The final installment of an essay where one of the great mysteries of the modern age is illumined.
Perhaps, like me, you have wondered how it is that so many people, otherwise honest, can adopt without demur the Orwellian anti-language of Political Correctness; how it is that so many people, otherwise rational, can adopt without demur the paradoxes, self-contradictions and logical absurdities involved in relativistic morality, materialistic ontology, subjective epistemology, and the other nuggets of vacuous blither forming the foundations of modern thought; how it is that so many people, otherwise possessing good taste, can without demur fund and support and praise the blurry aberrations of modern art, praise ugliness, despite beauty; how it is that so many people, otherwise good and peaceful, can praise and support and excuse the hellish enormities and mass murders of figures like Che and Mao and Stalin and Castro; or can view with cold eye the piles of tiny corpses heaped outside abortion mills, and make such enemies of the human race into heroes; or can rush to the defense of Mohammedan terrorists with freakish shrieks of ‘Islamophobia!’ and ‘Racist!’ even thought to be wary of Jihadists bent on your destruction is rational rather than phobic, and even thought Mohammedanism is a religion, not a race; how otherwise happy, moral, reasonable and decent people can not merely excuse sexual perversion, but will be swept up in a fervor of righteous indignation even if someone points out the biological or Biblical reality of the situation; and likewise excuse lies in their leaders, and adulteries, and abuses of power, and abuses of drugs, and any number of things these otherwise ordinary people would never do themselves.
And, finally, Perhaps, like me, you have wondered why it is that these people who are otherwise civil nonetheless can neither explain their positions nor stop talking, and their talk consists of nothing, nothing, nothing aside from childish personal attacks, slanders, sneers, and accusation, accusation, accusation. Why are they so angry? Why are they so noisy? Why are they so blissfully unaware of the vice, injustice, ugliness and evil they support?
As I said in a previous essay, I had an insight into the answer, or part of the answer, into this question. It is an answer which I do not pretend is original, but which I happened never to have seen before, so it is new to me.
The insight grew out of three conversations (and one non-conversation).
Two of those conversations (and one non-conversation) I have described previously, and they convinced me that the core of postmodern, Progressive thought, or (to be precise) thought-avoidance mechanisms, consist of the following:
(1) Human nature is cultural, that is, manmade.
(2) Your nature is made by you, including your natural talents, gifts and good fortune.
(3) There is no point in discussing the matter.
In the previous essays, I examined these points. First, if human nature is cultural, then the sorrows and limitations of human nature, including such things as the inevitability of death and the ineluctably of decay can be met and overcome by some change to the culture, some progressive improvement to our laws and customs. However, in reality, the attempts to change the culture lead to four stages of decay, from the Christian to the Worldly Man, to the Ideologue, to the Mystic, to the Nihilist. The conclusion of my investigation was that the belief that human nature is infinitely plastic or pliant leads to despair.
Second, if individual nature is personal, then for the sorrows and failures of life you have none to blame but yourself; and likewise the glories and accomplishments you have no one to whom to be grateful, nor to give thanks, but yourself.
Again, if individual nature is personal, and death is inevitable, the only available philosophies to content with this intractable fact are the Stoic or the Hedonistic, which means either the idea of living for duty or the idea of living for pleasure.
The conclusion of my investigation was that individualism logically necessitates ingratitude as the default emotional response to life. This is an airless and suffocating emotional atmosphere, one not suited to sustain human psychology.
The Stoic in this atmosphere maintains himself by pride and iron willpower; and when they fail, he is left with nothing. The Hedonist in this atmosphere maintains himself by distraction, by diversion, by the constant clamor of the stimulation of the senses, by wine and women and song, by sex and drugs and rock and roll; and when they fail, he is left with nothing.
Third, the unwillingness of the Progressives to discuss their beliefs, or unbeliefs, or whatever they are, in a rational, civil, and calm fashion, and their inability to shut up once it is clear they cannot defend, or even explain, their opinions, is not the product of the several reasons a gentleman might have for retreating politely from an unwanted discussion.
It is not the courtesy which prevents a gentleman from discussion divisive matters at family gatherings (remember how Mr Obama wanted the Progressives to ruin Thanksgiving and Christmas by having them proselytize his health care scheme to their ungood thoughtcriming kinfolk?); it is not a admission of one’s own lack of qualifications to have an opinion in the matter, for the Progressive does not shut up when he is ignorant of the facts, he gains confidence and talks louder; it is not frustration that their enemies will not listen to reason, for reason IS the enemy; nor is it because the matter is a highly technical topic reserved to experts, nor an ineffable topic reserved to mystics, nor matters of dogma reserved to the faithful, since the topics involve matters of common knowledge and common experience known to the common man.
