Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Anti Buddhist

One of the unexpected consequences of revisiting the life of Charles de Gaulle was a deeper appreciation of man who I frequently ran into while delving into the history books but really didn't understand: Charles Peguy.  

De Gaulle had stated on several occasion that Peguy was--after his father--the greatest influence on his life and an author "who mattered to him immensely".  Which is interesting because most English biographies of de Gaulle scarcely mention him. Yet to know Peguy is understand a lot about de Gaulle and Gaullism. Julian Jackson, in his five best books on Charles de Gaulle states:

I think out of all the books I’ve chosen, Péguy is probably the least well known to an English audience. But the first reason I chose him was that on many occasions de Gaulle said it was the book that most influenced him as a young man and Charles Péguy the author that most influenced him.....

....De Gaulle has a phrase in his war memoirs on the first page where he talks about how for him “France is like a princess in a fairy story, Madonna in a fresco”. That could come straight out of Péguy. Péguy is offering this extraordinary, overarching synthesis of the unity of France, that French history is a continuum and a whole.

De Gaulle once remarked that "he thought and felt exactly as I did'. 

Which is odd because the circumstances of both were wildly different and on superficial appearances there was little to suggest a shared affinity. Contrary to De Gaulle's bourgeois upbringing,  Peguy grew up poor. His father died while Peguy was a child, from wounds sustained in the Franco-Prussian war. His mother, a chair-maker, worked long hours to support the poor family.  However Peguy was precocious, and his intellectual ability was recognised by the local schoolmaster, and the republican educational system, recognising his talents, propelled him from provincial Orleans to the to the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.  Dropping his childhood Catholicism for Socialism, he became a student activist and soon became embroiled in the Dreyfus affair, literally fighting in the streets of Paris against those who were convinced Dreyfus was guilty. He never graduated from university, instead became an "essayist", earning a meager income from his journal Cahiers de la Quinzane. Rediscovering his Catholicism in the aftermath of the Dreyfus affair he railed against modernity and became "mystical", writing several poems which, while earning him acclaim, earned him little money. A reserve army officer, he was killed leading his troops on the eve of the Battle of the Marne.

So why is he important.

Well, apart from the political legacy he left through his influence of the politics of de Gaulle, he had an indirect influence on the trajectory of Catholicism in the 20th C. Peguy recognised that modernity was changing the world in a way that it had never experienced before and he also recognised that the Christian religion was in deep trouble. A founding, if not principle member, of the ressourcement movement--he coined the term--he excoriated the clergy whom he felt had corrupted the Christian religion and turned men away from God. A man of fierce integrity, his relationship was the Church was highly irregular as he was married to secular woman who refused to baptise their children (he would not so without her agreement) and was thus denied the sacraments.

Interestingly, the young assistant who worked with him in the store in which he published his journal was Jacques Maritain. Peguy set into motion a series of events which caused Maritain to return to the faith. Maritain, in turn, mentored many who become influential in the Nouvelle theology movement which reshaped Catholicism in the 20th C.

Peguy was a fulcrum upon which a lot moved.

Peguy approached religion as poet and not as a theologian, in that his faith was in his heart and not a product of his head. But it would be wrong to say that he "intuited" this rather he seemed to have "sensed"--I'm being specific about the terminology--it in a profound manner. And what he sensed was that the clerical led faith had become detached from the source of it, and he felt that this was the cause of Christianity's atrophy. But it wasn't just this disconnection between the source of the faith and the practice of religon, Peguy also felt that Christianity, particularly in its Jansenist and ascetic elements, had deformed Christianity. There has been perhaps no other Christian that so emphasised the goodness of the carnal world. His was not a Christian spirituality rather it was a word made flesh.  Peguy was big on the goodness of creation and the body.

So why isn't he well known?

