Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Politically Correct Prejudices




“To learn who rules over you, simply find out whom you are not allowed to criticize.”

One does not defame certified victim groups. The political correctness gods have seen to that. Certified victimizer groups are an entirely different story. They are fair game. One may defame a victimizer in polite company. One may do so with impunity. One will not be called upon to grovel before a coterie of one’s self-anointed betters. No consignment to a re-education camp will be in the offing. To the contrary, one may well find one’s lack of sensitivity celebrated for its edginess. Sweepingly vicious stereotypes aimed at a certified victimizer group? Why, that’s just hip and sophisticated derring-do!

*       *     *

The boss approached my cubicle. “Is that your Geo Prizm parked in back?” 

I looked up from my spreadsheet. Perhaps I’d parked in an unapproved space? “Yes,” I answered, tentatively.  

“The bumper sticker? It’s not on our approved list.” He cracked a smile.  

It’s not a good idea to publicize your political views at work, certainly not when you’re an anarchist, but we’re talking one lousy offbeat bumper sticker here. I could put a less crackpot spin on things.

“`Visualize World Police’? Yeah, well, that’s just one of my things.”

New World Order? Black helicopters? Conspiracy theories? That sort of stuff?” He seemed genuinely interested.   

“Well, there’s that. Less hysterically, I’m questioning the wisdom of centralization. Lots of people see it as a good thing. They equate centralized political power with law and order. I see it as a recipe for tyranny and chaos. Order is a spontaneous and grassroots sort of thing.”

“No, I get it. In fact, my father used to say the same thing. He said they could drop an atomic bomb on Washington, D.C., and it would probably set things back about a week. After that, life would dramatically improve. He used to say the same thing about the Catholic Church. He didn’t have much formal education, my dad. But he knew how the world worked.”  

“Yeah, my dad says the same thing about the Jews,” I parried. “He’s a Holocaust denier.”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! As if! I would have kissed off my vague semblance of a career had I so much as whispered even a passing familiarity with The Thought Crime That Dare Not Speak Its Name, let alone acknowledged that an immediate family member endorsed it. Some things are off limits.

Other ostensibly comparable things are not. I had a picture of my first-grade daughter in her Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform on my desk. My surname is Italian. I burned vacation days on Good Friday. Surely, the boss had an idea where my cultural sympathies lay. He probably even suspected I clung to a Catholic-flavored Big Sky Daddy & Son reality-tunnel.

No matter. He knew my religious background warranted no consideration. All bad roads lead to Rome. The boss knew it. I knew it. He knew I knew it. Everybody knows it. The Church of Rome is racist, obscurantist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic, triumphalist, reactionary, anti-scientific and (horror of horrors!) anti-democratic. She may have made her share of contributions to Western Civilization; those easily pale against her crimes.

*       *     *

The world improvers do the certifying. They separate the goats from the sheep, the oppressors from the oppressed, and the victimizers from the victims. The criteria vary. It may be the victimizers once resisted the world improvers’ designs. Perhaps the issues raised by the victimizers in a past conflict with the world improvers pose stumbling blocks to the world improvers’ ongoing and future designs. It may well be that the world improvers disposed of the victimizers in harrowing and ruthless fashion. No matter. The victimizers—every man, woman and child—got what was coming. Think World War II and the War of Northern Aggression. Think Germans and southern whites. Even today, you can’t go wrong defaming Germans and southern whites. The Lord’s love alone endures forever, but those two tribes’ accursedness will give it a run for the money.

*       *     *

Anu Garg is an Indian-born writer and software engineer. He is also the founder of Wordsmith.org, an online community of word lovers comprising better than one million A Word A Day subscribers in 200 countries. One would think that someone with Mr. Garg’s cosmopolitan outlook and demonstrated marketing savvy knows better than to subject wide swaths of his audience to gratuitous smears and insults.

Here’s how he introduces his A Word of Day theme for the week of August 13, 2012: “Latin is the preferred language of the Vatican, but don't hold it against the language. It had no say in the matter.” Not the red carpet introduction a papist sympathizer might hope for, but surely the Vatican hyperlink directs the reader to nothing more scurrilous than a good-natured “I survived Catholic School” YouTube spoof? Or perhaps a Wikipedia account of the political intrigue that has infected the papacy, here and there, over the centuries?

Nothing that bland is in the offing. The reader is directed instead to a venomous screed by the late Christopher Hitchens, in which he calls out the Church as a veritable nest of pedophiles. Yes, Mr. Garg chooses the same even-handed social critic who reckoned Dick Cheney a more estimable human being than Mother Theresa to provide general background summary on the Vatican—with results predictably fair and balanced.

*       *     *

Nine Eleven changed next to nothing; but this much at least it did change. Before that meteorologically bright but geopolitically dark September day, Islam basked in Oriental cachet. It was exotic, enchanting, haunting, offbeat, mystical and even hip. Its recurring clashes with Christianity only elevated it in the eyes of the bien-pensants. Things went south dramatically when Mohammedans flew airliners into the Twin Towers and Pentagon. As the symbols of state-directed, forced-to-be-free, welfare-warfare capitalism came down, so did the semi-esteem in which the bien-pensants held Mohammedans. Islam now finds itself morphing into victimizer. Even the execrable Bill Maher sees fit to denounce it.  

