Orthodox Christianity, the most influential confession in Russia, provides the faithful with many objects of worship, especially icons: beautiful, spiritual and believed (by some) to perform miracles and protect the country from the enemy.
Our Lady of Vladimir
One of the finest examples of Byzantine iconography is the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus snuggling up to her cheek. Thisicon was sent to Rus as a gift in the early 12th century. The Patriarch of Constantinople gave it to a Russian prince; subsequently it changed owners during periods of wars and strife, finally finding a home in the city of Vladimir.
In 1395, Prince Vasily of Moscow took the icon to his city, seeking the help of God – that year Tamerlane, a powerful and ruthless conqueror from Middle Asia turned his eye on Moscow. His army would have defeated the Russians and burned the city, but Muscovites prayed to Our Lady of Vladimir. Tamerlane changed his mind and decided not to invade. Of course, believers attribute this to the Virgin Mary.
Two more times, in 1451 and 1480, the pattern repeated: Moscow was just about to be invaded, defeated and burned by the Mongols, but in the end they didn’t fight the Russians.Orthodox believers were sure that the icon saved their city. This is why the icon is believed to be miraculous.
Where to find it today: in St. Nicholas Church near the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Our Lady of Kazan
Yes, Russians love the Virgin Mary, so here is another Byzantine icon of her. Lost in the 15th century, it was mysteriously found 140 years later, in 1579, after a great fire in Kazan. According to legend, the Lady of Kazan came to a little girl, Matrona, in her sleep and asked to look for her image in the ashes. The girl listened and later became a nun in the monastery where the icon was kept.
Much like her “sister” in Vladimir, the Lady of Kazan was later moved to the capital. In 1612, the Russian army carried it as a holy banner during their battle against the Poles who occupied Moscow – and won. Since then, the Virgin Mary of Kazan is also known as the Holy Protectress of Russia.
In 1904, the unspeakable happened: someone stole the icon from the monastery in Kazan. Since then, the fate of one of Russia’s most worshipped symbols is unclear. Nevertheless, there is an excellent copy of the original icon, which traveled the world and was given back to the Orthodox by Pope John Paul II.
Where to find it today: in the Bogoroditsky Monastery of Kazan (copy)
“The Trinity” by Andrei Rublev
This is the first (and the last) non-Virgin-Mary icon in this list and one of the few proven conclusively to be created by Andrei Rublev, the great Russian icon painter who lived in the 15th century. There are no legends or rumors around this icon; it’s not considered miraculous. Yet it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of art and one of Russia’s symbols.
“The Trinity,” also called “The Hospitality of Abraham,” portrays three angels that, according to the Bible, came to the house of Patriarch Abraham symbolizing “one God in three persons” – the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. The icon is astonishingly harmonic and tranquil. “It shines with the highest, unearthly light that we can see only in the works of geniuses,” said Russian painter Igor Grabar about “The Trinity.”
Where to find it today: in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
The Theotokos of Smolensk
Like we said before, for Russians there is no such thing as too many miraculous icons of the Virgin Mary. This one, rumored to be painted by St. Luke the Evangelist, was given to Prince Vsevolod by the Byzantine emperor in 1046 when Vsevolod married his daughter, thus turning Kievan Rus’ into a powerful ally of the Orthodox Church.
Kept in the city of Smolensk (400 km west of Moscow), this icon was believed to protect Russian lands from western enemies. That’s why in 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia, the army took the icon to Moscow and the whole city prayed for salvation.
The original icon, however, didn’t survive another invasion from the West: during World War II, when Nazi Germany occupied Smolensk in 1941-1943,Theotokos was lost. Now the city owns only an exquisite copy.
Where to find it today: in the Cathedral Church of the Assumption, Smolensk (copy).
Our Lady of the Don
Yet another of Russia’s many ‘ladies,’ this one is believed to be painted by Theophanes the Greek, Andrei Rublev’s teacher and another great icon painter. Legend says the Cossacks gave this icon to Prince Dmitry of Moscow a day before he defeated the Mongols in the glorious battle of Kulikovo. Though it’s most likely a fake, Our Lady of the Don had its fame as Russia’s protector, like the others on this list.
Where to find it today: in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Oleg Yegorov writes for Russia Beyond.
The concept of the katechon first appears in biblical literature with two hapaxlegomena occurring in the second deutero-Pauline epistle to the Thessalonians (2:6-7): “And now you know what is now restraining him [τὸ κατέχον], so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains [ὁ κατέχων] it is removed.”
In the context of apocalyptic literature, the function of the katechon is to constrain the eschatological enthusiasm of the Christian Thessalonian church who are eagerly awaiting the return of Christ.
The restraint that the katechon enforces is directly related to the forces of evil — the evil one — who brings about disorder and lawlessness. God’s historical agent, the katechon, not only tempers the eschatological enthusiasm for the parousia of Christ, but also by doing so, attempts to restore order in the midst of crisis and chaos.
The image of the katechon is clearly situated within the context of the metaphysical conflict between the forces of good and evil. The period of the eschaton, wherein we wait for the heavenly kingdom to be instituted in our temporal reality, is marked by evil forces.
God, however, appoints the katechon to bring about the necessary stability in these last days. The deeply ambiguous figure of the katechon can thus be viewed both positively and negatively: restraining the forces of evil, but also holding back the return of Christ.
The symbolization of the katechon in Schmitt’s thought is used not only to legitimize his concept of sovereignty, but also becomes the basic structural principle around which the totality of history is to be conceived.
The figure of the katechon is not treated systematically by Schmitt, although it appears frequently between 1942 and 1944 and also in the postwar period between 1950 and 1957.
This later usage of the katechon is revealing. On the one hand, it begins to explain the defensive and apologetic tone of his work after the war, and on the other, by way of this defense, evinces the first major reason for its deployment. Namely, as a justification or legitimization of the sovereign decision: a defence of a concept of the political which would justify the option of the total state to prevent chaos and produce order.
During Schmitt’s time, this chaos would have been a direct reference to the on-going parliamentary crisis under the newly constituted Weimar Republic, as well as the persistent threat of the communist faction, spurred by recent events in Russia and Hungary.
Nowhere more clearly is the defense and desire for order seen in an often-quoted piece of text from Jacob Taubes:
“Schmitt’s interest was in only one thing: that the party, that the chaos not rise to the top, that the state remain. No matter what the price. This is difficult for theologians and philosophers to follow, but as far as the jurist is concerned, as long as it is possible to find even one juridical form, by whatever hairsplitting ingenuity, this must absolutely be done, for otherwise chaos reigns. This is what he [Schmitt] later calls the katechon: The retainer [der Aufhalter] that holds down the chaos that pushes up from below.”
Schmitt’s interest was in only one thing: that the party, that the chaos not rise to the top, that the state remain. No matter what the price. This is difficult for theologians and philosophers to follow, but as far as the jurist is concerned, as long as it is possible to find even one juridical form, by whatever hairsplitting ingenuity, this must absolutely be done, for otherwise chaos reigns. This is what he [Schmitt] later calls the katechon: The retainer [der Aufhalter] that holds down the chaos that pushes up from below.
For Schmitt, the jurist, no matter the cost, chaos could not rise up (nach oben kommt) to the level of the state; the ‘restrainer’ is necessary, therefore, to suppress (niederhält) this chaos.
As Michael Hoelzl comments, “The katechon is used here as a political and existential category to explain and justify Schmitt’s option for a total state in order to prevent the chaos that threatened the Weimar republic.”
Despite Schmitt having joined the Nazi party and having not regretted this decision in the future, Taubes’ apologetic interpretation of Schmitt’s understanding of the katechon was apparently welcomed by the latter, which lends credence at least to the fact that it was meant to justify a conception of state — and the decision taken by its sovereign — to suppress whatever it saw as the source of evil or chaos.
But more than an apology, the katechon is also the central eschatological principle which gives context to Schmitt’s entire concept of history. This is a Christian eschatology of the present that makes possible a ‘politics of the present.’
In a remarkable passage from Der Nomos der Erde (1950) Schmitt confirms the centrality of the katechon for his understanding of history:
“Ich glaube nicht, daß für einen ursprünglich christlichen Glauben ein anderes Geschichtsbild als das des Katechon überhaupt möglich ist. [I do not believe that for an original Christian faith another view of history other than that of the Katechon is possible.] The belief that a restrainer holds back the end of the world, provides the only bridge between an eschatological paralysis of all human effort and so great historical power like that of the Christian Empire of the Germanic kings.
Schmitt here establishes the katechon as both the condition for immanent politics and authentic Christian faith. Without the katechon which ‘holds back the end of the world (ein Aufhalter das Ende der Welt zurückhält) we enter into a ‘paralysis of all eschatological human effort’ (eschatologischen Lähmung alles menschlichen Geschehens) and lose the explanatory power of the Roman empire and its Christian continuation to maintain itself against the forces of evil and disorder.
A similar conclusion with respect to history was reached in the posthumously published Glossarium: “ich glaube an den Katechon; er ist für mich die einzige Möglichkeit, als Christ Geschichte zu verstehen und sinvoll zu finden [I believe in the katechon: it is for me the only possible way to understand Christian history and to find it meaningful]”.
Even though Schmitt was never explicit about where the katechon was to be found, the places where he does mention it all refer to its function as creating or maintaining order.
In a profound irony, if read from the political and juristic point of view – which is what Schmitt claimed at most he was trying to do — the desire for order in the present, which elicits a politics and eschatology required to maintain it, issues in a performative contradiction in Schmitt’s work.
As Steven Ostovich has noted, “Schmitt developed his political theology as a criticism of legal positivism and its instrumental logic,” but “his concept of the restrainer reintroduces instrumentalism: politics is not substantive but a matter of doing whatever is necessary to maintain order.”
The principle of the katechon in Schmitt’s eschatology is therefore about maintaining a political order, it is properly a ‘politics of the present.’ It defines “the space between the radically spiritual and the purely political. It is the time window, the mean-time, the in-between of the first and second coming of the Lord.”
Calvin Dieter Ullrich is a PhD Candidate at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. His current project involves an analysis of the notion of sovereignty, read alongside postmodern theology.
The photo shows, “Scene from the Apocalypse,” by Francis Danby, painted ca. 1829.
Carl Schmitt, preeminent antiliberal, is that rare thing, the modern political philosopher relevant long after his time. The simple remember him only for his grasping embrace of Nazism, but the more astute, especially on the Left, have in recent times found much to ponder in Schmitt’s protean writings.
He did not offer ideology, as did so many forgotten political philosophers, but instead clear analysis of power relations, untied to any specific system or regime.
So, as the neoliberal new world order collapses, and the old dragons of man, lulled for decades by the false promises of liberal democracy, rise from slumber, such matters are become relevant once more, and Schmitt informs our times, echoing, as they do, his times.
