A Prophetic Word on Our Culture

GK ChestertonThe new rebel is a skeptic and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore, he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus, he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then writes another book, a novel, in which heinsults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then as a philosopher that all life is a waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts. Then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality, and in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.

GK Chesterton: Orthodoxy

Comments 2

  1. Thanks for the thoughts, Mike. What in this quote would make you think it doesn’t have to do with the postmodern condition? You have used “modernist condition” and “classic liberal” and I am not sure how you would define it. Have you read Chesterton’s Orthodoxy? I believe his sentiments ring true for the postmodern culture in which we live in – everybody heralding something, yet denying the very ground on which they stand. If you could define and help me understand your use of terms I might be able to see it from your perspective. Thanks.

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