Friday, June 08, 2007

Mad Man in the Street

Mary Eberstadt on secularization and the decline of religion in Europe and the decline of the family.


Porthos said...

Interesting causal chain proposed here; it is the decline in fertility that is the engine of secularization, and not the reverse.

What deh yeh make of it, Ath?

Athos said...

You know me fairly well, Porthos. I see the major fly in the ointment to be the abandonment of the greatest resource of Europe: the land. Many - many - will cough and tut-tut at the contention that Europe was better off prior to the (so-called) Protestant Reformation, but Belloc et al argue convincingly that the Reformation opened the door to the ever-increasing greed of new wealth seekers with absolutely no scruples about how they might acquire it. With the Church and, by extension, the guild network, no longer there to say what was just or unjust with authority, the way was paved for unbridled multi-pronged attacks on the family.

Epistemological certainty was gone save the one and only coin of the realm: wealth. And those with no land became factory "hands" whose sons saw them leave in the morning and return sickened and depleted at dusk.

Has anything changed?

People like Yeoman Farmer and all efforts of "small is beautiful" economics (E. F. Schumacher) are trying to revivify human life that is closer to the earth, to the land.

For me, this is not the pipe dream of agrarian romanticism, but essential for human and family life lived well. (End of rant.)

David Nybakke said...

I, ah, gonna ah, say, ah, that it is ... deeper than "land." :-) (My catch all phrasing when I want to express a differing point of view.)

1) Bailie says somewhere in Theology of the Body that Christianity fits under the umbrella of marriage - not the other way around. So we have a beginning point established in Genesis – that it is not land but relationship, and in particular, marriage/family (I guess that is why JPII didn’t write ‘Theology of the Land’.)

2) Gen 13:6-9 -- ending with 9; "Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left." I don't think it is land that is the primary issue – whether looking at fertility rates or even good livin' standards. But saying this I am quick to agree that your standing tall with our friend Yeoman Farmer and pointing to all sorts of enhancements to life that that lifestyle brings, but to say 'land' is at the heart, well I think that is stretching it a bit. – Ah, no rant here, just dropping a nickel in the ol' gramophone.

Porthos said...

I once kinda sorta entertained a one and a half cent "not a bang but a whimper" theory about the decline of civilizations (any civilizations) based on mimetic theory. It's just that people and families eventually collapse under the pressure of the rivalry (it doesn't have to be an in-yo-face kind of rivalry, but a gruelling undercurrent of invidious [sp?] comparison).

So, for instance, people have fewer kids because kids cost more. But why do kids cost more? Because you have to buy more stuff for them and educate them more. But why do you have to do that? Because everyone else is doing that. Oh, OK.

As I once put it somewhere: "Like Marxism-Leninism, the consumer state introduces some perverse incentives that seem to undermine the whole project. If the 'worker's paradise' produced workers who didn't like to work, the 'consumer paradise' produces consumers who like to work and like to consume, but don't like to produce workers and consumers."

D'artagnan said...

As another of those wacky converts, I often find myself wondering what the US would be like if there hadn't been that constipated monk 500 years ago.

Without the overly individualistic mentally of Protestantism (everybody gets to be their own fallible pope), how different would America be?

just a pondering

Porthos said...

One can wonder. But declining fertility can't be pinned on Protestantism, else how to explain the fertility rates of France, Spain, Italy, etc. Or even Poland and Ukraine. Or, for that matter, the Bible Belt and Utah.

Athos said...

I'll still take it as a good sign that Aramis wanted the Yeoman Farmer on the sidebar. You guys need to dig dirt, plant something, water and grow something. It is vvery addictive in a positive kind of way. (Start small!)

Porthos: What deh yeh make of it?

Porthos said...

Do I need to post another picture to convince you of my outdoorness? Alright, then. You have been warned.

But I'm telling you, it's a jungle out there. Where I live goes pretty much tropical in summer. It's almost scary. Lots of creepy crawlies, too. Nasty ones. And skeeters. Lots of skeeters.

I might as well be Zsa Zsa in Green Acres, man. "Dahling I love you but give me Park Avenue."

D'artagnan said...

We got's critters too!.

Just watched a spider spin a web, catch some prey, spin a web on it, and carry it away.

Yes, this is the Friday night single life in DC (o:

Athos said...

Yes, we have had our share of troubles with the likes of Milady de Winter spider-types.

Fortunately, the chaste one merely dropped her handkerchief for the Massketeers, which was verily sufficient. Forsooth.

Porthos said...

We've had spiders the size of tarantulas. I watched Lady Porthos--the fierce and brave--kill one with a shovel (a shovel!) after flushing it out of a hiding space. None in the house so far, which is good, as I'd probably faint. I've been a major arachnophobe since childhood. Also, the poisonous red-legged centipedes are starting to come out--just babies at this point, but rather dstressing in number. I can kill those. They haven't bitten me yet, though I've had close contact inside the sleeve of a sweater and on the bottom of a sock. The skeeters love me.

Porthos said...

The centipede contact was with adult size variants, I add.

No democraphic decline for those suckers, at any rate.

D'artagnan said...

I must confess, I do miss the lack of camel crickets.

All this now has me imagining a duel between a spider and a centipede, each brandishing multiple swords (I watched way too many 'toons as a kid . . .and this morning)

Porthos said...

There's a pretty good interlude in Jonathan Swift's Battle of the Books that's sort of like that.