Valentines Hodge-Podge

Trigger Alert: This blog says nothing about any current front page political news. If you’re looking for a fix, you’re not going to get it here today.

What it does say is a hodge-podge of stuff collected since I last blogged here.


Rod Dreher, on a new Andrei Konchalovsky film Dear Comrades!:

At one point, after the evidence of the Party’s monstrousness nearly consumes her, she admits to the kindly KGB agent helping her search for her daughter that if Communism is false, then she has nothing to believe in. This is a universally human moment: so many of us are committed to a religion, a politics, an organization, a tribe, etc., that give us a sense of meaning and purpose. We dismiss evidence that discredits the thing we worship because we would not know what to do with ourselves if the thing is false … Lyuda is a diehard believer. Earlier in the film, we hear her chastising ordinary people, including her daughter, who complain about shortages and injustice in the system. For Lyuda, this is a kind of blasphemy.

What kept me awake for hours after finishing Dear Comrades! was reflecting on how damned difficult it is to live in truth — not only to have the courage to act on truth, but even more basically, to have the ability to see with clear eyes. What am I blind to? What injustices do I tolerate because to recognize them would mean slaying some sacred cows? How much evil and suffering continue in the world because people would rather live with a lie that comforts than with a truth that shatters?


Alasdair MacIntyre once called the New York Times “the parish magazine of self-congratulatory liberal Enlightenment.” Now, despite having some of the best columnists in America, the paper’s reporting side is just the Fox News of the semi-literate left.

Alan Jacobs


The only reason this kind of food mileage and disconnection can occur is because cheap energy masks the costs. If the true cost of fuel, including the cost of maintaining Middle Eastern stability, were actually added to transportation costs, food-miles would not look efficient. If energy were as dear as it was before the petroleum age, refrigerated warehouses, climate control, and shipping mesclun mix from California to Boston would be prohibitively expensive.

Joel Salatin, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World


Fusionism, properly understood, is not a marriage of two groups. It’s a marriage of two value sets. A fusionist is someone who sees both liberty (in the classical sense of freedom from aggression, coercion, and fraud) and virtue (in the Judeo-Christian sense of submission to God’s commands) as important. Fusionism is therefore a distinct philosophical orientation unto itself. What’s more, it has historically been the dominant orientation on the American right.

Today’s post-liberal conservatives appear to think they’re distinguished by the belief that virtue matters. They behave as if their core disagreement with fusionists is about whether human beings have moral obligations that go beyond leaving others alone to do as they please. This could hardly be more wrong. Anyone who holds to the Judeo-Christian tradition—as fusionists by definition do—accepts that we have manifold duties to one another. The disagreement is about whether it’s the state’s job to enforce those moral obligations.

Stephanie Slade, Is There a Future for Fusionism? – Reason.com


Manent recognizes that face coverings are not neutral symbols. Their use is an “ongoing aggression against human sociability.” Like self-isolation and other methods of minimizing social contact, masks impede the face-to-face encounters that renew sociability and restore the baseline of trust that every civic order needs in order to sustain itself during times of stress and conflict.

R. R. Reno


Reparations politics is the humble-brag mirror image of white supremacy.

R. R. Reno


I urge readers to purchase print subscriptions. The censorship of recent months indicates that we could at any time be shut down on the internet and kicked off Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad. At this juncture, print journalism still has the protection of the United States Constitution. Unlike Big Tech, the U.S. Postal Service is not allowed to choose whose ideas and opinions it will deliver.

R. R. Reno, speaking of First Things

That seems a bit overwrought, but if I were running a orthodox Catholic neocon journal, and said snarky things about reparations like the preceding item, I’d probably be obliged to think about such things, too.


