CLVII – Whither the Remnant?

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

You
do not know and will never
know who the Remnant are,
or where they are, or how
many of them there are, or
what they are doing or will
do. Two things you know, and
no more: first, that they
exist; second, that they will
find you.

~ Albert Jay Nock

Decades
ago, when I first read Nock's
essay about u201Cthe Remnantu201D
— an essay written in 1936
— I dismissed it as a form
of millenarian thinking. But
as Western civilization reveals
its weakened foundations in
the form of rapidly expanded
state violence, his words
have become more relevant.
An u201Cobscure, unorganized,
[and] inarticulateu201D group
of individuals, the Remnant,
said Nock, need to be supported
because u201Cwhen everything has
gone completely to the dogs,
they are the ones who will
come back and build up a new
society.u201D

Our
modern world is grounded in
the illusion that social order
can only be maintained through
institutionally-structured,
vertically-imposed regulatory
systems. But the pyramidal
hierarchies to which we have
been trained to look for such
management are in a state
of decline. The vertical is
collapsing into the horizontal,
and the political establishment
is fighting for its very existence
by intensifying the use of
the methodology that defines
its nature: the use of violence.

Political
systems do not like to resort
to any more coercive practices
than are necessary to sustain
their power over people. Threats
and the exercise of force
are the resources upon which
the state depends, and — like
the wealth that private persons
spend in conducting their
peaceful, marketplace transactions
— political authorities are
not inclined to waste their
usage. But when state power
is no longer respected; when
men and women engage in basic
social practices outside the
supervision of the state;
and when all of politics comes
to be seen as nothing more
than an elaborate self-serving
racket benefiting those who
control the machinery of the
state, the herd must be shepherded
back to its appointed confinements.

If
the public is to be kept obedient,
it must be kept in a constant
state of fear. Frightened
people huddle together and
look to those they regard
as more capable than themselves
for protection. This explains
why, in the words of Randolph
Bourne, u201Cwar is the health
of the state.u201D

As
we see in modern events, such
thinking — and the practices
it produces — has torn our
world apart. America — in
its traditional forms — is
in its death throes, and no
amount of institutional wizardry,
halftime pep talks, or magic
elixirs, will reverse the
present course. As with the
decline of prior civilizations,
however, our future is not
necessarily a bleak one. Humanity
is now confronted with the
choice of whether u201Csocietyu201D
is to continue being thought
of in terms of institutionalized
interests, or is to reflect
the varied and spontaneous
relationships that emerge
from the interactions of free
men and women?

The
apparatchiks will continue
to squeeze whatever short-term
benefits they can from their
system's collapse. The elected
politicians — whose time frame
extends no further than the
next election, and whose sense
of the u201Cgeneral welfareu201D is
bounded by the interests of
their corporate sponsors —
will, as the Democratic sweep
into power in 2006 demonstrates,
avail nothing. In Nock's words,
u201Cthe official class and their
intelligentsia . . . will
keep on in their own ways
until they carry everything
down to destruction.u201D

Nor
am I persuaded that there
has been any fundamental transformation
in the thinking of most Americans.
The disaffection most have
with the war, I suspect, has
to do with the sense of embarrassment
with how the war is
being conducted, not with
that it was undertaken
in the first place. A colleague
of mine opined, a couple months
ago, that it u201Cwould be nice
if the United States could
get out of Iraq without too
much egg on its face.u201D To
his shock, I replied that
the United States needs to
experience as much u201Cegg on
its faceu201D as possible. Since
those who orchestrated, directed,
and cheered on this criminal
act will never be held to
account for their wrongdoing
in any meaningful way, they
ought to at least suffer public
humiliation for their behavior.
To fail to see the moral implications
of what America has become;
to regard the deaths of over
one million innocent Iraqis
— if one includes the half-million
children who died from earlier
U.S. embargoes on food and
medicine — as nothing more
than a failure of u201Cintelligenceu201D
or u201Cpoor planningu201D or u201Cmismanagement,u201D
is symptomatic of the moral
and spiritual pathology of
a once-great nation.

Neither
am I impressed by those who
try to balance their sense
of political pride and moral
propriety by placing bumper-stickers
on their flag-adorned cars
that read u201Cpeace is patriotic.u201D
Peace is not patriotic!
Peace transcends patriotism.
According to one dictionary,
a u201Cpatriotu201D is u201Ca person who
loves his country and defends
and promotes its interests.u201D
So considered, patriotism
is inherently divisive,
and division is the soil from
which conflict arises. Against
whom is a patriot to u201Cdefend
and promoteu201D the u201Cinterestsu201D
of u201Chis countryu201D? Is it not
the patriots of other countries
against whom he will take
action? And who will determine
the identity of these other
countries and beat the drums
for u201Cdefenseu201D?

u201CPeaceu201D
is indivisible. One can no
more live in peace with his
neighbors on a selective basis
than he can allocate degrees
of love for his children.
One either learns how to live
without conflict and division,
or is destined to the normally-neurotic
life of constant contradiction.
But to live in perpetual ambiguity
proves costly to the human
soul, which seeks integrity
and wholeness.