*       *     *

The January 7, 2013 Huffington Post reported on activists mobilizing around a White House petition to identify the Catholic Church as a “hate group” for its opposition to gay marriage. Whatever one’s views on sodomite unions, or the Church’s opposition to them, it seems a tad histrionic to lump an outfit that commanded the loyalty of Mozart, Mendel and Flannery O’Connor with knaves, Neanderthals and neo-Nazis. Nevertheless, a matter-of-fact onslaught of affirming commentary ensues:

“We need a petition to know this?”

“My goodness gracious, of course the Roman Catholic Church is a hate group.”

“The Catholic church in particular has a very long and lamentable history of what could only be described as crimes against humanity and science. All too often the church has fostered ignorance and attacked the intellect. They have aligned themselves time and time again with despots and tyrants. The church has tortured, killed, maimed and robbed millions and millions of innocent people for personal gain and treasure. This latest Pope [Benedict XVI] (in my opinion one of the more despicable men to hold that office), has an allegedly fascist past, has decided to attack and demonize GLBT people. He has appointed Bishops and Cardinals who promote hate and intolerance and preach it to their congregations. To me, there is a valid argument to be made for labeling this organized religious faction a hate group as much as there is Westboro Baptist Church, the AFA or Scott Lively's Abiding Truth Ministries among others. As for petitioning the WH, I think that may be the wrong forum. Petitioning the SPLC might be a better venue.”

“Just recently the Catholic Church claimed Jews to be their enemy. What's that about? Doesn't sound like love to me.”

“Actually, you are wrong, artical [sic] not withstanding [sic], The Church has always claimed it were [sic] ‘The Jews’ that [sic] killed their [sic] Jesus. So much so they [sic] aided the Third Reich in financing their [sic] intended destruction of the Jews. Then the [sic] plundered riches from Germany as they [sic] were aiding the Nazi's [sic] exodus to South America. More recently The [sic] Church also sponsored terrorism in Northern Ireland. The Church has washed their [sic] gilded hands in blood.”

And so on. And so forth.

*       *     *

It was 390 A.D. The Thessalonian general had tossed a charioteer in the hoosegow. The populace, long since addicted to the Empire’s bread-and-circuses, vehemently objected. The general died in the murderous rioting that followed. The Emperor Theodosius meted out swift—but also disproportionate and indiscriminate—justice for his fallen viceroy. Seven thousand Thessalonians were wheedled into the circus and put to the sword.

St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan and Confessor of Emperors, did not take kindly to the Christian Emperor’s regression to pagan justice. Theodosius expected summary forgiveness, but Ambrose demanded he complete a lengthy regimen of prayer and penance. Some accounts have the unarmed prelate stiff-arming the monarch at the porch of the church. Even if only inconsistently and sporadically, this episode set the tone for the relationship between throne and altar in the West. Right would thereinafter entertain a claim against might.

In “Reflections on Heresy,” the agnostic Fred Reed wonders why “the ruling classes of America are so grindingly antagonistic to religion.” Is it, he asks, because believers “tend to be Southern or Catholic, both of which are regarded as politically inappropriate conditions?” The always insightful Mr. Reed begs the question here. The ruling classes by definition are “grindingly antagonistic” to those they regard as “politically inappropriate.” What makes Southerners and Catholics so?

Back when it had something to do with Protestants who took their religion seriously, anti-Catholicism enjoyed no such respectability. Inside-baseball polemics—justification through faith, symbolic presence versus transubstantiation, papal primacy, Mariology, the church as hierarchy as opposed to a priesthood of believers—made the aggressively secular ruling circles squeamish. Both brands of believers espoused a natural-law morality that transcended realpolitik and thereby impeded the ruling circles’ utilitarianism. Better to impute sectarian disputes to religious bigotry and marginalize them altogether.

Owing to the Late Unpleasantness, the ruling circles always had reason to hate the South, apart from its religiosity. Meanwhile, over the last half century, Southern Protestants continue in large numbers to practice their faith, even as their Northern cousins backslide—theologically and culturally—at alarming rates. While Northern Protestants--and many self-identified Catholics, for that matter--embrace their Supervisors' utilitarianism, significant minorities of Southerners and Catholics still cling to the natural-law view.

The dictatorship of relativism could use a dose of transcendence. Not only as a wake-up call for a people hopelessly adrift in a culture bereft of its moorings, but to rein in the pagan excesses of our Supervisors. If the deontic vision ever regains a foothold—and it’s never better than tenuous, even in the best of circumstances—we can reverse our civilizational decline and put a damper on the homicidal humanitarianism of our Supervisors. As Westerners, it's our only hope.

 “To learn who poses a threat to those who rule over you, simply find out whom you are allowed to criticize, insult, smear, mock and defame.”


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