This is an unknown story. The media will never report it because it embarrasses them too much. They detest faith. They wish it would simply go away.
The sparsely populated Hebrides Islands have only 44,000 people with a land area of around 2,400 square miles. It is rural. The population is mostly in remote villages, only accessible from the mainland by boat or ferry. Not much goes on except sheep and cattle raising, fishing, a few tourists, and even fewer trees. The ancestors were ancient peoples who still speak Gaelic. The Isle of Lewis is located at the very far northwest corner of Scotland in the British Isles.
You might rightly ask, what does such a distant place, so far away, have to do with America, the presidency, and God’s providential hand?
When you find out you will understand why every Christian—Evangelical, Protestant, Catholic, and Bible-centered believer should decide to vote for Donald Trump this election. He is the spearhead of the fifth Great Awakening in American history.
Watch this short clip from a recent sermon. It will move you.
America, brothers and sisters, is in the throes of a revival. This new great awakening, much like earlier such movements in our long history, is rooted in a return to God’s norms, an acceptance of His grace, and a turning away from sin and unfaithfulness.
Historians have identified four such periods in our history, each increasing religious enthusiasm.
The first such awakening occurred from 1720-1745 in the colonies leading up to and underscoring the drive for independence. The second began in the 1790s and birthed the abolition movement, temperance, and women’s rights. It is often associated with Jonathan Edwards. The third outpouring, from 1850-90, saw the initiation of active missionary work, the founding of the YMCA, and carried forward its zeal during and after the tumultuous Civil War.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Fogel identifies the fourth great awakening in the 1960s and early ’70s. The Jesus Movement led to the rapid and wide growth of evangelicalism and the rise of holiness and charismatic faith.
According to theologians who document such events, “Awakenings” all result from powerful preaching, a sense of guilt from sin, and the need for salvation and redemption through Jesus Christ.
Make no mistake, these awakenings are critical episodes in American history which have had a demonstrable effect—focusing people on piety, changing rituals, habits, self-awareness and shaping our culture and politics for the better.
Today, an unexpected servant is doing God’s bidding and is the instrumental agent in the fifth great awakening. He wants to Make America Great Again and to Keep it Great. This “greatness” is measured not only in military might and in economic prowess and productivity, important as they are.
It is measured in spiritual capital.
Judeo-Christian heritage has served as the spiritual capital of America. Of special importance is the articulation of how Judeo-Christian spiritual capital has been the source of the spiritual quest of modernity, how that quest has evolved and why America, because of its deep spiritual capital, has been uniquely able to provide leadership for that quest.
The larger thesis is that America, by virtue of its specific spiritual capital heritage, not only is the beneficiary of its advantages but also is the leading exemplar of the spiritual quest of modernity itself. It is because America is engaged in a spiritual quest that it can exercise world leadership as opposed to domination, empire, and oppression.
There are clear economic consequences of America’s spiritual capital. Specifically, economic development, growth, and entrepreneurship depend on such spiritual capital. Religious beliefs have a measurable impact on individuals, communities, and societies.
Political freedom is not unlike economic freedom. There is a symbiotic relationship between America’s spiritual capital and our exceptional political institutions, democracy, Constitution, and freedoms.
The substantive spiritual vision supports the political and economic procedural norms of a free society. These procedural norms are not otherwise defensible. America’s success and leadership in the world have an integral relation to its spiritual capital.
Like any form of capital, spiritual capital may lie dormant or be wasted, it may be used productively, it may be augmented, and it may be diminished or eroded.
Our heritage is currently under assault from a variety of sources today and something happens when scientific, technological, economic, and political institutions are detached from their spiritual roots. The result is a natural progression from governmental bureaucratic centralization to secularism to reductive materialism and ultimately to a social-collectivist conception of human welfare.
Within the American story, there is an argument—namely, that these achievements will not be sustained without that heritage, and for all of the above reasons the heritage needs to be reaffirmed and renewed. Indeed, it can be said that the future of modernity and America depends on the extent to which there is a reaffirmation of America’s spiritual capital.
Be assured there is special content in America’s Judeo-Christian spiritual capital based in biblical truths. In many ways, it has come to define America. It also suggests the origins and sources of the current attacks on Judeo-Christian spiritual capital.
These include, most notably:
Perennial (heretical) utopian Gnosticism, now in the form of Socialism
Rousseauian/Marxist-derived narratives of equality and complaints about modernity
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
Militant Secularism (domestic and international)
Militant Islamism (international)
President Trump, unlike other past leaders, is rebutting these attacks. He argues that America will not survive without a renewal of its Judeo-Christian spiritual capital.
Specifically, this means the importance of personal autonomy and responsibility stemming from the dignity of the individual as a human person and the exercise of religious freedom. It also requires the need to support civil association with a robust content—full morality and the rule of law.
In no way do he and his followers advocate a theocracy or anything less than a democratic republic that is rooted in commerce and, ultimately, produces what the founders themselves called, “human flourishing.”
He does advocate the rejuvenation of Judeo-Christian spiritual capital as a cultural phenomenon, the non-apologetic expression of one’s faith, and the re-education of misguided clerics, educators, the media, and America’s leaders. And most of all direct, honest, lawful, and vigorous confrontation of America’s critics and its enemies.
Tradition tells of a chime that changed the entire world when it rang on July 8, 1776. It was the sound from the tower of Independence Hall summoning the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon.
The Pennsylvania Assembly had ordered that bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, Pennsylvania’s original Constitution. That charter spoke of the rights and freedoms valued by people the world over. Particularly insightful were the devout Penn’s ideas on religious freedom, his stance on American rights, and his inclusion of citizens in enacting laws.
The Liberty Bell gained iconic importance again when abolitionists in their efforts to put an end to slavery throughout America adopted it as a symbol.
As the bell was created to commemorate the golden anniversary of Penn’s Charter, the biblical quotation, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” taken from Leviticus 25:10, seemed particularly apt and was engraved on the Bell.
More and more Americans in 2020 have come to realize that President Trump is ringing that bell again. He, unlike his opposition, defends and rearticulates America’s spiritual capital—ushering in America’s fifth great awakening.
In the September 11, 2020 issue of the New York Times, Kurt Anderson wrote a critique of Milton Friedman entitled, “How Liberals Opened the Door to Libertarian Economics.” There are numerous errors in Anderson’s assessment. Let us try to correct at least some of them.
He starts off on the wrong foot, characterizing Friedman’s view as “extreme free-market libertarianism.” In the libertarian movement of Ludwig von Mises, Murray N. Rothbard, Ron Paul and Robert Nozick, the 1986 Nobel Prize winner in economics was regarded (along with his fellow University of Chicago colleague, Friedrich A. Hayek) as a very moderate supporter of free enterprise, barely a libertarian. One market fundamentalist libertarian commentator even probed, seriously, as to whether or not Friedman was a socialist, given his many and serious deviations from pure laissez faire capitalism (the negative income tax, tax withholding, anti-trust, support for school vouchers and the Fed, rejection of gold as money). No one who claims “We’re all Keynesians now” can be located at the furthest reaches of free enterprise.
It, of course, cannot be denied that Prof. Friedman opposed unions – they unfairly restrict entry into the labor market; that he wanted fewer pernicious business regulations; and he opposed socialist medicine. He was as least a moderate supporter of economic freedom after all.
Mr. Anderson states, “The New Deal … out of which our well-functioning, prosperous postwar political economy grew.” Not so, not so. It grew in spite of this policy, not because of it. This Hoover-Roosevelt bout of economic interventionism prolonged the depression of 1929 for a decade. Compare this to the depression of 1921 which lasted months, not years, as a result of a “do nothing” (don’t interfere in the market) governmental policy.
Our author conflates libertarianism and libertinism. The former maintains that “capitalist acts between consenting adults” in the felicitous phraseology of Robert Nozick, all of them, commercial ones and also those regarding drugs and sex, should be legal, but takes no position whatsoever as to whether or not these practices should be followed. The latter urges participation in them, the weirder, the better.
Mr. Anderson characterizes the desire to maximize profits as “coldheartedness,” lacking “decency or virtue,” “selfish, callous and reckless,” and sets as the ideal operating “somewhere in the broad range between break-even and absolute-maximum profitability…” In doing so, he demonstrates a lack of understanding of this economic phenomenon. When a hiker is lost in the woods, in order to be rescued he shouts, “Help” (whether verbally or in some other way). Accepting “slightly smaller profit margins” when a businessman could maximize them is akin to imposing a decibel control over the endangered hiker. Profits are in effect a cry for help. When a firm accepts lower profits than were otherwise obtainable, it is reducing the economic welfare of the very “employees, customers, communities, society at large” championed by stakeholder supporters.
Jones now earns 5% profit. How could he increase this rate? Why, by producing more of what consumers are clamoring for. If he sticks to the status quo, he will not be rescuing as many “lost hikers” as he could have. True, he could also increase profits by lowering salaries. But if he decreases them below marginal revenue productivity levels, he will lose his best employees and reduce profits, not increase them. Profits can be maximized by paying optimal compensation, not a penny more, but not a penny less, either. Yes, Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life, are the true heroes, and only economic illiterates can fail to see this primordial point. Friedman is to be congratulated for trying to educate people in that regard.
No, it is simply not true that in Friedman’s view that “Any virtuous act by businesses beyond what the law requires is simpering folly.” Rather, it is fraud. Suppose you deposit your money in a bank, and the officer of that institution gives these funds to good charitable, stakeholder, causes. Not kosher! It is one thing to be kind and generous with your own property. It is quite another, to do so with other people’s wealth. That is a violation of the fiduciary relationship of the savings institution. The CEO has a responsibility to the shareholder, not to the stakeholder. There is nothing wrong, a la Friedman, with both of them, all of us, with being “decent” and “virtuous” with our own money. But the very opposite obtains when accomplished with, in effect, stolen cash.
