Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus' father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea's dampness would not clog his wings nor the sun's heat melt them. Icarus ignored his father's instructions not to fly too close to the sun; when the wax in his wings melted, he tumbled out of the sky and fell into the sea where he drowned, sparking the idiom "don't fly too close to the sun".
I received an email…not recently. This one is from Scott Thomason, from March 2017. I have kept it in my inbox all of this time; it was too important to archive and forget, yet I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I would someday do with it. I have decided now, obviously, to do something with it. Thomason has given me permission to give his name. To his email – but only snippets; I have considered posting the entire email, but I cannot bring myself to something approaching a guest writer….
Your writings on culture and libertarianism have made me think. Culture and tradition provide us a sense of the permanent and a tether across time to our ancestors. They add an aspect to our human identity without which we seem incomplete.
By this point, I had been writing on the intersection of libertarianism and culture for a couple of years, with some intellectual prep work done even before that on the issues I saw coming from left-libertarianism. I was quite focused on the aspect of a cultural foundation if one wanted to achieve and maintain something approaching liberty.
But I hadn’t yet connected it to this idea of an “incomplete…human identity,” as Thomason had done – in other words, I hadn’t connected it to the meaning crisis engulfing the West today. Of course, in a society where life is given no meaning, we should not expect liberty to bloom. I have come to understand this over the last year or two.
Thomason looked at this loss of meaning – the fruits of leftist thinking, where “leftist” means anything opposed to traditional morality and values.
The Left in my view seems to be circling the drain. Where are they going? What is their unifying cause? Other than a hatred for everything traditional I do not know.
This will be their undoing, eventually. In the meantime, we all must suffer. And what of libertarians? Let’s just push the hypothetical button – Thanos does his deed, but only aimed at those who lord over us. Does this result in happiness for the libertarian, a fulfilled life?
There is the urge in most of us to make libertarianism more than it is. …For me, libertarianism once had a certain messianic feel to it. The state was the only thing separating man from his complete fulfillment.
It is a topic that C. Jay Engel has tackled – or, I should say, is in the process of tackling. Libertarians are sucked into the political game of the state; everything is politicized today, therefore libertarians look to the problem being political and the solution to be found only by using the political to eliminate the political.
Let’s imagine we’ve all pushed that button. We all have our freedom, our glorious private law society. And then what? I hardly see an end to libertarian bickering. What is our purpose now? What is our meaning? How can we find either of them?
This is where I have come to the idea that the cart is before the horse. Without purpose, meaning – built on cultural tradition and Natural Law – it will not be liberty that survives the pushing of the button; the mainstream culture cannot support this. Per Thomason, the left looks to scientism as savior. He also points to libertarians who lean on pure reason – reason without tradition, without God.
Wonder is ridiculed, if not lost. The world fades to black and white. And where reason cannot extend, serious questions are dismissed. Rather than admit reason’s shortcomings, inconvenient questions are ridiculed. In an age of drive-thru answers, who can ask real questions?
Shortly after the time of this email, I posted a few of these “real questions” that many libertarians would not ask or would ignore. I am not sure that I had Thomason’s email in mind; obviously the subject was in the air at the blog at the time.
There is no room for culture, tradition, or what is labeled metaphysics. If it cannot be tested, proven, falsified, etc., it means nothing in this enlightened world. Where does it leave this enlightened libertarian – leaning on scientism and pure reason – now that the button has been pushed?
The average libertarian who doesn’t believe in Old World truth—the heroic and aristocratic virtues and the Christian truth in self-sacrifice—a truth beyond the rational and the empirical, is a sitting duck for relativism if he believes in the NAP and the NAP alone.
Libertarianism gives us something akin to the Silver Rule, but it is the Golden Rule that offers some hope of preserving liberty. Relativism, when it comes to ethics, is a dead end for liberty.
There is no comprehension of the dual nature of real freedom, that if it is to last, it must be accompanied by responsibility, duty, honor, etc.
