Many or most of my readers may know that a recent Supreme Court decision held that a Christian baker was within his rights to refuse to bake a special cake for a gay wedding. For that he was roundly criticized, some would say harassed, by the party in question. They brought suit, and the case eventually made it to the SCOTUS – which, to the surprise of most observers, found in favor of the defendant.
While their ruling has been criticized by some conservatives for being too narrow, it at least went some way toward upholding the principle that merely because one offers a service to the public, one is not thereby obliged to completely chuck one’s moral standards and religious beliefs into the gutter. (To put a slightly finer point on it, service does not equate to slavery.)
The baker made it clear that he would happily have sold the couple a pre-existing cake; he is, after all, in the business of selling cakes, and has no desire to actively discriminate. However, by demanding that he make one specifically for their occasion, they were forcing him to actively participate in it, demonstrating de facto approval of their actions, and that is what he objected to. The Supreme Court, to their credit, agreed.
Now, I am a bit more extreme in my views, in that I believe a private business owner has the right to refuse service to anyone, for any reason, or no reason – with the understanding, of course, that this is likely to have an impact on his or her business, and if that impact is negative (people “vote with their wallet”), he or she has no right to complain. So from that perspective, yes, I agree that it was too narrow a ruling.
But, it is head-and-shoulders above the situation we have had up to this point, which is that basically anyone can be forced to do anything for anyone, if it is in line with their business, and the business owner has no choice in the matter, regardless of their moral qualms. So it is at least a significant step in the right direction!
What causes me to shake my head (in dismay though not, alas, in surprise) is the reactions of the college students interviewed, which demonstrate with all-too-crystalline clarity the extent of the socio-political indoctrination inflicted on our young people by the academic establishment – public school and higher education alike – as well as the lack of critical-thinking skills inculcated by these institutions.
They are emphatic and unanimous that the SCOTUS decision was wrong, that people’s “right” to “be who they are” trumps a business owner’s right to follow his or her own moral and religious standards – even to the point of being forced to do something that is directly against them. But they start to waffle when the parameters are shifted!
Well, what if it’s a black baker, being forced to bake a cake for a KKK rally? They backed off of that one in a hurry, although struggling (and failing) to find some sort of coherent justification for the switch: even admitting, in a couple of instances, that they had contradicted themselves.
What if it’s a Jewish baker, being asked to bake a cake for a Palestinian event (presumably of a “free Palestine” – and thus, anti-Israel – nature)? More waffling. A lot more, in this case, as they are presumably conflicted over which side is “in the right,” here!
But the point is that the argument that someone’s right / freedom to “be who they are” trumps a business owner’s right to be who he or she is, in following their religious and moral standards – even to the point of forcing that person to transgress their religious and moral beliefs – collapses completely, when it’s not some nasty reactionary Christian oppressing some poor, oppressed, “freedom”-loving progressive type.
As my mother used to say, “it all depends on whose ox is getting gored.” And as I have said more than once in various fora, irony and double-standards are endemic among today’s Leftists, and logic, coherence, and rationality appear to be in short supply!
King John granted the Charter of Liberties, subsequently known as Magna Carta, at Runnymede on 15 June 1215.
On this date in 1215, 803 years ago today, King John “Lackland” granted – admittedly under duress! – the “Charter of Liberties,” which was to become known as the “Magna Carta” or “Great Charter,” to the rebel barons and leading churchmen of the Realm of England.
This is of Anglican interest because it protected, among other things, the rights and privileges of the English Church (Ecclesia Anglicana); and is is of general interest for those concerned with the defense of the West because “Magna Carta has… acquired a special status as the cornerstone of English liberties…. [The Great Charter] retains enormous symbolic power as an ancient defence against arbitrary and tyrannical rulers, and as a guarantor of individual liberties.”
The article points out that it is not certain how many copies of the 1215 Magna Carta were originally issued, but four copies still survive: one in Lincoln Cathedral; one in Salisbury Cathedral; and two at the British Library. It is actually the edition of 1225, issued (voluntarily) by King Henry III, which became definitive, and of which three critical clauses are still part of English law:
“Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. Although nearly a third of the text was deleted or substantially rewritten within ten years, and almost all the clauses have been repealed in modern times, Magna Carta remains a cornerstone of the British constitution.