Mr. Anderson attributes Friedman’s support of free enterprise to “screw-the-Establishment confrontationalism” of the Woodstock 1970s. I have known this Chicago economist for many decades and never did I discern even a whiff of this sort of thing. Who knew that my friend Milton was a secret hippie?
Our critic accuses Friedman of wanting to “rewrite the social contract.” But no one ever signed this “contract,” so it is without any legal power to control our lives. He all but criticizes him of hypocrisy for using “his noncommercial government-subsidized PBS platform to argue that the Food and Drug Administration, public schools, labor unions and federal taxes, among other bêtes noires, were bad for America.” But Friedman also used public parks, the U.S. post office, museums, sidewalks, even though he might have wanted to privatize them.
Mr. Anderson, presumably, is an egalitarian. Yet, he undoubtedly lives in a nice neighborhood, has a quality car, air conditioning, color tv, a computer. Why doesn’t he give most of this away to the poor? But a retort is open to Friedman: The government financed these amenities, in part, with Friedman’s tax dollars. He is hence justified in using them. Mr. Anderson has no such defense against the charge of hypocrisy.
To the extent that Friedman can take credit for Gordon Gekko (greed is good), it is a feather in his cap. Here, Mr. Anderson’s target is merely channeling Adam Smith’s “invisible hand;” a basic premise of economics: People are led by the lure of profits to cooperate with others for mutual gain. The “Wealth of Nations” is based on just this sort of consideration.
Our critic is particularly exercised about a “S.E.C. rule change (which) effectively gave free rein to public companies … to buy up shares of their own stock on the open market in order to jack up the price.” But what, pray tell, is wrong with voluntary exchanges of this or any other sort, which are necessarily mutually beneficial at least in the ex ante sense, and usually so ex post? He is also upset that “U.S. executive pay … shifted from consisting mainly of salary and bonus to mainly stock and stock options.” Banks sometimes give out toasters and radios to depositors. Must all financing consist of cash? There are also good and sufficient reasons for this alteration in terms of taxation and the aligning of incentives.
Our critic then bewails the fact that “the richest 10th of us have 84 percent of all stock shares owned by Americans, and a ravaged economy in which the stock market is close to an all-time high.” Should we also regret that a similar proportion of NBA players are African American? Thomas Sowell, a student of Milton Friedman’s, has done more than any other economist to pierce the myth that if strict proportionality does not prevail everywhere, it is untoward.
Mr. Anderson mentions “the full Friedmanization of our economy for the last four decades (which) has generated such greed-driven extremes of inequality, insecurity and immobility that the system is now on a path that looks crazily self-destructive.” This man is living in a dream world. Full Friedmanization would include a world with no tariffs or interferences with free trade, the end of licensing, not only for hair braiders, Uber, AirBnB, but also for medical doctors! Governmental tax would be in the neighborhood of 10% not 50% of GDP. Such “destruction” of the economy, to the extent it exists, stems not from Friedman’s public policy proscriptions, but mainly from their rejection.
Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute. He earned his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1972. He has taught at Rutgers, SUNY Stony Brook, Baruch CUNY, Holy Cross and the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of more than 600 refereed articles in professional journals, two dozen books, and thousands of op eds (including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and numerous others). He lectures widely on college campuses, delivers seminars around the world and appears regularly on television and radio shows. He is the Schlarbaum Laureate, Mises Institute, 2011; and has won the Loyola University Research Award (2005, 2008) and the Mises Institute’s Rothbard Medal of Freedom, 2005; and the Dux Academicus award, Loyola University, 2007. Prof. Block counts among his friends Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard. He was converted to libertarianism by Ayn Rand. Block is old enough to have played chess with Friedrich Hayek and once met Ludwig von Mises, and shook his hand. Block has never washed that hand since. So, if you shake his hand (it’s pretty dirty, but what the heck) you channel Mises.
The image shows a portrait of Milton Friedman by Lindsay Mitchell.
The philosophical, political, and theological thought of Don Nicolás Gómez Dávila (Bogotá, 1913 – 1994), perhaps one of the few authentic reactionaries of our time, rises as a reaction – and a most authentic one – to an intellectual, religious and aesthetic crisis whose invariably dire consequences form the heart of his overwhelming critical discourse: That crisis is that of the twentieth-century, with all that it implies.
All of Dávila’s work is a serious and passionate attempt to root out some cursed codes that have upset the immutable essence of the human, down through the centuries (and, by extension, the essence of the divine). But at the same time, his work establishes a solid, intellectual alternative to the inanity of our present era.
Unfinished philosopher, or consistent thinker who renounced the fatuous pretense of getting on the pulpit of philosophical pontification, Dávila never finished – that is, in writing – a philosophical system properly speaking, if he even sought to make such a claim, which would not have ceased to be ironic in a thinker of his stature and clairvoyance, for there is nothing dogmatic or conclusive in his work, if read intelligently. It is simply lucid.
Like Nietzsche, like the best of Cioran, he resorted to the ingenious and flammable spark of the aphorism, capable of setting fire to the largest surface only with its friction. But instead of calling such outbreaks of genius aphorisms, he called them scholia (escolios), thus approaching Spinoza.
Though a thinker in fragments, Dávila offers, on the contrary, a philosophical discourse of absolute coherence and integrity, whose intellectual depth and paradoxical acuity is unparalleled among philosophers and thinkers in the area of contemporary Hispanicism (both in Spain and in Spanish America). His references, on the other hand, leave no room for doubt about the depth of thought that pervades his discourse: Thucydides, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Montaigne, Juan Donoso Cortés, Jacob Burkhardt, are some of his distinguished professed teachers.
A miniaturist of language rather than a writer, a thinker rather than a scholar, and an artist of words; better than a mere philosopher, Dávila exemplified, with his illustrious reactionary position, one of the most notable, coherent and fortunate examples of ethical, aesthetic dignity and, if you will, spiritual dignity to be remembered.
Ignored for decades, his silent and monastic life, removed from the madding crowd, from the petty intellectual environments, from the miserable academic trivialities, went far beyond such conventions – his repeated refusal to publish and rub shoulders with power; his greatness of mind and keen sense of duty towards one’s own self, led him to make of his existence a true aesthetic exercise, and that of an “authentic reactionary.”
Secluded in his mansion, within the walls of a fabulous library of thirty thousand volumes, he took advantage of being well-off and devoted his life entirely to the complex exercise of thought. The most visible result of such efforts was his magnum opus, recovered for our benefit today, thanks to the effort, it must be said, of people like Ernst Jünger, Botho Strauss or Franco Volpi, among other enthusiasts – and which, under the title of Escolios a un texto implícito (Scholia to an Implicit Text ), heralds one of the most prodigious, valuable and imperishable examples of the effort of human thought during the 20th-century.
If the “heart” of Dávila’s work is his Escolios, then the “brain” in his Textos – a strange but effective comparison: What the Escolios forcefully feel (the incendiary jolt of the aphorism), the Textos reason through (the discursive continuity of the prose). A satellite accessory for some, Textos I carries in its pages the “key” stone of construction; that is, the enigmatic implicit text, the standard of future battles. But that is how one of his best readers, Francisco Pizano de Brigard, saw this work – and as far as we are concerned, we will stick with this option, which is very well justified – for where else can we turn? To the Notes, those conclusive sketches? To the fragmentary Escolios, despite their fullness? Is it worth the redundancy, the fragmentariness? Or perhaps the marginal texts, such as, the article entitled “The Authentic Reactionary,” or the one entitled, “De jure,” which remains inaccessible? In the absence of an “obvious” philosophical text, or even that which is simply obvious, we will take the aforementioned implicit text as the starting point for our precarious, well-intentioned exposition. So, let’s get into the matter.
The first idea may seem simple to a reader wearied by established ideologies: Capitalism and communism have a similar goal in common. They are different masks that cover, therefore, the same face: The nature of man (displaced to the political realm). A broken dialogue, therefore, between two democracies, whose mimicry becomes a forced conflict: The bourgeois and the popular, eternal rivals: “If communism points out the economic contradictions (the alienation of man, abstract freedom, legal equality) of bourgeois societies – capitalism underlines, in parallel, the inefficiency of the economy, the totalitarian absorption of the individual, political slavery, the reestablishment of real inequality in communist societies.”
In effect, Dávila does not seem to take a position on either one side or the other, even though the biased reader may consider him prone “to the right, and even to the extreme right.” Big mistake: The author’s reactionary discourse, extremely lucid, and part of the contradiction that directs communism and capitalism towards supposedly antagonistic goals – when, in fact, their goal is the same: Property, an obstacle for the former, a stimulus for the latter, without assuming otherwise: Ownership after all.
Bourgeois ideologies and ideologies of the proletariat consequently rush towards the same common hope: Man – “If communism denounces the bourgeois fraud, and capitalism the communist deception, both are historical mutants of the democratic principle, both yearn for a society where man is, in short, lord of his destiny.”
The theological, political, cultural reading of Dávila thus ratifies democracy as an anthropotheistic religion; a theology of the man-god is thus categorized: “The divinity that democracy attributes to man is not a figure of rhetoric, a poetic image, an innocent hyperbole, in short – but a strict theological definition” – a theological definition inherent in the perverted nature of the modern, whose essential corruption is nothing but an unspeakable product of the fixed idea of the discourse of modernity: Progress.
