It is traditional at year’s end to look back at the great issues of the last twelve months and see how our world has changed, and to ponder what the next year might hold. Being a science fiction writer, my preference is to look on a larger scale, and look over the last hundred years, and see what the next hundred might hold. Being a philosopher, my preference is to look at the changes in the ideas governing mankind, rather than regimes or economic schemes, because I hold ideas to be the primary reality, from which regimes and schemes take their shape and momentum. No man is great save he drawn by a great idea to great deeds.
The modern age can truly be said to have started in AD 1914 with the onset of the Great War, the Triple Entente (Russian Empire, the French Third Republic, and the United Kingdom) against the Quadruple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria), with other nations joining thereafter, until the conflict was global. The severity of the violence exceeded that of all later wars, as this was the first truly technological war fueled by large-scale industrial production and manned by large scale mass conscription.
But what died in those years was an idea, nay, a vision: the idea of empire, the idea of civilization, the idea of kingdom, but also the idea of republic.
Gone forever was the vision of a world ruled by anointed kings themselves subject to laws, the laws based on objective principles, the principles coming directly from heaven and filling the consciences of loyal subjects. It was the world of the throne and altar, crown and miter, the established dynasty and the established church, and the empires overseas ruled the savage lands, and tamed and civilized and Christianized them. This was the vision of the Old World.
Gone forever was the opposite vision, of all men created equal in the eyes of the law, voting and serving the public as citizens rather than subjects, deciding public matters without ‘betters’ born in ranks above them, each man rising or falling by his own merit, secure in his property, private in his leisure, and each man answerable to his conscience and to God. Even the poorest man’s hut was as a castle where none could enter without his leave. This was the vision of the New World.
The years after the Great War were the years God died.
Does that seem a starting statement? Compare the great issues agitating the last century to those of the previous. The relation between the established church and dissenting minorities was the main drive in England which led to the establishment in America of our First Amendment, and, indeed, of our entire system of government. The primary drive for the abolition of slavery both in the New World and the Old was not secular humanism (which was, in those days, nigh unheard of) but the Christian impulse which held all men to be made in the image of God. Everything in the West from the ascension of Constantine to the purple to the Civil War in America was driven by the energy of Christianity.
The years before and during the Great War were the years the United States began the long, slow process of declining from a representative democracy to a modern Nanny-state, for a corner was turned with the 16th Amendment, where the Federal government now had the right to count the banknotes in your billfold and the change in your pocket, and if you bought a flower from a corner shop, the transaction was noted for tax purposes; the same year the states were disenfranchised from any say in the federal government, robbed of their sovereign independence with the 17th Amendment, and major bulwark between the lonely citizen and the all-consuming leviathan removed; and by 1919, the 18th Amendment established a role for the Federal government to take an interest in and rule upon the private entertainments of its citizens.
Suddenly the poor man in America, who was so proud that he did not need to doff his cap or knuckle his brow to his betters, and whose hut was his castle, found that insolent, lazy, dull-eyed and semi-literate oafs working for federal bureaucracies could barge into his house at any hour of the day or night, rifle through his billfold and change purse, inspect floors, ceiling, toilet, shoe, lightbulb; that the state and local government could no longer stand up for him; and yank the wine bottle or beer stein out of his hand.
The insolent irrationality known as the Sherman Antitrust Act during these years was voted into law, or, since the provisions whereof have neither sense nor justice, voted into power.
By the provisions of this act, a man can be sued if his prices are equal to those of whomever the court calls his competition, on the grounds that this is price fixing; if his prices are above, on the grounds that this is monopoly pricing springing from a dominion of the market; if his prices are below, on the grounds that this is predatory pricing.
This is the first of the truly modern laws, by which I mean, laws that are anti-laws, giving no man guidance as to how he is expected to act, telling no man what is legal and what is not, and permitting the courts to be used as tools for well-connected businessmen with friends in City Hall to bludgeon upstart completion into ruin.
