Monday, July 27, 2009

Some thoughts on neo-conservatism

I came across this piece in The American Conservative by way of The Western Confucian. Indeed, George Weigel's reaction to Caritas in Veritate gives me much to speak about what is, to my mind, the gravest impending problem in American Catholicism: neo-conservatism, or, perhaps more appropriately, neo-Bonapartism.

Napoléon Bonaparte, like the contemporary American neocons, was a conservative liberal; he scarcely cared much for the traditions of France outside the army, and resisted any effort to restore the monarchy of France. He stood firmly for the results of the French Revolution, with the caveat that it needed the law and order which only he and the army could provide after it degenerated into anarchy. And also like the neocons, he was an imperialist, believing that the rest of Europe would greatly benefit from what that band of drunken hooligans did in 1789 and determined to make it so through force of arms. Yet Napoleon was not content merely to wipe out political principalities; no, he and Pope Pius VII came into a very bitter dispute over the issue of control of the Church, which resulted in Napoleon's excommunication and Pius's kidnapping and imprisonment for six years.

It is plainly evident that the neocons want a civil religion; one need only read their intellectual forefather Leo Strauss, a cynical and atheistic Jew, who promoted civic religion as a sort of Marxian "opiate of the people," to lull them into complacency and ignorance of what his elitist and totalitarian cadre was actually up to. Perhaps they tried using the evangelical megachurches in the vast suburban wastelands without any memory or charm, and perhaps they still are, particularly those Norman Vincent Peale types who are becoming quite rich preaching a very cozy gospel in which a God without wrath brings men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the merits of a Christ without a cross, and everyone feels quite good about themselves. There is, however, a subset among them that desires to see the much more centralized, standardized Catholicism as the new civil religion, and in order for that to take place, they realize that they have a formidable foe in the Papacy, and in a Catholic tradition that does not see imperialistic liberal democracy as the eschaton, and indeed remembers Napoleon all too well.

More forthcoming shortly on this issue.


  1. Matthew, my good friend, I am certain that you know only all too well that General Bonaparte staged the successful coup d'etat against the Republican Directorate. Is it really not clear to you that in so doing he effectively stanches the rancid flow of the radical before Europe drowns? I wonder.
    You will not say this, but I will: General Bonaparte did not destroy France, he saved it. And so too the (neo)Theocon today! He too stauches the flow! Like a rag. And like all rags, despised until needed.
    Do you toy with us, Mr. Palardy? I think you do; you do play! Must I then play the role of defending the man, the poor man, the peasant man of merely simple and populist conservatisms?

  2. An intersting point you make, and I will allow that France was drowning in her revolutionary orgy. But was Austria? Naples? Spain? Not at all until Bonaparte brought the revolution to their gates.

    If Bonaparte truly desired to save France, was he there when Leopold II and Condé rallied even before the Terror so as to save the lives of their kindred? Quite the contrary, he was raining grapeshot on royalists protesting their exclusion from the National Assembly. Before that he was defending Robespierre's right to lop the heads off of nuns against the British at Toulon.

    And as for the common man, whose culture has been replaced by cheap entertainment, who is a citizen of a state whose only interest in him is what he can pay in taxes, are you seriously saying his situation is better today, with all his comings and goings supervised by a state bureaucracy that would make the Politburo blush?

    Seriously, whatever the merits of Bonaparte or the neocons, they're only cynics, with their interests not being the common man or any other man for that matter, despite what their propaganda may tell you, but only themselves and their insatiable lust for power.

  3. Considerable reposte, and not at all without substance; but consider this: Bonaparte brought "revolution" to the enemies of France-- Habsburg Spain and Austria-- destabilizing her longtime nemises. Hardly unpatriotic.
    Second, I contend that the Bourbons were liberals (albeit of a noble kind), and therefor, in Bonaparte's worldview, subversive of France. Consider, the interests of the nobles is not at all of any necessity the interest of the royals. The royals of France had long had strained relations with the more traditional noble classes. Further commentary on this point would require further sophistication beyond my current measure-- I do believe that I could rise to the task.
    Third, you say the neocon or Bonapartist has no interest in the common man. How precisely correct you are! This is indeed true, but it is true entirely because the neocon or Bonapartist IS the common man. The common man in his self hatred, but still common to the utmost.
    Yes, the sad truth is that this age is run, ruled and ravaged by the self hating peasantry unled by any fount or form but their very selves and, as you said, "their insatiable lust for power". It is they who, unguided, do this to themselves!

    What more is there to say?

  4. Except perhaps this: Not all peasantry is self hating; and not all are unled or unruly. What am I myself but the common man most naturally? And yet here I stand, now learned of sorts certainly, but still only of such order and limited scope so as to merely understand my gaping need, terrible and unfulfilled, for the high association of noble and holy men-- or men failing, of nobler, holier beings. My words are lofty, but the bloody ragged wound in my soul is not. Would that this or any age could again produce such men!