• Saurabh Sharma spoke earlier this month in Miami at the National Conservatism Conference on how those of the new right can think about culture, capital, and government:

    We need to implement what is said here. And that’s what I’d like to talk to you about today.

    Let’s take a step back and assess where the right stands in the three core centers of power in contemporary society.

    In culture, the situation has been so dire for so long that it’s almost passe. Once, ordinary Christian families could make Hollywood submit to their censure when it tried to propagate some novel form of degeneracy. …

    In capital, we see the biggest own-goal of any political movement in recent world history. The Republican Party became the willing and eager handmaiden of corporate power over the last 30 years and barely got paid minimum wage for it. …

    And finally, in government, the right faces its final test if it wants to avoid oblivion. We can win elections—especially if we actually run on something other than slashing Social Security and sending our base to die in foreign wars. But we don’t have a particularly good track record of doing much with power even if we get it. …

    First, I have no interest in conserving this status quo and neither should you. There is no place in this American moment for polite and orderly caretakers of American decline. I treasure the great tradition of the ancients as much as any of you, but there is little that a temperamental comfort with the status quo has to offer a movement fit to the task ahead.

    Second, there is no unwinding this state of affairs cleanly to the status quo ante. Restorationist politics is essentially live-action role play. Personally, there is little that will change in the world around us by mustering the superhuman will to pantomime the lifestyle of an early 1900s sweet-potato farm. Politically, the consensus of generations past—which was often healthier than what we have today—relied on core assets we no longer have: broad religiosity, a smaller state, a less developed corporate superstructure, and most importantly a level of technological development that is more determinative of the course of human events than any idea cooked up in grad-school seminars. There is no going back, there is no returning, with a v or otherwise.

    There is only what we can create. With the few tools, many people, and political vision we have, we need a posture of American creation implemented as quickly as possible or risk losing a truly great country and consigning millions of decent people to illegitimate rule.

    Creating new vectors of power that can actually implement change is messy. It requires a kind of realism about how politics and power work—a realism that many in right-leaning intellectual circles simply do not have. Part of the reason for this is simple—many of the leading lights on the right of center are people who either are academics or would be if the academy wasn’t so closed off to talented conservative thinkers. The academic temperament prioritizes constant argumentation about dogma, an obsession with theory, and above all a consistency that is alien to real politics. Even the disciplines we pull these academics from skew us toward error. We have many political theorists and philosophers where sociologists and historians—people who study the practical realities of regimes and what they do to polities—would serve us better. 

    Saurabh is president of American Moment, which exists to “identify, educate, and credential young Americans who will implement public policy that supports strong families, a sovereign nation, and prosperity for all.”

  • Philip Kosloski writes on Saint Charbel:

    St. Charbel was a humble Maronite hermit who died in 1898 and has since become well known for countless miracles attributed to his intercession. He was a holy priest who was closely united to Jesus on earth and possessed a rich wisdom that was the fruit of deep prayer.

    In his writings, some of which can be found in the book Love is a Radiant Light: The Life & Words of Saint Charbel, he writes about the family and its greatest enemy, the devil. … He explains that the devil has always focused his energy on the destruction of the family, as it so closely reflects an image of God. …

    St. Charbel highlights the need to “keep the roaring of the noise of the world away from your homes.” Living in the later part of the 19th century, St. Charbel would have never imagined how much noise has invaded homes during the past 50 or 60 years, and how difficult silence is to achieve. Yet, true to his word, the family appears to be deeply wounded from this invasion of noise.

    Saint Charbel writes about “the roaring of the noise of the world” in this passage:

    “Guard your families and keep them from the schemes of the evil one through the presence of God in them. Protect and keep them through prayer and dialog, through mutual understanding and forgiveness, through honesty and faithfulness, and most importantly, through listening. Listen to one another with your ears, eyes, hearts, mouths and the palms of your hands, and keep the roaring of the noise of the world away from your homes because it is like raging storms and violent waves; once it enters the home, it will sweep away everything and disperse everyone. Preserve the warmth of the family, because the warmth of the whole world cannot make up for it.”

    James Stenson, either in his book Father, The Family Protector or Successful Fathers, gives the example of electronic media (especially TV in practically any form) as a “rival” to the authority and role of parents and especially of the father. The idea is that children will either learn from their parents about truth and falsehood, time well spent versus poorly spent, the growth or absence of character, etc., or they will learn from rivals in any/all forms of media that the parents welcome into the home.

