Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 (9:53 pm), by John W Gillis
Quote of the Day for Wednesday, December 8th, 2010:
Robert R. Reilly, concluding a smart essay originally published by the National Review in November 1996, entitled “Culture of Vice”, which discusses the psychological origins of moral disorders that threaten whole cultures:
Controversies about life, generation, and death are decisive for the fate of any civilization. A society can withstand any number of persons who try to advance their own moral disorders as public policy. But it cannot survive once it adopts the justification for those moral disorders as its own. This is what is at stake in the culture war.
Reilly does a terrific job in a short space of exposing the process that moves inexorably from personal immorality, toward a society-wide capitulation to systemic evil, skirting cognitive dissonance on its way.
With rare exception, the human person is not much capable of embracing evil per se. In the absence of a will to pursue righteousness through the inculcation of virtue, he will not only rationalize his personal immorality, but will ultimately be satisfied with nothing short of a social affirmation of the “goodness” of his immorality – even to the point of overturning the public moral order. Un-resisted personal vice, in other words, eventually demands the destruction of the good in the public sphere.
Well worth reading.
HT to James V. Schall, posting at The Catholic Thing, for the link.
Posted: Sunday, December 5, 2010 (3:04 pm), by John W Gillis
Quote of the Day for Sunday, November 5th, 2010:
Matthew Hanley over at The Catholic Thing on Thursday, commenting on the public reaction to Pope Benedict’s recent statement on condom use in the Peter Seewald book, in a post entitled Misrepresenting Benedict’s Bravery:
The New York Times tells us the pope’s words, in the newly published book Light of the World, were received with “glee from clerics and health workers in Africa, where the AIDS problem is worst.” The pope as anachronistic obstacle to global health has long been a fashionable narrative. But consider: decades of robust condom promotion (and other technical interventions) utterly failed to curb Africa’s AIDS epidemics, and common-sense changes in sexual behavior accounted for Africa’s handful of AIDS declines. Is one misrepresented remark from the pontiff now to do what lavish and sophisticated condom campaigns couldn’t? Public health leaders should be carefully scrutinized. They, not the pope, are explicitly charged with containing epidemics.
Although I think the post tries to tries to say too many things in its allotted space (a temptation I can sympathize with), the most important point Hanley makes is the implication of culpability on the part of public health officials who have stood around fondling themselves for decades while this epidemic has wasted millions of human beings, too afraid (either of hurting other people’s feelings, or –more likely– of being perceived as uncool) to state the obvious if unwelcome truth: this disease is spread almost entirely by immoral behavior – especially by disordered sexual licentiousness and lack of self-control – and can be avoided and defeated only by a rejection of the narcissistic public morality that promotes such soul-destroying indulgence as normal and acceptable behavior.
It’s far easier, of course, to ban Happy Meals than to criticize socially toxic sexual immorality, though the discrepancy of dereliction therein implied clearly constitutes gross criminal negligence on the part of our public health “leaders”.
Posted: Thursday, December 2, 2010 (11:59 pm), by John W Gillis
Oklahoma Senator Dr. Tom Coburn (R), addressing his fellow members of the President’s Deficit Commission, as they wrapped up deliberations Wednesday:
As a physician, I’m trained to find the real problem… What’s the real problem – not the symptoms, but what do the symptoms and signs lead me to is what is the real disease. And he real disease is we’ve abandoned the concepts of our founders. We’ve created reliance instead of depending on self-reliance; we’ve created government programs that are unaffordable; we’ve abandoned limited government; we’ve abandoned the enumerated powers. And now we’re in trouble. And nobody’s looking at what the real problem is. And the real problem is us.
Coburn seems like one of the real decent people in Washington. I think what he says here, in understated terms, about the fragility of the Republic is really important to grasp. Every government, under every conceivable form of government, is a transitory form of order: imperfect both in its form and in its practice. But a society can hold together under an imperfectly established and implemented government, as long as the level of corruption and systemic disorder does not rise above a critical mass.
When the members of a republic begin turning on each other by voting themselves "rights" to their neighbors’ property, it seems to me that the point of critical mass has already begun to be reached in that level of systemic disorder, and that any such society will necessarily begin, as Coburn puts it, to “rot from within.”
I don’t subscribe to the idea that our society’s most serious disorders are fiscal in either origin or solution, but I don’t doubt for a minute that the current model of fiscal order is an immoral one, which discourages and even squelches the practice of virtues, from industriousness to honor to charity, supplanting them at every turn with vices ranging from sloth to envy to greed. We need to establish a public order that encourages and rewards virtue, lest we leave our children a society poised on the brink of a new era of class warfare. That process has to begin by grappling with Leviathan, and resisting its creeping absolutism and pretensions of supremacy over communities large and small.