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Malcolm Muggeridge: There is No Escape

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In 1970, Malcolm Muggeridge wrote an essay, The Great Liberal Death Wish, which puts its finger on the pulse not merely of 1970, but of 2017 as well. Change a few historical referents, and it may as well have been written yesterday. For it lays bare the understanding of the “sexual revolution,” under which we are currently hurtling toward the abyss of human degradation and misery. He wrote:

Sex is the only mysticism materialism offers, and so to sex the pursuers of happiness address themselves with an avidity and dedication seldom, if ever, surpassed.

By “mysticism,” Muggeridge means that the secular man has sought to de-mythologize and de-spiritualize everything and proclaim that we are nothing more than highly evolved mammals brought to this point by random mutations. Yet at the same time, modern man wants to hold on to some sort of meaning, a transcendent experience beyond the grinding reality of everyday life. Having jettisoned the Triune God of the Bible, rapturous orgasms (and they are always “rapturous,” are they not!) are supposed to put us in the throes of a mystical, magical reality. It is the new god, and must be ardently promulgated and worshipped, and dissenters must be stamped out. So Muggeridge goes on:

Who among posterity will ever be able to reconstruct the resultant scene? Who for that matter can convey it today? The vast, obsessive outpouring of erotica in every shape and form; in book and film and play and entertainment, in body and word and deed, so that there is no escape for anyone.

Heh! Muggeridge didn’t even have the internet.

The lame and the halt, the doddering and the infirm, equally called upon somehow to squeeze out of their frail flesh the requisite response. It is the flesh that quickeneth, the spirit profiteth nothing; copulo ergo sum, I screw, therefore, I am – the new version of Descartes’s famous axiom.

Yes! Participation is not voluntary. Each of us is conscripted into action. You WILL respond with approval and join in the celebration. If you want to use the internet or watch the television or drive down the street or simply stand and pick your nose, you cannot avoid the new god. He’s in your face at all times!

All possible impediments swept away; no moral taboos, no legal ones, either. An orgasm a day, however procured, keeps the doctor away. Pornography, like Guinness, is good for us, as numerous learned doctors and professors have been at great pains to establish.

He goes on, but you’ll have to read it yourself. Certainly the legal landscape has been utterly rearranged so as to punish the dissenter, the Obergefell decision being one of the most momentous, lawless, and horrific, in the Supreme Court’s history.

Every paragraph in Muggeridge’s essay is eminently quotable, because accurate and pointed. If only one could find it on the internet. It’s found in the book: Things Past.

-D

 

Written by Michael Duenes

May 20, 2017 at 10:30 am

Malcolm Muggeridge: Deliverance from Happiness

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Only seventeen years into the 21st century, and we are in danger of forgetting the reality of the 20th. We somehow imagine that our technocratic, secular age has ushered in the “broad, sunlit uplands” to which Winston Churchill referred. But believing such a massive lie requires that we wipe the 20th century from our minds, and Muggeridge saw this project in full forward motion, again, decades ago.

As I have written on this blog before, the horrors of the 20th century are assumed to be some kind of anomaly, never to be repeated, in the annals of human history. As Dallas Willard put it, we imagine that the millions upon millions of deaths were the result of certain especially “mad or bad” people, but had nothing to do with the rest of us “decent” folks.

The following is so counter to our collective sentiments as to be, in my guess, regarded by most as virtually insane, the words of a crank and crackpot. Judge for yourself!

“If the kingdom of heaven on earth has dawned for us now, it is necessary to regard this age as exceptionally and increasingly humane, when in point of fact it has evidently been notable for slaughter, cruelty and destruction on a scale rarely, if ever, exceeded in history. We have to offset the Health Service against Hitler’s gas chambers, the Third Programme against the wanton destruction of many of the finest products of our civilization like the city of Dresden, Parks of Culture and Rest against the monstrous annihilations of Stalin, Unesco against the millions of displaced persons (that blood-curdling term, itself an emanation of a lost mind reaching after a lost soul).

We have to persuade ourselves that we are moving toward a condition of peace and enlightenment when, in fact, wealth and skills are being devoted on an inconceivable scale to making weapons capable of blowing us and our world to smithereens, such weapons being in the hands of tenth-rate demagogues like Lyndon Johnson and the hard-faced men, his opposite numbers, in the Kremlin who unaccountably succeed one another in power.”

“Above all, we have to persuade ourselves that we are happy. This is the most difficult and sanity-destroying operation of all…The ever-increasing numbers of the mentally sick (20 million now, reportedly, in America, the happiest land) have cracked under the strain. Happiness in Scandinavia (another happy land, portrayed by Ingmar Bergman) often seems to fall out of the window, Hemingway’s happiness was a bullet he fired into his brain. I gave my happiness an airing on the M1, and it collided with someone else’s, spattering the tarmac with blood. I swallowed my happiness in a little colored pill, I read it in the Reader’s Digest, I saw it on a glossy page. I even ejected it into my girl, but it gave her pain. So she had it cut out. 

