Mandeville, LA - Exclusive Transcript - We do not demand moral excellence as a people anymore do we, ladies and gentlemen? In very few instances do we demand moral excellence, and when we find it, we reject it. When you find someone that is of moral turpitude, what do we do? We make fun of them. We look for their human weakness, and when we find it, we exploit it to say, “How morally virtuous are you?” That is not the essence of moral virtue. Morality is not to be upended by human frailty, I might add. It is not to be undone by the human condition. The true conservative acknowledges that no man is perfect, that perfection is elusive. I said this on Wednesday; let’s go over it again. Only God is perfect. You could only hope to march in lockstep with God, but you’ll never be able to do it. No man does. That’s why we’re men. We’re not Gods.
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Before I go to the telephones, let me issue the challenge from Russell Kirk correctly. I read you some Confucius at the end of last hour. [mocking] “Mike, are you saying that Confucius was a founding father?” Well, of intellectual thought, I would say yeah, he probably was. Of the U.S.? No, of course not. He did leave us some gems and nuggets like this one: “The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort.” So next time you call a radio show up or hang out at a barbecue like you will tonight, or a bar, or watch the Olympics, how many real men are going to be hanging out drinking beer, shooting shots of Jim Beam or Jack Daniels or Jefferson’s Reserve, my favorite -- people looking for gifts for me, Jefferson’s Reserve, a real Kentucky bourbon. Did you sample any of that? You go to Lexington once a year. Did you go to, well it burned down. I think they rebuilt it. Did you ever have any Jefferson’s Reserve?
AG: I do not believe so, no. It’s different from Woodford, right?
Mike: It’s totally different. This is its own little distillery, very small batches. I know you went to the Maker’s Mark joint, right?
Mike: Did you dunk a bottle?
AG: I have a bottle at home, yeah.
Mike: Don’t tell me, you have a redskin bottle, a maroon and gold bottle.
AG: Just a regular red one, yeah.
Mike: You could have got multi colors. You could have made it a skin bottle.
AG: I know. I’m pumped. Training camp opened yesterday.
Mike: You could have made it an RG3 bottle. Anyway. Do real men sit around and watch the . . . I don’t think so. What do real men sit around and do? Maybe they sit around and talk about saving their country. It might be worth doing some year. Perhaps we’ll tackle it. Dr. Kirk was of the impression that it was futile, and this is what I have been trying to drill into people’s heads. As I learn more about it and I read more about it and as I become more and more convinced that our problem is really not a political one, that our political problem stems from our moral crisis. At the end of the day, we basically are embroiled in one of history’s greatest moral
challenges. Here’s the challenge: we don’t have very many morals. Because we don’t and we think we can invent our own or consecrate anything that anyone does as moral, because if we don’t we may offend them, this is part if not the problem.
I think men, good men, can solve very challenging, difficult problems. I think good men, good statesmen, great statesmen, can solve very difficult political problems. The reason you remain dissatisfied with the political class is because they are a bunch of non-virtuous, amoral boobs. If you put in non-virtuous, amoral boobs in charge, you’re going to get garbage in, garbage out, to quote George Carlin. This is what Russell Kirk says in this essay that I posted. I just issued the challenge on the Twitter feed an hour ago. I’ve gotten nary a tweet back. I’ve gotten nary a tweet. I’ve gotten nary an acknowledgement, nothing, zero, zippo, zilch, nada, nothing on the tweet. Here’s what it says, “Are You a Superior Man of Virtue or a Common Man of Comfort?”
Such considerations in recent years have raised up again that old word “virtue,” which in the first half of this century had sunk almost out of sight. In this essay, I shall venture first to offer you a renewed apprehension of what “virtue” means; and then to suggest how far it may be possible to restore an active virtue in our public and private life. If we lack virtue, we will not long continue to enjoy comfort – not in an age when Giant Ideology and Giant Envy swagger balefully about the world.
Mike: Boy, was he right. Good grief, this man was prophetic. Then he goes into the concept of virtue, comes from the Greeks, the word virtue.
Thus the word “virtue” implies a mysterious energetic power, as in the Gospel According to Saint Mark: “Jesus immediately knowing that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?” Was it, we may ask, that virtue of Jesus which scorched the Shroud of Turin? Virtue, then, meant in the beginning some extraordinary power. The word was applied to the sort of person we might now call “the charismatic leader.” By extension, “virtue” came to imply the qualities of full humanity: strength, courage, capacity, worth, manliness, moral excellence.
Mike: We do not demand moral excellence as a people anymore do we, ladies and gentlemen? In very few instances do we demand moral excellence, and when we find it, we reject it. When you find someone that is of moral turpitude, what do we do? We make fun of them. We look for their human weakness, and when we find it, we exploit it to say, “How morally virtuous are you?” That is not the essence of moral virtue. Morality is not to be upended by human frailty, I might add. It is not to be undone by the human condition. The true conservative acknowledges that no man is perfect, that perfection is elusive. I said this on Wednesday; let’s go over it again. Only God is perfect. You could only hope to march in lockstep with God, but you’ll never be able to do it. No man does. That’s why we’re men. We’re not Gods.
The ancients weren’t as stupid as we think they are because they didn’t have iPods. They understood this. This is how we got from caves into civilizations. This is how we stopped warring with one another all the time over food and became civilized. You can reject it all you want and think that you can hide because you have technology or “We’ve conquered the food chain. We don’t have to worry about any of this stuff.” Yeah? Watch what happens. This is what Kirk is writing about here. These are the fundamental things that must change before your politics are going to change. If you’ve ever wondered why good men aren’t elected to office, it’s because we don’t like good men. They’re nerds. They’re fuddy-duddies. They’re squares, man. You’re not taking my fun away from me, man. Why you trying to be such a square, man? Be groovy. Get with it, man. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?
