On May 28, 2021, Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, director of IWP’s Center for Intermarium Studies, spoke on a panel on “The Place of Classical Values in Post-Modernist World” at a conference on “Intermarium: Space of Freedom and Order,” hosted by Collegium Intermarium in Warsaw, Poland. His remarks may be found below. A video may be found here. Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz begins speaking around 3:54:17.
Let us start with poetry.
Zbigniew Herbert “Why the Classics?”
in the fourth book of the Peloponnesian War
Thucydides tells among other things
the story of his unsuccessful expedition
among long speeches of chiefs
battles sieges plague
dense net of intrigues of diplomatic endeavours
the episode is like a pin
in a forest
the Greek colony Amphipolis
fell into the hands of Brasidas
because Thucydides was late with relief
for this he paid his native city
with lifelong exile
exiles of all times
know what price that is
generals of the most recent wars
if a similar affair happens to them
whine on their knees before posterity
praise their heroism and innocence
they accuse their subordinates
Thucydides says only
that he had seven ships
it was winter
and he sailed quickly
if art for its subject
will have a broken jar
a small broken soul
with a great self-pity
what will remain after us
will it be lovers’ weeping
in a small dirty hotel
when wall-paper dawns
This, of course, is a scathing indictment of modernity and post-modernity. And, at the same time, it is a paean to the classical, for it is universal. It is also the answer to our panel’s title: “The place of classical values in a post-modernist world.” Well, they are everywhere.
Naturally, the place does not change; it remains central because of the very universality of our classical inheritance. No matter what the circumstances – the Gulag, Auschwitz, or the currently dominant liberal dictatorship of pleasure, a.k.a. post-modernism – the values endure, just as Natural Law does.
Now, it is an entirely different matter how we resolve to handle the challenge of cherishing, preserving, and propagating classical values in the post-modern world.
Naturally, we can set up an elaborate strategy and argue for a cookie-cutter approach. Good luck, given that most of us who cherish tradition are not the Prussian army. We are individualists.
We can also give a general call to a Reconquista: an all-out, multi-dimensional effort, or a gradual, premeditated one. I am still awaiting a feasible proposition.
Thus, what I am left with is my own, individual way to tackle the threat. What I do is I ignore the post-modernist powers that be. I ignore the terror of political correctness. I ignore the expectations of the glitterati.
I stay true to the classics. I teach them in my lectures and seminars as if no outside world existed. In my benevolent royal dictatorship, my students are free to enjoy them or reject them.
I teach the kids not what to think but how to think. To do so, I introduce the classics. I refer to them frequently. Mostly, I draw blank stares because perhaps most of our students have not heard of Thucydides or Homer.
Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome for them tend to be like Atlantis.
As Zbigniew Herbert has taught us, no barbarians in the garden of the classics are allowed. Should he step in, it is our duty to convert him.
And do not be discouraged. It has to be one soul at a time.
Thank you very much.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz