April 16, 2014

C.S. Lewis on Dictators and Totalitarians

Source: The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment by C.S. Lewis

Highlights:

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

For if crime and disease are to be regarded as the same thing, it follows that any state of mind which our masters choose to call ‘disease’ can be treated as a crime; and compulsorily cured.

Excerpt:

It is, indeed, important to notice that my argument so far supposes no evil intentions on the part of the Humanitarian and considers only what is involved in the logic of his position. My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to have known better’, is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image.

In reality, however, we must face the possibility of bad rulers armed with a Humanitarian theory of punishment. A great many popular blue prints for a Christian society are merely what the Elizabethans called ‘eggs in moonshine’ because they assume that the whole society is Christian or that the Christians are in control. This is not so in most contemporary States. Even if it were, our rulers would still be fallen men, and, therefore neither ver wise nor very good. As it is, they will usually be unbelievers. And since wisdom and virtue are not the only or the commonest qualifications for a place in the government, they will not often be even the best unbelievers.

The practical problem of Christian politics is not that of drawing up schemes for a Christian society, but that of living as innocently as we can with unbelieving fellow-subjects under unbelieving rulers who will never be perfectly wise and good and who will sometimes be very wicked and very foolish. And when they are wicked the Humanitarian theory of punishment will put in their hands a finer instrument of tyranny than wickedness ever had before. For if crime and disease are to be regarded as the same thing, it follows that any state of mind which our masters choose to call ‘disease’ can be treated as a crime; and compulsorily cured. It will be vain to plead that states of mind which displease government need not always involve moral turpitude and do not therefore always deserve forfeiture of liberty. For our masters will not be using the concepts of Desert and Punishment but those of disease and cure. We know that one school of psychology already regards religion as a neurosis. When this particular neurosis becomes inconvenient to government, what is to hinder government from proceeding to ‘cure’ it? Such ‘cure’ will, of course, be compulsory; but under the Humanitarian theory it will not be called by the shocking name of Persecution. No one will blame us for being Christians, no one will hate us, no one will revile us. The new Nero will approach us with the silky manners of a doctor, and though all will be in fact as compulsory as the tunica molesta or Smithfield or Tyburn, all will go on within the unemotional therapeutic sphere where words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or ‘freedom’ and ‘slavery’ are never heard. And thus when the command is given, every prominent Christian in the land may vanish overnight into Institutions for the Treatment of the Ideologically Unsound, and it will rest with the expert gaolers to say when (if ever) they are to re-emerge. But it will not be persecution. Even if the treatment is painful, even if it is life-long, even if it is fatal, that will be only a regrettable accident; the intention was purely therapeutic. In ordinary medicine there were painful operations and fatal operations; so in this. But because they are ‘treatment’, not punishment, they can be criticized only by fellow-experts and on technical grounds, never by men as men and on grounds of justice

Comments

  1. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Scott Pennington says:

    To the extent that Lewis is indicting modern totalitarian regimes for social engineering, he has a point. Of course, some of what he writes could be used to condemn the governments of all Orthodox societies from the 4th century to the nineteenth. Some of these societies persevered with laws informed by Christian morality, imposed from above, for much longer than the exiistence of our republic. Not one “free” society has succeded at that modest task. Taken without discrimination in that regard, his sentiments would insure a depraved society (like our own). But his main focus is clearly the new secular social engineers. He neglects to mention that even corrupt Christian rulers can successfully impose a regime of Christian morality (as very many did throughout Orthodox history) at the same time as deviating considerably in their own affairs (which was also common).

    • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
      Harry Coin says:

      Didn’t some of those Orthodox societies purposefully make some convicted of crimes blind? Just keep’in it real here….

      • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
        Scott Pennington says:

        Yes, Harry. And in the interests of keeping it real, I would remind you that at the time the United States was founded, the English common law, which was adopted as of the date of ratification as American law, provided that children as young as 7 years old could be hanged for capital offenses.

        Is that real enough for you?

        • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
          Michael Bauman says:

          Law can train but cannot transform or lead to salvation. The most law can do is to convict us of our sinfulness.

          Christian law does not train citizens to be Christian. However, in a society in which the makers of the law are not followers of the law, it can inclucate a spirit of hypocrisy. St. Irene liked icons and placed the power of her office behind them so the fact that she ordered that her own son’s eyes be gouged out (and other acts of extreme cruelty)–well, who really cares right. St. John Chrysostom lamented the legalization of Chrisitianity because it created a situation in which the vast majority of those calling themselves ‘Christian’ were “as a millstone around the neck of the Chruch”. Monastacism bloomed as a result.

          Islamic law trains Christians to be corrupt as well as hypocritical and above all to keep one’s head down by not engaging in any of the activities that the Gospel demands.

          Communist law brands Christians as enemies of the state and takes appropriate measures–usually torture, incarceration and death.

          Secular law is not much different, it just ostracises, ridicules and trivializes through stereotype, political pressure and regulation.

          I still maintain that despite the horrible oppresion under communist rule the Church survived much better than under Islamic law if only because it has not gone on as long. In Islam, the sword is ever present, they just get folks to use it on themselves so they don’t have to.

          Morality is not an end in itself, neither is order. The nihlist and the legalist arrive at the same end point: Lifeless darkness. (The spirit gives life, the law death). Just because some ‘Christian’ authoritarian government did it does not make it either Christian or right. The Chrisitan’s task is to be Christian inspite of the corruption, apathy, oppression, sinfulness and general craziness around us. No government makes that easy or pleasant. The only genuine morality is as a response to one’s communion with the living God.

          There is no Christian morality, or Islamic morality or any other type of morality. Our behavior is either in accord with God’s order and purpose or it is not. If it is not, no amount of authoritarian structure will create it. If it is, no amount of oppression or seduction will sway us.

          Seems the Church teaches that in Lent and Holy Week with the stories of the three holy children and Joseph’s rejection of Potiphar’s wife.

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Scott Pennington says:

            The thing that you, Harry, Fr. Johannes, et al. seem to want to disregard is that there is another purpose to the law besides inculcating virtue. Law can inculcate virtue to some extent by creating the “overwhelming context”. Stigma tend to be associated with illegal activity and that has an affect on how people feel about that activity and thus on their own internal morality.

            But another function of law is to simply reward good and punish evil because you want more good and less evil. A thing is not evil because a person subjectively feels it is evil. A thing is evil because it is offensive to Christian morality. I would rather people do the right thing and avoid the wrong thing for the right reasons. But that’s about their internal moral condition. The other side is how their behavior objectively affects others as well as themselves.

            Now, we all know this at some level. It’s why we have drug laws. It’s why we have DUI laws. We aren’t too concerned with whether the person believes it is wrong to drink and drive or to use narcotics. It is a concern, but not the main one. We legislate to prevent destructive behavior and the law has an in terrorem effect to that end.

            As a legal system persists over time, it will have a positive effect on the internal virtue of those subject to it (given it reflects Christian morality). It just takes time. The opposite, of course, is also true. A depraved legal system will further rot social mores.

            The proposition that morality cannot be imposed and thereby in time accepted as virtue is simply categorically false. Were it true, Christian virtue would not have become part of the cultural mores of Christians living in Christian empires.

            It may not be a pleasant attitude for those in love with Lady Liberty to contemplate, but denying the fact that it is possible and has been done throughout history is myopic.

            “Our behavior is either in accord with God’s order and purpose or it is not. If it is not, no amount of authoritarian structure will create it. If it is, no amount of oppression or seduction will sway us.”

            Tell that to Eve. That statement has nothing to do with historical experience. Authoritarian structures have created virtue. Over time, by controlling the context in which people live, they create an atmosphere where certain things are extolled as virtue and others things are reviled. Human beings are impressionable and imitative and some considerable number will allow the externals to become internals. It’s just a fact. It’s always been that way.

