Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mole # 4



In which the Mole turns Distributist and reveals his darker purpose.

The Mole worketh within the bureaucracy, but not always. On Thursdays he flees the maze and hitchhikes to Cookeville, where he joins his fellows in the Chesterton Society of Middle Tennessee, a small but hardy band of fellows currently reading G. K. Chesterton’s An Outline of Sanity and attempting to plumb the meaning of GKC’s “Distributism” or Distributivism,” as it is sometimes called. We have tossed (note the mole tie-in!) the topic about for several years and lately have been trying to understand it in depth and ask the question, is it feasible? Or as some critics suggest, is it merely a romantic fantasy, of no application in the world of Wal-Mart and Obama socialism?

When Chesterton and Belloc first talked of Distributism almost a hundred years ago, England had already been wracked and transformed by the evils of modern industrialism, and the Servile State (as Belloc called it) already seemed to have won. To us moles, hammered by tractors and under siege from new poisons, traps, and incessant attacks by the new industrial farming, so it seemed. Besides, Karl Grundsow Marx, who holed up in the British Museum and wrote cloudy words that plunged millions into a new slavery, had determined that all was determined in history, so what’s the point of chattering about it like nutty squirrels?

At root, Distributism visualizes a society in which individuals possess spiritual and economic freedom through the ownership of private property, preferably land. Its vision is akin to Jeffersonian agrarianism, and that is why Chesterton and Belloc wrote for The American Review in the 1930’s, along with the Southern Agrarians. Down deep, this is a radical vision of what society ought to be, and we moles, relishers of roots and radishes and radicals, understand. We also know that radix malorum est cupiditas, for where real freedom exists for the right thing to be done, the freedom exists for the seven deadlies to flourish like weeds.

Critics of the Distributist vision complain that it is impractical, unrealistic, romantic, etc. In The Outline of Sanity, Chesterton takes those criticism head on. First, he says, there is a vast illusion in society that the freedom talked of by Distributists already exists in society and that it is threatened by Socialism and Capitalism. People really believe, he says, that private enterprise is really in our lives and in the society around us. People who speak this way—“those people are so blind and deaf to all the realities of their own daily existence.” “We have already accepted everything that anybody of intelligence ever disliked in socialism. . . .Capitalism has done all that Socialism threatened to do.”

Here, the Mole applauds his webby paws and chortles like a whistle pig. What did I tell you in the last missive? That bureaucracy works by expansion, that its genetic goal is to include more and more within its power, which is a blinding, controlling power, a bit like chemical fertilizer. Bluntly, the bureaucracy of the society in which you live now has already absorbed and enlisted you as “a servant of the State.” For such as person, “from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep again, his life is run in grooves made for him by other people, and often other people he will never even know. He lives in a house, that he did not make, that he does not want. He moves everywhere in ruts; he always goes up to his work on rails. He has forgotten what his fathers, the hunters and the pilgrims and the wandering minstrels meant, by finding their way to a place. He thinks in terms of wages, he has forgotten the real meaning of wealth. His highest ambition is concerned with getting this or that subordinate post in a business that is already a bureaucracy.”

That world exists, says GKC, and it is this world. Distributism is a philosophy that challenges it by insisting that a person should be more than a function of the State. So our first task is to rid ourselves of the enormous illusion that we are free and independent persons gaily living our lives outside the 9-to-5 grind. The grind is everywhere we are and we are slaves to it now. A mole already in a trap raving about Socialism encroaching on his freedom is a bit of a, well, fool?

So, a frustrated Chestertonian asked in our Cookeville enclave, what are we to do to re-establish the right proportions in the State? A fair question. If we are blind, how shall we see? And what things can we do? I will explore this question more in Missive # 5.

I think GKC is urging us, first, to take off our blinders and peep, at least like us moles, at the light above. We are already slaves of the State, and each day we become more and more unfree. Second, stop talking tommyrot about Socialism. We are already imprisoned by global Capitalism and its offspring, a socialist State created by regulations and governed by a bureaucracy. The question right now is, not IF we shall have a Socialist Healthcare system, but HOW MUCH MORE of one than we already have?

The relentless expansion of bureaucracy I talked about last time has included us in the most radical way: as diminishing persons. Not only unfree, but blind to what is happening to us. Here in the bureaucracy I burrow in at the moment, no one knows quite what I am and what I am for. I am asked to perform tasks that could be given to a sixth-grader. Performing such tasks is not the problem; I am happy to follow in the humble tracks of saints and servants. The problem is that we do not call things by their names and delude ourselves into believing that the purpose of a bureaucratic society is to help persons be free and fully human.

It is not. It is exactly the opposite. Any opossum or concentration camp prisoner could tell you that. Check the tatooed ID on your arm or cellphone..

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