Of partisan razors and Byzantine bakers

3 April 2022

4:36 AM

3 April 2022

4:36 AM

Last week, conservative media company the Daily Wire announced it would begin selling shaving supplies under the brand name Jeremy’s Razors.

Why is a media company selling razors? Because Harry’s Razors, a longtime Daily Wire sponsor, recently dropped the partnership due to “misaligned values.” In the launch video for Jeremy’s Razors, Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing mocked the woke razor companies with which he plans to compete.

“[Michael Knowles] went and said that boys are boys and girls are girls, and that was just too much for Harry’s,” Boreing said. “And it’s not just Harry’s, either. Gillette razors used to be the best a man could get. Then they decided that men are too toxic, unless you’re the kind of man who teaches his daughter to shave her beard.”

And the Daily Wire isn’t done. Boreing, Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, Gina Carano, and company aim at nothing less than the creation of an entirely parallel entertainment establishment. They’ve already released three feature films and have several more in the works. On Wednesday, the Wire announced a $100 million investment in entertainment for kids, a pointed rebuke to Disney’s decision to push for the repeal of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The whole thing reminds me of (what else?) Byzantine historian Procopius’ description of sixth-century Constantinople:

In every city the population has been divided for a long time past into the Blue and the Green factions; but within comparatively recent times it has come about that, for the sake of these names and the seats which the rival factions occupy in watching the games, they spend their money and abandon their bodies to the most cruel tortures, and even do not think it unworthy to die a most shameful death… They care neither for things divine nor human in comparison with conquering in these struggles.

These frequent sports riots weren’t just classical soccer hooliganism. Your faction was your political party. Emperor Justinian backed the aristocratic Blues. His wife, Empress Theodora, rooted for the mercantile Greens. It was also your religious identity. Blues believed Christ had two natures. Greens were Monophysites, who insisted He had only one.

And it seemed like these divisions were the only thing anybody could talk about. “The city is full of workmen and slaves who are all theologians,” St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote in the fourth century. “If you ask a man to change money, he will tell you how the Son differs from the Father; if you ask the price of a loaf he will argue that the Son is less than the Father; you want to know if the bath be ready and you are told that the Son was made out of nothing.”

The Byzantines had Chalcedonian bank tellers and Monophysite bank tellers. We have Republican chicken sandwiches and Democratic chicken sandwiches.

Every generation perceives the conflicts of its own era as apocalyptic. What distinguishes us and the Byzantines from most other societies is that we can’t help bringing them up all the time.

You can imagine it. “Loaf of bread costs two nummione for every nature of Christ, amiright?” the Byzantine baker says, watching for a glimmer of agreement in Gregory’s eyes.

We feel uncomfortable around strangers until we know where they stand. I’m sure you’ve experienced it in social settings where the political affiliations of those involved aren’t readily discernible. The sidelong glances. The search for clues in fashion and grooming. The awkward circumlocutions. Then somebody says it: “Can you believe that dude who won the women’s swimming title?” or “I haven’t seen so-and-so in months because he refuses to get vaccinated” or “I just can’t stand how woke SNL has gotten” or “F*ck Ron DeSantis.” We all glance around. Nobody voices disagreement. Exhale. Now we can have a real conversation.

Obviously this is no way to live. But what’s the solution? It’s definitely not to “lower the temperature,” which means to stop caring, which in turn usually means “shut up and let my side win.”

It mattered whether Christ had one nature or two. It matters whether we let people kill babies in the womb and chemically castrate elementary schoolers. American federalism is a beautiful thing, but to merely gesture in its general direction during a cold civil war between two irreconcilable philosophical camps is no solution either.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln said. “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”

So it is today. This ends when one side wins, and surrender is not an option.

It’s a scary position to be in. Street fighting between the Blues and Greens eventually sparked the Nika riots, which left 30,000 Constantinopolitans dead. The American Civil War killed over 600,000. It can get a whole lot worse than BLM and January 6.

Let’s pray that it doesn’t.

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