Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Love and Community

That is a rather grandiose title for a blogpost. I'm not sure I can write up to it. Let's see.

Yesterday was not the healthiest. I did take a lunch break (a rather late one), but our only walk was short and ended up at Tesco, where we bought oven-ready pizzas. The excuse was that I had worked so late, and we had gone for our walk so late, that supermarket pizza was the answer to the problem of dinner. But all was not lost, for we also bought half-price begonia bulbs and a "Grow Your Own Gin Botanicals" kit, which together cost £5. I planted the begonia bulbs right away.

It is possible that all this frantic gardening is a frightened humanity's way of creating a future. New landowners, conscious of their parvenue status, plant oaks dreaming of descendants, a dynasty, their legacy. Householders warned of death in May plant crops for August.

B.A. was much troubled with indigestion in the night. I was much troubled by headaches yesterday and a cough last night. The BBC in the kitchen is nattering about people who become ill with the coronavirus dying of it. I'm so tired of isolation and fear.

The scandal of yesterday, not broken by me, was that Professor Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist  who advised the UK government to lock us all up against the virus, has been violating the social distance rules to tryst with his married mistress, a mother of children. Photographs show England's very own Helen of Troy to be a very pretty, well-dressed blonde, which seems fitting.* Iconic figures for iconic times.

But what better way to introduce another dose of Wendell Berry talking about the sexual economy? I have found much to agree with in the "Sex" part of "Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community" and some to disagree with. The ideas that marriage is the heart of community, that marriage is a necessary gift to the community, and that there is no such thing as "safe sex", I agree with.  However, I object to his claim that "conservatives" (his scare quotes) do not oppose promiscuity.

Here is what WB says: "The 'conservatives' more or less attack homosexuality, abortion, and pornography, and the 'liberals' more or less defend them. Neither party will oppose sexual promiscuity. The 'liberals' will not oppose promiscuity because they do not wish to appear intolerant of 'individual liberty.' The 'conservatives' will not oppose promiscuity because sexual discipline would reduce the profits of corporations, which in their advertisements and entertainments encourage self-indulgence as a way of selling merchandise."

Nonsense. Of course conservatives oppose sexual promiscuity. In fact, pro-lifers are accused all the time of wanting to "control women's sexuality" as our real motive for opposing the slaughter of unborn babies. In reality, we wish women and men would control their own sexuality, or at least not be controlled by it. Nobody can control anyone else's sexuality, and controlling one's own is quite a challenge. We used to be a lot smarter about that than we are now.

But at any rate social conservatives certainly do oppose promiscuity, some from bitter or stale experience. However, Berry may have a point about advertising. Social conservatives have no problem juxtaposing photographs of pretty young Catholic college students at March for Life with snaps of screaming, pierced-nosed, pussy-hatted harpies at pro-abortion rallies.

That reminds me of  commentary on my own appearance, by the way. When in Rome last October, I took part in two or three videos for work. In one I talked about St. Monica. I had bought some new clothes for Rome, so as to look professional, including a navy-blue maxi-dress and a Panama hat. As Roman women don't wear hats, I looked odd and even more foreign than ever. However, one of the reader/viewer responses to my video was to ask why more women didn't dress like me. This may be the first time ever someone has suggested I should be a fashion icon. But it points to a reality of social conservatism: we are utterly obsessed with what women look like, how women dress, how modest women appear, what is the line between pleasantly pretty and over-ripe sluttishness. (See my comment above about the English Helen of Troy.)

Of course, we may do this because we are very concerned about sexual power and how its fiery furnace should be used to warm our society instead of burning it down all the time. The family is the heart of society, and what family is not burned horribly when loyalty to spouse, or obedience to parents, or love of children, takes second place to Great Goddess Sex? It's terribly sad, and one of the mistakes innocent Catholic teenagers make is to think their virtues are a match for the oceanic tide of sexuality.

That said, a great big stone wall of FEAR can do the job relatively well. I know a woman whose father actually told her, when she was a teenager, that if she lost her virginity, he wouldn't love her any more. It was cruel and I don't think I could do that, but it worked. She's well-educated, has a career, a loving husband, children, health, home, the works, so such a tactic does not necessarily make a girl a mental misfit.

I know what you're thinking: fear is a terrible substitute for virtue. Surely we should be chaste because we love, not because we fear. Absolutely, but it's a lot to expect from adolescents. Sex is a powerful force. Fear is a powerful force. Love can be a powerful force, but I don't remember my teenage self as being a genius of compassion for others or even myself. The solution used to be early marriage, strongly brokered by family and community. And in some places, community is still a bulwark against the violent tide.  The sloppy, sentimental sexual semi-permissiveness of 1980s mangiacakes was countered in my high school by the volcanic contempt of 1950s Italian immigrants for "putanas."

But I see it is past 10, so I must stop thinking about what another reader has deemed " modernist Protestant eco-terrorist stuff"  and go to my work.

*Men throwing it all away for topless models and their ilk is so cliched in Britain it is boring.

UPDATE: Second sowing of radishes and lettuce sprouting. Sowed basil, thyme and cucumber in pots. Planted one more courgette seeds and the last four "Scarlet Emperor" runner beans. Let's see if they do any better than their tardy siblings. The one live courgette sprout is doing marvellously.


  1. Wouldn't a parent telling a teenager that they wouldn't love them if they lost their virginity push them in the direction of an abortion if they did have sex and get pregnant? It would be very scary to tell your parents you were pregnant if it meant automatic rejection. I would think your friend is successful despite her father's approach, not because of it. I think a better approach would be close supervision of teenagers, though I know that is easier said than done.

    1. You could be right: it might depend on the parent and on the teenager, of course. It was taking a terrific gamble, it seems to me. I agree that a close supervision of teenagers is the more comfortable, less nuclear way to go. Once again, the role of community plays a part there!