  • Rafael de Arízaga wrote the following after John Roberts handed the pro-life movement a tactical defeat in June Medical Services v. Russo:

    “Conservatism has two modes in its inevitably futile opposition to revolutionary politics. The first is to moderate it, declare opposition to it, but to do so chiefly in the interest of restraining its most offensive excesses. By focusing on what he considers to be those excesses rather than on the principle that explains them, the moderate ends up being pulled to a position somewhere midway between his own and the revolutionary’s. But because there can be no real reconciling between the first principles of the true (Catholic) conservative and those of the true (liberal) revolutionary, this partial capitulation always results in a victory for the revolutionary. The stretch of political road, as it were, that the liberal revolutionary has forced the moderate to traverse in the argument is now legitimized by the fact of him traversing it.

    “The second mode is to conserve the achievements of the revolution once they are attained. Because he does not wish to be seen as supplying principles or arguments that may rock the foundations of social order, whatever they may be, the conservative cannot but assent to the new arrangements that the revolutionary has created at his expense. The revolution’s new order is the law now, and the law must be obeyed, says the conservative, for if we try to uproot it, will we not be supplying the revolutionary a further pretext to uproot other good institutions?”

    Yet more evidence that the binary between “progressive/liberal” and “conservative” is unhelpful. When even conservatives, at their best, produce “partial capitulations” resulting in “a[n incremental] victory for the revolutionary,” the game is over.

    I think this partly explains the interest one the last few years in the classical legal tradition, for which Hadley Arkes and more recently Adrian Vermeule have been advocates.

    I think it also explains why Alasdair MacIntyre’s plenary session talk last fall at Notre Dame was so explosive. We’ve spent decades talking, more or less constantly since the end of World War II, of human dignity. MacIntyre asks us to go deeper, to think instead about the characteristics of the good regime, one oriented to justice:

    MacIntyre escapes the binary and shows us how we might, too.

  • Peter J. Leithart writes on the importance of radical hope in the face of the end of the world as we’ve known it:

    Suppose we’re in a transitional age. Suppose a world is ending. We still need to ask, What world is ending?

    First answer: A world controlled by the power and values of Western Europe and North America. …

    The global economy provides a good measure of the change. Western production, trade, and finance still dominate the globe, but three of the top five economies are Asian. The United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada are still in the top ten, but have been joined by Brazil.

    In particular, China is leveraging its Western-aided prosperity to carve out its own zone of economic power. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Chinese government had planned to invest 1.4 trillion dollars to create a twenty-first-century “Silk Road,” the “Belt and Road” transportation web that will link Asia to North Africa and the eastern edge of Europe – sixty-five countries and over four billion people. China hopes Western Europe will be lured east. Plus, China produces most of the world’s antibiotics and pharmaceutical components, and Chinese nationals own leading American entertainment companies, as well as real estate and many American businesses. In 2019, Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, tweeted his support for dissenters in Hong Kong. It became an international incident and cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars. A year later, Morey quit. Even in basketball, the unipolar world is no more.

    The evolution of the church is a further measure of Western contraction. There are still state establishments (in England, for instance), but Western politics and culture haven’t operated by Christian norms for a long time. Christian symbols and beliefs no longer provide the fundamental framework for public life, nor for many individuals.

    At the same time, a “new Christendom” is taking shape in the Global South. At the time of the Reformation, Christianity was largely confined to a shrinking Europe. Since then, it has expanded to every corner of the globe, becoming the main religion in the Americas, Australia, southern Africa, and Pacific islands.Today, the majority of Christians reside in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

    North American and European Christianity still leads in many ways. Western churches are wealthier, and their influence is buttressed by the considerable geopolitical power of Europe and North America. Western schools educate theologians and leaders from the Global South. Yet, on all these fronts, the tide is turning. Africans have gained considerable clout in the Anglican Communion, often strengthening the position of beleaguered traditionalists in England and North America. Pope Francis is Argentinian, and he’s likely the first of many non-European popes. Christianity has ended its sojourn as a “Western” religion, as the world is no longer a Western playground.