The unwillingness of the Progressives to discuss their beliefs is because one of their beliefs (the most outrageously false of all, and most easy to prove false) is that they are superior beings, superior by virtue of their greater intelligence, open-mindedness, higher education, finer sentiments, and greater compassion, surrounded by yowling and filthy yahoos. These Progressives, who have never read a word of Aristotle, much less read him in Greek, boast that they cannot discuss philosophy honestly with a psychotic yet retarded Neanderthal like me, due to my inferior nature. Well, I cannot argue with their assessment of my education, except to say ἀντικεῖσθαι δ᾽ ὁ ἀλαζὼν φαίνεται τῷ ἀληθευτικῷ· χείρων γάρ. (And it is the boaster that seems to be opposed to the truthful man; for he is the worse character. Aristotle’s Ethica Nicomachea IV, 7.)
And yet this propensity, which naturally leads us to anger at the hypocrisy, self-flattery, and incivility of the Progressives, instead ought to lead us to pity: for this is also an upwelling not of narcissism but of despair. It is not that they think they can reason and that we cannot; they think reason is vain, and philosophy is useless.
It is not as if they talk to each other in a rational fashion in the faculty lounge or news bullpen, and then only assume a demeanor of barking moonbat lunacy when they talk to us. They talk to each other in the same way, like loyal party members in George Orwell’s NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR, exchanging meaningless and soothing slogans and nonsense words, lulled to sleep by the perfect agreement in the perfectly empty word-noises, unless someone jars the serenity by disagreeing on some small point. Immediately the barking moonbats close in, screeching and caterwauling, until the deviant offers servile apologies and self-flagellation. The power of speech is not entirely removed from them, as it is removed from the disloyal animals at the end of THE LAST BATTLE by C.S. Lewis; but it is removed from them on certain topics, wherever the Correct Speech and Correct Goodthink vetoes individual thought.
It is a trap, like an iron snare that closes on the leg of a wild animal. Once they have entered into the delirious realm of non-thought and non-language, only a radical change, only a miracle, can pull them back into the realm of light.
The benighted fools have surrendered the power of speech and thought out of despair. These gifts have not made them happy, have not ushered in perfection and paradise. If they are useless, why keep them?
In other words, I realized the same root stood at the bottom of their principles:
(1) Human nature is cultural, that is, manmade. Because if it is not, there is no cure for any of the many intolerable evils of the human condition, and all life is but despair.
(2) Your nature is made by you, including your natural talents, gifts and good fortune. Because if it is not, there is no cure for any of the many intolerable evils of my personal condition, and my life is but despair.
(3) There is no point in discussing the matter. Because if there were a point in discussing the matter, it means that the thought that human nature is manmade is not necessarily true, and that my good fortune was self-made is not necessarily true. In either case, life is but despair.
Or, more briefly:
It may be somewhat redundant to recite the final clue that allowed the final tumbler to click into place for me, and unlock this dark and clear vision of what was really behind the paradox of kindhearted evildoers, intelligent idiots, and bewildered innocent villains, but I give it here for the sake of completeness.
THIRD DISCUSSION: We Don’t Need No Stinking Heroes.
I actually forget what this topic of conversation was. I may have been discussing heroism in science fiction books, and what is behind the dropoff in readership in recent years. It does not matter for my account here.
What matters is that one of the participants in the discussion waxed philosophical, or, to be precise, waxed psychological, in attempting to explain the otherwise incomprehensible appeal of books with heroic heroes in them.
Her theory (I think it was a female science fictioneer speaking) was that teens like heroes because the teenaged readers are uncertain of their social position. An act of heroism will tend to confirm the hero as being a high-status figure, a man with many friends and admirers, perhaps even make him attractive to the opposite sex. Acting heroically feeds the hunger teens have for security in their social relationships. Where the teen has no ability to act heroically, he lives vicariously in a fantasy of heroic action by reading about heroes in books.
My theory is that I, as imaginative as I am, could not come up with a theory as insulting to my fellow human beings — yes, I consider teenagers to be human beings, despite any evidence to the contrary — not even if I pondered the matter for a thousand years, and sat in the center of the Infinite Egg of Meditation with ten thousand swamis assisting me with their mantra energy.
Do I need to say anything to emphasize how despicable this theory is? A hero is someone who is willing to fall in battle for a noble cause. That is the basic definition. It is the sum of the virtues of fortitude, prudence, justice and self-command, because anyone lacking these qualities will either lack the brains or the heart or the stomach needed to conduct himself in an heroic yet not foolhardy fashion. The craving for heroism, in other words, is a craving for virtue, for good character, for the strength to be unselfish, and to put the greater good above one’s own interests.