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Harry Coin says:

            In a free society, the purpose of the criminal law is not to goad people to a debatable top, it is to draw the line at the more easily identified bottom as if to say “any further down than this, and we will engage the the force of the state to take some money or some freedom from you”.

            You frame the reasons for the DUI and other laws as sourced in morality, while I think the reality is that they are defacto drawn more along the lines of balancing the freedoms of individual citizens against one another in a free society. The government is not in the business of determining should and ought, merely getting clear about the extent to which you’re allowed to swing your fist — right up but not including when it hits my nose.

            Your argument may have a little more room in the civil law, rewarding desired behavior with modest tax advantage, penalizing unwanted behavior with increased taxation.

            But there really is no virtue to be found in a society where all that isn’t forbidden is compulsory– it is not possible to legislate the standards for sainthood.

            I do not believe it is possible nor desirable for a government to do more than suggest the direction great citizenship and great virtue can be found. I see this properly in the seldom used matter of bestowing meaningful awards. We see it for fantastic deeds done by the military putting the lives of others before one’s own, great citizenship, etc. Britain I think does it via knighthoods and so forth. We could do more along those lines, make a big fuss over folk more or less ‘caught being particularly good’.

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Scott Pennington says:

            I wrote,

            “Now, we all know this at some level. It’s why we have drug laws. It’s why we have DUI laws. We aren’t too concerned with whether the person believes it is wrong to drink and drive or to use narcotics. It is a concern, but not the main one. We legislate to prevent destructive behavior and the law has an in terrorem effect to that end.”

            And you somehow convoluted that into:

            “You frame the reasons for the DUI and other laws as sourced in morality, while I think the reality is that they are defacto drawn more along the lines of balancing the freedoms of individual citizens against one another in a free society.”

            Apart from the moral quality of all criminal law, which all criminal law has (i.e., criminal law is the direct result of moral choices that are held by a majority of the electorate), I specifically stated that the main purpose of the law was not to inculcate moral behavior but to dissuade people from undesirable behavior.

            As far as your libertarianism, that’s never been in the mainstream of American political thought.

            The fact is that there is no logical basis to distinguish a law against murder from a law against abortion. The are both moral choices made by the consensus of the people. If you don’t favor enforcing one of these, it’s not because you don’t believe in enforcing morality. The very idea is absurd. It’s because you don’t believe that that moral choice is grave enough to deserve legislation. That’s what people who make the “you can’t legislate morality” argument are really saying. Heck, even drawing an imaginary line in human action and saying “one should be able to swing ones fist so long as it doesn’t intersect with someone else’s nose” is, in itself, a statement of a moral principal (which has nothing to do with Christianity, I might add.).

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Harry Coin says:

            At heart I think our disagreement is about humility essentially. When I read your arguments I perceive you accept as axiomatic the ability exists to craft laws, policies, regulations and so forth, all backed by the threat or use of compulsory force by the state, to attain the various boons you mention.

            I challenge that axiom. I notice even the most well meaning folk just aren’t as good at doing this as they think they are, the result being greater suffering.

            That, over against the clearer and more attainable use of compulsion to prevent the doing un-to-others that which we’d find hateful/unwelcome if done to us.

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Scott Pennington says:

            “When I read your arguments I perceive you accept as axiomatic the ability exists to craft laws, policies, regulations and so forth, all backed by the threat or use of compulsory force by the state, to attain the various boons you mention.”

            Are you suggesting that there would be the same amount of DUI’s without DUI laws or the same amount of drug abuse without anti-drug laws. You are aware that the abortion rate took off like a rocket when the Supreme Court mandated its legality?

            I believe it is possible to legislate morality because experience demonstrates it clearly.

            If you want to challenge my axiom, show me where government sanction of a behavior has no effect. I’m sure there are a few examples; however, there are a vastly greater number of examples where it works.

            “That, over against the clearer and more attainable use of compulsion to prevent the doing un-to-others that which we’d find hateful/unwelcome if done to us.”

