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The Blindness Of National Conservatism Critics

A Mr. Ron Dreher of The American Catholic addresses National Conservatism conference in Rome last week. Do I have that right? (Photo by Yrieix Denis)

The journalist Anne Applebaum was at last week’s National Conservatism conference in Rome. To no one’s surprise, she didn’t like it. She did make a mistake, though, in her report for The Atlantic:

But other speakers in Rome also reflected an almost paranoid sense of persecution. The idea that “the nation” has been outlawed is clearly something that a certain breed of conservative now genuinely perceives to be true. The American Catholic writer Ron Dreher solemnly described a world in which he felt repressed, just as people had been under totalitarian communism. “The all-consuming ideology among us is … a globalist, victim-focused identity politics, often called ‘social justice,’” he warned, calling on audience members to think of themselves as Christians persecuted for their faith in the past.

Not sure what Ron Dreher of The American Catholic had to say, but the speech given by Rod Dreher, the Orthodox Christian who writes for The American Conservative is at the bottom of this post, printed in full.

Her misidentifying me and this magazine is a minor error, though. She is a superb journalist whose books I have learned from. I invite you to read the speech and decide if Applebaum’s characterization is fair or accurate. It will displease Applebaum to learn that I draw on her book about the Sovietization of Eastern Europe, Iron Curtain, in my own forthcoming book, ‘Live Not By Lies’. There are clear comparisons between the Sovietization of the former time, and the way that secular Eurocratic elites have been scrubbing European nations and peoples of their particularity, and their religion. You wouldn’t know this from Applebaum’s characterization of my words, but I spoke about what we in the West have in common today with the pre-totalitarian condition identified by Hannah Arendt, and how many people who lived under Soviet-bloc communism are today shouting the alarm that we are building the same kind of thing right here, right now. In my speech (again, it’s in full down below), I said that this totalitarianism, when it comes, will be “soft” (I used the James Poulos phrase “pink police state”), but it will be no less totalitarian.

[UPDATE: I should point out that it’s clear from my speech that I’m not saying that I “feel repressed, just as people had been under totalitarian communism.” I am describing a world that is quickly coming into being now, via the totalitarian ideology driving “social justice” and left-wing identity politics — an ideology that liberals like Applebaum can’t seem to muster opposition to. No enemies on the Left, perhaps?]

I can see why Anne Applebaum would deny that any of this is happening, or (to be charitable) cannot see it. Her class — her husband Radek Sikorski is a leading member of the Polish opposition party, and a Member of the European Parliament — will be on top if things continue in the way they are going. They are globalist elites. I don’t use that term in a pejorative sense, but rather a descriptive one. Applebaum, Sikorski, and men and women like them really are part of the transatlantic liberal establishment. They are representatives of what Douglas Murray has called the “Davos worldview”:

 the presumption that the future was inevitably one of greater integration, where states would be giving up ever-more sovereignty, borders would be less and less important, and the world presided over by a benign, internationalist, NGO-like political class.

They really do see people who resist their liberal internationalism as backwards, as irrational enemies of progress. Applebaum calls out the “almost paranoid sense of persecution” she heard in Rome. She should put herself in the position of a Catholic family in Spain, fighting for the right to opt out of hardcore gender ideology classes the Socialist state is attempting to force on every Spanish schoolchild. She should put herself in the position of the Christian university administrators in an American state who, I learned in Spain from a reliable source (and confirmed with another once I was back in the US), have recently been told point-blank by state legislative leaders that if they don’t change their rules on LGBT, the state is going to come at them hard.

Those are just two examples. My guess is that Applebaum, if she knows about this stuff at all, assumes that it is right and proper, and part of the process of implementing Progress. The only people in Spain standing up to this are the Vox Party, which is demonized by Applebaum’s class as “far right.” In the US, we can’t even count on the Republicans to mount a defense of religious liberty in these cases, but the only realistic hope we have at the moment is from judges appointed by the Antichrist of the Liberal Internationalists, Donald Trump.

