Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Everything is Politics

Jonathan Pageau does a monthly Q&A.  This month, one of the questions regards why political narratives take up so much headspace.  Continuing with the question:

Why aren’t peoples’ narratives about small things, like having food, good friendships, doing a good job at work or school?  I see an implicit devaluation of all small things, and I am not sure where it’s from.

Pageau replies:

One of the places it’s from is people need to feel like they are connected to something bigger than them, so that’s inevitable.  We have to feel like we’re connected to a bigger pattern.  That’s why politics is so important; it is the manner in which we are connected to the people around us.  It contains the narratives that bind us together as a people.  So, it’s very important.

The question is: why is it one of the only narratives that bind us?  The other one I can think of is sports – not for everyone but a large portion of the population.  Here again, perhaps a reason why sports has been taken away – in addition to losing our outlet for violence, we have also lost an institution that brought society together (I say nothing of how healthy this is, just that it is).

Robert Nisbet did a very good job of answering the question – why is politics one of the only narratives that bind us?  He wrote in this in his book The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom.  I review this book through several posts:

·         One Hand Washing the Other

·         Community Lost

·         Community Found

·         No Turning Back

·         Name Your Poison

·         The Revolutionary Essence of the State

·         The Road to Sovereignty

·         Far Cry

·         Procuring Petty and Paltry Pleasures

·         The Missing Link

To make a long story short, all intermediating governance institutions have been taken away from us – stripped on any meaningful authority.  The most important was the Church (Christendom, Christianity), which could stand against the king and hold the king to account.  But it isn’t the only one.  For example, the family is no longer necessary; the university has been completely co-opted by the state.

This has been done with purpose – perhaps inevitable once Christianity was removed as the only obstacle standing in the way of the king becoming what we now know as the state – the monopolist of authority.

Returning to Pageau:

One of the problems we have, because of social media, we are bombarded with the political narrative, it can become obsessive.  Because the social crisis is real, it is also inevitable that people would be taken by it.  It feels like the fabric of their society is being threatened.

This certainly describes the immediate issue, but the “fabric of society” that was once made up of many threads has been torn apart over the last centuries, not the last years.

I still believe that the main solution to the problem is to focus on your sins, focus on your passions, to love your neighbor, at least for now.

He doesn’t explain the “at least for now” part.  It is quite an interesting drop.  As to the rest, he is right, of course.  Most important would be for Christian leaders to do these things, as the only institution that historically has ever been able to keep the king in check – able to keep the king from becoming the state – has been Christianity.

I have developed the many reasons for this in the past, so won’t dive into it here.  In any case, few of the reasons are repeatable, but the most important reasons remain.  These are permanently available to Christians.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Ideal of Humility

The whole secret of the practical success of Christendom lies in the Christian humility, however imperfectly fulfilled.

Heretics, Gilbert K. Chesterton (eBook)

In this chapter, Chesterton is examining H.G. Wells and his book, A Modern Utopia. 

When one rids himself of the idea of merit – merit in the Christian sense – one frees himself for all possibilities: “…the soul is suddenly released for incredible voyages,” as Chesterton puts it. This humility – taking ourselves lightly, while seeing the possibility of unmerited triumphs – is taken by many as something sinister:

Humility is so practical a virtue that men think it must be a vice. Humility is so successful that it is mistaken for pride.

Humility is lost on the modern man – the man immersed in the scientism that has afflicted all of the globe.  This causes him to look in all the wrong places:

He is still slightly affected with the great scientific fallacy; I mean the habit of beginning not with the human soul, which is the first thing a man learns about, but with some such thing as protoplasm, which is about the last.

There is so much in this one sentence.  I will only summarize one aspect: we live in a story, not in the details of facts too trivial for the concern of most.  People live in and act on a narrative, not in an idea – and for sure not in the most obscure and hidden reaches of an idea.  If this isn’t obvious today – with the narrative of destruction and evil that turns ordinary men into sycophants demanding mask wearing and abnormal men into burning and looting everything in sight – then it will never be obvious. 

Certainly for the new atheists – those like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett – the game is up.  Religion (a narrative) is a permanent condition for humans – in the West we have traded the Christian religion for the bastardized religion witnessed on the streets in the last month. 

What is left to us, therefore, is just one question: which, or what type, of religion.  One that aims at peace – albeit, always moving in fits and starts – or one that aims to destroy.  There will be no inventing a “religion that is not a religion” of peace.  It is a hopeless and even futile quest.  Why?

Ephesians 6: 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

I have been seeing this verse pop up a lot lately in the dialogue.  I have been using it more often myself.  If the last 125 years of history didn’t convince you that the powers we battle are both dark and spiritual, then hopefully the last 125 days finally has.  If this doesn’t humble you – knowing where and what the battle is – nothing will.  If it doesn’t cause you to understand where and how this fight must be fought, you deserve your fate.

