Although leftist propaganda has always portrayed it as the successful rising of peasants and the urban poor, and if the mob, incited by frustrated intellectuals, renegade priests and enthusiastic women, were in fact masters of the streets of Paris for a time, the principal outcome of the French Revolution of 1789 was that the bourgeoisie replaced the aristocracy as France’s ruling class.
In the U.S., apart from Southern gentry whose role as the leading figures of the region’s society ended with the War Between the States and subsequent Reconstruction, we have never had an aristocracy. The persons among us who are sometimes called “aristocrats,” especially if there has been wealth in their families for more than a couple of generations, are simply those who have a great deal more money than most members of the same social class, the middle class. The U.S. outside the Old South has always been run by the middle class with middle-class concerns and interests. This didn’t matter very much as long as most American families lived on and worked small farms they owned, which made them largely independent of the doings of society apart from that of the town or village nearest to them, but those days are long gone.
In any case, for a couple of hundred years commerce and industry, banking and finance, money and making money have been the dominant concerns and activities of middle-class France and middle-class U.S.
In one of the most famous lines ever uttered by a U.S. president, Calvin Coolidge summed up the American reality in 1925: “The chief business of the American people is business.” He went on: “They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of the people will always find these the moving impulses of our life.”
The “moving impulses” of our life? Coolidge was saying that middle-class Americans devote to money-making and the acquisition of things money will buy the kind of energy and drive that other peoples, like the French and Spanish when they were Christian, dedicated to the construction of the great cathedrals and churches of Medieval and Baroque times, the expulsion from Europe of invading Muslims, and the discovery of new continents in which to plant the Cross.
Ask an American today why he works at whatever job he does. Unless he works at a profession, and not necessarily then, the question may take him aback. He has never thought about it. After all, isn’t it obvious? “It is to make money,” he will say. It is as if there could be no other answer.
Money has also made men with the most of it society’s true rulers through their control of politicians who depend on their good will to attain and retain any electoral office higher than, maybe, a municipal council seat in France or the local school board in the U.S. What the rich want they get. They count on it. The rest of us know it. It is what happens when a people’s regard for mammon outweighs any devotion to God that they profess.
It is not merely the purpose of work that is distorted when viewed through the optic of money. So is history. For instance, schoolchildren are taught that all Christopher Columbus was looking for was lands and peoples to be exploited for the wealth they could produce. That he sought a way to reach the Holy Land and liberate it from Muslim rule by approaching from the east is completely ignored. Truly, lust for money distorts everything – including sexual lust. When Christian standards governed the life of society in the West, it was recognized as an appetite that needs disciplining for the moral and physical well-being of individuals. Today the porn industry, probably the most lucrative sector of the internet, feeds it, as do the entertainment and fashion industries and other businesses.
Let’s not forget what is today the most lucrative industry of all. Six of the fifteen richest persons in the U.S. are owners of digital technology companies whose products impart information but from which those addicted to their use will never gain knowledge and wisdom, as they can from books. (Another six are members of a single family, the Waltons, owners of Walmart, who wouldn’t make the money they do if they didn’t pay their employees notoriously low wages.) Anything for the sake of more bucks!
Such unimaginably rich persons can offer no defense of what they do except that of drug dealers, brothel keepers and other panderers: “We give people what they want.” Christian translation: human nature is fallen; for two centuries government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” has given lovers of money and power free rein to exploit it; and thanks to today’s global economy they can do it on a worldwide scale.
Of course the rich, like the poor, have always been with us, but in France before the Revolution and the American South before 1861 there was a bond between the landowners and those who worked the land, peasants in France (who often possessed more liquid wealth than the nobles who owned the land) and slaves in America. The bond was the land itself, on which everybody depended. In contrast, what connection existed, when America still made things, between a typical factory-owner and the factory workers who could be let go any time? What connection is there between a typical CEO today and the corporation’s minions in their cubicles staring at a computer screen all day and who may be downsized next month? The names of his peasants were known to French nobles, as were those of his slaves to a planter. To a corporate CEO the men and women in the cubicles are the “work force” when on the job and then “the market” anywhere else. However hard Human Resources (known in a less euphemistic time as the Personnel Department) tries to pretend otherwise, they simply don’t exist as persons. The only meaning their lives have to management is how they figure in calculating the “bottom line.”
