July 22, 2020
Author: Chilton Williamson
My book of daily meditations for today (22 July, Wednesday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time in the Roman Catholic calendar) cites a passage from J. Urteaga’s book, Man the Saint. It reads: “Develop your character, your human faculties: develop them to the utmost degree. Everything which curtails your expansion, which limits your development, which makes you narrow-minded, which you back for fear of something, is not in any way Christian. The complete purification of sin and evil inclinations which, with the help of God man has to accomplish, is a very different process from suppressing any part of his true personality.” Señor Urteaga is encouraging us toward the goal of self-perfection, as Christ Himself did. The need to perfect ourselves lies at the heart of the Gospel message, which, while it has obvious implications for a Christian society, is deeply and essentially a personal one. Many modern writers over the past couple of centuries have described the process by which liberal modernity has detached this message from its Christian origins and context and explained the consequences for society in moral, religious, intellectual, social, and political terms of translating an individual struggle for spiritual perfection into a social agendum hitched to a political program, and incorporated finally a regime to which the whole of the Western world has already been subject for a century or so.
Probably a good half—maybe more—of Westerners at the end of the first fifth of the 21st century are unhappy and restive in these circumstances, while a third, probably, are ready and eager to do something about it. Their problem is that progressivism, as it is now called, has not only gathered force and momentum over the past fifty years. It has established for itself a habit of mind to which it has become self-addicted. One could, in fact, plausibly describe progressive people as addicts, hopelessly dependent upon the high that the evil habit of self-righteous political and social activism induces in their brains. Activism, like heroin and alcohol, is a drug, a jealous chemical god that holds its victim-acolytes in a hellish grasp. A society that lives by searching out social evils from every nook, cranny, and seam and removing them—by law and even by physical force, if necessary—must pass eventually beyond extirpating and expunging real injustices and evils to imagining and trying to correct imaginary ones in its antic and ceaseless quest for a moral and social perfection that will always be unattainable in this world. In such a society, politics consists principally in a competition among politicians to identify situations and conditions more and more absurdly perceived and claimed as social “ills” and declare a “war” against them. Obviously, the process is a self-perpetuating, and therefore an endless, one that is all the more dangerous to society as the politicians, the media, the academy—the Establishment—work day and night to convince the public that it can never be content (never mind “happy”) until the progressive utopia, the perfect society, has been reached.
Were the progressive Establishment wiser, it would know that perennially discounted people are potentially dangerous people, and that it will not always have Donald Trump (and perhaps not even the Republican Party) around to sic its rabble armies of worked-up pitchfork bearers and pike-carriers against.