Progress, which is theodicy of futuristic anthropotheism, otherwise justifies all the atrocities of man in the name of the progress of humanity. The process of progressive improvement cancels the time of man and restores the no-time of man-god. It is mechanistic and industrial orgy, which disrupts the useless human effort in the tedious transformation of matter. It is filthy monologue, which sacrifices perishable existences to its own ends in the name of the fixed idea, thus banishing the supreme value from itself, because as Dávila poetically affirms:
“Life is a value. To live is to choose life.”
Consequently, it thus becomes a theory of values which rests on two filial concepts: Atheism and progress, in need of an adequately emphatic rhetoric to penetrate deep among their potential victims.
The mere play of matter thus implies a universal determinism whose product is none other than a rigid universe, emptied of all possibility, where the cult of technology is the verb of the man-god, the principle of the sovereignty of the modern state.
Even so, the democratic era, and with it, economic development that is inherent to it, has money as the only universal value, its first and last reason: “Money is the only universal value that the pure democrat abides by, because it symbolizes a useful piece of nature, and because its acquisition is assignable to human effort alone. The cult of work, with which man flatters himself, is the engine of the capitalist economy; and the disdain for hereditary wealth, for the traditional authority of a name, for the gratuitous gifts of intelligence or beauty, expresses the puritanism that condemns, with pride, what the effort of man does not grant itself.”
This terrifying fact degenerates, therefore, into economic robbery and petty individualism, generators of ethical indifference and intellectual anarchism that dominate the modern world.
Faced with such detritus, the only path that Dávila clings to is that of reactionary rebellion. His great work, Escolios, is about such a quixotic undertaking, an implicit text, putting into practice reactionary rebellion through his most powerful weapon: The word.
Entering the immense garden of the Escolios – a Versailles on paper – is an arduous undertaking, although stimulating over time: Tasting its fruits, savoring them for the right time and extracting the nutritious pulp from them – that is, something that is not empty didacticism. But it will become a fruitful task of enlightened pleasure for the intelligent reader. In this sense, Scholia to an Implicit Text is a healthy elitist work, against the current, and very politically incorrect, aimed at reactionary minorities; or, failing that, at awakened minds whose thinking does not gravitate around the state of predetermined ideas.
But what an effort to synthesize – if something like that can even be done, to further synthesize the essence of the rose – would go far beyond the narrow margins that we have imposed on ourselves. Even so, Dávila’s thematic ambition transcends the heterogeneous and shapeless mélange, while advancing a compact mass, more or less consistent, and capable of standing up to a hypothetical attempt at analysis.
But as we say, it is that thematic ambition, that looking from various points of view through a gaze that is neither Manichean nor tendentious, which allows its author to carry out, in a subtle and distanced way, the most brilliant critical x-ray of modernity: Democracy, the nature of the politician, the essence of communism, the Marxist problematic, the Left and the Right, technology, liberalism, the idea of progress, life and death in modern society, art and literature, God and religion, the modern Church, culture, atheism, the bourgeoisie, the work of the historian, intelligence, youth, mediocrity, sex, Sade, Plato or Nietzsche, as well as the privileged figure of the reactionary, among many other philosophical questions of the first order appear and reappear like recurring milestones, closely linked to each other by a fine chain of ideas. Such accumulation, on the contrary, does not degenerate into a string of tedious evidence of a graphomaniac charlatan, but rather into a disturbing problem not without acute paradoxes. This makes Scholia to an Implicit Text a river-like book, always in motion, capable of tackling a profound (in the real sense of the word) question anywhere, without betraying its ultimate meaning.
Of course, one of the most violent and effective criticisms, which is not really effective, despite its abrupt reiteration, is that carried out against democracy, a democracy understood not in the abstract, but empirically in the light of facts, and therefore as fraud, as effective apotheosis of the dominant mediocrity: “The bigger a democratic country, the more mediocre its rulers have to be: They are elected by more people.” And these mass rulers are none other than politicians, obviously: “Politicians, in democracy, are the condensers of imbecility.” Imbecility inherent in the crowds themselves and the basis of the politician’s explicit speech: “The democrat only respects the opinion that a large choir applauds.”
This unquestionable statement the author rethinks throughout his discourse, with historical considerations: “Democratic killings belong to the logic of the system. The ancient massacres of man’s illogism;” and from this, the following scholium: “Democracy celebrates the cult of humanity on a pyramid of skulls.” Recently updated pyramid: A concert-tribute to the victims of terrorism? A commemorative statue for a certain defender of democracy? In the name of democracy… But what exactly does democracy play out, play at?
Dávila does not hesitate to point with his pen to the main subject, a subject annihilated at the root: The stupid or the insane, depending on the times: “Democracy, in times of peace, has no more fervent supporter than the stupid, nor in times of revolution a collaborator more active than the madman.” And to give consistency to his thesis, Dávila only has to look to the past: “Athenian democracy does not inspire, except those who ignore the Greek historians.” The colossal figure of Thucydides, once again, strides forth to meet him.
In the midst of this abject masquerade that is modern democracy, the parodic figure of the politician is reduced to his most apt, creeping position: “The politician may not be able to think any stupidity, but he is always capable of saying it,” because ultimately , even “the ‘politician’ with the most delicate conscience barely manages to be a modest whore.”
An impassive critic of both the right and the left, as a genuine reactionary, Dávila throws some of his sharpest, sarcastic darts at the left: “The leftist miraculously avoids stepping on the calluses of the authentically powerful. The leftist only vilifies the simulacra of power.” Dávila concludes that in any case “leftism is the banner under which the bourgeois mentality of the nineteenth-century maintains its hegemony into the twentieth.” But, in the end, “the left and the right have signed, against the reactionary, a secret pact of perpetual aggression.”
The critique of democracy thus finds a point of equilibrium in the critique of Marxism, whose illustrious exposition, once again, clings to historical-economic reasons, drawn even from the most prosaic daily life: “Marxists economically define the bourgeoisie, to hide from us that they belong to the bourgeoisie.” But his criticism does not end in the petty contradictions of the mundane, since as a current of thought, “Marxism did not take a seat in the history of philosophy thanks to its philosophical teachings, but thanks to its political successes.” Only a certain exception is allowed with the very promoter of the pseudoscience of yore: “Marx has been the only Marxist that Marxism did not abominate.”
After these brilliant meanderings, the reactionary attack on modern society manifests everywhere, like a constant leitmotif, a kind of insect – of an invertebrate idea – that never ceases to whine behind Dávila’s ear, even within the walls of his aristocratic library, there where he feels farthest from that despicable and sordid society composed of a violently homogeneous mob: “The anonymity of the modern city is as intolerable as the familiarity of current customs. Life should resemble a room of well-educated people, where everyone knows each other but where no one embraces.” The very product of that crude and democratic society, “the modern man tries to elaborate with lust, violence and vileness, the innocence of a hellish paradise.”
It is not necessary to illustrate it – it is enough to open our eyes and look around us to confirm what has been said, since it is true that “modern society has been progressively reduced to whirlpools of animals in heat,” while the two poles of the modern life are clearly business and sex. And in the midst of such nonsense, “recent generations circulate among the rubble of Western culture like caravans of Japanese tourists through the ruins of Palmyra;” mere dots. Such a terrifying and accurate panorama duly crystallizes into one of the author’s greatest scholium: “Modern society does not educate to live but to serve.”
In midst of such a desert of skulls, a mass grave where everyone fits but no one actually belongs – and that, and nothing else, is democracy in the long run – there is nothing left for man but to die gracefully. Here are truly authentic reactionary words: “When everyone wants to be something, it is only decent to be nothing.”
José Antonio Bielsa Arbiol is a writer, art historian and graduate in philosophy. His work has appeared in many media outlets.
Anyone with an ounce of spiritual awareness and emotional sensitivity knows low-level blues some of the time. Even our metric friends, they who hold but a diminutive gram’s worth of discernment, know well this vale of tears. In the catalogue of woes which stalk long downtrodden man, the disconnect between impression and reality is prominent.
At a political hearing I attended earlier this year, for example, I was taken aback to learn how divergent our general understanding of the immune system is as compared to where science presently stands. What we are taught in high school is about a century out of date.
Another example is seen with driverless trucking features on TV. Broadcast in North America and Europe, these specials have all the schadenfreude that reality TV can dish up. The producers narrate as high-tech lorries roll across the screen. As these programs unfold they inevitably cut back and forth to befuddled truckers. Always American Southerners, the interviewees coyishly confront their livelihood evaporating before their bloodshot eyes. Remarkably nonplussed (or fronting heavily), they assure the host that such machines will, “Never take off.” After all, “Who’d you trust on a highway, me or some robot.” The producers have made their point: the wagoneers are out of touch with reality.
We won’t even get started on the perception-reality dynamic surrounding face masks vis-a-vis virus protection.
Think of all the lost opportunities, the mistaken conclusions, the wasted health and wealth and peace of mind which is out there because people’s perceptions do not match reality. It adds up and it wears one down. I suppose there’s some proof of Original Sin in all this. And we see the same disconnect with politics.
A Most Popular Crew
One error heard throughout these States united concerns invocation of “the People.” Their mention, typically an ever-present warble, becomes a clashing gong each presidential election. And why wouldn’t it? The purported benefit to the people can justify any scheme. Is mechanical abortion good? Yes, because the people benefit. Should it be permitted? Of course not, babies are people too. Some foreign country must be invaded to avenge the people! No, it mustn’t. People might be killed. Taxes are necessary to provide services to the people. Taxes steal the people’s money. You get the point. Sprinkle the people on it, and any topic is justified.
The purpose of this article is to pin down the members of this timely clique. Who are the people? Or rather, who are the People? (n.b., We’ll get into the capitalization significance below). The People must really be special to have so many skins talking about them! The purpose of this article is not to lampoon the present condition of Western democracy, a ludicrous system custom-fit for every two-bit grifter from your town hall alderman to your Supreme Court heavy hitter. Nor do I write this with a moralizing spirit. I am not saying the conclusion herein is good or bad. Alas, political discourse is frustratingly given over to what people think of this or that occurrence; little attention is given to how things are. Let us put our emotions and impressions and solutions aside. Let us look at the naked reality.
