Saturday, April 3, 2010
Note: In the Imagining Evil series, I challenged the reader to consider the question of whether people (you,me) presently have the capacity to imagine the existence of evil in our world, and especially (as the question was urged differently in the Mole series)or to imagine (see) what may be coming or, in fact, may already be here. As I look back on this series, I think it could serve as the basis for a semester course, except for two problems: (1) no university will allow me to teach it; (2) the class would vaporize after the first session, the innocents running for the hills, leaving behind only a few goths and wackos hungry for the evil itself, man.
Imagining the Horror of Evil PART ONE
In about 1988, during my years in the Washington bubble, I took a class in creative writing at the Bethesda, Md., writing institute. In a short story class, I wrote a story which imagined that in the near future, people over fifty would be required to report yearly for a “life” evaluation. The evaluation added or subtracted points on an ID card. The evaluation looked at every aspect of a person’s life and assigned a point value that represented the person’s present worth to society. If the point value fell below a certain number, the person was summoned to a “session” in a public school building or other such facility where they would voluntarily submit to euthanasia for the good of the society.
My hero in the story had been doing reasonably well, keeping his job and bank account, but one day he went to a large urban public library to get a well known classic. The classic no longer existed on the shelves, but my protagonist noticed that there were ten copies of the latest romance steamer by (let us say) Jezebel Daniels, whereupon he began screaming violently at the librarians and the sick culture that had produced them and so forth and so on. That, plus several other instances such as regular non-appearance at community social functions for older singles, earned him a failing grade and a summons to the next “event” at Wade Elementary on Saturday morning.
The rest of the story (I regret that this brilliant fiction has been lost) involved the hero’s daring escape into the hills of West Virginia. Given present day technology (this story was written in the earliest days of the internet and before GPS) the escape would be highly improbable now that we have achieved much more of the Orwellian nightmare than Eric Blair could imagine. The most interesting part of this episode from my past life was the sequel: according to the rules of this class, the writer of the story was not permitted to speak while the rest of the class, provided with photocopies of the story in advance (“photocopies”: see Wikipedia) criticized the offering. What ensued was an almost hysterical reaction from twenty or so pseudo-literati, mostly over 40, from the DC beltway culture.
Quite simply, they bypassed any literary merit the story might have and went for the author, who was immediately judged to be a cultural throwback and reactionary, something on the order of a preliterate pterodactyl with devious political views. It was difficult to tell what made them angrier, the prescience of the story or their fears that it could be true, so they finally dismissed it as passé and outré while they insisted that elders were now more appreciated than ever. It was as if I had unmasked everything by suggesting the unimaginable.
In terms of science fiction, my story was really old hat. Soylent Green had covered some of these themes and more a decade earlier, but the emphasis had been on the horror of cannibalism. And I had not heard of the earlier Logan’s Run (due for a remake next year). My story went for the unthinkable center, that a compassionate government would assess the value of individual lives and dispatch those that did not serve the needs of society.
You can bet that my reviewers, all of them card-carrying liberals who viewed the world outside DC as an uncharted territory of stupidity and religion (“here be dragons” as some of the medieval maps say) knew that what I was saying was entirely possible. The year after Soylent Green brought us Roe vs. Wade, which became within minutes the philosophical centerpiece of modern liberalism. It wasn’t new, it had been there all along, but now it could become the very foundation of the new America we were, it was said, creating as we “moved forward,” the mantra and battle slogan of the new era. At its core, of course, was the idea that the state assigned value to individual life and legitimized murder to demonstrate its power.
Now, twenty-some years later, the liberals have their greatest moment since the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And within months of the election of Obama and his myrmidons, we have the following: the admission of a Supreme Court Justice (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) that she thought Roe vs. Wade was about preventing the birth of undesirables; the creation of a Health Care plan which envisages requiring elderpersons to submit to health evaluations every five years for “end of life instructions,” and makes abortion a part of regular health care in all hospitals, including Catholic ones; the insinuations of the President of the U.S. to the effect that old sick people need to suck it up and take a pill; and his blatant statements to the effect that opposing abortion is something “that we are now past, like the culture wars”).
The message: a new day has dawned for the whole world. Obama may not be a smart man, but he is the man in whom the terrible tendencies of a century have found their latest prophet. Nazism, socialism, Marxism, fascism: all agree on the central doctrine. The State decides what human life is and eliminates all who do not fit into the perfect society. Had Pope Paul VI been able to put “future notes” into Humanae Vitae, he could have documented his prophecy that the acceptance of artificial birth control would lead inexorably to abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, body engineering, and—what shall we call it?—endless medical manipulation to create perfect urbanites without souls. They won’t even have to vote. The system will know what they want and need from their chick-like twittering.
