Tolerable imperfections

06 Aug

Some Christians let the ideal be the enemy of the practical, in things political; others of us are more pragmatic.

In an article and comments thread discussing the relative merits of different countries for dissident Christians of traditionalist bent, I read an interesting comment about Georgian society:

Life and culture in traditionally Orthodox countries, is “traditional”; but not necessarily in exactly the way you might expect.

I am an Orthodox Christian, and grew up in the Metropolia (predecessor to the OCA). My wife is native of the Republic of Georgia.

As you might expect, Georgia is a very traditional culture. Alternate sexuality is not only not endorsed, it is unthinkable. They very words for “gay” in both Russian and Georgian (both of which correspond to their respective name for the light blue color,;why I can’t say) are viscerally distasteful in a way the English speakers cannot imagine. When representatives of her EU tried to import a “gay rights” march to Tbilisi, there were riots led by clergy members. Some saw this as an attempt to embarrass the Georgian Patriarchate. While Georgians are absolutely committed to the West, (i.e membership in the EU and NATO,) they are determined at the same time to protect traditional values.

That being said, “traditional” values are not entirely consonant with Christian values. While women are expected to maintain purity until marriage, men are assumed to be promiscuous. Adulterous men are “just being men”. Former president Saakashvili traveled around the country with beautiful women, not his wife, and actively cultivated the persona of a ‘ladies man’ as a way to demonstrated his manliness. Subsequent leaders, at least have been more circumspect. Even 20 years ago, marriage by kidnapping / rape was tolerated, and not unusual. If a boy kidnapped a girl and kept her incognito overnight, the assumption was that she was spoiled goods and un-marriageable. Thus, she was often just stuck with him. Sometimes this was a cover for an elopement without parental consent; but sometimes it was an actual rape. Thankfully, the younger generation does not tolerate such things; but it was common up until maybe 20 years ago. My wife’s aunt was the victim of such an event many years ago, by an Ossetian man. She endured decades of abuse, abandonment and then had to care for him as he slowly died from prostate cancer and heart disease. After that, she had 2 good years with her grandchildren, before she too died from a stroke. Fortunately, her 3 children somehow turned out to be the kindest and loveliest people. So; “tradition” is not always what you might expect or approve of.

You should also note, that there is not one “Orthodox ” country that has outlawed abortion on demand. A couple years ago, his Holiness, Ilya II, suggested that he Parliament might undertake such a project. As I recall, only three of the usually loquacious MP’s were willing to go on record. All three sheepishly answered that “that is probably not a good idea at this time” or some such. no-one however, took up the measure or even recommended it. Usually, the government falls all over itself to pay lip service to the church, especially to Patriarch Ilya.

Furthermore, you need to be aware that in other countries much of the human infrastructure we count on here does not exist. In Georgia the state health care system is a rudimentary relic of the Soviet Era – vaccinations pre-natal care, and not much more. Government physicians earn the equivalent of about $50 a month. Private physicians are a cash and carry business. Since I work in oncology, there is not a month go by when we don’t get an urgent plea to explain a situation with directions on how to get adequate care, There are some well trained oncologists in Georgia, trained in Germany; but care is very much a hit an miss affair.

Public safety is also rudimentary. Car accidents are a major cause of death. Despite the rugged mountainous terrain, Georgian roads have no guardrails; just a series of low posts that won’t stop anything larger that a toy wagon. Until a few years ago, there was no requirement to wear seat belts. Smoking and drinking are epidemic and there is no public campaign to limit either. One could go on….

I could live with such imperfections. I’m not Eastern Orthodox, and have no interest in learning Georgian, nor moving there myself, but my point is this: if someone said I could choose between a more traditional society, which would look like the Republic of Georgia, versus what we have here in the West now (and even worse, where things are surely headed in the West in the years ahead), I’d happily pick the lesser evil of a decidedly hyper-macho, patriarchal, outwardly Christian society where mountain passes have no guardrails and people are drunken chainsmokers, than one where Christians are persecuted, and far greater immorality and wickedness are the order of the day. (As for abortion, unfortunate that they’re not better in that regard, but I can’t imagine they’re worse than here; I’m sure they’re actually better overall in terms of the rate, and social and cultural stigmas against it likely prevail more than here, and so taking everything else into consideration, such a society still looks much better than the West of today and to come.)

