Give Me Attila the Hun

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Give me Attila the Hun over our present-day homegrown barbarians. There was something honest about the old-fashioned barbarians. Whether they were the Huns or the Vikings, or the Vandals or the Visigoths, there was something honest about them. They made no bones about it: they were going to sweep down, burn your village, rape your wife and daughters, torture you, and enslave your sons. They would take your cattle and your chattels and laugh in your face before they cut off your head.

The barbarians of the age of revolution which has dominated history for the last five hundred years will do all of that, but with the nauseating extra feature of nose-in-the-air self-righteousness. Worst of all, you could do something to counter the old-fashioned barbarians. You could rally the troops, sharpen your broadsword and your battle axe, and wade into warfare, and may the best (or worst) man win.

But what can one do against the smug self-righteousness of the barbarians of our day? Nothing. Because should you hint that you are disinclined to jump on their bandwagon, should you even suggest that reasonable dialogue or debate should take place, or should you decline to “take a knee” or suggest that iconoclasm and anarchy are not an answer, you will be howled down and hounded out if not hauled off to the guillotine.

Had you chosen to stand up to Attila the Hun, as did Pope Leo the Great, you might have had some success. Attila was a reasonable man. He was willing to negotiate and was open to a hefty bribe. Not so the ideological barbarians fomenting revolution. Anything you offer them will be thrown back in your face.

How did we get to such a state?

In On The Genealogy of Morality, Friedrich Nietzsche observed that the notions of good and evil had been subverted. Originally what was “good” was all that was strong, noble, true, powerful, wealthy, and magnificent. Evil was the opposite. To be poor, sick, enslaved, humbled, and oppressed was clearly an evil. The “slave revolt in morality” stood the categories on their head.

Nietzsche blamed the Jews and then the Christians for exalting the lowly. The trend began, Nietzsche claimed, in the Jews’ historic deliverance from slavery in Egypt, and it reached its climax in the Christian gospels. In her Magnificat, Mary sings, “He has put down the mighty from their seat and exalted the humble and meek.” Her son echoes His mother in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who mourn.”

Nietzsche proposed that the “slave revolt in morality” was fueled by ressentiment—a simmering bitterness that abides within the heart of the downtrodden. The ressentiment eventually evolves so that the victim regards himself as a martyr, and if a martyr, then a virtuous person, and if he is a virtuous person, then the oppressor must be even more evil. So the rebel is born, and history from the Protestant Revolution onward through five hundred years of revolution has shown the ruthlessness of the new revolutionaries.

Like the barbarians of old, they will pillage, burn, rape, murder, and destroy, but the barbarians of our age do so with an air of self-righteousness and justification. It doesn’t matter what their ideology—it could be communist or fascist, feminist or homosexualist. It could be nationalist or globalist. It could be environmentalist or fundamentalist. They will conquer all, and they will take no prisoners because they are right, and right makes might.

The enemies of common sense, civility, and sanity have caught on to the slave morality and hi-jacked this underlying principle of Christianity. Realizing that sympathy now lies with the underdog and the oppressed, all one needs to do to promote one’s cause is to portray oneself and one’s tribe as the oppressed and persecuted minority.

The crybaby bullies are everywhere—in the Church, in the educational system, the government, the police, and even the military. Their self-pity is only exceeded by their self-righteousness, and their willingness to bully, hector, and manipulate their way into power knows no bounds.

Not only are our homegrown Jacobins crybaby bullies, but they are always successful in recruiting sympathizers to their cause. If they can only portray themselves as oppressed, the sentimentalists will rally around with another layer of indignation and self-righteous activism.

What can be done against such an insidious form of barbarian? To whisper reluctance to join their crusade is to put oneself immediately in the wrong. When the witch hunt begins you will find yourself already on the blacklist.

I believe there are several practical things that can be done to counter the crybaby bullies. First is to realize that if a person is protesting on their own behalf they have something to gain. The truly oppressed have not the power to stand up for themselves. Therefore, if a protestor is complaining about injustice against himself or his tribe, he is to be distrusted. Those who campaign on behalf of the helpless and truly oppressed are to be taken more seriously. The former are more likely to be violent and the latter more likely to be peaceful protestors.

The crybaby bullies always use emotional blackmail. The emotions will first be those of faux tenderness and a manufactured guilt trip which they put on the enemy. When that doesn’t work they will use intimidation and threats of violence. First, one needs to understand those tactics and then counter with a genuine attempt to listen to grievances. One needs always to be reminded, however, that if the protestors are ideologically driven they will not be appeased. This is because their cause has become linked with their identity. Take away their cause and they crumble.

Any sort of logical or practical tactics against the barbarians of our age are unlikely to succeed. There is a third way, and it is outlined by the German philosopher Max Scheler who answered Nietzsche in his excellent little book Ressentiment. Scheler showed that Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity was too blinkered. While it is true that ressentiment fuels revolution, Scheler showed that ressentiment was a far deeper and more demonic strain in human behavior than Nietzsche had perceived.

Furthermore, Scheler discerned a factor within Christianity that Nietzsche had overlooked.  While resentment drives revolution in a secular culture, it did not drive revolution within Christianity. Instead, true Christianity was driven by a more mysterious and unexpected engine. It might be called “graced joy.” When studied objectively, Mary’s Magnificat and the Beatitudes are not documents of resentment. They are documents of the joyful realization of God’s blessing and abundance within the oppressed state so that the humble and meek are not motivated to revolution and violence. Instead, they change the world through a far greater power: graced charity. This is a dynamic action of God in the world to which that poor old atheist Nietzsche was blind.

This joyful humility is the Christian’s true secret weapon against the self-righteous barbarism of our age. It is the secret that empowers Christians to take the crises of every age with a certain joie de vivre. It gives Christian warriors a glint in the eye and a spring in the step. It is the quality that inspires the martyrs to make jokes on the scaffold and inspired that master of gallows humor, Flannery O’Connor, to quip, “I don’t think I could be a saint, but I could be a martyr if they killed me quick.”

Photo credit: AFP via Getty Images

Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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Father Dwight Longenecker is the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. He is the author, most recently, of Immortal Combat: Confronting the Heart of Darkness (Sophia Institute Press, 2020). Read more at www.dwightlongenecker.com.

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