What’s Wrong With The World Part XIX—Confused


The main thing dismissed by modern writers as being, since not open to empirical confirmation, ergo either mere opinion or mere myth, is that reality which forms the basis of ethical, political and aesthetic philosophy: the idea moderns forget is the idea that there is something that the mind of man can grasp which is not invented arbitrarily by the mind of man, including norms and imperatives of thought, passion, and feeling. That reality is called Natural Law or Right Reason.

It was not until quite late in my life—after I was married, in fact—that I realized how thoroughly and entirely the Modern Age had repudiated the idea of Natural Law and Right Reason. Two anecdotes spring to mind.

Losing the Lottery

I remember hearing a chilling account of some modern students. According to this account, the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, that short, sharp yet grisly paean against conformity, which culminates in an innocent old lady being brutally stoned to death for the sake of a forgotten harvest time tradition, was being discussed by modern students, and their teacher with a growing sense of horror realized that none of the students understood the horror of the story.  The modern students (so the teacher reported) saw nothing wrong with stoning old ladies to death. Not that they would do it themselves, oh no; it was merely that the rules and customs of that imaginary village were the special culturally-relative customs of that time and place, and we are in no position to judge them or their ways.

The sheer unnaturalness of treating an old lady to a brutal and brutally pointless death by slow and painful blows was, it seemed, entirely lost on the modern young.

They were moral retards.

They have lost even the most basic ability to tell right from wrong, much less perform a complex moral calculation involving the compromise with necessary evils and the awareness of the weaknesses of human nature which form such an integral part of the American Constitution and, indeed, our entire way of life. Children who cannot see the wrongness in stoning innocent old women to death are not fit to inherit the nation our parents left to us.

Desecrating Sex

I remember speaking with modern Christians (whom one would think to be more uniform in their conclusions on this matter, considering that Church teachings of all denominations through all ages are unambiguous) who supported both gay marriage and sex outside of marriage. One young Christian man earnestly told me that the sex act was merely recreation, a pastime like mixed doubles tennis which just so happened to require both sexes to participate. One young Christian lady said that sex outside of marriage was morally acceptable provided only that the couple truly loved each other.

The idea that the sexual passions should be housebroken and schooled only to seek those particular partners without whom one has shown by unbreakable vow that one is willing to raise any offspring the reproductive act might produce was an idea too prudent for these modern minds to take seriously.

(This was while I was still firmly in the atheist camp and absolutely loyal to its strictures. I was an advocate of self control in the sexual arena, of chastity and monogamy, for purely secular and logical and prudential reasons. The destructive effect of unchastity on society, especially among the poor, can be audited by reading the accounts of Theodore Dalrymple, for example (another atheist). It merely added a delicious irony to reflect that I, the atheist, saw the logic in the Christian idea about the role of marriage in civilized life, and that they, the Christians, who were allegedly supposed to believe and follow Christ by faith whether they saw the logic in His teachings or not, repudiated the Christian idea about marriage. Christians were arguing in favor of sodomy and fornication, and I was arguing in favor of purity and chastity.)

The traditional idea is the idea that merely being in love is not sufficient to justify itself: it is the idea that unlawful or  imprudent love, no matter how heartfelt, is wrong. Only love that is in the right circumstances and directed toward the right partner is right. It is the idea that you, who are sovereign of your own soul, do not get a vote about the nature of love. No human word, law, or custom can change the objective facts, and the wrongness of unnatural or illicit love is a fact, not an opinion; not something humans created, not something humans can destroy.

The Objectivity of Reality

The idea that there are rules that humans found but did not make is (for some reason) accepted without demur in the realm of the physical sciences. No one thinks the British Parliament has a right to revoke the Second Law of Thermodynamics despite the obvious benefits to Her Majesty’s loyal subjects. But when applied to other questions equally objective, obviously objective, such as laws of economics, of morality, of logic, of human nature, of biology or psychology or cause and effect: why, all these things are merely bigotry and benighted prejudice! Parliament can revoke the rule of economics that no one can borrow his way out of debt, with the same ease it can revoke the rule of cause and effect that say one cannot consume what one has not produced, or the rule of human nature that says marriage is not sodomy, or the rule of biology that says that unborn offspring are not members of their parent’s species.

Where does it come from, this modern nonsense that says all things are manmade, including things men obviously did not make and cannot change? It is the idea that there is no such thing as Natural Law and no such thing as Right Reason by which we perceive that law.

The ancient (and correct) conclusion was that some pleasures were true and yielded the satisfaction they promised, whereas other pleasures were false, and that to pursue them was vain, self-defeating, and self-destructive.

This idea is so entirely self-evident that it is futile to defend it. One does not argue with a skeptic at noon that daylight differs from night; if he cannot see the sun, he is not going to see your merely human finger pointing at the sun.

Likewise, the ancient (and correct) conclusion was that some passions were correctly ordered and correctly oriented and aimed at their proper and fit objects, whereas some passions were disordered, aimed wrongly, or misaligned.

It was on this basis that all education (except only that in the Modern Age) was formed. The idea was that youth should be trained to feel shame for what was shameful, proud of what merited pride, to love what was lovely and hate what was hateful. The natural passions of cowardice, greed, love of excess, lust, hatred, fawning, and selfishness were to be replaced with more mature and useful passions of courage, love of honor, moderation, temperance, respect for elders and teachers and leaders, pious loyalty to family and city, hatred of lies, respect for woman and motherhood, and love of justice.

This idea is so entirely and thoroughly dismissed in the Modern Age, that it is utterly forgotten. Indeed, so forgotten is it that even the vocabulary used to define and discuss these things — Stoics call it “action in accordance with nature” — is incomprehensible to the Modern. The Moderns merely stare at you with bovine incomprehension if you attempt to define the terms; their imaginations are so stunted they cannot even hold a discussion on the matter even as a hypothetical.

