Archives For Jean Bethke Elshtain

elliot-stallion_polling-booth-unsplashPride has different faces. At times it can be blatantly obvious and at other times, sweet and subtle.

Then what can look like pride is sometimes simply just over-compensation because of deeper insecurities, or apathy towards good communication. This doesn’t dismiss the condescending or ungracious tone, but it does help to ask whether or not this might be a factor.

I see a lot of this in some online and informal academic forums. The most notorious is Facebook. More often than responding to encouragement, I’m fielding a response to someone who’s critical, which generally comes from people who only ever comment when a post is controversial. In stating this, I’m not looking for sympathy or venting some disillusionment. It’s just an observation.

Sometimes it can appear as though critics look for a ”we’ve got him” moment. Something akin to the reaction of ABC host, Kerry O’Brien, who with a mixture of exuberance and insensitivity, shouted on camera, ‘’we’ve got him’’, when the John Howard led, Liberal party, lost the 2007 Australian election to his hyped up opponent, Kevin Rudd; (“Kevin07” to his more devout supporters).

As frustrating as these reactions can be to my own contributions, I don’t see them as a personal attack against me. It’s an attack against which side of politics I’ve been squeezed into by the reader. If you’ve encountered the same situation from either side of politics and their fanatical groupies, it’s good mental health practice to keep this distinction in mind.

Such challenges aren’t always a bad thing. For starters I’m challenged to be more accurate, better informed and well sourced. The downsides, of course are that having to do this can tempt us to respond to pride with pride. It also turns something like blogging or micro-blogging into a bit of an administrative grind. (… and outside a government job, or university, who’s really got that kind of time?)

Appearance paralyses substance. For example: If you appear to agree with the Left, you’re reliable, if you appear to be of the right, you’re pushed in that direction and treated with a large amount of suspicion. The appearance of ideological alignment is given priority over content.

Keeping your bearings in these situations begins by recognising the cause. The contemporary democratic exchange has become more about competing against others, than it has about inspiring civil conversation in a giving and receiving of ideas; an exchange where both parties, whether opposed or united, still walk away having learnt something because of the benefits of humility.

As lifted up by Jean Bethke Elshtain in her brief discussion about Martin Luther King Jnr,

‘King’s dream of a new democratic community, a new social covenant, drew upon old democratic ideas forged on the anvil of his rock-bottom Christian faith. In the pragmatic yet idealistic world of practical politics that King endorsed, blacks and whites, men and women, the poor and the privileged, come together around a set of concrete concerns.
Temporary alliances are formed, though the assumption is never that things will automatically divide by racial or any other identity […] In public we learnt to work with people whom we disagree sharply and with whom we would not care to live in a situation of intimacy. But we can be citizens together; we can come to know a good in common that we cannot know alone.’ [i]

Instead of shared ground there is a competition, driven by a pride that finds its home in the quest to place seeming to know, or be doing, above actually knowing and doing.It’s more important to be seen by others to be more intelligent, more cultured, more loving; or for the Christian, more “Christian”, or tragically, more liberally Christian. I will say, though, that the current trends, if observed closely, really do tell us who is who, & what they’re really all about.

The aim of this competition is to post in order to shore up a position of popularity. Therefore, employing as many  ”likes” as possible to feed activity; “the stats”. All of which boosts one’s all important ”level of social media influence”, sense of self-importance, and/or dollars that flow through the masses, who have been attracted by deliberately chosen articles that appeal to “feel-good” trends. This is currently what we’re seeing in the 2016 Presidential elections in the United States between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Truth doesn’t matter, if it hinders any increase in approval ratings.

I’m in agreement with Christina Grau, who recently wrote on pride and homeschoolers:

“We need to avoid the sin of pride. Pride prevents us from establishing good relationships and sharing Christ with others. We think our way is best and think less of those who aren’t doing the same. Apart from moral issues, we need to understand that our way of doing things is simply that; our way. It is not our job to convince people to our way of thinking, nor is our way the only way the job gets done.” [ii]

Approval ratings might sore, but the cost is compromise. Truth and love suffers; creativity is hindered. All sucked into subservience of beating the algorithm and placating human and feelings; it’s master: pride.

