Archives For Albert Camus

The Rise of the TechnocratIn ‘Augustine and the Limits of Politics,’ political scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain lamented:

‘Albert Camus’ work, ‘The Rebel’ is understudied and underestimated.’ (p.115)

Elshtain’s work is peppered with references to Camus. Her affinity with the French agonistic and “existentialist” philosopher is easy to observe. Elshtain sees a good amount of Camus’ questions and conclusions as relevant to contemporary discourse.

That is of course, where dialogue and dissent are allowed, which to the keen observer like Elshtain and Camus, are things fast being forced into private. This is because the pathos in post-modern monologues (such as: facebook rants, easy likes, mob put downs and whip statements) are taking over. (It was from this that Elshtain later asks if ‘democracy can survive social media and the rise of the technocratic class. See: ‘‘State Of Democracy’)

Earlier in her book, Elshtain provides some commentary on  a post war lecture Camus gave in 1946 at Columbia University:

‘To what was no doubt a hushed auditorium, Camus went on to enumerate the clear symptoms of what he called a ‘crisis of world-dimensions; a crisis in human consciousness.’ He described these as a rise in terror, following upon such a perversion of values that man, woman or historical force is judged today not in terms of human dignity but in terms of success (consider here: doing and saying whatever makes you popular – or gets the most likes). The crisis is based, as well, on the growing “impossibility of persuasion.” Human beings live and can only live by “retaining the idea that they have something in common,” a starting point to which they can return […] Camus noted two other symptoms of the crisis. One he called the substitution of the “political” for the “living” person.’ (p.70)

Citing Camus, Elshtain then points to the unhealthy ‘growth of bureaucracy.’ – ‘For what counts now is whether or not one has helped a doctrine to triumph, not whether or not one respects a mother and spares her suffering” (ibid). All these, Elshtain asserts, ‘can be summed up in a single tendency – the cult of efficiency and abstraction.’ (ibid)

Camus’ conclusion is then highlighted:

 “That is why the man in Europe today experiences only solitude and silence; for he cannot communicate with his fellows in terms of values common to them all, and since he is no longer protected by a respect for man based on the values of man, the only alternative henceforth open to him is to be a victim or an executioner.” (Ibid)

What stands out the most, though, is Elshtain’s own conclusion about what Camus was on about:

‘Camus lays the crisis squarely on the doorstep of an unchecked will-to-power. And from that flows the terrible notion that one can cleanse the world, purge the old, the tired, the imperfect, though terror.’ (p.71)

Directly connected  to this is a post-war assessment made by Albert Camus in 1948:

‘Between the forces of terror (coercion) and the forces of dialogue (persuasion), a great unequal battle has begun. I have nothing but reasonable illusions to the outcome of that battle. But I believe it must be fought, and I know that certain men and women have resolved to do so. I merely fear that they will occasionally feel somewhat alone, that they are in fact alone, and that after an interval of two thousand years we may see the sacrifice of Socrates repeated several times.’
(Camus, A. ‘Resistance, Rebellion & Death: Essays’ pp.73-74)

I agree with Elshtain, Camus has the potential to wake The West up from its slumber; to bring technicolour back into focus and persuasively correct the current politically correct technoblur. He names that which should be named and wasn’t afraid to address what needed to be addressed. It’s also helpful to note that after he published,’The Rebel’, French communists (among them was J.P. Sartre) labelled Camus, who was one of their own, a reactionary et.al. Simply because he questioned the ideology and where that ideology landed. He disagreed with them and spoke out against it. As a result he was threatened, ridiculed into submission, excommunicated and disowned by his friends. Which, for the Christian who participates in these realms and seeks responsible dialogue translates into:

‘You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.’
(Jesus, Mark 13:13)


Sources:

Camus, A. 1960 Essays: Resistance, Rebellion and Death, Vintage Books, Random House

Camus, A. 1946-1947 The Human Crisis, pp.20-24

Elshtain, J.B 1998 Augustine and the Limits of Politics, University of Notre Dame Press (pp.70-71 & p.115)

The image used here is my own.

Lately, I’ve been working in a new guitar by experimenting with the Line 6, Pod HD400. Hence the slower output on the blog. There’s a few loose bits here, but such is improv.

First, I created a bass line, then played some melody to run over the top of it. This is my third experiment with the new system. All recorded with an iphone.

