A civilization whose citizens have lost the ability to admire its virtues, beauties, benefits and strengths is one whose citizens are losing the ability to defend that civilization. Before we pull stone from stone to dismantle the wall that separates civilized life from the chaotic bloodshed, cruelty, and misery of barbarism outside, it behooves us to examine the wall, and ask three questions of it: What is Civilization? How is it maintained? What can undo it?
To define civilization is like defining an elephant: the thing is too big to take it at a glance. Nonetheless, by imagining its absence (for example by watching a Mad Max movie) we can see what it provides.
In the absence of civilization, there is no law hence no property, ergo no man has any reason to check any craving for the land currently occupied by another, any fruitful plot or pleasant hunting ground, if he has strength enough to dispossess him. Personal chattel or cattle are even less secure, because a trespasser can carry them away without the effort of assaulting or, once in possession, holding the envied real estate.
Where there is no law hence no rights, any stranger has just as good a claim to lands and chattel as the first possessor, if his strength is the same; and if the stranger be weaker, it is prudent to destroy him ere he grow stronger. The inhuman calculus of prudence says that it improves one’s safety to have a reputation for strength and brutality, so that potential threats might seek elsewhere for prey, and so that indecisive neighbors become allies or clients.
Hence in this state of nature without manmade laws, your equals will invade to despoil you because they covet; the weaker because they fear you; the stronger because they do not fear you, for glory, or the mere pleasure of bloodshed.
In such a state, labor is vain, because whatever is built or made may be taken; cultivating the earth is vain, because an invader may harvest what you sow, and drink the wine of your grapes; there is no trade nor travel by sea, because there is nothing to transport; no machines for moving or removing great weights; no works of canals, bridges, walls, fortress, dams; no draining of swamps, nor clearing of forest; no knowledge of distant places; no reckoning of times and season; no lasting nor reliable record of years past, hence no accumulation of lore and learning between generations; no medicine, no letters, no arts; and, above all, men live wretched and impoverished lives, and brief.
Now, with all due respect to Thomas Hobbes, this description of perfect desolation in nature is inaccurate. The one thing missing from this picture is that real barbarians, past and present, enjoy the company, comradeship and protection of their family, clan and tribe. Real barbarians do not fear and mistrust every man as potential robbers and murderers, but only strangers outside their kin. For their mutual protection, the families have strong reason for brothers to gather with their fathers, uncles, nephews, and cousins in forming hunting parties and war bands, and, in tribes who live without letters or written law, oral lore, chants and epics, long-held customs, and the wisdom of grandfathers suffices to give the tribe the unity needed to survive against other tribes.
Such lore will stave off the perfect desolation of nature, as brother will respect the chattel and cattle, wives and wigwam of his brother, and in return will share as need and seniority dictates. And over time simple crafts and skills, rites and decorative arts will be learned and passed down.
There is no assurance, no invisible law of evolution, which says that tribal lore and custom must always accumulate and never lose these gradual, hard-won gains. There are peoples in Australia whom anthropologists believe once had knowledge of the bone needle, the art of sewing, the napping of flint and the making of spearheads, and lost them all.
Once a tribe learns the art of husbandry, and learns that in order to enjoy the fruit of their tillage, houses of stone, or, better yet, a wall to enclose a stronghold, can be erected, and smithies to smelt the gleaming bronze of sword and spear, wealth unimaginable heretofore pours into their coffers: sheep and oxen, donkeys and hunting dogs, gleaming arrowheads, slaves and wives, and all fashion of pottery and fabric. With this wealth, there is leisure, and specialization of labor. Where before all men in the tribe were at once warriors and hunters and herdsmen, slavers and tillermen, now emerges the figures we see already established when history first puts stylus to clay: the king and his fighting men, the priesthood, the merchant counting his coins, the peasant tilling the soil, the slave toiling in fields or mines or canals.
The priest can count the days and seasons, and watch the stars, and calculate the acreage of fields, and measure where boundary stones lie. Writing is theirs: not without reason that the word clerk means both man of the cloth and man of the pen.
The easy sharing of goods with brothers in need seen in tribal life is less because there is less need of it. The laws can be written, and, whenever the day comes when the priest tells the king that the king is also bound by the laws he enforces, then civilization exists.
