Thoughts by: Gabriela Yareliz, based on The Abolition of Man (all quotes are from the book, unless otherwise specified).
There was a hypothetical presented at a meeting. The hypo: A person commits a crime and is arrested. What are possible solutions to this, was essentially the question posed to the group. The serious suggestions offered were: to legalize the crime and to abolish police. To my total shock, these absurd suggestions came from a group of attorneys.
There is a growing number of people in present society that believes that boundaries and punishment for violations of such boundaries should be eliminated, thus eliminating all personal responsibility from the individual who made a choice.
Rather than holding any individual personally responsible for his or her choices, people see eliminating systems that delineate right and wrong as a solution.
People (I generalize, but I speak of a growing societal trend) prefer to eliminate the police than to criminalize a behavior that can be a danger to health (including public health), life and safety. I have noticed, however, they are all for eliminating things, until something hurts them or they are suddenly affected. And suddenly, then the boundary or punishment becomes needed.
Much of this attitude stems from this idea that man/woman has natural impulses and instincts, and a growing belief that he/she should be allowed to follow these, no matter the result, so that he or she can be considered “fulfilled,” “free” and “authentic.”
Our society has lost sight of the structures and boundaries needed for true freedom, safety and fulfillment. Worst of all, society is advocating for a no-value system apart from the anarchy it wants to accept. It promotes tolerance and acceptance, yet it imposes beliefs and a lack of values that you either get on board with or you are labeled and kept outside— outside of favor, outside of career advancement, outside of friendships.
C.S. Lewis wrote a book, The Abolition of Man, with some important points I wanted to share. This book is a series of lectures, where he discusses a British textbook that, at the time, wanted to render values as subjective and essentially “unreal.”
In its first part, Lewis establishes the paradox of what we create and allow and then our disgust with what we harvest from our ideas and attitudes: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
We have a society that criticizes those who have held onto values and standards that diverge from its own. People are labeled as “bigoted” and “close minded,” yet this growing number in society fails to see the irrational and illogical way they see the world.
“Their skepticism about values is on the surface: it is for use on other people’s values; about the values current in their own set they are not nearly skeptical enough,” Lewis explains.
Society hides behind this idea of obeying and giving way to what comes natural to us. “Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people.’ People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. […] Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of all the rest,” Lewis wrote.
Lewis makes an excellent point by comparing following instinct to a judge hearing a case. A judge sees evidence, thinks of consequences and uses knowledge to make a determination. To think of a judge deciding a case based on “instinct” would be absurd and reprehensible. It would also lead to a lot of inaccurate decisions and judgments with heavy implications.
What we are seeing, more and more, is this irrational “open mind” mentality to actual practical reason. “An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about the ultimate foundations either Theoretical or of Practical Reason is idiocy.”
Lewis continues, stating, “I am simply arguing that if we are to have values at all we must accept the ultimate platitudes of Practical Reason as having absolute validity: that any attempt, having become skeptical about these, to reintroduce values lower down on some supposedly more ‘realistic’ basis, is doomed.”
Humanity has submerged itself deeper and deeper into this state of no longer being makers of conscience “but still its subjects”; it does not conquer nature, but instead, becomes a slave to the very lowest of natures.
The Abolition of Man description on Wikipedia sums it up best. The last chapter shows “a distant future in which the values and morals of the majority are controlled by a small group who rule by a perfect understanding of psychology, and who in turn, being able to see through any system of morality that might induce them to act in a certain way, are ruled only by their own unreflected whims. In surrendering rational reflection on their own motivations, the controllers will no longer be recognizably human, the controlled will be robot-like, and the Abolition of Man will have been completed.” (Wikipedia)
This view is reflected in Lewis’ thought that, “A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.”
What makes this book’s message so relevant and important is our current condition. It is a book that rests on reason, rational thought and a value system referred to as Tao, that is separate from theism, meaning a secular mind can understand it and agree with it.
Today’s “open mind” claims to see through things. It sees through values and morality. Yet, to never accept something as a solid truth or value and to continually be able to see through things renders things as transparent. Lewis’ final point is, “To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.”
This point calls us into deep reflection. Are we selectively ‘seeing through’ certain things and blinding ourselves or can we truly see?