While we are busily engaged in the sanctimonious and largely symbolic act of pulling down statues of various confederate generals and others who promoted slavery directly or indirectly, I have a few suggestions for some other “statues” that need pulling down as well.
For, as Aristotle pointed out, “Human nature is enslaved in many ways.”
And don’t get me wrong. All slavery is bad. My understanding is that there will be no slavery in heaven where God
shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.
The bad news is that the Civil War did not put an end to Slavery.
Sure the Civil War did end the apparent and visible slavery that made legal the ownership of human beings by other human beings, whereby the owners could wring
And whatever one thinks about the causes of the North and the South, and the means employed, and the tremendous and appalling loss of life that ensued, every thinking American is just glad that the institution of slavery was abolished.
Thankfully, the Civil War was able to accomplish the eradication of such a sensible injustice, but, unfortunately, it was not able to put an end to some other forms of slavery, arguably even more deleterious, which degrade human dignity even more than the physical subjection of one person to another.
For, although the physical form of slavery (that has marred human history from seemingly the beginning) is a degradation of the person, this physical form of slavery nonetheless does not lay claim to the inner life of the human being. The human spirit is not able to be coerced by chains or whips no matter how brutal – at least if we are to believe the testimony of the those that have lived through such treatment.
The more invisible forms of slavery, however, of which I speak are far more destructive to the dignity of the human person, because they do touch the human person precisely in his inmost soul.
As Our Lord says in Matthew,
And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.
The slaveries about which I speak are so subtle that even those who are enslaved might not even recognize the fact. Like the spectators chained to their chairs in Socrates’ famous allegorical cave, who wished for nothing more than to be left alone staring at the flickering shadows on the cave wall, might there be countless millions today among us who are similarly enslaved to a shadow world? I speak of those who ‘live’ life but are seemingly ignorant of many, if not all, of the most significant realities; those who live in the shadow world of materialism and are devoid of any knowledge of the soul, or the angels or of God.
Or what about the countless millions who are enslaved by their passions?
To encourage and promote slavery to the passions is to encourage human beings to a life which is no better than that of the beast. Hamlet soliloquized,
What is a man, If his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
Or what about those who live their lives enslaved by fashion? Aren’t there a great many who appear to be directed by others in the clothing they wear, the thoughts they think, the music they listen to, and the cultural norms they follow? Far from acting freely or thinking for themselves, it would appear that for many people, the principle of their activity is nothing more than to appear to be “with it,” to appear to be au courant with whatever is the latest trend– moral, intellectual, or otherwise.
And perhaps most pernicious (although I am not sure), what about the vast majority of our fellow countrymen who appear to subscribe to the Baconian philosophy that man himself is ordered to some utilitarian end? In other words, that all of our efforts in the education and formation of the young should be to train them up towards utility? That they should think of nothing more than a career? That their lives have value only insofar as they are productive?
That those who are unable to “produce” or are not actually “producing” have no voice or value.
Is not this abhorrent? And yet the philosophy of utilitarianism is proposed by none other than all of our leading educational institutions. This is the assumption upon which the modern university is founded. The dignity of the human person is measured by his usefulness to society. If a person is not useful then he is worthless.
If there is anything that promotes slavery more than the philosophy of utilitarianism, I am not certain just what that would be.
Then there is the slavery to custom and error and, of course, to sin itself. But we have enough work in front of us already.
We need to start marching and we need to pull down or re-purpose every institution that promotes slavery. Here is my short list:
- Every educational institution that teaches our youth that the value of human life depends upon its utility – that man is ordered to a utilitarian end. (e.g. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc)
- Every institution that promotes the unbridled exercise of passions. (e.g. Hollywood, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, etc)
- Every institution that encourages people to follow fashion as the chief principle of life (Madison Avenue, The New York Times, National Public Radio, etc)
There, I think that is a good start.
In other words, let’s not stop with the largely symbolic act of marching through cities and pulling down the statues of those who promoted slavery in the nineteenth century. Let’s gather and march through the cities and “pull down” the statues and institutions of those who promote slavery right now in the twenty-first century.
And far from being merely symbolic in its consequences like the disposal of a few old statues of Robert E. Lee, our actions in re-purposing, (or recycling) of, say, just the Ivy League schools and universities, those elite bastions of utilitarianism, will in itself have far-reaching beneficial consequences for all Americans and even people throughout the world.
In the place of these schools let us erect new institutions of learning dedicated to authentic, genuine liberal education – glorious liberal education, which, as its name signifies, is uniquely ordered to the production of free human beings!