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This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens Perusal by kids, callowyutes, and approximately 39.9% of all grups may result in a debilitating intersectional triggering.
Erratically Appearing Hallucinatory Guest Star: Dana — A Gentlerreader
Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),
I wrote a series of letters about the seven virtues a few years back that was well received by my gentlereaders. I think that given the fact that what used to be called Western Civilization continues to be under attack on multiple fronts its time for an update.
[Used to be called?]
Well, Dana, it is, as they say, complicated.
It would take a very long essay for me to explain myself properly. Suffice it to say that when I recently had reason to enter the search term Western civilization into the Wikipedia search box I was presented with an article titled Western culture that begins by prevaricating, equivocating, and etceterating.
Hmmm... perhaps I screwed up.
As I was retyping in the original search term I noticed that Wikipedia helpfully offered up the search term Western civilization bias to save me some keystrokes.
Clicking on their helpful shortcut brought up an article titled Eurocentrism which includes the words bias, colonialism, and imperialism in the first paragraph.
[Oh... Well, why did you enter Western civilization in the first place? I mean...]
I was thinking about providing more background than I had provided in the original version of this column. See, I was taught that the Seven Virtues were a very big deal, an important part (but now apparently just another "deconstructed metanarrative") of something called Western civilization.
I was taught that I was both a product and beneficiary of this now revised meme.
This was back at the tail end of the Black&White ages when I attended Catholic grade school. I was taught that there are four cardinal virtues and three theological virtues. Both kinds, I was told, were a very big deal.
I attended a public high school, and the theological virtues, for obvious reasons, were never mentioned. It occurs to me that neither were the cardinal ones.
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The three theological virtues of the Catholic/Christian tradition, we were told, come from the grace of God. They’re sort of a list of the basic requirements that need to be met in order to live a Christian life while you’re here if you want to get your butt into heaven when you cross over to there.
They are faith (belief in God). Hope (the belief that you’ll make heaven if you live right). And charity, or love (love of God and everyone else, which implies it’s on you to be your sibling’s keeper).
Two quick points from your (technically) agnostic (it's complicated) Poppa.
One, note the simplicity. To hell (pun intended and embraced) with dogma wars. If you believe in God (which I personally think, although many do not, can simply be the higher power that saves drunks and druggies every day), follow a moral code and do what you can to take care of the other kids, you got this.
Two, It’s quite easy to secularize these three. If you don’t believe in God you can (and regardless, should) find something/someone to believe in and/or work towards. This will supply hope (and meaning) even when life is kicking you in the crotch. Finally, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This will make for a much nicer playground.
For the record, number two is a vastly oversimplified version of what I stole from the work of Dr. Deirdre N. McCloskey—polymath, and one of my heroes—who describes herself thusly:
“I’m a literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, ex-Marxist, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian classical liberal.”
Dr. McCloskey was trans (and fully transitioned) long before trans was cool. And long before the Social Justice Warriors woke up and started identifying as this, that, and God only knows what other things.
But I digress.
The reason I’m writing about all of the seven virtues is because it's occurred to me that given the fact America, and a goodly chunk of the rest of the world, tossed the tot out with the jacuzzi water back in the 60s, perhaps we could find some guidance and common ground in all of them.
I believe that we react emotionally/instinctively/intuitionally first—rationally (hopefully…) later. While the former is an effective survival mechanism, the latter enables us to live together and, with a little luck, thrive instead of just survive. The creation of the seven virtues was the result of the applied reasoning of a lot of individuals who were smarter than I’ll ever be.
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The cardinal virtues are prudence (making good choices, wisdom), justice, temperance (restraint, self-control) and courage (not just bravery, refusing to define yourself as a helpless victim). There are all sorts of other virtues posited but these four were considered to be the foundation stones of a well-lived life in the Western tradition.
The Western tradition has nothing to do with cowboys or country music. It’s a term, now considered politically incorrect in many circles, that refers to a way of looking at, and living in, the world. It’s fallen out of favor for claiming (although it's admittedly flawed) that it's the best H. sapiens have come up with so far for how to share the playground.
But, we’re now all one big happy global family; don't be a hater. Everything is like, relative, ya’ know? After all, the Western tradition includes all the evil dead white guys that ruined the world.
* * *
I’m a crank and I’m a libertarian. But, I hold some positions normally classified as conservative, others normally classified as progressive. I have a bias towards trying to discover what actually works and trying to discover how the left and right can compromise and peacefully share the playground.
I’m a crank and I’m a follower of Taoism (an Eastern philosophy), but also a firm believer in most of the Western tradition. I think that the USA, a product of this tradition, though flawed (as is every-one and every-thing), rocks, and I’m glad and grateful this is my team.
I’m a crank. This is why I’m going to devote my next five letters/columns to restating my take on the cardinal virtues (you've been warned).
Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day
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