The Vitality of Mammon in the Decline of a State
Dr. Robert D. Hickson
The historic Christian Faith and the historic reality of Christian culture – Christendom – from the outset rebuked with severity, and aptly punished, those who “trafficked in spiritual things.” The hucksters of Simony and Usury were condemned and often shunned, because the things of the spirit were understood to be qualitative matters, and quantitative judgments did not apply.
The essential principle is that “there is an inherent incommensurability between Spirit and Mammon.” There is no common measure – no fungibility – between Spirit and Money, or the Inordinate Rule and Love of Money. This distinction is still somewhat preserved in the Academic differentiation of the Liberal Arts (Artes Liberales) from the Practical or Servile Arts (Artes Serviles); and also in the incommensurate differentiation between an Honorarium (as a gracious recompense for an intrinsically unrepayable debt of gratitude) and a Wage (due in justice).
Mammon itself – not just “the Mammon of Iniquity” – was therefore seen to be a disordered desire (libido) or destructive (and self-destructive) concupiscence. Mammon was, also, often personified as an idol, or a false god, in various admonitory Parables and even in lighter Satires and forms of playful Humor.
The exuberances and consequences of Mammon – both in individuals and in the ethos of their larger societies or dominant plutocracies – have often been deftly presented through Moral Comedy. Those who have read Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, for example, will know this well. Or, we may consider the impishness of Cervantes' Picaresque Tales and “Sharpsters”, as well as his Don Quixote. Other such works include: Ben Jonson's Volpone; Molière's Tartuffe and The Misanthrope; John Dryden's mock-heroic satires like Absalom and Achitophel; Alexander Pope's The Dunciad; and, in the twentieth century, Hilaire Belloc's ironic tale, The Mercy of Allah (1922).
This last tale concerns the Ninth-Century A.D. adventures (and misadventures) of Mahmoud the Merchant, the wealthiest man in the Baghdad Caliphate, and his corrupting instructions to his impecunious brother's seven children, telling them, with serene pride, how he made all of his Money, often through swindling and the other arts of lying! (Mahmoud the Merchant was, it should be noted, the ninth-century contemporary of those other Missionary Brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, who are, along with Saint Benedict, the Patrons of Europe!)
When such literature of Moral Comedy is forgivingly generous and truly good, then a Moral “Course Correction” is thereby effected in its audience through its artistic “Comic Catharsis” (as distinct from a darker Tragic one). For we come to see and shun some of our own baser inclinations or temptations. Such a purification often comes by way of laughter and the condignly embarrassing or self-sabotaging actions of the fictional characters involved. The cathartic effect of comedy is especially enhanced by the exquisite irony of its language.
Hilaire Belloc's brief essay, “A Few Kind Words to Mammon,”1 will exemplify and support such a view, and perhaps also chasten the spreading Mammonite Ethos to be seen today, for example, in the current and growing Privatization and Outsourcing of American National Security. This includes the Privatization of the Military and the New “Security Services,” and the growing formation of a Neo-Feudal Order of Merchant-Banker-Paramilitary Companies, analogous to the British East India Company, which was an effective (though shady) instrument of the historic British Empire once upon a time.
Today's Mercenaries are often called “Corporate Warriors” or “Private Military Companies” and they also have a “trans-national reach” with their new technologies, as well as a fearsome capacity for very disturbing “global effects.” Indeed, the increasing steps now being made towards a “North American Union,” to include a new currency, “the Amero,” recall to us the grand-strategic operations of the British East India Company and its own Private Militias and Financial Schemes, even in the trafficking of drugs (not only to China!).
