Box Wine Aunties for Williamson

Yesterday I wrote of a “New Great Awakening,” an awakening of the fast swath of forgotten men and women to the realities of the progressive Left’s destructive ideology.  Blogger photog at Orion’s Cold Fire inspired the post with his piece “The Great Awakening,” which brought to mind a key point about our national debates:  our concerns are primarily theological, not political, in nature.

I’ve written quite a bit about Americans’ desperate search for meaning (also here), for a deeper spiritual Truth that motivates our culture and our lives.  Increasingly, Americans are abandoning traditional Christian faith, embracing instead alternative forms of spirituality, from the mundane and trite —“living your best life”—to sinister, like witchcraft.

It’s no surprise, then, that the dark horse—or, perhaps, the black cat—candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries is self-help guru and author Marianne Williamson.  Williamson made waves during the first set of debates with her “Love is a Battlefield” pronouncement, and has become something of an Internet meme.

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The New Great Awakening

I just wrapped up the last session of my History of Conservative Thought course.  We spent the last day unpacking the “Introduction” to Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences (you can read my summary here).  We also discussed tax policy (an unexpected and pleasant pre-class discussion) and spending, and completed the “Debt Fixer” simulation from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Towards the end of class, I also briefly touched upon the 2016 election of Donald Trump to the presidency.  I spoke extemporaneously, and largely touched upon the “forgotten men and women” theme—that is, that legions of voters perceived themselves to be overlooked, ignored, or even denigrated by the political and cultural arrangements of our time, and latched onto Trump’s candidacy as the best vehicle for expressing this sense of alienation.

At the top of my mind was a series of posts from my good e-pal photog, proprietor of the excellent blog Orion’s Cold Fire.  photog has a long post up entitled “The Great Awakening” that details the slowly dawning realization that millions of Americans were bamboozled by their political elites.  I highly encourage you check it out.

That essay comes on the heels of another photog post, one of his “American Greatness Post of the Day” features.  That feature links to a long essay by Matthew Boose, “The Great Excluded and Our Nationalist Future,” which casts our current political and cultural battles as one between the champions of multiculturalism versus the traditional American patriots.  The former believe America is “open to everyone”—except, of course, the benighted conservative Americans of flyover country—while the latter believe there is more to America than a set of abstract principles, and that our borders and traditions mean something.

photog and I both exist in “the thin space between the lumpen masses of the civic nationalists and the bomb-throwing bad-thinkers of the Post America far right,” as he aptly puts it.  We don’t accept the full-blown claims of the far/Alt-Right that America is doomed and our national heritage is irredeemable, nor do we think that one’s race is a determining factor in one’s ability to be a part of the American experiment.

But we also no longer believe that just getting the policy right will solve our problems.  As Weaver diagnosed in Ideas Have Consequences, our problems run deeper, to the level of ideas, but also to the metaphysical.  As Michael Knowles has said multiple times, our essential questions are not truly political, but are theological; that is, they are questions about who we are, what we believe, and what our place in the universe is.

Thus, we have another Great Awakening in American political and cultural life, a period during which we reexamine these fundamental questions.  For too long the radical, progressive Left has dominated how these theological questions are approached and considered.  The time has come for the Right to take its message to the people, and to restore a more traditional, satisfying, and godly sense of man and his place in Creation.

Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction

Tomorrow is the last day of my History of Conservative Thought class for the summer term.  It was a fun course to run, though if I offer it in the future, I’m hoping to firm it up and make it a bit more organized, with some lecture slides to go along with the document readings.

To end the course, students are reading the “Introduction” to Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences (1948), one of my favorite books of all time.  I reread the introduction before the start of every school year, especially if I’m teaching Philosophy, as it helps remind me why knowledge and learning are important.

They’re writing short papers about the “Introduction,” which we’ll discuss in class tomorrow.  To aid them—and, hopefully, to convince you to read Ideas Have Consequences yourself—I’m briefly summarizing Weaver’s ideas in this post.

Weaver starts his book declaring that it “is another book about the dissolution of the West.”  He argues that due to the “widely prevailing Whig theory of history,” modern man has come to believe that history is always proceeding in an upward direction—that is, that things are always getting better.

Weaver disagrees, of course, arguing that “modern man has become a moral idiot.”  He laments that, not only are people able to agree on the facts of their situation, they are utterly incapable of recognizing their own fallen state.  Despite that moral idiocy, man “has been not only his own priest but his own professor and ethics, and the consequence is an anarchy which threatens even that minimum consensus of value necessary to the political state.”  Put another way, people have decided subjectively that they know right and wrong, independent of any transcendent moral order or God, and the results are personal and political chaos!

