Opposition As Remedy Against Insatiable Error

As long as man expects to be upheld by the world, to live a life of the gentleman simply because he is post-modern, he dooms himself to conversation with the prowling mind that doesn’t actually speak, but only feeds itself. The warmth and luxury, the intrigue of wild ideas that do not disclose their danger or demands, this is the life that is nourishment for the waking dead (not to be confused with the woke – they too are food). The world envisioned as a safe space where every need satisfied is actually life inside of Dracula’s castle. What a terrible irony, that ultimately and too late one sees that self-preservation (self-possession) requires opposition and abstinence. As Christian tradition has known since the first sparks of memory, fasting is a mark of fearlessness in the face of evil. Opposition parallels this ancient remedy against evil in the realm of human political and social action.

Culture is now reaching a global moment. What we mean when we say “freedom” and “well-being” and “happiness” is subservient to the expectations that the world will turn for us, and the fear that it may run out of anything to give us. Is the global project indeed one of rewriting culture to replace tradition with a soothing (horrifying) interlocutor? The image of the future, then, is Dracula’s table. Some have already begun to perceive that this host is looking a bit seedy and ever less entertaining and more disregarding. For many, however, this host now simply observes his “host,” and from behind the curtains. The price of a seat at that table awards the revelation that one is not the champion, but the chow.

It is time for small independent presses to remain alive, and to resist all temptations to survive. In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the warning speaks to us: “A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer; I see his filthy face! And it my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud––God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!” Those who quail are everywhere and on all sides. When books are written and produced by such quailing men, we collectively are inclined to acknowledge that it might be better to live forever and under any kind of name than to live once and with personal triumph (because we know triumph needs redemption).

It was always important that books be truthful; but as global culture is fast becoming the Truth it is now imperative that books be oppositional. This characteristic will be remembered in the literature of this decade like it has been at different times in the past. Our color of opposition is not simply rejection, but also one of steadfast adherence to reality, even if it does not always know how to address the lurking source of maleficence. The battle of the good book is to promote what is real instead of fixating on the bodiless shadow. The idea that we must win here is not natural––that this world is the kingdom was ever a deception. The idea that we must live well here and never just for ourselves––this is what must live on. The bad idea can only live forever here, in the world. One bite, one bad book, never killed anyone, but it grants enough youthfulness to a guile that will outlive you and drain your children.

In this spirit of opposition and adherence to what is real, St. Augustine’s Press announces the revival of the Dissident American Thought Today Series, which challenges the comfortable thinking and speaking of the quailing; and the emergence of The Weight of Words Series which, with historian Jeremy Black, remembers and preserves the genius of conservatism in the Western literature and literary mind. These two particular collections seek to jostle the reader and publisher alike – for it is better to shake a man awake then let him drown as woke. And it is better to be burned by the flicker of insult and disdain than be licked by the flames of judgment–or infinitely worse, the fires of conscience.


Catherine Godfrey-Howell is associate editor of St. Augustine’s Press (South Bend, Indiana) and adjunct professor of canon law at the University of Notre Dame. She holds a doctorate in canon law summa cum laude from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome), and is author of the unromantic history of canonical marriage jurisprudence in the United States, Consensual Incapacity to Marry (July 2020).


The featured image shows, “Woman Holding a Balance,” by Johannes Vermeer; painted ca. 1664.

Nicholas Capaldi: Liberalism And The West

In this wide-ranging interview, Nicholas Capaldi, shares his ideas on liberalism and its many “fruits.” This is a riveting discussion of the current state of the world – and more importantly what can be done about it. Leading the discussion is Harrison Koehli.



The featured image shows, “Feestvierende boeren (Celebrating farmers),” by Adriaen Brouwer; painted ca. ca.1605-1638.

The Dialectic Of Imbecility And The Western Elites’ Will To Power – Part 4

The following program, in no particular order, contains the ideas which the Western world’s elite agree, if successful, would fix up the world –

  • the elimination of the Western traditional family
  • the elimination of Western traditional religion
  • the elimination of Western (now interpreted as white) privilege
  • the elimination of the right of freedom of speech (to have a platform is a privilege only to be granted to those who think correctly in a way commensurate with ensuring justice for all)
  • the elimination of biological sexual identity and the right of a child to choose what sex it wants (feels) itself to be
  • the total compliance with a “philosophy” about why the world is how it is and how it can be fixed
  • total trust in those who educate us in this “philosophy”
  • total trust in the state which is dedicated to the “administration of things” according to philosophical principles, such as diversity and equality – diversity meaning people with certain characteristics are the same
  • total trust in science – and the consensus that has been politically deemed to be its teaching to anyone who resists
  • total trust in non-elected officials from journalists to intelligence operatives, as well as elected officials, if they deprive you of your rights in the name of “the science”
  • a cashless economy, so that wealth cannot be stored away from those entrusted to ensure that one is deserving of one’s wealth,
  • a universal income, so that anyone who is not deserving of that income may be denied it
  • a proscription on natural birth, so as to save the planet from the Anthropocene

Of course universal income is at this stage still only an idea, as is the proscription on birth; but they look to be inevitable. Presently, universal income is advocated by the world’s richest people; and they do so at a time when a cashless economy is increasingly becoming realized. A cashless economy will enable the globalized and globalist state to access anyone’s savings, thus to ensure that none can escape its panopticon (this term was popularized by Michel Foucault, a left wing intellectual icon, at a time when surveillance was far less prevalent and when the liberal democratic state was far less beholden to a class of people who take their cues from people like Foucault).

As for population control, Michael Moore’s film, Planet of the Humans, on the inefficient and anti-environmental impact of green energy was wrongly and widely hailed by people who generally disagree with him on pretty well everything because they saw it as an acknowledgment of (his) left wing folly. What they missed was that it was a call for depopulation – and the potential tyranny behind such a call would make the Hitlers and Stalins of the world look like namby-pambies in the mass murdering stake. For we have now become so accustomed to abortion, not as an exceptional undertaking to save a mother’s life, or even preserve her mental well-being, but as a routine decision based upon our inconvenience – and the state as a public protector of our safety, and its intrusion into every sphere of our life.

So, it will seem perfectly natural when we reach the stage that one will need state permission to have children, and it may well be, in order to discriminate against LGBTQ etc. all natural births will be prohibited as discriminatory.

Further, now that it has become acceptable to discriminate and persecute people who deviate from any of the requirements about sexuality, gender, biology, ‘the science’, COVID vaccination, Islam, critical race theory, surely only a monster would think that people who have shown themselves to be monsters, and agents of oppression should have children. As well, we have seen that as a new narrative of oppression gains traction among the elite, as a subject requiring educators, and people to be educated, as well as people to be blamed for whatever horrors this particular form of oppression incurs, it must remain.

Anyone, but a complete idiot, might wonder why after so many decades of exposure, say, to racism that, as critical race theorists, leading Democrats, top ranking military officers, and intelligence officers hold that racism is now worse than ever. The answer to that is, if you think this way you are not yet a complete imbecile. Anyone but an imbecile should also be able to see that clientelism requires clients – actual victims of injustice, or misfortune, don’t really matter, unless they feed the larger narrative and its professional opportunities.

However, because the above “game plan” is globalist, it does not mean that the program will win out in the way that its players think it will, anymore that the game of communism played out the way the Bolsheviks thought it would. Reality has a habit of having its way. Thus, it was that Marxists got concentration camps and mass death instead of their promised overcoming of alienation.

The program is also a fail-safe way to ensure the geopolitical destruction of the West at the hand of its enemies, which, inter alia, means the complete destruction of all the inroads of recognition made by Western progressives, whose astonishing ignorance about the impact of Islamism in Western Europe and future consequences of Islamist geopolitical inroads being made as the West tears itself apart, is a recurrent theme in writings of the insightful Bruce Bawer, who is gay and Christian. (A good and typical example of the extent of this ignorance is exhibited in the case of Sinead O’Conner, the singer whose public protest against the Church because of child sexual abuse, and who is now a convert to the religion founded by a man who had sexual intercourse with his nine year old wife).

And, while, as members of Turkey’s ruling party openly say, the demographic transformations in Western Europe may lead Western Europe to become Muslim – it is China (and as is also the case with Islamic peoples) with its very conservative adherence to the family, that is best positioned to take advantage of the West’s self-destruction, and dictate its future and the values it will tolerate.

Though, it may well be that by the time the West is but a vassal of China, China’s dictatorial policies might seem like welcome relief from what are increasingly looking like inevitable race wars, which, again will benefit the West’s geopolitical rivals far more than it will benefit blacks, or Latinos. (It is noteworthy how in all bonfire of race, playing itself out in the USA, the group that has by far the most shocking history to deal with, native Americans, don’t really figure at all. I suspect it is because they are not numerous enough in North America to be serious clients servicing ongoing political or public service careers, so their lives don’t sufficiently matter to be part of the propaganda race-war drive).

It only goes to show the contempt with which our intelligence is held that someone who bangs on about white privilege and race would think that no one would notice the sleight of hand deployed in simply shifting between color and linguistic characteristics so as to fuel conflict. But, of course, any three year old can notice that there is no consistency in any of this, that it is imbecilic thinking – albeit it is a dialectic of imbecilic thinking – that it is all about polarization.

Some three decades ago, a victim of oppression teaching at UCLA, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, realized that all the oppression stacked up in multiple ways and she drew upon the legal term of intersectionality to help identify all the identities that might lead one to be disadvantaged – as she, a Harvard graduate, must have been. While the intent was to draw attention to the multiple ways oppression and identity inter-twine – so that there could be ways of the various oppressed finding some common ground – it was essentially a response to the obvious problem of polarization; the problem of a lack of commonality, and lack of communion with community.

And, in spite of the institutional triumph in North America, Western Europe and Australasia today of identity politics and studies, what really is evident is the scramble and conflict between the identities for resources, opportunities, prestige and power by claiming they have less opportunity and access because they are more oppressed: white feminists being trumped by black feminists, or by the transgender activists so that having a vagina does not count when it comes to being a woman, and or a white gay male (say a film producer) might be slightly down the totem pole of victimhood from a white straight male (even, say, a guy selling gas).

So, we now require an education system now that can identify and ensure the institutional justification and distribution of resources on the basis of the different gradations of oppression that accrue to different identities. Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge etc. have all morphed from being institutions of higher learning into institutions of imbecilic cultivation – as for the professions that would seem to be so far removed from these imbecilic issues – math, dentistry, engineering, accountancy etc., just as in the Soviet Union, where eventually even genetics was completely politicized, the totalitarian imbeciles are making sure that no discipline or training can escape the reach of their dialectic of imbecility.

At the heart of the ceaseless expansion of the dialectic of imbecility destroying minds, hearts, character, and institutions is the self – the self-wanting to be and being identified as all-important, being everything, wanting to have everything – from respect and pride, to pity and opportunity. This is the self that wants no sacrifice; it wants access to that big magic bin I spoke of earlier – and the way to have access is to present itself as being disadvantaged in access to it.

Once upon a time some people thought the access was given to the Jews, then it was men, then straights – now we all know, and have teachers and professionals telling us the answer – it is the whites that get all that undeserved access. That this is where the hell of self-obsession leads – it is the diabolical sin of pride – the pride Milton describes when he has Eve worship a tree thinking once she eats from the tree of knowledge she will be as God, or Satan who wants to be God, and to beguile assumes the form of a slithering slimy creature. It is also, sadly, completely self-serving, which is why (as anyone with a modicum of understanding of the laws of the spirit knows) it is utterly destructive of the soul.

The imbecilic self may want to cling to its identity as a Woman, Black, Latino, blah blah; but anyone who is happy to construe himself or herself in such term is just another imbecile. And that s/he, as much as anyone else, who is happy to go along, accepts that someone assumes to speak on behalf of/for an identity – as if having an identity always meant being, feeling, thinking x,y,z… blah blah. And it is precisely the making of imbeciles that is behind the self-serving nature of the dialectic of the imbecilic.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.


The featured image shows, “Erregte Menschen (Excited People),” by Emil Nolde; painted in 1913.

Human Evolution, Behavior And Intelligence: A Conversation With Helmuth Nyborg

We are so very pleased to present this interview with Helmuth Nyborg, the Danish psychologist, who has been leading the field in developmental psychology, with his work in polygene adaption and traditional behavior, with a focus on hormones and intelligence. He is a retired professor of developmental psychology at Aarhus University, Denmark, and has authored several notable books. Professor Nyborg is here interviewed by the French philosopher, Grégoire Canlorbe.


Grégoire Canlorbe (GC): How did you move from Olympic canyoning to an academic career? Which of those two activities was the most physically and mentally demanding?

Helmuth Nyborg (HN): The change was easy. Preparation for the 1960-Olympiad in Rome took five years in advance with three hours training from 6-9 am. and again from 6-9 pm – before dinner was an option – and year-round. Such a program taxes social, family, metabolic, and intellectual life considerably. So, as I shared a room in the Olympic village with gold medalist Erik Hansen, with whom and two others I won the bronze medal, I simply told him that my career in kayak ended at 3:08 pm. when we passed the goal line. He found it hard to believe, but I kept my promise and entered the academic world instead.

Helmuth Nyborg.

GC: You are currently working on a thermodynamic approach to the biocultural evolution of intelligence. How do you sum up your theory as it stands?

HN: Actually, already back in 1994, I wrote a book, Hormones, Sex, and Society: The Science of Physicology, where I argued that science would advance by skipping much abstract philosophical thinking about Man’s nature, and instead turn to the study of Molecular Man in a Molecular World. The jump from there to thermodynamics is short.

Currently I am trying to quantify 275.000 years of prehistoric competition between individuals in the struggle for capturing and transducing available energy (Wm-2), survival, and procreation, in a retrospective, pseudo-experimental design; that is, to redefine classic Darwinian thinking along the lines suggested back in the 18th century by the two famous physicists, Ludwig Boltzmann and Alfred Lotka.

GC: When it comes to intelligence, what does the second law of thermodynamics imply? (Namely, that the entropy of an isolated system, as is allegedly the universe, is necessarily increasing). Do you believe the universe’s average intelligence is necessarily decreasing?