My disdain for Trump and his pomps and works is known. But in the end, he’s the only hope people like me have to protect us from the designs of politicians that people like Applebaum support. I don’t think people like that are evil, necessarily, but I know that the order they believe in and fight for is hostile to things people like me believe in and fight for. I also know that their characterization of their political opponents is often about as accurate as her characterization of me and this magazine.

Applebaum devotes the last third of her essay to criticizing Viktor Orban, who showed up as the closing act. Excerpt:

At another point, Orbán also described his political philosophy as “Christian Democracy,” implying that this is something brand-new and radical. In fact it is very old: German, Dutch, and Belgian Christian Democrats were the founders of the European Union, and Angela Merkel, a Christian Democrat and the daughter of a Protestant minister, runs Germany today. She is Christian, but not in the way Orbán or many of the Rome panelists define themselves as Christian. Her Christianity offers moral guidance, not a way to divide “us” from “them.” The latter is an aggressive new political identity that many people in the room seek, especially if it will grant them the right to abolish the rule of law when they gain power.

Well, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democracy opened the doors of Germany, and therefore of Europe, to a million Islamic refugees. This is the kind of Christianity that is going to end Christianity in Europe, and maybe Europe itself, as we have known it since forever. If that’s “Christian democracy,” I prefer to listen to what Prime Minister Orban has to say.

I want to commend to you this balanced piece on the Rome conference by Douglas Murray, who spoke there. Murray says that world political and financial events have brought the Davos worldview into serious question, but there is still a problem with the reaction. He said, quite rightly, that the word “nationalism” is heard differently by American ears than by European ones. It is wrong, he said, to assume (as many postwar liberals do) that “nationalism” is always the cause of war. But it is equally wrong to assume that it is always benign; nationalism really did play a central role in 20th century European wars. Murray goes on:

To me, at any rate, this is the aspect of the National Conservatism Conference which was most interesting. There have been efforts in parts of the press to pretend that the entire conference was filled with unacceptable far-Right elements and the like. Certainly some of those who were present are from parties which have far-Right pasts and other new parties who may well be a cause for concern in the present.

But to dismiss all of these — let alone figures like Chris de Muth, John O’Sullivan and Hazony himself — as somehow engaged in far-Right politicking is so ignorant as to be embarrassingly revealing of the person asserting them. The idea that a conference organised by an orthodox Jew should have been in any way anti-Semitic is ridiculous. The idea that a conference addressed by several well-known gays was homophobic is equally lazy.

And yet, said Murray (who is openly gay), it can’t be glossed over that there really are some vicious people on the new European right:

Not every complainant is directed by ignorance or short-term political point-scoring. For the fact remains that across the continent of Europe there are dragons; there are movements like Casa Pound in Italy which would seem to want to replay the fascist past.

There are groups such as Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece whose members have indulged themselves in the ugliest attempts to simultaneously deny and replay the brutalities of the mid-twentieth century. Anyone concerned to keep such things in history would be motivated by the most legitimate imaginable fears.

Murray is right about that. American eyes are particularly unprepared to pick out these necessary gradations on the European Right. For me, the fact that Yoram Hazony, an Orthodox Jew, was running this conference gave me the confidence that anti-Semites would be kept out of the hall — where they belong. There can be no legitimizing Jew-hating, period.

The problem, Murray continues, is that newspapers and politicians make no distinction between people who are on the respectable populist right, and these villains. “Is everything “far-Right” once anyone says so?” asks Murray. “If there is a reason why such claims are rarely interrogated it is because there is so little reward – and some considerable risk – in carefully interrogating them.”

Murray says that this careless “fascist” language does not clarify matters, but rather obscures them, and causes those who adopt it to falsely anathematize “whole countries and movements” who will be partners in the years ahead. Read Murray’s entire piece. 

