These days I fluctuate between revulsion at our fellowman and a detachment from the world. Regarding both, it is fair to say that I emulate the example of Dr. Tom More in The Thanatos Syndrome.
Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against individuals. I know many individuals, some of them dear to me, and have witnessed their capacity for good. Rather, it’s our fellowman, the masses, people, society, in the year 2014 of what used to be A.D.
My thoughts began to coalesce after listening to Elizabeth Cook on satellite radio. A decent country singer and redneck, Cook complained that there was something creepy going on in America. People are so “well adjusted” through access to drugs and therapy that nobody seems to question the fact that more adult children are living under their parents’ roof. She yearned for her younger days when the households in her neighborhood were typically populated by a pissed-off father who served a tour in Nam and a mother angry about who-knows-what. Back then kids couldn’t wait to escape.
Cook identified part of the problem, but there’s something bigger going on. And it’s not limited to the millennial generation, though their lack of grounding is a constant source of amazement. It affects both young and old.
Our fellowman has been dumbed down and is getting dumber with each passing year. Part of this condition is brought on by choice, of course, but most of it is due to decades of conditioning, indoctrination, or misguided education.
Take a walk in any major Northeastern or West Coast city in the United States. What do you see? Men with bare feet in flip-flops dressed in clothing designed to make them look like little boys; professional women dressed like pornographic actresses; young men and women speaking in lilting cadences punctuated by rising inflections; people crossing against traffic signals as if they had some divine right of way; the dependency on personal electronic devices.
[N.B: I have a long-held sympathy for commercial airline flight attendants, who must do their jobs in close quarters, at 35,000 feet, to all of this venality.]
These are symptoms of a society that has become lax in its standards of conduct. The fact of the matter is that our fellowman is disturbed. And he doesn’t realize it. No—worse still: he realizes it, but doesn’t give a damn. I offer the following observations in support of a hypothesis:
- Acceptance by the heterosexual majority of the perversion of the natural definition of marriage championed by the homosexual minority
- The recent proliferation of effeminate young men
- An emerging primacy of women over men
- Deteriorating driving habits on the major metropolitan roadways
- Docile acceptance of expanded government regulations
- Vapid entertainment accentuated by banal news programs
- Societal infatuation with sex, celebrity and death
- The substitution of philosophers and theologians with pundits, minstrels, and bureaucratic scientists
- The rejection of high art
- The elevation of sophistry over wisdom
- An undermining of the categories of “win” or “lose,” so as to reinforce a feeling of exceptionalism for each and every person
- Idolization of animals (e.g. “multi-species households”) and the environment (e.g. “mother earth”)
- The treatment of classical ethics and natural law as categorically relative
We may be hurtling toward an evolutionary change whereby homo sapiens metamorphoses into homo sed: a pleasure-seeking creature with a brain capable of reasoning that spends its waking hours seeking out and feeding on various types of external stimulation, many contrary to its nature and damaging to its cerebral functions.
Wait a moment! Take a deep breath. Better yet, take a drink. A cold can of beer, preferably National Bohemian (Brewed in the Land of Pleasant Living). Or bourbon in a glass piled high with ice.
Is it really that bad? Of course it is.
Walker Percy predicted our current condition. His advice for Catholics set the stage for Joseph Ratzinger’s comments about a smaller, purer church of the future: accept the fact that man is hurtling toward self-destruction, and those that stay true to the Faith despite this will turn out all right.
Easier said than done. Especially when the Church herself is turning upside down, trending toward an agreeable acceptance of things that are objectively immoral.
It begs a question: can orthodox Catholics expect the Church to be healthy in the midst of a society in decay? I’m not sure we can. Think of the Church as a golden chalice set upon a banquet table. Inasmuch as the chalice made of precious metal shines, it still reflects distorted images of those seated at the table.
This leads me to my hypothesis: the “whirling adventure” of G.K. Chesterton—in which the Church navigated a steady course between heretical theologies and extreme ideas—has come to an end. The Church can no longer self-correct as she has in the past. The origins of this problem can be found in the hijacking of ressourcement at the Second Vatican Council, but Pope Francis has put the rocket into second-stage orbital velocity.
The Church of the Middle Ages or Renaissance could survive a Borgia or Medici or the other bad popes. However, I maintain that her ability to do so was in the context of the world as Christendom. Today the world has largely rejected Christianity. That which was sacred or venerated has been cast aside in a great leveling. Now anything goes.
By all appearances, Pope Francis, his extracurial “Gang of Eight,” and other like-minded clergymen in the Vatican are making an all-out attempt to consolidate the work of bringing the Church into the world, thereby consolidating much of the program set forth by Hans Kung and the Conciliam camp soon after V-2. In my opinion, Francis and his allies will not be overt in their strategy, but will stick closely to the pope's operating style: signals and signs. He’ll joke about the tenets of orthodoxy, take private actions that are conspicuously leaked to the media, and, through both, emphasize pastoral theology and what Michael Voris has called “the church of nice.”
If he was still alive, Walker Percy might have taken ironic pleasure watching it all from his perch in Covington, LA. For Francis may well be known for a semiotic papacy.
Part II of this essay, wherein I make predictions, will be posted soon.