HN: The second law of thermodynamics is about isolated systems and is therefore not of great use for understanding the way humans work, because they are open systems. We therefore need to call upon a fourth thermodynamic model for open non-equilibrium systems. It is easy to understand why global intelligence has been declining steadily since 1850: Low IQ people become more numerous and have more surviving children than high IQ people.

GC: A line of criticism occasionally heard against the coevolution idea (i.e., the idea that gene and culture are influencing each other in their mutual evolution) is that cultural patterns in a population are indeed influencing genes in said population—but that genes do not have the slightest influence on cultural patterns in turn. Thus, any population subject to the influence of a certain culture is allegedly led to becoming biologically adapted to said culture at the end of a few generations. That is how, for instance, the Berber, Afghan ethnicities, and various populations who were conquered by the Islamic Arabs allegedly ended up becoming culturally Arabized—and biologically adapted to the Arabic culture. What is your take on such claims?

HN: The whole idea of biocultural coevolution assumes that cultural aspects can be measured and quantified as accurately as the biological aspects. This is not the case, and this makes, in my opinion, the whole idea of biocultural coevolution untenable, as previously argued by me, in 1994.

As said above, we better entirely circumvent stubborn problems based on how more or less abstract culture works, for example, by trying to retrospectively define and quantify the prehistoric circumstance under which different peoples around the world have evolved; which polygene adaptation they were forced to make in order to survive and prosper, and which left surprisingly lasting polygene traces reflected in existing global differences in traditional behavior, which even the naked eye can see so readily today. The recent failing attempts to make Afghanistan democratic illustrate the point well in blood, violence, tradition, and despair

GC: An early investigator of the evolution of intelligence, Hippolyte Taine expressed himself as follows in 1867: “The man-plant, says Alfieri, is in no country born more vigorous than in Italy; and never, in Italy, was it so vigorous as from 1300 to 1500, from the contemporaries of Dante down to those of Michael Angelo, Cæsar Borgia, Julius II., and Machiavelli. The first distinguishing mark of a man of those times is the integrity of his mental instrument. Nowadays, after three hundred years of service, ours has lost somewhat of its temper, sharpness, and suppleness…. It is just the opposite with those impulsive spirits of new blood and of a new race [that were the Italians of the Late Middle Ages and of the Renaissance].” Do you sense that analysis is grounded at a thermodynamic level?

HN: The mathematician and physicist, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), said in 1883 something to the effect that, if you cannot measure a phenomenon and express it in numbers, you don’t know what you are talking about. You may be at the beginning of knowledge but have certainly not advanced to the state of science, whatever the matter may be.

This problem is not only Taine’s, but has been with us since the dawn of time. People think of a phenomenon, say “impulsive spirit” or “motivation;” then they reify it and ascribe it causal value. Suddenly they have an explanation. Why did I do it? Well, I was motivated. They don’t see that this is a circular explanation: How do you know you were motivated? Well, I did it.

This kind of muddled thinking was common in the past and is still widespread today. One current widespread form is Social Constructivism, exemplified by, say, unsubstantiable theories of “systemic racism,” or the “glass ceiling” in “Gender research” (where Gender is loosely what you feel; a lived cultural proxy for real, measurable, biological sex differences).

GC: Thank you for your time. Please feel free to add anything else.

HN: It worries me to think that the political scientist Charles Murray (2003) has a valid point, when he concluded that Western thinking has been decaying since 1850. This most likely has to do with declining global and local average IQ.

In that connection, it hurts to watch the numerally quantifiable left-oriented political activist overtake of many modern universities and media, with their associated unprofessional “Cancel Culture,” “Critical Race Studies,” and politically motived data-poor gender and LGBTQ+++ activist reports.

Gregoire Canlorbe and Helmuth Nyborg.

It is terrifying to realize that so many weak academic administrators today carelessly allow left-oriented student hooligans to attack, and have sacked serious researchers they have a political distaste for – instead of furiously defending free speech and independent research in the Academy.

It is saddening to see that so many modern universities seem to have completely forgotten the Humboldtian ideals of a free University; and instead have allowed their organizations to degrade into mindless mass-producing institutions, where political correctness all too easily overturns rational science; and IQ research(ers) are tabooed.

All this bodes well neither for the future of European democracy nor the sustainability of enlightened societies.

O tempora, o mores!


The featured images shows the funerary stele of Lysistrata, ca. 350-325 BC.

Founding A Real Christian University In An Age Of Unreality

The Age Of Unreality

Two decades ago, much talk existed globally of a “post-911” world and its permanency: “We’re never going back to the world that existed before the Two Towers fell,” we were told. Sometime in 2020, “The New Normal” was declared. Both these announcements signify paradigm shifts in global culture and mass psychology. Such shifts have occurred before in history, and we have learned all about them in our history books: From the Homeric to the Axial age to the Dark Ages, from Medieval Christendom to the Renaissance and to the Reformation, from the Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution and to the Information Age. Is there anything unique or exceptional about this latest shift into “new normality,” or is it just one more in a long litany of human cultural evolutions?

In 2020, all public Masses throughout the Catholic world during Holy Week were cancelled. This has never happened—never—in the history of Christendom. The reason for the cancellation was, we were told, the worst plague in history. The fact that the Church was shut down—indeed, shut herself down—during her most sacred and otherwise inviolable celebrations reveals that this is a unique and exceptional paradigm shift.

The paradigm shift that has occurred and is still underway, with each day witnessing an ever-deepening shifting, is, I maintain, to the Age of Unreality. The most compelling evidence for the accuracy of this description is the fact that the Church herself has not only succumbed to this propaganda-concocted unreality, but has also taken a leading role in spreading it to the world.

As all the actual scientific evidence now indicates—and the data was available soon after March 2020 for those with eyes to see it and some conversance with credible alternative media journalism—no “pandemic” (in the traditional sense of the word, i.e., hundreds of millions of terminally sick and dead people all around the world) had actually existed.

What existed was a treatable, mostly non-lethal disease with an infectious fatality rate comparable to the common flu. And a pandemic exists, as I am writing this essay; it is not one of “variants,” but the mass deaths and injuries of the injected. Yet, an official Vatican conference was held in May of 2021 that supported with spurious and tendentious moral and theological rhetoric the false narrative, its attendant propaganda, and its final cause and raison d’etre: the injection of the entire global population with what the consensus of true science indicates is, not a vaccine at all, but an experimental, untested, and manifestly harmful—and fatal for a significant number—gene-altering serum.

As the abovementioned facts indicate, we are truly in uncharted waters: a worldwide propaganda onslaught the scale and malice of which the world has never seen hypnotizing the global populace into state of psychotic fear in which millions consented to, or at least did not widely and forcefully resist, a global economic shutdown—a crime against humanity on a massive scale. This shutdown included a deprivation of fundamental human rights, the physically and psychologically dangerous and medically useless masking of whole populations, including young children, and now the coercive program of injecting every living human being with a untested, gene-altering serum, all for a disease that according to the actual numbers is no more fatal than the flu.

Add to this the official endorsement of this totalitarian program by vast majority of Catholic clergy—indicated by closing of Churches, refusing to hear confessions or give Last Rites, mandating masks and social distancing, and even using their parishes as injection sites (not to mention the ever increasing celebration and normalization of abortion, sodomy, transgenderism, and the recent emergence of a full-fledged secularist, totalitarian technocracy), and it is easy to see we have truly transitioned into a physical, moral, intellectual, cultural, political, and spiritual Age of Unreality.

We know from Sacred Scripture and Tradition that a Great Tribulation will come upon the world in which the Antichrist will make his first personal appearance, coinciding with a great chastisement and persecution of Christians under his behest. After this, along with his counterfeit “church” now globally established and ubiquitous among Catholics and non-Catholics alike—“even the elect will be deceived, if that were possible”—he will be vanquished, followed by an Era of Peace in which Christ in the Eucharist will reign over the world in a spiritual state of supernatural and natural harmony, a civilization of love. The Age of Unreality we are now in is, if not the complete establishment of this counterfeit, global “church,” the inauguration of it; and we are undoubtedly now living in the Great Tribulation.

Real Christian University (RCU)

In the remainder of this essay and in a follow-up essay, I would like to inquire into the kind of college or university that would need to be founded to educate young people most effectively in and for the Age of Unreality. I shall call this hypothetical institution, “Real Christian University” (RCU). My thesis is that such a university would have to be both radically traditional and radically new.

The kind of teachers, students, curriculum, and pedagogy that enable any university’s mission to succeed must be determined in light of that mission; and the mission of any university must be determined in light of both the perennial and universal principles of education and the human soul and the exigencies and dictates of the time and place of its founding.

As a robustly Christian and integrally classical, liberal-arts university founded in early twenty-first century America, RCU would have only to consult as her models the successful colleges and universities of similar mission that have preceded her in the last several decades to discover these perennial principles in both theory (in their founding documents) and in practice (in the concrete and dynamic life and shape of their communities). Thus, RCU would take its essential core from the Christian, predominantly Catholic, intellectual and educational tradition and institutional models that have recently been built upon it.

But these institutions, however excellent and resonant with our mission, were founded before the Age of Unreality had reached and revealed the fullness of its nature. Thus, their capacity to serve as models for a similar institution founded in 2021 is significantly limited. The cultural and educational crises to which these colleges’ founders responded were profound—the culture of death, secularism, scientism, the dictatorship of relativism, the instrumentalization and fragmentation of curriculum, the loss of wonder—but none of them compare to the crisis we now face, for it is both the synthesis and culmination of all of them: the global, totalitarian, technocratic supplanting of Reality by a man-made counterfeit. As C. J. Hopkins puts it:

“The New Normals — i.e., those still wearing masks outdoors, shrieking over meaningless “cases,” bullying everyone to get “vaccinated,” and collaborating with the segregation of the “Unvaccinated” — are not behaving the way they’re behaving because they are stupid. They are behaving that way because they’re living in a new “reality” that has been created for them over the course of the last 17 months by a massive official propaganda campaign, the most extensive and effective in the history of propaganda.”

Thus, in addition to being traditional and conservative, RCU would need to be radical and experimental. Józef Życiński has written:

“To live the faith of Abraham is to be ready at a day’s notice to pack the tents symbolizing everything that is dear to one and to go to a new, unknown place, which God will indicate, completely independently of rational calculations or our emotional predilections. To live the faith of Abraham in the cultural context of postmodernity is to be able calmly to pack up the tents of congenial concepts and arguments, not in order to set out on a desert path, but to set them up again in a different context and in a different form, in a place indicated by God. In an Abrahamic testimony of faith, one may not lose heart on account of the wildness of new places or on account of a feeling of loneliness in a foreign landscape. We must constantly seek the face of the Lord (Psalm 27:8), listening carefully to His voice, which could be either a discreet whisper or a delicate breeze (1 Kings 19:12). We need to love God more than the logic of convincing deductions and the collection of respected authorities, to which we like to refer in times of difficulty. We need to accept the provisionality of contingent means, in order that the Divine Absolute might all the more clearly reveal in them his power. Only then does the contemporary “wandering Aramaean” reveal the style in which, amidst the darkness of our doubt, flashes the light of the great adventure of our faith.”

For our purposes, the “tents of congenial concepts and arguments” are the curricula of the predominantly and traditionally Christian, integrated liberal-arts colleges and universities. The “different context” is the Age of Unreality. The “place indicated by God” is yet to be determined. As for the “different form,” we will attempt to set this out in the remainder of this essay and in a future essay, but we can say now that whatever form the “faith of Abraham” must take for today, it will not only have to incorporate, integrate, and transmit the classical and predominantly Catholic intellectual and educational tradition, modeling itself upon them, but also render this tradition fit and fruitful for an age whose discontinuity from all preceding ones is all but absolute.

An Education Into Reality

Many Catholic colleges and universities have articulated well the perennial principles and curriculum of Catholic liberal education in their founding documents. And their foundings share essentially the same raison d’etre, though expressed differently according to their particular charisms. The reality of American Catholic higher education to which their founding was a grace-ordained response was etsi Deus non daretur, “as if God did not exist.”

Of course, there were then courses offered in the humanities, philosophy, and theology where the idea of God was discussed, but His reality was not taken seriously by a critical mass of students, faculty, and administrators—especially the large, big-name ones that I need not mention. If it had been, the end result of four years at these institutions would have been, and be, greater Faith, wisdom, and holiness in the graduates, instead of greater confusion, immorality, worldliness, and apostasy. For the newer integrally Catholic colleges and universities, taking the reality of God seriously meant revising of the entire curriculum and culture to be ordered mainly to the study of God as its first principle and end, with the reality of God as the heart of their institutions’ mission.

When the Living God, the Most Holy Trinity, was dethroned from Catholic higher education in America, reality itself became obscured. For God is ultimate reality, and when education leaves God aside through practical atheism, or relegates Him to one belief or idea among others through theological relativism and subjectivism, it is bound to become an education into the unreal, regardless of how ‘scholarly’ or ‘scientific’ it might claim to be. As Frank Sheed wrote decades ago:

“Therefore if we see anything at all—ourself or some other man, or the universe as a whole or any part of it—without at the same time seeing God holding it there, then we are seeing it all wrong. If we saw a coat hanging on a wall and did not realize that it was held there by a hook, we should not be living in the real world at all, but in some fantastic world of our own in which coats defied the law of gravity and hung on walls by their own power. Similarly if we see things in existence and do not in the same act see that they are held in existence by God, then equally we are living in a fantastic world, not the real world. Seeing God everywhere and all things upheld by Him is not a matter of sanctity, but of plain sanity, because God IS everywhere and all things are upheld by Him. What we do about it may be sanctity; but merely seeing it is sanity. To overlook God’s presence is not simply to be irreligious; it is a kind of insanity, like overlooking anything else that is actually there.”

For Sheed, education into reality meant first reauthorizing the Church in Catholic education, and not just one community of like-minded religious believers among others, but as the true and unique Mystical Body of Christ whose infallible teachings on nature, humanity, and God, and whose eternal-life-giving sacraments and liturgy serve as the bulwark and guide for all learning.

