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‘A Peculiarly Sanctimonious Nationalism’

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15.08.2019

I have been delighted by some of the responses to my inoffensive little discussion of the Faust legend last week. “Hey! He’s talkin’ about us! Harrumph! Harrumph!”

Certain cordwainer-related proverbs suggest themselves.

Faust has been on my mind because of something that keeps presenting itself in unexpected (and not unexpected) ways, week after week: It is remarkable how powerful the compulsion to confess is.

Maybe we live in a Christian society, after all. One of my little projects over the past few years has been trying to revive a broader interest among conservatives in T. S. Eliot as a social critic. We speak of him, to the extent that we speak of him at all, mostly as a poet and literary critic, not as a political thinker. (Recall that Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind ran “From Burke to Eliot.”) But see how familiar this bit of “The Idea of a Christian Society” is:

This essay is not intended to be either an anti-communist or an anti-fascist manifesto; the reader may by this time have forgotten what I said at the beginning, to the effect that I was less concerned with the more superficial, though important differences between the regimens of different nations, than with the more profound differences between pagan and Christian society. Our preoccupation with foreign politics during the last few years has induced a surface complacency rather than a consistent attempt at self-examination of conscience. Sometimes we are almost persuaded that we are getting on very nicely, with a reform here and a reform there, and would have been getting on still better, if only foreign governments did not insist upon breaking all the rules and........

© National Review