The Wild Cosmic Divorce Court
Note that for the left, none of this will make any sense, since, while they believe in "progress," they do not believe in development, which essentially nullifies their reason for being. In other words, if progress does not involve the movement toward a higher state of affairs, then it is just change, not progress.
Genuine progress is inherently teleological and must be rooted in a real human capacity for such. For example, human beings have the potential to be educated, for which reason we can agree that universal education represents progress. But it would make no sense to put in place a system to, say, teach dogs how to paint. You can call such a policy "progressive," but it has nothing to do with canine nature, so you are just flattering yourself by calling it progressive.
How many progressive schemes have nothing to do with human nature? How many others, instead of potentiating development, do the opposite and incentivize developmental regression? "Affirmative action" would be a fine example of the latter. Not only does it not help blacks, it harms them. But it makes white liberals feel good about themselves, so it's worth it.
Which shows that there actually is something called "white privilege." But it is only available to white liberals, i.e., the privilege of indulging in morally masturbatory race-based virtue signaling.
Again, if development is not toward a telos, it's just change, not progress. Judeo-Christian metaphysics certainly posits human development, but in a definite direction, e.g., toward wisdom, virtue, sanctity, etc. But leftism is a materialistic metaphysic, so it rules out teleology up front. This is how we end up with a Deepak Chopra -- whom I use as a convenient synecdoche bag for new-ageism -- who preaches Infinite Change into the Perfect You. "Your only identity is I am, undefined and infinite. Any label you give yourself limits you." Or in other words, you are God.
Which begs the question: if you are God, and I am God, then one of us is wrong. Unless the statement is drained of all meaning.
Similar to what we were saying yesterday, Dalrymple writes that "People are no longer born into a social role that they are assigned to fill until they die, simply by virtue of having been born in a certain place to certain parents." That's a good thing, as far as it goes, because it means that our human potential is liberated from such rigid demands and expectations.
Thus, "In theory, at least, every man in modern society is master of his own fate. Where he ends up is a matter of his own choice and merit."
Which may sound good on paper, but conceals two major problems: first, as alluded to above, the question arises: liberated toward what exactly? In other words, are we liberated toward a telos, or just into the nothingness of arbitrary choice?
The second problem goes to why a meritocracy should be agreeable to the... meritless. You can't expect the latter to be thrilled with a system that rewards only merit. Rather, they would likely be more content with a system of corruption, favoritism, and privilege, since at least they will have a chance. Which is precisely why the left champions a corrupt system of racial, ethnic, and gender spoils. It gives the losers a chance.
"The problem with meritocracy," as Dalrymple explains, "is that few people are of exceptional merit. The realization that the fault lies in us, not in our stars, that we are underlings, is a painful one; and in the nature of things, there are more underlings than what I am tempted to call overlings. A meritocracy is therefore fertile ground for mass resentment" (emphasis mine).
Don't worry. I'll tie all of this together. And in a way that will surprise me.
Now we have a corollary. Call it Godwin's Law, assuming that name isn't taken: meritocracy gives rise to victimology.
Therefore, the more meritocratic the culture, the more envy, resentment, and auto-victimization we should expect. UNLESS we specifically teach people not to be envious, resentful, and self-pitying. Which we once did, via our Judeo-Christian wisdom tradition. Without that, there is no brake on these darker psychic impulses. They are not only permitted to run free, but encouraged to do so. It's what the left calls "progress."
Now, for nearly half my life I did not in any way feel "special." To the contrary, I was painfully aware of being ordinary. But for whatever reason, it never really bothered me. For example, when I was triumphing in junior college, I had friends who were destined for medical school, or for ivy league law schools. It never occurred to me that there was something unfair in this. Rather, it was simply a reflection of the truth: they had academic merit where I possessed none.
It's impossible to imagine how different my experience would have been had I been steeped in a victim culture that nurtured my envy and resentment. Such a system would have legitimized dysfunctional aspects of myself that also promote unhappiness. Nurturing chronic envy is one of the easiest ways to be unhappy.
Now, while I never felt I had much of what the world calls merit, I was aware of feeling... unique. Not special, mind you, just different. I was who I was, and none other. And it turns out that this points to a way out of our mess, for it goes to the idea of actualizing ourselves, but in a particular direction -- not just into anyone, but someone in particular. To put it conversely, nothing in the world would be worth having to deny or suppress myself, in the deepest sense of the word.
Which leads to the question: what is the deepest sense of that word, myself?
If you had asked me two days ago, my answer may have been a little vague. But I just started reading Gil Bailie's new book, God's Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love, and it turns out he is all over this question (at least in the first 15 pages or so, which is as far as I've gotten).
Not to get too far ahead of oursoph, but he suggests that "the truth revealed by Christ is the anthropological key for understanding the human drama." Indeed, Christ is at the ontological center of western civilization, such that to remove Christ -- which is what the progressive never stops doing -- will have the approximate effect of removing the sun from the solar system. That's me talking, not Bailie, but I'll bet he says as much.
(Bear in mind in the following what was said above about being liberated into nothingness, AKA, having no developmental telos.)
Bailie cites a particular millennial who reflects upon his millions of cohorts "in their 20's and 30's who seem to lack any sense of necessary connection to anything larger than their own narrowly personal aims and preoccupations." The "basic laws of social gravity" have "lost their pull," such that "we are free to be white or black, gay or straight, to grow our hair long or shave our heads, meditate for days on end, have children or not, drink bottled water, work out at the gym, watch television until 3 in the morning and otherwise exist outside the traditional roles" that once defined and constrained us.
One could add dozens of alternative trivial pursuits to the list, but they all go to the idea of having no center and no narrative. The future is collapsed into the present, and with it, our deeper self into our transient impulses and desires. No past and no future -- no Alpha or Omega -- just the eternal Whatever of the now.
Circling back around to where we started -- with Hollander's meditation on our changing expectations regarding intimate relationships -- Bailie writes that "as a culture slips into crisis, relational difficulties, most especially sexual relationships, are the first to show strain." He cites Chesterton, who wrote of how "Everything has been sundered from everything else, and everything has grown cold.... The world is one wild divorce court."
Not just the divorce of Male and Female, but man and God, information and truth, truth and wisdom, existence and purpose, identity and cosmic narrative, and more.
To be continued...