As I see it, there were two major problems with Christianity at the dawn of the 20th C. Firstly, there was the source/theology detachment problem which was recognised by a few, but there was also the problem of the  "buddhisation" of Christianity which is hardly recognised even today. At the dawn of the Nouvelle Theology movement there could be said to be two branches, the "traditionalists" and "Peguy". And since Peguy was problematic and died early, the "traditionalist" i.e. Buddhist branch assumed dominance. Peguy's nouvelle theology was a road not traveled.

As said before, Peguy was a probelmatic Christian. For example,  he was fiercely nationalistic which he said was fueled by his Christian faith.  He loathed pacifism and preferred a just war to an unjust peace. He was not a militarist but saw in the profession of arms a shield against the wickedness of malign powers. For Peguy, Christian soldiers provided the space in which the faith could grow unmolested and there was a holy dimension to their profession provided they acted justly and honorably.

"Blessed are those who died for carnal earth

Provided it was in a just war.

Blessed are those who died for a plot of ground.

Blessed are those who died a solemn death."

He literally street-brawled for justice. He preferred to put the hurt on evil rather than suffer it.  His notion of carnality, meant that identity was not an idea but a something rooted in reality. For example, France was not an "idea" but it was carnal thing and to be French, as opposed to a French citizen, were two separate things. He thought that some of the poor, in their attitude to work had become too "bourgeois." He also felt that Jesus wasn't in competition with our identities. We did not all have to become "mini Jesuses" rather we should be the christian version of ourselves.

His was a loving assertive Christianity, there was no kumbayah in him. And his assertive Christianity put him against the "traditional" ascetic "Buddhist" Christianity which assumed prominence in both the traditional and liberal strains of Christianity. He was a Christian knight who did not find an audience among pacifist monks and therefore he is forgotten. When he is mentioned, he is remembered for his "acceptable" points; his piety, his concern for the poor, his religious poetry. They gloss over the disagreeable stuff.

But the question to ask here is who is the more orthodox Christian, the pacifist monk or Peguy? And here a thought experiment is in order: Joseph Ratzinger is probably the deepest, most orthodox of the Nouvelle Theologians. Now could you imagine, even in his young adulthood, the young Ratzinger making a whip out of cords and chasing the money lenders out of the temple, but anyone given a familiarity of Peguy's life could not only imagine it, but could also see Peguy giving a "few extra" for good measure.

Which one better imitates Christ?


Makes you think.





17 comments:

Unknown said...

An excellent post. But I would like to put a few qualifications:
1) Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar, major league Nouvelle Theologians and mentors of Joseph Ratzinger, were huge Peguy fans. In the third volume of The Glory of the Lord Balthasar has a long and very good piece on Peguy, where he sees him as being as important as Dante! Charles Taylor has claimed that Peguy was a big influence on Vatican II, and if you read the actual documents you can see this is true. The results of Vatican II were quite different, but this cannot all be put on the theologians. It has as much or more to do with a laity that wanted an excuse to join the rest of the West in getting rich and pursuing the sexual revolution.
2) Peguy's view of war, even "just war" is far more nuanced than you make out. "The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc" has a justly renowned "curse on war" which describes the horrors of war in language that any pacifist would approve. His earlier "Jeanne D'Arc" has as one of its themes that the soldiers fighting with Joan were as brutal, unjust, merciless, unChristian as their opponents. Historically of course this was true. The idea of "Might establishing Right" is an enticing one, but things have a habit of turning out with the innocent suffering, whether in the Hundred Year War or nuclear bombs being dropped on civilian populations or wedding parties being drone bombed. Peguy was wary of the idea, as was the very old Catholic "just war theory". Such "Buddhist Christianity" is also very present in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers", etc. Also "He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword".
3) You give a very partial and skewed version of 20th century Australian Catholicism. The Irish-Australian Catholics especially of the first half of the century were no "Buddhist Christians". They struggled and fought fiercely against the prejudices of the Protestant majority, they played a big role in the struggles for better conditions and fair wages in the union movement, they defeated conscription for WWI. Figures like Archbishop Mannix, Frank Sheed, even Santamaria to some extent. It all ended rather badly and it's certainly all gone now, but we do have these recent and local models of "assertive Christianity".
P.S. I di a piece on Peguy for the Saint Austin Review in 2015, "A Note on Form and Spirit in Peguy's French Revolutio", doing my bit to promote knowledge of Peguy.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Unknown

Thanks.

Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar, major league Nouvelle Theologians and mentors of Joseph Ratzinger, were huge Peguy fans.

I was aware of that. I haven't seen Balthasar's comments on him but I am increasingly of the opinion that they either "selectively" read him or misunderstood him. Most of the NT guys seem to downplay his nationalism,identiarianism and positive view of soldiering.

One of his ideas that I think has been misunderstood is the concept of ressourcement which is taken to mean going to back to the early church. I think a far better term which encapsulates his thinking is approfondissement which means going deeper into, in the same way a tree's roots go deeper into the soil. Peguy wanted to go deeper into the faith more than treat the subject of faith historically.

As for V2, I think the NT guys didn't expect the outcomes of it, but that's because while they dealt with the problems of neoscholasticism they missed the problem of kenotic-asceticism. i.e kumbayah. Paradoxically neoscholasticism kept the kumbayah under lock and key. As I see it the Church was kept strait by being balanced between two errors. Neoscholasticism and Kumbayah. It's easy to see this historically, prior to V2 when the Neoscholastics led the band, the Church tended to drift towards fascism , while after V2, which the Neoscholastics lost, the Church drifter to kumbayah. None have been good for the faith.

The Social Pathologist said...

@unkown

Peguy's view of war, even "just war" is far more nuanced than you make out. "The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc" has a justly renowned "curse on war" which describes the horrors of war in language that any pacifist would approve.

And yet he never became a pacifist, in fact he loathed pacifism. Peguy recognised that war was part of the human condition, and while he loathed it and had no illusions about it, he knew that at times it was a necessary instrument, only if used justly.

Such "Buddhist Christianity" is also very present in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers", etc. Also "He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword".

That's a selective reading of the Bible. The Sermon needs to be read in context of the Whole of the Bible. Whipping the temple merchants would seem to put Christ in opposition to the imperatives of the Sermon i.e.if they were the only elements of the Bible that mattered.

I'd love to see your article on Peguy.

If you're able to, send me a link to
fluvox at gmail dot com.

Jason said...

I think your point doctor about citizenship and being French, how they're discrete values, is an acute one. I would insist on their inseparability though, at least if one wants to be a good citizen. A proper American just doesn't obey laws and observe the various niceties of my country's life, for instance, but has an affection for the nation itself as well as a sense of commitment to it. Something I find disturbing about some elements of both the Right and Left in my environs is how ready they are to jettison the U.S. and flee to another land - all the while maintaining their dual-citizenship and the privileges of their abandoned homeland. Contrast this with Peguy, who whatever his reservations about his patrie died heroically defending it, indeed arguably preventing it from falling into the same fate that conquered her twenty-six years later.

I agree that there is much to learn from this curious Frenchman, notably his maxims which are probably how most non-Catholics, or at least educated readers, are familiar with him. My first exposure was to his famous line quoted in a George Will column, that the true revolutionaries of the twentieth century will be the fathers of Christian families. This is profoundly true. Perhaps one could even expand it in secular language, arguing that the true upholders of decency and integrity today will be the heads of moral families in this post-Christian age. Really, it doesn't matter if you institute nice pretty tariffs as some paleoconservatives want, or a Universal Basic Income as many classical liberals advocate (I myself am partial to the latter if done in a proper way). Without strong families, such efforts will be merely Marxist, epiphenomenon, superstructures that do not effectively go to the heart of the matter.

The Social Pathologist said...

@unkown

Blogger was rejecting my comments last night (I lost quite a few replies).

The Irish-Australian Catholics especially of the first half of the century were no "Buddhist Christians".

