August 15, 2008

Of Service, Duty, Man's Natural Knowledge of God's Law, and Little Emperors

A story my mom related having read about got me thinking just now.

There's tell that a generation of only-children in China (darn one-child policy) has grown up getting everything. So much so that they call these now grown-up and successful professionals "little emperors". And yet, though you'd think they'd be spoiled -- and maybe, had things gone differently, they would be -- they went out in response to the earthquake and helped their fellows in need. Amazingly, the crisis brought them out of getting everything they wanted to willingly giving everything instead.

I'm awed by how God has written His ordainment of good and evil into man's heart such that we can be moved to such heroism by dire situations. It is not for nothing that we consider exceedingly vile the man who takes advantage of others in distress. Such a man not only has chosen his own desires over the good of others, he has repressed his sense of good and ill -- or worse, chosen to revel in ill and evil, not just to put his own desires too high. It has been plainly shown many times that man, even without the clarification of Revelation or Philosophy, have a basic sense of good and evil, right and wrong, and know for which they ought to act.

Yet there is a puzzling question... why is it that in China, where ill befalls many in the name of... gosh, I don't even know what they claim 'tis for, a bunch of seemingly spoiled young men and women would go out in disaster to save, heal and help, and over here young men went out pillaging when a hurricane hit (yes, I'm talking about Katrina, and the stealing and shooting was far more shocking to me than the lack of government aid... you can't expect the government to solve everything, after all...)?

Another thought came to mind. I thought on the discipline I saw among the many, many Chinese performing in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Could there be a connection? In both cases, the Chinese people showed themselves able to give themselves over to something good in an incredible way. In one, I was amazed at the discipline. In another, I was amazed that they retained a desire to help their fellow man.

Now I have put things a little backward in asking whether there's a connection. As I was thinking about it, the connection is how I came to think of the other one. You see, I have a strong suspicion that, much as I despise their believing they have so much duty to a communist state, the Chinese people seem to have a much better sense of duty and are more disciplined to give themselves to whatever they believe their duty is. I could be wrong, but it certainly would explain much.

What are we to make of this? For all the evil of their sacrificing their selves to the false god of communism, they look like they know what and how they should be sacrificing. I'm not sure whether they taught their youth this duty humanely or not, but if my theory is correct they succeeded in ingraining it in them.

A question that arises is, how might a sense of duty and discipline be taught again to our youth humanely, where we are at least allowed (for now) to try to find the true God to whom to sacrifice it?

I suppose we must start by ridding ourselves of the idea of freedom in the sense of having no responsibility. I would say we must free ourselves from the idea of freedom from all but self-invented ideas of right and wrong, but then I don't either want to have some kook's idea of right and wrong imposed on me regardless of my belief. Thus a balance must be maintained between freedom and what we can agree on about objective right and wrong. We must, at the very least, rid ourselves of the idea that we each get to decide even what is good -- while there must be room to disagree on what is good, we should not delusion ourselves that we come up with it ourselves rather than trying to find it out.

With that self-idolatry thrown out, we'll be halfway there -- after all, China's mistake clearly is swinging to the other extreme of self-anihilitry.

To get us the rest of the way there, I suppose a good idea would be to require a couple, maybe a few, just not more than half a dozen, years of public service by all adults (well, maybe not women or maybe fewer for women... they're special 8^). Military service would be one form possible, but I would say we ought to be able to choose others. I'm not saying I'm eager to be subject to such at all, but I nonetheless am willing to if we were to get wise enough to try it. Having various options other than military service would be helpful in several ways. First, some gentle souls like myself would greatly prefer not to have to endure being drill-sergeanted -- call me a softy, but I'm more suited to being strong in quite different ways. Much beyond that, we could show how duty and freedom work together by allowing people to find whatever good for which they wish to work. Far beyond, there's all the good that would be done for our people, especially the poor, with work other than the military. Further still, when such work is done, the government need spend less, meaning lower taxes for everybody. Ultimately, we also get the benifit of being taught first-hand to be disciplined and duty-bound.

If we were to enact such a policy, it is possible we could reach toward a society where people know how to sacrifice themselves to greater good and yet are free to seek out the greatest good rather than bound to follow an ideology imposed on them. We could be a great nation again. In time, we could become an even greater nation than back in the old days before our corruption.

