Are We Going to Hell in a Hand-basket 5 of 5

Jonah Goldberg in his latest book,Suicide Of The West, writes, in one respect, a most chilling and disturbing story of our suicide. In a way it’s like the message in the book is our suicide note explaining why we took our own life. For this alone it’s worth reading. Jonah finds this note so telling, everyone—liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Independent, progressive, radical—needs to read it but many will be turned off when they learn he is a conservative writing it. One of the major stumbling blocks, Goldberg believes, to everyone reading his analysis is religion, how religion played a major role in our founding, so he writes this:

“This book assumes that the Almighty does not guide human affairs and does not intercede on our behalf. God is not in the picture. . . But my assumption is that God is in our heads and hearts, not in the heavens above , . . . I am not an atheist, but I think it is useful to play one for the argument I want to make, as a means of guiding the reader through a way of thinking about the world.”

The Miracle, a term we both use describing the forming of the United States of America, for Goldberg is really a serendipitous moment, a happy happenstance. For me it is more a part of God’s movement through history, His guidance. God is the primal motivation for the founding of America and the underpinning of our democracy. When Marx entered our national psychic through progressivism it was, and is, anti-God, anti-religion. As our nation began to first chip away God from us, and now bludgeon him, it changes where we are going and our ability to get back to sanity. Leaving this out at best, denying it at worst, gives us an incomplete picture of our suicide and we will never understand the importance of our suicide until we get back to the question of God.

To be fair to Goldberg he tries to redeem himself in his “Conclusion.” “I have tried to keep God out of this book, but, as a sociological entity, God can’t be removed from it.  . . Simply put, we got where we are because of God. I don’t mean this as an argument for the providence or divine intervention. I believe in God, but if you don’t, you cannot discount the importance of God as a human innovation.”

He’s right to undercut any attempt to make this nation a theocracy. The only authentic theocracy under Yahweh was Israel. We read this in Genesis 12: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God creating Israel was not for the purpose of Israel but for the purpose of Israel representing Him and being a redemptive blessing to every person in every nation.

The United States was not created a theocracy by God but the influence of God on those who came here and created this nation cannot be dismissed.

If the Industrial Revolution was a watershed change in the future of the world, Marxism and the American version Progressivism was a watershed change in American politics, culture, and religion. If we take a blank canvas and a palette of oil paints, standing behind the artist as he/she dabs and brushes paint creating an artwork of the United States of America from its beginning to the late 1800s, then recreate this same scene beginning with President Theodore Roosevelt until now, we will find a completely different picture painted. What we witness is the difference between an early Picasso and his later self. The former Picasso painted traditionally, the later Picasso created images of chaos.

Suicide Of The West is us watching this new painting develop and gives us the reasons why, especially found in Chapter 5, “The Eternal Battle: Reason verses the Search for Meaning”, and Goldberg’s discussion on Locke and Rousseau.

What happened to us? The presuppositions of Progressivism are 180 degrees away from the presuppositions of how we were founded as a nation. The debate between these two different sets of presuppositions has been with us from the beginning of time, though expressed differently over the ages. For Karl Marx everything about democracy was pure evil therefore every institution created out of the presuppositions of democracy are pure evil and need destroying. This sentiment comes clearly through progressivism. This declaration takes away any necessity of debate for to debate evil is to legitimize something illegitimate. As this maxim began to win support, debating began to cease and progressives put on battle armor and cried ATTACK! No need to support your belief because it is too righteously right not needing support. 

Factionalism replaced unity, tribalism replaced the melting pot, personal attack took away civility, dogmatism was cemented in our souls, and we became addicted to outrage where the smallest disagreement with us brought out our fangs demanding the other to be destroyed. The tyranny of the one could and does destroy the wishes of the majority. News organizations grab onto the most ridiculous, the most sensational, even if only from one voice, print it or publish it just so they get clicks and “likes” that grants them bragging rights or the right to charge more from advertisers. All these crazies only muddy the water, feed the viciousness we’ve given into, and I for one have decided not to read the insane stories keeping my mind clear, not giving the crazies any power. If we all ignored the crazies we would find ourselves healthier people and while we might still disagree we wouldn’t become disagreeable.