If my reader is responding with the same tush, tush, “alarmist,” it couldn’t happen, and all that I received from my story in 1988, I don’t know what to say. How do I read the times? My bellwethers are mad women like Hilary Clinton who can visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe one day—“who painted that?” she asks of the miraculous serape—and attend a conference on Margaret Sanger the next, where she proclaims that genocidal Eugenist a secular saint. Or Senator Barbara Boxer who, when asked by a journalist, “just when does a foetus become a human being, Senator?” replied, “why, when the parents bring it home from the hospital.” At that moment, you see, the state has conferred humanship upon the child. These are not leading minds or instigators, they are the kind of people, like Obama himself, who have no thoughts, only steady tendencies is a certain direction. The progenitors of their thoughts may be found in Architects of the Culture of Death, one of the most helpful books of our time, a philosophical blueprint for where we are now. In the brains of people like Clinton and Boxer it is no longer horrible but perfectly obvious and rational.
The imagining of complete horror is difficult because we cannot believe it. Yes, the movie audience flocks to every imaginable horror movie, but there is always a barrier in the mind that says, no, not to me, not to us, not in our civilized time. The million people who lived in Budapest felt that way in October and even in December of 1944. When their newspaper told them that the worst battle of World War II outside Warsaw and Stalingrad was nearly upon them, they cooked their goulash and sausages and played their concerts and believed otherwise; least of all did they grasp that the worst civilian massacre of WWII was coming to this beautiful, ancient, cultured city on the Danube. So they did not believe and did not prepare. By Christmas day it was upon them, a million civilians, including the 100,000 Jews in the ghetto not yet shipped by Adolf Eichmann to the concentration camps, trapped between the German Nazis and their Hungarian allies and the Russian communists and their Hungarian allies. All the mass graves have not yet been found.
The full story, insofar as it can be pieced together from military records and eyewitness accounts, may be found in The Siege of Budapest: 100 Days in World War II by Krisztián Ungváry. It is not easy reading, particularly the detailed accounts of the battles, but the author has included many photos and eyewitness accounts that help us imagine the horrors. His line of vision is merciless and unwaveringly objective. Permit me one picture:
After Christmas a number of motherless babies were left in the maternity ward of a hospital, where it was becoming increasingly impossible to feed them for lack of mother’s milk and other nutrients. In despair the nurses clutched the babies to their breasts so that they might at least enjoy the warmth of a human body before fading away. After a while, the nurses found themselves producing milk, and the babies were saved from starving to death.
During the recent political campaign, we learned that Barrack Obama supported a law that would permit doctors to take infant survivors of botched abortions and place them on a table to die without such care. Even in the worst of the Budapest nightmare, the civilians of Hungary could not imagine allowing such an atrocity or thinking of it as “health care.” But many of them had been sold another eugenic monstrosity, the anti-Semitic lie, which the new Fascist Hungarian government of the Arrow Cross was prosecuting with increasing ferocity as thousands of Jews were line up on the embankments of the Danube and machine gunned while the mad monk, Father Alfred Kun, shouted “in the name of Christ, fire!”
There is no link between that horrible world and this, you may say. Particularly if you are a young reader and have no sense of modern history, you might think such horrors are the stuff or period pieces. The question now, in 2009, is can you imagine the horrors that are here now? If you are attached to a dozen electronic instruments a good part of the day, it may be that you can’t see what is front of you or, if you do, pronounce it boring and go back into the haze of fantasy. Eichmann? Buchenwald? Hitler? Mass graves? Evil doctors?
Consider this: President Obama’s new “science czar,” John Holdren, once floated the idea in a textbook that forced abortions, compulsory sterilization, and an international authority that would control all population levels and natural resources would become necessary to save the planet. No questions were asked, and John Holdren— MIT, Stanford, and an expert at the Kennedy School of Government— was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate in 2009.
The Eichmanns are among us. The Nazis are here. At your elbow.
The ordinary citizens of Hungary, Protestant and Catholic, prepared for Christmas and prayed while they were caught between the rockets and flamethrowers of the Fascists and the Communists and between Hitler and Stalin. Both sides agreed with the modern doctrine that the state defines human life and decides who us worth living. Both sides ordered their armies into suicidal strategies even when they knew it was worthless, when Soviet tanks were already only sixty kilometers from Berlin.
So who or what won the war? Can you imagine?
Imagining the Horror of Evil: The Apocalyptic Imagination: PART TWO
A friend who has read some of my musings wrote me that I have an apocalyptic imagination. Well, not me, really; it’s the imagination of the Church, which is inherently apocalyptic, that is, focused on the “lifting of the veil” (Apokálypsis) at the end of time. In this sense, not to be apocalyptic is not to be Catholic at all, which is the dire risk many run today by being focused only on this world and this time.
I believe that the inner soul of the Church is a desert soul, the soul of Christ in the desert, not the faked-up community soul of the Novus Ordo liturgy manqué. Those priests who fan the crowd hoopla forget that Jesus, like his forerunner John, was of the desert, and that St. Paul spent two years there. They forget that Jesus always left the crowd and returned to the desert to pray. They forget that true retreats are always into solitude, silence, and contemplation, not the sort of party nonsense that now falsely claims that name. Whenever the Church has been on the edge of complete surrender to the world, like the Jews who turned to Baal and the golden calf, the voice of God is heard by Elijah and the Desert Fathers and the hermits of Ireland and Italy and St. Romuald and Blessed Charles Foucauld.
