The left has an obvious and pressing need to unperson [Peterson]; what he and the other members of the so-called “intellectual dark web” are offering is kryptonite to identity politics. There is an eagerness to attach reputation-destroying ideas to him, such as that he is a supporter of something called “enforced monogamy”....There are plenty of reasons for individual readers to dislike Jordan Peterson. He’s a Jungian and that isn’t your cup of tea; he is, by his own admission, a very serious person and you think he should lighten up now and then; you find him boring; you’re not interested in either identity politics or in the arguments against it. There are many legitimate reasons to disagree with him on a number of subjects, and many people of good will do. But there is no coherent reason for the left’s obliterating and irrational hatred of Jordan Peterson. What, then, accounts for it?
It is because the left, while it currently seems ascendant in our houses of culture and art, has in fact entered its decadent late phase, and it is deeply vulnerable. The left is afraid not of Peterson, but of the ideas he promotes, which are completely inconsistent with identity politics of any kind. When the poetry editors of The Nation virtuously publish an amateurish but super-woke poem, only to discover that the poem stumbled across several trip wires of political correctness; when these editors (one of them a full professor in the Harvard English department) then jointly write a letter oozing bathos and career anxiety and begging forgiveness from their critics; when the poet himself publishes a statement of his own—a missive falling somewhere between an apology, a Hail Mary pass, and a suicide note; and when all of this is accepted in the houses of the holy as one of the regrettable but minor incidents that take place along the path toward greater justice, something is dying.
The Last Sunday Night Journal, December 30, 2018
And this time I really mean it. (But I'm going to continue the blog; more on that in a moment.)
It's always funny to see someone make a decision, then change his mind, then change it back again. Those who have been reading this blog for a long time know that the Sunday Night Journal ended in 2012, then was brought back in 2017. Those who have been reading the SNJ for a really long time know that it started in 2004, and that Light On Dark Water was not a blog, but rather a hand-coded web site, created partly so that I could fool around with HTMLc which i needed to do for my job. (Here is the very first post: my review, if you want to call it that, of the movie The Return of the King.) I turned it into a blog in 2006, and I think it was then that I began doing miscellaneous posts apart from the SNJ. So Light On Dark Water in its several incarnations has been around for fourteen full years now.
Anyway: that 2012 ending also occurred on December 30. And the post that announced it still serves reasonably well as a description of the general movement of the times, and my opinion thereof: here it is.
Since then the book I mentioned has been published, by me, designed by one of my children. It's called Sunday Light and there is some good stuff in it, though it's a miscellany and so not very unified. Few copies have been sold. It was never going to be a big seller, but if the author had made some sort of attempt at promotion it might have sold somewhat more. Or maybe it still will--here's the Amazon listing, and your local independent bookstore can order it at a better price from Ingram.
I've completed another book, a sort of combination of memoir and socio-cultural observation revolving around the cultural revolution of the '60s. It's tentatively titled Som Great Thing (sic) and is currently being read by a small publisher, and I have a sinking feeling that its both-fish-and-fowl nature leaves it not very tasty as either.
That post discussed the significance of Obama winning a second term. I did not of course so much as imagine, much less predict, the Trump phenomenon. Still, I think the general drift described in the post has continued: "it would seem that the future of Christianity in the United States appears to be troubled at best."
Three years later the Obergefell decision made it the law of our land that the word "marriage" no longer refers to something which intrinsically, by its very nature, involves the union of man and woman. I think one of the deep psychological currents of our time is a desire to deny and escape reality, and this decision is a landmark in that movement. One could go on at length describing phenomena in which this desire plays a role, but the sex-related ones are particularly emblematic, because sex is the great obsession of our time.
Many cogent arguments against this change in the concept of marriage have been made. But from the time the debate got really serious, around the same time I started this site, I thought the opponents (of whom I am one) were going to lose. I remember a specific moment when this hit me: when a Catholic commenting on a post on a Catholic blog (Amy Welborn's) scoffed at the opposition with the question "How does same-sex marriage damage my marriage?" It's a flippant and essentially irrelevant response, a cousin of "If you don't like pornography, don't watch it," but apparently it seems telling to a lot of people. If Catholics, and not just any Catholics but readers of an orthodox Catholic blog, were looking at it this way, what hope was there?