‘Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser”
– Proverbs 9:8-9

Source:

[i] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 Democracy on Trial, BasicBooks, Perseus Books Group (pp.60-61)

[ii] Grau, C. Playing the Comparison Game (The Art of Pride), 25th October 2016

Image credit: Elliot Stallion, Unsplash.com

facade of compassion 2Positive advances in communications technology drive the functionality of information delivery like a viaduct.

Information is carried along at a fast pace. Which means that we’ve found ourselves living in an era of information deluge. Words, thoughts and opinions rain down on us from everywhere.

In this downpour, writers can be too easily tempted to reach for the fastest way to keep people reading their work.However, putting something together that’s worth a reader’s time, takes time.

In this environment, writing can be hard. Gimmicks and stunts; shock and awe, are all potential roads writers can go down.Simply because time poor people need fast facts, fast entertainment and fast news.

Selling drama buys sympathy, or in this day and age, at least a like, share or a twenty-four hour hashtag trend, triggered by a bubbly questionable logic that says, “like, wow! hashtag riots really do make a difference.”

It’s safe to say that we now live in a tabloid age. Words are thrown like darts at constructed targets of opportunity. For instance, people comment in ways they never would if the conversation they were part of was held face to face in a physical public forum. We would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have that one “friend” on social media, who always seems to take their own level of intelligence more seriously than others.

Think of the beauty and vibrancy of the democratic process presently underway in America. To an Australian, it’s portrayed as a circus. Partly because, no doubt, some of it is. What’s not portrayed is the fact that most of this circus is concocted. It’s not real.

As a result, the vibrancy of the American democratic process is overlooked. The beauty of it is pushed to the sidelines. For sure, the system is in need of reform. But guess what? Review and reforms are part of adult life. They’re also a chief reason for why democracies still exist.

For the most part, the gratitude that should stem from an awareness of what we still have, is subsumed by a deep anxiety about what we’re told the other side wants to take from us.  As a consequence, thankfulness for having such responsible freedoms and a responsibility to uphold those responsible freedoms becomes pretty much non-existent. Apathy and abdication from the democratic process soon follows. If the people aren’t interested in Governments, Governments will govern outside the interests of the people.

Like writing, good democracy takes time and effort. Participation in a physical public forum requires planning. It involves preparing beforehand what you are going to ask, say or discuss. Unlike the psuedoisms of the virtual realm, decorum and respect would trump temptation to make off the cuff comments, concocted to perform a duty, not to the community involved in that forum, but to the ego of the person commenting.

Their words can penetrate with no real benefit, but to that of the owner of the ego. Who is, sadly, sometimes even celebrated by followers or friends who also enjoyed seeing a target hit by a cheap shot. As a result, words are reduced to noise. This noise is amplified by the commerce of Social Media and the superficial, transactional relationships upheld by it. Which is why the mechanic [for the sake of the bottom line] is programmed to sell an idea of community as if it’s the real thing.

This is something foreseen in the lamentations of Jean Bethke Elshtain[i], who, not without her critics, acknowledged in 1995 and later, 2012, that the trajectory of technology, empowers mobs via technology, to hinder participation in the democratic process.  For Elshtain, the inevitable outcome is the decline of democratic debate, authentic participation and therefore democracy. Of which there now exists numerous examples.

Elshtain was right to call this out. Wading through the density of information and navigating the sometimes manipulative statements, images, etc. Sometimes feels like wading through stagnating bloated rivers. The raft people climb onto in order to escape these rising waters, however, is dangerously overloaded on one-side.

As Elshtain noted,

‘we often hear more about the folly of the right, than we do of the left.’[ii]

Cynicism abounds. Responsible commentary is paralyzed by the attraction of sensationalism. Under the dark smile of Machiavellian logic, certain elements, through a facade of compassion seek dominance, if not total rule. Fear of offense and that fear (come commodity), is utilized by the few to control the many.

