The New Barbarism

When I was a young man I imagined that the end of a civilization would be dramatic. It turns out to be a lot less than that. The defense of an ancient city finally collapsing after a long siege and barbarians pouring through breached walls to loot, burn, rape and kill – something like that is what I imagined. I did not foresee our modern U.S. cities’ own inhabitants reverting to barbarism. What makes it less than dramatic is that there has been so little attempt to defend against their depredations. In fact, out of cowardice, fecklessness, sheer stupidity or (one suspects in some cases) complicity, the new barbarians have been excused or, worse, positively abetted by political, social, and religious leaders. The mayor of Portland likened their takeover of an entire neighborhood of her city to 1967’s hippie Summer of Love! Of course we have all seen pictures of Catholic bishops literally “giving the knee” to them.

That is a long way from, say, the fall of Constantinople in 1453 when Emperor Constantine XI died on the city’s battlements with his boots on and sword in hand.

How account for there being so little resistance to the new barbarism (and so many other evils besetting society today)? Isn’t it obvious? It should be to all still clinging to the undiluted Faith and who remember that once upon a time Western society was shaped by laws and customs that conformed to its teachings. They will understand that as a society we and most of the rest of the West have exhausted the spiritual and moral capital accumulated during the centuries of our Christian past and have nothing left to spend but the now nearly valueless currency of failed liberalism. It’s not worth fighting for.

The value of any currency is only as great as everyone believes it to be, and belief in the value of liberalism, the false philosophy that a couple of centuries ago replaced the Christianity around whose teachings the life of society was organized, has run out of it like value out of the dollar. (The political and social structures it built do still stand. Much of these days’ widespread anxiety arises from nobody knowing for sure what will replace them.)

Probably I should make it clear that in speaking of the barbarians running amok in U.S. cities today, I am certainly not singling out people of color. Far from it. It was certainly rioting blacks who trashed and looted the luxury shops in Chicago, but Antifa doesn’t seem to include African-Americans. More to the point, as reported by the Pew Research Center in June only one in six demonstrators in the original Black Lives Matter “protest” marches was actually black. The great majority consisted of whites, most of them university-graduated millennials.

No doubt that fact is why some perspicacious commentators have located the root of the current civil disorders in the pernicious influence in academe of the culturally Marxist Frankfurt School, and no doubt that influence has had its role. Students who fell under it in the 1960s went on to become the millennials’ professors.

Whether or not President Trump knows of the Frankfurt School, he certainly sees what is going on. Did you pay attention to his speech at Mount Rushmore on July 4? Listen to him: “Our nation is witnessing a massive campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children. In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished.”

Trump has had to spend a great deal of his time during the past four years fending off efforts to remove him from office. It has prevented his doing all that he might to counter the “far-left fascism.” However, it was possible as late as the beginning of this year to hope that nationalist populists in Europe could accomplish more. Then covid-19 hit. The two issues that were propelling the nationalist populists toward success were the mass arrival and movement around the Continent of Muslim aliens, and the open borders that made that possible. These issues disappeared with the advent of the virus. The nations of Western Europe remembered that they had frontiers. Globalism’s golden boy Emmanuel Macron suddenly sounded like Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini. This has very considerably reduced the political strength of the nationalist populists for the time being.

As baneful as is the influence of cultural Marxism, I believe that at least in the U.S. another factor accounts more importantly for the new barbarism we see in the streets and nearly everywhere else. That is the breakdown of the family, the basic unit of society (exactly as affirmed by professional politicians even as they never cease to undermine it by their actions). Our new barbarians did not know family life as it existed before no-fault divorce, the Pill, legal abortion, and the rise of feminism.

The breakdown began in the 1960s. For us Catholics, and through us to the rest of society, I’d date it to 1968 with the failure of the bishops to uphold Humanae vitae, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on the evil of artificial contraception that also reaffirmed Casti connubii, Pope Pius XI’s earlier encyclical on marriage and the family.

Subsequently they followed the lead of probable homosexual and possible Satanist Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, then the most prominent figure of the dominant liberal wing of the Church in the U.S., by espousing his “seamless garment” pseudo-theology instead of continuing to teach (if not always very vigorously) religious doctrine. As long as they did the latter, they spoke of the family as the “domestic church.”

That church had a head, the father, even as the Pope, the Holy Father, is head of the universal Church. What happened to the father? The question brings us to politics – specifically the political left, which is to say the politics of the Revolution that began to unfold with the overthrow of Christian government in France in 1789 and finds expression in today’s America with the presidential candidacy of a septuagenarian advocating socialism in economics and, when it comes to morality, the “right” of a woman to kill her preborn babies. Honore de Balzac, creator of the naturalistic novel as a literary form and Catholic monarchist, makes my point: “When they [the revolutionaries] cut off the head of the King, they cut off the head of every father of a family in the country.”

Let me relate Balzac’s saying to the state of U.S. society today. The breakdown of the family is owed, above all, to fathers being denied the exercise of their authority as head of the domestic church. The institution, the family, cannot be revived until they are restored to their natural position, natural because it is intended by the First Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Father.

This raises the question how is that to be accomplished? In other words (and to speak more broadly) what concrete steps can be taken to build anew from the rubble of civilization left by two centuries of failed liberalism’s misrule? I don’t know, but know it would be silly to expect guidance from the sorry lot of today’s bishops. Of course we must all attend to our own sanctification, but beyond that too much is in flux for anyone to be able to see a clear and certain path forward.

There would seem, then, to be but one recourse for all of us. We must go down on our knees and pray like crazy to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to enlighten us as to what to do, and then, when He finally does, get up and do it, knowing that as warriors of the Second Person, Our Lord Jesus Christ as King of society, victory will be assured.