Weaver goes on to recount the horrors modernity and self-deification have wrought:  massive wars, ruined cities, lost lives, and a general, nagging sense of powerlessness.  Weaver references specifically the destruction of the Second World War (though not by name), suggesting that the optimistic Whiggish interpretation of history is, on its face, verifiably false.

So, who is to blame for this general malaise in Western civilization?  According to Weaver, the “best representative of change… over man’s conception of reality” is William of Occam.  Most readers will know Occam from the concept of Occam’s Razor, the notion that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

Weaver, however, focuses on Occam’s doctrine of nominalism, a doctrine that “denise that universals have a real existence.”  In other words, there are no true universal, transcendent ideals—justice, mercy, grace, virtue, etc.—and no metaphysical Truth or higher power.  Further, nominalism “banish[ed] the reality which is perceived by the intellect… to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses,” setting man “on the road to modern empiricism,” the idea that only that which we experience is “true.”

Weaver proceeds to take us down that road:  nature comes to be seen as fully intelligible, merely a set of “rational mechanism[s]” to be uncovered and understood; man comes to believe that does suffer from original sin, but is rather a perfectible being; any flaws from which humans suffer are necessarily due to their environment, not their own choices.

Most significantly, belief in God and religion—a higher Form of Truth that binds together the cosmos—become reduced to “‘humanized’ religion,” like deism (the belief in a Creator that set the universe into motion, but who never intervenes with His Creation).  These reduced religions are little more than venerable institutions with the veneer of respectability, but which succumb to the materialism of the humanist.

Soon humans lose all free will, becoming the materialist machines of nature like any other animal.  Institutions crumble, which man “rationalizes with talk of emancipation,” believing himself to be free from the restrains of the benighted past.

An interesting point that Weaver makes is that, in order to feel some semblance of the old virtues—ideals that men sense they should uphold, but which they cannot understand or articulate—they fight wars with “increased frequency,” invoking ideas like justice, honor, and valor in service to materialist ends.

Of course, there are those who champion modernity.  These “apostles of modernism,” as Weaver calls them, “usually begin their retort [to Weaver’s position] with catalogues of modern achievement, not realizing that here they bear witness to their immersion in particulars,” as opposed to transcendentals.  That is the source of my own critique of capitalism, the best socioeconomic system that materialist modernism can offer.  Weaver notes that many great civilizations have shown with effervescent splendor in their dying gasps of relevance, so merely having beautiful, ingenious stuff doesn’t mean a civilization isn’t dying.

Perhaps the best passage from Weaver’s “Introduction” is what I call “Weaver’s drunk,” located on page 15 of the 1984 paperback edition linked here.  Weaver argues that the material wealth and comfort of modernity holds within it its own destruction—the more comfort we have, the less willing we are to do the work necessary to maintain it.  Weaver compares this situation to that of the drunk who is so addicted to his drink, he is incapable of doing the work necessary to sustain his addiction.  He may succeed for a time, but the more besotted he becomes, the less capable he is.

There are so many nuggets of wisdom and Truth in just the “Introduction” to this work, and I haven’t touched on all of them.  I encourage everyone to read through the full “Introduction”—and the entire book—as soon as possible.  Reading it now, some seventy-one years after its original publication, is sobering due to its prophetic nature.  The situation Weaver described has not improved.  It is imperative, now more than ever, that we consume Weaver’s work and begin pushing for a revival of religious belief and a traditional view of the cosmos, and our place in it.

 

Lazy Sunday XX: The Laziest Sunday

Today marks the 210th consecutive day of posts here at The Portly Politico, the thirtieth week of this endeavor in navel-gazing political and cultural analysis.  Today’s Lazy Sunday is also the twentieth installment in the storied series, where I compile thematic lists of old posts and give quick summaries of each.

In the spirit of the occasional “Phone it in Friday” posts, like the one from two days ago, I decided to really autodial this one in.  The summer news cycle doldrums are in full swing:  the Mueller testimony, like the Mueller investigation and report themselves, was a nothingburger, one seasoned with the sad spectacle of a once-respected man clearly clueless about his namesake investigation.  I’ve also been working like a rented mule lately, and it’s been a bit of a slog getting these posts out on time.

So, to that end, here is a look back at the previous nineteen installments of Lazy Sunday.  If you read every single one of these posts, as well as the posts they link to, you will pretty much have read the definitive TPP canon.

Enjoy!

–TPP

SubscribeStar Saturday: The Value of Hard Work

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

I’ve written quite a bit about work—or “hustlin’,” as I sometimes call it—on The Portly Politico.  That’s mostly because I’m frequently making excuses for the tardiness of my daily posts, which are, at times, legitimately difficult to complete some days due to how much work I’m doing.

