Saturday, April 22, 2006

Pray for Floret, by the boarhound slain

These dark times bring out the Burkean conservative in me: people are seen and "valued" through abstract theory, merely as agents of production, effective and profitable, or not effective and not profitable. Thus is our human worth measured today. Yes, there is plenty of progressive-liberal criticism against this inhumanity that I share and do identify with, but still, it is undeniable that there is an unmistakeable whiff of enlightenment thought at its most mechanistic behind this current market fundamentalism. A similar chilling disregard of human nature and the necessary constraints we need for civilization that we have witnessed in the worst historical perversions of the enlightenment. Constraints we need: non-material values, values not depending on the efficiency of production, values that you can't measure in terms of money or return to investment. Capitalism is nothing but an empty mechanism - if we don't bring non-material values into it, it will not have any: and what we would then see staring out of the mirror is our own animal self: panicky aggression, fear, hysteria, naked greed.

5 comments:

helsinkian said...

I hope you don't take it in a bad way, but your post sounded so much like the Pope it's incredible. Maybe Benedict XVI is more pro-market than John Paul II, but both of them made a career stressing the importance of values, like you're doing here. I think both popes have done so for decades in a much more deeper way than saying you have to find Jesus to fill the empty gap in your life and then keep on living like there was no tomorrow. What the two latest popes have been are philosopher-popes with a great old school literary Bildung. Even if there wasn't any other issue you'd agree on with these socially conservative popes, your way of arguing just has to be of the same mold.

Other people have criticized modernity (or indeed the much discussed value relativism of postmodernity) more forcefully than the official voices of the Vatican. But the issue still remains. Even if I don't share the values of the Vatican (no Catholic myself and indeed I feel more sympathy toward liberal Catholics than conservative Popes) the big question about ethics remains. It's there and keeping it alive and reminding of it is to me one of the greatest services of the Catholic Church of the recent years.

Protestant fundamentalists just seem to focus on money as their religion. Which preacher makes the most $$ is the closest to God. The prosperity gospel of Georgia's very own Dr. Creflo Dollar is indeed manifested in his Rolls Royces, private jets and lavish homes. But Catholicism in both its liberal and conservative variants has retained a touch of the old monastic asceticism.

It's something in this asceticism (of course also present in your Pietist upbringing) that I find fascinating. It seems to me that the one who leads a contemplative life comes closer to looking at the burning issues of ethics than the one who sees maximum property as the meaning of life. These don't completely shut each other out, some property even may be the very requirement for the luxury of a contemplative life. But I find it dangerous if maximum property is the creed of tomorrow. I fully accept that others have that creed and I don't blame them personally for that but still, viewing other people as inanimate objects that are there primarly to satisfy self-centered desires, that's the danger for society and the survival of our planet.

I know a contemplative life can also be incredibly self-centered. But it's the balance in whatever we do, we have to be able to take care of our own personal wellbeing and not forget about others and their needs.

helsinkian said...

I guess I was wrong in calling Creflo Dollar a Protestant since his church is non-denominational but I do connect prosperity gospel to a certain stream within Protestantism. I could've argued about other worldviews than religious ones and still talked about the same ethical issues, I just took up Dr. Dollar because of his fitting name.

stockholm slender said...

Well, starting with a title robbed from a notorious Anglo-Catholic and Monarchist... I'm sure there are affinities with the Roman market criticism - basically all kinds of (and even unpalatable) market criticisms, but I do combine mine with quite robust liberal values as regards self-determination, religious freedom, sexual identity etc. etc. In the past many market critics have been quite questionable, but in that past my criticism would have been quite muted compared with today. It is these recent trends that worry me, I see an essential balance tipped or tipping. I was quite happy with the social democratic compromise where a dynamic economy was combined with and tamed by strong welfare structures.

helsinkian said...

Anglo-Catholic is actually quite an interesting word. Animula, that you quote in your title, is from 1928 and T.S. Eliot converted to Anglicanism in 1927. Doesn't Anglo-Catholic mean more than just the usual Anglican, I mean an Anglican who specifically stresses the continuity of Anglicanism with the Catholic tradition? I just ask because sometimes Eliot's "Anglo-Catholic" definition seems to be understood as meaning simply the fact that he converted to Anglicanism (from Unitarianism).

stockholm slender said...

Well, at least I have thought that it basically refers to the belief that the English church is catholic (in the universal sense) being more true to the original Church doctrine than Rome itself, so in that sense not to be confused with Protestantism. In any case, I would not use Anglican and Anglo-Catholic as synonyms at all, even High Church and Anglo-Catholic would somehow seem to have at least slightly different meanings. Though I must admit not being an expert at all in this question...