When St. John the Apostle saw the “lifting of the veil,” tradition says he was a hermit living in a cave on the isle of Patmos. I picture him leaving the cave at night and walking the Mediterranean beach, listening to the waves rustling the pebbles. There he saw the astounding vision, the final revelation of the New Testament, in which the Gospels reach their staggering climax. However dizzying this vision, it cannot be explained away by German exegetes or witty seminary professors. The victory over the beast is the last act of the story, toward which all is moving. That victory must inform all our imaginings of history and all our theology.
Students of today, examine your imaginations. When you think of “history,” what images come to mind? A kind of slow upward oozy spiral from the dark days of lizards and medievals into the bright bursts of revolution and the rise of present day kindergarten twittered civilization? If you do, the odd thing called liberalism and its relativism factory—public education and the media—have succeeded in shaping your imagination for happy, mindless living.
What is the story we are in? Present day academic prattle is all about “narratives,” as if we were all living in tiny self-manufactured stories or off-the-shelfs from the academic Wal-Mart. St. Augustine first understood the absolute Christian story of history as beginning with Creation; reaching its eternal fulfillment in the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Resurrection; and achieving its full revelation in the Last Judgment. He also had some powerful things to say about the nature of time, pretty much to the effect that the liberal version in the previous paragraph is hooey.
In the first part of this midnight musing, I suggested that our imaginations may be at fault because we do not see the history we are in, for the simple reason that we do not see. As St. Augustine himself learned at the hands of the Manichees, it is possible to see everything upside down and backwards. If that is the case, one will be like the narrator of Apocalypse Now (or The Heart of Darkness) and not see “the horror, the horror!” I will also suggest that Novus Ordo Catholicism, the Church Somnolent, does not see it because it is obsessed with various imaginary theosophies that deny real evil.
The true apocalyptic imagination is the Christian imagination. The first modern liberal, Martin Luther, wanted to remove the Apocalypse (or Revelation) from the Bible because he could not find the Christ of his imagination in it. Not finding it, he jettisoned the book as “neither apostolic or prophetic,” an act not fully appreciated until W.H. Auden’s poem, “September 1, 1939,” in which Auden unearthed “the whole offence/ From Luther until now/That has driven a culture mad,” thereby linking the madness of the Nazis to the birth of Protestantism. Madness, in just about any psychology, derives from a disordered imagination, as superbly analyzed by William F. Lynch, S.J., in Images of Hope: Imagination as Healer of the Hopeless, a classic. In it, Lynch saw the deep connection between a disordered imagination and a disordered theology, which is also a disordered vision of history. The twentieth century spawned dozens if false utopian visions but two triumphed in Germany and Russia, each with its own version of history and an apocalypse: a super race ruling a thousand year Reich, and a transformed human nature ruling a classless worker’s paradise.
Just the other day, a friend alerted me to the fact that a nearby university history course on the Civil War includes the following text: Intimate Matters: History of Sexuality in America, by John D’Emilio. The book promises this sort of fare: Today's commercialized sexuality, promising personal fulfillment through intimate relations, is contrasted with the family-centered, reproductive sexuality of the prudish New England colonists who nevertheless produced bastards and engaged in adultery, sodomy and rape. The authors cram into 400 pages balanced discussions of racial sex-stereotyping, Chinese slave rings, abortion, same-sex relationships, women's rights and AIDS-engendered conservatism. The Civil War, or more properly, The War of Northern Aggression, always stirs my imagination, but I was not prepared for phallic symbols in cannon and balls, nor had I thought that gun carriages were fraught with family symbolism.
Ah well, whatever that course teaches, it is not much worse than the fare most students in American colleges and universities are getting in their humanities courses. This I know from my recent teaching experience in the same university which, by all indications, is much more conservative than most these days. Parents who send their sons and daughters to such places for economic reasons should be forewarned, but most will not care. The fact is that we live in a decadent, disordered, “post-Christian” society that increasingly has more in common with the Nazi and Marxist utopian visions than with anything sane, even good pagan societies. But now, you see, there is the 21st century utopian vision: a kind of bastard amalgam of the Nazi and Communist versions, but with the promise of a complete departure from nature and natural law: the transgendered society, with its final elimination of marriage, family, and children produced by natural means. Courses like the above are catechetics for the future glimpsed by C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man, by which he meant the abolition of human nature.
From the perspective of such a society, what is the apocalypse? If not Nazi, Communist, or Christian in its teleology—that end point toward which it is moving—then what is it? Science fiction has toyed with this for a century from H.G. Wells to C.S. Lewis to Blade Runner and The Matrix.
