“In a revolutionary epoch, sometimes men taste every novelty, sicken of them all, and return to ancient principles so long disused that they seem refreshingly hearty when they are rediscovered.” ―Russell Kirk, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘔𝘪𝘯𝘥: 𝘍𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘉𝘶𝘳𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘌𝘭𝘪𝘰𝘵
Western man has wrestled precariously with the last few centuries of Enlightenment’s obsession with rationality and naked reason. Reason became the Moloch of our age. It’s produced the phenomenon of intellectual hubris and the epistemological absurdity of reducing perceptive truth to that which can empirically validated by the scientific method. As Russell Kirk exclaimed, “Even the wisest of mankind cannot live by reason alone; pure arrogant reason, denying the claims of prejudice (which commonly are also the claims of conscience), leads to a wasteland of withered hopes and crying loneliness, empty of God and man: the wilderness in which Satan tempted Christ was not more dreadful than the arid expanse of intellectual vanity deprived of tradition and intuition, where modern man is tempted by his own pride.” As Nicolás G. Dávila observed, “When he is stripped of the Christian tunic and the classical toga, there is nothing left of the European but a pale-skinned barbarian.” For all these reasons, reason cannot stand as an idol above concerns for a transcendent order. Kirk’s canon of traditional conservative thought may be summarized thus:
A belief in a transcendent order based in tradition, divine revelation, or natural law;
An affection for the “variety and mystery” of human existence;
A conviction that society requires orders and classes that emphasize “natural” distinctions;
A belief that private property ownership, and freedom are closely intertwined;
A faith in custom, convention, and prescription, and
A recognition that innovation must be tied to existing traditions and customs, which entails a respect for the political value of prudence.
Recovering of more ancient traditions pose an antidote to the perils of Enlightenment. As Dávila said “Reason is no substitute for faith, as colour is no substitute for sound.”
Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and military historian, classics professor, and senior fellow at Hoover Institution with Martin and Illie Anderson. He’s the publisher of over a dozen novels, and a half. His most recent volumes are Ancient Plan Makers: From the Persian Wars to the Decline of Rome, written by Dr. Hanson, and The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern, a volume of Dr. Hanson’s own essays.
Beginning with an description of why the Modern World Order of the post-Cold War is increasingly falling down, Victor Davis Hanson sees a future in which countries are returning to previous centuries ancient prejudices, rivalries and disagreements. Hanson is looking at crucial problems that the United States faces across the globe in light of this global transformation: in Africa, China, Russia, India, and Iran.
My friend Jacob who blogs at A Wandering Aramean offers an inquiry into the question “Can virtue be taught? What is the difference between belief and knowledge?” This lesson is tethered to Plato and classical literature. Meno is a Socratic dialogue scripted by Plato. Meno appears to explore an understanding of the meaning of virtue, or arete (ἀρετή) , meaning virtue in general as opposed to the more particular virtues, such as justice or temperance.
R.R. Reno, editor of First Things, wrote an interesting article “Say No To Death’s Dominion” about how Christian moral teaching doesn’t give credence to this inordinate fear of death that is utilized to rationalize a total societal-economic lock-down in the United States and elsewhere in reaction to an illness less deadly than the common cold.
“Yesterday, Governor Cuomo saw young people playing basketball in a New York City park. ‘It has to stop and it has to stop now,’ he commanded. Everyone must live under death’s dominion.'”
“Alexander Solzhenitsyn resolutely rejected the materialist principle of ‘survival at any price.’ It strips us of our humanity. This holds true for a judgment about the fate of others as much as it does for ourselves. We must reject the specious moralism that places fear of death at the center of life.”
“Fear of death and causing death is pervasive—stoked by a materialistic view of survival at any price and unchecked by Christian leaders who in all likelihood secretly accept the materialist assumptions of our age. As long as we allow fear to reign, it will cause nearly all believers to fail to do as Christ commands in Matthew 25.”
