Monday, May 25, 2009

The Swiss Option

An interesting quote:
In the First World War, General Ulrich Wille led the Swiss to victory. Victory consisted of successfully avoiding the conflict. As someone put it, "We won by having no war." In the Second World War, the victorious Swiss general was Henri Guisan, of the Canton de Vaud. There is a General Guisan Quai in Zurich, a Quai General Guisan in Geneva. In every part of Switzerland, there are streets and plazas and equestrian statues—there are busts on plinths overhung with banners and flags—doing honor to the general of an army that did not fight. Switzerland defends itself on what it calls the Porcupine Principle. You roll up into a ball and brandish your quills. In the words of Divisionnaire Tschumy, "The foremost battle is to prevent war with a price of entry that is too high. You must understand that there is no difference between the Swiss people and the Swiss Army. There is no difference in will. Economic, military—it’s the same thing. For seven hundred years, freedom has been the fundamental story of Switzerland, and we are not prepared to give it up now. We want to defend ourselves, which is not the same as fighting abroad. We want peace, but not under someone else’s condition...."
John McPhee, La Place de la Concorde Suisse, 12-3.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our socity's big lie

N.B. Off the cuff at 3AM, when I'm mad because I can't fall back to sleep and made even madder by some lies that I just read.

One is often told that one cannot impose one's morality on others. One may disapprove of abortion, contraception, feminism, divorce, homosexuality &c. One may believe these things to be immoral, and one may even be correct about it. But one cannot use coercive force, such as the force of law, to impose such a moral code upon others against their will.

People who argue this way are essentially arguing that we live in a libertarian society. The basic principles of such a society are that my life and property belong to me, and I can do anything I wish with them as long as it does not do harm to the life and property of others. Generally, when someone argues this way with you, the best response is to laugh in their face.

I wish I lived in a libertarian society. It would be an improvement.

Why do I say this? Because the idea that these United States are a libertarian society is a big lie.

Suppose I am a property owner seeking to rent apartments in a building I own. Now suppose some homosexuals came seeking to rent one of my apartments. Further suppose that I tell them I will not rent them an apartment because the acts they engage in are an abomination against God and the natural order, so would they please remove themselves from my property posthaste and never darken my door again. Tell me what would happen.

I will tell you what would happen. I would be sued for discrimination and I would almost certainly lose.

Suppose I am a business owner seeking to hire a new employee. Now suppose a married woman with feminist leanings applies for the position. Further suppose that I inquire if her husband works and, if so, why it is necessary for her to work as well. Suppose, after hearing her response - whether it be an answer or a refusal to answer, telling me the reasons are none of my business - I tell her that I will not hire her because, as a wife, her primary job should be in the home unless circumstances demand otherwise, and she has not convinced me that her current circumstances make such a demand on her. Tell me what would happen.

I will tell you what would happen. I would be sued for discrimination and I would certainly lose.

And that is why we do not live in a libertarian society, a society that is neutral on anything that is not an immediate threat to life or property rights. In a libertarian society I would have every right to respond in the manner described above. No one has a right to the use of my property until I enter into contract with them and give them such a right in exchange for some wealth or services. No one has a right to my wealth until I enter into contract with them and give them such a right in exchange for some goods or services.

That is the lie at the heart of our society: the idea that it is neutral on the question of what is good and simply enforces the basic rights of life and property while allowing each one of us to decide for ourselves. If that were true, then homosexuals, feminists, pro-aborts &c. could not use the force of the law to force us to acknowledge their lies. Pharmacies could not be forced to sell contraceptives, adoption agencies could not be forced to place children with homosexuals, doctors could not be forced to perform - or to refer patients to those who will perform - abortions &c.

In a truly libertarian society the worst the cultural and moral destroyers could do is denounce us as bigots and try to convince people not to associate with us or patronize our businesses. That might be bad, but at least they could not use the coercive power of the state to force us to cave to their demands, to ruin us financially, or to fund their degeneracy. That is why I wish I lived in a libertarian society. It might fall short of a truly Catholic society in any number of ways, but in such a society I could at least live freely as a Catholic without being forced to cooperate formally or materially with any number of grave evils.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The true nature of our conflict

I would encourage anyone who wants to better understand the true nature of our conflict to read this lecture by Fr. Thomas Crean O.P. It discusses the meaning behind the idea of the two cities, the City of God and the city of man, using the thought of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Popes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What to do?

I have spent some of the last week thinking, "What to do?" Not necessarily what I should do personally, though that is part of it, but more along the lines of what we, Catholics of the Church in these United States and throughout the world, should do.