I would suggest there is a commonalty to these and many other such fictions: the endless building of machines and the intelligence behind them is right out of Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, the same tune, many variations, but all ending in the same gnostic prison: a brain hooked to a computer. “Everything is possible,” says Neo in The Matrix, which in the end means that nothing is possible, that there is no end, no purpose. Just an endless video game. Let’s play it again! Until Matrix XCVLIII comes out, and then again. “Virtual reality” means there is no real reality. If everything can be imagined, nothing true can be imagined. Neo’s pitiful rebellion is pointless, Nietzsche’s rebellion against sanity raised to—no, not the highest or next level, because with the destruction of all purpose comes the destruction of all hierarchy. No one thing is better than any other thing. So, why not marry a spineless sea slime? This is truly horror imagined from the Christian perspective. But in the transgendered trans-species society, there is no horror, only febrile repetition of arbitrary will. “Whassup, man?” Nothing.
The desert calls.
The Imagination Dead: The Church Somnolent: PART THREE: Imagining the Horror of Evil
In 1914 the Parliament of England passed a conscription bill that would draft the Irish to fight in the trenches of France. Immediately, the united Catholic Bishops of Ireland issued a manifesto declaring this "an oppressive and inhuman law which the Irish people have a right to resist by every means, consonant with the law of God." The Irish had been oppressed, a mild word for what took place, since Oliver Cromwell had invaded Ireland and slaughtered the clergy and destroyed the churches and convents. An excellent way to learn about this period is through Walter Macken’s excellent Seek the Fair Land, in which we meet a heroic Catholic family and a saintly priest caught in vicious slaughter by Protestant armies. According to the New York Times of that day, the conscription act had driven the Irish people into the hands of Sinn Fein, the party of independence, and kept Ireland out of World War I.
I was struck by this immediate and direct action of the Bishops of Ireland against a political tyranny. Contrast that with this: In the early part of this century, I was writing weekly columns for a site called Peter’s Voice. Through I was made aware of Bishop Macram Gassiz of the Sudan, who came to this country to wake up the American bishops and people to the massive murder of Christians by Muslims in the Sudan. And I was aware that Bishop Gassiz’s pleas were being met with indifference and the kind of halting smiles people give when they are not going to give.
There were two problems with the good bishop’s campaign. One, it is now politically incorrect in the Catholic Church to acknowledge the true nature of Islam and the absolute irreconcilability of this religion with Catholicism; two, it is especially politically incorrect in the American church to think that Muslims should be converted to the True Faith; and third, the Church American has entered a long, slow, deathly sleep of mind and conscience.
The essay today is about the Church persecuted, militant, triumphant, and a new category, the Church Somnolent, which should just about eliminate much of the very audience I said last time I am trying to reach. But give me another few sentences.
Using firearms and explosives, thousands of Muslims destroyed the Christian village of Korian in the province of Punjab in eastern Pakistan. A Christian family in the village had been accused of blaspheming Islam.
A distillation of testimony from survivors and former guards, newly published by the Korean Bar Association, details the daily lives of 200,000 political prisoners estimated to be in the camps: Eating a diet of mostly corn and salt, they lose their teeth, their gums turn black, their bones weaken and, as they age, they hunch over at the waist. Most work 12- to 15-hour days until they die of malnutrition-related illnesses, usually around the age of 50. Allowed just one set of clothes, they live and die in rags, without soap, socks, underclothes or sanitary napkins.
Following an August 1 attack by 800 Muslims on Christians in the northeastern Pakistani city of Gojra, Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad led a protest against government tolerance of anti-Christian violence. Bishop Coutts charged that “a banned Islamic group which wants to ‘purify’ Pakistan by making it a strictly Islamic, theocratic state” wants non-Muslims to “either convert to Islam or leave the place … They want a sort of religious cleansing.”
Paramilitary troops patrolled the streets of a town in eastern Pakistan yesterday after Muslim radicals burnt to death eight members of a Christian family, raising fears of violence spreading to other areas.
Hundreds of armed supporters of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an outlawed Islamic militant group, set alight dozens of Christian homes in Gojra town at the weekend after allegations that a copy of the Koran had been defiled.
They threw stones, burned homes, and pursued those fleeing, firing wildly. In the end, nine people were dead. Seven of them have the same last name, Hamid, and belong to the same family clan as Fr. Hussein Younis, a Franciscan. They include two children (in the photo by Saqib Khadim, the coffins). Their only fault is that they were Christian.
It took place in Pakistan, in Gojra, in the province of Faisalabad in eastern Punjab. There are 1.3 million Catholics in all of Pakistan, and the same number of Christians of other denominations, out of a population of 160 million, almost entirely Muslim. But the intolerance against this small, poor, peaceful minority has become a fact of life, exploding at times into bloody aggression.
