Dear Tom: The Answer, Alas, is Yes

Under our current lawless regime our God King has an absolute, self-granted Executive 007 that can be exercised against any human being on planet Earth, citizen or not. No US law restrains him. Only custom and political expediency–in other words, what he can get away with before somebody stops him–pose barriers.

Now that the legal barriers are gone, the next phase is that, one by one, our societal, cultural and economic barriers against the tyranny of the weak by the strong are to be eroded. There are little straws in the wind about how this will proceed.

Straw 1: Here’s a little piece by Rod Dreher commenting on how the individualist ethos of the 60′s (“Do your own thing”) is now regnant everywhere. Economically and socially, sexually and politically, it permeates both left and right and everything in between in American culture. It animates the Tea Party and Planned Parenthood, the Randian Right Winger and the Leftist Gay “Marriage” advocate. And in practice, what it means is “Every man for himself.” This is a vastly different thing from the original vision of the American founding of ordered liberty in which we see ourselves as bound by certain elemental ties to the common good. And like all heresies outside the Church, it leaches into the Church in diluted form, just as Calvinism leached into the Church in the diluted form of Jansenism. In the Church, we see it among Right Wing Catholics attempting to baptize Ayn Rand and pretending that subsidiarity is the only part of Catholic Social teaching that matters (and pretending that “subsidiarity” means “taxation is communism” as I was informed the other day by a particularly robust Protestant who thinks he is Catholic). Meanwhile, among progressive Catholics, we find just the same atomized approach to the common good among the vast majority of Catholics who see no big problems with sex lives utterly unconnected to the common good.

Nonetheless, “every man for himself” is a synonym for a perfectly sound military strategy: Divide and conquer. And since we are, as the apostle informs us, in a cosmic war with principalities and powers and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies, every time we choose to place our disordered selfish desires above the common good (and American culture is now constituted to encourage that in every sector of existence and to export that as far as possible), we make ourselves more vulnerable and powerless to resist tyranny.  Those in our elites who itch to no longer be constrained by custom or by outdated notions of “rights” are only strengthened in a world of atomized individuals Doing Their Own Thing.

Again, in military terms, we are in the “softening” phase of the initial bombardment.  Once our ability to network and resist has been sufficiently degraded by our own chronic individualism and selfishness, the next phase will begin and the principalities and powers will suddenly develop a shocking lack of interest in your perspectives, feelings, desires and whines about Not Judging.  Mike Flynn describes what’s coming:

Sometimes the Mask Slips a Little

In the 7 March 2013 issue of the New York Review of Books, in which important people write importantly about important books, Cass Sunstein comments on Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism by Sarah Conly (Cambridge University Press, 206 pp.) in an essay entitled It’s For You’re Own Good.  The book is $95 important, which means only the important people can afford to read it; at least until the graphic novel comes out.  Meanwhile, you can read the essay for free.  And before you ask, they are serious.  If only us peasants would just do as we are told by our betters.

William Briggs has more.

How does this look on the ground when the little suckers believe all the banana oil their predators sell them about the power of Being Yourself and Doing Whatever You Want and Freeing Yourself by Ignoring God and the Common Good and all the rest of the message as old as the serpent?  Here’s a crude little demo provided by one of the minor predators working in the lower levels of the Ministry of Truth:

Say what you will about Beyoncé, but this is a woman who throughout her phenomenally successful singing career, has nailed the powerful, sassy superwoman act down to a tee. So much so, that none other than Barack Obama hailed her as being the perfect role model for his two daughters.

First there were the good old days of Destiny’s Child, when the Beyoncé-fronted group regularly dominated the charts with songs such as Bills, Independent Women and Survivor. These were masterful pop creations about women refusing to put up with men who let them down. They contained, hardly profound, but nonetheless brilliantly empowering lyrics such as, “you thought I would be stressed without you, but I’m chilling”. You go girl, was the general message.

Then came Single Ladies, the feel-good song that pretty much acted as a call to arms for the global sisterhood, with Queen B again urging all her single ladies not to put up with useless men and presumably learn the dance moves to her song instead (which they did, in their thousands – the choreography to the video spawned a global dance-craze.) Beyoncé then tells the man who messed her around: “If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it” and the song has been compared to Aretha Franklin’s Respect and Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive for its rousing, empowering theme.

But in recent months, she’s opted for a change in direction, and a pretty stark one at that. Not only has she decided to call her upcoming global tour ‘Mrs Carter”, ditching her own powerful name to instead take on that of her husband’s, but this week the singer posted a taster of her new single Bow Down on her website, ahead of the release of her fifth album, and it ain’t pretty.

