I haven’t been staying away because I was mad at you. I’ve been mad at everyone else, who offers so little reason to hope. Conservative icons are down in the dumps, simultaneously playing to their grim faced audiences and yet trying to play the Q-Rating media game. Charles Krauthammer blistered the Obama West Point address in the harshest possible terms, only — when pointedly asked for a letter grade — to give it a C-minus. For once he was embarrassed when Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard said, “What do you mean? It’s an F.” Driving the grade home by quoting Charles to himself. Meanwhile Kevin Williamson, luminary of National Review, finds it important to respond to a fancied feud between himself and Rush Limbaugh. Gaaah.
Others are taken in by the massive leftist diversion attempt to make everything about some historically unacceptable identity based inequality — from a new argument for African American reparations to a white male, gun-obsessed misogynist interpretation of the latest mass shooting (and stabbing and car crashing btw) to the idiotic new gambit against the Washington Redskins in which 50 Democratic senators participated, to frenzied and ludicrous new arguments by supposedly rational representatives of our government that we should be more concerned about global warming than we are by Islamic slaughters of Christians, honor killings of women, and the genital mutilation of pubescent girls.
Each of these has drawn some kind of answering essay, as if any of it were worthy of response. Nonsense is nonsense, and evil is evil. Tiffs are a waste of time. The volume of such responses is as huge as Kim Kardashian’s grossly implant-mutilated ass. Which National Review and other new media sites felt compelled to weigh in on, in light of the low ratings her latest wedding received on the internet.
So where do you go in search of hope? I can offer two interesting avenues today.
Everyone knows that video games are somehow complicit in school shootings. Everybody’s heard of Grand Theft Auto. But what if thug games aren’t the only choice video youngsters have? What if GTA is simply a natural selection for the constant population of the world’s thugs? What if the most successful games represent some kind of odd reaching out to a world in which virtue, duty, honor, bravery, and sacrifice are the ideals:
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is a live-action film and miniseries set in the Halo universe. Although shot as a feature-length film, Forward Unto Dawn was originally released as a webseries consisting of five roughly 15-minute episodes, the first of which was released on October 5, 2012, with the last episode released on November 2, 2012. The series’ plot, occurring in the early days of the Human-Covenant War circa 2526, revolves around Thomas Lasky, a young cadet at Corbulo Academy of Military Science, and how John-117 inspired him to eventually become a leader. Lasky is also a prominent character in Halo 4 as a commander on the UNSC Infinity. The name of the series, aside from being a reference to the UNSC frigate Forward Unto Dawn, is given new significance in the series as part a running motif based around a poem. The series was known as Sleeper during pre-production.
Actually, I can show you the whole Halo 4 movie. It’s as far as you can get from Grand Theft Auto.
Don’t need to watch much here. Only enough to see the kid is not an incitement to California school shooters. The rest is at Netflix.
The protagonist is not a sociopathic killer. He’s a young man in doubt. His journey is from a sense of loss and ambivalence to the necessity of placing his unit’s lives above his own. How traditional can you get? There’s no sex, no nudity, no scriptwriter editorializing. One of the best pure futurist sci fi movies I’ve seen.
Thing is, the most impressive feature of Halo 4 is the music. Purists will deride it as derivative, but that’s too easy. It’s clearly rooted in Orff’s Carmina Burana, but it also does somehow convey a time beyond ours. Here’s the whole soundtrack. Call it Neo-Neo-Romanticism. Gregorian Chant and other liturgical forms seem to be hard-wired in us. There’s salacious and violent rap rebelliousness (mysteriously not here) and then there’s the need for transcendently deep, harmonic and rhythmically guilt-ridden meaning underneath our dreams and nightmares. The dark and the divine, intertwined. Why you can hear Rachmaninoff in the opening strains. Sweetened by electronic futurism that beats the human heart back to life. What it is to be human. That impossible long arc between our worst and our best. Why we all still need God, whether we know it or not.
Which is my introduction to the most interesting essay I’ve found in over a week, a philosophical formulation of precisely this kind of straddling. Which might be our last, best hope.
To be postmodern and conservative is to deconstruct other uses of “postmodern” by beginning with the obvious. To be postmodern means to be about conserving what’s true and good about the modern world, as well sustaining or restoring what’s true and good about various premodern forms of thought and life. It is also, as Solzhenitsyn explained, about criticizing the modern world for its excessive materialism and its replacement of God and virtue with legalism, and the medieval world for its excessively single-minded focus on spiritual life or the soul at the expense of the body.
One of our conservative criticisms of purely modern thought is its prejudice in favor of endless innovation, which can be seen, for example, in its overly technological view of science. Maybe the purest sources of modern thought these days is the hyper-libertarianism of some economists and Silicon Valley technologists, which points in the direct of transhumanism. The false hope is that through techno-innovation we can become better or freer than human, a hope that depends on ungratefully misunderstanding how stuck and how blessed we are to be beings born to know, love, and die. That’s not to say that we believe, as do those existentialists, that death is the final word about who each of us is.
So to be postmodern and conservative is to take our stand somewhere between the traditionalists and the libertarians. The traditionalists focus is on who each of us is as a relational being with duties and loyalties to particular persons and places. The libertarians — or, to be more clear, the individualists — focus on who each of us is as an irreducibly free person with inalienable rights, a person who can’t be reduced to a part of some whole greater than himself or herself. A postmodern conservative is about showing how a free person with rights is also a relational person with duties. The truth is that each of us is a unique and irreplaceable free and relational person.
If you’re not suffering from ADD, you might be able to read and think about the whole thing.