Sunday, January 12, 2014

Suicide of Dominique Venner - A Warning Bell for the West

This has been on my mind for a few months, but I still have not found a way to do any justice to the act of the deceased.

In May of 201, a man who had essentially dedicated his life to combating the threat of Marxism - and all of the cultural sterility and darkness that follows, to his beloved France had understandably come to the conclusion that the apathy and willful ignorance of his fellow citizens of the Fifth Republic had reached a point that necessitated a bold move to shake them out of their self-induced slumber.

At the altar of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Dominique Venner put a bullet into his head.

Since that day, the media, aside from a few ultra-liberal rags that mocked him for his desperate act and labeled him as a fascist, etc., has done what the Left does best when confronted by something that exposes their designs; they let the story die by acting as if it never happened. What is far worse is that Conservatives took the coward's way out and also refused to take note of Venner's plea for action.

Readers are aware that I am a lifelong devout and practicing Catholic, and as such I am not in the habit of advocating suicide nor the spilling of blood inside a church. I also have written more posts condemning the Church for wrongful acts and omissions than I have ones that support church leaders. I do, though, believe that Venner had his reasons why he felt that his Cato-like act needed that particular location in order for his point to be made.

In the following post, I noted that the Catholic Church of today seems to be poised to end any connection with the culture of Western Europe - one that both protected her from Islamic domination (now being forced on Europe by the Left) and contributed greatly to her formation and ways of thinking. Likewise, secular Westerners who also realize the gravity of the threat to the West are content to ignore the cultural factors and stability  that the Church contributed to the Western nations.

A secularist who nevertheless  recognized the unique and symbiotic relationship between secular world and Church in Western Europe, Venner made a good choice for a location to make his final protest. I understand the importance of that building for the French - and for all Westerners. My guess is that when he mentions the "genius" (below) of his ancestors who built Notre Dame, he is referring to the older meaning of the word- the "spirit" of his people rather than simply their intelligence. In a society that has almost completely abandoned the faith and cultural attachments to the Church,  Venner may also have realized that very few could complain about his act; "Who do you think you are to open your mouth, you never use the place anyway." I wouldn't be surprised if the old man got a laugh at the moments prior to his death at the fact that he was spending more time in a church than do the vast majority of his fellow French.

Only time will tell if the People take heed and muster the courage and energy to do something about Venner's message.

I was pleased to see that a Catholic periodical was willing to give his tragic death a fair treatment.

"The mainstream American right has remained almost entirely silent about the recent suicide of the French historian, Dominique Venner. The reasons for this, I do not know—perhaps it is a squeamishness about the symbolism of his final act, or a lack of understanding of it. Perhaps it is a refusal to see what the people of France already see, and are rising up against.

Venner shot himself on the altar of the Cathedral of Notre Dame on May 21st, 2013. The image of this act ought to make us pause in awe. The American left immediately dismissed him as a discontented right-wing Catholic crank, simply angry at the recent legalization of gay marriage in his country. None of them examined his last article, or his suicide note, which tell a different story: and one which ought to be heeded by the rest of the West.

The Christian mind has long rejected the possibility of suicide as a good, ever since Augustine’s prominent discussion of it in the first book of The City of God. In Chapter 22 of that discussion, Augustine denies that men who commit suicide can ever be admired for their greatness of soul. Given that Augustine’s prime task was to write “against the pagans,” this line of argument is understandable; he wants to discourage any admiration of individual pagans. I would like to suggest that this restriction be revisited. A Christian may admire the heights of pagan virtue without condoning its sinful aspects. After all, Augustine’s firm condemnation of all things pagan cannot be entirely reconciled with the Thomistic embrace of pre-Christian Greek philosophy in the High Middle Ages. Admiring Venner’s cause is not the same as condoning his self-annihilation.

Just maybe, there is something we can learn from the spirit of his deed, if not from the deed itself. It certainly seems clear that Venner did not mean for men of the West to follow his example and commit mass suicide; he meant for it to shake them out of their malaise. It was a cri-du-cœur against the modern age.

Dominique Venner was, from my understanding, neither Catholic nor formally pagan: his spiritual life was found in a kind of reverence for the heritage of Europe; that heritage includes both pagan and Christian religion, and so he admired both. His suicide in the cathedral was a final act of respect, as well as a powerful setting for the message he intended to convey. He saw the cathedrals of Europe as artistic manifestations of the genius of his people. In his suicide note, “Reasons for a Voluntary Death,” he explained,
I am healthy in body and mind… However, in the evening of my life, facing immense dangers to my French and European homeland, I feel the duty to act as long as I still have strength. I believe it necessary to sacrifice myself to break the lethargy that plagues us. I give up what life remains to me in order to protest and to found. I chose a highly symbolic place, the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris,which I respect and admire: she was built by the genius of my ancestors on the site of cults still more ancient, recalling our immemorial origins..........

 Dominique Venner’s suicide mirrors of the suicide of the West, and is meant to shame us.

The final piece that he wrote on his personal blog, “The May 26 Protests and Heidegger,” gives a clearer explanation of his death than does his suicide letter. It contains a warning and a call to arms. He addresses this warning to the French anti-gay marriage protesters, who, in his opinion, have addressed their rightful indignation at the wrong thing. Venner himself expressed horror at the notion of “gay marriage,” but his objection to the culture of relativism goes deeper than that. He relates the words of an Algerian blogger,

“In any case,” he said, “in 15 years the Islamists will be in power in France and will remove this law.” Not to please us, we suspect, but because it is contrary to Sharia (Islamic law).......

Ultimately, the objections of the May 26th protesters will be moot. Gay marriage is a smaller symptom of the disease. In the end, the suicide of Europe will result in conquest by Islam. He continues, “The May 26 protestors cannot ignore this reality. Their struggle cannot be limited to the rejection of gay marriage. The ‘great replacement’ of the population of France and Europe, denounced by the writer Renaud Camus, is a far more catastrophic danger for the future.”

“Polite street protests,” as he puts it, are not enough. He calls for “real intellectual and moral reform,” which ought to begin as quickly as possible. And it is here that Dominique Venner tells us (what he hopes will be) the meaning of his death:

It certainly will require new, spectacular, and symbolic gestures to stir our somnolence, shake our anesthetized consciousness, and awaken the memory of our origins. We are entering a time when words must be authenticated by deeds.........

What does Venner’s revolt mean for Americans? We are not as far down the suicidal road as is Europe. We have more time, but just a little. His warning should be a source of reflection for us, just as much as it is for France and for Europe.

His final published words were these:

"............... we only have this life, in which it is our duty to be fully ourselves—or to be nothing."

Those of us who do not join monasteries are called to care for the political and the highest civilizational things. Dominique Venner, historian and former soldier, sought to found a new resistance to the collapse of European civilization. Whatever civilizational Christians think of his means, we ought to admire his end."

Marcus Porcius Cato the younger, seeing the of end of the Roman Republic, refused to give Caesar the satisfaction of being able to grant him clemency. Americans such as Nathan Hale were so greatly  influenced by Addison's play Cato that he used the words attributed to Cato as he faced his death at the noose. I have little doubt that Venner also would have preferred that he had more than one life to give for his nation and culture.

May his death not have been in vain

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