Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Reducing All to Ashes

A DISTINCTIVE FEATURE of contemporary life is the incredible concentration of power in the political, cultural, and economic spheres, joined with the absurd claim that "the people" now have far greater freedom. However, it seems that just about the only "freedom" now granted is that of sexual license, while the undeniable freedom of individuals to cooperate together to regulate their own affairs is curtailed.

The United States Supreme Court cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, both decided on January 22nd, 1973, together essentially made abortion-at-will the law of the land, and arbitrarily overturned innumerable local and state laws restricting that despicable practice. Seven out of nine Supreme Court justices concurred with the decision, and the other two dissented.

It would be too easy to blame economic causes for this decision, like for example, the fact that both big business and big government want as many people as possible to have paid jobs, because it is good for consumer spending and tax revenue, and that the raising of children takes valuable workers away from the economy; in this system, new workers will come from immigration. Ultimately, we know that the root cause of this problem is sin: separation from God, and hence, from each other. This separation leads us to grasp at things that won't make us blessed, and it darkens our reason.

This darkening of reason is apparent in our public philosophy, which cannot answer the questions "What is Man?" and "What is the greatest good?" What is horrifying is that the logical conclusion of these modern philosophies is nothing less than total annihilation. Abortion, euthanasia, and eugenics are merely mild symptoms of this kind of spiritual sickness, the end of which sickness, if left unchecked, can only be attempted omnicide: the killing of everything.

According to the philosophic writer Walker Percy (1916-1990), the man who separates himself from God and other men becomes like a ghost who is lost in the cosmos, inhabiting a place where he cannot belong, constantly seeking a self-identity. If such a man eventually places his Self in something lesser than himself — which is idolatry or fetishism — the very probable loss the fetish leads to a loss in self-identity. Losing your self is the very worst state imaginable in this life. Such a person, we say, has lost his conscience, even his soul, and if unchecked, the end result is his desire to reduce all of the world to the same void that is his own self.

This is the psychology of damnation.

In fiction, this desire to destroy all can be seen in the Der Ring des Nibelungen and the Lord of the Rings, and in both works, this will to universal destruction is due to the loss of the fetish of the Ring of Power. In history, Hitler, the ruler of the German Third Reich, upon the loss of his war, ordered the destruction of his nation by his retreating troops, and then committed suicide. We also see this desire for destruction in the increasingly frequent mass murder/suicides perpetrated.

The psychology of the self is a reason why concentrated power should be avoided at all costs. A great leader, no matter how virtuous, may lose himself, and thereafter use his substantial power for total destruction. But we must not ignore the possibility of grace. Just seven Supreme Court justices legalized abortion in the United States; but grace, in a single moment, with a single person, can change the direction of entire nations. An old Chinese proverb has an Emperor say, "I drank a cup of green tea and ended a war": minuscule changes can indeed have profound effects. The end to abortion and the other hatred of life will most likely happen in a way that is subtle and unpredictable, which is why we must work diligently and lovingly with everyone we meet.

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