Democracy and “Democracy”


An extract from the August, 2005 StudiObrien Newsletter

The government of Canada has passed into law its new “Same-sex Marriage” bill, despite massive opposition from the majority of our people, from the Catholic Church in Canada, other Christian churches, and Jewish and Muslim leaders. There was even some resistance by secular democrats. The ruling party achieved its goal by demanding lock-step obedience from all party members on this conscience issue (traditionally a free vote situation in parliamentary democracies), and at the same time by openly buying votes from the opposition party with the pay-off of cabinet posts distributed like bags of candy to the upwardly mobile.

The veneer of democratic process has grown so thin as to become a form of sinister theater, as if we were acting out time-honored scripts from Greek tragedies that each generation of actors memorizes and mouths but fails to understand. As Aristotle predicted in Politics (his classic work on government), democracies degenerate into oligarchies, and oligarchies into tyrannies. In my country we are now experiencing incremental stages of this process—”democracy” manipulated to undermine democracy. The “same-sex marriage” law and its companion piece, the new “hate crime” law, are only the latest components in a much larger and ongoing project, which is the total re-engineering of society. When the moral foundation of a nation crumbles, anything then becomes possible.

Unless there is an extraordinary illumination of conscience in this land (and in other Western nations), we will now proceed to increased oppression against moral conscience, including increased violations of the right of families to raise their children according to their beliefs. I pray that those of you who live in other countries will observe carefully the consequences of my nation’s mistakes, and avoid them at all costs.

A large number of people have recently visited this site and havesigned up as new subscribers to my newsletter, many from othercountries. Those of you who wish to learn more about our situationmight care to read my article on the subject posted at link is:

In my discussions with immigrants to North America from former Soviet states and from other kinds of militaristic regimes, I have found a startling consistency in their “reading” of our situation. With non-inflammatory, urgent voices they are practically unanimous in saying that the free West is now living in the same psychological zone they once knew under dictatorships. They readily admit that our society is more comfortable materially and certainly preferable to radically oppressive regimes, yet they maintain at the same time that our society is swiftly becoming a “non-violent” totalitarianism—one which accomplishes its objectives more “nicely” than brutal tyrants. Yet maybe not so nicely, if you consider the number of children killed through abortion, and the increasing number of people killed through euthanasia—all discretely hidden away in hygienic institutions, so that we see neither the blood nor the human and metaphysical horror. Moreover, a massive shift in consciousness has occurred, and will continue to spread, driven by all the powers of the state and the communications-entertainment industry.

Which brings us back to the subject of culture. A minor example: Perhaps you have seen the most recent Star Wars film. One of this film’s positive elements is its chilling portrayal of the psychological seduction of the young Anikin Skywalker into the world of evil—”the dark side of the Force.” One of its negative elements is a dialogue between Anikin (young Darth Vader) and his former teacher Obiwan Kinobe that takes place at the climax of the film. Obiwan is a Jedi knight, defender of the good, embodiment of the “light side of the Force.” Darth has become a Sith Lord, an embodiment and promoter of evil. In their final debate Obiwan-the-good shouts, “Only the Sith speak of absolutes!”

Uh-huh, at a time when the Church is seeking at every turn to stem the tide of evil by defending moral absolutes, one of the great cultural icons of Goodness, Truth and Justice says, in effect, that only the most evil people speak of absolutes. We could dismiss this as a “minor” flaw in a film that has some points to make about courage and sacrifice. We could say, “It’s only culture.” We could say, “It’s just a movie.” We could say that George Lucas has given us a bit of rollicking fun with a scrambled cosmology full of internal contradictions, but, oh well, that’s the way it goes with most things we watch. The fact is, millions of young people are leaving the theaters having been pumped with adrenaline and impregnated with the thought (buried somewhere in their minds) that people who speak of absolutes should be regarded with suspicion and are probably up to no good. How can they think otherwise? Correction: How can they feel otherwise? Most people in this generation are unformed in their concepts of the moral order of the universe and have little or no objective measurement with which to assess such declarations. How many in the audience are capable of replying to our hero Obiwan, “No, it is the Sith who deny the existence of absolutes!”