In his multi-volume work, A Military History of the Western World, Major General G.F.C. Fuller wrote about the British East India Company, and about its prosperous merchant-bankers and paramilitary (mercenary) forces. He also showed how, especially in the Nineteenth Century, “Mammon now strode into supremacy to become the unchallenged god of the Western world” and, for almost 200 years, had brought about “the economic serfdom of the Oriental world.”2
Further commenting on this strategic system of “merchant princes and adventurers” and the “complex system of credit” and manipulated debt-bondage that “sprang up,” General Fuller says:
Thus a system [especially in England from 1693-1694 onwards] was devised whereby the prosperity of the future was underwritten in order to ease the poverty of the present, and war was henceforth founded on unrepayable debt. The banker merchants of London steadily gained in political power over the landed interests, and, therefore, increasingly into their hands went the destinies of the nation and the Empire, whose frontiers had become the oceans and the seas.3
So, too, is it the case today with the operation of Mammon and the system of Unrepayable Debt, as it is increasingly to be seen in the “Emerging American Imperium” with its own new strategic system (and Arcana Imperii) of Private Military Companies and “Security Services.” Some of these “Special Operations Forces” are explicitly in contact with foreign groups of “Narco-Guerrillas” and their “Overlords;” and some of them are in the service of High Finance and their associated Energy- and -Strategic Minerals Cartels, or other Managerial Elites and Guiding Oligarchies.4 (The mere salary – without perquisites – of a current Vice-President of one such Private Military Company, someone personally known to me, is $ 750,000.00 per year – a very good portion, some would say, of discretionary and useful Mammon! As such companies have often explicitly said, “War for us is good business.”)
As we may better come to see, Belloc's self-irony and irony of language are instructive and high-spirited and suffused with charm and surprise. He will approach his great enemy, Mammon, and the servants of Mammon with the deft weapon of Irony.
H.W. Fowler's general definition of Irony is still the best one known to me:
Irony is a form of utterance that postulates a double audience, consisting of one party that hearing shall hear and shall not understand, and another party that, when more is meant than meets the ear, is aware of that more and of the outsiders' incomprehension.5
And this essential “double audience” applies also to the “special senses” of irony, such as “Socratic irony,” “dramatic irony,” and “the irony of Fate.”6 Through Belloc's deft use of his Ironical Narrator, he will try to obscure the comprehension of his audience, in order to surprise them at the end and to give insight by way of indirection.
Belloc's good friend, G.K. Chesterton, once wrote, with characteristic modesty, that “we are not generous enough to write great satire.”7 But Belloc was – and so was Chesterton himself! And Chesterton then adds, for our reflection, an insight more:
To write great satire, to attack a man so that he feels the attack and half acknowledges its justice, it is necessary to have a certain intellectual magnanimity which realises the merits of the opponent as well as his defects. This is, indeed, only another way of putting the simple truth that in order to attack an army we must know not only its weak points, but also its strong points.8
In Belloc's own essay we shall see, in the words of Chesterton, “how a great satirist approaches a great enemy”9: namely the great Mammon, who has a formidable power of seduction and corruption.
We who are sometimes ourselves the target of good satire, Chesterton says, are profoundly affected, and in a special way: “We might be angry at a libel because it is false, but at a satire because it is true.”10
What will we come to say of Belloc's own ironic treatment of Mammon and of the servants of Mammon? Or, is his artful indirection and cautionary charm to be ignored or condescendingly dismissed for its “lack of seriousness”?
