January 26th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The Natural Family as an integrative social force in American history

EDITORIAL The Remnant, resistant, creative minority

ENERGY POLICY Enough hot air about carbon dioxide; let's talk LPG

CANBERRA OBSERVED Federal election: the media have done our duty at the polls for us

NSW ELECTION NSW is just starting to sizzle

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Archbishop Wilson free, but trial was no witchhunt

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Awaiting Hayne: full report sure to shake finance sector

LIFE ISSUES The unvarnished truth about surrogacy

HIGHER EDUCATION Massification: that's the name of the game

SOCIETY Dover Beach: a mordant post-Christmas reflection

IRELAND TODAY Celtic Tiger changed out of all recognition

MUSIC One note does not a monotone make

CINEMA Aquaman: High fantasy in ocean depths

BOOK REVIEW Uninformed consent

BOOK REVIEW A thoroughly modern movement

BOOK REVEW The foundation of a successful society


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The Remnant, resistant, creative minority

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, January 26, 2019

Donald Trump could win a second term as U.S. president in 2020 against deep opposition from the establishment and the progressive left.

A letter from a Trump supporter to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) indicates why he could win: “I am unalterably supportive, flawed vessel or not. It’s not the man, it’s the resistance that binds us to him.”

Daniel Henninger, a journalist at the WSJ, said he receives many letters like this. They are the “voice of resistance [that] has been building for decades” from “dislocated people living inside the Trump ‘base’ … Its scale is suggested by the degree of Trump outrages these voters have been willing to discount on behalf of a larger cultural and political cause,” Henninger said.

The Prophet Isaiah, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel.

Despite being a “flawed vessel,” Trump has given a voice to a large, neglected economic underclass and those who see most Democrat and many Republican politicians supporting, or capitulating to, the libertarian (I have a right to do as I please) political agenda. These politicians have trampled what Trump supporters hold as their most cherished values – marriage, family, acceptance of the unborn and the elderly, religion, modesty, respect for legitimate authority and even respect for objective science.

Trump can fix some things, but it’s unlikely that Washington policies alone can wind back the revolutionary sexual experiment unleashed in the 1960s, which, post-communism, is now attacking marriage and family in almost every corner of the earth.

What his supporters want calls for fixing and revitalising, not only politics, but society’s “mediating structures”. These are the social groups and associations that buffer the individual from the state – the family, the parish, the medical, legal and workers’ guilds, local communities, schools, voluntary associations, and other such parochial communities.

Libertarianism dissolves mediating structures as places of moral and cultural formation, yet these are the cement that holds a civilisation together.

But how are they to be revitalised?

In 1986, B.A. Santamaria cited the American novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless, and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

In today’s world, such people have to understand the hostile culture around them and that resistance is likely to be hopeless (it could cost them legal penalties and employment), while having the vision, determination and courage to lay the foundations for a different future society.

Whether it was resisters living under 20th-century Soviet communism, or those today living under authoritarian laws imposing the libertarian culture in democratic states, there are five primary Christian principles on which a just and peaceful society is founded – the inherent dignity of each and every person, the family as the basic unit of society in which the individual finds identity, meaning and purpose; decentralisation of economic and political power to the smallest unit; love of one’s country; and Judeo-Christian virtues.

A lesson on how to follow such a vision can be found seven and a half centuries before Christ, when Old Testament prophet Isaiah was called by God to warn the Hebrew people of imminent disaster.

Albert Jay Nock recounted the lessons of Isaiah in layman’s language. God said to Isaiah: “Tell them what is wrong, and why, and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don’t mince words.

“Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong, and keep on giving it to them.

“I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you that it won’t do any good. The official class will turn up their noses at you, and the masses won’t even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life.”

Facing failure, was there any point in Isaiah taking on this impossible task?

God responded: “You don’t get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganised, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can.

“They need to be encouraged and braced up, because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society, and meanwhile your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant.”

Isaiah’s experience with the Remnant, or what in modern times is called “the creative minority”, taught three lessons, as B.A. Santamaria noted: “First, the nucleus might be tiny but it existed. Second, if against the weight of public opinion, he kept on, the few who composed it would ultimately find him. And finally, as that other Hebrew prophet, Elijah, was to discover, its members turn out to be far more numerous than anybody realises, many of them only waiting for a fairer wind to blow before they disclose themselves.”

Leaders like Trump can be a lightning rod for defending freedom, a system based on courage. But only a Remnant creative minority who are formed, organised and act with courage can protect freedoms and restore both society’s necessary mediating structures and politics.

They have “to see that things are hopeless, and yet be determined to make them otherwise”.

Patrick J. Byrne is national president of the National Civic Council.

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