This occurred to me while rereading Williamson's PIG to Socialism. I don't recall ever hearing it put that way, but I doubt I'm the first to notice.
After all, more death and misery have been caused by the state than all other unnatural causes combined. On the other hand, goodness cannot be coerced in a top-down manner. Rather, it can only be permitted, encouraged, and modeled.
And even then, it is never really secure unless and until it is loved for its own sake, and the state certainly cannot compel love. It can punish failure to love -- as in the IRS harassment of conservatives -- but that's not quite the same.
A long time ago -- well, ten years ago, to be precise -- I decided to conduct an experiment in childrearing, whereby I would teach the boy to love the good rather than, say, just punish the bad and make him fear the punishment.
One can encourage a well-behaved child via the alternative modes of positive punishment, negative reinforcement, or negative punishment, but those won't necessarily send down deep roots. Plus, they're going to create resentments, temptations, compulsions, and sometimes even perversions -- as in those Christian ministers caught with the S & M hookers or gay escorts.
To the extent that these fellows were "good," it was rather brittle, to put it mildly. The bad was simply banished to the shadows, where it took on a secret life and was nourished by hidden springs, which can foster a kind of longing for the dark side.
How to bring about a robust goodness? That's the question.
But why is this the question this morning? I'm not even awake yet, and I didn't intend for the post to veer off in this direction. Rather, it started with an innocent comment about how socialism interferes with moral development, and now I am forced to think things through from the ground up. It's not fair!
Let's start with what is close at hand. I marvel at what a good person my son is. What I mean is, I see evidence of his spontaneous goodness all the time. He is a much better person than I was at 10. I was by no means a bad person, but if I'm really honest, part of this was because I was simply afraid to be bad. That's what I mean about temptation. I might have been worse if I weren't such a coward.
Part of me admired the naughty boys, but my son isn't like that at all. Rather, he strikes me as "courageously good." He would be willing to be mocked for his goodness, whereas I would have been much more likely to cave under peer pressure. In contrast, he is irked and repelled by jerks and pseudo-rebels. There's no attraction at all.
So far, anyway. For two years running he's won the "people of faith" award -- whatever that is -- in his school by simply doing what comes spontaneously. He is not remotely repressed. To the contrary, full of life.
It very much reminds me of something Harvey Mansfield said in his Manliness: that in order to be a gentleman, one must first be a man. Otherwise you're just a gentlewimp. And the gentlewimp is often just a mask of the barbarian, as in Obama and his ilk. Poke the wimp, and out comes the cloven hoof, as when that reporter spoiled the party by pointing out that Iran is still holding kidnapped Americans.
I can't say that I came up with the parenting strategy on my own. Rather, I first got the brainwave from Schuon, although I applied it to parenting. Let's see if I can dig out some examples. His pithiest book is Echoes of Perennial Wisdom, and there's a little bit of everything in there, from cosmology to ethics, in concentrated form.
"Love of God is firstly the attachment of the intelligence to the Truth, then attachment of the will to the Good, and finally the attachment of the soul to the Peace that is given by the Truth and the Good."
Here again, there is nothing negative, repressive, or punitive in this. Rather, it starts with loving truth, and who doesn't want to be in love? And when one is in love, certain behaviors follow spontaneously, such as not wanting to do things that damage the love relationship.
It reminds me of how private property spontaneously encourages responsible behavior, because -- as alluded to in yesterday's post -- one is going to be much more careful with one's own property and money than with Other People's Moolah. Thus, the state must always struggle against a built-in moral hazard. Except it doesn't put up much of a struggle.
Likewise, to realize one "belongs to God," and vice versa, in a love relationship, triggers all sorts of consequences. "Wisdom begins with fear of God."
Am I afraid of God? Yes, in the same way I'm afraid of my wife, in the sense that I wouldn't want to do anything to damage the relationship. It's a figure of speech, but then again, there is obvious truth to it. You could say that bodily wisdom begins with fear of gravity, or of fire. It doesn't mean it ends there. ("[T]he integral attitude of man before God" is "made of reverential Fear and confident Love.... for the absence of fear is a lack of self-knowledge.")
We're rambling again, aren't we? If so, it can't be helped. Rambling is how you get to a point you don't yet know. If you already knew it, you'd get straight to it, wouldn't you? See Oakley for details.
"Virtue consists in allowing free passage, in the soul, to the Beauty of God." Thus, "To give oneself to God is to give God to the world." So it's a win-Godwin.
Here is an example of a temptation or snare alluded to above, in that "Virtue cut off from God becomes pride, as beauty cut off from God becomes idol..."
This is why the Good and True must be loved for their own sake, not for any secondary gain. But in so doing, "the repercussions are incalculable." In fact, it works both ways: either love truth or deny truth, but there will be no end to the trouble.
Ah, here we go: "Do not believe that 'it is I who am the virtue'; do not personalize it. The humble man is attached to virtue as such, and consequently to the sentiment that all virtue comes from God and belongs to God."
Which is why "At the bottom of all the vices is found pride..." Therefore, at the bottom of the virtues must be humility. Pride cometh before afall, humility before arise.
Another good one: "Every man loves to live in light and in fresh air; no one loves to be enclosed in a gloomy, airless tower. It is thus that one ought to love the virtues; and it is thus that one ought to hate the vices."
And "If we want truth to live in us, we must live in it."
Nothing good in man is of any value if detached from God. Likewise, love of man is monstrous if not a prolongation and consequence of the love of God. God save us from the lovers of humanity!
[W]ithout a good character -- one that is normal and consequently noble -- intelligence, even if metaphysical, is largely ineffective.
So, Let the world be what it is and take refuge in Truth, Peace, and Beauty, wherein is neither doubt nor any blemish.