There is also no comprehension of the need for an objective ethics, ethics derived from the nature of man – Natural Law. One need not speak of rights – even the right to not be hit first or the right to property – if one first does not have a theory of law, a theory built on principles that one is not entitled to look beyond – principles that are only to be accepted as given.
It is on this intersection of objective, given ethics – to be discovered, not invented – where one will find both C.S. Lewis and Murray Rothbard. We cannot see through first principles; an objective ethic is required – an ethic we are not qualified to or entitled to look beyond. Thinkers from Aristotle to Aquinas to Rothbard have developed this string.
But beyond “don’t hit first; don’t take my stuff,” pure libertarianism offers no such theory of law and we must not expect it to. Further: libertarianism cannot offer a reason why even this simplification of the NAP should be accepted. On what basis?
I have seen with my own eyes libertarians question the point and the origin of having separate public restrooms, for example. And because they didn’t have an answer for this, they assumed that it was the “odd way that people view religion and sex.” Instead of taking this as a cultural given for which it is silly to question, no, every cultural norm must be scrutinized. Thus do they find themselves rubbing elbows with the Left.
There is no answer in libertarianism to such questions. Well, I guess there is one: let the property owner decide. For example, if the property owner next door decides to have sex orgies on his front lawn while you are taking the family to church, tough luck. This is liberty if one is to strictly consider the non-aggression principle; yet will liberty survive in such a climate?
Like Icarus, we too have flown too high. …We no longer acknowledge any natural limitations to our desires. Men can become women and women, men. Two “married” men or two “married” women can raise children as if perfectly equivalent to the normal straight couple despite no obvious precedent in world history and with no adverse consequences. The children are just afterthoughts, lucky enough to be along for the ride in this new, empowered individual’s realization of his new rights.
There is no libertarian defense against these, and many (most) libertarians are happy for this. But is there liberty at the end of this road – a road where man works against his ends, purpose, telos? What is liberty if it is not liberty toward the purpose for which a thing is made?
We recoil (or at least question the morality) whenever we see anything of creation hindered from moving toward its purpose, its ends…well, anything of creation except for humans. We take pity on the lion in a cage while at the same time condemning the father of the seven-year-old boy who believes one so young should not be forced into such a decision.
Culture has been steamrolled in the Left’s never-ending march to discover new rights. Indeed, the modern progressive concept of rights is the mortal enemy of culture.
Rights come from a theory of law. If the only theory of law is “don’t hit first; don’t take my stuff,” then all manner of behavior is a right. But liberty without a moral compass is a one-way road to hell – I am not even speaking of the Biblical hell; we live this hell on earth, today.
The “all I need is my NAP” libertarian is really at a crossroads. He has his NAP, but he will find himself bored once the party ends. Will he saddle up to the leftist herd and guzzle the salt water of rights? Or will he go the lonelier path: toward culture, meaning, a humble recognition of man’s limits, an acknowledgment of his tragedy, and — dare I say? — God?
We see where the conversation is headed: there is a meaning crisis in the West. It has brought forth an alliance of certain atheists and certain Christians. What the atheists in this alliance don’t see (or won’t admit) is that it is the Christians in the alliance that have the answers to their questions.
This alliance is opposed by an alliance of certain other atheists and other Christians, those for whom cultural foundations and traditions – and the Natural Law that is derived from these – stand in the way of complete liberation.
Culture, the heroic path, ancestry, patriarchy and manhood, Western heroes, cultural myths, religion, child-rearing, marriage—all sources of great human meaning for Western man. I ask, which of these is the march toward rights not at war with?
There is war on all of these, but this game is coming to an end as the woke will end up consuming the woke. Assigning points for the myriad intersectional ways that one is a victim of the privileged class will turn victim against victim – all in a race to the bottom to prove who deserves to be on top.
