Notes from Underground


Gazing into the abyss:
It's a little late for that



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We often hear it said that our society is tumbling down a "slippery slope" into tyranny and depravity. Things are getting worse and worse, and if we don't watch out, we'll finally make the wrong step that causes our fateful slide into the abyss, finding ourselves then engulfed in all the evils we had hoped to avoid. If we look at the horrors of totalitarian regimes that seized power owing to the erosion of the rule of law, and smugly conclude "it can't happen here; this is America," we may be in for a nasty shock in the near future: or so it is said.

That metaphor, and the flowery rhetoric that it invariably bequeaths ("the price of freedom is eternal vigilance," and so forth), are both in fact utterly useless when applied to our current situation. Worse, the metaphor is misleading, because it blinds us to reality. Those who use it obviously believe — and want the rest of us to believe — that we haven't already plunged headlong into the abyss. They evidently think that our culture is only coming dangerously close to exhibiting untrammeled wickedness, when in fact it has been irredeemably wicked for decades. Likewise, they seem to be of the mind that our government is merely making ominous overtures toward taking away our God-given rights, as if the tripartite Leviathan, with its legislative, executive, and judicial tentacles, hadn't already broken free from all of its supposed restraints and hadn't long ago transformed life, liberty, and property from inalienable rights for all into privileges occasionally bestowed by the powerful upon those deemed worthy of such prizes.

Indeed, taking stock of how far we have already fallen makes it clear just how ridiculous it is to talk about the dangers of any "slippery slope." Both politically and culturally, it is hard to imagine that we can fall much farther. As I have noted previously, the whole furor over homosexual "marriage" is almost laughable in light of the fact that we are living in the fourth decade of legalized abortion brought on by judicial fiat. In an era when thousands of unborn children are permitted to be torn to shreds for profit every day, it hardly seems worthwhile to get too worked up over Adam and Steve or Jane and Jill being allowed to get hitched at the local courthouse. Even a more serious subject such as the creep toward acceptance of euthanasia, given a human face in the frenzied legal fight to save Terry Schiavo from being starved to death in a Florida hospital, pales in both scale and comparison next to the abortion industry's relentless, continuous, and unimpeded hourly assault on powerless and defenseless people.

Though Roe v. Wade was hardly the first ungodly decree handed down by black-robed dictators, it has rightly become the most notorious such ruling of our age. In it, we find our clearest view of the intersection of two dark trends: enforced sexual permissiveness, to the point where "products of conception" (in plain English, babies) must become collateral damage for the sake of the Cause, and the seizure of illegitimate power by the ruling elite. In fact, it is not at all counterintuitive to observe that a decline in morality usually aids and abets an overall lurch toward tyranny. When people behave well, after all, the strong arm of the law has less of an excuse to reach beyond constitutional limits and clamp down on miscreants. It is worthwhile to consider the benefits that have accrued to our rulers as a result of the chaos brought on by the sexual revolution. Is it mere coincidence that the half-century since the invention of "the pill" has seen an exponential growth in the powers of the state?

Given the current, sorry condition of the the United State(s), and that of the West in general — most Western countries are in even worse shape than we are — it is in some ways difficult to understand why many conservatives are so eager to rescue the West from itself. One almost gets the impression that it would be best to maintain the intolerable status quo, so long as all of our thoroughly corrupt institutions remain intact.

Attention is drawn to the problem of illegal immigration, and fears are expressed of a Reconquista by Hispanics or a jihad of demographic displacement by Middle Eastern-born Muslims. In truth, the infiltration of those cultures into the West is not the problem that we face; it is a mere symptom of the overarching, omnipotent disease. Western culture is not being murdered from without so much as it is committing suicide. It has lost its faith, both in God and in itself, and so the former fruits of its once-great civilization have withered and rotted. We now routinely kill our children instead of welcoming them into existence. Why then should it surprise us that we are being out-reproduced by newcomers, who still value religion and family over sexual freedom?

Lest I be misunderstood, I certainly don't think that the demise of the West is a cause for celebration. I find it unutterably sad. The West in its prime was a treasure trove of wisdom — it embodied the two greatest strains of thought ever formulated or imparted: Classical wisdom and Christian revelation. Weighed in the balance, the West's influence on the rest of the world has been enormously beneficial. If it can be accused of numerous hypocrisies, that is only because, given the richness and rightness of its traditions, the West ought to have known better when it did err. With the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas as our philosophical and spiritual guides, what excuse did we have for ever doing wrong?

In a subjective sense, too, the death of the West is painful to me, because it is personal. It is not wholly unlike having your father die before your eyes. As insane and unbearable as he may have become in his old age, he is still, after all, your father. He was once a good and upright man, even if he is now a senile, raving fool. You are aware that his pending death is probably a blessing for everyone, himself included, but you still don't want it to happen.

March 25, 2005

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