At the outset, Belloc introduces us to a companion of his, and a man of purported discernment:
A friend of mine once wrote a parable .... But in its verbal form it was something like this .... A number of candidates were offered what they would choose. But they could choose only one thing each. The first chose health. And the second, beauty. And the third, virtue. And the fourth, form. And the fifth, ticklishness, which means an active sense. And the sixth, forgetfulness. And the seventh, honesty. And the eighth, immunity from justice. And the ninth, courage. And the tenth, experience. And the eleventh, the love of others for him. And the twelfth, his love for others. But, the thirteenth (they were thirteen, including Judas) chose money. And he chose wisely, for in choosing this, all the others were added to him.11
As in the case of Jonathan Swift's ironical (and often irrational and increasingly unravelling) “Narrative Personas” (in Gulliver's Travels, A Modest Proposal, and others), Belloc's own narrative persona gives us further dubious hints about his suspect Peremptory Unwisdom:
If ever I complete that book which I began in the year 1898 called “Advice to a Young Man” (I was twenty-eight years of age at the moment I undertook it) it will there be apparent by example, closely reasoned argument, and (which is more convincing than all) rhetoric, that Money is the true source of every delight, satisfaction and repose.12
Not at all, however, does he “advise the young to seek money in amounts perpetually extending.”13 Rather, he says: “I advise the young (in this my uncompleted book) to regulate their thirst for money most severely.”14
For, he said – and does yet still – that “Great sums of money ... are only to be obtained by risking ruin, and of a hundred men that run the risk ninety-nine get the ruin and only one the money.”15 Such was – is yet still – his Adamantine Cautionary Advice!
Nevertheless, he immediately adds – lest we be distracted and confused – his apt and emphatic (not to say hyperbolic) reassurance:
But money as a solid object; money, pursued, accumulated, possessed, enjoyed, bearing fruit: that is the captain good of human life.16
When people say that money is only worth what it will purchase, and that it will purchase only certain things, they invariably make a category of certain material things which it will purchase .... and then its power is exhausted. These fools leave out two enormous chapters – the biggest chapters of the lot. They leave out the services of other men [like Mercenary Soldiers], always purchasable. And they leave out the souls of other men often purchasable. With money in a sufficient amount you can purchase any service, and with money you can purchase many individual souls. Now, that is important.17
First, we must consider the especially advantageous owning of a newspaper, for example, and then consider “the purchasing of services with money,” inasmuch as the Narrator now reveals his personal knowledge and wide experience of such things:
I have known very many extremely rich men whose writing was insignificant – never persuasive or enduring in effect. The greater part of them cannot write for more than a few minutes without breaking down. Just as an elderly man cannot play Rugby football for more than a few minutes or so without breaking down. But they can hire men to write. And they do .... Often enough have I had a pleasant talk with one of these serfs in private when his daily task was done ... concerning the vices of his master [or Neo-Feudal Media Overlord] and the follies which he (the serf) had had to defend with his pen. But to be able to purchase the services of men thus ... is a category ridiculously neglected by those who pretend that money brings nothing but material enjoyment. It brings, for instance, immunity from the criminal law. At least it does to-day.18
For, how many men, says he, do you know who “have been sent to prison during your own lifetime while possessed (not after having possessed) of” Great Wealth?19
Our Narrator then cheerfully moves on to the second neglected category where Money is of great advantage, namely in the purchasing of souls:
But if money can purchase services it can also, with less certitude, but on a very large scale, purchase those other little things we noted – the souls of men. Here there is a distinction.20
For, he adds:
You only purchase a soul when, by the action of your money, you corrupt an individual. I do not say “corrupt him beyond all salvation,” but, at any rate, beyond any remaining desire for salvation .... When by the action of money you make a man fall into certain habits [especially by way of subjection to his overmastering vices] which at last become his character, you are purchasing a soul.21
Further distinctions are now required to establish the Narrator's desired meaning:
I say that money, acting thus [to promote their corruption and men's moral vices], purchases souls. It purchases souls not only in regardant, but in gross. In regardant, I may explain, means “as regards the particular relation between one soul and its purchaser,” while in gross means [the purchase of souls] “of the world in general.” Thus a man may be a serf regardant when he is a serf to a particular lord [e. g., to a Media Lord, or a Lord of High Finance, or of a Private Military Company], but not a serf in his general status. Or he may be a serf in gross, that is, a serf to anybody who comes across him .... And still more is there a coward regardant and a coward in gross. For instance, a man may be a general coward, and that is being a coward in gross, or he may be a particular coward in the matter of riding a particular horse, and then he is only a coward regardant. I say, then, that the power of your money to purchase souls may be in gross or regardant. It may purchase a particular soul, in which case, God help you!22
If, however, your money would only have “a general effect upon ... the generality of mankind, for whom I postulate souls,” then, “in this case you are not perhaps very much to blame. It is rather their fault than yours.”23 Nonetheless, in a certain way, our Narrator adds, “you are worshipped for your money,” not unlike “the worship men give to their country,” and we cannot justly or validly “shuffle out of this valuable truth” merely by pointing out a few exceptions.24
For, in support of this point, we will observe that
The ruck of men with large fortunes are respected for all those things which money is supposed to bring – justice, kindliness, humour, temperance, courage and judgment. And even the very few rich men who are not respected are still admired for some mystical quality. “There must have been something in that man for him to have made half a million [English Pounds] before he was forty.”25
The Narrator – suddenly slipping a little, and admitting that “I am here deliberately the devil's advocate, and I know that I have not a leg to stand on” – shows himself to be a coward, too, and dares not to say the truth about this very same Disrespected Millionaire, namely that “there must have been something lacking in other men for this guttersnipe [our Millionaire] to have got so much of them,” i.e., by way of cunning exploitation or extortion.26 Belloc thereby subtly discloses his Narrator to be in fact, the Devil's Advocate in Defense of Mammon! It is a deliberate slip that points to Belloc's deeper purpose and prepares us for his unexpected ending.
However, were our Narrator to have made such a frank and open-hearted accusation against “Dives” (as, for example, against the biblical “Rich Man”), he himself concedes that he would thereby have had “no leg to stand on”; no valid ground of support for his moral position. For, he emphasizes:
If you are possessed of great wealth, I say you are, in a plutocracy, a great man. You are both loved and feared; everywhere respected and also admired. Your good qualities are as enduring as stone; your evil qualities are either transformed into something slight and humorous or sublimated till they disappear.27
What is important, once again, is “great wealth,” and he then reminds us, parenthetically:
(Digression: Little wealth is disgusting, like mediocrity in verse. If you are going in for being wealthy you must be very wealthy or not wealthy at all.)28
But, as a man of Great Wealth, you have also other advantages, especially a solid self-admiration and other improved feelings about yourself!
Something goes on within yourself. Because you are respected and admired you become more solid. You envisage your faults sanely. You are far from morbid. If you have the manhood to correct your failings, you correct them temperately. You have poise and grasp. If, more wisely, you indulge your foibles – why, that is a pardonable recreation. Your judgments are well-founded. You are tempted to nothing rash or perilous. You may be led, for the relief of tedium, into some slight eccentricity or other, but that will give you more initiative and a strong personality: not exactly genius, for genius is a zigzag thing, burning and darting, unsuited to the true greatness of wealth. It has not enough ballast and repose.29
(In this pleasant context, we might recall C.S. Lewis' later, witty Screwtape Letters (1942) and the advice that Uncle Screwtape gives to the Minor Devil, his cousin Wormwood, for the temptation of man and for his benumbing self-satisfied “consolation,” so as to remain slothfully stuck in his own state of sin.)
Even now, however, our wise Narrator had not completely conveyed what is most important for a man of the “true greatness of wealth” and of his active patronage or corrupting power. For, indeed, he says:
What is most important of all, those whose permanent affection you ardently desire, those whose good you crave, those whose respect you hunger for like food, will all of them at once respond to your desire if money backs it.30
Belloc's now more obviously ironical (and increasingly self-revealing) Narrator clearly shows that he, at least, believes in the Commensurability or Fungibility of Money (Mammon) and Spirit. He himself does not appear to see that they are, however, intrinsically incommensurate.
What is going on here? What's Belloc up to?
Concerning such persons who have been condescendingly patronized by the rich and are thereby beholden to them, the Narrator then continues, as follows:
You [Mr. Mammon] can give them what they really need, and you can give it them unexpectedly when they really need it [the Money]. Thus do they associate you with happiness. You, meanwhile, can behave with the leisure that produces their respect. Gratitude will do the rest, or, at any rate, security, and the habit of knowing that from you proceeds so much good.31
And what is the kind of good which really proceeds from Mammon and from his beguiling Patronage? It would appear to be, indeed, of a rather great and momentous kind!
Thus does dear Mammon give us half a Paradise on earth and a fine security within [which is sometimes also mistaken for complacency, sloth, and presumption!]. Mammon is an Immediate Salvation. And the price you pay for that Salvation is not so very heavy after all: only a creeping gloom; a despair, turning iron and threatening to last forever.32
With his devilishness, the Narrator finally reveals himself more fully, and with a surprise and trenchant parody, to include his own especially emphatic italics!
So the whole thing may be summed up in a sentence that runs in my head more or less like this: “Make unto you friends of the Mammon of iniquity that they may receive you into their everlasting habitations.” My italics.33
The lure of Mammon, as he suggests, likely leads to Hell!
What seems, therefore, to be the vitality and expansiveness of Mammon really implies a constriction and a decline, if not immediately a fall. Moreover, a Mammonite State also implies the Decline of a State. This is another topic on which Belloc wrote an incisive essay, in 1911, but without any playful irony! He seemed then to be writing especially about the British Aristocracy (Oligarchy) which he already saw to be quite corrupted, even before World War I.
In this 1911 essay, “The Decline of a State,”34 Hilaire Belloc had noted, among other things, a plutocracy's – or oligarchy's – “capacity or appetite for illusion” and the consequent and complementary spread of a “lack of civic aptitude,” and also the cumulative, dissolving effects of general “avarice” and of a general “fear” throughout society.35 For example, he says:
An oligarchic State, or aristocracy, as it is called, will decline principally through two agencies which are, first, illusion, and secondly, lack of civic aptitude. For an oligarchic state tends very readily to illusion, being conducted by men who live at leisure [often with Mammon], satisfy their passions, are immune from the laws, and prefer to shield themselves from reality. Their capacity or appetite for illusion will rapidly pervade those below them, for in an aristocracy [or plutocratic oligarchy] the rulers are subjected to a kind of worship from the rest of the community, and thus it comes about that aristocracies in their decline accept fantastic histories of their own past, conceive victory possible without armies, wealth to be an indication of ability, and national security to be a gift rather than a product of the will [i.e., the truthfully and adequately informed will].36
Concurrent with this kind of decline among the elites, there is the apathy or incapacity of the citizenry (who are sometimes, regrettably, merely serfs and numb subjects):
Such communities further fail from the lack of civic aptitude, as was said above, which means that they [the oligarchs] deliberately elect to leave the mass of citizens incompetent and irresponsible for generations, so that, when any more strain is upon them, they look at once [as Dostoievsky said] for some men [some Providers] other than themselves to relieve them, and are incapable to corporate action upon their own account.37
For, they have been “infantilized,” as it were, and underexercized; their faculties have atrophied and their will and trust for combined actions have been broken or even paralyzed.
Such perils as “indifference” and “ignorance” in “a great State” come to permeate the citizenry, as well as the elites, he says, whereas in “a small one” [i.e., in a small State] the perils of “faction” and “private spite” more easily prevail.38
With the help of a French scholar, we can apply Belloc's insights about the decline of oligarchies also to the case of modern democracies – and hence to the current and expanding United States, or to the new North American Union. This application will be clear, especially when we consider the candid analysis of François Furet, the distinguished French Academician and leftist intellectual historian, as presented in his book on the French Revolution and on the related historiography of Augustin Cochin (1876-1916). Furet forthrightly writes:
Modern democracy depends upon a hidden oligarchy [oligarchie cachée], which is contrary to its principles but indispensable to its functioning.39
That is to say, Modern Democracy is based upon a deception.
I consider François Furet's illuminating insight to be almost perfect, except that I would change the word “oligarchy” from the singular to the plural number, hence “hidden oligarchies” (oligarchies cachées). For, it is true, that there are acute – and often very destructive – rivalries among the oligarchs themselves and their own differentiated and ambitious “managerial elites.”
