Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice. – 9/11/1909
This is the age in which thin and theoretic minorities can cover and conquer unconscious and untheoretic majorities. – 12/20/1919
The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their commonsense. – 9/27/1929
John Moulton was a distinguished judge, a man of science, and a chap who held the splendid title during the Great War of Britain’s “director-general of explosive supplies,” a job he did brilliantly. Lord Moulton divided society into three sectors, of which he considered the most important to be the “middle land” between law and absolute freedom — the domain of manners, in which the individual has to be “trusted to obey self-imposed law.” “To my mind,” wrote Moulton, “the real greatness of a nation, its true civilization, is measured by the extent of this land.” By that measure, our greatness is shriveling fast: The land of self-regulation has been encroached on remorselessly, to the point where we increasingly accept that everything is either legal or illegal, and therefore to render any judgment of our own upon the merits of this or that would be presumptuous.
A small example: The other day, I visited a Shaw’s supermarket in New Hampshire. On the front door was a sign: “No bare feet — for Health & Safety reasons.” Really? Yes, it’s true that the bare foot is particularly prone to fungus and bacteria, and one wouldn’t want it promenading in large numbers around the meat department — in the same sense that it would be unhygienic to take a leak in the produce department. But the reason a civilized person neither urinates nor pads barefoot amid the fruit and veg is not that it’s a health-code violation but that it’s (in the Moulton sense) ill-mannered. Shaw’s can no longer rely on its clients to know this (and to “obey self-imposed law”), and it apparently feels it cannot prohibit such behavior merely as an affront to societal norms, so it can disapprove of barefoot shopping only as an act of regulatory non-compliance…
Rather mission accomplished, wouldn’t you say? We are, indeed, afraid of things which no real man or woman would fear – but we aren’t at all afraid of being complete moral zeroes. We fear war so much we’ll let ISIS go nuts over the Middle East…but are so unafraid of moral corruption that we’ll let even the most egregious lies in our press and politicians slide. We, as a people, have been deprived of that old common sense which basically regulated our attitudes…towards both things like war and things like lying…and, of course, whether or not you should wear shoes to the grocery store. And that brings us to Steyn’s quote. We’re going to have to get a federal ruling on who shall bake a cake and when for the same reason we need a sign posted against bare feet…because we’ve been so completely crushed by a thin and theoretic minority, so propagandized by a compulsory education system, that we are unsure if we have a right to not bake a cake if we don’t want…nor are we 100% certain we can really insist that people wear shoes to the store.
If you really think about it, the thin and theoretic minorities have been doing this to us for more than a century and they have always done it via idolatry. Every time they needed we, the people, to be moved against our will, they’d cook up something into a crisis we were supposed to fear so much that we’d cede power…or, more accurately, a few judges and bureaucrats would see to it that the power was ceded. A false idol is set up for us to either worship or fear (which ever seems to work best for the moment), and off we go. Think about how many people fear war, as one for-instance. It really isn’t remotely the worst thing which can happen – things like what happened in Kenya a few days ago are the worst things which can happen. Innocent people being massacred and enslaved – that is the worst thing that can happen. Brave men and women fighting (and, yes, dying) in a noble cause to prevent massacre and slavery should be considered among the very good things of the world. Common sense dictates that if it be true that a 20 year old man has to die – as much as we’d like to avoid it completely – then better he dies armed and trained for battle and fighting for what is right, than to be cruelly murdered in his college class. But we have been deprived of our common sense…and so we’re not sure it would be better to die fighting than to die for nothing.
Until we get back to being a people who (a) have common sense and (b) are fearless enough to act on it, we’re not really going to get anywhere. Until we just “know” that ISIS is to be fought, shoes are to be worn in the market and no one can be forced to bake a cake, we’ll remain at the mercy of the thin and theoretic minority. It’ll take a bit of rebellion to get there, to be sure – not taking up arms, but still some rebellion. Actually, that Memories Pizza store getting hundreds of thousands of donations after being snookered on whether to cater a gay wedding is indicative of the sort of rebellion we need. That was common people exercising their common sense: it is absurd that anyone would be troubled over expressing such an opinion, and each dollar donated was a symbolic affirmation that we just “know” its ok if you don’t want to participate in a particular activity.
It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out over the next 10 to 20 years – whether common sense will rebel and win, or whether that thin and theoretic minority can cook up enough false idols to distract us?