Writings by Dr. John C. Rao

A Letter From Rocco’s: 2023 and the Flight From Periphery

(La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, December 31, 2022.)

“That is no country for old men”

(W.B. Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium)

Rocco’s, a Calabrian pasticceria on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village in New York City, has been my daily base of operations for decades. It is here that I read and write; here where friends and neighbors know that they can find me; here that my wife used to park our children when they were young and she had to run errands.

I have a two-minute commute to Rocco’s each morning from my apartment around the corner on Carmine Street. It is ten minutes away from the Mulberry Street tenement that my maternal grandparents moved into in 1912 when their extended families migrated here from Lucania and very close to Old St. Patrick’s, the city’s first Catholic cathedral, as well. Rocco’s is a place where I can safely leave my computer and my books if I want to run to the neighborhood butcher, fish, cheese, fruit, vegetable, and wine shops, to get something missing for dinner, or if I want to take a walk at the park along the nearby Hudson River. More happily rooted in New York than this you cannot be.

And yet it was here that I poured out my sorrows regarding the city and the globe as a whole in a work called Periphery: A Novel of Rage and Reason (http://jcrao.freeshell.org/Periphery.html). Periphery tells the tale of Carmine Spostato, a young man of Italian background---namely, myself---who, having gone to university first near New York and then in Europe, returns back to the States to work and live. I warn you; it is somewhat racy.

In the first part of the novel, called “On the Periphery”, Carmine gets a position at Periphery University, located on the most miserable far edge of the city. He learns, bit-by-bit, that its purpose is just what its name indicates: to be on the fringe, and ultimately totally outside the very border of education, encouraging a studied and stubborn ignorance rather than real knowledge. Horrified by the discovery, he and the ever-expanding number of friends he drags along with him go on a spiritual and intellectual hunt for “the center of things”.

Together, led by an older professor named Don Primo, who teaches at an equally pointless university, Carmine & Company spend the next section of the book, “The Spread of Periphery”, coming to the realization that absolutely every other private and public profession and institution, suffers from the same affliction as Carmine’s. No one having any real power over what they are supposed to do---and claim to do---actually does so or has the faintest clue as to even what that might be.

Finally, Part Three, “The Flight From Periphery”, recounts Don Primo’s decision to run for President of the United States to make the public at large grasp the truth about the cause of the universal affliction uncovered by Carmine and his friends under his aegis. This truth is the fact that the entire globe is under the dominion of the anti-Christian, and therefore irrational and anti-human naturalism of “modernity”, from whose maddening, self-destructive, and obviously demonic clutches everyone has got to flee in order to survive.

The Rocco’s where I am writing this short piece in the last days leading up to 2023 is in a New York and a world that is different than it was in 1985, nearly thirty-eight years earlier, when I finished Periphery. The crime against humanity perpetrated in the last few years has left this city, like others in the United States and Europe, spiritually, morally, and economically devastated. Most people have become more rootless, atomistic, and downright criminal in their habits. Even the proprietors of the “anchors” of my neighborhood, ranging from the Neapolitans of the salumeria across the street that makes my fresh mozzarella to the Calabrians of Rocco’s itself, are tempted to pull up roots and move to Florida. It would drive me to drink had I not long been driven there already.

Nevertheless, when I look back over the chapters of the novel, it is evident that the difference is only one of degree as opposed to substance. The essence of the “New Normal” of the Great Reset was manifest in the blueprint of the “Old Normal” of 1985, although now driven home more openly and more arrogantly by a much more compact dictatorial oligarchy with immeasurably more efficient technological tools for propagandizing and implementing its will at its disposal.

It is understandable that it is the seemingly irresistible power of those technological tools that most haunt those of us who now bear the brunt of their mobilization. But here, too, we should remember that their exploitation on behalf of a gnostic-inspired rejection of God’s plan so as to build a new reality wherein nature is called upon to yield what it cannot and should not give us has a four hundred year history behind it. They are merely the final fruition of Francis Bacon’s (1561-1626) combination of the experimental scientific method with the magical spirit affirming that knowledge is meant not for knowing, loving, and serving God but for gaining a power to create a willful The New Atlantis (1626).

William Blake (1757-1827), the early nineteenth century poet, painter, and print maker, saw where this was headed, and has Reason and Science arrogantly chastise him for his continued belief in a God-given order and his obscurantist disgust with what the willful embrace of their message has already meant for contemporary England in Jerusalem Plate 54:

“But the Spectre like a hoar frost and a Mildew rose over Albion
Saying, I am God O Sons of Men! I am your Rational Power!...
Where is that Friend of Sinners! That Rebel against my Laws!
Who teaches Belief to the Nations, and an unknown Eternal Life.
Come hither into the Desert and turn these stones to bread.
Vain foolish Man! Wilt thou believe without Experiment?”

Is it any wonder that on the eve of 2023, with the digital “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed on the all too realizable technological aspects of the Baconian project, the damage, physically and spiritually, that it must wreak in pursuit of its hopeless assertion of human will over God’s plan, should be all the more clear? I certainly can see this more clearly every day in the blank stare of the shoeless man with the hypodermic needle who stands outside Joe’s Pizzeria next to my door from morning until night; in the attempt of previously human beings to disguise themselves in who knows how many varied gender types before my eyes on Bleecker Street on the way to my café and a blissfully unchanging sfogliatella; in the unending cloud of marijuana stench lingering almost everywhere in the neighborhood that the police have long stopped trying to dispel. Is it any wonder that the transhumanist and posthumanist promoters of the absolute insanity of Bacon’s ultimately gnostic and magic-inspired goal should be still more blind with rage against those who continue to profess their faith than the voices of pseudo-Reason and pseudo-Science might have been in Blake’s day? Any wonder that they would try to use every tool at their disposal to crush them?

The New York of 1985 is indeed “no country for old men”, but neither is anywhere else any more. I will continue to write from Rocco’s. Despite the talk, no one here is pulling up roots and Sailing to Byzantium for succour. The means of escape from Periphery to the center of things remain exactly the same as they were for Carmine & Company in 1985, and they are close at hand: transformation in Christ and transformation of the natural world for the greater glory of the plan of God. Happy New Year. And Viva Cristo Rey!

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