Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When The Happening happens

Longtime friend of the blog Bert wants a post on Baltimore, so here it is.

From my Twitter feed:

Police are typically older and hence more risk-averse than the average military cannon fodder. They just want to finish the day in one piece and return to their families. Every day on the job is one day closer and a few more dollars towards a vested pension. If they're far enough along and know the system, they can translate that rioter's thrown brick into a solid retirement.

If I were on a skirmish line in full riot gear, eyeball to eyeball with the savages, you can bet I wouldn't be moving a muscle when the projectiles start flying. Hell, I'd be praying for something that draws just enough blood for all those pictures I'm going to take in the hospital and wave around at my disability hearing. See y'all suckers on the Florida Gulf Coast, and I'll be taking up tarpon fishing.

When the civil order really and truly breaks down, the police all leave to protect their families.

Very, very few people--social democrats, conservatives or libertarians--actually get this.

Ron Paul's strangely pedestrian rant

One of the great ironies of American politics is that most politicians who talk about helping the middle class support policies that, by expanding the welfare-warfare state, are harmful to middle-class Americans. Eliminating the welfare-warfare state would benefit middle-class Americans by freeing them from exorbitant federal taxes, including the Federal Reserve’s inflation tax.

Politicians serious about helping middle-class Americans should allow individuals to opt out of Social Security and Medicare by not having to pay payroll taxes if they agree to never accept federal retirement or health care benefits. Individuals are quite capable of meeting their own unique retirement and health care needs if the government stops forcing them into one-size-fits-all plans.

Middle-class families with college-age children would benefit if government got out of the student loan business. Government involvement in higher education is the main reason tuition is skyrocketing and so many Americans are graduating with huge student loan debts. College graduates entering the job market would certainly benefit if Congress stopped imposing destructive regulations and taxes on the economy.

The article reads as if a plucky Ron Paul Institute intern put together some basic libertarian talking points to post on the Institute's homepage only to have her crabby, octogenarian boss grab the copy and scratch out 'young people' and scribble in 'middle-class Americans' for publication in his mimeographed newsletter.

Contrary to Dr. Paul's jeremiad, Social Security and Medicare have become one of the few effectively populist programs keeping the elder-middle class afloat. They can evade the best efforts of the Federal Reserve to penalize their more prudential savings habits, as pointed out by the capable James Howard Kunstler here. But the Ron Paul Institute completely misses this angle in order to push its pure, theoretical, free-market dogma, on the unspoken assumption that corporate actors are immune to the same temptations as those of State actors.

I've pointed out here and herehow libertarian writers (among others) do backflips to avoid making actual observations in real time or drawing real-life conclusions from common experience. The commenters at the OP point out Dr. Paul's most hilariously obvious omission: the government's unrestrained immigration and deliberate social atomization. Libertarians, it seems, have their own sacrosanct Narratives, as Dr. Paul blithely criticizes one of the few government programs which allows the serfs on the tax farm to put some of that money back in their own pockets.

What's intriguing to me is how all the democratic, conservative and libertarian Narratives are now converging around the same set of universalist ideals: diversity is a good, in and of itself; culture is just individual preference, to the extent it exists at all; multi-national business entities are tempered by pure competition and won't engage in self-aggrandizing behavior.

It's almost as if a single elite stratum is funding all the various political outlets in this byzantine scheme to set the terms of the debate, you know?

Nah, can't be.

Most Beautiful Makeup, 2015

What's the average age of People Magazine's readers at this point: 55, 65? Maybe 70?

Sandra Bullock is 50 years old. They have airbrushed one-eighth of an inch of makeup to her face. Also, real hair doesn't do that.

Readers will recall 2013's perimenopausal vixen.

Prediction: Bruce Jenner will be named People Magazine's 'Most Beautiful Woman' in 2016.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Culture War is over

We lost, says venerable Christian journal First Things.

The Orthosphere comments:
From its founding, First Things has been the premier journal of high Christian engagement with the public sphere in the West. The basic proposition of the journal has been that American liberal democracy could be domesticated to Christ by a concerted ecumenical effort of philosophical evangelism. Much good has come of this project. But with the recent spate of stunning reversals on sexual policy, and with Christianity ever more clearly in the crosshairs of our secular overlords, the writers of First Things seem to be recoiling from the secular culture of the West, and its liberal cult of Moloch. More and more, they seem to realize that rapprochement with liberalism is a bargain with the devil.

It’s not just that the editors saw fit to publish an article by our own Jim Kalb back in December. In the February issue, First Things took a decided turn toward orthogony to secular political discourse, as if they all with one mind awoke to a realization that dawned on most traditionalists several years ago: America is too far gone to be saved. As Lawrence Auster then began to say, “It’s their country now.” Likewise also for the West in general.