This book, Gopal Balakrishnan’s The Enemy, slickly analyzes Schmitt’s complex and often contradictory writings. Because Schmitt offered no system, and often contradicted himself in sequential writings, or at least offered ideas hard to rationalize with each other, too often he is seen as an “affectively charged symbol, not as someone whose thought could be understood through a comprehensive and systematic study.”
Balakrishnan’s goal is to accomplish that latter task. “My objective is to reconstruct the main lines of his thought from 1919 to 1950 by identifying the problems he was addressing in context.”
The author makes clear up front that he wants to explore Schmitt’s thought, objectively, not through the lens of his association with Nazism: “Those who still insist on adopting the role of either prosecutor or defence attorney in discussing Schmitt can, I hope, be convinced that there are far more interesting issues involved.”
And, critically, while Balakrishnan is a leftist, his views never, as far as I can tell, infect the text in any way—perhaps, in part, because he feels strongly that Schmitt is not himself monolithically on the Right.
I have not read any Schmitt directly, yet, and so I cannot say if Balakrishnan’s summaries of Schmitt’s thought are accurate or complete. But I turned to Schmitt because his name kept coming up in modern books by leftists (and was used by #NeverTrumper Bill Kristol when trying to tar his opponents). Certainly, at first glance, his thought is relevant not only to the Left, but is just as relevant for today’s reactionaries, such as me.
This is because Schmitt’s thought did not revolve around a retreat to the past, imaginary or otherwise. He was not interested in such restorationism; he correctly saw it as a false path. Rather, all of Schmitt’s thought revolved around taking what exists today and, informed by the past instead of by some Utopian ideology, creating the future. He was master of identifying and rejecting the historical anachronism in favor of reality; such clarity is one key to effective Reaction.
Born in 1888, of a provincial Roman Catholic family in the Rhineland, Schmitt studied jurisprudence (which then included political science and political philosophy) in Berlin in the early 1900s.
At that time, the legal philosophy of positivism dominated German thinking. Positivism held that the law consisted only of, and was derived only from, legal pronouncements, and formed a seamless whole through and by which all legal decisions could be made uniformly and predictably, if only one looked hard enough.
This, a modernist concept beloved of liberals, had erased the earlier philosophy of natural law, under which much of the law existed outside specific legal mandates written down in books, whether divinely mandated or the result of custom and human nature.
Schmitt’s early writings expressed some doubt about positivism, which in the pre-war years had come under some attack as permitting, then ignoring, gaps, as well as for ignoring who made the law. The war, however, firmly set his thought on the path it was to take for the rest of his long life, which was opposition to positivism, as well as all other liberal forms of law.
Schmitt volunteered, but due to an injury, served in a non-combat capacity in Berlin. Here Schmitt associated not with the Prussian elite, but with a more bohemian crowd.
After the war and the post-war revolutionary disturbances, the mainline left-center parties, over the objections of the defeated rightists and cutting out the violent Left, promulgated the Weimar constitution, in August of 1919.
This document governed Germany until 1933, and it was ultimately the springboard for the most important of Schmitt’s thought. But Schmitt’s first major work was not on the new constitution; it was a book about aesthetics as related to politics, Political Romanticism.
Here, he attacked the German Romantics for refusal to politically commit, instead remaining detached observers of critical events, manipulating words to create emotional effect while standing back from history. They would not decide what was worth fighting for; they merely engaged in “endless conversation,” all talk, no action.
As Balakrishnan notes, this book is neither Left nor Right, and one cannot tell where on the political spectrum the author fell, though Romanticism was generally associated with the Right. Schmitt even cited Karl Marx to support his arguments. He thus, at this point, had very little in common with the anti-Weimar Conservative Revolutionaries, men such as Arthur Moeller van den Bruck or Ernst Jünger. Not that he was a man of the Left; he was merely hard to classify.
Declining to work in government, Schmitt began his academic career in Munich, and in 1921 published The Dictator. Though the book was written earlier, 1921 was immediately after the various Communist revolts, as well as the Kapp Putsch; the political situation was, to say the least, still unsettled.
Article 48 of the new Weimar Constitution allowed the new office of President to rule by decree, using the army, in order to ensure “public safety,” a provision that assumed immense importance later.
Even though he mentioned this power, The Dictator wasn’t narrowly focused on Weimar; it was an analysis of all emergency power itself, and its use in the gaps that existed even under a system of legal positivism, where gaps were supposed to not exist.
Schmitt maintained that dictatorial power of some sort was essential in a political system, but distinguished between “commissarial dictatorship,” used to defend the existing constitutional order through temporary suspension (with the classic example of the Roman dictator), and “sovereign dictatorship,” a body or person acting to dissolve the old constitution and create a new one, in the name of, or on behalf of, the people as a whole.
The commissarial dictator has no power to change the structures or order of the state, which remained unchanged and in a sense unsullied by the dictator’s necessary actions; the sovereign dictator does have such power.
This had obvious applications to Weimar, but Schmitt did not focus on the modern; instead, his analysis revolved around sixteenth-century France, where the King claimed the right to suspend customary right in the execution of royal justice.
Opposed to the King were the Monarchomachs, part of a long tradition of political philosophy holding that a tyrannical or impious king could justly be overthrown, and that no extraordinary measures could be taken by the king without tyranny.
In between was Jean Bodin, author of The Six Books of the Republic, who argued that the king could indeed overthrow customary law, but only in exceptional situations, and only to the extent he did not violate natural law as it ruled persons and property.
This view, endorsed by Schmitt, rejects Machiavelli’s instrumentalism, and holds that the dictator is he, of whatever origin, who executes a commissarial dictatorship, as opposed to a sovereign, one who claims the right to execute a sovereign dictatorship. In the modern context, though, for Schmitt, the sovereign dictatorship is not always illegitimate, because the old structures have imploded.
What was wrong for the King of France in the sixteenth century was right for the Germans in 1919. That is, through his analysis, Schmitt concluded that the Weimar Constitution was wholly legitimate, even though it was the result of a sovereign dictatorship, because the sovereign dictator, the provisional legislative power, the pouvoir constituent (the power that makes the constitution), existed for a defined term and then dissolved itself.
The resulting political problem, though, was that if a new constitution was promulgated in the name of the people, the people remained extant, as a separate point of reference, from which “emerges ever new forms, which it can at any time shatter, never limiting itself.”
This, combined with the revolutionary proletariat threatening civil society, created at least the conceptual need for quick elevation of a commissarial dictator, to deal with illegitimate revolutions, before the possible need for a sovereign dictator arose. Such was Cavaignac’s suppression of the Paris mob in 1848.
(It is no accident that Schmitt’s book, Dictatorship‘s subtitle, often omitted in mentions of it, is “From the Beginnings of the Modern Conception of Sovereignty to the Proletarian Class Struggle,” and Schmitt has much to say about internal Marxist debates of the time, another reason he is still read by the Left).
Schmitt viewed Article 48 as authorizing such a commissarial dictatorship—but under no circumstances authorizing a sovereign dictatorship, which had been foreclosed upon the promulgation of the new constitution, whatever external threats might still exist. Though that did not preclude, perhaps, another such moment, which, in fact, arrived soon enough.
As you can tell, The Enemy is in essence a sequential look at Schmitt’s written output, trying to fit each piece into the context of its immediate time, and with other pieces of Schmitt’s work. Balakrishnan next covers two short but influential books revolving around Roman Catholicism, Political Theology and Roman Catholicism and Political Form.
Although often Schmitt is seen as a Catholic thinker, he had a tense relationship with the Church (not helped by his inability to get an annulment for his first marriage), and much of his thinking was more Gnostic than Catholic. While very different from each other, both books more clearly set out Schmitt’s views on how European decline could be stopped, and it was not by more liberalism.
Political Theology begins with one of Schmitt’s most famous lines: “Sovereign is he who decides on the emergency situation.” The book is an exploration of what the rule of law is, in real life, not in theory; an attack on legal positivism as Utopian through a presentation of the critical gaps that positivism could not address; and an explication of the actual practice of provisions like Article 48.
Someone must be in charge when it really matters, in the “state of emergency”; who is that to be? It is not decided, at its root, by positive law; deep down, it is a theological question (hence the title).
Turning from his earlier suggestion that only a commissarial dictatorship was typically necessary, Schmitt came closer to endorsing sovereign dictatorship of an individual, not derived from the people, in opposition to the menace of proletarian revolution.
He praised another anti-proletarian of 1848, the obscure Spaniard Juan Donoso Cortes, who saw “reactionary adventurers heading regimes no longer sanctioned by tradition,” such as Napoleon, as the men who would fight back atheism and Communism, until the earthly eschaton would restore traditional rule.
This vision did not entrance Schmitt for long; it smacked too much of restorationism, of trying to turn back the clock, rather than creating a new thing informed by the old. Still, this was and is one of Schmitt’s most influential books.
Less influential, perhaps, but more interesting to me, is Roman Catholicism and Political Form. Schmitt had fairly close ties to the Catholic Center Party, but this book is not a political work. Nor is it a book of natural law; as Balakrishnan says, in it “names like Augustine and Aquinas are nowhere to be found.
The book portrayed the Roman Church as the potential pivot around which liberalism and aggressively sovereign monarchs of the old regimes could be brought together, through its role in myth and in standing above and apart from the contending classes, as well as being representative of all classes and peoples. (It sounds like this book has a lot in common with a current fascination of some on the American right, Catholic integralism, a topic I am going to take up soon).
What the people thought didn’t matter, but they should be represented and guided, in their own interests, by a combination of aristocrats and clerics, presumably.
Both these books, and for that matter all of Schmitt’s thought, saw modernity as a mistake, however characterized: as bourgeois capitalism, liberal democracy, or what have you. Spiritually arid, divisive, atomizing, impractical, and narrow, it had no future; the question was what future Europe was to have instead.
In 1923 Germany, it certainly seemed that things were about to fall apart, which called forth Schmitt’s next work, translated as The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (though as Balakrishnan points out, and I have enough German to have noticed first myself, a better translation of the title is The Spiritual-Historical Situation of Today’s Parliamentarianism; the word “crisis” is not in the original title).
Here Schmitt lurched away from the idea of the sovereign imposing good government on the masses, and focused on the mass, the mobilization of the multitude that can give authority to the sovereign who decides on the state of exception, citing men like the violent French syndicalist Georges Sorel and impressing on the reader the power of political myth, rather than Roman Catholic truth.
Schmitt discussed the tension between liberalism and democracy, among other things focusing on rational discourse as the key to any parliamentary system, and that rational discourse tends to be lacking in proportion to the amount of direct democracy in a system, though Schmitt attributed that to the power of political myths creating political unity, not to the ignorance and credulity of the masses, as I would.
