Cui bono?

Are you anti-social, gentle reader? I know I am, at least in principle. There are some people I like, and some I detest — but we aren’t discussing Christian love at the moment. Love doesn’t notice demographic groups, only beings. Do I like blacks? No. Do I like whites? No. Do I like earth-moving machinery? Depends what earth we’re moving. By and large I like a kaleidoscope of butterflies, or a murmuration of starlings.

This last was an attempt to trick myself. In some sense, a flock is a thing, and it may make pretty patterns — even a mob of humans, when viewed from a flying machine well above. But here we enter realms of aesthetic judgement, well removed from the moral judgement we were implying. We are considering patterns, which exist in nature, and are, like individual peacocks, among the proofs that God made the world. When they were closer to nature, i.e. “pre-industrial,” even cities formed patterns, and may still do so when they are farther away. But this has nought to do with city planning.

A dance may exhibit such patterns. Here I mean a real dance, not a chaos of unskilled persons shaking themselves lasciviously. (As ever, I condemn the modern.) In music, in art and architecture, in poetry, in crafts and ultimately in everyday life, we have it in our gift to enter the dance; to echo the divine. But if you call that “social engineering” you must be among the persons I dislike.

Rather, I am considering the word, “social,” specifically, and its usages since Bismarck’s time. It is by now the most successful weasel word in politics, to advance destructive, revolutionary causes. I am taking it of course as an adjective; as a noun it is often harmless and tame. But put it before any of several hundred other words, that once had content, and it will hollow them out (as weasels, by legend, did with eggs).

“Social justice” is a good example. We may argue all afternoon about what justice demands in a single case. We could even argue about what the law is. But at the invocation of a vague whole society, all of our talk becomes nonsense. Nothing — absolutely nothing in this world — can apply justly to every living soul. We are feeding, or lashing, a fanciful monster, but the blows land on real people who bleed, and the benefits scatter randomly; except to the administrators, who will consistently gain.

All “social policies” conceal bad intentions. They are the means by which illusory rewards are promised to the greedy, in return for immediate power. Something imaginary is part of the transaction. For instance, a “social market economy” may be sold to the gullible; it is a contradiction of terms. Or a “social democracy,” ditto. Each policy must inevitably hurt some, while it pleases others; though for the most part it will be pointless waste. The solidarity it assumes is fictitious: a method of intimidation at best. “Social action” assumes society is a single Leviathan or Beast, people mere cells in its body. All sacrifice is ordered to consolidate power.

Some, to be charitable, don’t know any better than to succumb to this imposture. They would not go so far as to demand “social justice,” but “social values” sounds plausible to them. Often it starts as light as a feather, but what is it? “The jackboot scheme to impose socialism on your human face.” Those who have endured Communism can spot it quickly; those who genuinely love their neighbour cry out in warning.


I think of my very dear reader and friend, Jaromir Kouba, from up Ottawa way. A Czech exile, he understood these things. He was also very kind, generous, Catholic, and anti-social in wonderful, incorruptible ways. He has fought the good fight, and may he now rest in peace.