Naming the Powers

Our contemporaries have an addiction to power. They have isolated power from the question of for whom and for what purpose is it exercised? We can help by naming for them the powers that they have placed themselves under.

Our contemporaries say that they place themselves above all other relationships and forces. They are each of them entirely sovereign in their isolation. They establish themselves simply by asserting and defending their superiority to and isolation from all other beings. They establish themselves simply by rhetoric (to the extent that this persuades those around them) and by their own gullibility. We have to identify the forces that our contemporaries – moderns – put themselves under. They swap the truth of autonomy for a lie. They swap autonomy with relationship (with God, and through God with all other creatures), for autonomy without relationship (which is to say, with a relationship only to power, fear, emptiness and death). They worship the void. The void has entered them and is now hollowing them out.

Christians must expose our contemporaries as intensely religious people. We must blow open our contemporaries’ claim that they are immune to status anxiety, are above all forms of compulsion or commitment, of public acknowledgement of duty, of public declarations of obligations owed, or acknowledgement of superiority and inferiority. They are adamant that for them no relationship is mandatory, no acknowledge of relationship is obligatory. In fact, they are afraid of powers that they are aware of but cannot name and cannot come to terms with.  Their god is Power. In the cult, they give an unconstrained worship to this god of Power. They insist on what is not true, which is that Power is the god above all gods, that Power is above goodness and above relationship, and so it above all constraint, and that Power without restraint, must be followed and emulated, and so each other them turns themselves into an asocial being, renounced their own intrinsically social nature, and takes on the solipsistic character of someone used to being unchallenged, the autist behaviour of the man who can only scream, cringe and clutch himself when anything happens outside his own control. Because they are narcissistic, they are hysterical, panicked and superstitious.

Our contemporaries revere other gods. They are in hock to other powers. They acknowledge many lords and obey many masters. And they do indeed worship and venerate these powers. They are first puzzled then incensed when we do not join them. They regard it as blasphemy or treason when we do not the same public gestures of obedience. They adulation and loyalty to their gods turn to hatred of us who refuse to join them or to make the obeisance demanded by their cult. Because they refuse to acknowledge any ties, and so refuse to acknowledge any duty or any do any homage, they are involuntarily and unwittingly doing homage to the most vicious of forces, which are Power itself, and the worship of Power results in their bondage to Destruction and Death.  

It is for Christians to reverse this blindness to the other forces which have slipped in to our political culture and made themselves at home in the mindset of our contemporaries. They are incapable of seeing that these are powers with an agenda to reduce our dignity, to make us malleable, to turn us into deracinated individuals, stripped of all relationships, separable and interchangeable, so that we can be put in or taken out of whatever functions our power-brokers decide. These agents and mediators, our managerial class, all wrongly assume that the regime will reward their loyalty. They have the copy and simulacrum of individual autonomy, and they sustain it only by their refusal to see that they are bound by it to obedience to the powers and to their fear of Death, and thus their autonomy is sham.

They are having a breakdown. Their revolt is aimed at everything that they have inherited, every cultural and political accomplishment and institution that was there before them, and which they cannot take credit for. Their uprising against the world they find themselves in, which the goodness or even the objectivity of which they do not want to acknowledge, is a kind of grief that wants to tear down and smashes up and everything apart until it is exhausted and sits alone in the ruins. Their breakdown is bringing about a universal demolition. It is spiritual and psychological, and consequently it is cultural, political and economic. This is the result of our failure to see the goodness of what we have as good, as good enough, and to be content with it and so to express our contentment and even find a basic thankfulness. If we cannot make this basic attitude of thankfulness, we will finally be left only with this anger that will rage until it has broken everything and is left with nothing.

Christians must point out that the worldview of our contemporaries is characterised by powers that acknowledge no limits or restraint. They are powers without definition and so without any control. These powers have gone wild. There is no restraint. There is no modesty and no self-knowledge. This is an attempt to break all the restraints that make for a civil society, in which we acknowledge under one law, and instead set upon one another in a dog fight.

We must say that these claims are false and dangerous. They are extreme, unwarranted and destructive. They will bring about the unravelling of the mutual respect and civility, the rule of law and political culture laboriously built up over many generations to create a complex society and an unparalleled standard of living. All these are being thrown out, and we will all be poorer, culturally and in terms of security, life expectancy, and prosperity. They can all be broken and lost by a generation that, unable to acknowledge the goodness of what it has received, refuses to pass it on, and instead trashes it.  

So, we always need to give our answer in three parts, one in which we are individuals, each of us an agent responsible for themselves, in another of which there are powers and forces (such as the movement of crowds). These are partly identifiable in economic, political, psychological and other terms for which the social sciences can offer us descriptions. In the third account, a simply malignant force is pushing us towards ruin. It runs over all positive human achievement, apparently unable to distinguish good from bad. This force is sheer power, that is, power decoupled from goodness and therefore from all considerations of purpose, and rationality. It rolls forward like an automaton over all human achievement, and so it is a sheerly inhuman and anti-human force, that squanders and crushes everything that might become good, and it conceals and deceives, so that increasingly no one is able to say what is good. This is nothingness become an active force, it is motivated only by envy resentment and fury, and it wants to see every human come to an end, so that we vanish along with our culture and all our hopes, and are replaced by nothing. Its goal is emptiness. Christians sometimes refer to this as Death, towards which sin draws us, deflecting all that is good into its opposite. The individual, the self, that sees itself in enmity which sees itself threatened by every relationship and attempts to withdraw from them. So, we have first the individual, second, the forces that press around him and, third, sheer power, that results in the destruction of whatever it touches. In the Christian account this sheer destructive power is termed ‘Satan’ and these three forces together are referred to as ‘the World, the Flesh and the Devil’.