(This was once something that was universally recognized and assumed, but today the divide between rationality and democracy is ignored. This change, or debasement, derives from a combination of political ideology, in part informed by Marxism and cultural Marxism, and ignorance, from the forgetting of history and thousands of years of applied political thought. It will not end well).
Schmitt is not recommending a particular resolution or political program; Balakrishnan attributes that to Schmitt still building his own thought, without an ideological goal in mind.
To this extent, as I say, Schmitt is the correct type of reactionary: a man who sees what is wrong about today, and what is right about the past, and seeks to harmonize the two to create a better, but not Utopian, future.
Various other writings followed, responsive to the events of the 1920s. Among many interesting points, Balakrishnan notes that “Schmitt rejected what would later be called ‘Atlanticism’: the idea that the USA and Western Europe belonged to a common civilization, and thus shared political interests.”
(In the years after World War II this was a particular focus of Schmitt, giving him something in common with the later French New Right, as well as the Left in general).
He also mocked the League of Nations; if what matters is who is sovereign, international “law” is the final proof of the contempt in which positivism should be held. He wrote a massive work on German constitutional law (which is untranslated to English), analyzing the relationship between democracy and the Rechtstaat, the core structures of German law revolving around the rule of law, which did not presuppose any particular form of government.
In these writings, Schmitt addressed a wide range of thorny problems, including the legitimacy of law and who authorizes a new constitution, from which arise questions of legitimacy, and, just as importantly (and about to become more important at that time), questions of whose interpretation commands assent.
This latter set of questions began to crystallize Schmitt’s adherence to “decisionism”—the idea that what matters, above all, to the legitimacy of a decision is not its content, or its tie to some underlying document or system, but that it be made by a legitimate authority. This is, needless to say, directly contrary to the claims of legal positivism.
As German politics moved toward its climax, Schmitt’s next work was more theoretical, The Concept of the Political (first published in 1927, then substantially revised in 1932, in part as the result of correspondence with Leo Strauss). This book sounds like the most relevant to today, both in its topic and in the specifics it diagnoses about modern liberalism.
Its overarching theme is the most famous of Schmitt tropes: the enemy. While, like all Schmitt’s works, this book is complex, its premise is that “the concept of the state presupposes the concept of the political,” and what ultimately defines the political is the opposition between friend and enemy—not, as Balakrishnan notes, private friends and enemies, but political communities opposed to each other.
Politics is thus, at its core, not separate from the rest of life, but, ultimately, the way in which a political community determines its destiny, in opposition to those who hold incompatible beliefs, through violent conflict if necessary. This is an internal decision to each political community, not susceptible to rational discussion with those outside the community, and it is not a moral, but rather a practical, decision.
Liberalism, which believes that politics is a matter of pure rationality with a moral overlay, not only misses the point, but by being wrong, exacerbates the chances of and costs of conflict, especially by turning all conflict into a crusade where the enemy is evil, rather than just different. Liberalism makes war and death more, rather than less, likely…
“Schmitt claimed that the logic of these decisions cannot be grasped from a non-partisan perspective. The point he was making was directed at those who, failing to understand the irreducibly partisan, emergent dynamics of such scenarios, see the causes of major political events in the small tricks and mistakes of individuals. Lenin, he said, understood that such people must be decisively refuted.”
In fact, conflicts which seem irrational after the fact are not at all irrational; we just cannot, if we ever could, see clearly the rational impulses that drove them, which, again, boil down to the friend/enemy distinction.
In the late 1920s, Schmitt moved to Berlin, and became part of circles there, mostly conservative but idiosyncratically so. He became close friends with Johannes Popitz (later executed for his role in the Stauffenberg plot), who opened doors in government for Schmitt.
He wrote on various topics, including, interestingly, on technology, noting presciently “From its onset the twentieth century appears not only as the age of technology but as the age of religious belief in technology.”
He did not think this was a good thing; it created unrealistic expectations, especially among the masses, and encouraged belief in technocratic, “Fordist” government, a disaster in the making, because technology could never solve human problems, or eradicate the friend/enemy distinction that underlay all human political relations—but it could make war worse, and it “dissolved the protective atmosphere of traditional morality which had shielded society from the dangers of nihilism.”
In many places throughout his career, whatever his own religious beliefs, Schmitt was very clear that man needed the view of history as a struggle reaching toward redemption. The disappearance of that belief would destroy the enchantment of the world, but would not reduce conflict, which would be more and more meaningless.
That’s pretty much the state we’ve reached today; Schmitt would not be surprised, nor he would be surprised by the attempt to resolve this problem by seeking redemption through technology.
As the clock ticked down to National Socialism in power, Schmitt became more involved in government, especially in advocating various forms of constitutional interpretation. Among other works, he wrote Legality and Legitimacy, analyzing the tension between majority rule and the legitimacy of its decisions with respect to the minority, casting a jaundiced eye at the ability of liberals to resist Communists and Nazis.
At this point, in the early 1930s, he was anti-Nazi, but that changed as the Nazis came to power, and Schmitt (always keenly interested in his own career) saw on which side his bread was buttered, although he was also fascinated by the Nazis and what their rise said about politics and political conflict; moreover, he made the typical error of intellectuals, to believe that he could influence and control the powerful through his intelligence.
He ramped-up his own anti-Semitism and, infamously, publicly justified the Night of the Long Knives as “the leader protecting the law.” Even here, he was precise in an interesting way—although his purpose was “nakedly apologetic,” he objected to the retrospective legalization of the Röhm purge, holding that part of the role of the sovereign was, in extreme cases, to extra-legally implement actions dictated by the friend/enemy distinction.
Soon enough, though, despite his attempts to become ever more shrilly anti-Semitic (among other dubious offerings, suggesting that Jewish scholars referred to in books have an asterisk placed by their name to identify them as Jewish). But he was still viewed with suspicion by the Nazis, as a Catholic and an opportunist, and within a few years he was exiled from political life, before the war began.
He did not suffer worse consequences, in part because he was protected by Hermann Göring. Still, he kept writing, among other things, using Thomas Hobbes as a springboard, developing a theory of the supersession of nation states by larger blocs embracing satellite states, as well as related theories of the political implications of Land and Sea.
After the war, Schmitt refused to submit to any form of denazification, so although he was not prosecuted, he was barred from teaching for the rest of his life—another forty years. He maintained intellectual contacts with a wide circle, though, and remained somewhat influential—an influence that has increased since his death in 1985.
Most interesting to me in his later writings is Schmitt’s theory of the katechon. This concept is taken from 2 Thessalonians, which discusses the Antichrist, the Man of Sin, who, verse 6 tells us, is restrained or “withheld” by a mysterious force, the katechon.
When the katechon is withdrawn, Antichrist will become fully manifest. Saint Paul, however, implies that his listeners know who the katechon is. Schmitt expanded this into an idea that some authority must restrain chaos and maintain order, perhaps the Emperor in Saint Paul’s time, another force now—but not the popular will, certainly, and not any element of liberal government.
To grasp the importance of this idea to Schmitt, it helps to know that he once wrote (although this quote is not in Balakrishnan’s book), “The history of the world is like a ship careening aimlessly through the sea, manned by a bunch of drunken sailors who scream and dance until God thrusts the ship under the waves so there will be silence.” Schmitt wasn’t big on history having an arrow, a key claim of liberalism.
Into the idea of the katechon fit most of Schmitt’s prior ideas, including the commissarial dictator, the sovereign who decides on the state of exception, and the variations on Hobbes’s Leviathan that Schmitt explored.
That’s not to say that Schmitt was predicting the rise of Antichrist, or offering a religious concept, rather that the acknowledging the key role of a Restrainer embodies the central theme of much of his thought. I think one can, perhaps, contrast such a role with the role suggested by the Left, of some person or a vanguard, who creates a wholly new system, often conceived of as Utopian.
In reactionary thought, therefore, the katechon plays the essential role of being rooted in reality and human nature; the force that, through a combination of power and inertia, prevents the horrors unleased by Utopian ideology.
As can be seen from the title he chose, Balakrishnan sees the distinction, organically arising in every time and place without the will of anybody, between friend and enemy, as the key distinction of Schmitt’s thought.
In Schmitt’s own words, “Tell me who your enemy is and I will tell you who you are.” You only have to pull a little on this string to come to disturbing conclusions, though, about today’s America. If the premise is that at some point the members of a once-united nation can be split by a friend/enemy distinction, which is certainly objectively possible, the question only becomes how it can be determined if this has happened, and what to do then?
Certainly the American Left long since recognized, since it is the necessary belief of any ideological worldview seeking Utopian goals, who is friend and who is enemy. And even a casual listen to the words of the Left today, from their foot soldiers to their elites, reveals an explicit acknowledgement of this view.
It is not just ideological, either; the Left thrives on the solidarity that comes from recognizing who the enemy is. The American Right, on the other hand, is still delusionally trapped in the idea that we can all get along, or at least, their leaders hope to be eaten last.
Meanwhile the Left marches its columns ever deeper into enemy territory, stopping at nothing and only avoiding widespread violence (though, certainly, there is plenty of Left violence already) because it is not yet adequately opposed. All this fits precisely into Schmitt’s framework; the only surprise is the one-sided nature of the battle.
The Left’s approach is subtly different, perhaps, than the one Schmitt outlined, because the Left insists on politicizing literally everything, rather than only the key points of difference (although maybe that is simply required battle on all fronts, since their ideology presupposes no private sphere).
This spreading thin, driven by ideology, potentially erodes their power, or would if they were being opposed at all, more so if effectively. Beyond that, though, the fatal weakness, in Schmittian terms, of the American Left’s approach, is total lack of both any sovereign decision-maker or source of legitimacy for its decisions, even within a strictly intra-Left frame.
Perhaps this is a universal flaw of the ideological left, from the French Revolution on, and the source of the truism that Left revolutions eat their own. Without a sovereign, no stability, and no future—only the capacity for destruction, on full display now, after which those not poisoned by the beliefs of the Left pick up the pieces.
But first, they have to be recognized as enemies, and treated as such. No time like the present to begin, and better late than never. Certainly, a competent, disciplined leader on the Right could take Schmitt’s theories and weave a coherent plan of defense and attack. Instead, we get Donald Trump, who is better than nothing, but not by much. Don’t get depressed, though, since that Man of Destiny may be just over the horizon. 2019 will be soon enough.
Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows, “Again,” by Thomas Hart Benton, painted in 1941.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (I John 1: 1-4)
We live in a culture that is eager for religious experience without being too Christian.
In the United States of America over 80 per cent of the population believes in a God or gods that have power over the universe. When asked further; if all the worlds religions essentially prayed to the same God, 65 per cent of the adult public agreed.
In the Christian church among those who called themselves evangelicals, 46 per cent agreed and among those who labelled themselves as being ‘born again’ 48 per cent agreed that all of the worlds religions essentially prayed to the same God. This is quite astonishing.