MADISON - As Gov. Jim Doyle was telling Wisconsinites on Aug. 17 that he would not seek a third term as governor, the Catholic bishops of Wisconsin were letting the faithful know of their "deep concern" about the recently approved state budget that requires them to provide contraceptive services to those for whom they provide health insurance. "This mandate will compel Catholic dioceses, parishes, and other agencies that buy health insurance to pay for a medical service that Catholic teaching holds to be gravely immoral," the bishops wrote.... "This mandate violates not just our religious values, but also our constitutional rights. The right of conscience established in the Wisconsin Constitution protects the minority from the majority..." the bishops wrote. Insurance coverage in two dioceses - Superior and La Crosse - is not affected by this mandate because self-insured entities are exempt from the contraceptive provision. The statement, released through the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, noted that "as Catholic teachers and pastors, we strongly object to this blatant insensitivity to our moral values and legal rights."
The bishops said that as they deal with the mandate the budget has placed upon them, they will "continue to affirm and communicate the teachings of our faith." "No legislation can repeal or annul our commitment to upholding the dignity of human life and the means by which each life is conceived," they wrote.
And now--April 2010? Consider the behavior of Cardinal George and the NCCB in the case of Obama's socialism. What utter rot.
Can you imagine?
Again, from the now vanished TrueWester blog, the Mole series. A new mole post will be forthcoming from the post-Obama NSRUS (National Socialist Republic of the US).
UNDERGROUND MISSIVE #1
Note: The following sad piece of cultural detritus washed up on my leaf-strewn lawn in the mouldy, mouldy month of October. Soaked through with tears and small rice beer, it was encircled by Chinese rubber bands, and apparently tossed onto my premises by unseasonably heavy rains occasioned, no doubt, by global seething.
UNDERGROUND MISSIVE #1 FROM SUB-MENSCH DIRT-TOSSER MOULDYWARP
By which title you are to understand, dear happenstance reader, that I am a mole of the burrowing, semi-blind kind, a group of which is called by common tradition a labor, which is an apt description of what we do: we labor blindly. Our particular clan, the Mouldywarps of Yorkshire, once migrated to White County, Tennessee, and there let that matter rest.
Here, fallen upon hard times, I labor in a bureaucracy of the State, for vole crumbs and roots. My great great something Grimm-Molus, Viscount, said it all: "We are obsessed by the idea of regulation, and our Masters of Requests refuse to understand that there is an infinity of things in a great state with which a government should not concern itself."
Not any more. As my cousin the philologist, Warpus Root-Searcher, informed me, a bureau is a French desk covered with baize (yum!), and a –cracy means power. A bureaucracy is a power desk that seeks to dominate everything through rules, and a bureaucrat, no matter how mild in appearance, is nothing put a power addict seeking to devour. Satan, my grandfather Luminous Mouldywarp declared, is the supreme bureaucrat (cf. C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters).
These missives from a mole are meant to deepen and understand exactly what it means to live in a State dominated and constituted by bureaucracy. Max Weber, the supposedly great (but very important) founder of sociology, said several prophetic things about a society under bureaucracy. One, he lauded a supremely efficient system based on hierarchy and rules that would supplant the traditional hierarchies composed of highly individualized (and therefore unpliable) human beings; two, he realized that bureaucracies could become inefficient when they tried to deal with individual persons and cases, which tend to become troublesome, have elbows and other odd characteristics, and often rebel against those who are only trying to serve their greater good.
Though only a semi-blind mole, I was once able to stay behind after closing hours in the Smithsonian and view an extraordinary exhibit of 19th century photographs of West African chiefs. I was, simply, stunned, and at first I did not know why. Then it came to me as I stood staring at photo after photo of chieftains staring directly at the camera: these men know exactly who they are, without self-doubt or irony or insecurity. Take any lineup from modern times, prisoners or welfare seekers or employees or students, and one can immediately see the contrast. Right away there is the fear that “I don’t really stand in my own shoes, I am waiting for definition from the system which I inhabit or clues from the passing scene of opinion; in fact I am a walking hunger for identity and what I am about, what so many of us are all about, is that desperate hunger, that erasure of the fear that my entire life—if I dare to think of all that in one moment—might amount to nothing after all.”
I am sure that there are other lineups that would yield the same impression as those African chiefs: saints, for instance; and occasional persons in our world who do in fact have complete affirmation down to their toes. One sees them occasionally, even from down here in the grass and roots where true moles dwell. Even a mole can be secure in moleness, as can that wretched cat that comes hunting me. But even being hunted can be wholly authentic because the fear is real, not neurotic.
But now, dear reader of this desperate missive, I am, as the poet said, losing myself, piece by piece, or so I fear. What I try to hold onto just now is my very moleness, which I have brought from the garden and am trying to reprise in the bureaucratic office to which I am confined many hours a week.
More to come.
UNDERGROUND MISSIVE #2 FROM SUB-MENSCH DIRT-TOSSER MOULDYWARP
. . . take time to marvel at his adaptations. Most transfixing are his front paws -- large, powerful things with claws perfectly designed for digging. That's one shown at the left. After the mole's paws, the most interesting adaptations are those you don't see. For example, underground animals wouldn't want dirt clogging their ears, so mole ears, while present, aren't to be seen. And in the tunnels' perpetual darkness, of what use are eyes? Moles do have eyes, but they're tiny slits covered with thin skin. Moles also have nostrils, but they open sideways, not forward, so dirt doesn't plug them as the mole tunnels forward.
So reads some website or other. And I am sure by now you have done your own googling or yahooing and found that my name, i.e., Mouldywarp, is the ancient English name for the common mole. Also called a “dirt-tosser,” which is an apt description of what we burrowers do. We dig tunnels underground and are not particularly particular about what we do with the soil. We are perfectly suited to the task of burrowing into the bureaucracy. From our appearance, we look like useful drudges that can serve the purposes of a being that depends upon endless systems of tunnels, and that cannot see or hear much of what is going on inside the bowels of the bureaucrat beast.
Wrong, wrong, wrong! In fact, when we are not suspected of seeing and hearing and sniffing about, regarded merely as a dumb species, that is when we know the most of what is happening around us. How think thee we have survived nearly everywhere on the planet, friend, when gardeners and farmers spin out endless methods and theories for gassing us, trapping us, grinding us, choking us to death?
So let this be a warning, bureaucracies. There will always be moles. There will always be Solzhenitsyns and Sakharovs and outraged citizens using their wise claws and snouts to see what you really are and what you are really about in your GULAGS. Respect us, dear reader, remember that we are not the species killing our own young or undermining our own existence with debt and taxes.
Take, for instance, a minor moment in the office where I burrow about. I appear bored and stupid during a conference call of excruciating mindlessness when suddenly I hear this from a county supervisor of something or other: “It has come down from Obama [always here spoken with a tone of hushed reverence] that there will not be a single corner in the nation that is not served by free or cheap public transportation.” This stunning piece of news was followed by an announcement of opening new routes of public busses that will network across the state and even connect with Amtrak. Drivers are to be hired. Routes are to be GPS-ed. Computer programs will be “enhanced.”
Now I ask you, have you learned of this from any other source? A major policy slipping down through the bureaucratic system, unnoticed even by the Foxes of the earth. A fait accompli, no less. A tentacled extension of the fabled Stimulus monster. Ah, you see, there is much going on underground that only moles can detect. A shiver in the earth’s crust, a seismic quake, a tectonic shift. Something is going on: realities are coming into existence of which the country is not aware until it sees them already operating.
When no one is looking at work, I read and ponder the new edition of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s In the First Circle, now uncensored and published in a new translation. If you want to know how bureaucracy worked in Soviet Russia, read this book. If you want to know how the same kind of bureaucracy is coming to this country, become a mole in the system Obama is creating. What you will learn is that what most people take as reality is being redefined daily. The Soviets did that so successfully for seventy years that the unwary simply no longer knew anything.
You object, and rightly so. The mole writing this works in a pleasant office with (mostly) pleasant people, mostly women. Like all bureaucrats they process endless stacks of paper, write down information, and file it in folders or computer programs. What could be sinister here? The secret is that in a bureaucratic universe nothing looks sinister: the maidens who filed index cards on the concentration camps looked sweet and talked of their weekends. On the surface it seems benign enough. But moles know that “on the surface” is a very incomplete picture of the garden. What is distinctive about bureaucracies—from ancient Sumeria on—is that they are non-teleological. The one question one never asks in here is “why?” If one (foolish as this writer) does, he meets with shrugged shoulders, sighs, uncomprehending stares, or censorious looks.
We will come back to this in Missive # 3. But permit me a digression. In my humble view, the two greatest writers of the twentieth century were Sigrid Undset and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. They are now mostly unknown and dismissed in the American university, passed over for third-world and minority-culture scribblers no mole would allow in the garden. In 2005, I talked about Solzhenitsyn for an hour in my Utopia/Dystopia class and then asked if any of the 35 students had ever heard of him. No. I returned to my office which I shared with other part-timers and expressed my astonishment, only to have four teachers, ranging in age from 25 to 55, say “who?”
Undset, a Catholic who opposed the Nazis with her life, and Solzhenitsyn, who opposed the Communists with his life, are both great writers whose works . . . well, no need for panegyrics. Read them yourself. In 1985 Solzhenitsyn was one of the most well-known people in the world. His works were read and taught from high school to graduate school and his life was well known. What happened? He was invited to give the commencement address at Harvard. In it he said, in a nutshell, that though the Communist world was intolerable, the West was no model to follow—corruption, moral decadence, homosexuality, pornography, hatred of religion. The next morning the New York Times and the Washington Post flushed Solzhenitsyn into the lowest sewers of history, and he became an unperson. No one taught him any longer—what are you, a fascist reactionary? One still finds his works at the Good Will, but not in the university.
Here, read his speech for yourself: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/solzhenitsyn/harvard1978.html
I’ll be back.
UNDERGROUND MISSIVE # 3 FROM SUB-MENSCH DIRT-TOSSER MOULDYWARP
The roots get all tangled down here. I’m used to that in unweeded gardens; fie upon them, as my friend Hamletish Mouldywarp mought say. What I mean is, things get crowded and it’s hard to see what’s what. The whole point of gardening and making good lawns is to keep things separate like, and not all muddled up so they can fruit and flower as they might serve the needs of moles and men. Here at the Department of Human Resurfacing, the point is, if I can find a point in it, is to take the radicals and either strangle them or distort them beyond recognition.
As I said in # 2, my first job here was to learn how to be an un-mole by not asking any questions that start with why? Whenever I see an A that looks as if it might connect with a B, scotch that, strangle that, stuff it down a deadend hole right now before it leads somewhere. If a mole could scream so human ears could hear, my existence down here would sound like one long Dostoevskyan howl. Now, you may say, if it’s all that godawful, why do people want it? Why do they feed and fertilize it with unnatural chemicals to keep it going?
Take this, for instance: my co-worker Candace Mouldywarp, a cousin, slams down the phone the other day and says, “people get so nasty when they’re getting everything for free.” See, a good root system is meant to nourish things, not choke them to death. Here, in the Department of Human Refamishing, things appear to be what they aren’t, and when that happens, all is lost. Consider: in this and a thousand places like it, lies festoon the walls. Love that word, festoon, a string of flowers (yummy!), but these are all fake flowers, pictures of flowers and natural scenes with messages attached about DESTINY and SUCCESS and MOTIVATION and THE ESSENCE OF TODAY and such. Like the poison literary candies artificed by the Soviet Writers Union in Stalin’s (and Obama’s?) times, they are meant to lie, lie, lie.
The overwhelming message is that we are here to help you! Why if Great Grandfather Benedictus T (T for terrafirm) Mouldywarp could see these verbal atrocities tacked onto sentimental scenes, he would erupt above the surface and cry out plagues! Dig deeper and hide from the surface lies! We can smell lies, you know, we moles, they smell like strychnine laced with cyanide and sweetened with almondine syrup. Gophers go for them every time, but moles know better, and that is why I am here with these missives, dear readers, to sniff out the lies.
The fact is that the Human Refashioning workers are not here to help people but to process them. And the processors are eaten up by the process. End and means are muddled to the point that one worker exclaimed just the other day, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” Caution, love, we’re not supposed to know that. Verge on vertiginous truths such as that and you will be in danger of becoming human again.
Wait, wait, you cry. How can you confuse evil bureaucratic systems such as the GULAG and the Nazi concentration camps with the benign, beneficent human servicing agencies of our beloved system, which feed and clothe and employ people? The answer is that there is no confusion here, the confusion is structured into the system itself through two means: distancing and expansion. The law of love left by the Divine Yeshua is the opposite of a bureaucratic system which is designed to distance the deed from the doer. When I respond to a needy or beggar mole, I give to that fellow mole and I join him in a recognition of our total and mutual dependence on . . . well, you know Who I mean. Bureaucracy distances the hand and the gift more and more until I and love and gift and giver become root-jumbled. A lie: that the State is God and on him do the poor depend exclusively.
And expansion: the lesson of Communism and Hitler’s National Socialism is that the secret to mass murder is expanding the bureaucracy to include more and more people as murderers. The Hitler jugend and the Communist Young Pioneers both enlarged the state machine to include youth and children who were taught the lies and committed to telling them. When everyone is part of the bureaucracy, everyone is a slave and everyone becomes a liar. When denouncing your parents becomes a patriotic duty, then the State has become God. And from what I hear from the mole network, denouncing ones parents for racism, sexism, and non-political correctness has become daily fare (not tasty) for the educational bureaucracy.
You see, the rootlet of the great bureaucracy I work in is only a tiny offshoot of the main tree. Even the Congress itself is an offshoot. The main tree is the educational system, and to find out about that, I listen at night to the tales of fellow mole Woody Mouldywarp, named for a president who brought in the federal income tax and the concept that the people is a dumb mob to be led—sort of like landless peasants—which they were rapidly becoming. Woody works underground in the school system
Woody says that all you need to do to know the secret lies that power the culture is listen to the students and the teachers in the schools. Nearly every standard phrase they use is a betrayal of something good. Of course the chief nutrient fed to the roots is relativism, which appears in nearly everything they say. The ritual of relativism that teaches the students is conducted as follows: a controversial topic—say abortion—is introduced for discussion. All the students are invited to express their feelings and opinions. Arguments based on reason are immediately dismissed as “ideological” (Bill O’Reilly, former high school teacher, you learned your lesson so well!) The teacher carefully guides the class to the overwhelming conclusion: no-one has the answer, all opinions are equal in value, there is no truth, and school is a place where you are turned into a slave. “Don’t go there” is the new motto of anti-reason.
So as I shuffle the papers and do the intake forms, I ask clients (as they are called) to sign sway their rights, their views, their human inheritance, the last shreds of their southern culture, pretty much the way they sign away their right to farm rationally at the Department of Agriculture Office a block away. “What is to constitute good behavior? For that question obviously carries its own answer on its head. Steady, hearty allegiance to the policy of the government they serve will constitute good behavior.”—Woodrow Wilson
As a mole, I watch and wonder. In the 1930’s it was a matter of taking over farms. Now, in the Department of Human Re-organ-izing, it’s a matter of taking over souls.
