Since the 60’s, liberals have been talking about “victimless crimes,” offenses that are prosecutable by law but that liberals claim “hurt no one.” Prominent among these were homosexual encounters, which over the next several decades were decriminalized by most states and eventually recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as acts of love, and finally conjugal love, not only harmless to society but actually beneficial to it. (How could there be too much love in the world?) Yet the liberal premise is false. Homosexual “marriage” is insanity. And all of us, liberals included, living in an insane society are damaged by that fact. As Gloucester says in King Lear, “’Tis the times’ plague, when madmen lead the blind.”
The world is infinitely more complex than liberals imagine, but the little of it they do recognize—like the institution of marriage—they complicate absurdly. Marriage is one of those very basic and simple things you’d think the human race wouldn’t need to be arguing about after so many millennia. Trust liberals to turn it into an issue as controversial as climate change, while failing to see that gay “marriage” is more perilous to the human race than global warming is. A practical knowledge of nature is useful to men, but a proper knowledge of man is absolutely crucial, and self-understanding is something liberalism has avoided from its beginnings.
The world liberalism made is like a child’s terrarium set down in a vast wilderness beneath a starry sky, to which its pet inhabitants are blind and whose existence they do not even suspect. The difference is that the child—the inventor of this small, narrow, incomplete, sealed-off, make-believe world—lives in the tank together with the creatures he manages. In order to make himself great, the liberal has made himself small. In attempting to free himself, he has put himself into prison. Thinking he is reinventing himself, he imagines he is a being simpler than a painted turtle, and he is trying to do the same with the world he is determined to remake according to his vision of an ideal one. He boasts of the dignity of man, and unconsciously denies it by denying that man has a nature—the sole ground of his dignity—at all. The liberal is like the robot who recently killed his German handler, except the liberal isn’t a robot: He only thinks he’s one. Liberal humanism, the doctrine of the self-sufficiency and the supremacy of man, is the robot’s owner’s manual, written by himself.
Justice Kennedy based his decision in Obergefell v. Hodges principally on his affirmation of an equal human dignity possessed by all men and women. But the dignity of human beings is something liberals refute even as they assert it. Liberals who believe in God, or think or say they do, would likely agree that the dignity of God is attributable partly to His immutable nature, to His being above and beyond the universal flux. Mortal men are not changeless, but the immutability of their nature is something they share with God, on earth as in Heaven. Would the dignity of God be enhanced, or compromised, if He could turn Himself into a turtle bearing the world on His back? Would man’s dignity be enhanced if he could change himself into woman—or robot, as the transhumanists confidently expect to do?
Advanced liberalism exalts man above all things, believing there is nothing in the universe higher than man. But liberalism, which for centuries has accused conservatism—and Christianity—of holding a dark and pessimistic view of human nature, is far more distrustful of humanity than either of the other two is. That is why liberals wish to manipulate and massage it and experiment on it for the purpose of perfecting it.
Liberalism’s quarrel with humanity is not that it is insufficiently human but the opposite, “human, all too human”: too sunk in the state of nature, too physical, too active, too aggressive, too selfish and materialistic, too excitable, emotional, and irrational, too credulous, timorous, and prone to fantasy and religious superstition, too willful and wayward and rebellious, too vital and too real—above all, too swinishly resigned to being itself and too resistant to the program of improvement, and finally redemption, by liberalism. Liberals like humanity the way they like their beer. Their ideal is Humanity Lite, which explains the ubiquity today of the metrosexual male and his unsexed female counterpart in the professions, the universities, and the bureaucracy, and in the culture they are remaking in their image. It also explains liberal resistance to metaphysics and traditional religion, which liberals have replaced to their own satisfaction with a Faith Lite substitute for Christianity—a Religion Without Religion that takes Hazel Motes’s Church Without Christ a few steps further down the road to outright unbelief and metaphysical rebellion. “We shall not serve.”
Liberals love to speak about “identity” and are constantly discovering new identities everywhere, but they grow uncomfortable when its assertion passes beyond narcissism and festive and colorful street demonstrations. Liberalism encourages what it calls diversity, but what it is really after is sameness under the skin—still more, inside the cranium. (Diversity for liberals is usually only skin deep, which seems odd for people who see racism everywhere while insisting that race is a “social construction.” This discrepancy can probably be explained by modern liberalism’s hidden premise that some races are more equal than others.) Waugh dismissed the 20th century as the Century of the Common Man. Liberals, unsatisfied by that democratic triumph, propose to make the 21st century the Century of the Commonness of Man, dominated and managed and manipulated by the uncommon elite that dares not speak its name and prefers to keep its superior self locked away out of sight (and reach) in gated communities when it is not running for political office.
