Act Now!

What we do when a chance comes to us? When a new door opens before us? Well…the answers are often ones we don’t care to admit to ourselves. So in looking at why we fail to act, I say, most emphatically, we must act, and act now.

We draw back, we run away, we worry and fret and debate endlessly with ourselves whether or not we should take the chances or not. I know this because I do it all the time. I spent years worrying and fretting, and not acting. I’ve let chances slid right by, failed to follow-up. I have only of late begun to change that. Here’s part of why.

I am soon to turn 30 years of age. My family has taken great joy in ribbing me at how old I’m getting. I continually turn to myself and, acting as judge and prosecutor, ask why I have so often failed to do what I have often longed to do? I wish to write, to teach, to think as deeply as God allows me to. But I have largely failed to do so until now, why?

I am afraid, as many are. Afraid of failure. But as I’ve continued to strive and to think and to write, I’ve found that the old sayings are all true. We learn more by failure than we do by success. Knowing that we did right is easy, learning what we did wrong is hard. But it is the latter that provides the challenge to surpass ourselves, to do better, to climb higher.

Among my favorite blogs is The Art of Manliness. No other online resource has served to well to teach us again what it means to be a man, and why it is vital. One of the things taught on that blog is the need for men to act like men. Read that sentence again…to act like men. To be a man is to act, to live, to strive, to be, not to reside in a solipsistic stupor. It is to act in accord with what we are. This applies to both men and women, but I apply it to men since I am one, and because men have failed to be men, they have forgotten how to be men.

As I have watched the younger members of my family grow up, marry, have careers, children and all that, I have been made aware of my own failings. The Great Recession was for me a great setback, but does that mean I have the right to simply laze about and not press on? Certainly not! It gives me even greater cause to act.

When we look for an open door and find one, we feel fear at taking it. Fear is fine, but never allow that fear to paralyze you. Press onward. With hard work, preparation and a bit of wise guidance, all things are possible. Act now, and do not be afraid of failure. Act now!

C. McDonald

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The Frightening Future of Forstchen

My most recent light-novel read has been a good one, albeit frightening. William R. Fortschen’s 2009 post-apocalypse work, One Second After. The book stands upon the premise of America suffering three EMP attacks in a single day, which destroy electronic systems across the United States. It’s setting is a small Southern town, and how it survives the first few months after the attack.

Fortschen gives his characters the best possible chance survival. The leader of the town is an ex-military professor, John Matherson, who teaches at a local college. The story is told from his perspective. The fictional town of Black Mountain is an archetype of the small, Southern town. Christian, moral, lots of ex-military citizens, a small and trusted town leadership, with a small liberal-art school nearby.

Once the electronic system goes down, it takes the town a day or two to figure out what’s happened, and once they have the ugly reality of a world without power or electronic systems sets in. Without these benefices of modern civilization, society begins to degenerate. The local nursing home becomes a pit of death, decay and the odors of rot, infection, human waste. The scene is among the most horrifying in the book. Pharmacies become the scene of angry confrontations as people try to get a hold of enough medicine to survive. The town declares martial law and is forced to make hard decisions right from the start.

When it is realized that there is not enough food or medicine to keep everyone alive, harsh measures are brought into play. Ration cards are given only to those whose homes and properties are searched for food, to avoid hoarders who live off the public weal. In the course of the story, rations are cut so badly that many people slowly starve to death. The rationing of medicine is even more grim. Anyone who relies upon a daily medicine for their very lives is dead inside a month, with a few diabetics hanging on a few months more.

Young men who steal from the nursing home are publicly put to death, while armed patrols are put together to guard the town’s borders from the onrush of people from dead cities. These multitudes eventually form into a mob of cannibals, and a great battle ensues. The local college becomes a paramilitary organization to defend the town. Over the course of the book the decision is made, quietly, to give more food to those who stand the best chance of surviving, people between their late teens and late thirties.

Such moral choices are unimaginable in the world we live in today. As I was reading the story I was horrified at the choices they had to make, in many cases condemning thousands to a slow death to save the few who might make it. But in a world like that, the only choices are those that are bad, and those that are worse. The story ends with America struggling to regain some sense of unity, a year after the attack.

