12 March 2014

Fr Luke Wadding and the Errors of Ireland

Recently, in preparation for my yearly treatment of the subject of March 17, I was re-reading the very first article I wrote on the subject, five years ago. It was a fiery, if a bit immature, nationalist appeal to abandon the green in favour of sombre blue and black in repentance of the violence that has been done to Irish culture because of our drunken, debauched, disgusting “celebration” of this holiday on the American continent. Then, recently, a friend pointed me in the direction of IrishCentral.com, “the largest Irish site in North America,” a site full of all the nostalgia and nationalism that is found throughout most of the half-educated Irish diaspora. While the site itself is full of vulgar Americanisms that infest the whole Irish diaspora on this continent—one fellow who refuses to attend the “Paddy’s Day” Parade in New York (to which I said “hurrah!”) because his kid doesn’t get to see any gays (to which I said “...what?”), and an article on the “Irish-American Hall of Fame” (one of several, it turns out) that includes buffoons like Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews as exemplars of our race—one article nevertheless gave me pause in light of my first piece on S. Patrick's Day. 

Fr Luke Wadding, OFM
It is the history of Fr Luke Wadding, which the article presents as another in a long line of Irish priests who mixed prayer and politics but failed to organise the stubborn Irish masses in a national struggle against Protestant persecutors. It would make brilliant television. The article prompted me to do a little bit of historical research of my own and found the priest to be a great deal more admirable than the man described by IrishCentral.

Luke Wadding was born to a wealthy Waterford mercantile father in 1588. His (maternal) uncle was the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland (S. Patrick's own See)—about whom a word ought to be said. Named for the famous author of the Libri Quattuor Sententiarum, better known as the Sentences, which some readers will recognise as the textbook of the Medieval Papal church, Archbishop Peter Lombard spent practically no time at all in Ireland. Appointed to the See of Armagh, he recognised the dangers posed to him due to the English penal laws and refused to go. He was famously the personal enemy of James I, who attacked him at length in Parliament, and made himself and enemy of Charles I by writing a particularly venomous denunciation of the King from the safety of Rome. He is nevertheless quite famous as a leading contributor to the Irish Counter-Reformation, largely due to his catechetical works on the Sacrament of Penance and an early appeal to James I for Irish religious rights. In Rome, he was close to Pope Gregory XV (r. 1621-1623), and was appointed to preside over a commission investigating Jesuit activities in India, where he grew close to Robert Bellermine, now a saint on the Roman calendar. Ulster Catholics held him in somewhat lower esteem—considering him a coward for not occupying his See, they found their religious life directed by a Munster bureaucrat, the Bishop of Ossory, whom they detested.

Fr Wadding, therefore, already had the support of both great wealth and that age-old fixture of Roman nepotism (here in the truest sense—his benefactor was his uncle). He, too, spent most of his time outside of Ireland—he entered the Franciscan Order in 1607 in Matosinhos, Portugal, was ordained a priest in 1613 by the Bishop João Manuel of Viseu, and appointed President of the Irish College at the University of Salamanca in 1617, before being appointed Chaplain to the Spanish Ambassador at Rome the following year (Bishop Antonio Trejo de Sande, also a Franciscan). His meteoric rise was not all money and favour, however—he had a marked gift as a catechist and a teacher. During his time at Rome, he organised funds for S. Isidore College—a school specifically for the education of Irish priests (which opened in 1625). He would be rector of the college until 1635 (when he was obliged to hand it over to the Ignatian order) in addition to being appointed Procurator of the OFM in Rome. He was a prolific author—aside from his 8-volume magnum opus, the Annales Minorum (the standard work on the Franciscans for centuries), he also edited and published editions of famous Franciscans like Duns Scotus and Francis of Assisi, making him the author or editor of some 36 volumes altogether in both Greek and Latin. His greatest unfinished work was a planned edition of Annales Regorum Hibernensis (Annals of the Kings of Ireland).

In addition to this great learning and love of his church, which the IrishCentral article omits entirely, his closeness to the Irish cause is what makes Fr Wadding worth mention on this occasion. His nationalistic leanings have already been hinted at in the founding of S. Isidore’s, but his real connexion to the nationalist movement came in 1641, when he, in league with Archbishop Giovanni Rinuccini, attempted to send arms and money to the Irish Catholic Confederation. Many of the students at S. Isidore participated in the conflict, and the school earned a reputation as a hotbed of Irish nationalism well into the 19th century—Abp. George Errington reported in the 1860s that the seminarians of S. Isidore’s made many of the most extreme secular Irish politicians appear conservative. 

Seal of the Irish Catholic Confederation
He was so well-beloved by the Confederate cause that they petitioned the Pope to promote Fr Wadding Priest-Cardinal, but, to his great credit, the Franciscan used his contacts in Rome to prevent the petition from reaching the desk of Urban VIII (r. 1623-44) and it was not found until years later in the archives of S. Isidore’s. The Catholic Encyclopedia goes as a far as to call him “the official representative and indefatigable agent in the Roman Curia of the archbishops and bishops of Ireland,” adding that “the Holy See took no measure of importance concerning that country without consulting him.” Really, it’s amazing that IrishCentral didn’t directly appeal to this text, since it is practically a nationalistic hagiography. I have added emphasis to some sections:

He procured letters from the Holy See to the Catholic powers of Europe to enlist their sympathies and secure their aid in favour of the Irish war. In 1645 he prevailed on the new pope, Innocent X, to send another envoy to Ireland, with the powers and dignity of an Apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Rinuccini being sent. On his departure from Rome the nuncio received from Wadding the sum of 26,000 scudi towards the Irish cause. Wadding sent him a similar sum the year after through Dean Massari, to mention only some of his contributions. Great was the interest now evinced in Irish affairs at the Roman Court. The tidings of O'Neill's victory at Benburb (5 June, 1646) caused much rejoicing; a solemn Te Deum was sung in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, and the standards taken in the battle, being sent out by the nuncio, were hung as trophies in the cupola of St. Peter's. Innocent X, through Wadding, sent is blessing to Owen Roe O'Neill and with it the sword of the great Earl of Tyrone.”

No greater celebration of the Irish victory was celebrated even in Ireland. It should be little surprise, then, that the most enduring legacy of Fr Wadding is his successful appeal to the Pope to insert the Feast of S. Patrick, long remembered in the local Irish Church, into the General Roman Calendar, therefore making it a Feast of the Universal Church. This had much to do with the number of his students at S. Isidore’s who returned to Ireland and were martyred—each year the dead, and the plight of Ireland in general, would be remembered with tremendous solemnity on the Feast of S. Patrick at S. Isidore’s. Among his many rôles in Rome, Fr Wadding was fortunate enough to have been appointed to a commission for the reform of the Breviary (now the Liturgy of Hours), and in this capacity convinced the other commission members to support him in his petition to set aside a special liturgy for S. Patrick on March 17.

Reportedly, contemporaries considered him a candidate to the Papacy itself in the conclaves of 1644 and 1645. While this information cannot be substantiated, and he was not a cardinal, it speaks to his reputation both at Rome and among his fellow Irishmen that such rumours even existed. The Catholic Encyclopedia concludes its article by reporting that his death in 1657 “was that of a saint”.

