Tearing Down the Temple

Reactions to reading the book of Romans

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Romans 1:18-24. The Unholy City—III. Born in captivity

Aldous Huxley’s masterpiece, Brave New World, depicted a culture created to satisfy certain ends, using means that were deplorable by early 20th century standards, but deliberately designed to achieve those ends, safely and with high confidence. The irony was that the ends were mostly conceptions that would have met with considerable approval during that era, like social stability, planning, financial and professional security, freedom from pain, etc. Because the means were totalitarian in the extreme, the result was appalling, but it was realistically planned and effective.

We, by contrast, are creating our New World, our City, without knowing what it is, how it works, what it is to achieve, or where it is going. In my opinion this is considerably braver than Huxley’s vision, not to mention more foolish.

This is not to suggest that there are not plenty of blueprints for the society of the future. Indeed, it is part of the message of this analysis that much of Western society worships at the altar of social engineering, a popular indoor sport of the 20th century and destined to be the dominant hobby of the 21st. These visions are often adopted piecemeal, with portions taken even from contradictory visions. There is no general consensus about a vision for the future, and even if there were, many aspects of such visions involve diverting social, economic, and moral forces that are, and will continue to be, utterly beyond our political or economic control—I hope!

The City, that great domain of man, where his dominion is absolute and incontestable, serves us through a great machine, which we serve. Born in captivity, we serve till we die or are replaced. Those not able to serve the City are cast out, but since there is no outside to the machine, when their resources run out, they die.

If we wrap up each person in the trappings of individuality, the material of choice, we can stick each one into an identical slot. I am a person, but all my personality is attributes, measurable, quantifiable. I consume so much food, so much income, live in a house with so many square feet, with so much mortgage on it, and hold certain opinions. I am worth just so much risk in life insurance, so much credit, so much political power (one vote), etc. The profiles, databases, knowledge banks, construct a portrait that is ultimately more real than the subject, for it is only with that portrait that the City will deign to deal.

Divergence may be tolerated, but you do the tolerating, not the City.

(Continued)

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