Archive for the ‘Neighborhoods, Boroughs, Cities, States’ Category.

Modernity, Scientism, and the ‘Sexual Revolution’

[O]ur current crisis is fundamentally metaphysical in nature. Modernity is a grand project of negation: the very order of being – as classically understood – has been shunned for theories that emphasize right praxis in time; history has become the lens through which things are assigned value. Fulfillment “lies in front of us, not above us,” and whoever speaks of eternal metaphysical truths is branded a reactionary.

. . .

[Augusto Del Noce] regards the “eclipse of authority” characteristic of our age as the greatest reversal ever to have befallen humanity. Authority, at root, means to make something grow, but today it’s understood mainly as a form of repression – indeed as something that impedes growth. The wholesale spurning of authority has only ushered in a mad dash for power – a dreadful substitution.

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We moderns are allowed only one source of real knowledge – science – and so the void caused by the ban on metaphysics has been filled with a scientism. Del Noce asserts that such scientism is based upon hatred for religious transcendence. Intrinsically totalitarian, scientism is “an unproven radical negation of traditional values” and so must rely upon subjugating the will of its adversaries (since it cannot prevail by reason), and upon confining them in “moral ghettos.”

And scientism’s “point of arrival,” he explains at length, is none other than the sexual revolution. To cut a long story short, here’s how you know if you are on the wrong side of history: it’s no longer a question of class warfare (bourgeoisie versus proletariat) but whether or not you are prepared to wage war upon sexual “repression.” History is the judge, Marx once said, and the proletariat its executioner. That role has now shifted to progressives urging the “repressed of the world” to unite.

The social institution most culpable of transmitting repressive morality is, of course, the traditional monogamous family, and as Del Noce notices, “sexual liberation is not desired per se, but rather as a tool to break down the family.”

. . .

A century ago both Mussolini and Gramsci spoke of “socialism as the ‘religion destined to kill Christianity’.” But it later became apparent that total revolution could only be achieved if Marxist revolution became sexual revolution. Or as the Surrealists recognized: “the decisive battle against Christianity could be fought only at the level of the sexual revolution.” In sum, the “erotic offensive” amounts to a “campaign of de-Christianization.”

Del Noce wouldn’t be shocked with the onset of the transgender phenomenon and the current mania for “self identifying” as something other – anything other (gender, race, species) – than what one is. It’s all part of what he saw as the secularization of Gnosticism (rather than of Christianity), whereby it is the self that creates, and freedom consists of negating “the given.” Add a touch of the Hegelian “elimination of the Divine image” and voila: you get the quest for liberation through the disintegration of every form of order, what he called the “great refusal” of 1968.

Given his diagnosis, it comes as no surprise that he doesn’t put much stock in political solutions to the real dangers we are facing.

Modernity as Metaphysical Collapse

Ozymandias

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The Ruling Class, Politicians

Maybe one needs to be sick to run for office. [Anthony] Weiner is a disciple of New York senator Chuck Schumer.

Schumer famously said, “I was born to legislate.” This goes to the heart of the political sickness—the need to tell others how to live. As economist Walter Williams puts it, “I respect ordinary thieves more than I respect politicians. Ordinary thieves take my money without pretense. (They don’t) insult my intelligence by proclaiming that they’ll use the money that they steal from me to make my life better.”

In the next weeks, as cameras record every utterance burped up by politicians at the political conventions, I’ll take comfort knowing that when politicians can’t force us to do things, people often ignore them (remember, government is force; this is why politicians are important, and dangerous).

Ignoring Politicians

Ozymandias

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Killing the Unborn

This is not a question of constitutional law, and it never has been. Not from the first. The issue is that some Americans, a non-trivial number of them, would rather put their unborn children to death than be burdened with the responsibilities of parenthood, even if they are only short-lived responsibilities.

