City of the Lowered Gaze

NihilismThumbby Glenn Fairman   12/27/13
Lying within the works and days of the Utopian Heart, is nestled the black stone of presumption—a conceit that all that is false or wicked on earth can be redeemed by secular human hands and that every tear can be wiped clean by virtue of its persistent moral will. It contemplates a heady dream—a crusade informed by both fanaticism and moral abstraction. To erect its worldly salvation, it must amass unto itself every node of civil society and political life and crush under its righteous heel every faction, creed, or institution whose goal is counter to its secular faith: Religious prerogatives, the sanctity of nascent life, the possession of hand guns, the education of the young, even the personal thoughts and judgments concerning virtue and inequality must be subjugated to the homogeneity of this Earthly City of Peace.

And insomuch as this secular dream trumps every ethical or metaphysical objection that can be formed against it, the temporal vision will not be constrained by moral instrumentalities—all truth, lies, knowledge, innuendo, art, flesh, and power are hereby summoned to war down the strongholds of tradition and aristocracy— leveling every asymmetry and natural impedance. Justice, the prime virtue of the city, must be transformed into something other than each man reaping what he deserves. The cardinal spirit of exclusion and every classical virtue must be shattered into pieces; the notion of merit and excellence ground down into the flinty soil of expedience and technical control.[pullquote]The City of Man must relearn what it means to be of the earth: worshipping the carnal, celebrating a hedonistic physicality, treating as blasphemous the theistic poison which turns our heads and hearts to the skies. [/pullquote]

The City of Man must relearn what it means to be of the earth: worshipping the carnal, celebrating a hedonistic physicality, treating as blasphemous the theistic poison which turns our heads and hearts to the skies. Our animating passion must be for ourselves alone—appetite and sensation: the inward attuned eye and the servile imagination must alone characterize the boundaries of our longing. To build this City on such strongly anchored footings requires a lowering of the gaze, an exultation of the Philistine, a palate suited towards the voluptuous.

In such a world, the higher things that claim eternal bellicosity against the Carnal City of Redemption: Selfless love, the chilled sword of Freedom, and the adamantine resolve to repent of this Dark City and to tread earnestly into the unfathomed solitude of ineffable light, are as fire and ice. A vast frontier, even now, has aligned itself between them. Such boundaries are receding at a velocity that will soon bring both tribes sword to shield as befits the Spirit of our Age—and even now the report of these foremost skirmishing vanguards chokes the horizon in manifest dread.
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Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at arete5000@dslextreme.com. • (1355 views)

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14 Responses to City of the Lowered Gaze

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This one of those rare cases where the entire article — if not our entire culture — is summed up in the first paragraph:

    Lying within the works and days of the Utopian Heart, is nestled the black stone of presumption—a conceit that all that is false or wicked on earth can be redeemed by secular human hands and that every tear can be wiped clean by virtue of its persistent moral will.

    I thoroughly agree with Glenn. And I like his characterization of “The Utopian Heart.” That’s it in a nutshell. And all forms of modern “Progressivism,” socialism, social justice, or statism are energized by the naive believe that “all that is false or wicked on earth can be redeemed by secular hands.”

    I could blather on and on. But if you do no more today than to absorb that fact, you will have gained a great deal of wisdom. And even more wisdom will come when you start to eek out all the implications of this. And you might even find yourself living a life via that same Leftist Utopian principle, in small parts here and there.

    Not to pick on Christians, but just imagine if Christians (purportedly around 70% or more of American culture) believed what Glenn said. There would be no room for socialism and other ills to sneak in under the guise of “social justice.” As one Christian author I read said (and I forget his name), Christianity — properly understood — is about self-denial, not self-fulfillment.

    Imagine how impossible it would be for all the ills of Big Government to arise if people understood the simple truth of “He who does not work shall not eat.” But many Christians (and not just Christians, of course) are blinded by the false idol of Utopia — as, I would say, are libertarians as well.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      At a panel on libertarianism at Rivercon many years ago, the SF writer Avram Davidson argued that libertarianism is actually leftist because the idea of leftism is that eliminate some X, a perfect society will result. I would say that he was right, except that properly speaking that is utopianism, not leftism per se. There’s a great deal of overlap between the two, but it isn’t total either way.

      • Glenn Fairman says:

        By definition, libertarianism has what they call in political philosophy a neutral vision of the Good. To this mindset, expansive libertarian freedom is the sine qua non of the good society. The problem here is that a system wholly based on human liberty is a system devoid of content. Freedom from what? or Freedom to do X? Such blanket statements of the minimal state merely beg the questions that point us to the good life—-How shall men live?