To return to Belloc. We must also consider the operation of other permeating vices in a time of decline, namely during the decline of a particular State, says Belloc:
In the decline of a State, two vices will immediately appear and grow: those are Avarice [hence Mammon] and Fear; and men will more readily accept the imputation of Avarice than of Fear [which often implies Poltroonery or Cowardice], for Avarice is the less despicable of the two – yet in fact Fear will be by far the strongest passion of the time.40
By Avarice, Belloc does not mean “a mere greed of gain,” but rather “a sort of taking for granted and permeation of the mere love of money” – or, once again, the denial of the intrinsic incommensurability of Spirit and Mammon: an incommensurability which is, we must remember, at the very heart of true, unattenuated Christianity, and is the foundation of historic Christendom, or the Culture of the Faith.
By way of clarifying contrast, the corrupting orientation towards Avarice and Money, says Belloc, results in the situation where even history itself
will be explained by it [i.e., by Money], wars judged by their booty or begun in order to enrich a few, love between men and women wholly subordinated to it, especially among the rich: wealth made a test for responsibility and great salaries invented and paid to those who serve the State [e.g., the Upper Servers or the Praetorians]. This vice will also be apparent in the easy acquaintance of all who are possessed of wealth and their segregation from the less fortunate, for avarice cleaves society flatways, keeping the scum of it quite clear of the middle [the middle classes], the middle of it quite clear of the dregs [like Marx's “Lumpenproletariat”], and so forth.41
It is a sort of segmented or three-tiered “system,” like “the Brain Lords, the Upper Servers, and the Lost” (which are the dubious words of Michael Vlahos in his analysis of “the Information Age”); or like the old Gnostic Hierarchy itself of “Pneumatikoi, Psychoi, and Hyloi,” the last of which are essentially the “Untermenschen” or “the Lost.”
Moreover, Belloc's analysis continues:
It is a further mark of avarice in its last stages that the rich are surrounded with lies in which they themselves believe.42
More important, however, is the matter of the permeation of Fear:
Of Fear in the decline of a State it may be said that it is so much the master passion of such decline [to include the further vice of cowardice or poltroonery] as to eat up all others. Coming by travel from a healthy State to one diseased, Fear is the first point you take. Men dare not print or say what they feel of the judges [as well as certain powerful “minority groups” and elites], the public governors, the action of the police [or counter-terrorist SWAT Teams], the controllers of fortunes [High Finance] and of news. This Fear will have about it something comic, and modifying with laughter the lament of the patriot.43
Indeed, says Belloc, concerning a certain corrupt but “powerful minister” of the State, it is always somewhat intimidating to criticize him,
But under the influence of Fear, to tell the least little truth about him will put a whole assembly into a sort of blankness. This vice has for its most laughable effect the raising of a whole host of phantoms [including phanton warriors and a variety of terrorists], and when a State is so far gone that civic Fear is quite normal to the citizens, then you will find them blenching with terror at a piece of print, a whispered accusation [e.g., “homophobic,” “anti-Semite,” “pre-Conciliar”].44
This description of the new, perverse “normality” reminds one of G.K. Chesterton's keen insight from his 1920 book, The Superstition of Divorce, where he proposes the distinguishing mark of Modernity. He says that we now “suffer from the modern and morbid weakness of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal.”45
Recalling Belloc's ironical argumentation in “A Few Kind Words to Mammon,” and the everlasting destiny of Mammon's own friends which our Belloc presents – especially those corrupt and dependent “friends of the Mammon of Iniquity” – we may better appreciate, also, the end of his essay “The Decline of the State”:
Moneylenders under this influence [i.e., “the influence of Fear” and the widespread “civic Fear”] have the greatest power, next after them, blackmailers of all kinds, and next after these [are] eccentrics who may blurt or break out [i.e., blurt out the truth or break out of the bondage, so spontaneously and so unexpectedly!]. Those who have least power in the decline of a State, are priests, soldiers, the mothers of many children, the lovers of one woman, and saints.46
Léon Bloy's novel, The Woman Who Was Poor (La Femme Pauvre – 1897), begins with the shocking words: “This place stinks of God.” (These are the words of one of the novel's minor characters, a very base character, indeed.) But, the novel's final words are also trenchant and unexpected: “The only sadness is not to be a Saint.”
