Sunday, November 20, 2016

Paradise Lost

Et in Arcadia Ego

Which Arcadia would you prefer yourself to be in? Over there on the left we have it portrayed by Il Guercino and on the right by Nicolas Poussin.  Think before answering. 

"Arcadia" has long been a symbol for the idyllic rural life, pure and unsullied by the pollution and dissolution of life in the towns and cities. Urban dwellers who fancy themselves sophisticates typically scorn rural folk, seeing them as props in a largely under-constructed theme park populated by descendents of the mythical Jukes and Kallikaks, whose imagined-by-eugenicists surnames became synonymous with morons. The real and mythical Arcadia, however, was populated mostly by shepherds, and we all know what sort of mischief they get up to! Once upon a time, inbreeding and bestiality were objects of scorn and ridicule, but in these more enlightened times we know that they are simply part of the wonderful rainbow of sexual fluidity, if you'll pardon the metaphor mixing. 

The phrase itself is generally considered a memento mori; I concur. A skull in one painting, a tombstone in the other, the shepherds studying it warily... Yes, even in the most idyllic spots, wherever you go, there he is, and what's more, he's not going away any time soon. 
In any case, death or no death, there are no utopias, nor have there ever been any. World religions posit a paradise lost, but when one examines closely what details there are, a common thread is that it refers to a time before humans became self-conscious and were at one with the natural world, leaving out the annoying detail that in the natural world the bear would eat you whether or not you were aware he was eating you. Then again, perhaps paradise was a utopian "Peaceable Kingdom" in which the lion lay down with the lamb and hominids didn't fight over water holes (

The secular utopia promised by "progressives" will never come to exist, neither in the technocratic wonderland imaginings of Ray Kurzweil nor the "world made by hand" fantasies of doom-utopia prophet James Howard Kunstler. The Institute certainly prefers Kunstler's bucolic vision but would prefer a less cartoonish version of it, one in which Pete Seeger won't be canonized and Utopia isn't located in the dreadful climate of upstate New York.

The "paradise lost" of this essay's title refers to a time when subsidiarity was the political rule rather than the exception in some fortunate "Arcadias". Once upon a time there were yeoman republics and of course there has also been Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, formed in the Fourteenth Century shortly after William Tell's famed crossbow shot— never mind that it was literally no louder than Froggy's Magic Twanger—that proved to be a "shot heard round the world" no less than the better known rifle round heard at Concord when the American Revolution began.

 Self-governance is the best governance, Plato's ideas of philosopher kings notwithstanding. Giant centralized and standardizing bureaucracies are unnecessary and counterproductive for providing what so many claim to want: diversity. "Let the hundred flowers bloom" to quote the hypocritical Chairman Mao. The homogenizing effect of across-the-board centralization makes for a dull nation.

Subsidiarity could easily claim another motto when it comes to governance: One size does NOT fit all.

No comments:

Post a Comment