In the song, Beyoncé sings to her female fans: “I know when you were little girls / You dreamed of being in my world / Don’t forget it, don’t forget it / Respect that, bow down, bitches”, with the refrain “bow down, bitches” aggressively and tediously repeated throughout the song. We’ve come a long way since the days of “put a ring on it.” Put a sock in it, more like.


It seems that overnight we’ve been transformed from Beyoncé’s beloved single ladies, independent women and survivors, into her bitches. From Beyoncé singing, “all the women, independent, throw your hands up at me” to “bow down bitches” a change is underway, and it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

As I say, just a straw in the wind. But this is how the food chain works in a world that worships Darwin. Say whatever you need to to render the prey defenseless, then strike. Our cultural project is full throttle aimed at “Divide and conquer.” But once the powerful are secure in their pride, they turn to the people who put them where they are and say, “I’ve got mine. Who cares about you? Bow down, bitches.” Charity, concern about the common good: these things come the Holy Spirit. The devil, the ape of God, only simulates interest in them for as long as it takes to render you vulnerable. And everything in our culture indicates that the principalities and powers are preparing a grand feast on the isolated and atomized sheep.

Unless, of course, we repent and return to being disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and not of contemporary American culture.

Tennessee Senator Denies 280,000 People Health Care
Patrick Deneen on the Power Elite
The GOP: On the Cutting Edge of the Late 19th Century
The Military is Where Our Ruling Class Gets to Experiment
  • Desi Erasmus

    I hope you edit this piece to make it a bit more readable. The typos and dropped words are distracting from an otherwise excellent posting.

  • Mitch

    I went to a presentation by Sarah Conly at a philosophy conference on the topic that her book is on. Needless to say her talk was one of the best attended that time slot and boy did just about everyone rip into her, from both libertarian grounds, more common good communitarian grounds and from the point of human dignity.

  • Will J

    The 60s you (and our psstor) blame for the current situation were a result of previous times. I have read people who want to blame Vatican II for everything wrong in the Church, without realizing that seeds of Vatican II were planted earlier.

    • bear

      Of course: nothing comes from a vacuum. One of the things I find missing when I hear people dicussing the Baby Boomers or Generation Narcissus, as our gracious host prefers to call it, is the question of just who raised such a dismal generation in the first place? And the answer is, of course, The Greatest Generation. It may seem odd at first that such a band of heroes could have raised such a bunch of self obsessed jackanapes, but it is more understandable when you think that the Greatest Generation wanted to raise childrn who did not have to go through what they did, nor make the sacrifices they had to make. In so doing, not only did they raise children who didn’t, they raised children who wouldn’t, ever, willingly put anything ahead of their own precious selves.

      • Will J

        “Generation Narcissus” “dismal generation”

        What stereotypes.

        • bear

          Yes, and for that matter, so is “the Greatest Generation”. Your point? Assuming you have one?

          • Will J

            Stereotypes do not always fit.

            Kind of an insulting statement bear. I thought this was supposed to be a positive discussion.

            • bear

              If you had an objection to my post, you should have addressed it rather than dismiss it. However, you did, and I responded you by asking you to identify your point.

              Yes, stereotypes do not always fit, yet sociologists continue invoke and continue their use. The fundamental assumption when discussing a broad concept such as “generation” is that there are large groups of people out there, born of certain times and places, with certain shared broad, general characteristics- a stereotype if you will. That does not mean everyone within these identifiable groups share the same characteristics that identify the group as a whole. However, the fact that there are exceptions and individuals of these times and places who fall outside of the broad categorizations does not mean the categories are invalid. There may indeed be no such thing as the typical baby boomer, just as there is no such thing as a typical family with 2.5 children. Saying so does not refute the validity of categories and averages.

              • Will J

                Always wondered about that 0.5 child. Baby boomers were born from 1946 to 1964 according to most definitions I have seen. The numbers of years in itself makes one wonder how much they have in common. That said, it is easy to use stereotypes especially to blame a group for something. Many people blame the baby boomers for the turmoil of the 1960s. Figure out how old the youngest and oldest members of the group was in the 1960s. I guess it makes a good stereotype. Some people are more polite than others not matter what generation they come from.

