This is the great paradox of our time: In 2017, it has never been easier for us to satisfy our wants, but we seldom have been more dissatisfied. In the United States, in Europe, in Latin America, and even (more quietly) in parts of Asia and in Australia, there is a sense that things are not going quite right, that the old order — not only in politics but also in commercial and religious life — is dead on its feet. People have turned to leaders and movements of very different kinds — Hugo Chávez, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, black-mask anarchism — in search of alternatives. In a sense, they are all the same: Those who had felt themselves to be on the outside looking in are now on the outside looking out.
Once, the question the ambitious and dissatisfied asked themselves was: “How do I climb that ladder?” Current tastes run more toward smashing the ladder and the hierarchies for which it stands in the name of . . . whatever: feminism or anti-feminism, black liberation or white nationalism, global justice or national sovereignty.
We spend our days surrounded by great miracles and minor irritations.
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We do not have a problem of privation in the United States. Not really. What we have is something related to what Arthur Brooks (“the most interesting man in Washington,” Tim Alberta calls him) describes as the need for earned success. We are not happy with mere material abundance. We — and not to go all Iron John on you, but I think “we” here applies especially to men — need to feel that we have earned our keep, that we have established a place for ourselves in the world by our labor or by other virtues, especially such masculine virtues as physical courage and endurance. I suspect that is a big part of the reason for the exaggeratedly reverential, practically sacramental attitude we current express toward soldiers, police officers, and firemen.
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The newly unemployed man of 40 seeking to reinvent himself is not in the most promising position.
Two things are going on here related to American unhappiness: The first is that as our economy becomes less physical and more intellectual, success in life is less like war and more like chess, and extraordinary success in life — i.e., being part of the founding of a successful new company — is a lot like being a grandmaster: It is an avenue that simply is not open to everyone. It requires talents that are not distributed with any sense of fairness and that are not earnable: Hard work is not enough.
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But the marriage and family that once was a source of security is today a source of insecurity, an unstable and uncertain thing scarcely defended by the law (it is far, far easier to walk away from a marriage than from a student loan) and held in low regard by much of society. Again, this works differently for men than for women: A single mother is still a mother, but a father who lives apart from his children and their mother is not a father in full. If he is not fixed in this world by being a father and a husband, and if he has only ordinary, unexceptional employment, what, exactly, is he? Self-sufficient, perhaps, and that isn’t nothing. But how does he stand in relation to other men, to his neighbors, and to those who came before him and will come after him? His status is vague, and it is precarious.
And there is the paradox within our paradox: The world is wondrous and beautiful and exciting and rich, and many of us have trouble finding our place in it, in part, because it is wondrous and beautiful and exciting and rich, so much so that we have lost touch with certain older realities. One of those realities is that children need fathers. Another is that fathers need children.
But these are what my colleague David French calls the “wounds that public policy will not heal.” Our churches are full of people who would love to talk to you about healing, but many have lost interest in that sort of thing, too. And so they turn to Trump, to Le Pen, to Chavismo (which is what Bernie Sanders is peddling), and, perhaps, to opiate-induced oblivion. Where will they turn when they figure out — and they will figure it out — that there are no answers in these, either?
And what will we offer them?
Posts tagged ‘Catholicism’
“Human genetics can be summarized in this basic creed: In the beginning is the message, and the message is in life, and the message is life. And if the message is a human message, then the life is a human life….
“The enemies of life know that to destroy Christian civilization, they must first destroy the family at its weakest point—the child. And among the weakest, they must choose the least protected of all—the child who has never been seen; the child who is not yet known or loved in the usual meaning of the word; who has not yet seen the light of day, who cannot even cry out in distress.”
— Jerome Lejeune (discovered trisomy 21, the genetic defect that causes Down syndrome)
The sentence “diversity is a cult” makes no sense. It is like saying that “sweetness is a cult” or “studying French is a cult.” There is nothing wrong with sweetness or studying French, or with weight-lifting, watching baseball, breeding dogs, or a thousand other things that people do. Anything good, however, can become the object of a cult-like devotion. So some men and women devote their whole lives to picking heavy things up and putting them down. Sexual intercourse is a good thing, or else God would not have commanded Adam and Eve in the beginning to be fruitful and multiply; but it is also probably the single thing that has, all the world over and from prehistoric times to our own day, most commonly been made the heart of a cult.
