Things Fall Apart; the Centre Cannot Hold: 1968 Redux

WTH is going on in the world these days? One is tempted to quote Yeats and turn away in disgust.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Well, that may be a wise quote for us, at that. It was written in 1919 just after the world-shaking carnage of the Great War when seemingly all was in flux. Victor Davis Hanson in The Washington Times this week compared our time to 1968, another year that shook the world.

Almost a half-century ago, in 1968, the United States seemed to be falling apart.

The Vietnam War, a bitter and close presidential election, anti-war protests, racial riots, political assassinations, terrorism and a recession looming on the horizon left the country divided between a loud radical minority and a silent conservative majority.

The United States avoided a civil war. But America suffered a collective psychological depression, civil unrest, defeat in Vietnam and assorted disasters for the next decade — until the election of a once-polarizing Ronald Reagan ushered in five consecutive presidential terms of relative bipartisan calm and prosperity from 1981 to 2001.

It appears as if 2017 might be another 1968. Recent traumatic hurricanes seem to reflect the country’s human turmoil.

After the polarizing Obama presidency and the contested election of Donald Trump, the country is once again split in two.

But this time the divide is far deeper, both ideologically and geographically — with the two liberal coasts pitted against red-state America in between.

[…]

The smears “racist,” “fascist,” “white privilege” and “Nazi” — like “commie” of the 1950s — are so overused as to become meaningless. There is now less free speech on campus than during the McCarthy era of the early 1950s.

No news in any of that is there? It’s simply our daily diet.

As was the case in 1968, the world abroad is also falling apart.

The European Union, model of the future, is unraveling. The EU has been paralyzed by the exit of Great Britain, the divide between Spain and Catalonia, the bankruptcy of Mediterranean nation members, insidious terrorist attacks in major European cities and the onslaught of millions of immigrants — mostly young, male and Muslim — from the war-torn Middle East. Germany is once again becoming imperious, but this time insidiously by means other than arms.

[…]

If we remember in 1968 the UK was starting to slip into that malaise that became known as ‘The British Disease’ and the cure didn’t come until Maggie Thatcher took charge just before Ronald Reagan cured the Carter malaise.

And we watch as Mrs May turns the UK’s best chance since Mrs Thatcher to again become a wealthy country, thanks to the voters who voted for Brexit, changes her title to Prime Ditherer, as she proves a less capable leader than -Barack Obama, perhaps. Sad to see. There are plenty of people in Britain who know how to win in these circumstances, but like our own GOPe the Conservatives hide in their bubble, out of fear of the people, or change, or Political Correctness, or something, and so fumble their chance, and are likely to ruin the country by turning it over to Corbyn. Taking the title of Venezuela North from Chicago in the process.

Is the problem too much democracy, as the volatile and fickle mob runs roughshod over establishment experts and experienced bureaucrats? Or is the crisis too little democracy, as populists strive to dethrone a scandal-plagued, anti-democratic, incompetent and overrated entrenched elite?

Neither traditional political party has any answers.

Democrats are being overwhelmed by the identity politics and socialism of progressives. Republicans are torn asunder between upstart populist nationalists and the calcified establishment status quo.

And again showing the wisdom of the founders, we now see Steve Bannon gearing up to challenge every GOP Congresscritter (save Ted Cruz) in next years Republican primaries. He won’t win them all, I predict. But I also predict he’ll win enough to put the fear of the electorate back into the Republicans. Of course, if they were as smart as they think they are, 2016 would have done that.

Yet for all the social instability and media hysteria, life in the United States quietly seems to be getting better.

The economy is growing. Unemployment and inflation remain low. The stock market and middle-class incomes are up.

Business and consumer confidence are high. Corporate profits are up. Energy production has expanded. The border with Mexico is being enforced.

Is the instability less a symptom that America is falling apart and more a sign that the loud conventional wisdom of the past — about the benefits of a globalized economy, the insignificance of national borders and the importance of identity politics — is drawing to a close, along with the careers of those who profited from it?

