Revenge of the Mediterranean Man

The most insightful essay on North and South — I mean Northern and Southern Europe — I have to date read. The Platonic idea mentioned here, of music being more central to the nation than her laws, is one I touched on glancingly in my latest book THE HERMETIC MILLENNIA.

An excerpt:

It is not my intention to write a brief for the superiority of the northern system. Were it up to me, I would preserve the economic liberties that have made the northern nations more prosperous than any others that history records. But man does not live by bread alone, and it seems to me that the northern peoples made a mistake when, on the threshold of modernity, they allowed a number of the Mediterranean qualities their culture had adopted to decay.

During the thousand years that elapsed between the deposition of Romulus Augustus, the last emperor of the West, and the posting of Luther’s 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, many of the cities and towns of northern Europe emulated non-compulsory, local forms of civic order originally developed by the Mediterranean peoples. Under this town-square arrangement, individuals were free to develop their own talents yet were always in touch with the common life of those around them. (The basic argument is set forth in Thucydides’s version of Pericles’s funeral oration.) The result was the market-square (or agora) culture that the achievements of Athens, Florence, and Venice, of Salamanca and Kraków, of Bruges, Dijon, Prague, and a thousand lesser centers have made familiar to the whole world. Both the material prosperity and the artistic splendors that these cities attained or inspired are still evident to those who visit their historic centers. It is more difficult for visitors to grasp the pastoral and charitable care that once flourished in these cities, a solicitude that led Dante to liken Florence to a “fair sheepfold.”

The great expansion of the modern age overwhelmed these older forms of order: Men came to live, in Wordsworth’s phrase, “irregularly massed.” New kinds of suffering arose amid a general plenty, the misery Dickens and Hugo and Ruskin wrote about in their books. But instead of drawing on the West’s older philosophy of mercy and adapting it to an altered climate, the sages of the north devised a wholly new remedial system.

Unlike the pastoral culture it was intended to replace, the new therapeutic machinery was to be compulsory rather than voluntary, national rather than local, secular rather than spiritual, rigidly bureaucratic rather than idiosyncratically flexible. The old pastoral culture was a product not merely of the religious sensibility of the old Europeans but of their aesthetic finesse: They used art and especially music to create desirable patterns of order in everyday life. (Art and music, the Greeks believed, are more effective than laws in the building of cities — an insight that we in our rage for rule-making have forgotten.) The old pastoral culture of the West appealed to the imagination, for it was saturated with myth and deeply indebted to the poets. The new redemptive machinery, by contrast, was sterile and unimaginative: It said nothing to the soul. Such was the viper the northern sages nourished in their bosoms. They called it socialism.

My comment: I am mildly amused at how indirectly Mr Beran approached a forbidden topic. What is the period between Romulus Augustus and Luther? It is Christendom.

It the period when the Catholic Church was the sole matriarch of the nourishing spirit of the West. It is remembered now as the ‘Dark Ages’ — an appellation bestowed rather selfservingly by Protestant historians of the even more selfservingly called Enlightenment.

In a more honest world, these would be called the Benightenment, as the age when the lamp of faith began to splutter and die, and the Age of Light, when material progress began, science was invented, and logic and reason had a heyday and an honor neither the superstitious pagans of the earlier eras nor the postrational pagans of the postchristian era could afford it.

Lest I be accused of nostalgia, I forcefully confess that I prefer the Space Age to any other, and regard the blessings of the liberties in the United States to be more than a recovery of the ancient liberties known in the medieval agora by the free man, indeed, to be a clear advance upon them. But I do not regard the forces at large in the modern world like the city-trampling beasts of a Tokyo monster movie to be the ones responsible for those blessings and benefits: secularism, nationalism, socialism, and all the ideologies men in a church-hating world turn to as idols, to fill their hunger for the divine things.

More is owed to the medieval schoolmen, the patient scholars who preserved the learning of the Greeks, and codified the system of formal logic still in use this day — have you never wondered why the term ‘ad hominem’ was in Latin? — for the progress of science and the progress of man than is owed to any of the ages devoted to romanticism, sentiment, and irrationality, particularly that sentiment of envy which disguises itself as Christian charity for the poor called socialism.

Let me restrict myself merely to inventions and progress of the Middle Ages itself, saying nothing of the much greater flowering of those ideas and disciplines the Medievals planted and tended, and I will compare it to the only other world system which rivals the Christian worldview, namely, socialism.

Behold: I point at the writings of Aquinas. Name for me the socialist philosopher as rigorous and logical? I point at the Gothic Cathedral. Name for me the socialist school of architecture as noble and inventive. I point at diatonic music, and the invention of a system to write it. I point at the invention of perspective in drawing. Name the socialist who made progress in the arts and fine arts, rather than destroyed it. I point at the stirrup, the mill-wheel, the wheel-barrow. Name the socialist who has contributed to the progress of science or the material prosperity of man.

On the other hand, I will also point at Lysenko, at the so called scientific racism and eugenics movements of the last century, and at the shameful global warming hoax perpetrated by the asses now in the chairs of once-great scientists and once-famed seats of learning whose legacy they sell for that mess of pottage called political correctness. Socialism engenders regress not progress, because the honesty and objectivity needed for science is not present in the socialist worldview. Name any hindrance or opposition to scientific learning which sprang out of the universities or churches of the Middle Ages? Quote me the Papal Bull condemning the empirical method, or scientific research? Name the scientist a Christian institution or mob ever killed for the sake of opposing science, and I will point in return at Lavoisier, martyred by the French Revolution.

The only other vivid world view which struggles to win the minds and imaginations of man as the correct and complete view, in this day and age, is Mohammedanism. A list of the scientific, judicial, political and artistic contributions to progress will be even shorter than those made by the socialists, who can at least claim the space flight of Yuri Gagarin and and the music of Prokofiev, and those contributions will be by and large restricted to the earlier eras, when the Roman lands just conquered by the forces of Mahound still retained the Christian traditions of scholarship.