Thursday, December 21, 2006

Oprah rumoured to be considering joining our Thursday blue scarf meetings

Covenant Zone meets every Thursday, 7-9pm, in the atrium of the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library, in front of Blenz Coffee. Can Oprah resist putting on a scarf and joining us this Thursday? This could be the week, don't miss it!

On a more sober note, I've spent the last little while trolling for a thought to clarify our purpose in meeting each week. I'm very happy to discover that Gil Bailie, a thinker and Catholic lay teacher I've admired in recent years, is blogging. In a couple of posts from earlier this month, Gil provides some insights into resentment which help me better understand the purpose of our weekly meetings where we attempt to discuss certain important truths in public that few others are discussing publicly in Vancouver.

In reference to our academic elites and their tendency to engage in diatribes against the cultural achievements of the West on behalf of its putative victims, GIl notes:
That so much resentment is found among those who enjoy so many of the privileges of Western culture requires a psychological analysis. Mine (for today at any rate) would be this: once one has ruled certain social and cultural phenomenon morally off-limits and insulated from moral misgivings (political correctness), then the only alternative to admitting one's moral insouciance is to find some other "cause" that will simulate the exercise of moral rectitude (in the same way that a stairmaster simulates climbing), preferably a "cause" which condemns miscreants who can be trusted not to respond to the condemnation in any serious or meaningful way.

The more we suppress moral misgivings and turn those we cannot suppress toward more politically acceptable surrogate evil-doers, the more irrational and psychologically dubious our hatred of the adversary will become.
In an earlier post, Gil had explored the question of what happens to us when we refuse to speak publicly our true moral intuitions (as those of us in Vancouver have an opportunity to do each Thursday):
To pretend that something is true when in one's heart one knows it isn't -- for instance that "Islam is (unambiguously) a religion of peace," or that the homosexual act is the moral equivalent of the nuptial embrace, or that non-whites are too crippled by historical injustices to be treated as equals by a truly color-blind system of justice -- to pretend that what the heart knows to be false is true is to stoke the fires of resentment, poisoning thereby one's own spirit and infecting in one way or another the moral and political life of one's society with the same poison.

Humility does not require the artificial suppression of moral revulsion or healthy indignation at mendacity, callous cruelty, and injustice. Turning one's cheek to one's own oppressor is one thing, turning one's back on the powerless victims of oppression is another. Humility must never be mistaken for spinelessness.

Today in the purportedly liberated West there is a great deal of psychological repression going on. What is being suppressed is the ordinary moral response to morally problematic developments. The effect of this repression is the building up of unacknowledged resentment, a kind of distorted and unhealthy moral reaction that all too readily poisons its carriers and the society which enforces the moral equivocation that produces it.

To give expression to one's moral concerns is to free oneself from such resentment. These moral concerns may be extremely powerful, and they make awaken considerable zeal, but if they are not poisoned by resentment they can coexist with a genuine concern for the moral agents whose behavior aroused them and a persistent hope for a morally acceptable reconciliation with them.
There is much else in Gil's blog to provoke your moral concern. And, if you're in Vancouver, Covenant Zone is a place to bring some of this into voice. If you're elsewhere, consider creating your own "covenant zone", make a committment to go out in public, use the internet to let others know where you'll be, and then wait and see if you can initiate a conversation into the ills that threaten our culture and the resources available to be rediscovered in our pasts. There is much to be discovered via our libraries (traditional and virtual) and other institutions that will help us frame the new world we are living and, without getting lost in dreams of an impossible return of a lost past, will allow us to rediscover our moral and historical purpose as the inheritors and renewers of a magnificent cultural legacy.

Also of note: in an optimistic reply to Mark Steyn's fearful writing on Europe's demographic demise, Eric Gans has just put out a crackerjack column that reminds us of the pressing need to re-affirm our covenant with generations future and past. Scenic Politics replies here.

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