            Harry, would the list of things you would wish others to do unto you include aborting you before birth? How about breaking up your family as a child for no good reason other than boredom? Would this list include having your wife leave you because she dared to have an affair with another man, fearing no consequences? Would the list of things you would want done to you include having a daughter of yours fall into a promiscuous lifestyle as a result of imitating the culture around her?

            Libertarianism doesn’t work because no man is an island.

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Harry Coin says:

            While you identify ‘the Golden rule’ with libertarianism and conclude with ‘no man is an island’ — I didn’t propose those labels and indeed think them incorrect as since the essence of ‘The Golden Rule’ is relationship– specifically testing each rule against having it applied against oneself as it would be against another.

            There is beauty in the more attainable simplicity of ‘the golden rule’ themed laws. While certainly not without flaw, it is to be preferred over the agendas of those who are just itching to craft rules to apply to ‘them’– This, as laws are very clear things and ‘should’ and ‘ought’ are spectrums where even those in general agreement are unable to converge on legalistic codifications. And, as we always have seen, the abuse potential has proven irresistible.

            The Golden Rule prevents the class-creation via rule tweaking we see in authoritarian societies where those who make the rules form one more affluent class for whom (shazaam!) the rules provide boons, and the ruled for whom generally the rules cause the disproportionate, beyond market force level departure of the value of their labor from them to the aforementioned.

            I do believe the ‘golden rule’ covers your cases of drunk driving and so forth, while not causing the force of government to be applied to make those whose moral choices we’d find dubious but which do not impose suffering on third parties to suffer tax penalty or jail.

            Again, I’d be more comfortable with the way the ‘authoritarians’ spoke if there was an emphasis on rewarding that which is productive, without causing personal fines or particular penalties or loss of freedom on those whose choices are dubious but do not cause direct harm to others.

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Scott Pennington says:

            Harry,

            1. I didn’t equate the Golden Rule to libertarianism. The purpose of my post was to show that they are utterly incompatible.

            2. You asserted that the standard for establishing legislation should be the Golden Rule:

            “I notice even the most well meaning folk just aren’t as good at doing this as they think they are, the result being greater suffering.

            That, over against the clearer and more attainable use of compulsion to prevent the doing un-to-others that which we’d find hateful/unwelcome if done to us.”

            3. In pointing out that you would not want to be aborted, left by a wife for no reason other than lust or boredom, or have a daughter fall into a promiscuous lifestlyle because of her immersion in a sick culture, I was applying the Golden Rule. Most all libertarians would not legislate against any of those things, taking their cue from the cliche you referenced in 1.1.1.1.2 above:

            “The government is not in the business of determining should and ought, merely getting clear about the extent to which you’re allowed to swing your fist — right up but not including when it hits my nose.”

            If you would not want those things I mentioned above to happen to you, and if you believe that the Golden Rule is a good basis for legislating responsibly, obviously you’re for legislating against abortion and no-fault divorce, etc. Of course, most libertarians would find that objectionable.

        • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
          George Michalopulos says:

          Also, Thomas Jefferson believed that bigamists, rapists, and homosexuals should be hanged (and the Virginia statutes were written by him).

  2. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Harry Coin says:

    Is a deed virtuous if done to avoid a whack from big brother?

    • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
      Scott Pennington says:

      Every bit as virtuous as deeds done or avoided to avoid the fires of hell or for an eternal reward. Law can train virtue but cannot force its voluntary adoption. But inculcating virtue is only part of the function of law. I don’t care why a child molester doesn’t molest, a rapist doesn’t rape, or a murderer doesn’t murder. It would be nice if they had an internal aversion to evil activity, but fear of execution will do just as nicely. Believe me, potential victims don’t care either.

      But, of course, we’ve had this discussion ad nauseam.

      • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
        Harry Coin says:

        Well, the whole ‘doing it because of hope of heaven or threat of punishment’ has a bit of an old testament ring to it. Not absent of course in Christianity but certainly subordinated to feeling genuine affection and being in constructive relationship with others seen and unseen.

        There is no possibility of legislating affection, while I think using the force of government to balance the freedoms of citizens as relates to one another covers your criminal conduct examples.

