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More thoughts on the blue state of mind

The ’60s, bracketed as they were by the school prayer and abortion decisions, stand for definitive public rejection of the transcendent in favor of a wholly this-worldly understanding of reality. In the absence of a superior point of reference, the social order became the ultimate moral reality and human choice the ultimate authority. For those who accept the ’60s, including those who set the standards and tone of mainstream respectable public life, the consequences include the following:

  • “Inclusion” is now a supreme moral imperative. Since the public social order is ultimate reality, to treat some people, classes or ways of living as more closely connected to it than others is to that extent to exclude them from participation in reality and therefore to annihilate them. That’s one reason Nazi imagery pops up so quickly in response to failures of inclusiveness. Similarly, to be a minor-league social dropout, to homeschool your children or live in a community that’s insufficiently diverse or whatever, is to avoid reality and your obligations to reality. It’s a violation of your obvious fundamental moral obligations as a social being. (Note that the attempt to put the public order into equally close connection to all possible persons and ways of being deprives the public order of all content. Ultimate reality becomes a void, to be filled by sensation and fantasy.)
  • Since the public order is ultimate reality, and ultimate reality must be unified and one, there can be only one public order, and that order must be the same everywhere. The UN and other internationalist ventures therefore become metaphysical necessities. Also, since belief involves evaluation and judgment, and the social order provides the standards for the latter, the social order becomes the final standard for all reality. If something isn’t certified by experts, didn’t appear in the New York Times and isn’t on TV it doesn’t exist. Certainly you can’t say anything about it or draw conclusions from it.
  • There is no distinction between politics and religion. Politics is a religion, and religion, to the extent it remains something legitimate, can only be commitment to correct political views and causes. After all, this world is all there is, and the highest goals and duties of human life therefore form a single this-worldly system that can be viewed indifferently as religious (having to do with the highest realities) or political (having to do with the intentional recreation of social order). All that remains of the specifically religious is “spirituality,” a psychological or poetic leisure-time activity for sensitive souls.
  • For a religious person to downplay the political (meaning left-liberationist) aspects of his religion is to be self-centered and avoid the real issues. It’s either false consciousness—he’s been suckered by structures of oppression—or a matter of putting a good front on an obvious attempt to maintain a position of unjustified advantage and comfort. And for anyone to see limits on what can be achieved through politics is to be cynical and most likely self-seeking or even malicious. It is to deny hope and turn your back on the only possible higher principle. To oppose progressive politics on principle, of course, is all that and worse. It is truly demonic.
  • The political aspects of religion cannot, however, have a substantive connection to religion as traditionally conceived. Since the transcendent is non-existent, to let anything transcending this-worldly concerns into public life is to attempt to dominate public life by irrational and arbitrary will. As such, it’s an attempt, for whatever reason, to establish tyranny. Hence the fear and loathing of the “Radical Religious Right,” an ill-defined tendency in American life that stands for views that after all are mostly a somewhat liberalized version of the views of pre-60s America.

What all this shows is that Western man is attached to a comprehensive rational habit of thought. That’s where enterprises like philosophy and science come from. It’s doubtful that habit will change fundamentally and in fact it seems to be spreading to other parts of the world. A result of it is that we try to see everything as a single system. That creates problems if we are totally this-worldly and so understand the most basic and authoritative part of the system as something we can grasp and try to control. In that case totalitarian control of all reality becomes a possibility and therefore a goal: everything has to be reduced to a single clear principle that one can control for the sake of bringing about what he sees as the right state of affairs.

The way to avoid such a result is to view the most basic and authoritative part of the system as something that radically exceeds our grasp and imparts to the other parts of the system a certain mutually-independent reality while nonetheless maintaining overall order. To think systematically—philosophically and scientifically—is to look for controlling factors. The long-term outcome of the search for controlling factors is either this-worldly totalitarianism, if the world is thought to be a self-contained system, or religious faith in a transcendent creator God.

The ’60s represent a choice of the first alternative. The fact that it represented itself as an attack on system, power and control changes nothing. All it attacked was minor powers that stand in the way of control by universal power. “Do your own thing” means that nothing you do can be allowed to matter. That means that there has to be someone else running the show. The supreme moral principle we have now as a result of the ’60s is “inclusion,” which means that everyone everywhere has to stand in exactly the same relation to a single all-embracing universally identical system of power, and has to approve of that state of affairs and find anything else horrifying. What more is needed for totalitarianism?