We can begin to fix this by seeing that our reliance on technology cannot replace the need for careful comment and face to face interaction. Being physically present and visible in the democratic forum upholds the democratic forum.  It is the rock of genuine relationship. All of which requires communication – the respect for representation, convention, conversation, and planning; elements that not only contribute to the idea of democracy, but are part of the very fabric of real democracy.

Democracy takes time. It means wading through the hard stuff. Asking the difficult questions and then allowing room for those questions to be answered.  If the way forward for democracy is to be taken seriously, it begins with deep gratitude, not an unruly anxiety.

As an American friend said to me a few weeks ago:

 “Well, at least we still get to vote on something.”

Source:

[i] Elshtain, J.B, 1995 Democracy on trial, (Amazon)

[ii] State of Democracy: Maxwell School of Syracuse University Lecture 2012 (Source)

See also, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s, 1978, Harvard Speech {Transcript available here: American Rhetoric}

Yours Sincerely

February 22, 2016 — Leave a comment

 

 

‘When politics is
            given over to the Devil,
with the diminishing authority
                              of any entity
that can be called “Church”
        in relation to the state,
                one ought not be surprised
that the Devil overtakes politics.’ [i]

 

Dear User 5

 

‘Finally be strong in the Lord
and in the strength of His might.
              Put on the whole armor of God,
that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
               For we do not wrestle
                                     against flesh and blood,
but
                                     against the rulers,
                                     against the authorities,
                                     against the cosmic powers
                                                     over this present darkness,
                                     against the spiritual forces
of evil in heavenly places.’ [ii]

 


Source:

[i] Elshtain, J.B 2008 Sovereignty: God, State & Self, Basic Books, (p.79)

[ii] Paul, Ephesians 6:10-12

[recommended reads]

IMG_5137231944, C.S Lewis wrote:

‘The demand for equality has two sources; The noble: the desire for fair play. The mean-spirited: the hatred of superiority […] the kind of ‘democratic’ education which is already looming ahead is bad because it endeavours to propitiate evil passions, to appease envy. There are two reasons for not attempting this.
One: you will not succeed. Envy is insatiable. The more you concede to it the more it will demand. No attitude of humility which you can possibly adopt will propitiate a man [or woman] with an inferiority complex. Two: you are trying to introduce equality where equality is fatal.
Equality [outside mathematics] is a purely social conception. It applies to man [and woman] as a political and economic animal. It has no place in the world of the mind. Beauty is not democratic. Virtue is not democratic. Truth is not democratic […]
Political democracy is doomed if it tries to extend its demand for equality into these higher spheres. Ethical, intellectual or aesthetic democracy is death.’[i]

Lewis’ position on extreme egalitarianism is not unique. The late American political philosopher, Jean Bethke Elshtain, also brilliantly hummed her own critical tune in relation to this issue.

Writing under the heading, ‘Multiculturalism and Democratic Education’ Elshtain stated:

‘Teacherly malfeasance occurs in instances of unreflective, dogmatic politicisation. Each evades the dilemmas of democratic equality rather than offering us points of critical reflection on that dilemma. This sort of education fails in its particular and important task of preparing us for a world of ambiguity and variety. It equips us only for resentment or malicious naïveté [ii]

Lewis and Bethke come at this argument from different angles. Both add to the argument for the rebalancing of the “education revolutions” of the past decade. The area where this applies most is the coercion to meet a particular type of egalitarian compliance (e.g.: new multiculturalism; new tolerance). Slyly disguised as part of an educational standard this ‘purely social conception’ (Lewis) poses as an academic essential. Acceptance and legitimacy is only validated by an alignment with its ideology. In turn, a form of financial blackmail follows. Funding and accreditation comes by complying, or rather conforming with a particular political position.

As a political aim it succeeds in coercing conformity. However, it paralyses the academy because the academic focus is reduced to how best the education fits within a particular type of extreme egalitarian social construct. This narrowing forces everyone into the same box.  From here academic indifference and complacency replaces the energy of academic rigour. Genuine progress is held back by total compliance to an out of control quest for the implementation of “progressive” ideas of tolerance. Democratic debate and its ability to preserve the beauty of unity in diversity, dies.