        (So, there’s me trying to develop Fr. Hans pointer: work on writing less while saying more. Contributing here is like a person new to a sport getting a feel for it. Now… back to crafting systems software…)

        • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
          Scott Pennington says:

          Sayings of Christ regarding hell:

          Matthew 3:12 “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

          Matthew 25:30,41 – And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [...] 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

          Mat 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

          Mat 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

          Mat 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

          Mat 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

          As to heaven, Christ, and His Apostles often speaks of heaven as a reward, for example:

          Mat. 6:20: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

          Mat. 5:12 – Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

          That’s just from Matthew. So, Harry, it should have a familiar New Testament ring to it. The reason it might not is because many modern clergy don’t do their jobs.

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Harry Coin says:

            Scott– you don’t see that all the above are reasons given to the individual to decide for himself, not to impose through threat of financial expropriation by fine or jail time, what to do.

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Scott Pennington says:

            ” . . . you don’t see that all the above are reasons given to the individual to decide for himself, not to impose through threat of financial expropriation by fine or jail time, what to do.”

            There is absolutely no distinction whatsoever. God allows us to decide for ourselves whether to follow Him or not. We have free choice in that matter. But there are consequences. The law prohibits certain actions. We are free to disregard the law and commit these acts. But there are consequences.

            The only difference is that the consequences of breaking laws are always more merciful than of forsaking God.

            I posted those in response to this:

            ” . . . the whole ‘doing it because of hope of heaven or threat of punishment’ has a bit of an old testament ring to it.”

            Christ had precisely the same ring.

        • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
          Eliot Ryan says:

          Harry:

          So, there’s me trying to develop Fr. Hans pointer: work on writing less while saying more.

          Saint Isaac the Syrian

          The more a man’s tongue flees verbosity, the more his intellect is illumined so as to be able to discern deep thoughts; for the rational intellect is befuddled by verbosity.

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Harry Coin says:

            Getting the deep thought St. Issac mentions from one head into another’s– aye, thar’s the rub.

          • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
            Scott Pennington says:

            Of course, how does one appreciate deep or complex thoughts without seeing them expressed in writing or “verbosity”? All tidy, quaint little maxims have their limitations. One man’s verbosity is another man’s . . .

  3. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Orthodoxmom says:

    Father, this is interesting, given that it may be applied to pastors, bishops and priests as well. (No doubt, it also has an application in the nature of the exercise of parental authority in the family, too.) I believe I have seen this mentality at work in my former Protestant context and now, sad to say, in my Orthodox one as well. (I thank God it is not a problem at my current parish.) It grieves me greatly, because I have lived with the spiritual damage this kind of spiritual “leadership” does for a long time now–it is devastating.

  4. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    William Harrington says:

    Mr Pennington. I fear your glasses are rose colored. Virtue does not come from the government. You look back to Orthodox societies and see something better than what exists in a modern democracy. Around the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century, Russians looked at their own Orthodox society and, increasingly, saw corruption in the government and in the church which had become part of the government. This very government of Autocracy and Orthodoxy gave direct rise to a communist revolution. This is one example. We can also look at trends in Orthodox Monasticism in various places and times to pursue wealth and an easy life. This is not just a human trait, but also happened because monastaries were seen as a part of the state that provided a retirement home for nobles. St. Nilus lost his struggle against Russian monks who wanted to increase their wealth and push more peasants into serfdom and it is only recently that idiorhythmic monastaries have begun to wane on Mt. Athos. Symphonia was a nice idea but it did not work. It put the Church in the role of the servant of the state and those who resisted this were often deposed and exiled. Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation. This is as true in “Orthodox” societies as it is in democracies.

    • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
      Scott Pennington says:

      Have no fear, William. I do not wear rose colored glasses:

      “This very government of Autocracy and Orthodoxy gave direct rise to a communist revolution.”

      That is false. There was a Russian revolution in 1905 and another one in February of 1917. The first resulted in the tsar calling a parliament. The second resulted in the tsar abdicating and a democratic provisional government taking over power which we would describe as “center left”. It managed to rule only 7-8 months because of its incompentence.

