Sunday, October 16, 2005

The New Pantagruel

If I had regular readers, they'd probably notice that I've been fiddling with the links and my profile a fair bit as I've tried to get this thing going. As I was going about doing this, I came across The New Pantagruel, a fascinating (and very well designed) e-zine which appears to be truly conservative. Since I have a strong aversion to individualistic, rights-based liberalisms of both the left & right, there are few publications which don't irritate me greatly on occasion. So, I am happy to come across this one. Here's a taste of an article entitled Practicing the Discipline of Place:
Liberalism in this sense, characterized by individual freedom in markets and politics, is triumphant at “the end of history.” It is unquestionably the single greatest means human beings have developed of producing economic prosperity and political security. But liberalism’s successes naturally run downhill: safety and full stomachs, yes, but also consumption over charity; technology over art; and license over self-control. The great weakness of liberalism is that it cannot support the soul. Reflecting on what he called the “the wild gas” of the French Revolution, Edmund Burke wrote that the “effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations, which may soon be turned into complaints.”

Burke understood that individual liberty is no friend of civil society. Individual freedom alone cannot shape what individuals may please to do. And freedom without responsibility is eventually not freedom at all. It becomes, rather, just another kind of mastery, subjecting people to the one thing liberalism cannot negate—the ever present I want. In a completely liberalized society, there is nothing left but appetite...

The flaw in the liberal temperament is its deep distrust of place owing to its impatient hunger for the eternity of the void. Both time and place restrict our ability to be whatever we choose, to find our “salvation,” as Quindlen would have it, in the actualization of our rootless selves. But particular times and places are, in fact, the essence of civil society, anchoring us to the real and the concrete instead of allowing our appetites to soar through the infinite expanse of possible desires.

So the restoration of civil society will require disciplining ourselves to this other temperament, one which draws its moods and tones from the “season and temperature” of its atmosphere. It is the temperament, or discipline, of place. And this discipline brings with it a concrete way of thinking. Instead of seeing through things, those who embrace the discipline of place see out from within them.

Of course, it's the quote from T.S. Eliot that really puts the argument away.


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