Friday, December 13, 2013

Thoughts On Conservatism Part 3: The Death Of Character

In response to the previous piece, commenter Magnus wrote:

What happened to our character? How is it that the world (including Christians) has become so coarse and lacking in virtue? Did we do this to ourselves? Was it orchestrated from without? Did we weaken ourselves, thus allowing evil to pounce on our weakened state? Now that we are here, how do we reverse the trend? I'm really at a loss.

It would appear that this is one of the critical questions of our time. Indeed, it might be the only one that ultimately matters.

"There is no substitute for character, and there is no rule about where you'll find it." -- Louis Nizer, My Life In Court

Character is a word susceptible to several interpretations. All but one are perversions: deliberate attempts to divert us from the proper understanding of our duties to ourselves and our places among our peers. A word can have only one exact meaning, and here is the one that pertains to any discussion of character in a sociopolitical context:

What you will permit yourself
when you cannot be restrained or punished for it
is the measure of your character.

H. L. Mencken brushed against this truth in a jocular way when he defined conscience as "the still small voice that warns us that someone might be watching."

Any exploration of character must start from a base of moral and ethical premises. One reaches that base by asking and answering fundamental questions about the nature of Man:

  • What are our obligations to ourselves?
  • What are our obligations to others?
  • Once we have arranged to respect those, are we free to do as we please?
  • If we are free politically, might we still be constrained by other considerations?

How we approach those questions will depend in large measure on factors such as upbringing, religious belief, intellect, individual maturity, and the possession of a functioning conscience. (Sociopaths need not apply.) However, their answers must converge on three absolute principles:

  • Self-control.
  • The Brazen and Golden Rules.
  • The Noachite Commandments.

...regardless of the angle from which each of us approaches them.

Yes: must. When it is otherwise, we lack a functioning civil society. We are immersed in the Hobbesian "war of each against all," where the only ethical touchstone is can I get away with it and the sole measure of success is survival. As "no one here gets out alive," and anyway, survival in a Hobbesian state-of-nature / red-in-tooth-and-claw environment tends to be measured in ever smaller units, I, for one, find that condition unsatisfactory.

A rather humorless joke has some point here. Some years ago, the political-correctness-powered push to replace "judgmental" terms and phrases with "nonjudgmental" equivalents reached a depth of absurdity so great that a couple of wags produced a book lampooning the entire enterprise. The entry that comes to mind this morning is the replacement term for evil: "morally different." It was illustrated with a photo of Pol Pot, the butcher of Cambodia: "a morally different individual."

Give that a moment to sink in.

    "You know him, Kevin. You know his capacities. Do you think there's anything in this world that could hold him against his will?"
    Conway shook his head.
    "Nor do I. But if we're correct, then the only thing that could ever restrain him is his own self-restraint, a conscious decision not to reach out for what he wants. And he knows it."
    Schliemann picked up his mug from the little table between them, looked into it briefly, and set it down again.
    "God has made Louis a man that nothing can restrain. I don't presume to know His mind in this. I do know that He's equipped Louis not just with power, but with an understanding of his power that no amount of wishful thinking could overcome. And Louis has responded by teaching himself never to want anything beyond his necessities and the welfare of those he loves."

[From Chosen One]

Once restraint and punishment are subtracted from consideration, what remains to restrain us from acting on our desires immediately and with our full powers is our character.

This is not a condemnation of desire. Human life is fueled by desire; without it we would be mere vertebrate worms. But not all desires can be satisfied without doing harm, whether to others or to ourselves.

It is a persistent feature of the mentality that seeks power over others that it recognizes character as the foremost bastion against its aims. Not the character of the power-seeker, mind you; that of those he seeks to rule. For ultimately, no ruler can withstand the wrath of his subjects. Should they choose to turn on him, he will fall as surely as the night follows the day. Therefore, he must contrive to deflect their attention from his desires, expressed in his deeds, and onto the fulfillment of their own: he must destroy their characters.

There are several approaches to this:

  • Eliciting rampant envy;
  • Encouraging personal dissolution;
  • Fostering a present-moment mentality;
  • Replacing the sense of obligation with resentment;
  • Creating a myth of villains and oppressors who "deny us what we deserve."

A wide range of tactics can be applied to each of those strategies. As I write this, all of them are in operation in these United States, and have been for decades.

