dimanche, décembre 04, 2011

Vertebras and Shellfishes

Report from the Chronicles of the Fortress of Heaven

When Captain Hugues de Beautrad from the Alpine troops arrived in Solvanie, a French Province lost in the Mountains of the East and far from the Métropole, to take his command, he already knew the region, as he had served there as a young lieutenant several years before. But he did not know that Providence would soon make him the “Governor” of what was left of the western civilization. A few months after his arrival, the decree of a state of emergency put him at the head of the last bastion which resisted the global anarchy that followed the fall of the West. Deprived of means of communication, cut off from the rest of the world, the young Governor, heir of his predecessors of the seventeenth century, carried out his mission, which was to maintain and to save what could be saved.

Baudoin Forjoucq invites us, in his two books that form the Chronicles of the Fortress of Heaven, to follow the young officer. In the first volume, Twenty-one Steps of Black Marble, we discover the fortress of Saint Romuald in the imaginary Province of Solvanie, where the young Lieutenant meets with the tough reality of the field in a difficult social and cultural context. In the second volume, The Duke of the Apocalypse, Captain de Beautrad and his men try to maintain what is left of our civilization. To help him in his task, he can count on his friend, Father Mounot, alias “the captain of the Angels,” the young Pastor who reestablished the old liturgy of the Church in his parish at the ends of the earth. The prayers of the Benedictine monks of Bédonic, led by their Abbot, Dom Mayeul, will appear soon to be of crucial importance. It is simply the harmony of many centuries of Christendom, when the temporal order meets the spiritual order, which the warriors of the last times will preserve against all odds.

But is this book really a fiction? In fact, Baudoin Forjoucq affirms that the men described in his book truly exist, which I have no doubt. “This book is also a story of men and of virile friendship, also a love story, a story of these selfless sentiments that many people have forgotten nowadays,” he says. It is a book for those who “love the one who stands while others snigger or give up.” It is a book for those who believe that “the silence of a cloister is filled,” for those who are “attracted by the wide horizons,” or those who “know how to be moved by the look of a young woman whose words are neat.”

It is a book dedicated to the soldiers, to those who gave up their ambitions to serve their country, to those who still believe in our civilization, and, finally, to “the Benedictine monks, soldiers of heaven and roots of the West,” who offered the author hospitality to write his book. I would recommend you to read this book if there were not a little problem: it is only in French! Nevertheless, I translated a passage for you. It is a discussion between Captain de Beautrad and one of his lieutenants, Imbarek, about vertebras and shellfishes. Yes, it is a novel, but not so far from the reality!

