Good Mo(u)rning?

In a concession to the tearable punster in me, I offer you the following recommended greeting for those going through the text-message phase:  Are “u” in morning?

It’s so much better than “What’s good about it?”  (though not better than Gandalf’s disquistion on the goodness of mornings!)

And it might put some of us in mind of a bit of ancient wisdom with a divine stamp of approval:

It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting;
for this is the end of all men,
    and the living will lay it to heart.

(source: Ecclesiastes 7:2-8 RSVCE)

Despite which, I do love feasting.  Fortunately, in its proper season, so does God!

Cruz Cruising for Bruising Boos

Senator Ted Cruz is acting more like Barack Obama than like someone fit to be President:

To lay my cards on the table, my father is Jewish and I think I am about as pro-Israel as one gets. Yet Senator Cruz appeared to me to behave boorishly — totally out of tone, with apparently no understanding of the actual conditions under which half the people in front of him live on a daily basis, and squandering a great opportunity to make the American view point more understandable for a room full of religious leaders in the Middle East who don’t “get” us any more than we “get” them.

(source: What I Saw at the “In Defense of Christians” Summit | CatholicVote.org)

I’ve read multiple sources looking for anything more charitable than “d’oh!” to say about this, and CatholicVote.org was “nicest” so far (and that’s not even close to exculpatory).  Mark Movsesian’s account goes a bit farther:

My first thought was that Cruz had been exceptionally inept. How could he fail to anticipate that he would derail the conference by taking this line? It seems, however, that he had the episode planned. Before giving the speech, Cruz met with the editorial board of the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, which then ran an obligingly alarmist account of the upcoming event with the headline “Cruz Headlines Conference Featuring Hezbollah Supporters.” Apparently, the whole thing was a setup, a farce to make Cruz look good with his base and shore up his credibility as a pro-Israel hawk. Mollie Hemingway has the evidence over at The Federalist.

(source: A Sad Episode | Mark Movsesian | First Things)

 From that last-named source–and I take serious exception to her slander of William F. Buckley, Jr., along the way–a telling summary: 

When Cruz was supposed to give the keynote address and discuss the deadly serious topic of persecution of Christians, he instead insulted a largely immigrant and foreign crowd as a group that didn’t understand their own political situation and stomped out of the room after calling them a bunch of haters. You can get the details and transcript here.

(source: Ted Cruz Is No Hero For Insulting A Room Of Persecuted Christians)

If we want to build consensus, we’ll definitely have to start by agreeing that organized killing, dispossession, and forced relocation are bigger problems than who can pose with the most chutzpah for the election-year press.

After all, we wouldn’t want a President with no qualifications except the galling emptiness of his celebrity, would we?

Power and Prestige in Rotherham

Ross Douthat’s new column on the systematic rape culture in Rotherham, carried out under the protective shelter of what appears to have been not just police looking the other way, but an active criminal conspiracy by the authorities to destroy evidence and intimidate witnesses, is required reading:

Show me what a culture values, prizes, puts on a pedestal, and I’ll tell you who is likely to get away with rape.

In Catholic Boston or Catholic Ireland, that meant men robed in the vestments of the church.

In Joe Paterno’s pigskin-mad Happy Valley, it meant a beloved football coach.

In status-conscious, education-obsessed Manhattan, it meant charismatic teachers at an elite private school.

In Hollywood and the wider culture industry — still the great undiscovered country of sexual exploitation, I suspect — it has often meant the famous and talented, from Roman Polanski to the BBC’s Jimmy Savile, robed in the authority of their celebrity and art.

And in Rotherham, it meant men whose ethnic and religious background made them seem politically untouchable, and whose victims belonged to a class that both liberal and conservative elements in British society regard with condescension or contempt.

Douthat suggests that in each case, the really deadly moment comes during the transition between an older period of settled certainties and a new period of overturned morals. After the moral revolution, the old authorities lose their presumed aura of respectability, their untouchability, and crimes will be exposed and punished. People can leave those institutions behind or reform them. It is during the revolution, when the old authorities are still untouchable but those who wield their power begin to sense that all things are permissible, that the great horrors occur.

An implication he does not explicitly draw from this would be that the exposure of the Rotherham crimes is a sign that multiculturalism’s aura is on the wane in England. Let us hope so, and let us hope the next abuses are caught and punished sooner.

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The Problem of Nihilism in Public Discourse: A Case Study (Part 4)

(continued from Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3)

Let the reader be prudent before going on. I am going to simply comment on a few passages from Bakunin that help us to see the nature of the trap, here; then I hope to move on to a few conclusions.

Jehovah, [...] expressly forbade them from touching the fruit of the tree of knowledge. He wished, therefore, that man, destitute of all understanding of himself, should remain an eternal beast, ever on all-fours before the eternal God, his creator and his master. But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge.

[...] God admitted that Satan was right; he recognized that the devil did not deceive Adam and Eve in promising them knowledge and liberty as a reward for the act of disobedience which he bad induced them to commit

(source: God and the State – Chapter I)

I cite this–the full passage is nauseating in its wrathful calumny–only to note two things. The first is the direct misrepresentation at the base of this retelling of the story: the “tree of knowledge” is not a tree of access to information, but precisely a marker of moral freedom. The misrepresentation is literal, in that “tree of knowledge of good and evil” becomes “tree of knowledge” in Bakunin’s revision.

The other–and this is crucial to grasp–is that Bakunin’s reading is not alien to the text, not a modern and secular questioning of a traditional text.  No, Bakunin is asserting that one position was always already embedded in the text, and that he and all right-thinking people have at last realized the correct perspective within the text.  That is to say, Bakunin has adopted Satan’s logic before he even introduces the name of Satan, just as the Hebrew Scriptures have always already known that God was present and active in the world, before proceeding to name Him and tell of His deeds.

Compare Bakunin’s language above with Satan’s language in the Hebrew Scriptures:  “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  The text presents this as a lie constructed of apparently true words, as God says, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.”  Bakunin assumes from the first the Satanic construction of this passage, that God has attempted to deprive Adam and Eve of some “knowledge” by forbidding them to eat the fruit.

It is important to realize this, because the interpenetration of secular nihilism, religious Satanism, anarchism, and other explicit philosophies of negation is easy to miss behind the camouflage Continue reading

More Food for Thought

I do not find much to argue with in Mr. Bellow’s essay, but I would add this: The most profoundly conservative works of popular culture in recent memory were not produced by conservatives and certainly were not conceived of as conservative projects. In fact, many of them were produced by people one assumes are hostile to conservative views.

(source: Mayhem Is Everywhere | National Review Online)

In a recent exchange with Greg, I had occasion to mention my view that Christians interested in the arts “will need to evolve a manner of speaking that (1) retrenches within the Christian tradition and (2) sees whatever is real, whatever is True and Beautiful and Good that is *actually* presented, even in fiction, even in secular work, for our appreciation. That will be the Second Innocence of Christendom.”  I think this article hints us in that direction (see also the essay Greg links, and the Adam Bellow essay Williamson refers to; I approve the direction Williamson is extending Bellow).

Incidentally, Williamson is simply repeating post-Romantic ideology, and not any real canon of aesthetics or cultural excellence, when he says that “Didacticism is an enemy of art, and as such it should be in artistic matters rejected by conservatives, whose allegiance should be to aesthetic standards rather than to narrow political and cultural agendas.”  The supplement “narrow” is the giveaway. 

Eh, even Homer nods.