A letter from my Covenant Zone co-blogger, Charles Henry:
…Truth be told, there is one thing you could give me, that I would consider of great personal value: if you could post the video I made in appreciation of WWII veterans, at Flares Into Darkness. Many blogs may have contributed to my resolve to emerge out of my lurking shadows into the sunlight of commenting and blogging in my own right, but it was what I felt as an exemplary attempt to establish a common sense political moral and intellectual center at Flares Into Darkness that became the deciding factor in inspiring me to take the first real, concrete step that has led me to where I am now, and all the blogging blessings that have come my way ever since.
I would consider it such an honor to see that video of mine there, because of the high esteem I've long had for the bloggers at that site, and the creative pride I feel over that video. That WWII video makes me taste the good that can be done, when sincere commitment to worthwhile causes are pursued despite any number of obstacles… as well as the natural connection that I believe exists between people, waiting to be invoked.
Continued, with two great videos...
I will post your wonderful video at Flares, Charles. But I am having some trouble writing this introduction to it. Maybe it's because you have me thinking of the mystery of patriotism, the secular faith that the cynical would unveil as even more of a fraud than plain old religion; and now that I’m no longer cynical, the source of patriotism can be even more of a mystery than religion…. What do you do with a mystery? When I was growing up and in university, all the “smart” people made fun of or demonized patriotism; it was either uncool or dangerous (oppressive to outsiders and to the nation’s foot soldiers) except, that is, when it took on an anti-American (as unfortunately is common in Canada) or utopian (“we are the world”) form.
Another way of putting this, and here we get closer to the thing, is that even those who denigrated the sacred in patriotic forms could not do without another way of representing their sacred bond (i.e. their shared sense of coolness) to unite them against the demonized other and its sacred things. My contemporaries may have thought themselves smart secularizers, but what was and is cool for most of them is, I have come to learn, just another form of the sacred.
They scorn the trade in normative or national sacred signs, a scorn that, intentionally or not, acts to disenfranchise ordinary people culturally and politically. Ordinary people can only rule themselves when they share in a sacred tradition with its many common understandings of right and wrong, and share a political constitution that allows them to evolve this tradition. Otherwise, without the independent authority of tradition, they are ruled by experts in "progress". Those experts who scorn the normal must have their own cool sacred to bond the hip and learned; and if they are going to rule the rest of us we have to acquiesce and appear as if we believe they are cool, that the experts’ knowledge is indeed rather magical, liberating and transformative when in the right hands, beyond the grasp of normal mortals.
I believe we are the generation that is discovering that there is no escaping a human condition bound, to some extent, by mysterious or irrational sacrality, i.e. something that must be taken on faith; and perhaps the more we make a fetish of being secular and anti-patriotic, the more we fall back into the more irrational or blindly demonizing forms of magic and religion.
Growing up, I never had a sure sense of patriotism; people laughed at it, indulged in it from afar (as when watching a historical movie) or, it seemed, took it too seriously. I never had a strong conception of patriotism as something that could be experienced as “just right”. But watching your video, Charles, it struck me in a flash that here was a representation that provided an experience of patriotism that was just right (your representation meshed with my imagination of my experience of reality and truth).
As I say, those who denigrate patriotism must indulge in some alternative forms of the sacred. And perhaps the problem I am having in introducing this video to my friends here at Flares is that I was just watching tv (actually it was several days ago now) flipping past BBC World News, and I caught a promo for a program, with the journalist’s voice emoting “how are we going to end the bloodshed? Is it time to talk with al Qaeda?” It was a jolt, pushing me beyond a previous reticence fully to commit to a struggle in a way I cannot yet quite express, for I am still stunned by the revelatory flash (admittedly not the first) of how deep into appeasement and unreality much of Western culture has sunk, as if the idea of treating with murderous and apocalyptic religious fanatics is needed by a certain crowd as acknowledgment of their own fundamental sacred belief in the guilt of our own “bloody” ways, as if the powerful norms of Western culture are so inherently oppressive to our marginalized others that these norms are responsible for creating the madly mass-murdering and suicidal Jihadis.