On Andrea Mitchell, Jennifer Rubin — the only two people in the world currently who can make Ted Cruz look good:

If you really were a person who reads and understands literature, you would know that — in the world of novels — a character who corrects other people curtly in that pedantic “No, that’s Faulkner” manner is an icky prig. I’ve read a lot of novels, and characters who talk like that are up to no good. That snootiness, even when there’s no mistake, marks a character toward whom you know instinctively you are not supposed to feel sympathetic. And let me just add that when the novelist makes a character utter words like “it says volumes about his lack of soul,” the competent reader knows immediately that it is the speaker of those words who lacks soul.

Ann Althouse, Andrea, Jennifer, and The 2 Williams


The Word of the LORD came unto me, saying:
O miserable cities of designing men,
O wretched generation of enlightened men,
Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities,
Sold by the proceeds of your proper inventions:
I have given you hands which you turn from worship,
I have given you speech, for endless palaver,
I have given you my Law, and you set up commissions,
I have given you lips, to express friendly sentiments,
I have given you hearts, for reciprocal distrust.
I have given you power of choice, and you only alternate
Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.
Many are engaged in writing books and printing them,
Many desire to see their names in print,
Many read nothing but the race reports.
Much is your reading, but not the Word of GOD,
Much is your building, but not the House of GOD.
Will you build me a house of plaster, with corrugated roofing,
To be filled with a litter of Sunday newspapers?

Poem: Choruses from ” The Rock ” by T. S. Eliot

I don’t know that I’d ever read this poem before. I’ve got to get more systematic.


“We are more sure to arise out of our graves than out of our beds. “ —Thomas Watson via Christopher P. Chelka on micro.blog.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at this little liteweight blog that’s sort of like Twitter without the toxicity from anyone other than me, or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Potpourri 11/17/20

Wisdom of the Ages

We can endure neither our vices nor their cure.

Livy


This acceptance of the classical tradition, even in so partially and fragmentarily recovered a form, was a course completely at variance with one type of Christian teaching, influential to varying degrees throughout the middle ages, which dismissed all pagan teaching as the devil’s work and sought to find in the Bible an all-sufficient guide. Luther indeed was the heir of this medieval tradition.

Alasdair MacIntyre, After virtue

I do not reject all pagan teaching as demonic, and neither do the Eastern Church Fathers.


The assumption behind systematic theology is that the universe is actually a “uni-verse” – that is, it has a unity throughout …

This consistency and stability across creation is what is meant by “system” in “systematic theology” …

I recall someone presenting a paper on the doctrine of God in the writings of the radical feminist Catholic, Rosemary Radford Ruether. When the student finished reading the paper, there was a dead, stunned silence in the room. Finally, a sheepish voice piped up, “Isn’t that the Force in Star Wars?” We broke out in laughter because it was precisely what she had articulated. It might make for interesting reading, but it certainly could not be called “Christian.”

Orthodox theology is not studied or written in the manner of Protestant systematics. Orthodox thought is largely what has been traditioned and is drawn from the Fathers and our liturgical life ….

Fr. Stephen Freeman, Orthodoxy, Systematic Theology, and Music – Glory to God for All Things

Crooked Hearts

Here’s a quote for you:

“This crisis is more important than any crisis we’ve had in my time. Our people are waiting for the bishops to say, O.K., we’ve got it under control, we’re on the same page, we hear you and we’ve listened to you and now you can be sure that this will never happen again.”

Know who said that? Cardinal Ted McCarrick, on June 12, 2002.

I’m writing this to you, young man, but I’m also writing it to myself. You cannot imagine how much I need to believe this, to know that it is true. That sentimental saying you see on coffee mugs at gift shops? ‘Be Kind, For Everyone You See Is Fighting A Great Battle’?

Yeah, it’s true.

The Hidden Heroes – Daily Dreher

The one person you don’t see is fighting a great battle, too. Auden captured it:

You shall love your crooked neighbor
with your crooked heart


The number of people coming forward with sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was approaching 90,000 by the Monday deadline for filing such claims against the organization.

The Nov. 16 deadline was established by a Delaware bankruptcy court, where the BSA had filed as it sought to cope with lawsuit damages and to restructure.