It strikes me as especially ironic that a pedestrian group like IrishCentral should seize upon Wadding as the “origin” of the “Irish holiday” of S. Patrick’s Day, when in reality his contribution was quite the opposite. Saint Patrick was already celebrated in Ireland and, clearly, among the Irish abroad—Wadding had nothing to do with this at all. Far from linking the church at Rome with the Irish nationalist cause, Wadding was responsible for making the Irish struggle against England a Catholic struggle—giving it universal significance in the Papal church. Some might argue that he robbed the Irish Confederate Wars of their national significance by attempting to turn it into a proxy war between the Papal church and her hated enemies among the English parliamentarians—thus making the chief crime of Cromwell the regicide of Catholic-friendly Charles I, not the genocide of the Irish people. The bitter irony is that the Irish Confederates kept the fight more Irish than Catholic through their in-fighting and jealousy, losing the entire war and creating the conditions of Cromwellian genocide.

Following this line of argument, I see an especially appropriate analogy to draw here between the obstinacy of the Irish Confederates who kept their war about Irish nationalism and therefore lost it and those who maintain the fight for S. Patrick as a national icon. Fr Wadding offers us an exemplar of the way S. Patrick ought to be remembered—as a Saint of the Universal Church, who brought Ireland into the Church, not as a national figure who brought the Church to Ireland. The Irish Confederates refused to put down the green banners of jealousy, to repent of their arrogant contests for fame and power and instead to take up the cross as one front against radical English republican aggression—for this, they were beaten, and Ireland ravaged by the cruelty of the Parliamentarians. Likewise, today, Irish nationalists of the diaspora jealously cling to S. Patrick as their emblem, and by refusing to distance Irish identity from him, allow both his memory and Irish identity to be desecrated, defiled, and defamed every March. 

It is time to learn a lesson from the mistakes of our ancestors, and to embrace the humility of our faith instead of the pride of our race—and if an Irishman would not keep S. Patrick’s day in a church alone, he ought not keep to it at all, for what we celebrate on the Feast of Saint Patrick, if it is not the Cross which Patrick proclaimed, is the heathenry he denounced, and we become the snakes, the villains, and the desecrations of Ireland. Every pint of beer becomes a gallon of venom, every shamrock the sign of the Beast—the green is no longer the lushness of pastures but of rot and decay, the orange the blood of the martyrs on our hands. For just as Fr Wadding wished all to see the Christian spirit of Saint Patrick, making S. Patrick’s Day a celebration of the Cross, so the Enemy of Mankind loves nothing better than Paddy’s Day, for it is precisely the inverse of all things good, all things noble (lat. patricius), all things Christian, and all things Irish.

S Patricie Hibernensis
Ora pro nobis

13 June 2013

A Rose for Edmund

I'm quite flattered to say that this post, originally intended only for this blog, has found its way into The Quarterly Review, an excellent conservative publication in Great Britain edited by Mr Derek Turner

Edmund Burke 1729-1797
Conservartives are still reflecting on the revolution in France.

But here's a sample, from the conclusion:

...The West has had the good fortune to inherit much of the cultural heritage of classical civilisation, to reinterpret and re-appropriate this heritage. Pagan learning became Christian learning, forums became marketplaces which likewise became headquarters for confraternities. The circuses were replaced by jousting lists. The Byzantines, last remnants of a dead civilisation, looked to the West as their protector and future – much better than the future they faced under the Saracen. The West sacked Constantinople, slew and raped, and did other unspeakable things, but the ruins of classical civilisation endured in the West even to its own demise. What civilisation will inherit the West? What heritage does the West leave – is it worth preserving and conserving? Certainly there were things derived historically from the classical civilisations that made our own civilisation unique – but the wheel of history is turning about again. It is left to conservatives, who refuse to actively participate in the liberalism and suicidal progressivism that defines the last phases of the West, to determine what they shall build that is worth conserving, or if they shall prefer to lie next to a corpse until they themselves pass away. It falls to us, to embrace or to deny history; in the words of Seneca, ducunt fata volentem; nolentem trahunt.

15 March 2013

What a Feast Day Means

The Commemoration of Saint Patrick

As many are no doubt aware, this Sunday marks the commemoration of our father among the saints Patrick of Ireland, Bishop of Armagh and Enlightener of Ireland. In a rare occurrence, this is actually true of the Eastern calendar(s) as well as the General Roman Calendar. This means, of course, that a long-winded and detailed defence of the day and a thorough condemnation and censure of the abuse of the day by Americans is forthcoming. In the past, I have written on the Great Famine, the Easter Uprising, the Irish in America, and, most recently, on this blog, the persecution of Catholics in Ireland and inappropriateness of the Feast of S. Patrick for a national holiday. As much as the intention of these posts has been to shame bad behaviour and abuse, it has also been to educate Irishmen in the diaspora about their identity and their history, so they, too, can see the shamefulness of American hedonism connected with this Holy Day.

So far, those lessons have been mostly recent history – within the last three centuries or so. Meaning, perhaps, that it’s time for a change of gears—a going back to the source, if you will, and a discussion of S. Patrick himself and what he accomplished sixteen hundred years ago. We’ve talked sufficiently, I think, about modern Irish history – let’s dip our hands in ancient waters. Granted, I’m making the very arrogant assumption that I’m interesting enough to generate an audience that reads my articles every year.
Illuminator of Ireland

As I hinted above, S. Patrick seems thoroughly tied to March 17 – it has been his feast day for as long as he has been prayed to in the Church, on all Roman calendars—of Trent, Pius XII, John XXIII, even the Novus Ordo calendar—and, of course, on the Eastern calendars, which have generally undergone fewer changes (though the New Julian calendar was rather a great change). This makes his feast day an especially significant one—the day is not just holy because of the Saint commemorated, but indeed the long history of the day lends to it some greater sanctity still. It is a day most worthy of this sort of sanctity, too, because of what a great man and great saint Patrick was.

As son of a deacon and grandson
of a priest, Patricius is actually more
in line with contemporary Orthodox
clerics more than Roman.
Patrick is properly Patricius, son of Calpurnius, son of Potitus of Bannavem Taburnia. His name, as befits his vocation, means “high-born”. The quick version of his life usually follows the line that he was kidnapped and taken as a slave to Ireland first, escaped and returned to Britannia and then went back to evangelise his former captors. While it gets all the big details, it’s a little simplistic and misses some important points.

First of all, Patricius filius Calpurnii was born into a family of priests—his father was a deacon, his grandfather a priest, and, in all likelihood, his great-grandfather the same. Since it is unclear when Christianity first came to Britain, it is almost impossible to determine when (and who) among Patricius’s ancestors would have been the first converts, but it is certain that they were a stalwart bunch, since in the borderlands of the Empire, Christians often remained a persecuted minority. To convert was, therefore, by no means the most expedient choice for these outlying countrymen, unlike their urban counterparts.

