This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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It remains for democracy to prove itself in things that truly matter

 “I say that democracy can never prove itself beyond cavil, until it founds and luxuriantly grows its own forms of art, poems, schools, theology, displacing all that exists, or that has been produced in the past, under the opposite influences…For know you not, dear, earnest reader, that the people of our land may all read and write, and may all possess the right to vote—and yet the main things may be entirely lacking?”

~ Walt Whitman[1]

What the poet is saying is that if democracy cannot manage to produce a culture, then it is not a valid or desirable system, whatever else it may produce, be that wealth, power, or leisure. This is in fact one of the most powerful arguments against the rule of the people and the modern democratic regimes: that they are bland. They produce technocracy but never beauty. They become powerful but they never develop good taste. This is true not only of modern democracies but even of the free peoples of the past in some significant cases, especially when they entered their stage of decline. Rome, it has been said, merely copied its art and culture from the Greeks—it even borrowed their mythology. And what philosophical heritage did the Egyptians leave? Their constructions boast of nothing else but a fixation on enormity, which is not an aspect of beauty. We can mention the Greeks, of course, but the comparison is, in the end, absurd. The ‘free men’ of Greece were a small elite compared to the slaves and the non-free that made that freedom possible. And so Whitman’s challenge stood firm and still stands: that democracy can begin to make an argument for itself when it proves conducive to the higher realizations of human potentiality. Until then, we consider it on trial, and failing.

[1] Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas (1871).

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