Social Conservatism and a Scene of Despair

I gathered my order from the counter at Hardee’s and took a table where I began to read The Man Who Was Thursday.  When I sat down, I noticed a pale woman sitting with an unopened bag of food.  She looked sallow and unhealthy.  

As I read, she began to cough.  Each cough was deep and seemed to rattle in her chest.  This was no simple cold.  I thought about picking up my food and moving, but I felt it would be insulting to her to do so.  I continued to read and listened to that attention-getting cough of hers.  

Finally, I discovered I could not give the book the attention I wanted to because I had become focused on the woman behind me.  For the moment, at least, she had become more present to me than G.K. Chesterton.  I got up and walked my tray over to the trash receptacle.  Looking her way, I saw that she was hunched over and working her way through a substantial stack of lottery cards.  With great concentration and methodical effort, she scratched away the silver coating on the numbers.  Occasionally, she punctuated her practice with long, ragged ugly coughing noises.

Those lottery tickets she must have spent at least $20 dollars on (more than for the flip flops on her feet) came from the state of Tennessee.  I thought about how she is addicted to gambling thanks to the active assistance of her government.  I also thought about how addicted the rest of us have become to the revenue.

If you want to understand social conservatives, thinking about the woman in Hardee’s scratching away at lottery tickets is a good way to start.  We want to encourage the things in life that help a person grow strong:  faith, work, education, character, duty, and family.  We want to work against the things that seem to shrivel up a soul such as perpetual dependence, reliance on games of chance rather than personal industry, an inability to connect consequences to choices, and the loss of the kind of strong family ties that prepare a person for life in a hard world.

At a minimum, we don’t want to support a government which invites the poor to sacrifice what little they have for a mirage.  We have lost that argument everywhere.  And more’s the pity.


8 thoughts on “Social Conservatism and a Scene of Despair

  1. You can grizzle and groan as much as you like but you are still very much commited to the adolescent anti-“culture” of competitive individualism or the war of all against all and everything, the leading edge manifestation of which is global capitalism. Which is a “culture” based on the fiction that we are all separate from each other. In such a “culture” everyone inevitably loses including the presumed winners, and all of Earth-kind too.
    Have you really read the “news”?

    The fiction of separateness (which we propagandized into believing even by our naive mommy-daddy “creator”-God religion) and the denial of the universal characteristic of prior unity – is a mind based illusion, a lie, a terribly deluding force, and a profoundly and darkly negative act.
    The individual and collective denial, and active culturally created and enforced refusal, of the Universal Condition and Intrinsic Law of prior unity is the root and substance of a perpetual, and unconsciously self-perpetuating, universal crime against humanity, performed by every one and all of humankind itself.

    In the present-day, the culture and politics of illusion controls the world. The underlying idea that personal and collective self-fulfillment is what life is supposed to be about is the root-source of the current global chaos. As a result, there are seven billion human individuals (and, otherwise, large numbers of competitive and mutually dissociative groups, cultures, traditions, races, religions, corporations, and nation-states, that are, characteristically and strategically out of touch with each other – like dust, and bombs, and petty traffic, all blowing in the wind. That wind steadily blows all prior unity into the bits and particles of human chaos.

    And of course one of the primary vectors of that destructive wind is of course Fox “news” in particular and the Murdoch media altogether. And the media associated with the Koch brothers and similar benighted billionaires.

    • Dear Frederick:

      I am a bit confused by your precise point but it seems to me that you are generally addressing yourself to the idea of social or collective sin. You may be assisted in putting things into a better order by considering the point of the following quotation from C. S. Lewis:

      “A reaction–in itself wholesome–is now going on against purely private or domestic conceptions of morality, the reawakening of the social conscience. We feel ourselves to be involved in an iniquitous social system and to share a corporate guilt. This is very true: but the enemy can exploit even truths to our deception. Beware lest you are making use of the idea of corporate guilt to distract your attention from those humdrum, old-fashioned guilts of your own which have nothing of your own which have nothing to do with ‘the system’ and which can be dealt with without waiting for the millennium. For cop orate built perhaps cannot be, and certainly is not, felt with the same force as personal guilt. For most of us, as we now are, this conception is a mere excuse for evading the real issue. When we have really learned to know our individual corruption, then indeed we can go on to think of the corporate guilt, and can hardly think of it too much. But we must learn to walk before we run.” (Quotation from “The Problem of Pain”).

      I don’t know your religious affiliation and so with some reluctance I would also refer you to the Catholic Catechism, specifically paragraph 1869, which addresses itself to social or corporate sin in a way slightly different than Lewis and it may give you some additional insight as to how corporate sin interacts with personal sin and personal virtue.

      I believe Professor Baker’s point has to do with the way sin begets further sin through the political process through the creation of problematic institutions, like the lottery.

      I hope this has been of some assistance to you.

      Best wishes Frederick,

      Michael Chovanec

    • Sounds like you have been inhaling a little to deeply on the incense. Turn off the Harri Krishna chant loop and focus on how enriching it would be to actually do something which once done your friends could point to and say “Man you did that! That’s awesome!”

  2. I thought this was very well written, Dr. Baker. I see a man on the train with a briefcase full of scratch off lottery tickets. He seems to have them organized and he selects them carefully. The contrast of the two always shakes me. He has a random game of changes so neatly organized and controlled but it doesn’t really help his odds of winning.

    BTW, I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t understand Frederick’s point.

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  4. The key to Frederick’s comment is the phrase “word salad”.
    A word salad is a burst of inchoate, almost random thoughts. Psychiatrists use the phrase to describe the speech of some schizophrenics, it’s not a clinical term per se.
    If you want other interesting examples of word salad, visit a blog called It’s a delightful collection of links to websites created by people like Frederick opining on any number of things, ranging from the nature of reality and the cosmos, to politics, to various and sundry novel, interesting, and unique religions. And, in some cases, a synthesis of all three.
    The amazing thing about a word salad is that it is not fully random. There is just enough correlated thought to lead a reader to believe that there is some thought, some idea there that they could be getting if they would only listen harder. Sort of like the experience one has listening to a very distant radio station through a curtain of static. It’s basically a signal-to-noise ratio problem.
    But truly, you haven’t lived until you have read a disquisition like “Allan Hegland’s new book PARADIGM SHIFT: The Failures of Scientific Theory and the Quest for Antigravity convincingly demonstrates that the theoretical foundations of astrophysics, particle physics, biology and geology are lies…”

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