Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Striking At The Root

     First and above all else, my sincerest thanks to those who’ve written, called, and sent smoke signals and carrier pigeons in my time of troubles. It’s good to know someone cares, even if from far away. Things are gradually growing more stable, and I’m coping adequately with my burdens, at least for the moment. “The moment,” and the light and warmth of God’s love, are where I’m struggling to stay. What the future holds, no one can know.

     Anyway, for now it’s back to the regular drivel.

     There’s an old Henry David Thoreau quote that’s been much on my mind:

     There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

     (Yes, as annoying as it can be at times, a retentive memory is good for some things.)

     The metaphor embedded in that statement is devastatingly accurate. How does one remove an unwanted tree? Not by pruning its branches, though that might be a required preliminary step to reach the trunk. Neither does one kill a man by cutting off his fingers. You must aim at a vital target, not a peripheral one.

To bring down an enemy, you must strike at what sustains his life.

     The same is true when one’s enemy is a system of beliefs.

     Recently I’ve been writing about the Left’s assault on the right to life. It’s an important subject that deserves all the attention we can give it. Indeed, it’s more important than the subject of abortion itself – and if you’re a bit startled to see that coming from a Catholic, I’ve achieved my initial objective.

     Don’t just run your thumb under the words. Think about it. What did I just say and why did I say it? A Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch is expected to apply his little gray cells to what he encounters here. Give ‘em a workout.

     There! You’ve got it! The right to life is closer to fundamental than the questions that surround abortion. Before abortion can be addressed morally, we must satisfy ourselves as to whether the developing infant possesses a right to life. The answer to that question would dispose of the abortion question, no matter what it might prove to be.

     My right-to-life Jeremiads are closer to being fundamental investigations than anything else I’ve written lately. And yet, they’re not at “the root.” Not quite, though they’re pointed in the right direction.

     We must go still deeper.

     When Thomas Jefferson, the sole certified genius among the Founding Fathers – I almost wrote “Fondling Fathers,” and wouldn’t that have delighted Joe Biden? – wrote that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are “self-evident,” he was working from a philosophical plateau upon which all of Western thought had been built. He believed his conceptual footing reliable, which, given one assumption, it was. But the assumption itself was incorrect.

     Can you spot the assumption I have in mind? Give it a moment. Virtually no one has done so in recent years. It’s a tricky little devil that will squirm out from between your fingers if you’re not both quick and very, very firm. Think hard.

     Getting frustrated? All right, here’s the answer: another quote:

     Either rights exist, or they do not exist. If they exist, they involve absolute consequences...Furthermore, if a right exists, it exists at every moment. It is absolute today, yesterday, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in summer as in winter, not when it pleases you to declare it in force.

     The author, Louis Thiers, was an opponent of the concept of rights. Yet he understood how a right must operate – how it must differ from a permission. A right is absolute, inherent in its possessor. Its existence requires no one’s assent, any more than the effect of gravity requires that we agree to stay stuck to the Earth. And its consequences, as Louis Thiers said, are absolute, whether it is respected or held in contempt.

     Are we at “the root” yet? Very nearly. If fact, I’d say we’re there…but there’s still a little digging to do. Call it a trench for irrigation and protection.

     Anyone who’s been a Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch for very long will already be aware that I’m a fanatic about exactitude in the use of words. Words are our tools of thought; we cannot think without them. Without words, we cannot form and manipulate generalizations – concepts. To reason usefully, therefore, requires that the words we use to do so have stable meanings that are not subject to “reinterpretation” according to fads, fashions, or the needs of propagandists. If that’s not perfectly clear, draw the analogy to mathematics and the symbols used in expressing an equation to be solved.

     Any attack on the stable, traditional meanings of words – and please don’t mistake me; the meanings of words are always established through tradition – is an attack on the tools we use to reason, and the concepts we’ve used them to form.

     The contemporary attack on human reason and individual freedom began with an attack on our language.

     A single word – rights – will suffice as an example for this morning’s discourse. If a right is and must be an absolute property that has absolute consequences, then the word must not be applied to anything that lacks those properties. Yet it has been, limitlessly, to the destruction of the concept of rights itself. That destruction was the Left’s aim from the outset.

     I’ve written about this many times. Yet the concept eludes a great many persons, including many who have no excuse. Consider the “right to vote.” This is so plainly not a right that there’s no way anyone could finesse his way toward it…except by twisting and torturing the meaning of rights to force voting inside it. I suppose if one is determined to have one’s way, a trivial matter like destroying the meaning of the most important word in all of political philosophy seems no great matter.

     But wait: there’s more!

     The attack on the concept of rights has not one but two main prongs. The above – the application of the word rights to desires that are not rights – is one. The second is the equally pernicious notion that the exercise of a right can be licensed.

     As I wrote some time ago:

     A brilliant friend of mine once propounded the following scenario: “Imagine that the police have come to your house. Though they have neither a warrant nor “probable cause,” they intend to perform a search of your home for unspecified items. You protest this invasion of your rights, whereupon the detachment commander says ‘Just give us $100.00 and we’ll let you be.’”

     If the police could do that, would Americans possess a true right to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects?” Or would it be something the “authorities” could arbitrarily grant or withhold on payment of a “fee?”

     If you still resist the idea that an attack on the meanings of words, especially fundamental words such as rights, is at the base of our degeneration, ponder that a while.

     We have arrived at “the root.” I can make no better case for where our attention belongs than what you see above. Yet if there’s anything in this spatiotemporal continuum of which I am absolutely certain, it’s this:

Some persons will fail to understand.
Others will refuse to understand.
Still others will call me everything but white for saying so.

     With that, I yield the floor to my Gentle Readers.


Tracy Coyle said...

I wrote that in order for a right to exist for an individual (as they do NOT exist for groups), the individual must be able to assert it. I agree about the inherent nature of them. I also agree that once asserted by ONE person, that each human has the right subject to ability, knowledge and resources to assert it. The right to life requires the ability to assert it - which happens at the point of viability of the child. This was Blackstone's argument and I believe the Founding Fathers were aware of it, agreed with it.

I agree totally with the misuse of 'rights'. I also state that the idea of positive/negative rights is a means to subvert the definition of 'right'. Law is about the balance, the border between the exercise of my right and the exercise of your right. A woman has the right to her body - but that right reaches a limit where the child's right to life exists...which is why I can't support a ban on abortion but do after viability.

Tracy Coyle said...

I hope things can continue to improve. Your commentary is among the highlights of my daily readings.

Live Free or Die said...

Exactly so, Frances, and well put.

The corruption of the language, begun by radical fringe groups, to conflate "rights" to mean "whatever I need that I don't have", instead of meaning, as you so eloquently stated, the fundamental rights originally defined by the founders of the USA, and slightly expanded in our constitution (self-defense, unreasonable search and seizure, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, property rights, the right to be judged by a jury of your peers, etc.) lays no claim to the product of the sweat of my brow, my property, or my earnings. Those are rights fundamental to a free people.

This corruption of the language has accelerated over the last century to an extent unimaginable by our founders.

It is now being propagandized to our young people by all levels of our "Education" establishment, our media, and "Hollywood".

This is truly the root that must be dug up and destroyed.