One Second After is not without its moments of human love and hope. The love of family is a source of solace amidst death and hunger. Mathersons’ eldest daughter Elizabeth gets pregnant by another young survivor, who dies in battle. While Matherson is understandably furious at the two youths, he is brought to realize that in a world where death may come any day, a little love is a source of comfort. When Elizabeth’s lover, Ben, dies, Matherson calls him his son, and swears to care for the young man’s son. The most heartbreaking moment is when Matherson’s youngest daughter Jennifer dies of her diabetes, because they can’t get insulin to her. The scene is awful to read, but serves as a reminder of how fragile are the lives of everyone who relies upon modern medicine to survive each day.

All told, One Second After is not a great work, but it is a good one. Like some other works of post-apocalypse literature, like Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles, it is built upon an all-too-plausible scenario of sudden collapse. Fortschen bases his book on a 2008 government report upon how vulnerable we are to an EMP attack.

After I read this book I called my mentor to complain of how bleak the world seemed in light of the book. His response is well-worth repeating, “If it happens or doesn’t I won’t worry, because I know the King.” How true, how true. While America does need to prepare for such an attack, since it is possible, we must not live in constant fear and panic. Neither should we be melancholic because of what might occur. History resides in the hands of the Most High, let it all be as according to His will. We know that no matter what, God is on the throne, working out the glorious endgame.

C. McDonald

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Why this blog has changed.

I have chosen to change this blog’s name. Its title will now be Old Right Blog. Some may ask why I have chosen this name as opposed to its former one. There are several reasons.

1. The old name, millenialconservator, was pretensions and obscure. It was too hard to remember and spell. Instead, a new name is needed.

2. I will someday write full-time. As a first step, I have chosen to turn my blog from a place to airily dispense bloated opinions into a place of more earnest and down-to-earth discussion. I will still discuss ideas and great thinkers, but not as before.

3. I admire the blogs of others, I admire their success. I want that sort of success for myself. This is a first step in attaining it. If anyone has suggestions for how I can improve this blog, its content, writing or appearance, please tell me.

Here’s to many more posts in the future.

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Manent and Secular Society I: Laicite

What is the nature of modern society? According to French philosopher Pierre Manent, the nature of democracy is a separation of functions. We separate the political power from the spiritual power, the economic from the legal and the legal from the other branches of government. This is a good understanding, it serves as a partial explanation of many problems facing the Western world today. In a world in which all functions, or spheres, are made separate from the others there is a danger of each forgetting its function as part of a whole and seeking its own interests alone. One of the most pressing concerns is the conflict which religion threatens to create. Manent’s own approach to this is curious to an American reader.

Manent takes note of that, in Europe and America, where abortion is legal, the Christian church, in its various institutional forms, continues in many places to oppose it as being legally sanctioned murder. He writes “The religious institution itself must reconcile its absolute refusal of abortion with its active participation in a society that legalizes it.” In this regard we must ask, what is the nature of this reconciliation, and, must the church reconcile to the present age at all? To answer this, we must briefly explain the context of Manent’s background as a French political thinker.

Like all thinkers, Manent comes at the church-state question from a particular context, his happens to be French. France has a legacy of secularism which is different from that found in the Anglosphere. French society was under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church for much of its history. Cardinals served in government, the most eminent of them, Cardinal Richelieu, effectively ruled France in place of weak kings. France saw a the effects of the Reformation, and French Protestants called Huguenots, were involved in the French religious civil wars from 1562-1598. The Edict of Nantes of 1598 allowed them to live in peace, until the Edict of Fountainbleu in 1685, which declared Protestantism to be illegal. The Catholic Church exerted such authority that later French philosophes like Voltaire had to labor to escape persecution. Scholar James Livingstone writes this, “The Catholic Church opposed free thinkers uncompromisingly and could call upon the State for assistance in repressing religious heterodoxy.” The French Revolution overturned all of this. Revolutionaries despised Christianity to such a degree that they tried to replace the Catholic calender and liturgy with a new, secular, religion of the State and the Nation. One of their leading figures was the French paint Jacques-Louis David, who memorialized such events as the death of Marat and the Tennis Court Oath and organized secular-religio festivals to show the absolute unity of the Nation.

The French turned this anti-clerical, anti-Catholicism, into a principle of politicalf, called laicite, which enshrined the secular principle into law. In France, religious voices have no place, there is no French Catholic Party, as there have been in other parts of Europe.  Given this historical context, when Manent writes of society, he sees it as an inherently secular enterprise.

In his work, A World Without Politics? Manent appears to be troubled, and even puzzled, by the conundrum offered by the Christian religion in a secular society. The problem Manent presents, between the two identities of Christian and Citizen, is, for an American, a false dichotomy. America has never had a history of anti-clericalism, neither has it been truly anti-religious. Many Americans have seen little or no contradiction between claiming to be a Christian and and American citizen. This may have to do with the idea of American Exceptionalism, which possess some religious undertones. French thinkers have, since 1789, seen themselves as the heirs to the French Revolution, the great act of overthrowing the decaying ancien regime and ushering in a new age of freedom and equality.

For France today, this problem of identity reaches into the soul of France as well as into her past. France denies any role to religion in the public sphere. Today she faces the problem of a growing Islamic group within its borders. French multiculturalism has failed to provide a way, or a rationale, by which people from Algeria and Morocco, two of the chief sources of emigres into France in the past, might become culturally French. Instead, many of have remained in government subsidized racial ghettoes, where traditional, often Islamic, ideas hold sway. As may be seen here, and here, French Muslims are allowed to violate the law and get away with it. France’s problems with her Muslim minority has led to the controversial banning of the burqa in 2010. The Islamization of France is a problem for the French thinker who, like Manent, takes laicite as a presumption of democratic life. Whether it will last remains to be seen.

 

C. McDonald

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The Toxic Fluff of Joel Osteen

Not to long ago a video popped up on YouTube featuring Joel Osteen and his wife, at their beyond-mega-church in Texas. Now this couple is something which I have avoided like plague, but every so often I get infected anyway.

In this video, Victoria Osteen says that we should obey God…for ourselves, and not for God. Obeying God because He says is, for her, ‘one way of looking at it.’

I read Joel Osteen years ago when his book, Your Best Life Now, came out. Being the curious sort, I decided to give his book a fair shake. What came out of the book after I’d shaken it was something I’d hardly expected. I was hoping for a good book of pastoral counseling with some discussion of Scripture as a foundation. What I found was a series of chapters on how God wants us to have good self-esteem.

Now I’m not against the idea of self-esteem, but like all such value-judgments I have to ask, on what grounds do people claim it? As far as I can tell, for the Osteens, you should feel good about who you are because God wants you to be who you are. That may sound illogical, that’s because it is. The God of Scripture is not a God who desires all of us to stay as we are, but to make us a new creation in Christ.

After reading Your Best Life Now, I reached the conclusion that Joel Osteen is a dangerous man. He is a prime example of the pop-Christian nice guy. The nice guy is inoffensive and smiling, he has no spine to stand for truth, neither has he the awareness that he is not truly good, but merely nice. A good man, a good pastor, will speak the Truth he is called to speak, unafraid to preach the Gospel, to teach good doctrine and to use the word sin when discussing human depravity. None of this is found in Osteen, in televised interviews he declines to speak of sin. Without sin, what need is there for the Cross?

If we good and fine without God, what glory is there in the Cross, what promise is found in the Resurrection? Without a fallen man, the Gospel is meaningless, for the Gospel is the Word of God preached to a race of mortals who are dead in trespasses and sins. Without the courage to preach what is truth, or even to say why the truth must be spoken, can we trust teachers like Osteen? His type is now prominent in the world of American milk-sop Christianity, a faith so weak as to be hardly worthy of the word. Let us pray that men like Osteen are brought to their senses by the words of Paul, that teachers will be judged more harshly than the rest of us.

 

C. McDonald

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Conservatism and Cultural Reductionism

Recent philosophical readings in the realm of philosophy of science and nature has led me to a series of questions, which I will attempt to investigate in the posting.

