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Virtue, Life and Taking Back Our Culture

Virtue, Life and Taking Back Our Culture
Aristotle, the progenitor of virtue.

Taking Back the Rainbow isn't simply a negative movement. We aren't just reacting to something. We see the current cultural moment as a moment of rethinking. A moment in which many realize that something has gone wrong. A moment in which we can rediscover the fundamentals of what made us great.

There is a feeling of discontent and disconnect hanging in the air. That feeling comes because of the radical change we're seeing in our culture - and I want to spend a moment thinking about that change has happened. Liberalism planted its flag in the fundamental affirmation that society must create a private sphere around the individual in which he may do as he pleases. This point, Mill's harm principle, was born of a Christian society but actually exists in a certain tension with that society. In fact, it laid the foundation for its complete dissolution.

Why? Because freedom classically understood did mean, to an extent, freedom of the will, freedom from external compulsion. But it also meant something more: it meant freedom from the dictates of desire. Everyone experiences directly the truth that base desire often wins out over rational will. Freedom means training the psyche, the emotions, the passions - training them to stand in line with reason. Not reason narrowly understood, but reason broadly understood, taking into account the various ways of knowing that men have.

This principle, then, felt right and true - because it was - while simultaneously creating a break between Christian society and the ideas that run it. This principle, on its own, is essentially the acid that dissolves the entire tapestry of morality and political thought that create good men. It makes that tapestry look like a straitjacket - to be removed as soon as possible.

Almost immediately, the danger of this principle was realized. A thinker by the name of James Fitzjames Stephen wrote Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, in which he drew out some of the implications of Mill's principle. Those implications were completely disordered sexual desire. He notes that a complete lack of compulsion would not, in fact, further the pursuit of truth but deaden it. Men without limits and laws become listless and self-centered, pursuing desire and not truth. A free society, in Mill's sense, is not a utopia of human activity, thought and discovery. It is a dystopia of degeneracy, laziness, debauchery and general ennui.

Stephen did to Mill's principle what must be done to any abstract principle upon which one would base a society: he analyzed it in isolation from the moderating forces acting upon it. Stephen understood what Mill did not: Mill looked at the world through the fundamental Christian framework, even if he did not believe in it, so that framework became invisible to him. He didn't realize it was there, allowing him to think that his principle could make practical sense. Stephen saw that Mill's principle would slowly eat away at that foundation - and he was entirely correct. Mill's doctrine of Abstract Liberalism has not brought happiness, freedom and creation into the world. It's brought degeneracy, emptiness and self-centeredness.

This principle was adopted by many, slowly at first, but eventually, it became a familiar refrain: "do whatever you want to as long as you don't hurt anyone." This is the classically liberal view in the States - often, in fact, called conservative because it's been around for a while. I'll call this "90s Liberalism." Progressive liberalism took a different turn, which we discussed in the previous post on Autonomy and Post-Modernism. To take back our culture, we need to recognize that 90s Liberalism is of the same dissolving nature as Progressive Liberalism.

Taking Back our Culture means rethinking much. It means rethinking what made our country great. It means rediscovering exceptionalism, manliness (in the positive sense of chivalry, protection, manual labor, creative expression) and femininity. It means creating an endeavoring spirit. It means recovering the virtues that make people good and what it means to excel as a human. It means recovering the principles that were eaten away by Abstract Liberalism.

Above all, It means recovering the basic truth that man is a political animal: not that he simply needs others for his success and survival. Man is a political animal in that he is defined by the roles he fills and the excellence with which he does so.

We must understand what has brought us to where we are - how the fundamental principle that is Abstract Liberalism has led to the dissolution of the culture. Patrick Deneen in Why Liberalism Failed hit the nail on the head: our culture has exported much human responsibility from the individual and his community to the government and big business. The scale of government means that each individual stands against the State alone. An atom, not a thread in a tapestry or a colored stone in a mosaic. The scale of business means that everything is impersonal - nothing we make matters, and communities are irrelevant - what matters is profit margins.

Our vision is one of human-scaled life. It's one of processes of building and creating that can give life. It's one of self-sufficiency. It's one of connecting to the production of our necessities. It's one of creation and trade at human scales, in way that they can support virtue, for it is virtue that makes us human. So our vision is one of virtue - of intellectual virtue and of practical virtue. Of building community and of the human scale. It's deeply revolutionary and forward-looking, while drawing direction from the wisdom of the past. It's one of recovery not for the sake of regression but for the sake of rebuilding - of fixing the damage done by Abstract Liberalism, while building a future of human success and flourishing.

We will expand on  all of these points in future posts. We'll also discuss the potholes along the way.