Medievalists once had a lively debate: Were the so-called “Christian centuries” actually Christian?
It’s a reasonable question. Consider that the priest performed most of the Mass with his back to the congregation, and all of it in Latin. The Bible was in Latin too, of course, and the peasantry couldn’t read anyway. Lots of instruction manuals for parish priests still survive, but the information in them is pretty thin — the Ten Commandments, plus basic ritual obligations. Forget the finer points of theology; these barely covered the grosser points, so much so that one of the get-you-burned-at-the-stake controversies of the early Reformation was “utraquism” — whether anyone but the priest should get both bread and wine at communion (from Latin “utraque,” also).
If something like that wasn’t settled to everyone’s satisfaction 1500 years on, it’s not unreasonable to assume that your average peasant hadn’t the foggiest idea of the religion that supposedly governed his life.
It’s also not unreasonable to assume that your average peasant was too busy trying not to starve to death to worry much about theology. “The 99%” was a real thing back in the Middle Ages. Life was nasty, poor, brutish, and short — nobody had the leisure time to even learn to read, much less to read erudite treatises on the filioque. Only people with full bellies and time on their hands could bother with this kind of stuff, which is why the Inquisition was so recondite, and so vicious — when you’re one of only a few thousand people in the know in the whole realm, doctrinal purity is all you’ve got.
Modern life flips that on its head. I promise you, no medieval peasant ever lost a minute’s sleep asking himself what’s the meaning of life — when you’re locked in a desperate struggle for existence, day in and day out, the point of it all is pretty self-evident. Nowadays, you can get well into middle age before encountering death, and very few of us, I’d imagine, have actually seen someone die. Dying, in modern America, is a drawn-out, ritualized, abstract event, not a regularly-experienced part of life. We all know theoretically that we can get cancer, or die in a car crash, or get struck by lightning, but there’s no immediacy to it. Back in the days, death was all around, all the time. I’d bet good money that the average medieval peasant saw more death, even violent death, than the average American soldier, even in wartime.
We moderns, when faced with the question of life’s purpose — as anyone of sufficient IQ will be — have no answer that makes gut-level sense. In a world where death is a constant companion, where life’s fragility is daily hammered home, “live each day as if it were your last” is an expression of transcendental meaning. For us it’s a Hallmark card slogan. We need something, anything, to make us feel that any given day might, in fact, actually be our last. The medical term for this is hormesis — growth in response to non-lethal stress. We’re designed to optimize it — can’t live without it, in fact, which is why prosperity is lethal.
Hence, radical politics. Everyone who has studied Marxism, especially its modern oxides like “intersectionality,” knows that despite its formidable technical apparatus, it’s all just ooga-booga stuff. Marxism’s appeal is, and always has been, purely emotional. “Hate the man who is better off than you are” is the truest explication of Marx’s gospel, and since nothing stirs the blood like hate does, hating the man who is better off than you are — and who isn’t, at least in some sense, if you think about it long enough — is easily mistaken for hormesis. The point of life is to create Utopia; the fact that Utopia (“no place” in Greek) doesn’t exist and can never exist is a feature, not a bug.
The problem, of course, is that you can never admit Utopia is impossible… which necessarily entails blaming some Other for Utopia’s failure to exist. That’s the richest part of the Marxist lexicon: The Enemies List. Wreckers, capitalist-roaders, right-deviationists, left-deviationists, kulaks, Trotsky, Lin Biao, Emmanuel Goldstein… Marxists have fantastic imaginations, and never more than when finding someone or something to blame. At one point, Mao himself blamed sparrows for sabotaging the Great Leap Forward.
Alas, that’s the problem with Others. What happens when you wipe them all out? Every Jew, every kulak, every capitalist, every sparrow, every CisHetPat white male… it’s now well within our technical capacity to do exactly that, and our modern CultMarxists surely know it. You can eliminate all your enemies; you’ll never kill off the need for An Enemy.
I suggest lobotomies. Maybe we can get Obamacare to cover them? Give it a snappy euphemism — call it a “Wokeness augmentation” or a “residual Privilege adjustment” or something — and maybe we can get them all signed up. It’s a lot less bloody than letting them find out The Meaning of Life the hard way….