- Locked doors
- People who interrupt or talk over you constantly
- People who do not listen
- People who are slow (slow talkers, slow drivers, slow reasoners)
- Unnecessary disorder (hoarders, for example)
- Idle talk (repeated questions, stating the obvious)
- People who are stupid or inexcusably ignorant on a matter
- Irrational thinking (feelings masquerading as analysis)
- Noise and intrusions (loud clubs, concerts, deaf people watching television, constant interruptions)
- People who are overly ceremonial on trivial things
- Deception (failing to honor your contracts, deceit, hypocrisy)
- People who are inert or perpetually distracted or disoriented (accommodating misery, lack of ambition)
- People who are imprecise
- People who are unimaginative (not creative)
- Bureaucrats & bureaucracies
- Overlords (people who promote political theories, religious models, or social systems designed to dominate people: Marxism, communism, socialism, Regressive Left, fascism, racism, chauvinism, Darwinian theory, false religions)
- Unwanted watchers (people who don’t want to participate but just watch you do something: design, working out, reading, whatever—go the &^#$ away)
So, one mad political cult who is completely content with the destruction of 60 million human beings over the last forty years counter-protesting another mad political cult completely content with the destruction of 15 million human beings seventy years ago?
I choose curtain no. 3.
I can think of better way to end this week than if both vanished from the Earth without a trace.
While we are at it, the police who were present but stood idly by and did nothing during this skirmish can vanish too.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
2 Corinthians 11:14
The Case for the Ephemeral
I cannot understand the people who take literature seriously; but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this book. It is a collection of crude and shapeless papers upon current or rather flying subjects; and they must be published pretty much as they stand. They were written, as a rule, at the last moment; they were handed in the moment before it was too late, and I do not think that our commonwealth would have been shaken to its foundations if they had been handed in the moment after. They must go out now, with all their imperfections on their head, or rather on mine; for their vices are too vital to be improved with a blue pencil, or with anything I can think of, except dynamite.
Their chief vice is that so many of them are very serious; because I had no time to make them flippant. It is so easy to be solemn; it is so hard to be frivolous. Let any honest reader shut his eyes for a few moments, and approaching the secret tribunal of his soul, ask himself whether he would really rather be asked in the next two hours to write the front page of the Times, which is full of long leading articles, or the front page of Tit-Bits, which is full of short jokes. If the reader is the fine conscientious fellow I take him for, he will at once reply that he would rather on the spur of the moment write ten Times articles than one Tit-Bits joke. Responsibility, a heavy and cautious responsibility of speech, is the easiest thing in the world; anybody can do it. That is why so many tired, elderly, and wealthy men go in for politics. They are responsible, because they have not the strength of mind left to be irresponsible. It is more dignified to sit still than to dance the Barn Dance. It is also easier. So in these easy pages I keep myself on the whole on the level of the Times: it is only occasionally that I leap upwards almost to the level of Tit-Bits.
I resume the defence of this indefensible book. These articles have another disadvantage arising from the scurry in which they were written; they are too long-winded and elaborate. One of the great disadvantages of hurry is that it takes such a long time. If I have to start for High-gate this day week, I may perhaps go the shortest way. If I have to start this minute, I shall almost certainly go the longest. In these essays (as I read them over) I feel frightfully annoyed with myself for not getting to the point more quickly; but I had not enough leisure to be quick. There are several maddening cases in which I took two or three pages in attempting to describe an attitude of which the essence could be expressed in an epigram; only there was no time for epigrams. I do not repent of one shade of opinion here expressed; but I feel that they might have been expressed so much more briefly and precisely. For instance, these pages contain a sort of recurring protest against the boast of certain writers that they are merely recent. They brag that their philosophy of the universe is the last philosophy or the new philosophy, or the advanced and progressive philosophy. I have said much against a mere modernism. When I use the word “modernism,” I am not alluding specially to the current quarrel in the Roman Catholic Church, though I am certainly astonished at any intellectual group accepting so weak and unphilosophical a name. It is incomprehensible to me that any thinker can calmly call himself a modernist; he might as well call himself a Thursdayite. But apart altogether from that particular disturbance, I am conscious of a general irritation expressed against the people who boast of their advancement and modernity in the discussion of religion. But I never succeeded in saying the quite clear and obvious thing that is really the matter with modernism. The real objection to modernism is simply that it is a form of snobbishness. It is an attempt to crush a rational opponent not by reason, but by some mystery of superiority, by hinting that one is specially up to date or particularly “in the know.” To flaunt the fact that we have had all the last books from Germany is simply vulgar; like flaunting the fact that we have had all the last bonnets from Paris. To introduce into philosophical discussions a sneer at a creed’s antiquity is like introducing a sneer at a lady’s age. It is caddish because it is irrelevant. The pure modernist is merely a snob; he cannot bear to be a month behind the fashion Similarly I find that I have tried in these pages to express the real objection to philanthropists and have not succeeded. I have not seen the quite simple objection to the causes advocated by certain wealthy idealists; causes of which the cause called teetotalism is the strongest case. I have used many abusive terms about the thing, calling it Puritanism, or superciliousness, or aristocracy; but I have not seen and stated the quite simple objection to philanthropy; which is that it is religious persecution. Religious persecution does not consist in thumbscrews or fires of Smithfield; the essence of religious persecution is this: that the man who happens to have material power in the State, either by wealth or by official position, should govern his fellow-citizens not according to their religion or philosophy, but according to his own. If, for instance, there is such a thing as a vegetarian nation; if there is a great united mass of men who wish to live by the vegetarian morality, then I say in the emphatic words of the arrogant French marquis before the French Revolution, “Let them eat grass.” Perhaps that French oligarch was a humanitarian; most oligarchs are. Perhaps when he told the peasants to eat grass he was recommending to them the hygienic simplicity of a vegetarian restaurant. But that is an irrelevant, though most fascinating, speculation. The point here is that if a nation is really vegetarian let its government force upon it the whole horrible weight of vegetarianism. Let its government give the national guests a State vegetarian banquet. Let its government, in the most literal and awful sense of the words, give them beans. That sort of tyranny is all very well; for it is the people tyrannising over all the persons. But “temperance reformers” are like a small group of vegetarians who should silently and systematically act on an ethical assumption entirely unfamiliar to the mass of the people. They would always be giving peerages to greengrocers. They would always be appointing Parliamentary Commissions to enquire into the private life of butchers. Whenever they found a man quite at their mercy, as a pauper or a convict or a lunatic, they would force him to add the final touch to his inhuman isolation by becoming a vegetarian. All the meals for school children will be vegetarian meals. All the State public houses will be vegetarian public houses. There is a very strong case for vegetarianism as compared with teetotalism. Drinking one glass of beer cannot by any philosophy be drunkenness; but killing one animal can, by this philosophy, be murder. The objection to both processes is not that the two creeds, teetotal and vegetarian, are not admissible; it is simply that they are not admitted. The thing is religious persecution because it is not based on the existing religion of the democracy. These people ask the poor to accept in practice what they know perfectly well that the poor would not accept in theory. That is the very definition of religious persecution. I was against the Tory attempt to force upon ordinary Englishmen a Catholic theology in which they do not believe. I am even more against the attempt to force upon them a Mohamedan morality which they actively deny.
Again, in the case of anonymous journalism I seem to have said a great deal without getting out the point very clearly. Anonymous journalism is dangerous, and is poisonous in our existing life simply because it is so rapidly becoming an anonymous life. That is the horrible thing about our contemporary atmosphere. Society is becoming a secret society. The modern tyrant is evil because of his elusiveness. He is more nameless than his slave. He is not more of a bully than the tyrants of the past; but he is more of a coward. The rich publisher may treat the poor poet better or worse than the old master workman treated the old apprentice. But the apprentice ran away and the master ran after him. Nowadays it is the poet who pursues and tries in vain to fix the fact of responsibility. It is the publisher who runs away. The clerk of Mr. Solomon gets the sack: the beautiful Greek slave of the Sultan Suliman also gets the sack; or the sack gets her. But though she is concealed under the black waves of the Bosphorus, at least her destroyer is not concealed. He goes behind golden trumpets riding on a white elephant. But in the case of the clerk it is almost as difficult to know where the dismissal comes from as to know where the clerk goes to. It may be Mr. Solomon or Mr. Solomon’s manager, or Mr. Solomon’s rich aunt in Cheltenham, or Mr. Soloman’s rich creditor in Berlin. The elaborate machinery which was once used to make men responsible is now used solely in order to shift the responsibility. People talk about the pride of tyrants; but we in this age are not suffering from the pride of tyrants. We are suffering from the shyness of tyrants; from the shrinking modesty of tyrants. Therefore, we must not encourage leader-writers to be shy; we must not inflame their already exaggerated modesty. Rather we must attempt to lure them to be vain and ostentatious; so that through ostentation they may at last find their way to honesty.
The last indictment against this book is the worst of all. It is simply this: that if all goes well this book will be unintelligible gibberish. For it is mostly concerned with attacking attitudes which are in their nature accidental and incapable of enduring. Brief as is the career of such a book as this, it may last just twenty minutes longer than most of the philosophies that it attacks. In the end it will not matter to us whether we wrote well or ill; whether we fought with flails or reeds. It will matter to us greatly on what side we fought.
From Gutenberg: All Things Considered
What it’s like to teach the intellectual history of the movement to students who aren’t old enough to remember Ronald Reagan’s time in the spotlight.
I’ve spent the last two weeks teaching a course on the history of the conservative intellectual movement for the Hertog political studies program. This is the second year Hertog has offered the course, and the first time under President Trump. I like to joke that I offered the students, all of whom were intelligent, well spoken, and impressive, a complete story. There was a beginning, middle, and end. If, as Alfred North Whitehead said, the history of philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, then the history of intellectual conservatism in America is a series of influences on the mind of William F. Buckley Jr. We spent the first week reading the thinkers behind National Review: classical liberals such as F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, traditionalists such as Richard Weaver and Russell Kirk, the majoritarian constitutionalist Willmoore Kendall, and anti-Communists Whittaker Chambers and, perhaps most important of all, James Burnham. All of these strains of thought are visible in Buckley’s statement of principles in the first National Review, published in the autumn of 1955.
The second week of the course surveyed the years since that debut. The conservatism of National Review found allies in Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, and other neoconservative intellectuals who contributed to The Public Interest and Commentary. Conservatism unearthed a mass base of support among the middle-American radicals who opposed the Great Society and counterculture of the late 1960s and the social liberalism of the 1970s. Religious conservatism developed as liberal theologians Richard John Neuhaus and Michael Novak transitioned to the right. Conservative thought gave way to conservative politics beginning with Barry Goldwater’s nomination for president in 1964, continuing with Nixon’s Southern Strategy in 1968 and Ronald Reagan’s primary against Gerald Ford in 1976, and culminating in Reagan’s victory in 1980. We ended our time together by discussing current splits in the right. The differences between foreign-policy neoconservatives and paleoconservatives became acute after victory in the Cold War. In 2017 the spectrum of conservative thought in America runs from libertarians to neos to paleos to traditionalists to nation-state populists all the way to the alt-right fringe. You have Senator Jeff Flake and his Conscience of a Conservative on one hand, and Steve Bannon and Breitbart.com on the other. The various claimants to the conservative throne each have problems.
Post-World War II American conservatism began as an elite intellectual movement with no mass presence. It ends in the post-post-Cold War era as a mass political movement with no elite support. A visitor to my class remarked that the fusion of intellectuals, activists, and elected officials during the Reagan presidency may have been something that occurs only once in a lifetime. It was hard to argue with him.
My students quickly grasped the importance of anti-Communism to the conservative intellectual movement. We read a passage from James Burnham’s Struggle for the World (1947) in which he said that there always is a “key to the situation” in political life. For Burnham, and for conservatives in general between the publication of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom in 1944 and Francis Fukuyama’s End of History and the Last Man in 1992, the key to the situation was the menace of the Soviet Union. All of the factions opposed Soviet tyranny and the forms of collectivism and statist economics associated with it. When the Soviet Union disappeared, so too did conservative unity.
Many conservatives, and I am one of them, see radical Islam as another militant ideology dangerous to American national security and to the principles of a free society. But it also seems to me that attempts to build a conservative coalition around opposition to radical Islam have failed. There are too many intellectual critics of this view. Nor does radical Islam enjoy the support of secular intellectuals as Communism did. The key to the situation today may be that there is no key. The United States faces multiple internal and external threats. The effort to formulate a theory that includes them all is bound to fail.
Another takeaway was just how badly damaged the conservative cause was by its opposition to the civil-rights movement and federal desegregation of schools. The defenses of the South that Buckley wrote throughout the late ’50s and early ’60s persuaded neither the public at large nor some of the editors of his own magazine. For students today, this history is a barrier to adopting or even wanting to understand the other arguments of conservative intellectuals. One day we watched a lecture Russell Kirk delivered at the University Club in 1980. The students were struck by how white and male the crowd was. For them, Kirk’s monochromatic audience obscured his message.
Still, they were enraptured when Ronald Reagan took the stage in his 1978 Firing Line debate with William F. Buckley Jr. over the Panama Canal Treaties. It was not only Reagan’s commanding presence and voice that got their attention, but also his mastery of detail, his simple language, and his wry jokes. I found it both heartening and depressing that Reagan was as alive to them as he was to that audience 40 years ago. Heartening, because there is still an audience for champions of freedom. Depressing, because Reagan left office more than half a decade before these students were born.
I was happy to dispel some myths about conservatives. During an afternoon session on theocons, we watched an interview with Robert George. A few of the students were surprised. When they heard the phrase “religious conservative,” they thought of Sarah Palin. But here they were watching a soft spoken, earnest, civil Princeton professor quoting moral philosophers and name-checking Cornel West while arguing forcefully against abortion and same-sex marriage. The other day I asked the class if they’d had any idea that so many disputatious conservative intellectual journals are published on a regular basis. The students said no.
What’s the future of conservatism? I abjure speculation. But it is important to remember that American conservatism has gone through several cycles of diffusion and consolidation. In the beginning when Buckley founded National Review, the conservative world was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. After the landslide defeat of Goldwater, and then Nixon’s resignation, conservatism and the Republican party were both thought to be finished. But then came 1980. Later, after Reagan, figures as different as R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and John B. Judis heralded the arrival of the “conservative crackup.” A few years later, Newt Gingrich rallied the movement to win Congress. The obituaries of conservatism were written once more after Barack Obama’s victory in 2008. They were followed by the Tea Party.
Social conditions and individual personalities seem to matter just as much, if not more than, the ideas of intellectuals. Infighting, dogmatism, cliché, conspiracy theories, animosity, confusion, and the absence of authority may characterize the present moment, but one of the lessons of studying conservatism is that the present moment will change. This change will arrive suddenly. Rapidly. And from a direction no one expects.
From National Review: American Conservatism
On this matter, I am resolute: abortion is evil.
Abortion is not “inconvenient”, “socially controversial”, or “challenging”.
Abortion is pure evil.
If I had a word stronger than “evil” I would use it.
I question the sanity and the soul of any Human Being who does not look on this demonic circus as wholly profane.
In one hundred years, our better descendants will look back on the social sickness of abortion with the same disgust as we today look back on inquisitions, the slave trade, the wholesale slaughter of Native Americans, eugenics, and Nazism.
As I’ve said before: if Hell did not exist, you could justify building it solely to destroy the practitioners of this abominable trade.
Sometimes you just have to let two people, or two nations, fight.
After all, who are you to decide their grievance is invalid?