Despite this background, Patricius did not convert properly until his capture during a raid by Hibernian Celts on his village (which places his birthplace near the sea in the northern reaches of Britain). It was during this time, when he was 16, that he prayed to God for deliverance which, according to his Confessions, was granted when he was 22. He walked to shore, took a boat and returned to Britain. It is important to note that at this point, there was no such thing as England. S. Patrick died in 461, only ten years after the Saxon invasions began—and no barbarian chief would claim the title “King of England” until the Christian Alfred the Great. If Patrick was from the far reaches of Roman Britain, that means in all likelihood he was a Romanised Celt himself, perhaps of the Parisi or Brigantes tribes that dwelled in the north of Britain. By blood, therefore, he was actually closer related to his captors than to Caesar.

Enlightener of Ireland
This is perhaps why, after his ordination by S. Germanus of Auxerre, he would choose to make a mission to Hibernia. It is important that we make that distinction too—for Bishop PatAdd captionricius, the land he visited was—as Bismarck once called Italy—a geographical expression. His captors he called Scoti – that is, Scots, and their country Scotia. In fact, the name “Ireland” wasn’t in use until the late twelfth century. Until that time, and indeed even after that time, the island was often referred to as Scotia Major, or “Greater Scotland”, while the country we know as Scotland today was known as Scotia Minor, “Lesser Scotland”. If there was ever a sense of a united Ireland, it did not arise until well after S. Patrick made his journeys there.

Needless to say, one of the first unifying characteristics of the tribes of Scotia was their common religion. We often talk about a “Gaelic” or “Germanic” or “Greek” paganism, but in reality there was no unifying doctrine or even institutional structure that makes any of these remotely identifiable as religions. In many places, for example, the Germanic god Óðinn or Woden (Odin) was completely unknown, while in others he was exalted above all other gods. The gods of these ancient Scots were no exception. Different tribes had different patron gods, and different chiefs were dedicated to different rites—while some forms of sacrifice and, of course, the language was mutually intelligible, as were the priestly practices, aside from superficial or aesthetic commonalities, you might as well have had as many different religions as you had worshippers. After S. Patrick’s missionary work, this changed dramatically: a distinct sense of oneness came upon the island for the first time in its history.

The religion that S. Patrick taught was also focused on oneness. Despite being rather late in terms of ancient Christianity (he was preaching, remember, after three oecumenical councils and the death of such great Church Fathers as Ss. Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, and Hilary of Poitiers), Patrick’s theology was focused heavily on the mystery of the Trinity. His primary attribute, the shamrock, is part of this. It is highly ironic that the Shamrock should be so degraded today considering what a high place it actually occupies in Irish history: it is a uniquely Irish symbol representing God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. To see shamrocks on banners, littering the ground, used for plastic goggles, and all sorts of other uses and abuses, then, is an especially offensive aspect of the American perversion of S. Patrick’s feast.

Many people remember a certain passage from the so-called “Lorica of Saint Patrick” or “Deer’s Cry”. If it is not a prayer penned by the saint, it is at the very least inspired by his theology. Everyone remembers the simple and inoffensive lines

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Fewer remember the other, arguably more significant part of the chant (for it was meant to be chanted by a group):

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men. …

I arise today through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:against snares of devils,
against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature,
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

How many, I wonder, who celebrate the American version of the day do so thinking of imitating “the obedience of Angels, the service of the Archangels”? How many “against temptations of vices,” or, better still, “against inclinations of nature”? When his hagiographers say S. Patrick “drove the snakes out of Ireland,” it seems fairly clear what they are referring to.
What S. Patrick drove out of Ireland.

One of the most important parts of S. Patrick’s mission to Scotia is that not only is he responsible for establishing the Faith in that land, but he is responsible specifically for establishing one of the most visible outward signs of the Faith in the Middle Ages (or any age), which is the monastery. It is for this reason that S. Patrick is remembered in the Church lists as a “Confessor” (one who suffered but was not martyred for the Faith), “Venerable” (a monastic) and “Enlightener of Ireland” (missionary to Ireland) – three titles for the great preacher of the Trinity.

Feast Day
The question that remains, then, is “what is a feast-day?” After all, I have spent the last five years preaching against all forms of celebration on the Feast of Saint Patrick – calling to wear the black of mourning for the fallen, the starved, the murdered rather than giving ourselves over to hedonistic excess awash in cheap green beer and ethnic slurs. I say it as a challenge to the American exploitation of my people, our history, and our sacred memory. However, while I say this (and will continue to keep my own vigil for the vile rape of Irish culture committed by ignorant Americans every year), it is worth remembering that we call saints’ days “Feast Days” for a reason: because we are called to celebrate the life of the saint, because he was holy and worked great things in the Name of Christ. This means that celebration—in moderation, temperance, and ever mindful of why we celebrate—is not out of order.

We are very fortunate this year, since the Feast falls on a Sunday, and (for Roman Catholics) in the midst of Lent. As such, hedonistic behaviour which is out of line at any time of the year is an especially heinous act this year. However, we likewise have an opportunity to celebrate the day in the true spirit thereof: as a religious celebration, with a Mass for S. Patrick followed by a proper Sunday feast. We may eat, but not to the point of gluttony; we may drink, but not to drunkenness, and we may be joyful, but mindful of the Saint and his great works—and the centuries of bloodshed that would follow his bloodless conversion of the “land of the Saints”.

I will therefore suggest this year that our vigil continue to be kept in the black of mourning (as I will be doing out of protest), but likewise implore those who do choose to celebrate to at least awaken this Sunday and recall the Lorica of Saint Patrick, and rise with the Venerable Saint’s words on our lips,

I arise today
through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ.

May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Holy Bishop Patrick,
Faithful shepherd of Christ's royal flock
You filled Ireland with the radiance of the Gospel:
The mighty strength of the Trinity!
Now that you stand before the Saviour,
Pray that He may preserve us in faith and love.
-Troparion IV, Feast of St. Patrick

31 January 2013

Mutanturne Tempora?

Update: The Scouts have made their decision, and I am unsurprised. It is exactly as I predicted. Because this blog posting has been so misunderstood, I felt I ought to preface it with this small summary: the BSA was founded as a mass movement in the days when Populism was at its height. It is at its heart a populist movement dedicated to keeping with the times, which, as Robert Zimmerman said, are 'achangin'. No one should be surprised that the BSA is trying to stay relevant - it needs major political and financial support to survive, and always has. Populism always leads to a change-with-the-times attitude, and this is merely another example.

So without further ado, the original article of 31 January 2013:

Some may be aware of the news coming out of the Boy Scouts of America that now the ban the organisation placed on openly homosexual leaders and scouts is under consideration for lifting. There are a few things at play here, and neither the root causes nor the consequences are immediately perceivable, but, as a Scouter, it provoked some thought on my part.

Let’s start with the news story itself; here’s a blurb from Albert Mohler’s blog:

Word came yesterday that the Boy Scouts of America is poised to change its policy preventing the participation of openly homosexual scouts and leaders. According to a spokesman for the Boy Scouts, the group may make the formal decision to end the policy as early as next week.

This announcement comes just six months after the B.S.A. board declared that it would not reconsider the policy. Deron Smith, B.S.A. national spokesman, said last July that a special committee established by the B.S.A. board had unanimously recommended keeping the policy. Smith said that the committee “came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts.”