And since we are guilty – after all, the occidentocentric BBC assumption remains that “we” have the power, “we” can end the bloodshed if we really want – we must sit down with our angry other, whatever he has done, whatever sacred vision he unbendingly defends, even, apparently, if he wants to bomb the world back to some medieval Caliphate-led empire that presumably couldn’t possibly feed anywhere near the six billion of us presently dependent on Western-led modernity and its market and political freedoms.
At first, I sputter at the insanity of people who think “we” can talk with al Qaeda, other than to submit, as if the terms of the sacred that motivates them are negotiable. But, learning something from Charles, I will try to turn this depressing witness to creative end. After all, knowledge of just how fallen are so many of our cultural and political institutions can be liberating. As time goes on, more of us will stop wasting energy trying to rebut the fantasy world view of our gnostic elites with their special keys for “ending the bloodshed”. Already, it is no longer surprising or illuminating that the BBC would embrace and encourage those who perform, for the tv audience, what I believe are rightly labeled human sacrifices. I believe networks like the BBC encourage murders and suicides by Jihadis and other would-be revolutionaries – sacrifices of their own “martyrs” and of us - that are needed for the White Guilt ideology to make transcendent “sense” to billions around the globe. We all know the “if it bleeds it leads” mantra; in other words, no suicidal and homicidally-enraged victims of the big bad West, no tv coverage; and so the “Green Helmets” of the world are learning to perform appropriately, even as this sacred game is getting old.
It is old because, after all, human blood sacrifice was discovered long before us, likely at the birth of hierarchical agrarian society by all those who learned that periodic rituals where kings, temple virgins, the losing team in a ball game, etc., were killed and sent to the realm of the Gods, somehow made “sense” – if it was done “just right” - if the resentment of those individuals who were somehow guilty for monopolizing (in the new social hierarchies) too much of the sacred center could thus be discharged by the tragic “rightness” of their shed blood (our agrarian forebears had not yet discovered the sophisticated postmodern rituals proving the indubitable rightness of our guilt by the suicidal madness of our other) and society effectively saved from its internal tensions - for a time - by some sort of ritually shared catharsis.
While the contemporary West, in a fit of both political profundity and banal Babbittry, has moved beyond such sacred blood rituals by according sacrality to every individual as a free spirit, whatever his or her religion, it is just this individualism, that must be in good part expressed through the “vulgar” mechanisms of consumer society, that enrages those whose version of the sacred suggests we have no right to maintain these devilishly tempting, distracting, but often unheroic, visions of sacrality, instead of some universal submission to a unique truth of God or men. Increasingly, our Western White and Green Guilt mongers find reasons to concur.
But those of us who see through this old apocalyptic game will find ways to build a new political scene through alliances among serious people around the world - the kind who know, for example, that the sacred which motivates al Qaeda will either win the day or be defeated, but will not be mediated on Oprah (oh, if only it could be…). Those of us committed to sacred reality will circumvent the old elites leaving them to their sinecures and rituals in legacy institutions, allowing their voices to remain available to those who can’t live without ‘em, because not ready to join those renewing the constitutional profundities of nationhood.
A new reality
Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers meets in the atrium of the Vancouver Public Library (7-9 pm) to drink coffee and speak in public about all that is sacred or could be sacred to a nation moving beyond the incoherency of an elite-led "multicultural" liberalism, a nation in search of a new covenant to define how we might rule ourselves again. Anyone living here can join us. And a couple of Thursdays ago, we were joined by a young man from Europe full of the imperial EU faith – at least, he thought it a great thing that a kid from, say, Belgium, was no longer trapped in that little country but could aspire to work in Ireland, Italy, etc. And as there is emerging a European free market, there needed to be some kind of European polity to regulate this market since, in any ultimate struggle, politics always rules economics (as is no doubt true).
