The Potomac two-step

On receiving an e-mail from a correspondent in Belgium this morning, I was reminded of a film I once saw of Harrison Ford with a fictitious American President. The President reminds Ford about the realities of Washington politics and the need for Machiavellianism, expressed as the Potomac two-step. Ford replies to the President: “Sorry Mr President, I don’t dance” and then goes “up the hill” to the Senate to expose the President’s unconstitutional acts.

I am brought to think about this expression when considering the present-day clash between the conservative Right and the various minorities seeking to flaunt their ways of life and expect to be deferred to because they shout the loudest. I believe that I have always made the effort to understand the alternative lifestyles of everyone and to respect their choices, just as I have my way of life and thought. I have, for example, expressed my reserves about the “neurodiversity” movement if the statistical one in fifty of men sought to rule the world by their experience of life. The result is invariably provoking the growing groundswell of bigotry and conservative simplism. The more we complain about discrimination, the more people will feel inclined to discriminate and be bloody-minded.

Just a few decades ago, black people in some parts of the United States were segregated, weren’t allow to drink in the same bars or even use the same bathroom facilities. Now, some of them are calling for genocide against white males. Don’t you find that a little excessive? Doesn’t that make us tempted to make racist comments in circumstances where we wouldn’t get in trouble with the law? I saw a black school pupil for the first time when I was about 7 – and I had no problem with that. We had to endure a lecture from the schoolteacher about black people being humans like us. The question didn’t even come into my mind – Stella, as she was called, was simply a human being with a different appearance. Why should I have a problem with that? I felt that the teacher was putting ideas into our minds. Of course I was not the other pupils in the class who might have had racist ideas. Is it Aspergers that makes me feel alienated?

A few days ago, I wrote a posting about a point of view representing reasons to be optimistic about our times, and found the same old message of feminism, “anti-homophobia” and environmentalism. I tried to see the good in these positions. The e-mail I received this morning caused me to remove that posting, along with comments mitigating this optimism. I felt on shaky ground, so decided to remove the posting. Also in the posting, I expressed my reserves about gay marriage. That for the person who wrote to me was an expression of homophobia. My intention was not one of hatefulness and condemnation, but a call for discretion and respect for those who cannot be expected to understand or accept their way of life.

My attitude was compared with the way “true church” apologists seek to disturb the certitudes of Anglicans and get them into the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches. According to this young man, apparently a priest of some Church that promotes Orthodox doctrine and the gay lifestyle, I was treating people “like shit” in the same way as I would be treated “like shit” by Roman Catholic or Orthodox apologists. It would be inappropriate to quote the e-mail or say who wrote it. The person isn’t in question, but the ideas are. I don’t mind that the person lives in a gay marriage and loves his friend. In itself, it is a good thing if that person has found happiness, where many in heterosexual marriages only find unhappiness and discord.

We find ourselves faced with the old tolerance paradox yet again. It seems to be a watershed moment, between Scylla and Charybdis, between the people who are truly motivated by hatred, bigotry and prejudice on one hand, and, on the other, those people who want to impose their minority choices on the majority. The world has never been entirely Christian, and we are increasingly forced into the private sphere, a life of silence and contemplation, because seeking a public profile would put us on the Right or the Left.

The thing that bothers me most is being in that position of promoting tolerance and peace in regard to minorities (I belong to several myself) and asking for prudence and discretion. Perhaps this is a cowardly attitude, the person who tried to stay neutral during Robespierre’s Terror and ended up by getting his head lopped off anyway. Many Germans and people in the occupied countries tried to carry on living in spite of the Nazi tyranny and were punished for collaboration or non-resistance. The only real resistance to Nazism in France under the Occupation came from the Communists. Do we have to be Communists to resist the evils of Fascism? This is the dilemma being presented to us every day. Protest against LGBT (and any number of additional letters), certain excesses of feminism, trans-genderism and so forth – and you are necessarily one of those American Klu Klux Klan rednecks from the South! My optimism for human nature has taken a blow.

My immediate instinct is to get off the internet and just get on with life: say Mass and Office, otherwise mess about with my boats and do the garden. Make efforts with the art of small-talk at various times when I have to be with groups of people. Make sure that the outside world has no idea that I am a priest or anything. There is of course the notion that we didn’t help so-and-so when the men in the jackboots carried him away to a concentration camp, the same thing with any group of humans, and finally no one said anything when they came for me. That gives me the obligation to become some kind of activist. But activism provokes blowback, the equal and opposite reaction. Catch 22, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

A part of the purpose of this blog is to discover a way forward, and help others, and transcend this diabolical binary dilemma and paradigm of manipulation. I get one or two ideas from Nietzsche, though he was wrong in rejecting Christianity as just another manifestation of nihilism and human weakness. We have to go deeper.