And it meant a rejection of the anti-tradition of Enlightenment scientism, naturalism, and pragmatism, with its soulless curriculum of fractured disciplines ordered to will-to-power and ideology. It meant a return to the medieval, sapiential Tradition of the marriage of Faith and reason, with its soul-nourishing curriculum of the trivial and quadrivial arts and humanities ordered to the architectonic natural and divine sciences of philosophy and theology.

The means of education are determined by its subject and end. The subject is the human person who is to be educated, and the end is the transformation we seek to make in his soul. The telos of this educational transformation is, generically, the same for all ages and places—perfection of the human soul and person through attainment of contemplative wisdom in intellectual virtue through perfecting of the speculative, or contemplative, powers of the intellectual soul and moral virtue through perfection of prudential powers of choice within the same soul.

In modern cultures, this end is prudentially adapted to the exigencies of practical life, including an orientation of the curriculum and pedagogy to the needs of the Church for evangelization and vocations, the common good of large-scale, technologically conditioned political and economic order, and the flourishing of family life through professional education and career success. This is not to say that liberal education must become mere job training and preparation for career, but only that it must have an eye to these things as at least indirect, subordinate, and prudent, or common sense, ends.

The various curricula developed by these colleges were identical in the end to which they were ordered: natural and supernatural contemplative wisdom. Thus, they were also very similar in fundamental content and pedagogy, with philosophy, theology, and Great Books at the core, and Socratic discussion as the primary mode of teaching and learning. The trivial arts, mathematics and the natural sciences, and classical languages were also considered essential and given varied but serious weight, and lecture and pure seminar were employed, again, to varying extents, to complement the primary pedagogy of Socratic dialectic.

The main differences were in emphasis and charism, with colleges like Thomas More and the University of Dallas focused more on humanities, Thomas Aquinas College giving Thomistic philosophy pride of place, and Wyoming Catholic College attempting a balanced synthesis of theology, philosophy, and humanities undergirded by an experiential outdoor curriculum ordered to physical, emotional, and moral virtue.

All sought to provide their students a deep, comprehensive, and integrated immersion in the Real, both imaginatively, intellectually, and spiritually (with WCC including physically), through a curriculum and institutional milieu grounded in the Catholic intellectual, spiritual, and cultural tradition and leading their students from wonder to wisdom to God.

RCU would be no different than the aforementioned colleges and universities in being a Catholic and classical “school of reality,” with its curriculum, pedagogy, and culture essentially modeled upon these institutions—there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Yet, as all of these institutions were founded before the Age of Unreality, RCU could not use these as adequate models. Indeed, there is no model for her to use that would be adequate to her traditional, yet unprecedented mission. We are literally in unchartered territory. So, a sense exists in which the educational wheel must be reinvented. What would educational immersion in the Real look like in an Age of Unreality?

Lovers Of The Real

The proper means of liberal education, especially the curriculum and pedagogy, is determined by the result at which it aims. Liberal education aims at the perfection of the rational powers of the soul of a rational animal—to the attainment of wisdom. Pater Edmund Waldstein has put it well:

“A liberal education aims at helping educating persons to attain to universal truth, and thus be truly free. Such an education is worthwhile for its own sake, rather for the sake of some further end, such as professional success. Nevertheless, it also enables persons to contribute to the good of society. It provides the foundation for sound political activity, based on a true understanding of the common good. Moreover, it helps to articulate the theological understanding necessary for the life of the Church, and the habits necessary for the Christian life.”

To attain universal truth and be truly free, to contribute to the good of society, to engage in sound political activity based on a true understanding of the common good, and to articulate theological understanding and develop the habits necessary for the Christian life are the ends for which
RCU would be established; and, in light of these ends, its curriculum and pedagogy would be essentially similar to the colleges that have come before it.

In all ages, the means to attain these perennial ends are also perennial: master teachers and master works in dialectical discussion, theology, philosophy, and the seven liberal arts in a community of learning ordered to truth and holiness. How these curricular and pedagogical means would themselves be applied to the educational end, the ‘means to the means,’ as it were, will be different, adapted to the particular language, culture, habits of mind, and exigences of the place and time in which they are engaged.

For example, the medieval trivium and quadrivium have been radically revised and extended due to the exponential growth and complexity of the arts and sciences beginning in the Renaissance. And so, what a successful and fruitful liberal-arts college education means and requires for an eighteen-year-old, middle-class, homeschooled freshmen in twenty-first century America is, however alike in essentials, dramatically different from what even a late twentieth-century American student would have required, let alone a European or Middle Eastern one.

But in an Age of Unreality, the age-place-time requirements and hence the differences will need to be even more dramatic. For, again, what we are dealing with in our day is something unprecedented and unimaginable to prior generations. Therefore, RCU would teach theology according to the Catechism, the Encyclicals, Council Documents, the Fathers, and the Scholastics, as well as those modern and contemporary theologians faithful to the Deposit of the Faith. It would teach the perennial philosophy in accordance with the Catholic philosophical tradition, with St. Thomas Aquinas as Master-guide, again, along with those modern and contemporary philosophers who have continued and developed this tradition.

And while it will teach the humanities, contemporary physical sciences, and the fine arts in an integrally Catholic manner ordered to the True, Good, and Beautiful, the exigencies of our time would require a radical and innovative adaption of these perennial sources and disciplines.

We must prepare future evangelists and religious for a Church that has been deeply coopted by the evilest of forces, and for a world that is awash in the most sophisticated, effective, and malicious propaganda ever created, causing the vast majority of people in the world to be in a perpetual state of psychological trauma and delusion.

We must prepare future Catholic families to flourish in a world where men and women no longer exist as stable identities, where children are seen as exploitable commodities or insufferable burdens, and where marriage no longer exists as a natural, let alone a supernatural, reality. We cannot afford merely to have ‘an eye’ to these challenges.

We must incorporate them intimately and intrinsically in the curriculum and pedagogy. This does not entail any essential change in the traditional Catholic liberal-arts program in its means and end but it does mean more than keeping these challenges in the background. RCU must face them head on.

In a future essay I hope to delve into the details of what this would look like in terms of mission, curriculum, pedagogy, and culture. To give you a taste, let’s just say that Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda and the complete works of Rene Girard will be some of the Great Books we study; courses will include the liberal art of deconstructing media and government narratives, the history of false-flag terrorism, the nature of the Deep State, Catholic prophecies if Antichrist, and the reality and power of occult societies, such as Freemasonry.

There will be practical, skills courses on economic independence and self-sufficiency. There will be deep teaching in psychology, especially psychopathy, narcissism, and ritual scapegoating. In sum, to claim that our students will become aware of the actual world in which they live and adept at Socratic inquiry and dialectics would be a bit of an understatement. Lastly, education of their hearts to love the One, Good, True, and Beautiful will take precedence over mere intellectual formation.

In a future essay I hope to delve into the details of what this would look like in terms of mission, curriculum, pedagogy, and culture. To give you a taste, let’s just say that Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda, Andrzej Łobaczewski’s Political Ponerology, and the complete works of René Girard will be some of the Great Books we study; courses will include the liberal art of deconstructing media and government narratives, the history of false-flag terrorism, the nature of the Deep State, Catholic prophecies if Antichrist, and the reality and power of occult societies, such as Freemasonry. There will be practical, skills courses on economic independence and self-sufficiency. There will be deep teaching in psychology, especially psychopathy, narcissism, and ritual scapegoating. In sum, to claim that our students will become aware of the actual world in which they live and adept at Socratic inquiry and dialectics would be a bit of an understatement. Lastly, education of their hearts to love the One, Good, True, and Beautiful will take precedence over mere intellectual formation. For it is only wise and prudent, loving and courageous hearts that can supplant the Age of Unreality with the Civilization of Love, and usher in the Great Era of Peace.


Dr. Thaddeus Kozinski is former Associate Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Wyoming Catholic College and Academic Dean. He teaches Great Books for Angelicum Academy and Spiritual Direction for Divine Mercy University. His latest books are Modernity as Apocalypse: Sacred Nihilism and the Counterfeits of Logos, and Words, Concepts, Reality: Aristotelian Logic for Teenagers.


The featured image shows, “The Education of the Virgin,” by Michaelina Wautier; painted in 1656.

The Importance Of Being Poirot

This month, through the very kind courtesy of St. Augustine’s Press, it is a sheer thrill to present this excerpt from Jeremy Black’s latest book, The Importance of Being Poirot. Make sure to pick up a copy of this fascinating journey through England during the two world wars, and all by way of Monsieur Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s masterful creation.

Black proves himself to be a worthy history-teller because he can aptly “detect” the meaning of stories that seeks to answer the past and guide the present. His erudition runs much deeper than his ability to navigate the stores of resources available on the subject, and the reader gets a glimpse of this early on when in the introduction he proffers his own defense for writing about the importance of a Hercule Poirot.

It all makes for truly fascinating and absorbing reading. Pick up your copy right away! You will not be disappointed.

Here’s a foretaste of what lies in store…


{…} The detective novel, as classically conceived, dates from the nineteenth century, but novels in which detection plays a role have a longer genesis, as even more do stories about crime and detection. Indeed, Simon Brett’s humorous spoof ‘The Literary Antecedents of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’ begins with the Anglo-Saxon classic Beowulf (S. Brett, Crime Writers and Other ). This was set in the sixth century, although dates from between then and the tenth.

Moreover, the notion of crime had a moral component from the outset, and notably so in terms of the struggle between Good and Evil, and in the detection of the latter. Indeed, it is this detection that is the basis of the most powerful strand of detection story, because Evil disguises its purposes. It has to do so in a world and humanity made fundamentally benign and moral by God. Thus, as with the Serpent in Eden, a classic instance of malign disguise, Evil seeks to exploit weakness and, to do so, has to lie, or to challenge Good by violence.

These sinister purposes and malign acts are disclosed, at the time or subsequently, and, accordingly, in all religions and religious cultures, tales developed, as did the conventions that affected their contents, framing, and reception. So also did processes to find the truth, some, such as physical trials, extraordinarily rigorous, others, such as the understanding of oracular testament, a challenge of frequently obscure clues that offers much for those interested in Golden Age detective novels in particular. Priesthoods had special functions in discerning, confronting and overcoming Evil, and guidance accordingly, as in confessional handbooks. Campaigns against the menace and deceit of witchcraft saw such anxieties rise to murderous peaks, as in seventeenth-century Europe. This echo of the priesthood as the detector of Evil was seen in G.K. Chesterton’s homely, but clearly moral, clerical detective, Father Brown, who first appeared in print in 1910.

Drawing on the same mental world, a different form of story of detection related to the journey to Salvation, as in John Bunyan’s epic The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), as individuals had to detect snares en route. In part as a result, there was a clear overlap between writing about this world and the next, the struggle with Evil being foremost. John Buchan used the Bunyan epic in his Mr Standfast (1919), a World War I story in which a German agent in Britain is a major threat and needs uncovering and vanquishing.

The development of the novel in England in the eighteenth century saw the notion of secrecy pushed to the fore, with an opening up of such secrets being a key theme in the plot of many novels, secrets related to behaviour, as in the exposure of hypocrisy, or to origins. This could be in a comic context and to comic effect, as in Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749), with the unveiling of his parentage; but there were also novels that were darker and more troubling. This style came to the fore with the Gothic novels of the late eighteenth century, notably those by (Mrs) Ann Radcliffe, especially The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1797), and also Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796). These novels had elements of both the thriller and the detective novel. The fears to which they could give rise could be a source of fun, as was clearly with Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817), but the popularity of Gothic fiction is instructive.

{…}

The moral framework of any society is one we need to consider when assessing literature as a whole, and fiction in particular, because in fiction it is possible to alter the story to drive home a moral lesson, a method that is not so simple when dealing with fact. Thus, we need to consider the changes in religious belief and sensibility in this period. Despite Murder in the Vicarage (1930), At Bertram’s Hotel (1965), and several other appearances, clerics do not play a major role in Christie’s novels.
Nevertheless, in Three Act Tragedy (1934), there is a positive account of Christianity from the dynamic young Egg Lytton Gore referring to a recently dead clergyman.

‘…He prepared me for confirmation and all that, and though of course a lot of that business is all bunkum, he really was rather sweet about it…. I really believe in Christianity – not like Mother does, with little books and early service, and things – but intelligently and as a matter of history. The Church is all clotted up with the Pauline tradition – in fact the Church is a mess – but Christianity itself is all right … the Babbingtons really were Christians; they didn’t poke and pry and condemn, and they were never unkind about people or things’.

Canon Prescott, in A Caribbean Mystery (1964), is positive. In a gentler age, it was possible to say that Prescott is extremely fond of children, especially small girls, without that being seen as sinister.

Moreover, even though clerics are not thick on the ground, that does not mean that religion is absent, either in terms of the lay religiosity of the characters or with reference to the role of the author. Far from it. A similar discrimination to that of Egg Lytton Gore, in favour of a true Christianity as the basis for judgment, is offered in Christie’s Appointment With Death (1938), when Sarah King observes in the symbolic setting of Jerusalem:

‘I feel that if I could sweep all this away – all the buildings and the sects and the fierce squabbling churches – that I might see Christ’s quiet figure riding into Jerusalem on a donkey – and believe in him’.

This leads Dr Gerard to reply gravely: ‘“I believe at least in one of the chief tenets of the Christian faith – commitment with a lowly place”’. He goes on to claim that ambition is responsible for most ills of the human soul, whether realised or not. Asylums are filled, he argues, with those who cannot cope with their insignificance.

In a way, Christie presents murder in the same way, and the implication throughout is that it defies the true message of Christianity, not least the acceptance of suffering and the significance of the soul. Some ghost stories, for example those of M.R. [Montague Rhodes] James (1862–1936), explored similar themes. At the close of In Search of England (1927), H.V. Morton meets a vicar who tells him:

‘We are, in this little hamlet, untouched by ideas, in spite of the wireless and the charabanc. We use words long since abandoned. My parishioners believe firmly in a physical resurrection. … We are far from the pain of cities, the complexities … We are rooted in something firmer than fashion’.

