Friday the 13th

  1. Advice for the future Ted Cruz
  2. Terra Incognita
  3. Godspeed, John
  4. Not to persuade, convince, or inform, but to humiliate
  5. The Unholy Trinity
  6. Je suis un loser

1

A political movement can be based on shared virtues, shared interests, or shared passions.  The Founders of our republic hoped for the first, expected the second, and feared the third.

My slight acquaintance with Senator Cruz outside of politics had suggested that he was a person of good character who believed in the principles of the Founding.  For this reason, I was surprised and disappointed when he based his senatorial career on neither shared virtues nor shared interests, but shared passions.  Let me restate this point with more precision:  On a single shared passion, the passion of anger.

He did not create the anger. The people were already disgusted and heartbroken by the failure of the political class.  But he stoked the passion, tried to make himself its representative, and sought to direct it to his ends.

This was a fundamental error.  Once unleashed, passion can no more be directed than a tidal wave.  It takes its own course, plunges through all obstacles, and chooses its own representatives, not only in defiance of virtue, but even in defiance of self-interest.

Enter The Demagogue, who despite his slight intelligence understood this fact this better than Senator Cruz.

(J. Budziszewski)

2

Donald Trump tends to suck all the air out of the room. This is a conscious effort to resist that.

Do not forget that an insurgent candidate is on a roll in the Democrat primaries, too. Sanders and Trump both appeal to people who feel know they’ve been screwed. You can fault them for not earlier noticing that the Democrats sent them to the back of the ideological bus 44 years ago, but they seem to have got it now.

So, it’s “what if?” time.

What if a lot of the Sanders voter can’t stand Clinton to the same extent that many Republicans can’t stand Trump? Do we get Democrats voting for Trump alongside Republicans voting for Clinton? Or do we get a lot of people looking at third parties?

Is there a third party that could unite them? The Libertarians with their praise of free market capitalism would probably be seen as more of the same economic trouble, never mind that they really mean “free market.”

Never that I know of will two more unpopular people head the two major parties. We’re on terra incognita. I’m taking all polls with a full shaker of salt.

3

I’ve long admired the occasional blogging of John at Notes from a Common-place Book. This January, we were both at the same large-ish conference but didn’t realize it until I blogged about it afterward. We won’t make that mistake again, at least at repeats of that conference.

In a few days, John will be off for Europe, but not, this time, Georgia:

So, after all these years, why return to stolid old England? For starters, I sometimes feel like an unpaid, one-man tourist bureau for the Republic of Georgia. While this favored country of my heart entices me on many different levels, Georgia can also be very intense. Sensory overload is a real thing, and perhaps I just need a break. God willing, I’ll be back on track next year.

I take a long view of history, and of course this applies to church history as well. I plan to do a little compare-and-contrasting. The robust and visibly resurgent faith of the Georgian people resonates with me …  Even in the face of repeated invasions and subjugations, the faith has never departed that “broad and mellow land.”  More unbiased observers might qualify this assertion somewhat, but I think the basic premise holds. The Orthodox Faith is alive and well on this eastern frontier of Christendom.

Were I to make a similar statement about the opposite historic frontier of Christendom—the British Isles–it would be met with widespread and much-deserved incredulity. There is no country on earth more choc-a-bloc with churches than Britain, yet they are often merely historical artifacts of a past with diminishing contemporary relevance. Often lovingly maintained and curated, many of these edifices are no longer the touchstones and beating heart of a living faith. At best, Christianity seems to be a faint whisper in the land. Clearly, I speak in broad terms, and individual situations may run counter to the overall trend.

The countless studies documenting the collapse of Christian belief in the U.K. all paint a bleak picture. Even nominal Christians are in the minority. The fact that the percentages are as high as they are is the result of African and Eastern European immigration. Native-born British who self-identify as Christians are a fast-diminishing demographic. In view of modern British history, one could posit that peace, prosperity and power are not necessarily the building blocks of a faith that will last the ages. I say this non-judgmentally, for American are fast on their heels. Our own de-Christianization–to the extent that we ever were such, in any meaningful sense, for it was always more proclaimed than practiced–is a fascinating spectacle to behold. In short, I want to spend some time in a post-Christian country where this is already the established order, if perchance to catch a glimpse of our own future.

(A Time to Travel) I do hope he’ll be able to discipline himself to post as he travels. Godspeed, John.

4

Theodore Dalrymple, an expert on totalitarian societies explains how activists triumph:

In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed.

The girls forced to accept a boy in their private space are being targeted for just this kind of humiliation. This is about much more than bathrooms.

(Dale O’Leary)

5

The collaborative interplay of the Unholy Trinity of the entertainment industry, big business, and legal institutions has ensured that the most important decisions of our day, those which set the moral boundaries or our civilization, those Rieffian interdicts which frame our forms of life, are no longer significantly shaped by our democratic institutions. They are controlled by others, not by the people. Our democratic culture is dead.

(Carl Trueman, The Rise of Anti-Culture) Trueman responds to blowback here.

6

[W]e should identify ourselves with those who lose. This can be difficult for some, particularly in a culture that so values winners …

I have known a number of people who simply cannot manage money. When they do work, they have no common sense about how things should be spent and how things should be saved. And their lives are always complicated with money problems. I see the same thing in many lives with certain moral issues. I see far more people do “stupid” things than “evil” things. Indeed, I see very few people who actually want to do anything truly evil. They simply don’t know how to “manage” being good.

Historically there has been a behavior described as “middle-class” or “bourgeois” morality … It refers to a form of public behavior, typical in moderate and upper income homes, in which people have interiorized a set of rules about “how decent people should behave.” They are the rules for how to get along with others, and how to keep your head down and slowly improve your lot in life. Many people have a deep sense of satisfaction and competency that accompanies this internal ability.

I’ve often wondered if such people will ever be incompetent, weak or sick enough to be saved.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.