Irrational obedience has been the mark of the Communist and of the Nazi citizen as historically emerged. We look back at our brothers and shake our heads in wonder at what they did with their allegiance to common sense, to freedom, to human dignity or common decency.
Did their reason not notice that all of the lies around them were wrong: ‘the merchants were evil,’ ‘the Jews were sub-human,’ ‘all that the past had given was corrupted’? Or did they shamefacedly live knowing they were cowards, or were they just more evil than you or I?
We have lived to see these questions become immediate to our lives. It was so easy to be an American in a free nation founded on the rock of government by consent and law. The Vietnam war was a strategic and tactical nightmare; very well, you could protest and, of course, rather easily not serve.
Racism and the curse of slavery were wrong; very well, as a free citizen you could refuse to participate in them and could choose your level of involvement in righting the wrongs, just as everyone must still do with racism and abortion.
Creeping government control of free Americans is wrong; very well, we can mock the stupidity of anyone trying socialism yet again, when its whole record is failure, tyranny, or the creation if populations living childishly (and childlessly) for fleeting pleasures—fat victims fit for conquest by the less complacent. One can vote Republican and believe that presidential elections were only stolen in the Kennedy years. You can know that the public school systems and universities were propagandizing hordes of young people afraid of climate catastrophe, unable to support themselves or to think as free men and women. Very well, the world and the spirit would teach them the hard truths and the beauty of God. And we have time to found new colleges, homeschools, etc. to educate a counter-culture that can think.
But the darkness around us is very deep, and the resources of truth become fewer and our spirits seem dampened. Why should this be so? In the clear light of day, under the sun of God, we have entered into the phase that Solzhenitsyn described occurring in the cells of the state police.
We began to waken when we were forced to wear masks, knowing that the science suggests that they are of almost no value against airborne viruses. Why? How can so many be so irrational as to continue to do such a thing, treasuring one’s own germs and viruses back into the precious chambers of the lungs, taking in millions of the same through the sides and the porous skin of the mask?
Because it is an affirmation of our obedience and our desire to be good people: “I wear my mask for you, you wear your mask for me.” Arbeit macht frei. It is a symbol of our solidarity regardless of any material effects. That is what a ritual does for you. I affirm that my fear of death is as great as yours and that I will work for our shared master value—the extension of biological life no matter how spiritually debased.
I will abandon my face, my personhood, and treat you as an enemy to my health; and I give you the same freedom to treat me the same way. We are all the wrong race now, the human race.
Of course, we will close our schools, and our businesses. We must mutually affirm our fear of death. Never mind that millions will die of inadequate health care, we will isolate the diseased, and isolate everyone, and let them die in helpless solitude. Forget poverty and depression and suicide, we are uniting the nation in a great War on Death and we cheer our Heroes of the Front Line. Is there no shame at such vain, silly statist jargon? We sound like Communist China. “Sunflowers toward the Sun, Chairman Mao is the Sun.” But at least we are acting! Action without direct effect on the material world, to placate death, pagan ritual, ceremonial
But let us not flatter ourselves that this is a unique moment. We free Americans have been headed here for decades. I used to laugh at recycling and its early lack of energy savings. Now capitalism has found that we can save lots of energy, at least in recycling metals, the most efficient case. But who cares to count the lost opportunity costs of the hours consumers have spent in sorting? Hours measured at rates between the minimum wage and thousands of dollars per hour, multiplied by 300 million? Who has projected the hours spent in driving to stores with bottles, or the gas costs? Who has modeled the billions of dollars spent on millions of hours of classroom propagandizing children on this subject—much less the cost of the loss of time spent on more substantial learning?
But I am waxing irrelevant. The main purpose of recycling was never energy savings. It was always to give the individual a clear and personal role in “saving the planet”. Not everyone can have an abortion everyday, but they can all sort their trash. Thus we can all participate in an action that may in sum be costly and unproductive, but it marks us out as good people who care, we affirm our virtue and have a way to be moral as we live in the worst of ungodly sins. We wear the green can in front of our houses instead of the Scarlet Letter on our breasts. Ritual, ceremonial.
But ritual is not present only as an anodyne against acts which violate rationality by costing more than they are materially worth. Ritual surrounds benefits that we guiltily accept. Then we feel the effect of it less, because we congratulate ourselves on gaining the benefits of what we do not deserve. Racism—whether black, white or of any variety–has its verbal and acted rituals to soothe the conscience of those gaining unearned benefits: the sniggers, the jokes, the whispered stories.
But let’s take something more tangible, like receiving moneys we have not earned. Money seized from others by the government’s guns and prisons. Here we all participate, do we not? Social Security is the universal beginning: we would take from sixteen workers of the future to ensure the comfort of one who had not succeeded in preparing for the present.
Let’s roll out the language: caring for those who cannot pay for their necessities–the image of the aged and infirm is irresistible to our kinder feelings. But what are our necessities? Adult children are grateful to be relieved of the burden of caring for aging parents who cared for them. The chorus is loud and inevitable: mom and dad want their independence. The aging antiphonally respond: I want my “independence”, I don’t want to be a burden on my children. So the monthly checks help them keep their own houses and apartments, and caretakers, even as they grow more dependent on the government money everyday, But who cares or dares to criticize?
We are freed of the burden of caring for one another, freed from dealing with the bonds of the family unless we choose to visit. So children grow up with only ghostly notions of their grandparents and of they aged they will themselves become, and the old are left lonely and useless in their government housing, And now it is all based on a system where there are only two working adults to pay for each aging recipient.
We are in the process of creating the ceremonial language and actions for ridding the world of the aged. It will take a bit of time but someone has to help them “die with dignity.” After all, we cannot help them live at the cost of their children’s efforts. Ceremonials that contradict reality for a “moral” purpose do not last. Only ritual that calls upon the infinitely true for the sake of the finite present does.
Yet all ceremonial has massive power, if only it is repeated often enough. Modern media will cooperate in spreading any lie that is thought up, as we now see. Those who know abortion is an abomination must pay for it for the good of the poor. Those who distrust Big Pharma must take the vaccinations for the good of the most vulnerable. The churches must close so that the most vulnerable can stay home with a good conscience and father can be “safe”.
MEET THE FOUNDER
Dr. Henry Russell is Headmaster of the St. Augustine’s Homeschool Enrichment Program founded with his wife Crystal. The program began in Fall 2005 with 20 students in two living rooms and now tutors more than 140 students. A graduate of Princeton and South Carolina (M.S.), Dr. Russell completed his graduate work at Louisiana State University. Formerly the Chairman of Ave Maria College’s Department of Literature, he has also been a professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville and Wake Forest University.