In Three Act Tragedy (1934), the disabled Mrs Milray refers to ‘“The Lord’s will”’. At the denouement, there is also a social dimension, one that Christie brings up when Sir Charles Cartwright responds to Poirot: ‘He radiated nobility and disgust. He was the aristocrat looking down at the ignoble canaille.… Hercule Poirot, the little bourgeois, looked up at the aristocrat. He spoke quietly but firmly’. Speaking truth to power, or rather to social eminence and fame, Poirot is observed as taking a moral line, both in stopping murder and also in thwarting a would-be bigamist. The dubious morals of much of the ‘smart set’ have recently been highlighted in the 2021 first volume of a projected complete edition of the diaries of ‘Chips’ Channon. Poirot is more generally against crime, in The ABC Murders comparing murder to gambling. In ‘The Chocolate Box’ (1924), Poirot’s sole professional failure, he refers to himself as being ‘“bon catholique”’.

Religion is present again in Triangle at Rhodes (1937). Poirot goes to the Mount of the Prophet where he meditates on God permitting ‘himself to fashion certain human beings’ and advises Marjorie Gold to ‘leave the island before it is too late’, a moment recalled in the closing lines when he refers to being ‘on the Mount of the Prophet. It was the only chance of averting the crime… she chose – to remain…’ Thus, Poirot as prophet, and Gold as the sinner with free-will, who has rejected, through pride, the possibility of safety, are clearly revealed, with the message underlined in case the reader has missed it. Furthermore, as another aspect of morality, Poirot is convinced that, if the wicked escape, as in the case of ‘The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge’ (1923), it is at a price. In that story, and the capitalisation is in the original, the murderers gain the huge fortune of the victim, Harrington Pace, but Nemesis overtakes them. They crash in an aircraft and Justice is satisfied. In the penultimate scene in Death on the Nile (1937), Mrs Allerton and Poirot join in thanking God that there is happiness in the world. Earlier in that novel, Poirot has referred to a parable in the Bible when chiding Linnet Ridgeway.

Reference to God is part of everyday conversation; as in Murder Is Easy (1939) when Mrs Pierce reflects on the death of her young Emma Jane: ‘“a sweet little mite she was. ‘You’ll never rear her’. That’s what they said. ‘She’s too good to live’. And it was true, sir. The Lord knows His Own”’. However, in the same novel there is bitter criticism of the pompous press magnate, Lord Whitfield, who has a great faith and trust in Providence, with enemies of the righteous (the latter a group with whom he identifies) struck down by swift divine wrath. Luke Fitzwilliam finds excessive Whitfield’s retribution on the drunken chauffeur, and Whitfield’s comparison of himself with the Prophet Elisha is obviously inappropriate. Christie is clearly with Fitzwilliam, although, in a typical case of misdirection, the proud and pompous Whitfield is not in fact the villain.

The references to religion continue. N or M? (1941) takes its title from a catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, while in Evil Under the Sun (1941), Stephen Lane, a cleric, complains that ‘“no one believes in evil”’, whereas he firmly sees it as a powerful reality that ‘“walks the earth”’. Poirot agrees with this longstanding view. In Destination Unknown (1954), the villainous impresario of evil evades justice on earth, but Jessop comments ‘“I should say he’ll be coming up before the Supreme Justice before very long”’. The link between crime and evil is thus reiterated. Very differently, the continuity of ordinary Christian society is presented as significant in A Caribbean Mystery (1964), in which Inspector Weston of the St Honoré CID notes that there are few marriages on the island, but that the children are christened.

A practising Anglican, Christie was far from alone as a detective novelist with a strong religious sensibility. Others of this type included Freeman Wills Croft, as in Antidote to Venom (1938). The detective fiction of the period presupposed a providentially governed universe that could provide meaning. This was a key aspect of the religious necessities of such fiction and of the contemporary reporting on crime. At the same time, standards were more general. Thus, the world of Sherlock Holmes required a very striking stability so that clothes, routines, and other factors had a fixed and knowable meaning. These ideas of order, epitomised in character and behaviour, were an aspect not only of particular detective novelists, such as Dorothy L. Sayers, but also of the genre as a whole and, indeed, of social norms and practices.

Christie did not restrict her morality to crime. ‘Magnolia Blossom’, a magazine story of 1925, was not a crime piece but a three-way drama of a marriage under strain and of how people react. The role of the author in terms of judgment is not of course synonymous with the life of the author. It is well-established that some of the great detective writers had somewhat rackety personal lives (Edwards, The Golden Age of Murder). Yet, that rarely stops moral grandstanding or indeed simple conformity. And so with detective fiction, much of which relates to morality, directly or by reflection, and with both the author and the reader offering moral frameworks. Indeed, in one respect, fiction is an attempt to offer guidance in a post-Providential world. In an urgently-religious age, Providence brings an instant fate to the wicked, but, by the 1920s, the religious environment was somewhat different. Judgment in life came to be seen more as a matter of human agency and agencies, and the detective was to the fore. Yet, there could be a religious aspect to the moral dimension, a perspective vividly demonstrated in J.B. Priestley’s play An Inspector Calls (1945), a haunting drama of discovery.

Christian morality is applied by Christie in part in terms of the newlyfashionable psychological insights and in terms of the belief in heredity Poirot mentions in ‘The King of Clubs’ (1923), and in which he follows other detectives including Holmes. These insights provide both a subject for discussion and explanation and a particular modus operandi for Christie and her detectives. This is true not only of the ‘foreign’ Poirot, but also, albeit using a different language, the very English Jane Marple, who is first introduced in ‘The Tuesday Night Club’, a thoughtful short story of December 1927. In The ABC Murders, Poirot insists that it is crucial to treat the murderer as ‘“a psychological study”’ and ‘“to get to know the murderer”’. Subsequently he adds, ‘“A madman is as logical and reasoned in his actions as a sane man – given his peculiar biased point of view”’. Cards on the Table (1936) also sees an emphasis on the psychology of the suspects, which is a theme underlined in Christie’s Foreword. A total misunderstanding, one that is all-too-typical of responses by critics, was offered by Camilla Long in a television review in the Sunday Times on 16 February 2020 in which she claimed: ‘Christie didn’t do personalities; she felt any hint of psychology could distract from the plot lines’.

So also for others. In Three Act Tragedy, Lady Mary Gore, who, in a Christie-like autobiographical touch, had fallen for ‘a certain type of man’, foolishly thinking ‘new love will reform him’, explains to Satterthwaite that:

‘Some books that I’ve read these last few years have brought a lot of comfort to me. Books on psychology. It seems to show that in many ways people can’t help themselves. A kind of kink…. It wasn’t what I was brought up to believe. I was taught that everyone knew the difference between right and wrong. But somehow – I don’t always think that is so’.

Satterthwaite adds that: ‘“Without acute mania it may nevertheless occur that certain natures lack what I should describe as braking power… in some people the idea, or obsession, holds”’. In ‘The Red Signal’ (1933), Sir Alington West, ‘the supreme authority on mental disease’, explains: ‘“suppression of one’s particular delusion has a disastrous effect very often. All suppressions are dangerous, as psychoanalysis has taught us”’.

The methodical and intelligent Superintendent Battle, who first appeared in The Secret of Chimneys (1925), acknowledges a debt to Poirot’s psychological methods in Towards Zero (1944). The language varies, but the theme is constant. In Death in the Clouds (1937), the young Jane Grey challenges the ‘“very old-fashioned idea of detectives”’ as involving disguise (as Holmes had done), as nowadays they simply think out a case psychologically.

Christie was far from alone in her interest in psychology. Thus, in The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop (1929), Gladys Mitchell, who was up on Freud, introduced as her detective Mrs Beatrice Bradley, the author of A Small Handbook of Psycho-Analysis. Yet, Christie had a much more Christian feel for psychology. At the brilliant end of Crooked House (1949), where there is one of the more outstanding reveals, there is a psychoanalytic explanation in terms of ‘retarded moral sense’ and heredity, including of ‘ruthless egoism’. More bluntly, this becomes “There is often one of the litter who is ‘not quite right”’, and Christian judgment and justification are offered: ‘“I do not want the child to suffer as I believe she would suffer if called to earthly account for what she has done…. If I am wrong, God forgive me… God bless you both”’. In Hallowe’en Party (1969), Mrs Goodbody, the very pleasant local witch, or, at least, fortune-teller, is clear on the real presence of evil:

‘wherever you go, the devil’s always got some of his own. Born and bred to it … those that the devil has touched with his hand.
They’re born that way. The sons of Lucifer. They’re born so that killing don’t mean nothing to them … When they want a thing, they want it… Beautiful as angels, they can look like’.

Mrs Goodbody contrasts this with black magic: ‘“That’s nonsense, that is. That’s for people who like to dress up and do a lot of tomfoolery. Sex and all that”’. At the same time, Honoria Waynflete, in Murder is Easy, is compared to a goat which is presented as an apt symbol of evil, as also in Miles Burton’s The Secret of High Eldersham (1931). In Honoria’s case, her behaviour is discussed as an instance of the touch of insanity allegedly present in old families, and she is definitely seen as unhinged. Being a ‘“wrong ’un”’ is the problem for Roger Bassington-Ffrench in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1934).

Although there was no equivalent to Doyle’s strong interest in Spiritualism, the occult plays a role with Christie, one that is understated in television treatments. ‘The Harlequin Tea Set’ (1971) very much offers the idea of the mixing of this world with a spirit world, as the dead Lily joins Harley Quin from the other world to help Mr Satterthwaite protect the living in a combination that Christie described in her autobiography as her favourite characters. So also with the protection of many ghost stories both of this period and of earlier ones, such as those of Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–73). An altogether more menacing moral framework is on offer in Christie’s The Hound of Death (1933). The occult is to the fore in this mysterious and disturbing tale of an alternative ‘Brotherhood’, but a moral retribution is delivered on the vulpine Dr Rose. The hound is very different from that of the Holmes story about the Baskervilles, while in the title-story of the collection there is a religious dimension not present in the latter.

Not black magic, but a good equivalent, can be deployed, as with the kindly nurse in Towards Zero (1940) who comes from the West Coast of Scotland where some of her family had ‘the sight’ or ‘Second Sight’. Possibly because the nurse, like Christie, can see what will occur in the novel, she tells the suicidal Angus MacWhirter that God may need him, and is proven correct.

In many respects, Christie adapts psychological views to match Christian morality. That itself may appear to be one answer, but it is not so, for on matters such as free will Christianity offers a range of explanations. As a consequence, Christie’s work can in part be seen as an aspect of debate within inter-war Christianity, including English Christianity. In A Pocket Full of Rye (1953), the Calvinistic, very elderly Miss Ramsbottom, who is committed to missionary work as the ‘“Christian spirit”’, refers to Marple as ‘“frivolous, like all Church of England people”’. Christie was Church of England. Alongside Poirot’s concern for psychoanalysis, there is Marple’s blunter focus on, and denunciation of, wickedness, one that is more to the fore than with most of the clerical detective novelists of the period such as Ronald Knox and Victor Whitechurch: they generally left their cassocks at home. In A Pocket Full of Rye, Marple remarks ‘“This is a wicked murderer, Inspector Neele, and the wicked should not go unpunished”’, and Neele replies ‘“That is an unfashionable belief nowadays. Not that I don’t agree with you”’. Christie is speaking through both of them.

Aside from wickedness, the frequency with which murderers are castigated for ‘conceit and self-confidence’, as in The ABC Murders, is instructive. In that novel, Poirot seeks to psychoanalyse and profile the murderer after his first murder:

‘In one sense we know nothing about him – in another sense we know already a good deal…. A great need to express his personality. I see him as a child possibly ignored and passed over – I see him growing up with an inward sense of inferiority – warring with a sense of injustice – I see that inner urge – to assert himself
– to focus attention on himself ever becoming stronger …’

This approach is very deliberately contrasted with what is presented as a Holmesian one; although Sherlock also relied heavily on pre-Freudian psychology. This is to a degree that not all television and film versions of Poirot stories have fully represented. The point is very much driven home in ‘The Plymouth Express’ (1923), with the emphasis for Poirot on psychology, and not ‘scene of the crime’ footmarks and cigarette-ash. Inspector Japp, in contrast, focuses in this story on finding clues along the route. Based on Lestrade, Japp was introduced in the Mysterious Affair at Styles and appeared in seven Christie novels, always alongside Poirot, finally appearing in One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (1940); although being mentioned thereafter. In The ABC Murders, Poirot jests with Hastings:

‘The crime was committed by a man of medium height with red hair and a cast in the left eye. He limps slightly on the right foot and has a mole just below the shoulder-blade’.
… ‘For the moment I was completely taken in’.

‘You fix upon me a look of dog-like devotion and demand of me a pronouncement à la Sherlock Holmes … it is always the clue that attracts you. Alas that he did not smoke the cigarette and leave the ash, and then step in it with a shoe that has nails of a curious pattern’.

In ‘The Kidnapped Prime Minister’, Poirot, to the anger of all, refuses to leave Boulogne to search for clues to the kidnapping such as tyre marks, cigarette-ends, and fallen matches because he must focus on a logical solution, which he does successfully. Similarly, in Death on the Nile, the murderer, as Poirot notes, is not so obliging as to drop a cuff link, a cigarette end, cigar ash, a handkerchief, lipstick, or a hair slide. Instead, in a comparison that would have come naturally to Christie, Poirot compares himself to an archaeologist clearing away the extraneous matter. This involves, as he notes in Mrs McGinty’s Dead (1952), using a hunting image, starting, as it were, several birds in a covert, as if seeking to create a form of creative disruption that will lead to the revelation of the truth. The misdirections provided through, and by, possible culprits are a form of this creative disruption as well as a response to it.

In practice, Christie offers a degree of caricature, as the Holmes stories include psychological insights, but she is correct to draw attention to a contrast. And not always simply with the detective. In ‘The Market Basing Mystery’ (1923), Dr Giles tells Japp that he cannot give the time of death to an hour as ‘“those wonderful doctors in detective stories do”’.

And so also with other novelists. In J. Jefferson Farjeon’s Seven Dead (1939), Inspector Kendall, a figure of brusque intelligence and determined drive, remarks, ‘“When you don’t play the violin, or haven’t got a wooden leg, smartness is all you’ve got to fall back on”’, and says of Inspector Black: ‘“a good man. He doesn’t play the violin, either, or quote Shakespeare”’.

