Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

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The Iraq Debacle — WSJ Opinion 

June 14, 2014
ISIS blitzkrieg.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham al-Qaeda blitzkrieg.

An extended civil war is likely. A terrorist caliphate is possible. A reblog of a critical opinion piece.

The magnitude of the debacle now unfolding in Iraq is becoming clearer by the day, with the terrorist army of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, marching ever closer to Baghdad. On Tuesday the al Qaeda affiliate captured Mosul, a city with a population greater than Philadelphia’s, a day later it took Tikrit in the Sunni heartland, and on Thursday ISIS commanders announced they plan to attack the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala,

No one should underestimate the danger this presents to the stability of the region and to America’s national and economic security. An extended civil war seems to be the best near-term possibility. More dangerous is ISIS’s ambition to establish a Muslim caliphate in the heart of the Persian Gulf, which would mean a safe haven for Islamic terrorism that would surely target the U.S. The danger to Iraq’s oil exports of three million barrels a day is already sending prices up and global equities down.

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The threat to Baghdad is real and more imminent than is widely understood. Four Iraqi divisions have melted away before the 3000-5,000 ISIS force, which is gaining deadlier weapons as it advances. One source says Iraqi soldiers who are supposed to protect Baghdad are dressing in civilian clothes beneath their military uniforms in case they have to flee. Iraq’s air power, such as it is, could soon be grounded if civilian contractors are endangered.

President Obama finally addressed the spreading chaos during a photo-op with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday, noting “a lot of concern” but making no commitments to help. The White House turned down an urgent appeal from Baghdad to intervene with air strikes, leaving Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki little choice but to turn to Iran to fill the breach—and extend its influence. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden is said to be on top of things from the Situation Room. Inshallah.

The prospect of Iraq’s disintegration is already being spun by the Administration and its media friends as the fault of George W. Bush and Mr. Maliki. So it’s worth understanding how we got here.

Iraq was largely at peace when Mr. Obama came to office in 2009. Reporters who had known Baghdad during the worst days of the insurgency in 2006 marveled at how peaceful the city had become thanks to the U.S. military surge and counterinsurgency. In 2012 Anthony Blinken, then Mr. Biden’s top security adviser, boasted that, “What’s beyond debate” is that “Iraq today is less violent, more democratic, and more prosperous. And the United States is more deeply engaged there than at any time in recent history.”

Mr. Obama employed the same breezy confidence in a speech last year at the National Defense University, saying that “the core of al Qaeda” was on a “path to defeat,” and that the “future of terrorism” came from “less capable” terrorist groups that mainly threatened “diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad.” Mr. Obama concluded his remarks by calling on Congress to repeal its 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against al Qaeda.

If the war on terror was over, ISIS didn’t get the message. The group, known as Tawhid al-Jihad when it was led a decade ago by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was all but defeated by 2009 but revived as U.S. troops withdrew and especially after the uprising in Syria spiraled into chaos. It now controls territory from the outskirts of Aleppo in northwestern Syria to Fallujah in central Iraq.

The possibility that a long civil war in Syria would become an incubator for terrorism and destabilize the region was predictable, and we predicted it. “Now the jihadists have descended by the thousands on Syria,” we noted last May. “They are also moving men and weapons to and from Iraq, which is increasingly sinking back into Sunni-Shiite civil war. . . . If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki feels threatened by al Qaeda and a Sunni rebellion, he will increasingly look to Iran to help him stay in power.”

We don’t quote ourselves to boast of prescience but to wonder why the Administration did nothing to avert the clearly looming disaster. Contrary to what Mr. Blinken claimed in 2012, the “diplomatic surge” the Administration promised for Iraq never arrived, nor did U.S. weapons. “The Americans have really deeply disappointed us by not supplying the Iraqi army with the weapons and support it needs to fight terrorism,” the Journal quoted one Iraqi general based in Kirkuk.

That might strike some readers as rich coming from the commander of a collapsing army, but it’s a reminder of the price Iraqis and Americans are now paying for Mr. Obama’s failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad that would have maintained a meaningful U.S. military presence. A squadron of Apache attack helicopters, Predator drones and A-10 attack planes based in Iraq might be able to turn back ISIS’s march on Baghdad.