In the past, any crisis that did not destroy the United States ended up making it stronger. But for now, the fight grows over which is more toxic — the chronic statist malady that was eating away the country, or the new populist medicine deemed necessary to cure it.

• Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

And that is true too. The United States is actually doing pretty well, these days, which may well be why our left seems increasingly detached from reality, just like the NFL players biting the hand that feeds them. All gravy trains end, and so does extended adolescence.

No guarantees here but it looks to me if we keep on keepin’ on the way we are going, we may well make the United States stronger still. And if the UK can find their spine (a stiff upper lip wouldn’t hurt either) they may come through with the Union Jack flying proudly, as well. After all, we are the people who invented the modern world, we just need to do a bit of remodelling.

Advertisements

The Paris Statement

Archbishop Cranmer brings us tidings of a new statement, ‘The Paris Statement’ they call it. One of the writers is no less than Professor Sir Roger Scruton. That makes it worth paying attention to. So does the content. Here is some of his description.

In May 2017, a group of conservative scholars and intellectuals met in Paris…

No, don’t yawn.

They say they were “brought together by their common concern about the current state of European politics, culture, society and, above all, the state of the European mind and imagination. Through delusion and self-deception and ideological distortion, Europe is dissipating her great civilizational inheritance.”

Well, that’s true, isn’t it?

Unless your name is Nick Clegg, AC Grayling, or you happen to be a bishop in the Church of England (not Shrewsbury).

These fine conservative minds, which included our very own Professor Sir Roger Scruton, produced ‘The Paris Statement’, which kind of makes sense as a title because they were in Paris when they issued their tome, which might indeed be viewed as a statement because their words were issued quasi-authoritatively, as conservative scholars and intellectuals are wont to do. And ‘Paris’ gives the statement an aura of continental enlightenment in ways which, say, ‘The Slough Statement’ or ‘The Lewisham Statement’ probably never could.

The preamble continues:

Instead of simply wringing their hands in fruitless anxiety, or adding yet another tome to the ample literature that diagnoses “the decline of the West”, the Paris participants believed it was important to make an affirmation, and to do so publicly. They expressed their attachment to “the true Europe,” and did so with reasons that can be recognized by all. In doing so, it was first necessary to give an account of this true Europe, which lies hidden beneath the fashionable abstractions of our age.

The result is, “A Europe We Can Believe In.” This Paris Statement is a ringing call for a renewed understanding of, and appreciation for, Europe’s true genius. It is an invitation to the peoples of Europe to actively recover what is best in our tradition, and to build a peaceful, hopeful, and noble future together.

The Paris Statement is good, very good, contrasting, as it does, the false Europe of teleological superstition and utopian tyranny with the true Europe of nation-state cooperation based on Christian solidarity and civic loyalty. Consider:

Europe, in all its richness and greatness, is threatened by a false understanding of itself. This false Europe imagines itself as a fulfilment of our civilization, but in truth it will confiscate our home. It appeals to exaggerations and distortions of Europe’s authentic virtues while remaining blind to its own vices. Complacently trading in one-sided caricatures of our history, this false Europe is invincibly prejudiced against the past. Its proponents are orphans by choice, and they presume that to be an orphan—to be homeless—is a noble achievement. In this way, the false Europe praises itself as the forerunner of a universal community that is neither universal nor a community.

Good, that.

Well, you know what? I just read their statement, and aside from a few quibbles, much the same ones as His Grace mentioned in his article it is very good. So good on them. It’s also very good to see that there are conservatives in western Europe, we’re all aware of Sir Roger, but from the rest, it’s a rare (and most welcome) spark of conservatism. The Statement is here, and well worth a read.

I very much fear that Europe is a lost cause, but then again so was the American Revolution, so I wish them luck and Godspeed in their mission. For most of us, Europe is our ultimate homeland, and watching it go down without a fight is disheartening at best. It is time for Europa to again tame the bull, I think.