External supports to character are more easily felled than most of us realize. Look at what's been done to Americans' attachment to our churches and Christian faith: wave after tidal wave of ridicule and absurd accusations of "exclusion." First we're skewered as idiots and dupes for daring to believe in God, in an afterlife, and in an absolute standard of right and wrong. Then we're told that by excluding persons who reject those beliefs, we're somehow oppressing them. Marry Adam to Steve in your cathedral or face the severest of all charges: intolerance!

Our attachment to the lessons learned at our mothers' knee falls even more easily. Those old folks just don't "get it." Things are different today. We have the Pill, motels, penicillin! Hapless John and naive Mary don't have to lose out from our use of their bodies. After all, they'll get a tickle, too. Love? Just a misspelling of "sex." Commitment? Who believes in that any more? Abortion? What's the big deal about that? It's just a blob of tissue.

Of course, what starts with a faceless "blob of tissue" doesn't stop there. It doesn't even stop with Kermit Gosnell:


by Steven Ertelt |

The Belgian Senate voted today 50-17 to extend euthanasia to children with disabilities, in a move pro-life advocates worldwide had been fearing would come and expand an already much-abused euthanasia law even further.

The vote today in the full Senate comes after a Senate committee voted 13-4 to allow minors to seek euthanasia under certain conditions and the measure also would extend the right to request euthanasia to adults with dementia. There is still a chance to stop the bill in the House of Representatives, though pro-life campaigners fear it will become law....

“Currently the Belgian euthanasia law limits euthanasia to people who are at least 18 years old. This unprecedented bill would extend euthanasia to children with disabilities,” says Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition....

Dr Paul Saba of Physicians for Social Justice, is very concerned about the situation in Belgium.

“They are already euthanising people who are depressed or tired of life because they have taken the interpretations of saying physical and/or psychological suffering – you don’t have to have both, if you have one, why is that not enough? If you are suffering, it’s a personal experience and it would be discriminatory for someone to judge what a person is suffering,” he says. “What this teaches us is that despite the government’s assurances that they will set very strict criteria, that won’t work.”...

Some Belgian experts are supporting the extension of euthanasia to children with disabilities because they say that it is being done already. The same medical experts suggest that the extension of euthanasia will result in an increase of 10 to 100 euthanasia deaths each year.

The Belgian euthanasia law appears out-of-control. The Belgian Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission appear to be in a conflict of interest. The Commission supported the euthanasia deaths of: Nathan Verhelst (44) who was born as Nancy, Ann G who had Anorexia Nervosa and was sexually exploited by her psychiatrist, Mark & Eddy Verbessem, and at least one depressed woman. These are only the cases that we know about....

In the 20th Century: from Margaret Sanger to Adolf Hitler the goal was to rid the world of the disabled and Untermenschen.

How many of us can withstand such assaults on our characters, enduring them decade after decade as they swallow ever more of our society -- of our neighbors and friends -- and are glamorized and trumpeted as "the wave of the future" by beautiful bellwethers whose carefully sculpted, strategically unclothed bodies shine down upon us from 5000-inch screens? How many of us can protect our children from succumbing to them?

No discussion of this subject would be complete without mentioning the death cults. I delineated their program long ago:

  • Abortion without restrictions.
  • Assisted suicide.
  • Involuntary euthanasia of those deemed untreatable or having "no quality of life."
  • Compulsory surrender of the organs of the deceased for transplantation.
  • Creation of embryos for research and therapeutic purposes.
  • Government-enforced "triage" to conserve medical and financial resources.
  • Compulsory acceptance of specified therapies.
  • Procreation licenses.
  • Government eugenics programs:
    • At first, as subsidies to couples with favored genetic characteristics;
    • Later, as compulsory donations of gametes for use in government-supervised breeding programs.
  • Conscription for military purposes.
  • Conscription for non-military purposes.

The overarching theme of all these measures, about half of which are already in place in various Western countries, is that human life has no intrinsic value and bears no intrinsic rights. By corollary, the individual's life does not belong to him, but to the State. The deliberate creation of human embryos in government-funded research centers, despite the revulsion it evokes from more than half the population of this country, is directly in line with this campaign. It's apparently the number-one goal of the pro-death forces at this time, despite lack of any indication of scientific or medical utility.

I maintain that the above is accurate in all particulars. But what matters most to this morning's topic is how it bears upon character:

What's the point to developing a sound character if the sole point of the exercise of life is death?