This check on the lawlessness of the king is the last stone set in place to erect the wall of civilization; and since he is the force of law in the land, it must be a spiritual idea, a cult or faith or article of philosophy, and invisible and impalpable idea, which makes the king mortar that stone in place.
So to remove that last stone, first one must erode the mortar of the idea. This requires a treason of your clerks. Your priests have to undermine and undercut the legitimacy of the idea of civilization in the mind of your king to make that stone wobble and fall. This can best be done by having the priests outlaw from the public agora whatever gods support the city and uphold civilization, and instead introduce gods of irrationality, barbarism, and chaos. Such priests eliminate their own priesthood first of all.
If you don’t have priests, the treason can issue from whoever or whatever it is to whom you entrusted your common intellectual and spiritual heritage, such as your academics, media, singers of songs and tellers of tales, the press and philosophers.
The treason of the philosophers begins when they teach philosophy is pointless, truth is relative, and all words are meaningless.
The treason of the press is complete once journalism is dead, and instead of a fair, truthful or balanced version of world and local events, you hear nothing but lies, lies, lies and shameless and damnable lies. The press makes real the vision of the philosophers of a world without truth.
Likewise when the treason of the singers is complete, exchanging love songs for song about bitches and whores and shooting cops, for then all songs are ugly.
When the storytellers all tell tales wherein your civilization is always depicted as wicked, worthless, hypocritical, vile, they the imagination of the people is filled with a gray and murky disgust for the wall of civilization.
All that the lying academic need say at this point is that something better and brighter than civilization is on the other side of the wall, for example, the People’s Republic of Utopia, and that therefore the allegedly protective wall is instead prison wall.
If enough people and if the King believe it, then the first stone to go is the last one put in place. Everyone is told that the King must be granted a plethora of unlawful powers in the name of breaking down the wall blocking the way to Utopia. One this first stone trembles, once it falls, civilization begins to crumble at an ever increasing rate.
Do not be deceived: a tyranny like that seen in Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China is as barbaric and wretched as Hobbes’ state of nature, despite that the state is totalitarian. A king with no check on his power is an anarchist, and he savages the people under his alleged protection no less than the dangerous strangers marauding through the bloody landscape of the Hobbes.
Hobbes and many enlightenment writers had the insight that civilization was a social contract. They did not literally mean that every soul before birth signed a bit of paper on which the mutually agreed terms defining civilization were written in black ink. The writers meant that there was an organic and mutual reciprocity between subject and sovereign. Hobbes thought that the king could violate this reciprocity with immunity; Locke and other writers, including those inspiring our Founding Fathers, held that a sufficiently damaging and permanent violation freed the other party to the deal, the people, from any continued obligation of fealty or allegiance.
So, the first thing that can start the dissolution of civilization, and place our foot on the long, blood-soaked, sad path toward that aboriginal tribe that has forgotten how to make needles or sew, is the treason of the clerks.
One the king is convinced (or in these more degenerate and democratic times, the parliaments and congresscreatures who have kingly duties but no sense of a higher power to whom they are obligated) that he has authority to overrule the laws of civilization, perhaps to make the pathway clear to the alleged utopia that the priests said surely will arise once anarchy is unleashed, then the legitimacy of his state is gone, and he is merely a raving beast like a mad man-eating lion.
The first thing the lion eats is the sense of honor that keeps his fighting men in check. His fighting men includes what in the modern day is both the military and the police. The police are made more and more militaristic; they are cast as the enemy of the people; and the military is degenerated from its ancient precepts of honor and courage, and instead becomes sensitive and friendly to womenfolk or sodomites.
Now, to be clear, in a modern bureaucratic state, any one who has the power to enforce the law and harass the people is, for all practical purposes, a policeman, a soldier, a fighting man of the king. We would call these bureaucrats, everyone from the tax man to the clerk on a planning and zoning board enforcing an irrational eco-nutbag regulation.
The sense of honor needed to keep soldiers and civil servants in check evaporates as the lawlessness of the anarchic King spreads down the wall to the next row, and the soldiers, police, and civil servants become young lions, red in tooth and claw.
