This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Reciprocal moral education is inescapable

We need to drive home the point that, even if certain philosophical movements try to deny our obligation (both private and public) to aid others who are not up to the task of spiritual self-education, they nonetheless are involved in it because it is a fact of social life. Even the individualists benefit from education of the supra-individual order, just as atheists benefit from the grace of a God they do not believe in.

Every one of us has a hand in educating others, regardless of any ideological attitudes to the contrary. Every smile, every approving or disapproving gesture, every look has its moral impact on persons around us. This impact is especially pronounced between parents and children, but the encounter occurs between all persons everywhere. No one is exempt. We are social beings, and we are constantly adapting to our social environment, for good or evil. This pertains to situations where the conversation is consciously directed toward educating someone or changing the subject’s mind about a particular thing, but it is not limited to that context and extends even to the way in which we carry ourselves physically, to our posture and facial expressions.

It also works in the negative sense, through the absence of external pressure. For example, the absence of a disapproving mannerism or facial expression condones what is done in one’s presence and in this way no response is a response. Action and inaction both teach people what is acceptable behavior and what is not. In the absence of objections and social-psychological obstructions, those behaviors and tendencies that call for self-restraint are left unchecked and in the extreme they become pathological.

This is why the refusal of a parent to correct their own child’s destructive impulse is a kind of negligence, and in a similar manner, the refusal of society to censure evil is a collaboration with it. There are no sidelines on this field of battle.

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