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Mr. Obama now faces the choice of intervening anew with U.S. military force or doing nothing. The second option means risking the fall of Baghdad or a full-scale Iranian intervention to save Mr. Maliki’s government, either of which would be terrible strategic defeats.

The alternative is to stage an intervention similar to what the French did in Mali in early 2013, using a combination of air power and paratroops to defeat or at least contain ISIS. But that would be an admission that Mr. Obama’s policy in Iraq has failed, that his claims of retreat without risk from the Middle East were false and naive, and that his premature withdrawal now demands an emergency intervention.

We would support such an effort if we felt this Administration would do the heavy diplomatic and military lifting needed to succeed. This would mean working with or around Mr. Maliki to organize a unity government of Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites to rally the public, convincing the Kurds and Turks to counter ISIS in the north, and rallying Iraqi forces to defend Baghdad until a counterattack can be planned and mobilized.

After more than five years, we’ve come to know we should expect no such leadership or strategic ambition from this President. Meantime, somebody needs to start thinking about evacuating U.S. personnel from our Embassy in Baghdad. Maybe the helicopter is already on the roof.

 

 

 

 

 

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John Paul II and What Samuel Huntington Knew – Derek Jeter

May 7, 2014
Samuel Phillips Huntington (April 18, 1927 – December 24, 2008) was an influential conservative political scientist from the United States of America whose works covered multiple sub-fields of political science. He gained wider prominence through his Clash of Civilizations thesis of a post-Cold War new world order.

Samuel Phillips Huntington (April 18, 1927 – December 24, 2008) was an influential conservative political scientist from the United States of America whose works covered multiple sub-fields of political science. He gained wider prominence through his Clash of Civilizations thesis of a post-Cold War new world order.

Samuel Huntington was a highly controversial conservative political commentator who died in 2008. He wrote many thought provoking, outrageous-but-true observations, here is a bullet collection of some of the prescient observations that he wrote:

  • It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation-states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
  • The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do — The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 51.
  • Hypocrisy, double standards, and “but nots” are the price of universalist pretensions. Democracy is promoted, but not if it brings Islamic fundamentalists to power; nonproliferation is preached for Iran and Iraq, but not for Israel; free trade is the elixir of economic growth, but not for agriculture; human rights are an issue for China, but not with Saudi Arabia; aggression against oil-owning Kuwaitis is massively repulsed, but not against non-oil-owning Bosnians. Double standards in practice are the unavoidable price of universal standards of principle — The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 184.
  • In the emerging world of ethnic conflict and civilizational clash, Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous . . . Imperialism is the necessary logical consequence of universalism — The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 310.
  • In Eurasia the great historic fault lines between civilizations are once more aflame. This is particularly true along the boundaries of the crescent-shaped Islamic bloc of nations, from the bulge of Africa to central Asia. Violence also occurs between Muslims, on the one hand, and Orthodox Serbs in the Balkans, Jews in Israel, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Burma and Catholics in the Philippines. Islam has bloody borders
  • Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power — Huntington’s 1998 text The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order.
  • Cultural America is under siege. And as the Soviet experience illustrates, ideology is a weak glue to hold together people otherwise lacking racial, ethnic, and cultural sources of community — Who Are We? America’s Great Debate, p. 12.
  • The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups. — Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission
  • A government which lacks authority will have little ability short of cataclysmic crisis to impose on its people the sacrifices which may be necessary… We have come to recognize that there are potential desirable limits to economic growth. There are also potentially desirable limits to the indefinite extension of political democracy.
  • Such a transformation would not only revolutionize the United States, but it would also have serious consequences for Hispanics, who will be in the United States but not of it. Sosa ends his book, The Americano Dream, with encouragement for aspiring Hispanic entrepreneurs. “The Americano dream?” he asks. “It exists, it is realistic, and it is there for all of us to share.” Sosa is wrong. There is no Americano dream. There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican-Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English. — “The Hispanic Challenge” from Foreign Policy, p. 45.
  • A world without U.S. primacy will be a world with more violence and disorder and less democracy and economic growth than a world where the United States continues to have more influence than any other country in shaping global affairs. The sustained international primacy of the United States is central to the welfare and security of Americans and to the future of freedom, democracy, open economies, and international order in the world. — “Why International Primacy Matters,” International Security (Spring 1993):83.
  • The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen. Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate. — American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony, p. 75.
  • In Western Europe, anti-Semitism directed against Arabs has largely replaced Anti-Semitism against Jews, p. 200.

