It’s sometimes observed that different political orders flow down from different moral understandings. The facile conclusion to draw from that is that changing the moral beliefs within a society will then change the political order. Since politics is war at a low violence threshold, this implies that it’s possible to alter the political order through the use of rhetoric alone, without resort to force at any level.
Superficially, this can be true in certain situations. When the USSR fell, yes, there were some tanks driven around near the Kremlin, but it was more of a demonstration than an actual instance of combat. Rhetoric and internal dissolution eventually made the Soviet state untenable, as the lack of belief in Marxism-Leninism lead to the incapacity of that state to defend itself with the vigor that it had shown in decades past.
In contemporary politics, the end of the Soviet Union has out-sized relative importance, and often, observers and political actors tend to draw too many lessons from it which are not necessarily appropriate.
In contrast, when Hungarian students revolted in 1956, expecting eventual armed assistance from NATO, Khrushchev showed no pity in suppressing the rebellion. He had no pity because at that time, patriotic feelings and moral legitimacy were still high within the Soviet states. Further, the westerners were not willing to go to war in support of their stated beliefs about universal liberty — the desire for self-preservation won out over the desire to promote democratic-universalist values.
In this case, radio broadcasts from American intelligence encouraged the Hungarians to revolt, but the military support that they expected did not materialize. In a rhyming event, something similar happened at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba — the military support for the planned invasion was withheld at the last moment. This is a typically American political error, arguably deriving from pervasive beliefs that spiritual force trumps material force, and that with enough of one, a people has no need for the other.
Although Americans would not typically call their moral beliefs about the liberating power of democracy to be spiritual, it is a spiritual belief nonetheless.
The notion that the promotion of moral values is a risk-free activity that can never lead to violence is completely false. Promoting a competitive system of moral values is a whole lot more dangerous than “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” The latter can be a harmless prank, but the growth of an alternative value system reliably leads to war. Indeed, when the American State Department helped to overthrow the governments of Egypt and the Ukraine recently, enormous political violence resulted in the aftermath of the spread of the new moral teachings.
Similarly, in the US itself, the new morality of Civil Rights lead to waves of crime, disorder, and terrorism, not to mention a wildly expensive (in moral and material terms both) reaction, termed the ‘War on Drugs.’
Moral entrepreneurs tend to be furtive, claiming that they are not violent people, but we see from history that they are much more dangerous than fighting men themselves, because when they are successful in establishing a new moral order, physical conflict typically results. Moral entrepreneurs, similar to economic entrepreneurs, seek to re-arrange the moral basis of society.
The common portrayal of such people as inherently peaceful is spurious, because encouraging moral change, if successful, usually results in physical conflict.
This is because when there are differing conceptions of moral order within a single state, that state becomes destabilized — as Lincoln cribbed from the Bible, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” It must be split into multiple properties, or the people living in the residence will fall to violent squabbling. Even after the separation, violent squabbling is likely.
This dynamic helps to explain why America’s educational and press organs are so frantic in promoting the new morality of non-morality — when too many people are left behind in the push towards a fully Satantic moral system, the state itself must become destabilized, as too many people fail to comply with its directives, and the ability of its administrators to govern depletes. To the extent that the people prove themselves unwilling or unable to adopt the new morality is to the extent that they become enemies of the state.
This dangerous dynamic was well understood by the American founders, which was why they built legal structures designed to permit some measure of moral pluralism within certain legal limits. Private sovereignty was permitted in the context of obedience to certain public restrictions, within a framework of the culture of English Protestantism. Given that that cultural framework has been broken, and the legal framework weakened to the point of nonexistence, the struggle for moral supremacy becomes more severe.
Whereas previously, under the more Constitutional order, there was space for some private moral sovereignty (households and communities could make important moral distinctions), there is now a pervasive demand to keep up with the rapid pace of moral disruptions emanating from the capitols of democratic politics and media influence.
Those that fail to keep up with the pace — even if they are bumpkin television chefs held guilty of violating the new moral laws in past decades — find themselves the target of retaliatory lawsuits, employment discrimination, and public defamation.
The funny thing about the leftist ratchet is that a person becomes wicked by simply maintaining yesterday’s beliefs, by not keeping up with the rapid pace of moral disruption. This must inevitably lead to physical conflict, which is generally why many everyday Americans, frightened by the idea of fighting, stay glued to their TV sets, to ensure that they stay within the realm of the acceptable opinion.
In this the leftists are the real traditionalists, doing their best to resurrect the chaotic ways of living from the dead tribes of eons past, whom they idealize, versus the relatively recent moral innovations of the Christian culture which they have mostly succeeded in undermining. Cthulhu’s music provides the background track to their dreams, pulling them down towards the ancient cities without names, generating an irresistible attraction to forgotten rituals performed according to laws written in incomprehensible runes.
“Cthulhu’s music”…the whispers of Satan.
Andrew Matthews says
Henry, when you write, “The latter can be a harmless prank,” referring to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, you make a slight misstep. To do so is always a bad idea unless your intention is to cause a panic and possibly a few people trampled to death.
Otherwise, excellent piece!
In this the leftists are the real traditionalists, doing their best to resurrect the chaotic ways of living from the dead tribes of eons past, whom they idealize
Give Me That Old-Time Religion
We will drive up to Valhalla
Riding Beetles, not Impalas
Singing “Deutschland Uber Alles”
And that’s good enough for me!
I hear Valkyries a-comin’
In the air their song is comin’
They forgot the words! They’re hummin’!
But they’re good enough for me!