Like
my aforementioned colleague,
many Americans have become
embarrassed by the war in
Iraq, but not out of any awakening
as to its immoral nature.
It is a highly personal matter,
arising from identifying one's
very sense of being with a
nation-state that employs
lies, forgeries, and other
deceptive practices in the
continuing slaughter of hundreds
of thousands of people; which
uses torture as a routine
practice not so much to gain
information as to gratify
sadistic dispositions; and
denies trials to persons held,
for years, on what amounts
to suspicion of being suspicious.

Such
behavior runs counter to how
most of us regard our individual
character. We do not behave
in such ways even with total
strangers. The idea of subjecting
our neighbor to torture because
his dog made a mess in our
yard; or bombing a restaurant
because the Bernaise sauce
was not to our liking; would
strike us as madness. And
yet, when the state with which
we identify ourselves does
similar things, we grab our
flags and cheer.

While
the mainstream media has performed
its appointed function of
rationalizing such contradictions,
the Internet has been a constant
revealer of the lies upon
which the foundations of political
structures rest. It becomes
increasingly difficult for
people to reconcile such contrarieties
but, instead of confronting
them directly, most settle
for new explanations, alternative
policies, or new political
leadership. Such is the explanation
not only for the Democratic
party victories last fall,
but for Congress' current
paralysis in dealing with
the war against Iraq.

Many
people tell me that there
has been a major turn-around
in thinking in this country.
I am sorry, but I don't see
it. I think most Americans
have grown weary of the war,
but not of the kind of thinking
that produced it. Too many
see the Iraq war not as a
moral wrong, but as a waste
of money that could be better
spent on health care, global
warming, or government schools.
Such thinking assesses the
war in a cost-benefit manner,
with diminishing returns from
the slaughter of innocents
dictating a different allocation
of state resources. Should
another u201Cterrorist attacku201D
occur in America, however,
the herd will once again become
mobilized into the frenzy
from which it now seeks momentary
rest.

Nock's
desire to protect the Remnant
had nothing to do with extricating
mass-minded people (H.L. Mencken's
u201Cbooboisieu201D) from the adverse
consequences of their unfocused
living. He knew that the political
parties would continue to
keep the morons in a state
of dependency — such is the
nature of their symbiotic
relationship. Nock was concerned,
however, with protecting that
minority of persons — the
Remnant – whose efforts
provide the creative culture
and material prosperity of
great civilizations.

Within
the Remnant are to be found
the entrepreneurs, artists,
and others who insist upon
staying outside the marauding
herd that moves only in response
to external stimuli; the independent
and principled souls who,
in any setting, distinguish
fact from fashion; the kinds
of self-directed, internally-centered,
and loving persons Viktor
Frankl noted as having a comparative
advantage for survival in
concentration camps. The Hank
Reardens and Howard Roarks
of Rand's novels, along with
Sophie Scholl and her fellow
members of u201CThe White Roseu201D
in Nazi Germany, also come
to mind. So do the 1956 Hungarian
u201Cfreedom fighters,u201D along
with the young man, Wang Wei
Lin, who bravely confronted
that row of tanks in Tiananmen
Square in 1989.

One
who has recently gained attention
for his efforts on behalf
of the Remnant is Republican
Congressman Ron Paul. He has
proven himself to be that
rare kind of politician who
seeks to drain the life-suffocating
stagnant pool that nourishes
only the looters and scavengers
who gather to feed upon the
productive people who make
a vibrant and decent society
possible. It is no coincidence
that Ron is a man whose professional
career, as an obstetrician,
involves delivering new life
to the world. He is both a
member of and advocate for
the Remnant, expressing the
integrated qualities that
sustain life. It is no surprise
that he is regarded as a threat
to the continued existence
of a political system that
feeds on life.

Hopefully,
the Remnant will include our
children and grandchildren.
What are the conditions under
which they will be able to
rebuild a society that our
generation — which egoistically
likes to refer to itself as
u201Cthe greatest generationu201D
— helped to destroy? One of
my favorite quotations in
this regard comes from a person
whose identity I do not recall:
u201Ca man has a moral duty to
not allow his children to
live under tyranny.u201D These
words provide a good starting
point.

Next
Chapter
                               Table
of Contents

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare
  • LRC Blog

  • LRC Podcasts