Irving Shrugged, remembered
The recently deceased Irving Kristol made high level contributions to conservatism for which he deserves lasting credit. But ultimately—that is, when it came to ultimate matters such as turning back liberalism and preserving our civilization—he wasn’t serious. His lack of seriousness is shown in an exchange he had at a 1994 National Review conference, which I’ve previously recounted.
I don’t know. I think there is some wisdom in keeping both perspectives constantly in mind. That will keep us from being chiliastic Pelasgian Gnostics, like our adversaries. On the one hand, we are in a fight that matters, a fight to the death for everything we love, and everything that is good; victory will bring real, lasting benefits, and we can make a difference for the Good; so that what we do is serious, and important. On the other hand, we are in ourselves powerless to do any good, for all our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth; and, in the end, Heaven and Earth shall flee away, when He comes to reign. I am reminded of something Tolkien said: “I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic; so that I have no choice but to look upon history as a long defeat.”LA replies:
I was criticizing Irving Kristol, not because he said that all earthly things must ultimately fail, but because, in the midst of a discussion of a war to save our culture, in response to a questioner who was looking for leadership from Kristol, Kristol turned the whole thing into a joke and showed that he wasn’t committed to anything. And this was egregious and unforgivable because, as I’ve pointed out before, Kristol’s jokey colloquy at the 1994 NR Conservative Summit took place just one year after he declared that the culture war was his Cold War and that it was a war that would go on for generations, a war that his children and grandchildren would wage after he was gone.Kristor replies:
OK, I can see now what you were saying. By gosh, that was a stirring quote from Kristol. Imagine if King Harry, right after his pep talk at Agincourt, had said, “On the other hand, we’ll probably lose, because we’re outnumbered so badly. And anyway, there’s no way we can keep France over the long run, even if we did win today. Let’s have a beer instead.” That’s a little different from what Theoden said to his men on Pelennor Field, isn’t it? “Ride now! Ride for ruin, and the world’s ending! Death! Death! Death!”LA replies:
Yes. And if Henry had made his Agincourt speech, and then made a joke about it and chuckled dismissively about it and showed that he hadn’t meant it at all, would you ever take him seriously again?
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 13, 2009 11:45 AM | Send