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« It gives you a little hope for humanity | Main | For the person who has everything »

November 28, 2007

A Tie You Cannot Steal

One-hundred-dollar-a-barrel oil has people talking both about peak oil and/or that combination of market incentives and innovation that will rescue us from, well, whatever happens when oil (and other natural resources) grow more scarce.

Over at his blog, professor Patrick Deneen of Georgetown says that this kind of thinking is proof of just how disordered our souls are:

My constant attention to the problems we face is not intended as a wake up call for innovation and invention: it's rather to insinuate the possibility that we are destroying ourselves by degree because we refuse to govern our appetites or even see these appetites as problematic. I'm highly dubious that we will "invent" our way out of the need to govern ourselves, and am dead certain that nature and the order of the world will not indefinitely brook our misbehavior. We should be mindful that our near-automatic response to the fact of depletions that surround us - that we MUST find other means to continue running our current way of life - is directly the result of our unwillingness to understand that "the disorder of the world originates in disorder of soul". The problem is not intrinsically the various depletions we face (but, boy, are they problems): the problem lies in the more fundamental motivation of our thoughtless response that avoids considering whether our behavior has anything to do with the problems we face, and might in fact further exacerbate those problems, as well as create greater ones, the longer we refuse to face this possibility.

Not surprisingly, I was linked to Deneen's thoughts by the textured hombre, who added that

I was reading something in Jacques Barzun over the holiday. Must look for it and post it. Something he said about our era being an era of Emancipation (from any fetters -- legal, cultural, religious, moral -- on the individual will), and that people today mistake Emancipation for Freedom. Anyway, the most important political task for Americans is not whether we will choose to be governed by Republicans or Democrats. Rather, it's whether or not we will govern ourselves and our insatiable appetites.

Rod was probably referring to From Dawn to Decadence. The emancipation Barzun wrote about wasn't only from social, religious and political restraints -- it was also from hardships, toil and anything that got in the way of our self-realization. In other words, emancipation is the abolition of limits -- or at least those limits that keep us from living as we please. Because we mistake emancipation for freedom, we fool ourselves into thinking that the rest of creation will "indefinitely brook our misbehavior."

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jason taylor

The problem of all this about emancipation from limits comes because so many limits really are oppressive. Other limits are simply practical and have obvious reasons. Still others have no obvious use in themselves but exist to provide a framework for life.This is more complicated but examples come to mind There is no reason that people should drive at 65 on a freeway. There is an obvious reason why people should drive at the same speed and 65 is the one chosen. More complicated still, there is no reason why an English politician should call himself "The Queen's servant." However maintaining the fiction that he serves an anachronistic, harmless, and powerless but aesthetically pleaseing institution reminds him that he is the people's servant and(if he is the sort to remember such things)ultimatly God's as well.
The limitations of good and appropriate customs are like the limitations of a riverbank. The riverbank allows the river to flow, be beautiful, and carry fertileity for farmers and traffic for travellers. Without the banks a river is just a swamp.

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