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The following is a reader’s juxtaposition of two WSJ articles, the first a remembrance of the late Pope John Paul II by his biographer George Weigel and the second a recollection in an article by Brett Stephens of a brilliant Harvard political scientist who posed one of those “unthinkable thoughts” on the eve of the West’s greatest triumphs, the end of the Cold War in 1991. I close with some thoughts by Peggy Noonan.

The unthinkable thought on the eve of the triumph of the Reagan/Bush ending the Cold War was: “What would happen, if the American model no longer embodied strength and success, no longer seemed to be the winning model?” The question, posed by Samuel Huntington, was farfetched then, but now 23 years later in the shadow of Barack Obama’s weakness as a leader and an economy that after five years continues to stagger under the weight of two entitlements which at their current rates of existence we can no longer afford or manage: Social Security and MediCare. ObamaCare has complicated the latter and not solved anything.

“The Cold War was won, the Soviet Union was about to vanish. History was at an end. All over the world, people seemed to want the same things in the same way: democracy, capitalism, free trade, free speech, freedom of conscience, freedom for women. “The day of the dictator is over,” George H.W. Bush had said in his 1989 inaugural address. “We know what works: Freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right.”

But Huntington warned: “Sustained inability to provide welfare, prosperity, equity, justice, domestic order, or external security could over time undermine the legitimacy of even democratic governments. … As the memories of authoritarian failures fade, irritation with democratic failures is likely to increase.” The passage quoted there comes from “The Third Wave,” the book Huntington wrote just before his famous essay on the clash of civilizations:

“The “wave” was a reference to the 30 or so authoritarian states that, between 1974 and 1990, adopted democratic institutions. The two previous waves referred to the rise of mass-suffrage democracy in the 1830s and the post-Wilsonian wave of the 1920s. In each previous case, revolution succumbed to reaction; Weimar gave way to Hitler.

Huntington knew that the third wave, too, would crest, crash and recede. It’s happening now. The real question is how hard it will crash, on whom, for how long.

A West that prefers debt-subsidized welfarism over economic growth will not offer much in the way of an attractive model for countries in a hurry to modernize. A West that consistently sacrifices efficiency on the altars of regulation, litigation and political consensus will lose the dynamism that makes the risks inherent in free societies seem worthwhile. A West that shrinks from maintaining global order because doing so is difficult or discomfiting will invite challenges from nimble adversaries willing to take geopolitical gambles.”
Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations

At some point, Stephens reminds us, the momentum will shift back: “That, too, is inevitable. The dictators will err; their corruption will become excessive; their cynicism will become transparent to their own rank-and-file. A new democratic wave will begin to build. Whether that takes five years or 50 depends on what the West does now. Five years is a blip. Fifty is the tragedy of a lifetime.”

Not so much on what the West does, but the visions of its leaders and here is the juxtaposition I found so jarring. It is the 9th anniversary of John Paul II’s death and he will be canonized this April 27. John Paul was a leader who discerned possibilities when others saw only barriers:

“John Paul II embodied the human drama of the second half of the 20th century in a singular way, and whose witness to the truth of humanity’s noblest aspirations bent the curve of history toward freedom, can only be understood from inside out. Or, if you prefer, soul first. His was a many-textured soul. Some of its multiple facets help explain his extraordinary accomplishments in the Catholic Church and on the world stage.”
George Weigel

Contrast the familiar bio of the community organizer who seized the moment and 18 months from his time as an Illinois state senator was chosen to run for the Senate and then began his campaign for the presidency. Granted it’s an amazing story but the product that has emerged is a man totally unsuited for office if not overwhelmed by the office itself, something that never happened with John Paul II. Who was John Paul II? Why was he not overwhelmed by his office?

“He had a Polish soul, formed by a distinctive experience of history. Vivisected in the Third Polish Partition of 1795, his country was not restored to the map of Europe until 1918. But during those 123 years of political humiliation, the Polish nation survived the demise of the Polish state through its language, its literature and its faith, with the Catholic Church acting as the safe-deposit box of national identity.