Once the fighting men are corrupted, next oldest support of civilization vanishes: the burghers, the townsmen, the bourgeoisie, the merchants, the shopkeeper and tradesman, and middle class. Their corruption is far easier and far quicker, because trade and possession depends on a faith in objective law and evenhanded enforcement of contracts, not to mention the soundness of coin or currency. The middle class can be taxed out of existence, as they were in ancient Rome, which collapsed the Western Empire in one generation, and kept the Eastern Empire in a state of servitude and poverty for the remainder of its millennium.
The merchants who turn to the King to make a sweetheart deal create crony capitalism, which is also, more correctly, called fascism. The industries, such as are left, become organs of the state and are protected by increasingly one-sided and nakedly unfair taxations and regulations.
The important point to note is that the treason of the merchants undermines the unspoken social contract which allows trade and manufacture, or even guilds and small shops, to exist: that is, namely, the unspoken social contract provides that spoken contracts shall be upheld, and trade be fair and free. This idea is laughed into nonexistence, and the merchants are no longer merchants, but become jackals slinking and slouching in the shadows of the lions consuming the people, greedy for scraps.
But no civilization of this is possible without the brotherhood of family and clan. And that is not possible without marriage and an institution of paternity.
So the final course of stones to go is the social contract, the bargain, between fathers and mothers, between male and female. The deal is that, in return for the bearing the burden of bearing children, the womanfolk will be protected and cherished. When the barbarians attack, the women and children go first to the stronghold, and the men man the walls; the iceberg strikes, the women and children go into the lifeboats, and the men go to death in the icy water. In return, the women preserve and reproduce the race.
In barbaric ages and nations, this was done by polygamy, where the women were chattel, and in Christian civilization, by monogamy, where the women could not be divorced nor put aside except for fornication.
To prevent the menfolk from killing each other, or slaying the bastards fathered by other men on their wives, the women uphold modesty and chastity. Modesty deters unwanted extramarital or premarital sex; the chastity confirms the paternity of offspring, and expels a cold marriage of convenience in favor of a warm and romantic Christian marriage.
The first crack in this base course of the wall of civilization was the legalization of no-fault divorce, which was widened by contraception, and then a free-love sexual free-for-all which has, for all practical purposes abolished marriage among our urban poor.
The crack was widened again by feministic hypocrisy and insanity, which somehow demands all the burden of paternity be bourn by the father, even though he can be divorced at any time, and cast away; but that men take care not to offend women, no, not by so small a trifle as wearing a loud shirt or using the wrong pronoun; whereas women can do as they please, and whore around.
Such harlots seek to become the chattel of the strongest young lion or the richest sniveling jackal, and the idea of a modest matron raising children becomes as laughable to the corrupt harlot’s mind as an honorable soldier or an honest merchant.
Obviously no one believes that women can both be equal to men in facing all danger, and yet at the same time must be protected by trigger warnings lest they faint away. No one believes it, feminists least of all. This rampant hypocrisy has been clear ever since the days they rallied around Clinton, the Adulterer-in-Chief, and with their silence damned to hell all the women mutilated, enslaved, humiliated, falsely accused, and slain by Shariah Law.
In the same way the priests betray and eliminate the idea of the sacred, and the kings betray and eliminate the idea of legitimate authority, and fighting men and public servants betray and eliminate the idea of honor and duty and faithful executions of the laws, and the merchants destroy the idea of a fair deal, the feminists destroy the mystical concept of womanhood.
The feminists hatred for the feminine is accomplished, and their treason is complete, when motherhood is as purely despised as maidenhood, and women are once again possessions of the strongest.
It is noteworthy that, in the current day, all the courses of the stone wall, from lowest to highest, are cracking, creaking, and tumbling, and the loudest traitors cry that the stones are oppression, blocking and hindering us from skipping down the road of yellow bricks; they scream that the Emerald City of Oz is just outside the gate, which we must throw open to welcome the Wonderful Wizard who will grant all our contradictory and childish wishes.
And the bloodthirsty lions and jackals awaiting without are never mentioned.
Whether the traitors are blind but sincere, or merely suicidal and malign, makes no difference to the end result.
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.
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