They were and they were not. The "hard" augustinian asceticism left a lot of damage in its wake. And yes Irish Catholicism was also fused with Irish Nationalism, and I would put it to you that it was the combination that produced the robust "assertive" Christianity. And as the nationalism was bled from it so was the assertiveness. I think "modern" Christianity would be appalled by some of the stances taken by Daniel Mannix.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Jason

I think your point doctor about citizenship and being French, how they're discrete values, is an acute one. I would insist on their inseparability though, at least if one wants to be a good citizen.

I'm not sure Peguy would see it this way. I think Peguy would think it quite possible to have different identities and yet a common allegiance. Take, for example, the Tuskegee airmen: they saw themselves a "coloured: airmen who were patriotic American citizens.

A proper American.... for instance, but has an affection for the nation itself as well as a sense of commitment to it

I think that we should seperate the idea of patriotism and identity for a moment, though I agree that every healthy soul sees a link between the two. Admittedly, there are people who pursue citizenships of convenience, but I think there are others who have taken this stance because they have lost the link between their identity and the place of their birth. A common refrain heard by many on the right is "this is not the country I grew up in".

One of the things that Peguy emphasises is the link of a people to their pays as the term is used in French. The point here is that their identity is not just some abstract notion but is linked in the carnal manifestations of identity. Or to put it another way, France is not an "idea" it is an actual physical place. The pays is not the region but also the actual carnal manifestations of the people and their culture.

But this idea of "carnality" extends to the person himself. The flesh confers identity on the self. For Peguy, a man could no more be a woman than he could be horse because of his biological nature. While there is some ability for persons to forge their own identities, they are in a way limited by the reality of their carnality.

Ufa88kh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Way too late, but I might as well record my response.
1) You say the NT people read Peguy selectively. Well, we all tend to bend writers we admire to our own biases, though we should resist the tendency. To me you seem to soft-pedal on Peguy's socialism (which was rather more than just concern for the poor) and his unflinching support for the French Revolution and the Republican revolutionary tradition generally. Balthasar I think was far more focused on the institutional and clerical Church than Peguy. But he definitely took on board Peguy's insistence on the carnality of the spiritual, one part of his study is titled "The Enracinement of Christian Identity", and he gives an extended commentary on the famous lines from "Eve" "The supernatural is itself carnal, And the tree of grace is rooted deep". There is less about nationalism, but as a Swiss with a German/Austrian cultural background Balthasar was probably more aware of the problematic nature of the notion in Central Europe where nations/tribes/races are so mixed. As far as I can tell, Balthasar was no pacifist, and he certainly was as keen on, and had as romantic a view of knights as you (and me). De Lubac fought in WW1 and was involved in resistance to Nazi occupation in WW2, so no simple pacifist there either.
2) Peguy's ideal of warfare, in theory, was an ultra-spiritualized, ultra-idealistic chivalry. It was war fought for honour, and the eternal, rather than war fought for conquest, domination, the temporal. A crucial element of this was that it is better to be defeated honourably than to achieve a dishonourable victory. This is clearly worlds away from the Machiavellian, ends justifies the means, thinking of the neo-integralist, neo-authoritarian types. It is integrated very well with Peguy's wider understanding of Christianity. "Jesus did not come to dominate the world . He came to save it. Quite a different object; an entirely different operation". So Peguy's ideal of war does take seriously the "Buddhist" elements of the Sermon on the Mount, in theory.
3) Peguy's application of the theory I'm not so sure about. Take his own participation in WW1 as a "just war". Peguy actually died defending Paris. But, if memory serves me correct, his regiment was supposed to invade Germany, and I believe they made it on to German soil. Peguy was defending Paris rather than advancing on Berlin because the French got trounced in the first phase of the war, not because they were the victims of unprovoked Prussian aggression--an understanding of the war that has been completely debunked. What was really going on is unwittingly revealed by Peguy's pre-war writings. Peguy has one article on the tensions arising from German inteference with the French government of Morocco, and he demands what Morocco has to do with Germany. Indeed. But then what had Morocco to do with France, since certainly the French, including Peguy, had zero interest in the well being of the Moroccan people. WW1 was the conflict between the biggest and second biggest Empires ever assembled, that of Britain and Third Republic France, and a would-be Empire trying to seize some of their power and wealth, Germany. It was not a just war according to Peguy's principles. In Australia the Irish Australian Catholics, having fled to Australia to escape the evils of English colonial rule, refused to be conscripted to fight for Empire, successfully and rightly. Here we see the problems of Peguy's nationalism, and nationalism generally. Even though Peguy knew perfectly well the injustices of the greedy, materialistic, thoroughly bourgeois Third Republic Empire, he allowed his Christian principles to be overidden by patriotic fervour for an ideal France which didn't exist. If this can happen with a truly great Christian like Peguy, it will certainly happen with lesser mortals.

