Crime without punishment

What is the difference between an “old-fashioned” liberal and a “modern,” or “post-modern” one? I have thought about this question much, over the years, as I have myself migrated towards what are called “reactionary” positions on most subjects, beginning I think with poetry and art but gradually encompassing politics and religion. So far must I have wandered, that I cannot account for many of my youthful views. They strike me as having been not so much wrong, as they were asinine. Yet looking back I see that I was never a hard-boiled progressive. Rather, a liberal like my father and grandfather: what would count as a libertarian today, and traditionalist in manners and morals.

The two things went together. A man (and a woman, to be clear) must take personal responsibility. It is not for “guvmint” or “society” to meticulously regulate his thought, speech, or behaviour. A man, particularly, must adopt a trade, make a living, marry once at most, support a household, raise children to be upright, kindly, and responsible. He must also be ready at all times to lay down his life when it is asked of him in a valid cause. (Both papa and grandpa volunteered in the World Wars.) He is answerable to legitimate authority with respect to laws, modelled essentially on the Ten Commandments. If he is accused of crimes, he should be fairly tried, and if found guilty, punished — from fines for minor traffic violations, to the death sentence for wilful murder.

But in everyday life, where there was little crime, and houses did not need to be locked, prudence ruled. Whatever you intended to do, you first thought through the likely consequences. And if there were unpleasant consequences to be faced, you faced them. Views might vary between religious sects, on this overwhelmingly Protestant continent, but without doubt, there was God, and one of His attributes was Justice. Moreover, “God is in the details,” as my father (not a church-goer) often told me. “Go with God,” he always said on departure. (He died with a Saint Benedict crucifix in his hands.) Until quite late in life, he continued to vote Liberal.

When you see real injustice, you make a stand. When you see crime, you intervene to stop it. When you see human suffering, you do what you can to alleviate it; or even animal suffering, for that matter. Your duty is to be harmlessly benign, and in all transactions, honest and reliable. Nor were these considered heroic virtues. They were duties incumbent upon all.

All of this became “dated,” as I grew older. My first shocking discovery about the “modern” liberal is, that while he might give lip-service still to some “antiquated” ideals, and gratuitously pose as virtuous, his first instinct when faced with serious responsibility was to cut and run.

My second was to find that he was now brainwashed by ideologies and slogans; that it was impossible to argue with him from reason or fact; that faced with any difficulty he would present himself as the helpless victim of forces he would not even try to define coherently.

My third was the discovery that he was now, instinctively, on the side of the criminal; that he identified with the lawless; that he admired “the transgressive,” trespass, violation. Without acknowledging it to himself, he now had a conception of “human rights” which consistently excused the wrongdoer, and consistently ignored the consequences to those who had done nothing wrong.

This “modern” liberalism, I came to understand, was the development — not over months and years but over centuries — of a mortal flaw in the “classical” liberal worldview. It was avoiding God. The liberal mind was persuaded that humans must “make their own beds.” Its great strength was that it took responsibility; its great weakness was that it had no reason to do so. Faith and reason are mutually dependent; when one goes the other eventually goes, too.

Or put this another way: the Devil gets in when we make room for him.

Over at Catholic Thing, my piece today (here), is about the latest outrage from that very “modern” liberal, Pope Francis: he has now taken it upon himself to begin rewriting the Catechism of the Catholic Church — to change not merely words, but doctrine.

It has been an extraordinarily bad week for Catholics, with major revelations of the profound corruption in our hierarchy: by no coincidence, almost entirely among the most outwardly “liberal” of them. I invite gentle reader to read that column, in light of what I have written above.