Friday, July 19

A Leader’s Choice

“Capitalism is disappearing, but Socialism is not replacing it.  What is now arising is a new kind of planned, centralized society, which will be neither capitalist, nor, in any accepted sense of the word, democratic.  The rulers of this new society will be the people who effectively control the means of production: that is, business executives, technicians, bureaucrats, and soldiers, lumped together by Burnham under the name of ‘managers’.  These people will eliminate the old capitalist class, crush the working class, and so organize society that all power and economic privilege remain in their own hands.”  George Orwell in his essay Second Thoughts on James Burnham (1946)

If you are a leader – a parent, a teacher, a business owner, a professional, or an independently-minded politician – you have a choice.  The world as we have known it is collapsing, and things we have taken for granted for so long – things like freedom of conscience, speech, and association, law and order, justice, civic responsibility, and the possibility, at least, of human flourishing – are being swept away.

The majority of people in the West believe the Liberal order to be the natural state of affairs. In reality, it actually grew out of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, developed through the 19th century, and overcame its ideological rivals, Nazism and Marxism, in the 20th century, leading to what many believed was the End of History.  Even the Chinese Communist Party adopted capitalist practices; was liberal democracy ushering in a golden age?

That obviously never happened.  The atrocities and upheavals of the 1990s and 2000s, religious fanaticism and global terrorism, corporate malfeasance and the financial crisis, with their accompanying economic consequences, all resulted in severe socio-political crises.  An increasingly hostile confrontation between a panic-stricken establishment elite that straddles centrist parties of Left and Right, and populist protest movements, also of both Left and Right, revealed the revolutionary character of this perilous moment.  Whatever your socio-political beliefs, Brexit, Trump, the Yellow Vests, the illegal immigration surge, the pandemic and lockdowns, were earthquakes.  And the aftershocks continue.

Liberalism is more than a political program for constitutional government and the protection of rights, which are now regarded, rather ominously, as being granted by the state.  It is a worldview that aims to radically transform humanity and the world, most recently through AI and transhumanism.  The defining ideas of this worldview are the self-sufficient, autonomous individual, free to choose how he or she will live, and the notion that nature is there to be manipulated and exploited for the gratification of human beings.  Family, community, history, and culture surrender their authority to the state, which curtails the freedom of the individual whenever the puppet masters so choose.

The wisdom and experience of a culture passed from generation to generation over centuries, is replaced by a non-culture enslaved by nihilism, narcissism, hedonism, and consumerism, in which the only imperative is self-gratification.  Supine, spiteful, and silly, no wonder it is in a state of advanced decrepitude.

In most state schools, cheating, bullying, and manipulative behaviour are commonplace, and the promiscuous hook-up society breeds resentment, anger, alienation, self-loathing, loneliness, and confusion in young people searching for meaning and positive identity.  The ideals of marriage, family, and nation are mocked, as narcissistic individuals giving free rein to their carnal urges, obscuring the path to psychological maturity and healthy relationships.

The key to a meaningful alternative to ideology is to be found in the truth about what it means to be human.  Western civilisation found that key in the integrated wisdom of Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome.  And for all its frequent failures to live up to its ideals, western civilisation has provided the best hope of human flourishing; simply note the inexorable flow of migration to the West.

Jerusalem’s idea of humanity made in the image of God, who personifies love, truth, goodness, and beauty, Athens’ understanding of the human being as a rational animal, and Rome’s ideal of the state as res publica, the thing of the people, combine to provide a rational conception of what it means to be human.

And the implications are clear: human flourishing is built on freedom, justice, mutual respect, and trust, and depends on virtuous communities composed of virtuous families that produce virtuous individuals.  A nation of bullies, cheats, and liars will never contribute to world peace, or responsible environmental stewardship, or any form of human flourishing.

We are living through a revolution whose roots go back several decades, and revolutions are, above all else, unpredictable.  To come out the other side with hope, we need leaders, people in all walks of life, to stand firm on civilised standards, speaking out for truth against ideology, for virtue against licence, for community against the rampant ego, for human flourishing against human degradation.  The choice is yours.

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