I got an alert that Google doesn’t regard my web site as a Mobile First Responsive Design. Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. The methodology and practice of Responsive Web Design consists of a mixture of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) media queries. I realized at the onset of developing it that Google doesn’t reward websites that fail to measure up to the standard of a Mobile First Responsive Design, but rather penalizes their positioning in search engine ranking. As such, I have committed a nominal amount of weekend time to redesigning and reimplementing the web site with a slightly larger type-face and collapsing the two columns in favor of a narrower column. From my vantage point having access to a desktop with a sizable monitor, the web site looks ideal on a large monitor, and I originally designed it filling the breadth of my own large monitor. I’ve since come out of this myopic thinking and have yielded to practicality. I hope the changes are well-received. In certain respects, I like the old look, but this new look and feel is more streamlined, and arguably less cluttered.
The hope of the Christian on the basis of faith in the atoning death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is manifest in the words of Jesus Christ: “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). In the words of the Apostle Paul: “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him'” (1 Corinthians 2:9). “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 2:13). The epistle to the Hebrews expounds the hope of the faithful Christian: “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” In the testimony of John of Patmos, in the Revelation of the Apocalypse: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'”
I have at times lived on the melancholy side of life, particularly in my twenty-something years. I confronted mortality with close calls of life and limb in my own life. I face the reality of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, hence my operative phrase is “Lord I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)! I have flirted with stories of Near Death Experiences (NDEs), filtered through a Christian, Neo-Augustian, Neo-Calvinist worldview, and through the teachings of Holy Scriptures. I don’t know that those who preview heaven really so much get past its threshold gates, and they’re not so privileged to see all that lies within if God calls them back to this world. But I think there’s something to Near Death Experiences (NDEs) that literally put people in front of Jesus.
I am fascinated with the idea of being there. It’s my hope; it’s the hope of the faithful believer. So far from taking stock in visions of a “mansion” or a “castle” in heaven, and material things, I would like to think of my own little stretch of equestrian estate removed from the celestial city, which maybe off in the distance. It’s a place of unimaginable, monumental beauty. It’s place God bequeathed to me, where Jesus himself will fellowship and walk and talk with me. Bisons and horses gallop around. It’s just a natural landscape but one full of colors, fragrant flowers plants, and life. It’s home to towering snow-capped peaks that resemble places I’ve visited from Montana to Switzerland that mark its boundaries at equidistant length from one point to another. It has fjords that resemble the beauty of the Milford Sound on the South Island of New Zealand or Norway. It has waterfalls, streams, and seas. It has azure blue waters, abiding with warmth and a profound feeling of love, and it’s full of friendly cetaceans and fish, and colorful coral reefs. It has crystal clear waterfalls that jettison off of tall mountain peaks into back bays and sounds. It has caves that are illuminated inside and offer spelunking adventures, shortening valley journeys, and offer detours off beaten paths. It has sandy white beaches.
In the words of German economist Friedrich List who stressed the imperative need of maintaining production and manufacturing as the backbone of a productive national economy: “The causes of wealth are something totally different from wealth itself. . . The power of producing wealth is therefore infinitely more important than wealth itself; it insures not only the possession and the increase of what has been gained, but also the replacement of what has been lost.” List, like the first American Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, didn’t regard the postulate of comparative advantage as some ideological imperative upon which to sacrifice a nation’s political economy. David Ricardo’s comparative advantage concept held that a slight price difference at a given point in time was considered sufficient cause to abandon an entire field of production and its future development in favor of imports under the notion a foreign manufacturer is better suited towards its production. List rejected this notion asking “Who would be consoled for the loss of an arm by the knowledge that he had nevertheless been able to buy his shirts forty percent cheaper?” He thus drew the vital distinction between consumption and production; between the use of wealth and the creation of wealth. In the long run, “The power of producing wealth is infinitely more important than wealth itself,” he argued. Manufacturing and making things are thus a powerful basis of building national wealth.
Unfortunately in the United States as CNSNews reports, “According to the BLS data, seasonally-adjusted manufacturing employment in the United States peaked in June 1979, when it hit 19,553,000. Seasonally-adjusted government employment peaked in May 2010, when it hit 22,996,000.” Having government employment outnumber productive manufacturing labor while paying the highest wages are a bad omen for any nation’s future whether in France, New Zealand, or the United States. As economists Stephen S. Cohen and John Zysman argued in their classic book Manufacturing Matters:
America must control the production of those high-tech products it invents and designs—and it must do so in a direct and hands-on way. . . First, production is where the lion’s share of the value added is realized. . . This is where the returns needed to finance the next round of research and development are generated. Second and most important, unless [research and development] is tightly tied to manufacturing of the product. . . R&D will fall behind the cutting edge of incremental innovation…High tech gravitates to the state-of-the-art producers.
