Recent Reactionary Readings

Perhaps I’m so taken with conservative thought not only because it’s the most rational political philosophy, but also because it’s being articulated by some of the most talented sculptors of felicitous prose out there today.  The only things I like more than quality products in an area of my inetrest are quality products that combine multiple areas of interest.  Mark Steyn, for example, is conservative, a talented writer, and funnier than that satirical farce written by Lewis Carroll’s and Dave Barry’s genetically enhanced clone. 

Three things I’ve read in the last couple of days are prime examples of this elementally effective commingling of content and style with which I’m so gleefully taken, like a passive-aggressive, effeminate egomaniac with Twilight

First, screenwriter Burt Prelutsky’s essays in WorldNetDaily have been a staple of my intellectual intake for years.  He keeps within a fairly narrow range of topics, but his anecdotes and quick, witty disarming of liberal bloviating are so refreshing that they function as my morning pick-me-up each midweek morning. 

The money quote from this week’s essay:

Liberals are in favor of open borders because they feel sorry for those people sneaking across. It doesn’t occur to liberals that American citizens suffer from the influx of millions of impoverished illiterates. They are not concerned with the drain on schools, hospitals, jobs and prisons, because what’s important for liberals is that they feel good about themselves. It’s a unique type of selfishness because it’s disguised as an altruistic concern for others. It’s the same reason they oppose capital punishment. They don’t care about the victims or their loved ones. Any schmuck, after all, can sympathize with innocent people. But it takes a very special kind of individual to hold a candlelight vigil for a monster who had raped and murdered a child. A very special kind, indeed.

Next, the inestimable Mr. Steyn himself, who returns from his sabbatical with essays such as this one, typically full of caustic insights somehow so good-natured that they vivisect current events like a surgical laser but leave a fresh, pine-tree scent afterwards. 

Example, on the long-term value implications of last month’s election, namely, that a majority of Americans appear to be enamored of increasingly imitating a European-style socialist state:

The “deal of ruin” – incremental decay – is seductive. In some ways, the most pleasant place to live is a state in gradual decline. You have the accumulated inheritance of a dynamic past to smooth the genteel downward slide. Much of Europe feels like that: You sit at a sidewalk café and watch the world go unhurriedly by. Life is good, work is undemanding, vacation’s coming up, war has been abolished. Somewhere beyond the horizon is a seething Muslim ghetto of 50% youth unemployment, whence the men swagger forth at sundown to torch the Renaults and Citroens of the infidels. But not in your arrondissement. And not even on the Friday afternoon drive to your country place. What’s to worry about?

And perhaps most devastatingly incisive of all, British prison doctor Theodore Dalrymple, a man whose fluency would be florid were it not for the dignity with which he clearly reins in the swashbuckling power of his prose.  Actually a pseudonym, the author explains that he chose the nom de plume because he wanted “a name that sounded suitably dyspeptic, that of a gouty old man looking out of the window of his London club, port in hand, lamenting the degenerating state of the world.”  Ah, peacefully pessimistic bliss, more comforting than a bubble bath coupled with chocolate chip ice cream and a Dave Koz CD.

For me, as regular readers of this blog may know, the quarterly release of a new issue of City Journal is a valedictory pleasure, imbued as it is with the best political thought and the best expository writing in the world (and, often, a dash of whimsy).  Just posted on their web site is Dalrymple’s newest scintilating work of muse-blessed logophilia, from which I draw this jewel:

Gradually, but overwhelmingly, the culture and character of British restraint have changed into the exact opposite. Extravagance of gesture, vehemence of expression, vainglorious boastfulness, self-exposure, and absence of inhibition are what we tend to admire now—and the old modesty is scorned. It is as if the population became convinced of Blake’s fatuous dictum that it is better to strangle a baby in the cradle than to let a desire remain unacted upon.

Certainly, many Britons under the age of 30 or even 40 now embrace a kind of sub-psychotherapeutic theory that desires, if not unleashed, will fester within and eventually manifest themselves in dangerous ways. To control oneself for the sake of the social order, let alone for dignity or decorum (a word that would either mean nothing to the British these days, or provoke peals of laughter), is thus both personally and socially harmful.

Might I lean more to the left were Emerson’s essays suffused with strains of Marxism?  I shudder to wonder.

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