Last Crusade 18: The Dignity Of Man

One of the central ideas, so basic that it forms the foundation of all Western thought not just in political philosophy but in nearly all topics, is the idea of the dignity of man. So much so that even the worldviews acting most dramatically to rob and undermine the notion of the dignity of man do so in the name of some notion like equality, justice, or evenhandedness which are all notions that spring from this idea and make no sense outside of it.

Dignity means a formal or sober manner of speech or bearing. But the word also means to the thing that calls forth formality and sobriety: the quality or state of being worthy of honor or esteem. In older days, the word also meant a high rank either temporal or spiritual, which was something men honored and esteemed and took soberly.

These days, a formal or sober manner of speech or bearing invariably provokes either discomfort or hostility.

Even so minor a formality as to call a stranger by his last name is deemed unfriendly and standoffish.

Popular entertainment typically portrays formality and sobriety as being an offensive arrogance, mere pomposity, a pride that must be punctured.

Courtesy is always portrayed as insincere, cold, offensive, that is, as discourtesy.

True courtesy, if one were to judge from popular depictions, consists of familiarity, crudeness, and rough-hewn bluntness.  And it was thus before the Internet allowed all insults and vulgarities to be broadcast anonymously.

But the thing itself is not the sobriety and courtesy of speech or manner. The thing is the quality that makes for honor and esteem.

Crucial to the foundation of all Western thought is this concept: that man qua man, man as such, regardless of external and accidental features, man is essentially worthy of honor and esteem.

I say it is crucial to Western thought because the three basic roots of Western thinking, Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Christian religion, depict man as a rational animal, as a moral actor who owes duties personal and civic to his forefathers and descendants, and as one made in the image and likeness of God.

A creature unworthy of honor is none of these things.

Be not deceived on this point. The words I am using to describe these things come from earlier generations, since the present generation, as in an Orwellian nightmare, has no words for them.

Dignity is not pompousness, not false courtesy, not formality. It is not something a man earns by his good deeds nor forfeits by his bad.

Perhaps an example will shed light. Under what conditions is it permissible for the body of a dead human being to be denied any proper burial, but instead, be painted with clown paint and used as a grotesque life-sized prop in a carnival show? Under what conditions is it permissible for the body of a dead human being to be eaten as lunchmeat?

The answer will display what the answerer regards as more sacred than human dignity. One who answers that if it were done to save a human life, holds human life higher than dignity. One who answers that if it were done with the consent of the man before his death, or the current owner of the body, holds property rights higher than dignity. One who answers that people outside his party or tribe or race merit no such considerations in any case, puts partisan or tribal loyalty higher than dignity.

The thing we are talking about is whatever property it is, explicit or implicit, in human existence that makes even ardent advocates of what are called female reproductive rights unwilling openly to advocate canning the meat from unborn babies and selling it as babyloaf on the lunch menu at the local mall. Even the harvesting of organs for profit seems to cause them pause.

The sensitivity to this property rises and falls depending on how civilized or uncivilized each generation is, or how civilized they are in their treatment of servants, slaves, enemies or strangers.

Among Christian peoples, even as recently as two generations ago, it was held to be so offensive to the dignity of man that the slave-trade was forbidden, and the British Empire thought it praiseworthy to set battleships off the coast of Turkey and demand the Mohammedans halt their slave-keeping, despite the clear affirmation of Mohammed authorizing it. The Christians hired privateers in the seas of Indochina to hunt down slavers. No possible scientific examination of the persons thus manumitted could reveal the property the Christian thought worthy of dignity, aside from mere humanity itself.

For the same reason, in Christian nations, and nowhere else in history, it was considered offensive to the dignity of man to forbid the fairer sex from owning property or denying her suffrage to vote. But, again, no possible empirical examination of any woman would reveal the property Christians thought worthy of extending civic duties to women, aside from mere humanity itself.

For the same reason, in Christian nations, the horrid and unnatural practice of aborting the unwanted young, or (which is the same thing) exposing the unwanted young to the elements, has been strictly outlawed. But, again, no possible empirical examination of any infant would reveal the property Christians thought worthy of extending protection of the fundamental right to a mere fertilized human egg, aside from mere humanity itself.

