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Review: The Benedict Option
6 minutes ago
Mark Steyn pointed out that while all our other liberties are being taken from us, our elites still continue to allow and expand so-called sexual "freedoms". That is to say, what is commonly termed sexual liberation is truly political and social control. The heavily sexualized entertainment industry keeps the masses docile and distracted while the elites destroy what remains of our civilization. Or more simply put, the elites don't think you should be able to decide what foods you eat or whether you should smoke or not, but they think you should have every ability to fornicate with whoever or whatever you want.
I’m a sharecropper, organic gardener, and milker of goats, as well as a democrat, a republican, a liberal, a conservative, a radical, an idealist, a pragmatist, a teacher, a mentor, a scientist, a writer, a skeptic, a scholar, a cheese-maker, a son, a brother, a husband, a lover, and a human animal. I’m comfortable with my beliefs and personal philosophy. I’ve thought deeply about my tiny place in this enormous universe, and I’ve come to value humility over hubris. And still I’m having an identity crisis. A crisis of confidence. An ego-crushing moment. The longer the industrial economy lasts, the more my identify is pummeled, along with my hope for the living planet. Every day under the rule of Athena drives me further into despair. It’s as if my ego were a proxy for the planetary rate of extinction.
Considering the effort I’ve put into defining myself and my place in the universe, I can only imagine the difficulty ahead for the typical American drone. He values his imperial role and fails to recognize the empire for what it is. He gets his news from the television and affiliated media outlets and fails to recognize that form of propaganda for what it is. His sense of entitlement is exceeded only by his ignorance of the role nature plays in his survival. And yet, he’s ahead of me.
After all, unlike the American drone, I’m clueless about what to do. I’ve invested heavily in a reasonably sane set of living arrangements, only to have nature call me further down her path. I’m attempting to serve as a witness, and occasionally a warrior, as the living planet tries to survive the insults of industry. I’m trying to show another — hence, contrarian — way, for a world gone mad. And in return, I’m unappreciated as never before in memory (including even my final decade at the university as viewed through the lens of my dean and department head).
It takes time for the body, revved up by an exotic, highly processed, high-fat Western diet, to reorganise and recover its natural appetite. It takes time to learn how to absorb the kind of food Fukuoka (and several contemporary Western writers on food) are talking about: plenty of plants, not much meat, not much. It takes time to break habits and to let go of the complexity of diets and science in one’s mind and the emotional reactions caused by an unnatural way of life. To engage in a way of being where food is naturally limited by place and time.The problem with the Western diet is that it is high-fat? WAPF and paleo followers would beg to differ.
Let’s step away for a moment from the game of arbitrary tokens we call "money," and look at the economy from a thermodynamic perspective, as a system for producing goods and services by applying energy to an assortment of raw materials. Until the coming of the industrial revolution, the vast majority of the energy that went into human economic systems went from sunlight to crops to human and animal muscle, which produced and distributed goods and services. The industrial revolution transformed that equation adding torrents of cheap abundant fossil fuel energy to the annual income from photosynthesis. Only a small fraction of the labor force and other resources had to be diverted from food production to bring this flood of energy into the economic equation, and only a small fraction of fossil fuels had to be cycled back into the fossil fuel extraction process; the rest of the labor force, other resources, and all that additional energy from fossil fuels could be poured into the rest of the economy, producing goods and services in unparalleled amounts.
Physicist Ilya Prigogine has shown by way of intricate equations that the flow of energy through a system increases the complexity of the system. If any further evidence was needed to back up his claims, the history of the world’s industrial economies provides it. The three centuries that followed the development of the first functional steam engines saw economic complexity, measured by the creation of new job categories, soar to a level almost unimaginably greater than any previous civilization had achieved. The bonanza of wealth produced by adding fossil fuel energy to the sun’s annual contribution spread throughout the industrial economies, and the ways and means by which money sprayed outwards from the pockets of coal magnates and oil barons quickly became institutionalized.
Governments, businesses, and societies ballooned in complexity, creating niches for entire ecosystems of office fauna to do tasks the presidents and tycoons of the nineteenth century had accomplished with a tiny fraction of the personnel; workloads obeyed Parkinson’s Law—"work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion"—and everyone found that it was easier to add more staff to get a job done than to get the existing staff to do it themselves. The result, in most industrial societies, is an economy in which only a small fraction of the labor force actually has anything directly to do with the production of goods and services, while the rest are kept busy managing the sprawling social and economic machinery that has come into being to organize, finance, manage, staff, market, advertise, sell, analyze, tax, regulate, review, praise, and denounce the production of goods and services.
What seems to have been lost sight of, though, is that this immense superstructure all rests on the same foundation as any other economy, the use of energy to convert raw materials into goods and services. More to the point, it depends on a certain level of surplus that can be produced in this way, and that depends in turn on being able to add plenty of fossil fuel energy to the economic system without having to divert too large a fraction of the labor force, resource base, and energy supply into the extraction of fossil fuels. Some sense of the difference made by fossil fuels can be measured by comparing the economies of the industrial age to those of societies that, by any other standard, were near the upper end of human social complexity—Tokugawa Japan and Renaissance Italy are the ones that come to mind. Urban, literate, and highly cultured, each of these societies had the resources to support extraordinary artistic, literary, and intellectual creativity. Still, they did this with economies vastly simpler than anything you’ll find in a modern industrial society.
