Sunday, October 31, 2004

With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

-John Jay, Federalist #2

Jay is, of course, citing a putative American unity in a persuasive, even propagandistic manner, to support the cause of Union. But it is telling to note that the diversitarian multiculturalists among contemporary activists do not take the supposed diversity of America as a reason to split, or at least decentralize the Federal government. Perhaps it is because it is easier to turn one central, homogenized government to the multiculturalist cause than fifty recalcitrant state governments.

Friday, October 29, 2004

On the French Revolution

From Simon Schama's Citizens:
"Very often the eager theatergoer could pay for his place by signing on with one of the organzied claques, paid to cheer or jeer at actors and plays, depending on the commission. And because of the license expected in the parterre, it was here that the tone could be set on first night for the success or failure of the play." p. 137

"On March 6 the article[of the playwright Beaumarchais] was brought to the King's attention and, presumably still smarting from his wishes being thwarted, he took the reference to wild(rather than verminous) creatures as a personal attack. It was enough to put Beaumarchais in prison. And Louis, full of silly pique, decided that the most crushing reproof he could give to an ironist would be comic humiliation. That evening, while at the card table, he scribbled on the back of the seven of spades that Beaumarchais should be confined not in the Bastille(the usual detention for insubordinate writers) but in Saint-Lazare, the correction center for delinquent boys. In the short term, this facetious humiliation took the wind out of Beaumarchais' sails. Refusing to emerge from the prison, knowing he was the butt of jokes, he never quite regained the breezy confidence which had sustained him through many misfortunes. In the very last years of the old regime he himself became the whipping boy of radicals and reactionaries alike." p. 144

Incidentally, Beaumarchais' play The Marriage of Figaro in fact found an eager patron in Marie Antoinette, contra the Austrian Emperor's concern about Mozart's operatic adaptation depicted in Amadeus.

"Startling as it may seem, the court and the high nobility were prime customers for the works that did most to damage their own authority. The town of Versailles had a number of shops where the most professional hawkers(colporteurs unloaded their stock. Delorme, for example, who used Dunkirk as a port of entry for his books, had his own outlet at Versailles and he was by no means alone. The appetite of the court for daring literature--both political and erotic--may be gauged from the fact that similar outlets were located at towns to which the court seasonally moved... In an only slightly less direct manner, the immunity of the great aristocratic families from search and seizure meant that the colporteurs used them shamelessly to smuggle their goods. The coachman of the Duc de Praslin was a virtual colporteur in his own right and in 1767 six bales of clandestine books were discovered in a wagon bearing the arms of the Marechal de Noailles. Even the King's youngest brother, Artois(who as Charles X was to take a censorious line with seditious literature), was said to be protecting hawkers of libels.
These stories seem to vindicated de Tocqueville's view that th eold regime brought about its own undoing by irresponsibly flirting with ideas it only half understood, but which it found diverting: the literary equivalent of the Figaro syndrome." p. 175

"It could be argued, though, that the French Revolution was as much the interruption, as the catalyst, of modernity. Not in all respects, since in its most militant phase, the Revolution did indeed invent a new kind of politics, an institutional transference of Rousseau's sovereignty of the General Will that abolished private space and time, and created a form of patriotic militarism more all-embracing than anything that had yet been seen in Europe. For one year, it invented and practiced representative democracy; for two years, it imposed coercive egalitarianism(thoguh even this is a simplification). But for two decades its enduring product was a new kind of militarized state." p. 184

Monday, October 18, 2004

On Hiroshima and Nagasaki

William Luse reflects on the bombings, and links to this firsthand account of the destruction.

501(c3) Tax-Exempt Planned Parenthood makes Explicit Political Endorsement

See Southern Appeal for more.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Old Irish Arete

"Now, many and divers were the magic virtues that were in Cuchulain that were in no one else in his day. Excellence of form, excellence of shape, excellence of build, excellence in swimming, excellence in horsemanship, excellence in chess and in draughts, excellence in battle, excellence in contest, excellence in single combat, excellence in reckoning, excellence in speech, excellence in counsel, excellence in bearing, excellence in laying waste and in plundering from the neighbouring border."

-The Cattle Raid of Cooley

An Ominous Parallel?

"The fact remains that in all democratic nations the person of the
"politician" is treated with contempt, and "politics" are looked upon
by a healthy public opinion as a cocktail of deceit, lying, treachery,
double-dealing, graft, theft, insincerity, perjury, imposture,
dishonorable compromise and other vices. There is, however, a
time-lag between the disappearance of the general respect given to the
human organs of the constitution and that given to the constitution
itself. In countries where the constitution is not a mere "armistical
arrangement" but the survival of a grand, but defunct, republican
order, we often find a very considerable difference between the homage
paid to the constitutional order and the enthusiasm accorded to the
deputies and other elected representatives of the nation. Of this
discrepancy the citizens are sometimes not only conscious, but even proud.