Learning about that hard experience as a boy, Karol Wojtyla was permanently inoculated against the twin heresies that had beset the West for centuries: the Jacobin heresy that the political quest for power runs history, and the Marxist heresy that history is simply the exhaust fumes of economic processes.

Knowing in his Polish soul that culture, not politics or economics, drives history over the long haul, John Paul II could ignite a revolution of conscience during his first papal visit to Poland in 1979. He summoned his people to live the truth about themselves, to reject the communist culture of the lie, and to find in that restored national identity irresistible tools of resistance to oppression.

This son of Poland was, at the same time, a man of global vision with a deeply humanistic soul, forged by what he regarded as the crisis of modernity: a crisis in the very idea of the human person. That crisis, he believed, was not confined to communism’s materialist reduction of the human condition, which he tenaciously fought as a university chaplain, a professor of ethics, a charismatic priest and a dynamic bishop. The crisis could also be found in those Western systems that were tempted to measure men and women by their commercial utility rather than by the innate and inalienable dignity that was their birthright.”
George Weigel

And what of Barack’s philosophy of life that he brought with him to office? His foul acceptance of abortion at any cost? His progressive view of the world where we are all just folks: “Everyone is just like me,” he seems to say — what Charles Krauthammer called a “plural solecism.” How’s that working out for the “folks” in Eastern Ukraine or in Syria one wonders).

And how does that contrast with the recently canonized Saint of the son of Poland? What did he fight for? Why was his fight the fight for the human person above all others?

John Paul II’s conviction, biblically rooted and philosophically refined, was that every human life is of infinite value, at every stage and in every condition. This was the basis of his priestly ministry for almost six decades it was the conviction that forged his unique moral analysis of world politics; and it was the ground from which he could inspire men and women from a staggering variety of cultures.

He could also touch those lives because of his dramatic soul. As a young man, he confessed in a memoir later in life, he was “obsessed” with the theater. And while he took some useful skills from those experiences on stage — John Gielgud once commented on John Paul II’s “perfect” sense of timing, as Alec Guinness marveled at the resonance of his voice — he also developed a dramatic view of the human condition. We all live, he believed, in a quotidian, yet deeply consequential, moral drama. Every day of our lives is lived in the dramatic tension between who we are and who we should be.

John Paul II intuited this on stage; he refined that intuition as a philosopher. And it was deepened by his Christian conviction that the drama of every human life is playing within a cosmic drama in which the God of the Bible is producer, director, scriptwriter and protagonist. That Christian conviction, in turn, was what allowed him to say, a year after he was shot in St. Peter’s Square in 1981, “In the designs of Providence there are no mere coincidences.”

A man whose soul is formed by the conviction that “coincidence” is merely a facet of providence that he has not yet grasped is a man impervious to the tyranny of the possible. And here, too, the soul of John Paul II helps explain his accomplishment.

When he was elected pope in 1978, some observers, fixated on what they imagined to be possible, saw in the Catholic Church only contention and possible ruin. He saw seeds of reform and renewal, leading to what he would call a “New Evangelization,” a new missionary dynamic in Catholicism that would offer the divine mercy to a broken and wounded humanity. Others, fixated on what seemed settled in world affairs, believed that the Yalta division of Europe after World War II was permanent. But after June 1979 and the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland, he saw possibilities for dramatic cultural, social and eventually political change in Eastern Europe — and then helped effect them.

We may have failed in his new evangelization, we may not have followed through on his promises. But we sit on a cusp now, one that will lead us either to a fifty year trough of broken lives for a generation or a five year dip that will keep us primed for the next rise in our Catholic faithful’s march toward a new evangelization and fulfilling our promises to our Lord in another springtime of the human spirit; a refusal to fall to the tyranny of the secular state’s diminished expectations, both personal and political that embodies the leadership of a Barack Obama. May the Lord bless us and keep us.

Great leaders are clear, honest, suffer for their stands and are brave. They conduct a constant dialogue. At the end, when they are gone, the crowd declares what they heard. When John Paul died, they issued their judgment: He was a saint.

Popes aren’t presidents, and presidents aren’t saints. Both operate within wildly different realities and have wholly different obligations, so to compare the two isn’t quite just. And yet I couldn’t help think the past week of President Obama, whom I started to think of as poor Obama — whose failings as a leader are now so apparent, and seem so irremediable, partly because they spring from not only his nature and personality but his misunderstanding of what leaders do.

