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What's the hope for the future?

The movement of modern life is still evidently toward the “left”: toward hedonism, rationalism, egalitarianism, technocracy, making man the measure, eradication of any sense of the transcendent, and all the other things we have come to know so well. Seems bad, if you happen to be an antimodernist and right-winger.

Still, overall formulations leave things out. Big words don’t tell you everything. That’s true of one’s own theories, but also of the way things are formulated in public discussion. You can’t trust what you read in the papers. Life includes everything, even the things that aren’t what we talk about.


More on Le Pen, for

More on Le Pen, for those who want to keep track of what’s doing among the Euroids: “How Le Pen can win”, from UPI. It goes into some of the complexities of French politics. Note that in contrast to the “extreme-right” Le Pen, the followers of the Trotskyite mole Jospin are “moderate Socialists.”


So what’s the hope for

So what’s the hope for the future? The movement of modern life is still evidently toward the “left”: toward hedonism, rationalism, egalitarianism, technocracy, making man the measure, eradication of any sense of the transcendent, and all the other things we have come to know so well. Seems bad, if you happen to be an antimodernist and right-winger.

Still, overall formulations leave things out. Big words don’t tell you everything. That’s true of one’s own theories, but also of the way things are formulated in public discussion. You can’t trust what you read in the papers. Life includes everything, even the things that aren’t what we talk about.

So what else is there? Some possibilities:

  1. Everyday life. People are still born and die, and must deal with whatever is part of of that. They can not in fact live or believe like the people on TV. That came out in the response to 9/11—people were much more religious and patriotic than advertised. And even people who don’t realize it may be “anonymous Christians” or something of the sort. The official formulation of their attitudes, beliefs and habits may be quite misleading; a more traditional formulation might be less so. Time may dissipate the confusion, and bring traditional formulations back into fashion.
  2. Still, TV and the rest of it have their effects. An international survey of religious beliefs shows the consequences of indoctrination in the controlled societies of Europe. The figures for the formerly communist countries, where indoctination was heaviest, are of particular interest. While the indoctrination was mostly effective, Poland is an anomaly. The apparent reason is that there was something unusual in the relation between society and regime there. After all, Poland is where the collapse of communism began. The similarity to Ireland and to some extent Italy, and to the comparatively libertarian United States, suggests that trust in God is an alternative to trust in the regime. For a government to put “In God We Trust” on its currency is truly an act of self-limitation. So one possibility is that with the failure of the state as God—the failure of the self-sufficient rational organization of human capacity and desire as the ultimate ethical reality—men will regain the sense that they depend on things that transcend them. The examples of Russia and East Germany suggest that may not happen immediately, however
  3. Darwin’s revenge: what works survives, what doesn’t disappears. It is Europe that has moved farthest to the Left, and Europe can’t come close to reproducing itself. After all, what does comfortable individual hedonism have to do with raising children? The Europeans expect their continent to become a comfortable retirement village dutifully supported by Muslim immigrants. How likely is that? A system of unreality can’t last, whatever prestige it may have for a while, and it’s no wonder they’re so easily frightened.

None of these grand possibilities tells us what to do now, apart from live well and try to be as clear and truthful about things as possible. The Left is doomed by its nature and will be replaced; what will replace it, when and how can’t be predicted. Still, there’s plenty to say and plenty to work for, and for that we should be grateful!


So here is the final

So here is the final communique on the Pope’s meeting with the American cardinals. “Attention was drawn to the fact that almost all the cases involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true pedophilia.” Apart from procedures for dealing with particular bad priests, the main practical points are:

a) the Pastors of the Church need clearly to promote the correct moral teaching of the Church and publicly to reprimand individuals who spread dissent and groups which advance ambiguous approaches to pastoral care;

b) a new and serious Apostolic Visitation of seminaries and other institutes of formation must be made without delay, with particular emphasis on the need for fidelity to the Church’s teaching, especially in the area of morality, and the need for a deeper study of the criteria of suitability of candidates to the priesthood.

So it looks like the reformation is more likely to be a conservative than a liberal one.


From The Spectator, a more

From The Spectator, a more favorable view of Le Pen. Proves nothing, of course, but it does restore a little the honor of the British press.


A friend points me to

A friend points me to a Washington Post article, in which after accounts of huge protests by all good people everywhere in France against Le Pen’s extremism, the writer finally explains what the extremism is:


A friend on the paleo-right

A friend on the paleo-right list asks about the strange relation between the Left and IQ:

The left screams “intolerance!” whenever someone like Charles Murray raises the dreaded specter of IQ, even as they go to lengths emphasizing the intellectual disparities between GW and Gore […]

My response:

I think it relates to a conflict within liberalism. The basic notion of liberalism is that there isn’t any good or evil, there’s just what people want. That has two consequences:

  1. The point of politics is to turn the whole world into a rational machine for the maximum equal satisfaction of desire.
  2. All desires are equal, and all human beings are equal, since their desires are equally desires and it is desire that is the source of value.

