Crooked timber chronicles
[In the hope of being better understood, I have extended my prologue.]
We have apparently in Canada now — as too, in many other Western jurisdictions — a legal “right” to suicide, together with something more consequential (for those with brains to think this through). It is what amounts to a “right” to be murdered. It is among the products of the progress of progressivism: that “transvaluation of all values” that Herr Nietzsche wrote about; or as I’d rather put it, the inversion of that moral order which, through human action by the grace of God, Christian civilization achieved. This strange, incremental but accelerating inversion, in which old premisses are replaced by new, becomes ever more openly demonic.
The premisses being overthrown — an example being the sanctity of human life — are not only moral but intellectual. What was grounded in nature, clarified in men’s minds by divine commandment, and carefully presented on the principle of non-contradiction through centuries by our most learned and wise, is replaced by arbitrary atheist assertions, in a chaotic jumble of self-contradictions. In the new totalitarian “rights language,” laws are rewritten ad hoc and holus-bolus, depending on what progressive fashion requires, each new “right” necessarily false because it will acknowledge no corresponding duty, as all classical reasoning required. The new premisses are one-winged, and tightly circular: “This is your right, therefore this is your right, therefore the world must be changed to deliver it, regardless of cost or consequences.”
We confront arguments today that operate on reason as the terrorist’s bomb on human flesh, or a bulldozer across a garden. Progressive thinking provides no principles to resolve contradictions beyond the vanities and whims of progressive commissars. It expressly denies the cardinal virtue of prudence, and all allied restraints; it expressly refuses to answer any question with the candour of a Yea or Nay; indeed mocks every demand for consistency, and seeks the punishment of anyone who asks.
Resistance to the constantly “evolving” progressive agenda becomes a pitched battle in which reason can, sadly, find no purchase — you cannot argue with howler monkeys. Each clash reduces painfully to: Can they do it, or can we stop them? For we are dealing with an Enemy — principalities, powers — who does not hesitate or relent. He has cracked the front line of civilized defences, and advances with an insatiable hatred, focused finally upon God. This Enemy does not intend to allow his opponents time to recover, or to grant them refuge anywhere.
I am not saying that the politically “progressive” are all inhabited by devils. Many are not, and the great masses only jounce in the contemporary moral and intellectual pandæmonium. I am saying that we have lost “politics as usual.” It is not a contest between adversaries who, in good faith, propose honourable means to honourable ends. It is a contest over the ends themselves; the kind of contest of which Our Lord said, “He who is not with me is against me.”
Through the casual review of polls, over the years, I have become aware that the general public can itself be moved from approximately 80/20 to approximately 20/80 (four fingers and a thumb to four thumbs and a finger) by any specious argument, if it is repeated constantly, and the Left are able to impose a fait accompli through the courts. Among intellectuals, the swings may be wider and quicker. They are not pendular, however, for once various civilized taboo lines have been crossed, there is no inevitable return, and the only way back is through a field of carnage.
Today, unlike “yesterday” (i.e. a few short years ago) there is 80 percent support for what goes in Canada under the euphemism “assisted dying,” and everywhere under the older euphemism, “euthanasia.” As loyal Christians (or Jews, and many others) we must never surrender to public opinion of this kind. Yet we must recognize that it is pointless to argue with the great mass who, in Canada as in places like Nazi Germany, can so easily be persuaded that down is up, and that words now have new meanings. They simply haven’t the equipment to follow a thread longer than the short slogans in which progressives specialize. Not if their moral schooling was defective, leaving consciences deformed.
People can be “educated” or “catechized” or awakened only one by one, and with their own participation. There is always hope, for as Thomas Sowell says, though everyone is born ignorant, not everyone is born stupid. But in practice, they are retrieved from catastrophic error, only by catastrophe.
At this point in our societal degeneration, “the people” are obedient to what beloved Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism.” This is understandable because few were raised in anything else. The very concept of a moral absolute (e.g. “thou shalt do no murder”) is alien to them. At the gut level, they may still individually recoil against an evil, but only if they have watched, and found the spectacle “icky.”
Hence what I noticed in the recent Planned Parenthood “debate” in neighbouring USA. People got quite excited about the sale of “baby parts” who had no strong objection to abortion. It was not the murder of the child itself, but the subsequent details that disgusted them. This was made the worse, for agents of the Left, because another fallen aspect of our human nature is ghoulish curiosity. The complete triumph of “tabloid” over “broadsheet” journalism was enabled by technology, but at a more fundamental level, by the exploitation of this sick human desire to (as we see on the streets) stop and gawp at the traffic accident, or the shooting aftermath, or whatever seems to be on offer.
A morality that depends on the perception of ickiness becomes a danger in itself. It may seem at first commendably anti-intellectual, but the loss of reason entails unpredictable developments, regardless of the direction taken — whether superficially Left or Right.
From my mail, on yesterdays’ Idlepost, I discover that in nursing homes where “assisted dying” executions are now taking place, management has a problem that was not anticipated. The executions must be performed in strictest secrecy because many of their staff want to get a look.
They want to be in on the drama. They’d like to watch someone die.
In the past, long before modern tabloid journalism, the State would exploit this human quirk, by making capital punishment very public. A beheading, a hanging, especially with drawing and quartering, would attract a large audience. This in turn would be good for business, too, as everyone from street vendors to pickpockets cashed in. The historians’ assumption is that the purpose of a public execution is to warn the general public against breaking the law. But I think often a larger purpose was the old populist provision of “bread and circuses.”
Today we have the relatively bloodless alternative of professional sports. But as our society returns, by progressive increments, to its pagan roots, we may expect the emergence of something more gladiatorial.
Already, Islamic terrorism produces scenes that are horrible, and for that reason intriguing to the common man. Sooner or later the marketing people discover the sales opportunities. Indeed, through the medium of cable television, they already have found a way to monetize it. And like the pornographers, the newscasters come to realize that by posting “warnings” they can not only exculpate themselves, with characteristic hypocrisy, but also attract a larger crowd.
My point here is that by each “transvaluation,” or inversion, of the ancient received moral order, we do not get the new one we expect. We get developments beyond anything that anyone could have expected, as the various forgotten evils that lurk in the human breast come to engage with each other.