Some of Our Lord’s harshest words in Scripture are reserved for rich persons, but we know He also dined in their homes as well as ate with publicans and sinners, and for what it’s worth I have met a few over the years, found them likeable, and in a couple of instances been grateful for favors they did me. I am not talking envy or trying to promote class hatred here. Also, let’s be clear about this: Money is not evil. We all need it. What is evil is putting it at the center of the life of the society and men making the acquisition of it a main purpose of their own lives, as if our lives haven’t a higher purpose.
What has any of this to do with the immigration problem, let alone Islam, which so far has been mentioned only in relation to Europeans of the past defending against it?
Let me begin to explain by saying we shouldn’t even be talking about an immigration problem. The problem we have and that President Obama’s recent executive actions will ease, he says, is with aliens.
Many persons nowadays concern themselves very little with the meaning of words. Some may even disparage the concern as “prissy,” as did a recent reader of mine. However, words matter. Not merely do we communicate by means of them. It is also with words that we think. If a Mexican comes into the U.S. and instantly breaks the law simply by entering illegally, or if he takes advantage of existing law by bringing along his pregnant wife so that their child will be born in the U.S. and thereby be a citizen, giving them a foothold in the country, you may cut him some slack if you think of him as an “immigrant” since you know that is what your own ancestors were at some point. On the other hand, if you thought of him as what he is, an alien, you might say, “Send him back where he came from and don’t waste time doing it.” You might be even quicker to say it of Muslims from North Africa if you didn’t also think of them as “immigrants”. They are at the heart of France’s immigration problem, and this is where the rich come into the picture.
In both France and the U.S. businessmen and industrialists have wanted the aliens because they were cheap labor, meaning the rich could make more money off their work. It began in the U.S. in the 1950s when Agribusiness in Texas, California and elsewhere welcomed alien Mexicans to come work in its fields for much less than Americans expected to be paid. They were called “wetbacks” in those days. After they were joined by others and the others by their families, and so on, their numbers eventually grew to the point that today the rich men sitting on corporate boards positively depend on them. Hotel chains couldn’t operate, garbage would pile up, offices wouldn’t be heated and cleaned, and building and housing construction would stop without them. Hispanics do the jobs that most native whites and African Americans would rather stay unemployed than do.
In France the ball was got rolling in the 60s by industrialists seeking cheap labor to man their factories. They were more than happy to have easily dispensable illegal North Africans do it. They were assisted when the perfidious Charles DeGaulle decided to abandon Algeria. France was then flooded by Algerians, not because they loved French culture, but because there were no jobs to be had in Algeria once the country became independent. (They did not include the harkis, Arab Algerians who served in the French army, “collaborated” with the French administration of Algeria, often took French names and lived like Frenchmen. DeGaulle deserted them and an untold number and their families ended with their throats cut.)
Immigrants from other overseas former French territories also entered the country, but they were genuine immigrants. France benefited from their arrival, and so did the Church. Visit the Miraculous Medal Chapel in rue du Bac today and you’ll see that most of the worshippers are black African and Vietnamese women. At St. Nicholas de Chardonnet, the SSPX church in Paris, black African families are very visible at the crowded Sunday Masses. Their skins are black but they are thoroughly French. The “racist” Marine Le Pen finds a large measure of support from among such people.
Catholic bishops in the U.S. thought something like that would happen in this country. They hoped Hispanics, legal and illegal, genuine immigrants and aliens, would replace all the native-born Catholics who took a walk when the “reforms” that followed Vatican II were enacted, and (not incidentally) fill emptying collection plates on Sunday. The bishops were not entirely disappointed. That has happened to quite a degree in some parts of the country, but what the bishops did not foresee was that to many Hispanics the preaching and fellowship at which Evangelicals excel would be more attractive than the pale simulacra of them ushered into the Church by the “reforms,” especially “renewal” of Mass.
Whatever the benefits, the influx of aliens into the U.S. eventually reached saturation point and then went beyond it. The result? My own mother summed it up when she and my stepdad, at last retired from their jobs, left California for Oregon in 1995: “I want to be able to speak English when I go to the grocery store.” The difficulty now is that the aliens are so numerous that as necessary as their presence may be for the rich, there aren’t any Oregons left for everybody else, no place to flee, not even the real Oregon itself, not anymore. This is the case in both the U.S. and France. So we have a “problem”.