As for the quote and the picture. As some of you know, I find a heavy relevance to contemporary issues in some of Albert Camus’ material. The quote seemed to fit. The photo is also mine.

 

IMG_2219As a ship before a reef is directed by a lighthouse, so must we find ourselves directed. Who we allow to do the directing is a matter of choice and faith.

This is, however, counter to the logic of advocates who aggressively serve an ideology of absolute freedom; who, in turn deny absolutes and inadvertently also deny freedom.

The outcome is the theft of freedom under the guise of promising freedom.

The few assert themselves as lords over the many because some form of direction is ultimately necessary for survival.[i] Necessary for freedom to remain freedom.

Accordingly, the act of being confronted by a lighthouse is repressive, and unfairly restrictive.

Following this logic, it’s an anachronistic social construct of a by-gone era.

Something to be denied its right to speak.

Something to be denied its right to confront us.

Something to be silenced by put-downs and ridiculed into submission.

Something that no longer has a right to exist or the freedom to shine?

That is until the unmovable brunt of a reef rips apart the hull and this charade of freedom-without-limitation is shattered upon its concealed jagged surface.

Unveiled, this hidden danger now leaves a trail of debris, terror, chaos and destruction in the wake of what is an observable and reasoned, natural intolerance.

The reef could have been avoided, but it wasn’t.

Consequently, the pride and cheering stop. The celebrity promotions, hype, progressive optimism, associated propaganda, ad hominem, and ticket tape parades are instead replaced by mourning, blame, loss and emptiness.

An unhealthy fear of offending or demands of compensation for being offended by the offensive posturing of the lighthouse no longer matter. All that was has been sacrificed to the abyss. Behind the veil of universal niceness, true freedom is regrettably lost.

Like most ships, who on seeing the warm and graceful signal fires of a steadfast lighthouse, do not stay ignorant; or choose to remain on its own wilful course. So it is, that although an ‘educator may teach a child, the student must take pains to get an education. There is a difference between merit and means. There is moreover a difference between cause and effect…Wisdom’s dole is dispensed at wisdom’s gate’ [ii]

Or, in the brilliant words of the late Dallas Willard,

‘grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.’ [iii]

Karl Barth might meet this with a resounding, “yes! this is our response to God because He loves in freedom; chooses to be responsibly involved.” He grants us permission to know what He expects of us. We are not abandoned to fallible perilous assumptions. We are not left alone, having to choose between what is the equivalent of Scylla and Charybdis.

God is free. In His freedom he acts. In His love we hear His “yes and no” spoken for our benefit. Not because we deserved it, but because it is God’s will-to-rescue us from a corrupted will-to-power; He directs us towards Himself.

Our response, (our effort?) then, is to be one of ‘prayer and gratitude’; or as Barth simply puts it, ‘grateful obedience.'[iv]

For him this is because ‘the truth of humanity, [in our being confronted by grace; Jesus Christ] is that we are directed towards God.’ [v]

Spurgeon, himself, appears to have grasped this, stating:

‘There is no merit in seeking the Lord; but we may not hope to find him without it. The cup must be held under the flowing fountain or it will not be filled, yet the cup does not create the water or purchase it’ [vi]

A summary of this might be as simple as saying that grace affords our gratitude.

In the end perhaps, Abigail Adams says it best:

‘I wish our gratitude may be in manner and way, proportionate to our benefit.’ [vii]

Which in turn means:

‘blessed is the one who hears instruction and responds wisely to it’ – (Proverbs 8:33-34)

 

 


Sources:

[i] My tentative conclusions here rest on those of Albert Camus. To paraphrase, ‘therefore, absolute freedom is ultimately a lie.’ (The Rebel)

[ii] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden,  Electronic Ed. p.78

[iii] Willard, D. 2006 The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship, Monarch Books, United Kingdom

[iv] Barth, K. 1940, The Limits of The Knowledge of God CD. II/1 p.218-229 Hendrickson Publishers, T& T Clark Ltd, 1957

[v] ibid, p.121

[vi] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden,  Electronic Ed. p.78

[vii] Adams, J & A. The Letters of John & Abigail Adams, #81, 10th December 1775

A Dose Of Dodgem: Dads

April 19, 2015 — 2 Comments

Dodgem, April, RL2015For most dad’s it’s a case of getting their jobs done. They’re not worried about having labels such as ‘super’ or ‘working’ pinned to their chest.

Granted, some dads fail so miserably that applying such a prefix would render the term meaningless.

As much as it is appropriate and has been necessary for ‘working [super] mums’ to be recognised as such, it is rare to hear those seemingly necessary titles applied to men.

It would be capitulating to the intellectually absurd if we denied that there is an imbalance when it comes to good publicity, or lack thereof, for dads that do their absolute best. Dads who, despite their circumstances or how they themselves may have been let down by their own fathers, refuse to use abuse as an excuse.

These dads, by God’s grace, are able to step up and step in to the void of their own brokenness. To confront themselves and allow themselves to be confronted in order to move forward.

They are not ignorant or arrogant about the failures of men towards women or why it is important to be on guard against misogyny. Nor are they ignorant about the negative side effects of it. Such as,  misandry, the very Marxist paradox of creating inequality in order to achieve equality; or the grotesque abuse applied to anyone who does not placate, hypocritically oppressive forms of contemporary tolerance, by using the ”correct” label in order to avoid offending others.

It’s overlooked, but, in a similar way to a lot of mums, some dads soldier on in spite of their pain. They breathe, pray, think, act carefully and hope for the best. They stand on sacred ground. Applying what they have learnt about life from their pain, experience and healing.

I think one would be hard pressed to find a dad who actually feared not being labelled with the correct badge. One that measured his achievements with the principles of identity politics. The kind that sees people forced to meet the need for affirmation and legitimacy in others, even if they disagree on reasonable grounds.

As a side note, this is something that can be linked back to some in the politico-academic aristocracy. (That ironic institutional group of anachronistic, reject-anything-Christian, Marxists who are stuck in the early 1900s and 1960s – I refer to Camus’ ‘The Rebel’, et.al and Elshtain’s discussions in ‘Public Man, Private Woman, et.al’ on both these)

The great thing is, for most of those dads, none of the branding matters.These dads are not worried about the lack of politically sensitive labelling.

Their homes matter. In the right order, their families and friends matter. Their wives matter. Life matters. Faith matters. Providing for their families and creating a healthy home, matters.

Taking this into consideration we can see why God chose to be identified in the language of the biblical texts as being a dad who loves, firmly guides and protects. Although, ‘God is'[i] in His being more than a father (because ‘he is not creature’ [ii]), the retelling in Luke of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal speaks profoundly about how much God is for us, even when we are at or worst.

This is a genuinely revolutionary ethic. It teaches us, by example, that by God’s own standard, established in covenant and fulfilled in Jesus Christ, that a dad is not to be viewed as a means to an end; a ‘mechanism or a naked ape who is imprisoned by hidden motives and controlled by what the intelligentsia so often call hang-ups, such as: altruism and values'[iii]; i.e.: social constructs.

It will only reflect the sad state of a society when one day it becomes necessary to loudly protest and point out, that dads are far from, Matt Groening’s satirical, bumbling, ‘Homer Simpson.’ To one day, have to loudly protest that what it means to be a dad is not doing what is popular or comfortable, but doing what is right.

 


Sources:

[i] Barth, K. 1957 CD. II/1 The Doctrine of God: The Being of God in Freedom, Hendrickson Publishers (p.283)

[ii] ibid, (p.313 & p.323)

[iii] Frankl,V.1978, The Unheard Cry of Meaning: Psychotherapy & Humanism, Touchstone, Simon and Schuster (p.55-57) [paraphrased]

Photo: Introducing my youngest son to dodgem cars a few weeks ago (bumper cars)

Five links_Jpeg

Scrolling the net landed some articles that hold their value long after reading them.

1. Since it’s Lent there is a great deal of material moving around about it. One of the stand-out, no frills, straight-up reflections I’ve read of late is ‘Spiritual Warfare For Christians’. Courtesy of the Benedictines via DigitialNun. My attraction to this is how it presents Lent as part of a ‘battleline of the community and in the spiritual combat of the desert where solitaries engage’.

The place that firmly directs us onto a journey of paradox, joy, and thanksgiving fused together with anticipation in spite of what appears hopeless and desolate; the giving and being given to. The giving up in order to be drawn nearer to the One who has shown that we are not given up on.

