Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Democracy and the Second Estate

Prior to the great revolutions of the 19th Century that swept away the last vestiges of absolute European monarchies save Prussia, Austria, and the Ottoman Empire, and for some time after Italian Unification, the Vatican preached her doctrine of estates as a theologically-based model of social teaching. Estates are similar to social classes, but are a little bit more rigid than class distinctions we have today, but not so rigid as to be called a caste. The Second Estate, Knighthood and Nobility, is our focus and why its eradication in the social strata in the name of the egalitarian fallacy of modernism (read: Democracy) is ultimately bad.

Knighthood in the sense of a social estate is less tied in with noble birth than one usually thinks of, especially when one envisions a brave English knight riding off to war, or the oppressive, corrupt, morally bankrupt knights that were defeated by Bravehart. Knighthood is an ideal, rooted in the age of chivalry. The mercantile and, later, industrial revolutions kind of put a damper on chivalry, but the Church maintained several orders of knighthood that were awarded to the laity. One that most Americans should be familiar with is the Knights of Columbus

At its very base, the bestowing upon someone of knighthood is a positive raising of that person in social and personal status. But it is more than just something someone should be personally proud of. It is a responsibility to his fellow man. A common lay person has only two things to worry about: survival and salvation. He must survive as best he can, and ensure that he can attain the eternal survival of his soul. As part of this, he learns to cohabit with other people and help out his family and friends. This is a social obligation imparted upon us because human beings are social animals. What is also imparted on us is a desire for more. Greed. So we only share the bare minimum and horde the rest. A knight does not do this.

A knight was not only recognized for being better than (and I do not use this term hierarchically or in any way disparagingly towards non-knights, I myself am not a knight) the rest of his peers, but having a greater responsibility to take care of those around him in his community and family. A knight was raised to represent an ideal of the privileged benefactor who makes all around him his beneficiaries. Whatever he has in excess is utilized to help those in need. Whatever task he undertakes is done with a higher goal and purpose in mind. Nothing is done irrationally and nothing is done purely for self-interest. As a knight he has shed the immaturity of such emotive personal drives. As a knight, he has been raised to something more. He, like a Saint is a model of Christian virtue, has been raised to show that a social ideal is attainable. For the faithful, a Saint is a model of the attainability of Christian living. For the secular, a Knight is a model of the attainability of social responsibility.

Then comes the Enlightenment. The grandchild of the Reformation, the mother of the 19th Century's grandiloquent Democratic Revolution, the enlightenment saw a world where superstition and faith would not be necessary. Reason, logic, rationality would reign supreme. A beautiful vision, indeed. But one with a darkness hiding behind it.

Logically, and I'm pulling from several philosophers whose names I can't remember but I'm sure you'll be able to recognize the ideas, as animals, human beings have at their base the same fight or flight response as every other animal. Do you engage, or do you flee? It is risk versus reward, and ultimately, translates into a statement such as "the only goal of the individual is first survival, second propagation." What does propagation entail? Finding a mate. How does one find a mate? Flashy shows of those traits that are considered desirable. This extends much further than physical characteristics and includes money, power, and status. So the logical result of this is the promotion of the self above all others. The development of the Nietzschiean Overman. "We have killed god" says Zarathustra. "Now we must find the Overman." The Overman being the man who takes what he wants and cares nothing for what is caused subsequently. The Enlightenment's final gift to the world was a socio-political idea that the individual is worthy beyond anything else. His ideas, his wants, his desires are all first before everything else. And what better system to allow this individuality that knows no fetters save one's own chains than democracy?

The democratic revolution led to a universal celebration of the individual. We have taken this idea so far today that we have the even more dangerous ideas of cultural relativism. What is good for one culture may not be good for another and should not be judged. Quid pro quo, morality and ethics are malleable and subject to change. This is why questions such as euthanasia and eugenics (which both have the same root by the way) are suddenly back in vogue. It is fair to say, however, in defense of moral relativism, that its logical conclusions are not always supported by those that support moral relativism. Specifically, the holocaust may have been good for Nazi culture, but other than a few right-wing nutjobs with swastikas tattooed on their heads, nobody is going to say that the Nazis were right in what they did. But moral relativism says exactly that. And as the greatest moral relativists, we Americans should be celebrating the holocaust, not disparaging it. And the Jews should understand. I mean, we gave them Israel so they could have their own cultural development, their own homeland, their own piece of the pie from which to celebrate moral relativism.

End the dripping sarcasm.

It is rare for someone to be confronted with a slippery slope argument and actually say "You know what? Maybe you're right." But every time someone has declared "this is a slippery slope!" it has turned out to be true. Equal rights for minorities turned into special rights. Democracy for the landed gentry turned into democracy for all. Vatican II turned into a massive debacle of epic proportions, and the legalization of homosexuality is shortly turning into the promotion, not just recognition, of homosexuality. If you don't believe me, check out what's going on in Quebec with the "equity strategy" in regards to school systems, especially parochial schools that will soon have to promote something they don't believe in. Canada has less freedom of speech than America, and all the hippies want to go live there? Get a haircut and a job, put down the reefer, and then we'll talk. But overall, the truth that rational, reasoned democracy has evolved into an irrational modernist "embrace everything new because it is new" philosophy is living proof that the erosion of the Second Estate, the destruction of a true and lofty ideal, has been nothing but demoralizing and destructive for society. I will not suffer myself to make a list of all the pros and cons between democracy and monarchy (for I am supportive of neither), but rest assured that I truly believe the cons of democracy far outweigh their pros, especially as we have in the modern world.

The question we all need to ask ourselves today is not "who will I vote for in the upcoming elections?" but "Why am I voting?" If the answer is "It is my civic duty" then stay at home. Your blind allegiance to the democratic process is worth just as much as one who irrationally refuses to vote. If your answer is "To promote my deeply-held values, my lofty ideals, the immutable and unmovable morality and/or ethic to which I subscribe," then I'd say go and rig your local elections.

Are there people whose votes should be worth more than others? I would have to say yes. But shouldn't we be more worried about the tyranny of the minority, as Thomas Jefferson said, than whether or not our current president is a terrorist? Without an ideal, one that is rooted in society as opposed to a far off golden time as prophesied by Methuselah in Animal Farm, democracy is worthless. It is modernism. And heaven help us if our democratic process ever embraces the downright absurdity of post-modernism. Change for the sake of change is like progress for the sake of progress--the ideology of the cancer cell.