Reaching the Turning Point

I’ve done many posts on this site over the years. If I look back, say ten years ago, many of those deal with the same issues that we fight over today. Our media on both sides of the political divide are, as my mother used to say, like geese: they get up in a new world every morning. Whether geese actually do this is hard to say. The geese, obviously tired of being trashed by my mother, invaded her yard when she moved to Chattanooga from South Florida for good in the late 1980’s, but their guilt was unestablished.

I’ve always felt that, given the incompetent way this country has been run, sooner or later something would give and things would start to go downhill in a recognisable way. I’ve been criticised for the low opinion I have for the people that own and operate this place. Aren’t they successful, say my critics. Shouldn’t you emulate them, they say. My retort is that my critics are sycophants, which only makes them angrier.

It seems to me that the United States has been successful in spite of the people at the top, not because of them. The main goal of those at the top is to stay there, and the easiest way to do that is to run a class-stratified society where people “know their place,” those who don’t control the vast majority of the wealth, and dissent be stifled so that those who do the work keep doing it in the same energetic, American way they’ve always done it (well, most of them) oblivious to their own exploitation.

Those of us who have some Scots-Irish in them know that there’s a way out of this treadmill. It’s called “laying out,” that time-honoured practice of reverting to our instinctive laziness when there’s work to be done. Avoiding this moment has been our elites’ juggling act for the last thirty years. One the one hand they hate that Americans are aspirational and that they think they can move up: if they succeed, they could possibly displace the current elite, which the latter finds very distasteful. On the other hand they need Americans to go on working as they have in an open-shop environment where their constraints on what they can do with the labour are minimal. They need the latter in order to float the enormous debt incurred by our government and to purchase the goods and services they would like to sell us.

I think we have reached the critical moment where the juggling act has come to a halt.

It’s called the “Great Resignation,” and it’s partly due to COVID, but also partly due to the fact that Americans find their bosses to be things described by words that don’t appear on this blog. People are finding out that they can do without the income their multiple jobs paid to them, that they were underpaid for many of them, and that the family work was really as valuable as the “right-wing nutjobs” told them. The exodus from explicitly paid work is accelerated by the government forcing people out of their jobs by vaccine mandates. To do this in the middle of a general labour shortage might seem to be good public health policy but the effect on the economy and the performance of the system is still adverse.

When we compound all of this by the woes small businesses are experiencing and the loss of business formation and economic growth spurred by that formation, we have an economy that can neither generate the tax revenues nor finance the inevitable growth in the dole (in all of its forms) that will result from the decrease in work. We also have an economy that doesn’t quite work the way it used to, with the supply chain shortages that we are experiencing these days. That’s been an advantage up to now of these United States; losing that even partially is a major setback.

These reasons are why I think we have reached the turning point downward in the trajectory of our nation. Some seek moral reasons but a country which is in reality an economic arrangement will turn down for economic reasons. The downturn has moral reasons behind it but it will manifest itself in economic distress. We are in for a rough ride; fasten your seat belts.

Further Thoughts on the Elizabethan Settlement

Being a bishop and a parish clergyman, I basically do not have that much time for systematic research, so many of the things that I find out come to me accidentally. For example, earlier this week I was looking for something on the Württemberg Confession and Google produced an article entitled “Lutheran Influences on the…

Further Thoughts on the Elizabethan Settlement

It’s worth noting that one Catholic who have the settlement a reserved “thumbs up” was Bossuet, which he expressed in Variations of the Protestant Churches.

Denmark Embraces Secular Blasphemy

That’s what it looks like:

‘I think we will have that in the next two months, and then I hope the infection will start to subside and we get our normal lives back,’ she said on Monday.

Before the start of the last semester I wrote a piece entitled  Teaching Secular Blasphemy, where I pointed out that no process in this material world was without risk.  That assumption is implicit in this Dane’s view of the situation.  The Omicron virus is milder but more transmissible than its predecessors and her idea is that its spread will increase the herd immunity of the population, thus changing pandemic to endemic.  It’s a strategy not without risk but IMHO it’s a risk worth taking.