We might call man homo religiosus, so fertile and febrile is that factory of idols, his imagination. Chesterton had it right: the man who ceases to believe in God does not then believe in nothing. He will believe in anything, and shower upon that object the devotion that is due only to the divine. That includes his obedience. The man who will not obey the God whose commands will set him free does not then go his own way. He can be found straightaway bowing and scraping slave-like before a false god – a tricked-up political thug like Mao, a moronic and inhuman ideology like Nazism, Mother Earth the womb and tomb of all, anything; and will with a clear conscience offer up other people to placate the deity.
But before I say, “Some people run the danger of turning diversity into a false god,” I would like to know what we mean by the term. Replace it with synonyms. I cannot imagine people crying out, “We want variety!” Or, “We want in a certain human group an appreciable variance from the norm in some particular respect!” Put it in those ways and you take all the emotion out of it; nobody is inspired to tears by variety, or by an appreciable variance from the norm.
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There is nothing either good or bad about “variety,” “divergence,” or “deviation from the mean” per se, because without a subject the terms have no meaning. If you are building a championship baseball team, you need players who possess a visible diversity of skills and body-types; you cannot win with nine shortstops. But “gender diversity”? Not if you want to win. It is healthy for a man to have a variety of friends. It is not healthy for him to have a variety of wives.
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But perhaps, after all, diversity refers to a certain political project, adhered to with an intensity that reminds one of crowds singing hymns at a revival. If so, regardless of whether the project in question is just, my colleagues should admit it, if for nothing else than to let us know what they are talking about, and why they are so eager to take up an inquisition against someone who declines to join.
Moral preening and Ozymandias
“What the Natural Sciences Do Not Explain”
The underlying assumption of our public discourse today is that facts and values are radically distinct. “The plane crashed” is a statement of fact, and therefore “real.” Crash evidence is tangible. Nobody can argue with debris. On the other hand, “Don’t kill the disabled” is a statement of value. It’s an expression of opinion and sentiment—so the logic goes—and therefore not “real” or “true” in the same solid sense. For example, the importance of protecting disabled persons is an admirable and widely shared view; surely that’s obvious. But some people might disagree. Some people might argue quite sincerely that disabled persons are a waste of precious resources, and we’d be better off without them. Some people did argue that way in Germany in the last century, with great effect.
Of course, for most of us, murdering the disabled, starving the poor, or deliberately targeting innocent civilians in war is an appalling idea; a crime against humanity. But apparently sucking the brains out of unborn children, or trading in their body parts, is not so appalling. It may even be “good,” because we already do it. We not only do it, but we also build a fortress of pious-sounding chatter about reproductive rights to surround and bless it.
This is the kind of obscenity that comes from reducing a nation’s politics to a clash of allegedly equal values. What it masks is a transfer of power from proven traditions of moral wisdom to whoever can best lobby the media, the courts, Congress, and the White House. It’s the reason [the philosopher Alasdair] MacIntyre warned that today’s barbarians “are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.”
“Facts” and “values” and darkness at noon, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
MRI scan video of baby in the womb
What was your relationship with your father like? I’ll bet it wasn’t perfect. That’s because your father was human and wasn’t perfect, but there is a deeper reason.
It has to do with the way you’re wired. You were designed to need the perfect — I mean absolutely perfect — unconditional and complete love of a Father. In other words, you have within you a need for a Father that no human father can ever fulfill.
This is why so many people grow up and rebel against their fathers or blame their fathers or hate their fathers. They perceive that their father has failed them.
What made me come to this conclusion was speaking to a number of people over the years in counseling who blamed their father for their problems. Then when I looked at the facts objectively I realized that the fathers they were complaining about were actually pretty good guys.
I’ve had situations where the father was a good Christian man who provided for his wife and family, never cheated on his spouse, loved his kids and spent time with them, but they still blamed him for being a lousy Dad.
