Thursday, March 1, 2012
Downton Abbey: Un-American?
Via Tea at Trianon I learned of recent articles by quasi-Jacobin "Catholic" commentators Santiago Ramos and James Martin SJ helpfully informing us that U.S. fans of Downton Abbey should feel guilty because it's "un-American" and celebrates "income inequality" and "Noblesse Oblige," as if those were all bad things. It is truly sad to see the extent to which essentially Marxist premises and thinking have penetrated the Christian Churches in our time. Lord, spare us from Marxists masquerading as Christians!
First of all, if Downton Abbey is "un-American" (whatever that means), then that's one reason I love it so much! Too many American Christians seem to assume that their bizarre artificial country with its revolutionary founding by hypocritical traitors is God's gift to the world, some sort of ideal nation against which everything should be measured. While individual Americans have certainly been capable of great goodness and beauty, it isn't. But more broadly, the assumption that inequality is inherently wrong, something that a Christian should be ashamed of, is perhaps the single most wicked and destructive lie of modern times. To be sure, Christians are supposed to care for the poor. But there is all the difference in the world between voluntarily caring for the poor (who Jesus said "you shall always have with you") and attempting to use the State to wipe out all inequality so that no one is rich and no one is poor, an impossible dream which inevitably leads to even more suffering, as the experiences of those nations unfortunate enough to fall to Communism ought to demonstrate. The truth that leftists and Americanists don't wish to face is that (as the non-leftist Catholic website Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites tirelessly maintains) elites of some kind are inevitable. There will always be some sort of elite, even when "elitism" is officially condemned. The Soviet Union had an elite, whose lives were considerably more comfortable than those of the vast majority of Soviet citizens. As indicated above I personally dislike the leaders of the American Revolution, but they were undoubtedly an elite. Since elites of some sort necessarily exist, the only real questions are whether we are going to be honest about it, and whether their members are to be shaped and motivated by worthy, charitable, Christian principles (as royal saints such as Louis IX & Elizabeth of Hungary were, and Downton's fictional Earl of Grantham is) or less admirable materialistic ones such as most of the the dominant contemporary elites seem to be.
But even if inequality and elites could be done away with, should they be? Absolutely not! For the truth is that virtually everything good and beautiful in human civilization depends on inequality. Without elites to fund it, there would be precious little great art, architecture, or music. Without elites and their "lavish lifestyles," those (like me) whose gifts best equip them to produce expensive and labor-intensive products or services would have no livelihood. Without elites, the Church would not be able to build magnificent edifices for the worship of God. While there is much to criticize in the contemporary capitalist global economy (built I might add on the ruins of the old monarchical and aristocratic order I prefer), as a classical musician whose profession depends for its very survival on the generosity of the wealthy I weary of the "Occupy" assumption that the rich are inherently wicked for being rich and it would be better if their wealth were confiscated. Virtually everything worth seeing in Europe--castles, cathedrals, palaces, museums, opera houses, and yes, grand country estates such as Downton Abbey--is a product (whether directly or indirectly) of inequality. Even today, their power and status much diminished, conscientious royalty and aristocrats, whose families have shaped the destiny of Europe for more than a thousand years, continue to contribute to society and make a positive difference to the lives of ordinary people in ways that would never be possible in some dreary egalitarian utopia. Thank God for Inequality!