1. What is reductionism? Simply put, it is the attempt to intellectually reduce an experiecned reality to some single aspect of that realit.  According to Ian Barbour, there are several types of scientific reductionism. The first type is naturalistic reductionism, also called mechanistic reductionism. Naturalistic thinking reduces all of the world to so-called natural processes, usually thought to operate according to natural laws, which are identifiable in physics and debatable in biology. The next version tries to reduce experienced reality to the smallest possible scale, that is, the quantum scale. This is the line of thinking which says we, and the world around us, are “nothing but x,” with x being whatever they’re reducing us to. Such thinking has been attacked by Michael Polanyi.

 

2. Is there a political reductionism? Yes, I believe there is. It is found almost entirely among the more doctrinaire libertarians. Libertarian scholars, like Mises and Hayek, favor what they called ‘methodological individualism’ in which they approached questions of economics and social thought through first positing the individual as the originating point of economic and social behavior. Everything follows from this basic starting point. This model has much in common with the approaches of Locke and Hobbes. This is more clearly seen in the commonalities of method between Hobbes Leviathan and Mises Human Action. This reductionism is an advantage in the course of political thought, if the aim is to protect the value and dignity of the individual person. This is where it is an advantage. Yet, like the scientific forms of reductionism, it falters when its practitioners wish to say that society is nothing but individuals.

In light of this, what are we to make of the claim by thinkers like Christopher Dawson and Roger Scruton, who claim that religion is the root of social life? Is not this a form of reductionism? The answer is a modified no. Dawson and Scruton do not hold that society is nothing but religious associations writ large. What they argue is that human social cohesion is best understood as being the outgrowth of a shared vision of the Good, which is embodied in religion. The entirety of social life is not encapsulate in religion, but a significant part is.

Conservatism, respecting what has been called the ‘spice and variety of life’ does not embrace a magic-bullet theory of history. Humanity is best understood through a variety of aspects, each of which is needful for a fuller picture.

C. McDonald

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European Union and Democratic Weakness

The European Union is an uncertain creature. Founded in the 90s as the culminating answer to questions of European security and destiny after the catastrophes of World Wars I and II, which exposed the supposed weaknesses in the nation-state system established at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. As an economic entity the EU is unstable, as a political entity it is neither part of the European nation-states, nor is it fully superior to them, and democratically it does not command wide-spread support among the people of the European nations, nor does it rest wholly comfortably upon the national governments of those nations. Briefly state, the EU suffers from many problems, I will briefly discuss several.

1. The European Union is an attempt at what it sounds like: unity. But unity upon what grounds? The first answer might be upon the shared love of a religion such as Christianity, whether Protestant or Catholic. But this was forbidden by the secular nature of the treaties which created the EU, the Maastricht Treaty, and later in the Treaty of Lisbon. The Catholic Church, in particular the late Pontiff John Paul II sought to have recognition of Christianity’s role in the history of Europe written into the preamble, an effort which failed. Instead the EU has embraced a secular view of European history (secular here having the meaning of antagonism towards religion, not mere neutrality to religious claims). The EU fails at unity because it’s architects chose to ignore the most unifying element of the human experience, a shared story, a sense of belonging in history, which is centered upon and bounded by a share set of religious dogmas. This failure of religion and historical narrative leads to another failure of its lust for unity.

2. This Union is unlike the American Union, which was formed by ‘free and independent States’ who chose to live under a federal government which was accountable to them and to which they were accountable. This is federalism: a system in which the various governments, whether state or federal, are accountable to one another and each may, if the other oversteps their bounds, call them to account for their action. The challenges to federal gun laws and the ongoing fight against the Affordable Health Care Act may both serve as examples of federalism. The European Union does not enjoy such a close relation as the American Union does. The American Union is founded upon a series of shared goods. A shared government, social ideas, broad religious commitments, freedoms, culture and a shared historical narrative. The European Union shares none of these. What binds the European Union together is the action of supranational builders, a loyalty to something which presumed itself better than the benighted nation-states over which it is set. The European Union lacks a connection to a shared language, a shared history or religion. The Union’s architects are known to have plotted its creation against the desires of many in the nations of Europe, why let the opinions of stupid people get in the way of the greater good, especially when you and your like-minded peers determine what is the greater good?