      For about 7 months, by many accounts, Russia was the most free state in Europe.

      In October 1917, a relatively small group of revolutionaries under Lenin seized power by force of arms (given to them by the provisional democratic government, no less), in Petersburg and then in Moscow. The Provisional Government was so incompetent and chaotic that Lenin later said (and historians I’ve read agree), “We found power lying in the street and simply picked it up.”

      So your sentence might more accurately be phrased, “This very government of democracy gave direct rise to a communist revolution.”

      “Virtue does not come from the government. You look back to Orthodox societies and see something better than what exists in a modern democracy.”

      Virtue can come from the government. It has and it may again. Government can impose a moral culture that sinks into the genuine beliefs of the people over time. I do not suggest that authoritarian government is somehow immune from corruption any more than democratic government is. However, the one difference is that in a Christian Authoritarian state, the state reads Christian morality into the law. That is the virtue of authoritarianism over democracy which makes it a better system. Not that authoritarian governments in the past did not sometimes commit awful acts, but that they established systems informed by Christian morality, not opposed to it.

      Prince Vladimir converted to Christianity. He told his sons to do so also. The boyars then began converting. Finally, he told the entire population of Kiev to come to the river to be baptized or else be an enemy of the state. Thus was founded the most populous Orthodox country on earth. It sunk in. It produced many many saints. And it did so because Orthodoxy became the “overwhelming context” in the lives of the people. For some it sank in, for others it was merely skin deep.

      We see the same thing in church or in parochial schools. Who would argue that church is not a good environment in which to acquire virtue? Better than the world at large, of course. In parochial schools, the theory is that education done in a religious environment, including religious education, will result in a more virtuous group of students. Else why bother with church or parochial schools?

      Same for society. History demonstrates that the notion that the state cannot inculcate virtue is utterly false. It cannot do so perfectly. It cannot directly compel true virtue. However, by creating a churchlike environment throughout society, it certainly can cause a solid slice of the population to accept the teaching of their environment. And this can result in the formation of many saints. It has done so.

      Now the real impetus behind the observation that “Virtue cannot come from the government” is a maxim fostered by Enlightenment Liberalism which, sadly, many Christians have adopted. It is a lie, but it masks the real conviction of liberals: “Virtue should not be imposed by the government” (i.e., unless it is a virtue society is prepared to accept rather uncontroversially).

      You see, there is no rational distinction between the virtues we now impose by law and those we do not except that some enjoy majority support (and are construed as constitutional by the high court) and some do not. This is irrational. If the majority approved of murdering Jews, we would have to say that the law should protect Jews from murder. The society at large is not the source of morality.

      • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
        Michael Bauman says:

        Oh, come on Scott. In a linear, chronological sense you are correct but really. The chaos was the direct result of the deterioration of 400 years of Czarist rule that allowed for no alternative forms or practices for the most part. Of course, any attempt at a non-dictatorial government under those circumstances would fail if there is a dedicated, violent opposition. Exactly why Putin and his old communist cronies have re-emerged in Russia after the fall of the Soviet state.

        The United States avoided (until lately) the same fate because:

        1. English Common Law was a lot better starting point than other system.
        2. We had lots of practice in governing ourselves before the Revolution (which was more about home rule than about any real change in law or philosophy)
        3. A bunch of folks who actually studied the philosphy of government and how to use power without abusing it (mostly).
        4. The eventually unwillingness/inability of the English Crown to project its power across the ocean consistently and ruthlessly

        It was the willingness of the Bolsheviks to use naked force in an offensive manner (as opposed to the democrats and the Czarists) that allowed them to pick up the power in the street.

