The Long View 2006-01-07: The Next China & the Next Socialism; The Next Liturgy

By Limitchik - I took this picture in 2012 with a Canon 30D, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41962542

By Limitchik - I took this picture in 2012 with a Canon 30D, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41962542

There is another silly reference to Gordon Chang here [still wrong], but this quote is interesting:

That said, though, we are probably about to enter a generation in which there will be greater distrust of market mechanisms. What distinguishes the early 21st century from the early 20th is the almost total evaporation of Marxist eschatology, indeed of any sense of historical development. The purpose of social policy is no longer paradise. The purpose can become the prudential care for all, a concept which includes public safety and public health as well as economics. Oswald Spengler's term for this was "Ethical Socialism."

What made Marxism so potent was its millenarianism, the fervor of the convert and the true believer in Marx's reading of history. These kids who are fashionably espousing Communism are more like prosperity gospel Christians. A popular and enduring movement that has had a real effect on people's lives, but at least an order of magnitude less powerful than the First or Second Great Awakening.

It is probably a good thing for everyone that the eschatological element of Marxism died out [or burned out], but I do wonder what the point of calling yourself a Communist is now.


The Next China & the Next Socialism; The Next Liturgy

 

Thoughts on China's future is the title of a posting on Samizdata by James Waterton, who has recently visited that country. There he found that the ATMs were usually out of cash, from which he surmised that the financial system might be close to imploding. (He does not cite Gordon Chang's The Coming Collapse of China, but his logic is the same, and the anecdote about the ATMs is not frivolous: you have to use information like that because all the official statistics about the banking system are imaginary.) A major disruption of the Chinese economy would be bad enough economic news, but Waterton says the implications go far beyond that:

I am concerned by the consequences of a Chinese economic collapse, and these concerns reach far beyond any short to medium term economic pain. I fear a worldwide economic slump prompted by the collapse of China and its supposedly free market will provoke a popular backlash against globalisation and the liberal market reforms carried out in the 80s in the most successful economies of the West. Capitalism and liberalism will be blamed if people create a nexus between China's collapse, its market reforms and its intertwining with the greater world economy...Policy reversals may follow and suddenly we're staring down the barrel of a neo-Keynesian revolution. Consider what the average person knows about China's economy.

That's a good bet, but as any Daoist can tell you, it's one of those yin-and-yang developments. Libertarianism and command economics are both extreme positions. Neither ever entirely goes away, but their strongest manifestations are always ephemeral. The interesting question is whether the Next Socialism will greatly resemble the old one; or indeed, whether the Next Socialism will be a Left phenomenon at all.

There are people, many of them Latin American, for whom the 1960s never ended. Some of them are now running Venezuela and Bolivia. This is worrisome in some ways: Venezuela will be able to keep the communist system in Cuba afloat until the price of oil falls again, and Bolivia is now controlled by drug exporters. Still, it is hard to see such regimes as representatives of any historical trend, except perhaps entropy. Then there is poor Comandante Marcos and his Other Campaign in Mexico. The rhetoric is mostly good old-fashioned populism, but it has grown turgid with the language of the cultural left:

Hermanos y hermanas obreros y obreras, campesinos y campesinas de todo Mexico

"Brothers and sisters; workmen and workwomen; peasants and [I don't know: peasantinas?]": Spanish is a language where gender inclusivity really should not be an issue. Any movement that imports this associate-professor stutter is liable to meet the fate of liberation theology.

That said, though, we are probably about to enter a generation in which there will be greater distrust of market mechanisms. What distinguishes the early 21st century from the early 20th is the almost total evaporation of Marxist eschatology, indeed of any sense of historical development. The purpose of social policy is no longer paradise. The purpose can become the prudential care for all, a concept which includes public safety and public health as well as economics. Oswald Spengler's term for this was "Ethical Socialism."

* * *

Meanwhile, at the Conference of Catholic Bishops, they are debating a new English translation of the Latin Mass that Rome promulgated after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

The role of Latin the Catholic liturgy takes a little explanation. The Mass is rarely celebrated in Latin. When it is, it is usually the old Latin Mass that is celebrated, the one that prevailed until the Council. However, the original of the new Mass, the Novus Ordo, is also in Latin. That is the version from which translations are supposed to be made into the various living languages. One of the advantages to this system is that the conventions of translation from Latin to the modern languages are long-established and well-known. Translation from Latin to English is a no-brainer.

At any rate, it's supposed to be. In fact, the translation committee that did the translation into English 30 years ago turned a horse into a camel. The Vatican told the English-speaking countries to fix it. Unfortunately, as we learn from the indispensable Adoremus Bulletin, there were announcements like this one from chairman Bishop Donald Trautman at the meeting of the bishops last November:

We have set aside a good one half-hour for questions and comments. Before I introduce the panel I want to thank you for responding to our consultation. One hundred and seven Latin Rite bishops responded with 1,147 suggestions. Let us look at the results of this second consultation. [Indicates slides with diagrams of surveys projected on a screen.]

With reference to the words of institution, 140 bishops said "I believe the best translation of 'pro multis' is 'for all'".

In fact, of course, the only possible translation of "pro multis" is "for many." The Latin quotes the New Testament where Jesus says his blood "will be shed for many" for the forgiveness of sins. There is a theological reason for saying "for all." Catholic doctrine has it that Jesus did in principle die for all, though that does not mean all are necessarily saved. You can make that point with other scriptural citations. You can't make it here, though, and still call the result a translation.

Finally, Cardinal Francis George, as well as many of his colleagues perhaps, was laboring under this misapprehension:

The discussion is now somewhat complicated as we all know. Instead of the two poles -- fidelity to the Latin or adaptation to the English -- there’s a third pole, and that is the pastoral concern. The people own the present translation, even though it may be deficient -- as some of us have said -- as ICEL itself has recognized when adopted a different way of going at it. But nonetheless it’s ours. And they possess that text in a dialogical worship service in a way they never possessed the Latin text. They got used to the Latin text, but it wasn’t theirs, it wasn’t their language, and it wasn’t -- you know -- so dialogical and shaped our worship in the way that the new Missal has.

The congregation knew the old Mass as scraps of familiar phrases and in translation. They owned it, however, because the text was immemorial and unchangeable: certainly it was unchangeable by their local priest, as the new Mass too often has not proved to be. They owned it in much the way that Protestants owned the archaic modern English of the King James Bible.

There is just not the same relationship to a vernacular liturgy. It is literature, and it belongs to its author.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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