The Enemy Within


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.


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What is the legitimate basis for governmental law? The will of God or the will of man?

Men who value liberty but believe themselves to be self-sufficient in matters of truth and existence and who have no need for authority apart from themselves, also have no compulsion to follow laws, except laws conforming to their own reasoning or inclination. Contrariwise, men who value liberty but believe themselves to be in a state of dependence on a Superior Being for matters of truth and existence, eventually accept the will of this Being on whom they depend to be the foundation for self-restraint and morality. The extent to which man believes himself to be dependent affects the degree of his adherence to the will of his Maker.

This superior Being; having brought matter into existence and provided it with rules for motion, has also, in bestowing upon man a freewill, given a law of nature whereby man’s actions may be conducted in accordance with his greatest happiness. Man’s reason, although corrupt, has the ability to discover this law of nature manifested by the moral standards men have held each other accountable to from the beginning of time until now. Because of man’s corrupted reasoning, moral standards look different throughout history, but never amount to a total difference. A greater understanding of the natural law provides better individual self-regulation, which in turn, keeps liberty free from corruption.

This doctrine applies to all men at all times and in all places, regardless of belief, religion, or disposition. No legitimate rule in existence can oppose this law of nature without corrupting man’s happiness, or providing a false happiness. Therefore, pure liberty cannot exist without the self-governance of man founded upon the will of his maker.

George Washington said in his farewell address in 1796, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

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Prop 8: A Moral Stand

Shared morality is the rich foundation from which people can obtain the wisdom and discussion required to moderate what is called the tyranny of the majority. However, any moral society will eventually exclude those who operate outside of its standards. There’s no getting around it except to lower society’s standards. But, in order to keep this shared morality consistent, it must be a part of the basic institutions that provide a foundation for healthy life. I’m speaking of marriage and family. When marriage is redefined so that it means whatever anyone wants it to mean, it ceases to be a source of consistent morality, or any stable foundation. Concurrently, when the whims of individuals add, subtract, or replace whatever they want in the family unit, moral stability is lost. When these are redefined, society is redefined. Our society declines as it loses its attachment to religion: the main informer of morality to these basic institutions. Even though our government has a constitution; its concepts, especially liberty and equality, are interpreted today in ways the founders did not intend. Why? The words just don’t mean the same thing anymore because we don’t have the same morality. The previous restraints to liberty and equality enforced by the basic institutions, have been corrupted, and as a consequence, so have the original intents. Liberty and equality taken to the extreme will produce either a tyranny of the individual or a tyranny of the government. Self-restraint is taboo in this culture of radical individualism. Censorship is not even mentioned. Yet, if we are to preserve our way of life, at some point we must stop liberty from going too far, and restrain equality from infiltrating things it should not. To give them free reign is to watch our society be destroyed. Those who continually create new rights and new equalities which are mainly people living outside of the morality of the society, fail to provide a moral framework for their actions. They just complain about discrimination. All law is discriminatory in nature. They need more than this argument to back up their behavior. However, when their rights and equalities are made legal, this lack of morality is forced on the majority. I applaud those who passed proposition 8 for taking a stand for their corporate morality. I applaud them for trying to preserve the institutions that are the backbone of this country. We lose them, we lose ourselves. We just can’t react in defeat every time someone cries about rights. Some rights aren’t rights at all. They’re bondage.

I find then a principle: When I strive for self-actualization, I decay; but when I restrain myself, I gain liberty.

Proclamation of Injustice

This post is in response to another post. Read this first to get the context: Click Here. It also has to do with this news story about an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning: Click Here

There are extremes for the religious and non-religious man which can never be reached. For the religious man it is complete adherence to the goodness and laws of God. He will always fall short. For the non-religious man it is individual liberty. He will always find himself constrained by what, to each individual, constitutes harm. Other people have quite different ideas about what part of your specific behavior concerns them or harms them. On one hand, society could define harm like Anthony Comstock and squelch even the most private immorality perceived to take place. The moral police would always be looking over your shoulders. On the other hand, if only physical or material injury counts as harm there could be no law against prostitution, public drunkenness, obscenity, indecent exposure, and so on. If expanding the sphere of liberty was always a “net gain”, so to speak, it would lead to the elimination of all law and restraints imposed by social disapproval, which is an unrealistic goal of individual liberty.

Now, what constitutes harm to this particular government, in this case, does not constitute harm to the commenters on this post. I’m inclined to agree with them. However, without an absolute, or at the very least, a unending universal standard by which to judge these actions as immoral, how can you impose your concept of harm on another person’s or government’s concept of harm. There is no reason why their opinions on that subject are not as valid as, or entitled to more weight than yours. Your assessment of their actions are still based on your own notions and opinions of right and wrong. This is where you draw the line. OK. Great. They draw the line at another place. If there is no absolute standard, then your definition of harm is just as valid as their definition of harm. What’s the difference if it’s all based on every individual’s or society’s line? By the way, making an unending universal standard leads to Communism, and that’s never been a successful government. Communism hinders individual liberty as well. The only real answer is one that exists outside of humanity. We need a mediator who knows what’s best of each of us. If he doesn’t exist, your proclamation of injustice can always be hindered by another man’s equally valid idea of justice.

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