Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Evils of Freedom (as explained by an original orthodox rebel)

"The earth is also defiled under the inhabitants thereof, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore, the curse has devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate." Is. 24:5-6

"Rules are made to be broken," or so goes the cliche. It is inaccurate, of course. For starters, no one actually believes it. What we actually believe is that the rules of others are meant to be broken, but you'd better not touch mine! We all have our private codifications that are untouchable, unquestionable, and binding for everyone. Thus, we are all hypocrites in our rebellions, for we are only rebels to others. No one is a rebel to themselves.

This hypocrisy is a particular mark of our own age. Every day and in every way we are encouraged further towards some vague notion of freedom: freedom to express ourselves, to find ourselves, to be ourselves and be true to ourselves. The result is that there is freedom of expression but no freedom of correction. You may express yourself as you please, but no one has the right to suggest that your expression (and your "self'") may be unwholesome or even destructive to you and others. Such suggestions are oppressive, mean-spirited, and the way of the bigot, or so we are told by those who are apparently free to correct us.

Unfortunately, when qualifications are made, the hypocrisy only gets worse, viz., becomes confused and confusing. "You may do as you please as long as you don't hurt anyone." If I may do as I please, then why can I not hurt anyone? Will you now plead for absolutist morality to bolster your relativism, like flying buttresses for a fortress of air? The whole thing is ridiculous because it is groundless by its own logic. If I am free (and encouraged!) to be myself, and "my self" just happens to be a violent monstrosity (or simply has a proclivity for deception and manipulation or any other less spectacular cruelty), then who are you to limit my freedom with your narrow-minded notions of social contract? Am I free or not free? Or am I free in one way but not in another? Which? Why? How? Exceptions can prove a rule, but in this case exceptions only complicate the rule into oblivion. It is no wonder that common folk (being fed their daily indoctrination of freedom through their iPods, streamed videos, and game systems) don't really think on these things: a moment's scrutiny would send the whole house of cards tumbling into the wind.

At this point, some of my readers may be annoyed with me. "Look, we don't know why we draw the line here and not there, okay? Are we not free to draw lines as we please? And is it so bad that we are more tolerant of someone's fashion sense than their murdering someone? It's just common sense." It is a fair frustration to have, and like any sane person I don't want to be a bother, except with things that are bothersome. And here is what I see as bothersome: the so-called "freedom" that is the foundation for all of this hypocrisy and confusion. We have an unhealthy love of freedom. We have poisoned our own well, and what once may have been a virtue is now most certainly a vice.

If you think this is about politics (about candidate "X" or legislation "Y"), it's not. This is a moral issue, not a political one. Politically, you may be a liberal or conservative or points in between. Morally, however, we are all libertines. We all inherently distrust rules and authority and the order they bring. We instinctively consider them to be oppressive and suffocating, and consequently the one and only desire is to be as free as possible. But it is a destructive desire, for this one, radical reason: order is the only grounds for all good things, including freedom.

That is "common sense," for those of you who are flabbergasted at the moment, so allow me to repeat myself: there is nothing good without order. There is no freedom without laws (like "the right to bear arms") to keep you safe from tyrants and robbers alike. There is no possibility of peace without the confines of civilization and all its "oppressive" accoutrements: a police force, traffic laws, court systems, and common civility and custom. There is not even the possibility of fun, for without rules (hard, binding rules) there is no game, not even Calvinball. And if you think you can disprove all of this, then you have already failed, for there is no argumentation at all without the cold bigotry of the laws of logic.

All of our modern ruin (from social decadence and political corruption to school shootings and abortion on demand) can be traced to a confusion of terms. We equate "order" for tyranny and then mistake anarchy for "freedom". Our slobbering lover-affair with limitlessness has taken its toll (and many lives). We have forgotten old wisdom, the wisdom of balance and moderation, of the simple notion of the "point between extremes"; for order, truly beneficent and wholesome order, is the point between extremes, the extremes of tyranny and anarchy. The extremes of law gone mad and freedom gone mad. It is a truth as old as Plato, as old as the Bible: when the good king rules, all is well; when the bad king rules, or when no man rules, the city of oppression will fall, and the city of confusion will break down. Then all joy will be darkened, and the mirth of the land will be gone (Is. 24:10-11). Peace and prosperity is found in order alone, in the beauty, the κοσμος, of a thing rightly put together, for only when every bone has found its socket can the whole man stand.

We must not be deceived: democracy is not divine. God is not a democrat, and although Christianity (and God) values every individual person as a unique creation, it cannot be called a democratic institution. If it is anything, it is monarchical, in service to the King and Lord of Heaven and Earth. It still believes in freedom, but as a means and not an end. Freedom is to be the road to a greater glory: telling the story of God and living in His righteousness, for the Christian does not live for themselves but for their Beloved Belover.

It is love that is the key, for love is the foundational principle for true beneficent order. For love of the people, the king rules rightly. For the love of existence, God made all things. For the love of our "selves," He submitted Himself to the limitations of flesh and blood and the political claptrap of men, because God is not a democrat. He is a lover. He is Love, and from His Love springs the order of all things, and without His Love there is no order. No freedom. No peace. No-thing, except the dark with its weeping and gnashing of teeth, for in the darkness outside the kingdom there is only the wasteland, where all hope is abandoned, and all joy and mirth fade forever away into puffs of smoke and ash.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

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