Showing posts from 2018

What Would Milo Do

I am finding it difficult to stay cheerful of late. I could blame the hot flashes, which have been wearing me down for the past several months, but it isn’t just the hot flashes.

It is the whole wretched culture war that—human nature being what it is—we are never going to win.

It is the relentless pressure in academia to conform to the prevailing narrative of victimization and oppression that would cast one group as demons (white males, especially Christians) and the other as innocent (everyone else).

It is the unwillingness on the part of establishment conservatives to credit what Milo has shown are the stakes in our fight against the death of our Western ideals.

It is the feeling of being muffled and silenced for speaking out against the mischaracterization of my own field of medieval studies as riven with white supremacism and neglect of the Other.

It is the disappointment in not being able to do more to make a difference in the way in which the argument goes.

It is enough to make …

Training the Soul in Virtue: Lessons from the West

February 9, 2018 [watch here]
If our theme for this weekend is “What is Western civilization?,” there is another question with which I would suggest we need to start: What does it mean to be “civilized”?
At a minimum—one might argue—being civilized means “capable of living in cities,” that is, capable of sustaining complex interactions with other human beings. Almost immediately, however, all sorts of qualifications spring to mind. Does being civilized mean renouncing violence as such or simply living according to the law? Or is it more about not being gross or physically offensive? Not being rude or undignified? Or is it more about being productive and having particular skills? What does it have to do with manners or morals? Is it possible to be civilized without being virtuous? If not, which virtues does it require?
These are not idle questions. We live at a time in which many would argue virtue is in short supply, and yet in which signaling one’s virtue is all the rage. Many of our mo…

“You are all beautiful, my love”

There is a reason that women need Mary, and it isn’t just because she is the Mother of God.

It is because a) Mary is the most beautiful woman God ever made. And b) women are bitches about other women—especially beautiful ones.

Let me explain.

Beautiful women (or, at least, women who want to think they are beautiful) can be consummate bitches about other women whom they want to make feel less beautiful than they. Trust me on this, I’ve been on the receiving end.

But less beautiful women—we might, if we were being uncharitable, call them ugly—can be even uglier about beautiful women. Just look what they write about Mary!

As a myth—or so Marina Warner argued in Alone ofAll Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1976)the Virgin Mary deserves to die because, in her excellence and beauty, she is an insult to all other women:
[The] adulation of the Virgin excludes other women.... In a celebrated English tenson, or discussion, written in the thirteenth century, a misogynist thrus…

Stop Being Ugly

Beauty is out of fashion. Worse. Beauty is not just out of fashion; it is downright rude even to notice beauty. To call a woman “beautiful” is to commit an egregious faux pas. It is much better—according to the new feminist keyboard app SheBoard—to call her “happy.” Not “beautiful.” Anything but “beautiful.”

But it is not just women. To call anything beautiful—a painting, a poem, a story, a landscape, a building, a song—is considered by many an affront against justice or, conversely, a kind of attack. To give excessive regard to the beautiful, it is argued, is to to neglect the injustices that judging one thing better than another—because more beautiful—commits. Conversely, it is contended, to direct one’s gaze towards the beautiful—particularly but not necessarily a person—is to rob that object of autonomy, to “reify” it by the very act of looking at it, to deny it subject status, to make it a thing.

Noticing that someone or something is beautiful—or so the argument goes—is at once v…

The Good Thief

Would you be ashamed to be crucified next to a thief?

Never mind the tenderness of your body, the injustice of being condemned to death for speaking the truth, the betrayal by your friends, the wracking of your entire body and all of your senses with agony, the mocking and scorn of the mob.

Would you be ashamed to be crucified next to a thief?

This is what the thirteenth-century Dominican Jacobus de Voragine said about the pain of Christ’s passion:
The pain of the passion was of five kinds. The first was its shamefulness. It was shameful because it happened in a place of shame, namely, on Calvary, where malefactors were punished. The mode was shameful, because he was condemned to a most ignominious death, the cross being the instrument of punishment for thieves... The Lord’s passion was shameful because of the company in which he suffered. He was reckoned with thieves and robbers who were criminals to begin with; but later one of them, Dismas, who was crucified at Christ’s right side, …