I’ve said it here many times, and I’ll say it again: if you are depending on the US and UK media to inform you about what these conservative populists actually believe, you are making a big mistake. I commend to you this long reported piece from the New York Review of Books by Mark Lilla, a liberal, on new roads the Right in France is taking. (Unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall.) Lilla is not a man of the Right by any means, but he went to France to try to understand what’s happening there, instead of simply waving his hands and dismissing it all as a fascist renaissance. He writes:

Something new is happening on the European right, and it involves more than xenophobic populist outbursts. Ideas are being developed, and transnational networks for disseminating them are being established. Journalists have treated as a mere vanity project Steve Bannon’s efforts to bring European populist parties and thinkers together under the umbrella of what he calls The Movement. But his instincts, as in American politics, are in tune with the times. (Indeed, one month after Marion’s appearance at CPAC, Bannon addressed the annual convention of the National Front.) In countries as diverse as France, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Italy, efforts are underway to develop a coherent ideology that would mobilize Europeans angry about immigration, economic dislocation, the European Union, and social liberalization, and then use that ideology to govern. Now is the time to start paying attention to the ideas of what seems to be an evolving right-wing Popular Front. France is a good place to start.

Lilla says the big Manif Pour Tous demonstrations against same-sex marriage in France is the key to the new French right:

The Catholic right’s campaign against same-sex marriage was doomed to fail, and it did. A large majority of the French support same-sex marriage, although only about seven thousand couples avail themselves of it each year. Yet there are reasons to think that the experience of La Manif could affect French politics for some time to come.

The first reason is that it revealed an unoccupied ideological space between the mainstream Republicans and the National Front. Journalists tend to present an overly simple picture of populism in contemporary European politics. They imagine there is a clear line separating legacy conservative parties like the Republicans, which have made their peace with the neoliberal European order, from xenophobic populist ones like the National Front, which would bring down the EU, destroy liberal institutions, and drive out as many immigrants and especially Muslims as possible.

These journalists have had trouble imagining that there might be a third force on the right that is not represented by either the establishment parties or the xenophobic populists. This narrowness of vision has made it difficult for even seasoned observers to understand the supporters of La Manif, who mobilized around what Americans call social issues and feel they have no real political home today. The Republicans have no governing ideology apart from globalist economics and worship of the state, and in

keeping with their Gaullist secular heritage have traditionally treated moral and religious issues as strictly personal, at least until Fillon’s anomalous candidacy. The National Front is nearly as secular and even less ideologically coherent, having served more as a refuge for history’s detritus—Vichy collaborators, resentful pieds noirs driven out of Algeria, Joan of Arc romantics, Jew- and Muslim-haters, skinheads—than as a party with a positive program for France’s future. A mayor once close to it now aptly calls it the “Dien Bien Phu right.”

The other reason La Manif might continue to matter is that it proved to be a consciousness-raising experience for a group of sharp young intellectuals, mainly Catholic conservatives, who see themselves as the avant-garde of this third force. In the last five years they have become a media presence, writing in newspapers like Le Figaro and newsweeklies like Le Point and Valeurs actuelles (Contemporary Values), founding new magazines and websites (Limite, L’Incorrect), publishing books, and making regular television appearances. People are paying attention, and a sound, impartial book on them has just appeared.

Whether anything politically significant will come out of this activity is difficult to know, given that intellectual fashions in France change about as quickly as the plat du jour. This past summer I spent some time reading and meeting these young writers in Paris and discovered more of an ecosystem than a cohesive, disciplined movement. Still, it was striking how serious they are and how they differ from American conservatives. They share two convictions: that a robust conservatism is the only coherent alternative to what they call the neoliberal cosmopolitanism of our time, and that resources for such a conservatism can be found on both sides of the traditional left–right divide. More surprising still, they are all fans of Bernie Sanders.