The BSA spent millions of dollars advertising the deadline across the nation, and the claims have poured rivaling sexual abuse claims against the Catholic church. Abused in Scouting, a group of over 8,000 men who say they were abused in the Boy Scouts, said experts had expected over 50,000 claims.

“I knew there were a lot of cases,” Paul Mones, an attorney involved in BSA sexual abuse cases for nearly 20 years, told The New York Times. “I never contemplated it would be a number close to this.”

How much money claimants will eventually receive from the Boy Scouts will depend on the size of a compensation fund the bankruptcy court will establish and the length and severity of the abuse suffered by the individuals making claims against the organization.

The BSA national organization, insurers, and local councils will all contribute to a compensation fund for victims.

The BSA said it was “devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting and moved by the bravery of those who came forward.”

“The BSA bankruptcy is an unmasking of … its decades’ long problem of sexual abuse that they deliberately concealed,” Mones said on Twitter when the BSA filed for bankruptcy in February.

Knowhere News

I will not wallow in this news, but how can we learn from it? Is it as simple as “Do not entrust the formation of your children to others”?

Carpe diem

An Arabian proverb of our time goes something like this: “My father rode a camel, I drive a Rolls-Royce, my son flies a jet airplane, and his son will ride a camel.”

James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency

Perhaps those Arabian boys will ride the Hendricks High-Wheel. (H/T Like Peloton but Analog, and With Alcohol – WSJ)

Politics

If you’re still doing a political purge after our four-year binge, you may stop here.

[I]t is fair to say that, despite what his critics on the left have said to the contrary, Obama did succeed in his stated ambition of fundamentally transforming the United States, albeit through inaction. Every bit as much as the conservative public intellectuals of the last two decades, Obama’s failure was not the result of Eliotic fatalism but (to quote his own letter) of ignorance. Even today he resembles them in his instrumentalization of religion, as a tool that will “restore a sense of meaning” to public life rather than as the activity of a body of believers undertaken for its own sake, as a divine mandate.

Matthew Walter, Barack Obama, failed conservative


… the occasional rapper who supported Trump. I have to remind myself that if you listen to rap music, it’s all about the bling, the women, the money. A lot of rap videos are using the same measures of what it means to be successful as Donald Trump is. Everything is gold-plated.

Barack Obama in Why Obama Fears for Our Democracy – The Atlantic

A great interview with a serious man who once, believe it or not, occupied the highest elective office in the land.


Obama is actually nicer to his enemies than Trump is to his friends. (Jeffrey Goldberg’s observation in Why Obama Fears for Our Democracy – The Atlantic)

Can anyone deny the truth of this?


No major American political figure in my lifetime has triggered the moral revulsion I feel toward Donald Trump; it explains why I was one of his earliest and toughest critics. (I continue to believe that moral revulsion was the proper response to Trump’s tenure.) So I understand how, in the twilight of his presidency, with the president engaging in a series of final civic desecrations, it’s easy to react with indignation one more time. And the fact that Trump supporters like Lindsey Graham and countless others are complicit in those desecrations shouldn’t vanish down the memory hole.

But Trump has dominated too much of our thinking for too long; his transgressions, provocations, and sheer abnormality have made him an omnipresent figure in our lives. Time and time again I’ve spoken with people who are not particularly political yet feel not only deeply unsettled by Trump but enveloped by him. He’s had too much power over too many of us. It’s time we move on from him.

> “My entire personality is hating Donald Trump,” Melissa Villaseñor’s character puts it in a Saturday Night Live political ad parody, “Trump Addicts for America.” “If he’s gone, what am I supposed to do? Focus on my kids again? No thanks.” (“You know he’s bad for you,” the ad concludes. “But it’s hard to imagine life without him.”)

Peter Wehner, Choose Repair, Not Revenge – The Atlantic.

Life without Trump will mean, for me, many more books read. Because, yes, he dominated too much of my time, this Orange Man. (What was his name?)


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Meritocracy or virtue?