Unknown said...

By the way, have you seen the recent translation of Peguy's "Notes on Bergson and Descartes" put out by Cascade Books. Despite the forbidding title, the "Note on Descartes", after fifty or so pages that are a bit of a slog, contains a summary of Peguy's thought, by Peguy as he was about to head off to war, it's excellent. I did try to send you a link to my paper, not sure if it went through. If not, I could send it the old-school way as an attachment to an e-mail.

The Social Pathologist said...

@unknown

To me you seem to soft-pedal on Peguy's socialism (which was rather more than just concern for the poor) and his unflinching support for the French Revolution and the Republican revolutionary tradition generally.

Without getting into a discussion about the French Revolution, well then he's a bit like Chesterton and Belloc who also approved of it. Why they did so is for another time. With regard to economics, I don't think he was a pseudo-Marxist either. I'm not sure if you've seen this essay but his praise of petite-bourgoise but is something that would be grating to a Marxist and a Capitalist.

https://humanumreview.com/articles/bourgeois-sabotage-of-dignified-work

With regard to Balthasar, my initial impressions are not good. His ideas on the "kenotic" nature of love seem to me to come really close to some Buddhist ideas. As far as I see it, a kenotic patriotism would not be able to fight its way out of a wet paper bag.


So Peguy's ideal of war does take seriously the "Buddhist" elements of the Sermon on the Mount, in theory.

That's not the "take" that I would put on it. I think its quite right to say that Christianity is not a religion that is spread by the sword but it's also true that it's not a pacifist religion. As I've said before, the sermon on the Mount has to be taken in reference to the whole of the Bible which contain "problematic" passages which justify war. Chesterton's take on the Christian ability to reconcile the "lion and the lamb" in my opinion is the correct one and I suspect it is the Peguyian one.

>> But remember that this text is too lightly interpreted. It is constantly assured, especially in our Tolstoyan tendencies, that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is--Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? THAT is the problem the Church attempted; THAT is the miracle she achieved. <<

The Social Pathologist said...

Peguy was defending Paris rather than advancing on Berlin because the French got trounced in the first phase of the war, not because they were the victims of unprovoked Prussian aggression--an understanding of the war that has been completely debunked

That's a novel historical take. The Germans declared war on the French before any French started fighting. With regard to French objectives, is this what you are referring to:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plan_XVII.

While nationalism was certainly a force at the time, the French plans to counterstrike into Germany may have been completely militarily and morally justified.

I think Peguy's relationship with Imperialism is more nuanced. Peguy saw France as a mystical nation destined to "enlighten" other nationalities, Morocco being its turf. The German challenge was a challenge to french honor and therefore demanded a response.

Matthew McGuire has recently written a good book on Peguy: Carnal Spirit, The Revolutions of Charles Peguy, and while he acknowledges that Peguy sense of justic could be clouded by nationalism he was not indifferent to the plight of France's colonial subject and frequently raised the fact that they were poorly treated.

You did send me the link to your paper but I somehow managed to lose it.

Could you resend it to fluvox at gmail dot com?

Thanks.

Unknown said...