More:

The intellectual ecumenism of these writers is apparent in their articles, which come peppered with references to George Orwell, the mystical writer-activist Simone Weil, the nineteenth-century anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt, the young Marx, the ex-Marxist Catholic philosopher Alasdair Macintyre, and especially the politically leftist, culturally conservative American historian Christopher Lasch, whose bons mots—“uprootedness uproots everything except the need for roots”—get repeated like mantras. They predictably reject the European Union, same-sex marriage, and mass immigration. But they also reject unregulated global financial markets, neoliberal austerity, genetic modification, consumerism, and AGFAM (Apple- Google-Facebook-Amazon-Microsoft).

One more passage, then I’ll stop:

That mélange may sound odd to our ears, but it is far more consistent than the positions of contemporary American conservatives. Continental conservatism going back to the nineteenth century has always rested on an organic conception of society. It sees Europe as a single Christian civilization composed of different nations with distinct languages and customs. These nations are composed of families, which are organisms, too, with differing but complementary roles and duties for mothers, fathers, and children. On this view, the fundamental task of society is to transmit knowledge, morality, and culture to future generations, perpetuating the life of the civilizational organism. It is not to serve an agglomeration of autonomous individuals bearing rights. [Emphasis mine — RD]

Most of these young French conservatives’ arguments presume this organic conception. Why do they consider the European Union a danger? Because it rejects the cultural- religious foundation of Europe and tries to found it instead on the economic self-interest of individuals. To make matters worse, they suggest, the EU has encouraged the immigration of people from a different and incompatible civilization (Islam), stretching old bonds even further. Then, rather than fostering self-determination and a healthy diversity among nations, the EU has been conducting a slow coup d’état in the name of economic efficiency and homogenization, centralizing power in Brussels. Finally, in putting pressure on countries to conform to onerous fiscal policies that only benefit the rich, the EU has prevented them from taking care of their most vulnerable citizens and maintaining social solidarity. Now, in their view, the family must fend for itself in an economic world without borders, in a culture that willfully ignores its needs. Unlike their American counterparts, who celebrate the economic forces that most put “the family” they idealize under strain, the young French conservatives apply their organic vision to the economy as well, arguing that it must be subordinate to social needs.

Most surprising for an American reader is the strong environmentalism of these young writers, who entertain the notion that conservatives should, well, conserve. Their best journal is the colorful, well-designed quarterly Limite, which is subtitled “a review of integral ecology” and publishes criticism of neoliberal economics and environmental degradation as severe as anything one finds on the American left. (No climate denial here.) Some writers are no-growth advocates; others are reading Proudhon and pushing for a decentralized economy of local collectives. Others still have left the city and write about their experiences running organic farms, while denouncing agribusiness, genetically modified crops, and suburbanization along the way. They all seem inspired by Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato si’ (2015), a comprehensive statement of Catholic social teaching on the environment and economic justice.

I wish you could read the whole thing. The Catholic conservatives of Lilla’s piece are my people, politically, far more than anybody in the GOP as it stands today.  You might be able to download a version here.

To be clear, Lilla is not defending these conservatives — he is not a conservative — but seeking to understand them, and why they aren’t the same thing as neofascists. Predictably, the Washington Post‘s correspondent in Paris wrote a letter to NYRB accusing Lilla of carrying water for neofascists. It’s so blind, cloddish, and self-defeating.

Below the jump is my Rome speech.

ROME SPEECH
Rod Dreher

Five years ago, I received a phone call from an American physician, who was rather alarmed. He told me that his mother emigrated to America from Czechoslovakia. When she was young, she served six years as a political prisoner because she was part of the underground Catholic resistance to communism. Now, as an old lady living with her son and his wife, she said to her son: “The things I am seeing in this country today remind me of when communism came to my homeland.”

She was talking about the growing intolerance, even hysteria, from the Left against anything that conflicts with their ideology. I knew that political correctness was a big problem, but this sounded exaggerated to me. Maybe she is just a frightened old woman, I thought.

But over the next few years, I began talking to immigrants from the Soviet bloc – men and women who once lived with communism, but who escaped to the West. I would ask them: “What are you seeing today? Is this old Czech woman correct?”