I’ve noticed something odd about the (still relatively early but) angry commentary over the college admissions scandal, whereby celebrities, “ethical fund” managers, parenting book authors and others crossed legal lines to get their slacker children into elite colleges (or at least more elite than they could get into on true merit). The odd thing is the trope that these parents are arranging for their children to “get ahead” unfairly.

But what is this “getting ahead” in the first place? What virtue is there in it? So far as I can tell, there is none whatsoever.

“Getting ahead” means superficially looking like a meritocratic success. And America is all about superfice.

What is the reality for these slackers? So far as I can tell, it’s going to hell in a delusional cocoon — or whatever sad fate awaits those lacking virtue.

So it seems to me that the most fruitful discussions that can arise out of this chapter in the annals of American superficiality are, as has always been the case, what it means to be human, and more particularly what it means to be a person of virtue — a prize infinitely more valuable than glitz and glamor.

And if you happen to favor deontological or consequentialist ethics, as the commentariat appears to, what these parents did will still fail your ethical tests. It’s unethical all the way down.

But it’s all these parents know in their bones, whatever platitudes pass their lips or gets printed in a child-raising book or fund prospectus.

So why would any sane person want their child to join their ranks?

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at Micro.blog (mirrored at microblog.intellectualoid.com) and, as of February 20, 2019, at blot.im. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Frank Meyer’s fusionism

I guess I really need to read Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed. I know the general thesis from a recent article he wrote and from reviews and comments of others, but now I’m noticing that much of what I read could be viewed as haunted by the ghost of Deneen.

For instance, Michael Davis, The Fatally-Flawed Fusionism of Frank Meyer recounts how Meyer’s influential effort to end the cohabitation of libertarianism and traditionalism by marrying them led inadvertently to the ascent of toxic libertarianism. Davis never mentions Deneen, but his thesis is relevant to and inconsistent with Deneen’s.

Frank Meyer was a man looking desperately for faults in the philosophy to which he was most attracted: traditionalism. Finding none, he simply made up another philosophy: fusionism. But instead of coopting the energy and scientific rigor of libertarianism for the traditionalist cause, he simply empowered the former at the latter’s expense…

Why, you ask, did this come to pass? My best guess: libertarianism’s strict “government = bad, liberty = good” dichotomy was easier to market in magazine and stump speeches. And that’s understandable. Both libertarians and traditionalists were horrified by the sheer size and power of the Soviet state; libertarians simply don’t have to bother with “the simulacrum of virtuous acts” or “divine patterns of order.”

Davis also recaps as part of the story an early Meyer error and its correction:

In a 1962 column for National Review, he claimed that traditionalism’s cardinal sin—the fundamental error that necessitated its co-mingling with libertarianism—was that “the simulacrum of virtuous acts brought about by the coercion of superior power, is not virtue, the meaning of which resides in the free choice of good over evil.” In layman’s terms: virtuous acts must be those undertaken freely, not under state coercion.

L. Brent Bozell Jr., in his rejoinder, observed (correctly) that, because Meyer was making a theological claim—that is, about the relationship between free will and virtue—it has to be answered in theological terms. And every school of orthodox theology would accept that an act is virtuous regardless of whether it was made freely or not. “We can agree that the freer the choice—i.e., the more difficult it is—the greater the merit,” he writes; but, “by definition, the virtuous act is one that conforms with man’s nature, with the divine patterns of order.”

It certainly appears that Davis would contest Deneen’s premise that liberalism is fatally flawed, for he cites “an organic tradition of political liberty in the thought of Burke and Adams” (traditionalists) that did not require correction by injecting libertarianism.

He concludes with seven steps to “work backwards toward [the] restoration” of American conservatism which Meyer’s fusionism undermined.

Agree or disagree with him as you will. Davis’s piece strikes me as one of the best yet at The Imaginative Conservative, which is prolific but of spotty interest.

Again, if you’re wondering what this debate within conservatism is about, read A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching.

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“While saints are engaged in introspection, burly sinners run the world.” (John Dewey) Be a saint anyway. (Tipsy)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.