For the same reason, in Christian nations, and nowhere else in history, divination, occultism and witchcraft was forbidden. While this is routinely mischaracterized as Christian antipathy to astronomy and chemistry and scientifically useful practices such as vivisection of captured prisoners, the reality is that this and this alone allowed the scientific revolution to occur, which is why it occurred in the Thirteenth Century in Europe, in the place and time where the Church was at her greatest influence spiritually and strength temporally. (And, for the record, the Church never forbade the dissection of human corpses. That is merely one more fib invented by the so called Humanists. Their philosophy apparently needs these pious frauds to keep itself afloat). The reason was that to divine the future or summon familiar spirits was regarded in Christian philosophy as being antithetical to the dignity of man. We are not meant to demean ourselves by bowing to card decks or star charts to discover our fate.

For the same reason, in Christian nations, and nowhere else in history, polygamy, the keeping of concubines, temple prostitution, pandering, pederasty, gladiatorial games, the castration of eunuchs, divorce, and contraception were held to be abominations, and as Christian fidelity grew, all these things were forbidden by force of law.

Human dignity is difficult or impossible to define, and so it was the main point of the secular attack, and always the attack was made in the name of something the men of the day would arguably regard as more sacred than their fidelity to Christ. It started, innocently enough, with the abolition of laws against contraception, which, before 1930, all Christian denominations without exception regarded as against Christian teaching.

One wing of the attack on several fronts, which I have described in detail in other essays: Darwin said man was merely one beast among others, produced by accident, not created by design; Freud said the mind of man was haunted by irrational, invisible and occult drives and obsessions, hence produced by accident, not by the reason and conscience of man; Marx said the same of human economic and political institutions, that they were produced by nonhuman forces of history, not by divine nor human design; and Skinner and many others said humans were not even animals, merely biochemical machines programmed by conditioning of internal genetics or external stimuli.

Unfortunately, each of these arguments is ultimately self-refuting, starting with Darwin. If the brain of man came about through processes selected solely by fecundity and survival value, on what grounds can Darwin himself trust his own brain to apprehend the truth of anything, including the truth of his theory? He cannot say it was because he brain was designed by a rational designer to be rational. It differs from the brain of the brute only in physical characteristics, size or number of neural connections. But these are the same characteristics by which, according to modern science, the average male brain differs from the average female.

Likewise, if human minds are ultimately irrational, or human institutions, and are ultimately not under human control at all, then the byproducts of those institutions and minds are likewise not under human control, hence no rational. This includes the byproducts known as the thoughts and words of Freud, Marx, and various modern materialists.

Now, obvious no one can take these arguments seriously on their own merit, any more than one can take seriously a man who claims to be a figment of your dream. If they were true, there would be no one making the claim. But the arguments have a powerful emotional appeal and a surface veneer of scientific rigor. The emotional appeal is that they demote, dethrone, and humble any human dignity. The haughty prince who thought himself the beloved son of the King of Kings turns out to be a pauper and an orphan, and, better yet, his parents were apes who mated by accident. By accident he lost his hair and gained a swelled head.

This emotional appeal is most potent, of course, in the minds of those who are primarily concerned with keeping their fellow man in a dispirited, cynical, dull, and docile frame of mind, because it reduces the West to Oriental levels of passive resignation. The astonish size and age of the universe is frequently used as a rhetorical ploy to impress upon the modern child the indifference of his small existence. The endless and pointless kalpas of reincarnation, the indifference of the mechanism of karma, the remoteness of heaven, are using in Chinese and Indian rhetoric for similar effect. Only in the West, where history is a story with a beginning, middle, and end, is history meaningful, for only stories have meaning. In the East, where history is an endless cycle of a world serpent endlessly consuming its own tail, is there no meaning, hence no reason to rebel, to improve, or to dream of bettering one’s caste.

The second wing of the attack was from the opposite direction. Instead of denying the dignity of man, this attack merely expanded it to include everything and anything.

