Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer reading: Mimicry, the Law, the West, and Edward VIII

People learn by mimicry. We learn language, manners, facial expressions, morals, everything, from a very young age simply by repeating what we see in our parents.

And we never quit doing that. We are supposed to grow up and become the ones who are to be imitated, and to some extent we do. But we still look up to other people and imitate them.  To whom do we look up? Our betters; "other authorities" as the Catechism has it.

And this "looking up" is not necessarily conscious; for the vast majority of people in the contemporary West I doubt that it is conscious at all. The definition of "our betters" is also less conscious than pervasive. The folks most other folks are looking up to and mimicking are what we today call celebrities. But make no mistake, they are our betters: richer, more beautiful, more free, more well-known, simple more.

In the old world the betters, the celebrities if you will, were the royal houses of Christian Europe. The betters you will always have with you - again, part of human nature: democracy has always been a figment (see Perikles, Alkibiades, etc. in ancient radical democracy, or Lenin, Mao, etc., in 20th century radical democracy), every government is an aristocracy because people are always wanting to follow the aristoi. In Christian Europe the Church recognized that this fact of human nature should impose some responsibilities and duties upon the betters whom folks would "look up to" and mimic. It was necessary for society's betters to be held to a higher standard. The last frail whimper of this profound insight into human nature came with the forced abdication of Edward VIII. You can't be king of Christian England and Head of the Church and run off with some divorcée. What an example for the people!

But the Church is in retreat in Europe and in simple anarchy in America. There is no one to force the betters to be worthy of imitation. But they will be imitated, nonetheless. To read a frightening discourse on what this means for the West, I recommend Life at the Bottom (used copies here).  


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