2. Rob Stroud has written an impressive piece about the competitive and ephemeral nature of popularity. What he brings here is perspective. Check it out: Fleeting Flame.

3. I was surprised to find that George Orwell’s political novel ‘1984’ was made into a radio play by NBC University Theatre in 1949, featuring one of Britain’s classiest actors of the time, David Niven. If you can tolerate the brief introduction the production can be accessed at on Spotify or archive.org for free or for a price from itunes.

4.  I don’t usually listen to podcasts. In truth, the only one I ever really tuned into was from Relevant Magazine, but that was sometime ago. This year I stumbled (metaphorically speaking) back into listening to Relevant and a few that differ significantly from each other, yet have worth on more than one level.

First, Nerd Machine’s ‘Picking Favourites’. It is edgy, informative, well-produced, but rough and contains a ton of quirky material. With special guests, some days are enough to make you walk away saying: “that was awesome”, others: “what-were-they-thinking?” Some episodes breach the language barrier. Some just give out way too much information. So, consider that me giving you a fair warning. Still, it has to be said, right now at least, that this is one of the best Podcasts available in it’s category.

Second,  ‘Mortification of Spin’.  There is a lot more they could do to improve on what is already a stand-out production. Full of theologically centred discussion, the content is consistent, conversational, easy to follow and not overly highbrow.

5. From my reading notes:Albert Camus quote on Intellectuals

Camus 2It’s widely held that Albert Camus was an outsider. He was and remains a non-conformist among non-conformists.

Alongside Camus’ cautious optimism about humanity is his willingness to break with collective intellectual and political trends. He was a fierce agnostic; critical of Christianity, yet still open to the feasibility of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ[i].

Although, to be fair, given Camus’ views on this and absolute truth, alone, it is debatable as to how far this could be stretched out and represented as him being open to seeing Christ as more than just a well-intentioned, but deluded revolutionary.

As far as Camus’ understanding of and lukewarm relationship with Christianity goes, Maya Angelou’s: ‘here then is my Christian lack, If I’m struck then I’ll strike back[ii]’ certainly finds legitimate traction.

Camus’ writings are sharp. His tone often influenced by the dire circumstances of his historical context and his targets those who claim one thing, yet project another.

Born in French Algeria, Camus later became a journalist, contributing to ‘Combat’; the left-wing media arm of the French Resistance, during Nazi occupation.

Camus, today, is pertinent because of is his open critique of the “Left”, and his ability to detach himself from any claim that could suggest he had sold out to the “Right”.

According to Olivier Todd, after writing ‘The Rebel’ Camus was hammered by critics and ostracised. This included being  labelled by Jean Paul Sartre as being ‘someone who had always been vain.’[iii]

Todd adds:

‘Camus went against the grain among members of the left-wing intelligentsia. Facing a mummified admiration of revolution per se, Camus was fairly revolutionary in response to much of the current thinking in contemporary Paris.’[iv]

Jean Bethke Elshtain also noted:

‘Camus was no naïf. He knew what it meant to fight fascism. He feared what fighting fascism unleashed, namely, counter-terror in the name of an abstract Communist utopia. He disapproved of any passion for unity that saw opposition as treason. For his efforts, Camus was virtually excommunicated from the French intellectual life by Sartre and his comrades’[v]

It’s easy enough to understand why Camus, now an estranged golden-child of the “Left”, caused such an upheaval.

In 1957, near the close of an interview where Camus gave support for the counter-revolutionary movement in communist held Hungary,  Camus stated that the ‘Left was schizophrenic and needed doctoring’:

‘We must hope for a common rallying. But first our Leftist intellectuals , who have swallowed so many insults and may well have to begin doing so again, would have to undertake a critique of the reasoning’s and ideologies to which they have hitherto subscribed, which have wreaked the havoc they have seen in our most recent history. That will be the hardest thing. We must admit that today conformity is on the Left.
To be sure, the Right is not brilliant. But the Left is in complete decadence, a prisoner of words, caught in its own vocabulary, capable merely of stereo-typed replies, constantly at a loss when faced with the truth, from which it nevertheless claimed to derive its laws.
The Left is schizophrenic and needs doctoring through pitiless self-criticism, exercise of the heart, close reasoning, and a little modesty. Until such an effort at re-examination is well under way, any rallying will be useless even harmful. None of the evils of totalitarianism (defined by the single party and the suppression of all opposition) claims to remedy is worse than totalitarianism itself.’[vi]

In sum, Camus fired a flare out from within the inner sanctum of Leftist elitism. Uncovering an oppressive movement that rides on the  coattails of a utopia built on totalitarianism, enforced by appeasement and maintained by the carrot of emancipation, which only ends up enslaving people behind a false promise to deliver absolute freedom.