Sir Robert Scruton on Capitalism

Last week, Reaction published an article by Sir Roger Scruton. They class it as a long read,  which it is. It is also a most interesting read, which you should read and ponder. So, here it is, for your discernment, and if you are anything like me, enjoyment. And besides, it is something not to do (at least directly) with violence, which is a welcome change after the last few days.

So put your thinking caps on, get yourself a cup of coffee, and enjoy.

In 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were many cheerful people in the West who said, ‘Great! The battle between socialism and capitalism is over; and capitalism has won.’ They would have been astonished by anyone who told them that, a quarter of a century later, one of the favourite candidates for US President would describe himself as a ‘democratic socialist’, that the leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom would be a Marxist, that radical socialist parties would be powerful forces all across the Northern Mediterranean or that Albania, having freed itself from the most cruel and ignorant of all the post-war communist regimes, would be governed by a party calling itself socialist. So how should we understand this surprising turn of events? Is it just a matter of words – that people call themselves socialists, for whatever reason, but act in quite another way? Or has the old disease really broken out again? Or was it not a disease but a cure? And if so, a cure of what?

My first response is to say that, yes, it is in part a matter of words. But no, the words are soaked in emotions, and the emotions are powerful. Take the word ‘capitalism’, introduced by Saint-Simon, to be taken up by Marx. It was supposed to describe an economic system, in which private individuals (the ‘capitalists’) own the ‘means of production’. On Marx’s view, capitalists formed a class, the owners of property, who stand opposed to the working class, the class of those who have nothing to sell except their labour. Out of this picture there grew the epic story of ‘class struggle’, leading to revolution, as the workers seized control of assets that had, in effect, been stolen from them. The epic story was immensely seductive. It gave people a just cause to fight for. It rationalised resentment against the rich and aligned the heroic intellectual with the poor in their fight to possess what is rightly theirs. It both justified revolution and predicted it as inevitable. And it made ‘capital’ into a kind of agent in history. The capitalists acted together as a class; they formed a kind of conspiracy against the rest of us. They controlled not only the means of production but all the institutions that stemmed from it and supported it – the church, the law, the schools and universities, the military. More, they controlled the ideology, the set of ideas and beliefs that represented their control as legitimate. In short, the word ‘capitalism’, introduced to describe an economic system, ended up as a description of an organised enemy of mankind, an invading army in the midst of us, which controlled everything, stole everything and meanwhile neutralised all our attempts at rebellion with the ‘false consciousness’ instilled through its propaganda.

Described in that way ‘capitalism’ ceased to be a word of economic theory. It became a summons to war. And then we need another word, to describe those who are on ‘the other side’ against this enemy. And that word is ‘socialism’. We are to fight for socialism, against the capitalist enemy. That is the message that has been drummed into us relentlessly since the Communist Manifesto. Of course, Marx saw socialism merely as an intermediate stage, on the way to communism. But he did not have the faintest idea as to how communism would come about, once the dictatorship of the proletariat had been established, and – what is more – he did not really care. It is the fight for socialism, and the revolution that would result from this, that interested him. And the same has been true of all socialists in our time. They take their inspiration from the thing that they are against, not from the future that is supposed to replace it.

Much of our confusion today comes from the fact that the situation for which the word ‘capitalism’ was invented has disappeared. Marx’s picture was of an economy devoted to the ‘production’ of material goods, in factories that belonged to representative members of the ‘capitalist’ class. A few such factories and a few such capitalist owners still exist. But the modern economy is a ‘service economy’: it is providing advice, contacts, entertainment, travel, things for hire and rent. The enterprises that provide these things are rarely owned by individuals, but usually by shareholders who do not control them. The managers who control them are also employed by them. Employees enjoy varying degrees of influence over the organisation, from the bare minimum exerted by the office cleaner to the extensive control of the CEO. Power is delegated at every level, and each level of management ‘reports to’ the one above, rather than obeying explicit orders. The whole thing has evolved ‘by an invisible hand’, in accordance with the natural ability of rational beings to cooperate and to compete with each other. Who, in this arrangement, is the capitalist, and who the proletarian? The old story can no longer be told. So what on earth do people now mean by ‘capitalism’, and what is the ‘socialist’ alternative?

