Thursday, November 22, 2012

“The Integration of Theory and Practice”

Begun on October 16.

“The Integration of Theory and Practice:” Eric Heubeck’s Proposal For Cultural Guerilla War against the Leftist Establishment

I was looking through Orthosphere, and this caught my attention. As the introduction explains, the author of the essay is "Eric Heubeck, a protégé of Paul Weyrich at the Free Congress Foundation." Is the essay reconcilable with a localist/right communitarian program? Certain much of that proposal is precisely that. But it's more. Alan Roebuck writes in his introduction to the essay:
What I find most appealing about Heubeck’s proposal is that it combines the two different strategies that traditionalist conservatives propose, but that are generally regarded as mutually exclusive: retreat, in order to develop a non-liberal counterculture, and attack, in an attempt to retake the nation.

Let's take a closer look at one section:
Support of an Elite More Valuable than Support of the Masses

We will initially operate according to the belief that it is more important to win over the elites (or create a new, better one) than to build up a mass movement. Furthermore, it is more important to have a few impassioned members than a large number of largely indifferent members. The amount of energy, élan, and self-assurance that we are able to inculcate in the leaders of our movement will ultimately determine its success or failure.

The new movement must be, in part, exclusive and elite. It must not be afraid to pass along a body of knowledge that is not readily accessible to and understandable by everyone. The strong appeal of a feeling of exclusivity and superiority will give our members a reason to endure the slings and arrows of popular disapproval.

The New Traditionalist movement will appeal to the masses, but not immediately. The ideas of the masses never come from the masses. To the extent that the masses are more conservative than the elites, this is primarily because the masses have a long collective memory, and they still value the beliefs articulated by a long-lost elite. The conservative instincts of the American people will continue to erode unless a new elite is formed to refresh that memory.

We must recognize that literature and philosophy do not appeal to the masses. This is why we must develop ways to spread our philosophy using non-rational means–especially the moving image.

Is he talking about the political, economic, intellectual, and social elites of this country? If the former, I don't think there is much of a shot at this happening, unless they already happen to be devout Christians. There may be a few, but how many of them are believers in "capitalism" or partisan Republicans? Certain priests who come into contact with the elites (like members of PSHC of Opus Dei) may evangelize and convert some, but how likely is this to happen? We do not seek to change just "private" morality, but healthy communities, and these need to have some measure of autarky, as well as be sustainable and resilient. It is more likely that a new "elite" will have to be created, but how?

A healthy and flourishing Christian community may be able to convert some of the wealthy, who can then act to preserve that community through their monetary support.

As it is unlikely that traditional conservatives could gain control of a national media outlet, what about employing alternate mass media sources (like the internet)? But is this not already being done now? What obvious results can we see from this?

Leaders for the group will be selected - but will there be a formal mechanism for this? Who gets to decide who gets to be a leader, unless they are already leaders? Or will leaders be recognized informally by the other members of the group, standing apart from the others because of their abilities, dedication, and the respect that they've gained? They may not have money but they make up for it in character and the commitment to a place. Do we Uhmericans have the sufficient humility that enables us to recognize that others are more qualified for leadership than we?

Traditional communities can foster a local identity (we recognize that there are valid differences between local cultures) while adhering to a common intellectual patrimony (or [Western] culture). Is that intellectual patrimony sufficient to define a group? No. There are also the [local] customs and mores.

As for the place of modern mass "art" in such an effort - they may be a necessary "cultural" reference points, but do movies and television suffice as stories and bearers of tradition? I am doubtful of their cultural value as a whole, other than providing images for the development of the moral imagination for beginners - scenes of heroism and virtue. The problem with the moving image is that one cannot replicate it through words, either spoken, through [lyric] poetry, or written, in books. To make use of the moving image one must have the means to display it, and  in a future without cheap electricity, one should not depend too much upon it for the transmission of culture to the next generation.

Referring to the classics may not be enough to recover the tradition, if people are ignorant of the classics, but substituting movies and television shows is inadequate because they are unable to provide a long-lasting foundation for the transmission of the tradition. The neo-traditionalist leadership may need to study the classics, philosophy, political science; what suffices for the "average" traditionalist conservative? The knowledge of their history, familiarity with the intellectual tradition, coupled with a sound moral formation?

What stories do we tell and what history do we remember? Is it possible to create a history wholly anew? No, because we are not generated spontaneously from nothing. The Christian community will have their saints, but it is proper that we remember those who may not have been as holy but nonetheless contributed to the well-being of those who came before us and of our communities. As for our experience in being part of a nation/empire - this is reality, not something we can ignore in our history-telling, as if we could just wish it away. But the degeneration of the federal union into empire can be a useful warning to future generations.


