Truth, Power and Human Ills

In the books which I read as a child and not-quite-an-adult, heroes were relatively easy to pick out: Natty Bumpo, Tell Sackett, Frank and Joe Hardy, Bilbo, Tommy and Tuppence, King Henry V, Uncle Tom . . . and the list goes on. While none of these characters were perfect, they all had that special something which allowed me and millions of others to recognize that they were the good guys, the ones we could back as the story got rough, the ones who wouldn’t let us down.

The older I got, the more confused, conflicted and downright evil the heroes grew. Now, this is not to say that all heroes should be two-dimensional goody-two-shoes and that all anti-heroes should bear resemblance to Simon Legree. Real life doesn’t bear out such a clean distinction. But so much modern fiction and non-fiction places the blame upon the patriarchy, the West, corporations, organized religion, and any number of other things which are hardly evil (speaking from a Judeo-Christian worldview) in and of themselves. The heroes are increasingly those who refuse to be constrained by society, who take on the corporations, who don’t allow the patriarchy to get them married against their wills when serial shacking up will do just as well, who live in the margins and steer clear of 2.5 children, SUVs and evil banking systems.

What to do about this? Well, Sarah Hoyt has a few thoughts for writers:

Speak real truth to power.  Write of war and evil, sure, but as human ills, and not as the result of the unique badness of Western Civilization (or civilization) or capitalism, or affluence, or industrialization.  Dare point out that while humanity has had savages aplenty, few of them were noble.  Dare point out that while civilized man can be conventional, conventional behavior is often decent and moral and better for everyone.

We conservatives are the librarians who remember where the books are in the dusty stacks. It is our duty to actively remember what has gone on before, our duty to bring that information to the attention of those who will benefit from it, our duty to live with the understanding that while many changes have occurred to the world in which we live, changes to the ways humans function have been superficial. In short, we conservatives are required to be moored in the reality of the human condition if were are to be true to ourselves.

Pride, greed, envy, lust, sloth, anger, gluttony and all the not-so-lesser failings of humankind are the default motivators of our sinful selves today, just like they were for our forbears from hundreds or thousands of years ago.

War and evil are human ills, common to humans everywhere and everywhen, be such people under capitalistic, mercantilistic, socialist, communistic or whatever other system a culture may embrace (or have forced upon it).

We’ve a responsibility to explain what drives us as human beings and why the choices we make are of far greater import than any thing which we might own or make or wield. If Cain had had an AR-15, Abel wouldn’t be any less dead, now would he?