My Thoughts

One of the finest pleasures of solitude is the absence of the insistent clamorous mob. Though there are some who find my refusal to join the herds of the masked and compliant in search of what I know not, I have so thoroughly enjoyed the sublimity of indulging my mind with rich ambrosia, food of the gods like no other. Along the way, I have been introduced to new friends, though never met, with whom I share a bond worth a lifetime of memories. What regret lies only in its newness; old friends are so hard to come by these days.

New friends are rare and often appear in unlikely places, never where one would most expect to meet. Aboard a ship, sailing far from home, a new friend half-way between here and there would seem improbable at best, and yet, the digital age makes the improbable possible and the possible somewhat predictable. Some time ago, in one of my essays, I cited a passage from a book, Homo Americanus, by Zbigniew Janowski. Much to my delight, Zbigniew wrote a kind note last week which arrived in my inbox while I was sailing across the pond between Barcelona and somewhere further south. I, in due course, responded, and we have since further corresponded. His correspondence reminded me to revisit his book, which I must admit, is one of the most heavily marked volumes I have in my ever increasing library. There is hardly a page absent some scribble, line, or mark—it is that good. Of course, for those who have sipped the liberal Kool-Aid, it will taste a bitter brew indeed.

The abolishing of the old regimes created a problem of social organization. The glue that held individuals together under the old regime was reverence in the form of chivalry, honor, and virtue. (All three, it must be noted, are indicators and manifestations and recognitions of inequality.) Submission to authority was voluntary and, therefore, as Burke and Constant wrote, made it seem that “power was gentle.” Democracy could claim to be less arbitrary than old monarchies, but could not claim to be less oppressive merely because the elected officials could no longer exercise power in an arbitrary way. As Tocqueville pointed out, when the elected officials in America know that they have the support of the majority, they tend to exercise power to an extent unknown to European officials, whose power is often arbitrary. As a consequence, in any democracy, the minority is deprived of recourse to justice.

What happened as societies transitioned from old to new regimes? In the absence of reverence, honor, chivalry, and virtue—all expressions of a hierarchical vision of human relationships—submission must be imposed on the individuals who assert their freedom from natural obligations and their right to do so. The only way to keep them together was compulsion. However, unlike in hard totalitarian regimes, which use brutal force, fear, and intimidation, in democracies, compulsion manifests itself in mounting legislation to regulate each aspect of human existence. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that the core of democratic politics is to pass new legislation in mass quantities. Legislation fills the vacuum that piety and reverence traditionally played. And as legislation increases, so does the state and it power to enforce it. This point forms the centerpiece of Mathew Arnold’s analysis of the danger of democracy. In attacking hierarchy, democracy, he predicted, must endow the state with an excess of power that no monarch could ever attain.[1] (emphasis mine)

One of my chief objections to the composition of the U.S. Constitution is found in the First Amendment. It is not that I disagree with what is inscribed therein, but rather, the misplacement of the opening five words, which would better have replaced Sections 7-10 of Article I: “Congress shall make no law.” As for Section 6 of Article I, it would perhaps have better served the people had it imposed a service tax on those elected to federal office rather than compensation for being elected. Someone once suggested—it was not I who suggested it—that those elected for public office should serve two terms: the first in the office they were elected and the second in prison. Sounds reasonable. Perhaps that is the reason AOC wants to abolish prisons.

Just my thoughts for a Monday for what it is worth.


[1] Zbigniew Janowski, “Homo Americanus: The Rise of Totalitarian Democracy in America” (South Bend, IA: St. Augustine’s Press, 2021), 230-231. He is a frequent contributor to https://www.thepostil.com.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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