UNDERGROUND MISSIVE # 4 FROM SUB-MENSCH DIRT-TOSSER MOULDYWARP
In which the Mole turns Distributist and reveals his darker purpose.
The Mole worketh within the bureaucracy, but not always. On Thursdays he flees the maze and hitchhikes to Cookeville, where he joins his fellows in the Chesterton Society of Middle Tennessee, a small but hardy band of fellows currently reading G. K. Chesterton’s An Outline of Sanity and attempting to plumb the meaning of GKC’s “Distributism” or Distributivism,” as it is sometimes called. We have tossed (note the mole tie-in!) the topic about for several years and lately have been trying to understand it in depth and ask the question, is it feasible? Or as some critics suggest, is it merely a romantic fantasy, of no application in the world of Wal-Mart and Obama socialism?
When Chesterton and Belloc first talked of Distributism almost a hundred years ago, England had already been wracked and transformed by the evils of modern industrialism, and The Servile State (as Belloc called it) already seemed to have won. To us moles, hammered by tractors and under siege from new poisons, traps, and incessant attacks by the new industrial farming, so it seemed. Besides, Karl Grundsow Marx, who holed up in the British Museum and wrote cloudy words that plunged millions into a new slavery, had determined that all was determined in history, so what’s the point of chattering about it like nutty squirrels?
At root, Distributism visualizes a society in which individuals possess spiritual and economic freedom through the ownership of private property, preferably land. Its vision is akin to Jeffersonian agrarianism, and that is why Chesterton and Belloc wrote for The American Review in the 1930’s, along with the Southern Agrarians. Down deep, this is a radical vision of what society ought to be, and we moles, relishers of roots and radishes and radicals, understand. We also know that radix malorum est cupiditas, for where real freedom exists for the right thing to be done, the freedom exists for the seven deadlies to flourish like weeds.
Critics of the Distributist vision complain that it is impractical, unrealistic, romantic, etc. In The Outline of Sanity, Chesterton takes those criticism head on. First, he says, there is a vast illusion in society that the freedom talked of by Distributists already exists in society and that it is threatened by Socialism and Capitalism. People really believe, he says, that private enterprise is really in our lives and in the society around us. People who speak this way—“those people are so blind and deaf to all the realities of their own daily existence.” “We have already accepted everything that anybody of intelligence ever disliked in socialism. . . .Capitalism has done all that Socialism threatened to do.”
Here, the Mole applauds his webby paws and chortles like a whistle pig. What did I tell you in the last missive? That bureaucracy works by expansion, that its genetic goal is to include more and more within its power, which is a blinding, controlling power, a bit like chemical fertilizer. Bluntly, the bureaucracy of the society in which you live now has already absorbed and enlisted you as “a servant of the State.” For such as person, “from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep again, his life is run in grooves made for him by other people, and often other people he will never even know. He lives in a house, that he did not make, that he does not want. He moves everywhere in ruts; he always goes up to his work on rails. He has forgotten what his fathers, the hunters and the pilgrims and the wandering minstrels meant, by finding their way to a place. He thinks in terms of wages, he has forgotten the real meaning of wealth. His highest ambition is concerned with getting this or that subordinate post in a business that is already a bureaucracy.”
That world exists, says GKC, and it is this world. Distributism is a philosophy that challenges it by insisting that a person should be more than a function of the State. So our first task is to rid ourselves of the enormous illusion that we are free and independent persons gaily living our lives outside the 9-to-5 grind. The grind is everywhere we are and we are slaves to it now. A mole already in a trap raving about Socialism encroaching on his freedom is a bit of a, well, fool?
So, a frustrated Chestertonian asked in our Cookeville enclave, what are we to do to re-establish the right proportions in the State? A fair question. If we are blind, how shall we see? And what things can we do? I will explore this question more in Missive # 5.
I think GKC is urging us, first, to take off our blinders and peep, at least like us moles, at the light above. We are already slaves of the State, and each day we become more and more unfree. Second, stop talking tommyrot about Socialism. We are already imprisoned by global Capitalism and its offspring, a socialist State created by regulations and governed by a bureaucracy. The question right now is, not IF we shall have a Socialist Healthcare system, but HOW MUCH MORE of one than we already have?
The relentless expansion of bureaucracy I talked about last time has included us in the most radical way: as diminishing persons. Not only unfree, but blind to what is happening to us. Here in the bureaucracy I burrow in at the moment, no one knows quite what I am and what I am for. I am asked to perform tasks that could be given to a sixth-grader. Performing such tasks is not the problem; I am happy to follow in the humble tracks of saints and servants. The problem is that we do not call things by their names and delude ourselves into believing that the purpose of a bureaucratic society is to help persons be free and fully human.
It is not. It is exactly the opposite. Any opossum or concentration camp prisoner could tell you that. Check the tatooed ID on your arm or cellphone..