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There is a great deal of dishonesty in the abortion debate, which is necessary: Otherwise, we’d be obliged to think about the horror of what we perpetrate and what we endure, and that would be very difficult. Instead, we hear a great deal about extraordinarily rare catastrophes of pregnancy, which are heart-hurting but which also are, in the vast majority of cases, entirely beside the point: These cases are as a statistical matter nearly nonexistent. Even the usual hedge offered by office-seeking pro-life Republicans — the exemption for children conceived through rape or incest — approaches statistical insignificance. (Never mind the moral insignificance, as though we could murder a four-year-old, or a 38-year-old, because he was conceived via rape.) We hear dark warnings about a new Torquemada and a rising theocracy, as though an atheist such as my good friend Charles C. W. Cooke doesn’t know a baby when he sees one, as though the world were not full of agnostics and outright heathens who still have enough civilization in them to know better than to accept butchering unborn children as normal.

You cannot foist a philosophy of man-as-meat on civilized people without a great quantity of lies, some of which will be published in the form of Supreme Court opinions. That is why those who oppose the philosophy of man-as-meat are denied political recourse, and why the authorities in backward places such as Ohio have tried to quash their First Amendment rights, too. Man isn’t meat, and the political model built on insisting that man is meat cannot withstand much scrutiny or debate. It must rely on brute force, which sometimes comes disguised as a Supreme Court ruling. How many people throughout the ages have been convinced of the most indefensible nonsense by similar figures in black ceremonial robes? Think on that the next time you feel inclined to snigger at Iran’s Guardian Council.

But when the hysteria subsides and the blood dries up, reality is still there, and we’re still putting millions of unborn children to death because Caitlyn doesn’t want her prom ruined and because Rachel is living out some third-rate HBO fantasy in Brooklyn, or some place she wishes were Brooklyn. Harry Blackmun didn’t imagine that, but it is his legacy — and our indictment.

The Imaginarium of Harry Blackmun

Ozymandias

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Titles of Nobility

The Title of Nobility Clause is a provision in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution that forbids the United States from granting titles of nobility and also restricts members of the government from receiving gifts from foreign states without the consent of the United States Congress.

“What do you do?” may be the No. 1 question asked in[side] the Beltway. It achieves two things: It gives the asker the opportunity to brag about their own job title and lets them know whether the person they’re talking to is worth their time.

Job titles and associations are the lifeblood of D.C. You’re no one unless you have a title, whether it’s “congressman,” “ambassador,” “chief of staff,” or an impressive title at a firm or media company. Unlike most jobholders in America, poli­ticians in D.C. get to keep their titles for life. Think about it: You can be the CEO or vice president of the largest corpora­tion in America, but once you leave that job, so goes the title. In Washington, D.C., you can have the title of “president,” “congressperson,” or “senator,” and that is your title for life. It doesn’t matter if you were a terrible congressperson who served only one term; you will forever be referred to and in­troduced as a “congressperson.”

It’s bizarre perks of D.C. power such as this that draw thou­sands of young, type-A recent college grads to Washington — out of a desire not to serve our country but to get a title. And if you don’t have a title, good luck getting someone to talk to you for longer than two minutes. Washington is a town ob­sessed with titles and where being an obnoxious blowhard is socially acceptable. But it wasn’t always like this, and it’s cer­tainly not what our Founding Fathers envisioned.

A Country Steeped in Humility

obnoxious blowhards and Ozymandias.

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Happy Warriors!

The idea of electing comedians and comedy teams to office is very attractive to the Italian national character. I have praised them for this before. It shows a maturity of understanding rare in the annals of modern democracy. Given the omnipresence today of po-faced progressive parties, the alternative cannot be po-faced “conservatives,” whom the po-faced Leftist media will methodically smear and slander, as for instance in Canada and USA. They accept that verdict, and agree to lose. Rather one needs people with a sense of humour and no political past. I suppose this is the argument for Trump; though I would argue that he takes himself quite seriously, and doesn’t see the joke at all.