Of course it has been made worse since both peoples, French and American, stopped having babies decades ago, or not enough babies to reproduce themselves. It costs money to raise children. How can you have them and afford a new car, pay for a timeshare at the beach or buy the newest wrinkle in electronic gadgetry?
The problem is exacerbated in France and elsewhere in Europe because the sons and grandsons of the aliens who originally arrived – this is to speak specifically of Muslims – are no more interested in living like Europeans than were their fathers. Some number want to see a crescent everywhere a cross still stands. An upshot was the killing last January of the staff of the execrable Charlie Hebdo, a publication whose hatred of religion is so fervent that it began to “satirize” Islam after years of targeting the Church. Islam has become that strong a force in France.
In the U.S. many fear the same thing or worse will happen here. With more Muslims in Chicago than there are Presbyterians (to cite one statistic) Islam has become that strong a force among us. The fearful cast a wary eye at the minarets now dotting the suburbs of our cities and try to feel reassured when told that Islam is really a “religion of peace,” but it doesn’t help much when most of the reassuring comes from non-Muslims.
In 2009 President Barack Obama declared, “We [i.e., the American people] do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.” Surely he was correct. How could anyone consider the U.S. Christian? Simply because the majority of Americans still call themselves Christian? That means nothing when the laws of the nation are not shaped according to Christian teaching and beliefs and, indeed, are often in violation of them, as when they sanction no-fault divorce, life prevention (a.k.a. birth control), abortion and same-sex “marriage”. So far is the nation from being Christian today that anyone who says it would be better if it were knows that if he says it loudly enough he will be listed by outfits like the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center as a purveyor of “hate speech,” which listing will then be reported by news media. If the nation were Christian instead of multicultural, citizens might have paid some attention when the Washington Post reported in 2012 that the head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism unit was a convert to Islam. Instead, most Americans busy themselves vulgarly keeping up to date on the private lives of celebrities or, if they are on the right wing of our national liberalism called “conservative,” hating Barack Obama or, if they are Catholics of a certain kind, sneering at the pope of the day.
Where is the Church in regard to the “problem”? She makes it worse insofar as the current Pope doesn’t stop talking about immigration as a “human right”. Europe’s ex-Catholics couldn’t care less about what he says regarding most things, but it is useful to multiculturalists to be able to say, “Look, even the head of the Catholic Church welcomes Muslims.” (I can reverence the Pope as any Vicar of Christ must always be reverenced and still see he is as wrong on immigration as, say, Pope Leo XIII was in pursuing his Francophile policy that didn’t stop the French Third Republic from expelling religious orders in 1905.)
Reference to the Pope brings us to the core of the “problem”: There is no solution to it, except one. Not as things stand. There can be surrender, if that is the right word. Submerged would probably be better. When money is what a people live for to the extent they will contracept the race out of existence in order to have more, to what standard can anyone be rallied to keep from drowning? Job protection? That’s silly. It’s simply economic self-interest and the aliens will keep coming and the ones already here will remain as long as the rich bourgeoisie, acting in their self-interest, can get by with paying them less than they would poorer bourgeoisie. How about the standard, so sacred to Americans, of equality? That is the very one the aliens are using to beat us over the head. How about the cultural standard? You can’t have culture without cult and our cult is money, as I’ve been saying here and as Pope Francis (correctly in this matter) has also said.
The Spanish, when Spain was far different than it is today, drove out the last of their Muslim occupiers at the end of a struggle that lasted seven hundred years. What sustained them for such a fight over such a long period of time? Was it the right-wing liberal (i.e., “conservative”) economic vision of capitalism “lifting all boats”?
Conviction energizes the mind and it is in the mind that action is born, so, yes, it was by belief that the Spanish were sustained, but it was belief in a Triune God the First Person of Whom so loved the summit of His earthly creation, men, that He sent the Second Person to become one in order that by His sacrifice they would be redeemed from their misuse (called sin) of the measure of His own highest faculties with which He had endowed them, will and intellect. This Christian God was, and is, radically different from the Muslim one. In fact Unitarian Islam was so different from incarnational Christianity that it was a capital crime even to depict men in art. Neither did it allow them any will of their own or to think beyond the content of the Koran. This difference was important enough to the Spanish of those days that as much as they delighted in the benefits of living according to the Faith which embodied their belief, they were willing to live it to the point of fighting and dying for it. That is to say, they believed in the teachings of the Faith, and also in the superiority over what the Muslims offered of the civilization and culture that result when the Faith is lived.
