Aug 20, 2012

The Flattening of Society

[from HRH Jonathan]

The revolutions and idealogical upheavals of the late 18th century did indeed accomplish more than most monarchists give them credit for. Although it may be true that they were little more than lawbreaking thieves and tyrants, they did cause an event of a sort rarely seen anywhere in the history of the world. A gross and total shift in the ideals and beliefs of an entire cultural group; that is the legacy of the revolution.
It was a shift that seems at first glance to be impossibly sudden and dramatic in comparison to other such events, but that is because we do not take in the whole picture. It is impossible to understand any historical event without understanding the event that preceded it, and the history of the revolutions in America and Europe is sadly often without this background.
The foundation for the change was built by the Protestant Reformation. The rejection of authority and dissent against the ruling paradigm that were the result of that upheaval led to several strains of thought which could not have existed if Catholicism had remained supreme in the West. Then, for a time, the larval forms of what we would now call nationalism, statism, and colonialism were the dominant forms of new thought.
It was through that that the revolutionary ideas were eventually born. It was against the fiery national spirit, constrictive statism, and cruel colonialism that the revolutions of England, France, and America were first conceived to fight. They were created in reaction to a paradigm that had become cruel and faltering through no fault of its own.
The feudal structures and hierarchical symbols that remained in Protestantized countries at the time were truly broken governmental mechanisms, but it was not their fault. The idealogical foundation upon which they had been built had been removed; any system subjected to that will break. The great revolutionary thinkers, however, did not realize this. They attempted to overturn feudalism, religion, and every other old way of running things because they envisioned them as all being constrictive and tyrannical, when the opposite was indeed the case.
The resulting Enlightenment philosophy and doctrine drove the violent revolutions in France and America, which inspired the rest of Europe to change their ways.
A paradigm of Catholic thought and feudal hierarchy was overturned in less than a decade. A handful of radical thinkers at the edge of society managed to thrust their beliefs to the center stage of public thought in what was, in historical terms, an instant. Equality, liberty, and brotherhood; autonomy, independence, and uniqueness; atheism, progressivism, and modernism; all are but the long-lived fruit of that movement.
We all know this, even if we do not realize it. Even if you have never, ever thought of this directly, those philosophical beliefs have influenced you. This probably isn't shocking to anyone. What I do find shocking as I run into it, and what has disturbed me over the last year and a half as I have begun to notice it, is how deeply the concepts of the revolutions have penetrated.

Like all complete beliefs, there is a deep, underlying assumption to revolutionary values. Just as Catholicism is only what it is due to a belief in the words and life of Christ, the philosophy of the revolution exists as a side effect of a certain belief. This conceptual locus has never been named, only its derivatives have ever had the honor, but it might easily be called the Philosophy of Self.
The Philosophy of Self is, in fact, a simple belief. It takes the ages-old truths that no person is inherently morally better than another and each person is entitled to their just measure of freedom, and transmogrifies them into idealogical giants. Using these things as the basis, not a derivative, of their thought, the revolutionaries returned to the basic questions of morality that had been answered eons before.
The doctrine resulting from that line of thought, and the movements that it inspired, are common knowledge. What does not appear to be common knowledge, however, is how deeply the Philosophy of Self permeates every single aspect of society in the modern age.

The core message of the revolutionary Philosophy is one of individuality. What the writers and instigators of the revolutions may not of realized is that by using equality and freedom as the most basic belief, they were making it the highest belief.

This would not have been a problem for other groups if revolutionary thought had gone through the stages of evolution normally embraced by a new philosophy. But of course, that did not happen.

The Philosophy of Self is a pernicious dogma to hold. Like all great ideas and successfully ideologies, it has a sort of appeal to it. It appeals to human nature. The philosophies of the revolutionaries have a unique sort of invocation of our desires to be free and unbound by rules, and they even have a sort of call towards our compassion and charity. After all, should not the lowest be as free as the highest? Is it proper that the strong rule by virtue of their own strength?
This appeal, coupled with the violence surrounding its early rise, gave the Philosophy a sort of momentum that carried it through the world. First it changed the governments of Europe, then that continent's economic and moral opinions, then it associated itself with progress and science. This continued and continued, and continues to this very day.
The Philosophy of Self has inserted itself into every aspect of our current lives. It has taken over religion, first within Protestant churches, then through the opinions of some within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church; to say nothing of Judaism. It has trickled into culture, both current and classic. Even the literary romantics, who nominally were against the Enlightenment, used themes of self-determination and individual expression with reckless abandon.
How many times has fiction impressed upon you the importance of going against the flow? How often is the message of the day something about how hierarchy and separation are bad? How much have you internalized it?
The revolutionary Philosophy even became central to the assorted States of the West just as the countries of the West began to think of themselves as States. Because of that, all fervor, all dedication, all politics, all dialogue, all patriotism; every single action within the political sphere became contingent upon and dedicated to the Philosophy of Self. Everyone with even a spark of dedication to their country sooner or later has to embrace modern thought now.

But enough explanations, let us study the effects of this eminently curious development.

First we shall look at the example that strikes closest to home for me, and probably will for most of you; let us look at what this has done to the Catholic Church. How and what has happened are subtle, but cannot be ignored. Parish councils, altar girls, political discourse, increased focus upon the nun and the lay over the priest and the monk, nationalist tendencies. If you look at all the things that began roughly half a century ago that were never before seen within the Church and see the entirety of what has happened, you will realize that those branches which are truly heretical are only the tip of the iceberg.
The Philosophy of Self, you see, cannot bear to see one of its believers differentiated from the others in any way. If all are equal, and it is all about personal expression, then how can one person be capable of an expression that others are not? In some areas and minds the Philosophy is strong, and churches have been excommunicated due to truly heretical actions; in others it is weak, and we see only minor effects, building up in such a way that we do not realize their existence.

This is far from the only effect of the slow conversion of the West as a whole. Look at the military, where even the eternal necessity of and dedication to pragmatism have done nothing to prevent women from being exposed to the greatest of dangers. Look at the hoops that countless thinkers have jumped through to justify religious pluralism; the constant efforts to insist that everyone holds the fullness of the truth, even when they disagree.
Look too at the most horrible and disastrous of the effects as the arguments of the revolution are taken to their logical extremes. Transgenderism, homosexuality, radical feminism, etc. If is possible and allowed to one group, it must, under the Philosophy of Self, be possible and allowed to all.

I look around and see a world where every barrier is being leveled and every rule broken, no matter how many reasons they had for being in place. I see a possible future totally counter to human nature. And what is most terrible is that because this is the Way Things Are, it is almost impossible to see. Even we of the royal family cannot truly escape these ideas, because they are literally everywhere.
One of the goals of Edan must be to enact a paradigm shift away from these beliefs, no matter how localized. Because until that happens and the cycle of the Philosophy of Self is broken to at least a few, the revolutions that fought the Church will still stand victorious.
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