The one thing that our modern systems have in common with the system described (and to some extent invented) by Marx is private property, and the freedom to exchange it, to accumulate it, and to give it away. This freedom is not absolute: some exchanges are forbidden by law, most are taxed, and in some countries inheritance taxes and capital taxes penalize accumulations. Nevertheless the freedom to own and deal in private property is at the heart of the modern economy, and in so far as the word ‘capitalism’ means anything today it denotes this freedom, and all that has issued from it. At the same time new forms of ownership have emerged – shares, options, copyright, royalties – which blur the margins between private and public property. In these circumstances it is very hard to know what the alleged conflict between capitalism and socialism really amounts to.

Much more at The case for capitalism must be made afresh. Do go there and enjoy!

Bare Ruined Choirs

In Sonnet LXXIII Shakespeare wrote

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long

Not one of his happiest, but it accords well with my feelings, this fall. It hasn’t been a year I would wish on anybody, but this is the season when I understand why All Hollow’s is sometimes called Totenfest by those of German heritage. Tomorrow is the Feast day of Our Lady of Walsingham, and for me, that has significance as well. Six years ago, I had never heard of Walsingham, let alone this representation of Mary, but One summer day in 2012, Jessica became my dearest friend at almost the moment she lit a candle for me at the shrine. The main part of the story begins here. I have ever since found Mary a worthwhile conduit for my prayers. But for me, it’s specifically the Walsingham representation. Earlier this year,  Fr Matthew Pittam wrote in the Catholic Herald about his feeling for the Shrine.

 

Whilst visiting this year I met some other pilgrims who were unfavourably comparing Walsingham to other well-known European Shrines that they had visited. It is true Walsingham is no Lourdes or Fatima but for me that is part of the appeal of the place. It seems right that the English National Shrine is understated, reflecting the character of the English themselves.

The story of Our Lady’s Shrine and the meaning of its message demand a much tenderer charism than Walsingham’s more flamboyant European cousins. Above all Walsingham is a memorial to the Annunciation. The whole place speaks softly of Our Lady’s ‘Yes’ to God. Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel was abundantly full of humility, generosity and peace. The quieter pace and rhythm of our National Shrine really can take us to the heart of this life changing and life-giving moment.

The location of Walsingham is also understated. It is not set amidst mountain grandeur but nestles within the pleasant rolling meadows of the Stiffkey Valley, echoing the gentleness of the shrine’s own spirituality and Our Lady. The whole place seems to be set apart for peaceful encounter.

He nails it for me. Without the slightest intention to be offensive, much of Roman Catholicism is too ornate, too baroque, and the decoration, like some of the verbiage, is over extravagant for me. That’s not a knock on it, it simply doesn’t fit with this working guy of Lutheran Scandinavian heritage. I’m no iconoclast, but enough is enough. Both the Roman Catholic and the Anglo-Catholic shrines at Walsingham have a northern European feel about them, which I find comforting. I’m still of my roots, I have found it comforting to talk with Our Lady, as Jessica once said, it feels rather like talking to Mom, which in a sense it is.

And then there is the relief, that I have felt on several occasions, after talking with Her, usually not the formal Rosary, although I do that sometimes as well, mostly sitting here, meditating silently directed towards Her. The old man’s knees aren’t really up to kneeling much anymore, anyway. 🙂

Strangely, it is only 3 years, nearly to the day, since the Abbess from Walsingham came to Jessica’s hospital bed to pray over her and sprinkle her with Walsingham water, giving her some ease, and then again a mere two weeks later, just after she received the last rites, she again prayed over her and sprinkled her. Two days later she was out of her coma, without pain and cancer free. A remarkable testimony to the power of prayer.