Differences are unreasonably considered irreconcilable. People are then isolated. Strangers are turned into enemies and friends into strangers.  Both institutionally and clinically, in the name of new multiculturalism, each are set to stick to their own kind, where never the two should meet: Anglos with Anglos; men with men; women with women; African-Americans with African-Americans; indigenous Australians with indigenous Australians; in politics the left with the left, right with the right.  This is, in a roundabout way, the rejection of differences.

For Elshtain it flags a new segregation:

‘As a form of ideological teaching, multicultural absolutism isolates us in our own skins and equates culture with racial or ethnic identity. [In America], the new multiculturalism promotes commensurability: If I am white and you are black, we cannot, in principle, speak to or understand each other. You just won’t “get it […]. Some critics wonder how long it will take to move from separate approaches for African-American children in the name of Afro-centricity, for example, to a quest for separate schools.[iii]

Extreme egalitarianism masquerades as authentic equality. The point and purpose of equality is driven into a quagmire of sameness. Fairness is abandoned and the quest for equality ends up creating new forms of inequality. For example: anyone with a differing position or different ability is condemned, labelled and if history is allowed to repeat itself, shipped off to who knows where, under the guise of “re-education” or “resettlement.”

Nowhere is Lewis’ observation of a hatred of superiority more evident than in Australian society. Socially, our children are taught very early on to enforce extreme egalitarianism. This usually takes the form of an acceptable kind of bullying whereby the victim is labelled a “try hard.” The competency and talent of the person is reduced to meaninglessness by the majority who refuse to deal with their own sense of inferiority. Rather than celebrate the competency and talent of the person, the majority maliciously turn a complement into a put down. The benefit of difference is squashed into the box of sameness.

Most non-Australian cultures would be confused by this. For them the term “try hard” is about positive reinforcement. Those without the talent and competency cheer on those who try hard to hone their skills. The communal benefit is seen, valued and acknowledged.

Not so in Australian society. Outside athletic ability, the rule remains the same: “don’t try to, or even attempt to rise above the rest.”

Although changes are taking place, this tall poppy syndrome still rates as being a huge problem. It presents itself as the biggest obstacle to writers, artists, musicians, intellectuals, right down to budding home-buyers and homeschoolers.

The quagmire of sameness keeps people down. It mutes creativity and stifles industry.

Those who want to retain authentic democratic equality will not find resisting extreme egalitarianism easy. They face a similar hostile reaction to that of Albert Camus, who ‘was virtually excommunicated from the French Left by Sartre and his comrades because he expressed a strong disapproval of the passion for unity that saw any opposition as treason.’[iv]

For both Lewis and Elshtain, extreme egalitarianism is a ‘phony equality.[v]’  It perpetuates that which it says it opposes. This phony equality levels what it subjectively sees as uneven ground, while at the same time it sows inequality, with the tools of oppression: institutional racism, economic discrimination, legalised misogyny and misandry.

Democratic education is reduced to a list of new tolerance compliance orders. Academic standards are lowered whilst teachers are forced to obsess over appeasing the feelings and fickle sentiments of society. In not being willing to fairly recognise and responsibly discuss differences, for fear of offense or ridicule, democracy wanes. Political democracy, as C.S Lewis pointed out, is ‘doomed if it tries to expand its demand for equality into beauty, virtue and truth.’

In not being able to celebrate unity in diversity or find and maintain common ground, democracy fails. The cohesive elements of a vibrant Western society are then consigned to breakdown into the terror of fascism, the shared poverty of communism or the destructive anarchist vacuum of tribalisation.


Sources:

[i] Lewis, C. 1944, Democratic Education In Walmsley, L. (Ed.) 2000 C.S Lewis Essay Collection Harper Collins p.190

[ii] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 Democracy on Trial Basic Books, Perseus Books Group p.83

[iii] Ibid, p.79

[iv] Ibid, p.120

[v] Ibid, p.74

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.

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)

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.