        It could be argued that a foundation of English common law is the only system that has a chance of forming a viable, stable representative government (as opposed to a democracy). But it also requires an educated, engaged, and virtuous citizenry. The decline in the U.S. government is because of the advent of homogenized public education which trains people to be minions of the state, lack of participation in the entire process that such education tends to produce, and the concomitant decline of virtue, private and civic and the utilitarian economics of industrialization

        • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
          Scott Pennington says:

          Michael,

          “The chaos was the direct result of the deterioration of 400 years of Czarist rule that allowed for no alternative forms or practices for the most part.”

          “Oh, come on!” Is not an argument.

          Yes, governments don’t allow for “alternative forms and practices” of government. All governments (including democracies) prefer – - insist even – - on having a monopoly on . . . government. Try and establish a monarchy in Tennessee and see what happens.

          There are several reasons why the Russian Empire fell. First, revolution and leftist ideas were in the air all over Europe. It was a sign of the times. Second, Tsar Nicholas II was a weak ruler who insisted on absolute autocracy. You can be a strong ruler and mantain absolute autocracy. And you can be a weak (or strong) ruler and make accomodations to transform your state into a constitutional monarchy (as Alexander II was in the process of doing when radicals assassinated him carrying a draft of a constitution with him). What you can’t do is be a weak ruler and maintain an absolute autocracy.

          Third, were it not for the personality of Lenin, a unique individual who bucked all the conventional wisdom of leftists and Marxists and founded a party based on a rejection of classical Marxist theory of a two stage revolution, the requirement that every party member do a specific task and contribute in order to maintain his membership, complete “need to know” secrecy, and a determination to be the only power in Russia, the Revolution could not have succeeded. It was in no sense inevitable. Those who claim it was are dead wrong and ignorant of the circumstances.

          “Of course, any attempt at a non-dictatorial government under those circumstances would fail if there is a dedicated, violent opposition. Exactly why Putin and his old communist cronies have re-emerged in Russia after the fall of the Soviet state.”

          That is a non-sequitur. First, your first sentence is false. A dedicated violent opposition would not have been able to prevail in Russia were it not for the utter foolish incompetence of the Kerensky government. They governed like they had no earthly idea what they were doing. They armed the Bolsheviks in response to rumors about a general who may have had aspirations to become a regent. Of course, the Bolsheviks never gave the arms back. They refused to arrest or suppress fellow leftists. Their weaknesses were a kind of amplification of the normal weaknesses of democracies.

          Second, your second sentence does not make sense and does not flow logically from the first. Anyone who held any significant position in the goverment; i.e., anyone who knew how to make the infrastructure and administrative services work, was a communist. Putin may be guilty of crony capitalism (which is normal in Western democracies as well), but that doesn’t have anything to do with communism. He was elevated to a position to become President by Boris Yeltsin who stared down the communists and undertook a crash program of privatization and economic reform.

          It’s an interesting narrative. It fits in with pro-democratic and anti-Orthodox propaganda. It only lacks the virtue of being true.

  5. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Eliot Ryan says:

    For our masters will not be using the concepts of Desert and Punishment but those of disease and cure. We know that one school of psychology already regards religion as a neurosis. When this particular neurosis becomes inconvenient to government, what is to hinder government from proceeding to ‘cure’ it? [...] The new Nero will approach us with the silky manners of a doctor, [...] every prominent Christian in the land may vanish overnight into Institutions for the Treatment of the Ideologically Unsound, [...] Even if the treatment is painful, even if it is life-long, even if it is fatal, that will be only a regrettable accident; the intention was purely therapeutic.

    What C.S. Lewis describes here is something that has already happened: “the experiment of terror was performed on the young generation, on students from the age of eighteen to twenty five …”.
    I wonder when did C. S Lewis write “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment”. Perhaps it was written while the “new Nero with the silky manners of a doctor” was already applying his “therapy”.

    Between 1944-1945, Communism took over the Christian country of Romania. An experiment of terror was performed on the young generation, on students from the age of eighteen to twenty five. Among those students was a man who is alive today after surviving sixteen years in the anti-human communist prison system. His name is Father George Calciu. After His release from prison, he was exiled to America in 1984. Below follows part of an interview by Nun Nina from this year.(1998)
    .