Within the pews of American churches, two thirds of the people do not believe in the exclusive character of the Christian message, and almost half of all evangelicals say the same.
In light of these findings both inside and outside the church, who or what is our faith based on?
At the centre and core of our faith is the entrance of Jesus Christ into world history as the complete revelation of God. This is an event which happened in the town of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.
It is an event that cannot be thrown away. It cannot be redefined as a myth or compared with the religious revelations offered by others such as Mohammed or Joseph Smith.
Throughout the world Christians are often tempted to forge new alliances in order to achieve noble ends. This is particularly true in countries where multiple faiths coexist side by side.
In the hills of the West Bank in Israel moderate Palestinian Muslims and Palestinian Christians have services in close proximity to one another and wonder what sort of unity they might build in order to construct a unified front for justice.
The same questions arise here in the West. There is difficulty when we find ourselves in interfaith dialogues that try to build unity particularly for commendable social and welfare programmes for; the homeless, or the fight against drugs and crime.
Chaplains in the services have to protect the distinctives of each faith tradition so that each worshipping community need not compromise what is essential to its beliefs.
Yet is it possible to conduct ourselves as Christians and exclude the place of Jesus Christ. Should we abstain from any such involvements?
If Christ is offensive to some, do we continue on in our ministry and deny the central event of our faith. Or do we hold fast to the scandal of what we affirm.
John who wrote this letter would say that there is no Christianity if Jesus Christ is not at the centre.
But perhaps there is another issue here for us; the more pressing question of whether it is appropriate for Christians to be silent about Jesus when meeting people of other faiths and persuasions. Roman Catholics, JW’s, humanists, Muslims.
When the time is right, when trust is secure, then the central theme of our faith, Jesus will be heard.
A college professor in a theological seminary in America chose this option recently when the University’s centre for Islamic Studies hosted a dialogue with a circle of invited Islamic leaders. Things went pear shaped when half way through; the Muslims politely dismissed themselves so that they could go out into the hall and pray towards Mecca.
The difficulty of course arises when that silence becomes no strategy at all; but a quiet concession to secularism, pc correctness, and tolerance. This is something we all need to carefully ponder.
The next question we need to consider is; should theological distinctives that is the really important parts; be set aside for the unity of the church?
Evangelical Christians often find themselves in main stream denominations or local congregations where adherence to particular orthodox doctrines brings tension. At what point does right and correct belief become more important than church unity? It’s a good question.
In June of this year The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) at their General Assembly in Belfast received criticism from people outside the church and from within, over their stance taken for those who are in same sex relationships.
The resolution passed by a clear majority; ‘those in a same sex relationship cannot be full members of the church. The children from same sex couples cannot be communicant members.’
These verses in John 1 tell us that any Christian who does not embrace the true reality Of Jesus Christ in world history, his teaching, and why he entered into the world; has departed hugely from the faith of the early church.
But someone might say what about the other issues that can cause difficulty among Christians and at the same time help to define Christian identity; like charismatic gifts, infant baptism, ordination of women, style of worship. Should the church sanction diversity within its ranks on these issues and others for the sake of a larger unity?
Whatever we make of these important points John would have our starting point with; Jesus. All these concerns and others are legitimate and important. But they are NOT central. They are not Biblical imperatives. John reminds us that the person of Jesus Christ the Word of Life is at the centre of our theological identity.
Sadly, many theologians and Christians enter into dialogue with those who uphold the trends of modern secular society. And what happens is that the church often loses sight of the larger question of Jesus Christ who straddles both the church and the world that he made. He is largely cast aside for a so called more tolerant approach. Although tolerance is usually one way.
This of course is nothing new. The identity of Jesus Christ is still the same scandal of Christianity that sets us apart from the world. Jesus is the one theme we cannot jettison, no matter what the benefit may seem, or what the temptation.
Which takes us to the third and final question. What does it mean to see, hear, touch, Jesus today? Can it happen?
John in his writing suggests that there will be a continuity of Jesus for all generations not just the first one.
In the fourth gospel John 14; Jesus promises that he will never leave his followers as ‘orphans’ and that those who love him and are obedient will become Christ’s new dwelling place.
In other words, John does not see Christ’s Ascension where he ascended into heaven as the termination of his presence among us. His spirit given to his followers is his own spirit. First John 3 says; ‘and this is how we know that he lives in us. We know it by the spirit he gave us.’
Is this a mystical experience or figment of the imagination running around inside our heads? No, John says that Jesus is real. We have heard, we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have touched him.
He goes to great lengths to let us know that Jesus is not a myth. John and his fellow disciples can say as witnesses that they lived with Jesus and studied him closely even touching him. They knew that Jesus was real not a phantom, not a vision, but God in human form.
John is at pains to try and convince us that Jesus is the Word of life and through him eternal life may be gained. If it wasn’t for people like John, Paul, Peter and others who committed their findings to paper for us to read in early manuscripts and later in the bible; possibly none of us would be here this morning.
John wants us his readers to hear this news because then we may have fellowship, both with him and with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
In effect John is a witness who testifies to these things. As we all know witnesses have a powerful effect on people. In a court of law for example the witnesses are key to a hearing.
If witnesses cannot be produced the case is often dropped. Hearing a story told by a person who was there holds much more weight than reading or hearing something second hand. It is why John is so keen for us to know that he was there, that he saw, and heard for himself.
We may not be first hand witnesses to Jesus life, death, and resurrection; but we can read from the first-hand accounts, and we are witnesses to what he continues to do in the world and in our lives today. He is still real and still alive.
Many I have no doubt can reflect on things that have happened in their own lives as a result of Jesus’s intervention.
Like the young lady who once prayed; ‘Lord, I am not going to pray for myself today. I am going to pray for others. But at the end of her prayers she added; and give my mother a handsome son in law’.
What about words from scripture that have spoken directly into my situation; a word that has helped reassure me about something; a word that has corrected my attitude. A word that has helped clear the clutter in my life.
A word that has guided me in a particular direction.
Jesus is the written word of the Bible and he is the one who lives out what is written here. He shows John and ourselves what this word looks like in reality. He is showing us what God is like in human flesh.
I have to say it’s a very good idea God came up with. I would never have dreamed up something like that.
What about reflecting on people getting Healed from sickness. The malady they had is no longer; and doctors can only conclude, I don’t understand this.
Or reflecting on lives of people that have been completely transformed. I was reading recently in the Gideon’s magazine of a former, 3 A’s person; she was angry, alcoholic, and an atheist. Now she is living for Christ with her demons behind her. How is this possible?
Or Angola; Angola is the name of the State penitentiary in Louisiana America. Its staggering to hear about what happened in that jail a number of years ago with the inmates and how hundreds of lives have been changed through the word of God.
One of the founders of Communism Karl Marx wrote; ‘the first requisite for the people’s happiness is the abolition of religion’………… John writes; ‘faith in Jesus Christ gives you a joy that can never be duplicated by the world.’ Two very different ideas of how we understand joy.
John simply but powerfully writes this letter to share Jesus with us and to testify that he has appeared as the word of life; to offer us fellowship, eternal life, and true joy.
Rev. Alan Wilson is a Presbyterian Minister in Northern Ireland, where he serves a large congregation, supported by his wife. Before he took up the call to serve Christ, he was in the Royal Ulster Constabulary for 30-years. He has two children and two grandchildren and enjoys soccer, gardening, zoology, politics and reading. He voted for Brexit in the hope that the stranglehold of Brussels might finally be broken. He welcomes any that might wish to correspond with him through the Contact Page of The Postil.
The photo shows, “Flevit super illam” (He wept over it), by Enrique Simonet, painted in 1892.
How should one interpret the Bible? What rules should govern our exegesis? One approach is to tow the party line, a kind of exegetical “be true to your school” approach. This approach looks not primarily to the Biblical text itself, but to one’s ecclesiastical confession, and then reads what that confession says into the text.
For example, a Lutheran might approach the Biblical text of Romans through the confessional lens of the Augsburg Confession and conclude that Paul is there teaching justification by faith alone, exactly (and coincidentally) like Martin Luther would later teach.
Scholars today are unanimous that this is not an adequate or respectful way of dealing with Holy Scripture. Of course one believes what one’s church teaches and of course nothing like complete objectivity is possible. But one should nonetheless strive as best one can to set aside or at least turn down the volume of (say) the Augsburg Confession while one is exegeting the Biblical text and try to read the text on its own terms.
When reading Romans, one listens for the voice of St. Paul, not for the voice of Martin Luther. It is important to realize that “reading the text on its own terms” involves reading the text in its original cultural context. Thus one reads Romans knowing that it was written by a first-century Jew, not a sixteenth-century Catholic.
The task of turning down the volume of one’s confessional statements while exegeting the Bible is easy if one has no such confessional allegiance to those documents. The task is correspondingly difficult the more one gives one’s allegiance to those documents and confessions.
In the case of Orthodoxy, it can be difficult indeed, because our documents and confessions—the Church Fathers, or the consensus patrum—are the lens through which we read the Scriptures. This does not mean that we cannot or should not try to read the Scriptures on their own terms. It just means that for us the exegetical task is more complicated.
For some people, fidelity to the Fathers seems to mean effectively junking the idea of a scholarly reading the Scriptures in their original context and taking the “be true to your (patristic) school” approach. It is certainly an easy way to go. It saves one the work of investigating the cultural background in which the Scriptures were set and allows one to jump straight to the patristic conclusion.
I don’t need to determine how ancient Israelites would have read the text; I just need to read what St. Basil wrote (or perhaps Seraphim Rose’s take on what St. Basil wrote). But fidelity to the Fathers means more than simply agreeing with their exegetical conclusions.
It also means participating in their spirit and phronema, and reading the Scriptures with the same trembling respect that they did. It is this trembling respect that we bring to our exegesis when we insist on reading the Bible in its original cultural context.
Perhaps an example might be helpful. Take what is arguably one of the most famous lines in the Bible, “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26). One asks, “Given the monotheism presupposed in the Book of Genesis, why the plurals? Why did God say, ‘Let us make man in our image’ rather than ‘Let me make man in my image?’ What do such plurals mean in the Old Testament?”
If we read Scripture on its own terms, we must begin by asking the question, “How would the original readers/ hearers of this passage have understood by it?” A refusal to ask this italicized question constitutes a refusal to situate the Scriptures in its own cultural context. It is true that for Christians this context cannot be the place we finish (Christ is where we finish, since He is the telos of the Law; Romans 10:4), but it must be the place from which we start.
As Orthodox in our exegesis we must end with Christ and the Fathers, but we cannot begin there. Exegetically we begin with the original hearers of the texts.
So, beginning in the time in which Genesis was written and read, we must ask, “How would the original readers of this text have understood the plurals? Are there any other times when God found Himself (as it were) not alone in heaven?”
