Monday, July 16, 2007

G.K. Chesterton's Modern Thoughts: Part I The Candid Friend & Traitor

Around six months ago, the Anchoress made the recommendation to get to know G.K. Chesterton. Taking her advice, I've been slowly, very slowly, reading and digesting his seminal work: Orthodoxy. It is such a rich meal, that I've taken to using a hi-lighter on the most incisive points and it's a hardcover book; besmirching a hardcover, something I never usually do. There is so much to be recommended from each chapter that it's difficult to know where to start.

The most surprising part of Chesterton's takes is their timeliness. The man died in 1936, was born in 1874 and his writing is proof of Solomon's wisdom that "there's nothing new under the sun". Orthodoxy was published in 1908 as a companion to his 1905 work Heretics, which I have yet to read.

Anyway, to honor both Chesterton and the fine writer, The Anchoress, who pointed me in his direction, and to bring some of his ideas to my audience I decided to do a daily bit this week on Chesterton's wisdom as it applies today, starting with "The Candid Friend" from Chapter Five.

The Candid Friend, the world is full of them these days. Chesterton called them the "anti-patriot":

I venture to say that what is bad in the candid friend is simply that he is not candid. He is keeping something back--his own gloomy pleasure in saying unpleasant things. He has a secret desire to hurt, not merely to help. This is certainly, I think what makes a certain sort of anti-patriot irritating to healthy citizens.

...the man who says, "I am sorry to say we are ruined," and is not sorry at all. And he may be said, without rhetoric, to be a traitor; for he is using that ugly knowledge, which was allowed him to strengthen the army, to discourage people from joining it. Because he is allowed to be pessimistic as a military adviser, he is being pessimistic as a recruiting sergeant. Just in the same way the pessimist (who is the cosmic anti-patriot) uses the freedom that life allows to her counselors to lure away the people from her flag.

The evil of the pessimist is, then, not that he chastises gods and men, but that he does not love what he chastises--he has not this primary and supernatural loyalty to things.

This at least had come to be my position about all that was called optimism, pessimism, and improvement. Before any cosmic act of reform, we must have a cosmic oath of allegiance.
We all know someone who has offered their opinion for your own good and it hasn't felt beneficial at all. We all know someone from whom we dread hearing the phrase, "to be honest...". There are those I've dreaded in my life that way, and I have, if I'm honest with myself, at times, been that uncandid person to be dreaded. Honesty only works when deep allegiance, devotion and love forms the foundation.

To bring Chesterton's ideas forward: The problem with some of our leaders these days (those who greatly desire illegal immigration reform or to abandon our world-wide fight for freedom from suicidal and homicidal ideologies and those infected by them) is that these people offer their honest opinion but one suspects that they not only lack allegiance they lack love and devotion to the ideas and country that provides them the opportunity to express their "honesty." They are ungrateful pessimists.

When Harry Reid declared that America had lost in Iraq many reacted, rightly, with revulsion. Underneath his candidness is cruelty to the soldier, to the patriot, to the idea of freedom. This is not George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson declaring defeat. Their devotion to our nation is not questioned. A man's opinion or idea can be more carefully considered if one is confident that his opinion or criticism comes from love of country. America's leaders these days seem consumed with an irrational love--for themselves.

It's not just lack of love of country. There are too many Americans these days afraid to be a patriot for fear that it makes them somehow love the world's diverse inhabitants and ideas less. But one thing isn't connected to the other unless you are a dedicated multi-culturalist, in which case, the only love possible is to love everyone equally which just as easily means to love no one.

Environmentalists, Code Pink, actors, musicians, Leftist Democrats, the MSM. You name them, their criticism will be taken in a better spirit when they demonstrate their patriotism first. Why, yes, I question their patriotism.


Anonymous said...

What a great post. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on some of Chesterton's writings. I'll pull out the book and try to follow you as you write this week.

I just noticed your "Amazon search". Very cool!

carol said...

Yes I will do that too. It's been a couple years. You're getting at something here that's been hard to articulate but is very important.