On the Enlightenment principle of Democracy, the government is accountable to the people, and the people are accountable to No One. On the old Christian principle, both were accountable to God. This meant that if the people were in trouble, they could always turn to God. Now they must turn to No One.
We had an election this week, up here in Ontario. The Liberals won a fourth consecutive term. Better, for them, they have their majority back in the provincial legislature, so they don’t have to listen any more to all the numbing criticism of their scandals – and revelations of massive public waste.
The province is seriously in debt, thanks not only to direct waste, but to avoiding confrontation with public service unions by paying them whatever they want. Teachers, policemen, bureaucrats, and the like now often make six-figure salaries. And their unions played an important part in demonizing the Conservative opposition, which was threatening, in a limp sort of way, to cap them.
American readers will be familiar with this issue: and the Detroit-like bankruptcy that follows is now at the core of political life throughout America and Europe. The people who can count are pitted against the people who refuse to do so.
More than money is at stake. My example is the attitude inculcated in schoolteachers who often earn more than twice as much as the parents of the children they are teaching. I do not think their sneering arrogance is only a product of my imagination.
Similarly, the attitude of the policemen. The forces I have seen in action have been transformed over the last generation, by wealth and the smugness of “sensitivity training.” More and more, they are the law, called out not to enforce statute, but to adjudicate conflicts, according to their “politically correct” lights.
To American readers, I would explain that Ontario, once governed like Texas, is now governed like California. In less than a generation, the province has gone from being the economic powerhouse of Canada, whining about all the transfer payments it was making to the poorer provinces, to itself receiving transfer payments from, exempli gratia, Newfoundland.
In the election campaign, this debt, and the huge annual deficits feeding it, went almost undiscussed. The media focused on the need to “stop Hudak” – the rather wimpy Conservative leader – painting him as a kind of Blue Meanie who, from sheer unaccountable malice, wants to fire the saintly people selflessly delivering all the social services of Nanny State. Hudak – now retired – may well have tried to refute this criticism, but what he said no one heard. Instead we got pictures of him smiling, like a rodent.
Meanwhile the Liberals, under their new, super-cool, indeed lesbian premier, promised massive new spending programs, including a grand new pension scheme. For the urban vote in gridlocked Toronto, they also offered massive new spending on urban transit. That was how they won the previous elections – promises of massive new spending – and the joke is still working.
Too, Americans will be familiar with our political geography. The electoral map makes the urban/rural division very plain. I live in downtown Toronto, and I would need a car to get to a riding where a Conservative candidate would stand the slightest chance. But once there, the polarities are reversed, and I am back in the Old Ontario, where people are still doing weird stuff like going to church on Sundays, and observing relations between cause and effect. Gracious reader may already have guessed that this Old Ontario votes Tory, but with islands of Grit and even Socialist support, corresponding exactly to the locations of its growing “satellite cities.”
This is Ontario, this is North America, and this is Europe, too.
I would not say Christianity (including Christianity par excellence, in its Catholic form) is dead in the West. I would only observe that it has abandoned the cities. Reason, too, has retreated to the hinterland, before the “progressive” advance. We have, within each country, state, province, or canton, however the boundaries were drawn, two countries.
There is the country of the (historically, still fairly new) “mass man,” of politics and marketing, essentially a cypher with a serial number, instructed how to live by public education and the mass media of “news” and entertainment, with its associated omnipresent commercial advertising. And the other country, which some city folk still remember with nostalgia.
For the Church this is a considerable challenge. I should think it must be evident by now, that the religion of Jesus Christ cannot be communicated to the mass market, through advertising or by any other means but “cor ad cor loquitur” – person-to-person and hand-to-hand.
But I have also observed that the bishops’ palaces are in the cities, and that for reasons I could probably explain, the bishops themselves often think in terms of mass marketing and “infrastructure” – which in secular life is built to connect cities together, or to supply them with raw materials, treating the space between the cities as drive-through or fly-over territory.
Or, if they don’t think like that, perhaps because they are secretly Christian, they preside over very urbane bureaucracies, inclined to translate everything they say into mass marketing and infrastructure; into sound bites and commercial logos. “Turning the λόγος into a logo” is my sound bite for what they are doing, a process which requires not so much thought, as “conditioning.”
Perhaps I have mentioned before what I think of “democracy,” in an environment like that. I look this morning at the election results before me – riding by riding across the map – and this word “conditioning” keeps coming to mind. Everything Christ taught stands now against the conditioning of the masses, and their infrastructure, in cities where His voice is drowned out.
And that is how things will be, until the Devil’s vanity gets the better of him, and the infrastructure collapses.