- “Well, Captain, you can do whatever you like here; truly, whatever you like!”
- “It is true that I have a great autonomy. Some would say a total autonomy. But as a matter of fact, I do what the circumstances command me to do, according to the conscience that I have of my duties. Nothing more!”
- “This is what I say, Captain. So, you could make a little fief to yourself and live as a despot and take many wives.”
With a roar of laughter, the Captain answers: “These are interesting perspectives, my dear. I did not think about that. No, more seriously, you see, it is in extraordinary circumstances that we collect the fruits of the education we have received.”
“Do you really believe that it is a matter of education?”
“In the original sense of the word, yes. This has nothing to do with the social level, as I have already noticed. You know, there are two kinds of men: vertebras and shellfishes.”
“Vertebras and shellfishes? Explain, Captain…”
“Imbarek, one day you will be amazed to see how the behavior of men can be really different from what you thought. I have often noticed, in operations or overseas, that many quiet fathers of families, faithful to their wives and honest in Métropole, became some kind of hoods when they were far away from their usual surroundings. They are shellfishes, who need an external carapace: the social pressure to restrain their flabby flesh. On the other hand, the vertebras rely on the principles received from their parents or masters. Whatever are the circumstances, a vertebra stands. He does not deviate from the right way because he is well-built from inside, and less than others, he needs formal and positive laws.”
“Do you believe that the law is almost useless for vertebras?”
“This is my conviction! Did Saint Louis ever need formal laws in addition to the natural law and the Decalogue in order to act with uprightness? And look at so many others who used their power only for the common good: Lyautey, Sonis, hundreds of administrators, of prefects, of governors, of engineers, of family leaders throughout our long history!”
“Why, then, all these laws, all these piles of legislative texts? Is this because shellfishes are in greater numbers?”
“Probably. I do not remember the exact numbers, but I read a few months ago an article that basically said that we need to find a solution against the proliferation of legislative texts and rules in our country. There were in 2004 more than 7,500 laws in force, more than 15,000 texts of general scope, 200,000 regulations and instructions, and I even do not mention the 80,000 additional European texts. Another example: in 1980, the Journal Official de la République Française had 7,000 pages, and 17,000 in 2000…”
“That’s chilling! What can be the reason of this inflation?”
“It is because of the refusal of a superior and transcendent reference, because of the loss of the moral sense of our fellow citizens and a part of the ruling class. The negation of the natural law, the rejection of the Decalogue, the inversion of the principle of subsidiarity, as well as the desire to bring the law into line with the mores which have led the ruling class, that is even unable to govern itself, to draw up more and more texts. They were regulating everything, and thus they thought they could make up for their refusal of a moral order. But refusing a moral order was the proof that they desired moral disorder, and moral disorder does not allow men to live in harmony. Therefore, it was necessary to regulate everything in order to limit the consequences of this disorder. Just consider the avalanche of the texts of law during the first years of the Republic at the end of the eighteenth century! While this Republic was pretending to fight against the arbitrary, it fell into the Terror and revolutionary tribunals. These were instituted by laws that created an even greater arbitrary system. The more laws there are, the more the shellfishes are tempted to beat the game, and, therefore, they make more laws.”
“But then, there is no end to this. We are condemned to legislate always more.”
“Yes, and this is what happened! A soon as a problem arose, they immediately made a new law instead of referring to an inviolable rule. My conclusion is that nothing is more important for social man than having a moral; and the worst is to put rights first instead of duties. If one day I were asked about a code or a declaration of universal range, I would propose to begin this text with this simple sentence: Any right is the counterpart of a duty. You would see that the consequences of such an assertion would be enormous. Truly, it would be a new revolution.”
“Nothing would be framed by the law?”
“Yes, of course. We cannot do without the law, and rights are precisely a mark of a civilization. Without them, it would be a ‘law of the jungle’, the law of the strongest, and this is what we are going to fight against in the following days. In the field of the law, as for anything else, we only have to see reason. For instance, we need the right of ownership, the right to trade, or even fiscal right. In fact, these are but developments of the Seventh Commandment of God. But we need a right that is clear and laws that are brief, like the Napoleonic Code, and not this recent inflation of texts of circumstances. I am convinced that this proliferation of laws and of rules has contributed to the fall of our civilization. And what about the laws against nature we recently had?”
“Are you thinking about something in particular?”
“Sure, I am thinking about the law that authorizes abortion.”
“Why this one?”
