The one limiting possibility the new elites cannot admit in the world-affirming immanentism of their ‘value’ conventions is that of a divine creator and his promised redemptive acts before whom and beside which there is nothing that means anything; absolutely nothing . . . . [As for the non-elites:] ‘The people’ have resisted and resented Christian faith the more as both science and sociology have promised them release from any and all theologies of truth transcending their immediate worlds and wishes as they would have them fulfilled in a waking dream of life mastered and themselves pleasured. There is the real revolution: a culture in which interpretations are applied one after another, so long as none are facets of transcendent truths that exclude untruths.
–Philip Rieff, My Life Among the Deathworks. University of Virginia Press, 2006, p. 58.
It is very easy to become distracted by the manifest truth-hatred of the cultural elite, forgetting the strong prejudice of “the people” against Christian faith and behavior. There is no good reason, for example, to place faith in the decent values and good sense of the American people as a whole, who are responsible for nominating and retaining an ungodly elite in influence and power with actions as small as purchasing fan magazines at the supermarket and as large as casting a vote. Rieff puts his finger on the utopian reason: their desire (and, if we are not careful, our desire) to live in a waking dream of life mastered and themselves pleasured–even, I will add, if life is “mastered” by leveling the non-elite, and the pleasuring is accomplished largely by fantasy.
Our collective intuitions here are, I think, very much the same as Rieff’s, and that is why, while we comment on politics from time to time, we are not a political magazine–for politics, whether liberal or conservative, has to do with the power of secular states, which concerns us only so far as it touches upon the affairs of a “promised redemptive act before which and beside which there is nothing that means anything; absolutely nothing.” Sticking to first things requires that we not become distracted–and it is easy to do–into thinking that secular affairs, the affairs of the people and their chosen elites, have any meaning whatever apart from their application to the Infinitely Greater, which shall swallow them up as Ozymandias was lost in the sands.