Visions of Disorder

Richard Weaver once wrote that it was difficult to perceive the decline of civilization because one of the characteristics of decline was a dulling of the perception of value, and thus of the capacity to judge the comparative worth of times. Weaver, I think, did not have us common folk in mind, for whom it is not at all hard to see when things are getting worse. When the rich flee to guarded enclaves; when the middle class dissolves into the proletariat; when the distinction between citizen and foreigner is lost; when savage criminals go free; when popular culture is reduced to brutal trivialities with no vestige of Christian civilization—then we know that something is wrong.

Weaver's remarks were addressed rather to the post-World War II intelligentsia who were busy laying out plans for a New World Order. We have grown accustomed to Weaver's accomplishments and have to be reminded of the heroic context in which they were made—how out of step he was with the glorious dawn of global democracy that formed the stuff of public discourse in the 1940's. The intelligentsia, after all, spent World War II safely in the United States, gaining in pay, prestige, and power. They did not see the war as the nadir of Western civilization but as a gloriously elating opportunity.

That many of us are able to perceive the moral reality of our times in our materially obsessed culture is due in no small measure to Richard...

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