September 25, 2019
Author: Chilton Williamson
Voltaire’s infamous summons, considered a thrilling call to battle two centuries and a half ago, was at least more stimulating than his rather incompetent and very dull little novel Candide, read today by almost no one though the Bernstein opera is occasionally resurrected. For Voltaire, “l’infâme”was the Church of Rome and the civilization to which it was still central. The Roman Catholic Church, as Chesterton noted a century ago, has survived all those people over the past two millennia who tried to kill Her off and bury Her. On the other hand, She failed to head off the latest and worst infâmesince the arrival of socialism in its two most powerful forms, the National and Bolshevik varieties, in the first part of the twentieth century. This is postmodern liberalism, which began to coalesce a couple of generations ago and now, two decades into the twenty-first century, has taken hold on half the population of the United States, including the majority of the American ruling class, the academy, the legal profession, the cultural establishment, and a dismaying proportion of the churches, while largely defining the parameters of the political agenda and the boundaries of what passes for acceptable speech and other forms of expression. Were Voltaire alive today at the mellow age of 325, we might conceivably discover that he had grown with the times. Still, I suspect that even François-Marie Arouet (his stable name) would find the revolutionary conformism prevalent today in America and the rest of the Western world a bit too constrictive for his taste. Perhaps, when the trumpet shall sound and the bolgiasof the Inferno are exposed to the light of day, we shall find out.
However that may be, Voltaire was what postmoderns call an extremist–or would be, had he been on the unfashionable side of the political, social, and cultural Divide– and so we need not concern ourselves with his imagined feelings here. What isimportant is that, for sane people, the Woke Enlightenment is the infâme of our own era: an inhuman and anti-human culture of death, irrationality, fantasy, and chaos that needs badly to be écrasée-d before it does further harm by seizing control of the future as it has the present. No one has any clear idea of how to do that, of course, though Donald Trump has made an excellent beginning by mocking and humiliating its major panjandrums in politics and culture and dissing its salient ideas. As liberals of all sorts have known for a long time (beginning at least with M. Voltaire-Arouet), blatant disrespect is a powerful, very often a deadly weapon. And it is true that social and political structures constructions erected on sand (a metaphor for unreality) must eventually collapse under the weight of their own falsity and contradictions. Yet the process can take time, and I see no reason why sane and moral minds should give the postmodern racket any more of it. Its day should be over, or nearly so, and its enemies need to think, act, and talk as if it were.
Why blog? Really, why do it? As a confirmed enemy of the digital revolution–the internet, social media, and the necessity a contemporary writer is under to become a machine operator as well—I barely recognize myself in the role. Still, I’ve convinced myself it can be enjoyable work, if approached in the proper spirit. Perhaps bloggers are only the postmodern equivalent of the pamphleteers that did honorable work in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And certainly blogging—a recognizable form of writing, after all–is a far pleasanter activity that political activism: attending interminable meetings, associating with disgusting and self-important people, inviting public humiliation by running for office and losing, mailing flyers, going door-to-door, remembering names, holding your face set in a ghastly rictus you hope resembles a perpetual smile, being nice to other people’s children. Poets, after all, have been called the true legislators of humanity—and cannot a blogger be a poet? The thing seems impossible, but it’s worth a try as I see it.
Worst of all politicians must always be serious, except maybe for the ones who skateboard into political rallies and those who pretend to find flatulant ruminants unfunny and even dangerous. A blogger needn’t be serious, not all the time anyway, as print journalists supposes they must be. The world is at least half-comedic, like the bright side of the moon, and that side is much more easily explored than the dark one. Further, comedic commentators tend to enjoy a longer literary life than their more serious-minded, Puritanical, duty-obsessed, responsible, and otherwise “caring” ones. Look at Mencken, for example; look at Auberon Waugh. Their work will still be read when the name George F. Will has long been forgotten even by Doctors of Journalism and E. J. Dionne’s comes up on Google as an alternative to Celine Dion. Why should I write (necessarily) about Iran today, when I can write about Greta Thunberg, a thoroughly nasty female child who obviously has been coached to the back teeth and beyond by adults as hysterical as she is to berate and instruct her elders, and bears an unfortunate resemblance to the Adams family that used to visit Florida every year for the hurricane season? Or about what Serious People call Important Subjects and Great Events rather than trivia–what Chesterton called “tremendous trifles”? The walls of Jericho tumble to humor as easily as to sieges, assaults, flights of arrows, and catapults. The Devil, like the postmodern liberal, hates humor, knowing what a powerful weapon it is, while he has none. Humor is based on the ability to enjoy life and on a keen sense of the discrepancies that exist between what life really is and what we think it should be, and thus a capacity for amused acceptance of those discrepancies. This amusement is what pre-Woke people call naughtiness, and Woke ones sin (even if they don’t believe in the existence of any such thing).
This is a long post, longer than many or most of those I expect to put up on this site will be. Mencken said that hard writing makes good reading. I agree; and add that fun in writing makes for fun in reading. I have in mind three longer pieces a week, plus short daily posts on a wide variety of subjects as these occur to me.
25 September 2019