December 23, 2005

Strakon Lights Up

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The other day I encountered a letter to the editor in one of the local papers dealing with what some are calling "the holiday that dare not speak its name," and the writer — an ACLU type — dismissed the protests of Christians by pointing out (or claiming, at least) that no one is being sued or prosecuted for calling the season by its right name. With respect to "public-square" controversies, he went on to argue that it's just not right for people to be taxed to support a certain faith (I agree); and he opined further that the refusal of private people and companies to mention Christmas instead of some vague "holiday" is their free choice, which mustn't be interfered with. Insofar as their choice truly is free, I agree with that, too.

Egad, it's disconcerting how these ACLU leftists turn into real libertarians as soon as the matter of C*****mas comes up.

Now, leave aside all the questions that the letter-writer steered around, such as state schools' prohibiting their dragooned little victims from celebrating Christmas or exchanging Christmas cards at school. Leave aside, too, the inherent absurdity — and it's an absurdity even for tax-supported entities — of suppressing Yuletide icons such as Santa Claus and decorated evergreens, icons that everyone considered intrinsically secular just a couple of decades ago except for a few glowering Jews (and, perhaps, partisans of St. Nicholas of Myra). Let us assume for our purposes here that all the "Happy Holidays" pap really is the result of free choice by private people.

The letter-writer followed up his spasm of hard-line libertarianism by party-lining about our increasingly diverse ethnic and faith communities, blah blah blah, every single one of which deserves the utmost tender love and respect, yammer yammer yammer, but by the time I got to that bushwa I was thinking about something else. In the conclusion of my long 1996 piece on racism and individualism, "Sweeping Rand's barnyard," I proposed that if we white Westerners were to defend our race and culture we must not engage in self-destruction. I wrote: "It is bootless and immoral to deny the fact and the importance of our ethnic identity." If I were writing that piece now I would add: "It is imperative that we insist on our ethnic identity. And defend it."

What enables the "Happy Holidays" weed to flourish like kudzu? Why do private companies, in their advertising and marketing, consider it more profitable to wish the public "Happy Holidays" — or, more tellingly, "a Happy Holiday" — instead of "Merry Christmas" as they did in better days? It's because most white Westerners who are Christian, or of Christian heritage, don't really care. Some considerable proportion may be mildly offended, I suppose — but they are not fatally offended. Only a minuscule percentage are fatally offended, and they make up a cohort that is apparently smaller in terms of absolute numbers (or perhaps weaker in purchasing power) than the 5 percent of the public whom a frank and unapologetic mention of Christmas would provoke to foam at the mouth. Consequently, it pays better for an advertiser to burble about the "holidays" while excluding any explicit mention of Christmas.

Though I dare not indulge in optimism — not in these pages — I still have to note that even in our degraded time this sort of thing may not be graven in the founding stone of the universe. We are seeing more protests against the Party of Unmentioners this year than we did last year, and those protests are even garnering some sympathetic attention from the media. Indeed, the Unmentioners are coming in for some satire, which is always especially upsetting for them: when it comes to satire and ridicule, the Red Guard tendency of which the Unmentioners are a specialized faction devoutly believe it is better to give than to receive. Viewers saw a good example of pro-Christmas satire December 17 on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," during the Weekend Update segment when one of the show's comediennes essayed: "A quick reminder — there are only seven shopping days left 'til Holiday."

How easily this sort of thing can move the great corporations to reconsider is another question. But they can be moved. In a column I wrote in May 2000, "When the other shoe is permitted to drop," I collected a few examples of the many TV commercials then current that depended on ridiculing white men. I didn't go into it in the column, but I assumed at the time that the advertisers were courting female customers, whose hatred and contempt for white men was thought to be far more widespread and intense than the self-respect of white men themselves. Colored men were not targeted — in fact they were always depicted as saintly and sagacious — so the companies may have been courting white-male-hating colored folk as well. In any case, the advertisers clearly had calculated that the profits generated from deriding white males would more than compensate for the costs entailed from deriding white males.

Such commercials were popular among big advertisers for several years, but within two years after I wrote about them they had almost disappeared. (Actually I can think of only one example of the genre now airing — a cell-phone commercial wherein a white wife denounces her white husband as a moron and cooes herself to sleep with the infantile conceit, "I'm always right.") It is possible that the advertisers pulled the commercials because of a backlash among white-male customers and their female sympathizers. In a market economy, to suppress offensive corporate behavior it's not necessary for a self-conscious movement to arise, sending crowds of the offended to corporate offices to wave placards and chant slogans. It's necessary only for enough customers to decide, silently and privately, to shop elsewhere; and those customers themselves may not consciously formulate their reason for doing so. Those market decisions will be detected by the bean-counters soon enough, whereupon the men responsible for designing the company's advertising will try something else. For all we know the anti-male commercials may have been the New Coke of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the difference being, of course, that the Coca-Cola Company could not disguise the fact that New Coke was a disaster in the marketplace, because all the business reporters were writing about it, while no one would be interested in reporting on the failure of a campaign tearing down white men.