All of the specious notions that we can evolve into a high-tech service economy without a strong manufacturing base contradict our historical experience as a nation. The Japanese like the Red Chinese consciously devour the productive fruits of our independent houses of research and development emanating from the Santa Clara Valley of California, Seattle, Boston, Raleigh-Durham, and other bastions of the American hi-tech economy whether by acquisition or espionage. Our nation’s chief competitors recognize strategic control of R&D is intimately wrapped up in the strength of a nation’s manufacturing base, and invest accordingly. Our leading aerospace and defense industries have been rendered vulnerable, sacrificing our nation’s strategic advantage in order to participate and invest in Chinese markets. Their tactics in pursuit of globalist goals have compromised our national security and extended the logistics of distribution for military armaments vital to our nation’s defense into the very cradle of our nation’s number one enemy Red China. Do we honestly think we can rely on China to replace the electronic components of our naval ships and fighter-jets when we’re in a protracted war with them? Should we act surprised when these electronics fail during a hot war because of sabotage?
In the Age of Globalization, Pandemic Viruses, and totalitarian trade titans like Red China engaging in asymmetrical economic warfare by currency manipulation, we’re confronting a reality that the worldview of Patrick J. Buchanan and Donald J. Trump—one of nationalism, populism, industrial policy, defensible borders, and strategic independence—was right from the beginning.
“Then came the deluge. A combination of right- and left-libertarianism came to dominate both political parties. On the right, an anti-regulatory instinct justified an assault on the gains of organized labor. International trade deals encouraged the outsourcing of jobs. A tacitly open-borders immigration policy brought in millions of laborers whose uncertain legal status meant they could be paid far less than citizens. On the left, sexual libertarianism increasingly dominated the agenda, beginning with the embrace of Roe v. Wade and continuing with the normalization of homosexuality and gay marriage and, today, the insistence that one’s sex is a matter of preference. Both positions required, and resulted in, a weakening of traditional associations—from the family to voluntary associations to religious organizations and, finally, the nation itself. They also fostered the rise of a new leadership class.”
My father for lack of any better term was a genius in his heyday, a top-of-the-class summa cum laude graduate of virtually every academic institution he attended from high school to his undergraduate alma mater to the University of Notre Dame Mendoza School of Business. A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creative productivity, or is associated with the advancement of knowledge. In his prime, my father registered a MENSA-worthy intelligence quotient (IQ) of 145. Geniuses sometimes are socially awkward or apt to lack empathy and emotional intelligence. Many times, however, geniuses are a perfect synergy of emotional intelligence and cognitive ability, and high-performing professionally.
Neither me nor my siblings are geniuses. . . the Setliff children may variously register intelligent quotients between 120s and 130s on the Stanford-Binet and Wenschler tests. My sister is a nurse practitioner and my brother is a training manager in a discipline that’s vary mechanically-inclined. I’m often engaged in Information Technology and Digital Marketing work.
General intelligence, known as g factor, refers to the existence of a broad mental capacity that influences performance on cognitive ability measures. I read a lot about psychometric theories on intelligence. I learned intelligence cannot become a short-cut for hard work or study, and I was often a fan of ‘short-cuts.’ Applied intelligence (whatever the nominal value) works best when concurrent with hard work.
But that would be beside my major point, living in the shadow of a genius gives one a rapid self-assessment of their cognitive limitations. When I was a small child I loved the story of The Little Engine That Could. When I was younger I was gifted Marilyn Von Savant’s Brain Building in Just 12 Weeks: The World’s Smartest Person Shows You How to Exercise Yourself Smarter by an aunt and uncle in 1991, and I obsessed with the notion of improving cognitive ability by environmental stimulus such as cognitive exercises, reading and study. As a teen and twenty-something, I read up on psychometric investigations of cognitive abilities and human intelligence to include books such as The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability and the more controversial tome The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. I loved the sci-film Gattaca. I came to accept a preponderance of inductively-reasoned evidences that cognitive ability owes to a combination of both genetic and environmental factors — and the predominant influence is genetic / hereditary. I also accepted that I was not a genius by any technical definition, nevertheless I was a beneficiary of a positive environment and certain positive hereditary traits that contributed to my cognitive abilities even if I fell short of any claimant title to being a genius in any meaningful sense.
