The Coming Cultural Crisis
We are actually already there. It saddens me, frightens me, makes me want to lock my doors and bar my windows. As someone with four children, it is the cause of more than a few restless nights.
Of course, the idea that our culture is on a collision course for disaster is not a new one. Since time immemorial, the prophet has been in the street hollering “repent”, covered in ashes, and we have been in the bar drinking ourselves under it. The unsolvable problem we all have is that we are all alive. That sounds strange, but the problem with living is you do not have the vantage of the dead, and for every generation that makes it, there is the next one that does not. The generation that lives through another prophet passes on a moral paralysis that eventually leads another generation to its abysmal end. That generation makes its exoduses into either historical oblivion or outright slavery. That is the history of man. Today, we find ourselves amidst three streams teleologically ordered for the end of western civilization. Keep in mind the motif of generation and progeny.
The first stream is a stream of life. It’s water is not perfectly clear, and I will explain why, but at its aquifer is something profoundly good. It breaks cultural ground in the meme that “every child is precious”. In fact, I just read the phrase here in a sports column by John Taylor about the sexual abuse scandal rocking Penn State University (all right CC bashers, I’m waiting for your moral outrage). I can basically sum up the message’s context by saying that we all desire the moral high ground no matter how low in altitude we find ourselves. Unfortunately, to assert it when one finds oneself drowning at the bottom of the Mariana Trench is pure lunacy. It’s like opening up google maps in a submarine to prove you are at the top of Mt. Everest.
“Look, we are here!”
This first cultural current is laudable, but as I implied, it is inherently schizophrenic. It is schizophrenic because it is grossly undermined by two other currents, the second of which is the current of laissez-faire sexuality. The history of laissez-faire economics is that there is a tendency in the market for all things to become an object of purchase. In other words, everything is reduced to currency or rather how a thing can get me more money. Laissez-faire sexuality, having persons and pleasure as its subjects, reduces every person to an object of pleasure. In other words, everyone is reduced to pleasure or rather how a person can get me more pleasure.
It does not take a moral genius to figure out how this stream pollutes the first current, but I want to explain the third so as to strengthen the force of the effect. The third current is the current of the culture of death. Whether it is plan “A” or plan “C” (I chose those letters to make it easier for you to infer their meaning), the culture of death ultimately makes every person a commodity. It leads to awkward questions like, “Are all those children yours?” OR “Is this your last?” While seemingly benign, both questions and others are motivated by a utilitarian concept of person that situates their place squarely within the context of use. The logic is simple: you have “x” number of kids why would you need more? While the commoditization of the human person seems to comport well with laissez-faire sexuality, it adds to it a qualitative difference that is important to note. It expands the definition of value beyond mere pleasure to the domain of utility. It is actually more dangerous, because utility is the place where we let down our passions and can cooly rationalize anything. Our passions, many times, will prevent us from doing all kinds of awful things unlike our steely ability to rationalize the bizar.
“Isn’t that so cute, don’t hurt it.” (Passions)
“While that is cute, it serves me no purpose, kill it.” (Utility)
See. Utility is a dangerous place. So what happens when laissez-faire sexuality and the utilitarian culture of death are literally in bed together?
The answer is the complete and total erosion of the value of the human person. A person that is reduced to terms of utility and pleasure cannot have worth most of their life. Heck, we sleep and defecate more than we do almost anything else (I guess it is a sunk cost). On the grounds of pleasure and utility, we are like a bad yard gnome. Yet we want to fit, and we know that somehow we are more than just mere pleasure-outcome objects. We want to assert that “every child is precious because its true, dang it, I know it is”. We are conflicted at the very level of being. The problem in our culture is that the phrase “every chid is precious” rolls off the tongue eerily similar to the emperor Commodus doing an open poetry reading in a third grade classroom only days after reading Jeremy Bentham.
There is no way we can take the moral high ground in the catacombs of Moria. The goblins are on foot, and this is the lare of the Balrog. We keep trying to escape, only to find that when we emerge from our subterranean domain the Uraki are everywhere. Even more, upon looking at a mirror we are shocked to find that we have in fact made our own pact with the devil. Blood is on our hands and face.
What can we do about this cultural crisis? I will honestly admit at times I feel helpless. The two streams that pollute our notion of human value are at their core the cause of all evil in the world. The first, our tendency to put our pleasure first, thereby subjugating the intellect to our passions. It was the problem with Rome. The second, our tendency to put our reason above God’s law, thereby subjugating the good, true and beautiful to our (ir)rational designs. That was the problem with the Reich. Thus, I am left to join the prophet and foresee an awful, inevitable and unprecedented end. I think we can only pray and hope with the words our Lord taught us:
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Let us pray.
“Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.”
That was the prayer that echoed in the catacombs in the first century. It will become a prayer of invaluable consolation as we find ourselves again plunged into the subterranean holding pen of this society, and as we grow in our solidarity with that generation, long ago, whose blood was the seed of the Church.
Maybe there is a silver lining…
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(feature image credit: Paris catacombs, Photographer: Vincent de Groot)