Over and over, I heard the same thing: YES! It really is happening here. We can feel it in our bones. Almost all of them are quite frustrated and angry that no American believes them.

I understand the skepticism. I was skeptical too when the doctor first called me. Today, though, after interviewing a number of these people, and spending much of the last year traveling throughout the former communist countries of the East to interview former dissidents and political prisoners, I am convinced that they are right. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said:

“There always is this fallacious belief: ‘It would not be the same here; such things are impossible.’ Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.’”

It is not only possible here in the liberal democratic West, but it’s taking form right now. People who lived through communist totalitarianism are trying to sound the alarm. They are trying to wake the rest of us up before it is too late. As Marek Benda, a Czech politician who comes from a dissident family told me last year in Prague: “The fight for freedom is always with us. Only one generation divides us from tyranny.”

The fight against the new totalitarianism is the fight of our generation. It is here. It is now. And it cannot be avoided.

Before we go further this morning, let’s define our term. What is totalitarianism?

In her classic 1951 study “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt examined both the Nazi and communist movements in an attempt to discern why they appealed to the masses. Totalitarianism makes every aspect of life political. It not only seeks obedience from the people, but it attempts to force everyone to welcome their own oppression. We have to internalize the ruling ideology, and make it our own. As George Orwell put it, the goal is for everyone to learn to love Big Brother.

Many of the conditions that Arendt saw as the seedbed of totalitarianism are present today, in our decaying liberal democracies. Here is a short list of Arendt’s pre-totalitarian signs that we see very strongly in our society:

• Widespread loneliness and social atomization
• Loss of faith in institutions and hierarchies
• A desire to transgress
• A rise in the power of ideological thinking
• The increased use of propaganda
• The value of loyalty – to a person or to an ideology – more than expertise
• The politicization of everything

As I see it, we have two basic things that distinguish us from pre-communist Russia and pre-Nazi Germany.

First, the all-consuming ideology among us is not racist nationalism or Marxism-Leninism, but rather a globalist, victim-focused identity politics, often called “social justice.” The revolutionary class is not the German volk or the international proletariat, but the “marginalized” and “oppressed” – the Sacred Victim. Like Bolshevism, social justice is a utopian political cult. It sounds like a political platform, or maybe a therapeutic management system, but the best way to understand it is as a fanatical religion.

Second, the technological environment today is vastly different from a hundred years ago, when the twentieth century’s totalitarianisms emerged. The most important difference is that we now render all human life and experience as digital data that is storable, searchable, and that can be exploited by surveillance states and the surveillance capitalists of Google, Amazon, and others. The People’s Republic of China, for example, now has the capabilities and the will to surveil and to control its own people to a degree of which that Mao, Stalin, and totalitarian tyrants of the twentieth century could only have dreamed.

Here’s why many of us have been very slow to appreciate the totalitarian nature of contemporary liberalism. It’s because the emerging totalitarianism is not going to be a version of the grim scenario imagined by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Rather, it is going to be more like the alternative dystopia imagined by Aldous Huxley in “Brave New World.” Orwell imagined a world much like Stalin’s Russia, where the state controlled society by fear, pain, and terror. By contrast, Huxley imagined a world where the state controlled the masses through managing pleasure and comfort.

Western people will surrender political power to a state, and to authorities, who promise to protect their therapeutic desires – especially maximizing sexual freedom. It will do this through some version of China’s social credit system, where one’s freedom in society is decided by an algorithm that rewards or punishes one based on one’s beliefs, one’s friends, and so forth. As in “Brave New World,” the most important values will be “safety” and “well being.” If religious and political liberties threaten either, then they will have to be eliminated. This is already happening within universities and other institutions that, in a very Soviet way, are stigmatizing dissent as pathological.

This is what the American social critic James Poulos calls the “Pink Police State.” The Pink Police State – which entails the government, academic and cultural institutions, as well as large corporations — is the form that the new totalitarianism is taking.

So, how do we resist? The good news is that there are people who retain living memory of communist totalitarianism. They have seen this kind of thing before. They are warning the rest of us that we are walking into a trap. We need to hear them.

You will hear today speeches and comments by my colleagues who will speak of the resistance in political terms. This is important. But let us begin by talking about the cultural resistance, without which political resistance cannot succeed.

First, we have to reclaim and defend cultural memory.

When the Nazis invaded Poland, their ultimate plans were not simply to rule Poland, but to destroy the Polish nation. The Germans sought to do this the way all totalitarians do: by controlling the cultural memory of the Polish people. They had to make the Poles forget their history, and forget their religion.

A young Polish actor, Karol Wojtyla, committed himself to the patriotic resistance. But he didn’t pick up a gun! He and his theater friends wrote and performed underground plays on religious and historical themes. These theatrical events happened in secret. If the Gestapo had discovered them, all the actors and all the audience would have been shot. Wojtyla and the theater company literally put their lives on the line to keep alive the cultural memory of their nation.

We have to do the same in our time. The globalists try to make the nations ashamed of their heritage, in the same way the communists did to the masses they wished to control. We have to refuse this! We do not have to believe in a triumphalist myth of a golden age. We only have to look around us with eyes of gratitude for the good and beautiful things that our ancestors have given to us – and defend them as our own.

I should add that the ideology of consumer capitalism also tries to disconnect us from our past. If we are nothing but individuals defined by our desires, it’s easier to sell us things. We of the Resistance must declare that some things are not for sale! As John Paul the Second said, man is not made for the market; the market is made for man.

Second, we must establish and defend solidarity. I am not talking specifically about the Polish trade union. I am talking about something more intimate: the bonds among small groups of people.

In every postcommunist country I visited, I heard the same thing from former dissidents: that the strong bonds of solidarity with others gave them the courage to fight back. Last year, I stood in a secret underground room in Bratislava, where Catholic samizdat was printed for a decade. My guide was Jan Simulcik, a historian who, in the 1980s, was part of the underground who distributed that samizdat. He told me that like everybody else in the movement, he was afraid – but the camaraderie of his friends gave him the courage to keep going.

Dr. Vaclav Benda, a hero of the Czech resistance, worked to bring Czech people together, face to face, to remind them that they were actually a people. The state demoralized the masses by making them feel isolated and alone. As Dr Benda saw, the simple act of rebuilding social solidarity was counterrevolutionary. In our time, the state doesn’t force us to choose loneliness and isolation behind a glowing screen; we do it to ourselves. We can fight back by rebuilding the bonds of community in practical ways.

Third, we must strengthen our religion. I don’t simply mean that we must go to church more. Rather, we have to be far more radical than that. In my book “The Benedict Option,” I write about St. Benedict of Nursia, the 6th century Christian who responded to the collapse of the Roman imperial order by creating a parallel society dedicated to disciplined prayer and service to God. Over the next few centuries, the Benedictine monks played an absolutely key role in civilizing barbarian Europe. It began, though, with St. Benedict developing a Christian way of life that was resilient in the face of the extraordinary stresses of the early medieval period.

This past Sunday I made a pilgrimage to the cave in Subiaco where Benedict lived alone for three years as a hermit, praying and fasting and seeking the will of God. From that little hole in the side of a lonely mountain grew a seed of faith that, over the next centuries, would rebuild Western civilization. If you feel powerless and despairing, go to Subiaco and see what God can do with a single man who puts the search for Him above everything else.

We now live in a post-Christian civilization. Right now, while there is time, Christians at the local level must commit themselves to creating new ways of living out old truths. Every one of the anti-communist dissidents I interviewed were strongly believing Christians. Pawel Skibinski, a biographer of John Paul the Second, told me that humanity is like a kite. As long as it is connected to the earth by a string, it can fly very high. But if the line is cut, the kite falls to the ground.

We are the kite. The line is our connection to God. Without the God of the Bible, we will not be able to resist both the coming totalitarianism, or the parallel temptation to embrace evil forms of resistance.

