Monday, January 16, 2006

Lies: Sentimentalisation of the West (3)

One of the beauties of a democratic country is the right of its residents to find out they are mistaken in their opinions and beliefs; and they have the right to seek out new information, new ideas, new ways of considering anything at all if they so choose.

Dictatorships are dictatorships of the mind to the degree they can be. Infgormation is guarded and secreted away, doled out according to the needs of the elite, changed for the convenience of the elite, made up and made to go away according to whims of the privilged.

We in the West live in ostensible democracies. We have almost unlimited access to information. That's to the good because the elite would lie to us as they do and we would not have the option of disproving them almost instantly if we so choose. With the Internet we can challenge the intelligentsia's versions of the truth and show that they lie to us. But it's not enough to show the negative. We must come up with the positive to make this miracle worth the paper it's printed on.

We can start our postive quest for metaphors by casting out the daemons of anti-Modernity, of our idiocies of sentimantalism, our lies that we pretend are values. We can begin by ceasing the lies that our intelligentsia perpetrate daily in the media, in the schools, in the laws, in the schools and universities, in the cafes and on subways and on the sidewalks. We are living in a self-created dictatorship of bullshit. We can save ourselves from grief if we start to think clearly and think for ourselves honestly. We can communicate plainly.

"Doing violence to the language" is metaphorical. Butchering the language, and so on, none of that is real in any meaningful sense; and yet it is essential that we understand that though language is metaphor itself it is also how we communicate our higher ideas, and that if we do so in mangled and violently assaulted metaphors we will suffer for it. We will physically suffer in real detail. Sentimentalist language leads us to evil deeds. We will continue here to post pieces on my latest favorite book, Faking It: The Sentimentalisation of Modern Society. I'm going to continue also to comment on the texts themselves. And as part of this series on sentimentalisation of the West I'll post often on Orwell's Politics and the English Language and 1984. It's time to take back the language from the weasels. It's time to write plainly for intelligent people all the time regardless of who we are and what our public images might require of us. Otherwise we are doomed to Islam and dhimmitude if we don't weep ourselves to death first.

One of our most important aspects of life is that of the metaphor of meaning, the moral of the story, as it were. That moral comes to us from religion, for the most part, and to argue that most Westerners are today aheists is simply inaccurate, they being not atheists but confused and demoralized by the bullshit moral of the establishment churches. Religion is seen as a sham, a bullshit narrative that does nothing but rewrite the moral in new and stupider ways, less poetically, less vibrantly, in fact, in a style more suitable for an income tax form. Religion becomes just one more lie among many. We enslave ourselves by allowing the bullshit to run freely over us. We lose when we allow the sentimentalisation of society to rot the meaning of our lives. People don't so much disbelieve in God as they distrust the bullshit version of God as it is in our establishment churches. Rightly so. Our establishment churches and our normative religions are urned to crap before our eyes, and it's too disgusting to swallow. Many people are sick of faking it. Life in the modern West sucks. That, not the suffering of the Palestinian people, is our fault. Let's see what it's about so we can address the problem like adults for a change.

Below is a third review of this, our favorite book.

Faking It — The Sentimentalisation of Modern Society
Digby Anderson and Peter Mullen (Editors)
The Social Affairs Unit 1998

"Faking It" claims to chart what it calls "the march of the fraudulent through modern society": government policies " obsessed with spin, image and gesture rather than substance", "sentimental environmental obsessions", "narcissistic, Godless religion", "a school system with no education in it, a welfare system which actually promoted dependency not welfare...elevation of fake feeling in novels and music"

The book gained notoriety for its reference to Princess Diana's funeral "in which sentimentality — mob grief — was personified and canonised and feeling exalted above reason, reality and restraint".

The Study sees the "woes of society — crime, broken families, failing school standards, confusion about morality and manners" as less attributable to "bad ideas or perverted interests" but through the rise of sentimentality in modern society.

People are living in "denial" eg. of man's natural capacity for evil, of the awesome reality of God, ageing, suffering, death, the need for discipline, the achievements of the modern world, self-denial...

The book is prophetic even if over-stated. It is a shot across the bows of a self-indulgent society. It's political premise is rather unsympathetic to community eg. the need to care for the underprivileged. The attack on environmentalists serves then interest of big business.

