The Adversary Culture, as Lionel Trilling indicates, believes “a primary function of art and thought is to liberate the individual from the tyranny of his culture… and to permit him to stand beyond it in an autonomy of perception and judgment.” In this view, society and government are thought to have negative characteristics such as force, compulsion, control, and coercion while the individual is thought to have positive qualities such as liberty, independence, will, and goodness.
(Lionel Trilling, Beyond Culture [New York, 1965], p. xiii.)
But let us not forget the reason for society in the first place. Our short lives here on earth are of an uncertain duration, frail, and fleeting. This being the case, we have need of several outward supports that the pain of hard work can provide in order to make our lives comfortable. For these “supports” are not provided to us by nature nor do they spontaneously appear in front of us prepared for our use. We must work to attain them. Crops don’t plant themselves. However, there are men who violently take the fruits of other men’s labors rather than put in the work to attain these things for themselves. Therefore, the possession of what honest work has acquired needs to be preserved, as does liberty and strength. This state of affairs leads men to enter into a society that by mutual assistance they may secure their property, liberty, and outward things pertaining to this life while providing a defense from external violence. This can hardly be thought of in negative terms.
What is not so easy to defend against is the inward threat of violence to the very fabric of society. For people who desire the overthrow of a particular society do not couch their intentions in plain terms, but rather they emphasize liberty and equality. Liberty and equality can be rightly used to change an unjust law or tradition in society and improve parts of society. But this is not the aim of these particular people. If their real intentions were known, the public would be aware of it and provide a defense against it.
It is curious that movements of “liberation from society” tend to emphasize group identity which gives rise to new traditions and conformities; and given enough power, these movements would replace the old tradition with a “tradition of the new”. And presumably, after a sufficient time has past when the “new society” has been established, another liberation movement would develop to oppose that culture. This attitude of “counter-culture” hinders the members of the movement from bargaining with the current society or the next one, or suggesting a new code of law to follow, or presenting a new constitution, or even demonstrating how their way is somehow better. This is not improvement. This is liberation for the sake of liberation, and speaks more of discontentment and envy than a sensible improvement in society. Instead, it is the dissolution of society in order to violate the protection of honest men’s possessions and make lawful the unlawful deeds of thieves. This is what lies behind slogans like “We are the 99%” in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
It is the duty of the civil officer to secure the just possession of the things belonging to this life and to execute laws equally and without partiality and to preserve the commonwealth. Therefore, words contrary to the main aim of society, which is each of its member’s well-being, and the moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of our well-being should not be tolerated by the civil officer. These words are doubly not to be tolerated when accompanied with actions that demonstrate violence toward rules of civilized society and indicate that on the occasion that they seize the government, they would possess themselves of the estates and fortunes of their fellow citizens thereby making insecure what we thought to secure in the first place: our money, lands, houses, and such like that we obtained with our hard work.
And what sense would it make to allow these harmful words or actions on the grounds of free speech? Individuals who enter into movements or groups of this nature admit implicitly that their allegiance lies not with their fellow citizens nor their protection or safety, but to another. For the civil officer to allow this, is to allow a kind of foreign jurisdiction in his own jurisdiction, and enlisted soldiers, as it were, against the people he is sworn to protect.
(picture from TheBlaze.com)