My father applied his intellect differently than I did. He was very practical and concerned himself with applied intelligence such as practical life skills, such as accounting, business, and entrepreneurship. That was pretty much it. I was the much more prolific reader. I overcompensated by becoming an obsessive reader to ameliorate and overcome my perceived shortcomings. Rather than persist in unhealthy habits, such as the so called “Little Man’s Disease” — the behavior traits observed among those lacking in stature, or other perceived shortcomings — whereby they demonstrate a psychological predisposition to develop extra-assertive (at times combative and overbearing) personalities, I opted instead for an underdog approach, which entails humility in recognizing my limitations, and concerted effort to broaden the constraints of those limitations. I found motivation in the 1992 film Rudy about the Notre Dame walk-on student, Rudy Ruettiger. I also drew inspiration from the accounts of entrepreneurs and inventors that had failures and setbacks in life, the academy, and yet went on to accomplish great things through dedication, hard work, and perseverance.
For all practical purposes, like Rudy, I was an underachiever and disengaged in high school, in spite of winning Who’s Who in American High Schools three years in a row. In junior high, I applied myself much vigorously at first, but towards the end of high school, I grew aloof, indifferent and rarely studied. I was obsessed with outside reading, playing PC strategy games, programming web sites, computer-aided draft and design (CADD) designing starter homes, which I did for money. As a teenager, I was obsessed with extracurricular activities, such as entrepreneurship and earning money.
I tried to redeem myself in college, and had a 3.83 GPA in my undergrad major itself, but a B average in outside subjects. I averaged a higher median GPA in graduate studies. I’ve always faced the distraction of wanting to read and study outside things independent of assignments. My library grew exorbitantly as did my vocabulary. I came to realize that certain things I deemed worthy of esteem, such as the classics, the humanities, and history had value independent of their utility in earning a living. I came to fall back on the study of such things. I didn’t believe they found a greater embrace, however, by trying to turn them into a career. In fact, I came to realize it was a folly to become a college professor regardless of mentors who pushed me in that direction. The market for Ph.D’s is simply not present.
Living in the shadow of a genius had this overarching impact on my life. It compelled me to strive for improvement, often in a futile manner, and at times broaching wish-fulfillment. Nevertheless, I strove to better myself through applied knowledge, wisdom, and recognizing that hard work (obviously lacking amid the ill-discipline of youth) is requisite for success. I’ve written a 400+ page manuscript for a constitutional history book. I programmed web sites, helped develop mobile apps, and worked for start-ups that had momentary success and flopped. Being a ‘genius‘ alone certainly doesn’t give one character, nor work ethic, nor motivation to persevere. I am convinced that regardless of one’s cognitive limitations that ‘genius effort‘ can be achieved by a mindset of dedication and hard work, and doing the best with one’s God-given abilities, and talents. New skills and competencies can be developed as well. What’s the true secret to personal growth, and ever expanding knowledge, skills, and talents? Dedication, effort and perseverance.
The rivalry between Vincent (Ethan Hawke) and Anton (Loren Dean) comes to a head in one final competition.
My younger brother once found himself in disputation with me, and he was critical. I remember referencing this video many moons ago in 2011, and on the heels of it, I rhetorically asked him the words of Cain to God: “I’m I my brother’s keeper?” To which I answered my own question: “Yes I am.” I was mindful there were larger principles than our sibling rivalry. I no longer saw myself in competition with him. I had transcended it with age and wisdom. I extol his success and I am happy for him.
“Hysterical optimism will prevail until the world again admits the existence of tragedy, and it cannot admit the existence of tragedy until it again distinguishes between good and evil. . . Hysterical optimism as a sin against knowledge.” ―Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences