Tuesday, June 12, 2018
I recently read both Patrick Deneen's Why Liberalism Failed and Jonah Goldberg's The Suicide of the West. Good times. In the latter, I came across mention of a John Courtney Murray piece that I'd read before but forgotten. It's called The Return to Tribalism and, on re-reading, it seems both prescient and timely. Here's a bit:
I suggest that the real enemy within the gates of the city is not the Communist, but the idiot. Here I am using the word "idiot" not in its customary, contemporary vernacular usage of one who is mentally deficient. No, I am going back to the primitive Greek usage; the "idiot" meant, first of all, the private person, and then came to mean the man who does not possess the public philosophy, the man who is not master of the knowledge and the skills that underlie the life of the civilized city. The idiot, to the Greek, was just one stage removed from the barbarian. He is the man who is ignorant of the meaning of the word "civility."
What is our contemporary idiocy? What is the enemy within the city? If I had to give it a name, I think I would call it "technological secularism." The idiot today is the techno-logical secularist who knows everything. He's the man who knows everything about the organization of all the instruments and techniques of power that are available in the contemporary world and who, at the same time, understands nothing about the nature of man or about the nature of true civilization. . . .