Cultural Decline


The Right Side of History, or Simply the Right Side?

This election season is full of colorful characters, among them the Green Party’s candidate, Dr. Jill Stein. (No pun was intended between “colorful characters” and “Green Party,” but a pun having been found, it is happily accepted.) A Harvard physician with an open warrant out on her, Dr. Stein is, among other things, a proponent [...]

A Torah Scholar Helps Explain the Age Of Foolishness

Maybe it takes a Torah scholar and religious Jew to help us understand the roots of the inverted values that animate Western civilization. For over ten years, author and radio talk show host Dennis Prager taught the first five books of the Bible verse-by-verse at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. According to Prager [...]

True and False Freedom

It has been said before but it bears repeating: the progressive ethos of liberation of all, from all, is death. The progressive worldview has at its core but a single guiding principle—libertinism; that man should endure no restraints and suffer no constraints save those that upon himself he enforces. In a word, he should be [...]

The New Ignorance Far Worse than the Old

“Education,” wrote Malcolm Muggeridge fifty years ago, “the great fraud and mumbo-jumbo of the age,” had not brought to the mass of men the best that has been done and thought and said, but rather spread ignorance and folly across the land. Muggeridge understood, though he did not feel he needed to say so explicitly, [...]

Desperate America

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” True in Thoreau’s age, perhaps, not so much in ours. It seems the decibels of desperation have increased since Henry David’s days near Walden Pond. And not decibels only, but desperation. Nowadays we take our desperation at alarmingly acceptable rates. How often we merely “consume” media [...]

The Mass and the Recovery of Transcendence

Imagine a young woman named “Kathryn” taking a morning bus ride to a major metropolitan area where she works as a middle manager in a successful graphic arts company. It is the day after the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of same-sex “marriage” and about three years after the Court upheld the vote of [...]

“The Boss” Praised by Men Who Think They Are Women

As everyone in America knows by now, the old rocker Bruce Springsteen has canceled a concert in North Carolina, because the state passed a law preserving the status quo ante as of ten seconds ago, which is that men empty their bowels in the men’s room and not in the ladies’ room. It should be [...]

Courageous Leadership Is Needed to Reverse Secular Trends

However unpleasant this might feel, it’s time for American Catholics to acknowledge that over the past decade, a tsunami wave of aggressive secularism has swept across the United States. This is confirmed both by sociological data, and a disturbing secularist trend in politics in this age of Obama and Obergefell v. Hodges. There is, however, [...]

The Decline of the West

According to the German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper, the "wisdom of the West" expresses the sum total of what man “ought to” be. This wisdom was then discredited and rejected in the Modern era, and so is largely unavailable to post-modern man, who bobs along in the wake of Modernism, which has largely discredited itself. Here [...]

What Would Our Ancestors Think of Us?

What is the worst thing about living near an open sewer? It is not that you sicken at the stench of it every time you leave your front door. It is that the noisome vapors are so pervasive, and you have lived with them so long, you no longer notice it. What is the worst [...]

On Going to Gaming

When I was a graduate student at the Angelicum back in the 1980s, I sat at the feet of learned and clever Dominicans who were determined to teach me theology. It was a heady experience and to help pay for it, along with providing support for the young family I brought with me to Rome, [...]

Preparing for the Apocalypse

With hopes that I’m not falling into some heresy, I find myself persuaded by mainstream libertarian economists. Their general positions include: economic law of free markets with limited or no government interference; the law of supply and demand; the responsibility of central governments to collect taxes only for those activities the private sector can’t or [...]

Brave New World: The Future Is Now

“Do you take milk or cream in your coffee, Anna? I'm so forgetful these days.” “Neither, dear. Don't fret about it.” Anna gave a little sigh and passed the cup to her friend Liz. Then they sat quietly for a moment at the table, Anna stirring the sugar in her cup and clinking the spoon [...]

The Contemporary Denial of Reality

Prudence, writes Josef Pieper in The Christian View of Man, is the root of all the natural virtues, and there is an obvious reason why. It is the virtue of seeing reality as it is. There can be no true virtue without it, because the virtues are to be exercised among imperfect human beings, not among angels [...]

The Paris Horror: Real and Explicable

There is a film clip of Charles Trenet singing the song he wrote, “La Romance de Paris” in Jean Boyer’s film of the same name, with smiling people gathered round as the accordionist accompanies the swaggering “fou chanteur” with his broad grin and popping eyes. It is charmingly nostalgic until you realize that it is [...]

Revolution and Regression

"Times have changed. It's not the nineties anymore." So says a TV commercial for a brokerage firm. Presumably, the lesson is that investment strategies that worked then won't work now: the market has changed and so should you. Times have changed in other respects also. The assumptions that one could safely make about the world [...]

Despair in the Face of Cultural Decline

In the last months, particularly after the Supreme Court decision on homosexual marriage in late June, I’ve noticed a pronounced malaise in many of my friends and family. For some, this looks awfully close to despair, for others a scornful anger, with a kind of dazed escapism haunting yet others hoping they are in a [...]

Reform and Renewal Starts with Us

Let's get straight to the point. We no longer live in a culturally Christian state. We do not live in a robust pagan state, such as Rome was during the Pax Romana. We live in a sickly sub-pagan state, or metastate, a monstrous thing, all-meddlesome, all-ambitious. The natural virtues are scorned. Temperance is for prigs, [...]

What Prospects for Thought?

Last month I suggested that a one-sided emphasis on will and power over transcendent realities has meant less and worse thought. That problem applies especially to public life, but man is social, so it spills over to private life as well. To respond to the situation, I proposed a renewed emphasis on institutions, like family and church, [...]

Imagining a Family Friendly Political Order

Like boiling frogs, we may be forgiven for failing to notice an all pervasive atmospheric change; forgiven but not spared. Whether we can look it in the eye or not, we have entered the era Pope Benedict XVI described as the mustard seed church. Our stature and influence are gone and the world has become [...]

How to Identify a Healthy Culture

How should we judge the health of a culture? We might do it by pointing to its greatest virtues. The Greek city states between 500 and 300 B.C., though they were not especially densely populated, gave the west the architectural “language” it still employs for everything from grand hotels to private homes. The colonial house, [...]