What’s Wrong With The World Part XIV—More Barbarism—Loss of Authority

Loss of Authority

At the core of this discussion is the concept of authority. Authority is not power: any thief or brigand has power over his victims. Authority is the moral right to demand obedience. When an authority makes a demand beyond his mandate, this is called an over-reach of authority, or an abuse of authority: the demand is literally “unauthorized.” In such cases and only in such case is disobedience or rebellion justified.

But to the Modern, all authority is dismissed as arbitrary, mere coercive power, blind power, oppressive power, and hence all rebellion is always justified.

(The rebellion, of course, that is never justified is nonconformity in thought or deed to the pieties and jabberwocky of the Modern herd-mind, which is never to be questioned: in that case, any nonconformity is always to be punished as savagely and unjustly as possible.)

The traditional view is that even when a lawful sovereign or a father or someone else to whom obedience is owed lacks the power to compel submission, it is morally wrong to disobey.

The traditional view is that someone who possesses the power to compel obedience, but who lacks the authority, may be disobeyed when prudent to do so; and even imprudent disobedience is morally acceptable, perhaps laudable, and perhaps heroic, as witness the deaths of Socrates and Christ.

Society, despite the elaborate structure of laws intended to compel obedience, is fundamentally a voluntary affair: customs have more force than laws, and even criminals tacitly recognize the moral authority of the police to arrest and punish them, except for those very few criminals who resist unto death, thinking themselves martyrs of insupportable injustice.

However, imagine a group of factions that recognize no common authority who has the moral right to command the voluntary obedience of all groups. Any attempt to coerce the obedience of such factions will be rejected as tyranny, a mere exercise of arbitrary power. Such a group of factions can never be brought to parley, compromise, and loyalty to the authority seeking peaceful reconciliation for all. Paranoia and anger are by their nature, by definition, destructive and mutually exclusive with reconciliation. An angry man does not want reconciliation; a paranoid man does not trust it.

The current world is riven into two mutually hostile and mutually irreconcilable camps: whatever consensus once existed no longer obtains, and the common ground of agreement is ever-narrowing. This great dissolution is called ‘The Culture War’ and it is the spiritual form of a civil war, which, even if it never breaks out into open violence, is incompatible with a civil society, because neither faction will recognize the authority of the other to make or unmake laws and customs. Where common ground exists, some mutually inclusive beneficial arrangement is possible. Where no common ground is left, however, only mutually exclusive gain or loss is possible: a zero-sum game where each gain by one side entails a loss to the other.

Liberty does not crave reconciliation and compromise with tyranny. Those who seek a robust defense in wartime do not and dare not crave compromise with those collaborators who seek pre-emptive surrender. Those who want a society free of unwholesomeness, pornography, abominations  do not seek compromise with those bent toward the desecration of decency and the abolition of innocence and purity. We cannot live in peace if only one side wants peace. We cannot form a civilization where half the members want barbarism.

Where anger and paranoia have reached so deep, all common ground is annihilated, and hence reconciliation is impossible and unwanted.

Philosophy cannot cure this. The study of civics, law, politics and political economy is founded on the idea that man is a political animal, which means, a rational animal, and that man dwells among fallen men in a fallen world. Politics is the attempt to find the ideal yet practical basis on which men can put aside their desire for barbaric beastlike existence so as to erect laws, customs, and institutions that preserve the peace, protect life, and encourage the good life. The study of politics presupposes a common ground or a common desire for life and weal. When one faction desires primarily those things that lead to a dissolution of the common weal, to the degree that such desires are not innocent, that is to say, to the degree that the desire for dissolution is deliberate policy, the study of politics is vain.

The enemy is not attempting to preserve the commonwealth, neither of the United States nor of the world community of civilized nations. The enemy seeks the destruction of the commonwealth, either to clear the ground for a fanciful utopia,  perhaps based on sharia law, or perhaps based on socialist daydreams, or perhaps because they seek destruction for its own sake.