        No race can abide such ethical neutrality, and so conservatives point to a government that is constrained by its own rules of engagement–leaving ample room for private institutions and religious imperatives to exercise the prerogatives that reign in those obtuse qualities of human nature. Similarly, the Progressive edifice places its fate in the hands of a leviathan state to equalize nature’s equalities and build the secular City.

        Libertarianism’s neutrality leads us ultimately in the direction of atomism and anarchy, since it takes the view that men are not good or evil by nature, but tabula rasa bounded by the plasticity of potentiality. Moreover, it stands in stark contrast to what Aristotle views as our Political natures- natures that come into flowering in the community of proper balance, since we are neither beasts or gods.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        libertarianism is actually leftist because the idea of leftism is that eliminate some X, a perfect society will result.

        First off, ditto to Glenn’s distinctions regarding Libertarianism. It does matter what we consider life to be about. And I would posit that the American conservative idea is that there is a necessary dynamic between atomized individual liberty (which is the only part that libertarians are typically interested in) and an ordered society. Like it or not, no culture can exist for long unless it has some idea about what it is for.

        It is within some framework that individual liberty lives and thrives. But individual liberty itself is not the framework. And not understanding this is the core mistake of libertarians. It is doubtlessly why they tend toward an amoral ideology (at best).

        And that necessary framework, in large part, is made up of our vision of who owe are. A libertarian atomized vision of us all being a bunch of economic ping-pong balls bouncing off each other in a free “do whatever you will” market is no more sustainable for a free and good society than the all-encompassing statist vision of the Left.

        It would do one and all good to read W. Cleon Skousen’s The 5000 Year Leap (or Thomas Sowell’s “A Conflict of Visions,” for that matter). Either book will dispel any notions of an easy Utopia to be gained by some One True Political Doctrine. Utopia — right or left — is not a good thing for Americans to pine for. Life is more complicated than that.

        And I think libertarians have this inclination in the idea of “eliminate X,” as Timothy noted. You hear strains of this in the “eliminate the Federal Reserve.” And maybe there is a case for that. But doing so will have little or no effect on our debt, our entitlements, and our entitlement-mindedness as a citizenry.

        The Left has similar delusions. “If only we can eliminate sexual differences.” And their delusions become so important to them that a fascistic impulse takes hold. Rather than reevaluate their beliefs, they would rather smother all dissent.

        The root of all these ills are that we have pined for Utopia and lost site of the founding vision of America and her culture. Neither a Leftist Utopia or a Libertarian one is viable. Both deny human nature. Both reach too far based upon faulty and ill-considered principles. Both try to take the easy way out.

  2. Steve Lancaster says:

    Brad,
    Libertarians are as diverse as any other group of people. I know Libertarians who are more Marxist in their philosophy, and dedicated Randites who believe the federal reserve bank is the root of all evil. Yes, we can agree that much of Libertarian and in fact also all philosophy is a search for utopia. Christianity is just as utopian by your definition as Libertarianism. It can be argued that Christ was the first Libertarian. I may submit a short word on that in the future.

    Additionally, not all Libertarians are non-violent we simply hold the unnecessary use of violence to be counter productive.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Steve, I think there are way too many people in our culture are looking for Utopia. And what that means, in practice, is that people really do believe, for instance, the rhetoric of the state being able to eliminate poverty.

      Both Libertarians and the Left typically ignore the reality of human nature. Man is a creature who needs law and moral guidance. And as Chuck Heston said, “There is no freedom without the law!”

      And in regards to poverty, you can’t eliminate it by redistributing wealth. But you can, as we have done in America, reduce it to a mere nothing if man is free to pursue his god-given talents, if he works, if he can keep the vast majority of the fruits of his labors, if he is rewarded (rather than penalized) for good conduct. All of these things socialism puts on its head…and yet these same fools of the Left (and others) expect that they can eliminate poverty if they simply call these same old failed schemes “social justice” or some such thing.

      Regarding Christians and Utopia, I like what Dennis Prager has to say about this. Christians long for a deferred Utopia. And this is much healthier than those (Christians or otherwise) who pine for an earthly one.

      I do not pine for an earthly Utopia, although I believe in incremental improvement, 90% of it provided by people living free in the free market to pursue their own interests, within reason. But there is that 10% that libertarians underrate or ignore. We need government. We need a formative pressure from above, at least to some extent.

      Granted, what we have now is government trying to be 60% or more of our society. And this is just plain wrong. But we do need government. But what is missing from this equation is the “why” of government. We have forgotten in this country what it is supposed to be for. We have incrementally corrupted ourselves by buying into the harlot of Big Government which promises to feed us, clothe us, house us – and more – if only we will acknowledge it as our master.