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I believe we all — to a greater or lesser extent — carry within us something I call the Father Wound. This is the wound we received from not having a perfect father. The wound may be deep and lasting — disabling and poisoning every part of our personality, sexuality and relationships — or it may be less profound, but present nonetheless.
How does this wound show itself? It is revealed in a multitude of ways: the person may find it impossible to trust anyone in authority. They may perceive all “father figures” as the enemy. When faced with a “father relationship” at work, in sports, at church (or most anywhere), an ordinarily mature and sensible person may rebel, undermine the “father” or reject him. They may give that person the silent treatment or walk out on him. In other words, they will exhibit immature behaviors — reacting like a child or an adolescent responds to the negative father figure.
The Father wound may reveal itself in distorted sexualities. The genesis of some homosexual conditions are rooted in the search for the loving father. Some immature heterosexual conditions present as the little girl looking for “Daddy”. The wound may show itself in a person’s inability to accept himself or herself, in poor self esteem, immature rage and aggression towards others … the Father Wound can be at the root of a whole range of other difficulties.
Radical feminists, for example, often rage against “the patriarchal system”. To be sure there have always been aggressive and abusive fathers, but to accuse all fathers and all men because of the evil of some is unrealistic and unhelpful. The answer to bad fathers is not no fathers, but good fathers.
How beautiful then, that Our Lord gives us just the one prayer which covers all prayers, and it is the “Our Father“. This prayer, when prayed in a deep and meditative manner can heal the Father Wound and all it’s nasty symptoms.
Johnny Cash, God’s Gonna Cut You Down
Also see “A Johnny Cash Lent“
At this point in our societal degeneration, “the people” are obedient to what beloved Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism.” This is understandable because few were raised in anything else. The very concept of a moral absolute (e.g. “thou shalt do no murder”) is alien to them. At the gut level, they may still individually recoil against an evil, but only if they have to watch, and find the spectacle “icky.”
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My point here is that by each “transvaluation,” or inversion, of the ancient received moral order, we do not get the new one we expect. We get developments beyond anything that anyone could have expected, as the various forgotten evils that lurk in the human breast come to engage with each other.
Modernism, secularism, relativism, and the culture of death
“If Islam is such a hair-trigger religion that the slightest offense might radicalize adherents, there is something radically wrong with the religion itself.”
Anyone with a thorough understanding of Islamic culture and religion could have predicted that, even without the 2015-16 flood of Muslim migrants, the steady flow of Muslim immigrants over the years would create a combustible situation. The amazing thing is that the consequences of this massive migration were never discussed – except in glowing terms. Just about the only thing allowed to be said about the migrants was that they would solve labor shortages, refill welfare coffers, and bring cultural enrichment to Europe.
That was the official line. Anyone who deviated from it could expect censure, possible job loss, or even a criminal trial. Say something negative about Muslim immigration on your Facebook page and you would be visited by police. Say it in public and you would receive a court summons. It didn’t matter if you were a famous writer (Oriana Fallaci), the President of the Danish Free Press Society (Lars Hedegaard), or a popular member of the Dutch Parliament (Geert Wilders). If you couldn’t say something nice about Islam, then you shouldn’t say anything at all.
Practically no one spoke up about no-go-zones, sharia courts, polygamy, and forced marriages, refusal to integrate, crime waves, and the rape epidemic. Now that many are finally beginning to speak out, it may be too late to avoid capitulation (Sweden’s likely fate) or bloody conflict (more likely in France).
The very argument that criticism of Islam will drive moderates into the radical camp suggests that criticism is needed. If Islam is such a hair-trigger religion that the slightest offense might radicalize adherents, there is something radically wrong with the religion itself. We don’t worry that criticizing Catholicism is going to produce angry Catholic mobs rampaging through the streets. We don’t fear that one wrong word is going to cause a young Southern Baptist to strap on a suicide belt.
Islam invites criticism. Given its bloody past and present, it would be highly irresponsible not to subject it to a searching analysis and critique. Such a critique would not aim at alienating Muslims (although some will inevitably be alienated), but at alerting likely victims of jihad.
