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!
“Hey, Tommy Tommy! Hey, Tommy Robinson!”
— chant from a recent Free Tommy Robinson rally in the UK
There is an old saying that goes, “I love my country, it’s the government I can’t stand.”
I love Great Britain, its history, its culture, its Queen (God save Her Majesty!), its monarchical, aristocratic, folk, and just plain quirky traditions, and yes, I believe, its potential – if it can shake off these “dark times” (in Katie Hopkins’ words) it is going through. But its government? That, I have less and less respect for all the time.
In this latest confirmation that George Orwell (author of the classic work of dystopian fiction, Nineteen Eight-Four) was not wrong, just several decades premature, social activist and citizen journalist Tommy Robinson was recently livestreaming outside the latest grooming-gang trial in the UK. As reported in, inter alia, the National Review,
“The police turned up in a van and swiftly arrested Robinson for ‘breach of the peace.’ Within hours Robinson had been put before one Judge Geoffrey Marson, who in under five minutes tried, convicted, and sentenced Robinson to 13 months. He was immediately taken to prison.”
Tommy Robinson is a controversial figure, to say the least. The founder of the English Defense League, he is definitely to the nationalist and populist right of center. For those whose social and political perspective is globalist and statist, or “progressive” and multiculturalist, that’s enough to make him persona non grata.
But he has not only been opposed to the enforced mass immigration that the now apparently dead-in-the-water Brexit was, in part, about, but he has been focusing on exposing the mostly-Pakistani Muslim “grooming gangs” – as the British press delicately phrases it – or as Hopkins more accurately puts it, “rape squads.”
This is no exaggeration. Would that it were! But as Douglas Murray points out in a National Review article that pulls no punches on either side, “every month brings news of another town in which gangs of men (almost always of Pakistani origin) have been found to have raped young, often underage, white girls.”
Since this is an issue the authorities would rather not confront, they are needless to say not inclined to look favorably on someone whose activities – as a social activist and citizen journalist – are forcing the issue into public attention. Have some of his actions been unwise, even foolish? Yes. Has the British government’s response to him been disproportionate and extreme? A thousand times, yes! Murray continues,
“The primary issue is that for years the British state allowed gangs of men to rape thousands of young girls across Britain. For years the police, politicians, Crown Prosecution Service, and every other arm of the state ostensibly dedicated to protecting these girls failed them. As a number of government inquires have concluded, they turned their face away from these girls because they were terrified of the accusations of racism that would come their way if they did address them. They decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation…
“What can be said with absolute certainty is that Tommy Robinson has been treated with greater suspicion and a greater presumption of guilt by the United Kingdom than any Islamic extremist or mass rapist ever has been. That should be — yet is not — a national scandal. If even one mullah or sheikh had been treated with the presumption of guilt that Robinson has received, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the rest of them would be all over the U.K. authorities. But different standards apply to Robinson.”
And now he has been sent to prison for 13 months, where – if he is in an open ward, in which are a very large proportion of Muslims – he may end up coming out in a body bag. As Tucker Carlson and Katie Hopkins point out in the video above, you don’t have to like Tommy Robinson, agree with him, or even know who he is to understand that what has happened to him is wrong. To quote Murray again,
“Tommy Robinson will be in prison for another year. And all those people happy with the status quo will breathe a sigh of relief. ‘Thank goodness that troublemaker has gone away.’ Yet their real problem has not gone away. There is no chance of their real problem going away. Because they have no plan for making it go away.
“They have a vague hope, of course, which is that at some point soon in the coming generations this will all simmer down and the incoming communities will develop similar views about the status of women as the rest of society. And perhaps we will get there someday. But it is telling that the apparently tolerable roadkill en route includes one young man from Luton — and thousands of raped girls.”
Can Islam and Christianity be seen as being the same, or similar, or as complementing each other, or are they so radically opposed and at loggerheads that it is a grievous error to see them as having anything meaningful in common?
It is a commonplace in certain quarters today – from the secular, largely left-wing media, to the current Pope – to talk and act as if Christianity and Islam are basically comparable and equivalent: “People of the Book,” just two ways of worshiping the same God. But is that accurate?
Most people are at least vaguely aware that Islam does not consider Jesus Christ the Son of God, let alone the Incarnation of God’s creative Word. He is a messenger of God, a prophet, theoretically respected, but far less revered than Mohammed.
But the differences go still deeper, as this post relates:
“God is not love as a father,” the Islamic scholar replied. Instead, he employed the analogy as that of the love that an owner of a dog has for his pet, i.e. not fatherhood but ownership. For a moment, Hahn thought he was joking. He wasn’t.
“He didn’t smile. He said what he meant and he meant what he said. And I realized that Allah does not love as a father. It is a master/slave relationship. It is a religion of divine slavery. [Islam means “submission.”] And if we don’t like it, we have to realize that’s how they define their own religion. Those were the terms he was using. And to say that God is Father and we His children is not only a presumption, it is blasphemy.”
A couple of minutes later, Hahn again referred to God as Father and the Islamic scholar pounded his fist on the table, stood up and stormed out of the restaurant. Whether we like it or not, Christianity and Islam are separated by an abyss of difference. The “God” that Muslims and Christians worship is not the same God. One God might be the true God but, if so, the other is a false god. They cannot co-exist as true gods. It’s a question of being logical, not theological.
And as for atheism, there is at least one thing it shares with Islam. Neither the atheist nor the Muslim believes in the Son of God, nor the love of the Father for the Son, nor that the Father so loved the world the He gave us His only begotten Son that we might not perish but can have eternal life. In this sense, we can say that Muslims and atheist share the same radical impoverishment. They need our prayers.
Indeed they do. But they also need – or at least, we need – our discernment.
If Muslims indeed believe they are worshiping the same God as Christians, they are doing so incorrectly and erroneously; their idea of God is badly screwed up. Alternatively, the “god” they are worshiping – which they think is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (who is revealed in the Christian faith as a Trinity of Persons in Unity of Essence, and of Whom our Lord Jesus Christ is the Second Person, the only and eternal Son of the Father, and the Incarnate Word, though neither Jews nor Muslims believe this) – is not in fact that same God; it is something quite different, and very likely demonic.
And of course, atheists – of whom many are, in fact, good, decent, and moral people (who fail to realize that they are so because they are living off the capital of a moral code imprinted into our Western consciousness by thousands of years of Judeo-Christian religion) – are likewise sadly misguided. But here again, Jesus was not merely a great moral teacher, although he was that, of course. He was and is also, again, the Incarnate Word of God, the only Son of the Father. His own teachings make that abundantly clear.
One can either accept them or reject them, but as C.S. Lewis explains it in Mere Christianity, He said what He said, and therefore He is either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Why are college students turning away from studying history as preparation for a future as citizens and workers?
The humanities strike back!
Of course, the author feels that he has to defend history (and the humanities generally) as being excellent preparation for “real-world” careers such as business and technology – which they are, without question – rather than pointing out, except obliquely, their necessity for constructive thought and good citizenship in the polis, the public square, especially in a representative democratic-republican society which absolutely requires an informed citizenry. Nonetheless, this is an encouraging article.
While currently an almost minuscule proportion of degrees awarded – as this article points out – I am seeing the beginnings of a stir of push-back, as more and more people begin to realize, or promote, the idea that the humanities do, in fact, have value, both in themselves and for the way in which they teach people to think critically and constructively. I will never forget one of my favorite college professors noting that “the most important thing a college education can give you is a good crap detector.” He was and is correct!
With respect to history in particular, however: it does indeed teach critical thinking, and is valuable for that reason; but it also teaches vital content. As the inscription literally graven in stone above the entrance to the National Archives puts it, “What is past, is prologue.” Learning our history provides us with the tools to make sense of the present, and to shape a coherent and constructive course into the future. That we seem all-too-often incapable of doing either is an indictment of our willingness to abandon historical knowledge!
And of course, failure to learn our history cuts us off from our roots. As I have commented previously, a society is very like a great tree, in that if it is separated from its roots, it is far more likely to wither than to blossom and bring forth fruits and new growth. Indeed, one can say that that withering is absolutely inevitable – the question being not “if,” but only how quickly!
There is evidence that the pendulum is beginning to swing back in a more conservative / traditional direction, with respect to socio-political matters. Let us hope and pray that it swings back in the academy, as well.