But it’s here where I conclude we are going to hell in a handbasket and find it almost impossible to believe a different outcome can be found. We don’t want to change and that’s the real problem. We refuse to believe that what we’ve become is wrong. We refuse to put down Thor’s Hammer all too happy to throw it destroying every person who disagrees with us.

Goldberg’s “Conclusion” in Suicide of the West draws a fascinating contrast between George Orwell’s 1984and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Which author had a better vision of the now 86 years after printing Brave New World and 69 years later after 1984? One of our national sins is our lack of knowing and caring about history. And what history we’re taught is more propaganda than history. Many of us have watched those segments on newscasts where a reporter goes into the community or college campus and asks knowledge question and it’s rare someone knows the correct answer, most often answers so ridiculously we are embarrassed for them.

Goldberg quotes Neil Postman from his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business:

“What Huxley feared as that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

Growing up I didn’t like to read. Mom would deposit us at the small library in town thinking that being around books might somehow magically influence me to read. It didn’t work. It wasn’t that I couldn’t read, somehow I had learned to read, just didn’t like it. Well, there would be one exception. I found I did like to read The Hardy Boys mysteriesI didn’t like doing homework, either, and did the least I could get away with and always with much grumbling. What held my attention? Playing and watching cowboy shows and movies on television, which we didn’t have until I was in fourth grade. It was no surprise that all my teachers in school concluded I would never make it in life other than to be someone who worked in a warehouse. At least on that test I took in high school it would indicate that I was best suited for warehouse work.

As I’ve mention before all this changed when I landed at Fort Ord for my Army training and had to take a battery of intelligence tests where I discovered I had an above average intelligence. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the academic work in my schools, I just wasn’t sufficiently interested in doing it.

Was there an invisible hand guiding my choices after I turned 18? At the time I thought I was just making choices like I made all my choices, unconsciously. Because I didn’t know what I was going to do after graduating high school, my best friend and I signed up for the Army even before we graduated high school, something we could do because we were both 18. At the recruiting office I was given choices on what I wanted to do in the Army. If I was more fit for warehouse work then I would be more fit for the infantry. No real demands there other than shooting and dodging bullets. Why I chose Intelligence school is beyond me but that choice would forever change my life, and this choice was before my test results in those IQ tests. Had I tested low the Army wasn’t required to give me my choice but I didn’t score low and I would learn things that would shape my worldview and my sense of reality. It matured me changing my mindset that I didn’t care to learn to I want to learn, everything. When I picked up Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre I haven’t put down books since.

This is why this statement by Postman is so troubling: “truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.” I was probably addicted to those cowboy television shows but mom would at some point throw me out of the house where I couldn’t take the large black and white console television. For so many children today reading is replaced by mindless games played on their smart phones; in the house, outside the house, in the bathroom, at school, everywhere. Actually playing games didn’t make reading irrelevant, because reading became irrelevant kids turned to games.

We can understand this from Goldberg’s words: “Popular culture, with its emphasis on hedonism, animism, or just simple feeling, is the primary public conveyor of meaning in our lives, and it is, with a few exceptions, unattached from (one often hostile to) higher understandings of meaning, morality, or religion. . . . The primacy of feeling—that quintessential hallmark of romanticism—has now become a live idea about how we should organize our lives. . . . The difference now is that our feelings have become an end in themselves. How we feel—not how we conclude—is the higher truth. The gut has defeated the mind.”

Government control—the essence of 1984—isn’t what we need to fear; it’s the irrelevance of reasoning, the irrelevance of history, of reading is making us dummies easily manipulated.

“Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”—Thomas Jefferson

It’s not that we fail to do this, it’s that we don’t believe we need to that is leading us to hell in a handbasket. And making it impossible not to fall into the abyss.