That we not beat around the bush, the People are a specific group of men distinct from the mass of Americans. Almost certainly you, kind reader, are not among the People. Their concerns are not your concerns, their loves are not your loves, their fears are not your fears. Only by a polite omission on the part of the People themselves, combined with a baseless and monstrous assumption on your part, do you believe you are among the People.
By blood, or marriage, the People were or are those related to the 18th-century constitutors of the state and Federal governments of America, as well as those men so involved with states later incorporated into these United States. Far from being a stealthy clique, they number in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps the millions. Far from being secretive, their identity is trumpeted in both the legal documents they publish and it is plainly seen in their behavior. With eyes to see, one stands in awe of just how explicit, frequent, and honest the People are in advertising their distinction from the regular Americans they rule over.
There are four reasons which support this unusual and uncomfortable, but inevitable, conclusion. They are (1) legal grammar, (2) the Founders’ historical awareness, (3) the U.S. Constitution, and (4) the present and historical behavior of the People.
Specificity & Hierarchy: Legal Grammar
The legal system is specific. Indeed, specificity is shy only of artificiality when comprehending the legal control matrix. Without general nouns there is no way whereby one group can be designated from another. Likewise, without proper nouns there is no way things of a kind can be isolated from their larger mass. What book-hoarding boon is a library card if it has no name to it and if anyone in the town may use it? What fear does a speeding ticket hold if there is no specific man to mail it to? Without specificity, statists cannot exert their will upon their subjects. Legality demands specificity.
General specificity only gets one so far. Hierarchy is needed for greater distinction. If we all have individualized library cards, to carry over the above example, who goes first if we both want to check out the same book? To see the People for who they are we need to unlock the hierarchy their system assumes. The maxims of law and the doctrine of capitis diminutio are our keys.
The maxims are the skeleton upon which the legal system hangs. They’re analogous to a Catholic’s examination of conscience for Confession. They are less a list of hard and fast regulations and more of a general collection of proverbs which explain the principles of legal land. Woe betide those who do not make this distinction! The penitent becomes a neurotic and the barrister a hack should they put such enumerations literally into practice. Many a soul and many a lawyer has been ruined by this oversight. When it comes to the maxims of law, the spirit rules and the letter kills.
The creator controls, is one such proverb. In fact, it’s a truism so fundamental to legalism that it often does not appear in published lists of maxims. Only the frequent reading of case law, or “reading between the lines” on the compiled legal proverbs cited in Black’s or Bouvier’s dictionaries, will discover this plain principle. Upon this doctrine, for example, I have the sole authority to decide what gets mentioned in this article. I am the creator of this article; I am it’s sovereign. However, should I desire this piece to be published on a platform created by another, I must submit this creation to that creation, myself being the petitioning party. I must subordinate this sovereign creation to that one (i.e., for editing, formatting, etc.). From the doctrine of “the creator controls” the whole legal structure flows.
Capitis deminutio is a principle which the Founding Fathers, mostly lifelong barristers and/or merchants, would have been familiar with, at the establishment of the country’s governing system. A concept from Roman law, a system which all English-speaking structures eventually default to, should there be no usable precedents, capitis deminutio designates the amount of control an entity is under. Long story short, so that we don’t get tangled in jargon, the capitalization of the first letter of a noun in legal land designates something as both a specific something, and under the ownership of another. If you are up for a load of jargon, here’s the definition of capitis diminutio from Black’s Law, 2nd edition: “In Roman law, [capitis diminutio was a] diminishing or abridgment of personality. This was a loss or curtailment of a man’s status or aggregate of legal attributes and qualifications, following upon certain changes in his civil condition. It was of three kinds, enumerated as follows:
Capitis diminutio maxima. The highest or most comprehensive loss of status. This occurred when a man’s condition was changed from one of freedom to one of bondage, when he became a slave. It swept away with it all rights of citizenship and all family rights.
Capitis diminutio media. A lesser or medium loss of status. This occurred where a man lost his rights of citizenship, but without losing his liberty. It carried away also the family rights.
Capitis diminutio minima. The lowest or least comprehensive degree of loss of status. This occurred where a man’s family relations alone were changed. It happened upon the arrogation of a person who had been his own master, (sui juris,) or upon the emancipation of one who had been under the patria potestas. It left the rights of liberty and citizenship unaltered. See Inst. 1, 1G, pr.; 1, 2, 3; Dig. 4, 5, 11; Mackeld. Rom. Law.”
Thus “the People” in a legal document, such as, the U.S. Constitution, or in the mouth of someone holding a legal office ultimately under the jurisdiction of the Constitution, refers to a specific group of people, rather than any old sinner walking on top of America.
Togas & Muskets: The Framers’ Historical Awareness
Second, the claim that the People refer to a specific caste of men is supported by the historical awareness of the Founding Fathers. They were a clutch deeply steeped in ancient history. Their use of antique references bolstered the point that their political arguments were timeless. When news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord came to holy Connecticut, for example, jovial Israel Putnam immediately dropped his plowing in situ and raced Cincinnatus-style to join the Massachusetts rebels. About two months before Dr. Joseph Warren became Bunker Hill’s most famous casualty, he was seen speechifying on the streets of Boston in a Roman toga!
The American Revolution came at a time when various trends were at their zenith. The equality of armaments between rulers and ruled, is one example, the afterglow of a Protestant revival is another, and the obsession of that generation with the likes of Plutarch and Cicero is yet one more example. The Framers could not get enough of ancient history.
Those acquainted with Rome will be aware of the divide between the patrician and plebeian classes. The interaction between those who traced their families back to the original stock of Rome (patricians) and those who moved in later (plebeians) provides an enduring thread through all the turns and jolts of Roman history. But even the dullest pleb, a manifest client of Sulla or Caesar, one hopelessly addicted to bread and circuses, would never seriously think the “P” in SPQR (i.e., Senatus Populusque Romanus, the Senate and the People of Rome) meant him. The “P” for People meant the patricians. Everyone else was along for the ride.
Communist countries like China and North Korea are more in line with this Roman bluntness than the democratic West on this point. Everyone knows when an office holder in those countries talks about “the People” they’re referring to the members of the Party, which is considered to be a type of incarnation of the will of the populace.
The American Framers meant to provide against a repeat of the ancient slide towards democracy and chaos. Far from being a sexist, hypocritical oversight, their limit of the voting franchise to men, and only men of property at that, was a direct homage to the early Roman Republic. Of course, they would say, men of maturity and wealth – the material success stories of a community – ought to be the ones to steer the ship of state. Jobbers and renters were not fit to run a county, having so unimpressively run their lives. Reprising the paterfamilias role, the males of the early American republic would stand in for all their family members’ concerns in the public sphere. They would save – not exclude – women, children, and the indigent from the morass of electoral politics.
In Rome the patrician class was not static. There was the process of adoption. Far removed from motives of modern charity or conjugal sterility, adoption was offered to promising youths entering their adult years. The Emperor Augustus is the most famous example of this. It was a means to ensure inheritance in a society with disabilities on women’s ability to inherit property.
Teasing these points out, the existence and stability of the patrician class and their use of adoption, we see how the American constitutors were primed by their interest in Rome to create a governing caste in their “People,” which was stable yet occasionally open to fresh, well-vetted blood via marriage and other forms of incorporation.
In Plain View: The People Define Themselves
The third point is proof from the U.S. Constitution. We take the legal and historical setups above into this consideration. Now that we know the principles under which the Framers operated, the identity of the People is hardly a question at all, as we examine a document they produced.
The U.S. Constitution is a contract using specific legal language. It plainly states for whom the new government exists. It famously begins, “We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” There you have it. The United States Federal government, and its incorporated state entities, exist for the sole benefit of the People.
The “We” and “ourselves” refer to the signatories themselves, the 39 souls who met in Independence Hall. Through the doctrine of delegation, however, the People also included those men who constituted the several state governments which dispatched those representatives to Philadelphia. Remember, the creator controls. Thus, by the agentic, representative relationship, the Peoples of the 13 states were invisibly present at that Pennsylvania meeting, too.
Then there is the mention of “our Posterity.” Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, a text whose definitions are closer to the Founding Fathers’ understanding than our dictionaries, defines posterity as, “Descendants; children, children’s children, etc. indefinitely; the race that proceeds from a progenitor. The whole human race are the posterity of Adam.” His second definition defines posterity as, “In a general sense, succeeding generations; opposed to ancestors.”
We know the first definition is what the constitutors intended because legal language is specific, not general. John Bouvier’s 1839 dictionary defines posterity as, “All the descendants of a person in a direct line.” Therefore, the Posterity mentioned in the Constitution refers to the descendants of the constitutors. Unless you are one of the fortunate few hundred thousand or millions of souls related to those state or national leaders, you are not the People. With the legal definitions, principles, maxims of the system itself, not what we assume they mean, we come to know who the People are. Only an undiscerning and gross assumption suggests that “We the People” applies to all Americans.
Distinctions, Distinctions, Distinctions: The Vote And The Election
Lost on Americans is the distinction between two events which the media conflate into one: The Presidential vote and the Presidential election. They are not the same event. The early November vote is largely a straw poll, while the December election makes the actual choice of President. The November event is a way to take the pulse of the country. It has no direct say-so on who becomes President. It is nearly, but as we shall see not totally, meaningless.