That’s completely opposite of what our secular elites are telling us here.  Based on the American “perfect life” concept, they are telling us that it will never end until everyone is both multiply vaccinated and does all of the rules (acquired immunity having little meaning,) but that it can be completely conquered.  Neither of these is true because our provisions are not perfect, thus the complete eradication is a mirage.

The impossiblity of complete eradication is beginning to percolate in our discourse, but that doesn’t stop people and institutions from imposing draconian measures in the hope that it is true.  It’s reminiscent in a way of the Soviet concept that they had conquered nature and thus could do what they wanted to do, which resulted in many environmental disasters (the Aral Sea is the most spectacular of these.)  And the Soviets were better focused on society being productive than many in places of power here.

I’m not optimistic that reality will become the norm again in our policy, but we can always hope…

Leonidas Polk Memorial Carillon, and Some Thoughts on the Confederacy

RPC JZ-88441 (1967)

Few people think of a carillon as a music instrument, but it really is one. As the back cover attests, it’s played with a keyboard, in this case by William Lyon-Vaiden. Many of the details about the carillon can be found in the back cover, which you can see while playing Side Two of the album (the latter part of the video.)

A carillon can be used in a number of ways: as a prelude, as a postlude, or sometimes in the liturgy itself. It’s especially effective in a campus setting, in this case the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, where people are more or less a “captive audience.”

The selections are a mixture of hymns from the 1940 Hymnal, classical pieces and some folk pieces as well. An album made up of only carillon music can get tiring to hear; however, broken up the listening experience is quite pleasant, and one of the nicer parts of the Anglican/Episcopal heritage.

The songs:

SIDE ONE

  1. SEWANEE HYMN…Traditional
  2. ALMA MATER (Sewanee)… Newton Middleton ‘09
  3. CAMPANELLA (For Carillon)… Georges Clement
  4. FOUR SONGS FROM THE BRITISH ISLES: All Through The Night… Welsh, Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes… English, Loch Lomond… Scottish, Londonderry Air… Irish
  5. FISHER’S HORNPIPE (Irish Melody)… arr. Percival Price
  6. MUSS I DENN (Swabian Folksong)… arr. Milford Myhre
  7. PRELUDIUM IN G MINOR… Jef Denyn

SIDE TWO

  1. PRELUDIO #7… Matthias van den Gheyn (1721-1785)
  2. BELLSONG (Theme by Sibelius)… Edwin Nielsen
  3. JESU, JOY OF MAN’S DESIRING… Johann Sebastian Bach
  4. EIN’ FESTE BURG (Paraphrase)… Leen ‘t Hart
  5. YE HOLY ANGELS BRIGHT (Darwell, Hymn Tune)… arr. Marian Craighead
  6. SOFTLY NOW THE LIGHT OF DAY (Seymour, Hymn Tune)… arr. William Lyon-Vaiden

Some Thoughts on Leonidas Polk and the Confederacy

In recent times the University of the South has removed the designation of “Leonidas Polk” from the carillon, that in spite of the fact that his great-grandson William Dudley Gale financed its construction; it was dedicated in 1959. The reason for the removal was that Polk was not only an Episcopal bishop but a Confederate general. He was instrumental in starting the University, as noted on the album cover:

For an evaluation of his role in the founding of the University, his contemporaries on the Board of Trustees spoke in this manner in 1867: “If the great beneficial results which our University was founded to secure shall ever be accomplished, the praise, under God, will be mainly due to the wisdom and forethought, the hopeful confidence and indefatigable labors of its founder, the magnanimous, self-sacrificing Bishop Polk.”

Likewise noted on the album cover was an ebullient overview of his varied life:

The man destined to hold Episcopal jurisdiction over Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, the Indian Territory and Alabama was born April 10, 1806. He died, pierced by an artillery ball, on June 14, 1864. In those intervening 58 years there developed a career described as follows by Dr. A. Cabell Greet, who was orator at Sewanee’s 1959 Commencement: “After Alfred the Great, there has lived no one man who achieved such stature in the fields of religion, of the military, and of education as Leonidas Polk.” He was a bishop of the Episcopal Church, a lieutenant-general of the Confederacy, and the projector of the idea for a university of a comprehensiveness still unrealized anywhere in the world a hundred years after his death.