If a scientist cannot measure and dissect justice or civic loyalty in a laboratory or a betatron, then such things do not exist, except as meaningless words or meaningless figments. Only what is physical is real. Such is the modern slogan. (The slogan is uttered by those who do not notice that the statement “only what is physical is real” since it is a principle of ontology, is itself not physical, hence is not real. It is a self-disproving statement.)

Is there no Natural Law? Is there no such thing as Human Nature?

The Objectivity of Human Nature

Are not certain passions and appetites right, suited, fit, apt and good when directed to certain objects or goals, whereas those same appetites and passions become wrong, ill-suited, unfit, in appropriate and evil when directed at other objects and goals?

The men of thie Modern day, for the moment, hold it to be reprehensible that a man should feel toward an underage daughter the sexual attraction he feels toward his wife. (How long the moment is to last is uncertain, since there is no convincing argument, based on the premise of modern morality, i.e. self-destructive narcissistic hedonism, that concludes practitioners of incest and pederasty should practice the self-control no other sexual deviant might or ought or, by modern theory, can practice.)  A less ambiguous example is race-hatred: even the Moderns condemn this emotion as wrong even when it is not acted upon. The point nonetheless is that most of us grasp, if only in a dim way, that there are certain passions and appetites that are innately, because of their nature, bad.

To the modern mind, there is no distinction between appetites and passions. Whatever it is that one now wants, for whatever the reason of the wanting, that urge is sacrosanct. All passions and appetites, high and low, elevated and profane, natural and unnatural, base and noble, are exactly the same in dignity and worth. The modern mind embraces a thoroughgoing agnosticism on all questions of virtue and value, and holds all judgments preferring one desire over another to be meaningless and arbitrary, if not pernicious.

I want what I want when I want it:  nothing else can be said. So runs the modern refrain.

The Moderns make one exception to this rule that all desires are created equal: any desire springing from hasty or ignorant judgment, a bias, a bigotry, a prejudice, is condemned as adverse to the pubic weal. The moderns also recognize that actions that directly harm others are and should be unlawful, unless the victim is an adult who gives free and informed consent. The moderns also argue that free and informed consent is impossible except between men of the same level of wealth, so that the laws which protect the public from trespass and invasion do not apply to the rich, or any whom we might envy for some other reason, ergo their property can be plundered in order to assure the equality of outcome which is a necessary precondition for the existence of informed consent. The moderns also argue that the West was erected on the backs of bleeding and cowering slaves and conquered colonial serfs, so that bigotry against Whites is acceptable, and bias against Christians not only acceptable but is required: the laws are expected to judge a man not by the contents of his character, but by the color of this skin, unless he is a Black Baptist preacher or a black who vote Republican, in which case, he is a Sambo, and Oreo, a race-traitor and an Uncle Tom.

I could list more exceptions, but why bother? After combing through all the exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions, we are left with the idea that the only thing really and actually under discussion in the libertarian all-free all-liberal utopian future envisioned by the intellectuals is that incest, polygamy, no-fault divorce and various unnatural sexual acts will be not only tolerated, but celebrated, praised, promoted, and held up for emulation; that intoxication by drugs and alcohol is praiseworthy (but, for some reason, not cigarettes); and that in general selfishness, sloth, laziness, and hoggish avarice for public money is laudable and to be encouraged, but selflessness, industry, hard work, application, and a zeal for earning private money is detestable and to be deterred.

If you can see no sense to this, allow me to direct your attention to what is missing. The modern theory of ethics admits of no qualifications and no gradations of appetites and passions.

To the modern mind, there is no standard, no such thing as a wrongly-directed passion, no such thing as an unnatural appetite. If you want to commit suicide rather than to live, that is not only your right, but, under socialized medical schemes, your duty. If you want to kill you baby in your womb rather than shower her with motherly love and affection, that is not only your right, but, under socialist schemes of population control, your duty. If you want to leave your wife and get a younger and bustier wife to slake your sexual lusts, that is your right, even your wife has been perfectly loyal and self-sacrificing for years, and in the name of self-actualization and self-finding, may also be your duty; for her part, if she wishes to reward your love and loyalty with betrayal and divorce, not only is it her right, but you can be stuck with the paternity bills, and jailed if you fall shy the due amount. If you just so happen not to have any love for your country or the home that reared you, it is your sanctimonious right, your freedom of speech, to revile and betray her: treason is, after all, the highest form of patriotism, or something like that. You have no more reason to care for your children or your aging parents than you have to care for a goldfish you are tired of feeding: the all-powerful and all-intrusive nanny-state will pay, and will provide them with the love and self-esteem you did not care to give them.

This list could be lengthened endlessly. The point is that the apt, sane and natural passions and loyalties and duties have all been repudiated by the modern so-called philosophy, that inarticulate mental eructation of rubbish, that vague stirring of the loins, that wordless anxiety or rage or other feeling in the guts, those useful organs which serve the intellectual as the seat of ratiocination in the place of the intellect.

About the only recognized duty or loyalty thought to be worthy of social peer-pressure and legal enforcement to uphold is some vague duty to the keep the environment green and happy: but even this tends to be a matter either of meaningless ritual habits, like recycling plastic bottles, or a matter of government discouragement of industry, such as the fashionable enviro-crusades against petrol refineries, nuclear power plants, and hydroelectric dams. Some duties owed toward the state seem to be preserved in Modern political philosophy, but strangely they are never the ones that tend toward the preservation of law and order. Other duties are out the window. Everything else in life is a matter of what floats your boat.

With no judgment of praiseworthy and blameworthy passions, the modern mind is left with nothing but to allow the passions each for itself to propose itself as the highest good.