“He who controls himself cannot be controlled by another.” Saying this to a man in the Philadelphia airport the other day sparked a startling response. Immediately the man reached out and took the hands of a young woman walking by, looked her in the eyes and said, “He who controls himself cannot be controlled by another. Remember that.” Stunned as if she had just been awoken from a deep sleep she said, “I will,” and walked on. This statement emerged from a lively conversation about Plato’s position that all democracy tends toward tyranny primarily because freedom to pursue any pleasure without constraint results in addiction to the wanton pleasures of whatever money can buy. This in turn creates increasing social chaos to which government must respond with stricter and broader legislative control, thus resulting in a tyranny. A tyranny is a select few who control the beliefs and actions of the many.
The greatest human rights violations have occurred in societies operating under a tyrannical regime. It is there that certain types of human beings are identified as the ‘problem’ standing in the way to a better life. Then that category or class of problematic human is redefined as less than human for the purposes of extermination or liquidation “for the greater good.” This injustice has happened throughout history against people like the counter-revolutionary in China, the bourgeois in France, the infidel for the Muslim state, the Jew for the Third Reich, and the pre-born baby for the United States. In fact, abortion, far from freedom and choice, represents the deliberate act of one generation to oppress the next. The great mass of men would never embrace such brutality. They slide into it, passive, unthinking, and asleep with eyes wide open as the woman at the airport.
It seems like America is in the throes of a silent revolution toward tyranny because of its addiction to the opiate of consumerism. I am not certain when it began, but it has permeated all layers of society. It has redefined marriage and now family, from how many children we have to our beliefs about what a human is. It reverses our position as persons, from being more valuable than the State to being subservient to it. It informs educational philosophy, moving away from the Judeo-Christian understanding that the “fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”, to the secular humanistic view that mankind is no more than a smart animal, to the exclusion of all transcendent ideals or categorical imperatives. It eliminates ethics in medicine from the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship to the primacy of the doctor-government relationship, treating people as nothing more than complex organic matter. It even determines how we engage church from one of a community radically dedicated to obeying God and serving each other, to a place of entertainment and glorified self-helpism.
This reductionistic view of man whereby we instruct our children to “believe” that they are nothing more than a product of nature, able to accomplish nothing more than simple obedience to his or her instincts, is driven by utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a secular ethic which defines the value of any given human by how much pleasure they can experience and how much pain they can avoid. It is reasoned that since life has no transcendent meaning and we are just a collection of biochemical reactions, then values become whatever “you” want, truth becomes whatever “you” believe, God is defined by personal passion, democracy becomes tyranny, the enemy is one who makes you feel uncomfortable, and blood is shed.
39 years ago this month in the terrible Supreme Court case, Roe vs. Wade, it was determined by a margin of 7 to 2 that babies in the womb were no longer human beings and that women had a constitutionally protected right to abortion. No court would ever dare exercise such blatant abuse of power had they not believed that mankind itself represents nothing more than as the late Henry Hyde said, “a tool making animal, a unit of production and consumption and not possessed of an immortal soul and eternal destiny.”
What kind of politicians do we want representing us? What kind of educators do we want teaching our children? What kind of physicians do we want treating our family members? Ones that sincerely believe that in your face the image of God is reflected and therefore must be respected, or ones that believe that you and your family represent nothing more than an ape? Which physician is more likely to respect your dignity? Which teacher will be more likely to inspire your children to greatness? Which politician will be more likely to fend off the wolfish attacks of secular humanism parried against our future generation? Thanks to all the ethical physicians and pregnancy resource centers who treat all women facing unplanned pregnancy as valuable persons and educate them to protect the vulnerable child they carry within them.