Chesterton on the Coming Peril

For G.K. Chesterton, the “coming peril” opposed by Distributism was something “vast and vague,” “some-thing of which capitalism and collectivism are only economic by-products.” It was that spirit which refuses recognition and respect to the Creator and to the natural boundaries of created being, the spirit that has no gratitude, or ability to pray. This is the spirit that does not receive the world—and its own existence—as a gift, but wants merely to take. In the modern world, according to Chesterton’s biographer, Maisie Ward, “People [are] inundated, blinded, deafened, and mentally paralysed by a flood of vulgar and tasteless externals, leaving them no time for leisure, thought, or creation from within themselves.” It is an externalized culture: even skills like remembering and arithmetic are now exercised for us by computer. The external is that which we are tempted to believe we can control, since our actions have a visible effect up on it (Bacon: “knowledge is power”). Increasingly, then, without access to any interior world, in order to establish our own identity we must look for or create it in the exterior—that is, in the fragmented world of images and experiences. And this is the birth of consumerism. I am what I choose: the jeans, the music, the makeup, the style.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s