I found myself in some redundant dismay in finding that an influential, syndicated columnist, professor at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, E. J. Dionne (I assume a Catholic?), has apparently little knowledge of what drives man to sin. Oops! He’s in Wikipedia too, and the credentialed salutations of his experiences are lengthy. All the better, as with this immense resume he is so much better the perfect illustration of the difficulty in recognizing and understanding moral blindness. (I mean, if everyone of substance is blind to moral responsibility, how would you know it?)
In Commonweal Magazine recently, an article of his was posted: Will Orlando Soften Our Ideologies. For those who do not know, Commonweal Magazine is a Catholic website of journalism and news with a bend towards the more liberal viewpoints. I suggest you give his article a read; then continue with my post.
His article in itself says little. Mr. Dionne must have been obligated to submit, and Commonweal must have had an open page to fill. The article is a logical whimper for gun control as being the panacea for two of the more directly-egregious sins that mankind commits: terror and murder. His selection of Orlando and the mass murders committed at the Pulse Nightclub are timely; timely in that he’s relying heavily on the emotions, sympathies, and consciences of his readers more so than his own ability to mount an effective argument. Good timing on his part, as there’s not much there. Sorry for the criticism, but really?
Mr. Dionne makes the argument that with mass murder being a real, constant condition of American society, it is only logical that our American society reflects upon the participatory role of firearms in these heart-wrenching actions, and that perhaps something should be done to curtail their involvement; i.e., establish laws that prevent certain individuals’ ability to buy or possess certain firearms. It’s an emotional, man-made, knee-jerk reaction that focuses in on the object in preference to the subject; as if somehow the object is majorly responsible for affecting the moral choices an individual has to make when under the stress of their own intellectual inadequacies and deviancies.
I get it. I’ve heard it before. Frankly, I don’t like firearms much myself, but they appear to have fundamental purposes that are clearly metaphysical in nature. That’s because man is always temporal in his satisfactions and constant in his desires. As a tool, I cannot seem to evaluate which purpose this tool is better at: offence or defense. With the ever-increasing encroachment of our own government, as a dictatorial force overshadowing our individual and societal freedoms, and in the realization that our media has leaned well into a complicit position of actively participating in narrow political agendas that endanger Americans of all persuasions, I lean towards the defense option. How about you?
The only way to defeat active terrorism and mass violence is through the use of a form of human tool – that which we refer to as firearms – that silences terrorism and suppresses mass violence when education, social services, détente, negotiations, and temporary penalties do not work. These days, there’s a lot of that, and thus such a tool is necessary because of something vastly other, and more grave, than the human tool of firearms. It’s also something other that we refuse to consider, or even believe it to be in the room of consideration.
My dismay with Mr. Dionne is a simple one. The knee-jerk reaction I referred to earlier, is his assumption that the weapon that caused the immediate, devastating carnage at the Pulse Nightclub – firearms – is the only problem that requires a solution. He offers no other thoughts on this matter of terrorism and mass violence; that there might be another weapon in play here, that I assert, is far greater in its destructive power, far more blinding of man to the dignity that all mankind is deserved of, and far more dehumanizing, widespread, permeating, and lasting. It is man’s insatiable appetite for himself.
The real story is that the vast majority of humanity refuses to compromise themselves to the greater good of society. In other words, give up their self-centered ideologies that instigate and then perpetuate egocentric practices. You know… be as the Christ has asked us to be. This writer knows, that to be truly Christian is to be it now; from one moment to the next moment, not at some convenient, temporary time in the future after one’s ideological precepts and corporeal indulgences have been accomplished to one’s own satisfaction. We always want the other to adjust their ways and suffer for the good of the whole, before we are willing (and we are not) to adjust our own ways and then stay on the path of good.
And when we do consider this possibility, we dismiss it with the fact that it would not have stopped this murderer, Omar Mateen, from his bloody path. Well, there’s the problem I just mentioned. We always want to argue with a stop watch in our hands; asserting our primal position in time and space as the determining factor of absolute truth and the fate of mankind. It’s all about the “me”.
If this writer, and others, want to truly bring communion to all of humanity, they should realize it won’t ever be accomplished by limiting the access to firearms. There is other technological weaponry that is vastly more harmful to mankind than firearms, and is directly related to all of the aspects discussed regarding the shooting in Orlando. One bullet, one person is an amazingly inefficient technology for the destruction of man. It’s primitive; not the weapon of choice for the real miners of man’s gluttony, greed, and pride. Far better is it to dehumanize a society by appealing to its deepest carnal and ego-illusional appetites. Even better is to dress such ultimate weaponry with the golden cloth of individual rights and freedoms; as if somehow indulging one’s individuality strengthens commonality.
But you say, “How do you build an argument to support such a contention?”
Through the history and spectrum of man there have been and will be common thoughts and actions that mark the essence and metaphysical nature of mankind as a species. Regardless of the diversity of man, we all seem to embrace a code of morals, set forth in an ethical structure, that are similar in nature; astoundingly so. For a creature that reasons his free will to be at the top of his intellectual food-chain, it is surprising just how subservient man’s free will is to his and her ethical structure. We call this an absolute condition; a condition that rises above and is independent from our simple, temporal desires and rationales.
Our absolute, ethical structure provides for us, in the physical world, habituated reflections of the perfect and absolute. We call these reflections “virtues”, and as long as man has had the capacity of reason and communication, we have catalogued these virtues and demonstrated their efficacy in promoting the good of the society. Left alone in this absolute state, our ethical structure is marvelously effective.