Does he stand for something? I suppose he stands for many things, but you can’t quite narrow it down and sum it up. A problem with his leadership is that there’s always the sense that he’s not quite telling you his core and motivating beliefs. There are a lot of rounded banalities. There are sentiments and impulses. But he isn’t stark, doesn’t vividly cut through. There’s a sense he’s telling people as much as he feels he can within the parameters of political safety, and no more.

As for speaking truthfully, well, he speaks, in many venues and sometimes at great length. But rather than persuade the other side, he knocks down a lot of straw men and deploys no affection or regard for those who disagree with him. He says the great signature program of his presidency will do one thing and it turns out to do another. He is evasive about Benghazi and the other scandals. He winds up with polls showing Americans do not see him as a truth teller. That’s treacherous for a leader. People give politicians a lot of leeway because they think so little of them. But they don’t like it when they’re being played.
Peggy Noonan, Apathy in the Executive

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Sir Ken Robinson

May 11, 2013

Sir Ken Robinson is a a writer, researcher, adviser, teacher and speaker. Here is one of his recent TED talks. We are all in some way connected to the schools in our community. We need to alert each other about the problems in schools that affect us all.

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Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia

August 4, 2012

Charles Joseph Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. (pronounced “sha-POO”) (born September 26, 1944) is an American prelate of the Catholic Church. He is the ninth and current Archbishop of Philadelphia, serving since his installation on September 8, 2011.He previously served as Archbishop of Denver (1997–2011) and Bishop of Rapid City (1988–1997). Chaput is a professed Capuchin and has a reputation as an outspoken conservative. A member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe, he is the second Native American to be ordained a bishop in the United States and the first Native American archbishop. His Potawatomi name is “the wind that rustles the leaves of the tree” while his Sioux name is “good eagle”.

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Sooner or later, a nation based on a degraded notion of liberty, on license rather than real freedom — in other words, a nation of abortion, disordered sexuality, consumer greed, and indifference to immigrants and the poor — will not be worthy of its founding ideals. And on that day, it will have no claim on virtuous hearts.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia

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London Burning By Derek Jeter

August 15, 2011

Feral Youth on the Underground

Like many others, I’ve been watching and thinking about London burning. There seems to be no shortage of commentary or explanation – my personal favorite is the “feral youths” comment promulgated by the Daily Telegraph that has become part of the current secular short hand to explain “how a generation of violent, illiterate young men are living outside the boundaries of civilized society.”

The cause was not injustice; this was not a revolt of the downtrodden masses, breaking into stores looking for food. The causes were greed, selfishness, a respect and even lust for violence, and a lack of moral grounding. Conscienceless predators preyed upon the weak. The weak were anyone who happened to be passing by, and those, many of them immigrants, who tried to defend their shops and neighborhoods. The iconic scene was the 20-year-old college student in East London who was beaten for his bicycle and fell bloody to the ground. His tormentors, with a sadistic imitation of gentleness, helped him up. Then they rifled through his backpack to get his phone and wallet. It was cruelty out of Dickens. It was Bill Sikes with a million YouTube hits.
Peggy Noonan, Après le Déluge, What?Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2011

Some American commentators are moved to say the same phenomena could easily happen here, although the practice of flash mobs who use Twitter to descend upon sports and mobile phone shops to make off with sneakers and iphones is virtually the same activity minus the burning of the shops when they leave, so the question seems fairly moot IMHO.

Here is Max Hastings, in the conservative-populist Daily Mail: “The depressing truth is that at the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations… Nobody has ever dared suggest to them that they need feel any allegiance to anything, least of all Britain or their community.. Not only do they know nothing of Britain’s past, they care nothing for its present.”

