Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

YSL Pacifism

By Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J. (articles ) | Apr 10, 2003

In 1999, movie reviewer James Bowman criticized Terrence Malick's film The Thin Red Line for retrofitting World War II infantrymen with Vietnam-era moral postures. Bowman remarked that Malick's characters belonged "not among the citizen soldiers who actually won the war but to the post-60's aristocracy of feeling."

The phrase "aristocracy of feeling" comes happily to mind in trying to analyze that curiously smug air of condescension which surrounds so many haute couture pacifists. It's not that their remarks are unreasonable; being The Enlightened, they manage to convey that it's in poor taste to care whether they're reasonable or not.

Discussing the failure of the cultural elite to engage pro-life arguments on abortion, Joseph Sobran wrote, "The enlightened don't owe the unenlightened a rational debate, because in their minds there are no real differences of opinion or philosophy, only differences of motives." Bull's eye. Those who belong to the aristocracy of feeling simply presume the moral superiority of their motives. If your opponents are bad men a priori, who cares if their arguments are better?

As it happens, Sobran himself is vigorously opposed to the war. I do not find his arguments persuasive -- but they are indeed arguments, arguments that ask for refutation, arguments that are egalitarian in assuming the rationality and good will of those who would contest them. If he succeeds in showing his opponents they're wrong, then of course they'd be wicked in pursuing their original course. But the beautiful people begin from the conviction of their own righteousness and the baseness of everybody else, and from that starting point no argument is possible. Like a duchess at the opening of a shopping mall, they intend their remarks to elicit not debate, but gratitude that such a person should deign to take notice of the occasion at all.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our August expenses ($33,297 to go):
$35,000.00 $1,703.25
95% 5%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Another argument for reform in the Roman Curia 7 hours ago
A Diocese in Paraguay 8 hours ago
Apologies: The danger in lamenting what everyone laments 11 hours ago
Talk to your kids about porn! 17 hours ago
Showing the Courage to battle homosexual impulses July 31

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
New management, new changes coming for reformed Vatican bank CWN - July 8
Sweeping reforms to Vatican's media, financial operations CWN - July 9
‘Even Genghis Khan didn’t do this’: Mosul emptied of Christians CWN - July 21