It seemed to me from the beginning that if you did not instantly and intuitively see that the idea that two people of the same sex can be married in any reasonable sense of that word, that men can have husbands and women can have wives, is a contradiction in terms, and therefore implied the redefinition of the terms, then there was probably almost no chance that you could be argued into changing your mind. A few experiments supported this perception.
Since then this particular front in the sexual revolution has advanced in two ways. There is the transgender movement, which takes the defiance of reality much further, insisting that a man can become a woman simply by declaring that he is one, and vice versa. That might seem only a bit of lunacy, except for the other advance, toward coercion. The activists who are pushing these efforts to redefine fundamental human realities are now attempting not so much to gain acceptance of their ideas as to quash dissent from them. I suppose this was inevitable. Since you cannot actually change reality by changing the words you use to describe it and the concepts by means of which you think about it, and since a quite large number of people won't willingly cooperate, you have to resort to a sort of force.
Progressive activists have the support of the most powerful and influential segments of society--entertainment, journalism, the academy, and apart from the Trump anomaly the government. They've been pretty successful at setting themselves up as Martin Luther King v. 2.0, and happily branding any opposition as bigotry, which is the greatest of evils and must be suppressed. In accordance with this logic, they will not only attempt to deprive an opponent of his livelihood and as far as possible ruin his life, but feel a warm glow of virtue when they do so. Rod Dreher's blog at The American Conservative documents a continuing stream of accounts of intimidation and suppression against people who dissent on these and other progressive issues.
This is the reality that Christians are going to have to live in, and as Dreher constantly and plausibly insists, it's only going to get worse. For Catholics, the continuing discoveries of corruption, especially corruption related to homosexual activity within the priesthood and the episcopacy, mean that the Church may not feel like much of a help in this struggle.
We're living through a new phase in the long metamorphosis of Western-Christian-Euro-American civilization into something else. What that something else is going to be, I don't know. The signs point to something like Huxley's Brave New World, but I doubt that such a thing is really possible. The tension between the desire for that thing and the intractable nature of reality is going to be intense, already is intense, with effects that I can't even guess at.
The faith will survive, though as so many have said, we are not promised that it will survive among great numbers of people. Still, who knows but that a flight from the flight from reality will begin, perhaps sooner than we think, though at my age I can't expect to see a significant change.
Back to the blog: I did consider giving it up altogether, the better to focus on other writing. But I really would miss it, especially the conversations. I extrapolate from my own experience that when more than a week or two or three goes by without new posts on a blog, readers tend to abandon it. So I'm going to try to post at least once a week, but not on a strict schedule. It's really the strict schedule that's causing me to stop the SNJ. And I'm going to try to stick more closely to the books, music, movies subject matter that I set out as my emphasis in the beginning--seen, as always, through Catholic eyes. I'm sure I'll give vent now and then to commentaries like this one, but when I get the urge I plan to ask myself, in a very skeptical tone, "Do you really need to write about this?" .
Oh, and by the way, about the whole business of any opposition to the goals of LGBTetc activism being labeled "bigotry": that really doesn't work on me. I've often laughed silently to myself while listening to some young progressive talk about older people being "bigots" on this matter because they've "never known a gay person," and so on. I usually don't say anything, partly because I know that attempting to defend oneself against such charges only makes the accuser more indignant and more certain that you're guilty. And partly because--and I'm sorry, I know this is not nice--it amuses me a little that he or she is in fact speaking very foolishly but doesn't know it.
But I'm going to say this, just once, to get it off my chest: I started college in 1966. I was very much a part of the bohemian, literary, artsy, left-wing, counter-culture scene. I continued to live in that same college town and to socialize in the same circles for the next ten years and more. To save you the trouble of calculating, I'll point out that this included the early and mid '70s, the years when David Bowie and glam-rock were wildly popular and gayness was very fashionable.
Do you really think I didn't know any gay people? Do you think I didn't have any gay friends? If anything I tend to rather like gay men than not--I mean, I'm fairly far off the norm myself, in my dull way, and there's a better than average chance that we have some common interests. Whenever this matter comes up, my memory for some reason immediately goes to a moment in the Chukker, a Tuscaloosa bar famous as a bohemian hangout. I was sitting with a lesbian friend when a pretty girl walked by and we burst out laughing because we realized that we were both ogling her. God bless you, Beth, wherever you are.
Just another sunset.