For the thinking Christian, Camus’ work stands as a cautious ally in the burgeoning wilderness that is the partially sedated West.

Speaking to bewildered citizens paralysed by the tug of war between those politicians, theologians and philosophers who build fortresses on either side of the ideological divide; who overlook the corruption; who ignore, for fear of being labelled intolerant, the inevitable disorder of the repression and redefinition of some traditions; who seek to play into the self-interest of some NGO’s, their supporters or anyone that might preach bipartisanship and unbias, but choose to function as propaganda units of political ideologues and the parties that promote them.

For the commonwealth of Christ (the Church), this dark, but lucid writer inadvertently issues a warning. Be careful about where your allegiance resides because ‘no one can serve two masters…Where your treasure is, your heart will be there also.’ (Jesus, Mt.6:21-24)


Source:

[i] Evident in ‘The Rebel’ and partially highlighted within his statements made at a Dominican monastery in 1948 and included in the text ‘The Unbeliever and Christians’.

[ii] Angelou, M. 1981 Maya Angelou: Poems Bantam Books

[iii] Todd, O. 2013, Afterward in Camus, A. The Rebel (Penguin Modern Classics) Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Ed.

[iv] Ibid, Loc. 4134-4137

[v] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 Democracy On Trial Basic Books

[vi] Camus, A. 1961 Resistance, Rebellion and Death: Essays;Hungary: Socialism of the Gallows’, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1960 First Vintage International Edition

Image: Albert Camus, Camus Society FB page.

A_Camus 2 generosityAlbert Camus asserted any action which acts decisively against injustice and oppression, is to be considered as being part of what he called the ‘generosity of rebellion.’[i]

This concept is largely summarised as being any action,

‘which unhesitatingly gives the strength of its love and refuses injustice without a moment’s delay. Its merit lies in making no calculations, distributing everything that it possesses to life and to living men and women. It is thus prodigal in its gift to the men and women to come.[ii]

While it is an overstatement, if used solely as a definition for home schooling, I don’t think its essence is entirely redundant.

To educate, is to act in such a way as to give an inheritance beyond financial gain. It is to pass on knowledge, faith and character. Reaching beyond the shrine of self and the shelf life of what money can buy in our commerce cathedrals – albeit day-care, shopping malls or senior high school.

Consider the Widow’s offering.

‘Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, truly I say to you, this poor widow has put more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’ (Mark 12:41-44/Luke 21:1-4)

For me, this and Camus’ concept of generosity affirms a hard won understanding acquired in eleven years of retail management:

’it’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with what you’ve got that counts.’’

It’s not an absolute rule for all occasions, but it finds serious traction in the home school arena.

Stepping up as the primary educator this year has shown me that one of the chief purposes of home schooling is generosity.

This generosity begins with God. Where in Jesus Christ we find ourselves being educated inside our educating[iii]. We then discover that we ourselves are being reached for, even as we stumble to reach beyond ourselves.

‘For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs.’ (Romans 8:17, NLT)

Our old friend, Karl Barth reminds us that ‘in Christ, the humiliation God exists as the exaltation of humanityGod does not will to be God without us.’ (C.D IV/2:31 & C.D IV:1:7)

As heirs with Christ we are grounded with inheritance. We, therefore, find ourselves in a state of adoption[iv].

Here I see three certainties:

Provision

Position

Participation

All issued forth from promise. All related to the generosity of ‘God’s sovereign choice’[v] and compassion. All depending not on human will or effort, but on mercy.

God not only wills relationship with us, He painstakingly made that relationship possible[vi].

Camus is right:

‘Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.’ (The Rebel, 1951)

Sources:

[i] Camus, A. 1951 the Rebel Penguin Modern Classics Kindle Ed.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Kierkegaard’s – ‘to teach is to learn’

[iv] Romans 8:15

[v] Romans 9:1

[vi] Romans 9:15-16

Image is mine. It is a picture of a recent sunset.