Returning to Chesterton and those afflicted with the scientific fallacy:

In his new Utopia [Wells] says, for instance, that a chief point of the Utopia will be a disbelief in original sin.

Oh my.  What a controversial term: “original sin.”  I am fine if you choose a different term and a different way to describe the fallen nature of man – all men and all women.  Pick any standard of “good” that you want, and then start explaining why no one meets it perfectly.  In other words, whether one takes the concept to mean we are all damned because of Adam and Eve, or whether one believes we all, inherent in our nature, will fall short of a standard of good, you end up in the same place.

If he had begun with the human soul—that is, if he had begun on himself—he would have found original sin almost the first thing to be believed in.

Again, get past what you think you know about the term.  We all fall short of the “good.”  By focusing on protoplasm, we lose sight of the nature of man.  This exposes completely the utopia of Progressivism based on scientism.  They tell us that man is perfectible, and his perfection will be brought on by…man.  Both parts of that sentence lead us to hell.

Friday, June 26, 2020

No Story, No Liberty

The following is adapted from my part of a conversation I have been having via email. 


People live in a story, a narrative (call this a cultural tradition); we do not live in a formula.  One of my points of difference with libertarians who try to deal with every minute and extreme (even overly extreme) possibility is that these won't be resolved by further purification of libertarian theory. 

In what is referred to as the continuum - the space in between the obvious cases at the extreme - much of this will be resolved within the story that a particular society lives.  When I read the questions raised by X, above, I find obvious answers given my cultural context (with varying degrees for each question).  I don't think this means that the answers need be the same in every cultural context (although it is difficult for me to see how they wouldn't be for at least some of these questions).

There are even more fundamental questions that can only be answered culturally: what is property, what is a person, when does defense turn into aggression.  There isn't only one "right" answer.

I will offer some basic examples: is intellectual property to be considered “property”?  I find no reason why the answer must be no, if a given society decides it is yes.  There is a question of enforcement – who pays for it, how is it accomplished; these can be answered via the non-aggression principle.  Beyond this, I find no obvious answer.

What is a person?  We have questions around unborn children, when children reach maturity, what to do about those with less than functional capacities (mental or physical).  How do rights extend to these?

Where is the line between defense and aggression?  Some of you have been around long enough to remember my beef with a fairly well-known libertarian who claimed that shooting a child who was stealing an apple is perfectly acceptable within the NAP.  For many reasons I find this horrendous, but for the purists I ask: when does defense turn into aggression?

The non-aggression principle is a wonderful guideline to help us resolve questions about punishment and when violence in defense is justified.  But it is a guideline, nothing more; its application in the gray area of the continuum is, on the whole, I believe, culturally dependent. 

This won't be resolved by formula, not in any way that is meaningful to human beings as human beings.  No one will read that book and turn it into scripture.  People learn, instead, by living in a story. The sad part for us is that this story is being destroyed while we speak, and this destruction has been in the works for at least the last 125 years (some will say 300 years or even 500 years). 

The story requires something or someone outside of the system – call it something transcendent.  The West has done well for many centuries by calling it God.  It has also done well by accepting that God, through the Son, gave Himself as sacrifice – the perfect sacrifice to offer complete forgiveness for all transgressions.

This is not to suggest that on the day of Resurrection, heaven was achieved on earth.  Many wrongs continued – some even in the name of Christianity.  But it was only through Christianity that these had grounding to be righted.  Slowly, in fits and starts, this has happened and is happening.

Unfortunately, we see the result of dumping the idea of transcendent and dumping the idea of the perfect sacrifice for forgiveness. 

Dumping the transcendent: Nothing is above the system and nothing is allowed to remain outside of the system.  Each individual is sovereign, with no authority above him.  Diversity and equality: we are all to be included unconditionally, and included equally – and we must all do this.  As Jonathan Pageau offers (in a great 18-minute video), inclusiveness is the only value we are allowed to hold; the only sin left is the sin of exclusion – well, except for the exclusion of other values besides inclusion.

Dumping the perfect sacrifice: There is no means by which those who are deemed guilty today can be forgiven: you can admit to being a racist, in which case you are a racist; or you can say that you are not a racist, in which case you are a racist.  In either case, you can never escape damnation.

This is not a recipe for peace and reconciliation.  It is the only the final stages of civilizational collapse.

Liberty won’t come by developing a more perfect argument, or flushing out the last detail of human interaction.  It can only come if built on a narrative – a story, a cultural tradition.  The West has demonstrated the only narrative in the history of the world that has brought on liberty.  It is this narrative that is living through its final death blows.

Well, final for now.  If there is any hope for man (there is), the narrative will return.  It could get ugly in the meantime.


A couple of years ago, Hans Hoppe gave a lecture on the need for a grand narrative.  As I recall, he spent little or no time working on minute details of libertarian theory applied - he told a story.  Jeff Deist did something similar.  This lecture by Daniel Ajamian is another example. 

They are right - without a story, we are wasting our time wishing for liberty.