We are told endlessly what we are not to be: a racist, a “homophobe,” a sexist, or a straight white Christian male. We know what we can’t be; the mental automatons in the mainstream ensure this, but what can—what should—we be? This is the question the NAP-and-nothing-but-the-NAP libertarian must answer. Relativists hate this question. If the libertarian is not to be ensnared by the Left, he must ask this question too.
He will not find the answer in his facile reasoning. A dogmatic adherence to rationalism cannot answer this question. The NAP cannot be the libertarian’s final destination.
This is where Engel is taking his work, via his magazine, Bastion. In fact, Engel turns the question on its head – as I have done: looking to the culture as more important for liberty than is the NAP.
Icarus was warned not to fly too high, putting himself in the place of God. For Icarus – and for libertarians who lean left – this was a choice that led (and will lead) to the loss of life and liberty.
We should remember that Icarus was also warned not to fly too low – a place with the devil. “Anything peaceful” – in other words, the low bar of the non-aggression principle as the only ethical bar that is meaningful to man’s liberty – ensures that the sea's dampness will clog our wings. When “anything peaceful” is all we have, there is nothing to prevent us from sinking into the abyss.
There is at least one atheist who managed to turn back before all the wax melted.ReplyDelete
St. Efan Molyneux and a very perceptive 18-year-old. From Nov. 1, 2019, titled: REVELATION! Forget my other videos, this is all you need...
All I see
In my infancy
Red and yellow then came to be
Reaching out to me
Lets me see
As below so above and beyond I imagine
Drawn beyond the lines of reason
Push the envelope
Watch it bend
I'm reaching up and reaching out
I'm reaching for the random or
Whatever will bewilder me
Whatever will bewilder me
And following our will and wind
We may just go where no one's been
We'll ride the spiral to the end
And may just go where no one's been
Spiral out, keep going" - Lateralus, Tool
"Culture and tradition provide us a sense of the permanent and a tether across time to our ancestors." - Scott
Burke called this the 'community of souls' and Chesterton called it the 'democracy of the dead'. Whatever you call it, it's pretty damn important.
"For me, libertarianism once had a certain messianic feel to it" - Scott
This is the distinct impression I got from reading Adam Kokesh's book "Freedom. Apparently, once the state is gone, we'll all be flying space cars. It was a bit cringe worthy in places, but also a lot of good stuff in it as well. Bout what you'd expect from a cultural leftist libertarian.
"Wonder is ridiculed, if not lost. The world fades to black and white... In an age of drive-thru answers, who can ask real questions?" - Scott
Scott is a fantastic writer.
"all in a race to the bottom to prove who deserves to be on top."
Bionic the aphorist!
"The Left in my view seems to be circling the drain." - Scott
Or 'swinging on the spiral' as it radiates from the center of truth, tradition, and God. In an attempt for self-realization or actualization they drift ever further from God's center of gravity.
"When “anything peaceful” is all we have, there is nothing to prevent us from sinking into the abyss." - BM
I grew up listening to Tool and Nine Inch Nails. I still like the sound of the music (it's edgy, complex, and different), though now I recognize how dangerous and perverse the lyrics are. There is some powerful wizardry associated with these two bands, and I apologize for posting some of their lyrics here. But I think the song "Lateralus" is a great example of the leftist mindset.
Tool's spiral radiates outward into the unknown and Nine Inch Nails' 'downward spiral' culminates at the bottom. Either way it is a journey to chaos, to the void, to the absence of God, to whatever feels good.
"Scott is a fantastic writer."Delete
I agree. I suggested to him at the time that he sent me the email that he should start a blog if he had not already done so.
Watched the Molyneux video. More atheists trying to detach purpose, meaning, and truth from its source. They want all the good side effects of having a relationship with Jesus without Jesus.ReplyDelete
It doesn't work that way. All he can come up with is "do good". First, why follow Molyneux's good? He is no more than me. Second, making the purpose of your life "do good" is another meaningless exercise that grinds you down even as you fail to do it.
