Introduction. Paul Johnson, usually acute, prejudices the case against Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906) in the chapter that he devotes to the instigator of modern drama in his Intellectuals (1993), where the author of Emperor and Galilean (1873) keeps company with the likes of Karl Marx, Berthold Brecht, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, and Lillian Hellman. Johnson can classify Ibsen under the pejorative label of an “intellectual” only by ignoring Ibsen’s text and concentrating on the biographical details, which indeed make their subject look like a contemptible piece of work. This criticism of Johnson by no means invalidates Johnson’s definition of an “intellectual.” On the contrary, Johnson has defined the “intellectual” brilliantly and his treatment of the phenomenon must bear instructively on any analysis of Ibsen’s play about Julian the Apostate. According to Johnson, the “intellectual,” who appears first in the person of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is a politically committed character for whom “a utopian, socialist future [is] plainly a substitute for a religious idealism in which he [cannot] believe.” An intellectual is often the master of a narrow slice of specialized knowledge who, however, feels “no incongruity in moving from [his] own discipline… to public affairs.” Yet when examined closely, even the specialized knowledge of the intellectual, his peculiar theory, tends to be unconvincing and perverse – a type of pleading by the person to himself to protect his theory from inconvenient facts and to preserve his vision of himself as someone qualified to “counsel humanity.” Writing specifically of Rousseau, Johnson remarks that intellectuals see themselves, not as “servants or interpreters of the gods but [as] substitutes” – that is, of both the gods or God and the sacerdotal clerisy. Johnson writes of that “most marked [of the] characteristics of the new secular intellectuals,” namely “the relish with which they subjected religion and its protagonists to critical scrutiny.”
I claim that’s what Catholics should be going for in my most recent column at Catholic World Report. There’s some to-and-fro in the comments with Mark Brumley, the CEO of the outfit that publishes CWR, who seems to believe in American pluralism more than I do.
At bottom, I think the issue is that he starts his analysis with the current interpretation of Dignitatis Humanae, the Vatican II pronouncement on religious freedom, while I start mine with the normal relation between a political society and the goods those who take part in the society want to further and protect. If the influence of Catholicism on public life grew it seems the two would begin to point in different directions. As I suggest in the discussion, though, it seems to me the interpretation of DH would likely (and legitimately) shift in response to such a change. That’s the function of the expressions like “due limits” and “public morality” that are found in the document.
A guest post by commenter Bill:
Various strands of the far right are divided on both normative matters (what is the good) and positive matters (what is happening/ how does the world work). Consider specifically positive theories of US elite behavior. Why does our evil elite behave as it does?
Furthermore, consider not proximal, instrumental causes but distal, more final causes. Saying “people talk and do nonsense about gay marriage, sluts, secular materialism, etc because it is high status to do so” is true. But it’s like saying “that wall exists because a carpenter cut, positioned, and drove nails into two-by-fours in just such a way.” And, let us tease out predictions, so that one can test among theories.
The more respectable part of the far right sees its conflict with modernity as a conflict of ideas within an ethno-cultural space which is not essentially contested. Modernity is what HBD types might call a meme disease or mind virus. Bad ideas have leaked into the Western elite mind, taken it over, and ruthlessly replicated themselves. That these ideas have differential effects on different sub-populations is incidental. Interesting, perhaps; relevant, perhaps, but not central. The ideas are central.
The less respectable part of the far right sees its conflict with modernity as a conflict with people/cultures. The world is made up of ethno-cultural groupings who are inevitably in a struggle with one another. Modernity, meaning the ideas of modernity, is, for this strain of the right, just a weapon which the currently ascendant ethno-cultural group happens to be using to great effect against the currently subjugated ethno-cultural groups.
I can’t resist quoting the Illinois Nazis from the Blues Brothers: “The Jew is using the Black … against you!!” Not all people-centric rightists believe this exact thing, but this is the kind of thing they believe. Contrast this with the idea-centric rightist view that progressives are caught in a delusional thought-pattern called “liberal creationism.”
On to our prediction-generating question: Whither progressives’ solicitous attitudes towards blacks as progressives’ power continues to grow?
On the idea-centric view of progressivism, we should see these attitudes harden, expand, and be promoted more forcefully as progressives’ power waxes. These ideas are, evidently, central for them. Furthermore, the rebellion of non-elite whites has been the big impediment to their expression—the courts’ giving up on school busing, for example, was synchronous with Reagan’s victory in the early 80s. As non-elite whites lose power, so progressives gain the ability to put these ideas more into force.