First Things seems now to have reached the same conclusion.
And so the long retreat begins, as Christendom withdraws from the public square in the face of increased ridicule and overt hostility from secular society.

In retrospect, we really should have seen this coming. What support is there for liberal democracy, much less the universal franchise, in classical Eastern or Western Christian theology? What sort of Christian society can let matters like abortion, sodomy and other ontological issues be resolved by democratic vote? Another thing we didn’t realize at the time: we weren’t actually supporting democracy, we were supporting our status as the demographic majority. Now that that status has been destroyed by public welfare and mass immigration (with the active participation of numerous Christian sects), it is simply too late. Orthodox and orthodox Christians will be a shrinking minority for the foreseeable future.

Of course, I've been sounding the alarm on this since February 2013, and more urgently since April 2014. Fr. Stephen Freeman has now noticed, as has Rod Dreher. In sum, there are no longer any safe spaces in the American polity to raise your children in the Faith. Most Christians will embrace with enthusiasm the State's egalitarian, tabula rasa worldview.

A correspondent writes:
You have often noted in your blog the hostility that your talk of "community" has evoked in conversations with other Christians, and though I have believed you, I had not experienced it for myself so I had no idea what that looked like.

I did not realize that Rod Dreher has been speaking of the Benedict Option for some time, so I was happy to find many of his articles on The American Conservative. I have been reading many of his articles over the last hour as well as the comments that follow, and I am amazed at the hostility that pours forth from the comments section towards this idea and towards him for putting this idea forth. I finally see that to which you were referring earlier. It baffles me. I can comprehend that some people would not agree with him. I do not, however, comprehend why they would become so hostile to something that will not affect them a great deal. Do you have any ideas as to why this is so?
A robust Christianity--indeed, a robust religion of any stripe--is the ultimate affront to the secular State. There can be no right-to-be-let-alone in secular society. Deviant lifestyles must be validated, above all. Any movement which denies this is to be regarded as treasonous. As Rod himself notes, at the invitation of First Things,
Put bluntly, given the dynamics of our rapidly changing culture, I believe it will be increasingly difficult to be a good Christian and a good American. It is far more important to me to preserve the faith than to preserve liberal democracy and the American order. Ideally, there should not be a contradiction, but again, the realities of post-Christian America challenge our outdated ideals...

There are no safe places to raise Christian kids in America other than the countercultural places we make for ourselves, together. If we do not form our consciences and the consciences of our children to be distinctly Christian and distinctly countercultural, even if that means some degree of intentional separation from the mainstream, we are not going to survive.

Christianity in America still lives in places and among people who have not yet sold out to moralistic therapeutic deism. Those Christians who have a vocation to politics should exercise it, and they need our support. But Christians who believe that politics will save us should discard those illusions now. The primary focus of orthodox Christians in America should be cultural—or rather, countercultural—building the institutions and habits that will carry the faith and the faithful forward through the next Dark Age.

Rod has his detractors in this corner of the Internet but he really does get this one. And so does classic secular leftist James Howard Kunstler.

Christendom has been a Colossus astride the West. And now, for the first time in 1,702 years, we are to become a post-Christian society, with little thought given as to what comes next.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Democratic Man

Can he be saved? (From Fr. Stephen Freeman).
Everywhere he goes, he meets his equals. All of the world is open to him, bidding him enter in, take what he wants and go his way. Early on he learns to negotiate his way through competing crowds of others, jostling for position, asking for attention, making his way forward. His direction is a matter for decision – first this way and then that. He migrates at will, following an inner guide that says, “Go there. Take that. Move on.” He becomes what he wants to be and learns what he wants to know. He chooses his mate and negotiates his marriage, contracting for his happiness. If he chooses, he will have children. If not, he has none. He will turn back disease, and even replace parts and improve his lot in life.

This is the Democratic Man.

Can such a man find God, or even be saved?

That may sound like a strange question, but it lies at the heart of the modern religious crisis. For God is not a choice. He is not just one more product waiting to be consumed or ignored. He is decidedly not democratic. This is a difficult problem, for the habits of the democratic man are utterly unsuited to the spiritual life. In the true spiritual life, you cannot have what you want, or simply go where you would. You cannot choose what you will become or even say just anything. You are free but with a freedom that is a stranger to democracy.

The modern Christian is generally a democratic man. It is a habit of the heart formed by the culture we live in. It forms and shapes us for unbelief and the god of unbelievers. The democratic man cannot believe in God.

