1/25/09

Containing Its Own Destruction

"The common man, finding himself in a world so excellent, technically and socially, believes it has been produced by nature, and never thinks of the personal efforts of highly endowed individuals which the creation of this new world presupposed. Still less will he admit the notion that all these facilities still require the support of certain difficult human virtues, the least failure of which would cause the rapid disappearance of the whole magnificent edifice."

~José Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955)

From Rusty Mason's blog come a post on the state dominating and crushing the spirit of man:
Paradoxically to most people, it is the struggle and the individual's attitude to it that maintain freedom and build success. It is the worship of that same success and love of safety that bring about rot and failure. Standards are relaxed; systems grow of their own volition; the foreign, the incompetent, and the insane are allowed to immigrate, integrate, vote, and to rule; The Mob subsequently takes over, bringing about collapse.

Tim Case, in Preamble to Social Mayhem, sees the Destructor (my term) as the State and all its opera which kills initiative and freedom:

Certainly no serious student of history would dare ignore any of these lines of reasoning in studying the fall of the Roman Empire. However, there is one further item that is rarely addressed but which should be of equal importance to understanding why great empires, like Rome, ultimately fail.

Whether we are talking about an autocracy, oligarchy, or democracy we are in the final analysis dealing with a coercive force which will become violent to attain its ends. As the state increases its power base and the demands upon its citizens, it will seek to have a domineering effect upon the human spirit. The result is the destruction of self-reliance, self-determination and self-confidence of free citizens and replacing them with a dutiful, subservient drone totally reliant on the state.

The pressure the state exerts on it subjects was not lost on Tacitus who bemoaned the servile mood of the Roman Senate under Tiberius in contrast to the character of the Senate during the building of the Empire. Even Tiberius is reported to have said in disgust of the Roman senators: "O men, ready for slavery!"

Three of the great writers of antiquity – Livy, Pliny the elder, and Tacitus – all recognized that the Roman society was becoming enslaved. Livy felt it was because of the wealth and Pliny concurred that the lack of intellectual interests was the result of the worship of wealth.

Tacitus, however, stated that "genius died by the same blow that ended public liberty" laying the blame directly at the feet of the rising tyranny of the Roman state.

However, it is the unknown philosopher of Longinus’ On The Sublime who pinpoints the cause when he says:

... we of to-day seem to have learnt in our childhood the lessons of a benignant despotism, to have been cradled in her habits and customs from the time when our minds were still tender, and never to have tasted the fairest and most fruitful fountain of eloquence, I mean liberty. Hence we develop nothing but a fine genius for flattery. This is the reason why, though all other faculties are consistent with the servile condition, no slave ever became an orator; because in him there is a dumb spirit which will not be kept down: his soul is chained: he is like one who has learnt to be ever expecting a blow. For, as Homer says – ‘the day of slavery takes half our manly worth away.’


In Catiline's War Gaius Sallustius Crispus opens his dissertation with this statement:

Every man who is anxious to surpass the lower animals should strive with all his power not to pass his life in obscurity like the brute beasts, which nature has made the groveling slaves of their bellies. Now our whole ability resides jointly in our mind and body. In the case of the mind it is its power of guidance, in the case of the body its obedient service that we rather use, sharing the former faculty with the gods, the latter with the brute creation.


We may say then, without too much contradiction, that the real war between a free people and the state resides over who will control the mind: the individual or the state.

If it is the individual, society will continue to grow and flourish, while if the state wins control, the society rapidly decays, allowing the points often cited for the fall of the Roman Empire to occur.


Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, describes the bureaucratic creep that brings Case's Destructor State which kills initiative and freedom:

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: It is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.

...For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

...Thus, it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent: it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them, and oftentimes to look on them as benefits.

...After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.

...The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.


Nota bene that there is no call here for change for change's sake, as the Marxists and other statist communists desire.

In Schism and Conscience: Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle and Cancer Ward, Matthew Raphael Johnson writes:

The Enlightenment is based on the interconnection of all external stimuli (since they are all reducible to atoms and their vibrations), hence, totalitarianism is a practical and scientific necessity. If force applied in one direction will eventually affect all elements, then everything is connected. This is graphically shown in the beginning of the novel when the vibrations of Volodin’s voice create a chain reaction of activation of the NKVD’s entire apparatus in an inorganic dystopic anti-nature. All is motion, all is cause and effect, hence all is connected, hence there is no autonomous element of life. This is the main thesis of the work as related to the USSR and all materialist visions, its negation is the basis of the dialogue between Rubin and Nerzhnin. The Enlightenment, as a result, must become the totalitarian state: Marx/Lenin are the proper successor to Bacon, Compte, Darwin and Huxley.

4. Nerzhnin is a humanist in the best sense of that word. He is not motivated by ideology or any externalized sense of identity. If Rubin is Huxley, then Nerzhnin is Tolstoy: questioning, suffering, searching, but always cheerful, for this is the proper state of man, a man striving to understand. This impulse is snuffed out by ideology, or the full identification of society with a historical idea, in that all ideologies claim to be the “end of history.”


Every man-made system for beating the forces of the Universe ultimately fails. They fail because man is not a machine or a creature of instinct. He is a being of free will and will eventually choose to ignore or override every system he creates. "The Beast," in my estimation, is not a man or machine or even a particular system or ideology; it is our dependence on system which destroys us.

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