Creative outrage

A friend of mine says he wants to go home — to the place where he was born, where he came from — now that it has been de-industrialized, de-agriculturalized, hotelled, and made into a tourist haven. Like me, he despises tourists. He reviewed at length the transformation of his home town, “from something that was precious in itself, into something to be visited, like a bathroom, or a brothel.”

“So why would you want to go home?” I asked him.

“Mostly for revenge.”

He was joking, of course. (You have to explain this to Canadians.) He was not really proposing an act of terrorism. It was merely an experiment in comic timing. We both laughed hysterically. I can see how an unedited transcript of our conversation could have got us both arrested by the Happyface Police.

Several correspondents have noted the “darkness” in articles I have written recently, and beg me to “lighten up.” As a member of the Pepsi Generation (a.k.a. Baby Boomers), one is not allowed to prophecize. “Don’t worry, be happy” has been the motto of those who secretly fear that they are going to Hell, but are hoping for mere extinction.

Yet, I agree with the cheerful, “whistling in the dark” approach, and commend, on principle, those Christian martyrs who “always looked on the bright side,” even while being translated from this world to the next.

My pessimism is a worldly thing. One remains prepared to be happily surprised, by some unexpected turn of events. Pity the optimist, for he can only be disappointed.

Among the legacies of the Catholic Church (currently at a high point in nominal membership, but a low point in most other respects), is the original of Hope. We, and our Hebrew predecessors, have known for centuries, millennia, that history is not in our control; that human enterprise does not end well; that men are fatally flawed, and the best that can ever be got out of them requires heroic discipline and labour. Our Hope is thus, peculiarly, not in men.

Hence paradox, and what follows, humour. Dark humour, especially. The joke is in the contrast between what we were expecting, and what we’re going to get.

Beneath the surface of what we might call the “creative outrage” that fuels our contemporary liberals and progressives, is a humourless frustration. It is “creative” only in that it finds something new in tradition and nature, to be outraged by every day. While their outward target may be people such as Christians, their real animosity is towards God, who refuses to surrender the Creation to them. Nor do they appreciate His occasional concessions. For they may get their sweet way for a while, as we endure their tyranny, but still they are not happy, and want more. It is a definition of the progressive that he can never be satisfied.

Now, gentle reader may ask, how does this have anything to do with the growth of the tourist industry?

Or let us make the question grander, to make it clearer. What has it to do with the overall Disneyfication (or Potemkinization, or virtualization) of modern life?

I refer to the disharmony between words and things; between what things are and what they pretend to be; to the constant replacement of the real by the fake. The scale is overwhelming and is likely to defeat even the imagination of any individual who seeks to restore the real, within his own environment. The “mass man,” as I and others call him, does not pretend to pilgrimage in a world not of his making. Rather he becomes part of the illusion, dressing up in costumes for the service industries. He becomes something a little worse than a slave: a ghost figure. He is “not really there.”

The progressive aspiration, to ban God from human life, or at least restrict Him to private venues, must necessarily fail, as all earthly projects. Like everything based on a lie, it collapses. For God can only be contained within the womb of Mary.