A year after that Mary Katherine Ham lost her husband,  Jake in a bicycle accident while pregnant with their second child. It was one of those things that shocked many of us, this young vibrant couple, and him suddenly gone. She wrote about it this week at The Federalist.

I love the idea of the divine spark. It crosses a lot of cultures and religions, the idea that you carry a bit of the Creator inside you, that it animates your life.

Jake’s life always brings to mind a spark and then some. Jake’s soul, to me, was a bonfire. He was here and he was in your face and he was warm and bright. He roared with enthusiasm at the beginning, even the hope of something new, sometimes a little too much. His glow was infectious, throwing sparks into the night air, silhouetted against a dark sky before they landed on everyone in his vicinity. He mellowed to embers as the night wore on, usually over a glass of bourbon or a beer.

I lived seven years of my life looking into a bonfire. I warmed my hands and found comfort in its flame. There were times when I damn near burnt myself or got a giant waft of smoke at exactly the wrong time.  Because that’s life. And that’s fire. It’s not all s’mores and sweetness.

Everyone who’s loved someone knows that light and warmth. Everyone who’s lost someone knows the feeling when it goes dark and cold one day.

When that happens at any time, it’s jarring. When it happens without warning, even more.

The light went out. This fire I’d stood next to for seven years just went out, like a flood light on a switch. Boom. Imagine staring into a fire, and then suddenly turning 180 degrees to survey the woods behind you. I couldn’t see. I was standing in what otherwise was my life, and I knew all the other parts of it were there, but I couldn’t understand its contours anymore. I was standing in my own life, blinded, blinking away those disorienting shimmery green spots.

Brilliant, simply brilliant. But you know when we lose someone we love, not even always to death, it’s like that as well. It was for me when my marriage broke up, and even though my sisters, parents and brothers-in-law lived full lives, in truth as much as could be expected, they have left a hole, that cannot be filled.

And so it was for me, a year ago today, when I received the last email from  Jessica, who as far as I know is healthy, happy, and busy. Too busy or some other unexplained reason, to maintain the friendship that turned to love on my part, more than I ever felt for another human being. And get your mind out of the gutter, yes she is beautiful, but I loved her before I knew that, far more a case of Agape than Eros. She was my friend, the best one I’ll ever have. And even Our Lady of Walsingham has found no way to comfort me. I’m reconciled that I must go on more alone than I have ever been, but have little appetite for it. Which is why that sonnet speaks loudly to me.

Walsingham, and Our Lady are her legacy to me, and I thank God for them everyday. But it does make me think of another poem.

Weepe, weepe O Walsingham,
Whose dayes are nightes,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to dispites.

Sinne is where our Ladie sate,
Heaven turned is to hell,
Sathan sittes where our Lord did swaye,
Walsingham oh farewell.

But it is true that while Eliot was writing of Little Gidding, I’ve always thought that this applied as well to Walsingham

           If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

We merely have to trust God that Dame Julian of Norwich was correct.

‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

Video Monday

I was doing things other than writing last night, once in a while, I like to step away from the blog, and recharge, and doing this seven days a week can get to be a pain. Okay, whinge over, and yeah, I volunteered. How about some videos today? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched these, most of them more than once, and I like them. I think you will too. Obviously, you don’t have to watch all of them, watch the ones that interest you, but they all cover some facet of what we do here.

Steve Bannon making sense? Yep, surprising as it is.

Ben Shapiro on why your feeling don’t matter

I wish we could convince the Brits of this because it is obviously true.

The modern world is a Tudor Enterprise. Think about that for a bit. That is what one can accomplish with “the stomach of a king, and yes, a King of England”.

As we change course a bit, just who is smarter? Eh, who cares, really? But Siobahn! 🙂

We’ve said this many times: If you do not have the freedom to fail, you can not succeed.

