Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
“Have we forgotten how to think?” a frustrated waitress at an East Hartford Diner asked me recently.
That would be one explanation of our continuing incongruities.
Examples abound. People on the far left assume that the polis – whatever it happens to be, a democracy, a republic or a dictatorship – can be, both and at the same time, diverse and equitable. But diversity is at war with equity.
An America that is diverse celebrates differences among various groups of people who have been assimilated into the culture of the United States. But equity, the irrational insistence that everyone should be treated in the same manner, seeks to abolish important differences in the name of social justice. Justice, said the highly rational Aristotle, consists in treating things that are different in a different manner and things that are similar in a similar manner.
The age of reason, we know, sought to replace the age of faith with anthropological, sociological and scientific postulates. If the age of reason is now over, we owe it to ourselves to examine what we should call its successor.
What should we call it?
The reader’s guess is as good as mine. Albert Camus possibly would have called ours the age of absurdity, not far off the mark, in my view. Absurdity can survive only in a steam bath of extreme tolerance. Only irrational tolerance can sustain people who believe – sincerely, most of them – that we needn’t choose between A and not-A.
Equity, strictly applied, requires us to treat bank robbers and bank tellers equally because both are in the business of handling bank receipts, an obvious absurdity rarely noticed when the conversation turns to the rather obvious differences between men and women, or Democrats and Republicans, or neo-progressives and liberals, or victims and victimizers or, most recently, armed and dangerous terrorist politicians – Hamas is the reigning political government of Gaza -- and Israelis, a majority of whom are not Nazis, whatever absurdist professors and their intellectual offspring at ivy draped universities may claim.
The absurdist is not one who can hold opposite thoughts in mind at the same time. The true absurdist is one who favors the abolition of contrary thoughts – indeed, the evisceration of the principle of contradiction itself – through the application of an ancient and discredited sympathetic magic.
In the Golden Bough, a comparative study of mythology and religion written by Scottish anthropologist James George Frazier, the author recounts a murder trial in which all relevant parties are questioned by tribal elders. Following the meticulous examinations, the murder weapon, a knife, is called to testify, pronounced guilty and drowned in a nearby river. This is the solution to gun crimes among absurdists in our own day. Point out to gun control advocates such as Connecticut’s U.S. Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy that crimes involving guns are highest in cities with the most stringent gun control measures, and your point will be received with a shrug of the shoulders and the usual rusty political incantations.
My waitress is convinced that she might survive the onrush of absurdities through reliance upon common sense and what William Wordsworth calls “the faith that looks through death,” and “the years that bring the philosophic mind.”
Though she may never have read G.K. Chesterton, she probably would value his reliance on orthodoxy, the title, as it happens, of his autobiography.
Those who cling to the lucid past as an anchor in a sea of absurdity, Chesterton felt, will not float, as post moderns do, helplessly downstream with the onrushing tide. Only one who struggles against the tide can swim upstream. To struggle against the prevailing wisdom of the day should be, and most often is, a revolutionary act at a time of mendacious innovation. And if the world is upside down, right thinking men and women must stand on their heads to perceive it rightly.
One may be certain that Chesterton’s revolutionary acts will not be embraced by ivy covered proto-Marxist professors at Harvard and Yale. But waitresses, most of them realists to the bone, remain unburdened by modern mythologies. When you ask them for “eggs over light,” your news reaches the cook and soon you are served, with a world conquering smile, eggs over light, and not some weird concoction served up by educational experts.