Here’s what I mean. In 1939, the English poet W.H. Auden was living in Manhattan. He went to see a movie in a part of the city where lots of German immigrants lived. As a newsreel came on describing the Nazi invasion of Poland, German-speaking members of the audience leaped to their feet and began shouting, “Kill them! Kill them!”

Auden was deeply shocked by the nakedness of the evil displayed by the Nazi sympathizers. And he understood that mere humanism would not be enough to defeat it. After this dark epiphany, Auden returned to the church.

Finally, we must do the must counterrevolutionary thing of all: embrace the value of suffering. This strikes at the heart of the Pink Police State and its therapeutic totalitarianism.

If you are not willing to suffer the loss of social status; if you are not willing to suffer the loss of a job; if you are not willing to suffer the loss of freedom – and, if it comes to it, even your life – for the sake of the truth, then you have already surrendered to evil. This is the lesson we learn from the anti-communist resistance. The essence of their Christian hope was that suffering has ultimate meaning, if it is joined to the transformative passion of Jesus Christ.

The willingness to suffer for the truth is at the core of the final message Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn gave to the Russian people on the eve of his 1974 exile, in an essay titled, “Live Not By Lies!” A few years, later, the Czech dissident Vaclav Havel urged his readers to “live in truth.” Havel told a fable about a greengrocer who has the sign “Workers Of The World, Unite!” in his shop window – not because he believes the slogan, but because he doesn’t want trouble.

One day he removes the sign from his window because he wishes to live in truth. And he will suffer for it, says Havel. He might lose his business. He will not be able to travel. His children might not get into universities. The pain will be real. But his act will have ultimate value. The humble greengrocer will have shown that it is possible to refuse to conform to the official lies. It is possible to live in truth.

The life of Vaclav Havel, the first president of a free Czechoslovakia, and the other anti-communist dissidents shows that those who are willing to suffer for the truth might, in the end, triumph. Very few dissidents expected communism to end in their lifetime. They resisted communism because that was the right thing to do. What about us? What will we do in our time and place?

The Pink Police State is kindlier than its totalitarian predecessors, but in its ideology of globalist homogenization and technological reach, it is no less a threat to the existence of religion, of families, of tradition, and of peoples. Yes, we must fight it politically when we can, but we must also fight it inside ourselves.

I want to close by telling you about a hidden hero who deserves to be rediscovered. In 1943, a Croatian Jesuit named Father Tomislav Poglajen was organizing Catholic anti-Nazi resistance in his home country. When he learned that the Gestapo was going to arrest him, the priest fled to his mother’s country, Czechslovakia. He adapted his mother’s last name, Kolakovic, and began to organize Catholic anti-communist resistance.

Why anti-communist resistance? Father Kolakovic knew that the Germans were going to lose the war. But as he told the young Slovak Catholics who gathered around him, communism would ultimately come to power in their land. And that, he prophesied, would mean horrible persecution for the Church.

Father Kolakovic did not sit around waiting for it to happen. Instead, he organized cells around the country – groups of young Catholics who gathered for prayer, Bible study, and lectures. They also learned the arts of resistance – for example, how to survive an interrogation. They established resistance networks across the Slovak region. When the communist dictatorship installed itself in 1948, Father Kolakovic’s network was ready. It became the backbone of the underground church, which was the chief source of Slovak anticommunist resistance.

Today we await a new Father Tomislav Kolakovic – a visionary who can read the signs of the times, and who builds the ways of life, and the social networks, capable of resisting the coming evil.

My friends, one way to define hope is the marriage of MEMORY with DESIRE. If we can remember what we once had, and desire to have it again, we have something to hope for. There is no better place than Rome to ponder the cultural memory of our common civilization. From St. Benedict’s cave in Subiaco, to Wojtyla’s hidden theater under occupation, to the underground samizdat room in Bratislava – these are all part of our cultural memory. Let these memories shape our desires – for God, for truth, for liberty, and for home — and may they give birth to the joy of resistance.

 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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