“But genius and sanctity do not survive except by suffering.” (So wrote Evelyn Waugh in his 1959 biography of Monsignor Ronald Knox, the Catholic priest who was himself one of Hilaire Belloc's literary executors.47 )
What is our choice?
What are our standards? (The standard of Mammon? The standard of Marcion (the Gnostic)? The standard of Mohammed? The standard of Messianic Democracy? The standard of Christ?)
In 1961, two years later, after his book on the saintly and learned Monsignor Knox, Evelyn Waugh published Unconditional Surrender, the final volume of his Sword of Honor Trilogy, his three poignant novels about World War II, in which Waugh himself had been a Commando Officer and Parachutist, after first having been in the Royal Marines.48
Near the beginning of Unconditional Surrender, the protagonist's father, Gervase Crouchback, wrote a letter to his son, Guy, dated 20 September 1943. This serene and saintly father had known many sorrows himself, including the loss of his wife and two sons, one of them killed in World War I, the other dying of starvation and madness.
In his letter to his son, shortly after Guy's recent visit to him on the seacoast, Mr. Crouchback commented further upon Captain Guy Crouchback's inordinately critical remarks concerning the Papal Concordat which had been made with the Italian State of Benito Mussolini (the Lateran Treaty), which Guy had thought excessively compromising of the Church and defectively resistant to the State, and even unprincipled.
Gervase Crouchback wrote:
My Dear Guy,
I haven't been happy about our conversation on your last evening [of your visit]. I said too much or too little. Now I must say more ....
Most of the Romans we know kept it up, sulking [i.e., kept up their hate for the invading Piedmontese and other interlopers]. But that isn't the Church. The Mystical Body doesn't strike atttitudes and stand on its dignity. It accepts suffering and injustice. It is ready to forgive at the first hint of compunction.
When you spoke of the Lateran Treaty did you consider how many souls may have been reconciled and have died at peace as a result of it? How many children may have been brought up in the faith who might have lived in ignorance? Quantitative judgements don't apply. If only one soul was saved, that is full compensation for any amount of “loss of face.”49
Throughout the final volume, again and again, Guy Crouchback remembers these words, especially his father's final words “Quantitative judgements don't apply.” And these words from the heart of his father later led Guy Crouchback himself to save and sustain the life of a child who would have been otherwise “born unwanted.” (That is to say, “born unwanted in 1944”50, amidst the devastation of war.)
At his father's funeral, moreover,
As the nuns sang the Dies Irae with all its its ancient deprecations of divine wrath, Guy knew that his father was joining his voice with theirs:
Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
Culpa rubet vultus meus
Supplicanti parce, Deus...
That would be his prayer [the prayer of humility of his beloved father], who saw, and had always seen, quite clearly the difference in kind between the goodness of the most innocent of humans and the blinding, ineffable goodness of God. “Quantitative judgements don't apply.” As a reasoning man, Mr. Crouchback had known that he was honourable, charitable and faithful; a man who by all the formularies of his faith should be confident of salvation; as a man of prayer he saw himself as totally unworthy of divine notice. To Guy his father was the best man, the only entirely good man, he had ever known. 51
Mr. Crouchback had his own very special qualities of resistance in those times of disorder during the protracted and devastating war; and he possessed, as well, many charming and enduring eccentricities!
What will be our resistance? Our moral and strategic resistance to huckstering Mammon and its intrusive culture today?
