Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chesterton on Dixie

Some interesting reflections from author G.K. Chesterton:
Every age has its special strength, and generally one in which some particular nation is specially strong. Every age has also its special weakness and deficiency, and a need which only another type could supply. This is rather specially the Age of America; but inevitably, and unfortunately, rather the America of the Northern merchants and industrialists. It is also the age of many genuine forms of philanthropy and humanitarian effort, such as modern America has very generously supported. But there is a virtue lacking in the age, for want of which it will certainly suffer and possibly fail. It might be expressed in many ways; but as short a way of stating it as any I know is to say that, at this moment, America and the whole world is crying out for the spirit of the Old South.

In other words, what is most lacking in modern psychology is the sentiment of Honour; the sentiment to which personal independence is vital and to which wealth is entirely incommensurate. I know very well that Honour had all sorts of fantasies and follies in the days of its excess. But that does not affect the danger of its deficiency, or rather its disappearance. The world will need, and need desperately, the particular spirit of the landowner who will not sell his land, of the shopkeeper who will not sell his shop, of the private man who will not be bullied or bribed into being part of a public combination; of what our fathers meant by the free man. And we need the Southern gentleman more than the English or French or Spanish gentleman. For the aristocrat of Old Dixie, with all his faults and inconsistencies, did understand what the gentle man of Old Europe generally did not. He did understand the Republican ideal, the notion of the Citizen as it was understood among the noblest of the pagans. That combination of ideal democracy with real chivalry was a particular blend for which the world was immeasurably the better; and for the loss of which it is immeasurably the worse. It may never be recovered; but it will certainly be missed. (Read entire post.)
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1 comment:

Matterhorn said...

You know, Elena, much of the reason why I like the Belgian monarchy is because of a similar sort of combination of democracy and chivalry. There is the sense of citizenship, of liberty under law, associated with the best of republics, as well as the sense of nobility, honor and service associated with the best of monarchies.

In the case of the Old South, it is unfortunate that slavery poisoned the well. True citizenship and chivalry should rest on mutual respect between free men. However, the people of the Old South could have contributed much more to the country had their way of life been reformed rather than simply destroyed.