The subject of Leonidas Polk is a personal one: my great-great-grandfather Henry Winslow was his aide-de-camp, right up until the general was killed (his letters around that time are here.) A second cousin was a member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, doing Civil War re-enactments in New Jersey, no less. Living in Southeast Tennessee and travelling in North Georgia frequently, I retrace Winslow’s and Polk’s steps on a daily basis. That all said, I think it’s time for a reality check, not only for those who are defending this heritage but for those who are trying to destroy it.

To start with, in spite of the glowing tribute to his prowess, Polk wasn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer when it came to leading a military force in the field. Bragg, his superior at Chattanooga, was even worse. Sometimes I think that the U.S. Army named its installations Fort Polk and Fort Bragg as an acknowledgement that, at the level they were operating, they had as much to do with the Union victory as Grant and Sherman. One myth I heard growing up was that the Confederacy had a better military and military leadership. That was certainly true in the early part of the war when the Union struggled with a deeply politicised process of promotion. As was the case with so many things, the Union learned from its mistakes; the Confederacy did not.

Today, of course, we have the Critical Race Theory types who are trying to erase this legacy. Or are they? Reading all of the complaints they have about “whiteness”–punctuality, industry, organisation, etc.–some of us come to realise that the very white society that produced the likes of Polk was lacking in all of these things. That’s why they were forced to import slaves to do the work; their idea of life was too genteel to do otherwise. It also means that a region which, with no interference from others, never built an industrial base suitable to fight a modern war was and is a testament to two facts: a) “white” is not a univocal term, and b) there is no such thing as “white supremacy” for a culture which not only did not build this industrial base (and the educational system to support it) when they badly needed it, but after the disaster the region slept in poverty for a century before the tax-hungry Northern states forced the first mass American industrial relocation. The South was the U.S.’s first “third world country” to relocate to.

But CRT types, in typically American style, don’t degrade their vision of “whiteness” because it produces an unproductive society, but an immoral one. They’d rather have their moral superiority (virtual signalling) than real superiority and prosperity. That’s a classically Southern way of doing it. CRT types decry the appeal of the “Lost Cause” without stopping to think why it was lost, the mirror image of their pro-Confederate opponents. After the ruin of the Civil War the South has risen again twice, first in the “Lost Cause” and second in those who want to drive it out of consciousness and create a nation where things are not said in fear of offending someone and everyone “goes along to get along” independent of merit, a Southern MO. The only difference is not the concept but the methodology and the beneficiaries. (A good example of this is Loudoun County’s proposal to eliminate advanced math, another Southern public school manoevre if there ever was one.)

But, like the Confederacy, we live in a world where those who oppose us have a higher view of productive work and the benefits that come from that work. If we persist in creating our moralistic bubble without doing that work, we will end up like the Confederacy, in ruins and broken.

A Thirteen Year-Old Opines on Christmas

The thirteen year-old was me, and I wrote this for the Palm Beach Day School’s student newspaper the Portfolio Flyer, Volume II Issue X dated 18 December 1968:

1,972 years in the past, in a little Israeli town called Bethlehem, probably one of the most important events in the history of the world occurred.  Mary and Joseph had inquired of the local innkeeper as to the number of rooms for rent.  Unfortunately, there were no rooms.  They went to the outskirts of the town and found a manger.  There, Mary had a baby whom she named Jesus.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth.  He preached his message of love and compassion to all his fellow men.  But the existing status quo disliked his preaching so they nailed him to the cross.

Today, many people disregard his teachings as obsolete and out of date.  This thesis is incorrect.  For the teachings of the Lord were not meant for about 1500 years, but for all eternity.

There’s a lot to unpack with this, but probably the biggest lacuna is the lack of any reference to the resurrection.  Some of that is due to space limitations: the Flyer was packed, that’s all the space I got, probably had to cut it down considerably.  But another reason was that, either in spite of the fact that I was raised at Bethesda or because of it, I was unclear as to the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  That would have to wait 3 1/2 years until I read Augustine’s City of God, and by then I was on my way to a Tiber swim.

Really, though, the fact that Our Lord bucked the “existing status quo” was a strong reason for me to follow him, and that’s something that hasn’t changed.