Mankind is behaving very irrationally, but I think that has always been the case. There has always been hatred, persecution and warfare. It seems to be a part of our nature and “total perversity” as Calvin put it. The so-called “majority” has rights too, and people don’t like to be told what to do or think.

A watershed moment, indeed. I have been conversing with my brother priest along these same lines, and am dismayed by this question of the Church’s attitude to the world. If we have the right to preach our doctrine and morals, do not the other minorities also have the right to impose their ways and require them to be normal in society? Perhaps we should all be silent and live in our private spheres.

It hasn’t been a very good start to my day, and I would appreciate ideas…

* * *

I have just received another e-mail from the person who apologises if he has hurt my feelings. I sent this in response (I wrote in French and here is my translation):

I understand your message and I’m used to not being understood. We live in a world of advertising and propaganda, right as well as left. Göbbels said that if you repeat a lie often enough, the people end up believing it. I am talking about identity politics, which has nothing to do with respect for our people and our way of life. The button is pressed and the acronym LGBT still takes on more letters. In some countries ideologues encourage children to undergo an operation to “change sex”. At the end of all this, the Right will mix everything up as in the 1930s in Germany. Very exceptional life dramas are becoming banal and trendy. Nietzsche was right when he grumbled against the herd mentality!

Yes, I belong to a Church that has the same moral position as Rome and the Russian Orthodox. I have always distinguished between the pulpit and the confessional. I appreciate the notion of friendship, true friendship, probably more than you think, and I’m not interested in sexual issues unless someone asks me the question. In myself, I am rather liberal, but I cannot stand the ideologies in this world that seek to impose George Orwell’s dystopia – a ban on thinking, writing and expressing oneself even when there is no hatred. Live your life discreetly, and life is beautiful in your neighbourhood, the world of work and even at church. Impose oneself, and we will be faced with reaction, the feeling of being fed up and the instinct to think like the totalitarian right-wing.

My target is not diversity, true diversity, but the ideology that gives rise to opposing ideologies. That’s why I don’t have time for Gay Pride, Affirming Anglicanism and all the organizations that promote cultural Marxism, nihilism and counter-culture. A distinction must be made.

Otherwise, in Orwell’s words: “There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.”

We want freedom to be human. The “monster” appropriates all the movements of claiming tolerance and freedom for minorities, and things no longer have the same meaning. I’m not right-wing, because I see too much of the philosophical aspect. There are choices to make if you want to live your life for a long time, if I don’t want to be put in a psychiatric hospital or the gas chamber. I exaggerate… Maybe. Do you want to take that risk?

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6 Responses to The Potomac two-step

  1. warwickensis says:

    I notice that, at the Golden Globes, many of the celebrities wore black to show support for women who have been abused and belittled by the chauvinist culture within Hollywood.

    I agree totally. People who do the same job should get the same pay. People should be able to live their lives without being regarded as objects but people in their own right.

    This latter has been the Christian message throughout the centuries: people are ends in themselves.

    However, what I did notice was the fact that what started with the intention of affirming the personhood of women became a vehicle for hating men.

    I had this problem at school when I protested the position of Head Girl at as school which previously had Head Pupil and Deputy Head Pupil. My thesis was that the position of Head Pupil should not be determined by sex but by pure merit based upon behaviour in the Lower Sixth. I felt that the appointment of Head Girl actually devalues the effort of girls in what they do but makes only a token recognition of who they are in respect of their female peers.

    What I saw at the Golden Globes was “argument by celebrity”. Celebrities are very good at rhetoric – they have to be. What they are not good at is logic. The tolerance paradox given by Popper has a caveat in Rawls who says that Social Tolerance is subordinate to the principle of a society’s self-preservation.

    Despite our minority, we Traditional Christians are regarded as having the privilege of being predominantly white middle-class males, and in the current climate this works as an anti-privilege with Society saying, “you’ve had your day, now shut up!” just as it always has – especially, as you say in 1789 and 1792-4.

    The Benedict Option suggests that we form our communities in the catacombs and live as if we were “normal members of society”.

    I am minded of the 1970s version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with Donald Sutherland. The ending of that film is terrifying no less because it is as if it is already happening here.