For vulgarity is not the same thing as humour. It is a dimension of comedy, but the full commedia dell-arte requires more. It must be spontaneous on several theatrical levels to occasion real surprise, and catch the po-faced off their leaden balance. It requires masks and good costumage. It requires stock gli immorati, ridiculously in love as much with themselves as with their sweethearts; fine silk dresses or alternatively the patched clothing of an impudent Colombina, with her weaponized tambourine. It requires confusions of identity, in the spirit of old Terence, and Plautus. It needs fantesche and servette (maids and serving wenches); Smerildas, Nespolas, Diamantinas.

. . .

Plus, men who make jokes that are genuinely funny, such as some untranslatable remark Beppe Grillo tried the other day about the new Muslim mayor of London, which made all the po-faced heads explode. He has been called, repeatedly, “the most dangerous man in Europe,” for his ability to attract audiences, and make them laugh, despite being banned from Italian state television and so forth. He does not run himself, but is content with his position as backstage producer, out of his conviction that criminals should not aspire to political office. (Almost everyone in the Italian Parliament has a criminal record, many in the first degree.)

Among his most dangerous notions is that citizens should be permitted free speech, and that the power of politicians should be curtailed. This goes considerably beyond the “Brexit” position, that British politicians should be re-empowered at the expense of European ones.

Five stars

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Is there such a thing as a life not worth living?

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Pope Francis recently lamented the obsession of modern society with perfect bodies. Although our first thought on contemplating this might be cosmetics and plastic surgery, he was actually speaking about our increasing rejection of the disabled and the sick.

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Is there such a thing as a life not worth living? Many in our culture seem to believe that there is. There has arisen the tragically ironic idea that death is a form of therapy, that an appropriate treatment for disabled unborn children is to kill them. Of course death is neither a treatment nor a therapy; it cannot be considered an acceptable solution for the one who loses his or her life. Yet this is often the advice that parents in this situation are given.

All of this “advice” and pressure goes a long way toward explaining why more than 90% of unborn children with a poor prenatal diagnosis are aborted. We in the Church cannot remain silent in the face of this; we must reach out compassionately to families experiencing such a crisis. Many of them are devastated by the news that their baby may have serious disabilities. Often they descend into shock and are overwhelmed by fear, conflicting feelings, and even anger towards God or others. Sometimes the greatest gifts we can give them are time, information, and the framework of faith.

Accepting the Disabled in a World Obsessed with Physical Perfection

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“Bake-me-a-cake libertarianism”

The dress-code libertarianism and bake-me-a-cake libertarianism [Libertarian Party 2016 presidential candidate Gary] Johnson has embraced isn’t libertarianism at all — it’s left-wing social engineering enforced at gunpoint. Coming from Johnson and Weld, it reeks of raw identity politics. The only consistent theme is that religious people are bad.

Johnson’s quick reversal on his Burqa ban, and his logical fallacies and weird arguments on coerced baking suggest that he doesn’t hold libertarianism as a principle — he is really just a social liberal and economic conservative, as he says. This is the heart of [Libertarian Party 2016 vice-presidential candidate Bill] Weld’s campaigning, too.

Maybe Weld and Johnson haven’t been paying attention since they left office, and that’s why they conflate “socially liberal” with libertarian. These days, it’s not the conservatives trying to use government to enforce their morality. The Obama administration is trying to compel nuns to provide contraception for their staff. The ACLU is suing to force Catholic hospitals to abort babies. Gary Johnson’s own state fined a Christian wedding photographer for refusing to participate in a gay wedding.

The “anti-choice” side in America today is usually the cultural Left.

. . .

This puts Johnson and Weld at odds with the rest of libertarianism. The Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation both filed amicus briefs on behalf of Hobby Lobby, the Christian-owned store that objected to Obama’s contraception mandate.

Is this the dawn of bake-me-a-cake libertarianism?

Ozymandias

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Something has gone awry….

Did you ever wake up in the morning and wonder just what has gone wrong?

Yes, I know. The water runs clearly, friendly faces chat about good news, pills slaughter your germs, back seats bulge with mall loot, and chocolate-chip bagels are but a few steps away.

Isn’t it the best of all possible worlds? You’d rather be a sixth-century Visigoth or an Aztec virgin preparing for her sacrificial duty, maybe?

