The Discarded Image is the title of C.S. Lewis’s last book, and perhaps his best. On the surface, it is a discussion of medieval cosmology and the Ptolemaic universe. In reality it is about very much more, including the medieval refutation of the modern notion of "equality," which decrees that people are interchangeable. That vast error lies at the heart of many of the ideologies which made the 20th century such a horror and which still gnaw at the vitals of Western civilization. Lewis recognized that on many matters, our medieval ancestors were wiser than ourselves.
Lewis’s book was brought to mind by a letter from a reader of this column, who asked a difficult question:
…having read all I could lay my hands on about 4th generation warfare (including your books), something is missing. You are still discussing 4th generation warfare at the state level…What can individuals do to prepare for 4th generation warfare? What can my family do?
My correspondent has grasped the most difficult point about Fourth Generation war. In its ultimate form, it is not something we face "over there," in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Nor is it an import, like 9/11. Fourth Generation theory says that the state here, in the good old USA, is also likely to break apart as Americans too transfer their primary loyalty away from the state to a wide variety of other things. The conflicts among these new loyalties will in many cases be sharp enough to generate fighting.
In the face of this possibility, or maybe probability, what indeed are individuals and families to do? I think the answer, if there is one, begins with my friend David Kline’s farm.
David Kline is an Amishman. He farms about 200 acres in Holmes County, Ohio, good land that supports a herd of forty to fifty dairy cows. He has some modern equipment, such as milking machines, but his life does not depend on any of it. In today’s world, his farm provides him a good living. In a Fourth Generation world, his farm would still provide well for him and his family.
I am not talking about "survivalism" here. The Kline farm represents much more than that. As I have said to David more than once, what he and other Amish are doing is preserving an understanding of how to live in reality for the time when all the virtual realities collapse.
Virtual realities lie at the heart of Brave New World, aka the New World Order, "globalism," "democratic capitalism" (as the neo-cons define it), etc. The bargain Brave New World offers is this: if you will only do as Marcuse advises and trade the Reality Principle for the Pleasure Principle, we will enmesh you in virtual realities that will make you happy. True, you will lose your free will, because our virtual realities will condition you to think as we want you to. But they will also give you anything and everything you want. So what if none of it is real? All that matters is that you feel happy, right now.
As our medieval forefathers would quickly recognize, this is Hell speaking. Hell has always loathed reality, because in reality, Christ is king. Wiser than we, the medievals were interested not in felicitas but in beautitudine — not in being happy but in being saved. Had they been given a television or a video game, they would have smelled brimstone.
Not only do virtual realities lead to Hell, they have another drawback, one that a Fourth Generation world will soon bring to the fore: all of them, without exception, eventually collapse. The complex structures and vast resources required to sustain them are evanescent. The realities of the Fourth Generation are hard and sharp, and they will slice and dice virtual realities like, well — dare I say the Scimitar of Islam? Many Islamics, unlike most Christians, seem to recognize Brave New World for what it is.
Which brings me back to David Kline’s farm. Is the answer to my reader’s question that we should all become Amish? No, because in the end some of us will have to fight or the world will have no place for the Amish. Should we all live like Amish farmers? Here the answer is closer to "yes." At the least, even if we do not farm, we need to separate our lives and the lives of our families from the virtual realities and live in reality itself. The small family farm may not be the only way to do that, but it is a good way.
David Kline’s farm is itself a discarded image. But it is an image America discarded not very long ago. As David says, "I just farm the way everybody did fifty years ago." David edits Farming Magazine, a thoughtful and literate quarterly dedicated to teaching others, Amish and non-Amish, how they too can make a good living from a small farm, farmed the old way. His discarded image is one we can find, still living, perhaps not too far down the road.
My correspondent concluded, "How do you apply non-state warfare to family protection? Give me only those practical items that can be implemented on the individual and family level." Well, I don’t know many things more practical than an Amish farm, nor better at protecting families. And I do know that answers to the Fourth Generation and to Brave New World, false images both, can only be found at the individual and family level, because that is where the decision to live by the Reality Principle must be made.
William Lind [send him mail] is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation.