Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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What the Russian Sleepers Did

Belmont Club » What the Russian Sleepers Did

Why was Treason deemed the most horrible Sin by Dante? The medieval tendency was for wars of religion. The need within a society to do so, identify the potential traitor and destroy them even at the cost of internal violence was repeated time and again. Shakespeare is full of struggles over an identity crisis. Who can you trust and what are you loyal to? Recently it was proposed that Romney could not be trusted because of his Mormon faith and efforts were made to impugn the loyalty of Nikki Haley based on her Sikh origin. Why were the Greeks obsessed with the threat of stasis? To them it was veritable hell on earth. Hell is a place of chaos, an existence without rules.

Clearly there is a deep human need for predictability and reliability. The first thing that God does in Genesis is he draws lines and makes rules. The conflict is between three views of the rules. First are those who see the boundaries as protection that permit the development of freedom and creativity in a safe place. Second are those who worship the rules for their own sake and seek to thicken the walls and draw them in in order to reduce the scope for free choice within. Third are those who seek to breach the walls because they prefer the destructive power of entropy. In the second group are authoritarian prudes, horrified at the thought that someone someplace may be having fun, and most totalitarians. In the third group are small groups of revolutionary elitists. They seek to smash the system to prove that they are better than everyone else. The brief taste of power that their destructive acts produce allows them to emulate Milton's Satan, who rules in Hell.

For us to find the right level of balance we need to use the tools available for us. Those include the Constitution and the intellectual and moral heritage it rests on. These include the experience of those who crafted a functional democracy. For that we need an educational system that honors the experience and wisdom of the Western tradition that Madison and others were steeped in.

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