Thursday, June 16, 2011

Exhibit B

So, what would a Benedict Option lifestyle look like, in theory?

I think it would vary a lot, family to family, location to location. But one thing is sure: people trying to disassociate from our culture in an intentional way would probably avoid buying games like this one:
This is not a review. I'm only able to tolerate playing Duke Nukem Forever for about an hour at a time, and then I have to take a shower to wash away the stench of the thing and maybe go to my Quiet Place and turn out the lights and listen to soothing music. Or perhaps play a little Portal 2 to remind me that games don't have to be this grotesquely awful, and that there is goodness and decency left in the world of PC gaming.

It's not that the game is vulgar, gross, sexist, crass, and stupid. It's certainly all those things, and deliberately so. It would be pointless to rail against the misogyny, omnipresent scatological references, juvenile sexuality, outrageous gore, or profanity. Those were always going to be signature elements in any Duke Nukem sequel. Complaining about them would be like going to Hooters "for the food" and complaining about the way the waitresses dress.

The only real point to be made about these elements is this: while the original Duke Nukem managed to be somewhat tasteless while still being a decent game, Duke Nukem Forever is grindingly, insultingly, nihilistically tasteless while simultaneously being one of the worst shooters I've played since Corridor 7. What was a send-up of 1980s action stereotypes in the original is now just self-referential, tired, and joyless. [...]

If this game was a person, he would be a paunchy middle-aged man with a bad combover and a silk shirt open to the waist to reveal the cornicello tangled in his matted, graying chest hair. It is so desperate to be Super-Alpha-Male-Plus-With-Extra-Testosterone-On-Top that it winds up merely sad and sickening.
Read the rest of Thomas McDonald's excruciatingly well-written anti-review here.

And speaking of Hooter's, people opting for the Benedict Option life would probably not be stupid enough to try to schedule a Catholic fundraiser there.

I'm all for trying to reform the culture. But we're not going to reform it by going along with its worst elements as unreflective consumers mindlessly absorbing and imbibing them. Recognizing that we live in a cultural wasteland, and learning to say "no" to its allures, demands, and glittering follies is the first step for anyone who wants to live in, but not of, the world.


bearing said...

I think the most-likely-to-be-successful form of the "Benedict Option" is the deliberate nurturing of a few strong relationships with good people who support our values. Not focusing on the walls between "us" and "them" but rather on the strengthening of ties between "us." When we do that we will reduce our dependency on the forces that sap our moral strength.

The original Benedict enclosed his community within walls, but he had to have a community first; and the focus on his Rule is primarily how to keep his community strong and united in love, not how to keep the world out.

Red Cardigan said...

Well said, bearing. If we could do that, we'd be much stronger than we are.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

The closest I've been to Hooters is dropping off an octagenarian in a wheelchair for a surprise birthday party (his), where his sons and grandsons came out cheerily to greet him. Part of my paratransit route was to bring him from the nursing home, complete with helium balloons tied to his wheel chair.

Which is why wonder how much we can really do about such things. I am a borderline prude. But obviously, a lot of people think this is good fun. Some may develop better taste than Duke Nuken eventually. Some may not. There is no question that investors more interested in a fast buck than a cheap thrill propagate this stuff to a greater degree than people might otherwise seek out.

But Iran gives a good picture of what happens when the Religious Police come around to enforce morals.

Michael said...

I like Bearing's positive approach. Most of the concerns expressed relate to building artificial walls or isolating oneself and family into a cocoon. You'll see the Benedict option where you see constructive efforts to build up a culture, a well rounded culture.

Hector said...

Never been in a Hooters, and you couldn't pay me enough to go. And I haven't played any form of video game since I was about thirteen (and not a whole lot before then).

I have to disagree with you, Siarlys, in that I think banning strip clubs and pornography is quite an easy thing to do. Iceland banned strip clubs last year, I think, and Iceland is not Iran. I don't want us to be like Iran, but I don't want us to be like Amsterdam either.

I think that Erin might be surprised by how much some of us on the Godless Liberal (or in my case, Heretical Semi-Liberal) side of the aisle agree with her on some of the issues.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I think there is room to restrain and limit pornography. Fundamentally, while I accept that people who really want it, are going to get it, and shouldn't in general be subject to arrest, I have a right NOT to have it shoved in my face or ostentatiously displayed in public. So limits on public display of graphic anatomical and sexual images, and some of Howard Stern's other favorite subjects, zoning limitations to confine where the stuff is available, are all both appropriate and constitutional. I think the same could be applied to ostentatious public displays of blown up photos of body parts, or the remains of fetuses... the logic is about the same, only the desires and constituencies are different.

Hector said...

Re: I think the same could be applied to ostentatious public displays of blown up photos of body parts, or the remains of fetuses...

