Saturday, February 12, 2011

Miscellaneous Musings, Saturday, February 13, 2011

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, (b. 29 May 1874 – d....Image via Wikipedia
G. K. Chesterton had amazing insight, combined with some real common sense. Consider this, from What's Wrong with the World (That's not a question, by the way):



The fallacy is one of the fifty fallacies that come from the modern madness for biological or bodily metaphors. It is convenient to speak of the Social Organism, just as it is convenient to speak of the British Lion. But Britain is no more an organism than Britain is a lion. The moment we begin to give a nation the unity and simplicity of an animal, we begin to think wildly. Because every man is a biped, fifty men are not a centipede. This has produced, for instance, the gaping absurdity of perpetually talking about "young nations" and "dying nations," as if a nation had a fixed and physical span of life. Thus people will say that Spain has entered a final senility; they might as well say that Spain is losing all her teeth. Or people will say that Canada should soon produce a literature; which is like saying that Canada must soon grow a new moustache. Nations consist of people; the first generation may be decrepit, or the ten thousandth may be vigorous. Similar applications of the fallacy are made by those who see in the increasing size of national possessions, a simple increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. These people, indeed, even fall short in subtlety of the parallel of a human body. They do not even ask whether an empire is growing taller in its youth, or only growing fatter in its old age. But of all the instances of error arising from this physical fancy, the worst is that we have before us: the habit of exhaustively describing a social sickness, and then propounding a social drug.

We have undeniably fallen into this trap of thinking society can be cured of it's ills, rather than that society is ill because of the health or sickness of those individuals in it. We don't want to face the inconvenient truth that the person is more important than the group, and always will be. That's what makes the heresy of "group salvation" so popular and so plausible today, and so awful. It's awful because it strips us of the possibility of hope. If our ultimate destiny consists in what's going on with everyone around us, we're in real trouble. If our ultimate destiny depends on us and who, and what, we are, there's hope for improvment. And that hope is not just for ourselves. If each person recognizes the responsibility he or she has to do what is good, all will be made the better for it. If each is waiting for, and blaming someone else for all the misery in the world, nothing will be made better, it will be made worse.  Isn't hope better than despair?
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