Tuesday, August 28, 2012

  1. Everywhere and therefore nowhere?
  2. The last remaining imaginable act of Democrat male valor.
  3. Neither additive nor subtractive, but ecological.
  4. Moby Dick and Moon Landing.
  5. Ron Paul’s uncompromising goodbye.

1

James Matthew Wilson Monday begins a series to address a recurrent semi-clever argument:

Several times during the last couple years, the [Front Porch Republic] comment boxes have received protests against the supposed “placelessness” of the Catholic Church and the suggestion that more congregational, Protestant models of the Church more surely befit the spirit of localism and limits.

My reaction, after a moment or two of thought, would be that the comment is “worse” (i.e., disreputably older) than medieval. Its eventuality is localized gods along the lines of the time of Patriarch Abraham (who may not even have been a monotheist, the progressive work of revelation barely yet being under way). In other words, Abraham was devoted to his god, but may well not have recognized Him as the only God.

But that’s not Wilson’s answer, to further installments of which I’m looking forward.

Rather than accepting the globalist’s description of the happiness and freedom made possible by, say, having friends on three continents all of whom can keep in touch by airline, cellphone, and Ipad; that is, rather than accepting his claim to live in a “global” society, why should we not simply say that a “global” society is a myth, and any “community” not tied to a particular place is a delusion?  One cannot live everywhere, for there is no subsistent “everywhere.”  One can only be in one place at a time, and if one gallops from place to place with any frequency, one probably still lives in one particular place—one just does so poorly.   I can well imagine that an American with friends in Brussels and Bangkok will have an easier time finding companions to join him at the brothel, and that he will have a grand time exchanging photos across continents afterwards, but one must have a rather weak sense of friendship if it simply involves being able to spend money on the sex trade with one’s fellow cosmopolites.  I recognize that most globe-trotters go in for slightly more decorous forms of decadence.  But spending money together is not the same as having the same final end, or highest good, as another person—unless, that is, one has a totally perverse sense of what one’s highest good is—and so I am not sure any “global” camaraderie meets even a minimal classical definition of friendship.

(The Problem of Place, Part I)

2

After blasting the gonad-free GOP, Kunstler turns to the party of which he has been a member all his life:

I was coming-of-age and paying attention when Lyndon B. Johnson chose manfully to sacrifice the future votes of all Dixieland – his home territory – by signing legislation aimed at resolving the unfinished business of the Civil War. Even the fiasco of Vietnam that followed the Civil Rights years was acknowledged by many Democrats then in power as a tragic error. They had the courage of men conscious in crisis.

A perverse residue of those Civil Rights years lingers on today in the campaign for gay marriage, which affects to be identical in substance, and which is now, ironically, the only vector of action in Democratic politics inviting male valor – while it is also a huge distraction from many far more pressing tribulations we face, from resource scarcity to the well-being of the only planetary ecosystem we call home. I say, ironically, because gay marriage represents an existential endeavor that seeks to escape or nullify the fundamental tensions of the two-sexed human race. Like all things fashion-oriented, its essence is novelty, and the essence of novelty is that its charms wear off.  Sooner or later, the charm of being not quite a man and not quite a woman will seem less than compelling to those not directly preoccupied by it. I bring it up because the Democrats have (foolishly) made it the public’s business to the exclusion of other things. So, for Democrats, the last remaining imaginable act of male valor in the arena of politics is to come out of the closet. Where else is valor found in Democratic politics? What amount of valor has been attached to the act of fighting to reestablish the rule of law in American finance, upon which the fate of the nation truly hangs?

Kunstler can be a real crock, but he calls ’em like he sees ’em.

3

Technological change is neither additive nor subtractive. It is ecological. I mean “ecological” in the same sense as the word is used by environmental scientists. One significant change generates total change. If you remove the caterpillars from a given habitat, you are not left with the same environment minus caterpillars: you have a new environment,  and you have reconstituted the conditions of survival; the same is true if you add caterpillars to an environment that has had none. This is how the ecology of media works as well. A new technology does not add or subtract something. It changes everything. In the year 1500, 50 years after the printing press was invented, we did not have old Europe plus the printing press. We had a different Europe. After television, the United States was not America plus television; television gave a new coloration to every political campaign, to every home, to every school, every church, to every industry.

Perhaps an analogy here will help to underline the point. In speaking of the meaning of the poem, T.S. Eliot wrote remarks that the chief use of the overt content of poetry is “to satisfy one habit of the reader, to keep his mind diverted and quiet, while the poem does its work upon him: much as the imaginary burglar is always provided with a bit of nice meat for the house-dog.” In other words, in asking their practical questions, educators, entrepreneurs, preachers and politicians are like the house-dog munching peacefully on the meat while the house is looted. Perhaps some of them know this and do not especially care. After all, a nice piece of meat, offered graciously, does take care of the problem of where the next meal will come from. But for the rest of us, it cannot be acceptable to have a house invaded without protest or at least awareness.

(Neil Postman, The Judgment of Thamus, Volume I, Number 1 of Synaxis)

4

I had to have lunch with David White, a Shakespeare scholar then teaching at the Naval Academy.  During our conversation Dr. White pointed out that at the end of time not only individuals will be judged, but peoples too.

And it’s comforting to know, he added, that when judgment comes America will have at least two great things to its credit:  Melville’s Moby Dick, and the Moon landing.

(Jerry Salyer at Front Porch Republic)

5

I’m getting old, and the world is in such rotten shape that I’m not pulling so many punches any more. Ron Paul apparently feels the same way:

Somebody rather nastily said on the Internet the other day , “if those Paul people had been in charge, Osama Bin Laden would still be alive.” But you know what I think the answer is? So would the 3000 people [killed] from 9/11, be alive!

(Ron Paul, Sunday night). It astounds me that so few Americans can muster up the empathy to imagine what it feels like to live in one of our client states, or somewhere we’re actively occupying, and why people might be driven to desperation.

Before I put this (and me) “to bed,” I came across a second piece on his farewell.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.