“Most of the 63 clauses granted by King John dealt with specific grievances relating to his rule. However, buried within them were a number of fundamental values that both challenged the autocracy of the king and proved highly adaptable in future centuries. Most famously, the 39th clause gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial. Some of Magna Carta’s core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and in many other constitutional documents around the world, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).”
Of the three of those clauses which remain part of English law, one defends the liberties and rights of the English Church, another confirms the liberties and customs of London and other towns, but here is the third and most famous:
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”
“This clause gave all free men the right to justice and a fair trial [although] ‘free men’ comprised only a small proportion of the population in medieval England…
“Magna Carta has consequently acquired a special status as the cornerstone of English liberties. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of its clauses have now been repealed, or in some cases superseded by other legislation such as the Human Rights Act (1998). Magna Carta nonetheless retains enormous symbolic power as an ancient defence against arbitrary and tyrannical rulers, and as a guarantor of individual liberties.”
Perhaps, given the political and social situation there, England is in need of a new “Great Charter”!
“The crowd is drawn by something bigger than Tommy, something greater than one man. Old, young, mothers, daughters and dads, drawn together by a shared sense that our country has got it all wrong, and Britain has lost its way.”
The glories of the West take many forms! This includes here in these United States, in this case in Colonial Williamsburg, the original capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia – “the Old Dominion,” the first colony in America settled by English settlers, in 1607, and a state with a rich history. Here we see the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums, performing in an important ceremony:
Graduation march of Johnny Shideler and Chris Hochella, corps members and friends for eight years. Recorded July 15, 2014, in a downpour.
The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums are not professional musicians; they are local schoolchildren who volunteer to play 18th century music in 18th century attire for the benefit of visitors and others. This is no light task! From their website:
The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums – also known as the Field Music of the Virginia State Garrison Regiment – carries forward the tradition of military music. Since 1958, visitors in The Revolutionary City have enjoyed the musical performances and experienced the history of America’s Revolution.
Colonial Williamsburg’s field musicians are drawn from a waiting list of young community applicants. Boys and girls begin their education in military music at age 10 and practice weekly for the next eight years, until after they have graduated from high school. These young people talk with the public about the role of music in the 18th-century military. They teach younger members the music and history lessons needed to continue the tradition of the field musicians.
The Fifes and Drums appear in more than 700 performances each year. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is justifiably proud of each of these truly remarkable young Americans, past and present. They have come to symbolize what is best about our community, our history, and our museum.
Nota Bene: “Boys and girls begin their education in military music at age 10 and practice weekly for the next eight years, until after they have graduated from high school. These young people talk with the public about the role of music in the 18th-century military.” The brief clip linked above is from the graduation march honouring two members who have “aged out” of the Fifes and Drums – and conducted in pouring rain, a mark of dedication if I have ever seen one!
For those who have liked what they’ve heard so far, here is a longer montage of performances by the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums:
How the humanities survive on exploitation.
I am not, generally, a big fan of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and I have soured significantly on “the academy” – as it is now constructed and run, not as it once was and has the potential to be again – in recent years and decades. The linked article is a good explication of why. Here is just one brief excerpt:
“The abysmal conditions of adjuncts are not the inevitable byproducts of an economy with limited space for literature. They are intentional. Universities rely upon a revolving door of new Ph.D.s who work temporarily for unsustainable wages before giving up and being replaced by next year’s surplus doctorates. Adjuncts now do most university teaching and grading at a fraction of the price, so that the ladder faculty have the time and resources to write. We take the love that young people have for literature and use it to support the research of a tiny elite.”
As much as I love writing, and as much as I respect those who write well and on worthwhile subjects, when I was dreaming of becoming a professor, I did not want to write, primarily and as a major end of my professorship: I wanted to teach. I wanted to share such knowledge as I had, by God’s grace, managed to acquire with young (mostly) people who were hungry for it, in some cases whether they knew it or not. The old saw, “publish or perish,” stuck in my craw, as I knew that would take time and energy away from actually teaching – actually professing, the theoretical job of a professor (a.k.a. “teacher of the love of wisdom,” philosophiae doctor, the meaning of Ph.D.).
