Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hatred of the Past

As a general rule I do not like the science fiction genre in film or literature, but there is a powerful image that has stayed with me for many years from the movie Fahrenheit 451. The hero of the film, having lived in a society that banned all books, comes to the realization that he has been robbed of the past. And without the past, he is present-bound -- bound to the mindset of the present, the mores of the present, and the vision of the present. He sets out to correct his Prometheus-bound condition by reading old books, declaring that he must reconstruct the past. It is a wonderful moment when the hero sits down at a table and starts to read David Copperfield.

Now in the movie, the present and future are made triumphant over the past by the actual banning of books written in and about the past. But I would maintain that our current present-and-future-oriented society has succeeded in destroying man’s consciousness of the past more thoroughly, because it has been done more subtly than any futuristic totalitarian society ever spawned from the mind of a science fiction writer.

And it is not a question of right-wing or left-wing. Both wings have burned the past from modern man’s mind and heart. But they have not done it in the way the sci-fi books generally depict it. They have not suppressed all knowledge of the past and all access to the past as the futuristic sci-fi societies do. Instead they have killed the past by demonizing it, in the case of the left-wing, and de-Christianizing it, in the case of the right-wing.

Let’s start with the left-wing. The most deplorable anti-Christian way to treat history is the modern way. Our “historians” treat all those individuals who have lived before us as convenient stepping stones that lead to us, the most advanced and superior of creatures. Of course, those who come after us will be more advanced and superior than we are. And on it goes, with the last generation on earth being the supreme generation everybody else has worked and labored to bring forth. This process, supported by professed Christians, is the most un-Christian of concepts because it denies the individual personality. No human being, in the Christian scheme of things, is a stepping stone for another human being’s progress. He is a personality, supreme in his own right, and of infinite value and worth to the personal God who created him. Dickens, one of the great giants of world literature, expressed the Christian view of personality so well in The Tale of Two Cities:

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!

Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance on the shore. My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life's end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?”

In the modern leftist view of history, the past is evil. Individuals from the past are only good to the extent that they were forerunners for the future. Thus in literary circles one hears this: “Mr. Old Fogey wrote in silly times but there was a suggestion of bisexuality in his works that helped pave the way for our modern writers.” In politics: “Women were mostly repressed in those days but the actress Susie Q. Slut was very promiscuous thus paving the way for the sexual liberation of women today.” In the Church: “Christians in those days were generally racists but Father O’Shea performed biracial marriages and supported integration thus paving the way…” And so on and so on...

So the past is used as a morality play for the present. You will be condemned if you are not progressive and forward-looking. Hence, the thing to be is future-oriented. One must always be looking forward to the latest perversion in religion, in politics and in science, in order that one can embrace it and not appear to be backward and unprogressive and therefore damned.

The right-wing, like the left-wing, condemns the past. But where the left-wing condemns the past as evil and the individuals from the past as sinful, the right-wing condemns the past as disordered and the individuals from it as weak. They also look to the future, but unlike the left, they look to a future that has been ordered by the mind of Aristotle and the discipline of the Romans. They, like the leftists, only praise individuals from the past whom they see as forerunners of their vision of the future. Thus right-wingers look to writers who were Christian with a small c and pagan with a capital P as their heroic forerunners.

But to live in either the left-wing’s or the right-wing’s past-hating world is to live in oblivion. St. Paul stated the Christian case for all of us when he declared, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord;” Hence to be cut off from the past as a living, breathing thing is to be cut off from Christ; the future-worshipping societies of the right and left are Christless. If one does not read Walter Scott or LeFanu in order to receive a breath of the wholesome Christianity of the 19th century but only to see if, on any issue, Scott or LeFanu were forerunners of the modern era, then one has entered the future world where there is no future. Christ and only Christ transcends the past, present, and future. To live outside his reign of charity is to have no past, no present, and no future. That’s where Star Wars and Aristotle put us – outside His reign of charity, without a home in this universe or any other.

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