Wednesday, August 30, 2006

‘Social inertia’ vs self-conscious, activist conservatism
Jeff Culbreath writes:
When I travelled to northeast Pennsylvania a few years ago, I noted that the culture was superficially much healthier, perhaps thirty years behind California in cultural decline. Beautiful. But this apparent conservatism was due merely to social inertia. There didn't seem to be much consciousness about the inherent danger of forces and ideas which were gaining traction around them. There were no consciously conservative voices in the local print media. The big news in Scranton - still a fiercely Democratic political stronghold - was that the Howard Stern show was finally available on a local radio station.
Both have their good and bad points, or there’s a difference between natural traditionalism amenable to this blog and the narrower, often self-righteous aspect of the latter, rather like the difference between traditionalism/orthodoxy and fundamentalism (itself a modern phenom). Nor is this natural traditionalism the same as the real problem of social inertia (parochialism, complacency).

I like those towns in upstate Pennsylvania with their Slavic Catholic (including Orthodox) people... and understandable, well-intended but perhaps economically naïve labour politics. Recently went to one of those churches’ festivals and tucked into some comfort food (голубцы и варенники, stuffed cabbage and pierogi) as well as loading up on fine old sacramentals (including a brass crucifix about nine inches high) for pennies to the dollar (I love jumble sales). The church is Roman Catholic and historically Slovak from about 100 years ago, one of those immigrant ones that built the school but never got round to building a church or ran out of funds before they could, so the (well-preserved Tridentine-style) church is on the ground floor of the school. In the hall I could read the Slovak painted on the walls (‘Welcome! For God and country’) but as far as I could tell that lingo is long gone among the people as by the third generation it usually is. Owing to ageing and shifting demographics it’s not an official parish any more but has been merged as a Mass centre/chapel of ease of the default-Irish parish in town.

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