In this way, the current misconception of the Ark, conceived not as vessel intended to preserve the culture from the deluge which threatens it but as a vast liner welcoming all and sundry aboard without stringent qualification, morphs into the Titanic. I can understand education theorist Frank Smith’s despairing remark, ad libbed during a pedagogical lecture at Brigham Young University, that one had better abandon the Titanic before it is too late. Why wait for the iceberg? It seems clear that we have arrived at a valedictory juncture, foolishly determined to emulate Felicia Hemans’ preposterous hero in her poem “Casabianca,” once on the high school curriculum, who refused to abandon ship before “sail and shroud…mast, and helm, and pennon fair” littered the sea with their wreckage.
But is this a feasible scenario? The problem with jumping off the Titanic is that there is really nowhere to jump. Everything is the Titanic: the ship, the sea, the land, the lifeboats, even the iceberg. Such apocalyptic counsels, of course, disregarding their improbable character, have been offered many times before, perhaps most famously by Horace in Epode 16 where he notes that Rome is about to do what its enemies never could, namely, destroy itself, and recommends abandoning the ship of state. “Let us be on our way, all citizens,/or those above the dull-witted herd: defeatists and weaklings/can rest indolently on their unlucky beds.” The predicament, as we have seen, is that there is no landfall waiting to receive us.
But who knows? History is not reliably predictable and we might always get lucky. Perhaps the emblematic Ark, newly governed by a responsible hierarchical structure, good seamanship and shared commitment, can be restored to its original purpose as a preserver of the culture. Perhaps the Titanic will right itself and make port, where it may even undergo a process of refitment and the eschatological argosy be saved. Or a better analogy might be the famous incident in which a stricken US Airways airliner made an emergency landing in the Hudson River and stayed afloat long enough for the passengers to be rescued.
I would like to believe — assuming there is still time — that a cynical and obtuse political elite will be moved one day to reconsider its destructive fantasy of cultural specificities entrenched at the cost of social unity and recognize the multicultural delirium for what it is: the loss of culture and nation and its replacement by ethnic fragmentation. As William Gairdner warns in The New Criterion, “multiculturalism has mutated into multi-fascism, a trend that is creating mini-nations within nations, many of which, as in France, are now violent ‘no-go’ zones for the police.” Or even worse, we may awaken one day to find an alien ship sailing upon our waters.
But it will take considerable reeducation. We are now well past the eleventh hour which once, long ago, when we were still in school and presumably learning something, merely signaled recess time.