Clearly, the situation has not improved in the decades since the mid-1990s, when I pretty much laid that dream to rest. “Adjuncts now do most university teaching and grading at a fraction of the price, so that the ladder faculty have the time and resources to write.” That pretty much says it all. Don’t get me wrong, I (of all people) am not knocking writing, per se! But when it takes so much time away from actual teaching that the only way to maintain the educational function of an institution of higher learning is to hire underpaid, easily-fired adjuncts to do the “dirty work” of actually teaching – because the “ladder faculty” are so busy writing they don’t have time to actually interact with students – something is badly wrong.
The problem is not limited to higher education, of course; non-profits, and even county- and state-funded agencies, rely on low-paid or non-paid interns, volunteers, or seasonals to do the majority of their work. I have written before of the bitter irony that volunteers are considered to be “worth” $24.14/hour (as of 2016), based on their value to the organization, according to Independent Sector – while those same organizations pay their part-times and seasonals (which describes just about everyone except the director) $9 or $11 an hour. The situation clearly is not much improved if you’ve spent years of your life and many thousands of dollars getting a doctorate. That is appalling.
The writer of this article is a literary critic, but the same is true throughout the humanities. He goes on to add, “This is the great shame of our profession. We tell our students to study literature because it will make them better human beings, that in our classrooms they will learn empathy and wisdom, thoughtfulness and understanding. And yet the institutions supporting literary criticism are callous and morally incoherent.”
That is indeed – or should be – a source of great shame. Surely we can do better. Surely we must!
Here’s another excerpt from Donald Davidson’s essay, “A Mirror for Artists,” in I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (1930), with my thoughts inspired thereby, following:
“Education can do comparatively little to aid the cause of the arts as long as it must turn out graduates into an industrialized society which demands specialists in vocational, technical, and scientific subjects. The humanities, which could reasonably be expected to foster the arts, have fought a losing battle since the issue between vocational and liberal education was raised in the nineteenth century…’
“The more they indoctrinate the student with their values, the more unhappy they will make him. For he will be spoiled for the industrial tasks [and the same could be said of technology, or the “service economy”] by being rendered inefficient. He will not fit in. The more refined and intelligent he becomes, the more surely he will see in the material world the lack of the image of nobility and beauty that the humanities inculcate in him.”
Maybe this is the true reason that so many colleges and universities seem to be trying to re-envision themselves as glorified vocational schools! The proximate cause may be the (arguably laudable, on the face of it) desire by institutions of higher learning to make themselves more “relevant” and help their students get jobs with their diplomas.
But it may be that the ultimate cause is the desire of the puppeteers that pull the strings in so many aspects of society – the globalist, corporatist plutocrats, the vulture capitalists and profiteers, the robber-barons of the 21st century – to suppress aspirations toward the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, in favor of their (un)holy trinity of Production, Consumption, and Profit.
It certainly would suit those whose goal in life is to make money by selling “stuff” (whether goods or services) to promote the creation of a society of mindless drones who are numbed by the technological equivalent of “bread and circuses” into a passive existence where getting said “stuff” and being entertained (mostly electronically, which doesn’t even require a person to leave the house) becomes the goal of an otherwise largely futile and nihilistic existence.
They certainly wouldn’t want people to be seriously wrestling with questions like “what is the Good?” or “how do we reach it?” or “what is the proper end of a human being?” Or struggling with attempting to discern the meaning of Truth, or which volitional (self-willed) acts of a human being are ethically virtuous, and which are ethically vicious. Or even grappling with the characteristics of genuine Beauty, and the relationship between and among Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, the classical Three Transcendentals.
Best not to even admit that there might be such a thing as transcendence. Certainly under no circumstances should they be led down trails which might lead them to the consideration that there may be some sort of actual, objective Divine Reality, outside the constraints of our physical-sensory universe (although in significant ways immanent within it) – and especially not one which is personal, concerned with humanity, and which has both plans for, and expectations of, us humans!
Human beings concerned about such matters would be lousy consumers of “stuff,” since they might begin to suspect that there may after all be higher aspirations which are, in the long run, more important…