The suggestion of the study group as a way for neo-traditionalists to meet and become informed reminds me of the study groups of Maritain and C&L; are there any Dominican study groups in the U.S.? Catholics do make use of study groups to learn more about Catholic doctrine, theology and philosophy, Christian spirituality, or Sacred Scripture. There is also the Cursillo (alt?) - I learned recently that one of the professors at Christendom gave a lecture on friendship to a Cursillo conference.

The sense of militancy, coupled with the program to cultivate the intellect, cultural sensibility, and even physical fitness may, rightly or wrongly, conjure up Fascism in the imaginations of some. Such an association might be understandable, but then should we say the Greeks were Fascists as well? (Those on the left are already critical of the Greeks for their lack of modern justice.) If moral formation is necessary for human beings and includes, to an extent, cultivation of physical fitness, then only the most radical individualists would argue that any concerted effort on the part of a group or a community to develop man's capacities is Fascist or evil. Did the essay disappear from the Internet precisely because some people feared a link between the author's neo-traditionalism and unsavory "extremist" groups? (I don't know if the author personally is inclined in the direction of the alt right or such. I'm assuming that he isn't.) What does this neo-traditionalist program seek to achieve, other than a restoration of traditional morals?

The author's goal is to attempt to transform the cultural world-view of society. There are two things to be said at this point:

(1) Changing "ideas" or "world-view" is not enough, if it is not accompanied by moral conversion, as culture is more than beliefs, it also includes laws and customs. If one does not follow those laws and customs, he does not really participate in that culture.

The study groups are meant to generate camaraderie, but is the sharing of ideas enough? Having a common culture/beliefs is necessary for [civic] friendship to develop, but one must also practice friendship.
but the source of ties? ideas alone?

(2) Society is a word that we use easily to refer to a group of people, but is it interchangeable with "community"? But there really isn't a national society or community, except in a secondary sense of the word. And in a megapolis, it is questionable whether there is community - what is present is really an aggregate of individuals and their families. (It is because of this reality that I am beginning to use "community" less when referring to the social arrangement in which many Uhmericans live. Maybe there is a more appropriate word than aggregate - I haven't found it yet. Culture is proper to a people and community; we just have common beliefs that allow for social atomism to continue. Someone who believes himself to be a traditional conservative should be a communitarian, and to restore a traditional culture that can serve to unify a community is to prepare for the regeneration of a traditional community. But it is unlikely that this will be achieved at a national scale, at least in the short term. (It may take 2 or 3 generations, for people and their children to begin to reconnect to others and to share a life together?)

The local Church is the best tool for the renewal of traditional communities, but I would not reduce the Church as a means to traditional communitarianism; I would I identify it as its epitome. Of course, this understanding may appeal only to Christians. So be it. I think [non-Christian] traditionalists who do not live in an area near one another (like the South) are too dispersed to network effectively with one another and have have much of an impact on the surrounding population.

The essay uses the language of movements and  sets forth proposals concerning a movement, but these can be accomplished only when there are enough people in a particular area to carry them out.

As for selecting "movement leaders" from those who are committed - do we really want to turn "neo-traditionalism" into another party? It is understandable that some may be tempted to use the tactics of radicals, those who wish to bring about revolution, the use of cells as an organization and such - but did not some of them admit that they were imitating the early Christians?

So let's encourage traditionally-minded men, living within some sort of community that holds the same beliefs and traditions, to co-operate and focus on building their friendships and community. An introvert or loner may claim that men do not need friends and need them only to make use of them. Why waste time arguing with that person. Men who perceive the need for friendship or fraternity need a plan for action.

Some men may be educated, some may be less so - but all should contribute to the group and be respected according to their talents. (If possible, though, they should do some common work together.) In view of possible collapse, they should aim for some measure of resiliency among themselves and seek to bring this about in the greater community, and failing that, be prepared to encourage and strengthen one another in desperate times.

How to best mobilize men, then? We need to educate men, not just about ethics or moral theology, but also about what they're up against, including what they need to know in dealing with women. We need positive models of masculinity, not just of some vague "holiness," but a sanctified masculinity that takes into account the virtues proper to men.


Related:
Scott Richert, A Dime’s Worth of Difference: What the Second Presidential Debate Reveals
James Hitchcock, The Welfare Snare: Christian Conflict with the Liberal State Is by Design
Bradley Birzer, The Liberal Arts: Dawson’s Prerequisite for the Reconstruction of Christendom

San Jose Cursillo

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