All that is blown away like a puff of cigarette smoke, using the Abolisher’s favorite, if not their only, tool and weapon. Instead of taking the motive for heroic acts at face value (we admire such things because they are innately admirable) the theory of the Abolishers of Man pretend there is a hidden and occult layer beneath the hero’s thoughts and passions, a layer of utterly selfish appetites, which only the divine insight of the Abolisher can penetrate. And, of course, like every allegedly true and inner motive allegedly laid bare by the alleged insight of the Abolishers of Man, this motive is utterly base and self-serving, namely, a desire for the good opinion of foolish peers, or, in other words, vainglory. Every hero from Achilles onward, as it turns out, died to impress some shallow girl.
This reinforces the other aspects of the world view we have seen. In fact, the Marxist worldview allows for no heroes, only victims and oppressors. No victim can be a hero, because that destroys the alleged moral superiority being a victim allegedly bestows.
And no oppressor can be a hero, or have even distorted versions of any virtues, lest any man feel a trifle of sympathy toward any of them. The designated oppressor class much, each and every one of them, be as utterly void of any redeeming qualities as imps from hell, or else the whole program of the Two Minute Hate is hindered.
Theirs is the world view of a pagan, robbed of Christian hope, rooted in unshakeable despair. Life’s a bitch and then you die, so eat and drink and be merry today. Today is all you have.
Indeed, the worldview is sub-pagan. The pagans at least believed in heroism, in justice, in prudence, in moderation and in fortitude. To be sure, it was common among the classical pagans to believe that heroes, once they had burned brightly in their brief moment of godlike glory, fell and fell hard into tragedy and madness and death, to become twittering shadows in the underworld, or amnesiacs trapped on an endless wheel of reincarnation, like a series of books with no meaning, no happy endings and no ending at all. The most a hero could hope for was the poets would recall his name in generations to come, but even that would fade with time.
Our modern postchristians do not even have that. Most do not believe in reincarnation, or believe its only escape is into the paradise of self-obliteration. The more optimistic believe that obliteration comes immediately at death, and there is no soul nor spiritual substance to survive the decay of the body into elements, any more than there is anywhere for any software to linger when a computer is smashed to dust, or a place for words to rest once the book is burnt to ash.
Now, the natural desire for heroes cannot be expunged from the human breast, any more than the natural desire for meaning in life, and all high dreams and noble things. But this particular worldview allows for heroism only in martyrdom and victimhood, or perhaps those who leave their lives of ease and speak up for the martyrs and victims. But even these are not admired for fighting in the physical sense, which requires physical bravery. The heroes of the left are protestors, and when they cannot find any policemen to beat them to death, they riot in an aimless fashion, over nothing that can be described nor explained, hoping for wounds to make their lives grand.
The Christian martyr dies in the believe that death is not the end, but is the gateway to glory, including the reward from a grateful sovereign divinity for longsuffering loyalty. The Postchristian martyr believes death is the end, and ergo he may be willing to expose himself to some discomfort in his activist efforts to tear down, ruin, or destroy some ancient institution or productive corporation for reasons that never seem to make much sense: but he can never give the full measure of his devotion which even the most commonplace soldier, fireman or police officer is prepared to give. This gives and atmosphere of cowardice and hypocrisy to all they do.
Gratitude is the only thing that makes life worth living. The gratitude of the civilian whose liberty or life is saved from evildoers by soldiers and policemen should be spontaneous, because it is healthy. The gratitude of child to parent, student to teacher, penitent to father confessor, patient to doctor, man to his bride or wife to her bridegroom: we all, all feel the natural impulse to those who save and sustain us.
Heroes sacrifice for the common good (and even those placed not in harm’s way surrender freedoms and pleasures civilians take for granted, such as where in the country, or the world, you will reside). They also give us goals, dreams, idols, someone to look up to and admire.
In the postchristian world, a confirmed and longstanding effort is in effect to denature all heroes and heroines, and hold them up to disrespect and disgust. First, any person not of one’s own race or sex or narrow grievance group is disqualified as a hero, for it is assumed that no one can identify with nor imitate any person outside the group. You cannot be as brave as George Washington during his many heartbreaking defeats and retreats because you are not a Caucasian, Male, Heterosexual, Wooden-toothed, Slave-owning Virginian. You cannot be as temperate as the Virgin Mary because you are not a Jewess. You cannot be as prudent as Confucius because you are not a Chinaman. You cannot be as righteous in judgment as Ahasuerus or Job or Noah because you are not Persian or Chaldean or Antediluvian.
Every hero held up to admiration must be regarded with suspicion by the postchristian mind, because, in a world with no fixed measures of right and wrong, where vice and virtue are arbitrary value-judgments, the only purpose of holding up a hero to admiration is to deceive, swindle, or enslave the unwary. Ergo the only fair-minded thing to do when beholding an alleged hero is to sit in the seat of the scornful, and mock. You must give your idol feet of dull clay even if his feet are shining like unto fine brass as if they burned in a furnace.
