other things, in inviting a sizable immigrant population in with a culture incompatible with and hostile to the host culture, one risks creating the very conditions (violent and/or impoverished, “intolerance”) that the immigrant population is fleeing.

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Christers and the Smart Set

I have a friend of long standing who suffers periodic paroxysms of rage against Christians, whom he calls “Christers” to underscore his contempt. I have pointed out that the term is a slur at which one might take offense, but he is attached to it and I am attached to him, so what am I going to do? When he used the term recently, however, it started me wondering where the word came from, and I think you may be interested in what I found.

Everyone has heard the quote, “to learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” This is always attributed to Voltaire, although apparently without warrant, since there is no record of his having said it. In fact, it is most probably a refinement of a statement first made in 1993 by Kevin Alfred Strom, a White Nationalist who was thinking of his persecution for Holocaust denial. Whatever its provenance, it is now an internet meme, and rightly so, since it neatly encapsulates a self-evident truth. Power has its privileges, one of them being lèse-majesté.

We can invert this and say that a sure sign of powerlessness is the absence of lèse-majesté. In other words, “to learn who the truly marginal nobodies are, simply ask who you are allowed to criticize.” Criticize here means mock, ridicule and call rude names. To lay the proposition out fully, we should state it thus: “to learn who the truly marginal nobodies are, simply ask who you are allowed to mock, ridicule and call rude names in polite society.” If you can make a group the butt of a joke, or the object of scorn, and still be invited to the next wine and cheese party, that group has no lèse-majesté. They are marginal nobodies.

Which brings me to the subject of Christers, a group more or less bereft of lèse-majesté. It has been close to a hundred years since anyone was dropped from fashionable guest lists for mocking Christers.

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