There are indeed a few instances of such plural usage. In Isaiah 6:8, Isaiah “heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’” (The Greek Septuagint was apparently a little embarrassed at the plural, for it rendered it, “Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people?”) Who was God addressing here? Was it simply that He was using what is called “the plural of majesty”, as Queen Elizabeth once did when she famously said, “We are not amused”?
We can begin to find an answer by looking at other passages in the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 22, the prophet Micaiah said that he “saw Yahweh sitting on this throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left, and Yahweh said, ‘Who will entice Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’”
This reference to Yahweh’s divine council is reflected in other Old Testament passages as well. In Job 1:6 we read of the “sons of God” (i.e. the angels) coming to present themselves before Yahweh and Yahweh conversing with them, and in Job 38:7 we read of the sons of God cheering when He first made the world. These “sons of God” are exhorted to ascribe glory and strength to Yahweh in Psalm 29:1.
In Psalm 82:1 the Psalmist says that God has taken His place “in the congregation of God [Hebrew el], in the midst of the gods [Hebrew elohim] He holds judgment”. These “gods” (Hebrew elohim) were clearly His angels, the “sons of God” (Hebrew bene ha-elohim) Job 1:6. In Psalm 89:5-7, we read the same thing: “Let the heavens praise Your wonders, O Yahweh, Your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! For who in the sky can be compared to Yahweh? Who among the sons of gods [Hebrew bene elim] is like Yahweh, a God [Hebrew el] feared in the council of the holy ones?”
The idea that a god acted in council and concert with the other gods was common in Mesopotamia. What we have here in the Old Testament is the monotheistic transformation of that cultural commonplace. There is no other deity except Yahweh. His council consists not of fellow-deities, but simply of lesser beings, angels, “sons of gods”.
But the idea that the king always has his council, whether an earthly king or Yahweh the King of heaven, was assumed in both pagan Mesopotamia and monotheistic Israel. It seems clear that it was to this council that Yahweh spoke and referred when making momentous decisions, whether those decisions involved enticing Ahab, sending a prophet like Isaiah to Judah, or creating man in His own image.
The picture of the divine counsel offering input is anthropomorphic, to be sure, as are pictures of Yahweh baring His arm in the sight of the nations, rolling up His divine sleeves before working to redeem Israel (Isaiah 52:10). It constitutes more a cultural backdrop to Yahweh’s acts than it does Scripture’s main message. But it is just this cultural backdrop that we find in Genesis 1:26.
That is where we must begin our exegesis, for that is how the original hearers, long familiar with the concept of Yahweh addressing His council, would have heard it. But although we begin there, we do not end there. All the teaching of the Old Testament forms a pedagogical trajectory, for the Law was a pedagogue to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).
Taught by our Trinitarian experience of the grace of Christ, we ask about the sensus plenior, the deeper hidden meaning of the text. Why did the Hebrew Scriptures preserve such images as God’s divine council, with the resultant use of plurals? Historically this was clearly a cultural vestige of the common Middle Eastern picture of deity. But prophetically it serves as a foreshadowing of the tri-personal God.
The richness of reality that led the ancient authors to speak of a divine council (and in Israel to also use a plural name for God, viz. Elohim) would eventually find fulfillment in our understanding of God as Trinity. If one follows this trajectory of divine majesty it leads us in the end to the insights of the Fathers—in other words, it leads us to Christ.
The ancient instinct was that Yahweh was too great, powerful, and transcendent to be a solitary Monad in the Middle Eastern sky. Just as a king must have his council to be a true king, so Yahweh was too glorious not to be attended by the council of His holy ones. This is why the Old Testament texts spoke of other gods (Hebrew elim) even when they asserted Yahweh’s unique monotheistic status. And this instinct was not wrong.
Later on we discovered that God is indeed too great, powerful, and transcendent to be a solitary Monad. He was Trinity, bursting the bonds of solitary personhood in the effulgence of tri-personal deity. And the roots of this concept found initial and faint adumbration in those Old Testament plurals, as well as in the mysterious references to “the angel of Yahweh”.
One need not therefore toe the party line and shrink from reading the Old Testament in its cultural context. Such a cultural reading is not preferring “Jewish interpretations” to Christian ones as some might think. It is only recognizing that Judaism came before Christianity and the Old Testament before the New.
It is also preferring scholarship to partisanship, for the scholars who recognize that the plurals of Genesis 1:26 refer to Yahweh’s divine council are Christians (e.g. John Walton who teaches at Wheaton, and the authors of the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible). It might be a Jewish interpretation if we stopped in the Old Testament and refused to see that interpretation as one stage in a trajectory that leads ultimately to Christ or denied the Holy Trinity.
But in fact we do not stop there, but go on from the Old Testament interpretation to find the richer sensus plenior in all the Old Testament. This fuller meaning of the text, so well expressed by the Fathers, is its highest meaning, and that which is of most use to us in our walk with God.
In this sense we must begin with the Fathers, in that they reveal Scriptures fullest meaning and the destination to which the Old Testament trajectories are leading.
But the highest does not stand without the lowest, and we must first understand the Old Testament as the message of God to Israel before we can understand it as the message of God to His Church.
If we insist on beginning at the end of our exegetical journey and confuse the sensus plenior for the original sensus, we are poor scholars and show unintentional disrespect for the Scriptures. Exegetical anachronism is not the way to go. If the Fathers teach us anything, they teach us that we must hear what the Scriptures have to say and that we must read them on our knees.
Fr. Lawrence Farley serves as pastor of St. Herman’s Orthodox Church in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. He is also author of the Orthodox Bible Companion Series along with a number of other publications.
The photo shows, “The Magdalene Reading,” by Rogier van der Weyden, painted before 1438.
III. Material Conditions of the Media
So, if “we” still have an enemy it is not those who challenge our cultures, for only in opposition to them do our groups have any meaning. Instead one must come to recognise that it is only through the group’s positive attributes, namely material conditions, that one can finds the true definition of who “we” are and therefore who our enemies are.
Thus, what truly endangers a group is not cultural outsiders, but those who deny the reality of material conditions as defining the group and see to hide it from us through a media-based ideology.
It was Marx who wrote in German Ideology “in all ideology men and their relations appear upside down, as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life process as the reversal of objects on the retina does from their directly physical life process” It can still be true to say that media is the domain of dispute even if the target of the cultural weapons that the media produces are not the true enemies of the exclusive “we”.
If as Marx suggested, the “superstructures” of every person’s life are defined by the “infrastructure” to which they are exposed then one starts to realise then the true division which exists in our society is not the one defined by cultures, for that is a symbiotic division, instead it is a division which runs along the lines of media infrastructure.
Effectively there are two tactics which can be adopted by the media in the liberal order to distract the exclusive “we” from realising who the true enemy is.
The first is to distract us from the truth by creating an illusionary enemy. The media/culture industry does this through a variety of means but draws strongly always on the idea of the cultural enemy to distract us. Social media in particular endlessly presents the Muslim, the black man, the person of another political orientation as being the enemy.
What has become popularly described as fake news, feeds people disinformation which says that a group with some different culture is the fundamental enemy of the group, without needing to say it explicitly. Although as has already been demonstrated they are needed for other cultural groups to have meaning.
But then the second, perhaps far more insidious method, is that in admitting that the enemy on the screen is an illusion to promote the idea that there is no struggle at all, that there are no enemies to fight against. To tell those people who try to fight against an enemy then they are ill, just as Nietzsche predicted of the last men.
But quickly, one realises that there is a whole industry of media production which supports every step of the process and who are interested in making people believe that they are one of millions, if not billions of universally alike consumers without an enemy, so as to keep providing you with the illusion of catharsis in the false enemy.
Marx identified religion as the central ideology of his time which was both false and a weapon of the oppressors to the proletariat in their place. It does not seem unreasonable to propose that it is now the media which is the new ideology designed to make all believe that they are consumers when in fact they still face the same class struggle, defined by the material conditions of their lives as they always did.
Thus, what one comes to realise is that the true enemy is not someone facing the same struggle within a different culture. What one comes to realise is that in our age it is not a person, but a system of things populated by certain people. No longer does one exist in a proletariat-bourgeoisie or serf-master dichotomy, but rather one exists against a system of thing.
As Marcuse wrote “the society which … undertakes the technological transformation of nature alters the base of domination by gradually replacing personal dependence … with dependence on the objective order of things”
Every time one clicks on a YouTube clip, or uses Facebook, or Twitter, or Netflix “we” are giving ourselves over to an economic enemy which is exploiting us by stealth, by dominating our leisure time and creating a false sense of dependency on a media system. The enemy therefore is not an individual or group of individuals, but it is the system as a whole which has created at ideology which fundamentally undermines the value of truth by telling us that there are no enemies.
However, there are some who profit by that system and others who are exploited by it and therefore we are not all universal consumers. It is still the case that some of us are exploited and other exploiters (even if only unconsciously) and therefore “we” are not everyone.
When all is considered in tandem it becomes evident that we still have enemies although they may now appear in a different light and in a different domain. It is now media, which as the principal weapon of the system of economic oppression and which now forms the central locus for the struggle. It may for the moment appear to many that media forms some neutral space, but even now the veil is beginning to fall off from that false ideology.
As Carl Schmitt said “the newly won neutral domain has become immediately another arena of struggle” To respond a little more directly to the research question posed at the start of this essay, the fact of this ideological lie of universalism which emanates from the media industry and the exploitation committed by the media industry means that there is not an identifiable “neutral domain” at this time, that “we” are not everyone and that therefore we still have enemies.
The photo shows a detail from “The fin de siècle newspaper proprietor,” an illustration by Frederick Burr Opper, printed March 7, 1894. Notice the term, “fake news.”
He hath forsaken his covert as the lion,
for the land is laid waste because of the wrath of the dove,
and because of the fierce anger of the Lord.
What does it mean to be tolerant? What makes tolerance virtuous? Indifference? Not caring about what others think? Jaded apathy to the world? Of course, not.
True tolerance is not passive heartlessness; it is the patient suffering of wrongs for the sake of justice. What is the key difference between callous indifference and the virtue of tolerance? Tolerance requires a code of ethics; the knowledge of right and wrong. Indifference knows neither good nor evil.
For example, if I am indifferent to violence, then I don’t care about the abuse of those around me. I don’t desire to change their behavior (Why would I try change the world if I didn’t care about it, and I felt it couldn’t affect me?).
Perhaps I don’t care about the violence around me because I don’t know of its existence. Or, I don’t know because I just don’t care. Afterall, isn’t apathy the greatest ally of ignorance? The two deserve each other.
But where are the tolerant? Where do they stand in the face of violence?
Those who truly tolerate violence are not passively indifferent to its horror. They’ve lost the right to be blissfully ignorant; they’ve made the fall. They, more than anyone else, know the sins of the world. Why? Because they suffer through them every day. True tolerance – like love – is suffering.