The only answer I can come up with is this: unfurl the black banners.

I am not sure how familiar anyone is with this phrase. Daniel Larison uses it from time to time. From reading what he has said about it, it appears that he picked it up from a novel entitled Black Banners, by the late Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

The black banner has been used by various groups throughout the years. Pirates have used it - it is the origin of the Jolly Roger - anarchists have used it, reactionaries have used it &c. Its meaning is simple. It is the opposite of the white banner. A white banner means surrender, it is a plea that quarter be given. The black banner declares that there will be neither surrender nor retreat, that quarter will neither be asked for nor given. In short, the unfurling of the black banner states that there are only two acceptable outcomes: victory or death.

There is a reason that the Church on earth has traditionally been called the Church Militant. It is because we are at war. At war with the world, at war with the flesh, at war with the devil. One can either be a partisan of truth or a partisan of error. One cannot choose not to choose. In the end, choosing not to choose is choosing the side of the enemy. It is long passed time to pick sides and draw swords, gentlemen. To quote Fr. Angelo's sidebar, "Attend upon your weapons and commence at will."

Etymology and hatred

Inspired by, "an act of contempt," which jumped out and presented itself to me as another one of the many reasons I shouldn't use Facebook.

Etymology is interesting. Take the word 'contempt' for example. It is derived from the Latin word contemnere, which means, "to despise," or, "to think little of." Contemnere itself is derived from the Latin word temnere, meaning, "to scorn," or, "to despise," and the prefix, "con-," a form of cum, which means, "with," or, "to associate with." 'Contempt' refers to associating a thing with scorn or disdain. 'Disdain' is itself and interesting word. It is derived from the Latin dedignari, a combination of the verb dignari, meaning, "to deem worthy," and the prefix, "de-," which means, "out of," or, "from," leading to it being associated with the idea of removal or reversal. So disdain is the reversal of deeming a thing of having some worth, i.e. to deem a thing to be of no worth or value.

Now what is interesting here is that a man who deems a thing to be of no value does not go out of his way to attack it. He simply walks away from it and ignores it. A man who has contempt for the penny does not start a campaign to eliminate the penny, he simply refuses to to use them, leaving them behind in those little dishes at check-outs or turning them into larger change. He will not stoop to pick up a penny, but he doesn't denounce the penny at the top of his voice. To do so would to give it more attention than it is worth. A man does not attack what he despises, what he has contempt for. He attacks what he hates. But hatred, for all its negative connotations, does not deal in worthlessness, in insignificance. It is not insignificant things that we truly hate, it is significant ones. Annoyances can he ignored, it is monsters that must be killed.

This leaves us with a question we must ask: "What does it say about a man who hates - truly, viscerally hates - the single longest continuing organization of the West? An organization that, for whatever good or ill one might accuse it of, is at the roots of the civilization in which he lives.

Does he care for reason? It is this organization whose monks preserved learning, both practical and theoretical, when the lights went out on civilization and the barbarians ran rampant over the land. It was this organization that civilized the barbarians. It was this organization that created the university and the hospital.

Does he value freedom? It is this organization that said the authority of kings has its limits, and that the use of power was not a rule in itself but was rather ruled by justice. It was the organization that said that there was more to life than the state, which must be contained to its proper sphere.

To hate the Catholic Church is to hate Western Civilization. To hate Western Civilization is, for western man, to hate himself, for he is its product and heir. Hatred of the Catholic Church - true, pure hatred of it - is born of self-hatred. And true self-hatred is born of a guilty conscience, one that continually whispers, "This is not how man was meant to live. The pleasure you pretend to revel in is empty, the pain you ignore is deep and true."

A man who does evil must necessarily hate himself in some way. He must either hate the evil he does, and seek mercy; or he must hate that in himself which accuses him, and seek to destroy it. And if he wishes to destroy it, he must try to destroy that which constantly reminds him of the accusations.

The Church is the conscience of this and every age. An age that despises and seeks to kill conscience is one that must despise and seek to kill the Church. We live in such an age. Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri. Have mercy on us, Lord, for all our foolish hatred. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

NB: This is a reductio ad absurdum, not serious moral advice.

I urge all married men to give into their urges to seduce that co-ed who babysits their children or that young secretary at work. It's no big deal. If your wife catches you and feels betrayed, just say, "Honey, it couldn't have been evil. After all, I've done the same thing with you and you thought that was just fine."

After all, the same hip-thrusting action is going on in both activities. It's as absurd to call one "adultery" as it is to call the waterboarding of prisoners "torture." After all, we perform the same actions on our own troops in training, right? So it can't be evil.