The November vote is analogous to Catholic parish administration. The priest has absolute, official, final say in ordinary decisions for his parish. In no way whatsoever is he obliged to listen to the directives of his council. Yet to go against the zeitgeist of the parish council in a major way would be foolish. It would create sullen, testy subjects. Such a rash override would form a block of uncertain loyalty should the priest run afoul of the bishop at some future date. In the Catholic parish council as soon as in the American vote, the mob has power of a sort. However, that power is consultative not formal. At base, the November vote serves as a psychological release valve. It lets off tension which otherwise would manifest itself in discord and revolution.
The election, a distinct event from the vote, is a quiet event which takes place in the 50 state capitals mid-December of each election cycle. This limited December event has in fact all of the import which people ascribe to the popular November event. The tally of the December electors decides who will be President, not the vote.
The electors are drawn from the suggestions of the state political parties. They’re largely the same sorts who participate as delegates at the state and national conventions charged with selecting the presidential candidates. To follow the cursus honorum of such party delegates/electors is to see the People in their natural habitat.
At this year’s Democratic National Convention, where state party delegates met to choose their national candidate, there was a remarkably helpful commercial released, entitled, “We The People at the Democratic Convention.” A superficial viewing showed a diverse collection of Americans of all races, classes, and creeds. However, a closer re-watch reveals that all participants were sitting office holders, Bar attorneys, or DNC representatives. Once you know who the People are, you’ll never hear politicians the same way again!
By Their Works: The People In Action
Lastly, the People are a specific clique based on the observable behavior of the American ruling class. From time to time, articles appear noting the relationship of this or that politician with this or that movie star or commercial mogul. If only in the interest of trivia, most Americans probably know a few examples of this.
The relationship between the second and sixth Presidents (Adamses), as well as the 41st and 43rd ones (Bushes), are commonly known. The simplified observation that California Governor Gavin Newson is the “nephew” of California Congresswoman and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (herself the daughter of a Maryland Congressman and the sister of a Baltimore mayor) has received some press, as Mr. Newson has run California off a financial cliff in 2020. Less well known is that Gavin Newson is the removed cousin of the far more useful soul, the harpist, Joanna Newson.
And relationality in the ruling class isn’t a modern phenomenon. Chilly Connecticut, where I compose this article, was started by a breakaway faction of Puritans led by Thomas Hooker. The good reverend left his mark in the new-found colony. Aaron Burr, George Catlin, J.P. Morgan, and William Howard Taft were all descendants, with Hooker’s blood running through the veins of the Pierpoint and Edwards families.
I could go on and on. If you spend an hour or two nosing around your socially-distanced library, if you connect the dots between the “related to’s” in the biography section, you’ll see the combination the People have going. You may even visit Google and use their “People also search for” feature to do the same. If you invest the time, these simple experiments about the People will solidify profound conclusions about American government than do isolated barroom anecdotes. If one understands the People to be the specific class they define themselves as, a great many baffling statements and state policies become sensible.
There is a Masonic aspect to this topic I only skirt now. It’s a theme which could swallow this discussion. Suffice it to say, the practitioners of occult schools were well represented at the state and national constituting conventions of late 18th-century America. Within those communities the use of adept symbolism and “open secrets” are no strangers. The occultation of the meaning of the word People is not beyond the pale in this context as well. But before we get all tangled up in “endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4) we remember that, like the Roman system, the present order is simply codified nepotism. Don’t overthink the motives of the People.
Plato argued that societies need a noble lie to keep them living together harmoniously. Such is the spurious assumption that all Americans are the People. By quietly letting the mass of men believe they are this group, the American system rectified the failings of ancient experiments at self-government.
As noted, one of those failings was a tension between the patricians and the plebeians, the old blue bloods and later settlers. One way to provide against the selfsame tensions which destroyed the Roman Republic is not to mention this social division, however true it is. If the pleb believes he is a patrician a great source of resentment is avoided.
Michael Anton’s latest, half analysis and half prophecy, is simultaneously terrifying and clarifying. As I have said before, I align very closely with Anton in both core politics and attitude toward politics, so naturally I am enthusiastic about a new Anton book.
But in this very fluid time, he writes as nobody else seems able, making manifest where we are and where we are going. It proves his talent that in the mere two months since Anton wrote his Preface, more than one of his predictions has come true. Maybe he sold his soul in exchange for the gift of prescience, or stole a palantir. Whatever the reasons behind its no-holds-barred insights, this is an excellent book to which we all must pay close attention, to navigate the coming chaos and come out whole on the other side.
Anton is, on the surface at least, a Straussian—a believer that the American political system reached, perhaps not perfection, but as close to perfection as is likely possible in any human society, in some combination of 1787 and 1865. I do not believe he is a fully sincere Straussian, in that I suspect he does not actually think we can return to those halcyon days. Rather, he has effectively turned Augustan—interested in how a decent, even flourishing, society can be achieved through the clear-eyed use of power, not necessarily in the form of a republic, much less a democracy.
In fact, in The Stakes, he explicitly examines the possibility of both left and right Augustanism, the rise of “Blue Caesar” or “Red Caesar,” to which possibility we will return below. True, that’s only part of this book, which first shows our inevitable awful future if we stay on our current path, and then discusses several possible alternatives, including at least one optimistic one. But I think it’s telling that someone of Anton’s stature openly and without apology talks about pessimistic futures.
Anton became famous as the result of a 2016 essay, “The Flight 93 Election,” in which he pointed out the existential nature of the 2016 Presidential election. He was much criticized by the catamite Right (and by the Left), but every word he wrote has been proven exactly correct, including those he wrote in his follow-up, After the Flight 93 Election. As he predicted in 2019, the 2020 election is even more existential. I did not think we would end up here—in early 2017 I predicted an American renewal. Ah well, I was wrong.
Anton’s basic point, in a book filled with important points (and sparkling, pull-you-along writing), is that every election will necessarily be more existential, until either the Left wins all power, succeeding in its goal of denying the legitimacy of anything other than one-party rule, or the Right forces a return to normal politics, where both sides have legitimacy. (Personally, I favor a complete inversion of the Left’s goal, extirpating their poison, not leveling the playing field, but today is not about me.)
Cleverly, Anton begins with a super-detailed study of California. He is a native Californian, so well-positioned to perform this analysis. If you are rich, California is still pretty awesome, though quite inconvenient at times. For everyone else, it is bad, and getting worse, fast. Nobody can deny, and the Left in fact advertises, that they aim to remake the entire nation in the image of California, both in by whom it is ruled and in the laws the rulers impose. This is claimed to be a good thing, whereby the whole country would be greatly improved—if not a paradise, well on its way to becoming one. Underlying this claim is the belief that California is effectively a successful nation-state, with a world-bestriding economy.
I have disposed of the economic claim earlier; Anton focuses less on this claim and more on the social disaster that California is. The self-image of California among its ruling class, and the image it projects to the rest of the country, is the picture postcard of the super-wealthy coastal slice of California, sprinkled with a few natural wonders elsewhere in the state. This is a mirage, because most of California is actually a terrible place to live.
This is new in the past few decades and was not inevitable. The promised land was what California really was, not that long ago—Anton offers a sepia-tinted snapshot of what it was fifty years ago, at the time of The Brady Bunch, a place where a man could raise six children on a middle-class income, inside Los Angeles, in a detached single-family home. As a direct result of the Left’s power and consequent ability to implement their deliberate policies, that California is dead. The state is now crowded, costly, congested, crumbling, incompetent, filthy, dangerous, rapacious, profligate, suffocating, prejudiced, theocratic, pathologically altruistic, balkanized, and feudal—and Anton crisply proves each of these claims.
Driving home his point, just a few weeks ago, not mentioned here, California has proposed a new wealth tax—that would apply for ten years to anyone with modest wealth who dares to move out of state to escape the nightmare. A better symbol summing up California would be hard to find, though I suppose you could use the power blackouts, the unpunished violent crime, or the filth covering the streets of all its major cities to add a little color.
What caused this disaster, asks Anton? Four related things—tens of millions of poor immigrants, mostly illegal; the rejection of the melting pot; the massive success of Silicon Valley and resulting highly-concentrated wealth; and the total elimination of the Californian middle class. All this cemented the power of the Left at the same time the social fabric was deliberately ripped apart. The Left’s power is maintained as the result of a corrupt bargain between the Left and the super-rich, of which California has plenty.
In that bargain, the woke Left is kept in power by the oligarchy, the richest Californians (whom Anton calls dukes, offering a complete mapping of California power onto a feudal hierarchy), as long as the dukes are allowed to do what they want to increase their wealth—e.g., Apple. The woke Left can then impose, and does impose, its desired policies without fear of contradiction. The result is, as always when the Left is in power, utter disaster on every level, social and financial, for the common man, with the polity descending quickly to somewhere between Venezuela and Somalia. That’s bad enough—but Anton’s key point is that the Left, our enemies, wants all of America to be just like California.
Having grabbed the reader’s attention, and made the prepared reader run to his safe for a quick gun count, Anton turns back to earlier history, focusing on what the American political system was designed to be and do. Not because he thinks the reader doesn’t know, but in order to specifically address objections to the American “parchment” from both the Right and the Left. On the Right, Anton examines past and present objections in detail, mostly relating to skepticism that America is or can be “propositional,” rather than centered around more visceral ties.
He ends with John Calhoun’s demand for “concurrent majoritarianism,” better called “group rights,” the idea that the ruling minority of the time could not be overruled, which theory was created as a defense of slavery and in opposition to the bedrock American claim that “all men are created equal.” On the Left, Anton reviews, among much else, the original Progressives and their successors, the 1960s Left, noting that the core of their philosophy is indistinguishable from Calhoun’s concurrent majoritarianism. It differs only in that it is in service of different rulers, and it has concluded in today’s unhinged and anti-realist demands for the forced “equality” and “corrective justice” extolled by the cretinous John Rawls. Demands, in all of their multiplying manifestations, utterly incompatible with the American parchment.