In a conversation in The Clocks (1963), not one of Christie’s better novels, Poirot gives Colin Lamb a long account of what he likes in ‘“criminal fiction”’. Anna Katharine Green’s The Leavenworth Case (1878) is praised for ‘“period atmosphere … studied and deliberate melodrama”’ and ‘“an excellent psychological study”’ of the murderer. Poirot then moves on to Maurice Leblanc’s The Adventures of Arsene Lupin (1905–7), which he finds preposterous and unreal, but also as having vigour and humour, which is indeed the case. Gaston Leroux’s The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1907–8) is approved of from start to finish, not least for its logical approach. Charges that the novel is unfair are dismissed as there is truth concealed by a cunning use of words, which is very much Christie’s technique. Poirot notes that that masterpiece is now almost forgotten. The selection Christie offers in the account is scarcely insular, nor the approach xenophobic.

{…}
International malice and domestic conspiracy is an important context for some of Christie’s early work, and to this we will turn shortly. There is no but here, for categories overlapped, strands interacted, and there was no tightly defined set of parameters. Yet it is also important to see Christie in terms of the strength of a middle-brow reading public who wanted good stories and found detective fiction an established means to that end. This public was the key to the genre. At the same time, what this interest would mean in the post-war world was unclear, and authors developed their characters, plots, and styles, in the context of probing a readership that was resetting after that cataclysmic conflict.

And that probing was necessary in order to earn money, as Christie recorded making only an advance of £25 from The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and that from a half share of the series rights which were sold to The Weekly Times. Her novel, however, had introduced two stars, herself and Hercule.


The featured image shows, “Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti,” by Tamara de Lempicka; painted in 1925.

American Anorexia: The Thin Mind Casts No Shadow

1.

There are at least two definitions for barbarism, neither sympathetic to the innate dignity of the human person. Barbarism is extreme cruelty or brutality, evoking mindless savagery, callous disregard for life, and a cold-blooded viciousness that brooks no mercy; where barbarism rules, culture and civilization will inevitably be corrupted and crushed. History is witness to this; barbarism has existed since God first created man. Whether it has been brother against brother, tribe against tribe, nation against nation, ruler against subjects, it is only the scale that differs, the results are always the same: civility and culture are early victims of decay, oppression, persecution, and inevitably, proscription.

Barbarism is the antithesis of civilization and the destroyer of culture, though contrary to what one might assume, while lacking in objective principles, it adopts pseudo-principles expressed as saccharine euphemisms to justify its brutal disregard. The most barbaric acts of oppression have always been justified through abstractions—utopian phantasms achievable only through the coarsest application of totalitarian diktat and force. In the post-modern world few are wont to believe there are barbarians and barbarism, except perhaps in the movies; but, to use the words of Thomas Sowell, “The barbarians are not at the gates. They are inside the gates—and have academic tenure, judicial appointments, government grants, and control of the movies, television, and other media.”

The twenty-year war, disastrously lost, in Afghanistan exemplifies what Eighteenth century Scottish philosopher David Hume claimed in A Treatise of Human Nature:

“When our own nation is at war with any other, we detest them under the character of cruel, perfidious, unjust and violent: but always esteem ourselves and allies equitable, moderate and merciful. If the general of our enemies be successful, ‘tis with difficulty we allow him the figure and character of a man. He is a sorcerer: he has a communication with daemons … he is bloody-minded and takes a pleasure in death and destruction. But if the success be on our side, our commander has all the opposite good qualities, and is a pattern of virtue, as well as of courage and conduct. His treachery we call policy: His cruelty is an evil inseparable from war. In short, every one of his faults we either endeavor to extenuate, or dignify it with the name of that virtue, which approaches it. ‘Tis evident that the same method of thinking runs thro’ common life.”

According to David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human, Hume quite elegantly described what “present-day social psychologists call outgroup bias—the tendency to favor members of one’s own community and discriminate against outsiders (otherwise known as the ‘us and them’ mentality).” When things go badly for our group, tribe, etc., it is due to some perceived injustice—racism the current cri de coeur—but when the shoe is on the other foot, it is because the other brought it upon themselves, they deserved what they got.

“Hume takes the idea of outgroup bias even further by arguing that sometimes we are so strongly biased against others that we stop seeing them as human beings.” He described “three powerful sources of bias, arguing that we naturally favor people who resemble us, who are related to us, or who are nearby. The people who are ‘different’—who are another color, or who speak a different language, or who practice a different religion—people who are not our blood relations or who live far away, are unlikely to spontaneously arouse the same degree of concern in you as members of your family or immediate community.”

Or, one could add, those who differ ideologically, politically, religiously, or any of a myriad of social and cultural diversions.

Immanuel Kant, a German academic, saw things differently. He recognized the human tendency to regard people as means to an end, thus (though he never used the term) dehumanizing others, effectively categorizing them as subhuman creatures. He wrote, “man should not address other human beings in the same way as animals but should regard them as having an equal share in the gifts of nature.” “Equal share” sounds far too much like equity which proves no small comfort. When we regard people as a means, we suspend the moral obligation to treat them as fully human. This then grants free conscience to cancel, ostracize, or exterminate such subhuman creatures as we please.

What is it within the human psyche that permits such dehumanization? How can we objectively know that all people, no matter their superficial distinctiveness, are full members of homo sapiens? Smith writes, “Although we now know that all people are members of the same species, this awareness doesn’t run very deep, and we have a strong unconscious (‘automatic’) tendency to think of foreigners as subhuman creatures. This gut-level assessment often calls the shots for our feelings and behavior. We can bring ourselves to kill foreigners because, deep down, we don’t believe that they are human.”

Closer to home, dehumanization is starkly presented through distraction by abstraction: it is no longer your neighbor, it is not your friend, nor your brother or sister, son or daughter. No, it is the unvaccinated (show me your papers,) the undocumented (no papers required,) the insurrectionists, white supremacists, and domestic terrorists (who they might be is undocumented) that have become the focus, the individual is insignificant, it is the group, the tribe, the cult, the mob that must garner our undivided attention as the greatest existential threat to democracy or its victim.

Smith cites John T. MacCurdy, The Psychology of War (1918), who noted when tensions are high, “[t]he unconscious idea that the foreigner belongs to a rival species becomes a conscious belief that he is a pestiferous type of animal.” There are more than enough examples to prove MacCurdy’s point. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, for whom he dedicated it “to all those who did not live to tell it.” Mao Zedong’s cannibalistic “Cultural Revolution,“ resulting in 60-70 million deaths. The ongoing Islamic jihad against the infidel: “Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve” (Koran 8:55).

Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, offers a deeply grim portrayal of dehumanization from his experiences in four concentration camps, including Auschwitz near Oświęcim, Poland. It is said that there were days in summer when it snowed in Oświęcim, so heavy were the ashes emitting from the furnaces cremating the dead.

And yet, Frankl survived and wrote what Harold S. Kushner described as one of the most religious sentences written in the twentieth century:

“We have come to know Man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”

Tragically, history is replete with similar dehumanizing pathologies; nothing has changed, man’s barbaric nature continues, hellbent on destroying himself.

2.

According to Richard John Neuhaus, “Culture is the root of politics, and religion is the root of culture.” This proverb commands a hierarchy whose order of importance is much more than illusory. Politics is not the root of the cultural tree but its fruit, culture is not the root of religion but the moral product of reason and objective truth.

Thus, politics to be good and just must be rooted in a culture grounded in natural law and moral and ethical tradition. For the West, for more than a millennium, such tradition has been monotheistic, predominately Judeo-Christian, which philosopher Peter Kreeft, How to Destroy Western Civilization, notes, at its core has long professed that “[e]very man is an end in himself. Man is the only creature God created for his own sake. Cultures, civilizations, nations, and even religions exist for man, not man for them. And they are judged by how well they serve man, not by how well man serves them.”

This, of course, echoes Scripture: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27) which by all indications modern man has either willfully forgotten, or as more likely, has narcissistically chosen to ignore. Yet, ever more so, a higher probability rests in man choosing a god more profane, one less intransigent, certainly less creative, willing to bend the truth to fit the progressive narrative.

Every country has a civic religion and America’s civic religion, since its founding, has been wedded to Natural Law and Judeo-Christian tradition—”the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” as written in the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. There are people who claim they are not religious, that belief in a transcendent being is superstitious nonsense. Thus, they will argue, faith expressed in the public square is prohibited by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which is fallacious on its face—but they know that as well as anyone. Those who insist on ramming the Bible and religious dogma down everyone’s throats are cultists, evangelical bigots, Bible thumpers, primitive deplorable fools.

The enlightened secular humanists say and act as if they have no faith, and yet, their ideology, now pervasive on the progressive left, is much more a zealous faith—a zealotry which tolerates no dissent. The secularists, for the moment, have won and their zealots (the Woke Cancel Culture mob) control the language, what can and cannot be said.

Former speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan said in an interview, “I remember when the gay marriage decision was handed down by the Supreme Court, the Harrisburg Patriot in Harrisburg, PA wrote an Op Ed saying, ‘We are no longer going to carry letters to the editor that oppose gay marriage because it is now hate speech.’ So, if you dissent from the orthodoxy of this secular (zealous) religion, you are a hater, a bigot, a racist—pick the term. And you are a bad person who must be silenced. And that proves my point, that their religious zealotry is a lot—talk about someone hammering a point of view down your throat—not only do they hammer it down your throat, but they also sew your mouth shut so you can’t say anything about it.”

Though they deny it, the left believes this, it is their orthodoxy, their religious faith: they are right, you are wrong, but, not only are you wrong, what you believe is hateful. Beliefs that have been around for millennia have become anathema and those who continue to believe are haters and must be silenced.

Cruelty is not limited to the barbarian. Any man, under parlous circumstances, can be cruel to other men. For the main, men are tempered by religion and a moral code, thus, such cruelty generally appears coincident with personal danger or tyranny. “And if anywhere in history masses of common and kindly men become cruel,”

Chesterton would argue, “it almost certainly does not mean that they are serving something in itself tyrannical (for why should they?). It almost certainly does mean that something that they rightly value is in peril, such as the food of their children, the chastity of their women, or the independence of their country. And when something is set before them that is not only enormously valuable, but also quite new, the sudden vision, the chance of winning it, the chance of losing it, drive them mad. It has the same effect in the moral world that the finding of gold has in the economic world. It upsets values, and creates a kind of cruel rush.”

Elsewhere, Chesterton wrote:

“When I was about seven years old I used to think the chief modern danger was a danger of over-civilisation. I am inclined to think now that the chief modern danger is that of a slow return towards barbarism…. Civilisation in the best sense merely means the full authority of the human spirit over all externals. Barbarism means the worship of those externals in their crude and unconquered state.”

As if he were writing these words in the here and now, Chesterton writes as if of the new barbarism:

“Whenever men begin to talk much and with great solemnity about the forces outside man, the note of it is barbaric. When men talk much about heredity and environment they are almost barbarians. The modern men of science are many of them almost barbarians…. For barbarians (especially the truly squalid and unhappy barbarians) are always talking about these scientific subjects from morning till night. That is why they remain squalid and unhappy; that is why they remain barbarians.”

CS Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man, “We reduce things to mere nature in order that we may ‘conquer’ them” which serves to prove man’s desire for a profane god that can be controlled, or at the very least, modified to suit. The crisis of the West, according to Lewis, is really a crisis of reason, a crisis of reason’s ability to know nature, that at the origins of modern science, it was necessary to think of nature in quantitative—measurable and predictable—rather than qualitative terms in order to gain power over it.

“We are always conquering Nature because ‘Nature’ is the name for what we have, to some extent, conquered. The price of conquest is to treat a thing as mere Nature.” So, we reduce nature to quantity so we can control it, but whenever we do so, we lose some of nature’s quality. “Every conquest over Nature increases her domain. The stars do not become Nature till we can weigh and measure them: the soul does not become Nature till we can psychoanalyze her. The wresting of powers from Nature is also the surrendering of things to Nature.”

Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) in Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, is even more explicit, amplifying in many ways what Lewis had only imagined:

“Less visible, but not … less disturbing, are the possibilities of self-manipulation that man has acquired. He has investigated the farthest recesses of his being, he has deciphered the components of the human being, and now he is able, so to speak, to ‘construct’ man on his own. This means that man enters the world, no longer a gift of the Creator, but as the product of our activity—and a product that can be selected according to requirements that we ourselves stipulate. In this way, the splendor of the fact that he is the image of God—the source of his dignity and of his inviolability—no longer shines upon this man; his only splendor is the power of human capabilities. Man is nothing more now than the image of man—but of what man?”

“As long as this process stops short of the final stage,” Lewis wrote, “we may well hold that the gain outweighs the loss,” because it is true that the reduction has given us significant scientific benefits in medicine and technology.

“But as soon as we take the final step of reducing our own species to the level of mere Nature, the whole process is stultified, for this time the being who stood to gain and the being who has been sacrificed are one and the same. This is one of the many instances where to carry a principle to what seems its logical conclusion produces absurdity.… it is the magician’s bargain: give up our soul, get power in return. But once our souls, that is, ourselves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us. We shall in fact be slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls.”

The obvious questions one should ask are what prevents us from reducing ourselves to mere nature like the rest of things? What prevents us from reducing ourselves to mere quantity and not quality? The truth, readily available to eyes that wish to see, “if man chooses to treat himself as raw material, raw material he will be: not raw material to be manipulated, as he fondly imagined, by himself, but by mere appetite, that is, mere Nature, in the person of his de-humanized Conditioners.”

We have reduced modern man to mere quantity; no longer do we see man a rational being with an immortal soul. No more is man made in the image and likeness of his Creator, man has been quantitatively redefined, reconstituted into whatever image he desires—transgenderism and sexual orientation perhaps the most obvious— the inestimable quality of man thus reduced to subjective material value. And, sadly, that is not worth much. The elements in the human body are worth about $585. According to one source, 99% of the mass of the human body consists of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus, worth approximately $576; all the other elements taken together are worth only about $9 more.