3. The European Union stands upon a fallacy of political theory and history. The desire of many European elites to ‘get beyond’ the Westphalian structure of nation-states, Great Power politics, imperialism and Congresses is, on one level, understandable. The awesome attachment of many in European nations to their own histories, at least on a popular level, the political and cultural elites seem not to share in such mundane concerns as loyalty to the ‘democracy of the dead.’

Former Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who has closely observed and partaken in the EU, has written the following:

The authors of the concept of European integration managed to short-circuit the minds of the people, making a link between Hitler’s aggressive nationalism (nationalism of the totally negative type) and the traditional nation state, calling into question the existence of nation states in general. Of the many fatal mistakes and lies that have always underpinned the evolution of the European Union, this was one of the worst. It led to total obliteration of the enormous positive energy of national sentiments, or positive nationalism, (where the state is based on national identity and loyalty), ignoring the fact that throughout human history this form of statehood is the much more common standard. 1 

Klaus, Vaclav (2012-09-27). Europe: The Shattering of Illusions (Kindle Locations 261-266).

The error present in this ‘fatal mistake’ is that of assuming that any loyalty to the particulars of nation, government and the bonds of a common history, language, culture or faith is, by nature of its particularity, an evil. This is applied with particular force to the nation-state, perhaps the greatest instrument ever seen for ensuring a reasonable degree of happiness and comfort for the majority of mankind. The reasons for the general rejection of this system of balance of power are remarkably self-serving for those elites who disdain the nation-state. For these individuals, the nation-state is a relic of a benighted age out of which they alone are capable of taking Europe. The future they see is one in which the old loyalties are replaced by a loyalty to the amorphous thing called Europe. But this is no Europe bound by common interests of religion or history. Instead, these are rejected in favor a system which seems to be run more for the benefit of self-aggrandizing elites and self-serving bureaucrats.

4. The EU is not founded upon a true democracy. A democracy, as a social system and a form of government, presupposes a people, a true demos, who can be said to have something in common. Certain ideals I have used as examples of somethings in common are: history, religion, customs, ect. Yet these are but abstractions by which I refer to concrete realities. Edmund Burke wrote that, ‘liberty must inhere in some sensible object,’ and the same is true of loyalty. Loyalty inheres in the realities of belonging to a shared narrative, a shared story of our place in the world, under the eyes of God, under a law, with a government which is, hopefully, chosen by the people. Loyalty does not inhere in abstraction of which we can have no direct experience, but must be directed toward what is known.

Since there is no ‘demos of Europe’ and there is no European entity which the EU can claim the represent, I can only conclude that the EU is not a true democracy. Vaclav Klaus’ is again worth quoting at length.

At any rate, it is clear that national as well as territorial loyalties are the precondition for democratic governance. It seems equally obvious that the European continent is not a space suitable for territorial or national loyalty . You cannot grasp this diversity in one Augenblick – from Cyprus to Finland, from Portugal to Estonia. Therefore, no nation called European exists, and no such nation ever did exist. That is why the entire concept of the ‘ever -closer Europe’ of unification, centralization, harmonization and standardization (you could call it Gleichschaltung) and utmost suppression of the nation state, is a wrong concept. Eurocrats seem to know this, and that is why they do not talk about the national or continental principle . Instead, they talk about the ‘communitarian’ principle, which is yet another undefined and undefinable legal cliche, which can cover – and conceal at the same time – whatever it desires. The great and much too self-confident lawyers of the ‘European law’ naturally cannot defend this principle in any way: they just use it as something that descended from above, without any arguments supporting it – whether things are right or wrong, functional or dysfunctional, positive or negative, all they have to do is just say it is ‘communitarian’ or compliant with the communitarian law.

Klaus, Vaclav (2012-09-27). Europe: The Shattering of Illusions (Kindle Locations 1301-1311).

 

I pray that some will find these scattered thoughts of some value.

 

Your Humble Servant, C. McDonald

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