A recent Op-Ed appearing in today’s issue of The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/opinion/sunday/malik-britains-welfare-queen.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=0) seeks to analyze the Royal household’s burden upon British taxpayers. My response runs thus:
Right. I forgot we live in the 21st century, wherein chivalry, tradition, and deference to authority (in short, all the things that reaffirm life and distinguish us from a cackling pack of hyenas) must concede to the unbridled egotism of a few caviling individualists and their half-baked schemes of social rationalization. I really have no tolerance for these people. N.B. that ‘these people’ connotes anyone who would in their enthusiasm for ‘progress’ sacrifice two millennia of human achievement to an absolutizing disregard for the past. Never mind that the Queen’s family refused to withdraw from London at the height of the Blitz. Never mind that Her Majesty has served the British people nobly for the better part of a century. Let us instead sever forever the sacred ties of duty because they demand the measly contribution of 4 quid a year.
Bernini’s homage to Augustan pietas? Cast it aside. We know from our ten-minute consultation of Wikipedia that Vergil was a propagandist. It is inconceivable that any human has the fortitude to practice chastity and self-restraint outside the breach. Robert E. Lee’s nobility in defending with his life the Commonwealth of Virginia, in spite of his qualms over the institution of slavery? Good for nothing. We know from a revisionist’s 45-minute lecture that all canonical figures from American History are so many mythological canards, airbrushed so as to reassert the racial superiority of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Washington at Morristown? I fear not. Every historical event is the culmination of a complex interplay of social forces; individuals are little more than pawns on a chessboard, governed in their movements more by chance than volition. That any one individual, through the commanding influence of his character, might prove essential to the triumph of a noble cause is a null proposition.
We- those who inhabit the Western world-have become a society of pettifogging defeatists. In fleeing from the specter of Verdun three generations of intellectuals have surgically removed the beating heart of civilization. The problem is not that we have degenerated from a society of doers to a society of thinkers. The problem is that the basest impulses of human nature have gained enough cultural currency to masquerade as free thought. We misinterpret an inability to cope with some little hardship for the uncompromising austerity and determination that compelled the Freedom Riders to risk life and limb in a cause that transcended their own ephemeral lifetimes. Those men and women did not care for themselves. They cared for the dissonance between the mores of their society and the eternal form of Justice. Through great temperance and forbearance, they brought the two somewhat closer into line. How dare some ill-tutored teen dredge up their memory to call attention to himself and to condemn institutions for problems that derive from his own shortcomings? He dares because the humility and prudence that once governed public discourse has been bastardized by the advent of social media.
Fine. Let all that be as it may. I stand with Sullivan Ballou at Manassas. I stand with Charles I at the block. I stand with the history and the traditions of the Anglican Church, the majesty of British imperial power, and the Light Brigade at Balaclava. If this is an illusion, it is a wholesome illusion. I know this much: I would much prefer to live beside men and women so animated than those who smugly lay claim to being sophisticated because they’ve read in their Philosophy textbook that Descartes’ proof for the existence of God is circular. Stop assaulting laudable achievements. Draw strength from them and achieve something of your own.