We have to leave aside, for now, any exact judgement on the precise events – there are lots of stories circulating about who did what to whom, but until it is all sorted out during the investigation(s), none of us can say who is at fault. What we can say, however, is that unarmed men – as a rule – shouldn’t be shot and killed by the police. We can also say that when people get outraged over a police shooting, looting stores is NEVER a proper response. We can also say that when the police, in response to the looting, come into a neighborhood dressed up like an occupying army, it won’t do much to improve community relations.
The mess in Ferguson is explicable to me only in the context of the overall decline of our civilization which is revealing itself both in our increasingly anti-social behavior (the looting, eg) and the incapacity of our governments (local, State and federal) to properly govern. The behavior of the police in a civilized nation should be that which makes it enormously unlikely that an unarmed man – even if engaged in criminal activity – will be shot by the police. The behavior of the citizens shouldn’t be – no matter what the provocation – to turn to criminal activity as an allegedly political statement against injustice. That we frequently get un-armed men (and often completely innocent people, into the bargain) shot by the police and that we also frequently get looting and other anti-social behavior from the citizenry should be setting off alarm bells. But here’s the real problem – it doesn’t. People seem to accept that the cops will do wrong and that people, in response, will go on and do wrong, as well. Lawyers will then sue and settle everything up for a money payment and the national narrative will move on to the Next Thing. We can’t go on like this, good people – our civilization is dying and it will die completely unless we start to get a grip on this.
There are myriad causes which can be asserted for the decline of our civilization – but fundamental to it is the decline of Judeo-Christian theology in the public square. As the public square has been taken up by various secular fads, Judeo-Christian theology has been increasingly marginalized. But here’s the kicker: it was precisely the Judeo-Christian theology which made for a civilization in which laws would be obeyed, manners would be observed and public decency upheld. There never was a time when there was a moral policeman on every block making certain that everyone kept up to scratch, but our ideals were based on Judeo-Christian theology and so most everyone, most of the time, kept their end up. Replace that with consumerism, money-grubbing, hucksterism (political and religious), narcissism and all the other nonsense we’ve fed on, and this is what you get…police forces which don’t know how to police (but which can, indeed, kill) and citizens who so lack a sense of justice that they can’t even have a political demonstration without looting a store.
We are not, at this point, all gone. We do have many people who still know how to act – who can govern or hold political demonstrations without devolving into looters of one sort or another. On the other hand, there are these looters in Ferguson – who are doing no differently, in effect, than the Occupy movement…or the anarchists who periodically protest outside globalist-elite gatherings. But the fact must be faced that a very large portion – and perhaps a majority – simply does not know how to act, whether they are acting in government or acting in the capacity of citizens. What difference between a pack of looters at a Wal Mart and a police force which seizes property on the flimsiest of pretexts? At bottom, both involve people stealing – the one under the cover of law, the other under the cover of political protest. We’re not, as I said, all gone – but we’re going.
Unless and until we accept that we can’t survive as a people who condone immoral behavior, we’re doomed. I’m not demanding that each and every one of you attend Mass or go to a synagogue this week, but if you want to live in a free and civilized nation, then you’d better act as if you do go every week. None of us are innocent; all of us fail – but the ideal still has to be held up and at least some attempt must be made to adhere to it. The fact that you are living in the West and have this ability to live pretty much as you please is based upon the Judeo-Christian ideal that each human being is uniquely valuable and has the sovereign power to make his or her own choices. That ideal doesn’t really exist anywhere else. It was built up, painfully, over many centuries as people came to a fuller understanding of God and man’s relationship to God. It actually peaked between the 12th and 15th centuries…its been rather downhill since then; for the ideal, I mean. Starting in the 16th century, people started questioning that whole notion of free will and a personal God. There has been pushback since the first questioning of the ideal (which is why we’re not completely gone, yet; part of the pushback, by the by, was the Declaration of Independence), but the general trend has all been towards fatalism, the supremacy of the group, the hopelessness of life, the pursuit of purely worldly pleasure and the rest of the claptrap we’ve been laboring under…and which makes for the situation we see in microcosm in Ferguson: police who can’t police and citizens who can’t act like citizens…because both are confused and don’t know what they are supposed to be doing. Think of how many news stories you’ve seen in just the past year which demonstrate that people don’t know how to act – and government doesn’t know how to govern. Most of these don’t involve people heading out to do a malevolent act – most of them are merely the result of people behaving stupidly because they honestly don’t know there’s a sensible alternative.
In the long run, I don’t know how all this will come out. I’m pretty confident that at least a veneer of civilization will remain until I’m safely in my grave. But I think it would be rather a good thing if our civilization was around 100 years from now – and 500 years from now, too. But it won’t be around 100 years from now unless people make a conscious decision to rebuild it and maintain it. If you can’t at least – even if grumblingly – accept free will (and thus personal responsibility) and the need for public decency (sorry, guy with underwear hanging out), then we’ll never get anywhere. What price are you willing to pay for civilization? That is what it comes down to – and if you won’t pay it, then you won’t have it.