Freedom and Tolerance

Zipppy and Franklin have been having it out in the discussion thread here.

Representative quote from Franklin:

 Zippy, I support your right to live without freedom if that is what you prefer. I support the right of people to live under whatever kind of culture they want. If you want a king, fine. If you want communism, fine. Just don’t impose your culture on me. The real difference between traditionalism and liberalism is that there are many different traditions and real traditionalism recognizes this and respects the rights of people to organize themselves around their own traditions.

 

Representative quote from Zippy:

It isn’t just my theoretical understanding of liberalism that makes “live and let live” classical liberalism (which you oddly label “traditionalism”) seem utopian and counterfactual. The actual track record of liberalism in the real world suggests otherwise too.

My response:

The modern condition is uncanny, and therefore accurate comparisons with the past can be difficult to make. In the past, man was less free in many ways, and more free in many ways. The modern man is—with certain glaring exceptions noted—more free in the non-physical realm, where he can generally choose his own epistemology, his own ethics and even his own metaphysics without lifting any eyebrows, but he cannot choose to install incandescent lightbulbs, to develop his land, or to hire whomever he wants. And, most importantly, he is not free to live well on account of living in a properly-ordered society.

Liberalism offers freedom, and it delivers a lot of it, but it fails to deliver what man needs most: order.

I side more with Zippy than with Franklin. A great nation needs a great purpose, not just a “live and let live” spirit. Moreover, tradition is to be valued because it connects us with truth, not just because it is our way.

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Gene / Culture Devolution

Culture – memetic variation and selection – is the medium of Lamarckian evolution. Culture is the way that humans pass along acquired characteristics – learned ideas – to their fellows and heirs. And ideas have consequences. Our ideas shape how we live, and thus where, when, and how long we live, how many children we have and how we raise them, or not, how we coordinate our activities, and so forth. The structure of social coordination evolves.

As factors of prosperity and reproductive success, ideas have genetic consequences. And those genetic consequences feed back into the selection of cultural memes.

So there is coevolution of genes and culture. Men prosper in cultures to which they are physiologically well fitted, and cultures prosper among men who are physiologically equipped to enact their memes. Their physiological equipment includes the structure and organization of their nervous systems.

Men and women of a given thede, then, are likely to be better adapted physiologically to the cultural forms historically predominant in that thede. This is why Swedes do better than the Ik at Social Democracy.

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Re-Post: Edgar Rice Burroughs and Masculine Narrative

[This is a much-revised version of an article that originally appeared some years ago at The Brussels Journal.]

Prologue: Contemporary popular culture is as jejune as contemporary politics, with which it is more or less indistinguishable: Strangled by political correctness and by contempt for form and etiquette, “pop” culture eats away like acid at what remains of courtesy and memory. But the past of popular culture – in literature, illustration, and the movies – has much nourishment to offer. One of the most widely read authors of the Twentieth Century, Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875 – 1950), had a penetrating insight concerning the health of the body politic and the positive relation of a vital culture to its founding traditions. The author of Tarzan (1912) and its many sequels, the inventor of the extraterrestrial sword-and-sandals romance, ex-cavalryman, admirer of the Apache and the Sioux, anti-Communist, anti-Nazi, self-publishing millionaire entrepreneur, religious skeptic, “Big-Stick” patriot, Southern California real-estate baron, sixty-year-old Pacific-Theater war correspondent, Burroughs has, with a few ups and downs, maintained an audience from his authorial debut in 1912 to the present day, nearly sixty-five years after his passing. Burroughs has a place in the culture wars, standing as he does for the opposite of almost everything advocated by the elites of the new liberal-totalitarian order. I offer, in what follows, a modest assessment of Burroughs’ work.

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Important Essay by Eric L. Gans

In the latest of his ongoing Chronicles of Love and Resentment at the Anthropoetics website, Eric L. Gans discusses the evolution of resentment since the Middle Ages and shows the relation of a debased type of resentment to the reigning victimocracy. Gans argues that only a revival of the concept of sin can deliver us from the galloping totalitarianism of the victim-mentality. I strongly recommend the essay to Orthosphereans.  The link is here: http://www.anthropoetics.ucla.edu/views/vw457.htm

The Allure of Lemuria

I recently set my freshman composition students the task of writing an essay based on each writer’s choice of a topic from a list of two hundred topics. I urged especially that writer-respondents to the assignment should strive to find interest in whatever topics they might select and that they should seek to discover the meanings in their topics. To prove that it could be done, I wrote the following essay on one topic from my own list – “Lemuria.” I append my list at the end of the essay. (TFB)

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Gulenism, Opus Dei, and the Mormons

Suppose you were a wise, religious man living a century or two ago.  You see that modernity is here and that it will not be stopped.   You see the walls of civilization bowing, cracking, groaning before it.  You see pitiless, red eyes searching out enemies.  You see its thirst for fire and steel.  You see purity surrendering to its overripe sensuality.  What do you do?

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Literary Criticism without Literature

My title has two meanings. The first is that, since the 1980s at least, what calls itself literary criticism has consisted largely of abstract theory, most often concerned primarily with itself. An enterprise both gnostic and narcissistic, such criticism reduces ultimately to ideological formulas which, once pried free from the encrustation of verbiage, reveal themselves as the hoariest of political clichés, never out of daily use since 1848, which function mainly as group-identity noises. All contemporary critics are smarter than Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Dostoyevsky, but no one is smarter than le grand Jacques, Noam Chomsky, or Naomi Wolf. Although exiled to the periphery, actual criticism has continued to exist, but it is the tendentious type of discourse that has come to dominate the English and other literature departments over the last thirty years. The second meaning, the one that interests me in what follows, relates closely to the first.

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Onward, Christian Bloggers

Bruce Charlton worried a few days ago whether the languishing readership of the orthosphere, or Neoreaction generally, means that these schools of thought might be over and done with. Bonald has expressed similar concerns.

I think not. The tinder has not yet caught our spark. That does not mean it never will. Either we are all simply wrong about the way the world is, or else, sooner or later, one way or another, the fire will come. Why not keep striking the flint, in patient expectation?

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Paul Gottfried on the Contemporary Academy

Over at the website of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, the redoubtable Paul Gottfried provides commentary on the squishy totalitarianism of the contemporary academy and on the bland and careerist mentality that sustains it.  Gottfried writes:

As a student, I noticed that most of my teachers were immersed in books and ideas. They were genuinely in love with their disciplines and would spend their evenings and vacations pursuing their studies full-time. In college I majored with one professor who was a multilingual scholar in intellectual history. One of his books, which my mentor was too modest to discuss, was a study of the effects of Impressionist art on the prose style of Marcel Proust.

By contrast:

Some professors [today] strike me as men or women simply holding down ‘jobs’ without a deep commitment to learning as practice (in the Aristotelian sense). Others seemed to be not quite fully grown-up adults burdened with personal and emotional issues—people who didn’t fit into a bourgeois moral world and who were looking for an environment that they could mold to their proclivities.

Paul’s article is well worth reading.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Variations on a Theme.

My current brace of columns  includes one at Crisis Magazine about the trend away from concrete loyalties and objective principles toward radical subjectivity and a combination of money and bureaucracy as the basis for what’s still called public life. The other one, at Catholic World Report, makes the obvious point that the result is unlivable and we should all go out and refound Christendom.