Mohler goes on to imply that homosexual lobbying groups have placed pressure on some of the CEOs who make up the board of trustees for the B.S.A. Mohler, a fairly prominent Baptist, isn’t the only one bringing attention to this, either. The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property (hereafter TFP) has a petition on their website to give (*ahem*) moral support to the B.S.A. and spread the word about pressure being placed on the organisation by the CEOs who make up the board of trustees (like Mohler).

Now, there are a number of reasons why the Scouts have historically not allowed openly homosexual men to be involved as leaders—Christian morality actually belongs to the lower orders of motivation. The chief reason is pure pragmatism: the B.S.A., like every other youth organisation in America, is terrified of child abuse. It is not an absurd policy to be very cautious of sending a bunch of hormonal, confused, and curious teenage boys into the woods with a man who openly defines his identity according to his attraction to other males. The gay camp might call that statement prejudiced. I’d agree—it’s the same prejudice that tells me that going to an impoverished part of Detroit in the middle of the night dressed like a millionaire is going to invite bad things to happen. There is no definite way of knowing I’m going to be mugged, or that those boys are going to be molested, so necessarily making a decision to avoid the bad part of town at night or not allow openly gay men to be Scout leaders requires prejudicial judgement. It’s a question of which is more important: the risk being taken by tempting fate or somebody’s emotional attachment to a given set of principals.

The other reasons all stem from moral arguments, which people like TFP and Mohler have done a much better job expounding upon than I can. All that having been said, and the typical American Conservative commentary having been offered, I’m going to turn my attention to something that isn’t being said and is therefore much more worth saying.

Why is this decision being made? Part of it, no doubt, is social pressure. The Scouts, unlike the Church, do not have to resist social pressure – it’s not their purpose, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. Part of it is definitely lobbying from gay activists on the CEOs and businessmen who make up the Board of Trustees of the B.S.A. Most of it, though, is the fact that the Boy Scouts of America are awash in the spirit of a bygone era, dead to the world of tomorrow that is today, and, ultimately, culturally irrelevant. Before anyone accuses me of going progressive left, I want to add that I say that with a very heavy heart, as an Eagle Scout and a third-generation Scouter. Scouting is in my blood, it’s part of who I am, part of who my father is, and part of who my grandfather was. As an historian, though, and a detached observer, I have to admit – and I think all of us have to admit – that Scouting just isn’t American anymore.

Allow me to offer an example: what is the image that Mohler and TFP use when they talk about Scouting? I have included it here. It is a clean-cut teenage boy in a green military tunic and a campaign hat, saluting, in front of an American flag. It is an image awash in John Phillips Sousa: it is White, it is Anglo-Saxon, it is Protestant—it’s roast beef, potatoes, and Jesus on Sundays. I am not going to join the chorus of leftists calling that vision of America a fantasy, digging around in the graves of “the Greatest Generation” looking for communists and homosexuals. A few skeletons in the closet doesn’t mean the parlour isn’t clean. There was a time when that Ideal Scout did exist. It is gone, and it will never return, because it was produced by a very specific set of circumstances that had not applied before and will not apply again, because of the inherent contradictions that exist in them.

Norman Rockwell lives.
A long and tedious exposition on American social history is necessary to give a fair treatment to the reasons why all this is. I will have to suffice with a very brief analysis of what the Western world of the Edwardian period represented, and why it ultimately collapsed. Above all, the world of Lord Baden-Powell and William Boyce was a world thick in contradictions—something the audience of Downton Abbey is becoming quite aware of. It was a world in which men and women were expected by society to observe different rules and behave differently than they are expected to behave today—our society hasn’t abandoned all rules, it’s simply adopted new, and more immoral, rules and expectations. It was a world in which people could, without irony, be seriously concerned that, in the words of Wikipedia (a contemporary source of what one must believe in order to be considered civilized), “young men were no longer learning patriotism and individualism” at the same time that people were concerned about “mental, physical, social, and religious development”. It is an age that saw absolute individualism and traditional Christian morality as completely non-contradictory, and was a society that valued “rugged individualism” as an ideal but still wanted to make sure there was proper “social development” among children.

No society that is simultaneously libertarian and totalitarian will exist for long without tearing itself to pieces – which is exactly what ended up happening. Unable to resolve the tensions of a modern society that believed in producing a “new man” with eugenics and social conditioning but also believed that men should be individuals who had “unalienable rights”, all while operating under the pretence of being Christian, the society that gave rise to the Scouting movement blew itself to pieces, both concretely (the World Wars) and metaphorically (the 1960s). To this day, the American conservative movement cannot figure out why society continues to move to the left while they themselves are talking about individualism and inalienable rights. The Boy Scouts are a result of a time when no one saw these contradictions and when the majority of people were looking for a mass movement to help inculcate children with the contradictory values of dog-eat-dog capitalism and Christian chivalry at the same time (among others). This lasted, on and off, from about 1910 to 1970—after which, individualism (whence atheism, libertinism, etc.) triumphed, and the atheist and libertine doctrines perverted Christianity into the “Civil Rights” and “Human Rights” movements, and people either decided that individuals were untouchable well-springs of wisdom and wealth (standard American “conservative”) or untrustworthy, stupid crawling things in need of government guidance (standard American “liberal”), leaving very little room for any minority opinions, be they radical or reactionary.

The Scouting movement is and must be a mass movement. This is central. It cannot be a mass movement as an embattled minority—which means it can no longer be a Christian organisation. As Aquinas points out, the leap from heresy to unbelief is easy, so shedding its Protestant skin has not been difficult for the Scouts. Now, however, society is moving in another direction altogether: even the vague half-Christianity that lurks behind the phrase “morally straight” is suspect. Necessarily, the Scouting movement is going to change itself, slowly but surely, until that phrase becomes acceptable or Scouting ceases to exist like all the other uniformed products of American progressivism. Many people are looking to Scouting as a beacon of hope for “conservatives” – especially the “Christian Right”. Catholics and Protestants alike are hoping for it, mostly because they have not come to realise that this has never been what Scouting is. Scouting is for the track-field and the gymnasium—it needs a large, motivated youth to work. It is not a movement fit for the catacombs. It will continue to embrace the American way: individualism, libertinism, “self-definition”, and “diversity”. The more it embraces these, the more American it will become, and the less “American” it will seem to those who, weeping, cling to the rotting fruit, once so full and so healthy in appearance, that has fallen to the ground as the tree has grown.

America is Protestant, it is Liberal, and it is Capitalistic: these things, for a variety of reasons I do not have space to exposit upon here, will always end in immorality, because they deny the fundamental basis of morality, which is the exclusive, the esoteric, and the absolute. Without the exclusive, esoteric, and absolute there can be no real mystery, and with no mystery there is no transcendent or eternal – and these two things are fundamental to understanding the nature of God. We are a polyarchic society, and we will necessarily be, therefore, a polytheistic society, worshipping our idols and ourselves. There is no “until...” at the end of that sentence: the Western world is polyarchic and polytheistic, and it is therefore perishable—indeed, for all intents and purposes it has already perished. Phenomena like the Scouts are a last gasp of an ignorant people trying to preserve a reality which no longer exists. They were that in the 1910s when they were founded—a desperate grasping at anachronistic values combined with modern sensibilities—and they are the same now. It is a sad thing to admit, but it is nevertheless true, that the season of Scouting has passed. The acceptance of openly homosexual men is not a new development, it is not even pivotal: it represents only an outward sign of an inward imperfection that has existed since the very beginning. Scouting weds itself to the spirit of the age, and it will die a widower.

