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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Conservatives Without Chests

       "Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."David Hume A Treatise of Human Nature, Part III, Section 3
       "The crudest sentimentalism (such as Gaius and Titius would wince at) about a flag or a country or a regiment will be of more use.  We were told it all long ago by Plato.  As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the 'spirited element.'  The head rules the belly through the chest--the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnaminity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments.  The Chest--Magnanimity--Sentiment--these are the indispensible liason officers between cerebral man and visceral man.  It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man:  for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.  The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests.  It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals.  This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence.  It is not so.  They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her.  Indeed it would be strange if they were:  a persevering devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of a sentiment which Gaius and Titus could debunk as easily as any other.  It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out.  Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary:  it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so." C.S. Lewis The Abolition of Man, (p.34-35)

       Watching Donald Trump talk like a social conservative is like watching a mime pretending to have a heart attack.  The portrayal is an academic exercise, disconnected from his real sentiments.
       Trump opposes Cosmopolitanism, the stoic idea that all men are brothers.  He peddles a mixture of self-interest and white nationalism.
       The secular educational system replaces conscience with conditioning.  Rather than encouraging moral behavior, it teaches adherence to the conventions of society.  (Sittlichkeit over moralitaet, you might say.)  Trump's abusive personal insults and dubious personal behavior are a fruit of demoralized American society.  This explains why his arguments against abortion seem so anemic.  Trump isn't arguing from his heart, but according to what he thinks he needs to say.
       Why would someone pretend to hold convictions when he has none?  Perhaps it is just another role;  Trump master of deals was followed by Trump, television star, which was followed by Trump University.  Next will be Trump, TV network owner!  His entire life has been a series of commercial moves.  How is this any different?
       The place of morality being the only check on nature means that lack of morality necessitates outside force to create order.  In the case of Donald Trump, he promises to be the autocrat molding America into his image.  If Trump believed in liberty, part of his message would be morality and self-regulation.
       Strength is a totem with Trump.  He clearly admires people who force their will on others.  This is another sign of Trump's deficit in benevolence and morality.  A politician within the Tao would recognize that he is, after all, only a man himself.  The fact that all men have a law written in their hearts should mean that there is no need for Strong Men.
       Donald Trump is what C.S. Lewis might have called a conservative without a chest.  He is a caricature of sorts--vulgar, selfish and crude.  There is no mediation of the emotions between his mind and the animal appetites of his belly and loins.  Thus, he knows only the self-interest of his mind married to the urges of his body.  Estase used to refer to the Clintons as mechanistic;  Bill and Hillary's politics were all about satisfying needs, with no element of the edifying or noble.  It is the opus magnum of Hillary's career that, at the crucial juncture where America could reject her and godless progressivism,  she managed to get a conservative without a chest as her opponent.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Patriots and Gentlemen

     "I respect virtue in all its situations;  even when it is found in the unsuitable company of weakness.  I lament to see qualities, rare and valuable, squandered away without any public utility.  But when a gentleman with great visible emoluments abandons the party in which he has long acted, and tells you, it is because he proceeds upon his own judgement;  that he acts on the merits of the several measures as they arise;  and that he is obliged to follow his own conscience, and not that of others;  he gives reasons which it is impossible to controvert, and discovers a character which it is impossible to mistake.  What shall we think of him who never differed from a certain set of men until the moment they lost their power, and who never agreed with them in a single instance afterwards?  Would not such a coincidence of interest and opinion be rather fortunate?  Would it not be an extraordinary cast upon the dice, that a man's connexions should degenerate into faction, precisely at the critical moment when they lose their power, or he accepts a place? . . .In the mean time we are born only to be men.  We shall do enough if we form ourselves to be good ones.  It is therefore our business carefully to cultivate in our minds, to rear to the most perfect vigour and maturity, every sort of generous and honest feeling that belongs to our nature.  To bring the dispostions that are lovely in private life into the service and conduct of the commonwealth;  so to be patriots, as not to forget we are gentlemen."  Edmund Burke Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (pgs. 87-88,89)