Agree. Vervaeke wants a religion that is not a religion; Weinstein wants to alter our program; Harris just "knows" that Auschwitz is bad. If they would just say the word "Jesus" their search would be over.Delete
It is all nonsense. For most of recorded history the things we consider "evil" today were considered acceptable; if it was solely left to evolution, what we consider evil today was not only acceptable, but necessary for the species to survive.
All men are made in God's image. This is the only foundation of a "Universally Preferable Behavior," and it is found only in one place; the exemplar of this foundation is found only in one person. Anyone who claims a universally preferable behavior must lean on this as the source.
Further, someone or something will be in charge. I would rather that the someone or something was beyond human control. No celebrity atheist offers such an option.
"When “anything peaceful” is all we have, there is nothing to prevent us from sinking into the abyss."--BMReplyDelete
This sentence (and the last paragraph) struck me as exactly what happened when Neville Chamberlain met with Adolf Hitler at Munich, then returned home with a piece of paper proclaiming, "Peace in our time." We all know how that worked out. It came very close to destroying the British state.
Your conclusion (and the story of Icarus) is also a warning that we should not veer off into extremes, either as individuals or as societies and cultures. There are numerous Biblical scriptures which encourage moderation, temperance, and self control, with the understanding that failure to heed this advice leads to disastrous ruin--either individual or cultural, quite often both.
Roger, the story of WWII is much more complicated; the British Empire was doomed in any case, by entering and encouraging WWI; Stalin and Hitler were going to fight regardless of what the British did or didn't do; Britain need not ever even entered the war.Delete
At the top of the page see two tabs for "Timeline to War." This was one of my writing passions before I got into culture and liberty. In some ways I think the sequence had to be this way.
As to moderation, temperance, and self-control...I agree.
Bionic, I'm sure that everything you say is true and it should be obvious that the war did not start because of one act by one man. Nevertheless, Chamberlain DID go to Munich for a reason, which I think was to do what he could to avoid the entry of Britain into a war with Germany AND he went there with the intention of coming away with "anything peaceful" to bolster his political standing at home.Delete
This is only my opinion and I could be wrong, of course. I only offered what I wrote above as a historical anecdote of what happens when peace at any cost becomes the modus operandi.
They will cry, "Peace, peace" when there is no peace. Neville Chamberlain certainly did and it just goes to show that when people attempt to negotiate with bullies from a point of 'anything peaceful', they get run over.
I agree that Britain did not have to get involved, but she fell prey to that practice known as "entangling alliances", i.e., if Germany attacks Poland, we will attack Germany. And the rest is history.
BTW, I did glance at your timeline. I am impressed by it. That is a phenomenal amount of good work.
All fair points, Roger. And thanks for checking out the timeline.Delete
The central theme in your post "We Fly Too High" is right on the money. I have even been awakened in dreams by this realization that without meaning and culture based upon a belief in a supreme being, Plato's the Good, or as I am most familiar with the God of Christ we are empty shells. I have read some Rothbard and that is what I experienced at the end was an emptiness with nothing applied but the NAP. I believe the NAP and the Golden Rule are valid because they are based upon the idea that we are truly ONE. We cannot in reality be who we are if we do not believe this simple idea. We are ONE SELF. With this underlying principle we could make any system of governance work because we would always be fair, non aggressive and loving. It is impossible to not be when our core belief is that we are ONE. I admit it is an amazing mystery how we can be so free as to appear to be separate individuals and still ONE but I believe that is the truth. Imagine that it is true even if you cannot believe it and soon you will begin to see that it is true and that all of our problems are solved within that framework. As ONE we are invulnerable but as separate beings we fall apart. I think perhaps this is why the internet has lead to such division because we are acting as individuals instead of a ONE Self. The same internet and social media could perform completely differently if it were used from the understanding that we were not separate but ONE Being.ReplyDelete