The division of the labor force among economic roles makes a good measure of the difference. In both societies, the largest economic sector, employing around fifty per cent of the adult population (nearly all adult women and most elderly people of both sexes), was the household economy; a good half of the total economic value produced in each society came out of the kitchen gardens, spindles, looms, and other economic facilities associated with households. Another thirty per cent or so of the population in each society, including most of the adult men, was engaged full time in farming and other forms of direct food production; maybe ten per cent of the adult population worked in the skilled trades; and the remaining ten per cent or so was divided between religious professionals, military professionals, artists and performers, aristocrats, and merchants who lived by buying and selling goods produced by others.
To combat this threat, Rick refused to back down from those who wish to destroy America. Rick Santorum understands that those who wish to destroy America do so because they hate everything we are – a land of freedom, a land of prosperity, a land of equality. Rick knows that backing down to the Jihadists means that we are only putting our foundational principles at greater risk. As an elected representative, Rick knew that his greatest responsibility was to protect the freedoms we enjoy – and we should not apologize for holding true to these principles.
Man experiences the world’s order in three levels. The first is inert matter and the empirical or “brute” facts about the world which it embodies. Matter qua matter has neither purpose nor higher meaning; it is raw material which man subjects to his will. The second level is that of subjective will. Man is aware of himself as a being with desires, goals, and opinions, in sum as one who assigns value. As an assigner of values, he can “color” his world with meaning, finding a thing good or bad, useful or harmful, beautiful or ugly. The level of subjective will is also the level at which we encounter the liberal version of morality. Man recognizes that other sentient beings also assign desires and fears, values and disvalues to the things in the world. He realizes that the subjective valuations of others are in some objective sense “equal” to his own and entitled to the same respect.
Inert fact and subjective valuation do not exhaust our experience of order; each of us recognizes that the world is “weighted” with meanings which seem to exist prior to and independently of anyone’s will. For example, one can see the distinction between the three orders in the relationship between a mother and her child. On the level of empirical facts, there is the fact that this baby is the offspring of that woman, there is the inability of human young to care for themselves, and there are the many facts about the woman, such as her ability to nurse, which are relevant to child rearing. On the level of subjectivity, there are the feelings of the mother and child towards one another. Finally, there are the stations of mother and child, the un-chosen context which gives meaning to their acts toward each other and the standard by which they are judged. All cultures recognize a duty for mothers to nurture their offspring, and a duty for children to honor and obey their mothers. The nature of these stations cannot be derived by mere logic from any set of empirical facts. On the level of empirical fact, one cannot even surmise a basic fact like that the purpose of the uterus is reproduction, but only that it can be used for this purpose. Objective meaning belongs to an entirely different and higher order of intelligibility. In fact, it is the idea of the station of motherhood which allows a woman to make sense of the many empirical facts of her femininity. Nor does the station of motherhood derive from subjective desires; neither the mother nor the child nor both together have the authority to dissolve the bond between them. Of course, a woman may neglect or abuse her child, but even so she doesn’t escape the context of her maternal station; she just fulfills it poorly, making herself a bad mother.
The first market in which we operate is the gift economy of family and the community. We are first called into being by the ready-made community of the family, and from this community we receive a variety of gifts. Our being, to be sure, but also the gift of our name, our family, our language, our first moral perceptions, our first experiences of love and belonging, and so forth. This economy of grace (gifts) is the primary economy, and all other economic and social activity must be judged from the standpoint of how will it serves the family. Without this check, there is really no way to know whether the economy “works” in any concrete sense. A fully monetized economy erodes the gift economy of the family upon which the whole social order depends. Beyond this family economy, there are economies of community service, economies of political activity (in which votes are the medium of exchange), religious economies, and so forth. All of these depend on the economy of production and exchange (note both terms), and hence are checked by that economy, even as they provide checks for the exchange and production economies.Mr. Médaille does not talk about the gift of the environment (or natural resources), but Pope Benedict XVI does in Caritas in Veritate (CNA Article). This can be combined with an understanding of the primary, secondary, and tertiary economies as outlined by John Michael Greer, building upon the work of EF Schumacher. The primary economy is indeed a gift of God, but we should also understand our family and other people as gifts from God as well, whom we should aid in seeking perfection. (The gift of non-rational creation is instrumental to the perfection of humanity.) As mutually dependent animals, we rely first of all upon communication in order to bring about perfection upon others. In a real community, in which people share bonds, culture, and history, they are given to one another and can come to recognize this - there is very little "choice" in the matter. This is in contrast to our megapoleis which have more the form of voluntary associations or "intentional communities" if anything at all.