I am exactly still like that at the end of school, except the opposite.
Now, to reiterate my title, this is what is wrong. This is the huge modern heresy of altering the human soul to fit its conditions, instead of altering human conditions to fit the human soul…it is the huge heresy of Precedent.
It is the view that because we have got into a mess we must grow messier to suit it; that because we have taken a wrong turn some time ago we must go forward and not backwards; that because we have lost our way we must lose our map also.
Examples are clearly needed, but before we continue, a digression. Chesterton is a brilliant writer and a genius in understanding the human soul. And the difference between brilliant physicists and brilliant students of human experience is that physicists are less likely to convince anyone else.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, within the last few years, the woman has in public surrendered to the man. She has seriously and officially owned that the man has been right all along; that the public house or Parliament is really more important than the private house; that politics are not as woman had always maintained an excuse for pots of beer, but are a sacred solemnity to which new female worshipers may kneel; that the talkative patriots in the tavern are not only admirable but enviable; that talk is not a waste of time, and therefore as a consequence, surely that taverns are not a waste of money.
All we men had grown used to our wives and mothers, and grandmothers, and great aunts all pouring a chorus of contempt upon our hobbies of sport, drink and party politics.
And now comes Miss Pankhurst with tears in her eyes, owning that all the women were wrong and all the men were right; humbly imploring to be admitted into so much as an outer court, from which she may catch a glimpse of those masculine merits which her erring sisters had so thoughtlessly scorned.
Now this development naturally perturbs and even paralyzes us…We knew quite well that nothing is necessary to the country except that the men should be men and the women women. We knew this; we thought the women knew it even more clearly; and we thought the women would say it.
Suddenly, without warning, the women have begun to say all the nonsense that we ourselves hardly believed when we said it. The solemnity of politics; the necessity of votes; the necessity of Huggins; the necessity of Buggins; all these flow in a pellucid stream from the lips of all the suffragette speakers.
I suppose in every fight, however old, one has a vague aspiration to conquer; but we never wanted to conquer women so completely as this. Men have from time immemorial been pushing the importance of male pursuits like politics and public life; women have been equally pushing the importance of family, virtue, and the private household.
Feminists are then a group of women who have given up, admitted men have always been right about everything and all female pursuits are a waste of time; now women are desperately pleading that men allow them to join in their superior ways. Therefore, Chesterton opposes feminism not because he is against women being equal to men, but precisely because he wants to keep women equal to men.
The entire book is like this — paragraph after paragraph of verbal judo in which you end up opposing conservativism because you want things to stay the same, or supporting rebellion to protect the integrity of the state, or whatever other crazy inverted idea Chesterton has turned his brilliant but twisted mind to.
At its worst, I worry Chesterton has actually lost, through atrophy, the ability to think in a straight line. Ask him whether we should drown puppies, and he will come up with an extremely convincing argument that we should drown puppies precisely because we abhor cruelty to animals.
Conservatives demand that we keep things exactly as they are, social problems and all. For example, women traditionally value having a home of their own and getting to spend time raising children, but this is inconsistent with women working full time in factories — therefore, socialists and feminists demand we put people in communal housing, have children raised communally, and promote women taking on the male gender role — so that all barriers to women doing factory work full-time are removed.
Chesterton, on the other hand, believes that we should promote human values against the Industrial Revolution and the upper classes who intend to benefit from it. It will also involve redistributing property so that everybody has enough money to make this vision a reality.
Chesterton has a perfectly marvelous solution for how to do this, which unfortunately this book is too small to contain. The political landscape of the s when the book was published is recognizable, but only barely. The modern Left seems to have switched tactics entirely, and insofar as it can be accused of falling too far to one side of the chaos-order dichotomy I think both its friends and enemies would admit it is squarely allied with Chaos, and with a fertility of difference and distinction that borders on the cancerous.
There were a lot of digressions into individual issues, some convincing, others less so. But there were two parts I consider central to the whole idea, and which I want to go into at more length: Monasteries were impugned not for the chastity of monks, but for the unchastity of monks.
Christianity was unpopular not because of the humility, but of the arrogance of Christians. Certainly, if the church failed it was largely through the churchmen. But at the same time hostile elements had certainly begun to end it long before it could have done its work.
In the nature of things it needed a common scheme of life and thought in Europe.Free business-day shipping within the U.S.
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