In summary, the defenders of the Scouts are confusing a mass movement for a movement of eternal principles, and ignoring the historical and social context in which the international Scouting movement emerged. The Scouts can remain an organisation of decency, morality, and virtue only insofar as a significant and influential portion of American society remains such. They are not a moral movement, but a social movement: with an increasing clamour for “change” and “relevance”, therefore, the officials of the BSA will weight their past against their future and choose the most pragmatic route: continue to change the organisation into an outdoors/physical fitness club and abandon the male, military youth organisation that society demanded in the 1920s-1940s.

Frankly, the concern for the BSA is superficial: the situation of the BSA is symptomatic and nothing more. The United States is no longer a civics-oriented society, and it has no need of a civics-and-military youth formation programme like Lord Baden-Powell envisioned: historical necessity demands that the Scouts change or die.

19 December 2012

Dominus tecum, Charlie Brown

There are very few pieces of pop culture that are genuinely counter-cultural. Most
"He is risen." (Keep reading, it'll make sense)
so-called “counter-culture” is really just an extreme expression of reigning ideas or is a faux rebellion seeking approval. No matter how much Occupy might try, they, like the Hippies before them, will never really be Unamerican; they simply hold too many fundamentally modern, republican, liberal ideas. Things like liberty, equality, and fraternity are at the heart of the whole movement. On the right, life, liberty, and property are themselves expressions of the same basic cultural milieu of Western Enlightenment that produced Marx and Lenin. That’s a provocative thing to say, to be sure, and not many people will be happy to hear it, but it nevertheless remains true that our society conditions us to more or less express the reigning ideas of the establishment, albeit in a way that suits our individual delicacies. It requires a significant amount of effort to step outside of that conditioning and produce something that truly challenges and attacks the established culture.

It is for this reason that I regard Charles M. Schulz to be a genius. Every year, beginning in November, I begin to become more cynical, less charitable, and, I confess, a great deal less jovial. This spiral continues year by year for most of December – mostly because, try as I might, I cannot escape the ubiquitous television god and its various nefarious acolytes. Before the metamorphosis into a fleshy imitation of the green denizen of Mt. Crumpitt is complete, however, I end up seeing A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Unfortunately, one of the most beautiful things about it is also one of the most depressing things about it: no matter how many years go by since it was first aired, its poignancy and ability to capture everything that is wrong with Christmas seems to increase, or at the very least it does not decrease. We now have a running character on TJ Maxx commercials called “The Gifter”, who knows just where to shop and just how to feed the economy, and therefore “saves Christmas”. This abomination is just one of the various monstrosities dreamed up by the same people Schultz satires in Snoopy’s decoration contest (“Discover the True Meaning of Christmas with MONEY MONEY MONEY”).

The Remnant recently had a very short post expressing what they seem to feel is the worst atrocity committed against Christmas this year. It’s a billboard in Times Square depicting Santa Claus and Jesus Christ, with the motto “keep the merry, dump the myth – American Atheists”. Now, when you saw the words “billboard” and “Times Square , those should already have been red flags. The folks at the paper seem to interpret this as an outgrowth of the limiting of religious liberty (vis-à-vis Obamacare) and a sign of the times. They’re right, in a way – it is a sign of the times, but the times go back much further than 2008. The so-called War on Christmas that capitalist Republicans love to exploit every December began the minute someone in the advertising department of the Coca-Cola Company saw Thomas Nast’s Jolly Old Elf and realised how soon the project deadline was. At that moment, the “Christ” in “Christmas” officially became a superfluous syllable. The point being that there are far more open and flagrant attacks on Christianity in Times Square year round than this little holiday greeting from the worshippers of No-god.  

Charlie Brown experiences this, though never in a really explicit way. He’s surrounded by commercialism and by greed and he’s depressed. He doesn’t find anything satisfying in a holiday that is only about giving and getting things, looking at sparkling lights, and partying. He doesn’t find any meaning in that. Schulz’s main character isn’t just a bald, gullible kid on the wrong end of ongoing Schadenfreude, he’s an everyman. He’s every one of us who have gotten to the end of Christmas and said “I’m not doing any of this s*** next year”. He realises he’s not satisfied with the modern version of Christmas, and he has no idea what a satisfying Christmas is like.

Schulz tells us what a satisfying Christmas is, in the single most beautiful scene of any holiday special (or children’s show, really) ever.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Now, we can go ahead and talk about the fact that the King James translation actually erroneously translates the original Greek of that last part (it should read “peace towards men of good will”), but we are left with something that gets the heart of the season. Schulz himself insisted that the passage be included, according to the history of the special published in the Washington Post.
Charles Schulz insisted on one core purpose: "A Charlie Brown Christmas" had to be about something. Namely, the true meaning of Christmas. Otherwise, Schulz said, "Why bother doing it?"

Mendelson and Melendez asked Schulz whether he was sure he wanted to include Biblical text in the special. The cartoonist's response, Mendelson recalls: "If we don't do it, who will?"
In many ways, the piece actually didn't need the passage from Luke; it's full of Christian imagery already. Charlie Brown's little tree, for example, is a wonderful example of Christ-like simplicity in a world of high seats, long tassels, and broad phylacteries (Mt. 23:5). At the risk of carrying the analogy to the very limits of belief, consider the experience of Charlie Brown when he has the true meaning of Christmas revealed to him: he is joyous and takes the symbol of this meaning, the tree (Jesus), with him to decorate it (thus glorifying the simplicity of Jesus), but finds to his dismay that instead he “kills” it (an act which opens the others to the revelation) - after which he flees in despair (like the Apostles did), only to return to find it “resurrected” and fully decorated (glorified). Now, how much more appropriate is that closing scene when everyone breaks into Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”?

Charlie Brown and Linus: Apostles.

The depressing irony, of course, of all this that without Coca-Cola’s aforementioned advertising savvy,
Charlie Brown Christmas never would have aired – a statement of faith on their part in the American way and the survival of the sort of hypocrisy that allows people to imagine Christianity and capitalism to be compatible. But Charles Schulz made his statement, like a voice crying out in the wilderness, that in the true meaning of Christmas is the season now satisfying, which reminds us of another Gospel passage, this one from John:
Jesus answered, and said to her: Whosoever drinketh of this water, shall thirst again; but he that shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst for ever: But the water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting.
It was the miracle of incarnation that brought forth the water of life, that all who drink of it may be satisfied. No matter how he got his message on television, Schulz sent this message through Charlie Brown. Dr. Seuss gets close with his Christmas that comes without ribbons, tags, packages, boxes, or bags, but he falls short of the real message: why does Christmas still come? Schulz answers that question for us: it is because all of the department stores, reindeer, and red-suited obesity are meaningless, but Christmas has a meaning inherent to it, that we can get to if we make the effort to be a little grinchy, to clear away all the excess, and see what's left when we do. We will find, like Charlie Brown found, satisfaction and comfort.

