Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Breaking the Chains: The Egalitarian Idea and Radicalism

In a recent column from the New Criterion, man of letters Roger Kimball commented on the "egalitarian impulse" and its effects upon the problem of dealing with iniquity. Kimball stated,
"The problem today is that the egalitarian imperative threatens to overwhelm that other great social impulse, the impulse to achieve, to excel, to surpass: “always to be best and to rise above others,” as Homer put it in one classic expression of the agonistic spirit. Radical egalitarianism—egalitarianism uncorrected by the aspirations of excellence—would have us pretend that there are no important distinctions among people; where the pretense is impossible, it would have us enact compensatory programs to minimize, or at least to paper over, the differences."

Kimball's point is that no matter how much or how loudly one pushes total equality, there will always be those who are not satisfied and will seek to rise out of the dust to achieve and excel. It is a fundamental part of the human psyche, partly, I believe, because of our inherent closeness to the Image of the Almighty. For centuries Christ was a paragon of virtue, the penultimate example of a noble life, and this desire to be "as Christ was" has now become a part of the Western spirit as integral as DNA. We strive to be better men and women because complacency breeds arrogance, and that arrogance breeds discontent that feeds the fury, the same fury that caused Heaven's Rift and Lucifer's defeat and exile.

This is not to say, however, that the egalitarian idea in and of itself is evil. Far from it. Part of the reason I am a staunch Unionist when it comes to the Civil War is because I believe that slavery of any kind is evil and morally reprehensible, among the most heinous being slavery based on skin color. It is not the main reason of my support for the Union, but it is a fundamental part. Sometimes lauded, sometimes ridiculed, the egalitarian idea is, itself, a reflection of Christ's teachings and the American idea that "all men are created equal" by their Maker. The problem arises when people mistake "equal" for a command that all men be equal in everything, especially income. Christ never spoke of "spreading the wealth around". He never demanded that society, much less the state, take from the "haves" and give to the "have-nots". And the much quoted "camel through a needle" parable about the rich is completely misunderstood by those who use it to further their ideological agenda.

Christ's mercy and salvation is offered to all, regardless of station, class, skin, gender, or political affiliation. It was assurance that every Soul would be given a fair hearing and honest judgement by God Himself and that those who lived by His Commandments and declared Him the Savior of their Soul would be saved (but even God gave special considerations to noble, virtuous souls who had never heard the Gospel). And this salvation went beyond economic circumstances. The egalitarian ideal-that of the abolitionists, that all men have the same constitutional rights and the ability to make decisions on their own without interference-has, unfortunately, been hijacked into a neo-socialist mantra. This bastardized ideal is lethal to productive society, and ultimately to civilization.

I got to thinking about the idea of progress the other day, and it occurred to me that progress in society, in culture, in civilization, is unattainable if the spirit to excel, to rise above, is dead. And true progress comes from hard work and a noble ethic, with the lessons of the past providing a blueprint and rubric on how to march forward. The new egalitarianism that our radical left loves to propagate is a false copy, a doppelganger to be reviled. It represents not forward movement, or progression, but regression, because it seeks to put chains on those who would improve our culture and society and drags them down into the morass, what Churchill called "the equality of misery".

And any "equality" in misery is, in my humble opinion, not equality at all. It is, beyond a doubt, the closest thing to Hell.

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