Even imaginary heroes must be subjected to the destruction of deconstruction: see, for example, the brilliant, and brilliantly vile, WATCHMAN comic book of Alan Moore, which (despite its vacuous moral evil at its core) merited all the high praise heaped on it; or the poorly constructed and fatuously applauded ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy of Philip Pullman, which did not.
The process never ceases, because the despair that drives them makes the Abolisher unable to refrain from abolishing his own heroes. Admiration is too akin to gratitude; gratitude is too akin to humility; humility is antithetical to self-esteem; and humility is deadly to the project of acting as the creator and savior of the future generations of mankind which the Abolisher fondly wishes to create, once normal human sentiments, morals, thoughts and rational faculties are abolished.
STAR WARS continues to win fans precisely because it was a deliberate and wholehearted dip into the wellsprings of nostalgia. It was Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon and all the terrible, cheap, shallow, penny-dreadful, pulpish, goodness of totally unsophisticated popular entertainment come again. The galaxy long, long ago and far, far away was filled with heroes and villains. The public, weary of a long line of movies pleasing to postmoderns yet alien to human nature, reacted with overabundant joy. When an older and less talented filmmaker made the prequel trilogy, he added elements pleasing to the postmoderns: heroes who were weak and flawed, villains who were sympathetic, and a denunciation of absolute standards of good and evil — and the audience, for this and many other reasons, was deeply offended.
What is this prejudice against heroism? Whence comes it? I suggest that to have a hero is like having a star in the sky to guide your bark. And the Abolishers hate the stars.
Stars are too elvish, too high, too pure, too proud, and remind man of his humblest and lowest place in the universe. Looking up at the constellations on a dark and clear night is like looking into the stained glass windows of some celestial mansion, vast beyond the imaginations of astronomers. It makes a man feel glorious in his smallness.
To look up at the giant figures in history, mighty lords renowned in battle, or wise sages whose words still rang like trumpets calling man to virtue as to battle, or modest and temperate philosophers or maidens or servants or fools who avoided vanity and vainglory, or prudent saints and martyrs whose wisdom was beyond this world, likewise makes a man both small and glorious, bright as a star himself.
That star must be quenched if the postchristian postrational posthuman Abolisher of Man is to be successful in his despair.
Despair is the key. It explains nearly everything that is so puzzling about the madness of modern life, the pack of self-contradictory dogmas that make up the default assumptions of the Dark Ages in which we live.
They have nothing else. No wonder they are bitter. No wonder they are irrational. No wonder they lie like dogs. No wonder they boast. No wonder they are full of envy and malice. No wonder they kill babies in the womb and fete socialist dictators and mass murderers. No wonder they love death. No wonder they admire, protect and love Islamic terrorists. No wonder they admire, protect, and love sexual perversion.
It is because they have nothing else. They live in a world of darkness, without hope, with nothing but their seven great friends to sustain them: pride, which they call self esteem; envy, which they call social justice; wrath, which they call activism and protest; sloth, which they call enlightenment; gluttony, which they call health food and legalization of recreational drugs; greed, which they call fairness in taxation; lust, which they call sexual liberation.
The modern age is suffering from spiritual and philosophical starvation in the midst of what should be the greatest feast of mind and spirit imaginable. Someone has told them offal was food and food was poison, and so they gnaw on foul things which cannot satisfy them, which make their hungers grow. They are dying of thirst, and someone offers them seawater to drink.
Let us now and forever eschew anger and indignation at these creatures. Like are like blind kittens who cling and claw and scratch that hands that come to feed and comfort. No man should be angered at a blind scratch.
Neither should we do them the honor of assuming their is a philosophy, political or otherwise, or a coherent worldview, or anything that can be discussed or debated. It is a dream, a delirium, a vision, a nightmare.
Surely was can answer, or at least fend off, any questions they might have concerning our vision, which is brighter and better and sane and whole and true, because more often than not, it is a frivolous reason, a matter of mere emotion, which prevents them from seeing this light. Their eyes are closed, their reason is dark. Reason is of limited use to them, who have no faith in reason.
Beauty is the key to lure them into opening their eyes. I mean not merely the physical beauty in song and architecture and story telling where Christendom has no lack and has no peers; I mean also the beauty of virtue, of charity, of sympathy, of humanity, of heroism, of martyrdom.
Did not the sheer mind-boggling beauty of Mother Teresa of Calcutta attract more skeptics to our banners than did the sneering sarcastic ugliness of Christopher Hitches attract to his?
They are lost in the dark. That is the truth that stabbed my soul like lightning. They wander in their jerky motions from one idle fashion and meaningless fancy to the next not because they are bored, but because they are desperate, because they are starving.
To cure them we must love them. That is what I saw.
To cure them, we must be a light to them.
We must actually live up to the difficult, nay, the impossible task of becoming saints, as humble and glorious as stars in the host of heaven.
We must first cure ourselves.