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(2/16/02 1:05 am)
Against The Egalitarian Heresy|
Here follows my latest rant. It contains no evidence, few refreences, and lots of generalizations, so it is definitely a mere rant. But hopefully it gives some shape to a crisis that few seem to recognize today.
Our American cultural crisis has multiple causes. We may cite abandonment of traditional religion and morality, liberation of the sexual appetite, contempt for reason and rational thought, enshrining of greed as a virtue, television, popular music, and the cult of “self-fulfillment” as major contributors to our collective malaise. However, few suspect that our most-prized national characteristic is behind some of the decadence and depravity. To attack Equality, and the absurd ideology of Egalitarianism, is as unthinkable as it is unpatriotic.
Like all heresies, Egalitarianism is the distortion and exaggeration of a truth. Some things are indeed equal. All men have equal dignity, and in some fundamentals, they have equal rights. Jefferson’s “all men are created equal”, however, seems to be a dubious rhetorical assertion on the face of it. Perhaps it can be understood to be true if highly qualified and sufficiently nuanced: indeed, the truth-loving patriot will do no less than that. Nevertheless, if all men are in some way created equal, they end up quite unequal, both in this world and the next. Marx and Engels famously prophesied that the triumph of Communism would result in the end of all distinctions, not only between social classes, but also between men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children, and even between the country and the city. And today we find that the doctrine of Equality has spread from the human to the inanimate world, so that no time or place or thing, no event or activity or behavior, may be objectively considered better or worse than another.
One obvious manifestation of mindless equality is the evolution of American manners -- or more precisely, the lack thereof. All titles that reflect distinction, hierarchy, or social inequality are now threatened. I once worked with a young woman who refused to address her business letters using the title of “Dr.”, which to her was a sign of pomposity and pretentiousness. Granted, we’re talking about public school administrators whose doctorates are in the notoriously dumbed-down field of Education (Ed.D’s), but my co-worker’s indignation did not stem from this irony. Her refusal was based on her belief that one person should not be distinguished from another on the mere basis of education. And this is a very common opinion today. For this reason, we now find that those who possess doctorates are very often afraid of using their titles: they do not want to be perceived as “snobbish”. Please, just call me Mike.
The abolition of titles began with a vulgar disdain for aristocracy, but it has now spread to include all social distinctions. Back in the ‘60s, it was fashionable for children to address their parents by their first names. This radical innovation was thankfully not sustained, but today we find students addressing their teachers, and children addressing their elders, by first names everywhere. In business discourse, there is still the initial impulse to use “Mr.” for men, but this formality is quickly dispensed with upon the first or second meeting. Businessmen make a point of being on a “first name basis” with their contacts as quickly as possible.
The feminist movement sought to abolish the distinction between married and unmarried females: the title “Ms.” was contrived for this purpose, as was the custom of married women retaining their maiden names. Less militant feminists were invited to attach their maiden names to their husband’s surname, by way of a hyphen, in a romantic compromise with their patriarchal oppressors.
In the churches of our land, Protestant pastors went from Pastor Jones to Pastor Tom, and Catholic priests from Father Jones to Father Tom, in wake of the 1960s upheavals. In some Episcopalian circles, where the ordained priesthood has traditionally been highly regarded, priests dropped “Father” altogether and referred to themselves as “Doctor” instead. (Believe it or not, for High Church Episcopalians, this was a radically egalitarian move.)
The abolition of titles has not resulted in a greater respect for persons, as might have been imagined at first. Instead, the result has been a complete lack of regard for the experience (usually measured in years), accomplishments (usually measured by education), consecration (usually determined by ordination), and natural station (usually indicated by sex and familial relation) of our neighbors. Worse still, the abolition of titles has resulted in the abolition of humility, the virtue which constrains men to consider others as better than themselves.
In addition to titles and manners, dress used to distinguish men from one another. One could identify a baker, a farmer, a priest, a nun, a milkman, an auto mechanic, a businessman, and a Montgomery Ward TV-repairman by his uniform alone. In the not too distant past, most men had a distinctive profession and were proud to wear the uniform of their class. This gave them a sense of identity and value.
But now we are all individualists, disdaining any group associations (except for a few politically correct exceptions, such as ethnic or gang-related clothing). The modern clergyman has exchanged his cassock and collar for the anonymity of civilian clothes when not participating in official church functions, robbing strangers of the ability to recognize him in an emergency. Ladies’ veils, which once adorned the heads of Protestant and Catholic women alike, signifying a woman’s submission to male authority according to biblical command, and publicly identifying a woman’s marital status (black for married, white for unmarried), were universally discarded almost overnight by the newly liberated women in the pew. Furthermore, nuns have forsaken their habits, businessmen have lost their suits, millers have lost their hats, schoolchildren have ditched their uniforms, and all of society is “all casual, all the time” – or so it seems. Not even sex constrains our apparel: our men have rings in their ears, our ladies have tattoos on their ankles, and jeans have become the preferred clothing of both sexes. Behold, the triumph of androgyny! Sex, class, and occupation are now viewed as constraints upon our individuality, rather than foundations from which to build. And the paradoxical result is not more personality and individuality, as might have been expected, but a dreary monotony in which everyone conforms to the same fashionable, boring, and artificial “individualism”.
