A recent article in The American Conservative addresses Gregory Wolfe’s impact on our current method of cultural, political division. It begins:
Some 18 years ago, Gregory Wolfe used his position as editor of Image, the excellent arts and letters journal he founded in 1989, to proclaim his position on this country’s unceasing culture wars and their politicization of every corner of our lives: understood to be a man of the cultural right, he had decided to become a conscientious objector.
He went on: “I’ve burnt my draft card to the culture wars. It may sound unpatriotic and irresponsible, but I have come to the conclusion that these wars are unjust and illegitimate, and I will not fight in them. If necessary, I will move to Canada.” (The threat was merely rhetorical; Wolfe continues to reside in Seattle.)
Wolfe argued that without projects like Image, the culture wars would expand and our civic life would be increasingly tribalized. “Our culture will then be like the place in Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach, a country ‘where ignorant armies clash by night.’”
And, while I certainly recommend reading the entire article, the highlight for me was this insight:
Putting it another way, we are so hag-ridden with politics by this point that few of us still believe art provides the necessary contemplative space to send us back wiser and more fully human into the realm of action…Our “conservative” materialism in fact resembles the Marxian preference for revolutionary action over the “classical-Christian belief in the primacy of contemplative understanding of transcendent order”…
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