      That is not the American way. I will grant that in this present milieu of “Progressivism,” of a dumb-down population whose lives are relatively shallow – centered as they are on various forms of passive amusement – that it is difficult to discuss the finer points of America, law, culture, politics, and reason. It is like saying softly to the person next to you, “Hey, have you heard the latest Mozart piano concerto?” while in a room of disco dancers and rotating colored lights on a backdrop of a 100-decibel cacophony.

      And what I find is that Libertarians tend to just shout from the other extreme as they make simplistic points when what we need is wisdom, not more pie-in-the-sky thinking. And this might not apply to you, Steve, but I suspect that many, if not most, libertarians are simply about legalizing drugs and prostitution and that all their fine-point arguments about “reason” and “freedom” is just a smokescreen for these baser motives.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        The idea of a “deferred” utopia — in other words, the utopia of Christ’s kingdom, which is “not of this world” — is harmless, at least by comparison with a utopia to be created here. Trying to make Heaven on Earth usually creates the opposite. Similarly, I’ve noted that it’s much safer to be dogmatic about transcendental matters than about this world, since the later inevitably come into conflict with reality.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          The idea of a “deferred” utopia — in other words, the utopia of Christ’s kingdom, which is “not of this world” — is harmless, at least by comparison with a utopia to be created here.

          From a purely practical standpoint, I know just what you mean, Timothy. Think of the huge spiritual, psychological, and cultural difference between a person with a mindset who expects some suffering and one who does not.

          That said, it’s generally noble to try to alleviate suffering….so long as we don’t create more suffering on the back end due to vapid “good intentions” on the front end that simply mire people in bad habits. This is the core harm and conceit of “Progressivism” and all ideologies that stem from Cultural Marxism.

          All our sympathy and compassion go out to those who are victims of accidents, bad health, or have lost a loved one. But aside from such things, we create hell on earth when we implant in people the expectation of an earthly paradise. Man must work. He must struggle. He must keep going and persevere if he is to make something of his life.

          But this entire human process of maturation is short-circuited by those who blame even the slightest discomforts on “inequality,” “racism,” or whatever the current bugaboo is of the unhinged and dastardly Left.

          I have great admiration for those (now relatively few, one would suppose) Catholic brothers and sisters who have been taught to find meaning in their suffering. Catholics have a deep and rich tradition in regards to dealing humanely and wisely with the human condition (at least amongst some of the traditional Orders or teachings….most which are being lost now). We are creating a culture of panty-wastes when the emphasis is placed on mere pleasures at every turn and when even an ounce of suffering is deemed to be someone else’s fault.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I think you mean “alleviate suffering”, not “elevate suffering”. (I’m a fanzine editor descended from a line of English teachers, so you have to expect that sort of thing occasionally.) But otherwise I agree with the basic point. But the ability to endure suffering is very impressive at times. Hugh Thomas mentions an incident in The Spanish Civil War in which some left-wing militiamen came across a priest who wanted to “suffer for Christ”. So they decided to make him suffer much as Christ did, with scourging (probably not as bad as the Romans inflicted on Christ) and a crown of thorns. But they decided to shoot him rather than crucify him. His final wish was to be shot from the front — so he could die blessing him. I find that most impressive, especially knowing that there’s no way I would react that way. And it presumably made a strong impression on the militiamen, since one of them would have had to be the source for the story.

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        Brad,
        Occasionally, some one needs to point out that the emperor has no clothes, something Libertarians are singularly good at. IMHO, few libertarians are in favor of no government, but smaller and less intrusive government. If you pass a law, that on examination, I find to render my rights degraded I may decide to ignore your law or if I find it practical I will obey it.

        If I decide to ignore your law then it is your problem to enforce it; knowing that I will defend my rights with as much violence as necessary.

        In the long run there are only two ways to enforce your will; logical persuasion or force. If you make a good argument then many Libertarians will go along. If all you can do is make statist commands then we will not go along, and will resist.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          If you pass a law, that on examination, I find to render my rights degraded I may decide to ignore your law or if I find it practical I will obey it.

          It is the right and the responsibility of people to peacefully oppose laws which they think are unjust. But let’s get past your superficial rhetoric and note that it is not “me” who passes a law. We are a constitutional representative republic. We vote people into office who pass the laws. And it is entirely impossible to pass a law that every single person is pleased with. Only a wayward mindset could suppose otherwise.

          The processes of our republic are imperfect, but this process of democratic consensus (with restrictions guarding against mob rule and specific safeguards for individual rights) is a much better solution than the rule-of-whateverthehell. The rule-of-whateverthehell is what you propose. You’re much like Obama. You’ll obey only the laws that you want to.

          But the rule of law (a major advance in civilization) requires that we obey the law. If we don’t like the law we should then work to change it. If the law acts in such as way as to become tyrannical then, as Mr. Jefferson said,

          We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

          Not having dope be legal does not rise to that level.

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