And similarly, while I don’t think Putin’s Russia is perfect, it’s a far cry better in all the ways that matter, in terms of the cultural war, than where we are here in the West.

We’ll never have perfection in this world. Perhaps we oughta consider up with which imperfections we could put.


Posted by on August 6, 2016 in culture, Masculinity, The Kulturkampf


41 responses to “Tolerable imperfections

  1. Socially Extinct

    August 6, 2016 at 1:50 am

    I agree with your choice. Sad that we live in a world where such choices are the only ones, and they are both equally impractical.

  2. pukeko60

    August 6, 2016 at 2:21 am

    The perfect is always the enemy of the good, and a cause for virtue spirals. We have seen that with the ultra Calvinists, who John Calvin himself had to correct.
    And frequently since.

    • Will S.

      August 6, 2016 at 2:33 am

      Yep. Some folks never learn…

    • infowarrior1

      August 6, 2016 at 5:25 am

      monasteries were where the virtue signalling was confined historically.

      • Will S.

        August 6, 2016 at 9:19 am

        A good place for it to be confined. 🙂

      • infowarrior1

        August 6, 2016 at 10:28 am

        Methinks progressivism wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the virtue signalers that sooner became holier than Jesus.

      • Will S.

        August 6, 2016 at 10:34 am


  3. Jacob

    August 6, 2016 at 4:32 am

    Perhaps we oughta consider up with which imperfections we could put.


    • Carnivore

      August 6, 2016 at 6:29 am

      Ya ain’t supposed to end wit dem dere prepositions. Udderwise, he’d be murderin’ the Queen’s English.

      • Will S.

        August 6, 2016 at 9:18 am

        Jus’ so! 😉

    • Will S.

      August 6, 2016 at 9:17 am

      Hey, I wanted to change it to fit it in one line – and it works. 😉

  4. Peter Blood

    August 6, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    It’s easy to identify certain features that need fixing, and are better in other cultures, so I completely sympathize, but to transplant yourself completely into another culture–not for me. I’ve done enough travelling to sense the alienness of other cultures, even Europe.

    On the other hand, America may just be selected for that very type of person, as that is who came here–those willing to transplant.

    • Will S.

      August 6, 2016 at 10:13 pm

      I couldn’t do it, either. Even America, where I spent one year living and working, was too alien for me as a Canuck, despite the many similarities, probably more than I’d find with any other country. Couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, therefore.

      Does willingness to transplant get passed on, though, I wonder? My mom transplanted here herself – as my dad’s people did as Irish potato famine refugees in the early-mid 19th century – yet I don’t share her inclination, I have found. Heck, I even tried moving within Canada, spent four years in a different province, only to find myself longing for my home province. So I came home. I could live anywhere in the southern part of Ontario, but I won’t move away again.

      • Peter Blood

        August 7, 2016 at 12:14 am

        I was just thinking out loud wondering, Americans have long had a nomadic streak, although mainly found in the Western half of the US. A lot of people who stayed in the East found roots, Western Americans are generally rootless. It’s one of the ironies of life that they’re called “settlers”.

      • Will S.

        August 7, 2016 at 5:45 am

        I believe a similar situation exists up here; I spent four years living in western Canada, and everyone in the cities I lived in was from elsewhere, damn few local natives. And within my own western family, i.e. my cousins, most of them moved around, too.

  5. AureliusMoner

    August 6, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    This is what the Church has always taught: “Error has no rights,” but prudential judgment recommends prudent tolerance of some evils when this is more conducive to the common good. Indeed, the Church understands that the attempt to extirpate all vice would be futile, immoral and faithless, since it would make a liar of our Lord and of the Scriptures (which promise that such things will always be around, until Doomsday). St. Thomas even indicated that a Catholic society could prefer toleration of a brothel in some circumstances, to a futile and over-reaching crack-down on young men’s indiscretions, and a consequent increase of pressure upon the chastity of the town’s honest daughters.

    Traditional Society understands that people are not perfect and society won’t be, either; it prefers to enshrine truth, beauty and the moral ideals as the norms of society, while acknowledging that there is inevitable dysfunction in every society. This dysfunction is often best managed by allowing it to exist in a strictly defined manner, with severe penalties meted out not for any and every moral imperfection, but only for those which threaten to spill over from quarantine into the broader society. This isn’t to say that some private vices and crimes would not be punished (because private vitiation swiftly becomes public vitiation); but prudent discretion is the norm. Private sins and personal imperfections are normally shown a great deal of tolerance. So, for example, the Church condemns the idea that there are abstract rights to “Free Speech” or “Freedom of Religion,” without regard to the objective, moral content of speech or doctrine; but, even if the Church rationally refuses to accord the dignity of “rights” to such things, neither does she therefore prescribe that all morally imperfect speech or religion must be punished and forbidden.

