Wimps vs. barbarians
0 comment Wednesday, October 22, 2014 |
Over at Intergalactic Source of Truth, the Colonel linked to this piece from One Cosmos, entitled 'The Pathetic Last Children of Nietzsche's Pitiable Last Men.' Blogger Gagdad Bob writes a very cogent analysis tying together the present degenerated state of party politics in America and the breakdown of the family and male/female polarities. Some of you may have read this post when it first appeared way back in January 2006, but I missed it, and it's a great read, touching on some themes that I have dealt with here at times.
In this piece, Bob also mentions an article entitled Wimps and Barbarians, by Terrence O. Moore, which you may read in its entirety here. Moore's article discusses the lack in our modern society of manly virtues such as what the Greeks called Thumos, which is
...the part of the soul that contains the assertive passions: pugnacity, enterprise, ambition, anger. Thumos compels a man to defend proximate goods: himself, his honor, his lady, his country; as well as universal goods: truth, beauty, goodness, justice. Without thumotic men to combat the cruel, the malevolent, and the unjust, goodness and honor hardly have a chance in our precarious world. But two conditions must be present for thumos to fulfill its mission. First, the soul must be properly ordered. Besides thumos, symbolized by the chest, the soul is composed of reason and appetites, symbolized by the head on the one hand and the stomach and loins on the other. Reason has the capacity to discern right from wrong, but it lacks the strength to act. Appetites, while necessary to keep the body healthy, pull the individual toward pleasures of a lower order. In the well-ordered soul, as C.S. Lewis put it, "the head rules the belly through the chest." In the souls of today's barbarians, clearly thumos has allied itself with the unbridled appetites, and reason has been thrown out the window.
The second condition that must be present is a sufficient level of thumos to enable the man to rise to the defense of honor or goodness when required. Modern education and culture, however, have conspired to turn modern males into what C. S. Lewis called "men without chests," that is, wimps. The chest of the wimp has atrophied from want of early training. The wimp is therefore unable to live up to his duties as a man:
'We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.''
Please read the discussion thread following Bob's essay on One Cosmos. The discussion covers, among other things, the role of anger in our society, and the tendency of some religious traditions to censure anger, notably Christianity (or some interpretations of it) and Buddhism.
Bob says
To the extent that a tradition tries to eliminate anger, it is a false or partial teaching. Righteous anger is needed, but only in service of what is good or moral. Again, these traditions apparently noticed that anger was a problem in human affairs, and thought that they should just jettison the whole thing instead of doing the much harder work of diferentiating between healthy and pathological anger or moral and immoral violence.
[...]We know so much more today about psychology than they did then, about the roots of pathological anger in childhood trauma. The key is not to split off or repress anger, but to integrate it harmoniously within the psyche.
With regard to Christ's teaching, if in saying that we should always be passive in the face of violence, he wouldn't be a very wise man, would he? He certainly wouldn't be worthy of worship. After all, if I am more moral than the God I worship, what kind of God is that?''
Evidently Bob is not a Christian, although unfortunately there are many nominal Christians who interpret Jesus' words in the same negative way. I would judge the dominance of psychology and the therapeutic culture, which Bob seems to be very conversant with, to be a huge part of the breakdown of our society and to be a contributing factor to the number of 'men without chests.' All the navel-gazing that is at the heart of modern man's self-focus, all the hand-wringing and ambivalence, and all the psychobabble about not being 'negative' or not 'judging' others, contributes to the loss of the manly qualities. Think of neurotic urban postmodern culture, embodied in Woody Allen movies and Dr. Phil, and secular liberal culture in which the least manly 'men' reside, the men who think hunting is barbaric, firearms are for redneck crazies, and war and self-defense are regressive ideas.
These people do not get their lack of manliness from Christianity and traditional Western culture.
A commenter, Kelly, on the discussion thread, makes some insightful comments about women and the loss of the male virtues; she says that women, too, suffer from the lack of courage and commitment. This seems true; the attitudes of many of today's ultraliberal women would not have been of much use on the frontier or back in the early days of the colonies. Women, too, are affected by the breakdown of our culture's values.
Moore's article says, in describing our culture's emasculating effects:
A close look at the culture in which boys are raised reveals not only that they are no longer encouraged to become vigorous and responsible men, but also that practically every factor affecting their development is profoundly hostile to the ideals and practices of traditional manhood and the painstaking steps necessary to attain it. The demanding regime of physical and moral instruction that used to turn boys into men and the larger cultural forces that supported that instruction have been systematically dismantled by a culture that ostensibly enables all individuals but in reality disables men. "It's too easy!" complained John the Savage of the overly efficient, overly sexual, overly youthful, overly fun Brave New World. That dehumanizing tyranny of pleasure, described by Aldous Huxley, resembles the world of easy effort and easy virtue that entices adolescent males today to indulge in their appetites at the expense of their nobler longings and passions.''
Moore also describes the debilitating effects of fatherless families, deficient discipline in schools, and the lack of male rites of passage in guiding boys to healthy manhood.
The essay and the blog discussion are stimulating reading.
I think the discussion of the role of anger, specifically, is one of the more important ones for us today, given that our society is under threat by some formidable forces -- demographic assault, and an invasion marked by sporadic violence, to which we seem unable or unwilling to offer the necessary resistance. Are we ourselves lacking in the courage and conviction, or is it only our rulers? Or do we get the government we deserve, as Joseph de Maistre said, and as I have quoted him? Why do we seem to choose the 'wimps' as rulers? Is this all we have to work with these days? Are there no 'men with chests' to lead? This also ties in with our discussion of the lack of leaders in our time.
And what's the solution? In our political scene, we seem to be locked into this struggle between the 'mommy party' Democrats, and the 'daddy party' Republicans. Or are the Republicans becoming another mommy party, with their 'compassionate conservatism', their political correctness, and the 'welcoming nation' policies? Do we need a real 'daddy party' to represent the masculine virtues which are so essential? Maybe this is part of the reason why a new party, a real conservative party is needed; the male virtues are not really represented in the two-party system we now have.
Personally I think we desperately need the male virtues in this day and age; the female approach, accommodation and peacemaking, are useless against merciless and aggressive enemies and rivals.

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