Back to Kirk! I’m still focused on the first book of the list I gave you in March: The Roots of American Order, by Russell Kirk. (We noted Kirk’s definition and description of “order” in the last post.)
In the short, first chapter, “Order, the First Need of All”, Kirk tells the story of a scholar born in Russia. He had been a moderate Socialist in 1917, a Menshevik. He fled to Odessa on the Black Sea, but what did he find there? “Bands of young men commandeered street-cars and clattered wildly through the heart of Odessa, firing with rifles at any pedestrian, as though they were hunting pigeons. At any moment, one’s apartment might be invaded by a casual criminal or fanatic, murdering for the sake of a loaf of bread. In this anarchy, justice and freedom were only words.”
So what did this scholar learn?
“Then I learned that before we can know justice and freedom, we must have order. Much though I hated the Communists, I saw then that even the grim order of Communism is better than no order at all. Many might survive under Communism; no one could survive in general disorder.”
Kirk contrasts this story to our American experience. “In America, order and justice and freedom have developed together; but they can decay in parallel fashion.”
While this volume was published in 1974 and reflects the thought and writings of Kirk since the early 1950s, we clearly see its relevance for today. Such is the nature of wisdom.
I lost myself in this book.