Friday, June 25, 2010

Freedom through Absolutes (as explained by an Original Orthodox Rebel)

The following is another excerpt (pp. 21-22) from Dale Ahlquist's Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton. Ahlquist quotes Chesterton as he explains one of his key beliefs: the necessity of absolute truth for freedom and action.

The modern mind wants to do away with such quaint ideas as right and wrong. The modern mind thinks that freedom somehow means breaking the rules. But here is where tradition is, as it generally is, on the side of truth. Tradition tells us that the rules are right. We cannot really prove them to be right, except perhaps when we see the consequences of trying to do away with them. The Ten Commandments, for instance. Throughout history, men have certainly failed to live up to them. But in modern times, men have more disastrously failed in trying to live without them. But it is only in establishing and obeying certain rules that freedom is possible. If we break the big laws we do not get freedom. We do not even get anarchy. We get the small laws. [...]

There are some who would argue that we should have no absolutes, that evolution tends to rub out absolute lines [viz., because everything "changes"]. I say, we must have definite lines; but it is not because definite lines are things which restrain humanity. It is because definite lines are the things which distinguish humanity. Our black lines are not the bars of the tiger's cage. They are the stripes of the tiger's skin: they are what makes him a tiger. If you think I want rules merely to restrain some inferior mob, you are quite wrong. It is true that bridles and blinders keep a great part of the human race out of the ditch, but this is not what I am urging. I am not urging anything so profoundly undemocratic. I do not mean that there are some people stupid enough to require general rules. I mean that there are no people wise enough to do without them.

Our need for rules does not arise from the smallness of our intellects, but from the greatness of our task. Discipline is not necessary for things that are slow and safe; but discipline is necessary for things that are swift and dangerous. We do not need a map for a stroll; but we do need a map for a raid. And that is what Western Democracy is now engaged in: a raid. A raid on the New Jerusalem. It is a crusade of justice. We are trying to do right; one of the wildest perils. We are trying to bring political equity on the earth; to materialize an almost incredible justice. We cannot be vague about what we believe in, what we are willing to fight for, and to die for. There are twenty ways to criticize a battle, but only one way of winning it. The ordinary man does not obey special rules because he is too stupid to see the alternatives; he obeys them because he feels, though he cannot express the fact, that they are the only way of having a rapid and reasonable human activity.

Dogmatic democracy as much as dogmatic ethics are our own special creation. There are some who will be annoyed by my calling it a creation of Christianity or a creation of Europe, but certainly it is one or the other. And as the wolf dies fighting, we shall die doctrinal, and Democracy as well as Christianity will die with us. For Democracy is always difficult, and we alone have the fixed principles which face difficulties. If our raid fails no other raid will succeed, and no men, perhaps, will ever come again so near to bringing justice on the earth!

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