Friday, September 30, 2016

Apocalypse Pending

In a new and brilliant essay “After the Republic” Angelo Codevilla (via Maggie's Farm) offers up some signs of what Camille Paglia called cultural collapse. Or, are they omens foretelling the pending Apocalypse?

For all I know it might just be the Age of Obama.

We have gone beyond what Allan Bloom called “the closing of the American mind.” Today, the American mind is completely shut down.

Codevilla writes:

Who, a generation ago, could have guessed that careers and social standing could be ruined by stating the fact that the paramount influence on the earth’s climate is the sun, that its output of energy varies and with it the climate? Who, a decade ago, could have predicted that stating that marriage is the union of a man and a woman would be treated as a culpable sociopathy, or just yesterday that refusing to let certifiably biological men into women’s bathrooms would disqualify you from mainstream society? Or that saying that the lives of white people “matter” as much as those of blacks is evidence of racism? These strictures came about quite simply because some sectors of the ruling class felt like inflicting them on the rest of America. Insulting presumed inferiors proved to be even more important to the ruling class than the inflictions’ substance.

As I have often argued, the fault lies at the top, with the man in charge. Codevilla explains that a nation’s character can be transformed if you grant power to the wrong leader:

All ruling classes are what Shakespeare called the “makers of manners.” Plato, in The Republic, and Aristotle, in his Politics, teach that polities reflect the persons who rise to prominence within them, whose habits the people imitate, and who set the tone of life in them. Thus a polity can change as thoroughly as a chorus changes from comedy to tragedy depending on the lyrics and music. Obviously, the standards and tone of life that came from Abraham Lincoln’s Oval Office is quite opposite from what came from the same place when Bill Clinton used it. Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm was arguably the world’s most polite society. Under Hitler, it became the most murderous.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Sophisticated superstition, with oglers in parlors waiting for the deep, soothing words of President Obama. No truth, just soothing... decadent, blissful reassurance that the world is not actually as it is.

Codevilla is very good. I recommend his piece "America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution."

Recruiting Animal said...

"Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm was arguably the world’s most polite society. Under Hitler, it became the most murderous."

"When Rabbi Hutner was a young rabbinic student in pre-WW2 Europe, one of his fellow students spoke admiringly about the polite and refined manner with which the German people treated him during a recent visit there.

"I’d always assumed that etiquette was an expression of being good. If I was acting nice, that meant I was nice. But now I saw that culture and civility were no proof of goodness."

AesopFan said...

I had noticed the interesting point about Germany in Codevilla's excellent editorial, so thanks for the link.

In that context, I was musing today that the Europeans of the last century despised, drove away, and destroyed their Jews -- who were, for the most part, model citizen -- by pushing the pretense that they were subversive, unassimilating, exclusionary, mendacious, even violent, and every other base canard one can imagine.
Today's Europe has voluntarily imported a large contingent of pseudo-refugees who are, in fact, subversive, unassimilating, exclusionary, mendacious (think welfare benefits financing jihad), and extremely violent, while frantically pretending that their Muslims are model citizens.

Who says God doesn't have a sense of irony.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Recruiting Animal @September 30, 2016 at 12:37 PM:

"I’d always assumed that etiquette was an expression of being good. If I was acting nice, that meant I was nice. But now I saw that culture and civility were no proof of goodness."

I've always seen etiquette and protocol as structures that encourage social order. They allow people to conduct themselves in social settings without needing to be self-conscious... indeed, they facilitate conversation and exchange. So it's about order. To that end, I think there is beauty in order and order in beauty. This kind of stuff is the structure and grease that allows ordinary and/or meaningful exchange to take place.

One can be a polite jerk, a savage with all the trappings of a high civilized life, using social customs as a tool for selfish gain, respecting no one, even seeking their demise.

Goodness is another thing altogether. It means living the foundation or purpose of social structure: encouraging generosity, kindness, fraternity, etc. Thusly, social structure is a starting point -- a means, not an end. Intentional goodness in one's connection and contribution to their fellow man is an expression of love.

One can be polite and not love. Yet if one loves, they can't help but be polite. If they do love and are not polite, they are likely doing it in service of love. The true expression of genuine love conquers all.

Nice is trite. The intent of political correctness is niceness, but it's devoid of love, and collapses under the weight of its clumsy bureaucracy and procedure. It's phony, and places a burdensome overhead on social communication that is self-conscious. It blocks love. Love is something the supposed beneficiaries of political correctness truly desire, but they know it's trite and phony, so there's no true gain. In fact, it leads to resentment amongst all.

This all reminds me that the Roman nobility and bureaucracy became Christian under Constantine to maintain social status, not because of any spiritual conversion or desire to live a life of Christian love. Polite and refined, no doubt, but lacking the soul of a Christian. Again, phony. But so nice.