Part of the sheer intellectual joy of being Catholic in the midst of all this gnashing of teeth and wailing about is the way that our faith leads us to regard all of this. Seen through the eyes of faith, these events are no cause for despair or shocked amazement but simply a testament to the bankruptcy of secular culture and its atheist roots. In fact, Christopher Dawson, who has been featured repeatedly on this blog recently, objected to the bracketing of those two words. There is no “secular culture” he protested at one point:

“The society without culture is a formless society — a crowd or a collection of individuals brought together by the needs of the moment (good working definition for a “flash mob”) — while the, stronger a culture is, the more completely does it inform and transform the diverse human material of which it is composed,” Dawson wrote in Religion and Culture. A culture without a common faith may linger for a while, but eventually it must dissolve, for all other bonds between men, especially political bonds, are tenuous at best without a common faith. In other words, there is no such thing as a culture that is secular. A secular culture would, by definition, mean the absence of a culture.
Sanctifying The World, Bradley J Birzer

You can’t read Simone Weil’s declaration of our obligation toward human beings a few posts back to realize that secular culture has failed to provide many of the basics she lists. Here’s the list again:

  1.  The human body is above all in need of food, warmth, sleep, hygiene, rest, exercise, clean air.
  2. The human soul needs equality and hierarchy.
  3. The human soul has a need for consented obedience and for freedom.
  4. The human soul is in need of truth and of freedom of expression.
  5. The human soul needs, on the one hand, isolation and intimacy, on the other, social life.
  6. The human soul needs personal and collective property.
  7. The human soul needs punishment and honor.
  8. The human soul needs disciplined participation in a common task of public interest, and personal initiative in that participation.
  9. The human soul needs security and risk.
  10. The human soul needs above all to feel rooted in various natural milieus and to communicate with the universe through them. The homeland, milieus defined by language, by culture, by a common historical past, by the profession, the locality, are examples of natural environments. Everything that results in the uprooting of a human being or which has the effect of preventing him from growing roots is criminal.

Thinking about that list and our “feral youths:” Religion shapes almost all our norms and mores, language, and family structure. Even material things, such as food ways or courtship customs, ultimately have a religious root. Bradley Birzer notes that a culture that by and large rejected its religion or has secularized itself has merely substituted some form of false religion — most likely an ideology of some kind — for its lost faith.

Once this is understood, Dawson argued, the process of a man fulfilling his destiny is rather obvious: God calls each person; each person has the natural law written on his heart; and each human person best expresses his religiosity within the natural and inherited community. Real community is not based on some freely-entered social contract between equals, but instead is natural, organic, hierarchical, and driven and governed by proper authorities. The community in which a person’s religiosity is best expressed could be rooted in the here and now, or it could transcend the particular, partaking of the universal, much like the Burkean community of the dead, the living, and the yet unborn. Both forms of community are equally valid and necessary in God’s economy of grace. Each plays its own role, and each person is called to play a unique role within each. “The Catholic conception of society is not that of a machine for the production of wealth,” Dawson wrote in 1933, “but of a spiritual organism in which every class and every individual has its own function to fulfill and its own rights and duties in relation to the whole.”

At the root of every society lies the cultus, defined as the group of people, usually based on kinship, who band together to worship the same deity or deities. “Therefore from the beginning the social way of life which is culture has been deliberately ordered and directed in accordance with the higher laws of life which are religion,” Dawson explained. Culture “is essentially a viral phenomenon — a way or order or pattern of social living. It is a way of gaining preserving, and extending life.” Further, it is a “network of relations,” again, in the Burkean sense, connecting person to person, in and across time. Economics, politics, and law proceed from the culture. American cultural critic Russell Kirk, influenced by Dawson in a variety of ways, explained Dawson, views well:

A cult is a joining together for worship — that is, the attempt of people to commune with a transcendent power. It is from association in the cult, the body of worshippers, that community grows…. Once people are joined in a cult, cooperation in many other things becomes possible. Common defense, irrigation, systematic agriculture, architecture, the visual arts, music, the more intricate crafts, economic production and distribution, courts and government — all these aspects of a culture arise gradually from the cult, the religious tie.

Christopher Dawson's Understanding of Culture

Further, “religion is the key to history,” Dawson claimed. “We cannot understand the inner form of a society unless we understand its religion.” `A social culture is an organized way of life which is based on a common tradition and conditioned by a common environment,” Dawson wrote in 1949. “It is therefore not identical with the concept of civilizations, which involves a high degree of conscious rationalization nor with society itself, since a culture normally includes a number of independent units.”

Have we not simply observed in London (or in Philadelphia where the city is on curfew due to “flash mobs” and the inability of police to suppress these sudden attacks)  the rise of youthful secular cults who have banded together to worship deities of greed, selfishness, and a lust for violence? Next up a government program to move them all into careers in Wall Street Day Trading. I’ll keep you posted.

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