    • Will S.

      August 6, 2016 at 10:17 pm

      I agree with such prudence, hence my seemingly libertarian advocacy of tolerating prostitution and legalizing drugs. We used to have a common understanding, across various social divisions, of such things; we called it ‘common sense’. Too bad it’s largely dead, thanks to the work of progs, damn them.

      • Peter Blood

        August 7, 2016 at 12:20 am

        In one city I lived in I know that the mayor and police had a tacit understanding with the elements of vice to keep it in a certain part of town, and they would generally wink at it. They would crack down if it got too unruly. Keep it low key and mostly out of sight.

        That way, they kept it mostly contained, which is pretty much the best you can do. That was 30 years ago…

      • Will S.

        August 7, 2016 at 5:49 am

        Yep. I have lived in places with somewhat similar mindsets.

  6. Bonald

    August 9, 2016 at 12:34 am

    The worry is that when “the younger generation does not tolerate” things that were common twenty years ago, you’ve already got an unstable situation. One wonders who told them kidnapping brides is intolerable, since it presumably wasn’t their parents, who practiced such things, and it seems unlikely that a particular generation should just spontaneously have a heightened moral sensitivity. One might always hope that the zealotry of the young will continue to be turned to good–e.g. they could stop tolerating abortion and adultery–but that never seems to be the way it ends up, does it?

    • Will S.

      August 9, 2016 at 1:52 am

      Yes, it does seem creeping modernism is making its way into Georgia, doesn’t it?

      As in Malawi:

      As I said in that post:

      It’s too bad they can’t seem to find a happy medium, between moving away from some more barbaric elements of their culture, without completely embracing modern Western norms. Apparently no-one is interested in such.

      And where indeed are the churches in all this? Why aren’t they providing leadership, finding a middle ground?

    • Will S.

      August 9, 2016 at 1:54 am

      See also my comment to the Malawian (Malawese? Malawesi? I dunno) who asked me for my opinion on what Malawians should do.

  7. Scott

    March 1, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Thank you for the link at my site.

    To be fair, the commenters on Fr Joseph’s FB page who were wholly focused on the smoking and “swear word” in my post were a small minority — and all women. They were shown by everyone else to be fools who sound like Protestant teetotalers.

    I jokingly said I should change the name of the post to “Smoking Serbs on the deck defiling their bodies, and other stuff I like about the Orthodox Church.”

    But your point is well taken. I would gladly accept mountain roads with no guard rails and Orthodoxy as the dominant cultural force in exchange for American “Christianity.”

    Thanks again.

    • Will S.

      March 1, 2017 at 8:28 pm

      Hey, you’re welcome!

      Welcome to Patriactionary. 🙂

      I’m a Protestant, and I’d love to live in a society like Georgia, compared to the modern West…


      • Scott

        March 1, 2017 at 10:22 pm

        Yes, I’ve been here before. I probably posted under a pseudonym a long while back.

        Glad you found mine. I’m rather proud of it.

      • Will S.

        March 1, 2017 at 10:37 pm

        I’ve been reading yours off and on a bit now; enjoying it. You and your wife have a blessed marriage and family; it is an encouragement to witness. 🙂

        Oh, and picking up your wife and carrying her over your shoulder: way alpha! Salute! 🙂

      • Will S.

        March 1, 2017 at 10:42 pm

        (That was your post, right?)

  8. Scott

    March 2, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Yes, that was the banner on my old site Morally Cobtextialized Romance.

    • Will S.

      March 2, 2017 at 8:26 am

      Ah, okay. I remember. 🙂

      • Scott

        March 2, 2017 at 8:27 am

        Everybody loves that picture.

      • Will S.

        March 2, 2017 at 8:40 am

        Yep! 🙂

  9. Will S.

    December 5, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    Matt Forney talks about living in Rep of Georgia, here, I think it’s around 1:17 onwards:

  10. Will S.

    July 8, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    • Will S.

      July 8, 2021 at 10:22 pm

      Tolerable imperfections…


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