Noblesse oblige

One of the most radical and revolutionary propositions in human history is the notion that we’re all somehow equal. That all humans are equal. A proposition both insane and meaningless. How are humans of various levels of intelligence, moral persuasions, virtues and vices all equal? Is a rapist equal to an old lady? We’re not all equally, neither biologically, emotionally, mentally or morally.

Contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, Christ didn’t preach any gospel of equality, just as how he didn’t call for the redistribution of wealth by state or revolution. In fact, the word equality doesn’t appear once in the New Testament, and while Christ could treat women with great respect, he only chose male apostles to lead his disciples and provide the sacraments. He gave them authority and as such established an undemocratic hierarchy.

The equality (without using that word and unity is the primary focus) of all people IN CHRIST, was actually taught by Saint Paul in his epistles, more than Christ is ever recorded speaking about it in the gospels (even those gnostic ones). I have to reference the brilliant Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn who pointed out the absurdity of claiming that Saint Peter and Judas were equal before Christ. Kuehnelt-Leddihn pointed out that not only is liberty incompatible with equality, but so is any and all true diversity.

Equality is truly an empty notion, but what about social or economic equality?

Trying to create a society based on radical egalitarian ideas have consistently ended in failure. The desire to institute economic equality has constantly proven disastrous. A desire to end poverty is both more realistic and less ideological. But while equality of outcome is associated with the left and hostility to all exceptionality with the far left, the centre and centre-right (classical liberalism for the last 100 years or so) have proclaimed an equality of opportunity. But how exactly? We aren’t all born equally intelligent, pretty or strong. So even then we’re born with different opportunities. Some people are born with richer parents than others, unless we return to the horrific experiments of communal upbringing. If true equality of opportunity is impossible, the       question arises what the best alternative is. Ensuring that the lower classes have opportunities through things like free education is obvious, but originally the focus in the early modern period was above all on eliminating unfair barriers and elements of a caste system. Dismantling a caste system that keeps down those with talent is a good thing, and thankfully most of Europe has never really had a rigid caste system like India, Japan or Korea anyways. But what is wrong with a flexible aristocracy open to the virtuous from the lower classes who prove themselves? Why couldn’t Patton and MacArthur earn titles? In the old days, even republics had nobility whether Venice or ancient Rome.

A society without any form of aristocracy is a society where the only power people can leave to their children is money. The upper bourgeoisie is the upper class. Building a fortune (even through questionable means) ensures a dynasty. Being incredibly heroic in war or saving lives doesn’t result in a hereditary title you can pass on to your eldest son.

Maybe we should return to actively rewarding virtue; courage, sacrifice, heroism. We could make it that the unworthy would lose their titles again. But too reject all noble titles has been a mistake, and it has resulted only in poor substitutes.

In modern Western societies celebrities are idolized even as they preach against discrimination.

The meaning of life is financial and material success. Those who fail in the market system are losers. Extreme atomic individualism and the harsh aspects of the market economy, have been mixed with incompetent and corrupt government interference in the economy (depriving us of the original benefit of the free market=the absence of the government causing problems). Crony Capitalism mixed with a Marxist conception of life. What more can one ask for?

Teenagers are infantilized, and yet expected to leave the next after high-school. Education focuses on passing tests and not on actual long-term knowledge let alone skill. This has been pointed out and complained about on the left and the right, yet Western governments only involve themselves more in education even as literacy decreases.

90s movies about going native, rejecting an illusionary world or just this society, such as the Last Samurai, The Matrix or Fight Club, have all become nostalgia inducing classics rather quickly. Nostalgia is terrible amongst millennials, as is the love for more children’s centered entertainment, whether Pixar films, Miraculous Ladybug or My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. Less cynicism, more meaning.

In ancient China the Confucian scholars were highly respected, in Medieval Europe monks, hermits and saints. Education wasn’t everything, nor was practical skill, wisdom, virtue, qualities of the souls were valued whether by Plato, Pythagoras, Confucius or Thomas Aquinas. Philosophers ranked highly in this system, but unlike the sophists, Socrates and his disciples didn’t mind offending people. They didn’t say that might=right or that man is the measure of truth. Notions that modern culture has for all intents and purposes adopted.

In a hierarchical society not all people were equals and as such they weren’t all rivals. There wasn’t a world of victors and victims.

According to Catholic theology, there are 3 levels of callings. The practical/physical (craftsmen, farmers, soldiers), the mental but practical (doctors, scientists) and the spiritual (philosophers, ascetics, prophets). While there is a ranking al 3 are worthy and good. Like bronze, silver and gold. None of them are to be looked down upon.

What is currently the most sought after or esteemed profession? What is the good life? Why does Western culture seem incapable of preserving and treasuring its prosperity while reviving traditional solidarity, responsibility and honour?

Maybe we need to go back to real philosophy and away from neo-sophistry.

Johan van Schaik

8 thoughts on “Noblesse oblige”

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