On the people-centric view of progressivism, we should see these attitudes end. Blacks have been a useful hammer for destroying two rival ethno-cultural groupings: Southern whites and urban Catholics. As rigor mortis settles in to those groupings and as they additionally become irrelevant in electoral calculus, hitting them becomes pointless and costly. Even better, there is now a much more congenial brown hammer which can be deployed. So, the black hammer gets put down.
So, when the day comes when progressives are so powerful that they will never again need big black turnout to win in FL and the rust belt, we shall see which prediction is bourn out. What year? 2030 maybe? By 2050 for sure.
A guest post by Dalrock.
Alan Roebuck recently asked Can Man Live Traditionally?
Alan answered yes, and went so far as to argue that a man has an obligation to marry even though this means marrying in a legal and social regime which has done all it can to eradicate traditional marriage, and even if this means marrying a woman who wouldn’t have been considered appropriate to marry by tradition minded men of past generations.
As a member of what I have dubbed the traditional marriage group within the manosphere, I asked Alan if he would be interested in me providing a response as a guest post. Alan very graciously accepted. I suggested this because while I differ in some important aspects with Alan’s position on the topic, I was impressed with his willingness to go against the grain of our thoroughly feminised culture and acknowledge the unpopular truths regarding what our society has transformed marriage into. While I think it is unlikely that opinions will be changed on either side, my hope with this exchange is that each of us will better understand the positions of the other. Continue reading
At the heart of the liberal enterprise is the cult of the free and equal new man, totally liberated from all bonds of authority, tradition, morality, culture, civility, and God: self-defining, self-actualizing, and self-ruling.
This anthropology of the superman is necessarily deranged, tending, as it does, toward a psychotic refusal to deal with reality on its own terms. Hence it gives us the pervert who mutilates his genitals, slips on a sundress, and calls himself a woman. The project is sinful in conception and mad in its end, and therefore doomed to failure.
But this same anthropology can never admit to the possibility of failure precisely because it cannot admit to being constrained by reality. It can only understand its failures as the result of opposition by others, and therefore it implicitly acknowledges the presence of the untermensch — literally, the low man whose captivity to the same bonds which the superman abhors makes him an impediment to the flourishing of the free and equal new man.
In reaction to my post “Say No to Same-Sex Pseudo-Marriage,” commenter “The Man Who Was…” objects to our claim that homosexuality is largely caused by one’s upbringing. He says no evidence exists for this claim.
The truth is rather different. That homosexuality is largely due to the environment in which one is raised is very nearly true by definition, and is therefore not subject to either proof or disproof by empirical means. If The Man Who Was… objects that “studies” don’t prove that homosexuality is induced by a disordered environment, he’s probably failing to notice that “studies” also don’t disprove it. Continue reading
The Kermit Gosnell case is very interesting to me. On the one hand, most people seem rightly horrified at the prospect of plunging a scalpel into a baby’s spine because mom wants to backpack across Europe next summer (or whatever). On the other hand… hello, this just is what abortion is like, as anyone can see who isn’t being medicated futilely for something. Gosnell wasn’t lying when he said that “that’s how it was supposed to go.” That’s how it goes every single time. The right’s affectation of disproportionate horror over Gosnell is more or less a tacit concession of the leftist conceit that it doesn’t really “count” as murder if the baby is on the wrong side of the birth canal.
This case is indeed a horror show, not because it’s so exceptional but because it’s so banal for us, so utterly routine.
A guest post by commenter Bill:
Over the last century or so and especially over the last fifty years, Western elites have adopted a number of bizarre positions. These positions are held not because any evidence suggests them to be true, but, evidently, for reasons emotional, ideological, and self-interested. This, by itself, is not especially comment-worthy: people are like that.
They also, however, adhere with similar intensity to older positions: to modern philosophy, to a kind of Whiggish history, and to the machine—to the Mechanical Philosophy and the scientific program it lionizes. To themselves they are hard-headed, empirical rationalists; guardians, seekers, and producers of truth. Naturally enough, rationalists, realists, and truth-tellers deserve to be high, while spiritualists, super-naturalists, and fantasists deserve to be low. The Logos must rule.
Tensions arise when the new beliefs come into conflict with truths produced by the machine, to which they are committed by the old beliefs. The tensions are not merely internal to the heads of Liberals, either. These two belief-sets are not equally strong in all Liberals, some of them lean heavily towards the machine and some of them lean heavily towards progressivism. Since progressivism is increasingly ascendant, the machinists retreat. One way they retreat, reminiscent of the way their predecessors the alchemists retreated before them, is into esoterica. That is they retreat into producing texts whose exoteric, open meaning is false and progressive but whose esoteric, hidden meaning is true and anti-progressive.