“A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.” Ratzinger, in raising the alarm, noted how we are living in a period of great dangers, “During the past century, the possibilities available to man for dominion over matter have grown in a manner we may truly call unimaginable. But the fact that he has power over the world has also meant that man’s destructive power has reached dimensions that can sometimes make us shudder. Here, one thinks spontaneously of the threat of terrorism, this new war without national borders and without lines of battle.… this has induced even states under the rule of law to have recourse to internal systems of security similar to those that once existed only in dictatorships; and yet the feeling remains that all these precautions will never really be enough, since a completely global control is neither possible nor desirable.” He goes on to say that the truest and gravest danger at the present moment is the imbalance between technological possibilities and moral energy. “The security we all need as a presupposition of our freedom and dignity cannot ultimately be derived from technical systems of control. It can come only from the moral strength of man, and where this is lacking or insufficient, the power man has will be transformed more and more into a power of destruction.”

3.

The brutal dehumanization experienced under hard totalitarian regimes, however, is not the only form of barbarism, there is a softer, more insidious form, which—like cooking a frog by slowly turning up the heat—relies on the inattention of the masses to the soft tyranny inexorably imposed by those who would wield power over them. Zbigniew Janowski knows well from personal experience the brutality and death that comes from that particularly pernicious form of barbarism which he describes in Homo Americanus. But perhaps because of his own lived experience he also recognizes more than many in the West, especially in America, that liberal democracy can itself be as barbaric and cruel, especially without a strong moral compass to temper the powerful urges of those (Lewis’ Controllers) who would wield power.

“The absence of brutality and death in soft-totalitarianism makes it more difficult to perceive the evil of equality.” He notes that though the barbarism experienced under communism provided fertile ground for opposition and dissidents, “the other reason why dissent grew under communism was a strong sense of moral right and wrong taught by religion.” In Poland, “where the Church was strong, ideological opposition was unprecedented.”

Janowski believes the rapid decline in religiosity among Americans may be one reason why this country is well on its way to becoming a totalitarian state.

“Young Americans’ sense of right and wrong seems weak, and if it is strong, it is often limited to students who graduated from religious, predominantly Catholic, schools. One can add that the weak perception of evil may stem from the fact that Americans have not experienced the atrocities that other nations have; they don’t even know about them.”

Janowski’s point is important. Most young Americans have no clear recollection of barbarism on American soil, even worse, they have little or no understanding of it, thus, no comprehension of the barbaric underpinnings of either communism or liberal democracy. The twenty year “war” in Afghanistan has long lost any significance to those born in the twenty-first century. What precipitated it has long been forgotten, memory holed by those self-same tenured academics, judicial activists, leftist politicians, and the complicit media.

Many of those young Americans, if asked, have little awareness of or concern for the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. Too many have been indoctrinated into believing that any mention of the radicalized Islamic terrorists who committed the heinous attacks is evidence of Islamophobia and overt racial bigotry—quite ignorant of the fact that Islam is neither race nor ethnicity, but rather, both a religion and a political system (Sharia). Islam is the name of a religion, just as Christianity, Judaism, or Buddhism; none favor or are peculiar to a particular race or ethnicity.

Josef Pieper, German Catholic philosopher, once reflecting upon the power of language, wrote, “Words convey reality” which is eminently true as far as such a brief aphorism can connote. However, precision and truth matter; words tossed carelessly together without thought convey nothing of substance.

Orwell, in his classic essay “Politics and the English Language” (1946) said as much when critiquing the dismal state of the English language. He wrote that quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities were common: staleness of imagery and a lack of precision. “The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not.”

I cannot help but add another, the writer intentionally writes in such a way as to obfuscate, confuse, deceive, or distort the message. Orwell decried the unthinking emptiness behind the rhetoric of the communist hacks of his day.

“This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.”

The West has gone soft and squishy. In a very real sense, the language has decayed so much it now quite completely contradicts Pieper’s otherwise sage proverb. Ideological gibberish has replaced precision in our language. Our language, as Ryszard Legutko recently wrote, has become extremely boring: a monotonous repetition of the same phrases and slogans. But, in fact, it is far worse than that, for our language has become foul, vulgar, mendacious nonsense borne out of vincible ignorance and sloth. Interestingly, as much as the tenured academics, power elites, corporate oligarchs, and propagandizing media would insist otherwise, such sins of omission and commission are not relegated solely to the unwashed, uneducated deplorables. A degree does not preclude vincible ignorance; any reasonable person could, based on encounters with teachers, students, and graduates, come to the somewhat droll conclusion that it positively guarantees it.

In recalling his years under communism, Legutko notes, “The purpose of the political language was mostly ritualistic. The language was a major tool in performing collective rituals whose aim was to build cohesion in the society and close it, both politically and mentally, within one ideological framework.”

And yet, perhaps it was Orwell who said it best, “modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier—even quicker, once you have the habit—to say ‘In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that’ than to say ‘I think.’”

It has been said before but bears repeating, “Thinking is hard work.” As Andrew Younan, Thoughtful Theism: Redeeming Reason in an Irrational Age, explains:

“That’s why, if I can make a mean generalization, so few people do it. Believing is, in itself, pretty easy, though oftentimes the consequences of belief can be deeply challenging. Having an opinion is the easiest thing of all. Thinking is the process whereby our minds attempt to arrive at a true understanding of reality, which, if successful, leads to knowledge.” Arriving at the truth is a matter of thinking, not of feeling as so many are convinced. Younan adds, “thinking isn’t just hard work; it takes a lot of time and patience as well…. The truth of reality is not bound by your personal ability to argue or understand. Reality is what it is, independent of anyone’s competence, and the real goal, if you are an honest person, is not to win an argument but to understand the world.”

Of course, truth is, so few living today know how or bother much to think, it is far easier to sit back and leave the thinking to others. We have come to depend on experts, to trust the “science” without question. We forget or have forgotten to trust in our innate ability to reason, to think for ourselves.

“There’s a lot more to a human being than meets the eye, and someone can be brilliant in one area and make enormous mistakes in reasoning or leaps of logic in another area. This includes your parents, your pastor, and all of your teachers.”

Education (government/public) no longer educates, no longer trains minds to think and to reason, it indoctrinates, its purpose to produce compliant drones incapable of independent thought. Younan concludes with this advice to young students, “This has everything to do with you, and you have to trust that your own mind is capable of working through every side and of finding an answer if there is an answer that can be found” which, somewhat paradoxically, leads to a final thought: no one reads anymore. No one reads for the same reason they no longer think: reading requires thinking and both demand strenuous mental exercise. We have grown complacent and comfortable in our ignorance. They call it the boob tube for a reason. As long as we have three hots and a cot and a smartphone to play Candy Crush we are smugly satisfied.

There is a prevailing mythos with respect to higher education which presents degreed individuals as in the majority. This is, at best an enormous overstatement. According to 2019 census data, the percentage of individuals 25-44 years old having earned an undergraduate or post-graduate degree was 37.1 percent for the United States. Broken down by state or district, the indicators represent where college degree holders live, not where they were educated. As might be expected, the District of Columbia holds top spot with 70.4%, Mississippi takes the bottom spot at 22.7%. Thirty-one states are below the national average, East Coast states are among the highest, ranging between 40-52%.

There are three important takeaways from this: first, the preponderance, almost two-thirds, of those within the reported age group are not college educated and live for the most part somewhere between the two dense urban coasts; second, if the output of the academy is predominantly socialist cant, then what does that say for the ideological mindset of the denizens of the District of Columbia; and third, given the underwhelming product of the overwhelming majority of academic institutions in this country, one would be well within their rights to ask who is the more ignorant? Ask a farmer in flyover country who was the first president of the United States and odds are good his answer will be George Washington. Ask a student or a recent graduate the same question and the odds of a correct answer are no more than one in ten, if that. The truth is education has become a tool for inculcating the progressive ideology into the minds and hearts of our youth.

Orwell called it thoughtcrime: politically unorthodox thoughts, such as unspoken beliefs and doubts that contradict the tenets of the dominant ideology; thus, the government controlled the speech, the actions, and the thoughts of its citizens.

In Homo Americanus, Janowski provides further insight. “The danger of the new dialectical thinking is that we no longer operate in the realm of facts, physical reality, established social norms, shared moral and intellectual assumptions, or even a common understanding of the normal and abnormal, sane and insane, but we must operate in the realm of someone else’s mental universe, which we are forced to ‘respect.’ … My perception of the world and, therefore, my existence is a psychological onslaught of someone’s perception of the same world, and my crime lies in that I do not recognize that someone else feels differently.”

The Venerable Fulton J. Sheen wrote in Communism and the Conscience of the West (1948) of the decline of historical liberalism and the rise of the antireligious spirit:

“It is characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unconscious of the tragedy. Humanity in a crisis is generally insensitive to the gravity of the times in which it lives. Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much self-accusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves in which to measure their times. … The tragedy is not that the hairs of our civilization are gray; it is rather that we fail to see that they are.”

He went on, citing Reinhold Niebuhr, “Nothing is more calculated to deceive men in regard to the nature of life than a civilization whose cement of social cohesion consists of the means of production and consumption.”

Such calculated deception is now evident in most of the West. Nearly two decades earlier and ninety years in the past, Sheen observed in Old Errors and New Labels (1931), “[t]here has sprung up a disturbing indifference to truth, and a tendency to regard the useful as the true, and the impractical as the false. The man who can make up his mind when proofs are presented to him is looked upon as a bigot, and the man who ignores proofs and the search for truth is looked upon as broadminded and tolerant.”

4.

At its core, barbarism sees the world as through a carnival fun-house mirror—without the fun part, dark, distorted and ugly—much as O’Brien tells Winston in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four:

“The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love and justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything we shall destroy—everything. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

The core of every totalitarian ideology, be it Marxism, socialism, communism, fascism, or any variant ism rests on the idea that there is no afterlife. As John Lennon so fatuously put it, “no hell, no heaven, no religion, too.” Without the promise of life everlasting, there can be no incentive to be obedient, to behave rationally or morally. Janowski, referring to Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler’s fictionalized account of the Stalinist trials and confessions, reinforces O’Brien’s declaration:

“Fear, and fear only, can make people obey in this life. If you rebel, you will be killed, but before we kill you, we will give you an option. You can make a sacrifice for the sake of others—let your death be a warning to others not to rebel. … Your confession and death may even be considered acts of sacrifice for the sake of humanity. Otherwise, you will die uselessly.”

This then is the true face, or the three faces of barbarism, of true evil. In Greek mythology, Cerberus, described most often as a three-headed dog with a serpent’s tail, guards the gates of hell. “Like the meanest junkyard dog imaginable, he lunges to devour anyone who tries to escape.” What do his three heads represent? Power, pride, and prejudice.

Power seems to be an integral part of our humanity. Dwight Longenecker, Immortal Combat: Confronting the Heart of Darkness, describes power as an innate characteristic of man’s free will.

“It is not just that I have power. It feels like I am power, and I assume that the exercise of my power is justified. This is a basic instinct. It is a key to survival. It is unquestioned. I, therefore, see nothing wrong with exercising my power to its greatest extent. To do as I please is as elementary as the need to breathe, eat, and drink, to procreate and live. It never once occurs to me that my will should be curtailed and my power limited in any way. Furthermore, because I have the power to choose, my choice must be the right choice. I must be right. There can be no other option.”

Rational minds can immediately see how such an instinctual human attribute can lead and has led to tragic, too often barbaric abuses of power.

“The total conviction that I am right is the heart of pride, and pride is the second head of the hell hound Cerberus.” Pride is not vanity or arrogance, these are only masks. “Real pride is the overwhelming, underlying, unshakeable, unchallenged, unquestioned, total, and complete conviction that I am right.… Pride is the total, complete, foundational assumption, before all else and above all else, that I am right, that my choices are right, that my beliefs are right, that my decisions are right, that everything I do is right. This complete conviction that I am right is deeply rooted in my character. … Furthermore, power and pride are so basic and deeply embedded in the foundations of who we are that we cannot see them. Power and pride seem like part of the genetic code.… They are deep down. They are invisible.”

“This invisibility of power and pride reveals the third head of Cerberus: prejudice. Prejudice is intertwined with pride and power. To have a prejudice is to prejudge. It means our perceptions are biased: we view the world through tinted glasses. We do not judge objectively, but rather, we approach life’s challenges with our ideas and opinions preloaded. Power allows us to choose, and pride assumes that our choice was the right choice. Therefore, everything in life, from the lunch menu to the news headlines, comes to us through our preexisting assumptions that we have chosen well, that we are right.”

Overweening power, pride, and prejudice are the hallmarks of tyrants, oligarchs, autocrats, and totalitarian regimes. Cerberus may have been a Greek myth, but his heads are with us still. We are living in barbaric times, where the leviathan state threatens to consume the West, including, most noticeably, America. Author Ayn Rand once warned, “We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission, which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.” That stage has arrived.

Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, famously quipped that “The most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” The American people have forgotten his admonition. They have forgotten because they have become complacent in their abundance and the comfort such abundance affords them. They have been so comfortable for such a very long time that far too many no longer value liberty and freedom in the way Americans once did, rather, far too many of the American people give greater weight to safety and security, or at least the illusion of it, more than they value freedom and liberty. And the government has taken notice. Ask yourself, with every government overreach, every authoritarian diktat, every tyranny imposed, every right disposed, what is the government’s justification for it? The answer is ironically, for the greater good, for your health and safety, etc., etc.

One example will serve to illustrate the growing tyranny of the state. There is an alarming motion, put forth by the state media and public health experts, to identify and separate the unvaccinated from the vaccinated, to deny services and to isolate those who have chosen not be receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Some pundits have gone so far as to say the unvaccinated deserve to die. At the very least, the unvaccinated should be identified (Star of David?) and, I suppose, cry out “Unclean, unclean” whenever in public. Now, where have I seen that before…

“The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46).

The founders of the American idea thought they had designed a limited government subservient to the will of the people. John Adams, the first vice-president and second president, famously wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The barbarians are inside the gates, and they are neither moral nor religious, they are greedy for power and will do what it takes to obtain and maintain their tyranny and control.