To the historian this antithesis is neither new nor particularly
encouraging. After two hundred years of cheerful and ironic
anti-clericalism the Reformation came after all, and destroyed the
fabric of the Church in a number of nations."
-Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty Or Equality p. 120 in the chapter "A
Critique of Democracy"

Monday, October 11, 2004

Evangelizing the Theologians

I earlier referenced an essay by my former teacher, Rev. Edward T. Oakes, SJ, that suggested using the phrase "pod people talk" to describe the skewed language of theological liberalism. It has now been published on Crisis magazine's web site, under the title Reconciling Judas: Evangelizing the Theologians.(FR Mirror)

The editors at Crisis cut a very provocative paragraph, reproduced below:

The situation is especially grim among professional theologians, where the Body Snatchers are working their sci-fi magic with impunity. In the first volume of Jaroslav Pelikan’s Christian Tradition, whose fifth volume was already cited above, the author mentions in passing that in the first several centuries of the Church most theologians were bishops, while in the Middle Ages most were monks, but in the modern period most theologians have been professors. This seemingly irrelevant factoid from the sociology of history actually reveals something important—and dangerous. Liberalism in religion first drew its strength from the Wars of Religion in the wake of the Reformation and then gained strength in the multicultural global setting of vastly different religions and cultures. In order to avoid a repeat of the Thirty Years War, but now on a much worse global scale, governments must regard each religion as equally valid and worthy of rights before the law. But validity before the law is by no means the same thing as validity before the bar of the truth, and when the liberal ethos enters an intentional, believing community constituted by a particular revelation, havoc is bound to follow. Especially in the United States, the values of tolerance and non-discrimination have become more than a mere litmus test for citizenship but are now enshrined in the laws that govern how universities may operate. Combine that ethos with the fact that more and more theology professors owe their allegiance more to norms of academic “respectability” than to the politically incorrect gospel of St. Paul, and suddenly the Pod People have a legally safe redoubt.

Fancy that...

I have just been "push-polled" for, of all things, the Colorado State Senate race. Strangely enough, I was polled just after sending a letter to the Republican candidate, Jessica Corry, who was in my class in high school. My parish had just held a forum hosting these candidates for the state legislature, so I was actually fairly well informed about their stands on the issues.

At first, it sounded like any other poll, asking about my vote in the presidential and national senatorial elections, plus the Colorado Senate race. Then the pollster asked some questions like who has the right position on abortion and who would best secure affordable health care. Such questions were, in retrospect, obviously testing the water to determine how the poll would proceed. Then the loaded questions began. "How would knowing x about candidate z affect your opinion of them?" The question I specifically remember was "Jessica Corry has only voted in half of the elections held since 1998. Does that give you a positive or negative view of this candidate?"

Now that fact is so ambiguous and out of context that nobody can give an honest opinon. She might have been disgusted with the whole idea of voting, or perhaps she considered herself too uninformed to vote responsibly--cases in which not voting is the better choice. Perhaps there were no important referenda in the off-year elections, or she had a wedding to rejoice at or a funeral to grieve over. The pollster obviously wanted to imply that she was too lazy or unconcerned to vote--perhaps a strategy dictated by my earlier description of myself as one certain to vote this November.

I'm disgusted by such tactics, and I'm letting the incumbent Senator Sue Windels know about it.

Irecconcilable Differences

"In their own persons, Lafayette and Talleyrand embodied the split personality of the French Revolution. For while it is commonplace to recognize that the Revolution gave birth to a new kind of political world, it is less often understood that that world was the product of two irreconcilable interests--the creation of a potent state and the creation of a community of free citizens. The fiction of the Revolution was to imagine that each might be served without damaging the other and its history amounts to the realization of that impossibility."

-Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

More on Piercing the Veil

The Japery has more to say about recent arguments in favor of collapsing the public-private distinction that has entailed some legal protection--and some legal curtailment--of religious practice.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Bahaus Architecture?

"....... In another of his books, "Living Machines: Bauhaus as Sexual Ideology" he address the peculiar psycho-sexual worldview of Gropius and his circle. The self-confessed purpose of Bauhaus architecture was to create a world where man is a sexual nomad, completely uprooted from family, God, and even sense of place...." (source)