However, when man uproots a virtue from the absolute, ethical equation of humanity, and secures it to himself in the temporal, physical realm, it is invariably deficient of its perfection, and becomes a relative condition; a condition fully subject to those temporal satisfactions and constant desires I mentioned earlier. The virtue is effectively rendered disputable and thus useless as any form of perpetual measure.
Let me use an example to illustrate my argument.
Justice originates from a higher plane than from man’s reason, yet as written and executed law it is rendered insufficient simply by its written tenants – a collection of interpreted premises, legislated by questionable individuals, and constantly subject to proceeding actions and historical findings. Justice is flubber.
Man takes such absolute things, as justice, and renders them into law and leisure, so that man need not burden himself with these things as part of his nature. It frees him to look away from his commonality and obligation to mankind and into himself. Such a narcissistic action frees man from spiritual sanctity so that he might indulge himself in sin. A tentmaker from the first century, Paul, wrote of this in his letter to the Romans.
Man believes that to free himself from virtue, in its absolute form, is to be free, yet in doing so, man has only found servitude and despair within his own relative condition. No relative model can ever be anything other than an imperfect representation of the true and absolute form of being, as created by the forces set into motion by God. (If you’re an atheist, substitute “nature” for “God” and you’re there. If you’re a Millennial, use “Gaia”.) The imperfection, I note, is the reliance the relative model has upon its creator; a mortal and temporal man who can only create within his own experience. No relative model of an absolute form can ever exist outside of its own conditions. Justice, through man’s law, will never be justice for all.
In 1961, on January 20th, our newly-inaugurated President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, spoke the following:
“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
This Catholic and Democrat meant it. He was making a classic Catholic (Christian) call to service; a service that would require each of us to carefully examine our true nature and our true calling as a societal creature. To fulfill such a call is to put away our needs for the needs of others, to dispense with our desires, and to lean our will on God’s will as surely as our free will bows – at least in part – to our ethical nature. It’s that other part – the uncooperative part – that we need to pay attention to, not firearms.
Consider how incredibly outdated Kennedy’s quote from his inaugural address is in today’s self-indulgent world. When he said those words, in 1961, they electrified and unified America into depths of character that had not been seen since World War II, and successfully created a bipartisan coalition amongst its common, everyday citizenry that changed the face of its racial past forever, as well as set man’s footprint on the moon. It was not done through intolerant coercion by a heavy-handed government whose sole goal appeared to be the ruin of several of our amendments to our Constitution through the pandering to corrupted ideologues. Rather, it was accomplished by the communion of the American spirit. Yes. Laws were enacted to ensure what had been enshrined, but it was the people – in good conscience reflecting the absolute values of their ethical structure – that carried the day. No one was greater than the next, in their hearts and minds, and no one group was to be elevated above another to ensure the success of the process towards equality. We were to be one people.
Kennedy’s quote laid out the absolute truth to a people who were looking for the light, and with that light they found the path with their own feet. His words announced that the one is to be in service to the many; that each one of us – no matter who we are – is a minority within themselves, and that minority – no matter the trials it had faced in its past – was bound to the majority; the common thought of man and his absolute ethical structure. It was a social message that carried the weight of the democratic dream as a self-worth of constant value; thus ensuring dignity for everyone, and not just those who have been singled out for political ends.
In America, today, we have turned that soliloquy – whose character held us close to the path – into a turned-upon-its-head farcical outrage; a near-comedic tirade of me first, and the rest of you later. Sacrifice is a sham; replaced now by the entitlement of being a new cause on the horizon, and masturbatory leisure that is no longer simply a pastime, but now an absolute right. We consume, and we want to consume now; immediately.
We always want the quick fix. Banning firearms is a quick fix, and perhaps one that would seemingly provide a temporary calm in a social-media, turbulent world. Yet we seem to not understand that terrorism comes in many forms; and not just religious.
There’s a silent terrorism going on in America right now, and guns are not its weaponry of choice. Like carbon dioxide, it is a necessity for life on this planet, and like carbon dioxide, it is colorless and odorless. And like carbon dioxide, in too pure and sustaining a form, it is a toxin that kills. It is the evil of something hidden beneath the cloak of capitalist democracy and individual freedom; two conditions that, when poured pure, provide for the dignity of mankind, but when poured tainted, with the avarice of individual egotism and self-centeredness, it poisons. Its most effective weapon; the juxtaposition of good vs evil is played out in the media and political arena so as to provide for juridical red herrings that numb the collective consciousness and has nothing to do with human equality and dignity.
It tastes wonderful, goes down smooth, and leaves you with a sense of import in a complex and unsatisfying society. Yet ultimately it will render you senseless to your real individuality. Like carbon dioxide, in too high a concentration: you first experience a dizziness to the needs of others, then a headache brought about by what you perceive as the demands of others, and finally a complete lack of recognition that a person is nothing other than an object for your desires to squander. In the end, you’ll never know what you don’t know, and you won’t care. You’ll be too busy playing with yourself.
Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook, recently noted the expectation of the ‘Matrix” within 50 years. What do you think that Matrix is other than your own sloth?
God Calls Us All Into His Service – Reese
One thought on “The Real Apple”
Reese, This is a very clear and timely explanation of why our collective national psyche is going awry. Ah…though… how to catch its attention to and absorption of your message. BillC