For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

28 November 2012

Newspaper Portrait: A Review


Sheldon Marcus' book on Charles Coughlin is among those few books written on the man—which is the only reason I can think of why the US Holocaust Museum would even entertain the notion of listing it as a good source on the radio priest. It is, without a doubt, a very interesting and informative piece for anyone who knows as little as I did about Fr. Coughlin. It is informed by documentary evidence as well as interviews, including some with Coughlin himself. However, it is also a decidedly amateurish and journalistic undertaking, more in the tradition of William Shirer (for whom Marcus expresses admiration, and who actually serves as a factual source in the book) than in any historian or biographer of note. Because of this style, it has a good readability, but it is severely handicapped and can, at times, seem positively schizophrenic. The opening chapters are full of the young, vibrant Coughlin, innovative priest, ahead of his time in methods and style, who was a tremendous asset to the Church. As soon as the work reaches Coughlin’s opening political salvos, however—specifically when he turns against Roosevelt—he becomes alternative the demon or the fool Coughlin, the Jew-baiting American Hitler already so well known through newspaper accounts. Undocumented claims that he directly founded the anti-Semitic Christian Front (a small terrorist organisation in New York) and ripped-from-the-headlines accounts of his shady dealings and irrational ranting over the airwaves combine to create a second half the book which obscures Coughlin the man in favour of Coughlin the sensational news story.

There is ultimately no balance struck between the two conflicting views, and little reflection is done on the reasons for Coughlin’s association with anti-Semitic organisations and attitudes. Indeed, despite repeated insistence on Coughlin’s personal anti-Semitism, the only evidence that exists seems to come from quotations in news stories and his association with anti-Semitic groups and personalities. When so much of the man Coughlin appears in the early part of the book, it is strange that no questions were ever posed in the interviews regarding Coughlin’s private opinion on the Jews. Indeed, few of his radio addresses are quoted if they are not derived from the massive pile of newspaper clippings that constitute the greater part of Marcus’ sources. The result is a familiar portrait of Coughlin everyone had already seen in newspapers and heard on the radio – there is nothing new, nothing nuanced, in this picture.

Perhaps the most grievous offence of the work, however, is the mischaracterisation of associates of Coughlin. The worst of these is the casting of Hilaire Belloc, famous essayist, poet, scholar, and Catholic apologist (I fear my bias is showing) as an anti-Semite and Fascist. The basis for this claim is extrapolation from Belloc’s condemnation of the “loyalist” faction—i.e. the communists—in the Spanish Civil War. Indeed, throughout the work, which side one supported in the Spanish Civil War seems to be enough evidence for Marcus to either condemn a person as a “fascist” or uphold him as an enemy of fascism. It does not seem to occur to the author that one might have non-political reasons to support the nationalists, or at least condemn the communists, because of the mass murder of priests, nuns, and lay Catholics by the so-called “loyalists” in Spain. Belloc’s contributions to Coughlin’s Social Justice are taken as typical examples of the sort of slim outside support Coughlin could generate for his publication. Marcus, though, even gets the radicals on his list wrong, calling Francis Parker Yockey’s Imperium “a Nazi answer to the Communist Manifesto.” Yockey certainly was radical, and had some anti-Semitic tendencies, but he was no George Lincoln Rockwell: his post-war support for the Soviet Union belies the sort of crude Nazism Marcus accuses him of.

The amount of historical ignorance displayed here is exemplary of the sort of writing found throughout the book. It is symptomatic of the journalistic and sensationalist approach that dominates Marcus’ style. It is truly disappointing that a man who had direct access to Coughlin should not have penned a more detached and personal treatment of the radio priest with less unqualified support for reigning mythologies (there is implication throughout that Coughlin represents a sort of absurd precursor to McCarthyism and American “paranoia” about Communism). Coughlin as a radical, and certainly no exemplar, but merely repeating the same tired newspaper headlines and anti-McCarthy clichés serves no scholarly or historical end.

A far better treatment of the subject would have come from an educated Catholic—or at least an historian educated in Church law and Church history. Such an approach would appreciate gross departures on Coughlin’s part from Church teaching, the faults in his flirtations with fascist policies and admiration for Fascist success (an admiration, Marcus refuses to mention, shared by Roosevelt himself), and his ignorance of Nazi anti-clericalism. This, at least, would have given nuance to Coughlin’s attitudes and personality and not simply copied the already established image as an unrepentant Jew-baiter and demagogue, which does not in fact do justice to the priest, the man, or his actual beliefs, however flawed. Another approach that likewise would be a great improvement on Marcus would be one that focuses more on Coughlin the man and less on Coughlin the persona. The book plays up Social Justice, Townshend, the Union Party, the Christian Front, and others, which results in it saying very little about “the tumultuous life of the Priest of the Little Flower”. Anecdotes of Coughlin losing his temper, meeting with Roosevelt, etc. are interesting departures rather than the norm of the book. Where is his private life? Even as a priest, he has something resembling time to himself—his religious devotions, his parish, his off-air personality, none of which make an appearance in Marcus’ book.

If the work accomplishes anything, it brings to light how deplorable scholarly treatment of the subject has been, and how much need there is for a history not mired in headlines and uncritical acceptance of the popular myths of New Deal America. Coughlin’s place in the history of American Catholicism as well as American political radicalism will never truly be established if all we have to work with is a newspaper portrait. This amateur, journalistic endeavour has, therefore, little real quality - one could get just as much information (and much less misinformation) from reading an Encyclopaedia article about Coughlin. It gave no unique or original insights and had the general quality of a fumbling first-attempt by a dilettante of the English language.

21 November 2012

The Red and the White 4: Conservatism of the Atlantic and the Steppe

It was not a month ago that Mormon presidential candidate and faux conservative Mitt Romney called Russia “America’s number one enemy”. Vladimir Putin quipped that he was grateful to Romney for making his foreign policy decisions so easy should Romney be elected—decisions which include missile deployment and relationships with Syria and Iran. More importantly, though, Romney has revealed that the mainstream of “conservatism” in America—the brand that has been hijacked, only to be largely abandoned, by the Republican Party—has not been able to adjust its mental structures for the post-Cold War world. It still believes in a basic American Exceptionalism and Liberal Triumphalism, in which the individual reigns supreme and the West has triumphed over Russian communism solely because of innate superiority of our democratic principles and economic prowess. In this view, it is Obama who is to blame for Russia’s resurgence, and no inherent quality of the Russian people which has allowed them, like the Chinese, to assert themselves culturally, politically, and economically on the world stage.