What is less clear to the American people is who is in control. One thing is becoming increasingly obvious: it is not the three branches enshrined in the Constitution. The true power resides in the administrative state, the uncontrollable, unaccountable, unelected bureaucratic ministries that have come to regulate every aspect of American life. And what largesse the bureaucrats provide, the bureaucrats will take away, or as Gerald R. Ford, the 40th vice-president and 38th president, admonished:

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” But, it is the words of Benjamin Franklin, when asked what form of government the founders had created, which should be well remembered, “A republic… if you can keep it.”

Seventy-three years ago, Fulton Sheen saw America for what it was and what it was yet to be. “America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance. It is not. It is suffering from tolerance: tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so much overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broad-minded. The man who can make up his mind in an orderly way, as a man might make up his bed, is called a bigot; but a man who cannot make up his mind, any more than he can make up for lost time, is called tolerant and broad-minded.

“A bigoted man is one who refuses to accept a reason for anything; a broad-minded man is one who will accept anything for a reason — providing it is not a good reason. It is true that there is a demand for precision, exactness, and definiteness, but it is only for precision in scientific measurement, not in logic.”

Americans are suffering from the severest form of intellectual anorexia. We are told we are intellectually too fat; we are not, we are too thin. We have enslaved our minds, our hearts, and our spirits on a diet of free and easy. It was once said of America that its people cast a big shadow. No more. We have become too thin to cast any shadow at all. The worst of it is no one cares. And that is the surest sign of death and the onset of a new age of barbarism.


Deacon Chuck Lanham is a Catholic author, theologian and philosopher, a jack-of-all-trades like his father (though far from a master of anything) and a servant of God. He is the author of The Voices of God: Hearing God in the Silence, Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories, and four volumes of Collected Essays on religion, faith, morality, theology, and philosophy.


The featured image shows, “TV Sport,” by Pawel Kuczynski; painted in 2017.

The Necessity Of Opposition

Under communism, the political system in which I spent the first four decades of my life, there was no political opposition. This statement requires a short explanation. After WWII ended and Poland found herself under a de-facto Soviet occupation, there were anti-communist soldiers who continued their struggle for independence. During the entire communist period, occasional protests broke out against the regime’s economic policy, censorship, religious persecution etc. When the system became less brutal over time, there appeared small groups whom Western journalists called “the dissidents” and who protested against the regime and demanded its democratization. At one point, a powerful Solidarity Union emerged but soon was crushed by martial law imposed in 1983.

There was, of course, the Catholic Church, which in my country was and had been for a long time a place of refuge, a carrier of historical and cultural continuity, and a source of spiritual life for the believers and non-believers. But within the system, as the communist constitution constructed it, there was no place for the official opposition. This does not mean there was only one political party. Obviously, the communist party had a constitutionally inscribed “leading role.” But there were other parties, for instance, the Peasants’ Party, but they were not the opposition to the communists, rather their allies or, to be more precise, their satellites.

The communists had a justification for such a political construction. The argument was as follows. The communist revolution made a historical change. Poland was on the road to a system where there would be no exploitation, and everyone would receive everything according to his needs. The Communist Party leads the way to a better world. Who needs the opposition? Everyone who accepts communism and wants to work for a better communist world is welcome. The opposition to this process would be absurd and dangerous: absurd because the process, as Marx et al. had proved, is inevitable, and dangerous because it would mean turning us back to the world of exploitation, inequalities, injustice, colonialism, racism, imperialism, class struggle, etc.

Many people accepted this argument, not on its merits, but because challenging it was risky. One could lose one’s job, be imprisoned, or suffer other unpleasant consequences. When a larger group challenged this, as the Solidarity Union did, it became even riskier for the entire country because the communists always had the last word – the Soviet tanks.

Living in a society with no opposition was a peculiar experience. For one thing, it was extremely boring: a monotonous repetition of the same phrases and slogans, which did not serve communication, or if it did, it was in a limited way. The purpose of the political language was mostly ritualistic. The language was a major tool in performing collective rituals whose aim was to build cohesion in the society and close it, both politically and mentally, within one ideological framework.

Another feature of the system was an omnipresent sense of the enemy. The official ideology and its rituals were telling us that the nation is more and more united by and attracted to communist ideas. Still, at the same time, we had to be more and more aware of the enemies who wanted to destroy this harmony and plotted against our communist fatherland. I remember a teacher warning the high-school students before they went to a West-European country that they could become a possible object of the foreign intelligence agents. She advised them not to answer any questions regarding their school or families. And the teacher’s behavior was not considered extravagant.

One of the joys of being a dissident or joining a non-communist movement, such as the Solidarity Union, was that one could have access to a different language and talk to people who did not treat language as a repetitive ritual but as a tool of communication. Also, the problem of the enemies disappeared or rather was reversed. It was now the communists that were the enemies. Apart from them, the world did not look threatening.

At that time, it never occurred to me that the Western world may produce a society and a state of mind where the opposition as a permanent constituent of political and social life may disappear or become unwelcome. The assumption of my confidence in the vibrant state of the Western world was that its societies were pluralistic, that is, that the Left, the Right and the Center continued to be in a dynamic equilibrium, not only politically, but also culturally; that is, that they have grown out of and cherish different traditions, have different sensibilities, use a slightly different language and employ a different cultural idiom. But the assumption turned out false.

The danger of homogeneity has been looming over Europe and America for several centuries. The inherent tendencies of the Western world – egalitarianism, democratization, spectacular progress of technology, internationalization of the economy, the weakening of boundaries and measures – could not but lead to homogenization. All these processes had to undermine social diversity and were bound to make the societies more and more alike. This might be a paradox: the more accessible the world we live in, the more homogeneous it becomes. In other words, the larger it becomes, the smaller it is.

The problem of the opposition is a tricky one. On the one hand, the existence of opposition indicates that a large part of the society is represented, that it may influence its development, and that its voice contributes to a better grasp of the problems with which every society has to grapple. On the other hand, when the division between the government and the opposition is too big, it may not only destabilize the system but may prompt one of the conflicting sides to eliminate the other, not necessarily physically, but to marginalize them – intimidate, impose severe legal restrictions targeting them, and ostracize them, etc. – so that they practically disappear as a political and cultural opponent. This will generate the same results as a society without opposition – the destruction of language and an excessive sense of the enemy.

The communists, in their logic, were right in undertaking a crack-down on the Solidarity Union because there was no way these two sides could find some modus vivendi and modus operandi. The differences were too basic, and the objectives – sharply contradictory. Therefore, the communists found it necessary to present the Solidarity Union as an enemy and obliterate the language and symbols the Union used and equipped the Poles with.

How does this apply to a current situation? Suppose my diagnosis is correct and the Western world is sliding into deeper homogeneity, being reflected in the ideological proximity of the major political forces. In that case, it means we nowadays face a similar problem and should expect similar consequences. The political Left has dictated the agenda for the Western world: Socialists, Liberals, neo-Communists, Greens. The erstwhile conservative parties such as Christian Democrats have capitulated and have either incorporated the Left’s main points into their program or decided not to oppose and remain non-committal (which, in practical terms, is also a capitulation).

Today’s Left may differ from the Left of old in particular objectives and policies, but the frame of mind is similar: it aims at a radical restructuring of the society. Economic experiments of the old Left fizzled out, so there is no nationalization of industry and agriculture; no five-year plans are being considered. But the restructuring is equally radical: the Leftist governments, organizations, and movements have started waging war against a family based on the union of two sexes and in favor of multiple “gender” configurations; against the nation-state and in favor of what they call a multicultural society; against religion in the public square and in favor of radical secularization; against nationalisms and in favor of a united Europe; and in favor of a green world with zero-emission; in favor of ideological purity in art and education; against all forms of thoughtcrimes in history, literature, etc.

These and other items of this program meet with no opposition, that is, no legitimate opposition; those who question them are the dissidents, freaks, fascists, populists, and notorious troublemakers. This sweeping program of recycling our societies has been accepted by a tacit consensus of all major and not-so-major forces and institutions in the entire Western world. Why should there be any opposition, given that everybody who is somebody is in favor? The program leads to a better world without discrimination (who can object to this?), with harmonious coexistence of races, genders, and what-not (likewise), with a clean green environment (fantastic), with people’s minds freed from harmful stereotypes and prejudices (as above), with brotherly relations among groups (at last), etc. The opposition would only harm what looks like a beginning of a new promising stage in human history, superseding all previous ones in grandeur, justice, and human flourishing.

When the then president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, spoke in the European Parliament several years ago and told the MEPs, in rather delicate wording, how important the existence of the opposition was, the deputies felt offended and walked out of the hemicycle. Klaus’s words were considered offensive and foolish. In their opinion, modern European parliamentarianism represents a higher form: no longer a Hobbesian dog-eat-dog world, but consensual, dialogical cooperation of the people of goodwill. And this higher form is being jeopardized by irresponsible national firebrands who want to turn us back to an unpleasant world of partisanship and national egoisms.

Whoever, like myself, remembers the political system without opposition immediately recognizes the entire package, perhaps wrapped differently, with different details, but otherwise quite similar. The degree of linguistic rituals is so high that it almost becomes nauseating. When sometimes I have to spend too much time during the plenary in the Brussels or Strasbourg hemicycle, I feel I desperately need some detoxing to clean my speaking and thinking faculties of the EU gobbledygook.

The behavior of the MEPs confirms the second observation. The Left majority of Communists, Socialists, Liberals, Greens, and (former) Christian Democrats, an alliance that composes about seventy-five or eighty percent of the entire Parliament, looks at a minority with growing hostility. They do not treat these remaining twenty percent of their colleagues as opponents but as enemies that can be bullied, lied to, insulted, and kept in check by a cordon sanitaire. Their views are not legitimate views that can be debated, but absurd opinions that are, on the one hand, inconceivable, and on the other, odious and contemptible.

And the EU is just pars pro toto. In today’s Western world, the list of enemies increased and the number of possible crimes far surpassed those in the communist system. Today one can be accused of racism, sexism, eurocentrism, euroscepticism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, binarism, hate speech, logocentrism, patriarchy, phallocentrism, misogyny, ageism, speciesism, white supremacy, nationalism, illiberalism – and the list tends to grow. Some of the concepts – such as gender – have been particularly fecund in generating enemies: the more genders we have, the more enemies appear as each gender must have its own enemy.

Language has become loaded with these expressions, which are no longer qualified as invectives but have acquired the status of descriptive concepts. No wonder that the language of political exorcism has gained such popularity. One can insult at will in the belief that one describes. “The right-wing nationalist government in Warsaw, known for its homophobic and populist policies fueled primarily by the Catholic bigots, has launched another offensive of hate speech with clear racist undertones against the European values of openness, diversity, and the rule of law.” Perhaps the sentence is slightly exaggerated, but this is roughly what one usually finds in all major media in the Western world, from FAZ to NYT, from CNN to Deutsche Welle. The maxim audiatur et altera pars has been abandoned: there is no altera pars, so there is no point in giving it a hearing. Needless to say, the Poland they depict is not a real Poland.

This monotonous and deafening drumbeating spills over the entire society and penetrates all layers of social life. Among other things, it unleashed verbal and not only verbal aggression against the dissenters, which over the last decade has got out of control. And since the mainstream groups believe themselves to represent the enlightened world in its entirely, the dissidents are, by the same token, an inferior kind of people with inferior minds, and therefore, no foul word is too abusive to give them what they deserve. The fact that those inferior creatures can win elections or receive an important position or award seems not only unacceptable; it is a blasphemy that triggers an impetuous reaction of radical rejection and puts a protester in a state of frenzy. A massive hysteria and furious verbal aggression against president Trump were perhaps the most visible example of this. But such aggression can be directed against a university professor, an athlete, an actor, a priest, if their dissenting voices are heard.

No country is a better place to observe this than Poland. One of the few conservative governments in the Western world found itself outside the mainstream even before the party that composed it succeeded in winning the election. The Polish opposition to this government is, as they called themselves, “total,” which also expresses itself in the language it uses: escalation of insults, threats, wild accusations, physical attacks, all foul words one can think of shouted out loud in the face of those who are believed to be despicable puppets of Jarosław Kaczyński, that dangerous psychopathic despot – as they say – not really different from Hitler cum Stalin. No opposition in my country behaved like this before, not even when the neo-communists won the elections and ruled Poland for one parliamentary term. Whence this wild fury?

The answer is simple. One can easily imagine what goes on in the minds of the enemies of the conservative government. They believe they represent the world at large, and in a way, they do. They represent the real majority – the European Union, Hollywood, the Council of Europe, rock stars, international and national courts, TV celebrities, the United Nations, Ikea, Microsoft, Amazon, Angela Merkel, the new American administration, universities, media, governments, top models, parliaments. It is difficult to find any institution, corporation, or organization in the world that would not support them directly or indirectly. The “total” opposition knows they can do and say anything, and they would get away with it. When one looks at the Polish government from this perspective, it no longer presents itself as a legitimate government having a democratic legitimacy, trying to reform the system that had been inefficient, but as a villainous usurper, cancer on the healthy body of European politics. This is the government that, by its sheer existence, is a slap in the face of the European civilization. It had no right to come into being, and it has no right to exist. Insulting it and subverting it is a service to humanity.

The Polish government and its supporters are not powerful despots. They more resemble a David defending himself against an aggressive Goliath. But the problem is more general, and a reaction to Poland is just a symptom. The crucial question that one has to ask oneself today is whether this Goliath can be stopped and some kind of plurality returns, particularly whether Western conservatism will revive to the degree that it can prevent the Left’s march to a brave new world.


Ryszard Legutko is a philosopher and member of the European Parliament. He is the author of the well-known works, the Demon in Democracy and The Cunning of Freedom, as well as, Society as a Department Store: Critical Reflections on the Liberal State.


The featured image shows David and Goliath, in the Maciejowski Bible, or the Shah Abbas Bible, ca. 13th century.

The Last Imperialist. Sir Alan Burns’ Epic Defense Of The British Empire

We are so very pleased to offer to our readers a first look at Bruce Gilley’s latest book, The Last Imperialist. Sir Alan Burns’ Epic Defense of the British Empire. This excerpt is made possible by the kind generosity of Regnery Publishing. Please support this important research and purchase a copy – and tell others.

