One of our great modern diseases is the inability to see the big picture. We specialize in our tasks, which Adam Smith described as the source of our wealth. But we also put our heads down and specialize in our thoughts. And this is how it comes about that we can be easily robbed of our birthright by men that I will, for ease of identification, call “bad men.” These are men like Woodrow Wilson, or Immanuel Kant, or John Dewey.
We think because the university we went to has different “departments,” where the different “majors” hang out, that these are all different enterprises — like the manufacture of jet engines differs from training horses for future dressage tournaments. But politics and philosophy and education are all part of the same essential project. We will not successfully deal with any one of them without dealing with them all.
After the Enlightenment, continental philosophy went straight to the dogs, meaning by this that what is now called postmodernism came to the surface pretty quickly. This is what accounts for the irrationalism of Kant and all his heirs and assigns. Some Eurowit once said that America is the only country that had gone from barbarism to decadence without an intervening period of civilization. This is a good example of a problem I will address shortly, but something similar (and more accurately) can be said about European philosophy — they went straight from sophistry to nihilism without any intervening period of thought.
Now relativism is implicit in every form of modernism, but philosophers in the English-speaking world kept a brave front up for a bit longer. Analytic philosophers really do reject relativism, but have no Archimedean place to stand in order to wield their magnificent lever. And they cannot find any fulcrum either, but the lever itself is great, and they wave it around like a barge pole. They persist in the valiant enterprise of trying to talk sense. I would want to argue that one of the reasons why philosophy in the English-speaking world didn’t go around the relativistic bend like the continental philosophers did is because the Church was much stronger here, much more present in the English-speaking world.
The same thing was true in our political life — Wilson and FDR and that ilk were fascists at heart, and they got some traction, but not like in Europe. Whenever our various crises got over, things kept righting themselves, and people wanted to go back to normal, as defined by a basically Christian reality.
But back in Europe, because the post-Kantian cluster had abandoned the wisdom of trying to see things as they are, the only thing left for them was the grasp for power. This is why they, almost to a man, were men of the Left, hungry for power, and eager to run the lives of others. Because power was everything to them, this is what they attribute to everyone else — everything must be a power grab. Well, it is for them, and I say this as a man who, in a year or two, is going to have to obtain the light bulbs I want up on the Indian reservation, in the booth next to the fireworks. Their spirit is tyrannical, through and through.
In the meantime, ordinary Christians have kept their heads down, and worked hard at the manufacture of pins, or whatever it was that Adam Smith used in his illustration. They work faithfully at their jobs, trusting their future leaders to get the appropriate academic credentials in a way that will enable us to maintain the faith “once delivered” without having to be fundamentalist rednecks. They trust that we evangelicals can get themselves a little of that gen-ewww-ine higher ed without going native. But alas . . . more and more of our scholars are showing up at academicesque and evangelically gigs with bones through their noses. The giveaway is when you start to hear that they have delivered an important paper citing Kant, or Nietzsche, or Heidegger, or Marcuse, or Derrida, or Foucault, and they did it without spitting into a little dentist sink afterwards.
I may appear to be changing the subject, but I am not. Bear with me for a moment. Aristocracy is inescapable, and don’t be put off by the word aristocracy. Cream rises, and if a man excels in his work, he will stand before kings. But a pagan and unbelieving aristocracy is characterized by contempt for the people, and pours buckets of scorn over their every attempt to better themselves. Down below the ruling class, they are the booboise, they are at best the middlebrows, they are the suburbanites, who shop in big box stores and listen to music by Carrie Underwood. This contempt that the elite, leftist, power-monkeys consistently feel for anything mass-produced is a contempt born from fear. And this describes the European intellectual attitude toward Americans almost exactly.
A Christian aristocracy sees problems when there are problems, sure enough, but does so with affection mixed with love, and love mixed with understanding. One of the things understood is that you can be pleased without being satisfied. A Christian elite wants to be trained in order to govern; a pagan elite wants power in order to be able to rule. And if you are put off with words like elite and aristocracy, you are falling for one of the basic tricks that the pagan elite are fond of using. It is not whether, but which.
And this relates to the point of education. Education is all about the instruction in the light of ultimate meaning, and if there isn’t any, what are you going to do? Well, one of the options is to major in groupthink, get your graduate degree in hivebuzz, do some postdoc work at the Sorbonne, and learn how to stroke your chin while lamenting the lack of universal health care in America.
It is all connected. More to come.