He cannot believe in God because the democracy of his heart has no place for true faith. He has the mind of a consumer and wants to choose his faith like he chooses everything else. But we cannot choose to believe or what to believe. Faith is not a choice.

Modern America of course cannot countenance such talk. Choice in everything--not the least including such biological realities as gender, sexuality and pregnancy--is the modern American creed. In case you hadn't already figured this out, no other creeds are allowed.

Walkerton, Indiana is the very definition of Podunkville. A TV reporter travelled there from the cosmopolitan environs of South Bend on the important mission of revealing hate at a local father-daughter business, Memories Pizza.

A local Indiana ABC station spoke to a pizzeria Tuesday night who will not serve to same-sex marriages after the Indiana law was passed.

“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” Memories Pizza owner Crystal O’Connor told ABC 57. “We are a Christian establishment.”

O’Connor said the business is not discriminating against anybody, but she and her family has her beliefs and other people are entitled to their own.

“We definitely agree with the bill,” she added, saying she doesn’t think the bill targets gays or discriminates but instead protects businesses like hers who have a religious belief.

ABC also spoke to her father: “That’s a lifestyle that you choose, I choose to be heterosexual, they choose to be homosexual—why should I be beat over the head because they choose that lifestyle?”

The business said if a gay couple stepped into their business, they wouldn’t deny them service—they just wouldn’t cater their wedding.

"Now if you'll excuse me," said O'Connor, "I've got to make sure our Negro slaves are properly stacking the Jews in the ovens."

Okay, I made that last part up. The comments I've read are incredible: they would crucify these people if they could. Gays and liberals hate, despise straights and conservatives far more than straights and conservatives grouse about merely allowing people to pursue their separate paths. In one of the last outlets allowed them, social conservatives have voted with their dollars to support the O'Connors. Probably, they will be able to re-open their business, because I don't foresee a lot of liberals trekking to Walkerton, Indiana to make good on threats to burn the place down.

Americans have become obsessed with the idea that they are absolutely and always entitled to be free from discrimination. This is from a random comment over at Dreher's:
America was founded on the idea that equality is a human right because living free from discrimination matters in a uniquely life-giving and powerful way. We need to take that birthright seriously, or we become a people alien to our own founding principles. Universal Equality is precisely what allows a pluralistic society to live together in peace.)
This is an astounding, ahistorical belief. Does equality exist anywhere in the natural world (much less in antebellum America)? A nuclear-armed central government enforces the delusion that all men men and women human beings are equal. We are not, we are demonstrably not, and billions of dollars and much tears are shed pretending that we are.

There is a way for pluralistic societies to work, by the way. It's called 'Hierarchy,' and if it violates sensibilities, well, that's what separate countries are for.

Getting back to Fr. Stephen:
I was recently in an Orthodox Church that was very “old world.” Its habits were formed and shaped in centuries devoid of democracy. The splendor and solemnity of hierarchy were everywhere. Quietness reigned. Certain precincts were off limits. Behavior took on the ritual of a royal court and the hiddenness of certain things was palpable. And strangely, the presence of God was obvious.

“Didn’t you feel it when you first walked in?” A woman whispered to me as we stood in the nave. Yes, I did. And not for the first time. Entering this wonderful cathedral called for leaving democracy at the door. In a few minutes a priest came to me and told me to follow him. I went “into the altar,” passing through the iconostasis that separates the nave from the Holy Place. It is a privilege given to priests – to enter the altar and to serve. But it is never a privilege that can be assumed or demanded. I have no rights. Once in the altar, the priest directed me to his Archbishop, who blessed me and told me that I would be taking part in the service and that I would serve “in English.” He did not ask, he directed. I obeyed.

The democratic heart cannot obey and cannot know the “obedience of faith.”

Christians in the contemporary world struggle with these contradictions. It is clear to most that God cannot be their own invention, and yet they have great difficulty overcoming the inventiveness of their hearts. Where tradition and custom are overthrown, only democracy can reign, and the hardness of the heart begins.
The secular worldview and the Traditional worldview are incompatible, and these are ontological questions that cannot be decided by a vote. As with Protestant-Catholic Ireland and Shia-Sunni-Christian Lebanon, about the best you can do is allow people their safe harbors, from which they can act and interact as they choose. Incredibly, this is the one "choice" that can never be allowed. In the US, the secular ideal is enforced by a nuclear-armed central government which itself is in dangerous fiscal and imperial overreach. If you do business in this society, you must accommodate all attitudes and behaviors, because that's the governing creed. Not even some tiny father-daughter shop in flyover country can be allowed any deviation.

The competing worldviews are in that awkward stage between ballots and bullets, so we should separate now before the shooting starts.