In law school, these years around 1914 are quite memorable and obvious to a law student, because the nature of judicial opinions read in class changes suddenly and dramatically. Up until that point, the decisions of the judges and justices read like they were written by Euclid, matters of pure logic, the application of specific and clear principles to facts of cases. After that point, the legal opinions are matters of arbitrary and imponderable factors, offering no precedent and no guidance to later cases: merely a mishmash of ideas like ‘imbalances of bargaining power’ and ‘diversity’ and ‘emanations of penumbras’. It is more like reading Gnostic theology than reading law.
An old law drew a line on the ground and punished any man, high or low, who stepped over it, provided he is guilty; a modern law erases all clear lines and punishes any man no matter where he steps, who has no friends in City Hall, that is, any man who is low. Old laws were based on justice; modern laws are based on power.
Three ideas grew to predominance in those years, eventually sweeping all rivals aside: Darwin proposed that man is not made in the image of God, but is merely a hairless primate with an oversized brain. Thus we are all apes. Nietzsche took this idea one step further, and proposed that we are all supermen in childhood, the next step of evolution in waiting. Marx adapted this idea of evolution to political economy, and proposed that all laws and institutions are the byproducts of natural forces beyond human control, including the philosophy and legal reasoning supporting them. Hence, all human thought about public matters, for Marx, is nothing but a set of excuses, an intellectual superstructure, erected on an ugly framework of selfish class-interests to allow the oppressors to exploit their hapless victims. And thus we are all monsters. Freud proposed that the human soul was an irrational set of self-deceptions hiding our own true nature from us. And thus we are all sexual perverts.
Ironically, all these ideas have an oddly optimistic if not a saccharin and sickly-sweet corollary.
If our ancestors are subhuman, will not our children be superhuman? This notion hypnotized Nietzsche, who blathered pure and damned nonsense on the topic, and his ideals were carried out by the National Socialist People’s Worker’s Party of Germany.
Nazi death toll: 20 million lives.
If our political economics are a byproduct of nonhuman evolutionary forces, might not society likewise rise from the barbaric through the civilized to the shining towers of a paradise beyond civilization, a Utopia? Marx promised exactly that: socialism, so he feigned, would usher an age when the laws of supply and demand no longer obtained, and men could live without laws or need of laws, like angels.
Communist death toll: 100 million lives.
And if our souls were merely a frustrated knot of self-deception and sexual frustrations, would it not be easier and better, instead of having standards of right and wrong and trying to adhere to them, to abolish the nuclear family, legalize fornication, normalize sodomy, applaud and encourage transvestites and sexual perverts, legalize contraception, turn divorce from a rare tragedy into a major industry, and kill all unwanted and unborn children? Won’t everyone copulating with everything without love and without affection, moving from one diseased partner of either sex to the next be the very paradise of the Mohammedans, an endless orgy to put Nero and Caligula to shame?
Aborticide death toll: 450 million lives. All killed by their own mothers.
How these ideas played out in the decades between 1914 and 2014 is clear enough from the death tolls given above. If men are apes, then they have no more rights than any other livestock, and the state may cull the herd with the ruthlessness of a vermin like Margaret Sanger, bent on wiping out the inferior Negro breed.
If men are monsters who use political economics only as a tool to prey on each other, then any form of government, no matter how violent, is justified, if only it will abolish private property, and all human laws and rights, as needed to stop this predation.
And if men are sex perverts, then there is no right and wrong, no prudence and no peace in the sexual arena, and the only sensible thing to do is to allow everything, celebrate everything, copulate with everything, and kill unwanted children, who are weak and cannot fight back.
You might be wondering, dear reader, that if these ideas are so bad, so obviously and monstrously wrong and wrongheaded, why are they the dominant and default ideas of our society? Why are the Christians, who freed the slaves and saved children, ashamed and silent, while the abortionists and perverts and totalitarian mass-murderers drenched in innocent blood, are shameless and issuing all orders, writing all laws, making all movies, teaching our children their stupid, stupid, stupid, and filthy ideas?