“Because it is the most serious illustration of what I mean to say. In all times, in all the civilizations, even the roughest, the law consists in protecting the weakest against the strongest. Is there anyone weaker than an unborn child? Everywhere and in all times, abortion has been prohibited, from Sumer to China, where they still count the age of man by adding nine months to the date of his birth. In our own country, without mentioning the Christian ages, even the First Republic decreed that abortion was a “crime against the nation,” which truly it is. And suddenly, in 1975, it is decriminalized, and even since then it is reimbursed by Social Security. Hence millions of dead children! Authorizing abortion even became an imperative condition for a country to join the European Politic! This terrible example shows that when a law is not founded on the natural law, it can lead to the worst excess, and, first of all, to the loss of moral sense of entire people that killed their children because “Madame,” who happened to be pregnant without planning this, wanted to go to winter sports.”
“And we were defending this society, Captain?”
“We were not defending this society, Imbarek, but France, the synthesis of the West.”
“But you said that our country was living under the empire of criminal laws!”
“Not all the laws, but many were criminal, yes. And many young men who remained straight concluded that it was no longer worthy to serve our country. Then, they refrained from taking up civil services, like these aristocrats of the nineteenth century who did not want to take any responsibility in the service of the new regimes, because the Republic had guillotined their ancestors and drove God out of the country.”
“In my opinion, they were right!”
“No, Imbarek, they were wrong! How can you complain that things are bad when you do nothing to make them better, except only criticize? The “empty chair” policy had never been a good policy. Those who are absent always get the blame, and chairs do not remain empty for a long time. A post of responsibility that is not occupied by a good person will be by a bad one. We had to wait until the Great War and the invasion of the national territory to see these “exiles of the inland” accepting to be engaged in politics and taking again their natural positions in the society.”
“Captain, the aristocrats and other monarchists got involved, they shed their blood, and in 1918, the Republic that many of them detested came out from this trial politically stronger with almost all the population of our country behind it.”
“This is a very interesting objection. For all that, should we have let Wilhelm II take Paris? Certainly not! What would have been France under a German occupation? The example of what happened twenty years later, when this time the French could not stop the invasion, makes us think. Also, we should keep in mind, when a soldier puts politics in the first place of his preoccupations instead of the defense of the country, he can be quickly tempted by treason, or he can excuse it under the pretext that he does not like the regime of the country. In this area, the only solid and military thing that I know is this British saying that Captain Porral told me once: Right or wrong, my country!”
Imbarek was pensive. He paused a while before answering.
“Well, after the war, it seems that things went from bad to worse, and everything led us to where we are now. So, the rallying to the Republic did not change a thing.”
“Yes, it did. A part of the descendants of those who had contributed to build our country for thirteen centuries took their places again under the roof of France. It is already something to not live as a foreigner in your own country. But let us go further, if you would like. Things were disastrous on a moral level prior to the events of this summer. Let us imagine what would have happened if nobody among those who kept a traditional thought had loyally served in the army or the public services. Who would stand now in order to limit the damages?”
“I guess nobody.”
“Indeed! It is worth thinking about that. It is good that many young people did not despair at the awful sight of our country and did not throw away everything.”
“Don’t you think, Captain, that we might be deceived once again, as has happened so many times in our history?”
“You miss a crucial point. In 1918, nothing regarding the regime or the institutions had changed. Only God knows what the future will be, but today, when everything is shattered, I think that we should invent something new or come back to institutions that proved themselves. Nevertheless, we should remember the mistakes of the past. For instance, Louis XVIII believed that he could reestablish a traditional monarchy after Napoleon. In exile for fifteen years, he did not understand how much our country had changed. It was a fiasco, as the ideas of the Revolution made their way into public opinion, and the people did not remember the crimes of the Terror, but the ideas of liberty and of equality. The old aristocracy had lost its position of the ruling elite in the country, and the aristocrats, who looked with condescension upon the new nobility of the Empire, gained with arms, did not understand the situation.”
“What should we do then, once the order will be reestablished? Shall we need to build a new regime? I mean somebody will have to build a new regime, to establish a new system. But which one?”
“This somebody can only be one of us, the survivors. Concerning this regime, I have no idea, but I already know some of the mistakes that we should not do again. Basically, we know what to not do, but we do not know yet what to do. Besides, shall we be consulted, you and me?”
Imbarek steadfastly looked at his Captain and smiled while retorting:
- “Forgive my insolence, Captain, but don’t you think that you do not see further than the end of your nose if you think that you are out of touch, considering your present responsibilities?”
- “This insolence suits you very well! After all, it is a privilege of your rank, since in the French Army, lieutenants are traditionally “insolent, scrawny and hopeless”… Concerning my responsibilities, they only command me to preserve what can be preserved, here and now, in other words, to maintain.”
The darkness had already enveloped the old building and swarms of braises carried out by the wind were rising in a serene sky. The two officers had in common the peace of the soul given by the sentiment of carrying out their duties in spite of the difficulty.