Deliverance from happiness would seem to be the greatest need of mankind today, and the Christian churches are an ideal instrument for bringing it about. The New and Old Testaments are full of the hopelessness of looking for anything but tribulation in this world, and the senses stand condemned as gross deceivers which enslave and ruin their addicts.” (From his essay: “Backward, Christian Soldiers”)

Hopefully these thoughts from Muggeridge whet your appetite for his writing. I have found it impossible to find his essays by searching on Google, so it seems one must purchase his books.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Malcolm Muggeridge: Conspicuous Consumption as a Necessary Condition of our Social Survival

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Again, writing decades ago, Muggeridge puts his finger on the great and unquestioned assumption among Western Christians that to have more money means we are, of course, going to “move up” in our material acquisitiveness. Would that more garden-variety pastors would plaigarize Muggeridge in their sermons, rather than the latest “rock star” pastor.

“It is often remarked that we are in desperate need of a new religion to counter the spread of Marxist Communism. Christianity, of course, still exists and functions, with differing degrees of zeal, through a wide variety of Christian churches.

Its weakness, however, in competition with Marxist Communism lies in certain basic propositions of its founder, which, however ingeniously they may be interpreted, run directly counter to prevailing trends.

Thus, for instance, how is it possible to explain away an observation like “Blessed are the poor” when the whole dynamic of our society is in the opposite direction? Imagine a senator seeking re-election on the basis of such a slogan! He would inevitably be ignominiously defeated. No senator, to do that august assembly, the American Senate, justice, would ever make so foolish and elementary a miscalculation.

What the electorate expects, and gets, from its elected representatives are promises of ever more amenities and an ever-expanding standard of life, not panegyrics on the blessedness of poverty.”

“Again, our economists, men held in high repute among us, recommend conspicuous consumption as a necessary condition of our social survival. How can we, at one and the same time, follow their guidance and uphold the principles of the Sermon on the Mount?” (From his essay: “The First Church of Christ Economist”)

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 29, 2017 at 7:19 am

Malcolm Muggeridge: Sex is the Mysticism of Materialism

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Muggeridge wrote the following many decades ago, and yet, it is more penetrating and incisive than most anything being written on the topic today, when things are far more devolved and debauched than in Muggeridge’s day.

“Never, it is safe to say, in the history of the world has a country been as sex-ridden as America is today. And the rest of us, all eagerly emulating the American Way of Life, are going the same way. Sex has become the religion of the most civilized portions of the earth. The orgasm has replaced the Cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment; the old pagan admonition, Do What Thou Wilt, has superseded the Pauline teaching that, since spirit and flesh lust contrary to one another, Ye Cannot Do the Things That Ye Would Do. In the beginning was the Flesh, and the Flesh became Word. Sex is the mysticism of materialism. We are to die in the spirit to be reborn in the flesh, rather than the other way around. Instead of the cult of the Virgin Mary we have the cult of the sex symbol – the busts, the thighs, the buttocks of a Jean Harlow, a Marilyn Monroe, a Carroll Baker displayed in glossy photographs, on cinema and television screens, to be feasted upon by countless hungry eyes, the physical tension thereby set up being subsequently relieved in autoeroticism or in squirmings and couplings with an available partner. Eyes which launched not a thousand ships, but a vast sea of seminal fluid; mistresses not of kings and great ones, but of the Common Man, who clasps them to him and enjoys their wanton favors in his secret dreams.”

“Even the most ardent advocates of the sexual revolution are inclined to feel that it is not working out quite as it should. Instead of sex-happy citizens of all ages blissfully coupling, psychiatrists and sexologists are besieged by patients eager to pour out their sexual woes. Orgasms have been too little and too late; despite bodies duly sealed and pasteurized, and recommended positions duly taken, the promised delight has failed to materialize. Happiness pursued in accordance with the book has proved elusive. Something must be wrong.” (From his essay, “Down with Sex”)

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 28, 2017 at 6:57 pm

Malcolm Muggeridge: One Huge Psychiatric Ward

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I can’t remember when I first heard the name of Malcolm Muggeridge, the great British journalist and essayist, but I had not really read anything by him until recently. And now finding him has been as finding gold. I’ve dipped into several books, but the book I would recommend securing for oneself is Things Past, which is an anthology of Muggeridge’s essays over the decades of his adult life.

His literary power and philosophical depth draw the reader in at once. I hardly know with which essay to begin in directing you to start in with this exquisite talent. It is as though trying to advise one where to begin filling one’s plate when confronted with a massive banquet table. Here is but a small sample to whet your appetite, more of which I am happy to provide in subsequent posts. Speaking of the modern West, Muggeridge quips:

For as we abolish the ills and pains of the flesh we multiply those of the mind, so that by the time mankind are finally delivered from disease and decay – all pasteurized, their genes counted and rearranged, fitted with new replaceable plastic organs, able to eat, fornicate, and perform other physical functions innocuously and hygienically as and when desired – they will all be mad, and the world one huge psychiatric ward. (“What I Believe,” 1966).

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 28, 2017 at 6:30 pm