Where does that leave “our present regime”? Here Anton refers to Christopher Caldwell’s recent The Age of Entitlement, describing how the quest for black civil rights morphed into demands for special rights and privileges, for everyone but heterosexual white men, the poisonous fruits of which change have roiled America over the past few months. “Inequality before the law—based on race, but also on sex and sexual orientation—is the true animating principle of the American regime as it exists and operates now.”
This is justified as corrective—but the gap between the supposedly privileged and the supposedly subordinated never changes, requiring not a reevaluation, but ever more violent demands. Crucially, this woke Left ascendancy is intertwined with neoliberalism, what Anton calls “managerial leftist-libertarianism,” in effect creating a nationwide oligarchical system devoted to implementing Left policies without the consent of the governed, for whom contempt mixed with hatred are the only emotions of the ruling classes. We get kritarchy, corruption, electoral manipulation, weaponized “justice,” and much more, but all these corruptions serve the same goals.
This sounds somewhat dry, but Anton manages to both prove each of his points in detail and to write in a fluid, compelling fashion that pulls the reader along. He frames much of his discussion around the concepts of the Narrative (the message the ruling classes demand be accepted without question); the Megaphone (the instruments of propaganda through which the Narrative is broadcast at constant maximum volume); and the Muzzle (the relatively new and ever-more-powerful system of crushing wrongthink).
The Narrative is nearly all simply lies, about everything from rape to racism. The Megaphone is repetition of those lies, combined with the (so-far successful) ability to deny the legitimacy of any alternative media. The Muzzle is raw force, up to and including murder, as has recently been seen in Portland and Kenosha (though in that latter one target, the heroic Kyle Rittenhouse, fortunately got the first shots off).
The Narrative encompasses everything from sexual ideology to denying the noxious racism of BLM, and the system Anton sketches is instantly recognizable all around, the water that we swim in, if you simply look for a moment. Examples of how these three reinforcing Left tools work are infinite. Just in the past few days we have seen a small but telling example, also indicative of the Left’s plan for November’s election. The Atlantic magazine made up an obvious total lie about Trump insulting veterans, with zero evidence, which fit the Narrative; the Megaphone immediately broadcast it everywhere, going so far as to claim that repetition of the claim by different news outlets was itself “confirmation,” a second obvious total lie. And the Muzzle was deployed to ensure that pushback was silenced. Rinse and repeat.
After laying out his framework, Anton writes much more in this vein, discussing in one chapter, “The Ruling Class and Its Armies,” what the ruling class is, what and why it wants, and how it achieves its ends. In another chapter, he addresses immigration. He weaves together history, present-day events, and classical thought from Machiavelli to Montesquieu, all in coherent exposition of How We Got Here. It is brilliant (and I did not know Dan Quayle coined the odious phrase “Diversity is our strength”)—but you will have to read the book, because this is not CliffsNotes, and I want to move to the second half of the book, which discusses the future.
Anton divides his examination of the future into “If Present Trends Continue . . .” followed by “And If They Don’t . . .” He does not offer odds on either possibility, nor on the sub-possibilities that might follow each—but he does discuss reasons making any given outcome more or less likely. As to present trends continuing, he says “It’s at least possible that our ruling class are not all total fools. . . . . [T]hey might know what they’re doing and know how to keep things going, if not forever, for a very long time.” First, they have to defeat Trump this year. Then, they have to use the Narrative, Megaphone, and Muzzle to re-impose the status quo ante. More immigration, more inequality, more blurring the distinction between business and government, more surveillance, enforced with Portland-style anarcho-tyranny and selective justice, and the final cementing of a one-party state. More California, that is, and sedation of discontent with drugs and porn, with isolation, ruin and jail for anyone who fights back. This is James Poulos’s “pink police state,” or Rod Dreher’s “soft totalitarianism.”
Anton doesn’t think this is very likely, I am happy to report, though maybe he is just whistling past the graveyard. One-party rule has a history of being fatal to the party ruling, as it loses touch, and therefore all legitimacy. For the Left, this problem is exacerbated by that their rule is always and everywhere synonymous with incompetency.
Most of all, their rule means the end of American excellence and therefore of any achievement whatsoever, and with that they would lose the ability to distribute adequate rewards to ever-more-greedy supporters, whose only means of support is parasitism and theft. Such a one-party state could therefore not maintain either internal or external American power; it would quickly become simply an extractive basket-case—that is, it would become the “People’s Republic” of Kurt Schlichter novels (though Anton does not mention those).
In theory, the ruling regime might avoid collapse by adopting something like the Ottoman millet system for red states and areas, which could be left to a large degree of self-governance, but taxed, since they would be the only productive areas of the country. But the Left won’t allow such a system, because it violates their ideology of supposed justice, which motivates their shock troops. No totalitarian can abide embedded opposition; it is a constant rebuke that cannot be tolerated.
Nonetheless, we can be certain that if they regain full power in 2020, it’s pedal to the metal for the Left, in an attempt to create a Woke utopia. They are like the scorpion in the fable about the turtle—overreaching in pursuit of evil is in their nature. And true, there is some possibility the Left could maintain Wokeamerica forever, through technology. But probably not. A political entity bound together by an ideology centered on fractalized identity groups and stealing from others is nearly certain to fall apart.
Which brings us to “And If They Don’t . . .”, the most interesting part of the most interesting book of the year. This is not where Anton spins Right fantasies of national American civic renewal and renaissance; he is practical to a fault. One possibility, relatively peaceful, is that America continues, but Red America and Blue America physically sort to a much greater degree, as people move to areas more congenial to them (something that anecdotally is well under way), resulting in an increased separation in practice, which might maintain peace. (As a side note, that “Red” is used for the Right in America, a choice made by the Left in order to avoid drawing attention to their responsibility for the more than one hundred million people killed by Communists, is both jarring and annoying, but I suppose for now is the common lingo.)
But as I say, Red America in any shape or form cannot be tolerated by the Left, or not for long. In theory, Anton points out, it could be tolerated in the same way the Parisian authorities tolerate the no-go areas of the Muslim Parisian banlieues—especially if attempts to impose Left will in those areas were met with resistance, ranging to effective violence, as they are in Paris.
Certainly the hair-trigger focus on suppressing any effective Right paramilitary organization, combined with every federal agency heavily arming itself, suggests that some on the Left in power today see this as a real possibility. However, this semi-separation, another variation on the millet system, would only work if the Left maintains its own coherency, which as Anton says is not likely, given its internal contradictions.
So complete crackup is likely, though we can get there by more than one path. It might happen in some years, after a period of Left terror-dominance. But it might happen much sooner. If Trump wins resoundingly in November, the Left could demand exit. The Right would likely be happy with that (I know I would be). However, such demands are likely to be mere ineffective caterwauling; the Left cannot abide anything but total power in service of its utopian goals, and views Red America as contemptible and deserving of punishment. They would never leave Red America to do as it pleases, or give up the productivity of the Red states.
Nonetheless, if crackup were to happen, through whatever mechanism, it could be peaceful (think the breakup of Czechoslovakia), or it could be not peaceful (think Yugoslavia). As with all possibilities he outlines, Anton evaluates this in some detail, down to post-crackup relations among the new groupings—both warlike and not.
A crackup, though, is really a middle ground—the possibility we could return to the original American system, to the parchment, but only in some subset of today’s America. Anton’s Straussianism shows through. But he is not a prisoner to it—he next considers a complete change of political life, to Caesarism. Offering (as always) precise definitions, he points out that Caesarism is not tyranny, but one-man rule “halfway, as it were, between monarchy and tyranny.” It is monarchy not “legitimated by time and tradition.”
But that does not make it illegitimate; “Caesars assume responsibility for a government that no longer functions. We may define Caesarism, therefore, as authoritarian one-man rule partially legitimized by necessity.” When the nation no longer works, when the ruling class, and for that matter the people, are corrupted, Caesar is the solution that preserves the nation from its external enemies and destroys its internal enemies, and this has innumerable historical precedents.
Not that Anton is recommending Caesarism. “The benefits of Caesarism to Caesar are obvious; to a nation, perhaps less so.” But this is the whatever the reciprocal of damning with faint praise is—endorsing with tepid criticism, I suppose. A well-executed Caesarism brings calm and can bring flourishing; this is what history teaches.
Even a dubious Caesarism, of which Putinism is perhaps a modern example (not one Anton offers), is often preferable to the alternatives. Anton discusses, in part relying on Machiavelli, how “principality” arises, and notes that since the Blue ruling class is already in power, they are less likely to turn to a Caesar than the Reds, under constant attack and with diminishing power. He also distinguishes ideological from practical Caesars, and then turns to analyzing the possibility and practice of both a Blue Caesar and a Red Caesar.
A non-ideological Blue Caesar might be like a charismatic Michael Bloomberg—more of the same Left program, but tamping down the extremes and the violence, leading to a potentially long-lasting soul-crushing neoliberal hell. Antifa would be kept leashed except when needed; human resources hags would get even more power. A woke Blue Caesar would simply be a nasty system, hobbling along on an axis somewhere between Hillary Clinton and Pol Pot. Not a stable system, and one likely to collapse under the weight of its own intersectional contradictions, but possible. More likely is Red Caesar, which has plenty of historical precedent.
A Red Caesar would likely have the support of “the country’s largest and best-armed single bloc, with much accumulated wealth, social capital, and expertise at everyday necessities at its disposal.” (In other words, what Anton is too polite to say, non-ruling class white America, with an admixture of based non-whites.) He’d also likely be supported by the non-corrupt echelons of the military, and by law enforcement, and not be challenged on his own side.
