Category Archives: Zeitgeist

The spirit or dis-spirit of our times.

Babies, not foetal remains

Every now and then comes along a news item that seems to justify Martin Luther’s conception of man as “snow-covered piles of dung.” To wit, British hospital trusts used dead babies’ bodies to heat their hospital buildings.

The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found. Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat.

Even in “beyond the pale” stories like this one, however, the internal human orientation toward the divine law can be revealed:

Last night the Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded ‘totally unacceptable.’

One hopes Dr. Dan finds the practice totally unacceptable on the basis of morality rather than on the basis of being newsworthy. Western culture is so far gone, we cannot know for sure.

The full story is here.

The Mediaeval Mind

From a book by the same title written in 1911 by Henry Osborn Taylor:

Nevertheless, the Latin Christianity of the Fathers and the antique fund of sentiment and knowledge, through their self-conserving strength, affected men in constant ways. Under their action the peoples of western Europe, from the eighth to the thirteenth century, passed through a homogeneous growth, and evolved a spirit different from that of any other period of history – a spirit which stood in awe before its monitors divine and human, and deemed that knowledge was to be drawn from the storehouse of the past; which seemed to rely on everything except its sin-crushed self, and trusted everything except its senses; which in the actual looked for the ideal, in the concrete saw the symbol, in the earthly Church beheld the heavenly, and in the fleshly joys discerned the devil’s lures; which lived in the unreconciled opposition between the lust and vain-glory of earth and the attainment of salvation; which felt life’s terror and its pitifulness, and its eternal hope; around which waved concrete infinitudes, and over which flamed the terror of darkness and the Judgment Day.

After the High Middle Ages, there is another flowering watered by the rediscovery of additional antiquities: that period we call the Renaissance. Whether as consequence of or as cooperator with the Renaissance, the Church fractures and a new age is born. As Latin Christianity loses its hold on the minds of the elites, a new spirit rises. The new spirit, the Modern Spirit, is in many ways the antithesis of the Mediaeval Mind: it no longer stands in awe of any external power, either divine or human, but deconstructs both; it sees no sin in itself; it revels in its senses, trusting feelings much more than logic despite adoption of appellations like Empiricism and Objectivism; it strips from the Church whatever is not earthly, worships the flesh and promotes lust and vain-glory and finally denies the reality of a Judgment Day.

Here in the first part of the 21st century, we see what a few hundred years without the Mediaeval mind can do. Civilizations die because of corruption. Loss of the knowledge from the storehouse of the past has led Western Civilization to the brink of death, as we no longer believe the Church is authoritative on Reality, nor do we believe we can learn from the Past. Like a drunken old man, we wheeze our way toward death mumbling incoherently the lies about our greatness only we believe.

There is no salvation outside the Church. Nobody dares say that these days, yet we see it is so not only for individuals seeking eternal bliss but also for civilizations seeking strength and renewal. If we love our country and we suppress the church, we prove ourselves to be either fools or liars.

Ron and Rand Paul

Slightly restated, the Paul positions reflect the traditional small-government tenor of the GOP before it fell in love with big government.

  1. We cannot have liberty without respect for property rights, which depend on a steady measure of the value of property, which depends on sound money, which the Fed has destroyed over the past 90 years. Something significant must be done to recover our money and our liberty.
  2. We cannot have taxation (and the taking of private property on which taxation is based) without representation and call ourselves heirs to the Founding Fathers of this country. An administrative state in which unelected technocrats make rules with the force of laws and carry guns to enforce those rules is closer to Germany of the 1930s than anything consistent with the U.S. Constitution. Something significant must be done to recover our representative republic and our liberty.
  3. We cannot respect the lives of our military men and women if we are sending them into harm’s way without the deliberation prescribed by the Constitution. American blood is too precious to be wasted in non-critical conflagrations in remote parts of the world. The defense forces are primarily for defense, not a police force for the world, and something significant must be done to recover our Constitutional mandate for the military.

