Skip to content

A Conversation on Christmas with Chesterton

chesterton, christmas

[Leer en español]

Christmas has always been under attack. What we are experiencing today is not accidental and much less new. Let’s go back in time for a moment.

After the English Civil War between 1642 and 1651, the Puritans abolished Christmas and any traditional holiday that could “pervert worship”. But I am not talking about men dressed a-la-Pilgrim with sticks destroying Christmas decorations in houses, but about the government itself carrying out this control. In fact, some rulers abolished the celebration for the birth of Jesus -the Holy Mass had already been abolished-. Does the story ring a bell?

Today those Puritans no longer wear big buckles, pointy hats and big ruffs on their necks. Now they dress from Saint Laurent and Burberry onwards, and are called “presidents”, “governors”, “mayors”, or even more tragically: “experts” of the pandemic.

One thing that these people have in common is that they are intermittent; the truth is that… the consequences of their policies will last longer than their names in people’s minds! But as quickly as they probably sold out to win your vote over the years, as quickly they were ready to confine you. Rapidly, without previous notice, without warning, without a movie trailer they pounced. And in that same way is tyranny.

Chesterton and the lockdown tyranny

In 1908, the “King of Paradoxes”, G. K. Chesterton, was sentencing about tyranny in The Daily News:

Tyranny always enters by the unguarded gate. The tyrant is always shy and unobtrusive. The tyrant is always a traitor. He has always come there on the pretence that he was protecting something which the people really wanted protected —religion, or public justice, or patriotic glory.

In this case, they wanted to defend “your life.” Ironically, in order to defend your life they proposed to take it away. Your job, your education, your walks, your free time, everything that constitutes “your life”, they took it away for the very sake of it. That conversation, in the guillotines of France, would have been extremely strange. Imagine Robespierre shouting: in the name of free thought, off with your head!

(Neither the guillotine nor the tyrant were objects of that logic).

But in the name of life, today many don’t actually live one. In the name of economy, today unemployment, debt and the closing of businesses are riding on countries, and everything is dictated by whom? “Science,” a new god that, because it is quantifiable, they believe it is automatically good; but in the end it proved to be a manipulable god and therefore, not a god.

Don’t get me wrong, sciences are noble means to understand the world! However, a tool isn’t naturally good: a hammer can help you build a house -and it can also be a weapon. “Science” taught us all about the virus, but, for some strange reason, we thought it would be good to do things according to the experts, because they said they could be done “scientifically.” And we obeyed.

The arrogance of the “experts” of the pandemic was obeyed: no one knew who they were and yet they reigned! They had even more power than dozens of presidents! And the media’s hysteria paralyzed the world and enslaved it to fear. In a very strange way we became addicted to death: we counted bodies, contrasted figures and were happy if we were right. We were told how good it was to leave everything to the experts and we agreed with our masks on. In the name of life, we gave up ours. In the name of the economy, millions are out of work.

This is a symptom of the modern disease of irresponsibility. They fed on our fear of having to be more responsible so they could demand the surrender of our freedoms and our traditions – and today they have struck a blow against Christmas.

Christmas and tradition

In his story The Shop of Ghosts, Chesterton enters the store of Father Christmas – the traditional English personification of Christmas – for strange reasons and they have a conversation about why he is lonely. After being asked about his condition, Father Christmas responds that these scientists and innovators “say that I give people superstitions and make them too visionary […] They say that my heavenly parts are too heavenly; they say that my earthly parts are too earthly.”

“How can one be too good or too jolly?” asks Father Christmas. And he admits he does not understand the reason for this fierceness against him, but if he understands anything,” he says, “it is that these modern people are alive and he is dead, to which Chesterton responds, “you may be dead. But as for what they are doing, don’t call it living.”

Arguing an interest in our “safety,” these tyrants declared open war during the pandemic on our traditions, on everything good and everything dear to us; from freedom to our traditions.

Traditions, Chesterton said, meant giving a vote to the darkest of our classes: our ancestors. “The democracy of the dead,” he called it, and he beautifully said it:

“Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”

Traditions mark a limit to the action of the State and the oligarchs, giving a supra-political sense to our history. It is within traditions where we live with those who are no longer here and with their teachings. I, for example, live with my father in the lessons he left me. Traditions are our greatest identity and conscience. Christmas fulfills that purpose better than anything else.

At Christmas we meet again the paradox of how big something small can be: in a small room, two exiles around beasts received their child who would pay the highest cost for the redemption of the world. This is not only the birth of our civilization, but also the greatest lesson of humility that we can receive.

This Christmas, where perhaps many are separated -as many Venezuelans surely will be- or feel under State siege, hold on to your traditions more than ever: in them lies the secret name that defines us, that keeps us united to those who are no longer here and to those who are far from us; in them lie the best shield against the State.

Rafael Valera, Venezuelan, student of Political Science, political exile in São Paulo, Brazil since 2017 // Rafael Valera, venezolano, es estudiante de Ciencias Políticas y exiliado político en São Paulo, Brasil desde 2017

Leave a Reply