Here’s a thought to “cheer” your Saturday:
“It is common knowledge that, wherever it can be said to exist at all, the kind of leisure provided by industrialism is a dubious benefit. It helps nobody but merchants and manufacturers, who have taught us to use it in industriously consuming the products they make in great excess over the demand.
“Moreover, it is spoiled, as leisure, by the kind of work that industrialism compels. The furious pace of our working hours is carried over into our leisure hours, which are feverish and energetic. We live by the clock. Our days are a muddle of ‘activities,’ strenuously pursued. We do not have the free mind and easy temper that should characterize true leisure.
“Nor does the separation of our lives into two distinct parts, of which one is all labor – too often mechanical [whether literally or figuratively] and deadening – and the other all play, undertaken as a nervous relief, seem to be conducive to a harmonious life. The arts will not easily survive a condition under which we work and play at cross-purposes. We cannot separate our being into contradictory halves without a certain amount of spiritual damage.
“The leisure thus offered is really no leisure at all; either it is pure sloth, under which the arts take on the character of mere entertainment, purchased in boredom and enjoyed in utter passivity, or it is another kind of labor, taken up out of a sense of duty, pursed as a kind of fashionable enterprise in which one’s courage must be continually whipped up by reminders of one’s obligation to culture.”
— Davidson, Donald: “A Mirror for Artists,” I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (1930).
Anthony Bourdain killed himself today. Fashion designer Kate Spade committed suicide earlier in the week. That’s two prominent suicides in the span of just a few days. And they are far from alone, sadly. Suicide is a veritable epidemic across the nation. Suicide rates are on the rise in almost every state. In some areas, they have risen by 30% or more. This is not normal. Something is happening. But what? And why?
While this essay deals specifically with what seems to be an epidemic of suicides, including and most noticeably among prominent / “celebrity” individuals, I think the issues Walsh identifies can be applied more broadly, to include, inter alia, what seems to another “epidemic”: that of mass shootings. The crisis is the same, it’s how people react to it that’s different: some lash out at others; some lash out at themselves. Some commit violent crimes, while others commit self-harm… but the roots of the ailment are identical. He writes,
“People will say that suicide is on the rise because we are not doing enough to fight the ‘mental health crisis,’ but this can’t be the cause. We have never been more aware of, or more proactive against, mental health issues, yet the suicide rate only continues to climb. The rate was a fraction of what it is today back when nobody had ever even heard of ‘mental health.’ The purely psychological explanations just don’t hold up. Clearly there is a deeper problem here.
“I think that problem is emptiness. There is an emptiness at the core of our culture, and from this root the suicide epidemic grows. We have fled from God, from meaning, from purpose, and embraced a soft kind of nihilism; a nihilism that will not call itself nihilism. It uses other words and slogans to describe itself. ‘You only live once,’ it says. ‘Live your truth.’ People are told that there is only one life, one reality, and it has no meaning aside from what you assign to it. But what happens when you no longer see meaning? Well, our culture says, if you do not see it then it is not there.
“Those who seek happiness by following the well-worn paths will inevitably fall into this pit. If you do what everyone else is doing, and live how they live, and walk in their footsteps, you will end up in the same darkness. You will begin to feel that there is no hope and no point and no real beauty or joy to be found in life. And this is the state in which so many of us are living…
“And the crisis only worsens because we refuse to trace it all the way down to its roots. We stop at the brain, at chemical reactions and psychological disorders, but we never pause to ask why all of our brains have apparently gone haywire in modern times. If this is all just a matter of mental disorders, why in the hell are these ‘mental disorders’ so common now?”
A good question, but I will let you read the article itself to learn Walsh’s answer to it. It’s fairly short, I’ll wait while you read it. And if you are a regular reader of The Anglophilic Anglican, you will not be surprised that I agree with him, 100 percent!
But I would also suggest that the crisis is not just spiritual, but cultural as well (the two are, of course, not unrelated). When there is little stability, little homogeneity or sense of being a part of something larger (unless it is some victim group), little rootedness in community, culture, ancestral heritage, or tradition, it is hardly surprising that many people will come unmoored, psycho-emotionally… or that for some, that will lead to violence – whether directed against oneself, or against others.
We are reaping the bitter harvest of the seeds we have sown.
I am beginning to be guardedly optimistic that for Britain, the worm is turning at last. The decision by the British government to arrest, convict, and incarcerate Tommy Robinson – with what might be called, at the risk of understatement, unseemly haste – appears to have galvanized at least a significant segment of British society. The protests and calls for his release are growing larger and more numerous, with the rally in this video, which occurred earlier today, standing as the most recent example: thousands of people gathering in London itself.
To paraphrase the great Professor Tolkien, there is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the most peaceful and complacent Briton, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow. Perhaps the sudden realization, forced by Tommy Robinson’s arrest and immediate incarceration, of how close Britain is tottering toward the brink of totalitarianism and tyranny – that anyone could, for some reason deemed sufficient by the bureaucrats and politicians, be suddenly arrested and thrown into prison for expressing their views – is that “final and desperate danger,” for many Britons. I hope and pray it is, and for a sufficient number to do some good.
As an anglophilic Anglican – “The Anglophilic Anglican,” for the purposes of this blog – I bow to no one in my love of England, and Great Britain as a whole. But as I have previously stated, that doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with some of the stances taken by its present government. With some, I disagree profoundly. And I am grateful to live in the United States, where the First Amendment of our Constitution protects – for now, at least – my freedom to say so. Sadly, some of my British friends are not so fortunate, having been warned that making their true feelings known on social media could lead to their arrest!
This, from the country which is the source of our understanding of rights and liberties. It’s sad, and it’s truly appalling. But I am, as I say, hopeful that at long last, the worm is beginning to turn, and the people of England and Britain are on the road toward beginning to take back their ancient liberties from the Left-leaning politicians, bureaucrats, and budding authoritarians that make up far too many of the present governments of Europe, not just Great Britain. If that happens, the unjust arrest and imprisonment of Tommy Robinson will have at least served some useful purpose!