The reason is simple. The ideas of Nietzsche, Freud and Marx appeal to all the worse impulses in human nature: the Nietzschean desire to breed and kill lesser breeds of men like livestock, or to have Margaret Sanger wipe out half the Black population via Planned Parenthood, and to declare oneself to be of the master-race, the superman, appeals to the pride; the desire to rob the rich, and then rob the poor too, appeals to envy and greed and ire; the desire to overthrow all prudence and to swandive into the sewer of vice appeals to gluttony and lust and sloth. Freud excuses the sins of the flesh; Marx excuses the sins of the world; Nietzsche excuses the sin of the devil.
I do not know if you have ever read Nietzsche or Marx or Freud, dear reader, but I solemnly assure that the pellucid clarity of Aristotle or Aquinas is absent from them, or even the careful and ponderous methodology of Hobbes or Kant. They write in an erratic fashion, using rhetoric, not logic. It always surprises me that these writers persuaded even a single person, much less the whole modern world, of their jury-rigged, unsupported, sloppy and undefined ideas.
Why can Christian conservative ideas, so obviously wise and sane and sound, not defeat these unsound ideas?
That is a column for another day, but the short answer is that we are too conservative and insufficiently Christian. Conservativism, or, to call it by a more accurate name, Constitutionalism, is a compromise between Protestant denominations agreeing to keep the peace by disestablishment of the Established Church, and establishing the government on a solely secular grounds. The idea of the Founding Fathers, repeated endlessly, is that this compromise cannot operate except with a highly moral and highly Christian people: it is a form of government suited to no one else.
The reason for that is that without religion, there is no reign to the passions and no spur to the conscience, no internal government inside a man’s soul keeping him honest.
The idea that a secular humanist philosophy, sanctioned by no divine being, having no claim of authority aside from sweet reason, and making no promise of punishment to trespassers, can restrain the barbaric passions of man into civilized channels is laughable to any man who does not fall prone with weeping. Merely look once again at the death tolls these ideas provoked. The sum total just in one century of men killed by these idolatrous ideas is greater than all those killed in all crusades, inquisitions and holy wars of all human history COMBINED.
Like all cease fires, the Constitutional cease fire between Catholic and Protestant only works if both sides cease firing. Leftism is a new heresy, a new religion, and its ideas, no matter how unsound and insane, all satisfy a deep spiritual need that classical liberalism does not. Faith stiffens the backbone and lends fire to the crusader’s sword.
The Left have the fire of the crusader, of holy warriors for their unholy causes, and the Right lacks it.
The Right are rational men seeking a pragmatic solution to real world problems that concern politics and economics. The Left are insane zealots fighting for the Holy Land of the Workers’ Utopia of Homosex, and trembling before the altars of their goddess, Gaia, who will smite them with the Gotterdammerung of Global Warming if the faithful do not sacrifice more children to the High Priestess of Moloch aka Margaret Sanger.
The Right live in the real world, and the Left live in Cloudcuckooland, where fairy magic unicorns dance on cotton-candy rainbows made of love-sparkle. The Right does not stand a chance.
The real world never has and never could fight against a religion, even a sick and silly religion like Leftism. The world has no arms wherewith to fight the ghosts and saints and spirits of a war in heaven. Ours is a spiritual battle. We must take up heavenly arms and gird on armor of celestial temper.
By leaving God out of our politics and our philosophy, our speeches and our debates, we Christians throw away the only weapon we have.
And the next hundred years? The sick and semimoronic ideas supporting the death cult called Leftism will either succeed in destroying civilization, or will be beaten back, not without tremendous sacrifice, by decent Christians. Either way, this blight will be gone.
The shadow will take shape and rise again under another name: but that will be the battle of those who live in that day, not ours. Our mission is to leave them a Church worth fighting for, spiritual weapons sharp, a banner unbowed, and a name unstained in whose name we fight.
John C. Wright is a retired attorney and newspaperman who was only once hunted by the police. He is a graduate of St. John College (home of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books Program“). In 2004 he foreswore his lifelong atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He has published over 10 SF novels, including one nominated for a Nebula award, and was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent.” He currently lives in fairytale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children.
Keep up with the best of The Wright Perspective below. Click through the gallery to read more from John C. Wright.
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