(FOC) Thoughts on The International Flannery O’Connor Conference, Day 1: Place & Displacement (August 2, 2021 in CyberWhere)


The stated subject of the presentations was Place & Displacement. The discussion shifted into economics. The economics were limited to the macro variety, supported by a three-card-monte-like redistribution of abundance. Logically, it’s evident that if divine grace is infinite, it is a divine error that there be human suffering. Humanity can correct that divine error. The government intervention card was bent at the corner.

In a subsequent panel discussion, another paper suggested a connection between consumerism and nihilism. “nihilism” is a word never appropriate for capitalization according to its own dogma. The proposition of the second paper cautioned against consumerism. It prescribed individual responsibility and “demanded” Charity rather than begging for Charity. “Charity” (it is only a half-pun to say) should always be capitalized. Uncomfortable Charity, giving until it hurts, is prophylactic against nihilism. That is my belief not a claim by the presenter. I’ll further venture that government is incapable of Charity.

The solution to irrefutable human scarcity is not within our grasp. Individual salvations are (even for those who don’t believe in an After-This) dependent on, among other unpleasant factors, a personal commitment to corporeal mercies if that term resonates with you. No souls are saved through government intervention. Having had hunger claw at the inside of my belly, I would say government also bungles the job of keeping bodies upright. Ask the veterans you find discarded in the street. Foisting my charity-debt onto government agencies is an equivalency with moral littering. However, it scatters more immediate and lethal consequences. The results of deficit spending, for example, commit violence against those who honor rules. The resultant inflation drops on them from misplaced attempts to take revenge against economic rule breakers. The scrupulously self-sufficient citizens suffer, and the indigent are doomed to indignity and perpetual dependence. 

The formulas of Place & Displacement were masked in the mist. Redistribution of wealth might hold firm until the second coming or the unethical might cheat the tax and double-digit inflation continue (one international food brokerage firm in 3Q21 cited food inflation at 9%). Rates of precipitation might be equitably distributed eliminating all regional advantages, or government could ineffectively promote winners and pummel losers to satisfy political campaign debts. Educational requirements could be controlled by government mandate, every child at birth being awarded an M.S.W. and Ph.D. in Philosophy, or education could continue to flag with little effect on abilities to read, reason, or perform simple calculations. This all has already been done. We could now pass twice as much paper.

The ostensible reason for discussing government spending and United Nations ministrations at a conference dedicated to a writer is that the conference is honestly not about literature but about Ethics. With another measure of honesty, the conference was not about Ethics but religion. In total, painful candor the conference was almost exclusively about Catholicism. Attendees were mostly white, middle-aged, academics. The conference served a maximum audience of 35 attendees at any time and one-third of that audience were participants. This does not bode well for the legacy of Mary Flannery O’Connor. That is bad news for readers, instructors, ethicists, religiously observant individuals, and Roman Catholics. It is also deprivation to everyone who is none of the above. O’Connor makes the world a better place. Diluting her message with politics and liberalism, what she called a “gateway to nihilism,” turns ears away from her song. Mixing politics and charity is not only a disgrace but also disGrace. 

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