Sunday, June 5, 2011

Little and Large

"I have always firmly believed in two things; the value of little states and local liberties, and the necessity of a general moral philosophy, big enough to defend such little things."

The Resurrection of Rome

I read these words today-- only a few moments ago, in fact-- after pondering earlier upon a paradox in my own views. Like Chesterton, I love everything that is regional, local, familial and small enough to be personal; the inn (or the pub), the club of friends, the fireside, the amateur dramatic show, the little family-run shop and the small farm. Like Chesterton, I shudder at bureaucratic monsters such as big business, big government, supranational institutions like the European Union, and mass media. And like Chesterton, I am an enthusiastic member of (so I read) the biggest organization in the world, the Catholic Church, and I wish it were bigger still. How to reconcile this contradiction? It does not seem like a contradiction to me at all, since the Church is sui generis, organised into parishes and other units which are as far from impersonal as can be imagined, and always respectful of national and historical traditions. But would that explanation satisfy everyone?

The Resurrection of Rome is a fascinating book. Chesterton has been criticised for his evaluation of Italian Fascism, which is neither endorsement nor condemnation. Of course, he did not live to see World War Two. I was surprised to read a description of an interview with Mussolini himself, since I don't remember ever reading about this. The interview was not a great success, apparently, as they spoke in French and Chesterton's spoken French was poor.

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