Nothing said here should be construed as an attempt to justify continued U.S. military action in the Middle East, whether by drone, heavy bombing or with “boots on the ground.” The “problem” is not located over there, or south of the Rio Grande. Trying to eliminate Islamic State and Al Qaeda or building a higher fence in Arizona only deflects us (and our European brothers) from identifying the real source of the “problem” and dealing with it: ourselves.
Doubtless it would be mistaken to describe the entire middle class as no longer seriously Christian or Christian at all, as if all who claim to be Christian were hypocrites. A majority of Americans still do claim to be Christian in some form, with some no doubt serious about it, but religious belief is running out of them (down from 86 percent in 1990 to 71 percent today) like value out of the dollar. Among Catholics, how many today would think of the Faith and belief in it as a richer legacy to leave their heirs than a bank account and thick stock portfolio? Is the number of them likely to be larger a few years from now?
The situation is exceedingly strange. After all, men kill for money. They do it every day. But who has ever given his life in order to obtain more of it? Would you? The question is absurd because we all know the old saying is true: You can’t take it with you. Yet for two centuries we have had money at the center of the life of society. Now we are paying the consequences with worse to come, and not simply in regard to the immigration problem. The “worse” could be adumbrated here – the decline of the family, the continued spreading rot of our moral life (hailed as “progress”), the substitution of the banal or positively bad for the rare and excellent in art and culture – but what would be the point?
We said earlier that there is a solution, but only one. Since I write about the Faith and this is a Catholic website you won’t be surprised if I say it is Christ and the way of life to which He calls His followers. That way of life is not materialistic. Those who live it do not measure “success” by the amount of money a man accumulates. But what could move a people sunk in materialism to embrace this solution?
What else can except the example of Christians who do not merely profess the religion but endeavor actually to live it? How do men become such Christians as that? The answer ought to be obvious. We begin by wanting it. After that we need to pray for it. When God endowed us with will and intellect it was with the intention that by their means we would serve as instruments of His will on earth. The Fall consisted and consists of doing our own will instead of His. We need to pray – to beseech God— for the wisdom to discern His will; the docility to follow the guidance of those who know what it is when we do not; the courage to act according to it even against the weight of a world that ignores it or denies its existence; the inner strength to sacrifice for its sake; and the fortitude not to stop whenever we begin to flag. The lives of the saints will inspire and help us.
The object is less to correct our behavior, as much as it may need correcting, as it is to draw closer to God. As an individual feels himself drawing closer to Him, he will become less likely to act in ways that could increase the distance.
If by grace our prayers enable us to live like Christians, perhaps the necessary example will be given – as the lives of saints are examples for us. In any event, among a people sunk in materialism, who is more likely to give it than those who are members of the One True Church, the one He founded, and more specifically members who believe not merely that membership is necessary for individual salvation but understand that nothing but Christian living will save what remains of Christian civilization, and that by building on what remains prepare the advent of a Second Christendom?
This cuts both ways. Liberals within Catholicism never cease to prattle that the Kingdom is not of this world, as if Our Lord didn’t also tell us that all power is given to Him in Heaven and on earth, and that therefore converting the nation, which is what we’re really talking about, is a hopeless task. It is for sure that they will be proven correct if we don’t first convert ourselves, from being American to Catholic.
Does that sound anti-American? Ask yourself if being American is what will get anybody to heaven. Ask yourself how much different the world would be if Germans eighty years ago had put the Christianity they professed first in their lives instead of the Fatherland. Of course membership in the Church, by itself, won’t get us to heaven either. A person has to live the life, or try. That is the whole point of this commentary. In any event, he who doesn’t strive toward this conversion lacks the moral right to blame anyone or anything outside himself for the continuing downward spiral of life in modern society.
Every one of us every time we make an examination of conscience, which is supposed to be every day, has one question to ask above all others: Am I striving?