Liberals, indignantly rejecting the age-old wisdom that “Boys will be boys,” are determined to prove the adage false in the schools. The maxim is “sexist,” for one thing. For another, normal, healthy male behavior, juvenile or adult, is deeply offensive to feminists, educators, and corporate managers, by reason of its primitive physicality, self-assertion, and exuberance, and because it disrupts their scientifically structured environments. (Female nature is far more compatible with liberal preferences and assumptions—liberalism since the Great War has been increasingly feminized in persuasion and in practice—but only so long as everyone agrees there really is no such thing as femininity in the first place.) The unquestionable liberal assumption that every girl can—and should—grow up to play whatever role she wishes to in the world, including those of the soldier and the police officer liberals distrust when they are played by males, agrees with liberals’ ideological belief in the absolute interchangeability of all people in every human activity, including sexual intercourse, and the certainty that anybody can be whatever he chooses to be, provided that he is given the resources he has a human right to and that nobody stands in his way. Sexual identity, like racial identity, previously in the eye of the beholder, now resides in the mind of the beheld. The days of the Moulin Rouge are over, and “Vive la différence!” as an acceptable liberal sentiment is long gone.
The sole identity liberalism does recognize is religious identity, though even here the acknowledgment is blurred by the confident liberal conviction that either all gods are one and the same, or that “There is no God but No God”—no supernatural world behind the painted backdrop, no Heaven, no Hell, no Satan, no angels, no demons, nothing but seven billion-plus bipeds wandering aimlessly across the surface of a ball of mud and rock circling a sphere of flaming gases. Eliot said that human beings cannot bear too much truth. It seems equally obvious that they cannot bear too much happiness, if they happen to be of the liberal persuasion especially. Perhaps this is why the affluent West, driven by liberalism, is abandoning the Christian Faith that formed and sustained it for 2,000 years. In any event, a distinction modern liberals can be counted on to draw between one religion and another is the basic one in their minds: bad, badder, badder still, worst, and absolute worst.
As the heavens proclaim the glory of God, politics, society, and the news media tell the madness of the modern West hour by hour, minute by minute. So, more significantly, does the art world as it has existed over the last seven decades.
Despite the relatively few genuine artistic accomplishments of the postwar era, and some truly great artistic careers that have spanned them, Western art—music, literature, architecture, painting and sculpture, philosophy—has been something less than Mencken’s Sahara of the Bozart. It has been the Bozart of the Sahara—a Sahara of fraud, dishonesty, lies, incompetence, ignorance, cowardice, vulgarity, egotism, celebrity seeking, greed, stupidity, and blasphemy. The reasons for the disaster are many, but behind them all is One Big Reason: the fatally impoverished liberal cosmology and anthropology, operating together like a giant pump to suck the oxygen out of a living and breathing world to make way for the displacement of its vibrant creatures by two-dimensional forms and shadows motivated by abstractions as illusory as they are themselves.
There have been periods, marked by social and political turmoil and warfare, in history when the arts and learning continued to flourish and sometimes, as in the Renaissance, even surpassed their previous achievements. Another example is the interwar period, the golden age of Modernism in literature especially. The early 21st century, though certainly one of global chaos, is not such a time, and for this the anticulture promoted by advanced liberalism is responsible. The certain grip on reality that high culture—any culture worthy of the name—requires depends directly upon its mental and moral sanity rooted in an intellectually coherent religious tradition that shapes and colors it, while explaining for men what man truly is.
Here are two texts that profoundly express the soul of the Christian religion. The first is from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans”: “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart” (9:2). The second is part of a prayer written by the 20th-century Italian priest David Maria Turoldo: “Lord, thank you for the day and for the night, for what we understand and for what we do not understand; thank you for good and for evil, for what you give and for what you take away; thank you for life and for death; but above all, thank you for the resurrection of your Son, and ours.” No modern liberal could have written these lines by Paul and Turoldo, or anything like them—because he is incapable of imagining a rational man entertaining such thoughts as theirs.
Liberalism triumphans cannot understand how anyone but a materially and socially disadvantaged person—a “marginalized” person—could possibly experience a lifetime of perpetual sorrow and mental suffering, let alone hold them close to his heart. Nor can it imagine thanking God for withholding understanding of any kind from His people; for permitting the existence of evil in the world; for withdrawing His benefits after having granted them; for sending them death; and for encouraging superstitious myths like the Resurrection among them. Liberalism, unable to recognize that tragedy is an essential part of the nature of man, that such things as duty and nobility are human realities, and that men are capable of honoring the one and attaining the other by self-sacrifice, has replaced them with a shallow triumphalism; the struggle between good and evil with endless “ethical” and material progress; an appreciation of sorrow and suffering with medications for the mind and the body; the conception of physical death as the beginning of a new life with nihilistic despair or helpless resignation. Robert Frost said that there is no poetry in money. If such a thing were possible, there would be even less poetry in the liberal view of the universe, which denies the possibility of real art as it is distinguished from the counterfeit sort that surrounds us today. (Shakespeare knew how to make great poetry out of men’s lust for gold because he knew men and the God Who created them, not because he understood money.)
By their arts you may know them . . . Turoldo’s prayer deserves to be called the artist’s prayer, and its total incompatibility with the modern spirit goes a long way toward explaining why there are so few artists—though innumerable “Artists” and “amazing geniuses”—in our time, which refuses to recognize the metaphysical grounding that is the absolute prerequisite and fountain of all art. The result is a culture, thinner than blue milk, that has surrendered and subordinated itself to mass politics, leftist social causes, progressivism, and propaganda—scarcely superior, if superior at all, to the Soviet culture of the 30’s and 40’s, and equally detached from human reality. Today, the term artist is all too frequently as much a misnomer as the word spouse applied to the partners in a homosexual “marriage.”
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