A View from the Sticks in the Chaotic Age


Western civilization is built on Judeo-Christian values and Greek rational thought, culminating in a perspective on natural rights that is preserved by institutions such as English jurisprudence and supported by individual character traits of integrity, honesty, perseverance, trustworthiness, work, honor, reputation, manners, morals, duty and dignity.

Owing to those philosophical principles and character traits free markets, free speech and free association have grown and flourished. Only if we re-enshrine those principles and traits in our public discourse and actions, rather than undermine them, will our prosperity and freedoms be preserved.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre 
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.
                                             W. B. Yeats

“Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend.”

                                                                       ~ Edmund Burke

 

"By traditional definitions, conservatism stands for intellectual humility, a belief in steady, incremental change, a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible. Conservatives of this disposition can be dull, but they know how to nurture and run institutions. They also see the nation as one organic whole. Citizens may fall into different classes and political factions, but they are still joined by chains of affection that command ultimate loyalty and love."
                                                                                                                                                                                           - David Brooks

Society is held together by the rule of law and authority, not by the imagined rights of individuals. Obedience to the law is the duty of each citizen, this is the disposition that makes it possible to govern a society.  Without obedience to law societies crumble into anarchy and totalitarianism. Real freedom, is not in conflict with obedience, but is the obverse. Socrates held that breaking the law is an instance of injustice, and injustice should  be avoided so that one doesn’t become corrupted. 

Shakespeare too realized the importance of law and order.  In Henry VI, Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," was stated by Dick the Butcher, a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, who thought that if he disrupted law and order, he could become king. Shakespeare meant it as a compliment to attorneys and judges.

Burke's argument about the social contract holds that most parties to the contract are either dead or not yet born is correct. To ignore this truth and throw away customs and institutions is to "place the present members of society in a dictatorial dominance over those who went before, and those who came after them."

Moreover, in the Book of John(14:15), Jesus says "If you love me, keep my commandments". Although the statement has different interpretations, it certainly is no call for revolution.

The utopian promise of socialism is based on an abstract vision that has no real connection to the way most people think (Liberals excluded).  Hence, attempting  to organize society towards a social utopia requires a real or imagined enemy. This accounts for the strident tone of socialist literature that usually identifies an enemy of the people preventing the realization of the utopian dream. 

Those who do not accept the vision are labeled, racist, fascist, politically incorrect or such. To protect this orthodoxy the power of language to describe reality is replaced by language whose purpose is to avoid encounters with realities and to paralyze opponents with guilt. 

 Assuming history can be given a direction or that a perfect society can make everyone equal is a childish impossible dream. A dream most obvious in academia. Alan Bloom described those academics who wish to replace the Western Canon with less talented writers and thinkers as the School of Resentment. For the resentful faculty members institutions are the cause of inequality, and therefore the cause of their humiliations and failures. All who oppose the dream must be driven out.

Life is unfair, the purpose of government is to provide stability and order to a society, not to redress the grievances  of the less talented.   The purpose of higher education is to educate the next generation for the benefit of society, not to act as a staging ground for social experiments and revolution.

 

 

 

 

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