According to Marjorie Villiers' (excellent) biography, Peguy's battalion arrived on the 18th of August, 1914, at La Cabane, in the forest of Vencheres, north-east France. Villiers says-and her account here is based on Peguy's final letters- "They were in good heart for they were convinced that soon they would be in Germany". I guess they were part of "Plan XVII". Perhaps I put too much weight on this line, but it struck me as showing that the French weren't committed to a purely defensive war.
My account of the beginnings of WWI was not supposed to be novel, to the contrary on my understanding it is the standard account today. I am no expert on the subject, but I had access to the London Review of Books for many years and used to follow the debates between the experts. With all the archives etc. now open most of the historians agreed:1) there was no secret grand plan of Germany to conquer France at the time; 2) the war was sparked by conflict between Austria-Hungary and the Serbs, Austria-Hungary had a treaty with Germany, the Serbs were backed by Russia, which had a treaty with France, which had a treaty with England, so the thing snow-balled. The treaties were the products of disputes over colonies, and also animosities going back not only to the 1870 war but the Napoleonic and Revolutionary wars.
In this context the "Who declared war first" thing seems to me a furphy. In any case, neither France nor Peguy were seriously interested in such niceities. France, for example, seized Morocco in contravention to the Act of Algeciras (1906), signed by all the European powers, while Peguy supported the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, wherein international treaties and borders and neutralities were violated with aplomb.
It is certainly arguable that, placed as Peguy was in 1914, fighting for France was justifiable. But to make of WWI a battle between Good and Evil, as Peguy did, was wrong.

Unknown said...

Peguy certainly did see France as a mystical nation destined to enlighten other nations. "When the French say they are carving out a colonial empire, one must not believe it. They are propagating liberties. When Napoleon imagined that he had established an immense empire, one must not believe it. He was propagating liberties"("Note on Descartes"). The question is whether Peguy's vision is true. While acknowledging that France "woke up" the former subjects of the declining Ottoman Empire, as she had done the Germanic peoples previously, I don't think it is true. This is proved, in my opinion, by the fact that the people of Morocco, Algeria, Vietnam, etc, like the Germans before them, eventually united to kick the French "liberators"out of their countries.
In later years Peguy seems to have down-played the evils of colonialism, about which he was well informed, because he believed focus on them would weaken France while she was under threat of war, and the survival of France was the main thing. But this real-politik was just like that of the Action Francaise crowd in the Dreyfus case. They argued that, whether or not Dreyfus was guilty, acquitting him would discredit the Army and weaken France at a time when France was under threat-and the survival of France was the main thing.

Unknown said...

"Can the lion lay down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? THAT is the problem the Church attempted; THAT is the miracle she achieved"" (Chesterton). Fine rhetoric, and with some point. But can it really be true of modern wars of slaughter in the trenches by artillery, bombs dropped from thousands of feet or by drone-controllers thousands of miles away? Was it ever really true even in the days of knightly chivalry? Even in medieval times the sacking of cities which resisted, complete with pillaging and raping, was standard practice. Even the most chivalrous of all, the crusaders of the First Crusade, were, after they took Jerusalem, carried away by battle-lust, and engaged in mass slaughter of the civilian inhabitants. Is that what the lion does?
Incidently, if we apply to Chesterton the same criterion you applied to Ratzinger, he doesn't come out looking that good. At the outbreak of WWI Chesterton was just above forty, but unlike many that age he didn't join up. Well, you might say, he was unhealthily obese, a complete klutz in all physical activities, and so impractical that his wife had to dress him in a cloak that she tied up, and dole him out an allowance of his own money. Yes indeed: and this is the one you want us to take advice from on the conduct of war?!
Charles Williams had a good line on Chesterton: that he was "adult by inspiration at great moments; hardly wholly so". Chesterton's boyishness is often an attractive feature, but I don't think we should take him as a guide in grave and difficult matters like the conduct of war.

The Social Pathologist said...

n this context the "Who declared war first" thing seems to me a furphy. In any case, neither France nor Peguy were seriously interested in such niceities.

