Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “We started this conversation with a little talk about materialism. One of the things that I find, and I try to share it with the radio audience as often as possible without getting too doctrinaire about it. Some say: Mike, don’t get philosophical about it. Joseph, I find it almost impossible to not get philosophical about it.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: We started this conversation with a little talk about materialism. One of the things that I find, and I try to share it with the radio audience as often as possible without getting too doctrinaire about it. Some say: Mike, don’t get philosophical about it. Joseph, I find it almost impossible to not get philosophical about it.
Pearce: If we don’t have principles and know why those principles fit, basically, ultimately going right back to anthropology and understanding who we are as people, who we are as human beings and where we fit into the hierarchy of things. If we don’t have those principles, we basically become relativists. All that we do we respond in kneejerk fashion to what’s happening to me personally in any one moment. The time for relativism is defeat for everybody.
Mike: This has manifest itself. This is aphilosophical thinking, and that is this rapid-fire emotional response to electronic stimuli. It is almost though modern American Western man has been reduced to a quivering pile of somehow kept alive organic material that can be moved into an action when it is jolted by a little arc of electricity.
Pearce: I actually think that there’s a great divine comedy going on. I think part of this is God’s joke on humanity. What we’re seeing, of course, ironically – it’s a great irony. It’s a delicious one, in fact. Progress of technology leads to the actual shriveling and regress of man. There’s a poem by Oliver Goldsmith called The Deserted Village. There’s a line in it I like, “Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.” I think you could change that now to: Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where technology accelerates, and men decay. I think that’s where we are now. Basically we have this irony. We have technological progress and human regress. In fact, the technological progress is causing the human regress.
Mike: You kind of write about this yesterday at Imaginative Conservative when you write about “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” As you point out, according to “Tina Turner, it’s an emotion, second-hand . . . For John Lennon, it’s all we need.” Then you turn to St. Paul.
“For St. Paul, love is the greatest of all the virtues. For Christ, the two great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor. On the deepest theological level, God is love.” You think about this. St. Augustine spends nearly an entire chapter in Confessions writing about and asking the question – he knows that the divine author is reading his authorship – asking the question: You know, God, I know why I came to you, why I converted, why I love you, but I can’t figure out why you love me. For what reason? You’ve got it all. You made the universe. You made the stars. You made the planets. You made this planet. You made the bears. It really is – it never has stopped being the intellectual expression, if you will, that drives all the affairs of man. If you have more of it, then you’re more godlike; if you have less of it, then you’re more Lucifer-like. I didn’t get a chance to read the whole essay. Help me out here. Where are you going with this?
Pearce: The key thing is that love, fully understood, is the godhead himself. It’s inseparable from giving one’s self to the other. In other words, love is inseparable from self-sacrifice, and, therefore, it’s inseparable from suffering. That’s what the moderns don’t get. Like Tina Turner, it’s a secondhand emotion because it’s not making her feel good anymore. Love’s not not making you feel good. In fact, in many ways, it’s about making you feel bad. Love is about choosing freely to do what you should do for the beloved, for the other, including the enemy rather than doing what you want yourself, which is pride, which is antithesis, the opposite of love. When people like John Lennon talk in the same breath that all you need is love and then do your own thing is a ridiculous contradiction. Doing your own thing is the opposite of love. Doing what the other person needs you to do is love. Really, the big problem we have is that the modern world’s understanding of love is the complete opposite of what love actually is.
Mike: I have a question that I’ve been meaning to ask someone. I didn’t write it down, so I didn’t get a chance to ask Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame. Now I have Joseph Pearce of Aquinas here, so let me ask you. Our great challenge here, from the standpoint of, if you are a member of the Church militant – it’s a great challenge for everyone, but certainly for the Church militant. If you’re in the militancy and you’re keeping up and faithfully sacrificing out of love for knowledge, out of love to try and acquire wisdom, and seeing what a plague modernity is, this is the issue. This is the item that the modern member of the Church militant has to deal with. I haven’t discovered, though, what was – before modernity, Church militant must have had to deal with something as we are. Do you know that it was? What was their great – what did their concern or their great fight turn to before the modern world?
Pearce: I think basically we need to be always aware of the fact that things are not as different as we’ve been tempted to think they are. For instance, yes, there are all these technological things that are accelerating us in directions that are probably going to be disastrous. We still talk about the same seven deadly sins. We’re still talking about the same theological virtues, the same cardinal virtues that are the antidote to those seven deadly sins. Pride is the worst of the sins and Caesar, in other words the secular power, as an enemy of the Church, that’s why we’re the Church militant, the Church at war against the powers of the world. That never changes from one decade and one century to the next. The only thing that changes, if you like, in a philosophical understanding of things are the accidental things, not the essential things.
Now we’re dealing with things that are happening because of technology that weren’t happening 500 years ago because we didn’t have the technology. The technology is still serving the same seven deadly sins. Those same seven deadly sins are the same now as they were then. They’re as deadly now as they were then. Therefore, we have to fight them now as we did then. I think one thing we have to be always aware of is there’s not an abyss that separates us from the past. There’s a continuum. That’s what understanding things in terms of tradition means. There’s a continuum between the past and the present and the future that we’re part of. Those that are in tune with reality are always cognizant of the fact they’re part of that tradition. In other words, the past informs the present and will inform the future. If we forget that and the modern world does, we do so at our peril. The modern world is doing so at its peril.