The original meaning of the word, “suffer” was “to permit,” “to allow,” or “let” (as in those famous words of Christ, “Suffer little children to come unto me,” in the King James translation of this passage from Luke 18:16. This original meaning was replaced in the seventeenth-century by the current understanding of “suffering” – to undergo pain or cruelty.
Blind eyes and deaf ears are the broken satellites of the wicked heart; but the tolerant cannot look away.
But what good is there in just looking on? Doing nothing is exhausting after all. What are they tolerant waiting for? Justice? Reason? Love? God? All of these are just another word for salvation I suppose, but who’s being saved?
Maybe the tolerant suffer for the sake of something greater than themselves. In the Crito, Socrates suffered the injustice of his trial – not because he was indifferent to injustice – but because he believed his suffering was a small price for the preservation of a just and law-abiding society.
It’s quite possible that the tolerant seek to be saved. But from who? Why themselves of course! Is there a greater enemy? As Nietzsche warned “fight not with monsters lest ye become a monster; for if one gazes into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you.”
But let us stop to consider the possibility that the truly tolerant suffer for the sake of those who trouble them. Parents, teachers, and lovers are too familiar with patently suffering for the sake of others in the hopes that they’ll change.
It’s important to say that you don’t tolerate the entirety of the one you love, rather you tolerate the sins of the one you love. Could you imagine if a husband asked his wife “Do you love me?” and the wife responded “Well… I tolerate every part of your totality and suffer through your very presence.” That’s not love – that’s a stockade.
Someone who loves you doesn’t tolerate you so much as they tolerate your defects – because hopefully there’s more to you than that.
But those who love others do tolerate the unsavory aspects of their nature, and that requires strength, patience, kindness, and the ability to look beyond the ugliness of the immediate. True beauty is found by tolerating skin-deep faults and seeing the transcendent aesthetics hidden in all things.
Why do we tolerate the ones we love? Because it gives the other a chance to be reconciled; it is the path of forgiveness. Tolerance gives the unreasonable the chance to see reason; the hateful a chance to love by being loved.
When we are intolerant of the trespasses of others, we cast the abysmal around us into further darkness. But when we show tolerance through the open arms of hospitality or in the guidance of a helping hand, then we offer the stability that the other so desperately lacks.
But is tolerance practical? Why not force people to cut off their offense’s cold turkey? I tell you now that nothing is more impractical than a firm belief in the draconian.
The word, draconian, comes from the story of the Athenian lawgiver Dracon, a ruler who assigned the death penalty as a punishment for most of the minor offenses committed by the citizenry. Plutarch writes how “Dracon himself, when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offences, answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and he had no greater punishment for more important ones.”
The idea that one can remedy the offenses of a society through intolerance is not a novel idea. Did it work? What became of Dracon? He was exiled and his laws were immediately repealed!
What renders the draconian state a useless enterprise? That fact that the state does not, should not, and more importantly cannot control everything that happens among the citizenry. Most of the economic, political, social, intellectual, and cultural decision-making has always existed in the hands of the citizenry. The unwritten laws and social norms of the people has always outnumbered and outweighed the written laws of the state in both power and magnitude.
Thus, when someone uses hard-power to force reformation instead of tolerating the growing pains connected with the mobilization of soft-power and liberality, the result is most always tyranny.
History shows time and time again that “getting tough on crime” is nothing more than a myth for fake news to print and saber-rattling demagogues to howl.
Want to end homelessness? Then show tolerance by sharing what you have, not hunting those who have nothing.
Want to end drug addiction? Then show tolerance by providing users with needles and clean doses.
Want to end alcoholism? Show tolerance by providing a space where people can get a drink and talk about their addiction.
Want to end hate speech? Then tolerate it through free speech because you’ll never end racism, homophobia, and sexism through coerced speech, or speech that must conform. We’ve tried it before, and it never works.
Want to end barbarism? Show tolerance through civility.
Want to end intolerance and hate? Show tolerance and love even if it kills you.
As the Christian apologist Tertullian writes, “That’s why you can’t just exterminate us; the more you kill the more we are. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Your praise those who endured pain and death – so long as they aren’t Christians! Your cruelties merely prove our innocence of the crimes you charge against us … And you frustrate your purpose. Because those who see us die wonder why we do, for we die like men you revere, not like slaves or criminals. And as they find out, they join us.”
Tolerance is the heart that beats on in a world of heartless indifference.
The photo shows, “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” by Nikolay Losev, painted in 1882.
Development of a new concept of the family is actively underway. This process is covert and insidious. With an ever-increasing frequency, we hear such terms as “encouraging positive parenting”, “improving parental competences”, “changing parenting styles” and “combating gender stereotypes”.
What do they mean? Where do all these terms come from? Are they coined by benevolent people sincerely interested in improving family education? Or do they simply promote the ideas of some interest groups whose intentions have nothing to do with upholding traditional family values? Walking in the thickening fog that blurs our vision and clouds our already preoccupied minds, how can we decipher what these phrases actually mean?
Recently, a draft of the document entitled National Strategy for Parental Education in 2018-2025 was published on the website of the Ministry of National Education of Romania. This publication triggered a wave of natural indignation of parents and some of the key organizations of that country.
Perhaps, it was some kind of a test? But tests are not offered to us without any reason. We get certain points for taking them. Our results could be unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good or excellent. What grade did we get? And who was behind this “test”?
The basis of this strategy was explained quite clearly: “The national strategy of parental education is based on the theory that family is not an objective reality but rather a socio-cultural product, “a constellation of ideas, concepts and terminologies”, that is continuously created and re-created by socio-cultural practices.”
This draft document was at the discussion phase up to July 10. Undoubtedly, the new concept of family it offers is based on the ideological template of “the gender philosophy”. The coordination committee of the Strategy is headed by the general inspector for pre-school education of the Ministry of Education.
Citing the “urgent need” for nation-wide parental education, the committee initiated the pilot project to re-educate Romanian society. Based on the assumption that traditional families have an antiquated mentality and a regressive mindset, the Strategy states that, “parenting styles must be revised to make them relevant to children and to combat the gender stereotypes affecting various lifestyles of girls and boys”.
There are several phases of re-education. What phase are we currently at?
A number of open letters were published, and many Romanians voiced their disapproval of the proposal. As a result, the draft of the Strategy was removed from the Ministry of Education’s website. This was the position of the Romanian Academy regarding this project:
“The Ministry of Education’s parental education project fails to consider the inherent features of the Romanian society. It unambiguously opposes traditional family values that form the core of the millennia-long social, cultural, moral and Christian life of Romanians.
The strategy calls for a generic education of children, disregarding their gender, anthropological and psychological differences and ignoring their living environment (rural or urban) and ethnic idiosyncrasies.
This project is reminiscent of the attempts of globalist or totalitarian regimes to create what was always called “a new human being”, that is, a person without a family, nationality, country or identity. Romanians were raised in the spirit of national traditions and as we evaluate our achievements in the year of the centennial anniversary of Romania’s Great Union, adopting a strategy that forsakes such traditions is equivalent to committing high treason.”
The goal is to “help” parents renounce “idealization of traditional family”
The Romanian Orthodox Church, religious organizations of other denominations, trade unions of educational establishments, parent associations and general population opposed the strategy. Why? Because this strategy defied the fundamental right of parents to raise their children in accordance with their beliefs as guaranteed by the Romanian Constitution. Seven thousand educators were supposed to “assist” parents in renouncing their “conservative mentality” and “idealization of traditional family.”
The blame was immediately placed on the Christian families and the Church. As a counterweight, the model of parental education advocated by the Strategy was described as “progressive” and “promoting respect for diversity”. It is obvious that traditional family is not compatible with the gender theory that determines sex in terms of culture.
We are told with ever increasing determination that gender is not a biological certainty, but a result of cultural adaptation influenced by upbringing. As such, “respect for diversity” is basically a tool used by some interest groups that are averse to the Church and its values. What is the purpose of promoting such a concept? Power? Or de-Christianization of the world?
The Speech of the Great Inquisitor and how he is fighting Christ within us
Although the Ministry of Education removed the draft of the Strategy from its website and returned it to its originators, stating that the format offered for public discussion was unacceptable, 127 foundations, organizations and associations appealed to the Prime Minister of Romania with the request to resubmit the Strategy for discussion.
Their position is obstinate: They do not accept the criticism that resulted in the rejection of their project and base their arguments on the idea that all Romanian families are abusive toward children. The supporters of the Strategy ignore the rights of the parents guaranteed by the Constitution and destroy Christian values of the majority of the country’s population.
The Brothers Karamazov, a remarkable novel by F. Dostoyevsky, contains a chapter that is particularly relevant to the subject at hand. Ivan Karamazov, an atheist, tells a dystopian story to his brother Alyosha. In this story, Christ came down on Earth to live among people.
The scene is set in Seville at the peak of Inquisition. The Grand Inquisitor has unlimited powers. Christ has just resurrected a girl and people are thankful to Him, but the Grand Inquisitor arrests Christ and nobody protests. Then follows the Inquisitor’s re-educating speech where he challenges all the logic of the world.
Christ is not allowed to talk. He only listens to the terrifying statements reminiscent of the devil’s arguments in the desert of temptations (See Mathew 4: 4-11). They all have to do with freedom and power. People cannot be free because they are afraid of freedom.
Therefore, they relinquish their freedom to the master. The gift of freedom is useless, as in the history of mankind it only made people suffer. “We will persuade them that they cannot become truly free unless they voluntarily relinquish their freedom and bow down to us.” Here we see all the pre-requisites for re-education and totalitarianism.
The Grand Inquisitor had made his way into our society and periodically performs his outrageous auto-da-fés. He and his lackeys are in the minority, yet this doesn’t seem to matter. What’s important is that the majority is willing to relinquish their freedom, which gives the Inquisitor and his lackeys an ultimate power. Those who oppose them are “burned at the stake”.
Nowadays the Grand Inquisitor selects his victims among “conservative people”, “traditionalists” and “people with antiquated mentality”. His goal is to create “a new human being”.
The “educators” are sure that raising children in faith is a pathology that must be “cured”
The “New human being” is a progressionist concept of humanity based on severing any connection with tradition, past, history, values, family and God. It is promoted with the power of persuasion. The ideologists of the Grand Inquisitor are patient and meticulous.
They develop ideological concepts, launch educational projects and create a wide network of non-governmental organizations that are willing to support, fight, applaud, condemn and do anything necessary to crush any resistance of the society.
They train “the parent educators” how to totally change the concept of family, because traditional family is the cell that produces “reactionaries”, “fanatics” and “dogmatists”—that is, people who believe in God, form their own families, attend church services with their children, go to confession, receive the Body and Blood of Christ during Communion, and see their ideal in leading righteous lives.
