Updated: Aug 24
By Eric Scheske of The Daily Eudemon
Russian mystic and philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev (1874–1948) spoke about our world entering a new kind of Middle Ages. Two elements battled for supremacy in the Middle Ages: barbarism and the Catholic Church. The Church won.
In the new Middle Ages, will the Chuch reassert itself . . . or will barbarism come back? If barbarism, it will be much worse than the old barbarism. The post-modern barbarism will be, in the words of Berdyaev’s younger contemporary Henri de Lubac, “centralized, technically efficient and inhuman.” De Lubac wrote those words in 1944. Since that time, it has become pretty clear that our world is reverting to barbarism, not the Church.
The Church has lost a lot of ground over the past 75 years, fighting waves of enemies from within and without, losing credibility with anyone who finds it unsettling for erstwhile celibates to sodomize emotionally vulnerable 14-year-olds, plus suffering the lowest of plights — getting kicked while down — as western institutions, from the New York Times to the universities to Hollywood, gleefully kick at the Body.
So, barbarism it is.
And it’s a “centralized, technically efficient and inhuman” one at that, as the federal government takes every American under its protective arm with trillions in stimulus and EBT cards and Wall Street bailouts, books are eschewed for the Internet, and our ability to concentrate erodes under waves of Tweets and Tic-Toc videos, thereby taking away that thing that Pascal said gives us dignity as men: the power of thought. Do you want to slice against it? To fight against the new barbarism? To exist in the new Middle Ages on the side of the Church?
Then be Catholic. Or at least a traditional Christian who believes the Nicene Creed is true and not the concoction of the favored pole of a (very) Logocentric fourth century.
And then, after you do that, you can start doing everything that the new barbarism isn’t. Is the new barbarism centralized?
Then do everything possible not to be centralized.
How is it possible for one guy not to be centralized? Isn’t that like one guy blotting out the sun (or, a better analogy here, eliminating the night)?
Kinda. There’s not much you can do, but you can at least hate the federal government. That’s a start.
But don’t let it be a consuming hatred. That’s not healthy. Merely note, “I wish the Potomac River would open up into a vast cavern and suck everything within one mile of K Street into the burning bowels of Hell,” then go about your cheery business.
You can also do things that don’t land on the centralized government’s radar. Growing vegetables, for instance, and killing your own meat (either domesticated meat or wild). Homesteading, in other words. You can create your own food and pay no tax. You don’t even have to report it. That’s a great place to start in your battle against centralization.
Finally, be eccentric. “Eccentric” comes from the Greek ekkentros, “out of center.” Be outside of the centralized. If there’s a strong central government, you can bet that it’s shaping popular and conventional ideas. If it’s a conventional idea, especially a new one embraced by The Washington Post, I recommend that a person fighting against the new barbarism label it “Intellectual Spawn of Satan” and kneejerk reject it unless evidence of its truthfulness is simply overwhelming. Is the new barbarism technically efficient?
Don’t be technical or efficient, much less both.
Cultivate the fine art of snoring, as Albert Jay Nock called it. Nock himself has been portrayed and vilified as a lazy person, and maybe he was, but his essay on snoring is a work of art and one that any Taoist (the least technical and efficient person in history) would appreciate. The gist of Nock’s article? Don’t do today what might take care of itself tomorrow. Also: put away your cell phone. Yeah, yeah, I know: that advice is more worn than a hot female lobbyist on the Beltway.
But do it. Take a concrete step. I am acquiring a non-cell cell phone, for instance, so I can listen to (my beloved) podcasts and lectures and audiobooks while I walk and garden (a “demon” of efficiency, I fear I am), but without getting tempted by texts, notifications, alarms, or bells. I’ll carry around my dumb smartphone all day, then only check my smart smartphone once or twice a day. I’m highly optimistic. Is the new barbarism inhumane?
Then be human.
Cultivate the power of thought . . . by renewing your power of concentration. Read books, not Tweets. Meditate, don’t surf. Do nothing, not anything.
Our culture is anxious and tired, worn out by a scattered attention that tries to capture everything and comprehends nothing. We are anxious, not composed. Stretched, like Bilbo Baggins by the Ring, not peaceful. Easily rattled, not dignified.
We are, in other words, becoming more like the nine wraiths that Tolkien described than the true men God meant for us to be.
Fight against the new barbarism by becoming human. Become human by regaining the power of thought.
The more you can think on your own, the less barbarian you’ll become.