One of the basics that non-Muslims need to know is that Islam divides the world in two – the House of Islam, and the House of War (all non-Islamic societies). And every Muslim is expected to do his part to make the House of War submit to the House of Islam. Europeans are now experiencing a “don’t-know-what-hit-me” sense of bewilderment because they never learned this basic fact about Islam.
In Israel, Arab communities live in peace with their neighbors, they vote, and Arabs hold high public office. In the West Bank (the historic regions of Judea and Samaria), Jewish communities have to live under constant, armed protection or they face slaughter. Indeed, in the event that a true Palestinian state ever exists, one of its first orders of business will be a spate of ethnic cleansing. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Egyptian journalists, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.” In other words, remove the Jews, or we’ll remove them for you.
Make no mistake, when Palestinians imagine their own state, they don’t imagine a multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy. Instead, they imagine yet another intolerant, Muslim-dominated ethnic enclave. That’s their vision of “peace.” That’s their vision of statehood. No Jews in Judea. I’m not clear which American “value” dictates that we lift one single finger to facilitate such mindless hate.
[E]ducated and well-placed people today tend toward a stripped-down view of man and society that redefines family, religious, and communal ties as private preferences, thereby erasing their public importance. The effect is to promote exclusive reliance on the social authority of bureaucratic and commercial arrangements.
The existence and sentimentalization of non-binding private connections, such as marriage as it is now understood, doesn’t affect that result. After all, how much reliance can be placed on connections that are thought to have no intrinsic function and can be dissolved at will?
The tendency naturally concerns Catholics, because it leaves no room for Catholicism—which cannot understand itself as simply a private preference—or any number of understandings and arrangements needed for a minimally humane and functional way of life. Whatever theoretical beauty some may find in a society of radically autonomous individuals tied together by global markets and bureaucracies, it’s not a place any normal person would want to live. Nor is it one likely to hold together and last.
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In part it’s a result of the stripped-down view of man and social order. If at bottom you view the social world as something like an industrial process designed to produce satisfactions and distribute them equally, then family ties and religious and cultural community make no sense unless they are reduced to private predilections of no practical significance.
To the extent they correspond to definite public standards and retain the ability to play an important role in social life—for example, to the extent marriage is viewed as a uniquely legitimate and enduring union of man and woman oriented toward new life—they’re viewed as irrational prejudices that gum up the system. As such, they are expected to reduce efficiency, equality, and stability, so they’re stupid, oppressive, and dangerous. The people who favor them evidently approve of that, so such people must be motivated by ignorance, bigotry, or rage and resentment looking for an excuse to lash out at the helpless. To many people, that conclusion seems a simple inference from basic principles.
In short, the dominant view of social order, because it leaves out basic features of human life and considers itself uniquely rational, can’t conceive of reasonable well-intentioned dissent. But for that same reason, the form of life it aims at is not achievable. We’re not going to have a global society, a sort of perfected EU writ large, in which sex, religion, and cultural community don’t significantly affect success and social position.
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[I]f all identities are equally supported then no identity is supported. Identity is too basic for anyone to construct for himself, but in the world now emerging no one can expect social support for his actual identity, since any other would be accepted as equally valid. That situation guarantees that there will be a lot of fragile and insecure people who will be intensely alarmed if anything seems, even by implication, to put the equal validity of their chosen identities in question. It will seem an existential attack on what they are, and thus the moral equivalent of murder. That’s why the infinitely multiplying possibilities of “microaggression” are increasingly viewed as a serious problem: each is thought to erase the people microaggressed against.
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More people move from place to place as employment becomes tenuous, home ownership an impossible dream, and locality less local as America is swallowed up by chain stores, shopping malls, apartment complexes, multi-lane highways, and the evanescent electronic world of the Internet.
Under such circumstances, many people, especially women, young people, minority group members, the unmarried and unchurched, and those who have moved away from their homes and connections, feel insecure. Such feelings are easily exploited for political gain; so politicians and publicists can be counted on to exacerbate them as much as possible.
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In the storms ahead, Catholics, when engaged in the things of this world, need to remember that the most important things precede and transcend politics. Lunacy is contagious, and they’ll have to remember that to keep a cool head and steady judgment.
Clerisy, Statolatry, Ozymandias. Forward!