This war against hierarchy and distinction has not been limited to people, but has now extended to places, times, and activities. Men used to “dress for work”, not only for practical reasons, but because work itself was viewed as something dignified and noble, set apart from ordinary household activities. Similarly, families put on their “Sunday best” for church because the public worship of their Creator was deemed the most important thing they did all week. When husband and wife went out to dinner, or to the opera, or even to see a movie, their dress signified that it was a special event. Similarly, mealtimes in the home were once cherished social occasions where conversation and good manners were fine-tuned. Today, fast-food, television, and absentee mothers have all but abolished this important ritual, turning most Americans into animal-like grazers. As one comedian put it, “I grew up watching ‘Leave It To Beaver’ reruns, where Dad wore a tie at the dinner table. My father didn’t wear a shirt.”
With respect to places and space, we can see runaway egalitarianism in the newer architecture and planning of public spaces. For instance, older homes have lots of walls, borders, and places set apart for special uses; newer homes have “great rooms”, “open floor plans”, and gaping holes in the few walls that remain, creating an equality of space. (When we bought our new home, there was no door separating the bathroom from the master bedroom!) Along the same lines, some new residential communities have done away with fences except for those that are sufficiently transparent.
In religious architecture, the older buildings are vertical and hierarchical, directed towards heaven and toward the altar. Modern churches are low and horizontal, and sometimes circular, so as to emphasize "the people of God" instead of God Himself or His ministers. Inside an older church building, you will find an altar on an elevated platform, and an elevated pulpit from which to preach; today, everything has descended to the level of "the people", and the gradations are much less pronounced if they exist at all. The idea here is to erase all hierarchy of space, activity, and persons, which ends in God and in an ordered universe.
We now see egalitarianism affecting written communications, particularly in the new trend of writing without capitalization or punctuation – things which assign hierarchical significance to words and groups of words.
We notice a crude egalitarianism in middle class politics, which sees the elite and the humble, the wealthy and the poor, as threats to the middle-class culture of envy (and a culture of envy requires a society of equals). That is why men of the middle class are often as hostile to the privileged as they are to the destitute: the former is a source of envy, the latter a source of guilt. This disordered egalitarian impulse explains both the anti-business populism of the Left and the anti-immigrant populism of the Right.
We also observe the egalitarian assault upon theology, which is manifest in the promiscuous ecumenism of most churches and denominations. The goal seems to be the elimination of all hierarchical distinction between religious ideas, thereby diminishing claims of religious truth and liberating individuals from having to consider truth-claims of any kind.
I suppose that is enough to get the point across. The Egalitarian Heresy has turned our culture into an amorphous and purposeless puddle of mush, darkening our minds, impoverishing our souls, and blinding our eyes to reality. The answer is not, of course, a rigid caste system in which there is no communication or movement between classes. Neither is the answer a construction of new aristocracies based upon pagan notions of race, celebrity, money, or power. No, the answer is a return of our civilization to its historic roots in the Catholic tradition. We have nothing to fear from this. It was the Catholic Church that eroded the brutal pagan hierarchies of old, which ruthlessly divided humanity into masters and slaves. It was the Catholic Church that abolished the harsh, polygamous patriarchy of pagan societies, which gave a man the authority of life and death over his own wives and children. History proves that only the eternal Church can mitigate human tendencies to abolish hierarchical distinctions on the one hand, and to exaggerate them on the other.
Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!Edited by: Old Guard at: 2/16/02 3:13:26 pm
(2/19/02 12:29 pm)
Re: Against The Egalitarian Heresy|
A good discussion!
I always think of egalitarianism as a result of the abolition of the transcendent. If there's no transcendent then nothing can participate in anything beyond itself. Everything is what it is, and nothing has any natural relation to anything else, because nothing participates in a common order of things that goes beyond bare facticity.
If all that is so, all orderings and all conceptualizations are arbitrary and in fact oppressive. If I am to avoid oppression I must be what I am and let everything else be what it is, in each case preconceptually, based on whatever is simply and unavoidably there.
Avoiding articulate concepts is necessary because the only legitimate thing I can say about anything is that it's Other. Anything else would simply be an attempt to force the other into some category I set up with my own purposes in mind.
The best life is therefore that of the inarticulate slob who does what he does when he does it, that's all you can say about him, whose conversation consists of grunts and "whatever," and who doesn't expect any different from anyone else. That is the perfectly educated democratic citizen!
(3/7/02 2:06 am)
Religious dialogue with liberals?|
I liked Old Guard's piece. It brings up some important issues.
What should be the basis of interaction with liberals? They're in power and we must deal with them to some extent. However, there is a real spiritual danger in becoming one of those with which you consort. They're fundementally opposed to religion and traditionalists in particular.
Edited by: JasonEubanks at: 3/8/02 3:57:25 pm
(3/8/02 9:06 pm)
Re: Religious dialogue with liberals?|
One can carry on dialogue with liberals as with others. One can explain one's own position and why it seems correct, try to get the other to do the same, and make and respond to objections.
The problem is that liberalism packs all its assumptions into its understanding of dialogue--for example, that there is no substantive truth, only various perspectives, so all discussions and in fact all human relations must be based on what liberalism presents as the sole objective truth, the formal principle that all perspectives have an equal claim to validity.
The consequence is that arguing the correctness of one's view and the consequent incorrectness of the other's view is seen as a violation of dialogue and disrespect for the equal dignity of the other. One is pushed into reformulating one's own view as a merely personal perspective or preference and thus into accepting liberalism without ever being allowed to argue the point.
It's possible to avoid the trap of course. One cost is that niceness has to be rejected as an ultimate standard. Another is that you'll be looked down on, since liberalism is after all the dominant moral view, and people who reject the dominant moral view get looked down on.
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