Guest Commentary / September 21, 2021

Renaissance Soup and Tribal Monasticism

We need a Renaissance Soup: thick enough to nurture and sustain us and hearty enough to contain all the healthy ingredients of a diverse people.

By Douglas Daugherty

America needs a new renaissance.

The current cultural climate is more to do with drought, uncivil war, and plague: something like the rhetoric around “climate change” dystopia.

(This brief essay was inspired, in part, by an essay, Traditionalist and Their Challenges, by philosopher John D. Searle.)

The phrase “melting pot” was first used to describe American culture in 1908 after a play, Melting Pot, was produced by Israel Zangwill, a Jewish author of, among other things Children of the Ghetto. (America had a population of about 89 million people in 1908. Three quarters of the population of New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Boston were first-and second-generation immigrants. America WAS diverse.)

That frame of thought caught by the phrase “melting pot” is no longer in vogue.

Currently, we have created a type of monastic tribalism, where groups retreat into their own cloisters and are there because of “ethnic, racial, class and gender background,” according to Dr. Searle. This falls into the rubric of multiculturalism, Critical Race Theory, feminism, a victim-centric perspective, equity (not dignity), gender fluidity and political demagoguery, mostly from the mavens of the DNC. It seems the prevailing thought is to divide, which seems to me mostly motivated by greed.

While these few words may prick, we must know what the problem is to offer a solution. A friend of mine is fond of saying, “If you don’t ask the right questions, you’ll never get the right answers.”

The forces that the American face are those of DISSOLUTION.

We are bombarded and censored by party politics versus principled law.

  • We are ruled by radical elites from New York, California, and Washington.

  • We submit roughly 80% of our children to government run and funded schools, grades K-12, where parental involvement, when it is other than benign, is not welcome…or so I’m told. The pandemic let many parents see what their children were being taught at tender ages, and parents are wondering who’s running the factory. It seems propaganda has replaced education. In some urban schools less than 10% of the children ever learn to read proficiently, if at all, while only about 30-40% nationally read proficiently at all, despite the sound science of reading.

  • Big media dominates not only the news, but tawdry entertainment, and, increasingly, blackmails corporate America.

  • There is an ongoing vivisection of tradition in every academic field. Searle writes, “The most obvious sign of decay is that we have simply lost enthusiasm for the traditional philosophy of a liberal education…We have lost faith in an integrated education…They [multiculturalist] have more energy and enthusiasm, not to say fanaticism and intolerance.”

  • We live in multicultural hegemony and a general reluctance or inarticulate response among traditionalists. It is very much about those who believe that reality is fluid versus those who believe there are “ancient landmarks” or as Francis Schaeffer, Russel Kirk, and Richard John Neuhaus alluded to, “permanent things.”

What is needed is a New Renaissance, a rediscovery of old truths and old paths, pushed by the immeasurable creativity of mankind and the existential challenges of the day, whether they are economic, political, cultural, or spiritual.

The Renaissance is a term used to describe a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries. It occurred after the crisis of the Late Middle Ages and was associated with great social change.

The Renaissance was very much the mixture of diversity, ideas, and cultures that created inarguably some of man’s highest achievements. As time passed, this thinking evolved to even include the thinking of the European Enlightenment which is the grandfather of the American experiment. (I cannot pass this point without mentioning the Reformation which marks its nascency to Martin Luther on October 31, 1517. Its contribution was muscle and demographics of people of conviction and sacred loyalty. Their search for liberty is one of the great stories of human history, often overlooked by the secular mindset.)

I also think the Renaissance gives us a strategy for the uncivil war of dissolution/fluidity versus traditionalism. Why? How do we fight this war? (And it is a war.)

It needs to be fought on the battlefield of high culture. Traditionalists need philosophy, literature, and the arts that must create a vocabulary and imagery for a “renaissance soup.” Ideas do have consequences, as Richard Weaver pointed out. There are the central questions of what is beautiful, what is good and how we know what we know (epistemology). These things are nurtured by great works of high culture.

  • It needs to be fought with family businesses that create wealth for more and more people, that can be handed down to children and grandchildren. (80% of businesses in America are family controlled.)

  • Parents need to get their children out of “government schools” and become articulate and vocal advocates for vouchers and charter schools. We need parent-directed education, and parents need to get with it.

  • We desperately need a DEEP SPIRITUAL SURRENDER. Our lack of communication with an immanent and transcendent God deprives us of the fuel for daily living. (“Give us this day our daily bread.”)

  • We need healthy marriage and family formation. 40% of all births are to unwed women. Much higher in certain groups. Fatherlessness is the filial pandemic of our time. Children in single parent homes generally are poorer, which is an indicator of many more pathologies

  • We need a NEW URBANIZATION. Housing, safety, neighborhoods with parks and gardens and a vital ecclesia infused with rich music, art and learning should be the rule, not the exception.

  • We need a new polis that will “dowse” for principled, competent, out-of-the-box leaders, who will fight the good fight and constituents who will stand behind them with their vote, time, talents, and treasure.

The future is unsure. We are unravelling. The swiftest, most powerful currents seem unhealthy to me. America may not be so much a melting pot anymore. It is not on the menu. We need a Renaissance Soup: thick enough to nurture and sustain us and hearty enough to contain all the healthy ingredients of a diverse people. We must see ourselves as a beautiful, strong tapestry. The alternative is tribalism, driven mostly by greed, a victim-centeredness and selfishness. These tribes will continue to create their own monastic communities and create their own cultures.

The tapestry is better imagery than that of a swiftly unravelling quilt. They also last longer!

Listen to Composer William Grant Still (1895-1978) a participant in the Harlem Renaissance (1918 – mid-1930s).

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