But there it is, nonetheless, tugging at what some still suggest is your soul. A suspicion that something has gone awry, that in this age of the fit, the prosperous, and the wired, someone has neglected to tell you something important.

And the science—oh, that science. It prolongs your life, brings wonders into your home and explains everything that mystified those impoverished ancients. Everything, that is, except for one thing, as writer Walker Percy puts it:

“How indeed is one to live in this peculiar time and history and on ordinary Wednesday afternoons?”

Yes, you suspect, there is something wrong, for there are those moments when you realize that modern life, culture, and knowledge have left you without something most fundamental: a satisfying understanding of just who you are and why you are here, in this place, watching the sun put one more day of your life in the past. You must be more than a mere organism or an insatiable, endlessly manipulable consumer.

. . .

Percy’s targets are the shallow pursuits of contemporary life that entertain us into a state of mass misery, and those who seek to raise us from the despair: pop religionists who treat us as irrational, unembodied spirits, scientists and theoreticians who diagnose our ills in purely physical terms, and social planners who would solve human problems by eliminating human beings—the last being the particular subject of The Thanatos Syndrome, a book that I saw for the first time stacked on a display table at a National Right to Life Convention.

The battles Percy describes are fierce, comic, frightening, and, one can’t help reflecting, prophetic. Something has gone very wrong, as we all admit when we are honest about what we see. We seem, simply put, to have forgotten who we are and why we were put here. It is time to let the ghosts take care of themselves and embark on the pilgrimage. We can thank Walker Percy, who left a challenging, fascinating body of work behind him when he passed away on May 10, 1990, for heroically diagnosing our ills and suggesting, however elliptically, a cure.

Walker Percy at 100

Desire for comfort is also connected to the global addiction to abortion and growing attraction to euthanasia. [Cardinal Robert] Sarah learned something different:

“I learned from my parents how to give. We were accustomed to receiving visitors, which impressed on me the importance of welcoming and generosity. For my parents, and all the inhabitants of my village, receiving others as guests implied that we were seeking to make them happy. Familial harmony can be the reflection of the harmony of heaven.”

Family values may be also perverted into a false tribalism, he says. But the absence of close ties may be the broadest horror today because it goes to our roots as persons: “The battle to preserve the roots of mankind is perhaps the greatest challenge that our world has faced since its origins.”

The Dictatorship of Horror

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Choice!

The Clintons raise money by peddling their power — selling policy, taxpayer funds and access. A by-the-books fundraiser isn’t so useful in that enterprise.

In this light, Donald Trump — who admits to playing the crony game as a donor and who promises to use government to punish uncooperative companies — looks like a street-level conman.

So there’s your choice America: the kingpin of a corrupt enterprise that sells public power in exchange for crooked contributions, or a scammy developer from Queens who is a client of her dirty game.

McAuliffe is just one of many shady Hillary fundraisers

Ozymandias

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“Lobbying”

What if you could bet on Wednesday’s NBA game between Golden State and Oklahoma City, and before the game or at least before the final buzzer, you could lobby the referees and the league to change the rules? Maybe you would bet on Oklahoma City and then lobby to abolish the three-point shot.

Hedge funds and other investment firms are playing that very game in Washington, D.C., these days. Recently, Capitol Hill has seen a blitz of lobbying on how Puerto Rico should handle its debt amid fiscal disaster, and how Treasury should deal with private investors in bailed out government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Behind the barrage of lobbying, op-eds and public relations is a handful of hedge funds who have gambled one way or another on GSE stock or Puerto Rican debt, in the hope that they could pull enough strings in Washington to make big bucks.

. . .

Investors allocating capital according to which policy tweaks they think they can win doesn’t sound like the type of capitalism that maximizes economic efficiency. It’s just public-policy profiteering.

As government gets involved in more parts of the economy, hedge funds will increasingly engage in this public-policy profiteering. This will make lobbying on these arcane issues more common and more intense.

So maybe it’s a good time to be long on K Street.

Puerto Rico’s debt, Fannie Mae’s stock, and public-policy profiteering

Ozymandias

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