Daily potpourri 7/20/12 – TGIF edition

  1. Nominalism, realism and faith.
  2. Artistic integrity.
  3. Civic integrity.
  4. Agrarian affectation.
  5. Gazing into my crystal ball …
  6. Don’t make me vote for Mitt!
  7. Social Mobility? So what?
  8. You can’t buy this at Amazon.com …
  9. …but you can buy layette at Target (once Daddy calms down).

1

Nominalists … don’t want to be “€œtaken in”€ and so profess that they can’t make heads or tails of the poet’s evocation of the ineffable penumbra of ordinary things. The realist and metaphysican, on the other hand, does not want to be “left out,” does not want to fail to do justice to all that appears to us in any given thing, or to all hidden within it that may appear to us only with patient attention.

(From The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry)

For much of my life, I was warned against “nominal” Christianity, but the people doing the warning had a rather short list of “fundamentals” of the Christian faith and used expressions like “hocus pocus” to scorn traditional, which is to say, liturgical and sacramental, Christianity. For them, the opposite of “nominal Christianity” was zealous and “heartfelt,” but it was a zeal not according to knowledge of even the possibility of mystery.

These days, I’m skeptical that anyone can feel heartfelt devotion to so two-dimensional a worldview, and I see much zeal and emotion as ideology and play-acting.

2

Image: Do you consciously think of yourself as part of a tradition of Catholic writers?

[Dana Gioia]: I am a Catholic, and I am a writer. I don’t think you can separate the two identities. But I have never wanted to be “a Catholic writer” in some narrow sense. Was Evelyn Waugh a Catholic writer? Was Flannery O’Connor or Muriel Spark? Well, yes and no. They were first and foremost writers who strived for expressive intensity and imaginative power. Their Catholicism entered into their work along with their humor, violence, sexuality, and imaginative verve. The few devotional works Waugh wrote are his worst hooks. His merciless early comic novels, which are Catholic only in their depiction of a hopelessly fallen world, are probably his best. Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange is a deeply Catholic novel about free will, but it is also a violent, dystopian science fiction novel about social collapse and political hypocrisy, all of which is written in an invented futuristic slang. There is something complicated going on here that cannot be simplified into faith-based writing.

A Conversation with Dana Gioia, Image No. 73.

Is this another way of saying that these artists are realists, rather than nominalists who produce two-dimensional banality?

3

I also like Gioia’s “I don’t think you can separate the two identities.”

I can truthfully say “I am an Orthodox Christian. I am a citizen. I don’t think you can separate the two identities.”

Don’t try to disenfranchise me on some stupid theory that if I’m a single, integrated religious person, my voice in the public square will violate some Shibboleth about a “wall of separation.”

4

Allan Carlson, reflecting on the official Republican National Committee photo of one Willard Romney:

I received my official photo of Mitt Romney in the mail today. It came from the Republican National Committee. It shows Governor Romney standing before an unpainted barn, an American flag hanging to the photo’s  left. Animal stalls appear to be in the background. A small tractor is nearby. And there, off in the distance….is that a log cabin?

The Candidate himself is wearing blue jeans—the apparel of the working man—with a simple grey work jacket. His hair is slightly ruffled, as one would expect from a man used to hard, outdoor labor. The only discordant note is a white shirt somewhat too crisp and clean for its setting.

I suppose we should despair over the distortions of background and character found in photos like this. I prefer to see this one as a sign of hope …

As the caption says, “This is a moment that demands we return to our basic values and core principles.” The clear implication is that, at some deep level, those values and yearnings remain Agrarian.

Allan Carlson may be a nicer, more hopeful man than I am. My RNC photo envelope went to the trash, unopened.

5

I have been fairly vocal in support of lawsuits against the HHS mandate that employers provide through their health insurance “free” contraceptives and early abortifacients like Plan B.

This is partly because I don’t think that contraceptives (or several other medicalized lifestyle drugs, like Viagra) prevent or treat disease and partly because such “insurance” is not truly insurance. It’s at best prepayment of modest and fairly predictable expenses that insulates patients from, and thus drives up, the cost of “medicine.”

But the court challenges I back are based on the religious freedom of the Plaintiffs. On that, I’ve not been very explicit. I think the plaintiffs’ best chance of prevailing legally is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, on the theory that the mandate significantly burdens the practice of their religious beliefs and is not the least restrictive means of accomplishing the government’s (dubious, in my view) purpose.

Be advised, however, that the less restrictive alternative that comes most readily to mind is paying for contraceptives and abortifacients with tax money. The zeitgeist makes letting people pay their own modest prescription fee, even for lifestyle drugs, is unthinkable.

6

Copyright wonks seem to be buzzing about an incident with political overtones. Yesterday introduced me to it. Today brings a bit more:

After the Obama campaign produced this creepy ad of Mitt Romney singing “America the Beautiful,” the Romney campaign released a singing ad of their own, featuring the audio of the president singing a few bars of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at a January fundraising dinner. And that might have been the end of it; two presidential contenders, two awful singers, two attack ads. An eye for an eye. Except the ad from the Romney camp contained just enough of the Green song to trigger a copyright claim by BMG Rights Management and the video was subsequently removed from YouTube.

Please, BMG Rights Management: don’t do anything so odious I vote for Willard in disgust.

And YouTube? Get a spine!

7

One of the boasts of Chamber of Commerce type conservatives is that despite huge disparities in income and accumulated wealth, great social mobility remains. For instance, being born into a lower class doesn’t mean you won’t some day become a billionaire entrepreneur.

Indeed, it’s sometimes claimed that we have the greatest social mobility in the world, though I’ve seen that called into question lately. (Maybe it’s true in the sense that there’s a lot more wealth strata to rise through in this great nation, by gorry, by jingo by gee by gosh by gum.)

But what if “social mobility” isn’t really The American Dream, and we’re being victimized by a shell game when our attention is redirected to it? The late Christopher Lasch seemed to suspect as much:

The truth is that our society is at once “highly stratified and highly mobile,” in the words of Wendell Berry. There is little evidence that rates of vertical mobility have declined. On the contrary, a vast body of social research points fairly consistently to the conclusion that rates of mobility have remained more or less constant ever since the Civil War. During that same period of time, however, the concentration of corporate power, the decline of small-scale production, the separation of production from consumption, the growth of the welfare state, the professionalization of knowledge, and the erosion of competence, responsibility, and citizenship have made the United States into a society in which class divisions run far more deeply than they did in the past.

Roughly 20 years later, Lasch’s gloom is even more justifiable.

8

9

Did you hear the one about

how Target knew a teen was pregnant before her father, due to her buying habits they were tracking. The enraged father called Target, how dare they send coupons for strollers and maternity clothes to his daughter, only to find out…whoops. Tricky Target, or foolish us? (Now Target has learned to send that page of ads for cribs and maternity clothes, but also include an ad for a lawnmower and a grill, just so it seems like a regular un-targeted mass mailing.)

True story, and almost enough to make me move online and other privacy concerns up my priority list.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

About readerjohn

I am a retired lawyer and an Orthodox Christian, living in a collapsing civilization, the modern West. There are things I'll miss when it's gone. There are others I won't. That it is collapsing is partly due to calculated subversion, summarized by the moniker "deathworks." This blog is now dedicated to exposing and warring against those deathwork - without ceasing to spread a little light.
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