This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Honorable men are averse to participation in democracy

“Democratic republics place the spirit of a court within the reach of a great number of citizens and allow it to spread through all social classes at once. That is one of the most serious criticisms that can be made against them…Among the huge throng of those pursuing a political career in the United States, I saw very few men who displayed that manly openness, that male independence of thought, which has often distinguished Americans in previous times and which, wherever it is found, is virtually the most marked characteristic of great men…It is true that American courtiers never say: ‘Sire,’ or ‘Your Majesty,’ as if this difference was of great importance, but they do constantly speak of the natural enlightenment of their master. They do not seek to question which is the most admirable of the prince’s virtues for they convince him that he has every virtue without his having acquired them and without, so to speak, desiring them. They do not give him their wives or daughters for him kingly to raise them to the position of his mistresses but, in sacrificing their opinions to him, they prostitute themselves.”

~ Alexis de Tocqueville[1]

For those who still cannot see how we demand the hypocrites and flatterers that we complain of so often, for those who still believe that we do in fact prefer authentic men in our American offices, perhaps a comparison between two men of different nations and different times will suffice. Each illustrates a certain type of a character and answers to a set of cultural expectations.

First, the famous historian, Hilaire Belloc. In 1906 he ran for a seat in the English parliament. His opponent, knowing that Belloc was a devout Catholic and of French blood, made his slogan “Don’t vote for a Frenchman and a Catholic.” Belloc responded by standing up amidst his Protestant audience and saying:

Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This [taking a rosary out of his pocket] is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative.

The audience erupted in applause, and Belloc won the seat. He overwhelmed the prejudices of his audience with his manly authenticity, and the people decided they would rather have a leader in office than a mirror.

Turn now to John F. Kennedy, also a Catholic, who found himself in an identical situation, speaking before a Protestant audience amidst a presidential campaign. His words, however, are somewhat different:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute…I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me…Whatever issue may come before me as president—on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject—I will make my decision…in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.[2]

Between these two men we see a profound difference of attitude, which we may assume reflects the attitudes of the voters to whom they were speaking. Belloc would not compromise his honor to win a vote, and his voters loved him for it. Kennedy, on the other hand, apparently felt that he could not enter office at all without first swearing an “oath of inauthenticity,” pretending to leave his faith on the White House lawn.

This should tell us something about our politicians, but it should also tell us about ourselves and what we have come to demand of our so-called leaders. We have, in a very real sense, created a special breed of hypocrite. We have systemically excluded the possibility of any real leader winning an office, because a real leader could never transform himself into the representative prism of pretense and hypocrisy that the office now requires.

The result? In the words of C.S. Lewis: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”[3]

Or, to turn to Gomez Davila: “Democracy is the political regime in which the citizen entrusts the public interests to those men to whom he would never entrust his private interests.”[4]

[1] Tocqueville, Democracy in America, p. 301.

[2] Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association delivered on September 12, 1960 in Houston, TX.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.

[4] Dávila, 2001 edition, aphorism 1088.

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