By Kevin Williamson, National Review
As Democrats embrace authority and Republicans push countercultural revolution, we’re reenacting the 1960s with the roles reversed.
The Republicans are having a Dionysian moment. Who’d’ve thunk?
In ye olden days when American intellectuals wrote provocative books that people read and sometimes fought over (Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve may have been the last genuine American intellectual scandal of its kind), the dissident feminist Camille Paglia published a fascinating study called Sexual Personae, in which she introduced a new generation of readers to the Apollonian–Dionysian dichotomy that had been of so much interest to Friedrich Nietzsche. The Apollonian–Dionysian dichotomy understands much of art and life as a struggle between the rational, orderly, formal (Apollonian) elements and the passionate, wild, chaotic (Dionysian) elements. There are virtues on both sides, but virtues that do not often coexist in peace — consider, for example, the Catholic Church’s struggles in harmonizing the order of its liturgy and hierarchy with the ecstasy of the mystics and militants.
Politics and tragedy are not entirely unrelated, and the Apollonian–Dionysian split shows up in the democratic agon, too.