    Building a home library and filling it with more books than you can reasonably hope to read within the foreseeable future is one of the best ways to habituate yourself to reading, studying, and knowing the past. And knowing the past can provide crucial knowledge, a sort of situational awareness, for navigating the rest of your life in a world that is always dying and being born again. Leithart continues:

    Second answer: This geopolitical shift has been accompanied by an epochal ideological shift. Many among the Western intellectual elites have adopted a post-colonial outlook, which views the West as the main source of evil in the world. No reasonable person believes Western civilization is innocent – what civilization is? Perhaps more importantly, few believe that it is admirable. …

    As the modern West’s influence contracts, its post-Enlightenment values also go into retreat. Old-fashioned liberalism of the “I abhor what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it” variety has died. Progressivism has become the de facto established religion of swaths of the United States and other countries, and it is a jealous religion. To evade social and professional repercussions, one quietly censors oneself. It’s fruitless to protect Western liberalism, since there is no longer a liberal West to protect.

    Western ideals are losing their power to energize non-Westerners too. Beginning in the Enlightenment, Western thinkers promised to liberate the human race from the “irrationality” of superstition and religion. If we can’t eliminate irrationality entirely, at least we can keep it out of public life, so it doesn’t do so much damage. Religion arouses irrational passions; politics should be conducted by reasoned deliberation. Religion is violent; purging it from politics will yield a utopia of nonviolence. Advanced, “Westernized,” nations do the right thing and privatize religion.

    It was always a ruse. That Empire of Reason is, of all empires, the most thoroughly dust-binned. Religion has never been, can never be, eliminated from public life. Western regimes, like all other regimes, have always been intertwined with religion: regulating it, supporting it, being supported by it or critiqued by it. But many believed the ruse, including sociologists who were convinced that modernization, industrialization, the expansion of technology and education, and the establishment of democratic regimes would naturally produce secular societies, where religion was a private consolation for a diminishing handful of traditionalists.

    “It’s fruitless to protect Western liberalism, since there is no longer a liberal West to protect.” This is an idea that’s worth thinking about for a long time to come. Leithart again:

    Over the two millennia since the birth of Christianity, many worlds have ended, just as our world may be ending now. At such times, it is the task of Christians to nourish hope within societies whose transient hopes have withered. …

    The word nourishes hope; prayer nourishes hope; singing nourishes hope; baptism nourishes hope; the Lord’s Supper nourishes hope. When we open our homes to the homeless, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, we act in hope and bolster hope, as the Spirit builds our confidence in God’s promises and good gifts.

    The church’s existence, activities, and ministries nourish hope because they are specific avenues of communion with God. God speaks in his word, hears our prayers and songs, claims us in baptism, feeds and feasts with us at the table, shines through us as we go out as lights in the world. God is the God of hope, not merely a God who gives hope or who is the object of hope.

    How do churches nourish hope in an age when worlds are ending? By staying close to Jesus, our hope of glory. Simple as that.

  • C&O Canal Towpath half marathon

    On Saturday I ran my first half marathon since the 2019 Georgetown Half. I ran the Abebe Bikila Day International Peace Half along the C&O Canal Towpath in Washington.

    It was a beautiful morning for a run, still feeling like summer. I started at 7am and finished just after 9am for a time of 2 hours, 4 minutes.

    I had registered for the full marathon—which I most recently ran at this event last September—but was not feeling well for much of the run and decided to call time at the half. I’ve completed seven marathons so far and want to run one more—that will have to wait for another time.

    Fletcher’s Cove, the starting/turn-around/end point for the run, was night-and-day different just before 7am and just after 9am. This is the view of the C&O canal—the Potomac lies just beyond the trees in the view from the second photo.

  • Peter Hitchens writes on the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the uncertainties that lie ahead for the monarchy, the United Kingdom, and the English political system:

    When on Sunday I attended the proclamation of the new King in Oxford, a single anti-monarchist called out in protest and was met with rude ripostes and a thunderous chorus of “God Save the King” from the crowd. But, of course, those who had turned up were a self-selecting group of monarchists. Nobody really knows how much the great mass of the British people think about the throne, or whether they much care. …

    And Charles isn’t Elizabeth. In fact, Queen Elizabeth wasn’t always the revered figure she later became. Conservative commentators, such as Malcolm Muggeridge, were sharply critical of her. Her family troubles and money problems gave her enemies many weapons. She went through several bumpy periods when her position was far from assured.

    Into this witches’ cauldron you also have to throw a number of other gruesome and slippery ingredients, such as the approaching moment when the pound sterling is finally worth less than the US dollar, and the general horror of our indebted economy following the Covid-19 panic. This has been made vastly worse by the dogmatic pursuit of green energy, the wild, active destruction of coal-fired power generation (the plants are not cautiously mothballed but actually blown to pieces with high explosives), and the embarrassing failure of what was once a great nuclear-power capacity. Britain is probably more exposed to the new energy crisis than any other major advanced country. And it is simply not used to the consequences of these follies.

    Is actual economic privation possible in our affluent country? It suddenly seems thinkable as the autumn grows chillier, and we all stare in amazement at our gas and electricity charges. Out of such things, constitutional crises are all too often born. In the past few days, I have had a strange struggle over using the word “King,” singing “God save our gracious King,” or praying for the King’s Majesty. It has a harder, deeper tone to it than the word “Queen.” Somehow, Elizabeth II made monarchy easier for its opponents to live with. Charles III, simply by being King, offers them more of a challenge.

    The deepest music of England is in its church bells, whose joyous complex change ringing is unique, I think, to these islands. When the sovereign dies, the bell-clappers are gloved in leather to soften the sound into a plangent, somber thing called a muffled peal. When you hear it, as I heard it for the first time last week, it puzzles your heart. What does it herald?

    Prime Minister Truss is announcing that the UK will borrow so that the government will be able to cap domestic energy bills, “staving off the expected 80% leap that was due in October and that threatened the finances of millions of households and firms.”

  • Queen Elizabeth II’s extraordinary life and extraordinary 70-year reign have come to an end. Elizabeth died on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May God rest her soul and save her people.

    Tributes abound, from Jordan Peterson to Sebastian Milbank to Edward Pentin to Carl Trueman to Yuan Yi Zhu. And Peggy Noonan writes:

    “Now I am imagining the royal funeral, the procession, the carriages of state going slowly down the mall, the deep crowds on each side. The old will come in their chairs and the crowd will kindly put them in front, the best view, to wave goodbye to their friend, with whom they had experienced such history together.”

    I know that some Americans find it puzzling that we should be moved by the goings-on of a monarchy in a country from which we long ago declared independence. I think there are a few reasons why we should care, and why the monarchy is in fact owed our prayer for its continued flourishing.

    First, despite American independence we should be able to look across the Atlantic and see the obvious: the reason that the United States and United Kingdom have been described as having a “special relationship” is because our peoples are related. We’re cousins, and have the chance to retain bonds like those of family should we choose.

    Second, with the time of kings and kingdoms apparently past, the persistence of the English monarchy nevertheless reminds us that there are some things in the cultural and political life of our nation we that do not simply make but that we inherit. In this way, the monarchy can remain a symbol even for Americans. The strength and success of our constitutional system relies in powerful part on the same virtues of gratitude, responsibility, filial piety, and frankly awe for those good and lasting aspects of our public order that we did not create and can only hope to pass along to the future.

    Finally, the Commonwealth of Nations, whose members now recognize King Charles III as their head, consists of some 2.5 billion people. That is a remarkable association of peoples that seems worth paying attention to.

    I also have ancestral and familial reasons for my Anglophilia, for my gratitude to England and hope for her wellbeing. Genetically, I’m 92.8% British and Irish and 5.1% French and German.

    Michael Shakley (1735-1817), meanwhile, emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1754 from a town today known as Walzbachtal in the German Rhine Valley. In 1763, Michael was naturalized at the Pennsylvania State House—what we now know as Independence Hall. Nicholas Alleman, another early ancestor, was born in French Alsace and fought in the War of Independence. It’s thanks to Nicholas that I am a life member of the Sons of the American Revolution. Nicholas’s daughter Elizabeth would marry Michael’s son, and the family grew from there. We owe our lives and the life of our family, in a very real sense, to what the British built in Pennsylvania—both to what encouraged Michael to come from the old world to the new and what led Nicholas to fight in the War for Independence.

