Benedict options

Typically, people who don’t know anything about a subject, can’t know that they don’t know anything about it, and thus, the suggestion that they don’t know is lost on them. One cannot “debate” with a log. It is, as I have hinted before, a problem of “democracy,” with its doctrine that everyone has an equal right to an opinion, and the majority will rule — contradicting itself should it so will from moment to moment, even on the most fundamental questions of right and wrong, while acknowledging no responsibility for the foreseeable consequences of each act.

Or rather, it is not a doctrine but a conceit, demonstrated in the manipulation of people by the mass media of news and entertainment, and their favoured politicians and judges. Note, for instance, the speed at which an overwhelming majority opposed to “gay marriage,” able easily to win referenda in state after state, was converted in a couple of election cycles to gleeful, voluble, “homophilia.” One side of a soi-disant “debate” was suddenly raised in volume, the arguments of the other denied, until a tsunami was formed to wash away the surviving civilized benchmarks.

In the course of this wash-over, in which the procreative significance of marriage was buried in the mud, the true history of the development was clarified. “No sex without babies, no babies without sex” (a rule-of-thumb for the Catholic position, once shared by all Christians), was first uprooted by the promotion of contraception. Sex, which in natural law is oriented to a primary purpose — the conception of children — was deflected to another purpose, the fulfilment of lust. This was then advanced through song dance and the movies, with a glibness that would once have beggared the imagination of any decent soul. The terms “love” and “sex” are now used interchangeably. Thus, the “right” to marry any person with whom one is currently fornicating is established in law. It became the right to marry whomever you “love” — and then divorce and remarry with mandatory public approval, and the State’s bureaucratic sanction.

Or from another angle, it was a dramatic victory for “consumerism.” This was brought home to me most recently when I went to withdraw some money from a bank machine, and while I waited for the computer to confirm my password, was shown a cartoon of the bank’s mascot (a little bowler-hatted man) waving the rainbow flag and cheering on this year’s “Pride Parade.”

Bankers can discern the colour of money, and do not take excessive risks when they have any choice. More generally, “corporate America,” which formerly had nothing to say about sex, beyond sentimental affirmations of family to promote mortgages, extra spending, and consumer debt — and had no opinions on things like “gay marriage” until the day before yesterday — have now made a cynical calculation. They have little to lose and much to gain, buying into this latest trend towards social atomism. “Capitalists,” in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, have a big stake in disposable income. The small-income family, with children and religious commitments, is not the side on which their bread is buttered, and serious moral questions lie outside their chosen domain. The DINKS (“double income, no kids”) now rule, are extremely vain, and given to moral posturing. The flattering, supportive, sanctimony from the bank thus makes it easier to pick off this primary marketing target with consumer loans.

Government tax collectors share the same point-of-view, or have come to share it since the whole idea of thinking more than a few revenue quarters ahead, or one election cycle, has come to guide all statist thinking. Children don’t pay taxes; there will be another government by the time they have grown up. Meanwhile the pension demographics point to the next progressive social frontier, which is the promotion of “euthanasia.”

Those who do think ahead, are the “environmentalists,” who have discovered that they can capture government policy, and corporate lip-service too, with the same focus. The earth’s carrying capacity is taken as strictly finite, and the challenge is to cut down the human population to a more profitable “core.” Contraception, sterilization, abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, and any other scheme that can “decrease the surplus population,” is a progressive cause — the “culture of death” as John-Paul II called it, with searing accuracy — and since the non-monied classes are those immediately slated for extinction, who among the monied will object?

Only those, as I say, with some human decency, and the ability to think the implications through — a small and shrinking minority at present. We cannot prevail in any vote, nor dominate any mass market. We have suddenly become “internal exiles,” who might move to another country if we could, but there is nowhere to go that is not also “globalizing.”

Moreover, the “Benedict Option,” proposed by Rod Dreher and getting some modest discussion (see here), contains a fatal flaw. It holds that in the footsteps of Benedict of Nursia (c.480–543), we should beat a new monastic retreat. But several writers have spotted the problem: that Benedict and company had the luxury of not being pursued by a modern, “inclusive” Nanny State, with its GPS technology. Today, such a retreat would have to be negotiated with that State, which is to say, conceded by our enemies.

Yet the idea is basically sound — that to be exemplary and positive, rather than just rebelliously negative, we must find ways to live with a degree of independence from the “servile state” at least equal to what all citizens enjoyed a few short generations ago. Background conditions being different, the methods of our withdrawal will be different: we must find ways to live independently of this devil, as it were, right under his nose.

That, I think, is worth some practical attention. How, for instance, to arrange cash transactions that cut out commercial banks? To exclude large corporations, as much as possible, to the benefit of small family firms? To obviate or elude government regulation? To conserve wealth in forms the State cannot easily inflate or seize? How to reduce our “footprint” in the statistical economy, so that we become less visible to corporate and government trackers, and more important, remove ourselves from moral complicity in a public order that is less and less ambiguously satanic?

Moreover, how to do it so attractively that we will inspire people to follow us, thus helping not only to destroy the Nanny State and its corporate and financial affiliates, but to rebuild a civilization worthy of what was assigned by God to the Estate of Man?