Americans have much to learn from the Russian conservatives who are largely
No intelligent person - let alone a
conservative - should find it difficult to
explain this man's defeat.
responsible for this cultural and political resurgence of their Motherland. The failure of American conservatives to see that US economic weakness does not equate to Chinese and Russian economic success, but that superior cultures will rise as inferior cultures fall—a lesson that Solzhenitsyn was among the first to try to teach the West from Russia. Conservatives in the West cannot help but feel as though we have abandoned our core cultural roots in Christendom and European identity in favour of a new, Liberal religion and atomised identity to fit with the “global future”. Looking at the demographic and social collapse of Europe and her cultural colonies in Australia and the Americas, it is not difficult to see that for Westerners there is no “global future” for us – something the Whites realised in 1917 when they found no support against Bolshevism from their former “allies” in the Atlanto-Liberal world.

Right now there is a developing cleavage in the Western world between what has hitherto been regarded as “mainstream” conservatism—namely the moderate sort of pragmatic conservatism of the US Republican Party and, increasingly, the British and Canadian Conservative Parties, as well as the German Christian Democrats and others like them—and the principled, culturally- and spiritually-aware conservatism represented not only by “fringe” movements like the French Nouvelle Droit and “Paleoconservative” thinkers like Sam Francis and Pat Buchanan, but also Roman Catholic and Traditional Anglican political movements to counter the aftermath of the “sexual revolution”—especially the legitimisation of the abnormal and perverse. If this schism continues at its present pace, those true conservatives of a traditional mind will leave behind their liberal counterparts altogether, and the “conservatism” of the Republicans and Libertarians, Christian Democrats and Liberal Democrats, will become merely another part of the Liberal Tradition that has been forming in the Western world for at least two centuries.

In a way, then, what is happening is less a breaking away of “radical” conservatives from “mainstream” conservatives, but a merging of “mainstream” into the Liberal establishment, and the abandonment of Christian Tradition in favour of a new Liberal Tradition rooted in low-church Protestantism and Materialism, expressed most fully in the social institution of the Welfare State. “Radical” conservatives of real moral fervour and principled objection to equality and the Welfare State are merely remaining the same as they (we?) have ever been. However, this remaining the same has also led them to forget what it means to be a truly vigorous social, political, and cultural phenomenon. Only in Russia, where the Gulag was the school, has the vitality of cultural conservatism remained alive, and it is therefore from to that corner that Western Conservatives must look for their grounding if they do not wish to merely merge into the Liberal establishment and abandon their basic Christian morality and conservative principles.

What, ultimately, this may mean is the abandonment of Western identity insofar as it means a Liberal identity, and the relocation of Conservatism into a milieu more culturally and morally sound. This is, I imagine, why many radical right-wing thinkers have abandoned Euroscepticism in favour of a reinterpretation of European unity. We must recall, as Marc Bloch observed, that even in the days of Otto the Great and Charles Martel, scribes spoke of a unified “European civilization”. The forces of Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours were called “Europeans”—not Franks, not Germans, but Europeans in the face of the Saracens. Likewise, Otto the Great was called the saviour of European civilization when he defeated the Hungarians in the 10th century. There is, therefore, a far longer legacy of a European identity among Western Christians than there is of a national identity—itself an outgrowth of Liberal ideas prevalent in the Enlightenment. Western Conservatives have the opportunity to look to Russian Conservatism and Eurasianism as an example of a Conservative trans-nationalism that is neither internationalist, nor cosmopolitan, nor egalitarian, but rather particularistic, traditional, and hierarchical.

We recall Hilaire Belloc and his declaration that “Europe is the Faith”—Dugin has already said as much of Russia: “the state should align itself with the model of Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy must take an active part in the social life, economic life, and I would say, in the political sphere.” He may as well have already said “Eurasia is the Faith”. Such an attitude speaks to what Spengler regarded as the trait of being “passionately religious in a way we Western Europeans have not been, indeed could not have been, for centuries” in his address to Rhenish business men in February of 1922. He added that, “as soon as this religious drive is directed toward a goal, it possesses an immense expansive potential. Unlike us, such a people does not count the victims who die for an idea, for it is a young, vigorous, and fertile people.” This is in the very midst of Lenin’s dictatorship of the proletariat! How accurate his image of Russia was even then is only now apparent. He declared that “Dostoyevsky stands against Tolstoy as a symbol of the future against the present… Tolstoy, and not Marx, was the leader to Bolshevism. Dostoyevsky is its future conqueror.”

Tolstoy and the other great Russian authors (except Gogol and Dostoevsky) were “hardly pillars of church and state” who were “in political opposition”—the symptom Solzhenitsyn observes as the approval and protection of “freedom fighters”: “public opinion guarantees that their lives will be safe, that their cause will be given publicity, that they will be held in decent confinement—that is, until other terrorists come an rescue them. A society for the protection of terrorists indeed! There was such a society in Russia before her collapse: we too have trodden this fatal path.” These men were rebels, revolutionaries, malcontents: their opponents were defenders of conservatism and tradition. While I still advise caution, and shrink from saying that Dugin is a model to be emulated uncritically, it still remains that today the “radical” voices in Russia are all supportive of the Orthodox Church and the stability of the State—while “conservatives” in the United States preach the absence of a state rather than its correction, on the basic assumption that no government is better than bad government. It seems obvious which of the two is closer to traditional Conservatism.

We have the chance to learn from the Russian right-wing (of which Dugin is but one example) what we have forgotten of our own Conservative tradition. In the words of G.K. Chesterton,

“People have fallen into the foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”

14 November 2012

The Red and the White 3: Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin

After discussion of Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky, Aleksandr Dugin seems to be a
Алекса́ндр Ге́льевич Ду́гин
strange man to follow. He is not a former prisoner or literary author. Rather, he belongs to a different species: a politically active academic, attached to the Department of Sociology at Moscow State University. The appointment has drawn criticism from various corners of the Western academy; we are used, in the West, to hearing a clamour of condemnation whenever an even vaguely conservative or traditional voice rises in the halls of academia, and it does not take long for the self-regulating forces of organised nihilism to begin the work of discrediting all voices of heresy. True, the system does often catch the legitimately illegitimate - the dishonest scholar, the crank, the sophist - as it did when Hitlerian David Irving was silenced, or when anti-gun radical Michael Bellesiles was shamed. In both cases, though, the authors in questions provoked their attackers in some way that was (more or less) unrelated to their ideology
—Irving unwisely sued someone for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier, and Bellesiles engaged in vulgar verbal brawls on the internet about his book with several amateur scholars who did not share his own prejudices.

Others, however, do little to provoke the attacks on their names and work than hold an uncommon or illiberal view of the world, which seems to be the case with Dugin. This makes him of particular interest to any and all conservative and traditional thinkers regardless of their stripe or their agreement with him on specifics. It has been adroitly argued by several authors that Dugin does not fall within the purview of Traditionalism in the tradition of Guenon and Coomaraswamy. This in fact may not be a problem for Western conservatives—the influence of Theosophy on the Integral Tradition movement makes it necessarily repugnant to believing Christians. Perhaps the most concise and comprehensive examination of Dugin’s relationship with Traditionalism, which several hints at Dugin’s actual political leanings, can be found in “Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist? ‘Neo-Eurasianism and Perennial Philosophy” by Anton Shekhovtsov and Andreas Umland. In it, the authors make a very thorough examination of Dugin’s relationship to Traditionalism, tracing it through what they consider the corruptive influence of Julius Evola, the (very broad) category of “European New Right” ideologues, including such thinkers as neo-pagan Alain de Benoist, National Anarchist Troy Southgate, and Yockeyite Jean Thiriart. They also list among his influences what they call the “oxymoronic” Conservative Revolution movement of Weimar Germany, whom they cast as “passive accomplices of the Nazi movement” for not being sufficiently liberal or endorsing the Weimar regime, ignoring the fact that several authors of the movement, including Spengler, Moeller van den Bruck, and Edgar Julius Jung (who was murdered in the Night of the Long Knives) were ardent anti-Nazis.