Point 1 justifies absolute rule by a meritocracy, since politics becomes a purely technical issue of a kind to which a meritocracy is best suited.

Point 2 means that the power and even existence of the ruling New Class meritocracy has to be denied, since otherwise some people are being viewed as better than others since they are given the right to rule others without consent.

So we’re left in this position in which the most important thing in the world is having a high IQ and being part of the meritocracy that rules everything, but it’s also absolutely necessary to deny that’s so, that there is a ruling meritocracy or that IQ means anything.


The Catholic Church ought to

The Catholic Church ought to maintain its general rule of clerical celibacy. I doubt that bad conduct is more widespread among a celibate priesthood than a married priesthood—that’s not what my experience among the Episcopalians tells me—and almost any rule that makes becoming a priest more than just a career move is a good thing.

The justification that impresses me most, however, is the need for the Church to remain in but not of the world. Today more than ever, a church that is in the world—that is not some nonconformist sect withdrawn into itself—tends to get absorbed by the world. That’s what has happened to the Protestant mainline. Their theology isn’t much different from the editorial page of the New York Times.

The Catholic Church has two features that help free it from local influences and keep it true to itself: its international hierarchical organization, and its celibate priesthood. It’s true the Eastern Orthodox do without either (while their bishops are celibate and their priests can’t marry, they do allow married men to become priests). But that comes at the cost of stasis and perhaps excessive unworldliness, which make it easier for doctrine and discipline to remain stable without the advantages the Catholics have. But if the Catholic Church abandoned celibacy it would not be a result of increasing unworldliness and stasis that make celibacy less necessary. Quite the contrary, it would be a sign of capitulation to the spirit of the age.


An email I sent to

An email I sent to Carrier Air-Conditioning Corporation:


I understand that Carrier Air-Conditioning Corporation has stopped funding the Boy Scouts because of BSA policy on homosexual leaders.

I consider that a very serious mistake, and in fact a gross violation of the respect for diversity that is no doubt intended. If “diversity” doesn’t include acceptance of people who believe that youth leaders should be held to a moral standard, and that homosexual conduct is morally wrong, what can it amount to?

Moral opposition to homosexual conduct is widespread and deeply rooted worldwide. It has been shared by eminent philosophers and religious thinkers, and by many intelligent, well-informed and thoughtful people today. “Diversity” that excludes such people is no diversity at all, it’s dictatorship.

In addition, the current scandals in the Catholic Church, which mostly have to do with homosexual priests who prey on teenage boys, emphasize the need to put safety first in situations in which vulnerable youth are entrusted to adults. The Boy Scouts does so, even though it has found there is a price. They deserve support.

In view of these considerations, I hope that you will reconsider your decision.


James Kalb

What triggered the email was a notification I received from some people called “” who are organizing support for the Boy Scouts. They have a petition I would urge anyone to sign. When you go to the page you can sign other petitions and get put on various lists if you want.


More on those horrible crusaders:

More on those horrible crusaders: The Real History of the Crusades.

The PC version is so bizarre: the Muslims conquered the Christian Middle East, Christian Egypt, Christian North Africa, Christian Spain, Christian Asia Minor and the Christian Balkans. They invaded France, raided throughout the Mediterranean, and as recently as 1683 besieged Vienna. And a short-lived Christian counterattack 900 years ago demonstrates the wickedness and intolerance of the Christian West.


Is it universal that men

Is it universal that men accuse others of their own offenses? Whatever is true in general, the failing is demanded by modern PC liberalism. If you’re a moral skeptic who defines the good as equality and inclusiveness, because in the absence of legitimate grounds for making distinctions hatred and oppression are the only possible motives for drawing lines, then you’ll judge those who do so as either ignorant or, if they resist re-education, willfully evil. The greatest tolerance thus calls for the greatest intolerance.

Something of the sort is at work in the Carroll book discussed a couple of posts ago, at least as the book was described to me. Another example is the European reaction to Le Pen. With anti-Le Pen rioters in the street and something not far short of a riot in the European Parliament, Chirac denounces Le Pen as a violent extremist, and in the name of openness and tolerance refuses to debate him.


Speaking of the accusations regarding

Speaking of the accusations regarding the conduct of Pius XII during the Second World War, here’s an interesting link on a recent academic conference in which James Carroll and others participated.


I had a talk yesterday

I had a talk yesterday with a friend about James Carroll’s book The Sword of Constantine. I hadn’t read it. The recent anti-Catholic books by Carroll, Cornwell, Goldhagen, Wills and so on strike me as mostly hate literature. They may be important in a sense, because they’re part of a movement, but individually they don’t much matter. Or such has been my impression.