When Pope Benedict warns that the West is in the grip of the “dictatorship of moral relativism” is he speaking only of political and legal changes? Such developments are surely crucial factors, yet they are not the whole thing. Indeed, our politics and corrupt laws could never have become so degenerate if it were not for the power of the omni-present cultural revolution from which they have arisen. In short, the state of our culture will be the crucial factor in the culture of our state.

It is highly significant that those several men and women I know who have lived under tyranny say that state-culture was a primary means of reshaping their people’s consciousness to political ends. One need only recall the “socialist realism” of the Soviet and Nazi regimes. Genuine culture, by contrast, was the last refuge, the sanctuary, the truly human place in the midst of the surrounding dehumanization. During those dark years real culture was created in underground literature, music, poetry, and drama, and through these arts man was able to know himself, even if only on the intuitive level. He sensed his value, even when he could not articulate it, did not yet have an objective standard by which he might measure his ultimate worth.

When a work of art is both beautiful and true, man’s freedom is strengthened by it—both his interior hunger for freedom which he senses in the heart of the soul, and his capacity to seek a rational understanding of freedom. Thus, much of the future of the West will depend on how sincerely our creative people seek the truth and live it. In this regard, here are two quotes on the vocation of the Christian artist, the first from John Paul II and the second from Benedict XVI:

“Every genuine artistic intuition goes beyond what the senses perceive and, reaching beneath reality’s surface, strives to interpret its hidden mystery. The intuition itself springs from the depths of the human soul, where the desire to give meaning to one’s own life is joined by the fleeting vision of beauty and of the mysterious unity of things. All artists experience the unbridgeable gap which lies between the work of their hands, however successful it may be, and the dazzling perfection of the beauty glimpsed in the ardor of the creative moment: what they manage to express in their painting, their sculpting, their creating is no more than a glimmer of the splendor which flared for a moment before the eyes of their spirit.”

— John Paul II, Letter to Artists, 1999


“Falsehood however has another stratagem. A beauty that is deceptive and false, a dazzling beauty that does not bring human beings out of themselves to open them to the ecstasy of rising to the heights, but indeed locks them entirely into themselves. Such beauty does not reawaken a longing for the Ineffable, readiness for sacrifice, the abandonment of self, but instead stirs up the desire, the will for power, possession and pleasure. It is that type of experience of beauty of which Genesis speaks in the account of the Original Sin. Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was ‘beautiful’ to eat and was ‘delightful to the eyes.’

“The beautiful, as she experienced it, aroused in her a desire for possession, making her, as it were, turn in upon herself. Who would not recognize, for example, in advertising, the images made with supreme skill that are created to tempt the human being irresistibly, to make him want to grab everything and seek the passing satisfaction rather than be open to others.

“So it is that Christian art today is caught between two fires (as perhaps it always has been): It must oppose the cult of the ugly, which says that everything beautiful is a deception and only the representation of what is crude, low and vulgar is the truth, the true illumination of knowledge. Or it has to counter the deceptive beauty that makes the human being seem diminished instead of making him great, and for this reason is false.

“Is there anyone  who does not know Dostoyevsky’s often-quoted sentence: ‘The Beautiful will save us’? However, people usually forget that Dostoyevsky is referring here to the redeeming Beauty of Christ. We must learn to see him. If we know him, not only in words, but if we are struck by the arrow of his paradoxical beauty, then we will truly know him, and know him not only because we have heard others speak about him. Then we will have found the beauty of Truth, of the Truth that redeems. Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom his own light becomes visible.”

— Cardinal Josef Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) to a meeting of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation, August 2002, at Rimini, Italy.


Finally, I urge you to read and ponder a talk given by Cardinal Ratzinger the day before John Paul II died. You can click on the link below, which will take you to the transcript of the talk, now posted on StudiObrien. Titled “Europe’s Crisis of Culture,” it applies to us all.