Er, it's hardly the same. Pornography is defined as the viewing of graphic sexual images for the purpose of sexual gratification. The problem is not with the graphic images, it's with the 'gratification' part. Producing graphic anatomical images for the purpose of illustrating a pamphlet about STDs, for example, may or may not be in good taste, but it's certainly not pornography, nor is it immoral. In the case of pictures of aborted fetus, the purpose is informational and political, not sexual, so I don;t see why those images ought to be banned.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I would not want to see graphic images illustrating a BILLBOARD about STDs -- they should stay in a PAMPHLET, where they can be referenced by people who choose to read it. Ditto for pornography; its not how titillating it may be for the reader, its broadcasting it where EVERYONE has to see it that is a problem. And, the same for the blown up images of aborted fetuses.

Now, if you want to regulate dissemination of images that generate gratification... while not allowing it to be used against real literature that may indeed gratify at times... I'm not sure how you do that.

Hector said...


Pornography is by its purpose, intended for sexual gratificiation. Some people might use a picture of Colbie Caillait in a spring-summer dress, or for that matter pictures of the effects of herpes, for sexual gratification, but that's not the intended purpose of the image.

Michael Maedoc said...

We can atleast agree that pornography is to be avoided. Please, lets get back to discussion of the Benedict Option. My family and I long for the community that arises from efforts at the Benedict option. However, I find that these efforts struggle largely because bonds of family, friendship and Church are weakened by an economy of business and lifestyle that scatters us about, living many miles from each other. We are not local enough and are dependent on our cars to bridge the gap, which is becoming a dubious idea with the cost of gas.

I know a few that truly have stepped outside this economy and live local but they are not surrounded by others doing the same.

How do we overcome this problem? Focus on family community when families are so torn apart? I must admit I don't understand the limits of intentional community.

This whole Corapi incident, and I don't want to argue about it, but it does bring out the importance of a commitment to local community and the simple day to day realities that bind us together.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Michael, there was a time when a small local community was virtually the entire influence necessary to a person's life, and ruled all their options. Few people travelled more than six miles from the place they were born.

In a complex modern economy, with plenty of options to move, most of which I appreciate, we have been liberated from the many ways local community prejudice can stifle individual initiative, but, we still need the nurturing of community. We are a gregarious species.

Intentional communities can be beneficial, but also rather narrow. No given community will be right for everyone. Family is important - but it cannot rule, as in many cultures it has. Civic ties are also important - but cannot exercise unlimited power. Voluntary associations are valuable, so long as there is freedom of association. Planning all of this out and implementing it according to a blueprint is virtually impossible -- the main weakness of every socialist experiment to date.

I'm not quite done with Hector, but I understand why Michael is a little frustrated. Hector is repeating himself, and seems to have missed that he and I are now saying two entirely different things, starting from the point where he objected to one RESULT of what I posed.

Hector wants to ban pornography because that kind of sexual stimulation is evil. I can agree that it is evil, although it can reach a degree of near harmlessness. At the least, it is a distraction and perversion. But, I see no viable way to prohibit it.

What I offered was that it does not need to become ubiquitously mainstream. That is at least a relevant tangent to Erin's original post. It offers her children some protection from coming to view daily exposure as "normal." It means curtailing the notion of "free expression" enough that only those who SEEK it out will find it, and it has the salutary effect that they have to work a little to get at it. Maybe they'll even be a little embarrassed, as they should.

It is rather like infringing the freedom of speech of a person who mounts a loudspeaker on their home, to the extent that they must keep it below a certain decibel level, or must turn it off at certain hours, or maybe even must remove it entirely, because it infringes on the peace and quiet enjoyment of his neighbors in their own property.

Your right to display pornography stops where my line of sight begins, and most especially my children's. And yes, that goes for standing outside a church in Kansas City with huge posters of aborted fetuses for viewing by families with young children on their way to Sunday School, not because it is stimulating, but because it is gross. If I want my children to see that, I'll obtain a pamphlet for them.

Michael Maedoc said...

Siarlys, I see your point about pornography. The reality is that we can't completely keep things shut out (except with something like porn) and building a small local community isolated from the pervasive influence of the world has way too many obstacles. As I pointed out the economy that feeds us is not local and overtly intentional communities are extremely difficult.

To take the Benedict Option seriously I think there are a few things we must do.
- Keep a commitment to local life and support those efforts.
- Build friendships around a spiritual community such as a parish, or lay movement etc., not exclusively, but follow through with a commitment to that community.
- Build a home economy that encourages creativity, dependence on each other and independence from secular media.
- Live poverty and humility with sacrifice and detachment.
- Learn from the virtues of the monastic life as they apply to your life. Ora et Labora, hospitality, concern for the poor...

Those are important keys for me to keeping the Benedict Option alive and real. A very solid and active spiritual community makes all the difference and family is especially helpful.