This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Liberalism and cowardice

“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life…Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?”

~ Aleksander Solzhenitsyn[1]

There is an old parable regarding some servants who, being trusted by their master with varying quantities of money, each acted in a different fashion. Two of the three invested it, and then surrendered the profit to their master. The third man, however, buried his portion, and returned precisely the amount that he was given. When he does this, his master condemns him as a coward, and has him thrown out into the darkness. From this parable we can assume two things, one about the master, and the other about the servant. About the master, we can say that he obviously prefers the errors of the bold to the cowardly inaction of the timid.

This is the same lesson that we take from Revelation 3:15, when it is said: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I will spit you out of my mouth!”

These passages give rise to the idea of the courageous sin, which is a sin, but one that was preferable to the evil of doing nothing with one’s freedom.

As for the servant who is cast out, we can assume that his fear inhibited him, and that he was ruled by this fear, and so he did nothing with the time he was given. He was a non-entity. He did not sin, in a positive sense, and that is the defense offered always by those who do nothing. And this explains why he could not be excused.

The parable is one about loyalty, yes, but also, and more important for us here, it is about courage, and it seems to us that it is a perfect demonstration of the cowardice of modern political ideology.

As Carl Schmitt said in his Political Theology:

The essence of Liberalism is negotiation, a cautious half measure, in the hope that the definitive dispute, the decisive bloody battle, can be transformed into a parliamentary debate and permit the decision to be suspended forever in an everlasting discussion.

In this he identified the paradox of Liberalism: it is jealous and therefore aggressive, but it is cowardly and therefore timid in its aggression.

Liberalism fosters the behavior of Hitler in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, who spends his eternity building and re-building his cottage further and further away from the community of the damned. Each time he completes construction, he discovers that he has not gotten far enough away from the other individualists.

Fear is also paralyzing, particularly in the mental sphere. This is perhaps why general ignorance has increased exponentially under the rule of Liberalism, despite whatever scientific achievements have also occurred. As Frank Herbert, the master of science fiction, once put it: “fear is the mind-killer.” And this is the precise truth, because a person acting in fear loses his capacity for judgment precisely insofar as he is affected by his fear. In fear, if he does anything at all, he does things that, in a peaceful frame of mind, he’d have found ridiculous. This is why we would expect that, if fear were to become a generalized condition in a civilization, knowledge itself would begin to deteriorate and psychotic behavior would become normal.

Knowledge has a character of command. If something is true, and if we know it is true, we must act in accordance with it. Men across all various creeds agree at least on that, and this is why the immoralist does not claim the right to ignore morality, but rather denies its existence. No one acknowledges a truth and at the same time denies the obligation—the duty—it imposes. And so again, in ages of fear, truth, because of its imperious character, is the most despised of things.

It is like small child who chooses not to ask his mother a question because he knows he isn’t going to like the answer. The modern man is just such a childish figure—the questions every man in history was ready to ask, and sought with great effort, are set aside as ‘impossible to know’ or invalid from the start. He wants nothing to do with them.

Cowardice says: “Only this—and only if I must.” This is the fundamental cowardice of Protestantism. So horrified is the Protestant of courageous error that they bury their inheritance and insist on sola this and sola that. Ironically, however, this doctrinal timidness has given rise to the most extreme errors of specific interpretation.

When Spengler famously wrote that ‘optimism is cowardice’, he was following the same train of thought. He was not so much condemning a ‘positive attitude’ as he was condemning a very specific kind of positive attitude, the one adopted in order to avoid the severe realities of life, because it is only through these realities that courage and honor can be teased out of existence:

We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that cannot be taken from a man.[2]

He was summarizing the effects of Liberalism, with its contradictory attempt to combine perpetual strife with promises of Progress and Happiness. Through this new myth, called Competition, it Liberalism taught that by waging a perpetual war with our neighbor for the means of self-indulgence, Happiness will be forthcoming, and that the longer we wage this war, the more wealth we will have and the happier we’ll become.

We could proceed through a number of examples, familiar to all, to illustrate this omnipresent and enslaving fear which creates animosity and madness: Think of the man who stockpiles weaponry in his basement, and rages about his rights, and who imagines the day when he will have to do battle with his government—which, as likely as not, will actually be one of his neighbors—when they come to steal these rights from him. Think of the transexual who invents a long list of new pronouns and rages at the world for not permitting him to restructure language on the fly. This behavior is complex, obviously, but in some sense it is certainly an expression of paranoia, an extreme and enslaving condition of fear. But it is also inertia. Without courage nothing happens…that is why God hates it. God wishes to see potential realized, the good achieved. God creates, and God does not suffer the non-entity who excuses himself from reality.

The fearful man might be guilty of terrible errors, or he might be innocent, but he’ll be innocent in the way that a rabbit is innocent. Innocent because he is harmless. Innocent because too spiritually impotent to do anything at all either for God or for Satan. A culture led by such men withers into nothing. Nietzsche’s unique definition of Liberalism is then proven accurate:

“The honourable term for mediocre is, of course, the word ‘Liberal’.”[3]

[1] Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Harvard Commencement Address delivered on June 8, 1978.

[2] Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics (Arktos, 2015), p. 77.

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, Will to Power, paragraph 864.

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