North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

Equality and Charity

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Russell Kirk’s six points, part five

Conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety. They feel affection for the proliferating intricacy of long established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadness of egalitarian and radical systems. For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of equality. The only true forms of equality are equality in the Last Judgement and equality before a just court of law; all other attempts at leveling lead, at best, to social stagnation. Society longs for honest and just leadership; and if natural and institutional differences among people are destroyed, presently some new or host of oligarchs will create new forms of inequality. Similarly, conservatives uphold the institution of private property as productive of human variety: without private property, liberty is reduced and culture is impoverished.

This one is very relevant to our day. Equality uber alles is the rallying cry of many, even as they add background echoes about diversity. What they seem to intend is that people of all different appearances and preferences live together and think in precisely the same way. In the discussion thread to my post about the Knights of Columbus yesterday, I mentioned to Greg from Sinister Thoughts (Greg’s a socialist) that I find Human Rights Tribunals very scary. The reason I find them so threatening is that they seem to take it upon themselves to decide what someone else’s motive is, and whether or not that motive is acceptable or not. Charges of hatred or discrimination are based on the contents of another mind, something no reasonable person can say they know. Not even a husband and wife of sixty years know one another that well. Because there can be no evidence is such cases, the creation of tribunals raises the very spooky possibility that they may be used for sinister political ends such as crushing dissent from the party line when the party decides that it and it alone speaks for the people. One can point to material evidence, such as the lack of hiring of people of a certain sort, but this is not very good evidence. It’s circumstantial. For example, a family run business may not have anyone of a different race in it. Even a large company may not come across qualified applicants from one or more parts of the community. There is also an unwarranted assumption that people will distribute themselves evenly throughout society. To make the jump from such circumstantial evidence is a sin against charity, which survives in law as the presumption of innocence. Human Rights Tribunals are what Kirk is getting at when he says we must be careful that the proposed cure for something (such as new oligarchs) is not worse than the disease (which we must be very cautious about diagnosing, as I have trued to show).

I think that this drive towards homogenization of thought derives from a misguided sense of charity and from hubris. There is a lack of respect for ways of life and ways of thought that are different and which are not understood. Through the presumption of true, objective knowledge (which they do not have), leveling bodies destroy things in order to re-make them better, ie. in their own image.

I was reading Fulton Sheen last night and he commented on this subject in an essay on The Philosophy of Charity. He observes that modern charity tends to 1) overlook the personal and small acts of kindness and favour large, organized efforts and 2) favour society over the individual (fix society and you fix everyone), and 3) to think that charity means material things like a full stomach and nothing more. Sheen writes:

Any vision beyond that which can be embraced in a budget or complied statistically or touched by hands is regarded as a form of idealism to which these philanthropists feel a positive antipathy. It is assumed throughout the whole process of alleviating the ills of mankind that humanity has no other destiny than the present, that the fruits of helpfulness and philanthropy, if they go beyond a full stomach, a playground, or a clinic, never go any further than a formula gleaned from those experiences.

After making his diagnosis, Sheen offers a different vision of charity – a very Christian one, one that I hope comes as a surprise to those unfamiliar with it. This unfamiliarity leads to the false conclusion that there is little to no difference between Christian charity and socialism:

Society does not destroy individuals, not can it exist apart from individuals. It has no unitary consciousness, it being only the resultant… functional coordination of individuals in an organic whole. And this doctrine of common sense finds further verification in the Revelation. The Church or the incarnate charity of Jesus Christ, it has been said, is an organism, a body made of many members. Now we hasten to add that just as the life of the human organism does not destroy the individual cell life of its millions of cells, so neither does the mystical body of Christ destroy the individuality of the members. We all share in the individual life of Christ… There is unity, but there is also multiplicity.

If society in the natural order, or the mystical body in the supernatural, does not absorb, submerge or swallow up the individual, it follows that the talk about “social processes,” “social prevision,” “humanitarianism,” is beside the point. The problems of social work may be stated in the abstract, but practically the solution must touch an individual and an individual who has certain invoiable rights…

Social service is dealing not with something, but somebody.

In other words, if an organization like the Kights can be brought under fire from the Human Rights Tribunal, not one of us if safe. The charges amount to a forbidden dissent from the party line, diversity be damned. There can be no evidence and there are real people under attack in the name of an abstraction: equality. The whole purpose of the suit is to show that one group’s rights are superior to the other, and that the weak may not dissent from them. Even if the Knights were being discriminatory, which I don’t think they are, this is a cure that is much worse than a simple civil disagreement.

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Written by Curt

February 3, 2005 at 10:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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