And yet, this young man decried the corruption of the politicians of Europe in an age when accountability to national electorates is diminished in deference to EU bureaucratic rule; and he worried about the racial and religious divisions and segregation that immigration and the impossible attempt at imposing some value-neutral liberalism, via elite arbitration in backrooms, has brought to much of Europe.
Still not squaring the circle, he had given up on the idea of nations and constitutional self-rule, along with any form of religion it seemed, as well as the institution of marriage which he saw as a way that “society” chained people to norms that made them unhappy. He assured us that he was fully committed to spending a loving life with his girlfriend, but this required no ritualized commitment to some larger community or family, no highly memorable sign he would carry with him each day of his life as he struggled to renew their love and family in word and deed.
Yet more distressing to Charles was that this young man had all the standard, unreal, anti-Israel opinions on the Palestine question, all the while denying that European political culture is in any significant sense antisemitic (while no one would doubt their indulgence in that most kindred malady of the mind, anti-Americanism). To Charles, all this represented a frightening blindness, caused not simply by worldly economic and consumer distractions, but also by a politically consequential forgetting of European history, culture and inter-generational solidarity, and also the solidarity forged between North Americans and western Europe in the two world wars. And it was a forgetting of the history by which Israel had come into being and has had continually to fight for its very existence from day one, in face of an Arab-Islamic world for most of which Israel, in any shape or form, is an abomination, a slap in the face of their most sacred understandings and claims that cannot but look feeble in face of the economic, technological, and military success of a tiny western nation surrounded by her enemies’ many failures. To our young man, the mere fact that life in Israel is modern, Western, normal, while much of the surrounding Arab world is an indubitably depressing “shit hole” is proof positive of some great injustice, of which the recent imposition of “the wall” is the unmistakable confirmation. That Islam might be to blame for this injustice to Muslims is at once true and insufficient explanation to his mind. There must be a greater demon than that.
Well, feeling rather close to this young man, Charles was upset and he went home to spend a sleepless night, tormented by the fact that the right Western reality, as he understands it, is something quite different from what is being taught in schools and the MSM. Knowing he wouldn’t sleep, Charles put his energies to work, and spent a night creating one of his videos or slide shows that appear regularly at Covenant Zone.
Charles has been doing a lot of videos on the situation in France, a nation to which he feels some attachment having spent many years learning French and falling in love with books from and about France. He worries about the future of that nation he knows largely in terms of its transcendent stories. Charles is often upset when he reads North American bloggers berating the feckless French, forgetting that while the leadership of France is an elite post-national class that no longer has any serious ideas about its responsibilities to France and the Western order of nation-states, there is nonetheless a class of serious patriots and anti-Jihadist bloggers whom we should be providing comradeship, instead of ignoring the question of how to back our barely visible friends by simply sloughing off “the French”. In the current struggle, to defend one’s nation is necessarily to defend all nations against those imperialistic and anti-Western forces who question the whole idea of the constitutional and covenantal nation-state.
Well, right below is the video Charles wanted me to link. And quite aside from the fact that Charles gets the spirit of patriotism and internationalism “just right”, why did I want to do something for Charles in the first place, occasioning his reply in the email from which I quoted at the start of this post?
Recently, with the election of Stephane Dion as leader of the Liberal party of Canada, and with Charles’ great parodies of the likes of Jacques Chirac and Segolene Royal (see all of Charles’ videos at youtube under the authorship of "FraicheDufour") fresh on the mind, I asked Charles to make us a video featuring Dion. And what a result! It is to my mind the funniest Charles-FraicheDufour video yet, though admittedly the humour may not be entirely evident to those unfamiliar with the arrogant pretension of the Liberals to be Canada’s “natural governing party”, or with the personal vanities of that tribe’s leaders. Anyway, I had commissioned and received a FraicheDufour video without naming my price. And in the end, all I had to do was tell you all about it here. Quite the deal.
"Shadows Come Back" - Stephane Dion