And what the fundamental issue? As Tracey’s character, Dan Heywood, summarized, when you’re in danger, the temptation is to take the easy way out, regardless who or what it may damage or destroy; the end justifies the means when your very survival is at stake.
. . . but survival as what? as Heywood points out.
This, as Msgr. Ronald Knox noted as a theme in his masterwork, Enthusiasm (1957), is a continual temptation for those who regard themselves as somehow better than others in some (or every) way. For Knox, who was analyzing the rise of what came to be known by the misleading term “Modernism” in the Catholic Church, it boiled down to the “godly” versus the “ungodly” . . . with (of course) those who regard themselves as the “godly” making the determination as to who is “ungodly” and thus beyond the pale.
|Msgr. Ronald A. Knox|
As Knox put it, as far as the “godly” are concerned, the ungodly have no rights that need be respected. This assumption permitted pacifist Quakers to join Cromwell’s army and slaughter children, women, and men indiscriminately — as long as they had been judged “ungodly” by those who believed in the “right” form of Christianity untainted by “popalatry” and Romish superstition. It also permitted theft, murder, and anything else deemed necessary to advance the cause of godliness.
There are exceptions, of course. As Knox related, there is a deep hunger among those whom he deemed “enthusiasts” for a theocracy to establish and maintain the Kingdom of God on Earth, often by force, if necessary. If the godly lack the political or economic power to transform society into the desired vision, then separation may be necessary in some form to build the City Upon the Hill, either an actual settlement in the wilderness (or the equivalent), or an enclave within the larger society . . . at least until sufficient strength is gathered and the Kingdom of God on Earth imposed on everyone.
|David Émile Durkheim|
Nor does it have to be the Christian God Who is used as the presumed standard of godliness, as the Nazis demonstrated. One of the fundamental differences between traditional forms of Christianity and what was called “the New Christianity” and “the Democratic Religion” (later termed socialism) is that, ultimately, the collective — humanity — becomes an immanent god that replaces the transcendent God of traditional Christianity (and Judaism and Islam). As the solidarist socialist David Émile Durkheim analyzed it (favorably), religion is a social, not a spiritual phenomenon. God is a divinized society, and religion becomes the group’s worship of itself.
That being the case, those who go against the interests of God (i.e., the collective or Der Volk) can — and in some cases must — be eliminated. Thus, Hitler’s division of human beings on “racial” grounds (a concept he derived from American theosophists, who also influenced the social thought of Msgr. John A. Ryan) used “culture creators,” “culture carriers” and “culture destroyers” instead of “godly” and “ungodly,” but the justification for eliminating racial inferiors and “useless eaters” remained the same as for cleansing society of the “ungodly.” They are a danger to the élite group, society, or the collective, and have no rights that need be respected . . . which means they have no rights at all.
Inevitably the reaction sets in, and it’s almost always too much and itself in the wrong direction, and those trying to deny others’ rights are once again denied their rights. What people forget is that, in a very real sense, laws are not supposed to be a way for you to control others for your protection or advantage, but to protect others from you.
Rights aren’t just to protect you, your friends, and the people you like from the ravening hordes of the ungodly, the culture destroyers, or anyone else, but to protect those whom you dislike or even hate from you.