How we got rich…

How to keep it happening:

Sense a theme here? Yep, there is one. It’s called personal responsibility. If you want to accomplish something, you need to take responsibility for it. Whether you’re Stephan Langton leading the barons to Runnymede, Queen Elizabeth humbling the greatest Empire of the age, our founders doing that humbling thing again, or the guy that wants to start the next Microsoft; you need to own it, to work hard at it, and maybe fail a few times before you get it figured out, not run to Washington, claiming to be a victim. We, the Anglophone nations built the world we live in following these simple rules, seems silly to me to quit doing something that has worked so well.

Although I suppose if I simply desired power over others without reason, simply the power of the clenched fist, I would probably dislike this world, with its emphasis on freedom and justice. Think about that.

Amish Attack in London

From The Resurgent:

What appears to be a homemade bomb using a white plastic bucket inside a shopping bag exploded in a London Underground station during the morning rush, injuring “a number” of people, according to reports.

London Metropolitan Police have confirmed the explosion at Parsons Green station on the District Line was being treated as a terror attack.

One Twitter user included an anonymous chat room post which read “Because we are a safe haven for terrorists, we are so PC that we accuse the eskimos of terrorism and any other religion/race that has over run the UK, bombs on the trains are all part and parcel of living in a city, pray for the muslims on that train.” Of course such sentiments could be considered illegal in England as “hate speech.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s statement published on Facebook said:

Our city utterly condemns the hideous individuals who attempt to use terror to harm us and destroy our way of life. As London has proven again and again, we will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism.

The New York Times reported the explosion occurred at 8:20 a.m. on a District Line train as it left the station.

“The train was packed, and I was down the other side of the carriage standing up, looking at my phone and then I heard a big boom and felt this heat on my face,” said Natalie Belford, 42, a hairdresser and beautician who was on the train. “I ran for my life, but there was no way out. The doors were full of people and the carriage was too packed to move down.”

London Metro Police tweeted that this is a terror incident, but that it’s too early to determine the cause.

Well, whatever. While I have all the sympathy in the world for the average UK citizen; until they elect a government with the moral courage to enforce the law, fairly and evenly Kahn is right, they will have to learn to live with terrorism. But the way it is in Britain these days, if he had self-detonated while wearing a neon sign saying Aloha Snackbar, they wouldn’t be able to figure out the motive – because they are not permitted to figure out the motive.

I notice the whinging for more money to not solve the problem has already begun. Money is not the problem, the will to not offend certain segments of the population is the problem, and no amount of money will allow the oh so PC Metropolitan Police to see a problem they will not look at.

So they will sing sappy songs and leave teddy bears and tea lights, and go on until it happens again, Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Until the Islamic terrorists whom anybody with two brain cells to rub together know are responsible, not the Amish, win.

This ran on Warsclerotic the other day, it is most germane.

“Close your eyes, have no fear,” says a song by John Lennon, the wretched soundtrack of a West which has definitely lost military, political and cultural courage. After the Paris terror attacks, many people were inspired by John Lennon’s songs. It was a clear message to Jihadists: you can continue to butcher us, we don’t care 

********************************

In 1978, the great Russian writer Alexander Solzenitsyn delivered a famous speech at Harvard University. “A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days”, the author of “Gulag Archipelago” said at the time. “The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life”.

Solzenitsyn uttered these important words at a time when the West still had some courage against Communism. What would he have said today seeing Europe’s reaction in front of Islamic terrorism? and North Korea/

Terrorism will end, when a country has enough courage to name it, and fight it. If a country doesn’t do so, the country will end. It is that basic, and that binary. The UK isn’t as craven as Spain, or Germany, yet, but they are not doing right by their citizens, either.

Until HMG is willing to name the enemy and undertake realistic step to combat it, well I find it difficult to be overly sympathetic.

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

Winston Churchill

%d bloggers like this: