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Posts Tagged ‘society’

Anthony Esolen writes, in Lemmings Unite! Be True to Yourself?:

“This above all,” says the old counselor to his son, advising the lad before his departure for France to play the young aristocrat on tour, “to thine own self be true.” Maintain that truth, he says, and then it will follow, “as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Shakespeare, alas, is so great a poet that his readers sometimes mistake deliberate banality for wisdom. This famous line is a case in point. It is uttered by Polonius, a shallow, prating, tedious old man, who is anything but straightforward in his behavior. He encourages his daughter Ophelia to play hard to get, to land the prince who loves her; he sends a servant to France to spy on his son; and he is slain while hiding behind the curtain in the Queen’s room in order to eavesdrop on her conversation with Hamlet. “Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell,” says Hamlet, “I took thee for thy better.”

Shakespeare is deeply suspicious of people who are true to themselves, and not to God or to their country: such, in his three parts of Henry VI, are the proud self-absorbed villains Suffolk and Richard of York, responsible for instigating the civil wars that embroil England during the fifteenth century. But this suspicion seems not to have entered the minds of the leaders of the Girl Guides of Australia, who have recently revised the oath the girls must take. From now on, instead of swearing loyalty to God, to the queen, and to Australia, each girl will swear, “I will be true to myself and to my beliefs.”

It’s easy enough to enjoy a hearty laugh at the stupidity of the change. Indeed, the oath is not an oath at all, but rather implies the repudiation of all oaths. To say, “I will be true to myself,” is equivalent to saying, “I will do just as I please,” nor does the addition of “my beliefs” provide any limit to the narcissism, since what is emphasized is not the objective truth of those beliefs, or their transcendent authority, but merely the fact that they happen to be mine. When they cease to please me, then, I am free to alter them, to “believe” something else, to “bend with the remover to remove.” When the wind turns, so does the weathervane.

Read the whole thing. Do. He goes on to discuss why it’s really not a laughing matter, after all.

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Samuel Gregg provides some background to our present cultural/political situation, in a post called Mitt de Tocqueville.

…if the liberal commentariat deigned to pick up a copy of the second volume of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and read the chapter entitled “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear,” they’d find the link between creating tame citizens and a state that generously volunteers to do everything on their behalf spelt out quite gracefully…

hat tip: John Couretas

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… on the role of the federal government in building this country (or the Golden Gate bridge, for that matter.)

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T.M. Moore writes:

One area of conflict that arises between the Christian and other worldviews relates to the great hope of each. Increasingly, in our society, the highest hope and fondest aspiration of the secular and materialist worldview is a world without want, where each person is free to prosper according to his desire and ability.

Prosperity within the secular worldview is defined in individual and material terms – as much of the good life as any person might be able to enjoy without obstructing others in their quest for the same. This is the hope of people who live, in Solomon’s words, “under the sun.” They can envision nothing higher than personal material prosperity, and they will be wary of any worldview which insists that there are other, higher aims in life, the attaining of which demands sacrifice and self-denial.

If the secular worldview takes as its highest hope the glorification of man – again, defined in strictly personal and material terms – the Christian worldview hopes in the glory of God, and adherents of that worldview will make any sacrifice and endure any trial in order to ensure the realization of that great hope.

It’s not that the Christian worldview despises things and wealth. It doesn’t. It simply insists that these be kept in their proper place, “under the heavens,” and that the pursuit and use of material prosperity be subject to the demands of the Gospel. Love for God requires that Christians hope to please Him, not themselves or any other man, and that they not hold their material possessions too tightly, lest they fail to love their neighbor as themselves. But in the secular worldview, in an economy of getting-and-spending, such things as self-denial, sacrifice on behalf of others, and giving generously and consistently to relieve the distress of others do not constitute a driving force or defining motif. Instead, they are more on the order of something to make us feel good about ourselves.

Read the whole thing.

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… it can become ridiculously hard to get help.

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From Ignorance to Mastery at The Common Room looks at the surprising ignorance of some folks caught in the social safety net.

 

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Anthony Esolen has a few wise and wonderful things to say about solitude, community, love, truth, and friendship, in “Solitude and Political Friendship” (Public Discourse, December 2, 2011).

hat tip: James M. Kushiner, at Mere Comments

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A couple of chapters from Not Exactly Allies:

46 – BERTIN GOES SEARCHING FOR CLUES

A few days later, Bertin Nason decided he was tired of sitting around hoping someone came up with information on the Arab boy’s murder, or on undercover communists of a latter-day mutant variety, or on the ambusher Jean Blondet, or any of a half dozen other matters nibbling away at his thoughts and his sanity and his sense of duty. (more…)

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From Mr. Smith and The Ides of March, by Robinson O’Brien-Bours:

While both Clooney’s and Capra’s films depict a political system rife with corruption, there is a hugely important difference between the two. Clooney’s dark and pessimistic tale brings no closure to it, and no hope; one leaves the theater with a bitter sense of disappointment and cynical contempt for our political process. It is a tragedy where everyone loses, much like the tale of Julius Caesar that the title alludes to.

Mr. Smith, though, has a far different, more lasting, and more important tone. It depicts one decent and determined common man, surrounded by petty bunch of political thugs, who nonetheless makes a difference. This is not to say that its title character, Jefferson Smith, is alone in his feelings–the people support him, and there are even members of the Senate who likely support him as well, but are yet complicit with the villains through their silence. Smith still wins in the end, though.

Perhaps this is too idealistic. Perhaps the cynical transformation of Gosling’s Stephen Myers is closer to the real thing than the determined support for lost causes exhibited by Stewart’s Smith. If that is the case, though, then the fault is not with our system of government, but with us. We are the government.

Many Americans over the past few years seem to see our country through the same jaded vision of The Ides of March, and are tired of it. Perhaps, then, now is the perfect time to revisit the 1939 classic, which came out just in time for Nazis, Soviets, and Fascists to all ban it for its dangerous idea. When Hitler banned American movies in France, one Parisian theater played Mr. Smith nonstop for the month leading up to the ban. Tyrants are threatened by the idea that individuals have power; mortified by the possibility that one single person has the power to change the world. The reason they fear this is because it is true: good men, armed by the truth and common decency, can do more to change the world than all the armies and propaganda of tyranny and corruption in the world combined. It just takes hard determination in face of the harshest adversity.

Read the whole thing.

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1. Does anyone know which Bible translation(s) the American Founding Fathers were using? It’s my understanding that the Pilgrims used the Geneva Bible (which I’m reading on Kindle in a 1587 edition), but it occurs to me that (off the top of my head) I don’t know what the Founders were hauling with them to all those hate-to-do-it-but-it’s-time-to-sever-ties-with-the-homeland sessions, or to the earliest sessions of Congress. I’m sure I can get the info by googling, but quite frankly, my first searches turned up an avalanche of anti-Christian, hate mongering sites that libel, and badly misrepresent, the Founders, more than they shed light on them. (Sigh.) [Added: A reader found this on Bibles used for the swearing in of Presidents, and left the link in the comments. Interesting. It also reminds me of what I should have remembered. Bibles were rare and expensive in colonial America, in part because the King controlled who could print Bibles.]

2. Regarding the Geneva Bible: if you aren’t used to the writing style and the slightly-modified alphabet of the 16th century, hang in there. It makes sense after a while. The spellings will be all over the board, even on the same page. Nombers is the same as numbers, for instance. U and v swap places a lot. I frequently means J. And so on, and so on. A little more difficult than sounding out words to get the right one, is figuring out where letters are dropped, but it’s assumed you know they’re there. N and M get left off a lot, erratically. In many old texts, a line over a letter apparently means it is followed by an n or m. (This Kindle book doesn’t do that, but for a great example of old-style writing that might help you ‘crack the code’, see The prophete Ionas with an introduccion before teachinge to vnderstonde him and the right vse also of all the scripture/ and why it was written/ and what … the true sense and vnderstondynge therof. [Kindle Edition], by William Tyndale.) Just to make it more fun, words get combined that we don’t usually combine any more. Shalbe means shall be, for instance. (I’m thinking we might want to bring that word back into use, by the way. It’s growing on me.)

3. This doesn’t quite answer my original question, but I just thought to google “congressional bible america,” and got this.

4. Changing subjects, you may laugh at me now. I’m self-publishing eleven years’ worth of books I’ve written, some of which got good noises from publishers, but no actual contract. I have most of them on Kindle and Nook now, and have been working on trade paperback editions, which are slowly coming to completion. I don’t expect to bump anyone off the bestseller lists, but I figure, on the one hand, that I might as well try to get a little something out of them, and, on the other, that if I don’t publish them, I will be editing and rewriting them on my deathbed. I simply can’t seem to stop polishing, unless a book is actually out on store shelves. So, I have declared “Enough!” on several books, and put them out. What I invite you to laugh about is my consternation over the cover of the large print edition of Why We Raise Belgian Horses. I have come up with a cover that is eye-catching, and pleasant, and that I don’t think will drive off men on the one hand, or women on the other. (This novel was out in a homemade edition years ago, and did well with men as well as women, adults as well as teens. While this is good, it makes cover design a bit tricky. You can’t be too girly, or too masculine.) So, I have a nice cover design, one that I think is better than the one I went with on the regular trade paperback, or the ebooks. It even looks good in a thumbnail, or from across the room. The problem is that the photo I’ve used is of a horse that really isn’t quite the right sort of Belgian horse. But I really like the photo. It’s artsy, with lighting that plays into the storyline. If I go with what I have, I’m nearly ready to go. I’ve just redone the back cover copy, and am waiting on what could be the final proof – if I don’t change the picture. The first proof sits on my work table, causing me to seesaw between ‘ooh, I like that,’ and ‘hmmm, should I try to find another photo?’ As if it really, really matters…

5. I am still harvesting from the garden. Amazing. I have nine watermelons that are nearly ripe, which is really amazing. The odds of any of them actually getting ripe this time of year are probably slim to none, but I sometimes go out and marvel at them, resolutely ignoring the season. For that matter, I am still getting blossoms on the watermelon and pumpkin vines. Go figure.

6. David Jeremiah, on his radio show, has been talking about cultural rot and where the church (that would be all us believers) fits in. This week, he was using Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of the Church of Auvers to help illustrate a point. Not knowing the painting, I looked it up. And then followed links. And came to this literature-rich letter from the artist to his brother Theo in 1880, which contains some food for thought, I think.

7. While halfheartedly searching for new cover art, and happily taking detours as they showed up, I stumbled across this blog, which looks promising. Papergreat shares clips from old newspapers, magazines and books. Here’s a post with clippings from World War II.

7 Quick Takes Friday is hosted at Conversion Diary. Head here for this week’s round up. Our hostess is discussing Halloween costumes, controversies related to Halloween, forewords to Catholic books, pseudo Jedi mind tricks, Story Engineering, the best rap songs for Catholics, and is wondering what makes a good photo portrait.

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