We all know what the ideal of the modern age is, the one thing that set us apart – and frankly makes us inferior – to every previous age of man, even to the most barbaric ages of darkness. The ideal is equality. The ideal is freedom, limitless freedom, freedom without check or let. The ideal is self-will. The ideal is believe in yourself. The ideal is do your own thing. The ideal is just do it. The ideal is that you did it Your Way. You are the author of your own life; you create your own reality. The ideal is gratuitous and meaningless sexual encounters in a permissive and consequence-free environment. The ideal is the revolt against reason. The ideal is to imagine that there is no heaven, no nations, nothing to kill or die for, and all people living together as one. The ideal is that there is no God. The ideal is that Thou Art God.
Now, the first thing to notice about these ideals is that they are self-contradictory. All this mess swirls around the idea that there is no truth: but if there is no truth, then the idea that there are no truths is not true.
The second is that they are singularly ill-defined. In the days before the current Dark Age, equality was defined as the specific notion of moral or legal equality, that is, equality in the eyes of the law, or equality in the eyes of God: Saint Louis is not more of a saint than Saint Francis because one was a king and the other a wandering beggar. A poor man stealing a penny from his neighbor is not more guilty than a prince stealing a province from his. Nowadays equality is a sloppy notion of homogeneity: it is considered an injustice if nature does not allow little girls to grow up to be Daddies.
In the days before the darkness, freedom did not mean merely the unhindered willpower doing whatever it willed when it so willed. Freedom was a perfection, that is, it was the liberty to do what your highest nature demanded, not your lowest. Following your lowest nature was rightly regarded as a type of slavery. No addict is a free man. Freedom was the flowering of what was innate and in potential inside every soul: it was the lack of legal hindrance of a man’s growth toward the proper end to which nature and nature’s God directed him. The modern notion of freedom is to render Sandra Fluke ‘free’ to live a life of sexual dissipation on the dime of the Catholic institution she attends, or Bruce Jenner ‘free’ to castrate himself, wear his mother’s dress, and call himself a girl. The logical fallacy of this notion of freedom is that, in order to operate, certain persons must be unfree, or, better yet, unpersons. Fluke has the right to demand Catholics violate their consciences because their consciences count for nothing because Catholics are not really people. Bruce Jenner has the right to demand all decent people pretend he is a she because decent people are not really people. Neither are unborn babies. Neither are Jews, Homosexuals and Christian living in the lands controlled by the Jihad. And so on.
And yet again, this clattering cacophony of junkpile of meaningless junkwords that constitute modern philosophy is merely another puzzle at a deeper level. How could anyone be so stupid as to believe that words do not have definitions, that “marriage” means everything and nothing as anyone would like it to believe, or “rights” or “male” or “female” any other term whatsoever? Or how could anyone who was smart enough to know this was a lie be so wicked as to tell it?
These evil ideals do not spring from a lack of intelligence nor a lack of conscience. Many a man who repeats this garbage is both bright and decent, at least in any area uninfluenced by these ideals. They come from a lack of character, that is, from the lack of a trained habit of virtue.
It is much more like a man who suffers from an addiction than a man who wills to do evil. It is more like a disease than an inability to think. You do not think the town drunk is a thief and a liar merely because he is a drunk, particularly if you talk to him in the morning when he is sober. But if he must lie or steal to get a drink, then he will steal and lie in this, even if he does not and would not steal or lie for anything else.
These modern ideals are drunk spots in the mind, like swamps if swamps were filled with alcohol rather than mud. Or, if you like, the modern ideals are clouds of poisonous gas hanging in certain spots on the battlefield of the mind. A perfectly rational and sober man, walking boldly into one without his gas mask, comes stumbling out on wobbly legs, vomiting and uttering nonsense, and if he is college educated, polysyllabic nonsense.
In the middle of the cloud is something that lures him in: usually a perfectly natural or tragically natural desire to flatter himself, or to escape his conscience, or indulge his lust or gluttony, or to go along with the crowd, or to go along with the idea that he is a rebel defying the crowd (just like all the other nonconformists).
No matter where or what his particular cloud of mental and moral blindness happens to be, there is one master cloud, one Dark Tower, to which all men poisoned by these bad ideals must flee to seek shelter, like vampires fleeing to their coffins at dawn. That is the Dark Tower of the un-conscience.
Every guilty man must do something with his guilt. The choice is simple and binary and inescapable. He either must evade his guilt by that mental process for which there is no name, the mental process of halting thought, or he must admit his guilt and repent.
Repentance requires at least two things: first, a desire for justice which is severe even when directed against oneself; second, a humility to submit to the discipline of an objective moral order one recognizes as greater than oneself.
But the ideal of justice is the direct opposite of the modern ideal of social justice, which is the ideal that says that there is no such thing as justice, merely the social institutions erected by the strong to oppress the weak, which the weak should overthrow and set institutions of their own to oppress their oppressors. Racism against Blacks must be overthrown (so the theory runs) not to produce a colorblind and fair-minded society, but to produce a new kind of Racism, Reverse Racism, Affirmative Action, Race Quotas, Hate Speech Laws, and the legal lynching of any “White” Hispanics or “Cracker Trash” unfortunate enough to kill in self-defense a member of that special class of persons whose conduct, even criminal conduct, is above reproach on the basis of skin color alone.
And as for humility, that ideal runs directly counter to the self-help gurus and witch-doctors who claim that man’s only ill is his lack of self-esteem. If only Hitler had been more of an egotist (so runs the theory) he would have been a kind and productive member of society.
In the modern theory, “justice” is denounced as injustice in disguise, and “vengeance” is something regarded with revulsion, perhaps as a sign of mental illness. As for “humility”, in the modern theory, the meek do not inherit the earth, they need therapy to encourage their self-esteem to reach the healthy levels of those modern paragons of sanity and decency, Rock Stars and Movie Celebrities. As for “strength” that is something to be apologized for possessing, not something to be used in a just cause. There are no just causes, because there is no justice, because there is no truth, because there is no God.
So if repentance is impossible according to modern theory, on the grounds that there is no justice and humility is wrong headed, the only thing left is evasion, that nameless process of thought by which a man seeks to stop thinking.
This, then, is the one Dark Tower to which all the evasive souls poisoned by the smog of modern theory soon or late must approach. The master ideal which permits all these lesser nonsensical ideas to exist is the Grand Ideal of Nonthought.
Nonthought says that words mean nothing, that logic is arbitrary, that the senses cannot be trusted, that the brain is merely an inanimate machine, that life is an illusion, that beliefs are rationalizations hiding uncomfortable deeper thoughts from yourself, and on and on and on. Nonthought says that reason is unreasonable. Nonthought dismisses the authority of reason. Nonthought rejects thought.
This philosophy, technically speaking, is called Nihilism.
Ours is the first civilization in the history of mankind ever to embrace Nihilism as the mainstream, if not the official, doctrine of our most foundational beliefs. No less a body than the Supreme Court has announced that the meaning of life for each individual to invent such meaning for himself and impose it on the yielding material of plastic reality. The truth is whatever you say is true for you.
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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