These are the views of Tea Party people. While it might be that his father Ron is no longer taken seriously, Senator Rand Paul seems to be able to articulate these themes with an even tone. Liberty rests on limited government, as our country’s founders knew. We need no more of good government types that know how to “do” things; it is time for future government leaders to listen to the Carrie Underwood song and “Undo It.”

The Progressive Crisis

As a libertarian evangelical Catholic grandson of a social gospel-ing Episcopalian priest candidate for NYC Assemblyman in the 1920s on the Socialst ticket, I have spent a great deal of time trying to understand how and why smart men like my grandfather could believe all they do believe.

In the case of the second generation, those that came to maturity around the Great War, it is somewhat explained in that the new ideas had hardly been tried. Bold and broad prescriptions for the ills of industrial society found an audience, much as Hope and Change appealed broadly in 2008 to U.S. voters. In the case of the current generation, it is clear that a century’s evidence indicates the prescriptions are not only insufficient to the problem but are in fact injurious to humanity.

Rather than scour the ruling classes of wickedness, leftist programs tried around the globe have institutionalized wicked ruling classes. Those societies most removed from active Christian practice revealed most clearly the depravity potential of a Progressive regime: the atheistic Communist governments of the USSR, China, the National Socialists, and the Khmer Rouge piled up bodies at a horrific rate. De-Christianized Europe and radicalized Muslim governments lagged well behind in total body counts, but in both cases the declaration of noble ends justified overt and subtle means of repression. The leftists of America announced a revolutionary program at the dawn of the 20th century, and it was implemented step by step over the course of 100 years, with only a five year hiatus during the Coolidge Administration. Even under Ronald Reagan the Leviathan grew. Now, already a decade into the 21st century, there is no cover left for the utter ineffectiveness of Progressivism to reach its stated goals of a Kallipolis.

The United States was founded by men who wittingly or not subscribed to the Thomistic/Aristotlean realism of man rather than the soaring Platonist idealism of their French contemporaries. Woodrow Wilson’s and Herbert Croly’s efforts to import a European solution failed because this country is not and never will be Europe. Rather than noble ideals, it is now apparent Progressivism trades in class envy and resentment. These sell in the short term but destroy in the long term. It is a sign of American health that Progressivism is losing its credibility, as Americans reclaim liberty as the founding principle of the country.

Walter Russell Mead’s blog has a post on this subject, from the perspective of the perplexed Progressive

The origin of American leftism?

I have spent some time trying to guess the genesis of American Leftism. I propose the German historical-critical Bible scholarship of the 19th Century. Devout Protestants — and America was a devout Protestant nation in the 19th century — had to deal with the fact that some of their long-held doctrines were clearly not true. (Moses did not write the five books of Moses in the Old Testament, for example. Mark was written before Matthew, and Q was written before either, for a New Testament example.)

This gave greater credibility to the intellectual children of the malicious Voltaire and the irreligious Jewish intellectuals mingling with goyim in a de-Ghettoed Europe. Sophmoric youth like Woodrow Wilson, and a few years behind him Norman Thomas, abandoned their allegiance to the tradition-bound Presbyterianism of their pastor fathers in favor of the ultimately empty promises of the Social Gospel. The teachings of the Popes of the time were on Socialism’s inconsistency with the inherent diginity of the human person, but the Catholics were persecuted in the United States through Blaine Amendments to such a degree that they set up their own Ghetto system complete with schools and hospitals. Catholic teaching was certainly not going to get widespread support among American intellectuals — Catholicism was thought to be the antithesis of intellectualism, mired as it was in rote ritual.

Fools like Wilson gave way to villains like Roosevelt, and the moral basis of limited government was replaced by a spirit of expediency and power. “Should it be done” was replaced by “could it be done.” And we see the final form in the current Alinsky Administration and the Brownshirt Congress of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.