But then again, now that the combox is open on it it's that time again when people get to tell me why nobody will consent to following my "utopian" ideas (despite my arranging them to be perfectly non-utopian really).

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4 Comments:

Blogger Immortal Philosopher said...

Scott, how could you? I will never follow your Utopian ideas! XDXD

Great post. Your ideas about community service remind me of Chesterton's Distributist state. You ought to read Outline of Sanity, by the great man himself.

I might disagree a bit about enforced public service, for several reasons, the foremost being that I disagree with anything causing the government to require anything of the person beyond taxes and law-abidingness. Although I agree that a society in which morals are strong is essential to everything we stand for, I don't think that it is the government's job to instill those morals. Several reasons - although we might give the right morals, those who come after us may not. Secondly, in light of the encyclical Rerum Novarum, it is not the government's place to decide what the people should think, even about morals. That is the responsibility of the Church always. The government today does a lot to hinder growth of conscience, but the ideal state would allow the individual to grow how he chooses. That way, even if the government is corrupt, the citizen doesn't have to be instilled with corruption. Let man have his YMCA camps and church youth groups, but don't give them to him from a government-controlled office.

I agree wholeheartedly with the rest of your post, though!

~Ambrose

August 16, 2008 10:50 AM  
Blogger Shakespeare's Cobbler said...

Good point. I actually hold that principle myself. What I'm thinking is that this would only be permissible if it was clear, ever and always, that the government can't force us to do any specific sort of work, so we're not stuck doing anything immoral.

Whether we could convince the government to be limited that way? Well, I don't know how to solve that problem, and I will admit I don't. Thing is, I view the problem of keeping the government from changing its own boundaries as being one that we have to deal with for civilization to be maintained at all, so this plan, while it could only be enacted if that problem were solved, on the other hand is no worse off than anything else related to the government because nothing is going to save us there if that problem isn't solved.

Now, I'll also say the government as it stands, even with its current Constitution (I say current not to say that it changes day to day, but to say that I don't expect it to last on the foundation the Founding Fathers gave us for too much longer for the simple fact that the true essence of that foundation has been rejected), is probably not fit for this task. That, I think I've said before, is an example of why I lean toward the late 18th century Anti-Federalist position: even the Constitution has too many loopholes that could give the Federal government too much power for my liking. Alas, it is two centuries late to deal with that without starting from scratch.

Come to think of it, given that several of my ideas hinge on the idea that the government needs to be constrained by clear boundaries in order to safely do some things that only the government is likely to be able to do, I think I need to put up a post on that itself sometime. Mayhap people would then see where I differ from Utopian thinkers.

August 16, 2008 7:00 PM  
Blogger Immortal Philosopher said...

Oh, I know that you're not a Utopian. =P

Scott, the problem with that is that it's impossible to outline every thing that the government can do and can't. The constitution clearly states that all powers not mentioned belong to the states, yet we have abortion on demand, etc. We simply can't, by means of written constitutions or other federal documents alone preserve a government forever. Sooner or later, somebody will come along and redefine everything we spent decades wording perfectly. And when that happens, I'd prefer that they didn't have some clause permitting them to force Americans to do x years of public service. It's only a short step from there to forced labor camps...

We ought to come up with a constitution, though.

~Ambrose

August 16, 2008 10:03 PM  
Blogger Shakespeare's Cobbler said...

I know you don't think my ideas are utopian, but I have in the past heard ideas of mine or of people I admire compared to communism in that they supposedly wouldn't work in practice.

It seems a balance is needed: we can't assume that there will be a plentitude of virtue but we must make the system search for it and tap into it because no system can withstand pure vice, and though we cannot outline everything the government can and cannot do, we can outline it to a sufficient extent (and I happen to think as to the Consitution of our own that that was not properly done, too many important factors being left unsaid).

With the need for finding that balance in mind, I wonder if, were a good civilization to start out with a requirement of service limited (no more than x number of years per person, never fewer than two options as to what kind of service) to help prevent its being tyranny, the people would be more responsible and being so would gain clearer understanding of their proper place such that it would be less likely for an abusive faction to take it over?

By the way, if it sounded like I was serious arguing that we should try it on our current nation, I actually don't think so because on second thought it would probably automatically be used by commies calling themselves liberals to enslave us and cause the SSA.

August 21, 2008 10:21 PM  

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