And what will be our serene (yet daring) eccentricity? Our resilient spirit amidst the Decline of a State in America and our pluck amidst its decomposition even unto the Tumescence (or Tumor) of Empire.
For in times of disorder and circumambient decline, as Belloc noted, certain kinds of spontaneous eccentrics are not so much paralyzed with fear, nor terrorized as others are; and they somehow often just blurt out the candid truth and, with winsome robustness, break out from the bondage and asphyxiation of untruth.
For Mammon is an idol, a false god.
And the Human Spirit and Mammon (Money) are incommensurate.
Robert Hickson graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, in June 1964, and was assigned to Southeast Asia. After one year, he became a U.S. Army Special Forces Officer and earned his “3-prefix” as a “Green Beret,” after having already completed Parachute School and Ranger School and certain forms of Naval Commando Training.
After tours in Viet Nam and elsewhere in Asia, he taught at the J.F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center as the Head of the East Asian Seminar and Instructor in Military History and Irregular Warfare.
He acquired his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Classics (Greco-Roman) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with an emphasis on Ancient Philosophy and Medieval Literature (to include Theological Literature).
For seven years, he was Professor and Chairman of the Literature and Latin Department at Christendom College, leaving shortly thereafter to return to Military and Strategic-Cultural Studies.
He was a Professor at the Joint Military Intelligence College (former Defense Intelligence College), a graduate school in the U.S. Intelligence Community at the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A.) in Washington, D.C. Among other things, he taught Foreign Area and National Security Studies, Military History and Strategy, as well as Moral Philosophy.
He was then invited to the Air Force Academy for four years as a Professor in the William Simon Chair of Strategy and Culture, teaching in several academic departments.
He concluded his Federal Service as a Professor of Strategic and Cultural Studies, as well as Military History and National Security Studies, at the Joint Special Operations University in Florida, a part of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
Comparative cultural and strategic-historical studies constituted a unifying theme in these various forms of teaching over the years.
1 Hilaire Belloc, “A Few Kind Words to Mammon,” from his essay-collection entitled On (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1923), pp. 52-59.
2 G.F.C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World – Volume II (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1955), p. 242.
5 H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (second edition) (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 305.
11 H. Belloc, “A Few Kind Words to Mammon,” p. 52 – my emphasis added. The italicized “money” is in the original text.
12 Ibid., pp. 52-53. Belloc's hero, the rumbustious and indefatigable William Cobbett (1763-1835) also wrote a feisty book, entitled Advice to Young Men (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1887).
14 Ibid. This Narrator later says, however: “Little wealth is disgusting, like mediocrity in verse. If you are going in for being wealthy you must be very wealthy or not wealthy at all” (p. 58).
21 Ibid. – my emphasis added. “Character,” be it noted, is usually considered to be a specific (if not unique) combination of one's virtues and vices, not the vices alone! The Narrator, it would seem, misses this point!
34 Hilaire Belloc, “The Decline of a State,” from his anthology, First and Last (London: Methuen and Company, Ltd., 1912 – second edition), pp. 237-242.
39 François Furet, Penser la Révolution française (Paris: Gallimard, 1978), Part II, chapter 3 – “Augustin Cochin: la théorie du jacobinisme, p. 241. An alternative fuller translation is: “There is in all democratic power a fortiori in all pure democratic power, a hidden oligarchy, at the same time contrary to its principles and indispensable to its functioning.”
45 G.K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce (London: Chatto and Windus, 1920), p. 43 – my emphasis added.
46 “The Decline of a State,” p. 242 – my emphasis added. (My friend, Dr. John Haas, kindly reminded me of these piercing words, in a recent personal note, and thereby inspired many additional reflections.)
48 This third volume of the novels was, in its American edition, given an alternative title, The End of the Battle.
49 Evelyn Waugh, Unconditional Surrender: the Conclusion of Men at Arms and Officers and Gentlemen (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1967 - first edition, 1961), pp. 16-17 – my emphasis added.