Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Law Like Love"--11th Myth--Idiocracy

And always the soft idiot softly Me.

The "soft idiot" who advocates the "softly" Law of Me, or selflaw, is clearly not a reference to the “counsel of one” of Heraclitus. It is not the martyr who alone against the powers of the world in communion with his unseen God confronted the fury of the Roman Empire when he refused to participate in the cult of the emperor, the religion of the State. It is not the Jew, who, as one who had a homeland separate from the Fatherland, was viciously treated by the Third Reich and whose flesh bore the brunt in the Shoa for a world wed to materiaism and practical, if not expressly avowed, atheism. This is not Athanasius contra mundum.
Auden’s reference to the “idiot” invokes the Greek roots of the word—idios—meaning personal, private, one’s own.[i] The “idiot” is a man who refuses to acknowledge his duty to the universal, as Kierkegaard phrased it. It is Kantian construct of a man who is himself law, relishing in full and complete autonomy. It is our modern American. Yet this moral nominalism is not conducive to life in common nor, in the end, in happiness.

Here all, by rights, are volunteers,
And anyone who interferes
With how another wills to fight
Must base his action, not on right,
But on the power to compel;
Only the “Idiot” can tell
For which state office he should run,
Only the Many make the One. [i]

The soft idiot--advocate of selflaw--shows himself in myriad forms: in the solipsistic misanthrope, the effete member of the intelligentsia who thinks himself superior to the masses, a libertine with an overweening emphasis on individualism and moral license, the zealous laissez faire capitalist who cannot brook a limit on his profit whatever havoc he may wreak upon the body social, the anarchist whose doctrine bears within it the seeds of its own inanity and its own destruction, the rabid feminazi who hates the products of her body and the other half of mankind. These “idiots” are quirks among men who want to universalize the quirk, and marginalize the normative. These soft idiots think that by departing from the crowd they ipso facto are clever and who sometimes forget that even the crowd, the simple, the commoner, the peasant who eats potatoes, may be in the right. For these, however, government serves not to advance the common good, but to protect their right to be "idiots," to be selflaw.

This idiotism in law also trickles down to idiotism in our culture. This idiotism shows itself in uncouthness, a dumbing down of culture, arising from an overemphasis of individuality, a demand from creativity from people without genius, and therefore a shallow creativity. Its paradigm is someone like Paris Hilton. It is—in a most ironic sense—a crass, simplistic form of mannerism without rules. Anomie becomes mannerism, becomes rule. Conceit, false sense of being “original” when one is nothing but common and hackneyed and altogether predictable and tedious Bohemianism.

No, none of these myths present adequate answers to Auden, though there is no doubt in his mind that Law exists, and, because the Law exists, law is found in myriad times and places, and without it—or its father—custom, man would not be man. For he is a social animal and not, except in rare exception, a hermit, and must needs live in common. Auden’s landscape view of the many myths of Law yield nothing satisfactory.

There is another place to which he must turn.

[i] Auden, “The New Year Letter,” in Collected Poems, 229.
[i] See (s.v. “idiot”).

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