From the point of view of the Great Inquisitor, all of this is a pathology that must be “cured”. The so-called “adequate education” is used to “regenerate” people who form Christian families and uphold traditional values and “integrate” them into an unhealthy society that they are expected to accept as “normal”.
The goal of the re-education campaign is to destroy freedom
At the same time, we are showered with lies. Important concepts are re-imagined Orwell-style. “Freedom” no longer means freedom. “Family” no longer means family.
We are in the theater of absurd, and every one of us plays an assigned role. Our values, such as dignity, freedom, truth, love, courage, are in cages scattered around the world. This is an ominous scene, and the Grand Inquisitor laughs, knowing how daunting this view is.
Let us be vigilant and follow the narrow way, for if we abandon Christ, the “new human being” will prevail
So what should we do? We must react. We must not be petrified, looking at this terrifying scene created by the Grand Inquisitor, for if we do, we will be defeated and re-educated. Let us be vigilant and debunk the perverted concepts that are routinely injected into our lives through doctrinal speeches.
We must never leave the narrow way, for this is the way to freedom. We must clearly understand the meaning of such terms as “Orthodox Christian family”, “parental education”, “ideal upbringing” and “freedom”.
In fact, freedom is a fundamental problem for this re-education campaign. That is why its goal is to deprive the parents of the freedom of education by turning their beliefs upside down and making them amenable to the “brave new world.”
Alyosha Karamazov rips the mask off the supporters of gender ideology: “It is all explained by their godlessness. Your Inquisitor doesn’t believe in God and that explains everything!” When people don’t believe in God, they feel that they can get way with anything.
That is what Ivan Karamazov is counting on. All ideological variations of the Grand Inquisitor also believe in their impunity. Sexual minorities get the rights that are detrimental to the rights of the majority. Why? Because they know that they can get away with it.
This nihilistic, all-destructive ideology dates back to the cultural background of the nineteenth century. Friedrich Nietzsche summarized it when he said, “God is dead”. If “God is dead”, it means that He was murdered by those who wanted to replace Him with something else. The meaning of the terminology is perverted based on this concept and this murder.
The gender ideologists infuse the terms of “parental education” and “family” with anti-God concepts. That is why we need to fight to the last breath to avoid becoming a part of this deadly culture where every term is marked by death.
Our culture, the culture of traditional family, is the culture of Life. It is Christ-centric. All our concepts and terms are defined in accordance with this way of life and this way of thinking. Freedom, dignity, or truth mean nothing without Christ.
The Grand Inquisitor banished Christ from the city and nobody protested. Maybe people didn’t understand that by being so apathetic they consented to perpetual slavery?
If re-education continues to function at full speed (as it already does!), slavery will mean freedom and freedom will mean slavery. Like in Orwell’s Oceania. The meanings of all words will be turned upside down. People’s worldview will be shattered into little pieces, and then these pieces will be rearranged to form new concepts.
“A New human being” may be created only if we abandon Christ, if He is not part of our personal cultural space or the culture of people. As long as Christ lives in us, the re-education project will not move beyond the planning phase.
Sergiu Ciocârlan lives and writes in Romania. The original version of this article is in Romanian and was translated by Talyb Samedov, with a few corrections from The Postil team.
The photo shows, “Denkmal der unbekannten Prothesen,” (Monument to the Unknown Prostheses), painted in 1930.
In 1974, philosopher Thomas Nagel famously asked “What Is it Like to be a Bat?” Nagel rejected reductionism, the idea that all consciousness can be reduced to simpler components identical for all sentient beings. Instead, he held that for each type of conscious being, there is a unique mindset embodying what it feels like to be that type of being.
These subjective experiences are called the “qualia” of consciousness, the internal viewpoints inherent to a sentient creature. Nobody can say what the qualia of a bat are, but I am here to analyze a closely related question: what are the qualia of a liberal?
By liberal, I do not mean classical liberal, or even the American moderate Left that until the 1960s was ascendant in the Democratic Party. Rather, I mean left-liberal, or progressive, the ideology of cultural Marxism, of the Frankfurt School, now dominant in the Democratic Party, as it has been dominant for some time in the academic world and in other worlds controlled by the Left, such as the media-entertainment complex.
What goes on behind their eyes? To a neutral observer, the externally visible political actions of today’s liberals are irrational and incoherent. The simplest explanation for their behavior is that liberals are people of low intelligence, and that they are not educated (whatever degrees they may have).
An alternative simple explanation is that they desire evil and hide that desire, so their actions and stated reasons do not match. But, while both are possible explanations, it seems unlikely that that any of this is how they perceive the world and their actions. So again—what are the qualia of a liberal?
We should be clear that specific policy prescriptions are not examples of qualia. For example, demanding gun control every time there is a shooting, or demanding gun control in general, despite the demonstrable total irrationality of using that policy prescription to fix the problems liberals claim it will fix, is not an example of qualia. Nor are the ever-increasing Left demands for censorship of views that oppose theirs.
These are only the external appearances resulting from internal phenomena—equivalent to a bat turning in the air upon echolocating a mosquito to eat. The deeper question is what is the bat thinking upon making the turn? He is trying to achieve a goal, but what mental visions impel that effort? Upon this question, and similar ones, translated to the liberal brain, much turns, for if we can understand, even a little, we can more effectively combat their poison.
This question of liberal qualia first occurred to me when listening to a new podcast put out by the New York Times, called “The Argument.” Having listened to three episodes, it has become clear that this podcast alone provides all I need to complete my analysis. I conclude that liberals have four key qualia, ones unique to liberals, compared to normal human beings. I note, by the way, that all human beings share most of their qualia.
There is no reason to believe that liberals perceive, say, the color red differently than the rest of humanity, or the taste of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Here we are seeking the qualia distinctions that explain political action. (Furthermore, naturally, we are relying to a certain extent on generalizations.)
The first quale is that liberals do not see reality as it is. What their eyes perceive is not the truth, because everything is filtered through an ideological lens, which removes anything that contradicts their ideology before it can enter their minds. Reality is totally subordinated to political ends, which are derived purely from abstractions.
Unlike a bat’s echolocation, this is not merely a different way of seeing the world. It is an inferior, neutered, way of seeing the world. If a bat could not see the world accurately, it would starve. Liberals are able to avoid such consequences, the hammer blows of reality, because in America today they live in bubbles of their own creation in which everyone else believes the same thing, in which they are never exposed to the consequences of reality and where everyone whose opinion they care about acts as if unreality is real.
Critically, in those bubbles, liberals also control the levers of power, and of reward and punishment. In this walled ecosystem, they do not starve, because food is stolen for them from those who can produce value because they see reality clearly.
Liberals are thus like the Old Bolshevik, Rubashov, in Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, who, on his way to be shot after conviction for crimes he knows to be wholly imaginary, truly believes that his execution is necessary and correct, since the Party is always right, history dictates that his death is required, and through this lie the Promised Land will be achieved.
Even as the bullet enters his skull, Rubashov cannot free himself of the prison his mind has created for him, and so it is for liberals today—except that the rest of us, not them, suffer and die for their distorted vision of reality.
The second quale, related to but distinct from their divorce from reality, is that liberals use key words, first inside their heads and then spoken out loud, only after mentally assigning them new meanings designed to serve their abstract political goals. For example, in current political discourse, we constantly hear that anything not Left, and especially Trump, is “corrupt” and “illegitimate.”
These words are used because liberals know that anything not in agreement with them is bad, and they know that the words “corrupt” or “illegitimate” designate bad things.
But corruption is objectively defined, Webster’s says, as “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.” (Or, more broadly, corruption means that someone with power claims to be performing a defined, neutral, role, and is instead performing a different, self-interested, one).
Illegitimate means “not authorized by the law; not in accordance with accepted standards or rules.” Liberals’ complaint about Trump has nothing to do with those meanings. Instead, the words have been redefined to mean “nebulously very bad, in a way I need not explain.” In practice, this is a rhetorical device, what Scott Adams calls “linguistic kill shots.” Critically, though, in liberals’ own minds the meanings have not changed.
The third quale, again related but distinct, is emotivism ruling rationality. Any matter perceived by a liberal that affects his political worldview is not analyzed objectively, nor are his conclusions supported logically, but rather with unbridled emotion.
Occasional efforts at rationality are made, but upon any examination or challenge, emotion swamps any such attempt. Why? Well, we can’t really tell directly, of course, but this phenomenon seems to let the liberal avoid the consequences of denying reality, to serve to indicate tribal affiliation to other liberals, and to signal virtue and righteousness to the world at large, as well as to the liberal himself.
Emotivism often appears as projection in the service of self-exculpation, used by liberals to whip themselves up into a righteous rage and justify ever more vicious attacks on those who stand in the way of their utopian political goals.
The fourth quale is breathtaking arrogance, blended with a nebulous, yet unshakeable, conviction of their own moral superiority, both tied to the belief that history is a wave and liberals are destined to ride it like the Silver Surfer.
The origin of this is not anything rational, such as an analysis of the past and measured predictions about the future, but an insatiable desire to lord it over supposed inferiors, feeding the human desire to feel that one is on a higher plane than others.
This characteristic is often the most evident in particular political discussions, such as those surrounding global warming. It is reinforced, as with the anti-reality quale, by liberals’ living in a walled ecosystem, where they can daily reassure each other that yes, indeed, we are superior. And it often comes out in the visceral belief that anyone who disagrees with them is evil, since that belief allows feeling superior without any need to demonstrate superiority.
So those are the four liberal qualia. I will note that my analysis of qualia is done with a somewhat broad brush. Some liberals, for example, do see the world clearly; they are just evil and want evil ends. Such was Lenin. But in America today, few liberals are like that, though probably more than are willing to admit that their main difference from Pol Pot is that their field of action is in North America, not Asia.
It might also be objected these are not true qualia, since they are ideologically driven distortions of mental processes, not purely organic products of the brain. True enough, though it’s not clear that the ideology came first. Just as likely, some defect in the liberal mind resulted in them believing this way, and that same defect reinforces the qualia driving specific political demands.
As Jonathan Haidt has noted, morality derives largely from pre-existent mental states; so (probably) with liberal qualia, although we will never truly know, since normal people cannot get inside the liberal mind, and if we are liberal, we lack the ability to self-analyze in this fashion.
Finally, this analysis is not without its dangers. One logical progression of identifying the mental defects of one’s political opponents is to view them less than human, a path that has led to disaster ever since the French Revolution.
That path is primarily one the Left has trodden, and in recent times, they have increasingly become unrestrained about wanting to step onto it in America. But the same temptation can occur on the Right. We should be careful that understanding the liberal mind is used as a tool to combat their political program, and to strip them of power, forever, but not to dehumanize them.
OK, let’s illustrate these characteristics through examples from the podcast. The declared reason for “The Argument” is “for democracy to work, we need to hear each other out. . . . [We] explain the arguments from across the political spectrum.”
The podcast features three regular New York Times columnists, Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt. Douthat is the only conservative who writes for the NYT and he is very conservative, although also very much infected by inside-the-Beltway thinking (which he admits). Goldberg and Leonhardt are very far left. Goldberg is farther left; that the newspaper thinks that Leonhardt can be the centrist in this trio is charming.
But it isn’t surprising—every other person who writes for the NYT is also very far left, except for house “conservative” David Brooks, since the paper has reimagined itself as a full-time organ of attack upon Trump and anyone right of center, providing a safe space bubble for its clueless readers to imagine that they have the moral high ground, while reminding them of the looming powers of those wishing to attack the Left.
Whenever I read the NYT, to which I have to admit I subscribe, I often find it weirdly compelling, even hypnotizing, until I step back and realize that almost all articles are packed with demonstrable lies, both of commission and omission, and, perhaps more importantly, skilled writing is used to weave deliberate propaganda, of which Joseph Goebbels would be proud.
Anyway, in the first episode, “Is the Supreme Court Broken?,” the three columnists did a good job of being civil. All three are well-informed. But a good part of what Goldberg especially, and Leonhardt as well, said was quite literally insane and utterly divorced from reality, which made me think of bats as an explanation—maybe she just sees things in a way normal humans don’t.
Despite appearances, I don’t think Goldberg is a mental defective. Instead, she is an outstanding illustration of the externally visible results of liberal qualia, as is Leonhardt, to a somewhat lesser degree.
The pivot of the discussion in this episode was the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, with the premise being Leonhardt’s statement, “For the first time in decades, the court is firmly conservative. And now Democrats are calling it a broken, partisan body.”
Leonhardt, acting as de facto moderator, first asks Goldberg, “When you realized that Brett Kavanaugh was going to be Justice Kavanaugh, how did it feel?” She responded, “[I]t’s hard for me to emphasize the extent to which this is, just, like, personally degrading, right, there’s political disagreement and there’s political loss, and then there’s personally feeling like you have been dehumanized and degraded and a sinking punch in the gut that, you know, these hostile men basically have their boots on our necks and are not going to remove them. . . . It is grueling.”
We see here three of the four characteristics of the liberal qualia. We see rank emotivism—it is grueling; doom is coming; they are bad; I am choking. We see an unreal reality; no normal human being could conclude that the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation was anything other than “political disagreement” and “political loss,” or that it was objectively, in any way, “dehumanizing,” degrading” or that “hostile men . . . have their boots on their necks and are not going to remove them,” metaphorically or otherwise. And we see “partisan” redefined to mean “no longer dominated by the Left.”
Moving on, Douthat, after abasing himself to a small degree with preemptive apologies, something never done once in any episode of this podcast by either Goldberg or Leonhardt, or anywhere else by them, probably ever, notes that “for forty years, after World War II, the Supreme Court was run by a cabal of pretty liberal justices who spent a lot of time overturning a lot of laws and effectively sort of moral customers in America. . . . The way liberals are feeling right now about the prospect of a conservative Court is the way conservatives felt about the real Court for generations.”
Leonhardt responds that what we have now “feels qualitatively different” and maunders on that the Court is “more partisan, I think it’s much more radical than when it had a center or center-left majority.”
Again, no attempt is made to demonstrate this in even the slightest way, because the assertion is self-evidently ludicrous—it is more pure unreality and emotivism, as shown by the dead giveaway verb “feels,” along with more redefinitions.
Goldberg jumps in to endorse shrinking or expanding the Supreme Court to pack it with liberals, rejecting that the possibility that will lead to a downward spiral of reaction and counter-reaction.
She rejects it not for any rational reason, but because otherwise the End is Nigh. “The situation we have now strikes me, and I think not just me, as intolerable, and I think that most liberals have the sense that there is no limit to the right’s kind of determination to impose its power on us by any means possible, and so inasmuch as you sort of lose faith that we’re all playing by some set of ground rules or that we all have some shared commitment to the process, you just start feeling that like you’re a sucker if you don’t use every single tool at your disposal.”
So, decades of rule by the Supreme Court in favor of the Left and in opposition to democracy may be ending, though no court ruling has been made yet, but the Apocalypse has arrived. Again, we see three of the four liberal qualia (this time, we are missing word re-definitions, but we have unreality, emotivism, and claimed moral superiority).
Then Goldberg, without seeing the contradiction to what she just said, suggests that the real problems (for the Left) will not show up “unless and until this Supreme Court starts handing down really radical 5-4 decisions that, say, thwart what a President Elizabeth Warren tries to do with corruption reform—I think you will see a popular demand that something be done.”
Leonhardt chimes in to say that despite “this enraging moment,” “the right answer is for Democrats and progressives to continue pointing out the ways in which this Court is illegitimate.” And here we have my original example, of redefinition of “corrupt” and “illegitimate.” In no plausible universe does either of these words apply to the Supreme Court as currently constituted (which Court, as I say, has not issued a single ruling).
But, using the transitive property, to liberals, “conservative majority on the Supreme Court” equals “rulings that do not comport with Left desire to rule through the Court” equals “bad” equals “corrupt and illegitimate.”
Leonhardt asks Douthat what he hopes for out of this Court, to which Douthat says he wants some victories for conservatives on social issues, but modestly rejects “an aggressive activist Court that’s trying to strike down every law that a President Warren passes. I think the way we get back to sanity around the Court is for the Court to give some victories to social conservatives . . . [but] respect democracy when it leads to liberal outcomes too.”
In turn, Goldberg answers the same question, unleashing a barely coherent rant. “I don’t really have hopes. I think that they’re just going to do their worst.” We will have “extremely sinister effects, not just on the hot button social issues, but really on the power of corporate money, on the abilities of Democratic majorities to pass laws restraining corruption and inequality.”
Brett Kavanaugh was chosen so that Donald Trump could neuter Robert Mueller, who is, any day now, going to find Russian meddling in some broom closet. “So I think we could have a real breakdown of the rule of law.” Leonhardt wraps up by saying “I hope the whole mess of this confirmation makes the Court a little more humble. . . . I think a humble Court right now, rather than a Court that tries to remake America and society in its own image, would be much better for the country.”
We see here all four qualia. “Humble” is redefined to mean “subservient to liberal goals.” When the Left spends decades remaking America, that is justice; when the possibility arises that the Right may reverse some of these Left gains, they need to be subservient instead, because that is “better for the country”—i.e., better for the Left.
We also see here bizarre claims of moral superiority, akin to the man who, having killed his parents, throws himself on the judge’s mercy as an orphan. No acknowledgement is made of the hatred and confusion engendered purely by leftist attacks on Kavanaugh by obvious liars and perjurers, whipped up in organized fashion.
Their purity is unassailable; their opponents, by merely defending themselves from slander, are “sinister” and trying to achieve “the breakdown of the rule of law.” All this in just a few sentences—and note that nowhere in any of these podcasts can Douthat be even once accused of exemplifying any of the four liberal qualia.
I could multiply these examples endlessly, and maybe I already am, but let’s just see two more, from a different podcast in the series, “How Screwed Up is American Democracy?” Goldberg hyperventilates, “We’re already in a situation where I and a lot of other people feel like we’re being ruled by an illegitimate, undemocratically elected cabal of our enemies.”
When Douthat queries the use of “enemies,” asking “do you pause at all before using the word ‘enemies’ ”, she shrilly responds, “Not any more. . . . I look at a President whose basic raison d’etre is ‘owning the libs,’ is making people like me, and my family, and my friends, scared and afraid and humiliated, and I see people cheering for him, I see people cheering for him precisely because he does that, and I don’t know how to describe them anyway except ‘my enemies.’”
On the surface, this is a mirror image of conservative complaints about their enemies. Maybe conservatives just live in their own bubbles, a topic I am going to address in a different analysis. But poke a little, and it’s not just ludicrously unmoored from reality, but malevolently so.
Does anyone actually believe that Goldberg is ever “scared and afraid and humiliated”? Is she attacked when she goes to restaurants or in public places? Might she lose her job if she says something liberal? Might her children be ostracized by some political position she takes? Do people in power that she cares about treat her with contempt? Of course not. Those things only happen to conservatives, every day, to millions of them. Never to liberals, and most especially never to powerful liberals like her.
But that’s not what Goldberg sees, and that’s my point. What Goldberg actually objects to, even if it is hidden from her, is that she may not be on top anymore; she may no longer be able to dish out contempt and humiliation to conservatives, forcing them to accept her radical political programs, because they may succeed in neutering a chief method of liberal power.
That’s why they are her enemies—because the peasants are revolting and trying to throw off the liberal yoke and whip, not because they are actually causing her any type of harm. Filtered through the four liberal qualia, though, Goldberg sees herself as the persecuted, yet resilient and ultimately triumphant, Angel of Justice, pure in thought and deed.
And in the same podcast, in addition to continuing to use “corruption” and “illegitimate” with redefined meanings, both Goldberg and Leonhardt repeatedly, more than twenty times, refer to the Republican Party using “damaged,” “broken,” “beyond repair,” “fundamentally sick,” and similar terms. They never say once what they mean by that; they treat it as obvious.
But it’s transparently not a normal use of those terms—when one refers to something as “broken,” that means it cannot perform its function. In the case of a political party, its function is to gain power for its adherents.
By that measure, the Republican Party is very much not broken, and no case can be made that it is. No, what they mean is a complete inversion of the actual meaning of “broken”—they mean that the Republican Party is effective and dominant, and eroding the power of their own political party.
Once Leonhardt reverts, and says the Republicans are “doing so much damage,” which is an accurate phrasing. That reversion unveils the redefinition, of course.
It’s not just this podcast series, of course—it’s most liberal pronouncements today. Take, for example, a piece that the famous Holocaust historian Christopher Browning wrote a few weeks back in that liberal bastion, the New York Review of Books, shrieking that Trump is Hitler (and tacking on that it doesn’t matter, since global warming is going to kill us all).
Unfortunately for him, his writing totally beclowns him, and ruins his reputation. He, however, does not and cannot see that, for he has the qualia of a liberal (and lives and breathes in the walled garden of liberalism). But his pieces jarringly illustrates all four characteristics of liberal qualia, as you will see for yourself if you subject yourself to the link. I won’t go into detail, since this analysis is long enough, and dead horses should not be beaten, but I’m happy to discuss further if there is demand from the People!
In the meantime, you can take this analysis home with you, and when you listen to liberal demands, I hope you will have a better idea of what is actually behind those demands. How to fight back most effectively is a topic for another day, but, as always, forewarned is forearmed.
Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Rattfaengler) by Oskar Larsen, painted in 1936.