Should death be raised to an unchallengeable status, Cthulhu will rise and will reign unopposed. Whatever version of Newspeak should prevail in those final years of depravity and destruction will omit the word character from its lexicon. Assuming, that is, that in our unchained lust we bother to speak to one another at all.

How do we retrieve character from the abyss to which it's been consigned? Glory be to God, Gentle Reader: ask me one I can answer! I can see no course but to isolate oneself and one's family -- one's community, if that's possible -- from the surrounding world entirely. Venture out only when absolutely necessary; interact only with others of compatible convictions and practices. But try for just a moment to imagine how you'd go about that. In this day and age, is it even possible?

I don't know. I don't know of anyone who does know. For those of us of advanced years, whose children are already grown and whose energies have faded, it might not be possible even if there is a way. We're already passing into history...and being derided as fuddy-duddies, clueless old farts whose convictions have no relevance to this 24/7 / 500-channels / get-it-while-it's-hot / happenin' world, as we depart.

Know this, at the very least: They who encourage you to set aside considerations of character in favor of a laissez les bon temps roulez mentality are the enemy. They have an agenda that includes your subjugation -- and it would greatly ease their labors for you to do the hardest part for them.

Keep the faith.


Anonymous said...

I believe you're correct in your analysis, but you may have missed an important point. The whole character destruction "movement" has, and is, billed as an increase in personal liberty. This makes it very difficult for someone who rails against statist actions to make credible arguments against the "personal" idiocies you describe. The specter of Theocracy (horrors!) is still a potent club for the Progressives.


Francis W. Porretto said...

A good point, Steve, and worth expanding on, but I was already over my word quota for the day and had to declare the essay complete or be penalized 15 paragraphs and loss of down. Stop by tomorrow; I expect to address it in the next piece.

William Stout said...

A well written, and thoughtful analysis of the current state of affairs. I do disagree with you concerning isolation. I believe that we owe it to our fellow men to speak out against these evils and to stand up for what is right. I realize the high price that one must pay for doing so, but if one does not stand up for what is right, then one is guilty of silent complicity in the same respect as Martin Niemoller meant it. Admiral Jim Stockdale also lamented the lack of character in today's men. Such a lack of character has a social cost, but it also carries with it a penalty to the individual, as the ancient Greek philosophers had pointed out. I highly recommend "Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot" as a primer on the Admirals thinking, if you are interested.

agraves said...

I will boil the argument down to simply this: the west: U.S. and Western Europe, Australia, essentially the white world has become a civilization of Cowards! Fear of saying, thinking, doing the wrong things has ruined us. My question is this: why aren't more whites angry and taking to the streets on a daily basis? Republican, Conservative, libertarians, leadership is composed of cowards and pansies. You see they will not fight unless told it is ok to do so via police, military, church, etc. while dems, illegals, feel free to scream and yell constantly. All cowards. Alex

Magnus said...

Steve touched on an important point when he brought up the "movement" being billed as an increase in personal liberty. "Personal liberty ├╝ber alles," otherwise known as liberalism, is inherent in the fabric of Western society. Mark Richardson of the Oz Conservative blog describes this fact in an excellent manner in the first portion of his eBook. It is not a matter of whether or not one political party is liberal and the other is conservative; it is a matter of degree to which each one is liberal. As a result, it's hard for most Westerners to even think outside the framework of liberalism.

He also goes on to demonstrate in chapter two that the core value of liberalism is "autonomy." The concept of autonomy, while sounding good on the surface, unknowingly (and sometimes knowingly) leads to the destruction of institutions that hold our society together such as the family, identity, and morality.

Richardson makes the argument (and I am paraphrasing to an immense degree) that we should recognize the dangers of where liberalism ultimately carries us and instead emphasize tradition. If anyone has not yet visited Mr. Richardson's website, I would highly recommend it.

If we could ever go back to a place where we recognize certain institutions, such as church and family, as sacred and worth protecting (i.e. more important than the cult of hyper-individualism that we have today), we might be able to turn things around, at least to a degree.

Joseph said...

Cthulhu? Don't you mean Ouden?

Francis W. Porretto said...

Well, Joe, if I remember Past Master accurately, Lafferty defined Ouden as the god of nothingness. I suppose that would come after Cthulhu had finished his work.