Burn It!  Burn It All!

Ah, the heady days of our civilizational maelstrom.  As the world we knew is ripped to shreds and flung around us in centripetal chaos I can recognize fragments of familiar things flying by.  Sort of like the images that Dorothy sees in the scene where she is riding in the tornado and sees her friends and relatives float by in a rocking chair or a row boat.

You recognize some normal American ritual or an icon of a former day.  There’s a flash of recognition and it triggers some reflexive emotion or thought.  And then it flies by and is gone and the reality of being spun around in a howling cyclone of fragmented bits of the former reality returns.

But when we’re not fighting for our lives, human beings have to search for the interesting and enjoyable things around them.  Even in hell there must be a coffee break where people gather around the water cooler (or battery acid cooler) and shoot the breeze.  It’s just the nature of the beast.

You know I really enjoyed thinking about the minutia in the giant ant movie yesterday.  Thinking about the characterizations and the movie conventions that they employed back then was the most fun thing that I have thought about in weeks.  And it occurred to me that here is so much substance, so much American-ness in these old silly things from sixty, seventy years ago.  And not because there’s great art on display.  This is a story about giant ants.  Nothing more absurd is imaginable.  Nothing less important exists.  And yet the people who wrote the script and acted the scenes managed to do a good job of creating this ridiculous world that they were employed to create.  The guy who played the booze-soaked hobo in the hospital ward was highly entertaining.  The general working with the cop to operate the bazooka for the phosphorus bombardment of the ant nest was amusing in his portrayal of upper management trying his hand at a front-line task.

Maybe that is what the future looks like.  We’ll be like the medieval monks copying and illuminating fragments of the classical world to preserve something for when the rampaging vandals have run out of places to sack and burn and whoever is left sets about the hard work of rebuilding civilization from what’s left of the wreckage.  So, I’ve found new direction in celebrating whatever fragments and shards of the old order strike my fancy and even any worthwhile new shoots as they present themselves.  Certainly, it’s an uphill battle while the orcs are still busy burning and pillaging all around us.  And from time to time, we’ll have to put down our quills and cap our inkwells and pick up a battle axe and shield to fend off the latest incursion of rampaging savages.

But there is absolutely more sense in celebrating the things that give meaning to life and to enjoy art; high or low, than there is in just bemoaning the destruction and dwelling on how low we have fallen.  After all, no one threw a switch one day and ended the dark ages and began the renaissance.  The knowledge was always there.  It needed people who were willing to apply that knowledge.  It needed human ingenuity and imagination and a little breathing space between them and the nearest barbarians.

So don’t be surprised if I sound a little happier.  Sure, the orcs may win this war.  Our whole civilization may come crashing down in an orgy of death and darkness.  We may be on the cusp of a millennium of ignorance and misery.  But as Hurin said in the Silmarillion, “ Aurë entuluva!”, “Day shall come again.”  It seems inevitable that human intelligence will persevere over entropy and stupidity.  There is in life that which strives against chaos.  I’ll bet on us.

Now, let’s take another look at that giant ant movie.  Have you ever noticed how annoying the girl scientist gets when she’s down in the ant nursery in New Mexico?  She starts yelling at her colleagues, “Burn it!  Burn it all!”

I mean who the hell is she?  Especially since Ben and Bob are going to have to haul her fat butt up several steep inclines by rope to get her out of that cyanide laden death trap.  It’s not like she has the upper body strength to get herself out.  She could at least act a little more polite.  An incipient girl-boss even back then.  Ah well.

No One Talks Collapsing Empires Better Than the ZMan

My favorite dissident has what I think is a fascinating discussion of what happens when an empire, e.g. the Soviet Union or the Romans starts to die.  He discusses the transition from central rule to oligarchs.  I think he makes some truly excellent points.  We may already be quite a ways along the process.  And he shows how differences in circumstances can lead to different outcomes.  A good read.

16MAY2019 – American Greatness Post of the Day – Our Modern Satyricon – VDH

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist by training so it is perhaps unsurprising that he finds the analogies between Petronius’s Satyricon and the cultural rot of our own age.

https://amgreatness.com/2019/05/15/our-modern-satyricon/

But I still praise him for the accuracy of his point by point comparison.  Comparing the present age to post-republican Rome has become a common trope but Hanson points out just how accurate it is.  Nothing new here, just the scholarly expertise of the author pointing out the exactness of the analogy.

Peak Civilization

Hat tip to Vox Day as he links to and quotes a very interesting article about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire by one of its modern descendants, an Italian chemist named Ugo Bardi.  Vox is referencing in his title the science fiction story “A Canticle for Leibowitz” where a future world forms monasteries to preserve knowledge through a new fictional Dark Age as the analogy of us recognizing the coming Dark Ages after ours.  Which also hearkens to Rod Dreher’s book “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation,” where he compares the present societal decay with the post Roman age that sparked the monastic age.  Bardi in his article goes into the extant texts of Romans from the beginning of the Roman crisis under Marcus Aurelius all the way to end of the Empire in the Fifth Century to argue that the Romans never figured out either what was happening to them or that the Empire could end.

I’ve been fascinated by the spectacle of the Roman Empire since I was a schoolboy hearing about Rome from my Catholic grammar school nuns.  Thinking that we are in an analogous situation is equally fascinating and depressing.  But maybe there is still time to avert such a collapse.  Vox thinks it’s probably too late for the US.  I try to be more optimistic.  If you find the current societal situation at all analogous to that other example of civilizational collapse then you might be interested in looking at both posts.

A Short Review of Rod Dreher’s Book, “The Benedict Option” – Part 1

Two weeks ago I was watching Andrew Klavan’s podcast on the Daily Wire and he had an interview with Rod Dreher who has a book called “The Benedict Option.”  I had heard the title before but thought it had something to do with Pope Benedict abdicating. But the Benedict of the title is Saint Benedict who founded the Benedictine Monastic Order.  The sub-title of the book is “A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.”  The thesis, as he explained it, is that America is no longer a Christian nation and in fact is now a place inimical to Christians trying to live their faith and raise their children in it.  He drew the analogy of Benedict coming from an Italian town to the city of Rome about twenty five years after the last emperor was deposed by a Germanic King.  Benedict found it a hollowed out and corrupt place.  He decided that the only way to live a Christian life was to separate from the dominant culture and set up a separate society.  According to Dreher this was the basis of the survival of Christianity and the remnants of roman culture in the Middle Ages.

Needless to say, I ordered the book.  I’ve only started it but the introduction basically states that the majority of Americans are not Christians and do not support the traditional concepts as illuminated in the Bible.  He believes that there is no chance that the culture will return to where it was even twenty five years ago but will instead continue down the progressive slope to Gomorrah.  And in fact traditionalist beliefs will be criminalized.

Sounds pretty depressing.  But instead, he says it’s an opportunity.  He thinks this will be the start of a revival.  And we should, like Benedict, gather the faithful and build a New Jerusalem.

When I finish the book, I’ll give you my opinion on his idea.  For now, let’s just say I’m intrigued and I think this idea has relevance for even those who are not Christians but feel that all traditional values are disappearing from the Western world.  After all it’s not that hard finding analogies between the present era and the Late Roman Empire.  Perhaps this time instead of Attila the Hun being the Scourge of God it will be Lady Gaga.