God’s Blessing on January 10, 2017

God’s blessing to you on this the tenth day of January in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 2017.

I apologize for not posting anything yesterday. A subject hadn’t recommended itself to me in the morning and then things got very hectic. On the plus side—at least if you watch my youtube channel—I interviewed Brian Niemeier last night. I hope to have it edited and published in the next few days. It was a very interesting conversation covering a variety of topics, but generally linked to writing. (Brian is a professional writer of fiction.)

In other news, The Daytime Renegade wrote an interesting blog post about what he calls people dressed in grey. That is, the sort of mandarin class America has saddled itself with where almost twenty years of schooling has taught the managerial class to be masters at conformity, if at little else. It’s an interesting take on a societal problem which I recommend reading, but there’s one part I wanted to comment on. He talks about how the sort of bad manager most of us have gotten used to are—however imperfect—at least familiar, and therefore after a fashion comfortable, and when given the opportunity for change most of us end up preferring the devil we know. Not being willing to go quietly into that good night, he says:

Maybe we should support those who want to shake things up, or at the very least think about said changes, before reflexively dismissing them. If we say we really want change and resent these non-entities, maybe we should act like it.

In the limited sense in which he means it, I believe he’s right. But in another sense, I’m not so sure. Americans all (or almost all) grow up with what I can only call a sense of potential greatness.  I don’t mean that there’s something special about us as Americans, but rather that we all have the sense that greatness is something actually achievable if only we work hard enough. That should be tempered with the caveat, “and if God smiles on our endeavors,” but, well, there’s a reason why we’re a nation in decline. Anyway, this is something at the back of why Americans do most of the things we do—whether we’re motivated by it or shamed by it and compensating, we have the sense that everyone should be aiming high.

And this sort of makes sense in a nation of immigrants because a nation of immigrants is self-selected from the general pool of humanity to be the especially ambitious ones. But something which befalls all self-selected societies is that however uniform the personalities of the people who self-selected into a group of like-minded individuals, their children will be representative of the variety of humanity. This is why the only narrow societies which last are those that are made up of people who have forsworn having children and live within a larger society where they can recruit similarly unusual people to join their ranks. Basically, monastics. (The shakers made a go of living in what can be thought of as co-ed monasteries, but for the most part men and women find that if they’re not going to be having children, the opposite sex is far more trouble than it’s worth. If you are going to be having trouble, then of course the opposite sex is indispensable not just for the engendering of children but the raising of them into healthy adults. It’s all a matter of figuring out which cross is yours to carry and carrying it rather than someone else’s. Like Simon of Cyrene, sometimes you must carry someone else’s cross for a bit, but that’s a temporary thing, and temporary things work very differently than life-long ones.)

So while we were a nation of immigrants and frontiersmen, this idea of greatness was a fairly viable one, even if it was typically more theory than practice. Though considering it more theory than practice may under-estimate the difficulty of raising a family where the children are better-off than their parents; in any event it is not the norm for children to be better off than their parents; in a sense it’s even somewhat unnatural. The nature of begetting is to make something like yourself; and in this sense it is most natural for children to be neither better nor worse off than their parents, but like their parents. However that goes, it is not statistically normal for children to be better off than their parents, except in the sense of having a universally rising standard of living by dint of technological improvement.

And here’s where we come to the Daytime Renegade’s point: if we can’t make things much better, it is often a better bet to try to keep them the same. It’s all too easy to slip up and make things worse; and so I think that many people would prefer the bosses dressed in grey because they seem a good bet for stability. It may well be that those of us who want to pursue the dreams of greatness that being an American makes unavoidable (the dreams, not the pursuing) is for us to form small enclaves within society from which we recruit other like-minded people. It’s a good argument in favor of small companies because exceptions must always be small.

As a sort of post-script, I should add that I don’t mean that the bosses dressed in grey in fact are our best bet for stability. As Chesterton said:

We have remarked that one reason offered for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow better. But the only real reason for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow worse. The corruption in things is not only the best argument for being progressive; it is also the only argument against being conservative. The conservative theory would really be quite sweeping and unanswerable if it were not for this one fact. But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.

Glory to God in the highest.

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