Mandeville, LA - Exclusive Transcript - The great Russell Kirk, the father of the modern conservative movement, who towards the end of his life saw what I just described and said somebody needs to stand up and say something about this. Here’s at least part of what he said. This is a 35,000 word essay. I’ve shared about 400 so far. How about another 400? He’s talking about our culture, Western civilization, the American culture, which is not definable these days unless it’s defined by our infatuation with electronic eavesdropping devices. Check out the rest in today's transcript...
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: The great Russell Kirk, the father of the modern conservative movement, who towards the end of his life saw what I just described and said somebody needs to stand up and say something about this. Here’s at least part of what he said. This is a 35,000 word essay. I’ve shared about 400 so far. How about another 400? He’s talking about our culture, Western civilization, the American culture, which is not definable these days unless it’s defined by our infatuation with electronic eavesdropping devices.
But suppose that the cult withers with the elapse of centuries. What then of the culture that is rooted in the cult? What then of the civilization which is the culture’s grand manifestation? For an answer to such uneasy questions, we can turn to a twentieth-century parable. Here I think G.K. Chesterton’s observation that all life being an allegory, we can understand it only in parable.
The author of my parable, however, is not Chesterton, but a quite different writer, the late Robert Graves, whom I once visited in Mallorca. I have in mind Graves’ romance Seven Days in New Crete—published in America under the title Watch the North Wind Rise. [Mike: Remember he’s talking in parable here, so he’s making this up to make the point.] In Grave’s words:
“Logicalism hinged on international science, ushered in a gloomy and anti-poetic age. It lasted only a generation or two and ended with a grand defeatism, a sense of perfect futility, that slowly crept over the directors and managers of the regime. The common man had triumphed over his spiritual betters at last, but what was to follow? To what could he look forward with either hope or fear? By the abolition of sovereign states and the disarming of even the police forces, war had become impossible. No one who cherished any religious beliefs whatever, or was interested in sport, poetry, or the arts, was allowed to hold a position of public responsibility. ‘Ice-cold logic’ was the most valued civic quality, and those who could not pretend to it were held of no account. Science continued laboriously to expand its over-large corpus of information, and the subjects of research grew more and more beautifully remote and abstract; yet the scientific obsession, so strong at the beginning of the third millennium A.D., was on the wane. Logicalist officials who were neither defeatist nor secretly religious and who kept their noses to the grindstone from a sense of duty, fell prey to colobromania, a mental disturbance . . . .”
Rates of abortion and infanticide, of suicide, and other indices of social boredom rise with terrifying speed under this Logicalist regime. Gangs of young people go about robbing, beating and murdering, for the sake of excitement. It appears that the human race will become extinct if such tendencies continue; for men and women find life not worth living under such a domination. The deeper longings of humanity have been outraged, so that the soul and the state stagger on the verge of final darkness. But in this crisis an Israeli Sophocrat writes a book called A Critique of Utopias, in which he examines seventy Utopian writings, from Plato to Aldous Huxley. “We must retrace our steps,” he concludes, “or perish.” Only by the resurrection of religious faith, the Sophocrats discover, can mankind be kept from total destruction; and that religion, as Graves described it in his romance, springs from the primitive soil of myth and symbol.
So it has come to pass, here in the closing year of the twentieth century. [Mike: Kirk was writing this in the 1990’s.] With the weakening of the moral order, “Things fall apart; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. . . .” The Hellenic and the Roman cultures went down to dusty death after this fashion. What may be done to achieve reinvigoration? Some well-meaning folk talk of a “civil religion,” a kind of cult of --
Mike: This is where Kirk absolutely nailed it. The conservative reaction to this, or the “conservative” reaction to this was not to reinvigorate, not to reestablish, not to resuscitate, not to revive tradition. It was instead to create a new one. They created it in the form of the warfare state. It is that alter that they still worship today. You can hear it in the candidates’ speeches. You can see it on television every day of the week, 365. You can hear it on radio shows. You can read about it in books and blogs. That is the official religion of the right: warfare, military supremacy, nationalism, which is fake patriotism. Folks, I don’t question anyone’s motives here, simply a commenter on what I believe has transpired and what one man, I, and others, Winston Elliott and Brad Birzer and other paleo or tradcons propose is the way out of this. Study the past. Stop believing you’re so damn superior to those that have come before us. Stop playing lip service to the founders while ignoring their work and their deed. Here’s what Kirk wrote:
Some well-meaning folks talk of a “civil religion,” [Mike: This actually, by the way, describes the warfare mentality and the warfare state, the religion of the right.] a kind of cult of patriotism, founded upon a myth of national virtue and upon veneration of certain historic documents, together with a utilitarian morality. But such experiments of a secular character never have functioned satisfactorily; and it scarcely is necessary for me to point out the perils of such an artificial creed, bound up with nationalism: the example of the ideology of the National Socialist Party in Germany, half a century ago, may suffice. Worship of the state, or of the national commonwealth, is no healthy substitute for communion with transcendent love and wisdom.
Nor can attempts at persuading people that religion is “useful” meet with much genuine success. No man sincerely goes down on his knees to the divine because he has been told that such rituals lead to the beneficial consequences of tolerably honest behavior in commerce. People will conform their actions to the precepts of religion only when they earnestly believe the doctrines of that religion to be true.
In short, the culture can be renewed only if the cult is renewed; and faith in divine power cannot be summoned up merely when that is found expedient. Faith no longer works wonders among us: one has but to glance at the typical church built nowadays, ugly and shoddy, to discern how architecture no longer is nurtured by the religious imagination. It is so in nearly all the works of twentieth-century civilization: the modern mind has been secularized so thoroughly that “culture” is assumed by most people to have no connection with the love of God.
Mike: Wake up granny and spank her on the fanny and tell her the good news. I don’t believe I could have ever written that or ever have said that without writing it out in advance. [mocking] “Mike, what do we do to fix it?” Start by reading things like that. As I said, read it again. You may have questions, you may have arguments.
End Mike Church Show Transcript