I challenge this audience, and I challenge the men in this audience, to examine our manner of dress. We dress deplorably, all of us. I’m guilty of it, too. I did address it. There is not a day gone by that I come into this studio here, and there’s no one here but me. I’m the only one in this room. AG is about 900 miles away, DC to New Orleans. It may be 1100 miles. There’s nobody here. Why am I dressed nicely today? Because when I leave here, if someone spots me or my children see me, and I am in a state of work or a state of society, I want to drive into their heads that things like this matter. You may think it’s stupid and old-fashioned.
Answer the question, though. Why would you think such a thing? The difference between us as the civilized creature and the animal is the one that is not civilized, or one of the differences, is in our manner of dress. Some people dress today because their dress is who they are. Their hair, their rings, their tats, their t-shirts and what have you, that’s who they are. What if defining yourself by your dress leaves out the really important things, which Dr. Kirk is writing here about the virtuous man? Let’s continue. He writes about what Cicero, the great thinker, said about virtuous people.
In recent decades, many folk seemingly grew embarrassed by this word; perhaps for them it had too stern a Roman ring. They made the word “integrity” do duty for the discarded “virtue.” Now “integrity” signifies wholeness or completeness; freedom from corruption; soundness of principle and character. You will gather that “integrity” is chiefly a passive quality, somewhat deficient in the vigor of “virtue.” People of integrity may be the salt of the earth; yet a rough age requires some people possessed of an energetic virtue. [Mike: He goes into what the seven deadly sins and what the seven great graces are. Then he gets into Cicero. This is what I thought was really, really important for today.] Such formulas of the cardinal and the theological virtues have been fixed in the minds of many of us, either through church teachings or through humane letters. Yet virtue is something more than the sum of its seven parts.
Mike: AG, do you know the story of the Seven Deadly Sins?
Mike: Well, they made a movie about it, too. You can watch the movie Seven with Brad Pitt. Most people get their seven deadly sins from Brad Pitt. It’s actually a part of Dante’s Inferno. There’s an opposite to the seven deadly sins. Did Hollywood pop culture tell us that if there are seven deadly sins, there must then be seven great virtues? Here they are: justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope and charity. Back to Russell Kirk writing about Cicero.
Yet virtue is something more than the sum of its seven parts. From the sixth century before Christ down to the twentieth century, this word “virtue” carried with it the strong suggestion of public leadership. The truly virtuous man would assume public duties, the ancients believed. Take these words from Cicero’s Republic: “What can be more noble than the government of the state by virtue? For then the man who rules others is not himself a slave to any passion, but has already acquired for himself all those qualities to which he is training and summoning his fellows. Such a man imposes no laws upon the people that he does not obey himself, but puts his own life before his fellow-citizens as their law.”
Mike: In other words, when you have non-virtuous scallywags going off to your capitol dome in Washington, DC, they are going to do non-virtuous things because it is how they fulfill themselves. It is part of their passion. It is part of their quest. Their life is not one of virtue and they have not achieved all that virtuous men could and then seek to maintain it by training others in the ways of virtue. Well then, let’s train them in the ways of vice. Let’s spend other generations’ money that we don’t have. You want to sit there and tell me that’s not a moral thing or an immoral act? Of course it is, and we ought to call it that. Back to Kirk:
By the “virtuous man,” that is, the classical writers meant a leader in statecraft and in war, one who towered above his fellow-citizens, a person in whom courage, wisdom, self-restraint . . .
Mike: What is that thing that I talk about all the time that sometimes gets pooh-poohed on this show, self-censorship? I choose not to swear in front of this audience, on almost all occasions. No one is telling me that I can’t. It’s on Sirius XM satellite radio. The F-bomb is said about 84,000 times every hour here on some channel, I’m sure. I have heard it more than my fair share of times when Jay Thomas is doing his show in my studio here. I am under no compulsion. No one has ever told me not to swear on air. I choose not to. I exercise censorship, believing that you, fair listener, would appreciate that, especially if you’re driving around with your kids.
. . . one who towered above his fellow-citizens, a person in whom courage, wisdom, self-restraint, and just dealing were conspicuous. They meant a being of energy and force, moved almost by a power out of himself.
Mike: Kirk goes about ten pages long in this essay. I won’t bore you with all of it. There is one part towards the end where he says I’ve laid out the case for why virtue made civilization and made good societies, and when good societies and civilizations lost their virtue, it’s when they turned into empires, like we are today with our arrogance and conceit and lack of humility and lack of temperance and prudence. We embrace all the seven deadly sins in our foreign policy. We think we’re embracing some of the seven graces. We are more embracing the seven deadly sins. This is when the good turn to empire. When you turn to empire, what can save you from empire?
I’ve been counseling politically that decentralization, and I believe that I am correct in that analysis. However, you could say also that a restoration of virtue would lead back to better politics and back to better statesmanship. If we had better statesmanship, men would not be organized by such arrogant thoughts as things like perpetual unions that are made by man. There is no such thing. Then decent
ralization would just occur naturally, because in the natural course of things in a civilized order that sought virtue, you would see the virtue of self-government. Self-government cannot happen when your governors are 3,000 miles hither and yon.
End Mike Church Show Transcript