The rhetoric followed this pattern: Contraception did not reduce women to mere sex objects with no reproductive value, but, rather, increased the privacy in which they enjoyed their sacred nuptial rights. No-fault divorce did not render oaths meaningless and marriage optional hence insignificant, but, rather, increased the divine freedom to choose adultery over fidelity, and granted women the freedom to flee from intolerable marriages which bored them. Normalizing sexual perversions did not render chastity and common sense meaningless, but rather expanded the freedom to choose unnatural gratifications of sterile acts related to sex only by a neurotic connotation between unrelated fetishes. Killing children in the womb, killing Jews in ovens, killing patients on expensive life support, killing coma victims, killing old people, killing counterrevolutionaries, killing mentally unstable people contemplating suicide, were all of them glorified as an increase either to the freedom hence dignity of someone previously oppressed coming into his due, either personal or national or social.

The second attack also eliminated human dignity by extending it to beasts. Instead of the compassion for God’s creatures we, as the steward but not the author of nature, are commanded by divine order to show all sensible things, the attack speaks of animals as having rights, and speaks of things like fur coats and steak dinners as murder, and circus animals as slaves. Vegetarianism in the modern day provokes the same awe and sense of holiness as once adhered to monastics perched on pillars in the deserts of Egypt. However, none of those who speak of animals rights have as yet suggested that vixens and bitches and pussycats be prevented from mating, on the grounds that, since they cannot give consent, such mating is rape.

This second attack was as deadly as the first. Because covering a page with pencil will blot out all the words as thoroughly as erasing all the pencil marks. A word that means everything means nothing.

Step by step the attack proceeded, until we reach the current situation. Sodomy is now not only legal in America these days, it has been awarded the dignity of holy matrimony, an idea so nonsensical and impious that not even the Romans under Nero, or the Carthaginians fresh from burning their children in brass idols, would have dared it.

We are within arm’s reach of the abolition of the last vestige of human dignity. Once eugenics is regarded as sound and wise, the concept of letting each man chose his own wife will seem as absurd as allowing a sheep to select its shepherd. Once euthanasia is regarded as morally licit, proactive euthanasia on those currently burdensome to the economy or the sensibilities of the elite follows. We already accept as irremovable and unremarkable those areas in the Middle East were slavery, including sexual slavery of abducted schoolgirls, is open and notorious. To denounce such things is Islamophobic hence racist.  Harlotry is legal in Nevada and Holland and other places. Pornography is as ubiquitous and nearly inescapable as vulgarity and ugliness. Pederasty at the moment is a vice of the rich and powerful, but the same signs that went before the normalization of all these other corruptions can be seen on the horizon like a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand.

The distinguishing feature which renders homosexuality natural and pederasty unnatural, according to modern thinking, is the consent of the sex partner. The modern silently adopts the Christian notion of an age of consent, but consent only has meaning in a worldview where free will exists, and the human reasoning process is capable of reaching rational and reliable conclusions. Since the modern contemptuously rejects the notion of free will and flee cravenly from the notion of personal responsibility, this distinction on which the moderns rely cannot last long one unadmitted Christian influences no longer touch their thinking.

A measure of the success of the darkness to cloud the modern mind is the incredulity that inevitably greets the concept: a child of modern thought will not see anything undignified about contraception, for example, because he will not see anything in the sex act worth holding sacred, or even as holding to be imprudent outside marriage. Not only do the not see it as something worthy of respect, they do not even see it as a source of danger, emotional, or medical, or otherwise.

The connection linking sex to reproduction to marriage to love are invisible to them, or, if visible, as dismissed as matters of arbitrary personal preference. The modern idea is that sex is linked to sexual reproduction if you want it to be inside your personal reality.

These links of logical argument are too difficult for someone seeing only human needs and wants, appetites and vanities by the light of human passions to discern. He suspects trickery may be at work, or, worse, moral clarity.

And moral clarity, like human dignity, is regarded as a pompous and arrogant balloon whose only fate is to be punctured by jeering hecklers, that these hated Victorian hypocrites be silenced, and one and all can return to orgy of sex and violence and greed and misery and eventual personal death and racial extinction which is the sum total of existence for any man for whom man is the measure of all things.