Although most of us don’t like admitting it, we in the West are living in a state of tyranny. I won’t waste time on details, but when force-backed edicts intrude into every aspect of our lives (“Did you strap your child into a seat approved for their height and weight?”), using the T-word is a function of our emotional readiness, not an issue of fact.
What I’ll give you in this post is a solution to the present tyranny. This solution involves no violence, costs nothing, and is available to all of us. It’s even simple. But it does have one drawback: It requires you to make decisions and to act on them.
Millions of people, you see, want someone else – anyone else – to be the responsible party. That’s the secret appeal of politics: You’re never to blame. Any problem can be blamed on someone else.
Still, as true as all of the above may be, that’s not the solution. The solution is to reclaim external points of reference.
Now, since that sounds fairly abstract, I’ll explain.
What Has Been Stripped Away
This short passage from Carl Jung’s The Undiscovered Self cuts directly to the core of this issue:
It is possible to have an attitude toward the external conditions of life only when there is a point of reference outside them… enabling the individual to exercise his judgment and his power of decision.
If all you see is your political mob (Facebook and Twitter provide precisely this condition), you have no external point of reference: the passion of the crowd is all you have to refer to. And this kind of thinking, having no real tether to reality, can go to crazy places… as it has recently.
Here, in broad strokes, is what has happened:
- Christianity and its values have been attacked and expelled over the past few centuries.
- Judaism, Christianity’s cousin, hasn’t been large enough to affect the larger society, even when it wasn’t brutally attacked.
- Traditional ideas of morality didn’t survive much longer than Christianity.
- Academia was seduced and/or intimidated into an anti-traditional, anti-religious intellectual order that seeped all the way down into kindergartens.
Since 1970 or so, whatever remained of traditional morality was dismembered and burned. At the same time, reason was driven out of academia, replaced by self-contradictory and plainly malicious theories like post-modernism, deconstruction and critical theory. Academia teaches young people how to tear down, but not to build. There are exceptions to this, of course, but they are in retreat. Insane though it may be, academics are now proclaiming math to be racist.
The result of these developments has been the elimination of all external points of reference. As Jung wisely noted, once there’s nothing external to guide by, the ability to judge vanishes; all that matters is the surrounding mob and their inflamed passions.
And so, the solution to this tyranny is to reintroduce external points of reference. Once we have those, the madness of the mob will be exposed: The villainy of neo-racism, cancel culture and the rest will become obvious.
The problem with external points of reference is that they can become idols, eventually leading to the same type of problem. That, however, is easy to prevent, simply by allowing for pluralism. That is, by allowing multiple points of reference.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter terribly much which standards you use, so long as they are basically humane and benevolent. What matters is that you have a distant star to guide by.
There’s an old saying that “all the good are friends of one another.” And likewise, all reasonably good standards get along reasonably well with all others.
Now, here are a few suggestions for you:
- The Bible. Rather than trying to pick at every possible flaw (and no actual Christians takes the ancient, “kill them all” passages seriously), find the good things in the book: there are plenty of them. Use those, and compare modern developments to them.
- The golden rule. From at least six centuries BC until now, more or less every serious philosopher has come up with a golden rule statement. It never goes away because it’s based upon human structure, and because it’s a far, far better standard of judgment than crazy things like 100,000 pages of national laws. It just works, and has always worked.
- The writings of John Locke. I refer you especially to Locke’s Second Treatise on Government. In it you’ll find brilliant, accessible and useful arguments. They are worth your time and stand as worthy references. For extra credit, I recommend his Letter Concerning Toleration.
- The Declaration of Independence. In specific, I’m directing you to the beginning and end of this document, not to the bulk of it, which addresses issues long past. It’s very short, but very potent.
To this list many could be added (Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, for example), but these make a good core list. Humans are intelligent beings, and they can make decisions very well, provided they wish to and provided they put a bit of effort into it.
And external points of reference really are the antidote to tyranny. Once we return to these in everyday conversation… and in public discussions… tyranny will lose its fangs and we’ll return to a sane, if still imperfect, social discourse.