Friday, July 13, 2012
Apocalypse Now! Just Kidding.
A response to this article, sent to me by a good friend.
To me, it seems that things are not quite as black as Fr. Jacobse wants them to be. I suspect some of the "culture rot" is just the religious right waking up to the fact that it is not perfect (any more than the secular left is). To some extent, that is a good thing. Maybe we will be a little less negatively focused on culture wars when it comes clear to more of us that we are often hurting more than helping (with our rhetoric about what is good, what is bad, and what we expect or demand from those around us who may not feel exactly as we do when it comes to marriage, clothing, music, or other fashion choices that don't necessarily have to be "evil" just because they aren't what we would do ourselves). If churches were more focused on helping people live better lives, and less focused on beating up sinners (especially the sinners who aren't really hurting them or anyone else in an obvious way), then the world would be a better place. Maybe the impending collapse of church power (which seems overstated to me) will help religious folk look inward -- minding their own beams a little more and caring less about their neighbors' motes. I think that would be a good thing.
I suspect some kinds of freedom will still remain available for those with resources and guts sufficient to go for them. (If you can make it in the wild, there is still a wilderness out there to receive you. If you make enough money, society will leave you alone and/or give you whatever you want, as long as you don't want things that anger a lot of other people. The people losing freedom are often those who never really had any to begin with: they are just human capital, poor chattel looking for someone to house them in a nicer shed. Such people have been with us for a long time. There might have been less of them during the Revolution, at the beginning, but even then they were out there.) Personally, as long as I have the possibility of living a life that means something to me, I don't care what the laws are, what my neighbor thinks about sex, or what nonsense is trending among the masses (who are never going to be "safe" -- big crowds of like-minded people are always dangerous, historically). It stinks that I must buy health insurance now and that it cannot be cheap, but at least I have some kind of job (for two years, anyway). It stinks that I see no place for myself in the culture I grew up in, no nice place for myself in the society I grew up in, but in the end it's really OK. I'll make do with what I get, just like everybody else, and I'll try not to cry too much about it. Many people have lived worse lives than I am going to (even if I die murdered horribly today). I am a lucky man, and I am doing everything I can to capitalize intelligently on that luck. I am also an idiot, so this does not always work out great, but everyone does what he can.
My goal is to live such that I don't have to be terrified every time apocalypse looms. It seems to me that people often use the threat of apocalypse ("our culture is dying! we are under attack!") to galvanize mobs ("to the barricade! allons enfants de la patrie!") to do things that they (and their grandchildren) end up regretting. Not that there is never a time to take a stand (even a violent stand), but I see no reason to make every blip on the radar a matter of life and death, good and evil, do or die. We Americans accepted socialism a long time ago (when we ratified the Constitution, created the First Bank of the United States, let the North win the Civil War, and took Roosevelt's New Deal). The results have not all been bad, as many descendants of former slaves will tell you: much as some of them may dislike living on Uncle Sam's dime in the hood, they would not rather be picking cotton under the overseer's lash. And I see their point. It is a pretty good one. If some stupid Southerners could have seen it without a war, then we might still have some of the freedom they lost when they fired on Fort Sumter. They gambled with their freedom, their livelihood, and they lost. That's what happens in life. We get stuff. We gamble with it. We lose, and our descendants have to do without the cool stuff we blew shooting craps in God's casino (where the house always wins). C'est la vie.