Man as Man

Theodor Haecker, 1879-1945.

Theodor Haecker, 1879-1945.

The “first law is that no man, and therefore no human type, is outside the universally human. There is no human note or sound or merest whisper or simple cry but may be brought within the unity of a single primordial symphony. Man when solitary is not man, nor can he by himself make unity out of his diversity. The gulfs which separate man from man are innumerable, and even within that first and ultimate natural unity, the family, they may be desperately deep. But however mysterious the grounds for them may be, it is nevertheless within his power to bridge them superficially by a hundred technical means and inwardly to overcome them through heroic love and self-denying sacrifice, through a voluntarily casting of himself into the abyss, and through a grace-given rediscovery there of some yet profounder common ground.”

This quote comes from German philosopher and humanist, Theodor Haecker, a strident opponent of National Socialism.

The quote comes from page 7 of Virgil: Father of the West (1934).

Fair Well Old West: C.S. Lewis, 1955

C.S. "Jack" Lewis, 1898-1963.

C.S. “Jack” Lewis, 1898-1963.

From C.S. Lewis’s obituary of Western Civilization.  An address to Cambridge, 1955.

“Lastly, I play my trump card.  Between Jane Austen and us, but not between her and Shakespeare, Chaucer, Alfred, Virgil, Homer, or the Pharaohs, comes the birth of the machines.  This lifts us at once into a region of change far above all that we have hitherto considered.  For this is parallel to the great changes by which we divide epochs of pre-history.  This is on a level with the change from stone to bronze, or from a pastoral to an agricultural economy.  It alters Man’s place in nature.”

“But I submit that what has imposed this climate of opinion so firmly on the human mind is a new archetypal image.  It is the image of old machines being superseded by new and better ones.  For in the world of machines the new most often really is better and the primitive really is the clumsy.  And this image, potent in all our minds, reigns almost without rival in the minds of the uneducated.  For to them, after their marriage and the births of their children, the very milestones of life are technical advances.  From the old push-bike to the motor-bike and thence to the little car; from the gramophone to radio and from radio to television; from the range to the stove; these are the very stages of their pilgrimage.”

“And now for the claim: which sounds arrogant but, I hope, is not really so.  I have said that the vast change which separates you from Old Western has been gradual and is not even now complete.  Wide as the chasm is, those who are native to different sides of it can still meet; are meeting in this room.”

“It is my settled conviction that in order to read Old Western literature aright you must suspend most of the responses and unlearn most of the habits you have acquired in reading modern literature.  And because this is the judgement of a native, I claim that, even defence of my conviction is weak, the fact of my conviction is a historical datum to which you should give full weight.  That way, where I fail as a critic, I may yet be useful as a specimen.  I would even dare to go further.  Speaking not only for myself but for all other Old Western men whom you may meet, I would say, use your specimens while you can.  There are not going to be many more dinosaurs.”

Fair well, Old West.  Fare ye well.

The United Kingdom Remains!

Image borrowed from the BBC.

Image borrowed from the BBC.

I woke up this morning to the news that Scotland had indeed voted to remain united to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  The press reported the vote as “decisive” though it seems closer than “decisive” given the relatively small numbers involved.

Regardless, this should be a moment of intense pride for every member of the human community.

Scotland and England just revealed how true civilization solves its differences: by discussion and votes, not by guns and violence.

Whatever feelings each one of us might have regarding the outcome of the election, we should each rejoice in the very process itself.  An amazing achievement.  Thank you, Scotland and thank you, UK.  May we all learn from your example.

Independence in Scotland: Yes or No


In the annals of western civilization, today might very well prove to be a vital one in some future history written of our era.  With the Scottish vote on independence divided 50/50, who knows exactly what will happen.  If drive toward independence fizzles, such as happened with Quebec some time ago, it might not be remembered.  A “no” vote might spawn anger and bitterness on the parts of all involved, and it also might birth a kind of embarrassed acquiescence.

But, a “yes” vote will really mean something in history.

In principle, I’m all in favor of smaller political units, but reality, of course, is a very different thing from principle, and I simply don’t know enough about the circumstances of current Scottish dissatisfaction with the U.K.  In this instance, from what little I do know, I’m really not sure Scotland would be benefitted from independence.  The movement for independence there seems to be driven by “nationalism” and pride rather than a desire for increased freedom and autonomy.  Though, it’s hard to separate any one of these factors from another.

Why would a “yes” vote be a huge moment for western civilization if not necessarily (again, though, I really don’t know) a good one for Scotland?  Most importantly because it would give a strong example of a peaceful disunion.  No one expects the Cameron coalition to send in tanks and soldiers to reclaim Scotland.  Whatever property needs to transfer hands, will probably be worked out amicably if not necessarily problem free.  The same was true for Quebec many years ago, and the same was true (in theory and reality) when Slovakia departed its strange relationship with the Czechs.

It’s extremely difficult to imagine a similar kind of independence movement in the United States. Should Texas or Montana become really adamant about independence, the likelihood of every agency of the executive out of Washington and every branch of the military descending upon that movement is around 100%.

What does this state about the current understanding of constitutionalism, order, and liberty?

Food for thought, to be sure.

Current movements for independence in Europe according to One Europe.

Current movements for independence in Europe according to One Europe.