I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Alexis de Tocqueville's Prediction-Description of the Despotic, Idolatrous Condition of Present-Day American Statism

Here is a—dare I say prophetic—description of the contemporary state of the Union. This comes from the brilliant statesman and socio-political philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, from his early- to mid-nineteenth century work Democracy in America. Recently I have had what may be called conversations, using the loosest sense of the term, with some, concerning the idolatry of statism, its inherently religious character, and its reality in our current political landscape. Even among Christians—much more among those baptized in modern emperor worship—the conception that the modern American state has been deified and bears all the qualities and attributes of a religious, perhaps better messianic, status and value in our culture is difficult to swallow. Let dear Alexis’ predictive-descriptive piece express what I evidently struggle to clarify.

"An immense tutelary power is elevated [above the people], which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate.  It is absolute, detailed, regular, far-seeing, and mild.  It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them irrevocably in childhood; it likes citizens to enjoy themselves provided that they think only of enjoying themselves.  It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that; it provided for their security, forsees and secures their needs facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritance; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living? 

So it is that every day it renders the employment of free will less useful and more rare; it confines the action of the will in a smaller space and little by little steals the very use of free will from each citizen.  Equality has prepared men for all these things; it has disposed them to tolerate them and often even regard them as a benefit. 

Thus, after taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd" (II:IV:6).

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