I'm not sure that's the case. Matthew McGuire quotes Peguy stating that he would support Germany over France if he felt that France was in the wrong. I don't this his patriotism made him morally blind. Whatever the arguments of the historians, the fact is that Germany invaded France, and I think that most people believe that countries have a right to defend their borders. (how, and whatever they do after that is for another discussion.)

The French seizure of Morroco was more than a simple imperial annexation. Once again, the circumstances are complicated, but nowhere do I see Peguy cheering on the "exploitative" colonialism of the European powers, he is always their critic. Peguy does not apologise for French imperialism since he sees French culture as a good and as far as I can tell, his is a "respectful" imperialism that recognises the legitimacy of other cultures within limits. I must admit that have quite a bit of sympathy with this position. The British, like the French empire, for all of their faults bought a lot of good to the world.

(I have to head off to work and will reply later).

The Social Pathologist said...

It is certainly arguable that, placed as Peguy was in 1914, fighting for France was justifiable. But to make of WWI a battle between Good and Evil, as Peguy did, was wrong.

I agree that Peguy was being hyperbolic but there was a small element of truth to his claim. Prussian culture embodied a fair amount of social Darwinism in its thoughts, even to their fellow Germans, some of the ideas embodied by the Prussians was repulsive.

This is proved, in my opinion, by the fact that the people of Morocco, Algeria, Vietnam, etc, like the Germans before them, eventually united to kick the French "liberators"out of their countries.

There is no doubt that there was a lot of misrule of the colonials by the French but Peguy wasn't running the foreign office. Peguy acknowledges that there was evil in the system but overall he felt that French rule was of "net" benefit to these countries and I'm inclined to agree. That the natives didn't think so is a different issue. Are you arguing that the Vietcong and the FLN were better rulers and more "humane" than the French? How's French Africa going? Witness the direction in which the current pattern of world migration is going: from former colonies to their oppressors.The natives may despise their colonial masters but they sure as hell seem to want to live under their rule again. Colonialism is a complex issue, I don't think you can simply reduce it to a good or bad dichotomy. I haven't read enough of Peguy to know if he "downplayed" the evils. Given the circumstances, Peguy's mind may have been on other things. Still, I don't think that Peguy would have paid any price to secure the survival of France.





The Social Pathologist said...

Fine rhetoric, and with some point. But can it really be true of modern wars of slaughter in the trenches

Peguy knew that war was horrible, really horrible, but it was not the most horrible thing. A peace secured by the triumph of evil was far worse. The men who negotiated the Munich pact with Hitler all knew about the horrors of war and were desperate to avoid another one, but history concedes that this deal was wrong. Sometimes you've got to fight.

As a side issue, I think a good book could be written on how the "peace movement" facilitated the rise of Hitler and Stalin.

Incidently, if we apply to Chesterton the same criterion you applied to Ratzinger, he doesn't come out looking that good.

Respectfully, I think you've missed the point.

Chesterton may have failed to live up to his ideals but his ideals were healthy.
Ratzinger lived up his ideals but they were not. (I need to qualify this last statement since I have a lot of respect for Ratzinger) Ratzinger's academic pacifism seems not to square with the Jesus who actuaually whips the temple merchants. This is why the sinner is in far less spiritual danger than the heretic or pharisee. This is why Christianity is withering, it's spiritual compass is being "bent" by the pacifists.

Yes indeed: and this is the one you want us to take advice from on the conduct of war

Should we take advice from Aquinas who never fought in a war and was fat?

As I see it, Chesterton's problem, like Mencken, was that he wrote too well and is appreciated more as a writer than a thinker. Etiene Gilson, who spent a lifetime studying Aquinas, did not make that mistake. He realised that Chesterton understood Aquinas better than than he did.

"Chesterton makes one despair. I have been studying St. Thomas all my life and I could never have written such a book.” "

Chesterton is a legitimate authority.