Still, it appears that Carroll’s book is of some interest, at least as an example, because for 800 pages it repeats the same form of argument, essentially:

  1. Christianity exists.
  2. To exist is to assert something as opposed to something else, and in the case of Christianity the “something else” is Judaism.
  3. Since there is no truth, and all assertions are groundless expressions of the will to power, and their only possible content is negation of the thing to which they oppose themselves, the essence of Christianity is necessarily antisemitism—groundless aggression against Judaism.
  4. Christianity can claim to be good only to the extent it claims Judaism is bad. So e.g. to claim Christ is God is to claim the Jew is the Devil.
  5. Therefore, if you say “I like the Gospel” what you’re really saying is “Auschwitz was a good idea and we ought to do it again.”

Since I haven’t read the book, I don’t know how closely Carroll actually holds to this line of thought. Some of the quotes my friend read to me over the phone did sound pretty extreme. Still, it seems to me something of this logic is implicit in a lot of present-day liberalism and in particular a lot of the discussion of Christian conflicts with Jews.

There’s a metaphysical notion floating around that to exist is to engage in groundless aggression and so to incur guilt. The alternative is the view that God created the world and called it good. From the standpoint of the former view the latter is really a sort of self-satisfied Naziism. Hence the tone of current anti-Catholic polemics.


Additional thoughts on “gay marriage”

Additional thoughts on “gay marriage” provoked by a discussion I started, in connection with the Rauch piece, in the Atlantic discussion forum on Politics and Society:


Current wisdom suggests that

Current wisdom suggests that if right-wingers like marriage so much it’s really stupid of them to object to “gay marriage.” After all, shouldn’t long-term commitments be encouraged by respect, ceremony, and the web of custom and observance that has gathered around marriage? Isn’t that sort of thing the essence of social conservatism?

No doubt it would be if social conservatism were a sort of social engineering with no use for human nature and a firm conviction that it can make anything so by pronouncing the proper words. Custom and culture do not hang in the air, however, without reference to nature. The reason marriage is marriage is that it has a natural function, the union of a man and woman for procreation and the rearing of children. That is a function necessary to society, so people support it. It immoveably demands long term loyal cooperation, so the habits and attitudes that developed in connection with it promote those things.

Take the function away, which is what the expansion of marriage to same-sex relationships would do, and there’s no reason why the the same habits and attitudes would remain. The standard would become one of personal fulfillment, which is no standard at all. So “gay marriage” would in the end be no benefit to homosexuals who see it as a check to hedonism. Rather, it would complete the process that has been turning marriage itself into just another expression of the universal right of self-expression.


Vatican II has certainly

Vatican II has certainly worked out badly, although the documents are much more limited than what they led to. What happened was natural. An ecumenical council is an extreme measure, so if there’s no fundamental dispute to resolve, why have one?


The reason classical liberalism

The reason classical liberalism looks better than contemporary liberalism is that it existed within a system of unspoken presumptions that kept freedom, tolerance and so on from becoming the operative final standards for the political system. The liberal standard of justice, equal freedom, had not yet forbidden public recognition of substantive goods like virtue and religion, which some people and parts of society take to more readily than others and so are hard to square in the long run with the liberal standard.

The effect was to liberalize the substantive goods—to let people hold to them in a more flexible and adaptable way—without destroying them. That was pleasant and seemed to realize the best of both worlds. That system lasted longest in the Anglo-Saxon countries. The inhabitants of those countries habitually ignore issues and refuse to draw conclusions, and as a result have routinely been accused of stupidity, hypocrisy, philistinism and so on. The accusations may have been true, but those qualities had their benefits. In the end though the logic of equal freedom conquered all—it was impossible to find anything to oppose it within liberalism—and led to what we have now.


The Europeans are terribly

The Europeans are terribly upset that an “extreme rightist” got 17% of the vote. They’ve had a lot of upsets lately. A couple of days ago it was the massacres they claimed (on very little evidence) had taken place at Jenin.

Paranoids find the world alarming but so do people who try to maintain a system of unreality. The Europeans are convinced that everything can be managed—all you do is put the right people in charge and keep everyone else quiet with bribes, amusements, and a comprehensive system of supervision. When that doesn’t seem to work, as in the Middle East, they get upset and blame it all on whoever involved looks like an adult. And when someone suggests there are aspects of public life, like culture or ethnicity, that can’t be reduced to a rational administrative system, they go berserk. It’s an attack on the foundations of their world.


Liberal openness

There’s something admirable in a liberal outlook that maintains interest in new ideas and sympathy with other ways of life. It shows an awareness that the world is bigger than what we think about the world, which is all to the good. It’s not an outlook that can be turned into a final standard, though, since it would lose all definition and become useless. Any answer it gave would have to include the proviso that every other available answer is most likely at least as good, or at least there’s no reason to think otherwise.


I’ve been reading Plutarch

I’ve been reading Plutarch lately, in the Dryden translation. 10 years ago he bored me, now I think he’s wonderful.

He’s a cultivated and broadminded moralist who knows men and affairs. Already that sounds dull, I’m afraid. I don’t think people read him much today although Harry Truman liked him.



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