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  • Wild and Wasted Virtues

    Posted by David Foster on November 7th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Some of the pre-election commentary, especially from the Left, reminds me once again of an interesting Chesterton passage from 1908:

    The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful. For example, Mr. Blatchford attacks Christianity because he is mad on one Christian virtue: the merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. He has a strange idea that he will make it easier to forgive sins by saying that there are no sins to forgive. Mr. Blatchford is not only an early Christian, he is the only early Christian who ought really to have been eaten by lions. For in his case the pagan accusation is really true: his mercy would mean mere anarchy. He really is the enemy of the human race– because he is so human.

    Previous reference to this passage:  Sympathy for the Devil


    16 Responses to “Wild and Wasted Virtues”

    1. Brian Says:

      With the possible exception of Lewis, no one has said anything worthwhile regarding conservatism, and modernity, in the past century that GKC didn’t say better.

    2. Anonymous Says:

      “The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless.”

      Wow. Pure madness. The truth will set you free.

      The church will try to enslave you. You are naturally evil and you were born bad. What a crock. ;)

    3. David Foster Says:

      Wernher von Baun pursued a vision of scientific truth and discovery. Maybe if this had been leavened with a stronger mix of pity, he would have made different decisions about putting his talents at the service of an evil regime and using slave labor in the process.

    4. Bill Brandt Says:

      Can draw a lot of analogies between Albert Speer and Werner von Braun. Both cases I think they put their careers up on top and did not care what it took to build them. In the Speer’s case, his contriteness at Nuremberg probably saved him from the hangman’s noose.

      In Von Braun’s Case his scientific knowledge of rockets trumped whatever involvement he had with slave labor. That being said, if he had been actively involved in the killing of Jews I’m sure he would’ve had a very different fate.

    5. Mike K Says:

      Another who was saved by his special knowledge was General Reinhard Gehlen who was head of FHO, the Eastern Front intelligence branch of OKH.

      As the war was ending he offered his Russian files and agents to the US and Truman and Eisenhower accepted his offer.

      He ended up as West Germany’s chief of intelligence and many of his officers and their families ended up in Argentina.

    6. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      @ Brian – I agree with your sentiment about GKC (and Lewis). I will only add that sometimes ex-socialists, such as Orwell or Hitchens or Horowitz, hit just as squarely. They are less reliably correct, but stunning when they are.

    7. David Foster Says:

      An example of what I think Chesterton was talking about: A lot of people are saying “just let the caravan in”, and, surely, many of them are motivated by Pity. But they are ignoring the virtues of Justice (other people have been waiting in line for years), and Prudence (if this caravan is allowed in, there will be a lot more, with implications that many not be so nice.)

    8. Mike K Says:

      other people have been waiting in line for years

      I have told this story before but:

      A guy I know, a German plumber, and his wife were on the immigration list for years. They finally won the lottery.

      They had saved 60,000 Euros and the wife is a midwife. Anyway they came to Tucson and he set up Plumbing business.

      He said there was no way he could ever work for himself in Germany,. That was ten years ago.

    9. pst314 Says:

      He said there was no way he could ever work for himself in Germany

      I’d love to hear the full details on why that is.

    10. MCS Says:

      Pst314- In Germany and France especially, the trade unions, industry associations and governments are woven into one giant hair ball. The primary object is to control or eliminate competition at all levels.

      You can’t become a plumber without first becoming an apprentice in a union approved program at a union affiliated employer. Once you’re a journeyman, you may only work at properly approved employer. None of this sounds very different form the situation in the U.S. until you find out that anyone wishing to start a new plumbing company must get approval from both the trade association and the local government with protection of the incumbents an explicit priority. The same goes for most businesses. To find the exceptions look for any business in Germany run by Turks. I should say legal business, many immigrants find the gray to black economy offers the most opportunity.

      It’s no accident that the places in the U.S. with the most similar environments are the most expensive. Nor is it an accident that a dream of the left is to move the entire country to this model.

    11. Mike K Says:

      You can’t become a plumber without first becoming an apprentice in a union approved program at a union affiliated employer. Once you’re a journeyman, you may only work at properly approved employer.

      Thanks. I had assumed something like that. I didn’t get into that much detail about why they waned to come here so badly.

      A German born friend, a retired Marine Corps pilot, helped them get settled in Tucson once they won the lottery.

      Why do we, after 1965, discriminate against skilled immigrants like this?

    12. Brian Says:

      “Why do we, after 1965, discriminate against skilled immigrants like this?”
      Haha. You know the answer, Mike.
      I don’t get why Trump wasn’t more aggressive in using the bully pulpit on immigration. Why not give Oval Office speeches and propose specific, limited legislation on areas where the GOP has popular positions, such as limits on current levels, giving preference to higher education and skills, etc? Doing things by EO lets the media bury it and Congress to ignore it.
      I don’t get why he deferred to Congress so much after winning. He should have known darn well that Ryan, et al, hate him and aren’t interested in him succeeding. If he succeeds, they’re done. If he fails, they think the party is theirs again. Presidents come and go, but Congressmen are forever.

    13. Mike K Says:

      Congress was not on board with real immigration reform, such as rewriting the 1965 law.

      A lot of RINOs retired. Hopefully, the Congress elected in 2020 will have the guts to tackle this thing.

      The Democrats have the same long term goal that Labour had under Tony Blair. They have imported new voters that consistented of entire Pakistani villages, complete with their culture of FGM and sharia. At least the Mexicans are Christian, if ignorant and unskilled.

      The level of corruption in Latin America is enough to send 20 million here if this bunch succeeds in breaching the border.

      There are not many things good about getting old but there is one. I will not have to deal with the political left and its consequences.

      They are destroying California and Arizona is drifting left.

    14. Brian Says:

      “Congress was not on board with real immigration reform, such as rewriting the 1965 law.”
      Yes, but there are things that have 80% public approval but 40% Congressional approval. Those are the things you target, going direct to the people and trying to force wedges in the Dem coalition. Forget “comprehensive immigration reform”.

    15. Mike K Says:

      I agree but we will have to wait for a new Congress that the GOP runs. There is no chance of any significant legislation to come out of this Congress. Pelosi and Schumer may be smart enough to realize that the crazies are not helping but I doubt they have the guts to face their also crazy base and tell them cooperation will catch more flies than the goofy impeachment hysteria.

      Schiff, the pencil neck from Hollywood, will send a blizzard of subpoenas to the DOJ and they will be ignored just as Holder and Lynch ignored them.

      Maxine will spend her time with insane press releases and nothing useful will be done on that committee.

      Gridlock is not so bad but immigration reform will have to wait. I foresee threats to shut the government down over the budget each year.

    16. Brian Says:

      There won’t be any good immigration reform when the GOP regains control either, because the GOP donor class doesn’t want it.
      On this front, the Dems having partial control could be good because it could free up Trump to run against Congress, which he didn’t want to do when it was GOP.
      Of course, if the Dems had any brains they’d see that they can easily work with Trump to get stuff they want like more infrastructure spending, national parental leave, etc, but their insane base just wants impeachment.

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