In praise of deference

After rereading this, I rewrote it entirely.


Man the Rebel often complains that he don’t get no respect. This is the theme of innumerable stories in the mainstream meejah: demand for laws that will force silence on the critics of the Great Rebellion, and more, make them praise and give deference to the revolutionary vanguard, and their latest innovations. This is the deference of command, the Deference of Fear: show me respect because I can hurt you. Verily, Comrade must show the right attitude towards his progressive betters. Gentle reader will guess that I don’t approve of it or him.

To this I would juxtapose the Deference of Love, which is respect freely given. The recipient of this complaisance, “submission,” or in the old sense, condescension, is judged to be worthy. He does not become worthy for something that he does, such as expressing the correct political opinions. Rather he is worthy in himself, for what he is — say, a creature made in the image of God.

The appreciation of a relation between deference and condescension has been, so far as I can see, abandoned. It assumed hierarchy, which always exists in nature, including human nature. To the rebel against the Creator of nature, however, this cannot be right. Humans must be the product of social construction, or human engineering, so that by reverse engineering we can be taken back to zero, or re-purposed. Our ruler can make us, for instance, interchangeably “equal,” each one with each other. Through biological improvement, he can remove any impediment to our doing his will. We can become what Stalin called the “New Soviet Man,” except, the distinction between male and female has also been erased in the new party line, and those who still insist upon it are now eligible for legal punishments.

But as gentle reader may recall, I am a backward and regressive beast, who still recognizes things like “up” and “down”; and I retain the notion of a kindly regard towards my social inferiors, if I can find any. It was, according to the old system of consciousness, possible to show deference even to one’s servant, or a used car salesman. One did not have to elevate one’s inferior, or change him in any way. One had only to acknowledge a fellow human being.

The reason civic freedom was the unique invention of “western,” Christian society, is this peculiar notion that all humans are not equal, but immortal. There is much to be said for caste systems, but in principle we have no untouchable, or subhuman classes. For Christ is all in all, and as He indicated, what ye have done to the least of the brethren, “ye have done it unto me.” This was a very shocking view, to the ancients, though it did follow naturally from the older, Hebrew teaching. The Pagans generally thought it was crazy; and they’re beginning to think it is crazy again.

So very well, we’re crazy. The arrogance with which we appropriate from the least of these brethren counts not against them, but against us. Deference to persons necessarily extends to what belongs to them. (This is why, exempli gratia, “planning authorities,” with the power to expropriate, are an unmitigable evil; at least according to me.)

Deference, I think, has been dying in our society, to the degree that we recognize only the deference of command — saluting our superiors in worldly power, and that out of Fear. But our command from Christ was actually, “Fear not.” For rather it is the Deference of Love, that underlies all harmonious order.