We are saddened to hear of the retirement - if that is the word - of J.K. Baltzersen from The Monarchist, of which I have been a humble scribe for some years now. I am far more sadden by the author's pessimistic reasons for leaving the field of battle:
Along the way, although there of course are exceptions, I have met very little understanding for the worldview which I advocate. I find that I am standing still. I am not moving. Not forward. Not backwards. Not anywhere.
This world consists of people – almost of all ages – proudly exhibiting their underwear in all sorts of public places, successfully asserting their right to political equality, but at least the world is moving forward.
Yes, forward over the cliff. The coarseness of the age is appalling. It is an obvious and trite thing to say, but one which needs to be said. It is the obvious things which need to be repeated, they are so easily forgotten. We accept it too easily. The cheapening of the human soul. Chesterton, Belloc, Ortega y Gasset and Rand all denounced it, each for their own reasons. What linked these minds - who would have disliked each other intensely - was their aversion to the modern. They were born in that last twilight of the liberal era, which ended in the barrel of Gavrilo Princip's pistol, nearly a hundred summers ago. The modern they despised was the levelling tendency, its worship of what Whitman sadly called the "divine average."
Statistics is not conducive to divinity. In its widest sense, divinity is never average. It is an aspiration. The average may possess it, but the desire is transcendent. The ordinary looking up. The Cult of the Modern is the Cult of the Average, it is anti-aspiration. The age before 1914 was distinguished not so much by its small and unintrusive government, its manners or arts. It was the last age in which ordinary people deferred to those in authority. Partly out of ignorance, but also out of respect for what such an authority represented. The university professor was a repository of, and skilled guide to, knowledge. He was not an otherwise unemployable crank. The minister of state was a guardian of the security and freedom of the realm, not a charlatan in a frock coat.
The human clay was no better then than now. No age suffers from a shortage of the wicked, the conniving and the morally lax. Same clay, however, different aspirations. People wanted to believe that those in authority lived to higher standards. They understood that some failed the ideal, yet the dream was all important. Somewhere, men are decent and noble and do the right thing. In her first television Christmas broadcast, made in 1957, Her Majesty warned us not to succumb to the "subtle corruption of the cynics." The rot was pretty well set in even then. The message is still relevant. If we don't try, we'll never be. This process of corruption has always had an especially obnoxious villain to my mind, Lytton Strachey. His Eminent Victorians sought to, and largely succeeded, in placing feet of clay on the giants of 19th century British history. The American critic Edmund Wilson said of Strachey:
Lytton Strachey's chief mission, of course, was to take down once and for all the pretensions of the Victorian age to moral superiority... neither the Americans nor the English have ever, since Eminent Victorians appeared, been able to feel quite the same about the legends that had dominated their pasts. Something had been punctured for good."
Hallelujah! We are all back in the mire! Rejoice! Strachey made generations of intellectuals, and those further down the effluence of thought, feel comfortable in their mediocrity. No one is better than anyone else, which is really saying that no one is better than me. My little vices, my little betrayals, my little failings are acceptable, I have no need to fight them, because the eminent men are just as bad as me. Men are not so much prone to evil as to sloth. Eminent Victorians was a license to moral sloth. What is first done with wit and grace, is soon enough done with vulgarity and obscenity. A typical British High Street is proof enough of that. Without discipline an army is a rabble. Without discipline, of some sort, the soul of man is no better than a rabble, driven by sudden emotion and instinct. Thought, consideration and foresight are the products of a disciplined mind. Of a mind that aspires to better than what it is and, through discipline has the tools to move in that direction.
I hold onto the monarchy for many reasons, one of which I will honestly admit is a perverse streak of the reactionary within me. It is a mad impulse which sometimes becomes irresistible. I am the only person I know who does not own a pair of jeans. This causes some discomfiture to friends and co-workers. I do not explain why. It may well be an irrational impulse. I recall one of my teachers in high school, in a fit of honesty, admitted that his father thought him immature. Exhibit A in the father's case was that said son still wore jeans. The aged veteran of HM's forces thought only teenagers, children and workmen should wear jeans. Men wore pants, you see. The thought was a bracing one. A bit of reactionary rebellion. It is logically nonsense to imagine that an item of clothing confers on one any sort of superiority, yet the concept of a fashion statement is perfectly understandable. Clothing is symbolic. The wearing of jeans was once a militant statement of youthful and proletarian solidarity. The rebels having taken over, it is now a uniform. Jeans are "comfortable" we are told. Not really. The material is more rigid than that which is typically used for trousers. Jeans are comfortable only in the psychological sense. They telegraph to wearer and viewer than the wearer is "off duty" and not in a serious frame of mind. "Please don't take me seriously, I'm not really trying." They are the dress of militant informality.
The monarchy is like the bespoke three piece suit. A piece of militant formality and defiant aspiration. The Queen is the epitome of propriety and dignity. There is an ordinary human being beneath the crown, one that behaves as we all do at our worst. Yet she has dedicated herself to a certain code of being, a sense of duty higher than ordinary. With discipline and application you can be better than you are. That was part of the point of monarchy, as Victoria and Albert re-imagined it, a model for the nation. We are told, with the smug assurance of a wise man explaining the dawn to a simpleton, that monarchy is out of date. The modern age admits no hereditary privilege. Most of those who say that plan on bequeathing to their children as large an inheritance as possible, as well as a first class education (if they can still get it). What irks the republican is not some strict constitutional principle, it is a political as well as spiritual egalitarianism. They are too vain to admit that anything is better than they. Today it is a monarch, but the levelling tendency is fanatical and will seek new victims. The Australians have a saying about cutting down the tall poppies. The Queen is simply the tallest poppy.
We began by mourning the pessimism of some toward the modern world. The jacobins are now very busy indeed. They are headlong into bankrupting the United States. They have, through stealth, rendered Queen and Parliament no longer sovereign in Britain. The popular culture is utterly obscene, so much so that to mention its nature is to invite boredom. Yes, yes, decline and fall and all that. Part of the ether. Protesting is pointless. There is nothing inevitable about today or tomorrow. The world of a century ago was the product of centuries of preceding effort. The Britain of the 18th century looked a lot like the Britain of today. The future is always contestable. You just have to say. A thousand acts of small defiance. A refusal to accept the well accepted. We must be outrageous for the sake of restraint. We must be radical for the sake of propriety. No, madam you do not have a different lifestyle, you are a slut. No, sir, you are not being pragmatic, you are being dishonest. Insist that sophistry is not a sign of sophistication. It is a sign of cowardice, as it was when Aristotle patrolled the agora. We lose only by accepting that what is is right. Our opposition is strong only in numbers. Sloth, when it is revealed plainly as sloth, is a weak rallying cry. Aspiration is a strong call forward. We have only to call their bluff and never, ever, surrender to the "subtle corruption of the cynics."