                • bear

                  The turmoil of the sixties was create by and large by people under the age of 30, with a few over that limit. As such, while not everyone who can be called a baby boomer was behind the turmoil of the sixties, the overwhelming majority of those who were behind the turmoil of the period were boomers. Your example is as valid as refuting the statement: “All dogs are quadrupeds” by saying “That can’t be true, because not all quadrupeds are dogs.”

                  • Will J

                    I evaluate people as individuals. There are good and bad in every generation, probably in proportional numbers.

                    There was good and bad in the 1960s. For example, Vatican II is an example of one of the good things.

  • Mike in KC, MO

    “commenting on how the individualist ethos of the 60′s (“Do your own thing”) is now regnant everywhere.”
    - This guy has interesting thoughts on this subject. He has his problems: he comes to things from a more atheist point of view, and a few of his points I disagree with. Also, a couple of bad words. But a very interesting take on it.

  • A Philosopher

    Wait, assistant professors of philosophy are now among the powers and principalities? I must have missed the memo. It is a little problematic, don’t you think, to use an anti-autonomy book as evidence of the problem of rampant autonomy? (I get the idea, of course: rampant autonomy breaks down the social structures, which then opens the door for totalitarianism. But there’s a clear worry about unfalsifiability here: any pro-autonomy evidence supports the “crumble” phase, and any anti-autonomy evidence supports the “iron fist” phase — what could disconfirm your theory?)

    (For what it’s worth I support same-sex marriage largely on the grounds that it defends the common good.)

    • Mark Shea

      Principalities and powers are not human.

  • Irenist

    This is magnificent, Mark. One of the finest, most thought-provoking things you’ve written, which is really saying something. “Divide and conquer” as the motive of individualism. Wow.

  • Knower

    Actually, not individualism, but tribalistic groupism, seems to me the dominant psychologic bane of culture nowadays. People tend to dress, walk, talk, much less in individually idiosyncratic ways than in pre-set, if changeable, fashions of some particular group — often hostile to other groups. So the respective views, and even the respective verbal expressions and mantras, of traditionalists, “progressives”, neo-cons, new-atheists, etc., are so often predictable.

    • Knower

      Altho the Catholic Church too is a group, it’s not some particular tribalistic group. For it has differing ritual branches, a variety of local customs, languages, etc. More, Catholics believe that the Catholic Church, as the beginning on earth of God’s kingdom, is a visible group which, however, can invisibly include non-Catholics. Thus, as reported by John L. Allen in his NCR blog dated Dec. 30, 2011, Pope Benedict in September of that year in Germany praised “agnostics who … suffer because of our sins and are desirous of a pure heart.”
      Benedict said such folk are actually “closer to the Kingdom of God than ‘routine’ believers who only see the apparatus of the church without their hearts being touched by faith.”
      Allen there reported also that in October, at Assisi in Italy, Benedict said genuine agnostics are “inwardly making their way towards [God], inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness,” and even thanked them because they “challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others.”
      Such, I think, is the gist of Mark Shea’s aphorism: “we know where the Catholic Church is; we don’t know where it isn’t.”

      • Mark Shea

        T’ain’t my aphorism. I stole it from the Orthodox.

  • Me

    A very interesting insight.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    Mark, you are correct about the cosmic war. We are to abolish ourselves as human beings. Naked mole rats – look them up – are the model, with a sophisticated technology of social control added.

    To be human is strenuous and tiring, especially in a moral sense. We will be invited to let go of the struggle, and give up the battles of consciousness and choice to others.

    Do you feel hopeful Mark? Personally, I just do my work.

    • Mark Shea

      I’m not hopeful about earthly things. But about heavenly ones, sure.

      • Pavel Chichikov

        Oh yes, the Church and her people are safe in heaven with Christ.

        Ours is a problematic species, perhaps not completely suited as it is to fulfill the destiny of its own humanity. But one must assume that God knows what He is doing, and that the way we are fulfills His purpose. It’s difficult, though, to contemplate the horrors we inflict on one another, and carry on in faith.

        In Moscow once I met an old and frail man who had been a member of a KGB guards detachment in the Gulag. My landlady and I sat there and listened to him describe the deprivations of his childhood, including being delivered to a State orphanage because his parents couldn’t feed him. He described how he clung to the skirts of the lady carrying a tray of bread, how he fought his way towards that tray, because he knew that if he couldn’t reach it and hang on, he would die.

        He said to us: The State was my father and my mother.

        My landlady and I looked at one another, and all we could feel – I think she felt the same thing – was a kind of overwhelming pity.

        And much worse than even this happens.

        What are we, after all? It’s a mystery only God is able to explain.