However there are many powerful challenges, not least to the Church:

"The new emphasis (in worship) is all on the needs of the gathered community of worshippers, and so the traditional proclamation of an encounter with a transcendent and terrifying God has been played religious observances we want the cosy experiences of togetherness and cuddling up to the kindly God, but without any of the old disciplines crucial to traditional faith, Bethlehem without Calvary"

Peter Mullen writes with less than objectivity of "The New Deformation" by which "two fashionable tendencies: the liberal theology of demythologising and the so-called "happy-clappy" revivalism of the Charismatic Movement" have squeezed traditional belief and practice almost into suffocation. "This is right" has become "This feels right" under the influence of sentimentalisation.

On the Peace: "All the body-language is over-inflected in a style which would seem insincere even on the theatrical stage."

On Charismatic worship: "Nothing is being communicated except a sentimental-paranoiac proclamation of the superior, privileged status of the Charismatic in-group. Bonding ceremonies for the like-minded."

On language in worship "There is no such thing as a noble truth communicated in ignoble words" (C.H. Sisson),

On changes to the Prayer Book: "Traditional Christianity is robust and unsentimental. It has no illusions about human depravity The glory of it all is that God loves us, bad as we are. The new sentimentality in religion glosses over our dark side, and therefore it is not only a doctrinal failure; it is psychologically inaccurate and finally incoherent".

"Faith has been replaced...not by a tough all round scepticism, but by a sentimental credulity. Lots of seemingly sensible people, for example, now believe in ideas like the innate goodness of children, a notion our grandparents would have thought absurd."

The book tries to temper the pessimism of environmentalists with the late Dixy Lee Ray's description of the "natural" world of her childhood in the early 1900's:

"The world in which I spent my early years was a very smelly place. The prevailing odours were of horse manure, human sweat, and unwashed bodies. A daily shower was unknown; at most there was the Saturday night bath.

"Indoors the air was generally musty and permeated by the sweetly acrid stench of kerosene lamps and coal fires. It was the era of the horse and buggy, the outhouse and dirt. Depending upon the weather, it was either dirty or muddy."

She goes on to say that through progress in food production and medicine human life is no longer dependent on the whims of uncaring nature. "We have been privileged to live through the most extraordinary five decades of expanding knowledge and its use for bettering life that the world has ever known. Little wonder that some people cannot cope" (D.L.Ray Trashing the Planet 1990).

The current sentimentalisation is said to ignore the drawbacks and inconveniences of the past.

'Faking It' waxes strong on how sentimentalisation has blinded us to the enormity of crime. We are told that a re-telling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is going the rounds with two social workers taking the place of the priest and Levite. They observe the man "who fell among thieves" lying by the roadside, and ads they pass on one says to the other, "The person who did that certainly needs help."

The 19th Century Christian response to the Romantics was to stress duty as an imperative beyond feeling, a response such that sentimentality was scorned for the first half of this century.

Is a new Christian response beginning?

A very thought provoking book, overstated but near the mark in a number of aspects. 'Faking It', for all its right wing polemic, touches on some deep errors around in British society today.

Is the reviewer above an emotional cripple? His constant harping on "overstatement" leads me to believe he is incapable of a real understanding of the seriousness of our situation. Right wing polemic? One must chortle. Chuckle. Guffaw. The West is facing the destruction of many of its centuries old public institutions, and the reviewer above is concerned about overstating the problem in a book of essays. He should be taken out and beaten.

The Anglican Church is on the verge of disappearance from history. It is so irrelevant and disgusting to its own members that they are leaving it to die within a generation. Overstatement? "Since 1961, Canadian Anglicans have fallen from 1.3 million to 642,000.... [I]n the race to the finish line, Anglican are well in the lead.... Canadian Anglicans are in a free fall. "We're losing 12,836 Anglicans a year. That's 2% a year.'" So writes Ian Hunter, professor emeritus in the Faculty of Law at Western University, National Post, "Will the last Anglicans please turn out the lights?" Jan 13, 2006; p. A13. How can one overstate the end of one of the Western world's most important institutions? And if one is not an Anglican, then what about the more middle of the road Presbyterian Church? From the same article we read: "The Presbyterians are down by 39%." And if one is more liberal, consider this: "The United Church in the same period has lost nearly half its members (from 1.04 million to 638,000.)" Is this of interest only to Christians? No, it is not. And why not?

We'll return to this topic in our next post. We will because we have blogs, and we can tell the truth if we so choose to.

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