Despite leftist fantasies, there is no chance of an ideological Red Caesar, Anton says. (I’m not so sure about this. Anton essentially ignores religion in this book, which I think is a gap. He also rejects population decline as a problem, my only substantive disagreement with him.) It won’t be the American parchment; it won’t be ordered liberty. It might be okay, though.
Anton concludes, however, that Red Caesar is unlikely, because the Reds lack power. This seems like an error (or more likely disingenuous). The path is obvious. When the Left attempts a coup after Trump’s November victory, as it will (something Anton this week himself has been warning of, and as seen in the lies about Trump slandering troops, something they are already preparing for), using its control of the corrupt upper echelons of the military, the response will likely be, and definitely should be, extensive violence directed at crushing both the coup and all Left power. Such a scenario requires a leader, and that leader will likely become Red Caesar. It could be Trump, but probably not, since he is so undisciplined (though he might remain a figurehead for a while). More likely it will be someone of whom we have never heard; such times call forth exactly such men.
Me, I like, if not love, the idea of Red Caesar, the creation of an Augustan system. I am not a Straussian; there is no way back to the parchment, which was a good system for its time and society, both of which are over. A new thing for a new day, though informed by the wisdom of the past. Let’s get on with it. True, Red Caesar might be very bad. I doubt if Caesar will allow me to keep my guns; he may confiscate my wealth, or conscript my sons. After defeating our common enemies, he may see internal enemies everywhere, and strike at them, in the manner of many of the Roman emperors.
But Caesarism, and its time-legitimated successor, monarchy, is a natural, realism-based system, under which a civilization can flourish. (Maybe Elon Musk can be king and lead us to Mars.) Over time, perhaps a mixed government could be re-established (and, in fact, even so-called one-man rule always involves multiple power centers and is therefore a type of mixed government; as Ortega said, too, force follows public opinion, so Caesar must keep the goodwill of the people).
We could have Napoleon, man of destiny, but following him not a slow slide to odious liberalism, as we muddled through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but the tides of history instead going back out to sea, drowning forever the failed political systems based on the Enlightenment, leaving us with a sensible political system, run for the good of the whole by those suited to run it, and with the Left forever as discredited and relevant as worshippers of Mithras are today.
Anton shifts toward the end to a positive note, suggesting one peaceful way out might be to allow extensive voluntary reorganization of states, counties, and cities, what might be called “secession-lite,” leading to greater pluralism. It’s a nice thought. He also talks about how a new political program could avoid all of these results fatal to the America created in 1787, operating the entire nation with a brighter future within the frame of today’s Constitution. He says “I expect others to insist that what I here propose is impossible.”
He’s right. I do insist, and I’m pretty sure he thinks so too, although facially what he proposes is completely coherent—roughly equivalent to implementing the Tucker Carlson program. A nice dream, but it will never happen through normal channels, because the Left would never allow it. It’s charming that Anton tries to be positive, but the main feeling one gets from this book is that Anton is a new and better Cassandra—one who is not fated to be disbelieved, but is instead providing an immensely valuable service.
To get to any better future, though, what we’re going to get first is war. Small war, big war, we’ll find out. A year from now, I predict a lot of lead will have flown through the air in the preceding twelve months. Stay safe, and stay frosty.
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 image shows, Prophecy by Peter Howson, painted in 2016.
Our lives have been governed since March of this year by the Corona Virus. There has been no escaping its affect upon countries and communities all over the world. Some countries and people have been affected much more than others.
Many families sadly have experienced the death of a loved one, others are still unable to mix and socialise, people have lost their jobs and for many the future looks unstable and bleak. Generally speaking, this virus has not been for the benefit of human kind; the visible disadvantages far out way any possible advantages. Or at least that’s the way it seems.
Some people including Christians believe that God has sent the Corona Virus as some sort of punishment for the sins of human kind. But if that was the case why now, what was the tipping point which prompted his action? Pornography, abortion, deforestation, child abuse, war, gulags, take your pick. God does not work like this because of his Son Jesus Christ. Nowhere in scripture do we find where Jesus sent plagues upon people because they did not honour or support his cause. Jesus is in the business of healing and restoring people.
There are dozens of accounts in the New Testament where Jesus healed the blind, the lame, the deaf, those who had demons within. Huge crowds laid the sick in front of him and begged him that they might touch the fringe of his cloak in order to be healed. He raised people from the dead. Jesus came into this world to seek and save the lost not get rid of them with plagues.
If the finger is to pointed at anyone, it should be towards the Devil. The master deceiver and liar who delights in chaos, disorder, social and moral breakdown and political turmoil. And this is what is happening in the USA. When these factors are being played out the devil is never far away. As the Apostle Paul calls him, “the prince of the power of the air.” God is fully aware of the situation; of face masks, social distancing, fatalities, vaccines and everything else that we have now come to hear about. But God will as he always has in any global event continue to work his plans and purposes for our redemption.
How did the virus affect you and your family? Everyone has their own particular story to tell. For me being honest; it never really affected me or my family in any significant way.
We remained healthy and strong throughout and even at the very start of the lockdown around the middle of March we were still able to get out and about walking on the country rounds around our home. In fact, it was a great way of getting to see and know the countryside taking in the sights, sounds and colours of God’s handiwork. When you are on foot walking past hedgerows, streams, trees, fields of cattle, horses, and sheep it gives you a totally different dimension to that of zipping past in a motor car. You see things on foot that you would never see speeding past in a car.
Also, as a fairly keen gardener I was able to get out into our garden which is about half an acre in size. When we bought the bungalow, the garden was literally a jungle covered with bracken, gorse bushes, six-foot-high nettles and twenty-foot-long brambles that were an inch thick. A chain saw works wonders though.
Much of my time during the lock down, in fact nearly all of my time was spent in the garden clearing it, planting out over a hundred containers of plants that we brought with us from the manse, dredging a pond that resembled more of a swamp, sowed a wild flower meadow and seeded a lawn. I still have a small forest to plant up, and we have a small herd of alpaccas and three Labrador dogs plus grandchildren. So, during it all I managed to lose two stone in weight and got the muscles in my legs and arms working again the way they should.
As regards our family our two children were not key workers nor were, they connected to the Health Service Sector. Both of them who have IT jobs and our daughter in law were able to work from home. Life for them continued on much as normal but with the usual Government restrictions. I also avoided at all costs watching or listening to any news concerning the corona virus. The main news channels are the generators of fake news. The so-called facts and figures given out were and still are wholly inaccurate and at best misleading. Their main intention is to keep people in abject fear and suppress any granules of truth. Their cheery daily headlines usually begin with “Covid Related Deaths,” whatever that means.
News avoidance helped my mental state enormously along with the therapeutic advantages of full-time gardening. I thoroughly recommend both for holistic well-being. On a different level how has the Corona Virus impacted you spiritually? One thing in particular which was quite difficult for me to deal with was being unable to attend church.
I missed not being able to attend church. I missed fellowship with others; I missed singing hymns and praise songs. I missed not shaking hands. I missed looking into people’s faces and having eye contact; I missed having a cup of tea afterwards and a chat; I missed corporate prayer; I missed listening to and seeing the minister preach; I missed hearing the bible being read; I missed hearing the choir sing and musicians play; I missed the unity of Christian people; I missed being in God’s house. On line services are fine, they are helpful and offer a substitute to the real thing but they can never replicate the real thing. As worshippers of the living God we are designed by God to meet together in fellowship; not meet in isolation.
That’s what I missed most. The Sabbath Day became more or less another day of the week. I felt it did not have particular significance as a day to remember by keeping it holy. The fourth Commandment. One thing which happened for the vast majority of people Christian or non-Christian was that we were all in a different place physically and mentally. By that I mean some of us worked from home for the first time; some were furloughed; some lost their jobs, some remained at home. We shopped differently, our habits and lifestyles changed some more than others. And for many of us huge issues were at stake for the first time; our health, our finances, our sanity, our well-being.
In the book of Genesis ch 32 we read where Jacob was involved in a bizarre wrestling match with a divine being. There were huge issues at stake for him personally, and also regarding all our future destinies meaning yours and mine; through the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for future generations.
There were huge issues at stake for him and our destinies. It is a tight contest, in which Jacob’s opponent’s identity is obscure. The battle goes on throughout the night and even when Jacob is permanently injured with his hip being put out of joint, he holds on tight, unwilling to give up. All he could do, just like a wrestler on the ropes was to cling to his opponent for support.
What are we to make of all this very peculiar event? We are told first of all that Jacob was “left alone.” Being alone is generally something we are not comfortable with. Yet often when it’s just you on your own and God a very real intimacy takes place. Almost physical contact.
Jesus often choose to be on his own to pray to his Heavenly Father. David spent a lot of time on his own in the Judean desert as a young teenager and as a mature adult. The Apostle Paul, Isaiah, Moses, Elijah and many others all spent significant amounts of time on their own with God. They came back changed people. There are fewer distractions, fewer clamouring for your attention when you are alone. Don’t be afraid to be alone with God.
Sometimes we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place; and in Jacob’s case it literally was. He had just ended a lengthy conflict-ridden relationship with his Uncle Laban. He was now staring in the face another potential conflict-ridden relationship with his brother Esau whom Jacob tricked out of his heritage. These were major relational issues for Jacob. He needed God’s help above all else. The former CEO of Ulster Rugby gave his testimony along with a few other Ulster rugby players in the Millennium Forum Londonderry a few years ago. He was from a non-believing background. After some lengthy intensive treatment, the doctors gave his young son less than a fifty-fifty chance of recovery. He was in utter turmoil until one day he saw the front door of a church open. He went inside and prayed for the first time in his life. He said, “God if you are there, help me.”
