Because I was on a secret mission yesterday, the regularly scheduled tour through Summa Contra Gentiles has been preempted. It returns next week.
The Western world, particularly in these once United States, has been experiencing leftward lurches these past fifty or so years. These are localized accelerations on top of the gentle progressive drift we’ve experienced since the (victors really do get to write history) Reformation, or perhaps since Ockham lovingly introduced his Nominalism. The exact date is irrelevant. The question is why.
Drift is easier to explain than lurches. The moment any institution or society founded on a set of rigorous, clear, and unbreakable rules allows an elite of that group the first public unpunished exception to a rule, the precedent has been set that that rule can be broken, which eventually leads to the rule being abandoned. Keep in mind that a break is not the same as a (re)interpretation. A break is a departure, a reinterpretation is a blind eye and an acknowledgement of the primacy of the rule. We drift left (the denial of human nature) because the rules were once right (their acknowledgment).
All this happens at the small and the large, at the here and there, at the local and national. Space permits only a synoptic view here. A full treatment would require a book.
Our society’s and our institutions’ drift continues, particularly this past century in matters reproductive (a panicked retreat from human nature). Used to be a rule that a hotel would not let a room to an unmarried couple, or a couple that did not give every appearance (the blind eye) of being married. Once it became known that some elite had broken this rule, it was deemed breakable (first locally then everywhere), and it is now barely a memory. Afterwards, the rule was said to be burdensome and uneconomic.
Pregnant unmarried girls used to be shunned (the rule) or temporarily put away (blind eye), but again some signal from on high allowed a break, which over the course of a few decades led to the rule’s abandonment. Afterwards, the rule was said to be cruel. Before, it was said to be for her and for society’s own good.
Abortion (recall we’re discussing the West) used to be seen as horrible. Abortionists were punished. Women who were known to have had one (the rule) were also made to suffer, but women who had them on the sly, before their pregnancies became known, (the blind eye) got away with it. The breaking in this instance was a prime time circus in the USA. It was a combination of elite signal and public plea. This pleading was the cause of the lurch.
Drift is caused by rules being broken by somebody at the top where knowledge of the break is generally known and where the break is unpunished. Once an elite breaks a rule he finds it difficult (but not impossible) to punish or to support punishment for those under him who have broken the same rule, or even other rules. Elitehood itself atrophies. Drift happens because people quite naturally look up to elites. The phenomenon applies to all cultural matters, from speech to dress to music to sexual behavior. Did not somebody once say that with great power comes great responsibility?
A lurch is another thing. This is caused mainly from below, an agitation partly from the masses but mostly from the sub-elite with the complicity of friendly elites. The sub-elite are those who (with good reason) imagine themselves attaining elitehood. They have not much formal authority. They are what we used to call the upper middle class. They are generally younger and many will be promoted but are impatient for the transition. Drift occurs in the relation between elites and sub-elites, too. Elites (those who hold authority and power) no longer engender automatic respect because they, the elite, have allowed an egalitarian drift to influence their behavior. Once an elite asks himself, “What makes my idea so special?” he is lost and can be swayed easily by those under him.
Before the abortion taboo was abandoned there were public arguments and demonstrations from the sub-elite generally citing pity and the suffering “unwanted children” would cause their would-be mothers. These were made prior to the rule being broken, and not cited after the fact as comforting post hoc explanation as in drift. To prevent this promised suffering, a new “right” to kill was discovered in the rule book by elites. The elite was not forced and could have easily resisted (the majority of elites held to tradition), yet the “elite” by now was not the same as the elite before the drift. After the break, drift came back into play and abortion is now euphemistically termed “reproductive healthcare.”
The acceptability of homosexual acts followed a similar path. Those men discovered misconducting themselves were punished, shunned, and made to suffer (the rule). Those who could keep their activities secret were generally ignored (blind eye). But a general public flouting of the rule and an agitation by sub-elites who cited “fairness”, “equality”, “consenting adults” and the like again caused the elite to discover a new rule which said homosexual acts were to be “celebrated.” Drift returned until the sub-elite again pressured elites to allow two men to call themselves “married.” Smart money says elites will soon discover that this “right” has been in the rule book all along, too.
The masses acquiesce. They have little choice. But something odd happens during a lurch. The more intelligent of the masses and most of the elite keep to the old rules a long as they can, until drift has caught up to them and wiped away all traces of tradition. It it only those less intelligent in the masses, i.e. those mostly likely to give themselves over to self, who join the sub-elites in forsaking the old. This is because the less intelligent reason the sub-elites, who are closer to them than elites, because they are the loudest, are the elite. That mistake helps the lurch do its work, of course.
As is by now clear, the general argument given by sub-elites for abandoning civilization and human nature is to eliminate suffering and sacrifice in the particular. Yet the old elites understood what the sub-elites, all post-Christians, do not: that suffering and sacrifice in the particular can lead to a greater general good. Worse, he cannot comprehend that a lack of sacrifice must cause a greater evil. Elites are too exhausted to hold themselves up as examples.
So the drift left will continue, and it is likely to be increasingly punctuated by lurches producing more acute breaks and painful disruptions. It seems to me only one of two things can happen. The first is this. Once most of the old right rules are seen to have been eliminated, a new left rule book will be in place. It will be rigorous, clear, and unbreakable. It will be enforced, all experience suggests, ruthlessly. The “good” of suffering will be rediscovered. Rightward drift might set in here, too, and it will be somewhat faster paced than the leftward drift was because, of course, ignoring human nature produces deleterious effects. More likely, the new rules will cause the new elites to be so fascinated by themselves, they won’t see their external enemies approach. Either way, look for a substantial reduction in population.
The second possibility is this. One of the lurches will cause a disruption too painful to be born. There will be revolt. Locally? Nationally? Who knows? Whether it is quashed by a new elite bent on imposing by force the new rule book or led by an old elite sickened past endurance is the big question. Examples from history support both scenarios, but lean to the right.
When? If this woman’s words are any guide of the abyssal state of left argumentation, then soon, madam, soon.
Update Hints the camel’s straw lurch will come from the left in this article: “When Washington fiddled while Baltimore burned“. Why? Because the elite left are waiting to be asked to “step in” and save the day. They use the riots for drift, it is true, because racism, etc. But some will want to use the next big one to solve “all” riots by squelching the “cause”. And the cause, they will say, is the outspoken right who needs immediately be silenced and punished.
HT to Mike Flynn for discovering that woman’s article.