    We should not seek martyrdom, but be prepared to suffer it when (not if) we are called. Our main asset is the fact that we actually believe our Faith which was once delivered to the Saints. All we can do is study our Faith and study Society and know the difference between them.

    Keep calm and carry on!

    • Fr. David Marriott SSC says:

      I like your Head Girl and deputy comment: One can almost hear the discussion: ‘Well, it is quite clear from the results, Jill is to be the head girl, with Jack as deputy.’ ‘Oh but, wait a minute with that, can’t you hear all of the boys arguing that we are just being politically correct!’ another comment: ‘Why not have two heads: a head boy and a head girl: then we are showing that we believe them to be equal, after all……’

      Of course, the latter argument is false, because the primary proof rests with the initial comment: ‘it is quite clear from the results…..’

      Do we now expect men to be circumspect in their dealings with women, and women to be equally circumspect when dealing with men? How might this impact on the gradual development of a relationship into a commitment?

      • All this is quite strange in this “post-modern” era. We are going back to the old Victorian ways, and the “sex revolution” is over. Could this be so? Women have always had a kind of power that we men easy misunderstand.

  2. ed pacht says:

    I’m not entirely sure which of several post I’m responding to, and often feel as though I’m beyond my depth in this complex discussion. I don’t fancy myself an original thinker or an accomplished scholar, but one of those eccentrics whose eccentricity tends largely in a traditional direction, conservative by nature but often driven to a place often seen as radical. Like most people who are honest with themselves, I am a bundle of contradictions, and in this blog I’ve come to feel I’m in good company. We are indeed a strange kittle o’ fish, and that, probably more than commonality of interest or opinion, may be what draws us together.

    I believe that truth is what it is, and that we do not, as is often said, ‘make our own truth’. Truth is absolute, and what is considered true either is or it isn’t, but here’s the rub: anyone who claims to have the truth, to know the truth, to be entirely right, is lying to himself. Truth is absolute, but our perception of truth is not – our perception is inadequate and flawed. Ultimately truth is so much larger than our limited minds that we are incapable of grasping it fully, and thus ‘see in a glass darkly’.

    This is a polarized world in which we are presented with diametrically opposite views on almost any subject, frequently supported on both sides by impeccable logic inexorably leading to one extreme or the other. It has long been my contention that any proposition carried to its logical extreme will inevitably become false, as it will of necessity eliminate truths that appear completely incompatible. Truth can be dimly seen at the point where incompatible opposites intersect, at the very point where both must be true, even though, by logic, they cannot.

    Among the glories of our Christian heritage is that it is built on propositional truths that nonetheless conflict with one another when viewed through human logic, leading us ultimately outside our human minds into the mind of an incomprehensible yet accessible God. Among these complexities are: trinity vs unity in the Godhead, humanity vs divinity in the Christ, faith vs works, free will vs predestination, ourselves as a chosen people higher than the angels yet less than the chief of sinners. Ethics and morality are absolute and non-negotiable, yet the righteousness of the Pharisees is condemned and the repentant sinner is elevated. I could go on and on. The history of Christianity is one of uncompromising adherence to the creeds, to scripture, and to tradition, but at the same time of endless grappling with the unanswerable questions thus raised.

    I’m going to stop here, at a rather inconclusive point, before I tie myself in verbal knots and fill the universe with pointless ramblings. I am glad to be in this company.

  3. J.D. says:

    Honestly we are going to get flak no matter what we do or say. There’s no real refugee from conflict and clashes this side of eternity. Guys like me simply try to stay as invisible as possible and keep to ourselves. It worked for me in middle school after dealing with bullies and it works now for the most part.

    Guard your secrets and opinions , keep to yourself and just know that no matter what someone somewhere will hate you, belittle you or consider you worthy of the firing squad no matter what.

    We can just try to be as invisible as possible. Thats what I do, and when it works it’s great. I had a co-worker tell me in all the years he’s known me he knows nothing about my opinions or my personal life. Thats how I like to keep it otherwise it’s open conflict, especially if you’re a bit eccentric like I suppose most of us are.

    I could be totally skewed I how I deal with things but for us eccentrics it’s a matter of survival. We have to have quiet corners to be who we are without people trying to ruin us or tear us down.

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    There’s a morsel available to all of an article by Christopher Hope which looks possibly interesting:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/02/02/biggest-marriage-shake-up-200-years-heterosexual-couples-granted/

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