A more important reason, though, is my belief that work is ennobling.  Its benefits exist beyond a paycheck, and reach deeper into our minds and souls.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Phone it in Friday II: Boris, Bond, and Borders

It’s been a brutal workweek for yours portly.  “Brutal” is perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but it’s been busy, with a lot of late nights and early mornings.  Fortunately, I’ve been a painting dynamo, and all those music lessons and extra work are reaping dividends.

My planned post summarizing and analyzing the introduction to Richard Weaver‘s seminal Ideas Have Consequences, then, is going to wait until Monday, when I have a bit more mental energy to spare.  My students in History of Conservative Thought are writing an essay about the introduction to that book for their final class session, which is Tuesday.  It’s a dense read for high school students, so that post will help break down some of the main ideas for them.

Instead, this evening’s posts will be a rare “Phone if in Friday” featuring some pieces that crossed my transom today.  Enjoy!

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TBT: Global Poverty in Decline

Yesterday I wrote about homelessness, particularly the sense that many “homeless” panhandlers are simply shakedown artists well-versed in emotional manipulation, guilt-trips, and implied violence or mental instability.

The United States enjoys incredible prosperity, unprecedented in history.  That prosperity doesn’t necessarily give our lives meaning—a key critique of traditionalists like my intellectual hero, Richard Weaver—but it’s probably a moral good to not have to worry about your ability to feed and shelter yourself.

But the United States is not the only beneficiary of wealth and abundance.  The rest of the world has enjoyed huge increases in quality of life since the end of the Second World War, and especially since the end of the Cold War.

So, contrary to Leftist myth-making, the United States has not kept the rest of the world down (and, by implication, is therefore morally responsible for taking in its impoverished, unassimilable hordes).  Instead, capitalism has lifted the world out of poverty.

That is the subject of this TBT feature, August 2018’s “Global Poverty in Decline“:

Regular readers know that I frequently cite pollster Scott Rasmussen’s #Number of the Day series from Ballotpedia.  I do so because a.) his numbers often reveal some interesting truths about our world and b.) blogging is, at bottom, the art of making secondary or tertiary commentary on what other, smarter, harder-working people have thought, written, and done.

Yesterday’s #Number of the Day dealt with global poverty; specifically, Americans’ ignorance to the fact that global poverty has declined substantially over the last twenty years.  Indeed, global poverty has been reduced by half in that time.

I’ll confess I was ignorant of the extent of this decline, too, although it makes sense that poverty has decreased, especially when you consider the rise of post-Soviet market economies in Eastern Europe and China’s meteoric rise since the 1980s.

I suspect that the perennial culprit of the Mainstream Media is to blame, in part, for this ignorance, coupled as it is with progressive politicians.  The rise of “democratic socialist” candidates—as well as the lingering effects of the Great Recession—would have Americans believe that the global economy is in terrible shape, and that “underprivileged” parts of the world labor in ever-worsening poverty (so, let’s just move them all here—that’ll solve poverty!).

It’s refreshing to see that capitalism is working its economic magic, and people all over the globe are lifting themselves out of poverty.  If representative republicanism and strong civil societies can take root and flourish in more places, the ingredients will be in place for continued economic and cultural growth.

Panning Panhandlers

Today’s post is about panhandling.  In that spirit, consider subscribing to my SubscribeStar page.  $1 a month gets you exclusive access to posts every Saturday, as well as special posts throughout the year.

As a Christian, I struggle with how to deal with the homeless.  On the one hand, Jesus makes it pretty clear in Matthew 25:40 that whatever we do to the least, we likewise do to Him.  There’s also that verse—more scripturally-literate readers can assist with the exact verse in a comment—about some poor people being Jesus in disguise.

On the other hand, homeless people are (often) mentally ill (see below), (potentially) dangerous nuisances that extort you for cash.  The economy of it is simple:  the homeless person will leave you in peace if you just toss a few quarters into his cup.  Some have more elaborate cons—the guy who perennially needs $10 to buy gas to get home—but it all amounts to an impromptu shakedown.

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Trump Up in Polls

Yesterday’s post looked at blogger photog’s musings about the radical implosion of the Democratic Party.  photog surmised that either the Democrats will tone down their ultra-progressive rhetoric, or they will continue to double-down on—and let President Trump bait them into—their death’s embrace with socialism.  My money is on the latter.

Shortly after that post went to press, I read a National Review blurb about Trump’s record-high approval ratings.  Trump has hovered around 35-40% in most approval polls, with a solid base of support.  Democrats and Never Trumpers have been banking on Trump not gaining substantially beyond 40% approval ratings (never mind that the 2016 polling was egregiously far off).  If we figure that some poll respondents simply aren’t confessing that they like the president or will vote for him, we could probably add 3-5% to that support.

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