Without a doubt, Dugin had and has friendly connexions with Benoist, Southgate, Thiriart, Steuckers, Faye, and others of various “New Right” movements in Europe. Most of the impetus for these connexions, however, seems to have come from Europe rather than Russia. Thiriart, especially, became extremely devoted to Dugin’s political ideas in the last years of his life. Dugin does show strong signs of Conservative Revolution influence—his own Eurasianist convictions seem heavily influenced by Spengler’s prediction of a Slavic future, especially. However, authors looking to Europe for his roots may be disappointed to find out that several European authors were ante-dated in their ideas by some decades by Russian authors with whom they had little contact. Spengler, who read Russian avidly, may have been aware of Nikolai Danilevsky, who in 1869 wrote Россия и Европа. Взгляд на культурные и политические отношения Славянского мира к Германо-Романскому (“Russia and Europe: A View of the Cultural and Political Relations of the Slavic World to the Germano-Roman”), in which he proposed a cyclical view of history echoed by Spengler in his own Untergang des Abendlandes of 1917. Danilevsky, it should be noted, began his writing career in the Petrashevsky Circle in the company of Feodor Dostoevsky and the great satirist Saltykov-Shchedrin, with whom Danilevsky shared the good fortune of escaping Dostoevsky’s fate.

In addition to this, it is impossible to overstate the influence exerted on interwar German conservative and radical right-wing thought by the White émigré community, the European legacy of the Bolshevik usurpation of power. Likewise rooted in this émigré community was the original Eurasianist movement resurrected by Lev Gumilev and in which Dugin has become heavily involved after his movement away from National Bolshevism. Combining the traditional Orthodox attitudes of the initial émigré community with the conservative and more world-historical attitudes of later Soviet exiles like Solzhenitsyn as well as Soviet citizens like Gumilev, Dugin presents a truly unique voice in radical conservative thought—a voice that Yigal Liverant (of Tel Aviv University) is terrified reflects “the dominant trend in current Russian politics and culture. If we wish to understand the zeitgeist that prevails in Russia today, it is essential for us to acquaint ourselves with this thinker, who expresses the innermost feelings of many of his fellow countrymen and their leadership.

Westerners are often ignorant of how important
Orthodoxy remains to Russians of all stripes.
Shekhovtsov and Umland are quick to dismiss the last uniquely Russian aspect of Dugin’s ideology and worldview, namely his Orthodox Christianity. Like Dostoevsky, Danilevsky, and Solzhenitsyn, Dugin’s Orthodoxy is unique even among the mainstream of Russian Orthodoxy. He belongs to the Единове́рие group of Old Believers who have been reconciled with the Russian Orthodox Church. This phenomenon of Old Believers returning to the Patriarch of Moscow is similar to those Traditionalist Roman Catholics who have reconciled themselves to the post-Vatican II church but maintained their own ecclesiology and rites—groups like the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and Institute of Christ the King spring to mind in the Catholic milieu. The Old Believers themselves are a group of highly conservative Russian Orthodox who split from the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1666. Depending on one’s view of the affair, they are either the original Orthodox or heterodox schismatics. Shekhovtsov has described Dugin’s identification with the group of the sect which has reconciled itself to Moscow as a purely political move to create good relations with the Patriarchate and nevertheless keep him from being fully “mainstream” to create a veneer of non-conformism. This is perhaps an underestimation of Dugin’s own religiosity and sense of Russianness that would make such a religious alignment less practical than part of the general trend in Russia to return to the Faith now long bereft of vitality or socio-political significance in the Western context.

Whatever the case, it is impossible to say that Dugin is not at least intriguing. His ties to neo-Fascism in his youth may have once made him a hot potato politically speaking. Times, though, are changing: the stigma once associated with the "far right" has not been felt so strongly in conservative circles in the US, and "paleoconservatives" like Sam Francis are once again gaining some ground. Dugin has his difficulties – there is no doubt there – but the value of his ideas to Western conservatism does not reside in mimicry, or in importing him; the best course (the most conservative course) is study and critical consideration. What kind of man is he in relation to his culture—and why is that a positive or negative thing; why is he hated by the Western left so much, and endorsed by the Russian establishment so readily? Western conservatives could gain tremendously from looking into what drives Russian conservatism and why it is such a popular and powerful force, such that the premier academic establishment in the country has appointed a man like Dugin the head of a prestigious institute within it and he enjoys close relations with the Russian government. It would seem, after the public outcry against the anarchist P**** Riot, that Conservative concerns have a majority voice in Russia, a voice which is tied distinctly to the Church. In America, on the other hand, the Republican Party is writing off European Americans and Christianity as failures, and abandoning even the thin veneer with which they pretended conservatism in the face of Barack Obama's re-election. Conservatism right now needs to look outside of America for the future if it wants to survive in the post-Republican era.

01 November 2012

"Conservative" and "Republican"

This is just a random musing, but I felt it was worth sharing.

There seems to be a great deal of discussion among independently-minded conservatives as to whether or not the Republicans are conservative, and whether one can be a conservative and still be a Republican. There is another level to this, however, that goes unspoken and unaddressed, namely the place of conservatism in the American Republic. As The American Conservative observes, up until the 1950s, “conservative” was an epithet for being “backward and authoritarian, the most hidebound elements of Old Europe”, and within less than three decades, to be “conservative” became the goal of every mainstream American politician whose constituency was not solely made up of social outcasts or minorities. But the conservatism that this new popular phenomenon represents—what conservative outsiders call “movement conservatism”—is definitively not conservatism at its core, but a sort of diluted (and deluded) form.

What does this extremely short lifespan of conservative acceptance say about the ideas, attitudes, and biases that fall within the purview of that term? If, in a liberal republic, the choice is between a cult of revolution and exceptionalism that excludes “conservatism” as a mere epithet and a diluted movement hijacked by wealthy special interests and capitalist excess, is there room for a true conservatism? In short, perhaps the question that needs to be asked is not “can a conservative be a Republican?” but “can a conservative be republican?”

I'm working from a definition in which “conservative” means “Traditionally-minded” and “republican” means “modern government”, since inevitably all Republics grow out of modern developments. It would probably be worth expanding on the Weberian thesis that ties Protestantism and Capitalism and the historical attachment of Protestant and Liberal values (however risky that course may be). One way or another, the marriage of conservatism and republicanism seems necessarily a difficult one, because the two strive for separate goals, and must dilute one another to arrive at any sort of cooperative compromise.