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The Reactionary Utopian (classic)
January 27, 2012

The End of a Mad Century
A classic by Joseph Sobran
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Well, the Y2K apocalypse has failed to occur. By now we were supposed to be devouring our children (or being devoured by them). The Third Millennium is off to a smooth start.

The Second Millennium ended with a pretty lousy century. Let’s hope we can put it behind us and move on. The three men most often named as “Person of the Century” — Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Albert Einstein — were benefactors, allies, and admirers of one of the bloodiest men of the millennium, Joseph Stalin. It’s as if the three most distinguished men of the Middle Ages had all been pals of Genghis Khan.

Even the phrase “Person of the Century” is a relic of the archaic feminist thinking of the twentieth century. Obviously the most influential individual of any century is likely to be male, but by the late twentieth century it was a breach of etiquette — an ideological code of manners — to acknowledge such things. As recently as this week I read an article arguing for homosexual “marriage” — another example of the outmoded twentieth-century attitudes some people still can’t let go of.

The twentieth century was marked by its smug belief in its superiority to all earlier ages. It decided that the immemorial morals and customs of mankind should be changed — as if that were even possible. The state would be the instrument of “building a new society” by means of force, propaganda, and economic dependence. Tyranny became “liberation,” degeneracy “progress.”
The state’s new mission was to cut all roots in the past that might enable its subjects to resist assimilation to the New Society. Those who managed to maintain their roots were accused of treason, reaction, racism, superstition, and hate. The state claimed to be “scientific.” It acted in the name of “the oppressed”: “the people,” “the proletariat,” “the masses,” “minorities,” “women,” and even sexual deviants (who were “victims” of the traditional moral code).

The twentieth-century state denied God and the existence of any stable human nature, both of which imply immutable standards of right and wrong that might limit the authority and power of the state. It claimed the power to eradicate all old laws and replace them with new ones that suited its purposes. Even written constitutions could be “reinterpreted” in keeping with the demands of the New Society. Plain words whose meaning had never been in doubt became “living documents,” arbitrarily endowed with wholly new meanings by state officials.

Old sins like fornication, sodomy, and abortion became new “rights.” Meanwhile, traditional rights like property ownership were severely curtailed. Through the state, with its boundless taxing power, some people could live off the productive energy of others. This was called “social justice.” The twentieth-century state became obsessed with preserving the natural environment, even as it demolished the moral, spiritual, and cultural environment of Christendom.

Artists, scholars, and philosophers became enthusiasts of the New Society, hostile to the “bourgeoisie” and “the middle class,” as the remnants of traditional society were scornfully called. Obscenity and obscurity, dissonance and ugliness, became hallmarks of twentieth-century art. Popular art, still bound by the market, found obscenity more profitable than obscurity, but rarely challenged the premises of the New Society.

Education, controlled by the state, became propaganda, called “consciousness-raising,” designed to make children submissive units of the New Society. The idea of “evolution” was adapted to teach children that the New Society was the inevitable development of human history. The mass-produced “intellectual” (the opposite of the traditional independent scholar) became a new social type, devoted to the fantasies of the New Society, which were called “ideals.”

Since the aims of the New Society were fundamentally impossible, resistance continued and partly succeeded. God and human nature still existed and asserted themselves through men like Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Pope John Paul II, who struck chords in millions and undermined the legitimacy of the New Society.

By the end of the century, men’s minds were still entangled in the tattered delusions of the New Society. But even “progressive” politicians found it advantageous to pay lip service to Jesus Christ and human freedom. Mankind may yet recover from the twentieth century.

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Copyright © 2012 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This column was published originally by Griffin Internet Syndicate on January 4, 2000.

Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio and archives of some of his columns.

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