    (Truly, although we often talk about the “American Revolution” it’s far more precise and sheds far more light to call it the War for Independence. Our American ancestors, whether ancestors by blood or spirit, did not fight for a “revolutionary” system of government—most fought for their independence for the sake of attaining in America the rights and liberties they felt the crown was wrongly denying them in practice. “We claim nothing but the liberty and privileges of Englishmen in the same degree,” declared Virginia’s George Mason, a founder and later father of the Bill of Rights, “as if we had continued among our brethren in Great Britain.” The cause of independence was unifying because it sought to secure for Americans the rights and responsibilities they understood as their English inheritance. There was, in this sense, no “revolutionary” change, but rather an attempt through independence to more firmly root an ancient inheritance in a new way.)

    In any event, knowing the story of my family—both those who emigrated to Pennsylvania and those who were already colonists—and the reasons for separation from Britain are reminders for me to be grateful for those who came before and who built so much of the world as we know it. We have many challenges, just as we have much to be grateful for. It would be wrong to deny the gift of the “liberty and privileges” for which all Americans today rightly give thanks. I think we owe thanks to God for all that we enjoy and, yes, to the peoples across the Atlantic who were the original architects of so much of the American order.

    As an aside, my grandfather John Shakely spent much of the decade after he graduated from Penn State sailing and working overseas. He happened to be in Nassau, The Bahamas in the days leading up to Elizabeth II’s coronation in June 1953 and took these photos:

    That’s the Bahamian Parliament in the first photo, and my 26-year old grandfather with his bike in Nassau in the second photo.

  • Campus walk in late summer

    One of the greatest benefits of living in the city is being able to walk—whether walking to run an errand or simply walking for pleasure. We live near The Catholic University of America and walking on campus is a particular pleasure, where traffic is at a minimum and there are plenty of green spaces. It’s a great place to walk to let your mind roam, to bring a laptop and work, to do calls, or whatever.

    We shouldn’t take for granted either the beauties of the places we live.

  • The midterm elections are two months away. Chris Arnade writes on the American non-voter:

    Voting means entering institutions that have given them problems. From schools, where they were tested, measured, and prodded endlessly, only to be then ignored, scolded, or demeaned. To municipal buildings where they were taxed, fined, or charged.

    Voting means interacting with a class of people who filled and embodied those institutions. Who either ignored or scolded them in school, or taxed and fined them in the court house. It is rejoining a part of America that doesn’t value them, from the way they dress to the way they think.

    Voting means getting further entangled with a bureaucracy that has done nothing before but tangled them up. Hell, it might even come with jury duty. They can’t do that because they are working two jobs and got kids to care for.

    All to pull a lever, to be one single vote out of 122 million? Hell. ‘No way my vote is going make one bit of difference with that many people voting. So you want me to have to drive into town when I only got enough gas to get to work and don’t want to have to fill up tomorrow because I am on a tight schedule and need to switch to my back up card because I misplaced the first charge card. All for a vote that won’t change a thing. Even if, miracle of miracles, my vote swung the election. Now what? I got the president I wanted, and nothing has changed. My street still has potholes and my job still sucks.’

    That isn’t to say non-voters don’t have views about politics, or don’t have a side they root for, or won’t trash talk the president or a candidate. They have strong views, and they might get emotionally involved for a bit, but they know their place is to watch. They are spectators of a sport that doesn’t involve them, or care about them. The outcome won’t change their life because it never has.

    They are the fans with no money on the line, only in it for possible bragging rights. That is different from the wealthy, successful, and highly educated. We all have money on the line, whether we acknowledge it or not.

    When we choose not to vote, it’s because we do not feel like stakeholders—literally, we do not believe we have anything at stake in the outcome, maybe because the power of voting matters less than the power of elite classes or institutions.

  • G.K. Chesterton writes in The Superstition of Divorce:

    “It is often said by the critics of Christian origins that certain ritual feasts, processions or dances are really of pagan origin. They might as well say that our legs are of pagan origin. Nobody ever disputed that humanity was human before it was Christian; and no Church manufactured the legs with which men walked or danced, either in a pilgrimage or a ballet. What can really be maintained, so as to carry not a little conviction, is this: that where such a Church has existed it has preserved not only the processions but the dances; not only the cathedral but the carnival. One of the chief claims of Christian civilisation is to have preserved things of pagan origin. In short, in the old religious countries men continue to dance; while in the new scientific cities they are often content to drudge.”

    Christianity transfigures, rather than destroys, all those authentically human things of humanity that were a part of us before the coming of our Lord and remain a part of us still.