Bruce Gilley is a Professor of Political Science at Portland State University. His research centers on the empire, democracy, legitimacy, global politics, as well as the comparative politics of China and Asia.


By the 1930s, most colonial governments were under pressure to set out a plan for self-government if not outright independence. India was the furthest along, and African, Asian, and Caribbean nationalists wanted to follow. Good government was losing its appeal amid the allure of selfgovernment. British socialists and communists, including Alan’s brother Emile, were calling for the empire to be handed over to the League of Nations. The Belize Independent columnist and Battlefield general Luke Kemp told his readers that they should follow the advice of Emile, “reputed to be the greatest exponent of the Marxist (communist) doctrine in England” and treat colonial rulers like his brother as temporary “aliens.” “It is the ‘great brains’ that ran this colony to the rocks. Now we ask that men we feel are honest be given a chance,” Kemp demanded. Universal suffrage was needed, because national unity would “be as strong as the political latitude granted to the entire population.” When colonial officials complained about the desultory singing of God Save the King on one occasion, Kemp riposted: “I am quite sure the English taxpayers and the Secretary of State for the colonies would be shocked at the result of a plebiscite in British Honduras as to whether a change to the Stars and Stripes would be desired.”

London had imposed direct rule on British Honduras after the 1931 hurricane to speed recovery. Alan returned the colony to partial self-rule in 1936 with the election of 5 of the 13 seats in the legislature. He gave women the vote for the first time. Even so, the number of votes cast in the 1936 election was a meager 1,300 (less than 5 percent of the adult population), compared to 1,900 in the election before direct rule. Many people had fallen below the income or property thresholds, while others simply could not be bothered to register or vote. Most of the votes, about 1,200, were cast for the two seats in Belize Town. Of the other three seats, two were acclaimed. One returned a candidate whose nomination papers had been signed by a road crew. Robert Turton, the chewing gum nationalist, won the northern chicle district by sixty-five votes to forty-four. Given Alan’s legislative experience in the Bahamas and his “great ability as a speaker,” the Belize Independent bemoaned, the government bloc in the legislature—consisting of six officials and two appointees—was “so well clothed with power that their position” was “nigh impregnable.” Alan was “a Mussolini” for the way he “swept aside” opposing views in legislative sessions.

As in the Bahamas, London argued that any attempt to loosen voting qualifications would cause a backlash from white elites fearing mob rule. Luke Kemp, for instance, wanted only blacks and Creoles to be given the vote under his “natives first” plan. The Maya would be relegated to a secondary
role while whites would be disenfranchised or even expelled. Kemp wrote that “fascism or Nazism is a superior form of government” to colonial rule “for food, shelter, and medical treatment are within the reach of citizens and it is only the small minority that suffers unjustly.” Soberanis and Kemp
appealed for “closer association” with military-ruled Guatemala despite its comparative poverty and instability. Law and order “would be so under any flag,” Kemp wrote. Just as Haiti provided a sobering reminder to citizens of the Bahamas of the dangers of popular government, Guatemala, which had thrown off the colonial “yoke” in 1821 and similarly descended into a century of chaos, did
so for British Honduras. When Alan arrived, the conditions of the working class in Guatemala were far worse than in British Honduras, and labor leaders there were simply killed by the government. For the colony’s middle classes, a populist politics that led to control by Guatemala or by a native fascist regime would spell disaster. When Guatemala mobilized troops on the border in 1938, even the Belize Independent scurried for cover: “British Honduras must ever remain a British colony.”

For Alan, demands for political advance were rooted in demands for social dignity. “The one problem at the bottom of all their troubles, and the ones for which they passionately seek a solution, is how they are to obtain from the white world that recognition of social and political equality which has, up to now, been denied them,” he would write. When the German boxer Max Schmeling defeated the black American boxer Joe Louis in the first of their two fights in 1936, Alan recalled, “The gloom among the coloured inhabitants of British Honduras was worthy of a major national disaster.” Colonialism had, for better or worse, brought “social restrictions and personal insults” to subject peoples which prevented them “from recognizing or admitting” its great benefits. “The inevitable effect of this is that the unthinking mob . . . will follow the noisy and irresponsible persons who freely express their hatred of the white man and promise the people fantastic and impossible things.” The task was to expand democracy without handing over power to demagogues. Holding ultimate power in the hands of the governor for as long as possible, Alan would later write, was critical because it “ensured that British humanitarian and liberal principles should prevail, for the benefit of the underprivileged and often illiterate classes, against the selfish policies of the members of the old Assemblies.”

Alan drove this lesson home in his reform of the Belize Town Board. Since its founding in 1912, the board had been treated as the de facto democratic legislature of the colony because of its elected majority (eight out of fourteen seats). Board members typically debated issues far outside their purview, and the board was diligently covered in the local press. But it was also dysfunctional,
constantly in turmoil over committee battles and mutual recriminations. It failed to collect most of its taxes and most of its elected members were in arrears on their own taxes. One local merchant called it “effete, dishonest, and a menace to the progress of our City.” Without consultation or explanation, Alan cut it down to five elected and five appointed members for the 1936 election.

The act by Il Duce caused outrage on the Battlefield. But locals noticed that municipal affairs were working better and that day-laborers on town projects were being paid on time. A new “Sanitary Brigade” kitted in khaki replaced the slovenly food market and street inspectors of the defunct board. In 1938, Alan suspended the board altogether pending a reorganization. He made himself chairman of an interim board and was seen on the streets inspecting clogged drains and filthy latrines. Kemp eventually admitted that “90 percent of the citizens of Belize wanted the defunct board to be abolished” and congratulated Alan on “a master step.” Alan had proven his point: when faced with a choice between good government and elected government, colonial peoples would prefer the former. Clean latrines and operable sewers might not stir the passions on the Battlefield, but they made lives better and laid the foundations for durable democracy.

True to his word, Alan restored the democratic nature of the Belize Town Board in 1939 with six elected and three nominated members. All nine were non-European, marking the first all-local and majority-elected council in the colony’s history.101 He also added one elected member to the colonial legislature in the 1939 election, replacing a nominated member, leaving the government bloc with a slim majority of just seven to six. In these ways, Alan was balancing his liberal instincts with his attention to administrative efficiency. “It is not logical,” he would write, to tell colonial subjects that “all men are equal before the law and then to deny him the equality which he claims.” Democracy was clearly desirable. On the other hand, if that “right” came at the cost of death and destruction, it would be a poor trade. Like his growing interest in racial questions, his political reforms in British Honduras presaged a growing interest in the question of when and how a colony could be brought to independence. He rejected the idea that “independence should be given forthwith to those colonials who ask for it, whatever may be their competence to govern themselves, and regardless of the consequences to the mass of the population.” There would be nothing noble about decolonization if it caused countries to implode. “It would probably save us a lot of trouble and win us the applause of the unthinking if we surrendered at once to all the demands for self-government and rid ourselves of the burden of trusteeship,” he would later comment. “But we have a duty to the people of the dependent territories and to the world at large that it would be cowardly to shirk, and we could not later escape the responsibility and the blame for the disasters that would follow if we abandoned our trust.”


The featured image shows the map of the British Empire by Walter Crane, printed in 1886.

The Banality Of The Humanities In Spain

Lucian of Samosata says in his treatise, How to Write History, that one can only be a good historian if one can tell the truth; that is, if one wanted to tell it; and if one did not wish to flatter the powerful. That is why many times the great historians have swum against the current; and when the data are systematized and the usual interpretations are dismantled, a history book can seem impertinent. Such was the case of the book by Darío Fernández-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews Under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain. It is a work based on overwhelming evidence, which puts facts before prejudice and goes against the political and academic clichés in force in Spain, which make the image of the past, which is often offered, an inversion of what the past actually was. An example of this is the book by Jorge Elices Ocón, Respeto o barbarie: el islam ante la Antigüedad. De al-Andalus a DAESH (Respect or barbarism: Islam in the face of Antiquity. From al-Andalus to DAESH), which is a faithful portrait, not of the past, but of the political and academic world of Spain today.

In present-day politics of Spain, ideas, controversies and political debate have almost disappeared. Ideas have been replaced by easy-to-use labels, which lack content and are nothing more than a series of words, which fabricate a world parallel to the real world; and the course of this fabricated world is then followed. This is the world of so-called political correctness. And the natural niche in which its slogans are generated in Spain is the academic world.

It is a world of armchair tolerant people, who pretend to redeem the world with their studies, almost always opportunistic and of low academic level, in which they make anachronistic arguments about tolerance in the past.

Such is the case of J. Elices Ocón, who is a perfect example of politically correct opportunism. His book is a doctoral thesis, which is not a guarantee of academic rigor, which was done under the auspices of a project financed with public money, and which shows that getting public money is not a guarantee of anything either. Elices Ocón establishes a continuity between al-Andalus, that is, the Muslim kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula (and his focus is solely on the 10th century), and Daesh, born in Syria ten centuries later, and not in Cordoba, where an important caliphate existed. If he wanted to talk about intolerance in Hispanic Islam, then he would have to examine how the Umayyads had already implanted religious rigorism and oppressed the Christians, and then deal with the Almoravid and Almohad invasions, which took religious rigorism to extreme limits at that time. But that is of no interest to him. In Islam, as in other religions, the demon of hatred, fanaticism and violence always nests in a corner of the soul, which the author seems to want to incarnate exclusively into Christianity.

To demonstrate respect for classical antiquity in Islam, the author limits himself to collecting scattered data on the reuse of capitals, ashlars, and even sarcophagi used as containers for liquids, without realizing that such reuse was common since antiquity, because it takes a lot of work to carve a pillar, let alone make a capital. To be surprised, as Elices Ocón is, that Muslims appreciated the value of the Hispanic Roman aqueducts and bridges, or that Ibn Khaldun, a Muslim historian who believed that history begins with Mohammed, said that the pyramids of Egypt were built by the men of the past and not by mythological beings, can only be explained by his intention to defend, in a wrong way, that there can also be tolerance in Islam, and to confuse tolerance with common sense. Curiously, he hides the fact that, as can be seen in the book by Darío Fernández-Morera, the Muslims destroyed buildings and churches in order to reuse their materials, for example, in the construction of the mosque of Córdoba.

To the quotations of isolated materials, he adds the knowledge of classical texts. The author hides the fact that in the Hispanic Muslim world no one knew Greek, and that Aristotle was translated from Greek into Syriac and from Syriac into Arabic – and by Christian scholars under Muslim rule.

Since Elices Ocón focuses only on the 10th century in Andalusia, he forgets that the Byzantine Empire ended in the 15th century and that it was there that monks preserved classical texts unknown in the West, such as Plato. To maintain that St. Isidore of Seville had less knowledge of the classical world than the supposed Hellenistic scholars of the Caliphate of Cordoba, because Isidore was a Christian, makes no sense. Dioscorides’ book De materia medica, which Elices Ocón cites as an example of interest in the past, was translated into Arabic by a monk sent to Abderraman III by the emperor of Byzantium in order to teach Greek to the slaves in charge of the translation. It was translated for use in medicine, just as Dr. Andrés Laguna would do in the 16th century, when he translated it into Spanish for use as a vademecum. If to this we add that Elices Ocón does not mention that in the Toledo School of translators, promoted by a Christian king, Alfonso X, the translators of Arabic were basically Jews, then we will see how political correctness censors the past and stifles everything.

It is because of political correctness, sold as history and financed by public funds, that it is said that the actions of Daesh can make sense in the context of the struggle against imperialism, citing the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan (Afghanistan). It is true that the remains of the past have been destroyed at all times, but it is also true that Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan punishes, for example, apostasy from Islam with 20 years in prison, the burning of the Koran with public execution, by stoning in the case of women, and any public criticism of the religion with 8 years in prison, if there is a trial, or with execution by the free will of whoever is considered the just executioner.

Spanish humanists today live in a glass bubble. They write their books to win merit, which has nothing to do with knowledge, but everything to do with the standards that their colleagues create to evaluate and finance themselves with public money. They ignore much of the established knowledge, such as that collected by Darío Fernández-Morera in his systematic study, because they only work to accumulate a capital of minor publications, often in journals that they control or create. That is why they believe that to quote an author is to do him a favor. That is why, as J. Elices Ocón does, when there is a Greek author, such as the geographer Strabo, who has been studied from different perspectives in Spain and in Europe by numerous authors in different books, instead of referring to this whole tradition of studies, he limits himself to citing a minor article in a medium level journal, authored by a researcher – probably a friend – who will thus increase his capital of citations, within the networks of reciprocity and distribution of quantifiable honors that the humanities have become in Spain.

Are these new humanities, which ignore the value of systematic work, of the study of texts in their original languages, and which ignore the moral responsibility of the historian, described by Lucian, of any use? Well, no. The humanities thus understood serve no purpose, and nothing would be lost if they were no longer financed with public funds, because they contribute practically no new knowledge, nor do they have any capacity to take root in the concerns of citizens.

So increasingly, what readers demand from the humanities is offered to them by novels and all sorts of works of fiction, not by humanists. The new purple-prose humanists know that they are incapable of arousing interest beyond their academic bubble. They ask to be financed by the state – but as they know that their works can only be accepted, not read, in the field of propaganda and political correctness, they proclaim themselves prophets of a new banal world, which they call the “digital humanities” and emphasize the value of history as a resource to promote tourism. But then Medina Azahara, on whose door, by the way, the severed heads of the enemies of the caliph were hung as a lesson and warning to one and all – was also destroyed by the Muslims themselves.


José Carlos Bermejo Barrera is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). He has published numerous books in the fields of mythology and religions of classical antiquity and the philosophy of history. Among these are The Limits of Knowledge and the Limits of Science, Historia y Melancolía, El Gran Virus. Ensayo para una pandemia, and most recently, La política como impostura y las tinieblas de la información. He has published numerous works in academic journals, such as History and Theory; Quaderni di Storia, Dialogues d’Histoire Ancienne, Madrider Mitteilungen. He is a regular contributor to the daily press.


The featured image shows, “Moors in conversation,” a mural on the ceiling of the Sala de Los Reyes, at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, ca. 1375.