By making the false ideal of independence the basis of our political and social order, we end up denigrating actual, dependent human lives. But life begins in dependence and remains inseparable from unchosen obligations. We have responsibilities to others, for which we have not signed a contract.
Author: Nathanael Blake (Nathanael Blake)
A vision of control based on ambition, education, and income has come to dominate professional-class perspectives on having children, but we should reject these mistaken cultural pressures and remember that truly abundant life is achieved through giving and receiving love.
The recent debates surrounding Florida’s anti-grooming bill raise questions not just about education, but about who has the right to direct the moral formation of children. Activist educators believe they should hold this power, regardless of parental concerns. But their agenda is based on the false idea that children can be intrinsically LGBT, and it is therefore necessary to stop educators proselytizing on behalf of such identities.
Conservatives may hope that liberalism’s better angels prevail. But the ravages of ideological liberalism, especially the damage done by the sexual revolution to family and community, require active redress. Conservatives, drawing on the wisdom and traditions we have sustained (and which have sustained us), must help our culture relearn essential parts of being human.
There will always be some limits on academic freedom, and it is better to be honest about what they are and who sets them than to try to wish them away. We need to formulate real-world standards, rather than retreating into the impossible fantasy of absolute academic freedom.
The official moral relativism of absolute academic freedom makes universities self-negating institutions. No wonder many student activists are eager to fashion and enforce new norms and taboos: they realize, however inchoately, that a community of inquiry and instruction must also be one of practice, and that the liberal university fails to integrate these elements.
Free market dogmas are inapplicable to the managerial oligarchy. A politically coordinated cabal of opaquely owned companies is not private property in the way a local coffeeshop is. To do nothing while a managerial mob uses the wealth we have entrusted to them to seize power over us is a betrayal of ourselves, our nation, and our posterity.
Excessive efforts to control the givenness of our children’s lives reveal our doubt that life is a good gift in itself. They also show a vision of human flourishing that is dependent upon material prosperity, personal achievements, and social status.
For a political order supposedly built on faulty philosophical foundations, liberalism has been surprisingly resilient. Political theorist David Walsh argues it is the political expression of the Christian epiphany of the person that has been differentiated by modern philosophy. Yet Even in Walsh’s defense of liberal modernity, the menace of Luciferian possibilities flickers at the edge of vision.
A competent First Amendment jurisprudence must adequately account for the rich web of associations that enable human flourishing. To live in communities according to shared values is essential to our humanity.
Liberal doctrines necessarily require disenfranchising and punishing those who hold rival beliefs. Liberal ideology is jealous, and will have no other gods before it. American conservatives should reject this revolutionary liberalism and the attempts to make it the central principle of our national heritage. We need not deny that liberal ideas influenced the Founding, but we ought to follow our forefathers in tempering them.
An oddity about our current debates over liberalism and America is that both sides view the American Founding, and thus America, as fundamentally influenced by classical liberal ideology. They only disagree over whether classical liberalism is good or bad. But the historical record shows that liberal ideology was one influence among many, not that it was the definitive one.
Ross Douthat’s depiction of our society in his new book, The Decadent Society, should unsettle defenders of the status quo; his assessment of its potential resilience should give pause to those who are eagerly awaiting its fall and planning for what comes next. Decadence may be worse, and yet more permanent, than we think.
We have more material comforts than kings and merchant princes of old, and technological progress has wrought what would once be considered miracles. Yet our culture makes every effort to promote dissatisfaction, for there is money to be made when people are unhappy or bored with what they have. In an age of miracles, our phones are becoming misery machines.
There are reasons to care which denizens of the wasteland hold political authority, but rejuvenating the wasteland is the more important task. Without recognizing the decadence of our culture, denouncing (or defending) the latest tweet from the president is just a desultory wind swirling dust and ashes.
The studies assembled by the What We Know Project do not prove that transition is the best treatment for gender dysphoria, let alone that it should be the only permissible treatment. Rather, they show that the science is not settled.
When my wife and I mourned the miscarriage of our child, we were not mourning the loss of “potential life.” Hope for a potential life is what we had when we dreamed and prayed for pregnancy; hope for the potential of an existing life is what we had during the pregnancy. When our pregnancy ended, we mourned the loss of a life, of an irreplaceable human person whose particular genetic composition will never be repeated.
Without a Christian framework, but with a strong sense of sin, seemingly minor wrongs and slights are seen as representative expressions of the injustices of society as a whole. But there is no one to grant absolution to the repentant, or to redeem the world from its fallen state. Each wrong is indelible, and so there is only sin and punishment. Forgiveness becomes impossible when every discrete wrong is bundled into a secularized version of original sin.
According to Rémi Brague, the dialectic of modernity results in a paradox. Man is both the conquering lord of nature and a part of nature to be controlled. His well-being is the purpose of the modern project, which simultaneously places his distinct dignity in doubt.
Tolkien not only imagined heroes, glory, and splendor for us, but depicted hope after ruin and tragedy.
Those who believe they are living in a created cosmos inhabit a different psychological world from those living after the death of God. Those whose identity is rooted in the divine order of existence are divided from those whose identity is self-created.
Facebook or Google taking over the world is a distant, speculative fear. Being harassed, humiliated, shunned and unemployed are immediate fears. We increasingly live in a digital panopticon ruled as much by mobs as by the overseers.
Because liberal Western democracies are ostensibly rooted in the theory of popular sovereignty, elite disdain for the people creates another legitimation crisis—one that many fail to recognize. It is not simply that the people have lost confidence in the elites and their governance, or that the elites struggle to speak for (and even to) the people. Disdain for the people also unmoors elite authority.
It is fashionable to mock as bland and boring the ordinary men and women living out their married lives together, but they are often engaged in a quest far more challenging and romantic than anything the bohemian libertine will attempt.
Americans increasingly identify with our consumption. When combined with political tribalism, the result is the increasing refusal to do business with members of other political or cultural groups. In the end, an identity based on consumption will only consume itself.