Mike: It continues to do so at its peril at breakneck speed. I’m just thinking, to go back there, the electronic stimuli. I had this vision in my mind of some film or video I’ve seen at some point in time. There’s a glass petri dish. There’s a lab of some sort. There’s a bunch of guys standing around in white lab coats. There’s a little electronic instrument there. We were informed that the frog has just been recently euthanized and dissected. The electronic probe can be applied to the freshly-killed frog and make its leg jerk. To get back to my point earlier, this is what animates too many of our fellow travelers, I would conclude. We can be jerked into reaction and are often vaulted or thrust into reaction, bad reaction, without thinking, without thought, without love, without consideration of what’s at stake here, by another form of electronic stimuli. That’s what we see in digital pixels relayed to us through various media. It is immediate. I think that the great challenge of it and why it poses such a threat is that it is ubiquitous. You can’t avoid it. You can’t get rid of it. You’d have to become a luddite of sorts to totally remove yourself from any influence of this whatsoever. It does become a challenge.
Pearce: It’s absolutely a challenge, but it’s also, I think, a challenge which is central to how we live our lives. Chesterton said that when the whole of humanity is heading to the abyss, the wise are in the rear. In other words, you don’t have to go headlong and try to stay up with the madness that’s out there. I’m looking out the window now. I’m using technology, some rather old-fashioned technology, a telephone, in order to speak to you on the radio, which is also somewhat old-fashioned these days. Most of the best things are. I’m looking out the window at trees, even more old-fashioned. I think we need to find time every day to actually unplug ourselves. We would actually be stronger in the struggle to change our society if we slow down. That’s the irony and the paradox because everyone is going at breakneck speed. As you say, all they’re doing is kneejerk reacting where no one gets anything done if you’re just kneejerk reacting.
Mike: It seems as though, because you’ve been browbeat, if not outright propagandized or brainwashed your entire life, that bigger is better, faster is better. You want more, more, more, more. The stimuli then becomes an addiction that has to continue. Final question for Joseph Pearce, who is with me here on the Dude Maker Hotline. Read Joseph’s work at TheImaginativeConservative.com. If you’re searching for his books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., then you will find them under Pearce. I heard you mention the horror of 1984 when we first came on today. On Sunday night last, I watched the 1981 film version starring John Hurt. I told the audience yesterday, I can’t give it any kind of a positive review because it was debasing. It was disturbing. Then I thought: You know what, Mike? Maybe it was supposed to be disturbing. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the film, but I was kind of disturbed by it, actually.
Pearce: I saw the film many, many years ago when it first came out. My memory of it is very impressionistically similar to yours. I don’t have the details at hand. The book itself is actually meant to be disturbing. In fact, in many ways my main complaint against George Orwell is it ends on a note of despair. Basically Big Brother wins and the dissidents are crushed. I sometimes use the example of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as an antidote. In real life, Aleksandr wasn’t crushed by the real-life Big Brother but actually helped to bring it down.
In other words, in reality there’s much more hope than there is in that dystopian novel. I do think that George Orwell has lessons to teach us about the dangers of big government. Lord Acton’s phrase is a favorite of mine, that power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. I think 1984 is a cautionary tale of that. At a time when we have executive orders flying around all over the place, even if we agree with many of them, there’s something that we need to bear in mind, that we don’t want a government that gets too big for its jackboots.
Mike: Certainly with the newspeak – in the film – you probably don’t recall this, but it was very detailed. The set was very elaborate. There was this row, and it went on forever, of men and women sitting in these cubicles, what we would call cubicles today, and they receive bits of newpapers or magazines that have been cut out with headlines. They look at them and put some kind of numeric code in this gizmo and it tells them: No, you need to change that; that’s not what we want people to hear. What disturbed me about it is it’s an alteration of reality that people would consume and then make reality. This is happening right now.
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Pearce: Absolutely. George Orwell understood and expressed in his novel that those who control the past control the present. In other words, history should set us free, but only if it’s a true understanding of history. Once you start rewriting history so it’s just conforming to the lies of the present, then you don’t have that wisdom of the past which can liberate us from the lies and nonsense of the present. He who controls the present controls the past is one of the disturbing things in 1984, that once the present tries to actually alter the past by lying about it, we’re in
Mike: Bingo. I concur. Joseph, we’ll talk to you the week before the big Chesterton event, if not sooner. That’s a long time in the future. We’ll talk to you in a couple weeks and then one more time. Folks, again, if you’d like to come to the GK Chesterton soiree – what’d you say, Chestertonians get together and do what?
Pearce: They have Chestertonian fun, which involves lots of laughter and lots of ale.
Mike: Sounds like a frat party to me.
Pearce: No, no. It’s not like a frat party. It’s much more fun than that.
Mike: You’ve been. If you haven’t been to Ponchatoula, Louisiana, it’s one of Louisiana’s great little treasure small towns. It really is small. It’s charming. This guy just bought this dilapidated building. I can still remember when that building was old and dilapidated. He built a brick façade out front, had a statue of GK Chesterton cast out of bronze, put it in the front, and called it Chesterton Square. You can rent it out for other private events. Once a year there’s the Chesterton event that Joseph will be at. If you want to come out and hang out with me and Mr. Pearce and David Simpson for the day, send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Joseph, it’s been a pleasure as always, my friend. We’ll talk again real soon. Thank you.
Pearce: Thank you, Mike. God bless you.
Mike: God bless you, too.
End Mike Church Show Transcript