    Fr. George: Communism wanted to make a gap between the generations. The most dangerous category for them was the students, the young people. We had inherited a Christian education, family values, and basic Christian principles. The older generation was a generation that had to die, but this generation had to be transformed. So they tried to experiment in a very concentrated medium. They wanted to break the people, the whole country.
    .

    We believed in Christian values. Therefore, they wanted to do this special experiment with the young people, to create a gap between the children and the older generation, to make this generation of students a communist one. They wanted to build a new world – a communist world; a new man—the communist man and so on. Se the arrested the young people – the students – and put them in a special prison for this very experiment.
    .
    They took very distinct steps. The first was to destroy the personality of the youth. For example, the guards would come together with a group of young prisoners who had converted to communism in a cell where there were perhaps twenty young students and try to intimidate them. They would beat without mercy. They could even kill somebody. Generally they would kill one of them – the one who opposed them the most; the most important one. Generally he was a leader. They would beat him and even kill him. Thus, the terror began.
    .
    After that, they began to “unmask.” They wanted to force you to say: “I lied when I said, ‘I believe in God.’ I lied when I said, ‘I love my mother and my father.’ I lied when I said, ‘I love my country.’” So everyone was to deny every principle, every feeling he had. That is what it means to be “unmasked.” [...]It was done in order to prove that Christian principles we not principles, that we lied when we said we loved Jesus Christ, we loved God, mother, father, and so on. It was to show that I lied when I said that I was a chaste man, when I held the ideal of nation and family. Everything had to be done to destroy out souls! This is the second step.
    .
    After this came a declaration against everybody who was in touch with us, everybody who believed as we believed. I was to make a declaration against everybody who knew about my organization or my actions, to denounce everybody—even father, mother, sister. We were to sever completely any Christian connection and moral people.
    .
    The final step was to affirm that we had given up all the principles of our faith and any connection we had with it. With this we began to be “the new man,” “the communist man,” ready to torture, to embrace communism, to denounce everybody, ready to give information, and ready to blaspheme against God.
    .
    [..] So there were four steps: the instillation of terror, the unmasking, the denouncement of other people, and, afterwards, the changing of our souls. These four steps were strictly thought out and planned. It could not be only in the images of the mind. They had long experiences of this in Russia and were now bringing it to Romania.[...]
    .
    Many times we were quite angry with God—if you exist why did you allow this? But there was one moment when the mercy of God would come upon you and you could say, “God forgive me; God help me.” It was enough to help you. For another day, another day, another day.
    .
    We were freed and we were very happy to be free, but we had a kind of nostalgia about the prison. And we could not explain it to others. They said we were crazy. How could you miss prison? Because in prison, we had the most spiritual life. We reached levels that we are not about to reach in this world. Isolated, anchored in Jesus Christ, we had joys and illuminations that this world cannot offer us. http://blakemb.wordpress.com/

  6. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Eliot Ryan says:

    Scott:

    Of course, how does one appreciate deep or complex thoughts without seeing them expressed in writing or “verbosity”?

    I do not want to miss the deep thoughts while reading a piece of writing. That is why I prefer to see them expressed in a good solid paragraph, that covers the main points of a piece of writing.

    • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
      Scott Pennington says:

      Eliot,

      Is this a literary journal or a blog? If you want to see that, read a book. Some of the articles posted here – - some, not all – - rise to that level. Most people who post comments here just do so off the tops of their heads. The forum doesn’t justify anything more.

      Christos Voskrese!

    • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
      Scott Pennington says:

      Eliot,

      Forgive my tone above. It occured to me you might be referring to verbosity in writing in general and not blog posts.

  7. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Eliot Ryan says:

    Deep Thought of the Day:
    How to move from deep thinking to taking action towards what we want to achieve: salvation?
    Look at what Elder Dobri from Baylovo – Bulgaria achieved.
    Please, look at the 0:20 time to see Elder Dobri’s deep thoughts written/shining on his face. Anyone here made, like the poor old man, a $30K donation this year :( ?

Care to comment?

*