|Yeah, your Mom's an Anarchist!|
The joy of reading Chesterton is his reveling in the seemingly absurd only to have it realized on further discussion as the pinnacle of sanity. For example, anarchy is held up as an ideal and routine is cautioned against. However, Chesterton is not rejecting order, but is instead calling for a higher order. He draws a picture in which aristocratic decadence devolves into boredom and the card trick that seems to go unnoticed is that while the oligarchy talks about preserving tradition, it is in reality blazing a trail of superstitious progress for the sake of progress. So it is the case that most revolutions are not the peoples’ revolution but are instead foisted on society by the insanely rich and the pathetically bored and it is the home and the family that ultimately suffers as they are set upon with an imposed and alien control. Chesterton hints at his framework for a Distributist antidote to landlords and usury that would craft a society of “monomaniacal” specialists who must realize success in one particular function by giving “his all.”
For Chesterton “this [aristocratic] sort of reform as routine is a failed proposal.” Instead, he proposes that what is needed is the wildness of the domicile and a healthy dose of feminine anarchy. This feminine anarchy would propose that “people should not be treated as the rule, but all of them as exceptions.” The home is the cultivator of wildness and the tragedy of the suffragette seems to be in the loss of herself as woman rather than any shackles of the household.
I wonder if perhaps it is not only boredom, but also fear that drives the oligarch. There is a primordial wildness in the home that cannot be tamed by the bureaucrat. The order of the home is a bold temerity that makes a mockery of efficiency. Chesterton writes “every woman is a captive Queen, but every crowd of women is only a harem broken loose” and I will admit that I do not quite get his full meaning. However, I think I have a vague sense of what he means. There is something dangerous about the household as a feminine order and it will do you no good to pay mere lip service to the Queen. I live in a house with women and boys and as much as I may be permitted I agree with Chesterton that the female is an anarchist and full of the best sort of prejudices but I would not be foolish enough to try to categorize or quantify or explain that to my wife or anyone else. If Frances Chesterton proofed her husband’s writing I have to believe that her eyes were fixed in a perpetual upward roll, but with genuine respect and affection. Chesterton concludes his work on the feminine as the human and sacred image, “all around her the social fabric shall sway and split and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down; and not one hair of her head shall be harmed.”
The genius of Chesterton is that in discussing what’s wrong with the world we are not left to mere muttering and fussing like old grumps. Instead, we can giggle like little kids who see an exhilarating pandemonium in life because we know that we can always go rushing back behind the skirts of our Matriarch. Everything is a surprise.