April 17, 2009

"The wells of culture had run dry..."

I recommend this column by "Spengler," who reveals his identity at last. He is David P Goldman, and has now become an associate editor of First Things:

...Why raise these issues under a pseudonym? There is a simple answer, and a less simple one. To inform a culture that it is going to die does not necessarily win friends, and what I needed to say would be hurtful to many readers. I needed to tell the Europeans that their post-national, secular dystopia was a death-trap whence no-one would get out alive.

I needed to tell the Muslims that nothing would alleviate the unbearable sense of humiliation and loss that globalization inflicted on a civilization that once had pretensions to world dominance. I needed to tell Asians that materialism leads only to despair. And I needed to tell the Americans that their smugness would be their undoing.

In this world of accelerated mortality, in which the prospect of national extinction hung visibly over most of the peoples of the world, Jew-hatred was stripped of its mask, and revealed as the jealousy of the merely undead toward living Israel. And it was not hard to show that the remnants of the tribal world lurking under the cover of Islam were not living, but only undead, incapable of withstanding the onslaught of modernity, throwing a tantrum against their inevitable end...

...Exile among the fleshpots of Wall Street had its benefits, but I had other ambitions. My commitment to Judaism came relatively late in life, in my mid-thirties, but was all the more passionate for its tardiness. The things I had been raised to love were disappearing from the world, or changing beyond recognition. The language of Goethe and Heine would die out, along with the languages of Dante and Pushkin.

Europe's high culture and its capacity to train universal minds had deteriorated beyond repair; one of the last truly universal European minds belongs to the octogenarian Pope Benedict XVI. In 1996, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had said in an interview published as Die Salz der Erde, [Published in English as: Salt of the Earth] "Perhaps we have to abandon the idea of the popular Church. Possibly, we stand before a new epoch of Church history with quite different conditions, in which Christianity will stand under the sign of the mustard seed, in small and apparently insignificant groups, which nonetheless oppose evil intensively and bring the Good into the world." The best mind in the Catholic Church squarely considered the possibility that Christianity itself might shrink into seeming insignificance.

Renewal could not come from music, nor literature, nor the social sciences. The wells of culture had run dry, because they derived from faith to begin with. I was raised in the Enlightenment pseudo-religion of art and beauty. Initially I looked at faith instrumentally, as a means of regenerating the high culture of the West. Art doesn't exist for art's sake.

The high culture of the West had its own Achilles' heel. Even its greatest cultivators often suffered from the sin of pride, and worshiped their own powers rather than the source of their powers. Painfully and slowly, I began to learn the classic Jewish sources. ...
Posted by John Weidner at April 17, 2009 9:11 AM
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