That was it; two words; help me. “Help Me” is an excellent prayer to pray any time. “Help Me” discards any pretence. He was on his own with God and his life changed forever. Many months later not only did God heal his son but he himself received spiritual healing. When we are in a close personal situation with God things change. As the wrestling match continues Jacob in a position of physical weakness holds on tight to this divine person for a reason. What could it be?
Well, we are told, he tells the stranger, “I will not let you go, unless you Bless me.” “Bless me,” he says. Jacob knows he needs this above all else and despite the pain and discomfort, he will struggle for it.
Blessings are generally given by the greater to the lesser and Jacob recognises his inferiority and his desperate need for God’s blessing on his life. God’s blessing generally means to receive his good gifts; which may or may not include material blessings, and include spiritual blessings.
Those who are blessed are truly happy. Jesus said, “Blessed/happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed/happy are the pure in heart, for they will receive God. Blessed/happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
It’s a good thing for us to be blessed by God and know it. It gives us confidence in our faith. When we bless God, we are giving him a gift; the gift of praise and thanksgiving. Our giving can never outdo God’s giving, but we would do well to reflect on how much we take his blessings for granted and how much we bless him for them. However, I fully understand some of us may find this easier to do than others depending on our circumstances. Sometimes life has been particularly cruel for some.
I think of the Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn who wrote The Gulag Archipelago back in the late fifties which was published in 1973. The book recounts the factual testimonies of some 270 inmates of the camps. It highlights the sheer cruelty and wickedness of life inside the camps and what impact Communism had in Russia under Lenin and Stalin. Ironically it is encouraged to be read as a syllabus school book for students in Russia today, but banned in most English-speaking schools in the liberal west.
He fought on the Russian front against the Nazis in World War 2. In 1945 he was arrested and imprisoned by the communists under Joseph Stalin and sentenced to hard labour. Although much of his time was spent in solitary confinement for many years. The conditions in this prison camp the gulag in Siberia, were appalling.
After his release from prison he was diagnosed with cancer which had spread. He was eventually treated where his tumour went into remission. The Russian front in winter, a labour camp, exile, an attempted assassination by the KGB, and cancer. It doesn’t come much worse. Yet with all he survived to the age of 89 years where he still sought God’s blessing for his life as an Eastern Orthodox Christian. As we grow in our Christian faith and experience the blessings, he has for you, you cannot help but bless God. If your relationship with him is what it ought to be, then you will be praising him continuously.
The old hymn says; “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed. When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost. Count your blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings; every doubt will fly. And you will be singing as the days go by.”
“May the Lord Bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
Alan Wilson is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Northern Ireland.
The image shows Jacob Wresting an Angel, by Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli (called, Il Morazzone), painted ca. 1610.
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul warns of the dangers of being “tossed about with every wind of doctrine.” Early Christianity had very little institutional existence or stability. Churches met in homes (usually those of the wealthy). They gathered around their Bishop (or Bishops) with their Presbyters and Deacons. They were grounded in the Eucharist. When we think about these things in hindsight, we too easily project the institutionality of our own experience onto a very unstable format.
The reality is that, at least in the major cities, there were often competing groups. Generally, they were centered around a teacher and followed whatever esoteric version of the gospel was being purveyed. Many of these groups are today described as “gnostic,” a catch-all term for what was never a general reality. It was always localized, the only connection with the “Gnostics” in a different city being vague similarities.
For those groups who understood themselves as the Church (“Catholic,” or later called “Orthodox”), there had been from the beginning a communion. St. Paul’s letters, the letters of St. Ignatius in the next generation, and other such correspondence, were the work of leaders of a common life, a common faith, and a common practice. Indeed, the tenor and content of those letters were focused as much on the continuance and strengthening of that commonality as they were on various points of instruction. The communion of the Church was something far beyond the Cup itself: it was a common life, lived and practiced by all, everywhere, and always.
This is the reason that those early Orthodox Christian writings are filled with references to love and to very practical concerns for the common life (forgiveness, patience, compassion, etc.). The few so-called Gnostic writings that we have offer no such advice. Rather, they are bizarre screeds about levels of heaven, Ogdoads, and other such nonsense. Their “life” is simply in the mind of their “teacher.”
These groups disappeared (probably dispersing in various ways after the death of key figures). The primitive Orthodox Catholic Church persevered and continued to spread. It endured centuries of persecution and continued harassment by false teachers, but remained intact and bequeathed later centuries with the faith that remains and abides. Whole civilizations flourished on its teaching.
It has become a new fad in early Church studies (in various revisionist university settings) to suggest that the early Church was pluriform, almost “denominational” in its beginnings. Some, like Bart Ehrman at UNC, have made it a major thesis for new modes of critical unbelief. It is a bogus historical account, but supports a modern agenda that would justify a similar form for the modern setting. The truth is, that modern form already exists.
Denominational Christianity is less and less institutional, with far more “independent” groups that should be more accurately described as “entrepreneurial.” In many cities across the land, the largest churches at present likely did not exist even 40 years ago. America is the land of opportunity.
The history of the Church, even within Orthodoxy itself, is filled with schisms. The few that we think of historically (the Great Schism, the Monophysite Controversy, etc.) are usually large, global events. But, the often untold reality is marked by many smaller schisms, from within a city (ancient Antioch endured one that lasted a number of years) to just the normal parish stuff. The sad history of the Church, even in our modern setting, is rife with such discord, often with no resolution other than a permanent split. These are often neither testaments to doctrinal purity, much less heroic suffering. Rather, they are stories that mark the failure of love.
All of this is like the story of a family. Marriages fail, and even the many that survive either endure difficult things that are never healed, or, miraculously, find the path to reconciliation and new life. Human relationships are hard. The Scriptures are as honest about this as possible. The human story, within the second generation, includes jealousy and murder. The stories of the people of God move from one tragedy to the next. What some call “salvation history” is also the account of God working in and through the lives of people whose sordid ordinariness is so clearly described that the very worst sinner among us can easily find examples with which to identify. This is the truth of the human condition.
One of the reasons that I love the writings of Dostoevsky is his unvarnished treatment of the human condition: an axe-murderer with nothing more than silly Nietzschean musings as an excuse; a family so confused and conflicted that the wrong brother is convicted of his father’s murder. In the midst of this there shines some of the most brilliant displays of Christian understanding. There is no utopian dream of progress – only the possibility of the Kingdom of God breaking in where it should least be expected.
This brings me back to the parish. When I was leaving the doctoral program at Duke to return to parish ministry, a professor asked me what I was doing. I told him, “I’m leaving the academy to return to the parish in order to do theology. The parish is what theology looks like.” Though it was made in agony, it was one of the best decisions of my life.
It is only in the parish that we receive the Holy Mysteries. It is only from the hands of a flawed human being, clothed with the grace of the priesthood, that we receive the life-giving Body and Blood. It is this entity, the parish, that Christ entrusts with the whole mission of the Kingdom of God. It is not an accident, or an inconvenient necessity: it is the will of God made manifest.
I believe it is also the place of our greatest temptation – which only makes sense. The true battleground of the spiritual life is only found where temptation abounds. It is only through an outpouring of extreme grace that a monastery rises to this level of temptation. That such thoughts should sound in the least strange to us only indicates that we are failing to understand the nature of the battle and our place within it.
The current world order, beset by various threats and political chaos, is only one of many sources that stir our passions and distract us from attending to the truth of our condition. How a priest or bishop is presently handling the Church’s response to the pandemic, for example, is not a crisis nor a threat, no matter how clumsy or ineffective it might be. Indeed, if we truly attend to crises, then we will look to our own heart.
A proper goal of the heart is described in the virtue of “nepsis” (sobriety). It is that state where the passions have been stilled and we quietly keep watch for those things that would disturb and interrupt our communion with God. Quite often, what passes for “communion” in the lives of many, is an idea about God, held in an idea about a spiritual life, argued for in the context of an idea about Christianity. These “ideas” are, in fact, passions. They do not even rise to the level of true thoughts. Far likely, they represent little more than a constellation of feelings, echoing our unattended neuroses.
Orthodoxy, when practiced properly, is difficult. It is not the fasting, or even the prayers. Instead, it is the hard work of confronting emotional and psychological damages that disguise themselves in our many opinions. It is the patience of stability over many long seasons. I can think of very little in the Orthodox life that is accomplished quickly.
In our present difficulties, there is an avalanche of alarming information. Most of it surrounds the political lives of nations, some of it surrounds the present life of the Church. There are certainly real challenges within the Church, though they are not far different than the challenges that have gone on before. Those who suggest otherwise are not, I think, speaking from a place of neptic perception. As for the lives of nations, anyone who has expected great things from them is a fool. The nations daily fulfill the expectations of every cynic.
My only confidence is that the Church will abide and that the nations will get worse. These are things that need to be settled in our hearts. There, within the heart, it is possible to find the Kingdom of God where all the kingdoms of this world must kneel. There we can also find the peace that allows us to resist the siren songs of those who would draw us away from the life of the parish into delusional anxieties. Writing in the first century, where things were ever-so-less clear than they are now, St. Paul said: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers” (1Cor. 1:10-11).
St. Paul was busy traveling about, getting whipped, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and such. However, he seems to have taken time to offer a word to call the Church in a local community back to its senses. He understood where the truly great battles were.
In the same vein, I offer my own encouragement to those who read these poor writings. Be steadfast in your love of the brethren. In difficult times, patience and endurance are the greatest virtues. The world is awash in the madness of its faux democracy. It is good not to let such things take root in us. Whenever possible, practice stability. Honor your priests. Obey your bishops. Pray for each other. Ignore those who disturb your peace.