The most accessible example of this is race denial. The renowned Stanford geneticist (and cowardly machinist), Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, in the introduction to and again in chapter 1 of his 2001 book, Genes, Peoples, and Languages says explicitly and in almost these words that human “racial” differences are unimportant and are only skin deep. The remainder of the book is a detailed refutation of these claims, which refutation, however, never notices itself as such. By two pages from the denial in chapter 1, you know that race is at least blood deep. By the end, you know it is bone deep, gene deep. Exoterically, he never admits that race exists, that it is biological, or that it is important. Esoterically, the book is almost about showing the truth of these things. Cavalli-Sforza is famous enough that his behavior has provoked learned commentary. There is a fine series of blog posts on this by the anthropologist Peter Frost beginning here, continuing here and culminating in an informative seven part series (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven).
A funny example of this came to my attention the other day over at West Hunter, the blog of the physicist-turned-anthropologist Gregory Cochran. In the linked post, Cochran talks about the work of Dan Freedman with newborns. As it turns out, newborn babies display some of the stereotypical behavior of their respective races. Newborns display large differences in their willingness to accept externally imposed discomfort. Babies rank, from most to least accepting: Navaho, Chinese, Japanese, White, Black. As it turns out, you can buy a DVD of data from the experiment, a DVD entitled Cross-Cultural Differences in Newborn Behavior. Look at the word between “cross” and “differences.”
The officially-mandated legitimization of same-sex pseudo marriage is absurd, contemptible and even evil. So naturally our ruling elite are enthusiastic about it, and the regular people are increasingly falling into line.
It therefore seems likely that homosexual pseudo-marriage will soon be enshrined into law throughout the United States. Our nation—at least most of our leadership class—is eager to defy God, nature and human tradition.
As traditionalists, we of the Orthosphere know that the legitimization of homosexuality—currently the most popular of the destructive leftist fads—is a great wrong. Let us therefore summarize the reasons why it is wrong so that those capable of acknowledging reality can at least have the satisfaction of a clear statement on this important topic.
We will not, of course, convince our opponents. And so we will not try, that is, we will not attempt to dot every “i” and cross every “t.”When someone is wrong about something as obvious as the superiority of heterosexuality to homosexuality he is not wrong because of inadequate reasoning. He is wrong either because he dares not defy the spirit of the age, or because his spirit rebels against God.
So we will simply make a series of true assertions, and not attempt to rebut every pseudo-objection raised by the other side. Continue reading
A guest post by commenter Bill:
Perhaps Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch is their most iconic work. A customer brings a dead parrot back to the store from which it was bought, claiming that it was dead upon purchase. The clerk/owner responds, persistently, that the parrot is not dead. Hilarity ensues.
There is something compelling about watching parrot mongers at work: asserting the sky’s pinkness, insinuating the evil of pink-sky-deniers, frothing and threatening. It’s not just for comedy sketches. Parrot-mongers are rife. Get the parents of an ugly, stupid, clumsy, and nasty child talking. Ask, in the Art History Department, about the value of a BFA. Ask an investment banker about the value of “financial innovation.”
Parrot-mongers look foolish. Somehow, they know they look foolish. Thus, they must have a reason for their parrot-mongering. Often, as in the examples above, it is soothing their pride or resolving the dissonance between what is actually true and which truth would be in their interest. While this is not benign, one sympathizes.
When this straightforward explanation is lacking, though, what is going on? Behind the Iron Curtain, the populace generally sold parrots for the Communist elite. As Havel, Solzhenitsyn and others explain, one sold the regime’s parrots, at one level, to avoid punishment and, at another, to reassure the elite that they remained in power. Still, though, this was about interest—the regime’s interest in resolving the conflict between the elite’s mismanagement of the country and, well, their desire to remain the elite. Furthermore, it remains very easy to see the connection between the lies, the people telling the lies, the elite mandating the lies, and the elite’s interest motivating the lies.
Putting the Communists to shame, the US is overrun with parrot mongers. But, in our case, the connection back to the interest of the elite motivating this is much less apparent. Whose interests are served by the race denial parrot? By the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming parrot? By the war between religion and science parrot? By the blank slate and gender equality parrots?
Commenters on the right, whether secular or religious and whether neo or paleo, have tended to take as our task refutation of the parrot-mongers. We have decided to be John Cleese. While this has value, pace the Asch conformity experiment, it seems overdone. It seems as if we, like John Cleese as consumer or like Charlie Brown as placekicker, are taking our tormenters at their word where their word is clearly not good.
If treating the parrot-mongers as honestly deluded is mistaken, then treating them as dishonestly interested in fooling us is better. But, then, what’s their program? Cui bono? And what is the right countermove?