It's equally possible that the anti-male spots just started to bore the focus groups for reasons that had nothing to do with cultural resistance. Even Clara Peller's croaking "Where's the beef?" eventually turned stale for Wendy's, and the company went on to something fresher. And the elites do continue to press their anti-white-male campaign, naturally, in venues that are not so directly commercial; at best the anti-male spots were a "bridge too far" for our elites. But whether the recession of the anti-male theme actually had cultural significance or not, it's still the case that it would not help the big advertisers' bottom line if — for example — they told the entire public in frank and unmistakable language that they considered them all to be stupid, wicked fools, and moreover urged them not to buy their products. People predictably respond to some cues and not to others; moreover, in a given culture they respond positively to some cues and negatively to others. That is understood by the people who count at the transnationals, even if they're all cold-eyed Dark Suits and feverish Red Guards who truly despise us weefolk.

It's only metaphorical, not anthropomorphic or collectivistic, to refer to a strong and healthy culture's defending itself. That defense consists of responses on the part of actual, individual culture-bearers, flowing from the mind and heart and gut, inculcated in childhood and refreshed by the succeeding years of life in a culture; and expressed by a large enough proportion of the people that the resulting pattern may be taken as characteristic of that culture. (I'd add one proviso to that formula, in light of the old saw that "Europe stops at the peasant's threshold." A people thoroughly reduced to ignorant peonage cannot defend themselves culturally or otherwise; in a sense they may even be said to have no culture, at least not one that their betters need recognize.)

Cultural self-defense is a vast phenomenon that is readily enough identifiable — but it is not subject to direction from any little headquarters. Self-defense is an inherent part of the vast body of a healthy culture in the same way that the immune system is an inherent part of an animal's body. Let me add an economic metaphor. In a previous writing I cited Roy A. Childs Jr.'s concise challenge to socialists when, at a libertarian gathering in Chicago, he lifted up that city's giant volume of Yellow Pages and let it slam to the table: "Let the socialists duplicate that!" In both its scale and operation, a culture is similar to the scale and operation of an advanced economy. One cannot "lay hands on it," so to speak, assuming one eschews state power. And when one does employ state power, he can only distort and poison a natural culture: the only kind of culture state power can nourish is a statist culture.

Even a self-conscious minority whose cultural DNA is pure cannot save a culture, if the majority of less-reflective culture-bearers no longer cherish it.

Our European culture became terminally ill when succeeding generations of those culture-bearers lost their native love for it and their unstudied but profound grasp of it. They lost their cultural morale and ceased inculcating their mores in the new generations. To be sure, dark and alien predators now ride freely across the cultural landscape, but they ride across territory already blighted by the indifference of its native inhabitants — or, worse, by their cheerful self-destruction.

A final word about us, as that self-conscious minority. Self-conscious, indeed. One advantage of living in a healthy culture is that a man is spared having to make everything explicit all the time. A few decades ago even the most focused and determined partisan of Western Christendom could feel comfortable wishing others "Season's Greetings!" sometimes, or even "Happy Holidays," because normal culture-bearers could be relied on to understand that the holidays in question were Christmas and New Year's. In those days the only question was with what proportions of commercialism, mistletoe folkishness, and Christian piety we should approach Yuletide.

But now nothing is that easy. Now we are being forced onto the same cranky verbal ground as the "gender feminists" who carefully and dementedly alternate between male and female pronouns in "non-gender-specific" contexts. We have always to insist on Christmas, and we get nervous when we say something else. A cousin of mine — a man who is firmly churched — sent me a "Season's Greetings" card this year but jotted on it the question, "Is this too P.C.?" I understand the impulse. When we walk about in this culture, we must watch our back and stay at Alert Status Orange. It doesn't make for a very relaxing stroll.

Fighting back with humor — indeed, with satire as needle-sharp as we can make it — rescues us from crankiness, but humor will work only so long as enough of the unreflective majority continue to get the joke. After that, we will be marching grimly down the road to crankdom, at least in the eyes of the majority.

No one promised anyone a relaxing stroll in this life, and I'm not pouting over the uneasiness of things. I'm just trying to show something of what we've lost. A vast and lovely culture in good working order is a powerful labor-saving device, and a manufactory of easy joy for those who love it. What we the reflective minority must do, I think, is start building a cottage industry to craft our private joy. But it won't be easy. Ease is not in our future.

Meanwhile, may we all celebrate, as easily and joyfully as we can, a   Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2005

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